The right hero for the job

In the wake of watching episode 22 of Little Witch Academia (TV):

I have scrubbed the essay post I was working on.
Just go watch every last Little Witch Academia episode and OVA;
right NOW!

And remember that Akko has almost limitless reserves of Akko-power.

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Many Happy Returns: Spotted Flower Ch 20.5

Will Spotted Flower become Genshiken Sendaime?
Spoiler lamp is on for Chapters 20.5-21.5(?)

The latest English scanlation of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower has surfaced. Chapter 20.5 is just plain wunnerful. It has been less than a year since the Genshiken ended and it looks like Kio Shimoku is getting busy again. Our win; we get 16 pages of alternate-universe, ten-years-later fujoshi fanning; starring a recognisable genderbent ero-dojonshi-mangaka and their manager, plus a new character (their editor for their commercial output) and some old friends at Comiket. Kio-sensei packs a lot into those 16 pages, along with the an overload of boobie jokes.

A brief refresher on Spotted Flower. Because of its publication in a different magazine, owned by a different publishing company, Spotted Flower could never be an “official” follow-up to Genshiken. Contracts and intellectual property issues. “The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions…” Unofficially, Spotted, which has run for 7 years of three-times-per-year shorts, most recently as a regular in Hakusensha’s Adult/ Josei Rakuen Le Paradis magazine (and later collected into 2 tankobon volumes) has always served as Kio-sensei’s personal AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic and spinoff of his Genshiken. With the source story ended, Spotted is free to seek its own destiny. I hope that the mangaka and the magazine are thinking about permanently expanding the number of pages for each release; becoming in effect a full series. A web and Twitter search has turned up news of further larger chapters. 14pps in the March 2017 volume 23 of Le Paradis. Volume 21 carried the baby naming chapter 20.

The upcoming Volume 24 of Le Paradis threatens to release 28pps + 4 bonus pages (ch 22?) on June 30 (2017). See: http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol24/

Spotted Flower chapter 21 looks like the old gang visiting the new parents. As well, alt-Hato’s editor is about to find out more about her rising star BL auteur. We will have to wait. The 0.5 numbered chapters are devoted to alt-Hato and alt-Yajima, the whole number ones to the happy couple.

A few oblique observations on Spotted Flower:

Boobies as text:

Kio-sensei knows that guy otakus like boobies and uses them as signifiers for “sexy” and “womanly”. Sometimes one would prefer that he spend more time on the entire character rather than mashing the boobie button. He spends far less time on say, legs, butts or curvy hips (though alt-Hato, following perhaps on the Nidaime anime, has been given an impressive silhouette). When he bothers, his adult, especially adult female body chara renderings are varied and respectful – especially for larger frames. As well, he can deploy incredibly nuanced facial expressions to depict emotion. But those boobies! Alt-Ohno’s overdone nursing breast explosion. Alt-Hato and Alt-Sue’s assisted developments. Breast size is also marked as one of the stereotyped things that female socials are supposed to natter on about and rank themselves /display envy about. For a mangaka who inventively and respectfully depicts different body types, especially women’s body types, this trick feels like a throwback or at least a concession to an earlier form of stupid, easy service for Chads.

The entire Sue the pettanko western girl doing exploratory feels of well endowed Japanese women joke – which had gone on for years – is a reversal gag on a hoary manga/anime fanservice trope. It might even have slipped into reality. A friend reported that it happened to her for realsies in a women’s public bath in Korea but any envy/competition reading strips off complex layers of social interaction within the act: “Oh look a foreigner in our bath. How do we break the ice? This will be something to compliment her on, talk and laugh about and thereby welcome her into our social.

Nope, just competition and jealousy in the hen-yard. Fail!

Angela Burton(!) The sleep-over at Yajima-san’s parents’ house. And now, alt-Merei’s tender service to her lover interrupted by alt-Hato’s (at first impression) idiotic blundering question. Add to this all the Madarame-sempai interaction: “I have no breasts”(!) from Hato. Sue feeling under-endowed and therefore somehow inadequate in his eyes. While Mada might mutter to himself that it’s no big deal; lolicon, otokonoko games, etc., he neglects to open his pie-hole, announce the point and set worries to rest. Mada=otaku. Otaku=boobies want. A simple equation; the burden of more personal, more fraught exchange avoided.

Boy Detective.

Genshiken Nidaime turned on the character of Hato Kenjiro, the boy who wanted to be a fujoshi. Not a Fu-Danshi but a fujoshi. From this ridiculous conceit, everything he has (been written, etc) done followed naturally. And so continues to follow alt-Hato.

I though BL could make everything come true.

Fer krissakes! Unreliable narrator is unreliable! Google is your friend. Science can’t do that yet. If it could it would kill you and besides, an ero-dojin-mangaka could not afford it. Still, this kind of foolish banter is perfect and poignant for the worries it lets slip. Folks are growing up, settling down, having kids. Sempai is a father?!? Note the obvious (fertile, clock ticking, ticking) unsaid in the room. Nope! Didn’t notice it at all, La La La. Poor alt-Merei, like she needs another handful.

My thanks once again to long-time correspondent B.Sellers for not only giving me the heads up about ch 20.5 hitting the sites but for citing the venerable 90’s manga Family Compo in the report.

The problem of course lies squarely in the lap (ooops, yeah, but for now lets stick to metaphor) of alt-Hato’s (and their creator’s) unique vision of genderqueer. Whether to avoid drawing the attention of IRL tojisha folks or to grind off the serial numbers and avoid a trace-back conformity audit to source material, alt-Hato remains a “mostly” cis-gendered, heterosexual male person who does not think that they can “be” a woman. A Fujoshi? Perhaps, and fujoshi is all that Hato (and alt-Hato) ever dreamt of being. This of course is extremely problematic but Japan (and the mangaka) pretends not to worry about such things. It is possible, along the furthest edges of considered western non-binary, genderqueer activism to respect this dream. Hato will be Hato. Fuck everyone’s categories and nasty self-serving infra-tribal battles. Queer is as queer does. Leave the ero-dojin-mangaka alone.

Until editor-san finds out.

“If the fujoshi ever found out I was a guy…”

What a fun plot twist! As a dojin artist, alt-Hato could remain as anonymous as they wished. You can hide all manner of participation within a “dojin circle” Going pro means entirely different levels of public accessibility and interaction. The editorial staff are the first hurdle. Then come interviews, signings and publicity. Kio-sensei knows all about these challenges; his nom-de-plum and his standing plea to his fans to only photograph his hands can serve as inspiration. A booth at Comiket need only feature a someone or two, perhaps wearing the ubiquitous Japanese allergy/cold mask(s). Once in the spotlight, the pressures on alt-Hato to conform to ancient and annoying Japanese stereotypes of public behaviour for persons with ‘deemed male at birth’ bodies who present as female would be intense. Alt-Yajima’s “Host of a TV Entertainment show” suggestion and alt-Hato’s “No Damn Way!” must be considered in the light of the Japanese entertainment industry’s past ‘use’ of such.

Going public would again open up the confusing question of sexuality, this time on a far more dangerous stage. Crossdressing + breast enhanced guy BL ero-mangaka? Must do guys, right? Likes girls, or one particular woman? This is confusing – wouldn’t that be Yuri? The situation is as troublesome but not identical to all manner of internal shit-fights within western activist feminist and trans communities. Those controversies have been ongoing for decades. Japanese practice removes much of the heated activist controversy and replaces it with brutal commercial objectification and exploitation. “New Half“? “Okama“? “XXX Resbian Sex Secrets“? Crossdressing Gay Actor“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihiro_Miwa] “Hard Gay“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaki_Sumitani] An ero-mangaka can keep one foot in the exalted realm of “the author”; the man or woman of letters; Nihon Bunka — Japanese Culture with a capital C. …Even as the other foot dances along the edges of “the floating world”. The latter might float but it always was and remains brutal.

Alt-Hato as a trans-fujoshi virtual lesbian might work as a manga character. For Hato Kenjiro’s creator, the character served a number of useful functions, including testing the limits of support and accomodation that a “good fan club” and a fujoshi social could offer. Let’s run the setup once again and see how it could be adapted to the meta of a character that is an “out” genderqueer ero-mangaka:

Women enjoy BL and Yaoi even though the tangle of fictional, sexed bodies excludes representing them. Numerous women who like women share in this enjoyment, even at one further remove from IRL desire. Within the Genshiken/Spotted Flower verse, the old line explanation of BL/yaoi as a pure fantasy of desire and romance holds like an absolute game engine rule. Why should Hato/alt-Hato have to desire 3D guys just because ze enjoys women-written fantasies of guy-looking characters fucking? Sex with a 3D guy for Hato and or alt-Hato is a non-playable character, even if the Hato continuum has built their lives around the enjoyment and then connoisseur-ship of fantasies of such intimacy. Therefore it is not improbable that Alt-Hato likes girls, either as residual straight guy or virtual lesbian fujoshi. Mada always was part of the fantasy. As “the only man I’ll ever…” he remains so. The only loose end would be the ero-mangaka’s 3D immersion/ performance/ commitment to the romantic ideal of the genre. Does this mean that alt-Yajima has put on a public “butch” or “tachi” persona? Family Compo Redux!

It could be more complicated; the Genshiken could have had furries.

Oh snap! Scrag the furries jokes! This is serious! it is all fine and fun to speculate on well-worn story tropes in Japanese anime, games and manga. And then to speculate how to cookie-cutter these into a manga. Behold the violence of the database. In meat-space the way trans/ gender-nonconforming folks are represented can hurt. Can be complicit in real harm: even more so than most obnoxious fictional otherings. The kind of things that authors, readers and societies have to learn not to do any more, if only because we now have better, more exciting and more nuanced replacements for these chestnuts.

Kio Shimoku created a complex character who only wished to expresss as a female subjectivity within the context of fujoshi fandom, for a number of internal story-mechanics reasons. Now a reflection of that character re-appears and they (are written, etc.) have built their entire life around living in that fandom and presenting as a woman. Kio-sensei may in the future have his character self-identify as a transwoman, a  transwoman who is a fujoshi or even the improbable idea of a trans-fujoshi. Or as something else. What interaction alt-Hato now has with anyone removed from their immediate circle of aquaintances is either as an anonymous female person or as a (gendered as female) fujoshi-ero-dojin-mangaka. The character remains fraught with internal contradictions – why shouldn’t they/ their character be given the space to breathe within them? Can Spotted be both libidinised low comedy and aspirational fiction?

I can only hope that Kio-sensei does not “reveal” the initial impetus for both alt-Hato and alt-Sue’s “urge to augment” as fallout from comments by a very dense alt-Madarame who brushed both of them off for being flat-chested. Note to Kio Shimoku: Please Do Not Go There. Even Madarame’s legendary and insufferable “spineless perv luck” has limits. I remain puzzled by why either of them would bother with augmentation. A ridiculous rack is a pain in the back – for life. Any of their women friends should have (been written, etc.,) told them this on numerous occasions. Boobies remain problematically over-inscribed in Kio’s story-worlds.

The Strongest Fan

Sue Hopkins and her alt-Sue incarnation has always carried within her character a large measure of inscrutability. The outlander woman fan/ fen as Force of Nature. Purposefully opaque. Trouble with capital T. Ariel the magical spirit. Her lore is deep, her reserves of magic yet to be revealed You saved my life so I will save yours 3 times, then go my own way. In the meantime she observes, prods, samples, tastes and gorges on experience, even as nothing touches the core of her being. None shall ever know moi. Were she native Japanese the mangaka would turn her into another Benzaiten manifestation.

Impatient. Unconcerned with social mores and prescriptions. Beyond good and evil. Grabs boobies.

Poor alt-Hato! While alt-Sue is a good-looking woman (character), it is not her bod and new tits that make her attractive. She radiates. Anyone would… And so alt-Hato lets slip his clumsy insecurities. This was wonderfully handled, even as the poor jerk reveals his fears and delusions. Yes your manager loves you… Asshat! Lookie at all the up-with-you-put she has to lavish upon you and your misbehavior. Yes, you are massively dependent on her arts and her charms.

Don’t fuck up!

Nope: your mad genderbent lurv skillz have not turned her into a lesbian despite your new tits, stylish wardrobe and constant rotten-girling. That means that at least for now, she is not going to throw you over for alt-Sue, even if alt-Sue is amazing. All this may carry a crude whiff of some idea of virtual-lesbian fujoshi-dom, even as it denies any same-sex desire by alt-Yajima. Whatever. Women in Japan, regardless of inclination still get stuck carrying the relationshippy bucket. Yo alt-Hato-chin; you should consider a grovelling apology for vamping in front of your old sempai while your manager had to stew in the next room. Reason by analogy time. If you became worried and insecure…. wait for it… Duhhh!

Kio-sensei has always been better at showing couples chafing than at being lovy-dovey. Also falling apart. Lets hope he keeps that one in the bottom drawer.

Alt-Sue is undoubtedly chief assistant to alt-Ogiue-sensei, the successful commercial ‘mainstream” mangaka. A voracious consumer of women’s pop libidinised fiction. The uber-fen. Probably does not like girls “that way” if only because the creator of this ‘verse seems to go out of his way to avoid “realistic” lesbian desire – whether from a fear of clumsiness with yuri tropes, to hide one of the main sources for the making of the Hato character (cf Mizoguchi, 2005) or out of a larger predisposition. So how is alt-Sue doing?

A digression with Lost Extras:

Has anyone noticed that we thieving leeches have not yet laid our mitts upon any English-translated Genshiken Volume Extras since volume 15? The extra panels from volumes 16 through 21 remain un-scanlated. These are traditionally whomped up as a bonus by the mangaka as the originals are re-formatted for release in a tankobon. I have gone out of my way to secure all 21 volumes of the original Japanese run of the Genshiken. There they sit in a neat pile. Sorry about my complete inability to understand Japanese. Google photo-recognition translate is a mess. No, I am not going to bring down the wrath of the big K upon myself and this blog by copying them and plopping them onto the web. Besides, If I did so, I wouldn’t admit it; I haven’t yet figured out how to chain VPNs together and wouldn’t trust the dodgy new owner of 4chan not to track IP addresses of image uploaders in any case. I can never get Tor to work and remain suspicious of it.

The only images I upload here are by way of critical comment, study and analysis. Even the parody ones by a dodgy eastern-European (or something) scan-group, who insist on putting their own wrong words into the dialog bubbles, are presented by way of example of fannish secondary production. As I hold an art degree and have given at least one conference talk on these matters, this is pure “fair use”. Have another fricking Zizek quote, just to hammer it home. Lookie at my Academia.edu account. No 3.1416-R8-cy here, nothing to see, move along.

I declare that the yet-to-be processed volume extras will remain as a way for us outlander fans to prove our devotion and appease our curiosity by buying up all the official English releases when they finally hit the shelves.

Whenever something finally happens, we will all be able to see that one page in the volume 21 extras (or was it the bonus leaflet cover?) that looks like Sue dragging Mada off, perhaps to silence any speculation as to exactly how things are going with them?

