Japan trip 2019

wherein I announce my intention to play hookey again and run off to see cherry blossoms.

This is a bit early but I thought it a good idea to announce in advance that I will run off to the Enoshima – Kamakura region again this year, from mid-March, through the third week in April. I need to barbecue meat on a beach and only a beach on Sagami Bay will do.

That is if I can manage some nagging health issues. I have approximately a month to heal up; I need to get some exercise in as well so that I don’t end up sprained and lame as I have recently been wont to do. When I get there, I will immerse myself in my riajuu life. That barbecue. It folds up into its nice little canvas carrying case. I blame Yuru Camp/ Laid Back Camping anime. You can buy the little compressed charcoal bricks at Y100 stores.

Niku Niku. Eat meat! Meat is all you need!”

Also; cut down on pop culture consumption, eat good food, go for long hikes in the hills, get the inflatable kayak back in service, de-rust my trusty one-speed granny bike, all while spending quality time with my sweetie.

Kite flying! Art exhibitions! Touristy stuff!

If by chance you know of any fun academic conferences or need me to go on for 90 minutes on any of the theory wanks in this blog for your university class, drop a note in the comment section (mention if you want it private and I’ll keep it so). I might even post a few updates and pictures here and/or on my Twitter feed. They will be boring and have nothing to do with manga or anime.

I am so sick of winter. Bleh!

There is a secluded hilltop mini-park overlooking my sweetie’s town with cheery trees — including some monstrously huge, old ones that tower over the grove. We eat onigiri and share sakura chocolate there every year.

This year too.

Izetta Eps 6,7,8,9 etc… Dropped

I give up!kancole-shyte-web

Shuumatsu no Izetta is a tolerable action-adventure yuri-exploitation alt-history WWII exercise, but I might as well throw all pretensions to the wind and instead follow Brave Witches, the latest loli-fanservice installment of the Strike Witches franchise. Or go whole hog on that thing with girls as battleships (or is it battleships as girls?)

After Episode 9, all that remains is for clone-witch to capture and mash on Fine-hime. Then Izetta will go nuclear and decapitate clone-witch-bad-“lesbian” with a flying fire extinguisher, because we all know that’s how its done from Shojo Sect.


I’m bored, I can’t get the Genshiken summary pieces to write themselves and the Nanashi no Asterism compare-and-contrast to Hanamonogatari essay is getting to be too long to read, its arguments too tenuous to follow. Fortunately, per recommendation of a senior blogger, I found a neato free online course on Modern Japanese Sub-Cultures, where I am making a pest out of myself (I hope not) by posting follow-up bibliography links in the class comment section. So far the instructors haven’t stomped me and I have lots of links to neato somewhat peripherally interesting academic papers from five-years of this thing.

And no, NOT spamming the course to drive readership to this site. Well behaved, I am trying to be. Learning something too. Never knew that studies of early shoujo manga had subtypes. One called “otometic” seemed to deal with ever-repeated “grow up, accept who you are and find affirmation in being your mundane self” bromides delivered to girl readers in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I suspect, given the shitty, no-happy-ending-ever nature of proto yuri tales that these old heterosexual chestnuts are being reworked in contemporary non-exploitative, sympathetic “story-A” yuri manga. Needs more research.

Meanwhile, I love how well Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is being received, Here is a short Shinkai-produced Cram-School TV commercial that I fell in love with. A mini Your Name, minus body-swapping, all in two minutes:


(re-blog) PopMatters CFP: Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary 

I don’t know if I have anything to whomp up for this, (How Star Trek TOS captivated my fancies when I was 10 years old and taught me how to make gunpowder?) but it sounds like a good project. Anyone out there care to jump into the fray?

Note that I am merely re-blogging from The Fan Studies Network post here:

You gots questions? You go there, which you should anyway because it’s way kewl.

Ps: Genshiken 126 where iz de raws already? jeesh!

The Fan Studies Network

​When Star Trek debuted on NBC on September 8, 1966, there was little indication that its longevity across multiple platforms (films, series, books) would rival that of series such as Doctor Who, or that the series (and its fans) would become fixtures of popular culture, objects of academic study, and an outsized influence on science fiction.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the hit franchise, and celebrations of its cultural impact have been as varied as the show’s own incarnations.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary, PopMatters seeks submissions about Star Trek, including: the television series, from The Original Series (TOS) to the highly anticipated 2017 new installment; the films, both the originals and the J.J. Abrams reboot; and ancillary materials such as novelizations, comic books, videogames, etc.

We welcome any approach to the franchise, though possible topics may include:

Identity: How has Star Trek’s representation of gender, race…

View original post 364 more words

We can remember it for you, wholesale

“Among the first people who show up as early adopters of memory technology […] The first are pornographers and the second are ideological fanatics…”

— Abby Smith Rumsey: “When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future”, Talks at Google http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZJDFDscmWE (17:15)

I find the former far more interesting.

So this is not much to do about Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture, at least on the surface, but… wait for it… We might get a few ideas.

My long thinky piece on the representation of fujoshi homosocials in manga and anime, including the valid complaints against such and how the Genshiken gets BORING because fujoshi practice is represented as monolithic, is taking a bit longer to come together than I expected.

Plus an IRL gig is going to eat all my time for a while.

Whatever spare time remains and does not get eaten by yard-work (dammit grass is growing high!) will probably go to a quick and nasty examination of the flood of rude Genshiken doujinshi now readily available in the grey corners of the intertubes. It looks like the Harem Arc had one useful spin-off: it fueled the lurid imaginations of “secondary producers”.

Holy crap! (as Ogiue muttered) “My characters are making love” .

Well, they are doing something.

Oh, and chapter 123 should hit the stands soon.


nao wot?


The temple dates are over. Someone is looking overwhelmed…



Chapter 121 raws have appeared and the course of true love remains rocky.
Please, Mada, don’t screw up!

(and wtf is roku/ro-go-go-san/sa/za-go ?)


c121p13 cryptic number.jpg

Much Later: Turns out the cryptic 65535 on p13 isn’t Japanese number slang;  5-5 = go! go! No  ro-go-go-san-go. It is a Japanese forum-slang reference to counter memory limits in old-school games. For instance, the maximum amount of cats that one could ever lure into visiting in your Neko Atsume game, or something. Somewhat like “power level over 9000!” but more in context of “At Maximum”or “Overload!”,which could apply to confusion level, embarrassment, or any number of things.

Meanwhile, a fresh review of chapter 121 is up at Ogiue Maniax: https://ogiuemaniax.com/2016/02/26/nayami-heat-genshiken-ii-chapter-121/
What’s all this talk about Saki? Why did her name come up? Keiko? Sounds thin to me.


A problem of shadows

Now with improved faux-German neologisms!

“Fans of romance […] are known for being overzealous, dim-witted and irrational. Being part of this board, we stand not above them.
Let’s avoid driving the point even further home…”
-Anon, 4chan 

Now that Hato Kenjiro has captured the interest, if not the surprisingly adventurous heart of Madarame Harunobo it has become more difficult to avoid the genre from which Hato draws (and draws) his overwrought notions of romance. And overwrought they must be, otherwise the happy duo could just hang out, drink beer, consider pawing at each other and then fall asleep on the couch.

Or as I ventured previously in a spasm of fanout; stay up all night playing video games.

This is especially important to Hato and Madarame because they are both guy characters, written by a guy mangaka, “forced” to work out their posited, tentative feelings according to these shadow scripts. Madarame might be referencing otokonoko/josou game scripts but I consider these as work-in-progress crude retreads of BL and yaoi-light tropes. Kio Shimoku is banging the internal, structural, isolating “sexism” of a genre, against an in-story “real life” to see what can go horribly wrong.

advice forum web

Mudakun,enthusiastic; …And that means you need us again.

Mudakun,concerned; This is troublesome! Is the whole BL and yaoi thing so profoundly unsettling to us that we go dissociative whenever we do anything more than the most superficial discussion of it?

Mudakun,analytic; More like the layers upon layers upon layers that pop up in any discussion make it really hard to do a formal, expository, hammer- home- one- point- all- the- way- through- the- argument writing. And even if we pull it off, it reads as hectoring; worse than pedantic. Better to try a conversational, messy, parallel-processing approach.

Mudakun,sympathetic; It’s also easier to get the ideas down in text. We’ve been scrapping too many draft versions lately.

Mudakun,sceptical; We can’t avoid the discomfort effect. The fact that there is a whole set of overlapping communities of women fans who have taken it upon themselves to support and create gay-ish/ kage-dōseiai/ male:male romance tales, as well as outright pr0n is fascinating, but that doesn’t automatically make their narratives “accessible” to my understanding or interesting to read. And as for “authentic” gay narratives, I’m not sure if they would be any better or worse. Both variants are built for their respective communities. The stuff is just too alien to me.

