Worthy of Grace


Two recent Twitter commotions serve as a worthwhile point of departure for digging deeper into themes of queer representation and subtext within heterosexual gaze/ normed narratives. To sneak up on it sideways, I’m going to bring out my old purposefully-dense-straight-guy head-space. Bear with me, I had it out in the shed.

Put some fresh gas in, check the crankcase oil, spray the air filter with starter fluid and… PULL!

Cough Vroom, chug, chug, cough vroom, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Whew! Lotta smoke.

Here we go!

Re-issues of parts of the Sailor Moon franchise’s official English dubs recently went on sale and while advance PR had made a big point of promoting that the new release would stop subtexting a famous girl-couple in the series, a lyrics brochure once again referred to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune as cousins. Not a couple, not as lovers, but with the decades-ago North American market “cover story” as to why those two were so close.

Meanwhile, over in legal anime streaming land, a character who makes a one episode appearance as an eccentric 14 year old child soldier (as are all the kid characters) and/ or an alien and/or a clone and/ or an angel, has a soulful moment with our hero Shinji and tells Shinji that he is “worthy of my grace“.

Time to ask Briggs N. Stratton what he makes of all this.

B+S: “Huh? Why ask me? I’m here to chew bubblegum and mow the lawn — and I am clean out of bubblegum!”

HOFF: “C’mon Briggsey, you owe me for the spark plug.”

B+S: “Fine, fine, sure thing. I don’t know what the big deal is. So they were cousins and now an itsy bitsy brochure says they are cousins again. There wasn’t gay marriage when the show first ran, children’s show, not like anyone who cared wouldn’t see through the excuse, whatever… No one said they couldn’t be cousins and still be girlfriends as long as no one frightened the horses. Kind of hawt-er that way too.

…As for that Kaworu guy, weren’t the translators just being too cute by half, trying to sneak in a hint that Kaworu is not just a gay boy crushing on a teammate but, I dunno… an angel? You know, the eccentric gaijin whose behavior transcends the usual rules for plebes with added mad science Kabbalah conspiracy sparklies.”

HOFF: “Yup, that’s pretty much what I expected you’d say.”

B+S: “Waugh waugh waugh! I don’t see what the fuss is all about. I’m not going to do a right-wing bad-faith whine-fest about “keeping ess-jay-dubb-you pol-ee-tiks out of anime” because that’s a low grade cheat but c’mon. These are ANCIENT franchises. 4:3 aspect ratio video. Everyone had fleas back then, no air conditioning, barely any soap or food refrigeration. Ain’t gonna get the Sermon on the Mount from throw-away cartoon series. Whatcha want? Edward Said deconstructs Johnny Quest in a TED talk?”

HOFF: Save the TED talk; there are a few folks I follow on Twitter who just might be able to pull something like that off.

B+S: I’d rather have Fanon. Better kick-ass. Hey, just because I do landscaping doesn’t mean that I don’t read.

HOFF:”Look, there is stuff surrounding representation that we will hear about, process and think we “get” but will never “feel it in my bones.” Same for you. Shouldn’t we at least make the effort to acknowledge that it is a thing?

B+S: “Just strikes me as random, or a gratuitous versimultitude attempt. Here’s another example: Lily in Zombie Land Saga.

HOFF: “Hey! Be nice, that ep made me tear up.”

B+S “I developed a case of sniffles too but c’mon; the show was spinning its wheels because they never did anything with the shit-toxic work culture in Japan’s talento industry, except let manager-san act like a complete PIG — and show BARS all over the inside of the mansion. Why drop the sold-into-sex-slavery-as-a-girl-child Edo-era courtesan in the ensemble if you weren’t gonna use her? Lily’s story was as close as we got to karoshi but then; “second tear”. Gang-girl’s ep was OK too; otherwise wheels spinning, very little traction. As if because the production house couldn’t do fanservice with corpse-girls, or any significant yuri teasing they just started throwing random attempts at anything into…”


B+S: “What now?”


B+S: “Well exxxxxxxx-cuuuuse ME! Jeesh! You implying that transfolk and them who care about them get SO worked up about representation that they will take any kind of overt manipulative-y… “


B+S: “Uurrrrrrr…”

HOFF: “Come closer, I’ll whisper it to you”

B+S: “Huhhhhh? Whaddaya mean I don’t get to make that call? I wasn’t saying I don’t like Lily! “


B+S: “I LIKE Lily! Lily saved the entire effing show! Shit! I am feeling VERY made out of dried cut grass right now.”

HOFF: “No shade at Lily?”

B+S: “No shade at Lily!”

HOFF: “Who gets to make the call if Lily is important?”

B+S: “Not me… or you… Fine, fine, got it. GOT IT.”

HOFF: “whyyyyyyyy?

B+S: “(grudging tone) Because neither of us have skin in that game. Still don’t understand the anime history kerfuffle though… Guess I can’t have opinions on anything… but optimal cutting height for lawns in spring.”

HOFF: Wittgenstein time. Observe and zip it. Better, Observe, try to process and hold off for a bit before hitting enter.”

B+S: “Feels uncomfortable.”

HOFF: “Whyyyyyyyyyyy?”

B+S: (mumble)

HOFF: “Can’t hear you.”

B+S: “Fuck right off, same reasons why you won’t be anyone’s ally.”

HOFF: “Fuck You!”

B+S: “No; Fuck YOU!”

HOFF: “Well then, I guess all the fascist bas-turds win. Only one any of us disconnected monads can trust is Exalted Leader and his designated talking heads on Faux Nooz.

B+S: “I hate this shit… I’m stuck more or less trusting you”

HOFF: “D’Awwwww. Just to be clear for the folks at home, you’re not an actual 3.5HP four-stroke engine Briggs and Stratton lawn Mower, right?”

B+S: “Say for their sake that I am an aspect of you; some kind of alternate probability disassociative manga/anime fictional discursive device. Linear as fuck though. I Like to keep things simple. Gotta deal with my own shit first. A real man speaks with his well groomed lawn.”

HOFF: “I hope we don’t lose too many readers over this trick.”

B+S: Shoganai! Shit is complex. Needs must, the devil mows… “

HOFF: “It gets even more complex; for instance, WE might see Lily dying young under the pressures of being a child star; karoshi due to exploitative quasi-slavery work culture. A trans person would read the shock-fear of having puberty kick in with no HRT or blockers to stop their body steering them onto a highway that they desperately never never wanted to go anywhere near. Trans-kids have killed themselves when this, plus boneheaded parent units not supporting them came together — which thank effing gawds, Lily’s Dad didn’t overtly screw up. Sins of omission vs. sins of commission. The storytelling drops hurried hints at both readings because that’s what you do with storytelling: try to grab as much real-y-ness as you can, process it into fast takes and plaster it all over your chara’s motivations with the hope that something sticks.

…So yeah, we can go all Bernie Sanders and yell Class War but we be damned if we dismiss other folks having their own deeply personal feelings on their reads.”

B+S: “We’ll never yell Class War like Bernie, He’s been yelling since before we were born… Ok, got it already.

What happened with the Sailor Girls? “

HOFF: “The publisher clued in they goofed, issued a speedy full apology and is promising replacement corrected brochures. The actual video and audio tracks are so far reported as ok.”

B+S: “Good crisis management. That all there is to it? “

HOFF: “For slow on the uptake folks like us, the incident hammers home is how life-changing-ly important that girl couple was to a segment of the fandom that grew up with the anime and identified with those two characters. Subtext in USA & Canada might have been enough way back then – any representation was a balm – but over time the creatives responsible for the franchise had made it clear, or canon as they say in fan-speak, that them two are a couple. Plus, the rest of the show was major empowerment important for girls in general — it made a big impression; so those two having pride of place in it…”

B+S: “…And they didn’t have to fight each other to the death near a Shinto temple on the moon, which I suppose was also a big deal back then…”

HOFF: “You think “Kill off your gays” is gone?”