Did I mention the extremely irritating spineless perv luck effect? Sarraryman-boy privilege at 9000, again! Be sure to accompany her home, Casanova!

Perhaps alt-Sue is not a kiss-less rotten-girl wizard (sorceress? witch?) with a boob-job. I wish her chara well. May she have snacked on all the 3D cuddles she desired as she gorges on 2D yaoi-smut.

As for Alt-Saki, the wife, not the child; despite petabytes of online fan speculation it was ridiculously easy for Kio-sensei to pair her up with alt-Buddy Boy. The volume extras for Spotted Flower are instructive. Again, the woman had to do all the work. Perhaps Spotted Flower ch21 will have ‘the ex-boyfriend” casually mention how he still does not feel the urge to start a family. Wham! You didn’t have to disappear Kousaka-san or have him screw around, go gay or get hit by a beer truck. He had only to stand in the way of a ticking fertility clock. Women DO that kind of thing in manga, otherwise Japan sinks, -urrr- suffers irrecoverable population decline. Can we all say rigid gender role expectations? Stories are easier to plot out that way. All together now…

See also: loser-dog women, christmas cake women, the unmarried, amazingly hawt but still single and slightly psycho 29-year-old woman high-school teacher. Cross reference with Merei’s mom’s comment upon first setting eyes upon Madarame and Kuchiki.

Why this digression on sexuality and gender expression in Spotted Flower (with carry-over from the Genshiken) characters? I must point out that despite featuring a transwoman-appearing character, their virtual-lesbian-appearing partner, the libidinized BL/yaoi fandom they work in, the discussions of improbable male-pregnancy plot-lines, the flirting with alt-Mada and the hints of his married-life kinkeries, that Spotted Flower remains the most heteronormative “queer” manga that I can find. Buddha on a Bicycle! This thing is about having a baby and becoming a good child- raising couple. Alt-Ohno and the yet-to-be-met Alt-Tanaka (was he there in ch20’s hall somewhere?) already have two kids. And the pressure will be building – I predict – for our lesbian-appearing couple except that, yes! Japan will have no problem whatsoever registering their marriage certificate. Meanwhile, all the queer-appearing characters drop caveats and disclaimers: “Nope we still… and/or nowhere enough… not.

“I’m not gay, it’s only you.”

Spotted Flower must provoke all manner of mixed reactions within the Japanese queer community. If I ever get wind of any these reactions, I’ll try to repost/ mention them here. For now, I stick to my side of the street. As well, despite alt-Hato’s breasts (and possibly hormones) all the Spotted Folk are earnestly vanilla. Cosplay and Stripsu Pantsu. Otokonoko games. Alt-Hato is drawing dojins that follow the kind of historical story-lines that Yoshitake used to obsess over. Alt-Hato and alt-Yajima cuddle (and presumably bonk the old-fashioned way). Happily boring; male bodies with female bodies trying to stay together trying to find some small measure of contentment – 1.2 times per week (barring pregnancy).

Genshiken‘s Saki-prime once mentioned that she had gay friends/acquaintances. Alt-Saki/ the wife seems to have forgotten them. Fer krissakes, Kio-sensei; the dog was barking before with the absence of IRL lesbians in the Genshiken. This also masked the absence of IRL gay men. That pooch is now out in the courtyard howling. It is going to look rather insulting unless someone in the new Spotted-verse, even a peripheral someone likes members of their own sex.

Over here in the outlands, it is called “erasing“. It is considered a not-good thing.

On the other hand, if you clumsily represent, you risk doing a different not-good thing.

Oh heck! This is complicated!

You don’t have to make Kousaka gay. Or Sue non-binary (newfangled speak for ‘Bi”). Any of the female editorial staff at the publishing company can be a fujoshi who likes 3D women. Or you can whomp up an honest to goodness gay male BL fan character. Some do exist. Go get that handy fan-fudanshi study “Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]“. by Yoshimoto, Taimatsu.The author still sells copies and has a website for orders. [http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm]
It has testimonial interviews that you can swipe. The research is much easier now. Then you can have everyone feel uncomfortable when the editorial staff meets the mangaka and assistant.

Profit!

Since I’ve switched on the infamous ‘playset field’, it’s time for:

How the mangaka got their verisimilitude back!

We outlander types can peer in on (parts? of) chapter 21.5 as a web preview on the Rakuen Le Paradis web site – at least for now. Click on the cover image to load the pages.

No, here: 
http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol23/trial/0424_kio/index.html?pagecode=1

Forget the problem of creating a believable otaku university club crammed with 2017-era geek guys and rotten girls. Instead, why not use a contemporary adult social; something that you can get research notes on. Say, the offices of a manga magazine publisher. Far more interesting too. The following in no way reflects upon the real conditions in any division of hakusensha.co.jp or its staff.

I like Le Paradis. They keep putting sexy adult women on their covers. All of them look like they are in the middle of torrid, romance-drenched assignations. Very grown-up and steamy. A fair amount of yuri, some BL and a noteable amount of heterosexual romance. Some backsliding, as the works inside have their share of teen characters. A josei magazine that can interest guys too – and I think that goes a bit of the distance towards explaining why Spotted Flower ended up there. Spotted might have been one of the lightest of the regular offerings. Time to up the game, now that the happy couple have their new child to deal with.

Then again 14-sai runs in Le Paradis, So do works by Takemiya Jin, Rendou Kurosaki and even of late, Kōji Kumeta. Yipe! I could run this entire blog solely on their output. I am now a convert to “Neo-Josei“! Fer krissakes, make a licensing deal with Crunchyroll Manga Service for simultaneous translated releases or something. Give me advance preview peeks and a pittance and I will regularly sing/ blog forth thy praises. Retain an aged outlander!

YO Hakusensha!!! I for one welcome my new Josei overlords.

Not holding my breath.

May I first suggest putting a hard link for Le Paradis at the bottom of your main magazine listing page? It is one of yours, right? Why are you hiding it? If the gravure bikini model pics mag gets a link, why not Le Paradis?

Towards an expanded topology of contemporary fen praxis

(Whooo-boya! I got to use praxis in an essay, again!)

Please review the Ogiue Maniax re-reading of the original Genshiken; [https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/return-to-genshiken-volume-3-stimulation-simulation/]

This is an excellent examination of the details that went into making the original mid-2k’s Genshiken a beloved classic. Note how the blog’s proprietor highlights how “infra” the game discussion gets (even as the English translation struggles to keep up with it). The youtbe clip of the fan-made fighting magical girls game drives home the weirdness of hardcore fandom at the time. As I have previously noted, behind some of the old-guard male fandom’s vitriol about the women-led second generation’s club practice lay the obvious conclusion that Kio Shimoku knew very little about what fujoshi and women otaku actually enjoyed and DID when they fanned out. (To be fair, fujoshi socials were a lot more secretive in 2009 than they are today.) The boy Genshiken followed anime and manga, read naughty derivative dojins, played games and derivative fan-games, constructed plasmo, even gunpla models (Plastic models, a subset being models from Gundam franchise) helped out with female-led cosplay events and wrote TLDR fan essays for publication and kept up with online fan BBS’s.

All the guy readers were perfectly willing to put up with girls running the club if they could peek in and pick up some anthropology. More fun then K-on; Fujoshi-raku. Perhaps they could then make interesting small-talk if they ever ran across a real live fujoshi. Instead: BL, BL dojins, pairing talk and unconfortable sparks between a young guy who wants to be a fujoshi and the leftover uber-geek. WUT?

Where are my secret fujoshi secrets revealed?

BLergh! “It’s all rotten stuff now and THAT TR*P!”

I have also pointed out that No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (WataMote) had more female otaku verisimilitude in it than all of Genshiken Nidaime. And a magic wand personal massager too!. Criticise New Game as Cute Girls Doing Karoshi, but the idea that games for women, made by women are a robust market and not just a niche shelf of silly otome games involving pigeon boyfriends (or butler vampire dogs) offers glimpses of what Genshiken Nidaime missed. Women do Gunpla. There is a huge game market for women. Voice actor audio, Net-broadcast extras. The merchandise. The Cosplay. The online fandoms. The posters and limited edition whatevers that come with the BD release.

The whole effing spend your entire adult paycheck Media Mix.

This requires field study!

Now we have an ambitious young genderqueer mangaka and their very able manager/ assistant, with an editor pushing to mainstream their output. Opportunity seldom knocks twice. Played right, Spotted Flower could expand into a full mad romp/ game map through the entirety of the beat-a-property-to-death process that is modern Media Mix Marketing in CVJC. Stick to the women’s side of the avenue. You can still pop back every chapter for at least %40 coverage devoted to Otaku hubby and wife raising their first child hijinx.

Kio could get to do a manga (partially) about making manga, the holy grail/ old chestnut dream of all mangakas – if only because there is always plenty of material for next month’s chapter close at hand.

Oooh, A signing for the mangaka.
They are planning an anime!
Seiyu! Production committee meetings.
Marketing Department!
Theme music by dodgy Talento agency bands.
Console and phone game versions
Lookie; a spin-off light novel series!
Bonus audio disks, posters, key chain fobs,
Figurines, CM’s, PV’s, online forums, fanfiction.

Long walks down Otome Street to take notes.
A scene where the editorial staff gets to meet and query a group
of grown-up, employed, married contemporary fans?

Why should Saekano have all the fun. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saekano:_How_to_Raise_a_Boring_Girlfriend]

Welcome back, we missed you!

Gripe, gripe, gripe. Picky fans are picky.
We wouldn’t pick if we weren’t already completely, hopelessly sucked in.
Urusai!
Wait – the contradictions have sucked us all in… again!
Sensei knows best.

Hey? Are you gonna give the characters names?

 

Update: See also: Astro Nerd Boy‘s review, if only for the “Brian” graphic
(damn! forgot that ‘un!)
https://anime.astronerdboy.com/2017/06/spotted-flower-chapter-20-5-1-manga-review.html

In [something] of [whatever] time

By way of the May status report for this blog…

It’s been more than a month since I made it back from Japan and I have found scant material that really, really got me fired up; fired up enough to grind out one of my usual TLDR essays. Have I forgotten how to write? No biggie; I should absorb someone else’s writing style, perhaps something that is more reader friendly and sympathetic. Also, shorter and easier to read. I should also plug a new theme into this WordPress, one of the catchy modern ones that throws honking big widescreen pictures across the top of the articles and lets the text slide over them as you read. I think they look really good on smartphones and tablets.

Mark that down on a list.

I am a creature of habit, I even avoid composing posts on the new WordPress online editor. I force the old one because it is less distracting. On the laptop, I write on Notepad. I like 14 point Arial. I like my 2011-looking blog layout. It’s easy to read and It loads over crappy connections – the first 3 years of this blog were written, I shit thee not, on dial-up. I maintain my $3/ month dial-up account as a backup. Long blocks of text found their way onto the pages of this blog, even at 44k/bpm. Long blocks of text (and a few rigorously re-sized jpgs) rendered out across the pages as the nights crept toward dawn. Naught but the soft white glare of the page background and the words lay before me. Nothing save patience stood between me and the fancies I conjured to cast out into the void. I knew my redeemer and I knew my redeemer worked.

But just in case, I have made sure archive.org regularly scrapes this thing. I also keep backups.

Not at all the worries about forgetting how to put words together to make thought stuff, I am. Duhh!

Sometimes I find it maddeningly difficult to read posts on some of those snazzier-looking blogs. I wonder it is just me (inevitable, creeping decline, mortality) or the newer themes were designed for visual appeal and just so happen to be stupidly hard to read. Is reading, beyond 140 characters now obsolete?

140 characters remains the limit on SMS/ mobile phone text messages, in case you forgot why Twitter is so stuck on it. Not a lot of phones did data/ internet back in the Cretaceous era. I wonder if anyone still uses SMS messages to tweet?


I have been watching too much anime and reading far less manga. For some reason, anime feels more time-bound and ephemeral to me. A scanned manga is either always out there, and/or proceeds at a monthly pace; sometimes, as the Genshiken and Spotted Flower, for a decade or more. There is time enough for love. An anime cours comes and goes like cherry blossoms. Mono no aware. Sure they remain, out there, somewhere but the rush of chasing the car hubcap as it slowly motors past is lost. The stupid car just sits there. You can bark at it, even gnaw on the rubber but it just ignores you. Maddening. I find its refusal to acknowledge my challenge a deliberate provocation.

A reviewer has 12 ,13, perhaps 24 weeks to mull over a current anime and engage with other fans caught up in the viewing. With the slower pace of manga releases, one may even entertain the delusion that the mangaka or someone at the publishing house might read your impressions, make note of them and then set loose the contracted outlander hounds to chase down whatever misguided enthusiasts are messing up the chances for an official translation and publication. Two points for Crunchyroll anime then. Three when they put Karaoke romaji and english subs up for the OP and ED.

With these scattered threads in mind, a notes:

Little Witch Academia draws to a close.

As of this writing, only four episodes remain un-aired. I have thoroughly enjoyed this anime, not only for what it avoids – which seems to be part of the greater problem with anime and Japanese Visual Cultural artifacts of late – but for what it joyfully re-affirms. The story line is engaging, even as it puts a new spin on the hoary old Magical High School setting. No moe-blobbery or fanservice.

Faves so far:

Ep 3 Broom Race


Ep 8 Mushroom Samba

Ep 17 Amanda’s Taka sword fight

Ep 18 Giant Robot

Not dismissing the other eps: you know nothing really bad will happen. That might make the episodes tame, but it also makes them a balm in troubled times.

If you get bored you can try catching all the shout-outs and tributes stuffed into the show. Did you catch the line Diana Cavendish muttered in episode 19: “It is our way to leave quietly, without being seen.”?

Holy effing wobbly halos and grey feathers! How did that sneak in there?

Good shows bring forth noteworthy blogging;

Among the many, Wave Motion Canon is having a lot of fun with the cinematography in LWA, Studio Trigger‘s past efforts and it’s Gainax legacy. The essayists are even managing to get some of them Sakuga-ish ideas across to me. See: https://wavemotioncannon.com/tag/little-witch-academia/

Atelier Emily on LWATV: I like the writing and the insights, I really appreciate the gentle style, and the approaches taken in the reviews.
See: https://formeinfullbloom.wordpress.com/category/editorialsessays/little-witch-academia/

I am half way through my own long-stalled grind on LWATV. I’m stuck in mud. Must keep slogging. Writing is hard. I have a antic conceit; a compare-and-contrast against something else that will annoy fans of either. This one could go full ass-over-tea-kettle Antarctic south, so don’t hold your breath.

Other writings of note:

I don’t do games and visual novels but I could not help but notice how the Twitter-verse was all over NieR:Automata. From what I could make out, it looked like doomed fan-service fetish-androids wandering around post-apocalyptic ruins killing each other while slowly getting emotionally wrecked. Plenty of boob-window, garter and thigh flashing from the tall femalish android. A shorter shota or boi-droid. It made very little sense until I read:

YOKOO TAROU’S ETERNAL RECURRENCE: TRANSHUMANISM IN NIER: AUTOMATA by Kastel, March 21, 2017
Blog: 墓碑銘の楽しき混乱 A FUN DERANGEMENT OF EPITAPHS
https://tanoshimi.xyz/2017/03/21/violet-evergarden-spoilers/

Wow!

