Fearsome Asymmetry

“This Story Is Just 2,000 Words Of A Baby Boomer Mansplaining Hentai”
— A Twitter Bot post

“Conclusion: I love cake”
— A not-bot twitter post.

Nise x Koi Boyfriend/ Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely
Ataru Yamamoto  (2014)
Serialized In Be x Boy Magazine
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=113661 
SPOILERS ENSUE.


Instead of adding to the essay series “The Naming of Parts” I have been diverted; first by the recent plot twists in Spotted Flower and now, by stumbling across an exemplary bit of Shoujo-fied BL. Normally, the latter is not my favorite thing but Nise X Koi does a superb job of showcasing one aspect of BL that is usually hard to wrap one’s head around. You could call it a mode of melodrama or the fetishization of male same-sex romantic confusion; you could call it hot dogs but you would be just as close to understanding the true (insidious) nature of the trick. Theorists dryly describe it as “asymmetry”: an emphasis on the emotional dynamics between characters rather than on a character (a Beautiful Fighting Girl, or a Loli Moe-blob) alone; sometimes to the point where the atmosphere itself is almost a secondary character.

It is worth examining it in action, at least once.

As a bonus, if you were already uncomfortable with stories about male same-sex intimacy, this stylistic trick is going to boost your hate levels into low orbit. Take a deep breath. Not a bug; it’s a feature.[1]

“”Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in anime and manga. Although content with his lot in life, Soutarou also wouldn’t mind having a fateful encounter with a cute girl someday. Lucky for him, he comes home from school one day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.””

Vol. 2 Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely: A sequel to Nise x Koi Boyfriend as a continuation of Soutarou’s and Meguru’s relationship.””
Mangaupdates summary

As one can tell from the description, here there be otokonoko (just one). The English fan translation is being done by a group who go out of their way to scanlate gender-bent fluff manga. They seem to favor shoujo-ish stories, hewing close to the root genre of many contemporary works that play with gender and sexuality. You can get away with almost anything in shoujo manga — as long as you shoujo-fy it. Also, I am using the clunkier otokonoko/ josou/ crossdresser terminology because the conventional western-anglo term has been condemned as hateful out in the real world. Real folks suffer harm because of the original reading of the term. A small measure of polite discretion costs nothing.

A socially clumsy otaku guy and a crossdresser who gets a crush on him. Sounds familiar. Is this a version of the same BL cliché that Genshiken Nidaime‘s Madarame and Hato riffed on? Not quite. If anything I have renewed respect for how the Genshiken‘s author avoided convention. Some of it does however look like something that Hato would draw. It gets lewd.

When a Japanese female-gaze story uses an otokonoko they invoke tropes from past works as well as scavenged real world lore from Japanese (and other) gay communities. Very little about these characters is “trans”; they remain essentially male and inclined toward subjective same-sex intimacy, even if not avowedly “gei“. It is worth emphasizing that the rotten tribes consider male-ness as an irreducible characteristic. Straight, gay, crossdressing, gender-fluid, gender-queer, Japanese, outlander, rich, poor, whatever are all just minor variations in specs of guy-ness. All are fresh meat; therefore male-ness in the gender-fluid character must be preserved.

If human societies are rigged to favor male agency and privilege, shouldn’t all guys then be fictionally frogmarched into taking advantage of all manner of opportunities, so that they can really get “interesting” in stories? Too late for “just because you could don’t mean you should” or “real guys don’t do that!

I have a notion that some fujoshi stories are as, or even more disquieting to real-life gay guys than they are for straight guys. Straight guys will just “oh heck, two guys screwing” and tune out. The chance for a gay male reader to get drawn into the story while feelings of “wrong wrong wrong!” creep up their spine could be a serious factor. The “wrong wrong wrong” effect isn’t necessarily all about the bonking either. Anyone who has researched the genre has run into mentions of the 30-year-old “yaoi controversy” (Yaoi Ronso) in Japan. The substance of the complaints against BL-ifying gay guys is reported as “objectification” and in more recent reoccurrences, ‘fetishization” and mis-representation. The only problem is that such complaints dwell on unintended ends. The mechanics of the “wrong, wrong wrong” (beyond airbrushed violent non-consensual sex and “I’m not gay it’s only you“) remain largely opaque.

Extreme and variable emotional dynamics between the characters is generally not mentioned. Or perhaps a finer distinction is needed. “A Night at the Opera” is Ok every so often, when done by pros. When clueless Chads are nudged into doing a cover version for fujoshi because the audience is geeked on the raw charm of the fail…

If you were an ambitious mangaka and you really wanted to turbocharge this (jarring) effect, you could drape its presentation in the visual stylings of adolescent girls’ romance manga. Wispy hair, expressive big eyed longing glances, floral/iconic backgrounds, flare effects. Since we have a crossdressing character, add cute frilly girl clothes as well. Then pile on all of the usual miscommunication, “notice me sempai”, “who is going to make the first move”, “failing self-confidence”, “I need to prepare my heart”, “no, not yet, not like this” mush from the shoujo genre, only with two male leads who can take turns grinding through the clichéd sequences. This is funny in itself. As well, at any moment either or both characters can snap back into shonen-esque selfishness, resentment, indifference, arrogance, weakness and violence. Drama ensues!

Feeling woozy yet?

Boyfriend lovely ???

Nise X Koi “feels” at first as if it escaped form the pages of Margaret or LaLa magazine and ran gibbering off into the night. Later it gets nasty. Isn’t it in “bad faith” right from the title? Nise as in “fake” or “trick”? Again from the sypopsis, with an upgrade:

“Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in otokonoko genre anime and manga”.

Not only is our diminutive doormat lad an otaku, he’s an otokonoko otaku; the bully-ish group of popular guys at school spot his fave manga and shame him for it. By spitting out his angry “cuteness is justice” defense; “so what, as long as they are cute!’ he lights a flame of hope in the heart of an onlooker. One of those handsome, popular guys has a secret and a fierce need to share it with someone who might accept them for all that they can be.

“…he comes home from school that day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.”

She ain’t just sitting there smoking a ciggy. The crouched down, dejected look on the mystery girl speaks volumes to the longing she initially feels. The mangaka is going to dance along the edge of seduction by deception for a full chapter and a half, as the crossdresser is so wrapped up in their own excitement and insecurities that they forget to check if shy nerd guy has clued in to who the mysterious cutie barging into the apartment is. She and later he just assumes it is obvious and that nerd boy recognises them. This takes a bit of work to clear up but along the way nerd boy gets to show how heroically smitten he has become when the crossdresser gets in trouble and then by dismissing minor details and declaring that he’s enraptured with the complete Meguru-chan experience. Hooray, they now have a happy secret romance. Even some physical intimacy. Roll credits on a two chapter one-shot.

When the story resumes nerd boy starts by backtracking on his commitment to fully appreciate his lover and then develops a severe case of fleeting self-confidence. Then a rival appears. Nerd boy wavers. Otokonoko guy (in guy mode) gets wound-up angry and decides that if boyfriend is going to act like a cowardly doormat, then boyfriend should be spitefully treated in a –ahem– more traditionally yaoi-ish manner. The resulting near sexual assault is mean-spirited and pure raw meat thrown to the intended readership. Satoi-san stomps out of their lover’s apartment in a snit after no finally means no, angry that the one who understood him won’t show any backbone or prove his resolve.

A mite over-wrought, perhaps? [2]

At this point, a gender-studies sociologist might cut in and point out that because they are both well-socialised Japanese males, even if one dresses up like a cute girl, neither of the two are particularly inclined to carry the empathy bucket of sorting out the other’s feelings or do the work of negotiating understandings within the relationship. That’s a plausible excuse for later and perhaps one of the “features” that fujoshi enjoy. For now, it is expected, in-genre behaviour. They are both horny-excited and each wants their shiny new adventure to go their way. Also, those feelings: so intense, so conflicted! Why not let them slip? Fireworks time with light guy-sex.

In female-gaze yuri, everyone would run off for a while and eventually have a frank, serious, somewhat tearful discussion and work things out like adults. Someone would not end up paired off but would wish the happy couple well.

In male-gaze yuri, all would end up in the sack.

In bad faith whoever-gaze yuri one or more involved would be suffering from a serious personality disorder, so that the behavior that causes the suffering can be endlessly repeated over and over; with ever-increasing levels of emotionally wounding sex.

In a bad faith nominally heterosexual melodrama, at least one character might have a severe personality disorder, another a masochistic need for an older woman, another a narcissistic fixation on an self-centered useless old guy and there might be a pining lesbian thrown into the mix. Then the characters can variously paw at each other, because they have agency and therefore they can (neener neener neener) but they will not enjoy any of it because the story is dramatic and shall not feature any happy. Momentary physical pleasure during sullen making out only – this telegraphs literary pretension and allows for a few more turns of characters bouncing between each other for bonus spite-groping. Then all will abruptly stop, grow up and decide to get real lives or wake up and remark that it was all a dream.

The framing of any idea of “bad faith” is, in itself a highly subjective exercise. If you view any particular hetero (or homo-) normality as stifling and oppressive, anything that subverts its expectations is just peachy; even if to the riajuu, it looks like getting stuck in a temporal loop on emo night in a small-town bar.

Forever.

Bad faith is avoided in any of these genres by advancing the plot towards some resolution. Otherwise the game is just endless grinding while wandering the labyrinth. Even someone’s head ending up in a school bag is preferable to endless grinding. When a genre has a whole warehouse-load of plot tropes available for ready use, these can be strung out in service of some eventual resolution. Perhaps even a “good ending”. You lose the “serious literature” vibe with a good ending but more people buy manga than serious literature. Vox Populi, vox profitable publishing company.

If one is more inclined toward linear storylines, characterization and action, having a clump of characters run around going bat-shit random over their horny might not be your idea of a fun read, no matter what manner of bodies are involved. You want the Supply Module to meet up with the International Space Station. You expect a bit of excitement over the launch and docking maneuvers but you will have your mission accomplished!. Having everyone on the station, in the module and in mission control self-sabotage because their heads are all jammed up their particular cray-cray thing de moment (subject to abrupt change in the next 10 minutes) so that the docking almost-but-repeatedly fails, or goes horribly wrong and still repeats, will strain your patience.

No matter how many times Riley sings Kathleen.

For another group of readers, bonking pretty boys may be fun and interesting but it is much, much better when both parties are working through their stereotypical male inability to deal with new emotional situations and overcompensating dramatically while they go at each other’s bods. They can then not only switch positions but cycle through new and unexpected emotional states. Amateurs may deploy some manner of fetish-ry, but this is less effective because it is always marked as play-acting (and is a cheat to avoid actual sex and thereby edge around certain regulations enacted by a past Tokyo Governor). Far more satisfying if the two creatures are pity, hate, fear, love and disgust fucking each other all at the same time!

And they cannot stop!

“Therefore, we can conclusively state that BL holds the potential to be far more obscene than either het, yuri, fetish or gay romantic pr0n. (And that I like cake.) Q.E.D. Certain classes of Bara to remain outside of the comparison range because those are allegorical and if you don’t consider them as such, you will lose your lunch.”

Perhaps my thesis is not completely convincing?

Shoujo-fied BL often feels like a pretty-fied train wreck with light man-secks. (Or it’s just me?) What’s with this story? What’s with the characterisation? What’s all this overdone emo crap? No way that they’d do that! Now they are going at it; at least getting past necking to pawing, nibbling and pulling. Now the other one has gone all sullen and pissy. Sheeet! We get it already! BL guys not fast on the uptake. Please, can they sit down and talk it out? Please? Maybe they should watch some gay pr0n? No luck, urusai continues. Wonder what they are going on about now? Somebody must liek this. STFU!

Other views in the theory-verse suggest that while the characters are male, their emotional responses have been “upgraded” to reflect an improved male subjectivity that can do emotionally complex interaction, while enjoying the agency and freedom to act on their desires. That may be the case for stories like the Uso Lily spin-off previously considered, but it is not the only way to rebuild a guy character. What if you freed them from the need to act “supportive” or “understanding” and gave them male agency enough to go after what they wanted? Then make it so they also get wound up over their feelings, because — Hey! they are new at these and they also have the privilege and agency not to be shy about taking them out for a test drive.

That might get messy. What? Messy good you say?

There is one further “technical” aspect to the genre that arises from the canon, from fan practice and from tradition and that has evolved either into a happy accident or a sneaky author’s trick. Recalling one of the roots of the term “yaoi” – no climax, no resolution, no plot – a term of art in Japanese literary criticism long before being adopted by fujoshi, points towards a tradition within the genre for disconnected, stand-alone scenes or tableau. Porn movie directors would call these the “money shot”.

cue the wikipedia entry:

“The term yaoi is an acronym created in the late 1970s[1] by Yasuko Sakata and Akiko Hatsu[8] from the words Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (山[場]なし、落ちなし、意味なし) “No peak (climax), no fall (punch line/denouement), no meaning”. This phrase was first used as a “euphemism for the content”[9] and refers to how yaoi, as opposed to the “difficult to understand” shōnen-ai being produced by the Year 24 Group female manga authors,[10] focused on “the yummy parts”.[6] The phrase also parodies a classical style of plot structure.[11] Kubota Mitsuyoshi says that Osamu Tezuka used yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi to dismiss poor quality manga, and this was appropriated by the early yaoi authors.[9] As of 1998, the term yaoi was considered “common knowledge to manga fans”.[12] A joking alternative yaoi acronym among fujoshi (female yaoi fans) is Yamete, oshiri ga itai (やめて お尻が 痛い, “Stop, my ass hurts!”).”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi

Once again, Genshiken Nidaime‘s Kio Shimoku left clues about larger rotten practice in his trans-fujoshi character Hato’s inability to draw anything but one-page sex scenes. Fanzines/doujins must accommodate page restrictions and low-output amateur artists. There is a strong bias towards jumping right to the lewd. When creating a parody work that brings together two wildly improbable giant robot piloting guys, the scant dialogue can stick with luvvy dovey fluff or they can expressively work out their conflicted feelings while they go at it. Same printing bill.

The space station metaphor once again becomes instructive. A mangaka might already have a number of schmexy hawt mis-en-scenes in mind, complete with a who-is-wound-up-which-way script for the drama component. Wouldn’t it be cool if this one surprised that one, but is still angry about such and such, while the other has lost confidence? And they still go at it while sniping at each other! “Talk dirty to me” taken to a new level.

