12days #7: The girl who folded herself

Murasaki-iro no Qualia, Qualia the Purple (紫色のクオリア)
Ueo, Hisamitsu (Story), Tsunashima, Shirou (Art)
21 Chapters / 3 Volumes, Dengeki Daioh, Jan 2011 to Aug 2013
Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Shounen

I was reading Noah Smiths ruminations on Twitter as WMD: ‘Is Twitter a dystopian technology?‘  [http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.ca/2016/12/is-twitter-dystopian-technology.html]  and what hits me in the first few paragraphs is that an essay on mass society and information technology is alluding to PyrE. (1)

HuH? Ok, you have to be of a certain age… I am. There is a reason that this blog is named the way it is and it ain’t because I have a thing for anonymous 17thC poetry (2)

Which leads me all over the place but since this is a 12 Days (of) Anime post, I must keep the obscure references within manageable limits. Time to use the Alfie Bester reference to commend the reader’s attention to a manga that was a big deal for me a couple of years ago but may have fallen off the cart and deserves to be considered and praised once more:

Murasaki-iro no Qualia is amazing grim fun and heroic – if not romantic in an obsessive way, yuri – especially if you are weak for driven heroines; though I would add that once again the girl-love struck young high school girl is at her core saddled with a ‘a guy wrote me” vibe. “Guy wrote me and turned me into a superhero” vibe in fact. If you want to feel what I am trying to get at, contrast Gaku with the hero (and story treatment) in the American web comic ‘Relativity‘ by Beck Kramer [http://relativitycomic.com/part-1-reentry/page.php?page=1]

Or not… It might be a bit unfair; they are two different kinds of stories, neh?

Qualia, which started as a single 3-section light novel (3) is amazingly fun and dire and also a series of hat tips to classic yankee scifi – with some pretty heavy-handed winks and nods in the memory of Isaac Asimov and Alfie Bester.

The Jaunt thing is obvious. So is Alice Foyle. (Terra is My Nation, Deep Space is my Dwelling Place…)

Less obvious is Marii Yukari’s characterization as “the purple qualia”; eye color and family name notwithstanding. One cannot forget that she can breathe life and super powers into her plasmo robots (as well as doing all manner of other causality and reality-bending tricks). Murasaki is not exactly what we know as the color purple; it is more AS A SHADE OF PURPLE – a horrible pun first used in a convention groaner novelette eventually published as The Flying Sorcerers.[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flying_Sorcerers]

After Marii saves Gaku from the psycho killer, Gaku will do ANYTHING to save Marii. Unfortunately, because of some flaw in the structure of the multiverse, Gaku will need to do everything to save her, as Marii has extremely bad luck, even for a godling. Fortunately Marii inadvertently gave Gaku the power to seriously fuck with probability, and so she does, repeatedly – even if it means that a lot of p-versions of herself end up in horrible shit. Or doing horrible shit. They are also all telepathically linked because they all are her (n’est pas?) and the Gaku hive-mind can pillage the fabric of all existence when she puts her nearly infinite capacities to work on a problem. Of course, there will be a price to pay for doing so.

Gaku is closer to Niven’s Jack Brennan than any “conventional” Japanese high school tomboy heroine with a nifty scifi power and a tragic girl-crush. There is more than a whiff of the guy-written BFG about her, especially her bull-headed determination to do everything by herselves. And she can, as she is legion.

I move, once more in imitation of light

The do-over-and-over-again-with-save-points tale is a uniquely modern conceit. Its attraction is immediately recognisable to anyone who has experienced an if-only personal tragedy; one that in the glare of hindsight appears as preventable, if only… Given that shitty things have been happening to people since people existed, you would think our mythologies and ancient lore would be jammed with such fables but strangely not.

Fate was, until recently like the passage of time and death, considered inexorable. After death, the hero might journey to the land of the dead to try to bring back their best bud or heart’s desire (or both) but the idea of a do-over must have seemed too wacky to a bard’s audience. We started to get them in vernacular fiction before vidja games, so we can’t exactly blame one on the other but since the latter are devilishly well-suited to such story mechanics we now are up to our ears in them. Isekai grinders like Re-zero prove that you don’t have to blah blah about Schrödinger’s Cat and quantum mechanics to pull one-off – you can also posit a wicked witch of the north and roll with it. Nothing prevented Odysseus from getting stuck in a temporal loop but he didn’t. Something about our modern frame of mind makes these stories not only acceptable but attractive.

Marii Yukari is for all purposes a godling, even if she is a cursed one. It is important that she grant her friend one small silly and inadvertent power and that is enough to re-write everything, save her ass and win a happy high school romance. Gaku will never let her go after all that. She did once and lookie what happened. Talk about clingy. Uhauls in every possible driveway, ever. Happily ever after everywhen, dammit. David Gerrold of Star Trek TOS scriptwriting fame once played around with something like this but not with a desperate, bloody minded high school heroine.

And that is why Relativity is so damn good and so useful, in obvious and not so obvious ways and for the purpose of this essay, in contrast. Gaku could have been a guy and/ or didn’t have to have a yuri crush but making her as she was gave her just enough exotic juice to let her fall down a very guy-written rabbit hole.

Fictional realistically butch lesbian astronauts stuck in probability paradoxes have adult worries. Steins Gatery won’t help with those. There’s this problem with other human beings and their feelings, you see.

Nawww, unfair comp. 2 diff stories.

 

(1) Interesting argument, Mr Smith but the reaver’s core and allied major GOP support block are not massive Twitter users. Much online sound and fury, signifying hmmmph? Now if you care to point phaser banks at Fox News and the way they bubble the olds? What else? Oh right: PyrE is a fictional near-nuclear level explosive that can be detonated by thought. 

(2) Much later I read the whole poem and good grief! To top it off it reads like 17thC poverty fetish slash.. Gehhhh!

(3) I even bought the Light Novel, along with the original Japanese 3rd and last volume of the manga because I wanted to take up an offer to review it while honoring the in-house conventions of a senior blogger who frowns on -ahem- grey translations. In the end I could never get it together and perhaps I should just send the LN to that blog’s proprietor because I’ll never learn enuff japanese to read it. Then again everything yuri I rec in that direction is found problematic – I seem to have unerring LFB tastes, dare I  risk jinxing it?

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12days #6: Oooops…

For day #6 of 12 Days of Anime (and Manga and other stuff) I was going to…

And I still may but I’m feeling really tired today, so here is a placeholder. Gomenesai.

ONE REALLY NEAT THING happened today. Someone on twitter posted my favourite  Gary Larson THE FAR SIDE cartoon of all time; the one that I thought had been lost to time. I had this, blown up in my cubicle when I did tech support and some days I would confide that there weren’t crazy, angry people on the phones but extremely rich psych students and that the entire gig was…

The look of disquiet on my colleagues faces when they gave it a second’s consideration…

I rejoice, I have found it. Must sleep.

12days #5: fail forward?

Work with me on this one:

I was thinking and looking back on some of the anime I have been interested in over the last year or so – less so with manga because manga has less of the release schedule ephemerality of anime – and thinking about the ones that failed. Titles that started off strong and then did a what the ???? because product had to be jammed into the pipeline and the visuals were still there even if the story went south.

Two titles come to mind immediately: Kado, The Right Answer and Izetta, the Last Witch. This post is not the place to go into why these failed but rather to argue that perhaps, they at least did a small good thing by starting out strong, creating a buzz and encouraging a bandwagon effect for somewhat similar properties that eventually did better but on their own were just too freaking weird to consider before an earlier work broached the subject, broke the ice and/or “gave permission”.

Whew!