Part of it is ‘phobosity, fer sure, even though nekkid pictures of dudes don’t freak me out as much as they did before I went through 2 years of art school life drawing classes – at my school nude models were %100 nekkid. One of my favourite profs was also very into Tom of Finland and “classical” poses. It helped though, that he was also a brilliant instructor and had the patience of a saint. He died young; there is a scholarship in his memory. My best work was always managed from female models. Also, fujoshi notions of man-schmex are something light-years removed from  Bridgeman or Nicolaides. Too much rotten work gives off a chip-on-the-shoulder vibe. Often it displays an outright grudge, as if it must elicit the infamous Yamete, oshiri ga itai cry. Yeah; het pr0n, including fake-lesbian stuff gets really nasty fast too, so we can agree that avoidance is easier than having to hunt down brain-bleach?

Mudakun,allegorical; Thou doth protest too much. At very least, they unsettle you.

Mudakun,sceptical; Well, duh! If I trip over a mention of some nice upright, (uptight) aspirational stories involving middle-class gay guys experiencing nice understandable middle-class emotions without dumping a bucket of pig blood on the prom queen and supernaturally trashing the auditorium then running up a bill at the sex toy store, my faith in common humanity is pandered to – no matter who wrote them. If stories wallow in self-harm, I get annoyed. I get annoyed at stories with straight charas that wallow in self-harm too. I also get annoyed that I am being played, on the cheap. “I Babbitt” is a better place to be than all choked up that they killed Bambi’s Mom.

Mudakun,allegorical; We are channelling that imagined painting from the motie planet again: “Return to your appointed tasks!“. Feeling stick-in-the-mud lately?

Mudakun,sceptical; If I want tales of human acting out leading to chaos and disaster, I find it easier to navigate straight ones. Or I can turn on the news feed. Real-life adult chuunibyou , contains %1000 more tragedy and gore. Have you watched the GOP candidate debates lately?

Mudakun,analytical; Let’s stay on track please. We are “other-izing” again and that is at very least naff, if not offensive. And it is too easy to set off a battle in offended land to avoid digging deeper. Let history fix the representative samples. I’m sure that now that western literature, tv, pop culture, etc., has “discovered gay”, the range of stories will expand from western ero-guro/ nostalgie-du-bou/ true crime exploitation pulps to plenty of nice boring, respectable “doing the best we can under difficult situations” stories. The women seem to be ahead of the game once again; lots of middle-age lady private detectives that just happen to like other ladies and go about balancing their mundane daily lives with solving crimes. Maybe Charles Stross will do one of his Laundry stories from the POV of his “Pinky and Brain” side-characters, his Dr. Mo attempt wasn’t toooooooo bad. (props for the superhero plague gamergate allegory)

At the very least, we won’t have an entire sci-fi multi-volume epic turn on the lead male character’s paralysing repressed dread and guilt of remembering that he once tried male:male intimacy and then let his new squeeze and the rest of his ship’s crew fall into a black hole, while he escaped. (-Cough- -Heechee- -cough!) Whatever!

Mudakun,sceptical; Careful with the generalisations. Besides, there are plenty of IRL lesbians who enjoy reclaiming the outlaw/ negative stereotypes of their sisterhood and setting them lose to wreak mayhem on everything and everyone, including these charas’ main squeezes. I think the main squeezes get to be equally skilled at swatting back, so it is kind of affectionate. It’s undoubtedly a very in-community thing, even if it looks like dyke-variant shonen/seinen battle grinder farce-to-11 burlesque.

Mudakun,enthusiastic; Ooooh ooooh! Just thought of an interesting not-quite-parallelism! Ooooh ooooh!

With yuri, you have improbable stories of female:female (and female: female: female: female: female: female: female: female) schmex cooked up by and for guys to fap to. The fix was obvious: what do real women who like other women have to say about the matter? Especially when it comes to the “feels” stuff. We guys so seldom get to dwell on the “feels”.

But with BL and yaoi, you can’t “fix” the genre by having a more realistic “gay” male authorial voice, because the stories are built to satisfy mostly straight female fantasies (yes, yes, at least in Japan, %50-50 gender ratio for outlanders, Ghu knows what range of desires in the mix, yadda, yadda, yadda). They have to act over-the-top, or as in vanilla BL, in some isolated pas-de-deux romantic bubble.

Mudakun,sceptical; Your point? Besides the fact that some yuri fans enjoy both improbable tangles of pseudo-lesbian bodies and insights into how real female same-sex desire might, perhaps, somewhat play out?

Mudakun,enthusiastic; A moment, I’m on a roll… As well, the Japanese variant is a lot less worried about politeness; about being pee-cee than the western slash variants; it tips the hat, when it bothers, to a far more diffuse and non-politicised set of real-life communities of minority sexualities and gender expressions. It historically gives less of a rat’s ass about being sympathetic to “others”. Obviously, part of this is what Kio Shimoku is going to riff on as he bangs Hato and Madarame together.

But there’s more: We’ve already given a passing nod towards the scary-scary unrealistic and outre fantasy schmex thing. We can also tease out the whole idea of the “back-story” of the characters as indication of how the characters diverge from “polite, sympathetic reflections of real life people” and approach symbolic “machine” status, even desiring-machine functions.

Mudakun,sceptical; You realise that if you drag even the tiniest bit of Deleuze-speak into this mess, that you are going to lose whatever train of thought is left in this discussion.

Mudakun,allegorical; Let me jump in. I think what we are edging around is a kind of vulgar Nietzsche “beyond good and evil” lack of “sentimentality” in the Japanese approach to dealing with character back-stories. It is further out along the “pity-less” range than say, Calvinism. The story is more likely to treat bad luck and bad circumstance as indicative not only of fate but as somehow a natural state.


Listen to shikigami-girl berate Araragi at the conclusion of Owarimonogatari. No sympathy for your bad circumstances, you are just lazy. Think of Hell-Girl; a crazed drug-addled homeless guy can curse a saintly ER nurse. Drag to hell of Nurse ensues. The universe and the fates have no pity. Think way back to (lets get ridiculous here) Pokemon cartoons. We get Team Rocket’s members’ back stories but they remain fuck-up villains with paper-thin motivations who have to keep doing the same stupid shit over and over again because it is their place in the universe to do so. Bad things naturally happen to unlucky people, chaotic things naturally happen to fuck-ups and it is best to stay out of their way.

Throw rocks at the stranger who comes to your village, because they are trouble; because they are not back home in their village; so they will naturally bring trouble.

Act like a proper salary-man or good-wife-wise-mother, lest you fall into the lower depths. If too many people go all “creative” or “eccentric” or “individualistic” society will grind to a halt and collapse into a bloody smoking ruin. Then will come earthquakes, tsunami, gas pipe explosions and fires that destroy whole cities and nuke plant meltdowns.

All die, oh embarrassment.

Keep your after-school interests out of the public eye and don’t annoy your neighbours. Don’t play loud music and make sure you sort your garbage and put it out properly. And be seen to be doing so! Greet your neighbours in the morning. Dress well in public, don’t litter and bring something good to the neighbourhood pot-luck every six months.

Mudakun,sceptical; Again, your point?

Mudakun,sympathetic; My turn! While not venturing towards nihon-jiron, perhaps the fantasy is fantasy thing really is stronger in Japan. Or at least “allegory is allegory” or “characters built to do weird shit are just characters”. There is very little concern given to “some emerging young’un in a confused, isolated, closeted situation might take these wacky shadows as indicative of their own sad fate and thence shuffle off the train station platform“. And if any do, it is their own stupid fault. Just buy a job interview suit, suck it up and soldier on. Why do you think bullying is such a problem in Japan? A Nation of Honey Badger.

…Cannot afford to/ are not permitted by an oppressive power/ social structure TO give a shit (adds my virtual Sanders-bot).

Consider Hato as written by Kio Shimoku. The author did not have to go through all that work of muddying Hato’s back story. He could have been a gay lad who gets off on crossdressing and reading odd m:m pr0n because it works for him. He could be a deemed male at birth person who then realizes “he” has the heart of a girl, even a virtual-lesbian rotten girl, who gets off on m:m naughty stories and who will begin to construct a public persona that reflects this [see Spotted Flower]. No need for the Stands, or at least for them to be so limited in their prodding.

Not insulting gay males who present in a femme manner and/or transwomen was probably not on Kio Shimoku’s radar as he built Hato up to who they are today. And he gave Hato judo skills so that, while discreet, Hato at least arrived at university in one piece. Hato is merely complicated because a complicated Hato works better.

Look at all the allegiance the character had garnered as fans have projected their interpretations of hir sexuality and gender expression upon the chara. Only Keiko hates hir guts. If Ken Akamatsu was to weigh in, the solution to that problem would be obvious.
(Later: screw Ken-sensei, it slipped my mind but one of the Hatozine tales did a very nice riff on this. Seems Keiko had ideas about how to “cure” Hato.)