What if the next big scene has the two emoting in completely different ways? Do they both have multiple personality disorders? Did some magical girl gimmick their headspaces? Nothing so fancy. They are just completely overwhelmed with a whole new range of feelings and are cycling through all of them. If we can acknowledge that smut with emotional fireworks delivers more than just smut with the dialogue turned off, story mechanics becomes an exercise in logistics.

When a mangaka becomes responsible for a monthly serialised work, instead of 12 pages of doujin smut they have to maneuver the characters from one “yummy parts” scene to the next. Using the “new at this, making a hot mess out of it” excuse, a mangaka gains extra maneuvering thrusters and fuel. She can even make one of them do an end over end tumble before docking.

It is almost impossible to pull anywhere near this level of variable characterization and emotional range with boy-girl romantic shoujo. Even if the boy is Doctor Jekell and the girl is Harley Quinn. Uso Lily tried with a crossdressing boy and a girl and had to concuss the guy for multiple cases of soap opera amnesia. At no time did the heroine take her turn getting banged on the head so they she could become the male lead. Lady Chatterley may switch between haughty and horny while groom Mellors gets to be servile and then forceful but he never gets to be her ladyship. Neither does she have to muck out the stables.

Only the “carnivalesque” excesses of drag and camp offer more potential. Perhaps the entire genre needs to be theoretically re-positioned when subjected to critical analysis. Normalities must be (over-) performed so they can be subverted.

I remain uneasy with the entire genre but at least now I have some idea (beyond gehhh! dudes making out!) why something as simple as Nise x Koi set off my wrong, wrong, wrong alarms. Nothing like a bit of attitudinal gymnastics to negotiate a new understanding with one’s prejudices. [3]

Anyway, I Shouldn’t Take It Personally, It Just Ain’t My Story

Against the tautological structures of excessive emotional drama and characterisation within the genre, complaints by nosy outsiders are easily brushed aside.

Guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm, you sure? They might if they were sufficiently smitten and unhinged by their conflicted desires…
Your plotting and characterisation is bat-shit random! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Gay guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Transfolk don’t act like that, and you are being insulting! Hmmmmmm?

Back to weaponised queer shoujo. This type of story seems to be popular and commercially viable. Outsider opprobrium is not going to put the idea back in a box. Can’t un-see once seen. An entire “lore” surrounding the genre makes it easy for rotten newbies to crank out more. It’s not just ‘seme” and “uke“; a range of off-the-shelf roles come with modular, emotional scripted subtypes such as “wimpy seme” and “trickster, inviting uke” (which is the second link of the chain back-tracking the origins of the “emotional range character trope” effect that I will resume grinding on about in future “Naming of Parts” essay instalments.)

Recall the brief summary of Nise x Koi above. Classic BL clichés favor the smaller guy “taking” the taller, initially dominant-appearing partner. In this story, the latter is already inscribed as female-role, even if he has previously initiated, even attacked. A challenge has been issued to wimpy nerd boy. Anyone care to guess how this one ends? [4]

If heteronormative narrative tried this kind of dynamic “making progress in a relationship” story, one would end up with a Taming of the Shrew retread.

Disapproval by phobic old-school guy otaku of BL will continue but as this mirrors the emotional dynamics of the conflicted characters, the hate-on becomes an unexpected bonus for fujoshi onlookers. When reading distressed fan reactions to the alt-Mada x alt-Hato fling in Spotted Flower I began to wonder if one of the thread originators might have even been a stealthed slash-fan trolling for a taste of honey. (“the misery of others is like…” ) Yesteryear’s girly-boy threads on 4chan’s /a board were a lot more inventive and far funnier. They usually started with “If it wears a skirt, it’s a girl” and went sideways fast.

Then a further notion struck: what is all that rage really about? To properly appreciate what is so disquieting (for straight guys) about BL, one needs to untangle the fujoshi “gei” or gender-queer character from the (straight) male subjectivity gay or gender-bent character.

Here’s a fun insight into contemporary fan practice and its intersection with activist gender politics — although I might be grabbing at fog. (requires more research, subjective evaluation, database coding, yadda yadda yadda). More and more anon on /a seem to be sort of, kind of Ok with “the gay”, as long as a gay male (secondary) character gets treated “seriously” within the story and isn’t trotted out as a cardboard joke or creep or abruptly vanished – in other words; afforded male respect and privilege. No depictions of male same-sex intimacy either, please! What sets off rage is when a gay male and/ or their same-sex desire is portrayed and/or deployed in a way that appears to pander to fujoshi tastes. “Real” gay; it’s 2017 – just don’t scare the horses. “Fujoshi-fied” gay; bad thing!

As for the otokonoko as male-gaze fantasy eye-candy creature, far fewer instances of vocal hate rear up in social media venues than one might first imagine. Pro-forma surprise is usually followed with a “that’s coolio too” rejoinder. Edgy quips that “the extra” makes her even better are not uncommon. The slightly sheepish reaction (cute cartoon girl character plus slightly pervy bonus) has become a safe consensus position. Public over-reaction would telegraph any manner of weak unresolved personal issues. All good, no biggie. Similarly, creating her is remarkably easy. Design a cutie, go easy on the boobs and impute a “little bit extra”. You can even make her act with less reserve than a usual female character has to maintain. Drop one as needed into each new franchise.

However, when the rotten tribes get their mitts on an Otokonoko character, Astolfo the hottie will be mangled into something else; something complicated and insidious. Far worse than Kio Shimoku’s Hato Kenjiro. Designed to highlight male wonkiness. Does things not-for the male reader/viewer’s enjoyment. Problematic. This will not end well.

Aside: Astolfo was originally a (male) magic-using sidekick character from 1500’s European-knights-do-heroic-things tales; most notably from the poem-story Orlando Furioso (the Rage of Orlando). The hero’s “wits” get stolen, so he rages. Only Astolfo has enough magic to go to the moon and retrieve said wits in a bottle. Astolfo MkI does not crossdress. In medieval Europe, guys got all the fun clothing anyway. Magic users are expected to be a bit eccentric.

What remains are complaints against the problematics of fantasy cross-dressing characters in light of real-world fall-out; including any deceit implied in that term. Anglosphere fandom needs a new short, snappy and less loaded descriptor. It should be noted that current best practice in manga and anime invariably has the character matter-of-factly announce that they are male or have a body that others would “deem male at birth” to any who have a need to know, well before sparks fly (as well as to any number of obnoxious types who should have minded their own business before they get their comeuppance). Seduction by deception is rarely any issue, though fetishization remains one. If the otokonoko and another (usually male) character hook up it is not because the latter wanted a “girl” but because they wanted “more than a girl”.

Fetishization in general is why a majority of cartoon characters are dropped onto the page and screen; male-subjectivity otokonoko remain “flattened” to their eye-candy outward appearance, as much as any other female-ish fanservice character. Their gender-queerness is their “hook” in the same way the glasses-girl and the athletic tomboy have theirs. When deployed in slice of life comedies, she is often used as a variant and/or extra moe-blob. In adventure scenarios, a variant Beautiful Fighting Girl.

“For duty, a woman. For understanding, an otokonoko. For ecstasy, a melon.”
— Slavoj Zizek

Only when one wanders into the recycled BL thickets of josou narratives, where some emotional complexity is necessary to move the plot along, does the revealing of the “feels” component of the “better than” come into play. Her gender-fluidity and essential male “core” posits her as more sympathetic to a class of male lead. The author must then tread lightly and leave much unsaid. The two are in sync; they understand each other perfectly and therefore dialogue can be kept to a minimum. A few reassuring quips, an exchange of knowing glances because they have (re-)invented sex, a few tender words and finally the frenzied mutual tearing off of clothes that leaves at least one female-marked accessory or piece of clothing still clinging to the otokonoko‘s body, can progress through to mutual exhaustion. Both will be blissfully happy because the genre posits, then leaves to the reader’s imagination a vague intimation of mutual physical and emotional satisfaction that is for the two of them “better than” heterosexual or conventional same-sex intimacy. The novelty and transgression masks a “just so” story. One may speculate that the difficulties of fine-tuning the move from pure transactional exchange towards affective interest is why the genre remains a niche market and why the one magazine devoted to such stories went under. Lewd twincest tales play a similar trick. You need some token emotional charge but not too much, or too fast. The overload/ overwhelmed effect is what remains disquieting.

The “deception” that the straight male subjectivity fears is not present upon the body of the otokonoko but within the emotional complexity of any interaction. [5]

Snowflakes!

Understandable then that male subjectivity fan discourse has kind of, sort of, begun to make peace with matter-of-fact, just-a-guy gay male characters and even simplistic eye-candy otokonoko characters. As long as neither of them bear any marks of “rotten” purpose or complexity. A diffuse, consensus notion of essential male identity is thus preserved. There are far scarier things in the world than a touch of queer in a lad. As for secondary appropriation, the fujoshi will always come out at night to cut up what remains. Look what they did to poor Holmes and Watson!

Good luck to us all.

Have some cake.

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] This entire essay may be complete and utter bunk; the result of my residual homo-panic freak-out when a quick read of a harmless looking shoujo-ish one-shot (that looked interesting because “that scangroup” distrod it), turned into confusing guy-smut. WTF? Run Away, run away! You’ve heard of the ‘unreliable narrator” trick? This is the unreliable critical essayist version.

[2] Someone reading this might actually be here for a “review” rather than a subjective over-reaction, followed by a mess of speculation about plot mechanics and conventions. If one is really into BL-ish things, I’m betting that NiseXKoi is probably a quite good an example of its kind. The art-work is pro level. The emotions are not completely random (if you pay real close attention), the two characters are noobz enough to justify their mildly selfish fuckups, the “rival” is not a jerk; the thing is well constructed and the author has her own active doujin circle. Since I have few comparison points, I can’t say whether she is genius rank but I suspect that experienced readers would find her work solid, and “yummy”. She knows how to tell a story and play within the bounds of a style.

[3] Keep reading. It’s really easy: all you have to do is displace one bias with a different one. It just becomes a matter of fully understanding what one’s original bias was trying to protect. We guys should all thank the fujoshi tribes for “highlighting the contradictions”.

[4] MUCH LATER: In fairness to those wanting some manner of “review” and to the mangaka, I should add that the story ended on a surprisingly happy, vanilla, aspirational, linear and not too crumpled out of shape by semexuke conventions, way. The young crossdresser was snagged by the school drama club as “the princess‘ in a play and used the opportunity to solve the issue of his childhood friend blindly crushing on his girl presentation. Meanwhile doormat boy showed some spine at school and began to socialise, then used his new found confidence to declare his resolve to the crossdresser. Both vowed to have a happy high school romance with lots of sex, with the crossdresser both as a boy and as a girl. (I am almost tempted to D’awww here…)

A few points of note: once the mangaka decided to wrap it up, the characterisation and story lines became more linear, with the motivations easier to follow. Resolve. Follow through. Also of note, both characters try to abstractly empathise with the other’s situation; not at shoujo girl levels but at least they make a token effort. Even the childhood friend, while at first embarrassed, is supporttive. He also now understands why the two were hanging around with each other at school. Duh! moment. The otaku is not an intrusion, he has been vouched for within the male social/ circle of friends.

Finally, the happy ending recalls why all the straight girls are reading smutty romantic guy:guy highschool love stories. The two get to (at least promise to) sex themselves down to exhaustion because they are in a relationship. Because they are horny teenaged guys, even gay, they should really want to do so even more than playing video games. And they can, because no one is going to be labelled a slut or have to deal with a teen pregnancy and/or D&C if something goes awry.

(At some point will future general-interst high school romcoms feature stock zoned-out falling asleep at their desks with stupid grin on their faces male beta couples?)

To this end, the “formalism” of older rotten rigid BL pairing conventions are jettisoned for a more up-to-date “versatility”. It might even pass muster as aspirational ending for a young gay male reader, although the gay crossdresser type is apparently considered one of the least desireable “types” in IRL Japanese gay communities. At least Meguru doesn’t “femme out” while crossdressing, so he’s not completely outre.

[5] Ha! I have made it through this thing and not mentioned a certain game.
Slick, or whot? Oh yeah, almost forgot: Praxis! Now is must be legitimate academic-ish essay! What else? No mention of Dr. Tamaki or Lacan, although if you scratch the cheap paint you can see that old “ontological consistancy” chestnut; it’s harder to paint over than magic marker. And then there’s the “shota” component in nerd boy. Crap: even wearing shorts on the frontspiece! Pure Dr. Nagaike bait, though Tamaki called it first. Mangaka sure covers all the bases. 

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THE NAMING OF PARTS 1: Too smart by half

On the origins of peculiar terminologies:

WARNING: Multi-part work in progress. Refresh for typos, corrections, revisions. Let me see if I can string all the pieces together over multiple posts in the next few weeks. Feel free to add your 2 yen via the comment section if you have extra material, ideas, whatever. Not much to mull over so far — wait for it. I plan to go full-bore fandom/comiket apocrypha on this one. Mimeograph machines, doujins, Fido BBS’s, 20yr old occult lists of fan terms and too many cached pages on Archive.org. Wheeeeeeee!  

 

“Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.”
— “The Naming of Parts”, Henry Reed

Something feels odd (to me) about the Japanese (and derived) otaku practice of naming character trope types. Something doesn’t fit, or fits too well, gives too much information. I have ideas as to where the larger practice was borrowed from but then I must ask; from where did the previous instance arise? To uncover the roots of the practice will require a highly subjective, speculative romp through the traces of fandoms from 20, 30 even 40 years ago.

I must break this essay up into installments.

If I were to mention that a certain anime or manga (or game, visual novel or doujin) had a noteworthy “Blonde Loli”  character in it, one would not only immediately know what she looks like. Any reasonably experienced fan would have a good idea of how she would act and relate to other characters.

  • Female, young, somewhat pre-pubescent and/or appears as such.
  • Blonde hair, short of stature, flat-chested (petanko)
  • Outlander or hafu background in relation to a Japanese cast.
  • Wealthy, of means. Has hidden skills and/ or powers.
  • Disruptive, arrogant; does not know or care to follow established social conventions.
  • overcompensates for her feelings of social isolation and rootless upbringing.