Also of interest is that some of the lewd fan-art that is being created around NieR is inventive and touchingly sensitive. I think the artist is Korean. Feel free to Twitter-search.

Addenda: And some is not. Plenty of Cosplay too. Go Nuts:
https://twitter.com/search?f=images&vertical=default&q=9S%202B&src=typd

It would be way kewl if the essayist hove about and turned their guns on Tanya, the Evil. Jest of God tales, especially murderous sardonic ones set in para-European settings require in-depth familiarity with the western philosophical canon and its attendant chestnuts. I don’t have the ammo for that kind of bombardment.

I still won’t play NeiR: Automata. I have no inclination to spend the first 10 hours walking the babe-droid into the first ruin wall after the intro, over and over and over again. Me + games: not working. I am back on Prince of Persia’s first screen. I can’t jump that. I will now do an interpretive dance and the orc-thing will stab me. Then I down another shot and pass the controller over. Repeat.

Seikai Suru Kado/ KADO: The Right Answer.
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kado:_The_Right_Answer]

http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-feature/2017/05/24/kado-the-right-answer-is-3dcgs-answer-to-rejection

Ok; that’s what this thing does. At first it looked like one of those weird anime movies commissioned by wacky Japanese cult religion political parties.
[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2013-05-29/pile-of-shame-rebirth-of-buddha] [http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=7406] Here’a good roundup of ’em: https://animesolstice.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/happy-science-and-their-relationship-with-anime/

As for Kado; I am not too taken with the male or male-ish alien leads. The genki young woman scientist is fun. Give her another bowl of Skittles and a 6 pack of Red Bull! The military-politico crisis room scenes borrow from Shin Godzilla without the former’s redeeming ironic critique. I have nothing against stylish 3D CGI in anime, just don’t wave it around all over the place. On the plane back from Japan I had a chance to watch the painful Marvel Doc Strange movie. Those rotating cement- mixer sideways skyscrapers! Druggie flick for Cumberbunnies? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

“Why aren’t you watched Seikaisuru Kado? There is a naked CGI bishounen making whale sounds in that anime.”
— Twitter, kousora‏ @Imoko, April 15, 2017

I don’t think it is fujoshi candy, it’s too weird. Will keep watching.

Other stuff: 

Alice to Zouroku has slightly less CGI. No notable blog reviews found. Will keep watching

Sakura Quest. I really like this, even as I recognise – as has been pointed out – that it’s a continuation of the studio formula that worked so well in Shirobako. The women are adults, only a teeny bit service-y (Did studio have to make them walk knock-kneed?) As outlanders, we miss a fair bit of the desperation of the small-town tourist revival effort. The reality is far, far more bleak. The ED theme is catchy, I like that the five protrags lip-sync it.

Charas lip-syncing the song lyrics during an OP or ED seems to be a new thing. I swear I could hear the words omoide and kaze in there somewhere. Krrrrching! Most definitely will keep watching.

Kabukibu: CLAMP designed the charas. Admit it: it plods even as it deploys every high-school sport / club trope in the book, with the dial set at 4 out of 10. CLAMP designed the charas. It is good-hearted and watchable and what the heck, gives the viewer a teeny tiny peek into the world of Kabuki. Rakugo Shinjuu raised the bar too high. The OP song is suck. The ED song is only slightly better. I keep forgetting who the tall character without the glasses is. CLAMP designed the charas. Oh right, a big guy dancer who is worried that some consider him effeminate. Did I mention?
Will keep watching.


Natsume’s Book of Friends: An exception to the time-bounded-ness of most anime. This I can watch any time. I can watch it again and again. Years from now I will be occasionally snacking on back episodes from the prev 5 years. Will watch forever.

Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head Kidō Kyūkyū Keisatsu.
[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=19214]

No, really! I must watch one or two episodes just to see the newest iteration of a venerable form. How to sell die-cast metal toy cars to mostly male grade school children. Pokemon originally started as something like this. So far the OP music has made me hard power-down my laptop every time it started but I will eventually build up a resistance to it. I expect to find hidden well-springs of shonen tropery in their most annoying natural state. From what I can can gather, the kids get to drive cars, then these cars slot into bigger rescue trucks (I hear you liek cars, so we put a car on top of your car so you can drive while you drive) and then the combined thingies turn into giant robots. One is called White Hope.

The announcer intoned without a hint of irony…

We’ll take a few seconds for a pause here.

Uchoten Kazoku: I am supposed to love this, but the uncomfortable, dread feeling that comes over me whenever the Friday Fellows appear has hit again and I am avoiding it. Yes; I am susceptible to having my mood and emotions jangled by fictional narratives. Other than that, Benten, on whom the whole story hinges is fraying at her cardboard edges. She is too thin, her capricious, enigmatic isolation and her concealed sadness (I presume she had some kind of happy family when Akadama snatched her away as a child to become his somewhat tengu protege) is threatening to cause her to drift away on the wind. Capitalise: The Enigmatic Female Character. Having her tussle with the Nidaime simply reveals his gauze-thin character as well. And I don’t like that dangerous climbed-out-of-hell fucktard either. Strange; I usually like Kōji Kumeta-designed charas.

The tanuki might all celebrate their Idiot Blood but their lives are worth squat and they know it. And now we know it. For all of its charms, Kyoto begins to feel like a refugee camp in a war zone. Horrible pointless tragedies to ensue. I don’t care if the effing Ebichunk twins misbehave any more. Their lives are all too precarious and the story, wrapped up in sweet sweet touristy trappings is too jarring in shit times like this. On the back burner.

Eromanga Sensei: Mebee later.

Saekano S2: ditto. I sometimes read the manga(s) – it is hard to keep the stories in order. The property is my go-to example of the ‘If not for the harem, this fool would have no friends, anyone to talk to, female or male at all.” effect. The conceit in the full title is obnoxious. Oh wait, it shares first place with the manga Shin Seitokai No Ichizon No Friends Female Male Or Even Pity From Familiar Animals, which I only read because I have a bet with myself on how long noted yaoi/ otokonoko pr0n-meister Suemitsu Dicca can keep drawing it before shota otokonoko bondage scenes sneak in. Good throat-slashing by psycho girl so far.

Haine: Never made it to ep2 . Fujoshi diabetes. Haine is coincidentally the french word for hatred, though I doubt the producers planned this. They were probably going for Heine.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records: Notable that it was used as a straw man to ‘prove‘ that anime was crap (in comparison to something western, whatever, who cares) by a hack New York Times writer. Cue the predictable anitwitter outrage. Gawd; those idiot outfits. Fanservice made painful, not sexy. I will still watch it if I am bored and can’t get to sleep, just to see how a grade D filler show plods through its paces.

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture Manga and Anime: 
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moyasimon:_Tales_of_Agriculture]

I finally sat down and went through both seasons of the anime and caught up on extant chapters of the manga available to my comprehension. Sadly, the manga concluded in 2014. Some have called it the Agriculture School Genshiken. Close but no kewpie doll. It remains a long-running, serviceable and enjoyable university slice-of-life comedy. Perhaps it was started to ‘sexy up’ Ag colleges in Japan.

The woman characters are the most interesting, although their formidable natures are bent towards fanservice. The main chara’s dodgy male upperclassmen sometimes redeem themselves. The childhood best friend who vanishes and then reappears as a gender-confused goth loli crossdressing booze store clerk feels forced but is tolerable so far. The conceit that the main character can ‘see’ and ‘talk’ with microbes – which his senses process as cartoonish avatars – doesn’t really get in the way of the story and is not used as too much of a story crutch – which is one heck of a writing trick. I recommended both seasons of the anime and the manga.

Manga

Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku is ending, amidst horrible and dire events, as expected. At least it did its smutty melodramatic genderfuck tale of ruin as true to its intentions as it could. Tomboy girl escapes, all else walk back into the flames. Something like The Terminator, only with desperate sex instead of killer robots. For all its faults, it remains miles above and ahead of Scum’s Wish, in internal consistency and faith to its premise. It “Does what it was born to do.

Shimanami Tasogare: The understated tale of queer adolescence set in a small inland sea cost town continues. The casual stupid cruelty of an interloper mouthing off as she volunteers with the abandoned house collective that serves as a drop-in center and safe space for the town’s queer community is devastating. Anonymous/ Someone (another Benten-ish character, though better realised and deployed – translations of her name vary) is temporarily missing. The young guy MC is having no luck dealing with his sexuality or helping another member of the group come to terms with theirs.

Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa: After some powerful emotional chapters as the cohort faces graduation, the story has gone back to goofy time-travel hijinks that promise to deliver teeny doses of moralizing. Think Kids in The Hall try to re-do Auntie Mame as a highschool romcom. And now my capsule review module is officially broken and slinging pasta at the wall.

Where is Kizumonogatari Part 3: Reiketsu when I need it ?

Patience…

Owarimonogatari S2?

More patience!

 

Promises to keep and miles to go:

Where the heck are my Genshiken Nidaime wrap up essays?

Genshiken Nidaime and the imaginary Fujoshi Homosocial in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture

Conformity, Cowardice and Privilege: The Luck of Harunobu Madarame.

Becoming Fujoshi, becoming adult: the fearsome project of Kenjiro Hato, the fearsome project of Kio Shimoku.

On Fanfiction

I really really really need to do a full participant-observer consideration of fanfiction writing. Not just the burlesque thing I did a few years back on machine generated and analog versions of crapfic. Not all fanfic turns into shmex scenes with the One True Pairing; which is a relief if only because (pour moi) smut-fic leads to ennui. Boyo Wilde (or was it Slavoj?) nailed it when they noted that “friendship is far more tragic than love – it lasts longer.” Still, any analysis of fanfic writing must gaze deep into solitary wells of shame and embarrassment. Is this some kink thing? Then there are those self-inserts, which even without Mary or Marty stomping around, are unavoidable. I learned never to put myself into my art because my pet Id-monster beat me to the parking spot every fucking time. Why do you think so many artists are geeked on Procedural Generation?

Out out damned spot!

NO! Avoid the easy way out of referencing to machine-generated fic!

At the same time, if someone is going to spend hours, days, week writing fic on a property, they must love it, love the characters and the situation and the setting and simply, honestly and with great purity in their hearts, want more… Want it never to end. The hunger for the narrative is frightening. Stories end. Then you move on. Unless you are 2 years old, in a car-seat on a long long ride and the driver has put the 10-hour mp3 of Diggy-Diggy-Hole on the stereo to distract you. (this works by the way)

“AGAIN!”
“wait for it…”
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

There is something fearsome, even tragic and yet exalted-ly human here: Schmex und Tod. Happy Endings. To go back and fix things, To repair the things that have been broken. That wind.. Gedicht und Grab… Ver haff I heard dis before? I blame visual novel-style games. They blame fanfic. The world-snake devours all.

Only the sky remains.

Theory:

An Industry Awaiting Reform: The Social Origins and Economics of Manga and Animation in Postwar Japan by Oguma Eiji, Translation by Yokota Kayoko
http://apjjf.org/2017/09/Oguma.html

An important primary source for the Japanese popular discourse on “Herbivore Men”, ca 2005. Now translated and open source on the author’s web site:
Confessions of a Frigid Man: A Philosopher’s Journey into the Hidden Layers of Men’s Sexuality” by Masahiro Morioka‏
http://www.philosophyoflife.org/tpp/frigid.pdf

Fan Culture

Not a survey this time. The proprietor of the Otaku Journalist blog is collecting fan ‘origin stories’; testimonials from fans on how they got hooked on CVJC. See: http://www.otakujournalist.com/whats-your-anime-origin-story/
Stories end up here: http://www.animeoriginstories.com/blog/
Earlier takes on the same theme:
http://nopybot.com/2011/02/22/my-history-with-anime/
https://dorrykun.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/my-history-with-anime/

Oh goodie! I made it. It is still May.

Added: I consider a few more manga in the comment section…

Reblog: seriously, the guy has a point

gregfallis.com

I got metaphorically spanked a couple of days ago. Folks have been talking about the Fearless Girl statue ever since it was dropped in Manhattan’s Financial District some five weeks ago.I have occasionally added a comment or two to some of the online discussions about the statue.

Recently most of the Fearless Girldiscussions have focused on the complaints by Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who createdCharging Bull. He wantsFearless Girl removed, and that boy is taking a metric ton of shit for saying that. Here’s what I said that got me spanked:

The guy has a point.

This happened in maybe three different discussions over the last week or so. In each case I explained briefly why I believe Di Modica has a point (and I’ll explain it again in a bit), and for the most part folks either accepted my comments or ignored them. Which…

View original post 1,090 more words

Go do a fanfiction survey

I might be a bit late on this but it is still interesting. The folks at Fansplaining [http://fansplaining.com/] posted a Twitter invite to participate in a short survey on Fanfiction. Off I went and filled it out. You should too.

Fansplaining‏ @fansplaining Mar 20
More
It’s time for a new Fansplaining survey—this one on the definition of “fanfic”!
Go, take, and share widely! https://t.co/eWcSLmKsfF

See also the call on their main site: http://fansplaining.com/post/158797773333/take-the-fansplaining-definitions-survey

Ok, I spoiled a question. Wait, I got that pic on Twitter, so it’s only a second-hand spoil. Or something… Personally, I had a lot of NO IDEA WHATEVER replies but that’s part of the exercise, right?

In other news:

I am two thirds though my Japan visit and so far it has been more of a decompress time than a run-around-and-buy-experience-things visit. Only 2 more Genshiken volumes left on my hunt list, a ten-day cold shared with she-who-up-with-me… a sprained ankle and some light bicycle trips. The weather has turned cool and wet – sakura blossoms will be delayed a few days. The steampunk fair is still interesting but the door is expensive.

Of course the food is insanely great here, even the cheap stuff that I get chided for indulging in, the air is clean along the Sagami Bay shores and Japan remains wonderful.

I promise I will come up with something to TLDR essay post on sooner of later.

Meanwhile, have a sunset.

 

Cabin fever

Blog update for February 2017. Some anime and manga noted, plus travel announcement.feb-2017

1) Winter 

Not much in the way of blog posts this month. I can’t seem to find anything that scratches my theory itch.
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2) Playing Hookey

I’m off to Japan for March and early April. I scored an amazing deal on a round-trip ticket; so what if the plane will be held aloft by three Hong Kong girls yelling “THE PAPER!” throughout a 12 hour flight. The booze is free even in economy class. Heineken drip stat! I’ll be eating oatmeal and digging ditches when I get back. Yum! Oatmeal!

Wonder if I can find a gig or two in Japan? Anybody have a university class in the Kanto region that needs 3 hours of errant bullshit on anything in this blog, in return for a discrete envelope?

Plum, then early shocking pink, then regular cherry blossoms. Ueno Park Hanami. Hiking the hills around Kamakura with my sweetie. Unplug from the news and social media feeds. The Tokyo steampunk scene looks interesting. Perhaps something academic or contemporary art related will pop up: the French Embassy runs a Media Arts festival February through early March around Yokohama.