B+S: ” Point.”

HOFF: “So they are important and sticking them back into the closet via sloppy post-production was a BIG NO-NO.

Let’s try a better example for contrast: Midnight Occult Civil Servants /Mayonaka no Okaruto Kōmuin, a 12 ep anime that recently finished up.

Comes with two genderfluid characters; one a Central American god of chaos and the other, a coworker at the Shinjuku ward office Youkai relations office.

First time we and our newbie recruit/ main chara meet “Theo” (Seo Himetsuka) ya think: “Lab Coat Girl Chara”. Yup but nope. (Does their name mean anything in Japanese?) Gender-fluid/ X-gender science wizard of the office and before our MC discovered his gift for understanding youkai speech (ears of sand), the most adept of the crew at detecting youkai. Does not act femme. Returnee, obvious nod to Shinjuku ward “diversity”. Character visual relief, as the rest of the department are (mostly guy) Kado; The Wrong Answer clones — at times it gets hard to tell them apart. Soon to be followed by Huehuecóyotl / Old old Coyote/ Kohaku/ (Amber eyes), a casually dangerous Central American trickster god. who somehow wandered all the way to Japan and became attached to the MC’s powerful exorcist/ spirit medium ancestor, Abe no Seimei. Like many of the longer-lived youkai, the godling occasionally mistakes Arata for his ancestor.”

B+S: “I remember that one, nice light watch, not much in the way of heavy plotting. Lotsa “Let’s all get along”, punctuated by a nasty turn from a bad-guy ghostbuster from a neighboring ward office.”

HOFF: ” Kohaku is really heavily into the “Favor the newbie with grace” department, especially since the idea that humans age, die and break easily is not very high on their concern list — they often forget/ ignore the Arata/ Seimei distinction. Otherwise Coyote strikes me as a supernaturally levelled-up version of Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu‘s genderfluid hyper-sociable Najimi Osana.

B+S: ” Hmmmm… Najimi did occasionally overboard on the practical jokes… yup, Houston, we have an x-gender chara type trope.”

HOFF: “Thing I missed when the credits rolled on the last ep and I was left thinking; “Ok, Ho… HUM…”

…While those two had been thrown in for ‘Shinjuku variety” variety, so could any chara with a hook. What slipped by was how they played important parts in the story while neither of them were cranked up to burlesque levels. Theo didn’t drag out — in a pinch Theo held their own; especially since they had built all the “proton pack” mad-science-y youkai-effective stuff and had to be on point to pull pins and lob them. Meanwhile, Coyote was often popping in and about, checking up on old haunts and looking for the next matsuri — pretty much what trickster-Coyote lore usually is big on.

They just were part of the ensemble cast without being weirdly fetishized.(1)

B+S:” Good ‘un. Kohaku/ Coyote was so bishie-femme that I expected mashing followed by theatrical levels of petulance after a rejection. Didn’t happen. Clearly that kami had a soft spot for the MC and their memories of his ancestor but the ways of Gods and Shinto Onmyoji are best not turned into idle gossip.

Wow, get this; Abe no Seimei was/ is a real historical figure, as well as a popular as heck folklore legend chara [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abe_no_Seimei ] That puts our MC as the heir to 1000-plus years of exorcists, even if only hs grandfather is mentioned.

“Since 1989, Abe no Seimei has been depicted as a bishōnen.”
— Ibid., wiki/Abe_no_Seimei

HOFF: “Gets more complicated with Neon Genesis Super Giant Robot Depression Psychotic Breakdown though. Apparently, a new boy soldier pilot pops up in one of the later episodes — though he gets more face time in the manga and spin-offs — and makes a big impression on the troubled main character, Shinji. Kaworu is an eccentric outlander, so the “doesn’t care about rules” rule is in force when he puts his hand on Shinji’s hand while they are both sitting nekkid in a sento bath and tells Shinji that: “You are worthy of my grace.”

…Followed by “That means I like you”.”

B+S: “Worthy? Grace? Like? Sounds like something out of a fantasy isekai. Or a 1970’s Pretty Boy shoujo story. “

HOFF: ” The earlier subs had Kaworu saying that “You have my regard for it” A flustered Shinji goes “Regard?” and then Kaworu tells him “It means I love you”. The new “worthy of my grace” version improves on the clumsiness of the “regard” bit but then downgrades the confession to a “like”. Context is ultra-ambiguous due to plot pasta. The entire Evangelion franchise piled on shitloads of fringe christian and Kabbalah mysti-mush-mush and later retreads/ additions to the story add more heavy-handed hints that Kaworu could variously be an alien, an angel, a clone, or even a clone of an angel made by a global conspiracy of Dr Frankenstein world domination mad scientist cultists. If Kaworu is “angelic” — which is also one big gay guy/ BL cliche – Hi Patti, play Horses for us – then odd goth poetic BL mashies are the best a mere mortal boy is gonna get.”

B+S: “Or so thought the latest translator, sticking their head into the woodchipper… You ever watched it?”

HOFF: “Christ in a Gernsbeck M9E knows I’ve tried! I wasn’t able to get past ep6 in full. Skimmed through a couple more eps to 8, maybe 9 and gave up. For this, I watched the “old” version of ep24. FF through 25. There is still something about the “feel” of of entire effort that leaves me cold. Contrast to how Cowboy Bebop immediately grabs you with its story and characters. Evangelion’s emotional overload held no catharsis for me. It felt slipshod, manipulative, cynically dark and potentially harmful,

…Oh fuck, this is the wrong time and place but I need to tear that thing a new one!”

B+S: “Tear away…”

HOFF: “I don’t give a rat’s ass’s flying fuck that it forms some Omega of the Gainax giant robo-verse. Most Gainax shit turns out to be sloppy kludged-out hackery anyway. The entire Shinji’s dad, evil conspiracy Kabbalah mysticism thing can go stuff jade rocks. It was canciferous plot pasta back then and it is still cancer whenever it is trotted out as a “tribute”, as in Franxx‘s Ape council. Everything could happen because… Its a culty conspiracy! Because… the power of scienced-up mumbo jumbo mysticism! Wow! Gravity stopped and we all now shit through our ears! Mama I want to fuck you, Daddy I want to kill you! The world is completely DESTROYED!

And then fanboys screamed that anime was DEAD, because…. Girls. Yup, Shoujo. Yo! You next to that horse you rode into town on? Good!”

B+S: ” Yup, pretty obvious all around, just not really worth the powder to blow it to ifny. Kewl robot fights though… Hey, Didn’t Shinji have to kill his gay admirer at a temple on the moon, too? Needs restorative justice. Evangelion X Clean up your fucking mess; You can(yes can, no slacking) mow lawns.”

HOFF: “But because of its place in the experiences of lotsa folks, the Netflix revival thing and the associated Twitter convos are more a chance for watching real-time fan effects; maybe learn something.

…Here is part of @Frog-Kun/ Kim Morrissy’s take on the problems of localizing/ translating them lines: “

“Some English-speaking fans have criticized the Netflix translation of “downplaying” or “erasing” the homoerotic overtones in Shinji and Kaworu’s relationship, pointing to a history of queer erasure in anime localizations, such as the Cloverway dub of Sailor Moon, which infamously changed Haruka and Michiru’s relationship from lovers to cousins. They argue that by translating Kaworu and Shinji’s lines literally, the translation gives fuel for deniers to argue that no romantic attraction exists between the two characters at all. This perpetuates a culture where gay relationships are seen as “just shipping” or “fan delusions” in media barring works explicitly labelled as “queer” or “LGBT.”

Such arguments bring to mind something that the famous Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki is said to have taught his students: the ideal Japanese translation for “I love you” is “Tsuki ga tottemo aoi naa” (The moon is so blue tonight). “I love you” may be too direct for a Japanese person to say aloud, even if the intent is implicit, an idea corroborated by some of the Nijimen commentors quoted above. This suggests that perhaps English translations of Japanese texts should be more explicit in regards to statements of romantic affection, depending on context.””