As well, most of the notable previous examples of the type would color your expectations. Evangeline A K McDowell of Negi and Uq Holder fame; Shinobu Oshino/ Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade from Monogatari; the pale knockoff of the previous two in Vampire Bund; Hayate The Combat Butler‘s Nagi Sanzenin and The Genshiken‘s Sue Hopkins. Recent iterations include Sana (who is a child) in Alice to Zoroku and Erii in Eromanga Sensei. Many more can be found.

Hiroki Azuma’s musings on the database seem to have come true. [1] A database model has advantages. While characters might feel cookie-cutter-ish, a good writer is expected to elaborate sufficiently to add charm to their version. If a notable restatement of the character emerges, these elaborations will fold into larger conventions of the type, as common resource for future story-telling.

Such a practice favors iteration in ephemeral products and production on a large, diffuse scale. She is closer to a piece of metal drywall edging than a craftsman’s creation. You can’t finish office towers and thousands of basement rec-rooms with bespoke techniques. You need cheap, modular, easy-to-use commodified bits and pieces and the simple techniques that employ them.

Our Blonde Loli is not a creature of high literature. She bears very little resemblance to Nabokov’s original, even if part of her type-name originates from his tale. The idea of character types or stereotypes runs in direct opposition to the originality and authenticity of the project of high literature. The character type is a Barbie or a GI Joe doll, or somewhat less, even as they are somewhat more; their range of behavior is more circumscribed even as their use implies a commodified “published” narrative structure.

Their implicit invitation is that of creative seriality; “the differance” of repetition — if you care to wax high-fallutin’s faux-French post-structuralist about it.[2] I digress. The point takes the complaint of early critics of diaspora anime that “all the characters are the same!” and recasts it as a feature, not a bug. Off the shelf means easy to build and easy for everyone to build with. You get far more absolute output that way and you get lots of individual variations/ iterations of the base model. An ecology, complete with evolutionary surges, population explosions, extinctions and mutations nudges aside the privileged solitary, exalted role of the auteur. [3]

Add that this year’s model is a lot less opaque to new readers because of vestigial familiarity. Does what’s on the label. Pick up a six-pack today.

Most of the benefits of this modular approach were mentioned at least in passing by Azuma in his 2002 work. It remains interesting, but its limitations must also be recognised. In many ways, recognition of what he leaves out, glosses over or shades to his purposes makes his work far more valuable than the first reading of the work itself.

The database as strained metaphor. In Japan, before 2002 there was no organised trove of data sitting up on 2chan or some other occult internet-accessible BBS or forum that contained mix-and-match build-a-bear input screens for churning out custom proto-moe-blob femaloid characters. (was it a mere list?) If such existed or exists today, looking like some demented police sketch assistant program, I have yet to see it (Tits or GTFO! Make her breasts bigger, bigger!). Why was he driven to posit one? Fortunately, TV Tropes came along: the entire meta of tropery has caught on and spread like wildfire during the last decade. Early iterations of the site had a strong “I’ve seen it all before” flanneur/ connoisseur weariness to them. The current versions are exuberant.

No sex here. Grazing ungulates, sea creatures drifting in the current. Post- sex to match the end of history and a pile of hooey about the twilight of grand narratives. One word for that: Chlorine. As in water treatment. As in, which is a newer idea; modernist grand narratives or cholera free city drinking water? Maybe it was the latter killed off grand narratives? Are you sure they are dead? Go argue with any number of repressive regime apologists and stop picking on anime babes. Meanie!

No girls allowed/ (aloud). It’s a boy thing, all about pin-ups and scratching boy itches. The company omiai session will eventually, properly mate up sarrarymen and office ladies to produce the next generation of corporate Japan, so sex is barely necessary, almost a distraction. If required for procreation, the newly wed good-wife-wise-mother-to-be will initiate the required mechanics. (parodied in volume extras from Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower manga, a somewhat continuation/ decade later reprise of his Genshiken)

Definitely NO NO NO minority sexual and or gender expression. We have rendered all majority expressions obsolete, so variants are superfluous. Cyborg bodies perhaps? Wires? Phone sex? iPhone sex? iSex? Or nothing but that dry theory hump jouissance?

We remember the database. We remember love.

A quick glance back at Database Animals recalls the swirl of pop debate about vernacular culture in Japan in the early noughts, set off by Dr Saito Tamaki’s 2000 publication of Psychology of the Armoured Beautiful Girl, Aka; The Beautiful Fighting Girl.[4] She dripped heroic sex appeal. She inspired onanistic fantasizing. She most definitely had a use. And her use or uses were in the clinical sense of the term, perverse, her range of manifestation on the stage of (mostly) male dreams running from the chaste Miko-type to the scary hermaphroditic creations of the American naive artist Darger. [5]

She caused trauma in a Freudian/ Lacanian sense. That is: “What the heck just happened to my wiring? Did I just pleasure myself by fantasizing about a line drawing!!!! Oh shit! I will never get a girlfriend! I can’t shake this. The path to enlightenment must lie through the doors of excess! Where do I get more of these hawt manga babes? Comiket? Oh Yeah!

Your mileage may vary.

That was it. That was all. That was enough. The great unsaid thing was said. It had been said before, by cruelly mocking critics. Akio Nakamori’s article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko taunted those he had previously labeled as otaku:

“No, otaku do not love like normal people because they are attracted to fictional girl characters”[6]

Only now a doctor-professor with a big impressive book rather than some rando jerkwad doing a guest column in a sketchy loli magazine had spoken, and the good doctor was not being insulting about it either. The good doctor was even speculating that this approach may be a healthy, adaptive behavior mechanism. The good doctor also had a list of sub-types for his Beautiful Fighting Girl(s)

Hooray: Taxonomy!

Two more interlocutors were involved: The Ota-King [7], who lamented the waning of classic shonen-esque sci-fi battle/ quasi-imperialist stories that involved giant piloted robots/ battle suits and/ or carrier-battleship spaceship fleets. And Ōtsuka Eiji, who could smell fascism under every last one of these rocks [8]. These worthies had some really fine arguments/ debates, which worked to bring them all into public prominence. Dr. Tamaki’s interest in Otaku and their libidinous imaginations was in any case, peripheral to his life work on social isolates/ Hikikomori. Azuma’s Rousseau redux is not that good. What happened to the Ota-king? Who knows?

Who did we miss?

An important clue lies in the curious something “extra” in some of these terms. Something not mirrored in the vulgar. angry way young males filled with braggadocio and a wounded sense of entitlement have been known to classify real-life women: Bitches and hoes. Frigid, tease, stuck-up, slut, whore. Insulting, objectifying, simple-minded. Any “relation” or interaction posited is immediate and transactional. She gives/ does not give that which I demand now. Very little narrative complexity is implied by any of these epithets, beyond the threat of sexual violence.

Given such lazy, low practice as the default setting, how did male otaku evolve complex trope/ type terms like tsundere or yandere?

Admittedly these do not reference high modernist literature or even Shakespeare plays but at least they imply changing emotional states in the female character over time — if certain conventions of behavior in the main (assumed male) character are followed. Manga, anime and games — specifically get-the-girl games, either galge or eroge may have normalised the expectations behind such complex constructions but where did male otaku first “take permission” and/or find inspiration for reducing these character-behavior-narrative patterns to type-trope shorthand and then elevating them to archetypes?

They are far too complex.

Next up: Fail-through-over-confidence-hero-guy

ENDNOTES:

1) “Dobutsuka-suru Postmodern (Animalizing Postmodernity)” by Hiroki Azuma  (2001) Translated as “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals” by Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono (2009)
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroki_Azuma

2) Tenure GET! No? Perhaps a lecture fee and lunch at the faculty cafeteria. If I wanted reliable income, I would be rebuilding truck and construction equipment starters and alternators.

3) …Then the solitary auteur secretly gorges on the cheap stuff, because they fear picking up some other big’un’s recognisable style and inadvertently committing plagiarism if they read highbrow stuff. Ya can’t plagiarise gruel and even if you do, the gruel-pots can’t mount a serious objection. I understand the tactic of pissing on the carcass you find by the side of the road, but doing it while cosplaying Cirrocco Jones decades ago at book signings… Hmmmph.

4) “Sento bishojo no seishinbunseki” (戦闘美少女の精神分析), Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Dr.Saitō Tamaki (2000) . Translated as “Beautiful Fighting Girl” by J. Keith Vincent  and Dawn Lawson (2011) With a foreward by Hiroki Azuma. 

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamaki_Sait%C5%8D

The BFG reviewed: “You Fight like a Girl” by Brian Ruh, Brain Diving column an Anime News Network, (Jul 26th 2011)
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/brain-diving/2011-07-26

5) Darger was by no means unique. Someone should forward a copy of this to Dr Tamaki: “My Dad, the Pornographer” By Chis Offutt The New York Times Magazine (FEB. 5, 2015). TW: descriptions of fantasy violence, rape, squick.
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/magazine/my-dad-the-pornographer.html

6)“Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith
www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men
See also earlier post: “Kio Shimoku, Madarame & Hato vs Akio Nakamori” https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/kio-shimoku-madarame-hato-vs-akio-nakamori/

7) Toshio Okada, The ota-King: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshio_Okada

See also: THE CONSCIENCE OF THE OTAKING: THE STUDIO GAINAX SAGA IN FOUR PARTS — Interview of former Gainax president Toshio Okada on Gainax’s history, Wings of Honneamise, Aoki Uru, etc. (anime, NGE)
originally in Animerica Magazine Volume 4, Issue 4 – April 1996: ANIMERICA talks with Toshio Okada Interview by Carl Gustav Horn. Text archived on gwern.net blog
https://www.gwern.net/docs/eva/1996-animerica-conscience-otaking

And for a Cliff Notes on Okada Toshio’ s “Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons”, see: “Introduction to Otakuology” on the Fantastic Memes blog
https://frogkun.com/2016/04/15/introduction-to-otakuology/

Context: “An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith on Otaku Culture – Part Two” by Matthew ALT, May 24, 2012, NEOJAPONISM blog post
http://neojaponisme.com/2012/05/24/an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-on-otaku-culture-part-two/

8) Ōtsuka Eiji: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiji_%C5%8Ctsuka
In the 1980s, Otsuka was editor-in-chief of Manga Burikko, a leading manga magazine where he pioneered research on otaku sub-cultures in modern Japan. He has published a host of books and articles about the manga industry.

“Ōtsuka Eiji and Narrative Consumption: An Introduction to ‘World and Variation,’” in Mechademia 5 (2010)
http://www.academia.edu/2093053/_%C5%8Ctsuka_Eiji_and_Narrative_Consumption_An_Introduction_to_World_and_Variation_in_Mechademia_5_2010_

See for example “An Unholy Alliance of Eisenstein and Disney: The Fascist Origins of Otaku Culture” by Ōtsuka Eiji, translated by Thomas Lamarre in Mechademia, Volume 8, 2013 pp. 251-277 [paywalled/ MUSE]

UPDATE: (Early November 2017)  Oh Crap! I had no idea this one was going to be so difficult! I am stuck on part 2, the destinction between simple and complex character types/tropes as used by guys/ male gaze narratives in harem games and stories. Part 3 with mimeographs is pretty well done, Part 4, an excursion into 1980’s and 1990-2005 Japanese on-line fandom is 3/4 written. Part 5, the payload is full of massive weird speculation and might be hard to pull together, but it FEELS right and will, in the end be only an invitation for folks who can get at primary sources to go digging. Nevertheless, the circumstantial evidence is as good, or better than a whole lot of other speculation that has become ‘lore’ in the field, so i’m gonna run with it.

When I can get my writing mojo back. Thanks for your patience.

on point

An academic conference in Yokohama, this weekend:

Queer Transfigurations — International Symposium on BL media in Asia.
Saturday, July 1 & Sunday, July 2, 2017,
Kanagawa University, Yokohama Campus

“My critical examination of yaoi begins with the premise that yaoi does not represent any person’s reality, but rather is a terrain where straight, lesbian, and other women’s desires and political stakes mingle and clash, and where representations are born.”
— A. Mizoguchi, “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond”
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf

‘Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality’ opine the characters of the Genshiken, echoing a claim made by Dr Saito Tamaki that despite the libidinised nature of otaku (and fujoshi) consumption — or because of it — the Japanese fan, even (or especially) the most committed of these are able to keep the walls between real life and “play” separate. They are all in effect flaneurs, connoisseurs of their outre fictions and these fictions’ effects (or affects). The riajuu may be bombarded by the relentless flow of images and desires and retreat into numb passivity, even reactionary withdrawal but the L33T fan surfs the shock-waves and hacks the spew.

How’s that workin’ out for you all?

Ok, so what if this sounded a lot like an update of the old floating world brothel-crawler notion of “iki” — which incidentally influenced european ideas of the flaneur – – as well as trying to drag the old-school practice of situating narratives of minority sexualities and gender expressions in lurid pulp exploitation settings into a better neighborhood [see: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/your-own-private-game-of-laplace/] via Comiket, shoujo manga and its more interesting offshoots.

Along the way, a lot of folks pretended that they forgot someone(s).

If you are a not-quite-straight kid in Japan (or adult) and you value your privacy, this pretense or at least quiet convention had (and still has) its uses. The last decade’s general agreement about BL and yaoi in Japan was that %90+ of the readership was female and that the overwhelming majority of these were straight women who enjoyed it as a relaxing and amusing diversion. If you were a gei male, there was manly-manly Bara for you and nobody really bothered about what 3D women who liked women cared to read. There were even a few convenient broadsides from honest to goodness flesh-and-blood homosexual male polemicists who criticised the rotten tribes for acting like “dirty old men” (though the major flare-up of this controversy happened decades earlier). If real gay guys groused about the stuff, it must be some kind of odd straight-girl fantasy thing and therefore harmless. Pay no attention to the fujoshi behind the curtains.

Meanwhile in the euroethnic mostly anglosphere west, research spotty as it was, indicated that slash readership was closer to %50-50 male-female and that the desires and identifications of the readership were all over the map, with a strong ‘queer’ gradient.

Something was due for a change.

I wonder how many casual fujoshi will make their way to the conference this weekend? What the devil is a casual fujoshi anyway?

