An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

The tragedy of our predicament, when we are within ideology, is that when we think we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.”
– Slavoj Žižek (no, really)

Disenchanted and disappointed long-term fans aside, It is obvious where the attraction of the current Genshiken lies. The mangaka is also playing it coy; otakus and fujoshis are no longer the societal pariahs they once were, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise is now a comfortably boring slice of life sitcom. There is plenty of fun yet to be had, especially with the longstanding puzzle challenge: guess what Hato is!

Let’s try again. If you figure out what Hato “is”, you get the “reason” Kio Shimoku is telling the story!

Hato is (/written as):

A straight male otaku who was inexplicably drawn to BL, who uses female presenting personas to enjoy the fandom surrounding BL and who abstracts the desire portrayed within the genre to his own condition (whatever that may be).

He crossplays a fujoshi to be part of the charmed circle of fans. His conflicts over reading BL and his fear of being rejected and shamed again leads him to panicked fugue states wherein he offers “gifts” to the fujoshi social when he feels that his position is endangered. First he offers the possibility of shipping himself as a male seme to Madarame’s sou-uke. This causes distress and threatens his position in the group. Then he gives the circle the “gift” of his drawing potential, if they help him to unlock it. He cannot draw a full narrative, only clench scenes. The work is an amazing copy of Kaminaga’s, so he needs support to find his own unique style. Finally he must wear women’s clothes, or at least underwear when drawing. Boy-drawn BL might be too jarring to the circle – this blunts the shock, while retaining some shred of female exclusivity in the ritual production of fujoshi fan-made material.

His latest gift, the creation of Nadeshiko no Genshiken again offers a shipping fantasy/ possibility as a candidate in the Mada harem: a demure, passive ultra-feminine character, erroneously conflated with the josou/ otokonoko (trap) genre. The story that he believes that Madarame has an interest in these provides sufficient cover. As the rest of the harem is mostly composed of peripheral Genshiken affiliates, the circle is not threatened. (Sue really doesn’t belong and has denied membership in the harem, but as magical outlander girl she can claim observer status. This begs the peripheral question: how much could Sue blab? Harem dinner reports? The secret stash of Mada x Hato-chan drawings?)

Why BL (and yaoi)? It does something for Hato. I have previously wondered if he (could be written as having) tried  Bara/ “real” gay-male-made gay comics, but I missed something obvious. Hato has given no indication of finding these appealing. But neither does he offer any proof of interest in conventional m:f narratives, seinen or josei, yuri or even loli. He seems to like Durarara!! – based dojins and the works of a few hard-to-identify circles. He declines to borrow Madarame’s josou games. Male otaku style pr0n-ish loli ecchi stuff “works” on him (at least when in male persona, at comiket, reading the other guys’ hunt list loot) but it holds little of the fascination of rotten-girl authored smut.

Could it be that none of the other genres are interesting enough? Do conventional boy-plots only offer wish fulfilment along lines of now-disenchanted models? Yuri? (the female-authored/shinso variant) The girls are interesting but how to connect? Loli otaku smut? Creepy! Real gay guy comics – we like this, it is fun, you can do this/ fantasize about this, invoke often!

How depressing!

Hato’s fascination for BL seems to skip over commercial products for fan-produced works. His interest highlights the open-source copy and transform nature of fujoshi dojinshi culture. This is not surprising, given his interest in drawing .The rituals of secondary production, the fan communities and their tastes as well as the exchange and sharing of outre enthusiasms promises to be far more interesting than discussing the weaponry featured in Black Lagoon and Jormungand or arguing over which Gundam is cooler. Don’t even start with the ecchi stuff and the waifus – it is cringe inducing. The fujoshi stuff looks more “adult”, but not disenchanted. On a meta- level, his creator could be using Hato to acknowledge the incredible contribution womens’ fandom has made to Japanese manga culture, at the very least for expending story boundaries and serving as the backbone of comiket for the last 25 years. Hato’s fascination is a curious, but earnest tribute.

Contra:
Hato was drawing female Hato being clenched by manly Mada before the harem manifested. Before that he was interested in fantasy m:m erotica. Why can’t he just be a nice well-behaved male-presenting fu-danshi who likes guys? Or has he “the heart of a girl in a boy’s body”? He cannot draw BL in a polished style characteristic of the genre unless he is dressed, not as a fujoshi but as a woman.

Aside: I still think his male persona drawing is interesting – it should have been pushed further to see where it leads. Japan is full of polished manga illustrators, professional and amateur: why add another? – unless to worship his creator.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Wilde (use auto xlate)