“Japanese Fans, Official Translator Weigh in on Netflix Evangelion English Subtitle Debate” by Kim Morrissy. Anime News Network, posted on 2019-06-27 13:45 EDT 

Also; here’s a very readable essay-length take on the bigger subject, that (wow!) includes Sailor Moon and Eva Shinji-Kaworu:
“Queer Representation in Anime” by Nicholas Bennett. The Artifice (com), July 17, 2018. https://the-artifice.com/anime-queer-representation/

B+S: “By your schema, It doesn’t matter if the author and production crew tossed in a gay boy confession for shock value, as resonance towards some personal life experience, as fujoshi bait or even as a nod towards the legitimacy of same-sex affection. Or all of the above. Or how much they wanted to tart it up and/or subtext it.

It only matters that them viewers who felt moved by Kaworu’s act and Shinji’s shock — and it was a positive shock that someone else might actually think human of him, because Shinji is such a mess by this point that it is a wonder he can crawl to the shitter, let alone climb into his nightmare fucking robot. Also, looks like you have to update that mega four parter post of yours about NO HUGGIES FOR STRAIGHT JAPANESE COUPLES so as to lay the blame at the feet of Great Japanese Author Soseki.

…And yeah, Genshiken Nidaime near the end with Sue on the phone. Big literary reference, even if a mouldy chestnut.”

HOFF: “Ok, we are getting closer to framing things. It is something like one of those Twitter pop ethics things where you have some “activist” being goaded to debate a net-nazi about completely someone else’s right to exist. Only “ethical” move is to lay shit on for the trolling, call out the debate as a vicious ploy and lob a few well-documented milkshakes…

B+S: Bhut fiction! What use is all my privilege if I can’t whomp up a storybook Abraham Lincoln or two, sprinkle in some charas who were minding their own business, shake well and make notes as everyone gets bruised?

KIRK: What did you offer the others if they won?
ROCK: What they wanted most. Power.
KIRK: You offered me the lives of my crew.
ROCK: I perceive you have won their lives.
KIRK: How many others have you done this to? What gives you the right to hand out life and death?
ROCK: The same right that brought you here. The need to know new things.
KIRK: We came in peace.
ROCK: And you may go in peace.

HOFF: “Mr. Spock, add to the report a rec that the Federation use this planet as a high level toxic waste dump. Helm, get us the fuck outta here

B+S: “Rock creature screaming “Debate Me!” into the void. Best stick with milkshakes as a gift from the angels. Warm, white, sticky vanilla milkshakes.”

HOFF: “It doesn’t matter what the original motives of the writers way back then were. Part of me wonders if the creatives weren’t cynically tossing some old fashioned 1990’s homo panic into the psychological breakdown stew pot. You have access to my core memories; remember that time a thousand years ago when sports dude from University called up drunk, six months after we graduated, in utter shock because… “

B+S: “Do we REALLY want to share dusty personal anecdotes here? Why not just say that long-ago times’ homo panic was really serious. The gay person, usually a guy, could easily end up severely beaten on, even dead, the straight guy acted like they had been de-manned and were immediately imperilled by a range of violent phobic fantasies. Shit was really vicious and stupid back then. Unlike, urrr, whatever…

… Anyway, How defuk did we ever get the rep for running an advice column? We was the Uni newspaper darkroom monk. Talked him down well enough. All over some bullshit “do I come across as gay?” Come across as? Does free-climbing make you look gay? Could have handed that idiot a big rusty sword and enlisted him in Commander Vimes’ Night Watch — he’d have had a hawt werewolf girlfriend in two hours. Or a boyfriend if he wanted. He could have had a pan-amorous harem if he wanted…”

HOFF: “Yeah.. the next uni posting was even weirder. Show ANY emotional clue-full-ness, even a 3.5HP variant and half the idiots, including the wimmin-folk at the midwest Amurrican grad seminar thought I was hanging out with communist hippies and screwing everyone from underage girls through old men to farm animals. I thought they were all mad as hatters, including… Her.

B+S: “TMI. Keep this up and we’re going to have to start drinking heavily.”

HOFF: “There goes the alternate probability line where I was a tall, slim, deadly eurotrash-villain crossdressing assassin for hire.(2) Mirablue! Maybe I was seen at one of them Friday midnight Rocky Horror Show screenings with my lady friend. She wore the evening gown though, I was in a surplus tux. Sheeeeeeet! Misspent youth in the American midwest… We didn’t even throw rice…”

B+S: “BZZZZZTTTT! That’s what you get for going to a Rocky Horror Show in prehistoric mid-America.”

HOFF: “Was either that or another dose of Harold and Maude.”


HOFF: “Fuck, right! Neon Genesis Psychosis Field. Just moi, btw… No shade on those who for their own deeply personal reasons, find NGE poignant and deeply moving.”

B+S: “Lawns! Must cut lawns, lawns, lawns…

HOFF: “To bring things back to a useful level of discussion, a majority/ cisgendered-heterosexual gaze can ignore characters and situations that show or suggest minority desire and/ or gender expressions. We can fetishize them or take them for versimultitude and scenery boosts. Our sense of self doesn’t get denied by their absence or assaulted by ridiculous, insulting misrepresentations. Neither are such moments of recognition for us so scarce, so rare that any reflection, no matter how distorted or fleeting means something to our feelings of who we are and how we fit in the world. I can write these words but I won’t ever feel the feels. When I look at my patch of the world my frame of reference looks back at me. I could use the term “privilege” and it is — but this again centers the subjectivity/ viewpoint on me and mine. The complexity of what “the other” feels remains in shadows.

Likewise, a much later Haruka and Michiru as a happily married couple (and I have no idea of how Sailor Moon verse lore treats them) would ultimately be a convenience to me, as it requires only a minor adjustment to my existing lazy cis-het-normed mental categories. Edit Married_Couple.def. Save.

B+S: “That’s some final argument against haters: “looks like work to me.” Sure a bit of “girl weddings are way kewl” didn’t slip in there too?

HOFF: “Could be… Rabbit… While we are at it, GOOD TWITTER THING: Some of the more inventive Twitteratti saw the “You are worthy of my grace, That means I liek you” screen caps decided to go all meme generator on them and drop chunky black bordered yellow subtitles to that effect into every ancient subtexty same-sex clench/ soulful gaze/ grope scene they could pull out of their save folders. It was glorious. (Unfortunately the thread originator got a hater-pile-on ban again, so couldn’t snag a selection for this post.. -sniff- )

So now ist fanon: “worthy of my grace” soon to be up there with the “I love you body and soul for the rest of my life, even after the fire takes my body, my soul will yadda yadda yadda” 1970’s Bishie love vow. Very queer-inscribed. though Hella No Way would I object if my sweetie…

B+S: ” T! M! I! 

HOFF: “whuttt?”

B+S: “Jeesh… My turn:”

Might not my love — although the curving blade
From whose wide mowing none may hope to hide,
Me long ago below the frosts had laid —
Restore you somewhat to your former pride?
Indeed I think this memory, even then,
Must raise you high among the run of men.

HOFF: “D’Awwwww! Mowing! And so the range of available-to-all romantic cheese expands by a few more words. Profit!

…Hey Lookie what I made for Spotted Flower’s HatoMada. I think it is cute:”

B+S: “Fringe appeal, for Genshiken-verse nerds only.”

HOFF: “We should do a podcast next…”


HOFF: “Whaaaaaaaat?”