Mudakun,analytical; So Hato, like many fictional characters, is made-as-interesting. That’s what characters are supposed to be, unless they are male harem leads (in which case, the chaos that the harem brings makes life interesting). Or are you advancing an argument that the “interesting” provides a cover, an excuse for socially non-compliant desires to manifest?

I guess we don’t have to try to unpack the Russian Reversal Mulvey [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Mulvey] male-gaze transposed to female gaze thing, even if we edge around it. What was her fave takeaway line again? Fear of castration? Or something. Does the rotten-girl mockingly indulge in feelings of something analogous for women to castration; say, “rotten/ soured/ fermented- to- mouldy- vinegar” deep in her/ their symbolic/psychic woman-ness ???

Mudakun,enthusiastic; You read it, do some pronoun subbing and tell me:
[http://www.asu.edu/courses/fms504/total-readings/mulvey-visualpleasure.pdf] and [http://www.virginiabonner.com/courses/cms4320/readings/mulveystudyguide.html] and: [https://www.academia.edu/3071544/Entry_on_Laura_Mulvey_Visual_Pleasure_and_Narrative_Cinema_1975_]

Mudakun,sceptical; This is why anything Lacanian might as well be written by Loki. And Lacan was a rat-bastard in his personal life too, so piss on his ashes.

Mudakun,enthusiastic; Well, at least the part about the beautiful objectified woman having “phallic” desire-power transposes easily. The guys are “beautiful” for their readers (bishonen) and sure nuff, got plenty of “signification”. A Search & Replace hack looks like an easy win. (Which brings to mind my ancient neato idea that you could take all early Margaret Atwood feminist Canadiana stories, run them through search and replace for the background description terms and re-situate them on a space station? No? Ah, perhaps later…)

Mudakun,sceptical; Less of a trick now that she has finally owned up to her taste fer sci-fi, but yeah, perhaps a hack of Visual Pleasure etc as Narrative Pleasure in Yaoi might be a hoot, if it doesn’t end up reading like Nagaike…

Mudakun,analytical; -AHEM- Where were we again? Something about back-stories, perhaps?

Mudakun,enthusiastic; Yes… What got me off on this tangent were two odd things I recently stumbled upon. The first is an artifact of western slash fandom/ fendom. It seems that same-sex werewolf porn fanfiction needed to be spiced up a bit and so a few extra fantastic elements were stuck in. Bonus! Even less chance of insulting IRL gay guys and far more of the hawt nasty stuff!

In what is termed “A/B/O” slash, the “sou-uke” male werewolf-ish ones not only -ahem- magically self- lubricate, but emit pheromones and (get this) somehow lock their penetrator’s wolf-hood into their yaoi-holes so that the delirious growling pair go at it (tadah!) like a wild animals for hours, perhaps even days. No snickering! It solves all kinds of story problems and delivers exactly what is says on the label. A perfect mechanism for exploring/ expressing over-wrought desire. Has anyone in psychoanalysis coined the term “lustgerat“? I think it is a much neater term than Deleuze’s desiring-machines. Great band name too!

A converse fantastic example, even if we have to stray from tales of male:male desire: the outrageous melodramatic back-story that recently popped in UQ Holder. Evangeline/Yukihime’s ferociously clingy and jealous factotum, Karen could have just been a sad, angry, over-possessive immortal lesbian with a crush. As adult female in the room, she also gets to be first in line to have her clothes shredded in battle because Ken-sensei wants to keep his export market. No battle-stripping under-age girls. Karen-sempai will fight on, just like a proper western female superhero should. Send the rapey-pervy assassins her way, she’ll deal with them, no matter what damage she has to sustain.

Not good enough. I doubt Ken Akamatsu was worried about insulting the Tokyo chapter of whatever, but the fans want more. So lets level her up:

Judy, you say web

WTF !!! Karen, were you really once known as Judy Iscariot? Pleased to meet you… etc. Uh, I guess that would give you you a massive guilt-trip to work off. Guilt has far more mojo than trauma. Karen is a Vergangenheitschuldigtrauerbewältigunggerat (engage funky German neologism module: a machine/apparatus that tries to cope with/overcome the mourning and guilt of the past/ a past sin.)

Mudakun,sceptical; So what you are getting at is that either the extreme psychological damage implied by the Karen back-story turns her into some form of clinical psychology allegory and/or she is massively messed up and therefore lost to “normal” behaviour. Her “abnormal” desires are the best she can manage? That’s a pretty nasty subtext! Or is her case so dire that it is heroic, and therefore as a hero (flawed variant), she can have any damn desires she cares to indulge?

…Aside; that is one impressively dire Judas-suicide scene. The mangaka and assistants really went to town.

Mudakun,enthusiastic; Even so, some folks have complained. They should take their complaints up with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the European medieval peasants who invented La Befana, the immortal Christmas Witch who cannot die until she brings gifts to the returned Christ child. Then there are parts of Christian mythos/ apocrypha that have at least one other disciple as not completely immortal, but simply ill-disposed towards death until “teacher” returns. For a carpenter who turned to street preaching, he sure had a knack fer pickin’ them, neh? Maybe she betrayed him later, in Aomori prefecture, so she’s a variation on the theme? Whatever…

Mudakun, analytical; You forgot to mention the Adrian Piper appropriative modernism effect, also known as “swipe any other culture’s myths and stuff, but only in a superficial way”. Feel free to get the details wrong. Japan loves its short-skirted machine-gun toting nuns fighting Santa Claus Vampires and hipster fallen angels. What’s the biggie with one Judith Iscariot tossed into the nabe pot? Complete aside: I highly recommend looking around for an online stream of the rather goofy and very queer Canadian low-budget film: Jesus Christ_Vampire Hunter (2001) 
if only for the masked Lucha wrestler.

Mudakun,sceptical; …None of this is as annoying as Karen suddenly developing confusing feelings for idiot-boy. Judy I can indulge, but that overloaded my bullshit meter. Is Touta exuding pheromones? I do acknowledge the earlier brilliance of indeterminate Kuroumaru. An a-sexual/ pre-sexual youkai who can endlessly get all flustered about which way hir is verging towards, even as the harem tropery requires hir to incline towards the female. No boy or girl bits. A Barbie-Ken doll trying to figure the whole mess out. No IRL gender-non-conforming folks need take umbrage. Kuroumaru is a bit like Hato in that they are both Gelüsteverwechslunggerat  (desire/ longing confusion devices/ engines)

Mudakun,concerned; Hold up! Back to those odd werewolves. The point could also be that for hardcore slash, yaoi and even to some extent for nice fluffy vanilla BL, the “gay” doesn’t matter as much as the ‘guys”. If pressed, I am sure that most fujoshi and even a large number of western slash-fen would argue that the presence or absence of a formal “gay” identity, or even a diffuse “men who have / might have sex with men” impulse is of less important than the essential imagined “male-ness” of the characters.

All male-units into the shipping sack, then shake. We are, after all, such odd creatures. Sure you can have one or many characters announce their gay-ness or act “out” or “practising” or “closeted” or “in denial” or “bi” or “anything that moves” or whatever, but these are shorthand within the stories. And you must have the inevitable “I’m not gay it’s only you/him/ze“, the better to have the chara hem and haw and go crazy as the madness sets in. Formal labels and sub-species of the male critter-dom seem less important than the play of advancing a tale of gender essential-ism that must manifest during desire.

Mudakun,analytical; Each narrative advances a core argument: this is what males do when man-lust strikes, can do , could do and should do (and it would make the authors/ readers very happy to see it happen naow dammit!).

That’s standard for most fictions. A further odd effect then sets in as the “males” begin to be written in ways that not only highlight certain perceived essential character traits and flaws in the male psyche, but also take on “improvements” that make them more entertaining, comprehensible, even sympathetic. (or more completely fucking psycho if a villain is needed) Some of the “male” characters become quasi-female. Write what you know is easier, after all.

These stories of imagined male:male intimacy do things for women that they find difficult or impossible to do with heterosexual or even female:female pairings. Both (or all) actors are equally endowed with agency at the start of their dance. If they fall into the classic seme/uke roles, these often highlight and/or overturn other societal roles and hierarchies; money, power, status, age, etc. At very least, they offer up the contradictions of the pathologies of excessive reliance on hierarchy for social stability and personal identity that is endemic within certain uniquely masculinist interpretations of what it is to be Japanese. Too much of the discourse of male identity and power within historically male realms of education, work and politics (aka public life) slides into “pecking order hysteria”. Women as historically chattel or chatelaine are below and outside these considerations; and free to jeer and throw brickbats from the sidelines.

Yaoi joyfully acts these questions of roles and power out with plenty of improbable and often violent allegories of raw sexual performance. Even within fluffy vanilla BL, where dominance displays are held to a minimum, the hierarchy is critiqued by its very absence. Instead the questions become those of attraction, fear, reluctance, need, autonomy, desire and the sense of one’s self as a whole; all played out in a field where hierarchies, indeed most of society is held at bay.