I hope WWIII doesn’t start.
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3) Always do the right thing

I am so happy I didn’t monetize this blog: I would have to write things even when I don’t care to. Also adopt a public stance and defend it, to the point of inviting folks to my comment section and then making an example of them. Everyone is on edge of late. I remind myself never, never, never to do that. As long as you don’t spread hate-shyte and/ or call me a poo-poo head, your comments are welcome. I reserve the right to ask follow-up questions and TLDR-out.

I should get out more often.

On the other hand, shared hosting packages and domain name registrars are insanely cheap, of late. Mirror/ move this thing to a privately hosted WordPress platform and spend hours a day trying to keep it from getting hacked. Load it up with Google Ad-sense and clickbait.

hypnotic-tentacle-web

10 secret anime sex secret secrets! Please disable your ad-blocker!
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4) Watching more anime, reading less manga:

happy-dragon-family

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon/ Ms. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is turning out to be the sleeper hit of the winter 2017 anime season.

maidragon-alone-no-more

As I noted last year regarding the manga; when you sub in an asexual, harried female programmer for the usual guy harem lead, a heartwarming upgrade occurs. You end up with an “unusual family” rather than the usual bullshit.
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Little Witch Academia TV. Another heartwarming, fun show; Akko is turning into a perfect klutzy hero, with sheer determination and a refusal to recognise her painfully obvious limitations driving her ever deeper into hijinx ensue. The physical comedy sequences are dynamic and fun as all heck – the broom race was breathtaking.

lwatv-broom-hell-ride

Studio Trigger seems to be working with some of the other characters developed during the second OAV Parade story, the trio of school delinquents are popping up more and more. Is Amanda O’Neill a hat-tip to SG-1? She has an O’Neill air about her.

lwatv-no-relation

As for Diana Cavendish; she is far more nuanced than one would expect from a foil. She is also beginning to look tired. A boarding school running out of money and skimping on the food budget. That takes me back! Rumour has it that this one is going 24 episodes. Hooray!
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tanya-22

Youjo Senki/ The Saga of Tanya the Evil. A Bismark-ian militarist, not a nazi. Pre-nazi. Maybe that’s what she will finally do, along with starting a world war. If this blog did theological grinding, I would have a field day with Tanya. As it was, I read the first volume of the light novel series (fan-translation), which covered to episode 4 of the anime. Episodes 5 and 6 were equally dire and grimly amusing. An inverse of the Book of Job, somewhat related to Catch-22 and the Heinlein take on the biblical tale.tanya-brain-hurt

De-emphasised in the anime is how “faith” is required to hold together and fully activate her powerful 4-core “orb”. Using it has mental side-effects: it drills “faith” into her consciousness as she uses it, which she then must struggle to throw off, further pushing her towards psychosis. I suspect the show is a run-away hit with the “I really hate my job” audience.
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rakugo-not-sexy

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen. Narrative vs. mortality. I love this show, even as it lacks the pace of the first season. We also get rakugo with subtitles

Hey! Another excuse to plop this into a post!.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen/ Blue Exorcist (season 2) Kyoto Saga.  Even with the fantastic syncretistic religio-cultural-bullshit settings, there shouldn’t be a heck of a lot of note in this formulaic shonen action-adventure potboiler.exorcist-our-hero

However what there is handled very well indeed and the familiar is comforting. As a shonen exercise, the female characters are somewhat pushed to the wings but are respectfully written…

exorcist-fanservice2-web

…Except for the over-the-top yankee-ninja supervising first-class exorcist Shura Kirigakure, who carries the fanservice burden for the whole story, as the “scary older woman”.
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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka/ ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department.
A country shaped like a chicken! A chicken!acca-smoke-too-much

I smoke too much when I watch this.
Also: Bread.
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demichan-teach-web

Demi-chan wa Kataritai/ Interviews With Monster Girls. This often borders on uncomfortable. Does teach’s university department have a research ethics board? Watching it to see the inevitable teach x succumbus-teach dance. Why am I so easily fooled? Nothing bad happens.
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omake-screencap-minami-kamakura-koukou-joshi-jitensha-bu-ep1-preview-card

Minami Kamakura Kōkō Joshi Jitensha-Bu/ Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club. Kamakura, Enoshima and bikes. I recognise locations! I’ve cycled and hiked those very spots! been-there-done-that

My mama-chari (a version of the ubiquitous Japanese granny-bike that waits for me at my sweetie’s apartment’s bike racks) is the best bike of all time. I’ll forgive the show its light moe-blob-ery.
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Requires barge-pole: Scum’s Wish. I regret the time I spent reading the manga and the anime won’t fool me twice. For ghu’s sake – if you want ero-melodrama, re watch the Maragaret Duras novel‘s movie; L’amant (1992) – in the original French, with subs. At least the setting excuses the characters. Otherwise charas should shut up and go make some happy high school memories or fuck their brains out. Or something…

watamote-on-scum-web

Or; contrast to Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku. C’mon; you just wanted the pr0ny bits but you can’t admit it, so you smother it in melodrama. As a big gay theorist once ventured:  “There is a big secret about sex: most people don’t like it.”

On second though, I’ll leave the exercise to anyone who cares; I’m annoyed.
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Dropped, even as I expected nothing: Trickster. I wondered if yet another Rampo-derivative chunk of rotten-bait (I mean that in the nicest way possible) would have a few amusing bits but it’s all just meh! I feel as if I was drugged and forced to watch Super Friends re-runs on late night tv. “Shape of a potato!”
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5) Catching up on some older anime:

natsume-yuujinchou-web

Natsume Yuujinchou/ Natsume’s Book of Friends. A neglected classic. Both the anime(s) and the manga have been going on for ages. Natsume is much less of a wreck now, so reading and watching his interactions with the hidden world is far less melancholic than at first.

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Steam Detectives (1998-1999). A relic and a tribute to a more innocent age. It was probably ment as a half-assed nod to 60’s classics like Gigantor/Tetsujin 28
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_Detectives
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=863

steam-detectives-web

It has no guile. None whatsoever. Not a lot of story either, or characterization, or animation chops. It has lackluster theme music that plays during the action sequences. REALLY EFFING ANNOYING music – as if someone had the urge to imitate Yoko Kanno & co, but didn’t have anywhere near the chops to pull it off. Now I see what those Milky Holmes things are parodying. I am not yet desperate enough to seriously watch anything Milky Holmes.

I tried watching the Catch-22 giant robot space battle thing Martian Successor Nadesico. I might try again later.

I might even try Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Wah-wah but I wont make it through to the end, I know it.

yeah, yeah, drill, whatever.

I tried to Marathon Maramite. As a yuri classic, I should know something of it. That did not work. Give them the child at 5 and Cath stuff will severely creep me out for the rest of my life.

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6) Wait, I can still read, my eyes have not yet fallen out!

The Kyougokudou series: gritty ero-guro retro style manga by Kyougoku Natsuhiko and Shimizu Aki

Ubume no Natsu
Mouryou no Hako
Kyoukotsu no Yume
Hyakki Tsurezurebukuro

The second of these was made into an anime, which is… tolerable. I am annoyed that they re-drew some of the characters. The police detective, especially suffers in the translation.
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Other manga of interest:

chio-chan-web

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro
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Tsurezure Children

and…

mahou-very-bad-web
Mahou Shoujo Ore. My gawd is this last one a fricking train wreck. I could write a full essay post on how bad it can get and still work, somehow.
This manga is WRONG. Why does this exist?

“Chewbacca is a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk, but Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now, think about that. That does not make sense! Why would a Wookie – an eight foot tall Wookie – want to live on Endor with a bunch of two foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! What does that have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! None of this makes sense. If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!”

If you wondered why I wrote a long essay on a Usolily fluffy BL side-story: at least it presented a “pro” version of so many Tumblr-esque happy good-ending shipping fantasies. That had a bit of theory-moe. See anything with theory moe in the above? The pit is most decidedly not staring back. I miss Genshiken.
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7) Fanservice

In the epic battle over which anime or manga is an exploitative pit of fanservice and which of them are empowering, consider the possibility that all are guilty. Read this, note uniform skirt length in picture.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/23/business/changing-values-behind-school-uniforms/

Yes; a few cm above the top of the knee. Just as it was 40+ years ago at my evil catholic high school. Just as it is today, as the crowds of female high school students on every train platform in the Kanto region will so testify. If the hammer is to drop on fanservice it should drop equally all over the place. Animation industry convention. Spread the guilt around.
.

8) Finally:

Note Mio-chan’s manuscript.
Is that?
No…
No way does she draw…
MADAHATO !!!

Usotsuki Daisy

Otokonoko no Koto (About a Boy)
Oneshot (2016) by Komura Ayumi
Epilogue to the Ten/Taiyou subplot from Usotsuki Lily.

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Warning: Spoilers and considerations of sparkling fluffy BL that depicts guys making out ensues.

Years after I wrote it, this blog’s essay on Usotsuki Lily remains one of the most popular posts. [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/the-place-promised-in-earlier-days-on-usotsuki-lily/] I never followed up on the ending of the long-running series (D’awwww near overload; aspirational fiction levels holding at %121; coolant pressure stable, maintaining course and speed.) but this one-shot compels me to grind away once more.

This is not the easiest task. Longtime readers of this blog will recall that while I remain mesmerised by the slashy impulses and rituals of the Japanese rotten tribes, their works are not my thing. Ayumi Komura can get me to make an exception and suspend my stick-in-the-mud oyagi discomfort with depictions of man-secks. Ok; Rendou Kurosaki gets away with it too and yeah, I would wonder how (don’t hold your breath) Kio Shimoku would pull it off. Kōji Kumeta would do one of his rude bara-lampoon pairings with an over-muscled nose picking hulk and the clueless Zetsubo Sensei, so he’s out of the running.

Ayumi Komura sensei can get my attention. What the heck; perhaps I can gain some abstracted flip-side impressions as to the jarring feelings that women have to put up with all the effing time when confronted by a relentless flood of male-gaze objectification. This is pure female-gaze titillation, even if my exposure is safely limited.

Executive Summary:

Ten is smitten with Taiyou and Taiyou who decided to “give it a chance” knows who he likes. They make out and tell each other how they feel for each other. The End.

More interesting is how Komura-sensei pulls it off.

From the scan-group:

“Today we have the long-awaited Ten x Taiyou BL one-shot by Ayumi Komura, first announced over two years ago at the very end of Usolily v17, but only recently released online a couple of weeks ago on the Margaret Bookstore. It’s called Otoko no Ko no Koto (About a Boy) and is an epilogue to the Ten/Taiyou subplot from Usolily.”

This is a stand-alone work, not run in Margaret Magazine proper but still flying under their flag. Margaret in this usage, in Japan refers to the flower we call a daisy, not the female proper name. Margaret Magazine is a long-running powerhouse in mainstream shoujo manga. Think of it as Space Battleship Shoujo. Do not underestimate its reach or its multi-generational influence.

In the earlier essay, I noted how the interaction between an author and their fans can, within the shoujo genre lead towards a mediating role which leads the author to posit aspirational ideals of good behaviour and practice throughout a long-running work. While Komura-sensei never made any secret of her taste for BL-ish subplots, she kept the impulse under strict control during Usolily‘s run. Once the subject of minority sexualities and gender expressions were brought up, beyond the gag of En’s crossdressing for non-identity reasons, they were handled seriously and with respect. This corner of the Margaret-verse was an extremely nice, sincere, safe, good-hearted and understanding place to go to high school. The social circles that the characters moved in were likewise all remarkably well-behaved – even enlightened. Gender roles were seen as superficially constituted of performative elements — at least until a ‘real’ trans-girl transferred in and her ‘reality’ shamed En. Notions of rigid sexuality were positioned as secondary to mutual romantic attraction. In short; an amped-up version of the mainstream contemporary love-conquers-all shoujo magazine catechism. D’awwwww and happy endings for most ensue.

For most: let the record show that Ten’s long-crushing friend Saeki gets a teeth-grinding, glaring cameo on the back page. Sorry guy: you can’t win against the Saotome family attraction field (and/or the Shinohara family is just too random for civilians).

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On with the guided bus tour:

Ten starts his day by considering his upcoming date with Taiyou and which dress to wear. He then rejects girly attire in favour of a direct, non-gender-bent (or gender deceptive) presentation. The author was of course trolling the readership by using Otoko No Ko in the title – in its simple, original meaning as “boy”. This is after all a spin-off of Usolily. When Ten makes it downstairs, he sees that his brother En is in full girl-mode and spending time with Hinata. Fans get their En-crossdresses-for-other-reasons dose, their fakee-yuri moment and confirmation that, yes(!) today is the big day and Ten and Taiyou are going to spend it together. Out of the house he goes…

my brother img000007 web.jpg

Wait a second…

Your older brother crossdresses and is spending time with the older sister of the guy you are sweet on? Ok, just sorting things out here, no biggie. By the way, when you crossdress, don’t you look a bit like your older brother in girl mode and wasn’t Taiyou once, for a brief instant smitten by the sight of her, uh him? And didn’t Taiyou once cross-dress as Hinata to fill in at the cafe? This is confusing. Uhh, right; Margaret Magazine crossdressing shoujo romcom. Never mind, pray continue…

Ten on his way to meet Taiyou is beset by a mushy internal dialogue of romantic self-doubt. Could Taiyou have been deluded by Ten’s girl-mode, crossdressed appearance? Nawww.. On the other hand Ten is convinced that:

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Cuteness is Justice?

So Ten has a measure of giddy nonsense looping in his head. Wow; almost girl-like. Within the story-verse, Taiyou is a straight virgin guy who has decided to “give it a chance”. Ten’s sexuality is matter-of-fact gay but no mention has been made of any prior sexual experience. Ten’s virgin status is strongly imputed. We have a severely crushing young male on his way to his first possibly intimate rendezvous with his intended.

Add to the mix an extra consideration: Ten wonders whether he will still be as ‘cute’ to Taiyou after he hits his growth spurt and becomes more manly looking — as his brothers are. Come to think of it, Taiyou is looking a lot more manly of late as well. The mangaka has dealt with such body image self-doubts in Usolily and other works; Of note is one about identical enough but non-identical twins hitting puberty [Uno x Uno]. Not quite twincest, just a feeling of loss. Losing the ability to ‘pass’ as a girl is also a staple of otokonoko/ josou stories and rarer, more serious or more dramatic considerations of gender non-conforming charas. Props to sensei for deftly handling it.

While Ten does entertain a few fantasies, no life-shattering melodramas are deployed. Ten as a self-assured, self-proclaimed gay male youth isn’t a direct replacement for Margaret Magazine‘s core readership but he definitely is an upgrade in emotional awareness from the base guy model. He “wants to make more progress with Taiyou-san” and that means intimacy but his physical desire is interleaved with emotional considerations. He comes with a sympathetic head full of excitement and doubt.