In truth, gay folk, queer folk have always, apparently been part of creating these stories and consuming them. Folks are doing the historical research so that concealment does not end up as erasure. At the same time, there is a vast readership and fandom made up out of straight women and even (per the two extant fan studies plus hints about secret secret publisher data) somewhere around %1 straight male readership (%10-15 of the male readership). And then there are lesbian fujoshi, who while unfathomable in terms of demographic representation, make up some of the most productive and articulate champions of the genre. And there are gay guys who like it too. (those fan studies would put them at %80 of the male readership or %8 of the total readership) Over across the boulevard are the Yuri fans with all those pesky mostly-straight male yuri-danshi (I still prefer the older, western-anglosphere LFB term), even if them’s are for a different conference (which I would also really like to attend). We LFB guys aren’t too good on holding up our end of the fandom, but our Japanese brethren keep buying the magazines, so that’s something.

A lot of the academic interest in fujoshi and otaku fandoms in Japan has been carried out as informed by queer interests and situates comfortably within a larger idea of “queer theory”. If you are going to read any kind of academic writing about your fave manga, anime and/ or games you are going to get hip deep in it fast. After all, BL and yaoi (and yuri and even weird otokonoko/jousou) stories sure look like ‘queer texts’. Lookie: same-sex bonking! How long can the publishers keep up the pretense that they are all just something like sci-fi-ish or fantasy allegory and mostly for straight folks dreaming in queer?

In Japan, probably for a while longer, especially if it has something to do with sales revenues.

Time for some Academic Cool Japan jiu-jitsu:

[http://human.kanagawa-u.ac.jp/BLinAsia/Transfigurations_Program.pdf]

Take a close look at the conference presentations, the presenters and the moderators. All-star line-up! Welker, Mizoguchi, Nagaike, Baudinette, McLelland, Galbraith and a whole bunch of others whose names look vaguely familiar from my amateur theory scrapings. Note as well the titles and subjects of the presentations/ papers. This is about how a certain Japanese cultural product hits the rest of “Asia” and then creates its own context and readings. Ichiban Nihon Bunka!

Note as well, the absence of the dreaded fashionable academic neologism “Gl-ocal“.

Oh frabjous day!

Wonder how many Cool Japan bureaucrats will be in attendance? You wanted “soft power”? Congratulations! Now about the way Japan is sluggish about the rights and protections of minority sexualities and gender expressions and the upcoming 2020 Olympics… Do I hear whistling from the audience?

One academic not on the program (perhaps because the historic role of the wider shoujo genre is mentioned only in passing) is professor Matt Thorn, who in a recent Twitter thread went into the changing face of the Japanese fandom — at least the university-attending fans in her classes. TLDR: they ain’t the Genshiken. They are hyper-social, engaged, productive and even activist. I hope that she gets around to expanding upon these observations in her blog. [http://www.en.matt-thorn.com/]
(Update: per Twitter, prof Thorn plans to attend.)

I suspect that the student attendees at this conference will be equally unrecognisable to anyone expecting Genshiken style fans/ fujoshi, even as their updated versions will be undoubtedly surprised at the range, influence and effect of their fave genre. A few might even wonder if any of the diaspora product needs to be tracked down and studied, for the sake of a wider cultural perspective. …Won’t even get into speculation over the straight, fujoshi, fudanshi, gei continuum issues. I have a feeling that Dr. Mizoguchi has long since updated her 2010 observations to include male interest, even as the genre remains a powerful primarily female-authored form.

Readers of this blog know my angle on all of this and I would be curious to see how the conference presentations handle the clashes, not only between cultures, but between the readerships who want their fantastic allegorical (and somewhat racy) dream-in-queer diversions and readers who seek aspirational representation and support from the genre. So far the only strategy I can identify that does not involve proscription would stress authenticity as verisimilitude; in effect a value added approach — which is damn crass when real lives are at stake.

Unfortunately, publishing and content creation, like most capitalism is crass, and often brutal.

A final thought: Open Access = mega citations and academic fame.

It would be wonderful if the uni streamed the proceedings, or at least vidded them and put them up on YouTube. (Later: have been informed that presenters were not asked/ warned about the possibility of video recording, so that’s out. As someone who participated in a conference that let me use my blog nym, I should be better clued in on privacy concerns for presenters/ attendees.. Duh!)

(LATER: Howbout an audio transcript for Soundcloud? They embed well. I should stop; my previous gallery gig – we always tried to at least get a sound transcript from a presentation. We’d put a volunteer/ student intern in charge, do a little Audacity trimming and up it went, even if the sound quality was atrocious. Again, prior warning, privacy concerns…  So much to consider…)

Publication of the papers/ presentations in an open source journal or collection so that the conference doesn’t end up on some shelf or stuck behind a paywall would be wonderful.

(LATER: Prof Welker points out that he “shares all published articles & book chapters on request. As do many scholars. Just ask!” Regging up an indepedent researcher account at Academia.edu makes requesting such fast and easy. I was even able to do so using my blogging nym. Such individual ‘sharings’ are legal and  allowed by journal and/or publication contracts; which otherwise lock down academic articles and books behind paywals that even notorious [-cough- sci -cough- hub] russian academic study sites fail to worm their way past.)

 

Best wishes for a successful conference!

Fanfiction survey secrets revealed !!!

“More than 7,500 fanfiction readers filled out the Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey. What can we learn from the results?”

that-study-graph

Cheesy title aside, the folks at Fansplaining gathered a lot of interesting data from Western fanfic aficionados.

Their article on the results, on Medium:

Five Tropes Fanfic Readers Love (And One They Hate)
https://medium.com/fansplaining/five-tropes-fanfic-readers-love-and-one-they-hate-73843372408c

Discussion on Tumblr:
http://fansplaining.com/post/152424517233/five-tropes-fanfic-readers-love-and-one-they

The only cavil I had with the survey was that it had some in-fandom terms that I had Noooooooooo idea about. So, that “Gen” thing in the above graph concerns “friendship only” fic. or does it?

Gen is a label for a fanwork that contains no romantic or sexual content, either het (heterosexual) or slash (homosexual). The term comes from “general audiences”, the MPAA term for a child-safe film. — Gen –  https://fanlore.org/wiki/Gen

Ok, I learned sumthin’. Then there is the sex-werewolf thang. Nawww, read above if you really need any of that. 
.
GREAT JOB!
.

Another survey, whottheheck

There’s another academic research survey on fandom out and about.
Why not help add to the lore?

Animelogo

https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/

It would be unfair to blather too much about it, survey bias and all that, but it looks like it is aimed at North American anime fans and covers a range of themes from a few different researchers.

So it is a pooled effort.

180px-Genshiken_SZS Ohno_manga

 

There is a comment section at the end, if you think they need a bit of help and/or want to testify.

They also throw in a little “incentive”; an Amazon gift card draw for thems that complete the beast.

“If you are interested in viewing the results of this survey, they will be posted on the International Anime Research Project’s website: https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/     “

Be gentle with them.

And remember: FOR SCIENCE!

pengy sue

LATER: More about the team behind the survey, past efforts and links can be found here: https://animemangastudies.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/intl-anime-research-project-2016/

 

Somewhere between cosplay and requiring an exorcism

Wherein fannish practice slips its leash and goes for a romp.

It is hard enough for middle-aged Amish types like me to keep up with all the new-fangled stuff on the intertubes, fend off the chain letters on my favourite usenet groups and figure out how to get Netscape to stop web page banners from blinking. Then along comes this Twitter thing to chew up more of my time and make my trusty Motorola StarTac mobile phone beep every 15 minutes.

Worse, I now understand that many of the posts on the Twitter channel are the work of robots. I have nothing against robots, and with 140 characters (based on the length of a phone text message) it is fun to try to figure out who is meat and who is a folder full of cobol.

Now things have become stranger. I thought it would never amount to much, but now I fear it might be a thing. A while back, I attended an academic conference highlighting fan practices and listened as one fan detailed how she had decided to adopt the twitter identity of a character from one of the Star Trek series. She “became” the character on twitter, in effect cosplaying/ textplaying/ role-playing  her favourite character. Crossplaying, actually as she became a male character. She had a large, loyal following.

Here is some academic powder burnt on the practice:
https://www.academia.edu/19075490/Playing_with_Identity_Fan_Role_Playing_on_Twitter

At the time, I thanked what residual deities I still mumbled to that no one in the Genshiken fandom was doing this and promised myself that I would never waste a moment of my life following the tweets of anyone who had the temerity to “become” Hato or Madarame or Ogiue or whoever. And that went twice for any of the Monogatari or Zetsubo Sensei  characters. As well, I suspected that if the practice caught on, it would soon be sucked into a crass vortex of cross-platform marketing bullshit and would die miserably while trying to sell me sex pills and Pop Tarts.

Meanwhile, something was quietly gathering strength in the darkness, waiting for its time to come round at last.

Aside from an interest in Japanese popular culture, I used to be quite a political junkie, especially when it came to American politics. Astute readers may have spotted a few Thompson references. With the primary season upon us and with all the interesting chaos in the Republican pathology party, it is once again a fine spectator sport.

Imagine my surprise when I started seeing tweets by what I thought was a clever Twitter ‘bot assuming the guise of president Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon tweets

Whoooo Hahhh!

This was more fun than that  Futurama episode.

Richard_Nixon's_Head

For those of you who missed him due to accident of age, the 37th President of the United States of America was an interesting political figure to watch (and watch out for). Among other things, he was known for a ruthless, pragmatic brand of politics and a conservatism that while considered hardline in its day, appears moderate and curiously old-fashioned in light of the current scorched ideological landscapes of the American right. Also something of a football fan.

It only took a little time for me to clue in that Twitter’s Richard M.Nixon was not a ‘bot but rather a convincing case of roleplay/ RPF (real person fanfiction), with his presence and political acumen channelled by a producer/ playwright/ political junkie. Soon enough, President Nixon also began writing columns on the primaries for Mashable.

And here is a chance for some interesting trivia about the difference in allowable parody and appropriation under the laws and practices of the United States, Canada, Common Europe and Japan.  In the United States, parody of public figures is fair use and free speech, though trademark law might trip you up if you are swiping rather than commenting. Canada pretty well follows this, but has weaker fair use customs and potentially more expensive private defamation tort law precedents. Common Europe likes political satire, but protects personal privacy.

Japan is very big on protecting the feelings and the privacy of the politically powerful, enforcing copyright and trademark rights and just plain looking the other way when right-wing patriotic societies wreak mayhem on anyone who offends the well-connected.

Fan culture, especially dojin and cosplay “parody”/ transformative/ secondary production practices are very big on not poking this anthill. Centuries before, Edo had a great pr0n-ish publishing culture until some jerks started making fun of the powerful with rude shunga pictures. Wham! Instant crackdown, publishing bans, a few executions, many bonfires and everyone had to lie low for years until the naughty little pictures gradually came off double-secret ultra probation and went back to providing evening laughs and rudimentary sex education for the upper classes. There have been periodic moral panics and censorship sweeps ever since.

None other than the great Yukio Mishima got his stupid ham hocks caught in one of these during the sixties. The end result was more oppressive case-law; yeah, the big dummy lost his case and was hit with a judgement for “invading the privacy” of a sleazebag politician.

“The novel was inspired by the real-life affair between politician Hachiro Arita and a nightclub hostess — Mishima hated hypocrisy and Arita’s story may have pushed him in a new artistic direction. Arita successfully sued Mishima for invasion of privacy and the famous case has meant writers, filmmakers and TV producers since have shied away from the dramatic potential in the lives of celebrities and politicians. In part, this thin novel is effectively responsible for the dearth of satire in Japan today.”
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/02/13/books/book-reviews/after-the-banquet/

There is also the matter of “criminal libel”, though it appears that enforcement favours the powerful, rather than noisy activist types. And collecting judgements from the owner of 2chan (and now 4chan) remains a game of whack-a-mole.

All this means that fandom in Japan holds to 3 powerful rules for secondary production practices: No RPF on the powerful. No hardcore kiddie porn at Comiket. No fucking with Disney properties. (1)

I know of only three cases where folks tried and got away with testing the limits of the first of these rules.

A manga that features an ex Prime Minister as a super Mah-jong player
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudazumo_Naki_Kaikaku

Independent low-budget film-maker Minoru Kawasaki’s “The Monster X Strikes Back/Attack the G8 Summitwhich you should hunt down, like most of his oddball films, it is a hoot – btw the Nech Koma joke involves a then-popular comedy routine about a young Russian Olympic gymnast’s tight outfit.

and

The manga pamphlet Monkey business (An idiot’s guide to Tokyo’s harmful books regulation) which viciously lampooned the then Tokyo Governor, Ishihara Shintarô’s “Nonexistent Crimes Bill”

“The bill regulates the sale and renting of “harmful publications” to Japanese youth: material that is “sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or may compel suicide or criminal behavior” in people under the age of 18″

See Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt and Andrea Horbinski
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

Whatever…

So, If you ever wondered about all those quaint O  and X  mungings of names and brands in manga and anime, that’s why. What a lost chance for product placement and cross-marketing!

And if you are on the twitter thing, you could do worse to make sense of the state-side political fun by following the shade of the tricky one. Now that he has his elder statesman reputation to uphold, he is restrained, quite astute and often dead nuts on.

Don’t know about Kasich’s chances though

 

(1) Mentioning flat-out that a certain women’s musical theatre ensemble might harbour any connection whatsoever to lesbianism is close to, but not quite as powerful as the Disney effect. It is a matter of legal budgets.

Another fan survey

This blog supports research into fandom, so I will highlight any interesting research that I hear of and even suggest that you, oh gentle reader, may wish to participate in.

Ogiue bliss

This one showed up on Twitter and on the TWC site:

Help a Researcher Study Slash

Are you a reader or writer of slash fanfic? If so, University of North Texas (‘UNT’) student Allison Bradley would like your help. Allison is studying the relationship between media, slash fiction, and LGBTQ+ identity and would like to ask slash creators and consumers to take part in her survey, available online. The survey is completely anonymous and should be completed only by fans over the age of 18. Read the consent form here.

http://beta.transformativeworks.org/help-a-researcher-study-slash/

I did the survey, fanned out a bit, it took less than 20 minutes.
Survey closes March 1. Quite painless.

You probably should be somewhat into slashy fanfic, western variety, to be interested in this survey. I don’t know if fans of CJVC/ dojins and scanlations of BL and yaoi are the audence that the researcher is looking for, but what the heck. Bonus if you have tried writing some fic.

Otherwise, nothing much going on around here.