Mudakun,sceptical; Glad you got all that off your chest. You know of course that they use these tales for more than just pecking-order detournment? Right? Further questions, ones that grow pressing in a society that has moved away from high-fertility family based social units, through couple-based units to single-dom emerge:

“Why on earth put up with someone else in your face all the time?”

“Sex is good” fails as a long-term answer. Extant models are thin:

Child-rearing unit.

Economic support unit/ business partners (then why stop at a pair-bond?)

Domestic companion


His and Her wings of the manor house.

At very least, male “homosocials” and imagined ideas of male friendship offer up the tantalising possibility of additional models. Consider Faye Valentine as honorary guy mooching around the ship in Cowboy Bebop. She ain’t Lupin III’s Fujiko Mine and she ain’t Inara aboard Firefly’s Serenity.

There was a good CBC radio drama series about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, with a platoon lead by a female officer. The guys called her “Coach”. Much gritty Sgt. Rock-ish-ness ensued, no schmex. The aftermath episodes, back in Canada with various members facing PTSD, were riveting. But these had no pairing-offs in them so I guess they don’t count.

Perhaps military examples are unworkable without mecha (cf: Eva, FMP). There is a tradition in some branches of feminist criticism that looks longingly at the male “buddy” pairing and reads all manner of things into it, even while going on how such friendships seem to be denied to women. Whether this is obsolete nonsense is a whole other thing; it sure makes up the dynamics of tons of action narratives. Perhaps we will soon get a spate of Hollywood action flicks where the Gay side-kick is the new Black side-kick. Dies heroically all the effing time. It must already be an old chestnut in fanfic.

(A bit later: watch the josei anime Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu if you feel the need for some of this, from an auteur who is an expert in the field but [so far] holds off from the urge to ‘consummate’ the tense relations between her male leads. The female characters are left ignored and exasperated for the entertainment of a josei audience.  So yeah; so far BL-free, whew! Just a bit of Sedgwick-lite, very fine animation work, interesting intro to rakugo.  ENJOY:
http://www.crunchyroll.com/showa-genroku-rakugo-shinju )

The last author I read who extensively played with the problem of non-traditional pairing/ living arrangements was Delany in his “Triton”. The work is long in the tooth and suffers from 60’s hippy commune hangover, but had its moments. You had bachelor flop-houses for guys, not as an impoverished condition, but as choice for that point in their lives/ head space/ whatever. Wimmens co-ops, artist troupes, an entire freaky panoply extrapolated from campus living options, stretched to the nth. Hard to notice though, as the main character, whether male or female was a whiny annoying asshat throughout the whole tale. In the end, the only way Delany could wrap up the story was with a terrorist explosion that killed off almost the entire cast.

I mention this only because of that BBC documentary that showed a Japanese “share-house” full of young, impoverished creative folks (and one alarmingly large iguana). Strange how there are no manga/ anime about this phenomenon.

Mudakun,concerned; Must we default to two main choices; fantastic or tragic/ pathological for back-stories? The genre appears to be very formulaic. And once the poor fools get pushed together they have to endure more rules.The entire seme-uke convention, with all of its sub-categorization is a ridiculous but durable set of scripts for how emotionally unbalanced males are supposed to react to their new neato non-conventional desires. It looks at times like ritualised domestic violence.

The “manly” seme is emotionally brittle, jealous, possessive, inarticulate, fearful of showing weakness and fearful of losing the object of his desire. He compensates with near-psychotic lust and a forceful display of possessive desire. Any confidence and/ or assertiveness has to be revealed as a show, a sham, a cover for his deep fear of losing his lover and/or of being lost within the intimacy; otherwise buddy is just a fucking psycho.

Meanwhile the uke, aside from serving as designated orifice, acts out all the emotional stuff for both parties, plus a bit extra for pyrotechnic effect. All the emo stuff, cranked to 11. The seme is allowed to shut down, after a meltdown when faced with the prospect of losing his one and only.

If this is a Korean buddy movie, omit the sex and add a binge drinking-to- tear-soaked-vomiting sequence.

It appears however, that stories of two individuals who just so happen to enjoy each others’ company and do sex 3 times a week (decreasing to 1.5/wk after 6 years) do not sell a whole lot of manga. That includes straight characters. Unless they come with interesting dinner recipes.

The alternative to too much drama is the nod to the beyond- realistic, aspirational, very-well-adjusted queer character. Good looking, self-confident, sociable, friendly, excellent tastes, money enough to indulge them: top him off with minor endearing personality quirks and turn him loose. Such characters are not de-facto insulting, but curiously draw flak from real life gay folks for being unrealistic, lacking passion and being so perfect as to be impossible to identify with. Suitable as background characters but useless as main characters. Note to Hollywood and manga/ anime auteurs: use different body types. Win for Kio Shimoku.

Asexual Jughead

Not even interesting enough to qualify as a secondary character

Mudakun,analytical; We should also bring up considerations of Emotional
vs Transactional pairings. It is posited that because pregnancy and childrearing are off the table, the parties in a male same-sex pairing retain their autonomy. Therefore any ongoing relations must be emotional, at the deepest level. Note how the dreaded “arranged marriage” can always be brought out to threaten the true romance.

A further observation and maybe I am comparing one genre that I barely read anything from with one that I read more of, still it strikes me that the sweet young things in yuri tales are much less messed up. Oh sure they might pine quietly on the sidelines for sempai, but they are generally not dire. They just know that they like girls. I suspect that a different version of gender essentialism is at play here as well.

Mudakun,sympathetic; Back to the fantastic and the tragic/pathological.  I stumbled over some very vanilla BL (the English word Qualia seems to be a flavour of the month) and was surprised enough to read through its seven chapters. At first it appears to go out of its way to be inoffensive. Even the scan-group that presented it characterises their work as “sparkling, fluffy BL“. One would think one was going to get pictures of kittens, and for some of the chapters, this isn’t too far off. One through a door ajar barely visible gay sex glimpse for cred.

Only after the thing is about to wrap does the method become apparent. The story is a happy-ending muted retread of the old-school bishonen classics a la Song of the Wind and Trees and Thomas. Bishies, supposedly 21-24, look 15 and androgynous (squint and it could be yuri on some pages). Check! One is emotionally cauterised from absent parents, almost asexual; the other had an abusive, loveless upbringing and will let himself be fucked by evil predatory male sempais in a desperate bid for emotional connection. Check. Clingy guy begins to hang around disinterested guy. Check. Disinterested guy saves uke-ish Clingy boy from near rape. Check. Disinterested guy grows slowly interested when he realises that he can mildly tease and get a reaction from over-emotional Clingy guy. Check. Happy soon-to-be couple end up cuddled together on a futon like puppies or kittens, no sex please – we are emotionally damaged and/ or blank. Check.

Many years ago, a rejection and then a murder or suicide would occur and the disinterested “not-gay” guy would later realise that he had feelings that he kept buried because of cowardice and shame, but what the heck, he will die soon and then their spirits will be forever together…

Instead, what resolves the impasse is a curious form of pressure-free momentum, which I assume was the object of the exercise. The two improbable young critters just find themselves hanging around with each other a lot. Clingy wants, but won’t push the issue. Distant decides that getting some reaction from Clingy is amusing and this might be what those humans refer to when they speak of love. Distant announces to Clingy that he stayed up all night on the interwebs researching this thing that humans do called gay sex. Clingy comically chokes up with emotion upon hearing this. practicing you say p022web

D’Awwwwwwwwwww! Have another chocolate.

Mudakun,sceptical; So the tragic/ pathalogical or fantastic back-story rule still applies. They might be fluffy kittens, but they are emotionally damaged. Not too cool, in retrospect. Looks like the rotten girls could learn something from Riverdale V3.0

Mudakun,enthusiastic; You are being too hard on a piece of fluff. Besides, the solution to Hato and Madarame’s impasse now presents itself: Ogiue pulls out a sketch pad and draws an Genshiken-verse analogue of the last chapter of Kii Kanna’s Yuki no Shita no Qualia, then runs off to a kombini to photocopy it. The rest of the gang makes haste to a grocery store where they purchase many 1/2 kilo bricks of cheese and string. Back at the temple grounds they meet up, wrap and tie the work to the cheese bricks, locate the reluctant pair and pelt them with fromage-y scripts that offer an officially approved BL way to move forward. Because as otaku/ fudanshi/ fujoshi they cannot work anything out on their own.

Autonomy web

Problem solved.
Happy Valentines Day!

Duty of care

–this post is under construction, but as I have been slacking off for the last month, best to post it fast and clean it up later.. Needs some pix too —

To what extent should an author feel responsibility for their characters? A teacher who was very important to me once asked me: “at what point did art start having to be moral?” My answer was somewhat sophomoric, even though we were both a bit too old to be seriously considering debating club absolutes. Both the question and the answer were a form of ritually exchanged gift. I still treasure it.