(1) I had high hopes for Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu because x-gender Najimi Osana wasn’t cranked to weird levels but then the author took a school-girl same-sex crush and cranked Ren Yamai up to psycho lesbian stalker kidnapper levels. She also saves Komi-san’s hair and licks it. See my earlier post on the series: 

(2) Crossdresser, as one correspondent reported their initial impression of me, to me,  after skimming my blog. Also non-binary. So much for disclaimers. I think their take was all kinds of sweet and a compliment, considering that in earlier years best I could manage was a passable Riff Raff for Halloween parties… Dat Tux…


Too Het #4: “Outlanders, Outsiders and Outlaws”

Initially I wanted to slot Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Kobayashi%27s_Dragon_Maid] into the yuri section but recurring complaints about how it plays fast and loose with busty dragons sexually harassing young boys (named Shouta — jeesh!) led me to notice something else. Boobie burlesque routines aside, the manga, the anime and two other spin-off mangas are loaded up with charas who all desperately long for company and affection. Dragons and wage slaves alike, everyone is ronery but some of the charas do ronery wrong:The most serious complaint that can be raised against Dragon Maid is one that is all too common to Japanese ensemble comedies: 

Foreigners, outlanders, gaijin are always too loud, too touchy-feely, clumsy and ignorant of local customs and codes of behavior. They lack discretion. They are inevitably in need of socialization — even if the freedom behind their irresponsible behavior is secretly envied..

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Fourth and last of a 4-part essay series on Japanese vernacular visual narratives conventions surrounding the depiction of intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Series starts here: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/too-het-1-a-tyranny-of-impregnative-mimesis/

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Too Het #3:”There are only girls at this school”

Approaching the yuri genre; Japanese pop visual culture’s stories of women’s same-sex affection and desire with the motive of finding (and perhaps borrowing) visual tropes of physical intimacy – from skinship to sex, adds one further point of view towards an already contested genre. Classifying stories and representational strategies according to imputed audience’s gaze seems to be the simplest way at first to try to winnow out obviously exploitative girl-on-girl-action porn that was custom-built for horny guys’ immediate needs and not much else. From there on, it gets complicated.

hanjuku_joshi_011 girls school web

A wide range of readers, including straight guys can develop a taste for light romantic melodrama which yuri does very well, thus avoiding the need to sneak into bookstores at night to purchase Harlequin romances. Neither should we discount the appeal of watching the main character(s) progress through a shadow-of-lesbian (or even semi-realistic lesbian) bildungsroman, especially when we can cheer the character(s) on from a safe emotional distance. I have speculated on yuri as a site for such an expanded take on the iyashikei effect, even as this emotional distance risks trivialising real lesbian subjectivities.

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Part 3 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

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Too Het #2: ‘Unlimited rulebook! Boku wa kime-gao de sou itta’

“…She said in a poised voice…”

There are a few things that commend the BL (Boys Love) genre to its creators and traditional core audience that madden the outside observer. Why can’t fujoshi just be satisfied with regular heterosexual pr0n? They could amp it up with more romance or schmexy and even change the characters so that they can act freer from societal restrictions; why do they have to use shadow-of-gay-men characters to act out their prefered bodice buster pulp fictions? If the characters are guys, why make them sometimes – but only sometimes – follow a strict formulaic script that ill-fits the bodies and what anyone who cared to ask would find out about IRL (In Real Life) guy:guy sex? Why does one subset of the genre insist that the story is far more emotionally poignant and melodramatically overwrought if neither of the two characters considered themselves “gay” before their fateful encounter? Does the problem with the BL genre lie mostly within the yaoi sub-genre and does yaoi even exist any more?

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 2 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

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Too Het #1: A tyranny of impregnative mimesis

Manga whoopie for the disappoint.

Futari Ecchi; seinen manga, Young Animal/ Young Animal Arashi (extra chapters only)
by Katsu Aki, 74 Volumes, Hakusensha, January 1997 – present
[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futari_Ecchi ]

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 1 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Continue reading

Japan trip 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Kite flying! Art exhibitions! Touristy stuff!

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

I am so sick of winter. Bleh!

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

This year too.

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5: Kio’s Gate

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5
Kio Shimoku, Thrice yearly manga in Rakuen Le Paradis magazine

Free web extra chapter 29.5 Dec 30, 2018:
via https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol28/trial/1230_kio/

Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on  Amazon Japan (kindle) #29 Feb 28, 2019
Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on Amazon Japan (kindle)  #28 Oct 31, 2018

WARNING: Spoilers and lewdz ensue.

Horny on Main:

English language fan-translations of Kio Shimoku’s follow-up to his Genshiken saga have fallen way behind, leaving only rabid determined readers to search out other language scans and try their hands with phone translation apps. As well, a vocal number of the old-guard Genshiken fans have walked away from Spotted Flower as sequel, bitter that the author slammed his two most prized creations together for a few pages of furtive guy-secks. Much powder was burnt discussing if Spotted Flower can even be considered a sequel to the Genshiken, or even if it was all a dream, or a doujin-within-a-manga, penned by a 29 year old Ogiue.

I think we all missed something. Slow on the uptake. Sensei pulls out the bamboo cane and starts doing emphasis whacks, as if at some crusty zazen class.

Spotted Flower is here for the lewdz!

There used to be a heck of a lot less sex in the Genshiken. Think back. Horny virgins. Much allusion to sex and desire and “enjoyment” and DIY doujin porn yet no sight of it. Three eventual couples but even among them, intimacy treated like murder in Greek tragedies. Performed off-stage. Saki in the original Genshiken letting slip that Kousaka did her while gaming, Ohno’s famous “This is what I…” as well as one vague reference to cosplay fun with Tanaka. Ogiue cheesed that Sasahara doesn’t act more “forceful’. Otherwise it was teasing allusions all the way down, even with Angela and Keiko underfoot.

Rakuen LeParadis has a completely different readership demographic and Spotted Flower is a different property but perhaps we all were thrown by Saki/The Wife’s pregnancy. The characters are all grown up now. They get to do sex but somehow adult married sex feels disenchanted, less than as if they were still bright and shiny young things. Boring adults are boring as they get bored. They have nothing but their old otaku hobbies to do any more except fuck, and then fuck around. And thence back to work. Perhaps we were tricked into considering awkward married intimacy as somehow less lewd than???

By the time Kio-sensei was ready to go on a tear, we had all been properly set up.

One IRL year ago – the pace of Spotted Flower time crawls with its thrice yearly releases – Madarame was trying to get Sasahara to stand as alibi for Hato’s scent on a housecoat and was doing a damn poor job of it; turning the meetup into a brag session about some definitely-not-boring married 30-somethings’ sex. At the same time, Sue had come upon her napping boss Ogiue having a mildly hawt dream and had snapped; not merely stealing a waking kiss, but grabbing Ogiue’s boobs and vowing (in an echo of their first meeting) to steal her panties.

Chapter 27.5
Editor Endou attempts to gain more information from Ogiue about Asaska-sensei (Hato’s pen-name – possibly Hato/Yajima as a ‘circle’) and ends up going out drinking with Ogiue’s group plus Hato and Yajima after a day of convention doujin selling. Endou does her best to put aside her questions as to why Hato/ Asaka-sensei had a boner under her dress that one time, telling herself that her job is to encourage creativity. She then proceeds to get blind drunk and has to be carried by Yajima back to Hato and Yajima’s place – where it appears festivities continued. The next morning, Endou wakes foggy and hung over and bolts into the shower/ bath room (typically the toilet bowl has its own separate “water closet” in Japanese homes) where she gets a full-monty nekkid reveal of a just-showered Hato. Endou screams…

Chapter 27.5.2
Sue continues to sexually harass Ogiue with her big boobs. Ogiue ends up with her head under Sue’s top and decides to turn around and go for it.

Chapter 28
Ohno visits Saki, bringing her own baby and nurses both kids. Saki nods off from exhaustion. When she wakes, she tells Ohno that she suspects that her husband has cheated on her. Unsaid is that we all know that Saki knows damn well with who.