Watching Mononoke (waugh! keep the weird drugs away from the animation crew! – reminds me of the Takashi Murakami 500 Arhats show I saw in Tokyo) and thoroughly enjoying Showa Rakugo, even as I have to swat away the fluff lobbed at me by the author’s subtext popgun.

mononoke

HOLY DISTURBING IMAGERY BATMAN!
Looks like Murakami (or was it one of his superflat crew/ associates?) had a hand in the chara design for Mononoke !!!!! (1)
http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/w/page/9758462/Mononoke
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2206068/fullcredits/

Awaiting an English scanlation of Genshiken chapter 120 (can’t read the Bulgarian one) to see how far overboard I fanned out. Plum blossoms are early in Japan, Early cherry blossoms are already starting to pop (they are wayyyyy too pink) and even here in the frozen North-lands, the sun is finally peeking out on some afternoons.

 

(1) Off Topic: This is a blog mostly about manga and anime, so veering off into high-church post-modernist art is a bit out of place; nevertheless, the way Takashi Murakami puts his shows together is closer to anime production than to traditional “art studio” work. It is also many levels more complex than something like Warhol’s “Factory” 50 years earlier. Add to this that Murakami hires lots of young creative people and involves them in the production process. What results is a giant “Murakami alumni mafia”, much as anime studios foster webs of acquaintance and cooperation. He also goes whole hog on media mix marketing, so you can load up on art-otaku crap at any of his shows.

A question!

Go do a survey…

The Views On Fandom Project
https://aber.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/viewsonfandom/

“A question. Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.”
SPOCK: Really? 
KIRK: Annoyed, Spock?

If we are interested in this stuff, we should consider helping out when it gets studied. A grad student in the UK is carrying out a study of fandoms. From the questions, the study leans towards Western slashy interests, but whottheheck and for all I know, some of you, dear readers may be into;

  1. BBC’s Sherlock
  2. Avengers related films from the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe
  3. The anime Attack on Titan

too!

Hey! waitasec! This is a great op to post some cross-over fan-art I found while lurking various pits of depravity:

kuchi titan1

 

kuchi titan2

kuchi titan3

 

If you get this, you are already wayyyyyyyyy too far down the rabbit-hole to back out.

The survey is short, easy to complete and has room for you to fan out if so inclined. Quite painless.

Myself, I want to eventually get an online survey hooked up to this mighty engine of gibberish to gather data for my upcoming: “Deluzian excess, Perversion & Death in contemporary Japanese Künstlerlustmordtrauergeratroman: Evangelion“. (working title)

…Which will be either a peer-reviewed paper, a theme party at a local bar or a fail-core noise-rock opera.

So much to do, must get organised.

Kio Shimoku, Madarame & Hato vs Akio Nakamori

Meanwhile, one more backgrounder thought about Madarame and Hato, in the wake of the suspense over Chapter 120 and beyond.

What if one of the meta-reasons for Madarame’s gradual, growing attraction to Hato Kenjiro, even for Hato’s existence was Kio Shimoku’s response to a decades-old torrent of ridicule directed at manga fans by the man who coined the term “2D complex” and first used “otaku” as a pejorative against them?

Akio Nakamori’s second article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko (see Galbraith below) asked: “Do Otaku love like normal people?”

“No, otaku do not love like normal people because they are attracted to fictional girl characters”

103failed men bulg web

Read the nasty origins of Madarame’s 2D forever complex for yourself, in: “Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith  www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men

Oh snap! That’s inconsiderate towards those who read Hato as a trans-person. Kio Shimoku goes out of his way to make Hato blurt out Otoko otoko otoko every so often to muddy the waters. Read the article and think of Madarame and his character development, stretching back to chapter one of the Genshiken.

Long game Shimoku-sensei, long game…

 

PROGRAM NOTE: Please check out the previous post, including the comments. It has been updated and added to; on January 30, 2016, (and again, more on Feb 01, soooo tired!) to more fully thrash out wither MadaHato. Lots more mulling over it all. Don’t be shy, please read and weigh in! Fan-mind assemble!

The way she acts and the color of her hair

“It works even if you don’t believe in it” –Niels Bohr

Wherein I get a bit wordy as I try to string along a whole bunch of concepts towards a coherent and easy to understand appreciation of the problemmatics of the yuri genre as opposed to the BL genre within the Genshiken ‘verse.

 

While we wait for the fan translation of Genshiken’s chapter 116, with its yuri teasing scenes, take a few moments to consider also the earlier Genshiken Nidiame anime extra #4, which laid the groundwork for a bump-up in the level of yuri teasing in the Genshiken. Sure there had been previous bits in the Genshiken, stray comments by Ohno and volume extra pages which poked fun at Sue’s hero worship of Ogiue, all while making sly shoutouts to Zetsubo Sensei’s Koji Kumeta – a friend of Kio Shimoku. (go to the wiki entry and wonder about the name of Kumeta’s ex-assistant; Combat Butler ???) The short Nidiame anime extra went a little further and at first seems somehow “off”; something whomped up by the animation studio as service, something that stretches the canon too far.

snapshot20150930233001

One does not expect a group of fujoshi to suddenly start doing yuri self-shipping.

Chapter 116 of the genshiken supposedly has the yuri teasing harnessed to the goal of giving Kuchiki some fan-service so he doesn’t get all sulky about all the Mada harem goings-on. but there are no (presenting) males in the OVA Extra’s clubroom but some of us viewers. Why the improbable yuri?

After all, one of the usual conditions of BL narratives is the erasure of female characters; they either must be fujoshi cheerleaders or die-in-a-ditch evil women who will try to impede the inevitable m:m pairing. Massive amounts of theory and pop commentary on the genre offers the consensus that the women authors and readers do not want or need female presences within their fantasy spaces. Female characters would break the spell and ground to earth the electric charge of the male marionettes who are being danced towards their inevitable happy (and possibly sexed-up) ending. This rule is almost as powerful as the “its not as fun if they are real gay guys because real gay guys do that kind of stuff anyway” effect that produces the infamous “I‘m not gay, its only him” line that so infuriated (and still infuriates, though there are signs that the issue is sliding towards shoulder shrug territory) activists from the Japanese gay community. Then there are those fun self-deconstructing instances of violent non-consensual sexual assault that the sock puppets occasionally do to each other, but heh, they aren’t real and that’s the way guys act if they go haywire anyway. (1)

Still, a few questions are begged by these rare occurrences and by the glaring absence of lesbian/female same-sex desire anywhere within the Genshiken verse.

Or perhaps not so glaring. Normal Japanese fujoshi are supposed to be overwhelmingly straight women who enjoy BL tales of male:male intimacy as a “break” from reality, as a “healing” space, rather that a fantasy world to escape and stay in (as neckbearded basement dwelling NEET male otakus are supposedly wont to do with their loli materials). (2)

Contrary to early dismissive characterizations, Japanese fujoshi are not a bunch of asocial male otaku analogues (a la Kuragehime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Jellyfish); they are normal, above average achieving, well-socialised modern Japanese women who work, date guys, get married and buy consumer goods (including fan stuff – Japan respects purchasing power) and generally live productive normal lives. They just have this one little hobby that they don’t talk about too much, at least to outsiders. (3)

My ridiculous reason for thinking the absence important is the indisputable fact that a significant number of Japanese women who happen to like other women (and may or may not self-identify as ‘bians) also enjoy BL. Enough western female slash fen are gay and/or queer; some of the most articulate defenders of the genre have made no bones about this (see this blog’s bibliography section and past posts). I have reason to believe that while there was little pop culture discussion about fudanshi/ guys interested in BL in Japan in 2006-2008 when Kio Shimoku re-started the fearsome engines of the Genshiken, there was plenty of discussion about the fact that some Japanese could-be-‘bians had taken to BL because 1) extant yuri was either in short supply and/or vile male-gaze pr0n and 2) they appreciated the female exclusivist social that produced and consumed BL.

Hato should have been a young celibate ‘bian woman. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Grrrrrrrr! And that’s just sticking to BL. Yuri is a form of libidinized CJVC. Why does loli and otokonoko and BL rate a space in the Genshiken, but yuri does not? What poisoned yuri?

Meanwhile back to Hato, rather than Shinobu.

you-sure-you-not-cap-copy

Of course it had to be Hato. The minute Shinobu would walk through the door and casually let slip her identity, the entire Genshiken would fall into a gravity well of pr0nish hawt rezbian loser fan boy-isms. (there even is a vile hentai manga that has an all-female manga club that does nothing but sex each other down as nastily as possible: good hunting if you are so inclined – no I will not!) Fortunately, the crossdressing young guy trope was also making a bit of a breakout too. Voila: Hato.

This also adds a further structural reason for the absence of any ‘bians or even yuri in the fujoshi Genshiken: Kio Shimoku had enough on his plate trying to slip his weird creation into a female homosocial without having to juggle one more damn plotting concern. He needed something to disrupt it, but not too much. Too many balls in the air. Yet her absence remains glaring. Where is the yuri champion? She has to a be a “she”. It can’t be a Yuri Danshi. Kuchiki can’t handle it because he will destroy anything he touches. Even a male Bodhisattva would destroy any yuri he touched. It should have been Shinobu;

Please don’t bother trying to find her. She’s not there…
-Slavoj Zizek

The Nidiame extra #4 anime considered: (spoilers ensue)

In the clubroom, Rika Yoshitake complains that the current membership has shipped Madarame and all the other available males and that she is bored. Out of the blue, she proposes yuri pairings.snapshot20150930232932

Ogiue shoots down the first few that include her and Sue, her and Ohno and Ohno and Saki.

She used the SZS "I am in Despair" line

She used the SZS “I am in Despair” line

Just as you think that Ogiue is against any yuri in principle, she suggests Yajima and Yoshitake. Then Yajima and her highschool friend, than finally Yajima and Hato-chan. Yajima’s complaint is that in each case she is assigned a quasi-male role to the pairing.

snapshot20150930233303

The group then seems to give up on yuri and switches back to the stuco boys, however one of the stuco boys has an ever-present girlfriend. Ogiue admits that she never noticed the girlfriend, she was edited out by “the goggles”

snapshot20150930233330

Discussion then moves towards Hato-kun’s wrestling experience in high school and finally the Hatoxbrother pairing that had been first mentioned by Kaminaga back at the school festival. There is some reluctance to take this further because Hato is present, but Hato-chan OKs it, even encourages it. They consider a historical story along the two brother theme for Mebeatame, with Ogiue worrying that 18+ content might bring down the wrath of the stuco on the club. Sue ventures that it won’t be an issue if they don’t get caught.

snapshot20150930233729

Discussion then shifts to Ohno’s and unexpectedly Rika’s tastes for oyagi shipping and to some odd pairings of western politicians (4)

snapshot20150930233858

With the club members in a shipping frenzy, Yajima declares that she cannot keep up with the “deviancy”

The episode ends.

I would pay arterial blood for a Shirobako season 3 about animating the Genshiken. Time and space would distort somewhere around episode 9.

Of course, years later in a parallel Shimoku-sensei universe, someone who looks like an older Hato who had a “boob job” is happily making dojins with someone who looks a bit like and older Merei Yajima and lo and behold, they aren’t just mangaka and assistant but lovers. So he was a virtual lesbian all this time, neh? Or is he just a pervy dude with a boob job? The OVA#4 was a setup. Duh! Duh? Some of the fandom are going to be unconvinced. No HatoMadaHato, no love.

SF 16p5 done in 5 minutes web600

The most obvious excuse for the lack of a ‘bian fujoshi in the Genshiken, within-story is that otherwise heteronormative fujoshi females would feel as uncomfortable about female same-sex intimacy, as stick-in-the-mud old straight guys feel about male same-sex intimacy. “Hey, I don’t swing that way, sorry it makes me a bit uncomfortable, it’s just me”, “No Homo“, to use the ugly, insulting vernacular disclaimer. It ain’t polite, it is a relic of far nastier times, I need to get over it, I’m working on it dammit, etc., but the effect is real, understandable and cannot be waived away with a smug denunciation. And it works on straight girls too; I would even argue that the flip-side might be more powerful in many cases. One could even extrapolate from the OVA that a group of women sitting around discussing fictional yuri pairings might feel a bit less comfortable given the chance that at any moment the conversation could slide over to them hurling ship at each other. Restricting the pairing to fantasy males establishes a social ceasefire as well as other forms of safety within the space.

Yet this discounts the historical fact that one of the major roots for the yuri genre, the 1920’s class-S female isolationist tales of spiritual female:female friendship (and perhaps more somewhere in the purple prose?) were extremely popular women’s literature throughout the 20th century in Japan. Japanese feminist speculative fiction, sociological sci-fi also had plenty of female isolationist/ female homosocial settings, usually whomped up to go at some aspect of structural sexism in Japanese society with hammer, tongs and ray guns.

Then genderfluid Shoujo tales and Bishonen tales came along, which morphed into more explicit BL stories and the Japanese female readership moved over en masse to shipping imaginary guys by around the year 2000. Anything that looked like female same-sex intimacy was left for loser fan boys who wanted hawt lesbo pr0n. The coincidence that the Adult Movie then Video industry also took off around this time and filled their B and C grade flicks with “lesbian” “schoolgirls” probably had some effect as well, (and a further effect will be addressed below) but the combination was enough that female interest in anything that looked like the old class-S stories evaporated. Even today, the yuri genre cannot pay the printing bills in Japan without the male readership, though there are indications that some straight women are reading the stuff again.

If we diaspora fans lived in Japan and could read and speak Japanese, the reasons for this would be glaringly obvious. But most of us don’t. And there has been a lack of deep English language research and historical material on the yuri genre in Japan. This is changing:

Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre by Verena Maser . 27.9.2013 Universität Trier
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

All I can say is that if this gets posted on a major yuri scanlation group’s discussion board as well as on Erica-sensei’s Okazu blog theory section http://www.yuricon.com/essays/ essay section (let’s just say that in terms of western yuri enthusiasts, the two camps don’t exactly see eye to eye) then it is worth a look.

Because it is a PhD thesis, and because such are usually made freely available to the public and not paywalled and because it it well researched and very readable, it may well become the go-to, on the web source for English language fans who need to know a bit more than what you can get at the wikipedia page for yuri.

I should be more emphatic:
I highly recommend that you download and read the work.
That link again:
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

You no interested in Yuri, only interested in BL Slash? You still read it. Skim the history bits, go to the editor interviews and fan survey sections. Much learning to happen. Nuff Said.

There are other short primers on yuri out there, but these lack a few things.