A work of art, even a story can be as moral or as amoral as an artist or author cares to make it at any point in time, but when they wager a small token of morality, internal consistency or humanity they must take care that they do not find themselves caught out as the ante is upped and the pot grows beyond their means.

Or to add a further answer sensei’s question: “when the artist is so foolish as to promise a moral work.”

At some point, I am going to have to spend a bit of time mulling over the issues raised by http://caffeinesymposium.blogspot.ca/  whose proprietor did me the honor of using some of my earlier writing as a jumping-off point for a serious examination of how Shimoku-sensei is treating Madarame in the current Genshiken. Visit and read, it is damn fine. I both agree and disagree with his analysis. And the minute I started thinking about why, something else got in the way. It feels to me that if I figure out a way of expressing my unease with the current problem, the bigger one will become less fuzzy. To cut to the chase:

Why Angela Burton?

Kio Shimoku is not normally so clumsy.

Of course reading too much into the english language Japanese press can be dangerous…






(If you go over the article limit, open the links in a browser with cookies disabled)


… but still it is not hard to see that the sexually adventurous busty blond gaijin woman is a bit of a notorious stereotype among Japanese males. One can posit the effect is 10x as strong with otaku males. And Angela Burton is, at least so far a perfect example of the fantasy, even to the point of drawing a bead on the most nerdy, otaku-ish guy in the Genshiken. This leaves her character- development- to- plot- importance ratio dangerously out whack. Shimoku-sensei is hanging a lot of story on an otherwise enigmatic (or extremely thin) stereotype. This is fine when the character is first whomped up to push the story along, but can be problematic later.

Warning: Playset field has been engaged(!) – even if only at the service of a consideration of plot mechanics.

Consider that for two consecutive Comiket visits Angela has been used as a significant plot device by pushing her over-the-top sexual adventurousness to extremes. She is either a cardboard cut-out, or something else entirely. And she had better become that something else soon or she will cease to function at all. How does the author top his last trick? Does Angela show up at the next comiket with all the high school girls from Shoujo Sect, five male Hosts, a troupe of otomeyaku midgets brandishing sex toys and some sheep???

It won’t wash.

Someone so sexually adventurous would have little time for obscure Japanese yaoi (and yuri) dojins, let alone the inclination to jet halfway around the world every six months to buy a crate of them. A cosplay hobby might explain a bit of her wanderlust, her friendship with Ohno and Sue a bit more but the rest is hanging by a well-worn thread of Japanese xenophobia, or at least exoticism.

Yes, Japanese folks are notorious for falling for the “They are alien, that’s why they do alien things” view of all things not-Japanese – at least as much as we Euroethnic types do… Perhaps a bit more in certain areas. And the collapse of the bubble economy has only exaggerated this “cocooning” effect. Kio Shimoku can get away with Angela a bit longer, but not too much longer.

After all she might well be the only character who can wiggle Madarame (and therefore the author) out of the corner he has been painted/ painted himself into. She called dibs on Mada first. No need to rehash the problems with the rest of the harem – they are excellent plot twist material, but they fail as a good ending material.

Worse, the IRL blowback from this little fantasy is beginning to loom as a messy concern. Shimoku-sensei can ill-afford to have his opus degenerate into an overtly crude and prejudiced tale. Hato can have bad memories of high-school ostracism, as Ogiue did, but neither were savagely hunted down and beaten up. If the stuco boys ever find out that Hato has been cross-dressing in the Genshiken, one can expect some embarrassed tittering, and the obligatory “we can’t have that here” vs “we have model regulations protecting strange people like you‘” condescension, but I doubt that Kio Shimoku will have any of them act like vicious homo/trans- phobic thugs – it would shatter the tone of his story. Similarly, the over sexed gaijin blond is beginning to look as crude as a nasty step-and-fetchit person of colour stereotype.

And while I am at it, I don’t suggest for a moment that the ‘blonde babe x nerd’ effect is an exclusively Japanese Otaku problem. See: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html

The author neglected to mention roofies… JEEZUS WEPT! And yeah, he killed guys too, and was “mental” and yadda yadda yadda with the big river in Egypt…

Lest I seem to be getting wayyyy tooo -feminist- in this essay, I must declare that I harbor a serious and deep hate-on for all manner of vicious, violent, stupid, barbarous human behaviour. I usually try to moderate its manifestation with the sad knowledge that real-world complexities tend to foul up any simple off-to-the-re-education-camps!!!! urges towards solving these horrors (the rule of lawthe shitheads would immediately take over any camp-offing functions, those who hunt monsters, etc etc…)  Ok, I’m a Liberal. In my country that means that a Liberal Prime Minister might surprise you by imposing martial law on an entire province just as fast as he declares that “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the Nation”. I haven’t given up on representative democracy yet, but I fear that it might take a hit soon if we all don’t stop succumbing to the well-funded temptations of treating politics as personal psycho-therapy-theatre.

The night is long, the stars so very far away…
The project of civilization continues…

The IRL world is a complex and sometimes nasty, crappy place. Lately it feels like the crappy-ness index has been rising a bit too fast. Must be the time of year… Sometimes we all need a fun, fictional, safe space. The Genshiken opus prides itself in presenting such a fun and safe place while deftly, ever so gently skewering otaku (and now fujoshi) social stupidity. It does not unconditionally validate it.

Angela has to either vanish in the next 5 story-time months or undergo some serious retconning and/or character development. And that means she has to have her “carnivorous’ act toned down and explained away as a sly put-on job, much as Sue’s Loli-bakka-gaijin-de-gozaimus-hai! act was cleaned up. We will also need a reason for this cleanup and a further elaboration of Angela’s character.

Angela has become a liability as a character.

One possibility to explore would be her athleticism, another her means.
She must have resources that allow her to jump on a plane every six months. The rich are different from you and I is a well-worn trope, and one of the few remaining bastions of politically correct other-ness allowed among right-thinking citizens of the world. Sports-mad athletic types are also assumed to have no time in their lives for mundane romantic drama – all their passion is to be reserved for their game. That would also provide some wiggle room. We already can posit that Angela treats the whole of Japan (or at least the Tokyo region) as a greater part of her twice a year Comiket convention experience. It should not take much to turn her into a rich, athletic weaboo tourist who goes a bit too far looking for a fantasy-island convention romance.

In the post-Nadaime anime comiket OVA, Angela gets to meet and interact briefly with Saki. I may have missed something in the manga, but this is a new one for me. There must be a reason for plopping a Saki cameo into the frame. Angela can be expected to have heard from Ohno about Madarame’s crush and now she has been seen to have met the woman who bent her intended out of shape. If she is at all as calculating as she has been made out to be, she at least now has some material to work with. “Otaku boys like this kind of thing” has been tried and found wanting. When will she switch to plan B?

Angela is thousands of miles away, which means that Ohno and Madarame need to have a talk. Poor Mada is going to need some harem-survival advice soon and who better to seek it from than Genshiken’s resident matchmaker,  fairy godmother and purveyor of bootleg cosplay pix?

A long distance relationship and language barriers are but wisps of fog compared to Madarame’s current roneryness.

Ohno can fix!

Ohno can get to squirm a bit over the risk of ruining any chance to see some 3D BL Hato x Mada x Hato drama, or she can work the rotten girl POV into the exposition: “Poor Madarame! If the male version of Hato shows up at your apartment and cooks for you, wouldn’t it be worse?” (Query: now that Sue is dropping by Hato-neighbour for chow, is Hato in chan-mode when she visits?) Madarame is not the only one trapped within the dynamics of the harem farce.

Ohno is rooting for Angela x Mada. Add water to Chuck Wagon Dog Chow (tm) Tadah! It makes its own gravy!

Ch 101 appears (! rejoice!) even if there is plenty of Risa fun (and post valentines day apocalypse fallout) to be had for now.

Gadzooks! Even rotten girls are using the josou/ young-looking crossdresser thing to edge themselves out of their uncomfortable, soon to be even more illegal than it already is in Japan appetites!

Well played Shimoku-sensei, well played!

With short-shorts no less…


Well, this is annoying! I have had to trash three different posts because they all ended up boring fail. It must be the change of seasons, or the weather.

nothingreallymattress w600

Here instead is a quote I found on some forum. I think it might be by Slavoj Zizek, but then again, who cares…

“The real issue here is that chickens are obviously inferior to Formula 409 All-Purpose Cleaner, and yet certain critics on both the extreme right and left continue to insist that is not so – although these men and women are thankfully outside the academic mainstream, if not outright on the fringes of radical discourse and propaganda.

This is obviously a mistake. The sensual curves and strong edges of Formula 409’s world-famous spray bottle technology, together with its patented formula that Cuts Through Tough Grease And Grime, produce a powerful erotic sensation of the first painful and pleasurable sweet nothings of youthful sexual awakening. I first experienced this revelation when, one summer long ago in Tuscany, Julia Child rubbed butter all over my naked virgin body. It was then that she sprayed Formula 409’s patented bleach-free formula all over her powerful forearms, and performed a Scandinavian Corkscrew. In no time, all of my tough stains and chicken grease were gone, leaving me sweaty, panting, and totally spotless.”