Exhibit A: I don’t think a studio would have had the balls to try Youjo Senki [Young Girl’s War Diary aka Tanya The Evil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saga_of_Tanya_the_Evil ], which was already a known, if perhaps bizarre light novel property until someone broke the ice with Izettahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izetta:_The_Last_Witch ]. Tanya is a university debating society rebuttal to Izetta, right down to the skewering of the idea of turning a WMD into a PR opportunity. Izetta was a fairytale war romance complete with a Red-Haired Anne back story and girl-wedding set-scene. Tanya is a disenchanted, murderous little shit trapped in a ‘comedy of justice’. As one Twitter so succinctly put it, she is Wile E Coyote driven to endlessly set herself up for the next anvil. And war is hell…

Exhibit B: Kado, the wrong story turned into an epic trainwreck with a poorly implemented BL/ anime pirate fable tacked onto a first contact story This probably happened because most of the work was going into putting the 3dCGI wizardry through it’s paces but it also tacked on the groaner ending because idiot cultural nationalist allegories are a thing that studios think you can slip a Japanese audience if you run out of something better. Oh lookie, the black ships, urrr cube. The outlander is here to take our anime or sumthin. Tadah it is the long-ago-alien but now our goddess Amaterasu (or is it her daughter?) to the rescue. The end. Fuck you.

But Kado can be easily seen as giving permission for something weirder along a similar vein. I doubt they could have sold UraHara without Kado. Visual overload thing kewl! What if we do it as post-pop irony and late superflat instead of hard-edged fractal scifi? Sounds like a plan; let’s get the alien outlanders to try to steal No1 Japanese street fashion creative output from cute girls.

[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urahara }

Exhibit B.2: This one is a real stretch, but try it: Gate [: Jieitai Kanochi nite (Kaku Tatakaeri) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_(novel_series) ] is still doing business as a manga because it had a fair amount of militarist web-novel to draw off of but ultimately, the anime was less than satisfying, even at 24 eps. So much for one form of cultural nationalism tarted up with fantasy tropes.

Yo! We found another light novel; this one does the soft nationalism thing with fantasy charas: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restaurant_to_Another_World ]

Japan has an Olympics hosting deadline looming and the dawning realisation that the logistics for it are heading towards massively fucked up. There is going to be a lot of improvisation needed. Chinese tourists are easy: point them at the shopping districts. Olympic tourists, wandering around from one impromptu venue location to another in the killer late summer urban heat will be a whole new level of nightmare.

If the Japanese Gummint got together with a national restaurant industry council, It could not have come up with better hospitality propaganda and soft cultural nationalist cheerleading than Otherworld Restaurant.

Lookie how the weird and dangerous outlanders behave nice when confidently served our great food. We take the best that we can find from our culture and from others and perfect it until it wins hearts and minds. (We also hire outlander “trainees”) Outlander customers behave and appreciate! They leave much bags of gold and jewels behind and do not sick up in the washroom.

Dear Customer! Please observe our dress code…

Is Second Time a Charm too odd a theory for tracking anime?  More wild speculation is needed!

Next up: No group has yet to do an English scanlation of a certain manga chapter.

12days #4: Isn’t it romantic – Minamoto-kun Monogatari

Yes… In case you have wondered, I am also a big fan of smutty heterosexual romance grinders. Of these, Minamoto-kun Monogatari [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamoto-kun_Monogatari ] is just plain lewd hawt fun! Time to celebrate an ero-manga!

“Minamoto-kun Monogatari (源君物語) is an ongoing Japanese erotic seinen manga series written and illustrated by Minori Inaba [ https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/稲葉みのり]. It’s published by Shueisha, serialized since 2011 in Weekly Young Jump magazine, with nine volumes released so far. It is also published in French by Soleil and in German by Panini Comics.
Terumi Minamoto is a young man with features feminine enough to make people think he’s a girl. Because of this, he has never been intimate with women; instead he has been bullied since middle school by jealous girls and has developed a fear of women due to this. Just as he enters college and vows to himself to overcome his fears, his father remarries and asks him to move out of the house. Terumi is sent to live with his aunt Kaoruko Fujiwara, an extremely beautiful 29yr old non-tenured professor at his college. When he arrives at her home, she conscripts him into her project in which he must seduce fourteen different women in the manner of the protagonist of The Tale of Genji.”
— per wiki synopsis

The women of Mina-gats are all zaftig and big-time sexy. The more mature ones are as scary as they are fascinating, or at least they are presented as such from the pov of our traumatized young protrag. Their charms may be on display for the male-gaze reader but within the story they are also deployed as a show of raw power. No simpering lolis here. A better argument for dating women of a certain age if one happens to be a gormless young guy at University has yet to be turned into a manga – at least one that I know of.(1)

While the premise of recreating the Tale of Genji might at first sound specious, it is less so than one may think. Japanese universities are full of sacred Bunka Nihonjinron rabbit hunts and the Tale of Genji is, after all the first recorded novel. Complex, chock full of rich characterisation and all about the important stuff: bored courtiers screwing around. Desire. Sex, Longing. Romance.

Our hapless hero is far too horny and scared to fall in love – at least at first. The aunt does a great job of being a sexy psycho but we can at least give her her due for being single mindedly devoted to exploring the male point of view in Genji. The story structure is also a great convenience and a guarantee of some measure of job security for the mangaka. 14 affairs of the heart have to be cleared – it would be a cruel editor who would terminate the romp in mid-course.

Meanwhile, light erotica with plenty of cleavage, curvaceous hips and thighs with much in the way of  lacy slips and boudoir fumbling is a great way for guys to fool themselves into reading romance stories, or at least stories that deal with bin-loads of emotional and romantic confusion. Along with the ‘want de babe(s)‘ overload, our hero also has a whole lot of anger and fear to sort through and when he lets loose with it, he is likely to …

What?

Oh right; might as well throw in some crossdressing. Genji MK I was a looker too, neh?

Bullied by girls because of girl-face is even an excuse for a “cross-dresser-as (obnoxious stereotype) -trap” arc: yup; seduction by deception but for mixed reasons of revenge and white knightery. Later he crossdresses openly again at a university beauty contest just to prove he can, so fuck you to some other young woman who once dissed him.

Undoubtedly some of the guys reading this are on board for the HOW TO PICK UP CHIX angle. Very simple, if disappointing: have your mean lady professor relative pimp for you. Not much help, but it does hint at the power of Japanese women’s social networks. As well it reminds me of the rueful confessions of a reformed PUA fool. What he finally realised was that all of his vaunted “seduction techniques” were him just spazzing about and telegraphing to women already out for a lark that he was up for a bit of fun and that he could be made to jump through a few hoops as foreplay. The gals still do the decidin’ but if you gotta go all bent outta shape about it, some of them are kewl with that too. They find it amusing.

Once Terumi is a tad less traumatized by women, he also finds that he is a fool for getting romantically worked up about them; so much so that he repeatedly threatens to quit the project and take up with one or another of his aunt’s “targets” for realsies. Then they all wander off for one reason or another and he is back to his job as slightly reluctant Lothario. Some of the women even know of his aunt’s project and are curious enough to indulge the lad. Getting swept up in the project and ending up with feelings for them is what nefarious auntie had planned all along.

So sit down, stare at auntie’s decolletage and debrief on your latest romp.

Mina-gats is also chock full of insinuation that psycho auntie is grooming the lad as a perfect romantic companion, a reverse take on obnoxious otaku conceits like “How to raise a boring girlfriend“. Japanese popular social commentary is still full of complaints by women that the stock version of Japanese manhood – while somewhat useful for breadwinning if you secure the correct model – are a complete wash when it comes to romance. Something must be still stoking the demand for Host Clubs. Love remains a battlefield, or at least a logistical challenge. The “correct” dating outfit for young women, promoted online and in fashion magazines remains a caricature of fresh and innocent femininity in a beribboned shift dress with a frilly hem and moderately sensible shoes. Wide brimmed white hat and book for summer occasions. It looks like an ad for a feminine hygiene product.

Some day, some wag, somewhere will sit down and do a compare and contrast to the conventions of women’s attire/ clothing/ uniforms etc in “conventional” manga and anime as opposed to the range of “expression” in smutty ero-manga. Myself, I no longer can fully decide what is worse; the overdone “sexy” stuff or the simpering conventions of “innocent and pure’ in mundane manga, which have become so exaggerated and formalised as to serve as a new form of obscenity in their own right. Genshiken Nidaime got the clothing issue spot on, no matter how you look at it.