Original sin:

Any casual western fan who has been curious about yuri has probably heard of those 1920’s class-S stories of heartfelt female intimacy and friendship (no sex). You might have even heard of one of the more famous series; Hana Monogatari/ Flower Tales. Of course we didn’t read them. Here’s the executive summary that all the other academic-ish works neglected to emphasise; No Happy Endings. Ever! Complete and utter bummer, followed by complete and utter bummer, followed by another complete and utter bummer. One of the women/girls always moves away, gets married, dies, evaporates, loses touch, runs off and or does all or most of the preceding. Unless they both jump off a bridge. Enjoy your soulful school-girl friendships, they will be ruthlessly crushed beneath the boots of cold hard reality and the expectations of good Japanese female behavior. Oh, and you can’t ever visit your school chums, ever. No keeping in touch. All love must, like the flowers the tales are named for wither and fall. And then be ground into the mud…

The color of the sulla flower…

Bleh!

from the wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya

“One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( 花物語 “Flower Tales”, 1916–1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.[9][10]

Yaneura no nishojo ( 屋根裏の二處女 “Two Virgins in the Attic”, 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple.[11] This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya’s own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made (“To the Ends of the Earth”, 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

In 1925, Yoshiya began her own magazine, Kuroshoubi (Black Rose), which she discontinued after eight months.[9] After Black Rose, Yoshiya began presenting adult same-sex love as being akin to ‘sisterhood’ and complementary to heterosexuality, becoming more mainstream in her works.[12]”

Well at least in one story you get a woman-couple that is not destroyed by the mills of the gawdz. Whew! (5)

Apparently this effect is well known to western women who happen to like other women and who have bothered to hunt down what older members of their sisterhood had to put up with back in barbaric times. Non-traditional life choices didn’t get a lot of happy endings in popular narratives and long escape the grubby hands of the censors. (This is perhaps less well known to the hordes of LFB’s who have become yuri fans.) You needed that nice little “comic code” etc., crime & deviancy meet a bad end slipcover to be able to hang onto the furniture. As well, the effect seems especially pronounced in Japan, where tragic endings are traditionally equated with more serious and more emotionally poignant narratives. Mono no aware

As a friend once caustically remarked: “A perfect Japanese movie happy ending: everyone dies.

Crap! Even the nice indeterminate couple in Sailor Moon die, heroically. I heard they get resurrected/ reincarnated somehow but one should be able to do better 70 years after Flower Tales. But noooo… It always the girl couple dying, one reaching for the other’s hand as they expire. The girls get Pr0ned then fridged.

Add a famous 1930’s scandal of a lovers suicide between an ex-Taka “butch” woman and her “neko” paramour and the stage is set for a pathologization in Japanese popular culture narratives of female same-sex intimacy. Soulful class-S results in heartbreak, but is tolerable because it keeps the girlies out of the pool halls. Gender norm violating butch/femme behaviour is criminal and sick and will be hunted down and ruthlessly suppressed. (6)

“The feminization of men and the masculinization of women and the neutered gender that results is a modernistic tendency that makes it impossible for the individual, the society, or the nation to achieve great progress. Accordingly, since the manliness of man and the femininity of woman must forever be preserved, it is imperative that we not allow the rise of neutered people who defy nature’s grace.”
– General Ugaki Kazushige [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazushige_Ugaki], per Borovitz, The Discourse on “Love Between Men” in Interwar Japan: Iwata’s History of Homosexuality  http://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

It takes a bit of time before the genre can shake this off.

For me, only three questions arise out from the historical survey offered by the Maser work: the absence of a mention of the testimony of Dr. A. Mizoguchi (who nominally was writing about her experiences as a Japanese lesbian using early Bishonen/ proto-BL narratives as support and inspiration for her own awakening identity, but also included a chapter on her “state of the yuri” some 10-20 years earlier in her 2008 PhD thesis) and of a related allusion by Mizoguchi to an informal or otherwise suppression of lesbian narratives by Japanese publishers in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s. This one is a willothewisp, perhaps I got it wrong. (The third involves giant robots and will be dealt with later.)

The Maser work also has fascinating interviews with editors of magazines that handled yuri stories. These are remarkable in that most of the editors don’t seem to acknowledge any particular interest in the yuri genre. Genre is what the mangaka is interested in this week, editors just carry the bags and stoke the star-making machinery behind the popular stories. Content? Whatever, not my job. I find this hard to believe, but the methodology sure reads as sound.

Also of note is her research on the print runs, readership and economics of publishing yuri circa 2005-2012. This research also goes far in explaining one particularly obnoxious (It’s just me, your mileage may vary) manga, “Yuri Danshi” (whose genesis she spends some time on) and offers some insights into the effects that a largely heteronormative (but less so that originally imagined) readership that keeps the few yuri publications (that offer a bit more than raw “hawt rezbian pr0n”) in the black, has upon the genre.

To put it crudely; there aren’t enough lesbians in Japan (or women interested in female same-sex intimacy and desire who will buy the usual yuri fare) to support regular publication of anthology magazines that feature lesbian-ish stories.

Also of note is the highlighting of one particular manga series on the fandom and the genre; to bring it up in a scholarly work takes some degree of courage. Apparently the genre defying, extremely problematically pornographic signature work by Kurogane Ken, Shoujo Sect figures prominently in fan responses – even in some female fan responses. This of course warmed my abject LFB heart, because the dammed thing caused a minor Saito Tamaki style post-Lacanian “trauma” in me when I first stumbled upon it. I am as easily enticed by the promise of a bit of exploitative girl/girl fluff as the next guy, so I was unprepared for the level of single minded commitment to kicking a tired cliche up a few notches that Sect takes on. You have been warned. Just yuri smut, don’t read too deeply. Maybe it’s just me? The extant scanlations lose a bit of the obsessive background details that were present in the original (Anon/SS?) scanlation efforts (via 4chan’s /a and /u board participants) Maser notes that even fans who normally eschew pornographic yuri variants were and continue to be seduced by the artwork and the high melodramatic romanticism of the work. Oh, and it is pure raw lolicon yuri smut. It may well be criminally actionable in some jurisdictions. The anime adaptation is sewage and best avoided.(7)

Here’s one other kicker that the Maser and most other researchers have failed to note: While it appears on the surface to be merely an upgrading of a usual “hawt lesbian schoolgirl secks” story, its plotting, pacing, character development and story arc are unmistakeably something else. They appear to be lifted wholesale from the tropes and conventions of BL tales. Shoujo Sect is BL with girl bodies. Nice trick Kurogane-sensei. Also of note is that for the most part, extremely libidinous happy endings ensue for almost everyone; unless your lover was a supernatural entity or you are a jealous, manipulative rapist sempai. (8)

Its the same story the crow told me, it the only one he knows

Contrast to 40 Years of the Same Damn Story, Pt.1 by Erica Friedman.
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/

In a short essay, Erica friedman runs through the signature yuri works in the canon, with an emphasis on the infamous Story A (girl confesses to girl, happy ever after). Erica-sensei’s rundown of the top 40 includes a story that I found missing from the Maser list, which is understandable as it is totally ridiculous:

“In the mid-2000s, Kannazuki no Miko created a whole new wave of Yuri fans, with an action riff on the couple from Shiroi Heya no Futari. Instead of 70s melodrama and partying, we were given giant robots and apocalyptic prophecies.”

Well, that one remains freaking weird but some of the artwork from it would become a classic yuri “signature” visual trope.

-STAR--Kannazuki-no-Miko-Review-with-MOOT-e10982160

Want more? click-eeee!

 

One must also mention that the couple in Miko end up fighting each other to the death on the moon, or something, it is unclear. They get to be reincarnated together though, so they can be together in the next life: Blergh! Fridged again!

Friedman also expands on a feature mentioned by Maser, the faux-seraglio effect that the marketing department dreamed up to lure in more LFB’s

“At the same time Kannazuki was recreating “Story A,” another series that was playing with the same key elements fooled a whole generation into thinking it was telling an original story, by stealing from *every* Yuri story that had gone before it. Strawberry Panic! added a new twist to “Story A,” – a pretend glimpse past the gauze boudoir curtains of an all-girls, no-guys-allowed world. This concept quickly became a typical feature of Yuri “Story A”s aimed at men. (Presumably to heighten the sensation of forbidden love they enjoyed in Yuri.) This added thrill has retroactively invaded popular girl’s series, such as Maria-sama ga Miteru. The radio and live shows – the audience of which are mostly men – now begin with a warning that boys are not allowed. And many Yuri anthologies that target a male audience provide that same warning on the cover, just so the audience knows it’s getting a glimpse of some forbidden women’s mystery.

Where Strawberry Panic! really excelled was as an homage to “Story A” through the ages.

The manga riffed on series like Card Captor Sakura, Himitsu no Kaidan and Maria-sama ga Miteru, while the anime stole openly from Kannazuki no Miko, the above series and even Western stories such as The Graduate and Wuthering Heights. (Amusingly, it wasn’t even the first Yuri anime to borrow from Wuthering Heights. That honor would probably have to go to Cream Lemon: Escalation.)””

It should be noted that Maser follows on the research and analysis that Erica Friedman has long made available to Western yuri enthusiasts, even highlighting most of the iconic works within this earlier short essay.

However, being a rather dense LFB (reformed MK II variant, most of the time…) it is one thing to read

“Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya)

OR

“In the beginning, “Story A” rarely had a happy ending. This is not because of the same-sex love, very few romance manga in the 70’s had happy endings. The typical couple were doomed to never be together for one reason or another. In the case of “Yuri” couples, the options were mostly one partner died or left to get married”. (Ibid Friedman)

…and another to read Maser’s synopsis of 8 or 10 of the Flower Tales. The old boot in the face over and over and over again efect really gets the point across. There were how many of these colossal downers? 52 of em? Gehhhh!

Female same-sex intimacy aversion therapy. 

Given the sad history above, one would think that girl meets girl and they walk off into the sunset is an improvement. Well, they could do better:

“To simplify everything for the purposes of conversation here – I prefer to read stories about women in love with women. No first-crushes, no girls in school, actual women who are a priori interested in women. I’m long past coming out and I like my characters to be, too. This does exist, it’s just rarer than “Story A,” because, as I pointed out “Story A” doesn’t make any awkward political or social statements.”” ibid Friedman comments section.

I suspect Erica-sensei did not need Maser’s research to elaborate the details of why Story A with its schoolgirls finding the hints of the beginnings of happiness are a plague on the land. Friedman knows yuri. Yuri has been a life-work for Erica Friedman. Erica Friedman deserves a civil commendation from the Japanese Emperor for promoting Japanese cultural products. A smart University would give Erica Friedman an honorary doctorate. A classy and smart university would take her blog site as original scholarship, convene 3 greybeards, email her two questions as a thesis defence and award her a full doctorate. It would be worth more to them than to her.

Still, for the slower among us, and that means me, seeing Maser’s research answers a few questions and begs a few more. It might be time for me to spend a week designing a survey page, linking it up on survey monkey and making this blog do some honest work.

Following on the section about editors, the survey chapter leaves me convinced that the Japanese male yuri fandom are either the stupidest creatures in the world or masters of deception. I suspect the latter. Yeah, I’m sure there is a creep factor in these and some want innocent loli bait (untouched by male defilement, yet sexualized) but I am also convinced that the success of Aio Hanna, Sasameki Koto , and now the overt lesbian subjectivity of Takemiya Jin et al. means that what some of the fandom is craving is more authenticity, a real view of a different, more mature romantic desire that can be understood, enjoyed and perhaps adapted to their (our) own desires and dreams. (9)

First Maser defines her fandom:

“When I speak of “fans,” I rely on the following definition: fans are “persons who for longer periods have a passionate relationship with an … external, public, either personal, collective, objective or abstract fan object and who invest time and/or money into the emotional relationship to this object.” (Roose, Schäfer, and Schmidt-Lux 2010, 12) To this we can add that “fandom is characterized by two main activities: discrimination and productivity” (Fiske 1990, 147) as well as the observation that fans form a complex and multifaceted community (Jenkins 1992b, 277).
[…]
Investment, discrimination, productivity and community are not four discrete characteristics. “

Then where she found them:

“Japan’s largest online message board 2channeru has a specialized board for discussing the yuri genre called “Rezu/yuri moe ita,” described as being for men and women who want to discuss rezu and yuri (although the exact difference between these two terms remains unclear), but cautioning: “While we do not actually exclude lesbians [bian na kata], this is also not a board aimed at lesbians [rezubian].” Since the board belongs to an external 2channeru subsection for erotic/pornographic content, both rezu and yuri are here connected to pornography.”

“”Mixi is only in Japanese and remains tightly locked: those who do not have an account cannot access any of its content (not even by searching on Google). In order to sign up, potential users need a Japanese contract mobile phone to receive an authentication email. This essentially excludes Japanese without a contract mobile phone and foreigners. Therefore (and due to language barriers), Mixi has almost no foreign users. Nevertheless, most users do not sign up under their real name. At least officially, usage of the “Rezu/yuri moe ita” is thus forbidden for users under the age of
eighteen.””

The lack of emphasis on the Tamaki post-Lacanian view of fandom is interesting, but the more inclusive, more diffuse definition above serves well enough. I’m just fixated on Tamaki’s thing, with his heavy emphasis on libidinized interest, faults and all.