Chapter 29
Sasahara is at Ogiue’s and Sue is sitting next to Ogiue. As Sue gets overenthusiastic, perhaps in an effort to spite the boyfriend, Sasahara acts as if he he is enjoying the show then lets slip that he has heard big gossip. Ogiue, guessing what he is thinking about Sue’s antics, proposes a threesome in exchange for spilling the goods. Sue goes into shock, visibly traumatized as Sasahara is left speechless.
In a final panel, Mada is heading home from work.

Chapter 29.5 (free web extra)
It is immediately after the hangover morning naked shower reveal. Hato had been thinking about a newly acquired naughty doujin while showering and was sporting an erection when Endou bumbled in. Endou-san is traumatized. Yajimacci angrily shoos Hato to the bedroom and tries to calm/ explain matters to their editor. Yajima even tries to sell Endou on the idea of Hato/ Asaka-sensei coming out as a fujoshi trans woman but this flips Endou’s ‘pro’ switch: the idea is shot down as likely to be taken as a stunt. Yajima senses that she is on the verge of losing their editor and plays her ace. Yes, sensei and her are a couple but sensei has had an “it’s only him” male crush since their university club days. Endou goggle mode to %110, coolant pressure rising, editor re-captured. When Hato is fetched back into the living room, Endou-san is fully dazzled.

The next issue of Rakuen LeParadis is due out at the end of February 2019.

A few points of note. Props again to the earlier correspondent who characterised Merei Yajima’s management and in-relationship style as “policing Hato’s gender and sexuality”. Merei policing mode at max. At least the cursed demotion to fudanshi status was avoided; fujoshi-dom instead advanced as the main reason/explanation for Hato’s presentation and top surgery. Even then the women’s’ fan homosocial/ magic circle that is BL threatens to evaporate for Endou-san:

“Yajima: So, you’re still willing to continue working with us, right?
Endou: I- I guess… I guess it would be fine, but… / I’m not sure if I can talk about BL as freely as before… But it should be okay…?”
— Spotted Flower, chapter 29.5, pps 10-11 Translated script by athrun_chan

…Which forces Merei to play her ace.

Wait for the sneaky self-satisfied-author kicker. The last words in the chapter mumbled by the now-fascinated Endou are in the nature of:

“You like BL, but that’s not quite it. I thought that…”
— ibid p14

Kio-sensei is slipping us the notion that the neat little indeterminate-Hato puzzle he built for his Genshiken Nidaime readership has now hooked an in-story bystander. Once again Hato becomes both fujoshi creator/ consumer/ fangirl and male remainder whose same-sex desires can be offered up as bounty to the fujoshi collective. Can Endou make the conceptual leap? She had already granted tentative lesbian couple status to Yajima and Hato (a not unheard-of judgement as acknowledged by Yajima) but lesbian fujoshi are no big deal in their fandom. What is missing is the usual “heart-of-a-girl” placeholder-ism for a trans* /genderqueer identity. Only the unique trans-fujoshi conceit remains. There will be no table manned by CYAN publishing reps (Endou’s company. I’ve seen that logo before; is it a call out to one of Spotted Flower’s publishing company Hakusensha’s IRL divisions?) at any future Tokyo Pride parade. Not yet. Then again, Kio Shimoku’s critical view of fujoshi socials tracks with a 2000’s era (and earlier) apolitical/ socially disengaged view of BL fandom. Some suggest that this is changing.

However Japanese publishers, even in 2019 remain known for their cautious, conservative incrementalism (backed, tested and proven with sales figures). Endou-san’s division might anthologise select Asaka-sensei doujins but their bread and butter appears to be work-safe properties that ‘pro’ mangaka like Ogiue churn out. Ogiue’s circle might still whomp up some ‘good stuff” for big conventions but that’s a special treat for hardcore fans. Asaka-sensei must remain a trade secret for now.


I never completely got the existential shock that drove a significant number of Genshiken and even Genshiken Nidaime fans to make such a big deal out of whether Spotted Flower was a ‘true’, voice-of-god, cannon sequel. From the beginning, Kio-sensei’s pro-forma denials, wrapped in legal and industry rituals for an author two-timing different publishing companies made any final and definite pronouncement impossible. From a Schrödinger’s Spotted Flower, the obvious resolution, a wink and a nod toward the fannish conceit of the AU (alternate universe) seemed an inevitable step, especially since Japanese pop fiction is jammed to the rafters with time looping and probability shifting stories.

Spotted Flower ch 35:
Drunk Hato, Yajima and Endou garbage-pick an ancient IBN laptop and a microwave oven on the way home from a post-convention piss-up.

Few hardcore Spotted Flower detractors were ready to make the conceptual leap. Most who wouldn’t seemed to be guys. I might be wandering into wild speculation-land but guys don’t generally immerse as much in fanfiction culture. Even if aware of the lore, could the AU trope possibly be too ‘gendered’ for serious manly-fan consideration? Or the consideration of a subtype of guy fan? Give stuff like that a chance to get loose and next thing, it’s all multiple probability rotten fangirl shipping fic all the time. All the way down. Rinse, repeat.

Only a dream? Ok. A doujinshi-fied roman-a-clef that turns out to be authored by the “real” Ogiue. Cool Story Bro!. Kio Shimoku wanting to wreak misery and heartbreak upon the Old-boy Genshiken fandom, using his insidiously powerful ball-crushing attention-whoring gender-bent Hato creation as a 10-ton shithammer? Always suspected as much. Everything Hato Touches Dies!


What sad lack of imagination! Kio Shimoku got to the laptop and microwave oven first. If the author does it, it is no longer an AU. It took a bit of effort but he created a probability line where everyone lives, gets bored with their riajuu lives and starts fucking around. Then they really go at it. A lot!

Behold! Kio Shimoku’s ecchi adult ensemble rom-com achieves a stable divergence value.

Hijinx ensue! Who gets threesomed first?

Also; never stop reading or scanlating Spotted Flower.


Shimoku’s Basilisk.

Time enough for rotten doujins

It is important to consider perspectives.

“Saito highlights that BL “characters overcome the taboo of homosexuality, thereby proving that their love is truer and purer than that of heterosexual couples and “real” gay men.” (Saito, 2011: 183) She sees the relationships depicted in BL as having severe implications for “real” heterosexual characters and “real” gay men because of the idyllic romance depicted that typically conquer time, space, heterosexuality, homophobia, and wide range of possible trials. Similarly, Mizoguchi argues that “when yaoi protagonists say ‘I’m not gay, I just love you,’ they are also saying that those gay men who love other men for their male bodies are creeps.” (2008: 134) Both Mizoguchi and Saito argue that the disavowal reifies “real-life” gay men/identity by, in effect, suggesting the yaoi pair’s relationship is pure because it lacks the taint of homosexual desire. However, I question to what extent readers will differentiate between “real-life” gay men and BL manga characters as “different.” This is not to say that readers will expect “real-life” gay men to be like BL characters, but that the expression of homosexual romance is the same. McLelland reports similar findings with over half of female respondents under 35 declaring support for homosexuality as another form of love. (2000: 70) While Mizoguchi and Saito’s observation are not necessarily off-base, but the subtleties of their reading is not necessarily one that fans would notice.”

— “What’s So Queer About Boys Bonking?” A Queer Analysis of Gender Normativity and Homophobia in Japanese Boys’ Love Manga” MA Thesis; Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) September 17th, 2012 by John Francis pps 25-26

“Hello, I’m a liberal middle-aged white guy in a movie. Although I’m very supportive of LGBTQ and POC friends, often offering concrete aid, I’ll still constantly slip up and say things that show I can never truly understand… godDAMMIT this is just me in real life, FUCK this game, fuck!”
–Redacted well-meaning liberal middle-aged white guy on Twitter

January 2019. A new year begins. Regular readers may notice that my previous “12 days of Anime” series of posts wound down abruptly. I plead the holidays, “local state”‘s bureaucratic engines suddenly target-locking on my concerns and a really nasty flare-up of one of those middle-age-related health things that, even if they are a Real Effing Drag™, are not (yet) chronically debilitating or fatal. Also, I am getting used to my high-spec bionic eyeballs (BL SofPort Advanced Optics Aspheric IO Lenses). Yup, a cataract snuck up on me last year, scared the crap out of me; the doc told me best to do both eyes and now for the first time since I was 5 years old I don’t need to wear glasses. Except when I need to see anything closer than 4 feet. Grrrrr. I can’t cut my toenails without 3.00+ cheaters!