It is telling that our hapless hero often meets his next intended in female exclusive spaces, where they can be themselves and not have to fend off advances from guys who think making such is their birthright or have to dress up in ritualised “deer in the headlights” attire. Terumi-kun is not a threat or even much of an imposition. Genji is a women’s tale and the women retain in-story agency; even more so than in the original – where Genji could occasionally get ahead of his skis and act like a cad.

As well, a number of Auntie’s women friends have their own issues, so lending out the kid can be a win-win as long as buddy boy doesn’t get ideas and mess up. Sadly, at first he does, repeatedly. Practice, practice, practice. Thank Ghu that Japanese universities are light on study loads, giving Terumi plenty of free time to be man-whored around.

What fun! A simple, smutty romance  saga with vague cultural pretensions and there is a whole lot of it with the chapter count approaching the 300’s and still four more hearts to win. Terumi by this point can be a tad annoying as he has developed a mild masochistic streak, especially when it comes to older women. Nothing serious and all in the service of reinforcing the notion that a guy might be better off by not always trying to be in absolute control of every damn thing while courting. Woman Mangaka Has Message. Maintain fine balance between sack-of-sand and pushy jerk, please.

My most serious complaint with the saga is that only the most rudimentary public health measures are alluded to. Multiple sex partners warning: HPV and worse are a real concern. Bad mangaka, bad. If you are going to do the lewds, you should show some initiative and slip in some socially responsible health information, if only for verisimilitude. That the mangaka fails to do so falls prey to the stupid and dangerous “pure” “innocent”, inexperienced and ignorant fetish that powers up much of the otaku variant of objectification, even as the greater message of the tale must be that a fumbling, inexperienced lover is no way “cute” or desirable, but simply annoying.

 

 

(1) There is however a closely compelling argument for getting recruited as manager for your sister’s women’s volleyball team, but that’s a different smut manga.

12days #3: Just Because! and the gift of indifference

Just Because! Anime October – December 2017
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Because!]

“At the end of the second semester of third year of high school, four students are prepared for graduation and feel the ending to their high school life. But that changes a little with the arrival of a transfer student.”
— https://myanimelist.net/anime/35639/Just_Because

Walk past any high school in Japan, no matter how crammed into a maze of urban concrete and narrow streets and you will find at least a few sakura/ flowering cherry trees lined up near the entrance. These serve as warning that the entire high school rite of passage, culminating in the first steps towards the adult world is fraught with mawkish sentimentality laced with undertones of dread.

the color of the sala flowers reveals the truth that to flourish is to fall.

Personally, I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. It was full of crazy people and I was sick and tired of dealing with their shit. University was cheap back then, and even offered the chance that one could actually find employment after securing a 3 year degree. My age cohort apologizes for screwing things up for those who came after us. Japan and America share a similar fascination with high school and high school graduation, I suspect because of similar class and income restrictions on opportunity.  Usually, around this time I drop a link to the Slater article [ http://www.japanfocus.org/-david_h_-slater/3279  ] to puncture any Sakura petal-strewn idealized scenes of young love, ascendance to adulthood and ascription into the adult world of work but with Just Because! I don’t need to.

What the fuck is the deal with graduating from high school anyway?

You either are going to go work in a factory, drive yourself to karoshi by trying to ace an admission test for a prestigious state university, drive your parents into debt by ending up in a less prestigious and more expensive “private” university or trade school or lock yourself in your room never to emerge again except for late-night forays to the nearest kombini.

The idea that you will finally nerve up to confess to that special someone you had an unrequited crush on all through three years of school and end up in a parent-subsidized one room apartment  with both of you attending the same university (…and her not getting booted when her wings pop out or having to drop because she did the BVM one better and got with child after she affectionately sunk her cute little fangs into your neck – as with a certain previously considered manga and anime) is a good set-up for an early Kio Shimoku drama but impossible to seriously imagine.

So Just Because! doesn’t… really. And that does not make it boring or slow-paced. It makes it nuanced and complex. You were not paying attention. You want Mechagodzilla x Godzilla or sumtin?

.

So the yougun’s will nerve up to confess or not and it really won’t matter because high school is ending and everyone will be scattered to the four winds – just like those idiot sakura petals. Then everyone will meet other people from other places and perhaps if they are lucky, make a good match that can afford to raise offspring in what looks like will continue to be a stagnant economy. Sociologists call this exogamy. It is also useful for avoiding inbreeding.and fortunately we as a species have of late, come up with less barbaric ways of pulling it off.
.

Otherwise Just Because! has Kamakura and Enoshima location porn – which means that I will watch it even if the writers drop in mahjong tournaments (no; I draw the line at mahjong). However they chose to limit the usual touristy vistas and instead go out of their way to emphasise pedestrian, work-a-day locations. The monorail ends right next to the famous narrow gauge Enoden rail line. Do we see any Enoden? Perhaps just a glimpse. The monorail is a drab commuter-clogged thing that no one really pays any attention to. Just Because! gives it a starring role for a reason.

Even when the young photo club girl scooters off to collect temple good luck charms we don’t get to see the temples. Roads, crowds, kombinis and quasi suburban residential tracts. No wonder the baseball fields are a place of magic and camaraderie. Everything else is drab.

And that is why the young photo-club girl is the most important person in the entire show. She still has a year of high school ahead of her before the inevitable end and she is determined to save the one thing that she can hope to remember fondly from her days at high school. Much better than puppy love or even the button off graduating sempai’s gakuran. Save the club.

Then get as far away from your old high school as you can.

12days #2: Actually, I might be, but not really

JITSU WA WATASHI WA 実は私は; 其实我是; Actually, I Am…; My Monster Secret
by Masuda Eiji. 2013-2017
Comedy, Fantasy, Harem, Romance, School Life, Shounen, Supernatural.

Spoiler lamp is ON

I really like Jitsu Wa. It has much to commend it – a derth of fanservice (with one tame exception), a not really-a-harem harem sub-plot, loads of good-hearted goofiness, over-the-top hijinx-ensue, young romance and enough dramatic moments to seal the deal. Plus it offers an allegorical plea for diversity and inclusiveness.

Allegorical…

If us straight boys and girls dream in queer in strange ways, sometimes we can be far stranger when we dream in straight. The rules, the structures of these dreams themselves begin to fill out the ranks of characters.

We are all supposed to know how two “vanilla” (cisgendered, heterosexual, middle-class, majority ethnicity) young uns get together. If I want music I’ll turn on the radio. If we want aspirational details on how a storybook romance should go off, we can go read conventional romance story books. Everyone plays their part and knows what part they are supposed to play. The order of forms is maintained and affirmed. In an effort to spice up a simple girl meets boy and they end up together story, an author may add one ridiculous twist, as in with Usotsuki Lily‘s crossdressing-because-guys-annoy-him male lead. The couple still end up happily-ever-after but we get to watch them bumble around the edges of gender non-conformity getting there.

And then you have an author who will start by throwing the kitchen sink at you and then double down with the bathroom fixtures and then escalate to a raid on a plumbing supply warehouse until the story is a towering ludicrous mess.

Jitsu Wa starts with your average schlub highschool romcom guy and in short order has him smitten with the school’s aloof ‘cool beauty” who happens to really be a socially clumsy, shy vampire girl with giant bat wings and fangs (which she manages to keep hidden most of the time – hence shyness). Not happy to simply work this premise it keeps adding more weirdness (and weirdlings) to the pot. Almost every single addition is a burlesque of a well-worn high school fantasy adventure romantic comedy trope: time-travellers, espers, aliens, youkai, demons and fallen angels, each added with the unrestrained glee of a gaggle of hyperactive fanfiction writers. No keter-class demi-urges thankfully, although the principal at times comes close. I have no idea what to make of the gods of (mis)fortune lodged in glasses frames that hitch rides on pigeons.

Can our happy couple make it through 2.5 years of high school secrets?

A sizeable minority of the school’s students turn out to be shealthed supernatural and or fantastic creatures. The principal is an irresponsible 400+ year old demon who presents as a 13-year-old girl with ibex horns. Her great-great grand-daughter is a violent 29 year-old spinster ex-girl-gang leader teacher who barely manages to keep the demon principal under control. There’s a fallen angel, a 10cm tall alien invasion scout in a Pinky and the Brain human exo-suit, the childhood friend who is beset by the aforementioned gods of misfortune as joke glasses and the school’s sex-bomb exhibitionist girl who is also a guy were-wolf.