PS: Hato X Hato or GFTO !!!

Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story

Wherein male accommodation to a fujoshi social is considered:

With so much Hato in the Genshiken of late, and with Nidiame-the-anime going into crossdresser game genre trope overload, the rest of the club seems to have faded into the background. And as background the pack of rotten girls appear commonplace, even normal. It is a bit hard to remember how radical back in 2009, a club full of young female DIY porn enthusiasts was for a comedic slice-of-life manga.

Sure we had 801-chan and Fujoshi Rumi, and even Kuragehime, but these lacked the raw edge that the earlier Genshiken series was known for; a particular way of using self-conscious humour to sugar-coat some really painful aspects of Otaku life. Welcome to the NHK approximated this for the Hikikomori market, but Genshiken always held a lock on Otaku-ology. When Kio Shimoku decided to try his hand at a pervy pit of University age women, he knew he was going out on a limb.

.... Just as I had planned it to be..

Sure he had backed himself into it with Ogiue, but the turning the Genshiken into a near-female-only space was a daring move at the time. Today, the fact that Japanese women might want to amuse themselves with a BL tale now and then is seen as a near mainstream hobby and a profitable market niche, as the blocks of stores on Otome Road testify. The plot trick of dropping a stealth mode male yaoi enthusiast into the mix served to background the club’s main activities as “normal”, at least in comparison to the layers of contradictions that were stuffed into Hato’s character.

Perhaps a review is in order:

My name is Ogiue and I hate Otaku!

President: Chika Ogiue. Jumped out of at least two windows when her fujoshi habits caused her to be wracked with guilt and or embarrassment. Almost kicked out of high school for drawing a lewd dojin starring a boy who was sweet on her. Once accepted into the Genshiken, started drawing dojins that shipped all the male membership, including one guy who was kind of interesting. It took a lot but the two worked it out and now she is a newly published successful BL mangaka, while Sasahara gives editing tips and tries to hold down his manga-editor-for-hire job. Her compulsive yaoi habit causes her to have atavistic expectations about the proper behaviour of a male in a m:f relationship. Actively recruits more fujoshi members to the Genshiken.

Past president: Kanako Ohno. A cosplay enthusiast who likes middle-aged guy themed yaoi, especially if they are bearded and/or bald.

First year member: Rika Yoshitake. Drinks too much. Assumes that an odd bit of plastic left around the club room is Hato’s butt-plug. Has a bad case of yaoi goggles. Likes her m:m pr0n to be set in Japan’s middle ages, with the generals getting chased by each other and various underlings. Has no drawing skills. Outspoken to the point of inadvertently causing hurt feelings.

First year member: Mirei Yajima. Less blatant than Rika, but still enjoys BL and Yaoi. Can draw a bit, so she helps out when Ogiue goes into full dojin production mode. Was viscerally troubled by Hato’s crossdressing, but the main problem seems to be that female attire or not, Hato to her was and still is completely male. And she doesn’t trust males who butt into fujoshi activities. She probably doesn’t trust males in general. Her initial resistance to Hato’s crossdressing is just a setup for her discovering her latent shotacon tastes. She finds Hato’s testosterone deficient “smoothness” strangely alluring and it troubles her, as she had never seriously considered 3D desire.

Transfer student: Susanna Hopkins. Bakka Gaijin De Gozaimus Hai! Enjoys BL and yaoi and has shown great enthusiasm for hard-core dojin products. Cosplays as loli characters. Is fixated on Ogiue and is prone to yell out “Ogiue is my Waifu!” Ogiue ain’t fooled, and has called her on it. She does however have a massive case of hero-worship towards Ogiue and is a bit embarrassed about it. Behind her over-the-top antics, she is alternatively extremely shy and yet a formidable weapons and martial arts enthusiast. (Oh and there’s the cloaked M9E Gernsbeck parked in the empty lot near the University…)

Potential member next year: Risa Yoshitake. Rika’s athletic younger sister who can crossdress convincingly as a bishie guy and enjoys shota… As in pedo bear, as in pre-pubescent and abjectly illegal as all heck in most western countries. Krist! And yet because she’s an 18-year-old girl (that makes her a minor herself in Japan) it just slips by in conversation, La la la…

Potential members if they ever give up being ronin: Yabusaki and Naoko. They ran their own dojin circle from within the Manken, but were expelled for hanging out with Ogiue, who left a lot of bad blood behind her when she defenestrated. They help Ogiue out with her dojin production and Comiket sales but Yabusaki is too proud (and too hurt by getting booted out of the manken) to appear to crawl over to the Genshiken. I think she wants to be actively and publicly begged to join, preferably within earshot of those bastards who drove her out of the Manken. Naoko will do as she pleases, but right now hanging out with Yabusaki amuses her.

Visiting irregular: Angela Burton. Her cosplaying and flirting with Madarame shouldn’t obscure the fact that she is a big fan of both yaoi and yuri dojins. She is probably nowhere near as over-sexed as she makes out to be, or at least reserves it for fan conventions. Of course she treats all of her Japan visit(s) as conventions-in-toto, and glomps, vamps and burlesques otaku tropes in her pursuit of Madarame, who she views as a fun potential “convention romance”. I got a big feeling that someone showed Shimoku sensei a translation of Dramacon and that he is lifting bits to build her character. Understands more conversational Japanese than she lets on.

Longshots who could pop up as new recruits:

Konno from Hato’s high school art club

Yajima’s high school friend Mimasaka

Rika’s high school friends, Sawatari and Fukuda.

Distinguished female alumnus: Saki Kasukabe. First female member of the Genshiken. The boys were doomed the minute she walked in the door.

Fearsome relatives to be:

Keiko; the only non-fujoshi riajuu female anywhere near the current Genshiken.

and of course

Kaminaga: an uber-fujoshi who can be a real asshole in her single-minded determination to live the truth of her enthusiasms. Yeah, I know her determination shows the courage of her convictions, yadda yadda yadda.

genshikenn7-1 the girls

The current Genshiken character line-up is obviously a nearly isolationist women’s space. There are extreme tropes associated with women’s spaces in Japanese manga and anime, but Kio Shimoku appears determined to steer between these. One extreme is the harem route, and Genshiken misses few chances to parody the genre whenever it needs a quick laugh, complete with Mada moteki and Hato smoothness fun. But one would have to be in a complete fantasy daze to consider it as anywhere near a potential harem (Kuchiki as lampshade) or to think that the women’s interests revolve around any 3D males. Collecting and exchanging and occasionally drawing naughty 2D males is its main objective. It is an anti-harem. Intruding males are seen as an annoyance, or as in the case of the student council Romeo, a threat.

The other more dangerous extreme is the quasi-lesbian separatist temporary autonomous zone, of which Japanese fantastic fiction of the feminist variety has no shortage of. The vulgar exploitative shadow of this is of course the all-girl yuri/ shojo ai space; the all girls school, girls club, well ‘o’ loneliness dyke bar, etc. Here Shimoku sensei is really, really careful: we see barely a whiff of yuri gags in a place where there could easily be as many as there are harem route gags. The dog most assuredly is not barking. What few there are center around Sue and her hero-worship of Ogiue.

I think Ohno dropped a yuri reference once in jest. It was pointedly ignored. The most overt of the rest of these are reserved for “volume extra” marginalia and one variation on the long-running Kumeta tribute “Don’t open it” gag. Others are more than they seem: Sue boob-feeling a Japanese woman (Yajima) in a public bath is a cultural stereotype reversal joke. It is the gaijin gal who is supposed to induce extreme boob curiosity from less endowed Japanese women. Aside from a brief allusion by Angela, yuri is never even mentioned as a genre of interest in the Genshiken. If it is present, it is subsumed into a generalized fog of guy-oriented smut along with Lolis, BFGs, and gawd knows what else.

If Shimoku ever lost control he could drown the current Genshiken in yuri tropes. It would work for about 2 chapters and then the series would be shot. Some dojin circle might do it, but he ain’t going there. Leave it to the fannish smut peddlers.

To the reasons above, I would also like to add my fave hobby-horse: Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi

Where Kio Shimoku got the background information on fujoshi culture and practice is crucial. I would argue that he heard a bit about it from friends, read Saito Tamaki’s mentions of it in Psychology of Fighting Girl, and went looking through journals and pop magazine articles for more details. If he did, he would have been hard-pressed to avoid Akiko Mizoguchi’s early writings on yaoi and fujoshi practice (cf Yureka magazine 2005-2006). There were of course other folks writing about fujoshis and BL and yaoi at the time, but finding an intelligent, articulate, lesbian “native guide” to the unknown territories of the rotten girls is somehow easier on the heteronorm-ed male point of view.