TLDR: I don’t write well when I hurt, focussing on the screen is annoying and I have paperwork shyte-shyte after me. Most of all that has been dealt with. So do I finish up those 12Days posts?

Oh lookie, a shiny shiny new thing!

Finding this nifty 2012 Masters thesis in a link in a 2016 blog post about Fujoshi [ I noticed a ping-back to my blog, so: https://shiraai.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-f-word/ ] prompts me to try to tease apart a few more of the strands that entangle the “queer-ness” as well as the “heteronormativity” of BL and the fujoshi project.

“Boys’ Love manga grew in popularity in the United States at the start of the 21st century. While I cannot recall the exact year I first came in contact with the genre, likely sometime around 2005 or 2006, my first BL manga was Shinobu Kokoro – Hidden Heart – by Matsumoto Temari.I remember purchasing the book, unaware of the content, but attracted to the art style. I always favor the BL manga featuring androgynous ukê characters. My involvement as a passive fan of the genre over the years formulated my interest in queer theory and gender studies, because I always identified and found interesting the absence of sexual identity. I am sure that my continual enjoyment of the genre is seeing a romance that defies the expectations of both heterosexuality and homosexuality, an expression I view as queer and similar to my own position and identity. For me, Boys’ Love manga provide(d) a significant impact on how I have crafted my queer identity. In this regard, I am heavily invested in queering BL manga, which is why I want to problematize the issues that interrupt and problematize the enjoyment of BL and its
–ibid p30 Chapter 4: Concluding for a Queer Appreciation of BL Manga

Theory Moe time! I am assuming that the author identifies as male – though I could be wrong and as “queer” in the sense of attempting to surpass the role limitations that a strict “gay guy”, let alone “straight guy” identity would entail. At a short 39 pages, the work is interesting in that it examines some of the value and attractiveness of the genre to a queer reader of stories made by/for a fandom “marked” as originally majority (%90) women, with those women equally “marked’ as majority “straight” or at least operating within a “heterosexual” framework.

Whew! Disclaimers! More: why is old pale-skin straight-boy me (Later, from jail/ I sent a brace of telegrams/ to the right people/ explaining my position. –Thompson 1965) mooching around this stuff? Huh? The value of this work is not only that one gets to peek into the thicket guided by a queer POV but it’s enquiry into modes of post-yaoi-ronso identity category blurring. How does a “queer” guy look at the women-written bonking bishies?

It has two main faults or at least shortcomings for my tastes and towards the ends I plan to bend my argument towards: First, it really, really situates itself in the mid 2000’s. The genre has evolved since. Examples that refer to Japanese “gei” tropes are even older. Furthermore, in exploring a wider “queer” subjectivity it compresses ‘heteronomativity’ into a screeching white-hot ball of GOP voter patriarchial whatever.

Which blurs SOME of the reasons why all those Japanese nominally straight women (and many more) find it all so yummy.

What the paper DOES well is go through arguments, sometimes using Dr Akiko Mizoguchi as a straw-lesbian-BL-enthusiast-and-academic-authority, to highlight aspects of BL (and those that can be transcribed to other queer-for-nominally-straight genres such as Josou/Otokonoko and even Yuri) that are often minimised, if only because they are a bit harder to stuff into a sound bite.

There is an odd parallelism/ congruence in the view of the paper’s author, as a queer reader searching for stories of relationships by actors less-marked by social roles; a view that he considers as “queer” and the views of the within-a-heterosexual-framework “dreaming in yaoi” rotten girls who want a fun p0rny gooey romance featuring (their choice of) good-looking characters (guys) getting all hot and bothered about each other without having to OBEY a thicky stack of disappointing set social scripts that guys and girls are supposed to follow. Hey lookie, lust hits, they go mad. Society has ZERO to say about how it plays out. After lots of angsty schmex, tadah! They be in love. OTP! (One True Pairing) OTP!

The rotten girls want stories outside of “heteronormality” as much as the author of the paper enjoys stories outside of “homonormalities” (and “heteronormalities”), the latter preference getting shorthanded to “queer”. You could draw one of those intersecting circle graphs with “rotten” as one circle and “queer” as the other. But one more thing sneaks through the net: these stories are, beyond 15page doujins full of porny “the good stuff” fundamentally romance stories. Harlequin Nurse novels for those of us who need a dismissive stereotypical analogue. Bodice busters; the dashing privateer and the haughty heiress, etc etc. Only done as all-guys.

And as I have noted previously, the rest of us straight Borg (guy variant) can now and again fall prey to the siren call of hawt and steamy romance tales too; as long as these center on two soon to be nekkid with each other ladies. That gives us cover… and nekkid ladies.

We all know how to fuck but what do any of us know of how to love?

Otherwise we seek refuge in traditional social roles, because they are reassuring and if we iz guys, we are supposed to get more privilege out of the song and dance. This is less than optimum because “I have a job, so you make dinner, my babies and obey me” isn’t working so well any more. Social norms and law aside, the economy will grind any such bullshit into dust soon enough. So, what next? She is also going to also get a part-time job and offer tribute to you? If you really really cannot survive without a submissive partner, you should take up either an extreme sexual fetish or join a cult. If the latter, best start your own cause Holy Leader gets all, while you get to wind up your incel rage into paroxysms that serve him; not you.

A kinky leather wardrobe might be easier than some of the other net-shyte out there.

Here’s a nifty Twitter exchange that demonstrates the point; complete with the sound of a whole bunch of trolls’ whiney little needinesses shattering.

“A real woman is ready to sacrifice her career for the man she truly loves.
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,976. Dec 24, 2018

“The hets aren’t okay. Also, in what universe would someone even *need* to sacrifice a career to love someone unless that someone is a needy asshole who won’t let you have a life?”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu

“All the school in the world can give you a
But only a man can give you a “Mrs” so be humble… 😌😌 ”
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,977

“Actually a woman who marries a woman can still legally use “mrs” to refer to her married state and I bet she won’t have been asked to “be humble” for it by her partner in doing so.”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu

Yuppers, they did it. Them darn gays “killed marriage”. If by marriage the above trolls really, really believe their crap — in which case they will either end up forever ‘ronery or on a sex-offender list. I have seen too many happy straight marriages fall apart because buddy suddenly got all paranoid and controlling. Don’t do that! Only villains do that. Your mate is a free human being with agency and the law insists on equality (mostly, less in some GOP States). You might be able to minge your mate into getting your way for a while but in the end all you will win is a mouthful of ashes. You knew that from the start, didn’t you? Self-sabotage; the ultimate wank.

This soon veers out of the lane over into the old “its the fault of -class of individuals-“, rather than actually using whatever democratic structures of government are available to push back at the capitalist/ mercantilist power structures that want everyone to work without job security or benefits, for peanuts, as well as pushing for the usual basket of social safety net supports; you know the drill. The urge to individualise changing socio-economic conditions that cause extreme societal role friction is strong. Scapegoating remains a popular response; there are plenty of wrong-headed personal reasons to wink, nod and mouth the bullshit. You might even be ready to cut off your own nose so that “those people” don’t get to have one on their faces but in the end it is futile.

Muda muda muda, you fell for it again! Global corporate capitalism continues unimpeded!

…And that’s why Japan, BL (and their other dream-in-queer genres) are so fascinating.