Later chapters add time travelling relatives from the future, multiple instances of mini-alien girl, a ninja, the 9 meter high vampire father of the girl and his habit of shapeshifting/ crossdressing into the form of a teaching assistant (female) plus a few other oddities, including a murderous ghost and probably a handful of other aberrations that slip my mind at the moment.

Aside from ms. exhibitionist Jitsu Wa is remarkably free of gratuitous fanservice and uncomfortable revealing outfits for the women characters – which is curiously refreshing. It is also chaste as all heck, so much so that … oh nevermind. Let’s just say that the mangaka pushed the no sex in our shonen magazine rule to nearly biblical extremes.

As well, it is a fairly heavy-handed morality play. Morobare high school; presided over by a demon principal and welcoming to stealthed demis and others is what a Japanese high school could be without bullying, if all the students were supportive of each other and all the teachers were not burnt-out crypto-fascist nationalists who were stuffed into the system to counter the wave of lefties who had previously jammed the schools in Japan after the 60’s. There are no Ministry of Education bureaucrats, prefectural budget restrictions, burnt out temp-agency teaching staff (with no benefits or job security), regulations forcing students to dye their hair black or broken bones during karate class jock-fascism.

No get your sorry ass off to cram school either.

You really don’t have to whomp up a load of semi-mythological figures if you want to do an aspirational tale of supportive, inclusive high school life, do you? Or perhaps a 2nd string Shonen magazine might balk at too high a level of social realism? It seems that Shoujo manga can do things that Shonen manga can’t.

I can understand why the story centers around a group of fairly conventional (cisgendered, heterosexual and mostly gender-role conforming) youth, despite their backstories and their secrets. Jitsu Wa does not aspire to be Shimanami Tasogare. Perhaps if we felt the need to do so, we could even pretend that there are gay kids and gender non-conforming kids at Morobare high school but the tale does not center around them…

If only minority sexualities and gender expressions were not repeatedly used as the butt of easy no-homo and oops-that’s-not-a-girl gags throughout the entire manga. I wouldn’t even make a big deal about this except that…

Your story was supposed to be about being supporting and inclusive.

And you just pulled a big fail on that, didn’t you? Vampires, Time Travellers, Espers, Demons, Aliens and Angry Ghosts… Cool.

Gay student? whoaaaaaaah! Let’s not go crazy here, this is a mainstream manga magazine.

Your story was supposed to be about being supporting and inclusive.

Also, chapters 67-68 are suck.

Otherwise, it was a goofy, fun romp that will wind up with some 200 chapters.
This blog has messed up my ability to let things like this slip. Allegory is all fine and wonderful until it covers erasure.

If a sequel surfaces some time in the future, perhaps it can do better.

12days #1: dying is easy, gag manga is hard

By all indications, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. should be a stinker. Or too pedestrian to bother with. Doing a blog review on a by-the-numbers gag manga – beyond a simple description/ synopsis seems besides the point. Why bother? Take a “Marty Stu” concept and frick with it for easy yuks. Sure, whatever …

For my first post for the 12 days (of) anime (and manga and…) challenge I want to raise a cheer for the under-appreciated deadpan snark of Shuuichi Aso[u]’s Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan. To be fair, the franchise needs no apologists or boosters; it has been chugging along since 2012 and has spun off some 250 chapters, 23 volumes, an anime and a live action film (I believe there is a rudimentary phone app game out there somewhere too). And I had been reading it, on and off since it became available to us thieving leeches the diaspora fan community, though not without a suspicious eyebrow raised.

Until I hit the school festival arc:

 

Something snapped. Rock Exhibit. Ok. You sold it.

To be fair, the setup was just a continuation of a relentless campaign of burlesque overload that has characterised the manga since chapter one. It is not enough that our hero has psi powers. He has to have every cliché psychic/ esper/ magic power ever whomped up for a shonen manga chara, with extra ones added every so often by lampshaded-as-random whim.

If I was to go whole-cloth on gag manga as genre, I would have to contend with the  2,000 lb gorilla in the room; Gintama. And perhaps someone, some day, somewhere will do an exhaustive survey of how Gintama tears into its source material. The ones I have stumbled upon usually conclude by declaring that it is so full of “you have to be Japanese to get all the jokes” as to be largely opaque to outlander fans. Saiki, as a high school farce, travels better. It also manages to remain within some unofficial shonen manga ‘comic code’ that is never seriously mean-spirited, exploitative, fan-service laden or nasty to any identifiable group, except high school students, adults and an amorphous “public”.

Also less poop jokes than Gintama

Everyone except Saiki is (of course) an annoying fool. And you can’t win against fools, although you can sometimes hold them off long enough to snag a few moments of peace and a small dish of coffee jelly.

As well, everyone that Saiki runs into seems hell-bent on earnestly acting out some idealised shonen manga character trope role. Few have the cpu to pull it off but that matters little. They enjoy acting up and acting out. Even when they go for a bored high school slacker vibe, they do so enthusiastically. This gives the mangaka free rein to make up one more convoluted plot mess that has to be untangled with an ever escalating combination of esper-jitsu and improbable dumb luck.

How can you screw up a rock display?

The best parts of the manga feature the hulking moron Riki Nendō[u]. Nendou is so dense that Saiki cannot read his mind or even sense when he is about to pop up out of nowhere, trailing chaos and confusion in his wake.  Otherwise, the recurring point of Saiki is watching him try to avoid every last plot device that a high school slice of life manga should have; which must have a deeper appeal than anyone would first imagine.

It turns out that what Weekly Shonen Jump readers really want (or wanted) is/was to vicariously experience a completely uneventful three years of high school.

Live in Interesting Times, NOT.

 

Next up: Another idyllic high school comedy, with earnest romance added.

2 minus 12 days (of) anime 2017

I haven’t been too productive here lately, for a number of reasons but that is all going to change in 2 days. I have signed up for at least ONE variant of the venerable 12 Days of Anime Challenge. That there are a few different organizing nodes surrounding this event is not surprising: anibloggers are harder to herd than cats.

I didn’t know we ‘ad a king! I thought we were autonomous collective.

I was considering sandbagging some posts and setting them to go live via the wordpress.com timer thingy but I think I will go for the full, live, daily challenge. Expect me to miss a day or two, double-up on some posts and mess up in all manner of ways.

I also intend to keep these posts short, or at least shorter and with less of some kind of =>>THESIS<<= to hammer at.

Time to try new things!

Meanwhile, if you are on Twitter, the hashtag #12DaysofAnime will find you one node of the 2017 project’s sign-up(s) spreadsheet: https://goo.gl/forms/Ymo2XHxIO4MxnQ703

I cheer these folks on but never got my crap together to make the introductory Youtube video that they requested, which may or may not be an affiliated/ associated effort of anime v-bloggers. Who knows? Some have suggested that the #12daysAnime hastag ( note no ‘of’ )  is the youtubers

I did however sign up for another #12DaysofAnime project:  their sign-in form  is at:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WofqRVYPzze6BD82_lib_4Gg7UkI0VBANvMkw6htSGI/edit#gid=417421868
via this blog:
https://perpetualmorning.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/12-days-of-anime-2017/

I resisted the urge to start my own variant:
#12daysofTLDRonAnimeManga&ContemporaryJapaneseVisualCulture 

Meanwhile, lookie up top o’ post at the fine US$30-something stocking stuffer I found on a certain large, far-eastern e-commerce site. A BOOTLEG OUGIE!!! Ain’t she cute? And I wouldn’t feel guilty buying her for IP reasons but I won’t because a certain wonderful person who up-with-me-puts has made it very clear how she would regard any such fit of extreme weeb collecting mania.

That reminds me! This 12 days thing is a perfect excuse for me to dig out those small Genshiken figurines I snagged on yahoo.co.jp during a vist years ago. That will take care of ONE of the days’ posts. Time for a teeny tiny modelling shoot! I almost ended up sleeping under a bridge when them things showed up in the mail at….