Perhaps I overlook the obvious: A first-person internal monologue by male BL-gay Ten can consider things that a girl chara on her way to a first date might find exciting but would rarely be voiced or daydreamed of by a proper young female shoujo protagonist. Relationship-py stuff, for sure. Thinking about losing control after a kiss, wondering if she  would “assault” the guy; wondering how her intended would react when they both got naked and touched; becoming overwhelmed with lust by her date’s “cuteness”? Oh my! Isn’t that a bit slutty? Perhaps I need to read more shoujo, or josei manga but it looks like snooping over Ten’s shoulder affords a young woman reader a bit more freedom to consider the exciting possibilities of carnality, as well as emotional satisfaction.(1)

As well, since Ten ‘owns’ his desires and sexuality, he is not tormented or conflicted about his desires — in the manner of a certain other young crossdressing guy chara experiencing their first flush of same-sex attraction. Neither is Taiyou a slope-shouldered 4-5 year older spineless near-hiki NEET otaku coward. The generic shoujo bishie-ness of the two lower the bar, but that’s the author’s signature drawing style, so we can roll with it.

Yuppers: I will be making occasional comparisons to Hato Kenjiro and Harunobu Madarame. Too bad Kio-sensei, you made it complicated on purpose — this is what you missed, or felt you couldn’t handle or get away with. This is also what a significant number of the slashy fan-verse wanted to see play out; fan-arted and fic’d over and mourned the loss of on Tumblr (etc.). Comparing how Ten x Taiyou fare and thinking about how the other pairing failed will underline the more obvious reasons why our latter two heroes found it impossible to hook up.

More on this after the tour.

Taiyou wants to go to a game shop, get a game, go home and play it, all while hanging out with Ten. Taiyou is acting perfectly in-character as a young guy — that is to say a tad clueless about Time, Place and Occasion. Ten zones out on Taiyou’s bishie looks, in a PG rated way. He even wonders again to himself if it was a mistake not to go out with Taiyou “as a girl” but immediately rejects the idea out of a sense of authenticity.

No, no , no. That’s not right! That wouldn’t be me!

Meanwhile Taiyou remains clueless. Before you can turn two more pages they are at Taiyou’s house, in his room and no one else is home. Da-bump!

Or was that Doki-doki?

Bored yet img000018 web.jpg

There they are, sitting on the rug, leaning up against Taiyou’s bed. Taiyou is engrossed in his new console game when he finally notices a fidgety Ten next to him. One hand slides under another’s and then they smooch. Their second ever kiss.

Let me pause for a moment here.

As I mentioned, it has been obvious for a while that Komura-sensei really wanted to do a sweet little BL scene with these two. The big question, at least for me was: How does she balance the old-school BL tropes of ‘forcefulness’ and emotionally inarticulate homo-panic with the demands for an enlightened safe, affirmative and respectful Margaret-verse follow-through? Just how much BL and how much YA (Young Adult) can one slip into the mix?

Ten as the initiating physically smaller male chara is a well-worn tradition within rotten lore. On the other hand, he isn’t overpowering his conflicted higher-status/ more manly/ older-looking intended, even if he is leading. There is also the strong implication that as a gay young man who owns his desire, he has given some consideration to how it will manifest. Taiyou can be forgiven for still being stuck in “let’s see how it works out” mode.

Groping ensues and Taiyou appears to be overwhelmed but not repulsed. Ten goes into full romantic lust mode. Taiyou tries to catch his breath. Ten is serious and then –props to Komura-sensei for Ten’s polite asking for permission, even if Taiyou complains that Ten didn’t really wait for a full answer– asks Taiyou “do you mind if I do it with my mouth”. Props again to Komura-sensei for shifting the POV/ angle so that the ensuing pleasuring is left for the reader to imagine, or not.

Yeah; I remain uncomfortable with depictions of male same-sex intimacy. It’s the way I grew up. That said, it is being handled in such a way as to show respect and at the same time not frighten the horses (or the oyagi). Must stop whining. What if the same scene was deployed by Suemitsu Dicca as one of her ecchi josou/ otokonoko/ trap fantasies? Would it be different if it was drawn for the perv-lite male gaze? At least Ten would be crossdressing and wearing naughty knickers.

Ten has demonstrated to Taiyou that yuppers, he really, really likes him, ‘that way’. Taiyou is not just pleasured, but emotionally moved. Taiyou wants Ten’s clothes off too; “to be fair”. Clothes off at this point means shirts off or open — both sets of pants are still on, if not completely done up. Just for one last bit of self-doubt, Ten flashes on the idea that taking his shirt completely off will hammer home the point that (You don’t say, Mr Holmes!) he really is a human male.

Taiyou kisses and hugs Ten and declares that Ten’s skin feels “so soft”. Ten is vindicated! The guy he likes does not recoil in abject horror over skinship with him. The guy he likes is happy to hold him tight! Ode To Joy plays in vaulting cathedrals. Flocks of doves fly upward into sunny skies. (not depicted… budget limits…) Fangirls (and a few fanboys) go squeeeeeeeeeeeee! Love conquers all!

More hugging and smooching!

Egads! Ten! What are you doing with your hand and Taiyou’s blurry cone of light? (If this was het pr0n we’d get a far more detailed representation of someone’s junk. Ain’t that strange? What if it was gay pr0n? Hmmm. Seems to be a matter of gendered gaze.)

This is followed by Ten bubbling about how happy he is that the guy he likes liked it and…

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No need to spoil EVERYTHING. Suffice it to say, Taiyou declares that he is doing this because of his own feelings and that he has not been fooled or pressured or bribed or whatever. He really likes Ten. They declares their love! More necking and hey, because they are young, in love and horny, more intimacy to follow.

D’awwwww.

Fade out, roll credits.

Note that even while Ten was overheating for his intended, he didn’t go into any Hato-esque BL fantasy overload. His fascination was always locked onto the present, immediate physicality of Taiyou. Likewise Taiyou is overwhelmed not just by being done but by the warmth and enjoyment of giving Ten a good squeeze, or three. And they both like to kiss a lot. They also seem to realise that they can explore a bit around the other’s ears, neck, chest, etc. Oh wow! Humans come with a full covering of sensitive skin. At least a tip of the hat towards something beyond kiss then grab between the legs. They appear to be able to figure out the rest of it as well. Someone might be presently initiating but no one has fallen into seme x uke roleplaying, let alone wrist pinning, ropework or butt-raping. On the other hand, they are not just ‘fooling around’ or scratching an itch. This is romantic sex; gay love-making depicted respectfully and with mindful attention displayed toward each other.

One more time from Takemiya Jin:

Pubic service yuri fragments_of_love_v001_ch004_029

As I previously mentioned: this is an aspirational upgrade from baseline expectations; sometimes self-consciously described as ‘sparkling fluffy BL’ in acknowledgement of too-often indulged excesses.

You can get away with a heck of a lot in Shoujo manga.

We must also remind ourselves again that the primary audience for this work are women; even young-ish, teen-aged women. How Ten initiated intimacy suggests a tip sheet for an inexperienced, young (or young at heart) woman (or guy) to get things moving with the guy they like, who is being a bit slow on the uptake. (Naw, he is busy heavily processing those new affirmative consent rules… Ok, he may be just a little bit slow but anyway, it’s nice to be fancied…) As well, Ten’s experience of being overwhelmed with the immediacy of his physical attraction toward Taiyou validates his earlier otherwise embarrassingly creepy staring and stalking. We get the payoff, the raison d’être for the series’ relentless fixation on the physical attraction of attractive young critters of both sexes.

Attraction hits first: it’s all about looks. Then they get to know each other better. This is excusable and understandable. No turn red, avert eyes and stutter pantomime here. It might be shallow as all heck but everyone in Usolily-ville is good-looking.

Taiyou, likewise responds with his full attention once his desire is sparked. See how they fixate on each other. Such intense focus! Their feelings must be real. It says so in the guide at the back of this month’s issue.

The make-out scene, if Ten was switched out for a woman would be resonant to any male who has had occasion to let the woman lead. There definitely is an idealised aspect of real-life modelling to this narrative. The bodies are male but the mind directing the show and the audience she writes for is female. And slow-on-the-uptake guys are all pretty much the same across time, space and sexualities. Pay attention to how Taiyou reacts to the gift: He doesn’t just lie back and grunt. He is moved and tenderly responds.

Houston; we have a generic, idealised first intimate date scenario; with the curtains run down before anyone starts trying to act out scripts, expectations, roles, gymnastics, The Joy of Schmex Revised Edition, naughty underwear, porno movie scenes and the usual other 2 metric tons of cultural detritus to seem to get in the way of what used to be the most natural thing in the world.

Idealized intimacy that just so happens to be male:male, pulled off by Komura-sensei in best Margaret Magazine form.

No one gets fridged. No one goes on about the guilt they feel over their shameful desires or wonders if they are gay or whether it’s an exceptional case of “It’s you and only you”. No one even has to announce that they know what they like and that happens right now to be him. No one gets bullied, shunned or laughed at behind their back. No one is spotlighted and pushed towards acting out an in-story script that does not fit them. The only advice offered Taiyou was from Hinata (in flashback) to be sure of his own feelings and not “just go along” with other people’s expectations. And that advice was given as a private confidence from an older to sister to her younger brother. Older sisters in Japan have responsibilities. Because it is male:male, no one has to worry about going too far and getting knocked up. No one has to act passive or do all the work while the other fails to give the slightest indication of emotional affect.

The only thing lacking is a safety and hygiene lecture and a plug for young guys to get the HPV vaccine if they break up and start dating around. Yup, guys can get HPV-linked cancers in all kinds of interesting places too. En and Hinata could have delivered the same PSA. See this FCCJ article for alarming news about one anti-vax Japanese doctor and the ensuing public health fallout. See: http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high.html

Before we let this slip by we must ask: why does Margaret Magazine find it easier to show two young guys approaching intimacy than a girl taking an active lead towards her boyfriend?

Why indeed?

Strange that a franchise that started as a modest high-school romantic comedy oneshot featuring a strong-willed kendo girl and her goofy Rurouni Kenshin cosplaying boyfriend would evolve over the years into a best-practice example of happy preach-by-example queer-friendly supportive La-la land romances (not La-la per se, that being a rival publication). This installment lacks Komura-sensei’s usual afterword pages of banter and fan interaction (one end panel deemed sufficient) or any of her fourth-wall-breaking asides; they are not needed. However the sensitivity towards minority sexualities and gender expressions remains window-dressing. The sermon remains firmly addressed towards the realm of heterosexual relations. Queer is used in the manner of a biblical parable. At least it is not used as a negative example.

The last violence we impose upon the queer of our straight imaginations is the burden of our hopes.”

While enjoying an online course into the recent history of Japanese popular culture genres, I happened upon an early thematic division in shoujo manga stories. Some were wealth/ opportunity/ social mobility possibility stories. Others were fantasies of role-breaking and empowerment. The most overlooked, if only for their plain approach, were those typed as otometic stories. The ordinary girl who soldiers on un-noticed finds a quirky guy who believes in her. She returns his affirmation and they both decide that because they can support each other as they are that they can go on to live happy lives, perhaps together.

Even when the couple don’t walk off into the sunset, the heroine gets to say to herself: “…perhaps not this time but I now know that I can love and am worthy of love.

I immediately suspected that this old-school form is probably being repurposed in contemporary narratives, with the field of subjects somewhat widened. Looks like it still works. I wonder if any senior yuri experts have considered looking at their genre through this lens? It could offer a welcome elaboration on the finer grades of ‘story-A’ out there clogging up Book Off.

The trouble with these speculations remains that while I have sufficient theoretical knowledge about the wide currents of Japanese fujoshi lore and story tropes, like Kio Shimoku I am cheating. He has probably read more BL than I have — if only for research. On the other hand, he had only to digest the representative greatest hits of the then somewhat-hidden 1980’s through 2006 fandoms. The genre has since gone mainstream and mutated with popularity, acceptance, wider thematic range. Parts of it have adopted a more respectful approach to the portrayal of male same-sex romance and intimacy. Who needs pissed off real gay guys slagging your publishing company and author? As well, there are young guys out in the boonies who can’t get their hands on bara mags and their money is as good as their sisters’. Big tent keeps the presses running.

It is possible that the pages of current shoujo manga magazines are stuffed to the brim with ‘sparkling fluffy’, respectful, sappy, aspirational male:male romance fare ground out by the ream for mostly female enjoyment. Off to the doujin shops if they want hawt and nasty. Once again, it is difficult to make sweeping generalisations without metrics and robust survey data. I would however be surprised if this work is ‘merely’ generic and not of any particular note. You don’t get 17 volumes plus spin-offs out of generic.

Or perhaps I just like Ayumi Komura’s drawing style and her cheesy stories.

The main weakness of the characters and situations in Usolily is that they all push towards a sanitized romantic ideal. The individuals portrayed are all too shiny. The body types — all lean and thin, big eyed and wispy haired are eye-candy. Even when they try to act jealous and mean, they fail at anything beyond a comical, cute petulance. They are like puppies and kittens. It’s hard to work up any measure of homophobic dread towards a bunch of puppies and kittens. Komura-sensei works this to the limits.

In contrast, the range of body types, character depth, conflicted backstories, social ineptitude and unease, shame, hurt and isolation in the Genshiken cast is far more engaging, leaning if not towards realism, at least towards complexity. But this hobbles the march towards romantic happy endings. Continuing pair-bonding thereafter is likewise not guaranteed. The Usolily cast may have their quirks and even come with minority sexualities and gender expressions but they remain steadfastly riajuu. Sou-riajuu. En is riajuu. Hinata is riajuu. Even Samurai guy is riajuu; he might as well be a sailboarding enthusiast or rock band guitarist for all it has affected his life, social interactions and chances at love.

Flip through the back pages of a certain subset of Genshiken fandom on say, Tumblr and you will soon be overwhelmed at the number of simple, naive, sparkling & fluffy alternative good endings imagined for Mada and Hato. You may well laugh but the desire was real enough in individual fans to impel them to create these artifacts. TenxTayou is the “pro” version of reams of fan-art and fic; serving as a nod, a tribute and a sui generis example. Next episode to show how a pro mangaka does a ‘curtain fic’. (happy pair goes out shopping for apartment furniture)

A pointless digression about Genshiken’s HatoMadaHato theme:

It’s all fiction, neh? Of course Mada and Hato could have “given it a chance” and might well have been convincingly written as happily fumbling at each other like Ten and Taiyou…

…If Madarame was 5 years younger, less of a spineless slave to his university graduate soon-to-be-lifelong salaryman role; less prone to taking refuge from his past failures by hiding behind his snake-man uber-creep otaku act; less inclined to seek validation and consensus from any group he found himself in and more able to focus on the one he decided that he liked… Oops — must drop the Saki torch song in there too, somewhere…

…And if Hato could have stopped using his love of BL as a perfect hidey-hole for his same-sex desires and emerging gender-fluidity; eased off on insisting that his gay-ish desires play out according to hardcore BL fetish scripts; not be haunted by the unrelenting fear that at any time his beloved fujoshi social would turn on him and cast him out in shame and despair and if he could for one moment admit to himself and to Madarame something more than “I will stop running away”…

(Nawww… We all know what he really loves.)