A whole genre of women’s fiction has been DIY’ing allegorical glimpses of alternatives for almost 40 years now.

Mandatory disclaimer: These shadows of real LGBTQIA lives and/or practices mean something completely different to actual readers who live in that life. Or IRL as the otaku-speak goes. Their approach, enthusiasm and/ or disdain for these representations (often a mix of all of the above) are separate, yet in parts, congruent to the concerns of us boring Borg-like “hets”. Again; that is why this paper is so useful. It recognises but slips past, then returns, then drags off in a different direction these issues from a queer POV. Any group develops strong normalities of how that group ideally acts. There is always plenty of under the surface jostling over what is the right thang for any particular time and location. It too gets suffocating.

To appreciate how, and why this is useful to a majority subjectivity requires putting “Heteronomativity’ up on the hoist and taking the air-wrench to it.

Whirrrrr… whirrrr…. Whackackackack… whirrr.

Part of this “Heteronormativity” is of course that there are so darn many of us all over the place. We end up distorting the socio-economic gravity field. Whether old-style haters, well-mannered contemporary citizens or whether our polite behavior masks a rapacious and instrumental curiosity (or all of the above), any time we gaze upon “the other” that is the “queer” (etc) we do so for our own subjective and undoubtedly selfish reasons.

Similarly, we outlanders looking in and doing kitchen sink etc (now expanded to social anthropology) can pretend to understand the contemporary Japanese experience (build a teeny tiny imperfect model based on our concerns) from say; a whole bunch of weird little comics – including self published naughty doujinshi and whatever stats and trends we can shake out of the English language web pages of The Japan Times leavened with the occasional expose by Jake Adelstein (& co.) in Buzzfeed. Oh; Rocket News. (maybe Kotaku too)

Before I further “fetishsize” and “other-ize” the Japanese experience, I should lead off with the inescapable one big thing that makes Japan’s Culture so tasty to “us”. The Japanese are as fascinated and prone to “fetishsizing” and “other-izing” us as we are of them. Our eyes meet from across the room, then our gazes lock. This is like some kind of romcom.

Oh heck! One… More… Time:

“More than fifty years after the war’s end American scholars are still organizing knowledge as if confronted by an implacable enemy and thus driven by the desire either to destroy it or marry it.”
— Intro, Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture. Edited by Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.

Not that this grants an all-day pass for the above fetishsizing” and “other-izing” but we can at least be aware of the slip and back-and-forth exchange between our respective, hungry subjectivities. Stick to BL-ish stuff: 1970’s proto BL bishonen works. Why so often set in some pre-WWI exotic fantasy Europe? Why, in the 1980’s and 90’s was the rich exotic foreigner seme such a big BL thang? How about exotic, dangerous foreign locales and locals instead? instead? Wikipedia is your friend: Banana Fish (orig and contemporary anime vers.) On a het level, note what was swiped and repurposed to serve in Black Lagoon.

Oh Heck, veering all over the place. Eyes on the road!

How do you strip away the society-sez-you-gotta-act-in-these-roles from the steamy romantic (as well as the smutty) stuff? Kind of like how you get rid of the peaceful obedient, law-abiding well-ordered toxic hierarchical and suffocating Japanese corporate social rules so you can help the really strong hawt merc babe reload her guns as the edgy-dangerous South East Asian Dive Bar™ you and her are having a drink in turns into a free-fire zone. Damn! That’s exotic. That’s adventure!

And now I have conflated a BL classic with a Merc adventure series. Facepalm.

As well, it is not that the majority of Japanese women have turned into asexual and/or lesbian BL-marathonning low-level office drudges, any more than that the majority of Japanese men have either gone gay and/or decided to marry a hologram (She is NOT a hologram! Her name is Hatsune Miku and she is a -minor, Japanese- God. Also a Shinkansen pilot!) as they try to hold onto their office jobs or precarious freeter/ temp gigs.

Except for the office drudge/ precarious employment freeter/temp stuff.

As far as I can make out, the only non-toxic ideal heterosexual romantic make-a-life Japanese fantasy story left, short of lottery wins and saving incredibly rich corporate exec ladies for train drunks is marrying into/starting a family restaurant and/or grocery store. Everybody, including the eventual kids take turns stocking/cooking/serving and standing behind the counter. After the day’s work is over, the happy couple cook dinner together, supervise the kids doing their homework and then retire to their someone-tosses-and-turns-at-night-so-twin-beds where a quiet slide-over and some not too noisily enthusiastic measures of happiness can still be regularly indulged in at night.

Such dreams are probably a lot harder to pull off than imagined. Also, no one wants to leave the big city to marry into a farm family any more. No one.

Extra research: do a quick survey of manga/anime depictions of MC’s families from 1980 through to current. Do the survey with mainstream/ het-normed manga/ anime. Note how first Dad then Mom evaporates. Was it a trick to “destroy the family”? A device to focus attention on the potential for (forced) individual agency by the MC? If it picks up some identification points from the readership; bonus!

Among Japanese women, even BL reading fujoshi, the mythic ideal of financially secure good-wife-wise-mother-hood still holds a powerful appeal. Pity it is so out of reach for so many and/or what if the guy turns into useless needy, controlling man-baby? Shit! What if he gets unemployed and/or starts screwing around, drinking too much and blowing the savings on the ponies? What if the fool goes and gets himself dead? More than half of Japanese single mothers live below the poverty line. Child support is an optional civil contract matter – even if Japanese family courts will always put the kid(s) in care of the mother. Even if she manages to keep things stable and hubby brings home the sarraryman pay cheque, everyone is worked to near-death. Where is the mad romance?

Let’s destroy all the social rules and roles and scripts that get in the way and take two bodies with physical and socio-economic strength/ freedom/ agency and bang them together and get some theoretical yet intense romance, with steamy schmex. Bonus twice of what looks good to the readership without some cartoon bimbo with a huge rack in your face and buzz-killing your fujoshi enjoyment. Hey wait! Them is guys! They have no idea how to do romance. Fallback: they have friendship and guy friendship is supposed to be mythically stronger and more intense than m:f or f:f friendship.

Note that they DO NOT ask on 2chan for dating advice, even if they crave the reassurance of herd approval.

Damn! Lookie at those hunks. They even do more than grab tits, crotch and then hump until someone prematurely ejaculates. They do the nasty BETTER than real guys. They have (gasp) multiple orgasms! (Japan needs to get to know a few reputable online pharmacies from India – yes, these exist; also a great way to load up on anthrax-strength antibiotics fast and cheap too.)

Back to the fun light reading. Buried somewhere under the guys working out who is going to act out some of the catalog of available uke roles (and/ or seme roles) there might even be a dab of aspirational romantic fantasy modelling. And this is far less of a useless fancy than say, what Rock offers his sarraryman readers while he guards Revvy’s back.

This is not exactly a new idea, even in the West. Go dig out Heinlein’s thicky 1973 sci-fi epic Time Enough for Love if you want an ancient American male-gaze version. Of course the two med-techs are both happy that one of them ends up a woman and the other a man, but the sci-fi societal conventions were made clear from the beginning of the tale. In such semi-formal workplace hookups, gender is incidental. Also everyone wears Asbestos Suits (cf Leacock, 1911) If you can make it through to the end, our annoying MC even gets to time travel back to bonk his Mom! (She has no idea of his identity but considers the daliance fun and somewhat sweet). Also circumspect when it comes to RAH’s spanky fetish.

Heinlein can re-het-norm even the queerest in-the-future setup. And he did so half a century ago. Also he preached too much. Still, many of the trolls out there might benefit from reading this one. Within their comfort zone. Not like anyone is forcing them to read Dhalgren or anything.

To tie this up with a bow, what our essayist relentlessly marks as “queering” looks damn close to a straight instrumental gaze that wants to eliminate distractions while positing a fantasy level playing field. The readership can relax without getting their noses re-rubbed in annoying IRL scripted roles and conventions and maybe, perhaps even figure out some approaches or desiderata for that most elusive prize: the egalitarian romantic life pair-bond.