Urrrrghhhhhh!

My Neighbor Totoro Miyazaki Horses The Smiling Face of The Umbrella Nuggets Do Diy Micro-landscape Landscape Doll Action Figures

I do not think I will catch it for the $1US bootleg Totoro-ish thing with umbrella pvc figures.

I will NOT get the bare-assed Nausicaa figurine, though I commend it to niche collectors everywhere. 

Aiyeeeee!

As you may guess, I am a fan of the Bootleg Stuff @Bootleg_Stuff [https://twitter.com/Bootleg_Stuff] Twitter account.

And so…

Two more days until it starts.

Nymphs and Shepherds: Moyashimon

Moyas[h]imon: Tales of Agriculture
2004-2014 Ishikawa Masayuki

“The series follows Tadayasu Sawaki, a first-year college student at an agricultural university, who has a unique ability to see and communicate with microorganisms. Del Rey Manga licensed the manga, but only released two volumes in English in North America. An 11-episode anime television series adaptation, animated by Shirogumi and Telecom Animation Film, aired between October and December 2007 on Fuji TV’s Noitamina programming block. An 11-episode live action adaptation was aired on Noitamina between July and September 2010. An 11-episode animated second season titled Moyasimon Returns aired from July to September 2012.”
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moyasimon:_Tales_of_Agriculture

Characters:

Tadayasu Souemon Sawaki (our hero)
Kei Yūki (our hero’s childhood friend)

The doppelgänger girls:
Yū Kaneshiro (Okinawa)
Marie (France)

Keizō Itsuki (the prof)

Kaoru Misato (tall, shifty, later likes Hasegawa)
Takuma Kawahama (short, rotund, a returnee from Mexico)

Haruka Hasegawa (the rich girl)
Hazuki Oikawa (neat freak with a scooter)
Aoi Mutō (miss ufo world traveller)
Aya Hirooka (sempai bartender)
Hana Kanō (a craft brewery owner)

 

I need to write something and it might as well be on Moyashimon. The alternative is a report on the first ever World Court in The Hague prosecution under the heretofore secret World Leader Likeness Sex Robot Ban Treaty (2015). From a quick perusal of the filings, I can see that one will get brain-bleachy rather fast. [Later: strange; the filings have been scrubbed from the web. I blame Soros and the Fergus Illuminati]

The slice-of-agricultural-university-life manga ran 10 years, spawned 2 anime seasons and a live-action series and was often considered as ‘The Agricultural School Genshiken’. Perhaps Genshiken was ‘The Otaku Moyashimon’ ? Yet only now are thieving enthusiastic English language leeches urrm fans getting around to completing a scanlation of the manga – and only, I suspect because of a certain character. The licensing for an official English release expired with the DelRay efforts, reverting back to the Big K, who have kept it on ice. Folks who may have stumbled on it remember it as quirky, good-natured and mostly about cartoon bacteria and lovingly drawn young women.

Unlike the Genshiken, it featured a promotional view of (agricultural) university life that recalled the otherwise forgettable ecchi attempt to boost enrolment at a Hokaido university Fine Arts program, ‘Boys be Ambitious‘. The comparison exposes Moyashimon’s first weakness; there is a reason young uns get sent off to expensive universities but aside from some drunken yuri subtext, nobody is getting any in aggie land. The romantic wasteland almost justifies the thin plot complication of (Tadayasu Souemon) Sawaki’s childhood friend (Yūki) Kei vanishing and reappearing as a very fetching goth loli themed crossdresser with suppressed feelings for our hero. Not that it goes anywhere, except that the mangaka throws in two more samefaced girl Kei-chan doppelgängers to confuse the issue. The French one, Marie or the Okinawan one Yū might eventually grow to have some feelings for our hero Sawaki but who knows?

Otherwise, weird fermented foods of the world, as well as more common Japanese staple fermented foods and beverages are explained at great length and much alcohol is consumed by the older members of Itsuki-sensei’s lab seminar class. Ag school is interesting, perhaps you should try it.

Three broad approaches characterise and redeem the manga (and therefore give the two seasons of anime something to lean on)

The drawing is first-rate, detailed, interesting, pro-level accomplished. The anime by necessity simplifies the character designs and shifts the visual emphasis to the slice-of-life gag panel stylization. The manga is far richer in detail, mostly elaborate scene pages and near portrait-sketch renderings of the women characters.

The woman characters are strong and are written as having a degree of agency, even as they are definitely there for eye-appeal. At least they are not moe-blobbed and/or top-heavy, even as the plot convolutions that flesh them out are well-worn chestnuts. In comparison, the two dodgy guy upper-classmen are thin and ridiculous until well into the story. Masayuki-sensei likes to draw attractive young women characters. He revels in costuming them in leggy outfits that are heavy on belts, buckles, heels and boots but avoids wrecking their backs with huge boobies. By this last trick alone, the women characters gain a higher degree of in-story seriousness than one would at first expect. When he grunges a girl character out, she appears formidable and capable, rather than a mess. When he overdoes it with fashionista fetish-punk or Harajuku wear, the effect still works. Agricultural University is posited as a place where young women can play with their style while still being taken seriously. The effect extends to Kei as Yuki-chan, who as honorary Moyashimon coed gets to have far more fun than Kei-kun.

Kei Yuki-as-chan is also why cheap leeching anglo-outlanders like me are getting to read the last remaining volumes of Moyashimon. Once again, we are indebted to a certain honey-themed group of fans who have a taste for gender-bending characters.

While Kei-chan manages to steal a kiss from a surprised Sawaki shortly after their (re-)appearance, it takes some 100 chapters before Kei-chan finally pops and embarks on an halfway-around-the-world pursuit of their childhood friend who has gone off to meet one of the rival doppelgängers, Marie. Even as they dissemble when asked if they are smitten. This is rather tame. Even annoying (1)

On the other hand, there is more than enough going on around the lab class to keep Sawaki busy, along with the venue changes offered by grumpy dominatrix rich girl Haruka Hasegawa’s problems and resources, Itsuki-sensei’s vast web of political and financial connections, a nearby ancient sake brewery turned booze shop and secret lair to wealthy sake connoisseurs and assorted other plot diversions. Then there is our hero’s ambivalence towards his gift – he never had an easy time of it being able to sense and communicate with microorganisms and temporarily losing the ability was even more disturbing. Such is the power of a stolen kiss from your best bud who is now a hawt goth loli girl.

While Kei has unresolved feelings for their childhood friend, the manifestation of these seems to occur by whim of a dice-roll or whenever the story is at a loss for a new arc. That the plot device that they were always considered effeminate (and hated it) and so decided the G. Gordon Liddy out their issues (per anime, not manga) by transforming into a stunningly attractive gothic Lolita (who just happens to have 2 doppelgängers in the story) somehow gets folded into their conflicted feelings for Sawaki and provides a clue as to the larger structural problems witin Moyashimon’s story telling.

I know this fits a well-worn manga/ anime story trope. The “I like him but I’m a guy – I’ll become a girl” is a common trope but I wish the creative types of Japan (and the rest of the world) would give this one a break. Unfortunately this kind of trick is too easy, especially when the approach to story-telling is “make a neat place, fill with attractive, quirky characters and then let them bumble around and see what we can write about“. Verisimilitude Overload Failure occurs when too many things get thrown at the wall and random bits stick and stick together. You can get away with this kind of mess for a short tale but once the story establishes itself and settles in for the long haul, cracks begin to show.

Time to add another new character and change the venue!

“Oh shit, she looks like Kei, again!”

“So what: we’ll stick it in the “unresolved shit” basket and we can pull it out later when we are short of ideas.”

“Sounds good to me…”

Kei-as-chan may be one of the most interesting charas in Moyashimon but kitchen sink gender theory will get nowhere with them because the character is written as a complete mystery. They are dropped in as edgy eye candy and comic relief. They don’t even get to be part of a harem because there is no harem of suitors after our slouching protrag. He just gets dragged around to interesting places with formidable women because he can sense bacteria. Any time Kei-as-chan or otherwise wanted to declare an interest they would undoubtedly win something by default.