…And if the rest of the second generation fujoshi membership as well as Ogiue and Ohno could have stopped indulging his need to make a ritual gift of his male self to the female social, backed off, eschewed meddling, given him some space…

…And if a few dozen other If’s central to the characterisation of the entire Genshiken cast and the arcs of its narratives could be held in abeyance for just a few weeks of in-story time, even if it was subjective 2005-2006, then perhaps…

Or not. At least Mada and Hato could have had time to talk over a few more cold beer.

Tack back towards the main discussion…

Bummer. Stories come with their own internal logics, that’s the game. Sometimes a draw is the best that can be written out of what the author writes themselves into. Mada will screw up with Sue for sure. And I still think that Spotted Flower ch12 was a cruel trick. The later chapter with alt-Sue sporting ludicrously excessive silicone oppai hints at one particular idiot opening his stupid yap once too often. In Usolily, the only boob-fixated guy is a melancholy jerk (later redeemed) and none of the female charas feel concerned in any way by the proportionality of their mammaries to the rest of their frames. The whole huge jiggly boobies thing in CVJC feels forced, beyond hysterical. Earth to the men of Japan! The titties on the woman you love are perfect, now shut the fuck up and gaze into her eyes. C’mon, you trained yourself to get hot and bothered over 2D girls with battleship parts sticking out of their backs and backsides; this one should be easy.

A woman author working in anime, games and /or manga might give one of more of her yaoi puppets cat ears or other small exotic markers but she doesn’t load up their hairy chests with 8″ naval guns or put propellers on (or in) their pants. What the fuck is up with the (our) male imagination?

Tamaki-sensei and many others gloss over the difference (or differance) with the catch-all excuse ‘asymmetry’. Dragging out the unfoldings of how such asymmetries manifest is left to bloggers and other amateur enthusiasts. Likewise, calling a diffuse range of trope and chara weirdness a ‘database’ alludes to a pandemonium of forms but eschews further understanding in favor of the eddies and currents of taste within fandoms and ‘the marketplace’. Again I am unconvinced.

It seems more probable or at least more useful to note how exotic characters are deployed into situations to handle things that should be readily worked out by the usual suspects — but for complex societal reasons cannot be dealt with directly. As in the previous speculations on a wider application of the idea of iyashi, it is tempting to add an additional degree (or more) of narrative distance beyond the distance already imposed by a fictional setting and characters.

There is undoubtedly some deep-seated, underlying cognitive bias at work in this effect.

Is liking a good story a cognitive bias?

A further  pointless digression about Genshiken:

One further compare and contrast from the Usolily-verse to the Genshiken-verse: The unappreciated subtlety of Keiko’s brutal after-club quasi-seduction of Madarame. See how the entire scene is played out in the major key of Keiko exasperation. I should have done more work on it, as many guys with a modicum of sexual experience — myself included have found themselves in somewhat similar circumstances. The woman is pissed off. She might be amenable to future or even near future intimacy but at the moment, she finds him (you) severely lacking. She is tired. She doesn’t want to put on a display of her needs or her interest for a stupid, hesitant, privileged clod sitting there in her space. She wants to be appreciated and respected. Not jumped or overpowered — appreciated. She wants to be the exclusive, unshakeable focus of his attention. She wishes proof that she fascinates. He can be embarrassed, flustered, hesitant, scared, but he must not take his eyes off her. (her face, not her boobies, uppen mit der gaze, boyo!) This is Japan. Everybody is supposedly an expert on things that are conveyed without being said. Right?

Dude! Pretend you are number one Host at her fave host club. Yup; feels like work. There is a reason why bargirls are stereotyped as weak only to the charms of their male counterparts.

He must propose, she will dispose and he should slowly proceed to demonstrate how her charms hold his undivided and unconditional attention. Most women have hair that smells good. It’s a residual pheromone thing. If she lets him get close enough, he can make a small show of being intoxicated by the scent, and it generally is intoxicating, so this wont stretch anyone’s acting skills. The urge to directly grab at her boobies or beyond must be resisted. Not, repeat not, act as President-elect. The room can catch fire around both of them; he must wait until she tells him to snap out of it and flee (with her — Duh!).

Ease back to the main theme…

Somehow in all the manga, games and anime that Madarame consumed over the course of his mis-spent otaku youth, he never once was clued in on this type of script; in comparison to the ones female fans were being force-fed daily through the actions of a panoply of character types. Guy-gaze narratives don’t bother with this sort of thing. (Lupin tries but as farce and Fujiko is going to get what she wants in any case – everything except faithful monogamy, so fair is fair) Just do the action adventure thing, try harder and compete with your rivals in endless level-up battles. Obey the Coach. Obey the Boss Take one for the team. Yawn!

Even when these stories bring a modicum of complexity to simple heterosexual romance, they rely on the tropes of character types, recreating in miniature the societal strictures that romance narratives seek to escape. Consider Isin’s Monogatari franchise; note the Araragi-Senjougahara relationship discussions. Hey buddy-boy, don’t collapse and roll over on her tatami mat. Pay attention to your girl-friend! It will be worth it. Araragi is once again “acting” in type, as is Senjougahara. Formulaic and reassuring as it is, at least a few suggestions are offered.

Note how her gaze is locked onto him. He knows enough about her to guess why she does this. Will he acknowledge her behaviour and attempt to reciprocate? I know it’s not alpha male behaviour but since when does buddy boy have the competence and earning power to act alpha? The whole alpha thing is a crock of male insecurity anyway. It’s a lot more fun this way. Hopeless! Senjougahara-san will eventually decide that Araragi is dithering and jump him. More work for the girl, again! Big, fearless vampire/ vampire fighter: hmmmph!

We seriously need some kind of aspirational Josei-ish genre for guys. Before this, we might need to see if plain vanilla Shoujo and /or Josei can handle a romance narrative in as simple and aspirational (as opposed to fantastic and/or pathological) a manner as TenxTaiyou was managed.

Did we really need to create shadow-gay characters to have two teens who like each other happily make out?

We tried dating sims and lookee how that skidded off the road. Yuri, even lesbian-approved yuri won’t work. The BL project, beyond simple matters of entertainment for fujoshi is sometimes used to posit the possibilities of romantic interaction freed from the constraints of rigidly gendered behaviour expectations — or at least elevated to a synthetic recreation of the supposed freedom afforded to male actors. Sometimes even the problematic role behaviours that can interfere and burden a guy are airbrushed away to make a point.

Why are such elaborate work-arounds needed?

 

(1) Contrast Ten and Taiyou to how Kendo girl freaked out when Samurai Cosplay boy kissed her collarbone in Usotsuki Lily. How many chapters did that take to work out?

Heart-under-bear

One can learn all kinds of things from an online course on Japanese Pop Culture

The robot Enka bear dubbed over Hatsune Miku
[https://youtu.be/58ACC6ytOoE or https://vimeo.com/198470722]

 

This is how fans take existing stuff from pop culture — especially if it is lose on the interwebs — add to it and send it back into the raging flood. Secondary Production, Derivative Works, Transformative Works, Remix.

“Kuma Uta – lit “Bear Song” was a 2003 Japanese playstation/2 game wherein
you helped a cartoon polar bear write Enka (sappy Japanese
folk ballad) songs and then set the staging and costuming for his
performance. The musician/ producer/ re-mixer EUPHY went into the game files, extracted the vocal banks and patched them into the (male voice) UTAU banks from a
Vocaloid music program. The instrumental arrangement sounds a bit
grungier too, which really kicks the tune up a few notches.

GAWD I LOVE THIS BEAR SONG COVER!

AUDIO: 【UTAU x Kuma Uta】Love is War【Polar Bear Chaos】

“”This was simply a test on how well Polar Bear Chaos from Kuma
Uta fairs in rock songs, and I think it sounds pretty good imo.
Maybe not exactly heavy rock songs, but stuff like this is good
enough.”
Song: 恋は戦争 (Love is War)
Producer: ryo
Original Vocal: Hatsune Miku
Vocal: Polar Bear Chaos (from Kuma Uta) (The game, the voice and
the character all belong to Sony. I only made him into an UTAU.)
USTs: @momo-chan-222 (Main) and IvetaRocketJessie (Harmony)
Mixing / Art: Euphy”

https://soundcloud.com/ew_fee/utau-x-kuma-utalove-is-warpolar-bear-chaos

ORIGINAL VIDEO: 「Moetron-Subs」 Hatsune Miku – “Love is War” 3DPV
(English Subs) — Uploaded on 17 Sep 2009
Lyrics: ryo
Composition: ryo
Arrangement: ryo
Vocals: Hatsune Miku
HP: http://www.supercell.sc/index.html
Song: http://supercell.sc/music/koisenn.zip
Video: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=1WGLDJQI
恋戦pvらしきもの
ニコニコ動画より転載
sm5128715

 

Miku doing Love is War, ‘live’: [https://youtu.be/G8yTVpKjOOY]

.
VIDEO EDITING SOFTWARE: VSDC Free Video Editor [https://www.videosoftdev.com/free-video-editor/download]

Dubbing & Crap Title page from Orig Euphy art by me
All material belongs to the original creators
Any timing & editing glitches remain mine.

COURSE: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intro-to-japanese-subculture/
No; this wasn’t Homework – The section on Vocaloids went into the history of
vocal synthesis and mentioned the obscure 2003 PS/2 game. It took a bit of digging but I found plenty of Youtube clips from the game (search Kuma Uta), the Euphy revival and a link to an ISO of the original game. Now, one needs a “chipped” ps/2 to play a bootleg game disk, but guess what I rigged up for someone years ago, which is still available to me? Oh, wait, the game is in Japanese! Help me, she-who-up-with-me-puts, help me! This will make for an odd date night.

putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace

It’s that time of the year!

Hope all enjoyed (or at least were pleasantly puzzled) by the 3 part light-yuri/ iyashi series. I WAS going to segue into either catharsis or try a Shirobako X New Game essay.

Three things to note about New Game:
1) it looks like they are making a second cours / season.
2) The game producers know how to schedule, so as to avoid cliched deadline drama.
3) There are no guys in the New Game production verse.

However, tomorrow is December 16 and nothing will be accomplished thereafter until January 2. So IF I do find time to write, perhaps I will try a short coda to the last three posts:
“Yuri-light/ Iyashi: Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon”.
I heard that some trolls on /u had a fit over one small plot twist.

In the meantime. here is some holiday cheer!

All the best
Mudakun

Hanamonogatari: Yuri, Iyashi and the lives of others (part 3)

Wherein the why of the tomboy lesbian exorcist is considered.hanamono-title-pg-web

Anime: Hanamonogatari – SURUGA DEVIL
Orig LN vol 9 of the series
Nisio Isin/ Studio SHAFT
(Warning: Monogatari series spoilers ensue.)

“Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.”
— Tiger, A.D.Hope

Nisio Ishin’s (and Studio SHAFT’s) Hanamonogatari does a better job of dropping a somewhat lesbian protagonist into a story beyond a simple “redo story with a female character” approach. In retrospect, it is one of the better segments in the entire Monogatari project. The title conceit is of course the height of cheek: the entire Class-S genre was invented by an author with a similarly titled series of stories back in the 1920’s [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya]. You might as well pop a 50 foot high flashing neon sign above the anime with the word YURI on it. Certainly the opening credits do not lack for lilies. I have touched on it previously but a re-watch and a noteworthy essay on the franchise [https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/02/25/monogatari-the-sexuality-is-the-narative/] prompts a revisit and a more considered appreciation.

I like it a lot, It is very good. It could almost stand alone without the help of the background of the Bake/ Monogatari story-verse, although knowing some of the franchise lore ads layers to the tale. It retains many of the quirky visual conceits of the Studio Shaft Monogatari exercise, as well as their penchant for sexulaizing the narrative but for Hanamonogatari these impulses are toned down and/ or far better harnessed to the over-all coherence of the story.

Chronologically, it is one of the later, if not the last of the stories that affect the town and the friends and family clustered around Koyomi Araragi and his brush with his town’s supernatural imbalance. Araragi-sempai makes a cameo appearance but is most important to the tale as an absence. The story belongs to the athletic, somewhat supernaturally cursed, somewhat lesbian identified, somewhat fujoshi Suruga Kanbaru. In many ways, she is a far better protagonist than Araragi.

Nishio Ishin is still cranking out light novels for this series. I hope to see more of her.

Cue the (slightly reworked) stock teaser:

“One morning, Suruga Kanbaru meets the troublesome Ougi Oshino, who calls himself a nephew of the exorcist Meme Oshino. He tells Suruga about a rumor of “the Lord Devil” that grants any wish. Suruga is worried that she might be the Lord Devil in a fugue state because she made a wish on a cursed monkey paw. The item was left behind by her mother and turned Suruga into a Simian-ish monster that acted on her jealousy and tried to kill Koyomi Araragi. To make sure her dormant curse has not re-awoken Suruga arranges to meet the Lord Devil but the one who greets her is unexpected – Rouka Numachi, her old basketball arch-rival.”

hana-rouka-profile-web

Within the larger Monogatari-verse, a recap of sorts will help to better position Suruga Kanbaru. A large part of the Monogatari-verse hinges on the suppressed love triangle (original application) between Koyomi Araragi, Hitagi Senjougahara and Tsubasa Hanekawa. Despite Hanekawa-san’s earlier help when he was turned into a vampire, Araragi-kun helps Senjougahara-san and she claims him as hers. Hanekawa-san may or may not remember all the details of her initial brush with the supernatural. We will get a better appreciation of the fine details after the last two instalments of Kizumonogatari hit the screens. No matter. Hanekawa’s stress over losing Araragi plus her miserable family/ not-family situation were enough to set lose at least two violent supernatural manifestations.

Araragi-kun just seems to attract supernaturally troubled young women after all, or perhaps trouble is drawn to his shadow-inhabiting ruined vampire, Kaii (oddity, abnormality, aberration), Kaii-devouring, adopted contractee Shinobu Oshino (AkA: the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, cold-blooded 598 year and some 10 month old Kiss-Shot-Acerola-Orion-Heart-Under-Blade) who now appears as a sometimes sullen, always haughty 8-year-old girl who needs an occasional drink of blood and donut offerings from her “master”). If one really cares to delve deep into Monogatari-verse lore, the problem lies with the deity-bereft Kitashirahebi (Northern White Snake) Shrine. It is a supernatural gravity well and all manner of weirdness is going to pop up around town until it is properly dealt with – but that’s another story.

Senjougahara is in the center of her own secondary love triangle: she was a highly regarded junior high school athlete before she lost her mass to a crab-god. Her only peer was Suruga Kanbaru, the one-year-younger girls’ basketball ace who also had a strong but never acted upon crush on her. Suruga had even gone as far as begging for cram-school lessons so that she could follow Senjougahara to a prestigious private high school, (per LN) only to lose her to an idiot boy with a dodgy reputation. Once again Suruga wished on the cursed monkey paw but this time she learned how it worked.