At least it was for me.

Aside from championing better behaviour among fujoshis (drop the yaoi rapes and the “I don’t like guys I only like you” tropes – they are insulting and hurtful to real gay folks), she is adamant that fujoshi space is a virtual-lesbian sexualized woman’s space, even if %95+ of the women who hang out in it are nominally heterosexual. The simple reason she gives is: “reading all that stuff has got to have some effect”. Yup! The dreaded Kaminaga’s line is a direct Mizoguchi lift. And why would an “out” Japanese lesbian academic enthuse over yaoi instead of yuri? The bodies in yaoi might be male, but the minds and hands that created them are female, the converse with yuri, and that, and the implicit gaze therein, taints the latter for her.

Extra bonus weirdness: Dr Akiko Mizoguchi is a part-time lecturer at the real-life Tama Art University, Faculty of Art and Design. The Genshiken club is set at a fictional University in Tokyo that bears a striking resemblance to Tama U. See: http://lintel.typepad.com/plentyofnothing/2011/08/genshiken-bench.html

Q.E.D. (add. see below)

This also means that the whole Genshiken crew could at any moment run into a manga analogue of the good Doctor if Kio Shimoku wanted to really pull our leg. Yipes! One day she’s gonna Google her name and find all these weird theories about her purported influence on the series and characters. And on that day I will be mightily embarrassed. Especially the whole Kagemusha / Kage-Mizoguchi thing I did last year. I hope she gets that I meant that the Hato character is contrived to be an outsider enthusiast that can slip in and pass even while upsetting the dynamics of a homogeneous social. Even this is pushing it. There are plenty of lesbian slash fen, and probably more than a few Japanese fujoshi who like real-world women. At least many more than Japanese crossdressing fudanshis who present as female only to do fujoshi stuff.

Later: Well I goofed! Genshiken is set in the alternative universe version of the Tama campus of Tokyo’s Chuo University. Tama Art U. is a full hour by monorail- train- bus across the city. Curses! Got Tama- confused; should have google- map’d it earlier!  Foiled again…

On second though, a Mizoguchi doppelgänger has very little chance of popping up in the Genshiken. Kio Shimoku is wary of the whole virtual lesbian space thing – I am guessing because he fears that his woman empowered space could be trivialized by a fall into yuri-dom, and he goes out of his way to banish any but the most ridiculous hints of 3D female:female frisson within in his creation. Comrade-in-arms-ship Da! Productive cooperative effort, yes! Girls night out, sure thing. Anne of Avonlea heartfelt soul-mates? Nein! Verbotten!

The point is that fujoshi-space may be female separatist or isolationist, but it remains overwhelmingly heterosexual, though extremely perverted and subject to suggestions that all manner of “other’ urges and tendencies are being sublimated. Even Dr. Mizoguchi will admit as much and will, despite her urges to reveal the entire enterprise as a virtual lesbian space, pull back due to Japanese society’s habit of throwing all its outcasts into one big undifferentiated sack. Kio Shimoku appears to value the distinction as well.

The only other point worth exploring in all this is the possibility that the nominally heterosexual rotten girl has supplanted the class-S female homosexual romance as the number one act of mildly transgressive, though societally tolerated “free space” available to young Japanese women before dreary reality kicks in. Would not competing though related religious sects be the most wary of encroaching on each others’ turf?

“It begs the question, what does it mean that all of these female-authored stories – which, I’d wager, constitute one of the largest existing bodies of erotica written by women, for women – should hardly feature women’s bodies at all?“
Audrey Lemon – How Slash saved Me

Into this dark nabe pot add one crossdressing fudanshi and stir.

There are plenty of female socials in manga-land that have no need of an intruding male to chivvy the plot along, but Genshiken Nidiame is not K-On! or Joshiraku.

gen-ii-04 the difference

How do males approach a powerful female social? How does a female social deal with intruding males? The Genshiken girls are all nearly adult females and their hobby is smut. The target of their smut fantasies are fantasy males, so a male-intruder-as-fudanshi is an interesting approach; the tension between Hato as shipper and self-shipped is good for a whole bunch of plot fuel. Yet behind this, Hato’s high school trauma serves as a cautionary tale of how hard it would be for a guy to casually waltz into a fujoshi circle, declare interest and ask to hang out. What was he thinking?

To be fair to Kio Shimoku, Hato’s cautionary tale unfolds in such a way as to avoid such a superficial mistake. On the surface, in the art club Hato is all “get serious” and aloof. Only curiosity and his secret desire to see what Kaminaga can draw doom him. Once outed, all his protestations and blabbing of “lore”, knowledge and enthusiasm for the genre do little to save him from being excluded as a pariah. Kaminaga’s girls have strong and simplistic expectations of male behaviour and male sexuality. These reinforce the isolationist tendencies of their social and they like it that way.

We will soon see how Kaminaga negotiates 3D males, including the one that she plans to marry. I have a feeling that it will not be pleasant if only because Kio Shimoku has written her as being so overcommited to her hobby as to be completely unconcerned with real life niceties. These niceties also include the very structures of institutional sexism in Japan, so perhaps she is simply a thought experiment to highlight how obnoxious male otaku (and general male) institutionalised sexism is in Japan, and how it cripples the individual stuck with it as much as it grinds on the objects of their gaze. That being said, she is still an asshole. And she gets away with it because Japanese societal sexism (and a few other societies, including our own) trivialize female social misbehaviour as long as the woman in question fulfills her primary duties to the patriarchal order.

all i can do genshiken-nidaime1

The Genshiken females are nowhere near as asocial as Kaminaga. Ogiue juggles her fannish interests and her responsibilities as club president; she tries hard to ensure that her members enjoy a safe, productive space and that the club has the potential for orderly succession. Ohno is accepting, and likes to play matchmaker, and the first year cadres do show concern for Hato, and even Madarame when misunderstandings lead to hurt feelings (and broken bones). But they still value their female majority space. When Hato de-cloaks and hangs out with Madarame and Kuchiki, territorial grumbling ensues.

Madarame presents another approach to male accommodation with a fujoshi social. Outwardly he respects their practice at a distance, taking their tolerance for his creepy enthusiasms as a given. He won’t utter a dismissive word about their rapey fake-gay dojins and their habit of shipping him as sou-uke. In return, all his upskirt pantsu loli cleavage fantasy crap, even to the point of s+m videos, “the initiation rites of peeping”, the understood solitary uses of fan materials and the distorting effects of all this garbage on one’s ability to deal with real-life members of the opposite sex are assumed to be equally off-limits. This is the basis for a peace treaty and a demilitarized zone. Two solitudes! (Waugh! I threw in an obsolete canuck-ism!). Of course all can find common cause in creating a safe space for their enthusiasms, making the pilgrimage to comiket and even can bond over the creation of fan artifacts – it was a nice touch that the last episode of the Nidiame anime had Madarame being invited to contribute to the next issue of the club publication. Still the fact remains that Madarame has been thrown under the sou-uke bus, and that while Hato did it, the rest of the gang set up the joke.

A bit of grinding on this pivotal moment might be in order. Sure it can be seen as unconscious jealousy on Hato’s part. And it can be seen as Hato being foolishly overprotective of his sempai’s not-so-hidden crush. The fact remains that she blurted it out because the girls and Hato-chan were already shipping all the males who had any association with the club: Hato-chan was overdoing it (and/or indulging in romantic m:m fantasies) by offering her male self up as exchanged fantasy to the female social. With the sudden appearance of josou-Kousaka it was all too much to hold in. In a battle between competing strategies of accommodation, Madarame’s live and let live strategy takes the hit, while the wimmen’s Genshiken lurches close to the errors of both Hato and Ogiue’s high-school circles.

To the “Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality” must be added: “… and people are all still individuals who have their own individual hopes and dreams and fears and they bruise easily. Play Nice!

What do the other Genshiken males represent as personified approaches to a female isolationist social? Sasahara is a bit of a cypher as the almost ideal boyfriend to Ogiue. While he has learned to appreciate her BL-ish manga as accomplished “writing” and even to accept that this talent walks hand in hand with the urge to draw someone who looks a lot like him into overdone man-sex-melodrama dojins, he stays out of the day-to-day affairs of the present Genshiken and even needs to be brought up to speed on current events by Kousaka. We also get hints of some of the fantasy/ reality fall-out in the bedroom that real-life fujoshi theorists have noted:

“The majority of yaoi women fans are heterosexual. […] But, if their sexual fantasies are filled with male-male homosexual episodes, is it still accurate to call them completely heterosexual?