Since Kei-chan was around long before the Genshiken‘s Hato Kenjiro made their debut, I speculate that the latter’s appearance might owe some debt of inspiration to the former and that the complexity of the Hato character only benefited from the earlier version. Kei-as-chan still gets to do more in Moyashimon as chan than the they did as kun, even as their stepping-in-to-save-the-day activities usually involve displaying themselves to an audience.

I think the mangaka was too busy trying to balance the “super-power” of the MC, against the rest of the ensemble and then juggle the eye candy and the voluminous side-trips into bacteria and fermentation lore. It is remarkable how little of the story relies on our hero’s ability to “see” and “communicate” with microbes. That the author goes easy on the trick makes it possible for the reader to suspend disbelief long enough to get sucked into many 7 page talking bacteria omake chapters detailing how miso, sake, mirin and the like is made.

I had no idea you can make your own natto. Apparently you use a bit of leftover as a starter.

We might even venture that Moyashimon got away with its odd story-telling conceits by situating its appeal not only within the ranks of “educational” manga but also within the ranks of manga that celebrate culturally nationalistic lore; in its case the better strain of the type. While Moyashimon goes on about the culture and the cultures of fermented food oddities from all over the world, it never loses its confidence in the ability of dedicated Japanese enthusiasts, scientists, farmers, chefs and brewers not only to preserve their legacies but to find and appropriate the best that the rest of the world has to offer; even as it notes how the pressures of modernisation/ globalisation threaten the survival of some of these.

Like the recent “Otherworld Restaurant”(Sekai Shokudou) anime, the outlander other and their fare are an opportunity for exchange, learning and localization, rather than a fear-driven imperialistic fantasy or derision.(2) A useful attitude to foster, given the approaching challenges of the 2020 Olympics. Given the sense of doubt that crept over Japan in the wake of the 3/11 tragedies, I can understand how the somewhat confident mood of Moyashimon suddenly felt out-of-place as it wound down to its conclusion. Either that or Moyashimon just ran out of fermented stuff to showcase. Fatigue set in. The Ag Uni ran out of festivals, while less than a full year of subjective time passed for the students.

Despite its meandering ways, Moyashimon never lost its good heart and remains a fun read, even as we outlanders await its conclusion. Ishikawa Masayuki went on hiatus from his next series in 2015, citing eye-strain and fatigue. Perhaps when rested he may revisit his campus? Or perhaps I am missing something important about the entire exercise. Going off to university is a time to see and do new things; the order in which they occur is usually outside of one’s control and for a while, largely opaque as how and why things are as they are. Then new neat shit happens! Wow! So while each arc of Moyashimon needs some excuse to further this trick along in a somewhat predictable way; get through the festival, retrieve the aged Okinawan hooch, follow Hasegawa to France, Put on a mini-Octoberfest, go help Marie with something or other in America, these are all excuses for elaborate journeys of discovery – or at least sightseeing trips with plenty of interesting food and drink.

Okinawa, now that sounds interesting…

Unfortunately, the campus itself is a composite, existing somewhere near both Osaka and Tokyo, so pilgrimage visits are impossible.

I hope the mangaka got a lot of enjoyable research vacations out of the story. If you make it to Japan, do not fail to take in a tour of any modern brewery or sake brewery you can get to. Tours are usually quite reasonably priced and well worth the time spent. The Kirin brewery I went to on a weekday was nearly empty: we got the whole tour to ourselves as the guide practiced her English. And of course, be sure to spend $15 on a bottle of live farm sake (doburoko) as soon as you arrive (and have secured lodgings with a readily accessible WC) – it is a great way to wind down after 24 hours in airports and trains while you inoculate your gut for your stay.

And you can imagine that all those little Moyashimon critters are talking to each other as you partake.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) Spoiler warning! Highlight to read white-text:
Chapter 118 pulls a rather annoying no homo/ no genderqueer/ was all crossplay therapy or sumthin moment with Kei. To say that Kei remains unresolved, or at least conflicted would be an understatement. Chapter 119 attempts a quickie patch job, which was kind of cute but still feels like a jerk-around. If you are needing a resolutely pro-heterosexual story line, the order of forms is re-established as in any pastoral play. If you were rooting for team rainbow: crap, another jab to the ribs. At least our hero made an effort but in the end remains a slouching, schlub.

(2) This does not stop the mangaka from getting really pissy about fast food and smelly trains in America. Later discussion throws a sop at some of the worst of the criticisms, while re-emphasising the importance of tradition in culture. The mangaka is at a loss to deal with late industrial capitalist accommodations to polyglot cultural mixes, something which is quite common in the Japanese psyche. Europeans, among others also suffer from this. See for example, Jean Baudrillard’s America and Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality.

 

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda and the Secret Life of Hato Kenjiro – guest essay by asandyrabbit

Genshiken Dropout‘s asandyrabbit considers Kiss Him Not Me, fujoshi socials and harems, Genshiken Nidaime/ Spotted Flower and the power of the One True Pairing.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have have enjoyed working with them to bring it here. Be sure as well to visit their blog for the companion essay ‘I an Hato” (link below in notes).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me!
Comedy, Reverse Harem, Romance, Slice of Live, Shoujo
Junko (2013 —)

(Also you better bet I am talking about Genshiken and Spotted Flower. Spoilers for all three series.)

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you watch or read Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda— it’s kind of just bad in a lot of ways. It’s a mashup of generic shoujo tropes, typical reverse harem stories, and it just looks worse than its competitors in the reverse harem market. However, it unintentionally hits on a lot of points regarding Fujoshi Culture and through this, one can find way more character depth than really was probably intended in one of the members of the harem. Here’s how.

Serinuma, the girl at the center of the reverse harem, is a through-and-through fujoshi under the specific definition of “A woman who likes BL” (as opposed to a generic term for a female fan of anime / manga, as I have seen some people use). There are not many fujoshi in anime, and only a few more in manga. When you look at most of the titles, though, Genshiken, Fudanshiism, Mousou Shoujo Otaku-kei, Tonari no 801-chan, Ruriro no Yume, the number of manga written about fujoshi that are by fujoshi is rather small, and those that are less well-known.  This means that the majority of portrayal of fujoshi is not by fujoshi at all— in fact, often times it’s a male perspective of fujoshi, writing fujoshi characters from what they see on the outside. There are a lot of assumptions that must be made about what fujoshi actually do, since it’s kind of secretive a lot of the time, and, again, most of these stories about fujoshi are not actually written by fujoshi. The few exceptions, Fujoshi Kanojo, Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, etc, put greater priority on non-fujoshi characters (though in the case of Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, the fudanshi largely just act the same as fujoshi would but they’re male so you can ship them).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is then one of the first manga and then anime written by a fujoshi, with a shoujo and fujoshi audience in mind, featuring and focusing on a protagonist who is a fujoshi. This is special because it can be seen as the author giving a role model to the audience of what a fujoshi is and what fujoshi do. It’s the first time I have seen a fujoshi protagonist in a role the audience is supposed to relate to, and it’s good to see her being a fujoshi is influential upon the plot beyond “Oh, look at this weird thing that she is.” In cases like Fujoshi Kanojo, et cetera, the girl who is a fujoshi is that way just as a way of defining her personality, with its influence on the plot limited to “Oh she’s weird so I have to get used to her being weird.”

The idea of fujoshi rejecting romance in favor of BL has been hashed and rehashed to oblivion, but usually it’s more from a perspective of “I value my BL more than romance.” Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is the next logical step in this— Serinuma acts like she values her BL more than romance, but in reality she’s afraid of going out with a guy. So why not have her go out with a girl instead? After all, fujoshi are virtual lesbians, guys! Haven’t you read Akiko Mizoguchi’s Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan yet? At least you remember when Patrick Galbraith mentions that some fujoshi identify as lesbians because of their sexual connection to one another in Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan! Come on, get with the times already. I highly doubt Nishina, the lesbian in the reverse harem, was made with the intent of commenting on this idea, but with the understanding of fujoshi as virtual lesbians, Nishina’s relationship with Serinuma becomes much more complex.