Rather than just conjuring up horribly bad resolutions to one’s wishes, the damn thing takes over one’s body and beats the living shit out of anyone in the way. Use it two too many times and you are stuck with a homicidal super-powered simian appendage that can sleep-walk you into murderous rampages. Araragi-kun was set to handle the situation by getting swatted around by an enraged super-powered young woman, until Senjougahara intervened and defused Suruga’s jealousy by denying Suruga’s love and then trivialising it by offering her a Class-S “petit-soeur” relationship. Kill my boyfriend and I will hate you and do everything I can to kill you… Or you can take the consolation prize and I will dote over you a bit. bakemonogatari-08-suruga-stop-web

That was rough on Suruga’s feelings and desires but it was enough to use her heartstrings to bind up the jealous demon. Senjougahara is a lot more confident and adventurous now that she has been cured of her affliction.suruga-stopped-2web

Suruga ends up as a third wheel to the couple. Unlike Shiki from 14-sai, no nurse bandaged up her arm, she did it for herself. What’s all the arm-bandaging for young lesbians who are thwarted in their first loves? We might have the beginnings of a trope here!

Suruga eventually takes on the role of a quasi-male-friend/ ex-rival and sometimes kouhai to Araragi-kun (who doesn’t seem to have any male friends), though she is not above flirting with and harassing him (fall for it and you lose big time buddy-boy!) or threatening to seduce one or both of his sisters. On the other hand, Senjougahara has warned Araragi that while he may spend too much time helping out young women while neglecting his girlfriend, if he ever, ever falls in love with one of them and out of love with her, she will be forced to kill the interloper, herself and probably take Suruga with her as an honor-guard into the next life. I will use my kouhai as I please.

I mention this only in contrast to more conventional approaches to the problems of love triangles. Add Suruga’s addiction to BL novels to her tomboy presentation and she fills the role of page-boy to her supernatural warrior upper-classmates.

Suruga has experienced the occult weirdness afflicting the town and knows of Shinobu. Senjougahara’s appreciation of her boyfriend’s “shadow” is sketchy. Suruga might even know of and have met Hachikuji Mayoi the wandering ghost. Suruga’s deceased mother was Tooe Gaen, sister of the fearsome Izuko Gaen and was esteemed to be an even more formidable exorcist; the memories of her mother’s harsh attitude towards her haunt her to this day. The cursed monkey paw was a dangerous gift/ legacy from her mother. Her paternal grandparents who took her in are extremely wealthy, retired and somewhat distant form her – or her from them, even as she lives in their luxurious old-style Japanese estate.hanamonogatari-suruga-room-mess-web

As Hanamonogatari begins, she is still afflicted by the monkey-devil possessed hairy arm which she keeps bandaged up. At night she packing-tapes it to a post hoping that this will be enough to keep her from going on any sleepwalking rampages (or at least indicate if she has – per LN). She has quit high-school sports for fear that using her supernatural strength and the chance that a competitive wish might trigger the monkey arm demon once more. The exorcist Meme Oshino has assured her that if she does not wish on it for the next few years, it should leave her by the time she reaches adulthood. She works off her troubles by running each day, sometimes to exhaustion.

On the first day of her third year of high school Suruga is worried that her arm has gotten up to mischief again, possibly because she is feeling despondent, missing Senjougahara and even Araragi who have both gone off to University. What she does not expect or need is to be dogged on her way to school by Ougi Oshino, who for some reason now appears before her as a boy.hana-boy-ougi-bike-web

Ougi is a recurring focus of trouble throughout the entire monogatari-verse. She, now he is somehow associated with the exorcists, though his/her kinship to Meme Oshino is suspect. Ougi is bad news; a stand-in for notions of justice, propriety and a curious idea of order which those with a psychological-literary bent would call out as a stand-in for a fear of death. Certainly Ougi looks the part. His/her face looks like the mask of Darker than Black‘s Hei, minus the lightening bolt mark. Ougi, male or female always appears as Nemesis.

hei-dtb-masked-1-web

 

ougi-girl-webHanamonogatari could have taken many different approaches to the problem posed by Suruga’s old junior high school basketball rival. Its genius lies in how it goes out of its way to discourage Suruga from intervening and to continue to do so after her initial concerns are put to rest. She is not sleep-rampaging as “the Rainy Devil”. The Lord Devil is an unemployed NEET with a sports injury that acts as a free trouble hot-line for silly teens with minor problems. Anything serious is referred to appropriate adult authorities and the trifling matters “accepted” are merely dealt with by a cryptic assurance that “Your problem will be taken care of“. Then the “Lord Devil” makes a point of doing nothing! It all seems to be some form of self-pitying wallowing by a washed up athlete who turned her anger and self-hatred into an unhealthy hobby. Suruga never even had a fleeting crush on the girl, nor did Rouka Numachi have a crush on her. If there was anything more than a rivalry on the courts, Suruga has long since forgotten about it. Moreover, Rouka does not want Suruga’s help, her interest or her pity.

Everything and everybody repeatedly screams: “don’t pick up the kitten”.

And then Rouka Numachi steals the curse from Suruga Kanbaru’s arm.

Bereft of the power and curse of her arm and burdened with a terrible realisation, Suruga Kanbaru, daughter of Gean-Sensei, kouhai to Araragi Koyomi, beloved petit-soeur of Hitagi Senjougahara and apprentice exorcist sets aside her self-doubt and rouses herself to action.

The Monogatari franchise has been dismissed by some as the Monologue-atari series. Nisio Ishin’s nearly endless dialogue relentlessly questions and draws out the motivations, the curious mixtures of selfishness and impulsive selfless behaviour towards others as his characters work through their supernatural predicaments. No urge towards action goes unexamined and complex motivations are considered to be the most potent for the truths they contain. Desire and regret are charged with power, more so if they are acknowledged. Friendship as a ward against loneliness and isolation is valued, even as its demands are seen as fraught with danger. Everything is out of balance and balance itself might be a deadly delusion. The universe is a cold and dangerous place; shit happens relentlessly.

Amidst the larger conventions of the franchise, Suruga could have easily been written as compelled to intervene. Rouka Numachi could have been an old flame, her power might be threatening someone, “The Lord Devil” could be a developing small time swindle that will get out of control as Kaiki’s swindle on junior high school students did. Suruga could get dragged into the mess because the Araragi siblings played Fire Sisters and got in over their heads. If one closely watches Hanamonogatari, much of the incidental interaction with other characters exists almost entirely to rule out such reasons. Kanbaru Suruga has as much reason to care about her old basketball rival as we have to care about her — or the conflicted desires of cartoon junior high school girls caught in a love triangle that dares not speak its name.hana-numachirouka2-web

Nisio Ishin goes even farther than eliminating the usual plot devices that would compel Suruga to action. As Rouka tells her bitter tale of how she was visited by pitying acquaintances from her school and how her abject state moved some of them to open up and tell her their problems – because they could look down on her, he further blocks the audience and shames Suruga. If she is to act, she must not act out of pity. Did her meeting with the con artist Deishuu Kaiki give any hints towards a righteous reason to continue? All he did is advise her against getting involved and buy her a lavish meal at a Korean-style barbecue restaurant.hana-kaiki-meat-web

Meat is good, eat up. Eat more meat! I am enjoined from entering the town and the mummified devil bits are valuable, the more valuable and the more dangerous as they are brought back together. If someone wants them, let them have them and steer clear. Otherwise, Kaiki seems to have once nurtured a severe respect-crush on Suruga’s mom (or he is lying?). Ever since he got chewed out by Senjougahara he lets slip occasional flashes of sentimental bloody-mindedness.

hana-kaiki-meat2-web
He knows of magic but having no powers of his own he is not bound by the limits or responsibilities of any. He has made it clear to Senjougahara that the religious cultists, including one that abused a young girl have all mysteriously suffered very very bad, occasionally terminal luck (or he is lying again).

Watch the scene as he offers Suruga his card for a second time, holding his arm immobile over the table’s cook-pit. Brilliant!

Suruga is torn between walking away from Rouka Numachi and intervening; so torn that she runs herself to exhaustion one night. Ridiculously, she is found at a crossroad by none other than Araragi-sempai. He informs her that he and Senjougahara are busy but homesick and that they both miss her. He offers vague reassurances but she declines to ask him for any help beyond a promise that he will drop by in a few days to help her clean up her room. The joke that her room, the size of a dining hall is buried in 3 metric tons of BL light novels is an amusing, recurring distraction.suruga-araragi-bl-books

Araragi-kun’s reappearance will later be an excuse for some mild fanservice. In a series noted for gratuitous skin and sexual harassment, Hanamonogatari is remarkably restrained and well-behaved. We get an early peek at Suruga’s athletic bod, a lot of her in running gear and a brief glimpse of her sleeping in the nude but Araragi goes out of his way to downplay his interest… by going off on a creep-out tangent about his younger sisters. Suruga’s sexuality puts her in a special position in Araragi’s gaze; quasi-male (while surrounded by BL books!). While confronting Rouka Numachi over the theft of her demon arm we are treated to a moment of clichéd yuri mashing only to see Suruga paralysed by the forceful propositioning and quickly decide that she is being played.hana-mash2

Once again, Nisio Ishin closes off another reason why Suruga should care enough to intervene. Earlier in Hitagi End, Kaiki likewise went through the possible reasons for helping out with Senjougahara and Araragi’s snake god problem. Why bother? Atonement? Restitution? Money? Lingering feelings for a young girl? Only the most tenuous of excuses decided the issue for him: Suruga Kanbaru, Tooe Gaen’s daughter would be saddened by their deaths.

In both cases, since the franchise deals in supernatural action adventure and reluctant heroics, we know that both Kaiki and Suruga will talk themselves into sticking their necks out. Likewise Araragi can never resist helping out a supernaturally distressed young woman – perhaps because he must atone for the trauma of the events recalled in Ougi Formula and Sodachi Riddle/ Sodachi Lost. Or perhaps simply because he is the hero of the franchise. An entire anime cours, Tsukimonogatari is built around the notion that buddy boy should give up on playing action hero. Best to let monsters kill monsters.hana-ararag-ammends-web

When Suruga finally resolves to try to save (or exorcise) Rouka Numachi, her reasons are uniquely hers. First, the monkey-devil-arm curse was hers and she was dealing with it. What was hers was taken from her. Secondly; bereft of the strength and agility the paw had granted her, she may well wonder if she could push herself to face a supernaturally powered opponent. A threat is a challenge. Finally, she recognises in Rouka Numachi a fellow sportswoman and athlete, one who faced giving up something that she loved and derived identity from and who, by nature of the banality of the loss, did not fare as well as one who was cursed with a super-powered homicidal devil-arm.

One Monogatari side-story had Araragi-sempai resolve to teach his kouhai some humility by challenging her to some one-on-one basketball. He powered up by having Shinobu drink more than her usual maintenance dose of his blood to boost his vampire powers. Suruga brought her “Rainy Devil” power to the court. She whooped his ass over a 2 hour marathon match 99 to 0 but thanked him enthusiastically. Since getting the monkey-paw powers she had not been able to go full-out on the court with anyone.hanaball-float-web

If Suruga is to exorcise her old rival, she will do it one on one, on the basketball court. The elegance of the resolution to the problem of Rouka’s demonic possession was of course “built” to be solved only by Suruga Kanbaru, by who she is uniquely written as being. There is affection, and respect, not pity in her actions. Suruga is not a boy-character in a girl body or even a straight tomboy athlete turned into a Studio SHAFT fanservice “lesbian” fujoshi athlete who is petit-seour to her junior high school crush and sidekick to her ex-rival in love. Suruga might be struggling with all manner of doubts regarding her self-identity and future but she is already ironically detached and mildly disenchanted from their hold on her. When they reach out to paralyse her, even though she thought she had long ago killed their power over her, her character shines.hana-water-court-web

Had Kaiki not sent his final gift, she would have found something else to bait Rouka with. She doesn’t need supernatural powers any more. Because she knows herself, she knows how to win against Rouka and she knows why she will do it.

“1am tip for writing a character of an identity you don’t share: imagine a teen of that identity picking up your book at their worst moment” — ‏@mara_fitzgerald via Twitter

Once again: why are the three friends in Asterism all girls? If one was a boy, we could have a standard love triangle. Why is Suruga Kanbaru a self-proclaimed, if chaste “lesbian”? Why did Shiki-chan have to hurt? Is it that sticking well-behaved, sympathetic minority sexuality characters into a story can solve a few plotting problems and create a modicum of novelty, allowing for a “territorial expansion” in storytelling, wherein old tropes can be recycled into new tales? An author could have used sci-fi aliens or you-fell-into-a-game trickery to do similar, though at the loss of immediacy.

I have been suggesting that in each case, the authors are pursuing an unexpected expansion of the field strength of the concept of iyashi.

Iyashi-kei, the “healing” genre is one of those uniquely Japanese things, like the taste “Umami”. A lot of fans as well as civilians might find formal Iyashi-kei works too boring, too cloying to deal with. It’s all warm fuzzies all the time. Interesting, safe locale, nothing much happens. Days go by. Grass grows, paint slowly dries. Aaaaarrrrghhhhh!

Here’s a few takes on the effect:

“Nothing really happens, but in a really good way.”
— Iyashikei on TV Tropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Iyashikei

 

” The term “iyashi” can be translated as “healing”, so that makes iyashikei [a] healing series. Iyashikei is most often considered a sub-genre of slice of life series, because all iyashikei series feature the same character-centered nature of slice of life: There is no real continuing plot and in most cases no conclusion, but the mostly episodic stories are depicting people’s lives without any drama or suspense. However, what differs iyashikei from slice of life is the healing effects: In short, iyashikei calms the reader and leaves them with light-hearted, maybe with a hint of melancholy. The typical of characteristics of iyashikei are a few characters who all feel sympathetic towards each other; close, slowly developing relationships without conflicts as we might know them; an appreciation for nature and the small, beautiful things in life – and most importantly, iyashikei series are mostly located in another time and another world as we live in. Despite the similarities to our lives, iyashikei series are supposed to set us in another world where our sorrows actually are practically non-existent.
— A PRESENTATION OF “IYASHIKEI” SERIES AND THEIR EFFECTS by Sasa, July 20th, 2007 https://web.archive.org/web/20100923131442/http://chrome.dasaku.net/?p=501
.

” Most people use pop culture as a diversion from their mundane reality, and I’m not going to get excited about a music video that shows some lanky guy sitting at his laptop, writing a blog essay about Japanese marketing.”
— The Soft Appeal by W. David MARX (Marxy) Neojanism, August 16, 2005  http://neojaponisme.com/2005/08/16/the-soft-appeal/

Compared to some recent trends in Japanese popular fiction, say “detective stories written by women that leave you feeling bad”, (yup, it’s now officially a thing, called Iyamisu. Wait until the expat press blerghs on it) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsuo_Kirino], Iyashi-kei tales are slow, safe, happy and free of anything that would disturb the reader.