To the survey:

Valid responses 1353 out of 2848 (47.5%) most of the rest ditched as incomplete, some other small disqualifications (d=25)

“females accounted for 52.4% of the respondents, while males accounted for 46.1% :
“non-heterosexual” females accounted for 30.0% of respondents,
“heterosexual” females for 15.2%,
“non-heterosexual” males for 4.7%, “heterosexual” males
for 39.5%, and “other” for 1.2% (don’t know: 8.1%; n/a: 1.3%).
I deliberately put all labels for “sexual identities” in quotation marks since they do not necessarily reflect the “sexual identity” of any of my participants. It could very well be the case that yuri content is enjoyed by females who are less interested in the political aspects of their “sexual identity” (namely the LGBT movement) and see sexual activities as something they do (or could do), but which do not define them. As Welker (2010b) notes, what connects “lesbian” Japanese women is their deviation from social expectations rather than a shared identity. Furthermore, as discussed, I find supposedly fixed categories such as “homosexuality” highly problematic. My usage here is a matter of convenience as it permits me to analyze my data in a meaningful way. The blanket term “non-heterosexual” is intended as a neutral way of describing all kinds of (fluid) “sexual identities.” I agree that it is not a perfect choice (Weeks, Heaphy and Donovan 2001, vii), but it seems like the English language is still short of a better alternative.
[…]
Yet enjoying what others did and doing it yourself are two different things, as the results for the question about fan work production show:
13.9% of respondents had produced both parodies and originals, 16.9% only parodies, 8.5% only originals, and 60.7% had produced no fan works at all.
Here we see that the fans of the yuri genre exhibit various ways of engaging with their favorite text(s): far more respondents consumed fan works (81.2%) than produced them (39.3%). Only 17.2% of all respondents neither consumed nor produced yuri fan works, a result that attests to the importance of this aspect of fandom. Further analysis shows that while 49.3% of female respondents answered that they had produced some kind of yuri fan work, only 27% of male respondents said this (***p<.001), a finding consistent with prior research on Japanese fan works (e.g. Orbaugh 2010, 177)”

Asked about the need for explicit depictions of f:f sex in the works, a great many of the respondents professed to be either not that interested or even against the raunch.

Maser also asked about crossover interests between BL and Yuri:

“My survey covered this topic by asking participants whether they were interested in the boys’ love genre: 55.8% of respondents said they were interested, 34.2% said they were not, and 10.0% were not sure. This result supports the idea that the fandoms overlap. A further breakdown by “sexual identity” shows that it was mostly female and (to a lesser degree) “non-heterosexual” male respondents who liked both yuri and boys’ love: 75.3% of “non-heterosexual” females and 83.0% of “heterosexual” females, as well as 57.8% of “non-heterosexual” males answered this question with “Yes”—but only 27.2% of heterosexual” males did (***p<.001). This is probably not surprising given that the majority of boys’ love fans are female.”

Then there was related finding, one that is very, very Japanese:

“A further analysis of the responses to my survey indicates that iyashi was especially important for fans of specific texts. For example, 79.5% of those who gave the pornographic text Shōjo Sekuto as one of their favorite titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for 150 liking yuri manga (***p<.001, n = 132). In the case of those who preferred yuri anime, iyashi was especially important for the fans of the series Yuru yuri. 81.4% of those who gave Yuru yuri as one of their favorite yuri titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri anime (***p<.001, n = 113)”

Iyashi you say?

Iyashi is a catch all Japanese term for healing/ comforting/ soothing. The respondents would have us believe that a fine schoolgirl Story A (with or without a bit of skin) is at least as good as a visit to a cat cafe and a cup of chamomile tea while a mogy sits on your lap and purrs (liking cats stipulated). As I mentioned, yuri like Shoujou Sect is highly eroticised fiction. Perhaps finding characters with sexual agency who know what they like and find others to share the fun, without doing a two-year silent pining away while getting up the courage to mumble a confession and then run away blushing routine can be considered soothing. Likewise, the love conquers all-ness of the newer variants of the yuri genre is a great tonic for a battered soul. A final idea about soothing: Same ‘ole same ‘ole is in itself soothing. A well done rehash on a familiar theme is soothing. Even if “you cannot move forward”.
Moving forward is overrated.

Future surveys could include (a)Novelty (b)Ally of justice (c)Happy ending (d)Hope for a better world (e)Tourism (f)Postmodern consumption of an aesthetic (h)Comfortably familiar (i) A spectre is haunting Japanese queerdom (j)Masturbation aid (k)Sex manual and (l) perhaps a few others. Please select all that apply.

Some of the questionnaire comments were heartfelt:

“I think that in Japan, many yuri [texts] are about tragic love. Furthermore, there are also those created by males fantasizing about yuri. I always think that I would like to read yuri created by LGBT women [tōjisha16 josei].

In society, many negative things are murmured about homosexuality, for example “They can’t be saved,” “They can’t have children” or “Two females can’t live together.” Or the negation is said out loud. If that’s true, then I don’t understand why such works are valued”.[16 josei].”

Tōjisha, if we remember from a previous essay post is a favourite term in the political debates over gay rights in Japan. It means witness, someone with skin in the game, testimony from one involved.

And

“Someone who deviates from society is made into ‘a thing that can be enjoyed as fantasy.’ “

And

“”Extremely often Japan’s sexual minorities are consumed as “entertainment” in this way.
… There are only a few people I can trust. The reason is that I don’t want to be made into “entertainment.” I’m always wishing for a few very sincere and positive works about homosexuality. I’m constantly thinking that it would be good if the sentiment of homosexuality (not “lesbian” [rezu] as used in the world of porn) soaked into general [texts]. I cannot understand people who say “It’s a good work” about tragic stories. … Same-sex love is “love” [ren’ai] just like heterosexual love. … I wish that there were happy and sad stories in yuri just the way they exist about normal love. Homosexuality is absolutely not special. I want it to be much more equal, that we don’t color a completely normal thing to show that it’s “not normal.”

More goodies in the original, I could stretch this post out to the moon if I kept quoting the pithy stuff.

Back to the Genshiken clubroom. The rotten girls, plus Hato-as-chan are used to the idea of steering their male sock-puppets though steamy romance tales with plenty of hawt guy-on-guy action. Now even all us squeamish cis-male pale-skinned privileged old guys who grew up in barbaric times and as a result are a bit loathe to read a whole pile of raw steamy yaoi can understand the usual aspects of their genre. Just think Shoujou Sect with guys instead of girls and lots of lotion. That’s what the girls plus Hato read and aspire to draw. Sometimes they throttle back the naughty bits and situate the bonking off-stage or off-page. But yup, That’s pretty well it.

Given the freedom, safety and power this exercise affords, and given that their straight-girl hearts are easily as squeamish about looking at nekkid girls doing the nasty as I am about looking at nekkid guys etc., it is easy to understand the absence of yuri as a genre that is seriously considered within the Genshiken.

Except for those who have been tainted by furreign thinking.

Note that Ohno and to a lesser degree Sue are not particularly annoyed by bringing up the subject. Ohno has spent time in the States and has been corrupted by outlander ways. Also, as a cosplay guru, she is used to the idea of identity fluidity.(10)

Heroes fuck the way they want, the important thing is that they are heroes. Kanako Ohno’s hobby is becoming heroes. Sue is fully furreign and therefore inscrutable. Angela, when she appears is worse and carnivorous. Ogiue as a pro mangaka can stretch her mind and perhaps consider a fictional Yajimacci as male-ish enough to start the ball rolling, but Merei immediately becomes slash-kami MJ Johnson’s “Helmut” and declares that this is just normal female friendship.

snapshot20150930233207

And of course, on a meta level, the yuri teasing is just fodder for LFB’s. A bit of yuri frisson makes the dread machinations of the rotten girls a bit less scary to us guy readers. Once we are mollified, lo and behold, the club abandons the yuri goggles and goes back to shipping guys.

Expect nothing much more from the Genshiken in terms of yuri than occasional teasing, thrown as a sop to uncomfortable male readers when the BL goggles effect gets too strong.

Unless…

Let’s detour to the previously mentioned Sasemeke Koto/ Whispered Words. This one went on for a while during the 2005-2011 period when yuri began to shed its taste for dire endings. It was frequently compared to Sweet Blue Flowers, a more serious and considered work only because both lead female characters bore a superficial resemblance to each other. Of course the two stories were leagues apart: Koto is a rom-com and Flowers is a tale of disenchantment, personal growth and finding strength. Koto‘s Sumika struggles with her feelings and then the fear that she will be forever ignored by the girl she has decided that she cares deeply for. Flowers’ Fumi experiences one classic yuri relationship disaster after another and whatever does not kill her quietly makes her stronger. Fumi is a practicing lesbian who wears her heart on her sleeve. All the lousy crap that happened to her fictional antecedants happens to her, but she will not be broken. Sumika is a happy go lucky virgin tomboy with extreme martial arts powers trying to sort out her feelings and then work up enough courage to confess and get her first kiss.

What allows Sumika the space to consider same-sex desire, and then a fragile girl-crush on her childhood friend Ushio whom she has so long protected is only the presence of the lesbian beta couple [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BetaCouple] Tomoe Hachisuka and Miyako Taema. They are improbable. First they are a happy Lady Chatterly’s Lover trope, Miyako being the daughter of the family chauffeur. Tomoe is an 18yr old finance and business wizard who single-handedly saved the family business empire and has returned to finish high school as a last vacation in normal-ville before she goes back to runing Japan Inc(?) There are no invisible ninja bodyguards hanging around (cf Girl Saurus) but I am sure that all the students at the school know that anyone stupid enough to make rude comments in the direction of anyone who shows an interest in same-sex desire might not show up for classes the next day. Heck, they might just be vaporized where they stand by Low Orbital Ion Canon. Or their parents might end up on the dole. Still the hint that Sumika might be a “lesbian” and in a relationship is enough the threaten her run for the student council. Low Orbital Ion Canon can only do so much, but in the end Ushio, the girl that everyone knows crushes ineffectively on “cute girls” gets the position, so call it a win for the support team.

Tomoe meets a bit of reluctance from her fellow students setting up a lesbian isolationist club at school, but soon settles for a wimmen’s Karate club, as the effect is pretty much the same. Tomoe wants a girls’ club and she will get one. Tomoe also thinks that confessions are cute and must proceed according to a strict script, so it is up to Sumika and Ushio to figure out that they are meant for each other and nerve up to enjoy one long awaited kiss. Yes, all this was over one single solitary snog fer crissakes; just as the two are about to graduate. Oh heck!

Along the way there are plenty of impediments and distractions. Other folks crush on Sumika, one crossdressing bishonen, a girl classmate, a karate obsessed diminutive german transfer student (again female), a guy karate star, though this is more a ‘sweep her off he feet and inherit the family dojo‘ effect. There is also the threat that Ushio will have to move away to take care of her ailing grandma, though this gets resolved when her brother the yuri mangaka finds a woman who will up with him put. Strangely enough no one crushes on Ushio, who is the more conventionally pretty one. Her serial dramatic cute girl fascinations seem to have made her an object of comic relief. No one takes her seriously any more.

If one can get past Sumika’s super karate powers and the improbable rich girl/chauffeur’s daughter couple, the story is poignantly sweet. It turns on the idea of ‘cute’ as Ushio only pines for ‘cute girls’. It just takes her forever to figure out that cute is a very flexible concept that can also include ‘girl hero’. The hammers of the gawds do not smash their love to little bits. A happy ending ensues! The anime is not a complete mess, which is rare, though the manga is far superior.

Yet the power of the Tomoe/Miyako couple is the “shield” that protects and enables the entire exercise. As well as silencing bigots, it gives agency and legitimacy to female same-sex desire and makes it damn obvious than any social strictures against such are arbitrary and, with enough money, will and power, easily set aside. That they are a happily pair-bonded couple who fuck, sleep together and are for all intents and purposes married, normalises and legitimates normal human female lesbian sexuality and affection. Their importance cannot be under-rated. They are an improbable, even fantastic device but an essential one. (11)

In the theoretical literature surrounding the attraction that yuri and narratives of female same-sex intimacy have for male consumers, there is always a vague and somewhat politicised mumbling about an escape or respite from the demands of stereotypical male behaviour codes. This might be operative in some rare cases, but for the most part is smoke, intellectual laziness and misdirection. (12) The real, frightening problem is being alone. More and more people, male and female are learning that all the modern world offers them is a solitary life. If you can’t manage the earning power, social capital and the frame of mind to fit into what a proper nuclear family is advertised as being in your particular neck of the woods, enjoy your ‘roneryness. How to put up with, to live with another human being, when social codes no longer dictate who gets to do what and who has to silently defer is left as an exercise for the confused.

“…from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away…”
–L.Cohen, Democracy

You want me to do what? Fuck that! I’m outta here.

There aren’t a hell of a lot of good exemplary narratives out there of how to manage dealing with another human, even in the field of romance, let alone the grind of living with someone else year after year. Either in Hetlandia or Queerville. Sure they walk off hand in hand into the sunset, then what? The passive partner accommodates, the end. (13)

No wonder us guys are looking over the fence. No wonder the wimmens are driving guy BL sock-puppets all over the golf course greens to see what could happen. As a straight guy, how do I get along with a female human being, first in matters of the heart and then maybe playing house? For a long time? No idea. I thought I was just to strut around and act manly. No wonder so many guys are desperately reading yuri and not caring about the porn bits. If there are two wimmins and they get along, there must be some clue of what women are predisposed to put up with. Is this adaptable to my situation? Perhaps the fujoshi entertain similar questions about how to deal with a guy on a long-term basis? Oh shit, these are all just fantasy stories anyway,  they offer nothing but unrealistic longings and no one has the slightest idea of what they are going on about. Give up!

Maybe if real live lesbians and gay guys who are settled into long-term relationships start writing manga about their boring day-to-day domestic lives, we might get some new ideas…
Other than: The passive partner accommodates, the end

Perhaps the women who enjoy BL tales would then upgrade their cheesy stories and the silly yuri fluff that I occasionally sneak a peek at will offer me more than iyashi. Oh well, there is always Otaku no Musume-san if one of those blurry one-night stands has cosequences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaku_no_Musume-san

Perhaps somewhere out there, some two humans are living together, enjoying each other’s quiet company and deciding, day to day that life is pretty good and worth the effort to keep doing it that way. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps they have even arranged things so that one isn’t being damaged by the experience of living with the other.

We are open to suggestions here.

Anybody care to to add anything?

The silence is deafening.

All I hear is a bunch of social conservatives and more and more they sound like variant cruel and damaged sexual fetishists.

The passive partner accommodates, the end.

Social conservatives, religious or otherwise now all sound like perverts.

Who gives a rats ass that two X or Y might want to snog, compared to “you have to suffer all the rest of your life and behave like this or everything will get scary-scary-we-don’t-know but it will be bad.”

Let it.

Though the heavens fall.

Which points to a solution that I have long advocated for Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.

If the mangaka wants to address the glaring lack of any yuri fannning and/or fandom and/or ‘bian interest in BL narratives (which are real and significant though more limited in Japan than in western slash-spaces) within the Genshiken, Kio Shimoku must introduce a ‘bian couple as new members.