A friend, a happily married woman in her 30s with two kids, told me, “Not so much these days, but until a few years ago, I could not really recognize sex with my husband as a male-female act. In my mind, I transformed what I was doing to the male-male act in the BL fictions”. Is it adequate to call her completely heterosexual? From the point of view of defining sex as genital activity, the answer is yes. At the same time, however, we know that fantasies are deeply involved in human sexuality. My friend’s male-male fantasy, which happens simultaneously with her heterosexual genital act, is as important as the act itself. In this sense, it is not accurate to consider her 100% heterosexual. In addition, I would argue that a person’s sexual fantasies, accompanied by her genital act with another person, a masturbatory act, or no act at all, are equally significant for the subject of such fantasies to such an extent that calling such fantasies “virtual sex” is appropriate (Mizoguchi 2007: 56-62).

Of course, at the most overt level, my friend was engaging in sex with her husband as “virtual gay men”, just like the male characters in yaoi narratives in her mind, but at the same time she was aware that the characters were women fans’ agents and not really representations of real-life gay men. Thus she was psychologically in the company of her fellow female fans in the yaoi community while physically she was with her husband.”
-Akiko Mizoguchi, “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond” http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf

Mizoguchi will even go as far as to posit yaoi-space as a completely new form of sexuality, somewhere within a queer continuum of desire. No biggie – Fujoshi Rumi had a bit of this “I can only have a boyfriend if I pretend that I am a BL male character” thing too, but it needs to be highlighted if only to show how Shimoku grabs interesting stuff from the social anthropology of fujoshi culture and works bits of it into his narrative. The other thing to note is that the males in question can acknowledge it or pretend to ignore it, or worry that they sometimes forget that they are supposed to be semes in the bedroom but they still get the benefits of a female partner with a very active sexual fantasy life. The women in question easily accommodate their fantasies to real life in the sense that they see male desire as simple, physical and indiscriminate. The only thing that has a problem speaking its name, is (as in Last Tango in Paris) love.

Kousaka is at first hard to place in a typology of male reaction to a fujoshi social, but upon consideration can be placed thanks to Ohno and the “other” social within the Genshiken. Admittedly the Cosplay Brigade plays second fiddle to fujoshi culture within the club, but it has gained a grudging sense of place. It gives Kuchiki something to do, Hato and Rika don’t really mind it too much, Sue appears to be a big fan of it, though her participation in Ohno’s on-campus sessions occur mostly off-stage. Yajima grumbles, but puts on the costumes, and lately they have been better chosen to respected her frame. Angela’s twice-yearly appearances also lends clout to the tradition, and even Ogiue can get connived into donning a sexy costume every so often in the name of club solidarity.

So what exactly did Kousaka have in mind by arranging with Sasahara and Tanaka to have a full complement of costumes from that otokonoko ero game  on hand for the school festival cosplay booth? How did Shimoku-sensei slip that one by? Don’t tell me that he guessed a month in advance that Mada would need to be cheered up after finally resolving things with Saki. It was written in as a Kousaka – Tanaka surprise for Ohno, because she missed Kousaka’s debut at comiket, Was it originally meant to give Hato a bit of reassurance? Another attempt at conniving Saki into cosplay?

01 Genshiken 2 Episode 3 tanaka hands

The only explanation I can think of that works within the internal logic of the Genshiken narrative is cosplay as echo of Tanaka’s earlier model-building segment: a display of the Genshiken’s strength and resilience because of its tradition of embracing a wide range of otaku-ish interests that can cut across the isolating fixations of its sub-groups. Pluralism posited as an antidote to sectarianism. Now all they have to do is find some excuse to get Madarame (and Tanaka (Hey boy, you thought that you were on the safe end of that camera?) into costumes. We can wait. The Bodacious Space Pirates session at comiket was a beautiful story conceit. It is a wonder that the Genshiken is not written as enjoying a reputation of being a force majeur in the greater community of cosplayers within its “verse”. Will a whole bunch of out-of-town cosplayers show up at the club door one day and issue and invite/ challenge? Or is all the rep accruing to Ohno & Tanaka Cosplay Consultants LLC?

Without the Cosplay Brigade, it is all just boys vs girls locked in their respective pornish fixations. Admit it Ogiue, cosplay as “sacred common ritual” is saving the Genshiken.

Next we have Kuchiki. As butt-monkey and ill-socialized enthusiast, he displays a curious over-suggestibility to the reality distortion field created by the girls. First, he considers the collection of women as a potential harem. Then when he realises that he is not being taken even seriously enough to ship, he surpasses Hato’s over- accommodation by deciding that he is going to become a puppet to the collective will’s idea that Mada must be a sou-uked. Clearly he is the only overt male left, so it is time for him to trance out on jumping Mada. At no time do we see any indication of desire: it is a preview for Hato’s later fugue state, done as burlesque.

genshiken_06_03 run mada

Because it is Kuchiki it cannot be serious, and it must fail. Soon it turns into simple provocation for some Hato-erotic asphyxiation. Skinship is where you find it: Because it is Kuchiki, he enjoys it and overdoes it. In the last episode of the Nidiame anime he decides once again that he must annoy Hato-chan. This gets him some Sue attention. All great fun!

All this masks the fact that Kuchiki’s over-the-top behaviour makes him virtually un-shippable. While he is barely tolerated by the fujoshi social, and has only Madarame as a fellow male otaku – until Hato tries the guy otaku route. He also spends a lot of time (off-stage) with the Cosplay Brigade. Ohno and Tanaka seem to respect his enthusiasm enough to keep coming up with costumes for him, but obey Ogiue’s injunction and draw the line at cross-play (no BSP or otokonoko game cameos!) Recall too, that he can speak and understand enough English to get past Sue’s antic masquerade. Ohno is an English speaker too, so the Cosplay Brigade is also the more cosmopolitan faction in the Genshiken. Besides Madarame, he is the last gaming enthusiast in the club, but we don’t get to see much of this from him. He has some familiarity with the tropes of BL and Yaoi, but has never tried to fudanshi-ize himself to better fit in. Of all the characters, he is the most socially clumsy, and one could argue the most doggedly courageous: he refuses to let his “handicap” stop him from pushing himself into a circle of people who eventually must grudgingly acknowledge him as a friend.

qualia kuchiki

Sue can pull the Bakka Gaijin (De Gozimus Hai!!!) routine all week and get away with it because she is a petite blond foreigner, knowledgeable fan and dyed in the wool fujoshi. Her antics serve as a mask for a deeper character that is only beginning to emerge. Kuchiki has no such hidden reserves, and yet he will not be stopped by his failings, even as he is painfully conscious of them. He persists in a near hysterical mode of trivial over-acting-out because his only alternative would be to vanish away. Because of this, at the deepest level, he is a noble and tragic character, I Pagliacci.

The final male approach to fujoshi-space is that of the riajuu male: the nameless student rep Romeo, and older-brother-Hato. Both are oblivious to rotten girl behaviour and are firm in their belief that they know the proper role for women. The Genshiken rotten girls treat their version as an intruding threat, while Kaminaga considers her variant as a meal ticket.

These are the default positions reserved for guys who confront the Genshiken as women’s space: Ignorant intrusion, male hysteria, respected yet distanced fellow traveler, lapdog, mutually assured acceptance of perversity and Stockholm Syndrome. None of these can make a serious dent in the shields that surround the magic circle. Alumni, including male alumni are accorded sempai status, but as predecessors/ outsiders. As such they are useless as devices to advance the narrative and force contradictions. And they only serve to highlight the isolationist weirdness of a fujoshi social.

It is left to Hato to serve as antagonist in the guise of protaganist vis-a-vis the fujoshi social. Hato’s main trick to slip through the shields is not his crossdressing, but his ridiculous liminality. He is a rolling pile of neither-nors, and the mangaka keeps adding more to his pile. It now looks like the Nidiame anime didn’t have to time to slowly trot out all of these contradictions, so it made do by dropping 16 tons of otokonoko-genre references onto his character. As previously mentioned, I’m betting that the opening credit sequence lifts freely from crossdressing themed anime and otokonoko games. The Kousaka game inspired sequences lay it on thick and the after-Mada-confession consolation round lampshades the whole mess. It might have been too much. The whole edifice is now uncharacteristically unbalanced. The part-resolution that is supposed to pave the way for the anime’s second season now looks clumsy.

The manga is still maintaining the balance, except for the fact that so much has been loaded onto Hato that it looks like he might suffer a breakdown. Folks are getting concerned, and now he is off to the family home and an inevitable confrontation with his sister-in-law-to-be, his brother, his parents, and his Stands. Once again it looks as if it is all Hato all the time, but only as he spends all of his time reacting to women’s spaces and desires.

Whenever his character proves a bit thin to the task, Kio Shimoku adds more contradiction. I cannot recall anything in the long reveal of Hato’s background that does not add to his contradictions. It would be nice if a few pages were spent on him reminiscing about how he liked chocolate when he was in high school. Maybe he had a puppy? Instead, each new layer of Hato is a further painful puzzle piece. The more we hunt the pieces, the less attention we pay to the passle of pervy wimmens behind the curtains, pulling on the levers.

And behind them, more curtains…

the only web-extant picture of Kio Shimoku

the only web-extant picture of Kio Shimoku