When Nishina first invited Serinuma over to her house, there was an implication of Nishina making a move (hence why the boys all interfere) while she was there, to bridge the gap between virtual lesbians and literal lesbians. This transition is much easier for one to make than from straight to lesbian, since there is a pre-existing quasi-sexual bond between the two. Had Nishina and Serinuma not been fujoshi but just regular friends, Serinuma may have still accepted the invitation, but she would not have been so willing to demonstrate to the boys how to pose for their BL photo shoot. It’s the implicit bond of “We’re fujoshi, therefore we can talk about sexy things,” that makes this so easy for Nishina to make advances the way she does. Add to this the predisposition Serinuma has toward rejecting they boys’ advances because she’s a fujoshi— she would rather watch them fuck each other than fuck them herself, and Nishina presents herself as a painfully obvious resolution to the harem within a couple of volumes. She’s the only one who Serinuma can be with without taking away from people Serinuma can ship (Well, you COULD ship your boyfriend with other guys while in a relationship, but you may have noticed how Ogiue’s attention on SasaMada seemed to decline the more she realized her attraction to him). The farthest extent one can go in denouncing all men so they are left available to ship is by being a lesbian, which is precisely what Nishina represents.Wait a second, did Nishina just confess to Serinuma in the sixth episode of the anime?

Oh shit! She did. In the manga, this mini-arc was structured after the scene where all the members of the harem confess all at once, but in the anime, the full harem confessing is at the end of the show and Nishina is in the sixth episode. So in the manga, when Nishina says, “I love you senpai!” it is simply restating what we got a couple of chapters ago. But in the anime, Nishina’s beaten everybody to the punch by six whole episodes. Now her advantage is not only the first kiss, but the first confession. So Nishina wins the harem, right? Wrong!!! Here enters the trials and tribulations of any good generic harem show and… you know, why the fuck did Sue win the Madarame harem because she confessed first, but Nishina hasn’t won the Serinuma harem???

This is bullshit!

So, what happened? Why hasn’t Nishina won? Why is everybody in the harem so freaked out about Mutsumi attempting to confess to Serinuma in episode 11? Is it really just because the anime team did a stupid panel-by-panel adaptation of the manga without consideration to these things, or is it something more?

Nishina made it clear from the start that she was interested in getting some sweet sweet fujoshi alone time with Serinuma, but ever since then her interactions have been so platonic. The only exception to this was in the episode where Igarashi refuses to let Nishina sleep in the same room as Serinuma (and even here a character other than Nishina is reminding the audience that Nishina’s aiming to be more than just a fellow fujoshi). So why is it that after Nishina confessed to Serinuma, she seems to be falling behind the others as more of just a fujoshi buddy to Serinuma?

Dismiss this as a result of poor structuring by the people making the anime, but I like to believe there is something else going on, something that gives Nishina a level of depth far beyond any other character in the series:

The fujoshi zone.

The only explanation for how Nishina confessed to Serinuma, but everyone freaks out about Mutsumi attempting to confess five episodes later, is that Nishina’s confession was only as a friend, or rather, as a fellow fujoshi. When Serinuma describes Nishina, she calls her a soul mate. Not friend, not lover, but soul mate. This enters a nebulous gray zone (we’re kindred spirits, so claims Chiba Saori of Hourou Musuko) of not-quite friend, not-quite romantic interest. This is much like the realm that fujoshi occupy with one another. The bond created by virtual lesbianism is stronger than typical friendship —after all, most friends don’t comfortably chat about their sexual fantasies with one another— but it still lacks something from a typical romantic relationship, and that is the direct interest. One’s sexual fantasies are filtered through BL rather than directly stated to one another. It’s not quite having a partner, rather, it’s more of a formalized communal experience.

When Serinuma is on the date, she claims Nishina is “fun to be around.” There is no mention of an actual romantic interest, or her own personal fear thereof that she experiences with all the boys. Meanwhile, on Nishina’s side, this should be an opportunity for her to show all her love for Serinuma, which she 100% nails in the setup. A romantic cruise, fancy clothes, a classy plane flight. She even makes it partway into her pick-up after introducing her probably-rehearsed line about the plane itself. “When I see such beautiful scenery…”

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 02.27.15.png

We wait in anticipation. Here is where Nishina gets serious! She’s showing her love for Serinuma that has been weirdly absent for the past few episodes!

…And then we get discussion of yaoi pairings. Dammit Nishina! You were so close.Nishina had the crutch of virtual lesbianism to get close to Serinuma before any of the boys could, but now she has found herself unable to stand without that crutch. Serinuma’s continually reinforced her love of Nishina as a fellow fujoshi, a virtual lesbian, and not as a romantic interest, and Nishina’s found herself unable to remind Serinuma of her actual interest. Nishina is ignoring her romantic interest in favor of having a fellow fujoshi friend. So, while in Nishina’s confession to Serinuma in episode 6, she may have been trying to express her romantic love, it comes off as nothing more than a token of their close friendship, their fujoshiship.

One could argue that any harem is built around boxing oneself into the friend zone, but quickly Igarashi brings Serinuma to understand he’s not there to just be her friend, and the others soon follow suit, except Nishina. (1) Each of them go on the dates with Serinuma, and, even if they seemingly do not succeed, everyone but Nishina is going for the romance. But the moment that Nishina has a romantic line ready, she chickens out and turns it into an excuse to talk about BL. It’s not a case of obsession or of miscommunication, it’s a case of Nishina boxing herself into the friend zone, or rather the fujoshi zone, ever since the fallout over their reversible pairing argument. She had plenty of opportunities besides the date in the last episode to make a move on Serinuma— they spent an evening in the hot spring together, just the two of them. Hell, given how much they talk about conventions and BL and how buddy-buddy they are, surely they visit Otome Road together, just the two of them. It does not make sense why she would not have made a move already, unless it’s the fact that Nishina’s too afraid to express her legitimate romantic interest in Serinuma out of fear she will lose the bond of fujoshiship they already have.

We can pinpoint the exact moment where things change. In episode 6, her original intent was to assert her superiority as a fujoshi and cut ties with the BL side of Serinuma, meaning she can pursue her as a romantic interest exclusively. But she realized that hurting the BL side of her relationship with Serinuma would hurt her chance at romance, so she was stuck doing the only thing she could: not interfering at all with her connection to Serinuma as a fujoshi, and hoping that she could pursue romance as well. But, because of this, and because Serinuma reinforced their connection as fujoshi and pushed away their connection as lovers, Nishina found herself growing comfortable with just being buddies. She got close to Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi, but she was also ultimately distanced from Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi. So ultimately, Nishina becomes stuck as purely a virtual lesbian— stuck in pure fantasy.

This of reminds me of another harem arc wherein the only same-sex character is able to get closer than the other harem members because of their connection through those means, but their ultimate downfall is their inability to escape from fantasy. It’s almost like the reason I’m so attached to having Nishina win the harem is as a way of making up for Hato losing the harem in Genshiken! The ultimate difficulty Madarame cites in dating Hato is that Hato is too obsessed with fantasy; so much so that they can’t just accept the possibility of romance at face value and go with it. The closest bonding experiences with Madarame that they had were often the most real— when the two of them talked as just friends, or when Madarame was so impressed by the simple gift Hato gave him of homemade chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

Ultimately, Nishina and Hato have the same downfall— their inability to escape fantasy and enter the real world, and have their romance with their crush as sincere romance. Originally I was hoping Nishina would succeed where Hato failed— after all, Nishina’s got a leg up on Hato by being able to be virtual lesbians with her crush, rather than just otaku buddies. But I was mistaken. The problem from before is the problem now.

This is the fujoshi zone. (2)

Wait a second, it seems like I’m forgetting something here. Hato… Madarame…. Maybe there’s an alternate universe set several years in the future wherein Madarame and Hato actually fuck?

No way. This can’t be happening. Miracles don’t just happen. I have to be dreaming! Kio has to be making it in a dream! But… if it’s real, what could this mean?