Gawd, I lurv the Aria anime. Nothing bad happens (repeat somewhat hysterically in CAPS!!). Aria, if you have not previously met her, is an apprentice gondolier on a very watery terraformed Mars, who works the canals in New Venice. Slow poling of gondolas ensues. I found Aria years ago while hunting for something suitable for the nieces and immediately loved it, if only because work at that moment was being a real mind-killing sucking hole of futility, annoyance and despair. Have a relax! The genre is critiqued, obliquely in Paranoia Agents, where the pressure to crank out one more soothing hit cartoon mascot watching paint dry anime drives all involved into a catastrophic reality-warping mass delusion.pa-radio-man-web

One of the above considerations of Iyashi went on to clumsily position it near to the more dramatic concept of “catharsis”. While both are states of mind brought on by consuming fictional narratives, the gulf between the two states is far too wide to bridge by mentioning one after the other. We should strive to maintain the separations of both the mechanics and effects. Iyashi is a pleasant 4 hour drive in the country with a picnic lunch stop midway. Catharsis starts with everyone else in the car feeling less than the driver, then adds a sudden hurricane-blizzard which the driver refuses to pull over to wait out, a 137 vehicle pile-up on the highway, a few gasoline tanker explosions, death, injury, panic, selfishness, heroism, sacrifice, more death and a final numb exhaustion among the survivors. Both take place in cars.

The ancient Greek dramatists who gave us catharsis, did not do iyashi. Comedy was done by the coarsest of the poor — slaves and by non-humans — satyrs, Tragedy was the realm of heroes, the exemplary among us whose hubris led to over-reach and a curse when the gods stepped in to toy with them. The chorus was where the audience was best represented; as bystanders, sympathetic onlookers and old guys – when ineffective warnings and good-old-days admonitions were needed. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_chorus]

A cosmology that only has space for rude animal lusts, fools, the demotic chorus, exemplary heroes and gods is ultimately pitiless and therefore hopeless. It can also be further “compressed” to render it nihilistic. Suruga’s mother’s remembered voice claims that gods and devils were only flip sides of the same condition. Here the shade of Tooe Gaen is full of shit.

Consider Rouka in contrast to the Monogatari-verse’s Hachikuji Mayoi:

“Every time Hachikuji appears thereafter, two things happen: Araragi’s perverted antics, and his verbal catharsis. The relationship is inappropriate, same as any adult confiding in a child about adult issues is inappropriate. But in many ways, Mayoi is an adult, and that idea is expanded upon in Kabukimonogatari. If Araragi is unable to confide in her then the whole world is destroyed. She bares his mental burdens as a true friend would, and to be honest, that is quite beautiful. But it’s inappropriate, and represented as such.
— Wave Motion Cannon
https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/02/25/monogatari-the-sexuality-is-the-narative/

It is a shame that she declines to appear in Hanamonogatari. Perhaps that would have been too much. For Japanese fans who have read the 19 (or more) light novels in the franchise, Hachikuji Mayoi is more than a child, or even the ghost of one. She might be the most powerful character of the entire opus. We’ve seen her put Araragi-perv in his place, seen her adult alt-probability self hold out against a zombie apocalypse, watched as Araragi broke down as the grey fog erased her (and at the risk of committing massive spoilers form the LNs), seen her pass on, return, be sent to hell, rescue Araragi from hell and in turn be rescued by him and finally ascend one last time to godhood. She originally died trying to visit her mother. She will be there to listen and put up with your nonsense and show understanding and friendship; compassion not pity or fear. She may be a wandering ghost but she retains that part of humanity which we have declared to be the best of us.

“Until all the hells are empty.”

Recognise her yet?

Oh Heck: Any excuse for my favourite fan-created earworm:

In contrast, Rouka Numachi is a demon, or at least a lost soul. Motivated by self-hatred and bitter spite, “The Lord Devil” pretends to care and pretends to act on the problems brought to her but makes a point of doing neither. Surprisingly enough, the fame of her efficacy still spreads. No wonder she ends up working the same side of the street as Kaiki. Did the depths of her despair attract the first of the devil-bits to her? She has made it her purpose to collect them all, to accelerate the process of becoming-monster, becoming-demon that awaits all angry souls who can not find peace, who cannot accept who they are or who they must become after fate deals them a lousy hand. Devils and lost souls must be exorcised.

Suruga Kanbaru and Hanamonogatari have been the subject of more than a few excellent fan essays. Hanamonogatari and the Crossroads [http://wrongeverytime.com/2014/09/29/hanamonogatari-and-the-crossroads/] takes up the theme of Suruga’s self-doubts, which is a curious approach because at least on the surface, genki Suruga seems to be the one of the less troubled characters in the franchise. She is not troubled by her self-proclaimed sexuality, even though she doesn’t go out of her way to advertise it. Nor is she troubled by her ridiculously excessive BL light-novel habit, except for the way the clutter takes over her room and buries any number of bought and borrowed pairs of nail clippers (per LN). Having to drop out of school sports was sad but all third-year students have to drop out to study for University entrance tests anyway and she can still run. If she needs to worry, nothing so concentrates one’s attention as a homicidal demon arm.

All her other worries are more in the realm of worrying that she should be worrying about what other people consider important enough to worry about. The remembered voice of her dead mother chides her to decide, or to act if she can’t decide otherwise she is “just water”. But water goes with the flow and most of the time, so does Suruga. If anything, her past experiences of being suddenly seized by overwhelming desire and resorting to the monkey paw must have left her wary of falling into such a trap again. Violent jealousy and longing should stay between the covers of her favourite reading materials, suitably abstracted to fakee-gay male bodies and easily managed — at least until they bury her in her room.

Here is a curious resonance between Suruga’s BL addiction and the respondents in the V. Maser’s study. Yes; those libidinized same-sex romances might be schmexy-hawt, but the abstraction from their reader’s condition is just enough to render them soothing, healing; iyashi.

“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)”

— Verena Maser, Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre, pps 149-150. 27.9.2013 Universität Trier http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

And:

It appears that iyashi encompasses far more than mere relaxation and/or escapism. Respondents could choose the reasons “Reading these manga relaxes me.” and “Reading these manga helps me to flee from my day to day life.,” but only 36.5% and 23.7% did so, respectively. For those who preferred yuri anime, the respective numbers were equally low with 39.6% and 29.1%. It is possible that iyashi was seen as a more acceptable answer than “escape.” Yet iyashi as a reason for consuming yuri texts did also surface in a qualitative analysis of comments about yuri on Mixi that I conducted in 2008 and the term iyashi can also frequently be found in blog posts on various yuri texts. It is further quoted in some of the personal essays in the Eureka special issue on yuri (e.g. Takashima 2014, 118). I would therefore argue that at least some fans see iyashi as a genuine reason for liking yuri manga/anime and/or the yuri genre in general.”
Ibid Maser, p.150.

And:

“The respondents’ “sexual identity” was another important factor for quoting the reason iyashi: 82.9% of “non-heterosexual” male respondents as well as 73.4% of “heterosexual” male respondents gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri manga. The same reason was also quoted by 60.7% of “non-heterosexual” female respondents, but only by 45.2% of “heterosexual” female respondents (***p<.001).[12] In the case of yuri anime as well, iyashi was given especially by male respondents. It was quoted by 76.5% of “non-heterosexual” males and 74.0% of “heterosexual” males, compared to 55.0% of “heterosexual” females and 54.0% of “non-heterosexual” females (*p<.05).[13] These results would correspond with the suggestion that men feel emotionally healed by the cute characters of moe anime (Galbraith 2009a, under “Japanese critical discourse”).
Ibid Maser, p.150.

And:

“In Japan, the “iyashi boom” occurred together with the “boom of pure love [jun’ai]” (Hayashi 2005, 94) in fictional texts. Iyashi has been argued to be a central aspect of the stories about “pure love,” a love that is thought to have more value than any physical commodity (94–95). Purity and innocence are considered to be essential characteristics of the yuri genre, and it would seem like these are also important factors for the feeling of iyashi enjoyed by many of its fans. Still, it remains unclear what exactly the fans are “healed” of: is it frustration with the demands of contemporary Japanese society or is it more about personal problems? Does iyashi even mean the same for everyone? A deeper investigation of this issue would be needed.[18]”
Ibid, p.157.

Fan and academic lore has a habit of positing the fujoshi and her western cousin, the Slash fen as uncomfortable in the bodies. Certainly some are, as in the classic testimonial by Audrey Lemon,How Slash Saved Me
http://web.archive.org/web/20021124081322/http://www.goodgirl.ca/how%20slash%20saved%20me.html. Others are sick of the 24/7 objectification and sexualization of women in pop culture representation. But if we flip-side over to the male yuri reader, we can also ask of both sides of the avenue: “Is that all?

As a guy reader who likes yuri tales, I’m not annoyed with Kazuki and I don’t abstractly identify with Shiki-chan or Suruga Kanbaru. Nor am I threatened by the happenstance that Nisio Isin decided to use Suruga instead of Araragi as the hero-de-jour this time. I harbour no urge to virtual-lesbian or even “Les-bro” out on the story. Because the skin remains interesting, I will cop to the older Loser Fan Boy tag, but I was never Stockholm-syndromed by angry poser-extremists (wont dignify the neckbeard insult-label by mentioning it) into becoming more sympathetic. I did what little interest that may look like “sympathetic” all by my effing lonesome because it filled a personal need to understand and increased the enjoyment I derived from later recreational readings in the genre. That’s all. The process is commonly called fandom. No sins against Dr. Occam needed. It wasn’t a conspiracy or drugs in the water.

Lets all read some nice Class-S girl-crush stories. (Kaiki would suggest otherwise; ok — with a snack) Lots of folks who happen not to be lesbians (let alone athletic Japanese lesbian schoolgirls) seek them out because they are pleasantly diverting. They have absolutely nothing, or at least very little to do with most of us. That’s the whole idea. Could this be the simple, number one ultimate hidden reason behind all that BL for the women? Nawwww.. Must be the schmex! Or the romance, or some other secret girl-thing

It’s called fiction ™ for a reason: It really doesn’t matter what happens and a measure of distance from one’s own howling self is often a good idea. No Old Yellers will be killed off to remind anyone of the dog you loved when you were a kid. No wet stray kittens will be left in the box by the side of the road. You want resonant reminders of that ex-lover who was less than fully human? Or of how your boss is a psychotic robot pain machine from the hell dimension (Soon to be a cabinet pick for the next administration)?

Ok, we can probably find something but I advise against it.

The only glaring problem with this otherwise cozy arrangement is that we end up reading and writing about characters who somewhat resemble real folks. As well, these real folks, who previously didn’t see much in the way of characters with their concerns in popular stories — or saw gross, insulting caricatures of their concerns, read these stories too. They are, for obvious reasons, interested in them if only to see what manner of foolishness is being trotted out to poorly represent them and perhaps to pick up enough of the craft surrounding such storytelling to attempt repairs.

We formalise this process when it involves trademarks and copyrights but not when it involves others that resemble In Real Life folks. Just try to sell your dojin featuring a certain cartoon mouse doing distaff things at Comiket. I dare you. I hear you liek relentless lawyers, so we put some relentless lawyers on top of these other relentless lawyers so that they can all relentlessly lawyer every last bit of money and blood out of the marrow in your bones. That way you and anyone else will never never never do such a thing again to sully the perfect money-making machine that is everyone’s favourite rodent.

Those odd three-sexed alien superpowered werewolves are beginning to look like a good idea. Fear Copyright collectives.

Wiser minds than mine have noted that the fictional spaces that deal with the representations of others are all now contested spaces. Dr. Mizoguchi, writing about BL and yaoi declared:

“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

If we read the really heavy examinations and analyses of theorists who have a stake in such representations we will undoubtedly learn some neat new things, but our need for cheesy diverting little stories will not evaporate. Tomboy sports girl with a superpowered monkey-arm curse? Lets also make her a gay fujoshi! How Kewl Is That?

A respected senior reviewer and essayist once set down a list of test criteria for a tolerably believable female protagonist:

Does female character have agency?
Does she have society?
Does she have personality?
Is she merely a female-shaped male hero doing male hero things while being female?
— E.Friedman, The Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/02/27/fearless-defenders-comic-issue-1/

One can easily extrapolate these rules to wider concerns of LGBTQIA+ representation, as well as towards a host of diverse “otherings”. Certainly Suruga Kanbaru fits her story like a well-worn running shoe; Nisio Isin “uses” her well and makes sure that she is far better suited than Araragi-kun at dealing with this particular exorcism. Even studio SHAFT cooperated and dialed the cheap titillation down 6 notches. Dropping Suruga into the story forced the issue. Girl-crush has not been very good to her. It drove her to use the cursed monkey paw a second time and almost killed someone. Having a petit-soeur relationship with Senjougahara was pleasant but she could not have helped but notice that big sister’s heart was elsewhere. This desire stuff, as well as the love stuff that supposedly lies behind it is complicated.

When Rouka mashes on her she is paralysed, then gets a peck on the cheek and a laughing admonition: “Let’s keep things pure, shall we. We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, so we shouldn’t play with fire too much“. Clearly she is out of her depths when it comes to matters of the heart, let alone earthly desires. She is a genki sports girl. Back away, keep things light. There will be time enough for love.

The alternative would slide Hanamonogatari in the direction of a reszbian pinku exploitation groaner. Keep Ougi female-presenting, as Suruga would have to harass and/or be harassed by every other female in the story. Who needs Kaiki? Do we have any dangerous sexy female exorcists hanging around? Can we work an all-girl yuri high school into the story? How about Shinobu and a rezbian zombie attack? No, wait: a yuri high school that turns into a pit of sex-crazed rezbian school girl zombies? And they are also all loli idols and underwear models!

Yo! Ishin-san, SHAFT! Talk to me!

Oh well, there’s always room on AO3.

Bloody tourists are always underfoot… with ideas!

The yuri market in Japan is a telling example. There just isn’t enough of a market for %100 lesbian (or even %80 lesbian) realistic or even sympathetic tales to pay the printing bills for a major magazine. Loser Fan Boys, Yuri Danshi and even Yuri-Straight-Josei readers are required. We are not going away any time soon. Them magazines have something we too need. The only useful strategy of accommodation is to encourage customer engagement through education and up-selling based on growing market sophistication. Tojisha folk will act for their place in the production process, to hopefully better reflect their lives and tastes but the rest of us clods will have to be gently sold on the benefits of authenticity, novel point of view, product sophistication, local color and a host of other characteristics that we will simply process as “value-added product”.

And since we all carry around our own globally reaching publishing houses (or at least can plant one on our kitchen tables) the contestation over what hits the page and the screen is going to become rather noisy and crowded for the next little while. In the end, some practices will be generally acknowledged as probably not a healthy place to go and everybody can so program their blocklists accordingly. Unless we all keep mooching the stuff and everyone goes broke. Back to AO3 again.

Circle back to Rouka and her hobby of collecting misfortune. Nisio Ishin was not simply having her talk talk talk to fill pages and time. He was playing with the grey spaces that obscure disparate motivations, tastes and actions — for characters and readers alike. Rouka had her reasons for collecting misfortune and these had little to do with “saving” or “helping” the people she listened to. Except for that first piece of the monkey-devil, all her interactions were opaquely transactional. The folks who had their problems solved may have imputed a motive or even “goodness” or “compassion” to her but that was their own comforting misunderstanding. For Rouka, who needed relief from her own troubles, the misery of others was like the taste of honey.

…And so she was driven to gorge on it.