I previously mentioned the Yuri genre, taken from the view of the straight male gaze. Other odder fetish-y genres have grown in prominence since the 2000’s, some of which I find ridiculously funny and yet useful in teasing out what is acceptable to an expanded heterosexual male-gaze subjectivity, what is marked as ‘gay’ or ‘gei’ but still might be within the realms of guy-ness and what is irrevocably tainted by the touch of the fujoshi gaze. As I have previously ventured:

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

But the problem goes far deeper than this, lying in the modeling of fictional, idealised (or less) same-sex/ gender-fluid relationships created for the consumption and entertainment of heteronormative subjectivities. As a straight man, I can read and model, even consider multiple, even conflicting fictions/ models of such desires but in the end, I must acknowledge that what finally gives the real desires that these stories are shadows of, the weight of authenticity is precisely that I will never fully understand them. If I could, I would distrust them as mere fictions. This is how all those het-ish tropes sneak into BL; many more examples abound.

The mirror distorts; the reflections therein bear glimpses but not fascination.

Too Complicated. Wait; figured it out. Blame the millennials!

What little more-contemporary BL-ish stuff that I have stumbled across and not freaked out over (just moi, working on it) has meanwhile gone on to sand off some of the rigid seme-uke rusty bits (even as we outsiders simplify an entire catalog of variations on the seme/uke theme) in the genre. You can flip back through this blog for examples. Consider the lonely angst of the younger chara in Rendou Kurosaki’s ON or the ways in which the Utsotsuki Lily BL spinoff gives the (young woman) reader who might care to consider ways and means for getting a guy’s attention while demonstrating that yup, she not only likes but wants mr. slow on the uptake guy THAT WAY — a safe stand-in to work out how to go about it – or at least dream of doing so. Happy romantic and physical pairing achieved! (and c’mon, that bishie boys set-up is so damn heterosexual transposed “I know what you like” girl takes the lead seduction that, oh well, right… Margaret Magazine. For now the readership is just enjoying the show and taking a few notes.)

With the Genshiken spin-off Spotted Flower, we have a slightly more conflicted rendering. Almost as if, IF those two were going to “give it a try” they should have developed some spine(s) and gone at each other while still single and still in University. Bhuttt Noooooo….. (WTF izzhe goin on about? It’s a series and sequel that took up a lot of posts in this blog until the main series ended 2yrs ago; the kinda-sequel still comes out 4x a year.)

Now if I could only find a guy queer-theorist take on isekei (I was reincarnated as a….) stories. I have exactly ONE example of a woman-centric one: Magic Market. Are there fujoshi isekei? Queer approaches to BL isekei? Again; chercher le dissatisfaction done with a genre of escapist fiction. Scan with all available sensors, consolidate and report findings! Oh Fuck! Most isekei start off as net-novels written by guys(?) whose pen names translate out as “Emperor restoring repulser of foreigners“.

Maybe that genre needs a more subtle approach.

Also, read the thesis paper. Good’un!

12 days 2018 #6: my isekai power is comiket

Mahoutsukai no Insatsujo/ A Witch’s Printing Office
Story: Mochinchi, art: Yasuhiro Miyama, manga, 2 volumes ongoing

“Kamiya Mika is a “magic printer” who can create grimoires and other magical books for witches and wizards to use, despite having no powers of her own. Desperate to find a spell that could send her back to her home world, Mika decides to create a “Magic Market” where magicians can trade and show off their creations.”

I don’t know much about the Isekai (another world) genre beyond the usual “hero ends up in fantasy world with magic power(s)” bit and that they are such a plague upon the land that last year a big Japanese light novel contest banned them. I’m sure there are other examples of a young woman main char who ends up in, etc. but I like the conceit behind A Witch’s Printing Office.

Could have been called: “I was a fujoshi transported to a magic world so I started a comiket for grimoires to get back to my world because I know how to do it.” 

Anyway, I think the idea is kewl as anything, not to mention being a playful reminder of how powerful the IRL Japanese women’s fandom has always been.

Magical powers, indeed.

12 days 2018 #5: gender and agency in Tripeace

Ten years ago I was following Tripeace. It was a manga, liked well enough by its readers, if a mite too random back in 2008-2011. It never really took off in the outlander anglosphere. If you want to check it on Wikipedia you have to go to the French Wikipedia site. Translated, it sold well in France. Was it ever licensed in English?

Maybe it tried to do too much.

Post-apocalyptic crossdressing action adventure comedy. An incidental spoof on Full Metal Panic‘s Mythril. A world destroyed by war over a rare substance that can either power machines. be worked into megaton-range bombs or miraculously cure the sick, even bring them back from death’s door. A lad, our main character, who has lost all his memories and in a moment of grief, anger and desperation tries a crossdressing bluff against hunter-killer walking tanks. A very very angry young girl who works for the eponymous Tripeace….

If fans remarked upon anything in the series, it was usually the curious anarcho-philosophical organization of the peace force. Team leaders were those who, among with having super powers or skills, had developed their personal philosophy of “peace-making”, expressed in a quirky tripartite formula: “peace, love and X”. Peace, love and violence, peace, love and money, peace love and sleep, peace love and bestiality with sheep, etc…

So maybe I made up the last one.

What stuck me was the more subtle play of gendered modes of action behind the comedy of mistaken identity. Sure you had the usual Shakespear-ish pastoral comedy stuff – suitably updated for the sci-fi war setting but something odder began to pop up the instant that the girl Shiro developed an admiration crush on the self-confident and resourceful “Nanako from the other, mystery division of Tripeace”.

In retrospect, this might have been asshat plotting because Shiro -could- be read as a young lesbian and here she is being fooled… Fortunately Tripeace is very, very thin on romance. Later there will be increasing amounts of fanservice but for most of the story it is all shonen manga style battles, even if Shiro did far more of it than Nana.

Nana of course gets his own admiration-crush on Shiro, even if Shiro doesn’t think much of him, or guys in general; though she respects her ultraviolent squad leader Belial. She is none too pleased that Nana (male) gets mysteriously accepted into Tripeace as a junior, lowest ranked fuck-up and gopher. Belial and his assistant think the Nana-Nanoka thing was a suitable response to their challenge and -shame on them-  think Shiro / Nanoka is not only funny but might eventually “help” her in some way. Or they just have asshat senses of humor.

Shiro is hella strong for her size, dresses shabby-butch (she’s too short for the suits she favors) and hates everything. Later it turns out that she has a load of guilt from her past, plus mom issues; Her mom is a psycho cold-blooded super bomb making uber mad-scientist. Nana has his own genocidal backstory as well that gradually dribbles out.

All this would have made a fairly standard fighting adventure sci-fi story without the guy main chara crossdressing.But then we wouldn’t get any of the fun of messing with ideas of who does what how in battle adventures.

Shiro hates heroics. Previously, as a member of Belial’s squad, she respected his ultraviolent approach to peacemaking. Smash anything and everyone doing war but now the approach leaves her feeling hollow.

Nana in male form has been training with Tripeace battle bots so as not to be completely useless in a crunch but as Nanoka, eschews violence, saves wounded foes and takes ridiculous risks to mediate between combattants. Which just seems to win her ever more confrontations with overpowered psycho baddies.

Then Shiro has to go off and fight her psycho mad scientist mom.

When Shiro faces her big last boss battle, it of course has to be Nana, his memories – including the ones of his founding and leadership of a nihilistic terrorist organization – intact. -And- He still likes to crossdress. But in the end, both are left exhausted after a classic shonen dusk-to-dawn gag battle. The story ends before we find if any of this nonsense leads anywhere.

Whew! I forgot how random Tripeace was. Also it was full of clumsy, naive gender politics. Whatever.. It was still fun.