If, in Genshiken, Hato was ultimately defeated by their fantasies, Spotted Flower’s !Hato is reunited with !Madarame by their fantasies. They even say themselves that they’re remembering another dream from the college days— one where !Madarame (or is it the Genshiken’s Madarame?) is the sou-uke. Only because of their ruthless perseverance to make !HatoMada reality are they, years in the future, able to steal from !Sasahara !Saki !Madarame’s anal virginity (after giving their own, mind you). It is like the answer all along was that if you hold on to your fantasies and dreams for long enough, they will become reality. It’s almost like my fantasy for HatoMada to become reality was answered, as was theirs! It’s almost like… I am Hato! (3)

So, what does this all mean for Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda? Can the recent development in Spotted Flower foreshadow a conclusion to the Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda harem? Are all the basic bitches who want Igarashi to win sadly mistaken under the notion that Nishina’s just a boring-ass lesbo fujoshi? If Nishina was to be Serinuma’s answer, then everything would fall into place. Her arc would conclude by being able to show her affection for Serinuma, not only as a fujoshi but as a lover, and we would all have a happy ending.

Ah, shit, I’m kidding myself.

We got !Hato and !Madarame to fuck once, but it’s far from the point of !Madarame divorcing !Saki, giving her the child support, and taking !Hato as his new lover. Hell, we’ve gotta take !Yajima out of the picture too. (4) I’ve just had a year of intense sadness and disappointment over the regrettable conclusion to the Madarame Harem only to find endless joy in seeing Hato and Mada really do it in each others’ butts. Maybe you can’t handle that kind of thing because it’s too gay, so let’s put in your mind this instead— Hato and Madarame fucking in Spotted Flower is good indication that Nishina and Serinuma will fuck, and straight guys looove them some yuri, amirite?

I do think that is something to explore: How is the yuri-potential in Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda affected by being written for girls versus for guys? There is definitely a difference from what you see in general yuri manga. The girls’ ones focus much more heavily on interpersonal connections, friendship, often more clear gender roles, often including the influence of sexism, whereas the guys’ ones are more about there being a couple of cute babes having sex and being cute together.

Knowing though that Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda was drawn by a woman, could it be that Nishina’s actually not a loser, she was just drawn that way? After all, it’s only after her and Serinuma have had their struggles and dissatisfaction with one another (fallout from the “Akane x Lord / Lord x Akane” debate (5)) that they can begin the path to more than just friendship. We’ve got the gender roles— Hell, Serinuma mistook Nishina for a boy when they first met. We’ve got the fast start with a kiss, followed by the period of uncertainty. Has all of this just been a ploy by Nishina to get closer than ever to Serinuma? Nishina has developed her connection with Serinuma to the point they two are unbreakable, so Serinuma’s connection must therefore be just as strong. How are any of the boys supposed to interfere with that? Maybe it isn’t Nishina in the fujoshi zone, but Serinuma, and Nishina is the patient (not predatory guys! Predatory lesbians totally don’t exist in yuri, I’m sure Junko the BL author knows that and will give a very consensual representation of same-sex relationships) lesbian waiting for the right time to make a move. Now that would truly reflect Spotted Flower— !Hato’s insistence was met with flat rejection by !Madarame, but when !Madarame is weak and lonely, now he finds himself reminded of the possibility. Shit, it seems like Nishina has a plan! All we need is for Junko to follow through on it.

Wait, what? I’m getting new information from my sources… it seems that the harem is over, and Serinuma hooked up with Mutsumi?

Heh. Sure, go ahead and believe it, ye most gullible of folk. I think we here all see the writing on the wall. We all know the truth now. Nishina is the only one for her— there can be no other. We may have Serinuma and Mutsumi in the main canon for now, but just you wait for the sequel. Just you wait! Serinuma will be through with that boy before you know it. You all expect me to believe Serinuma’s going to be upset about her newfound boyfriend getting it on with another boy? This is just a thinly veiled expression of her dissatisfaction with their relationship. If !Yajima will let !Hato go for the sake of fulfilling their BL fantasies, then you can’t convince me Serinuma, who easily exceeds the passion for BL of !Yajima, would be against seeing her man get it on with another man. I don’t buy it for one second. Just a few volumes earlier she was shipping him with the shota-bait! I’m all for character development, but I’m not buying that she can possibly be dissatisfied with this turn of events. And then for Mutsumi to ask her which she prefers: her waifu or him. The gall! If she seriously answers with him, I’m going to be done. Junko, you’ve turned the moral of the story into, “Being a fujoshi is bad! Get a boyfriend, get married, bear his children, and forget about your life as a virtual lesbian.” I may not know Junko the person, but I do know she’s written some well-respected BL. She’ll see the only possible outcome here. Serinuma’s going to break it off with this Mutsumi bitch and FULFILL HER DESTINY WITH NISHINA! FOR THE FUTURE! FOR BL!

FOR HATOMADA!!!!!

— asandyrabbit (asandyrabbitblog.wordpress.com), October 25, 2017

Footnotes:

1: …And Mutsume. This is one of the arguments I see people saying for why Mutsume is the best option, because he treats her as a friend, blah blah blah. Yea, I’ll give you that point. He’s certainly a believer that lovers can be friends too. But what makes for a better friend, someone who’s just ordinarily kind, or someone who has much of the same generosity but also is much more relatable? I don’t think there’s a right answer to that, but I do think there’s a right answer to Mutsume vs Nishina. Come to think of it, maybe the reason people don’t consider Nishina to have the same attitude of “lovers and friends” that Mutsume has is because she’s a girl? Like, maybe people naturally assume they’d be friends before lovers— all lesbians are, right? Let’s ignore the “lesbians rent a U-Haul on the second date” stereotype. Nishina definitely has a different kind of kindness from Mutsume, I would say though. Mutsume is more focused on simple human compassion and empathy, whereas Nishina is more focused on just spoiling Serinuma to her heart’s content. Perhaps Mutsume’s attitude is better since it’s more of an emotional equality, but in the long run, what we would likely see is Serinuma grow accustomed to Nishina’s luxurious lifestyle, thus making them equals in that regard. Perhaps as well then, Mutsume and Nishina are largely doing the same thing, and the difference in their actions is the result of socioeconomic differences? Shit! This should be its own post.

2: I have a series of six posts on Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda which everything up until this point is a compressed version of. If you decide to check me out you can skip those posts.

3: https://asandyrabbitblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/i-am-hato/

4: Well, maybe. Perhaps !Madarame will see the real American dream: getting a threesome, and he’ll be convinced to marry both of them. Harem all over again! Wait, shit. If !Yajima agreed to that, then we really would have a harem. I don’t know where !Sue lies nowadays, but I’m sure !Angela would still be plenty willing to give him a good fucking. Add in !Saki and we really do have another harem. Take that you normie bitch! Who’s lusting after who now, huh? Oh, I guess she already was anyway.

5: …of which I have to heavily disagree with their resolution. Akane x Lord is obviously the right answer, which, knowing Nishina to be the bright young lady she is, makes me assume she agreed to reversibility for Serinuma’s sake. No, this isn’t a reversible pairing, not with such distinctive roles. Akane is clearly the protective top. Hell, he transforms into armor for goodness sake. Can’t get more protective than that. He’s the one to make the first move of transforming into the armor to save the Lord. Plus, sticking with traditional roles, the lord would be the slimmer, more delicate, feminine one from a life of leadership, as opposed to the stronger, more masculine Akane. If you have Akane as a top, there’s such good potential for drama— the jealousy over the Lord’s concubines, as is implicit in his nature as a protector, the dashing saving of the Lord from sticky situations with his transformation (and getting the Lord into other sticky situations, NAWMSAYIN?)… it goes on. I’m a fan of reverse pairings, so naturally I would be interested to see how Lord x Akane would turn out, but you have to admit that the natural order is Akane x Lord.

Referenced material:

Akiko Mizoguchi – “Reading and Living Yaoi: Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan” [https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=5822]

Patrick Galbraith –  “Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan!”
[http://www.academia.edu/3665371/Fujoshi_Fantasy_Play_and_Transgressive_Intimacy_among_Rotten_Girls_in_Contemporary_Japan ]