As theoretically interesting as the concept of a Yuri Danshi is, the execution makes for one heck’uva loathsome creep of a character: buddy boy is out. (14)

The ‘bians have to show up as a couple, otherwise yuri tropes run wild and turn the Genshiken into a yuri goggle fest LFB/fanservice pit. As well, female same-sex intimacy must be legitimized and demonstrated to be as normal as Ohno and Tanaka’s, Ogiue and Sass’ and Saki and Kou’s relationships. Only couples can have sex in Genshiken, Only individuals who are pair-bonded can have ever experienced sex. No non-virgin singles allowed in the Genshiken. This is why Keiko is a perpetual outlier. At least one of the two new members has to be interested in BL, because “while the characters are male, the hands that draw them and the hearts that put words in their mouths are female“. And the contradictions of BL as a woman’s genre that erases women can be played with for at least a few more years, while the contradictions of the yuri genre can be gently teased apart.

Unfortunately a realistic male:male couple would be too much to handle in the Genshiken: they freeze Hato and all shipping, in fact the entire exercise of BL fandom in its tracks. ‘Bians only for now, please. A confused gay-ish Hato is permissable, but if Madarame’s heart is ever won over the whole fantasy BL edifice will be imperilled. “No, we don’t do that. Sorry“. Fail.

Saki’s warning that the Genshiken critters have absolutely no experience whatsoever with real homosexual people needs more work. The members will squirm. Hato, both kun and chan will face a reflection of some of the fan controversies his indeterminacy has provoked. As well, the lack of any political or real-world consequences, interest or responsibility of the Genshiken members needs some gentle poking. Some of the more pointed questions asked by real-world theorists, such as the idea that perhaps otaku/fujoshi space provides a safe, ineffective hidy-hole for nascent minority sexual and gender expression in Japan, that might otherwise manifest in real life and demand justice, need to be thrashed out.

Or not…

The Genshiken can just roll along as it has done for a while now.

One should never underestimate the attraction of iyashi.

See also:

The Sexual and Textual Politics of Japanese Lesbian Comics
Reading Romantic and Erotic Yuri Narratives By Kazumi Nagaike
http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2010/Nagaike.html

Finding the Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga
by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington,
MA Thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

The Female Gaze in Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kathryn Hemmann PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania 2013
http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1920&context=edissertations

More about BL, some yuri, follow on the above:
Queering the media mix: The Female Gaze in Japanese Fan Comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community
by James Welker
http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

Lesbian Identity research in japan during the 1990’s
(or There are no lesbians in Japan, GET LOST Gaijin girl! The PhD thesis remains unpublished, available only in photocopy form at the University where it was lodged. I looked for it, So sad.)
Note that if they are significant numbers of Japanese women who like other women and enjoy yuri in Japan that it could be reasonable to assume that they are as similarly concerned with their privacy as Chalmer’s research subjects were.
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

2006-02-13-trouble_in_memphis detail

ENDNOTES:

(1) I am unconvinced. There is another term used in fandom: squick. Using fictional squick to negotiate with real-world squick and squick culture is… an interesting idea. Good luck with that. Watch your head.
Rape in yaoi
http://japaneselit.net/2011/05/13/rape-in-yaoi/

See also Nagaike, https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962

(2) Queering the media mix: The female gaze in Japanese fan comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

“Fujoshi and the power of female fans
[5.1] In Otaku joshi kenkyū: Fujoshi shisō taikei (A study of female otaku: Essays on fujoshi), journalist Sugiura Yumiko repeatedly assures her readers that fujoshi, the “rotten girls” who create and consume BL manga (note 36), are not poorly groomed antisocial misfits. “The majority of fujoshi,” Sugiura writes, “are adult women. They live in the real world, where things like ‘true love’ don’t exist. These women fall in love and get married in the real world, where society necessitates compromise. When they get tired, they take a break in a fantasy world, and then they go back to reality” (2006, 42). According to Sugiura, although fujoshi occasionally immerse themselves in fantasy, or delusion (mōsō), they are far from delusional (mōsōteki); for them, the world of BL is a break from reality (genjitsu), not the sort of separate reality (riariti) that attractive shōjo characters provide for male fans of the anime and manga media mix (see also Saitō 2006). Sugiura’s assessment of fujoshi is therefore largely positive (note 37). It is precisely because these women have a firm grasp on reality, she argues, that they are able to enjoy the fantasy of BL, which functions as a safe haven from the pressures of the real world.”

(3)” According to Sugiura’s interpretation, however, fujoshi are women who, while not completely passive, make no effort to actively engage with or change the media they consume. Even when Sugiura (2006) discusses the women who read newspapers on their way to work in order to gather more fodder for scenarios revolving around forbidden relationships between male political figures, she does not attempt to argue that they have any real interest in politics outside of BL fantasies. Sugiura even suggests that fujoshi have been largely ignored by the Japanese media because they are remarkably adept at hiding their fannish interests and because they don’t seem particularly unhappy or maladjusted. In other words, they do not challenge the status quo. As the subcultures associated with dōjinshi demonstrate, however, many fujoshi are not merely consumers; these women are quite active as producers as well. If fujoshi are unsatisfied with the phallocentrism and heteronormativity they see in the media mix, they create their own versions of official narratives in the form of dōjinshi fan comics, which may depict the homosexual escapades of male leads or go into more detail regarding the background and perspective of a female character who is shortchanged in favor of male characters in the original work. When female fans find themselves excluded from male-centered stories and discourse, they simply create their own.” —Ibid. Hemmann

See also Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend, Neojaponism
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

(4) Shipping real-life politicians is considered dangerous in Japan. Since the Edo era, nothing brings down the wrath of politicians more that pr0nish satire directed at them. Entire libraries of Shunga were obliterated when the publishers started to use their educational tomes to poke fun at power. Some still surfaces, See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

(5) If I knew how to write japanese and could manage a decent manga drawing or two (ooops, wrong art degree, we don’t all know how to do everything) I would start cranking out modern updates to Flower Tales in rude dojin form wherein really stupid things happen to keep the soulful innocents unhappily separated. heads explode, a lover turns into a cabbage, girl returns home and the village is swallowed up by a sinkhole, giant meteor impact, one of the pair gets kidnapped by the LDP and brainwashed into becoming a right-wing-nut female cabinet minister, just to finally exorcise via extreme ridiculousness the ghost of this tradition. The dialogue would just need to be random purple prose plus ellipses, lots of ellipses… Did… I … mention… …Elipses?

One minor insight can be gleaned from the relentless unhappy tone of the Hanamonogatari stories; (and Erica-sensei’s caveat that serious Japanese romance tales lean towards tragic endings; serious=tragic remains in force) the endless serial bummer parade goes a long way towards explaining why Anne of Green Gables is so popular among young women in Japan. Nobody gets destroyed/ killed/ fridged!

(6) Finding the  Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga  by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington, MA thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

“One important notion that emerged from the attempt to understand and analyze these female-female relationships contended that there were two kinds: one that was “normal” and “harmless” and “pure”—dōseiai—no more than a passionate friendship, between two feminine girls; and, on the other hand, one that was unacceptable, the ome, in which one of the girls had an “inverted” gender and displayed masculine tendencies, exerting a negative influence, it was believed, on the ypically younger, more feminine girl (Suzuki 24-5).
[…]
significant that otokoyaku were perceived as and referred to as chūsei, one of the terms for androgyny coined at the beginning of the twentieth century, meaning “neutral” or “in-between” .

(7) Spoilers ensue:
The girl boarders at the exclusive girls school are all very, very into romantic recreational sex with each other. Most prominent of these is the Player, Shinobu Handa. She has a harem of girl lovers and flies under the radar of the school authorities, who turn a blind eye to the boarding students’ quirks. The head of the student’s morals committee has nothing in principle against female same-sex desire; she even reads feminist Japanese social sci-fi (in the general tone of Joanna Russ-ish 1970’s scifi) but is extremely irritated by the Player’s irresponsible behaviour. When the Player flirts with her, she makes it clear that while she might be attracted to the Player, perhaps even more than the Player is attracted to her, any romance is out of the question as long as the Player continues to screw around.

Meanwhile side characters run around and couple for no particular reason and indulge in mild kinks amidst declarations of romantic love. One couple faces discrimination from straight day students and the silent one in the pair is unexpectedly revealed to be a supernatural presence that must evaporate if she voices her love. Meanwhile the Player has caught the eye of a jealous, possessive and manipulative “bad lesbian” upper-class-woman who can turn the self-assured Player into a simpering easily blackmailed victim. The Moral monogamist catches the bad actor sexually assaulting the Player, chases her down the hall and bludgeons her with a fire extinguisher. Scandal and expulsion ensue.

Some month later, the almost completely reformed Player tracks down her saviour, they exchange vows and consummate their romance. The vows are right out of The Song of the Wind and Trees and Thomas era Bishonen proto BL tales, though the newer English scanlations cut them down in length considerably and thereby lose the reference. A series of lighthearted comedic after-stories establish the happy couple in a lesbian isolationist social, but add one more junior member to the menage, because what the hell, this is yuri pr0n. Further omake have a shy new character repeatedly visiting a lesbian bar to try to come out and find true love among a clientele that seems to be mostly graduates of the old boarding school. However the new girl’s chances are repeatedly thwarted as old friends reconnect and an out of control drunken office lady keeps butting in and stealing all the fun. Eventually the OL and the new girl are set to collide and we can presume a happy ending ensues.

(8) A similar cross-genre appropriative strategy can be found in one of the signature works of the jousou/ otokonoko genre, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible. Here you have boys and cross-dressed boys in a classic boarding school isolationist space, in a genre that is a blatant effort to re-tread BL tales for a straight, mildly kinked male audience. What unfolds is yuri-ish with male bodies. Sneaky!

(9) From the respective Wikipedia entries:
Whispered Words (Japanese: ささめきこと Hepburn: Sasameki Koto?) is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takashi Ikeda May 26, 2007 and September 27, 2011.

Sumika Murasame (村雨 純夏 Murasame Sumika?)
The main character of the story, Sumika is intelligent, tall with long black hair and athletically gifted

Ushio Kazama (風間 汐 Kazama Ushio?)
Sumika’s best friend and classmate who lives alone with her brother, Ushio is a naive girl madly in love with cute girls. She often gets crushes but they are all one-sided.

Tomoe Hachisuka (蓮賀 朋絵 Hachisuka Tomoe?)
A classmate of Sumika and Ushio who is also a lesbian. She is in a relationship with another classmate, Miyako Taema. She is 18 years old, having taken two years off from school to save her family’s corporation from bankruptcy (a feat publicly attributed to her father). Due to this age difference, she has a more mature outlook on life than the other characters. The Hachisuka family is very wealthy and traditional, but they have no choice but to accept Tomoe’s habits.

Miyako Taema (当麻 みやこ Taema Miyako?)
Tomoe’s girlfriend. While she looks like an innocent and clumsy girl, and is popular with boys (who nickname her “Princess”), her true self is quite different, having a devilish, bad-mannered personality, and is always prone to bad-mouth or tease other people. Tomoe is the only one able to ‘control’ her; they are always together, and for this reason they had no friends before befriending Sumika and the others. Miyako is a daughter of Hachisuka family’s driver, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the rest of Tomoe’s household, but as with other things, they cannot go against her.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whispered_Words

Sweet Blue Flowers, known in Japan as Aoi Hana (青い花?, lit. Blue Flower), is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. It was serialized between November 2004 and July 2013

Fumi Manjōme (万城目 ふみ Manjōme Fumi?)
Fumi is a first-year student at Matsuoka Girl’s High School, and is a tall, shy girl prone to crying. Fumi comes back to the town she grew up in and she meets, without realizing it, her childhood friend Akira Okudaira. When they were much younger, Akira had been Fumi’s bodyguard, keeping her out of harm and consoling her when she cried. Fumi is a lesbian and had her first romantic relationship with her older female cousin Chizu Hanashiro, with whom she had sex [note: when she was 13 yikes!]. Soon after Fumi moves back to Kamakura, she finds out Chizu will soon get married to a man she has never met. Not long after meeting Yasuko Sugimoto in the literature club, Fumi develops a crush on Yasuko, who later asks her out.

Akira Okudaira (奥平 あきら Okudaira Akira?)
Akira, nicknamed “Ah” by some of her friends, is an innocent and cheerful girl in her first-year at Fujigaya Girls Academy. She is the childhood friend of Fumi and after meeting her again after ten years is friends again. She acts as a main source of advice for Fumi.

Yasuko Sugimoto (杉本 恭己 Sugimoto Yasuko?)
Yasuko is a popular third-year senior at Matsuoka Girl’s High School. She is a cool upperclassman and the captain of the basketball team, though Fumi mistakes her for being in the literature club when they first meet. After visiting Fujigaya Girls Academy and rejecting Kyōko’s confession, she asks Fumi out, who accepts. Yasuko developed romantic feelings for a teacher, Masanori Kagami, when she was attending Fujigaya. After his rejection, she switched schools and changed focus from drama to basketball. Yasuko has three older sisters who all attended Fujigaya: Shinako, Kazusa, and Kuri.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Blue_Flowers

(10) Impersonating and performing queer sexuality
in the cosplay zone by Katrien Jacobs, The Chinese University, Hong Kong
http://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%202/3.pdf

(11) Contrast this to the behaviour of the wealthy Sugimoto family in Blue Flowers. Although some members indulge their private female same-sex desires, they show no solidarity and offer no support to any outsiders. They look after their own interests, act in instrumental, rather than sentimental ways and the devil take the hindmost. They use other people, that’s what other people are for. Hello realism, you suck.

(12) When a “male” reads shōjo manga by ITŌ Kimio
(trans. Miyake Toshio)
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/169-175chap11Ito20101224.pdf

(13) Almost completely off topic, but adult work and home life in Japan are functional homosocials until retirement and then it all goes to heck – Pratchett would suggest they need man-sheds!
see Autonomy, Reciprocity and Communication in Older Spouse Relationships by Akiko Oda
http://www.dijtokyo.org/articles/JS21_oda.pdf

(14) Whew! I am glad we’re talking about a fictional universe, with fictional characters, made by one privileged member of his society. I am an outlander with similar privilege in my society, so of course I’m going open my big stupid and make silly suggestions. Meanwhile the politics in meatspace surrounding minority sexualities and gender expressions these days is angry and dire, and this old ain’t going anywhere near it. If it even looks like I am, I withdraw further and tender ritual apologies. Include me out, but I hope it all works out well. Please come to a happy agreement and be safe.