As well as these, these and these

Finally, note how Kaminaga’s chiding “You can’t read this stuff without it having some effect“, echoes Dr Mizoguchi, yet Kio Shimoku plays one further trick. The original statement is anti-essentialist and queer (completely straight for the female BL readership doesn’t quite fit), while Kaminaga’s restatement is heteronormative and essentialist (that stuff will make you gay!) Kaminaga situates fujoshi practice firmly within heteronormative female experience, She will soon marry to prove this point. Kaminaga is not (written as being) a nice person.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male homosexual. He wants (is written as wanting) Madarame, as a male subject to another male. All his desires are for other males, (any interest in Kaminaga was misplaced admiration, or even a gesture towards that most elusive of Japanese feelings; ittaikan ) BL provides him an alibi; “its only you” is his way of negotiating his emerging sexuality. He dreams of a romantic, intense monogamous relationship, rather than meeting lots of sex-friends, so he avoids any stereotypically imagined gay “scenes” and/or their fiction; the fantasies provided by BL are more than enough for him at present. His crossdressing is a method, a hobby and a kink. Crossplaying a fujoshi first suggested a possible way to remain closeted and later when Hato as seme proved unworkable, a fall-back strategy. Wow; guess he is a bottom. But watch the drama unfold as he gets cold feet in the harem. Back to fanning over BL guys and his solitary fantasies for now. His creator is spinning a tale by staging a battle between “that stuff will make you gay” vs “that stuff might attract repressed young gay guys – what would happen?

Contra:
Hato presenting as a male is rare within Genshiken-space. This can be finessed if his crossdressing is his naive interpretation of the josou (trap) genre or an earlier take on stereotypically effeminate gay male identities. To naive (or over-enamoured with tradition) folks in Japan, presenting a “drag” feminine persona is seen as fulfilling a normal, if somewhat out-of-date stereotype of public male homosexuality(1). Drawing BL in pantsu is a symptom of a larger kink: Hato enjoys presenting in drag as adjunct of the libidinous charge he derives from his thrice-forbidden (as smut, as gay-ish smut and as a guy reading female smut) fantasy material. If Hato was gay, then he would do gay desire without prodding and what would be the fun of that? If Hato was an emerging transwoman, then the Stands would not try to ship him, because it would not be BL, it would be kind of straight and therefore boring.

Further problem:
this interpretation verges on extremely contentious IRL controversies, being related to the arguments used by hardline female-essentialists to denounce trans folk and inclusive queer ideas of feminism and female identity.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

An emerging, extremely repressed trans-woman. Hato is conflicted and his feelings of being wrong-bodied are just beginning to manifest themselves. Despite saying “I’m a guy”, Hato presents as a female in safe spaces and has idealized female selves; the rebuking Stands. Hato fantasizes about being female and intimate with Madarame (?), is concerned over facial hair when presenting as female, enjoys yaoi because it is a quintessential female libidinized activity and seeks out female socials. Hato naturally prefered to slip into the girls facilities to change (that’s stretching it – Hato feels no existential dread using the male facilities at comiket, except when costumed.) Trans-woman Hato would not be “gay” in her desire for Mada, as she would be female. Any residual male-ness in Hato is being shipped by the emerging female subjectivity via methods suggested by fujoshi enthusiasms, so as to be rid of “the accursed remainder” – how’s that for dragging euro-pop psychology into the Genshiken? Plot mojo comes from the unsuitability of the Genshiken fujoshi social in supporting an emerging transwoman.

Spotted Flower “proves” this. No-honestly-not-Hato-for-contractual-reasons will go on to become a successful BL mangaka, adopt a public female presence and undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Contra:
His internal dialogue as “a crossdressing male BL mangaka” does not acknowledge any gender confusion, simply that the sexualities implied by his interests resist conventional categorization. Initial BL smut drawn by Hato was m:m with him as seme. His first crush was the mighty, yet very female Kaminaga. Query: does the smut he draws for his private Mada x Hato posit him as female or as a crossdressing male?

As well, he has never expressed the feeling of being in the wrong body – the female Hato is an expansion of his self that he has created; She is limited to presenting as a fujoshi in fan-space socials. The Nadeshiko character is purposed to succeed as a harem member; if she was to succeed further by seducing Madarame, it would be cruel and disruptive. The heroic sacrifice also gives the retreat a storybook melodramatic tone. Any flirting has been within a chaste, Sue-chaperoned harem script.

The Stands are remarkably stupid or at least extremely purposeful: the original only teased Hato when he was in male-male ship-able situations, mostly with Madarame. It demanded that BL scripts be played out by male Hato. Perhaps this was to drive him more into a feminine persona, but it was sure a roundabout way of doing it. The second version, the flatter-chested Kaminaga-esque one, demands that he pursue Madarame even when he is in girl-character, but an internalized Kaminaga-ur-fujoshi-ish point of view would only do so if it still saw the core of Hato as male and therefore a target for demands he act out BL scripts. Even if Hato-san acknowledges and assimilates them into his conscious, admitted-to-himself desires, they remain focused on very limited concerns surrounding his fannish enthusiasms.

What little self-hatred or self-destructive behaviour Hato engages does not center around the suppression of a unitary female subjectivity, e.g. admitting that “he” “is a woman trapped in a man’s body”. Hato doesn’t engage in risky sexual behaviour, hang around in seedy bars or even engage in online attention-seeking/ shaming rituals. It is probably a good thing that his creator does not drag out all the tired and insulting stereotypes that suggest that anyone who suffers gender dysphoria issues will self-harm. Hato presents as female in a cloistered, extremely safe and supportive community and has used the space provided to develop new skills, make friends and enjoy normally proscribed enthusiasms. Hato! Check your privilege?

Finally, “word of kami” from Kio Shimoku and Spotted Flower are both notoriously hard to pin down. “Flower” may be any number of things. As well, the recent English language translated interview with the mangaka must be taken with a grain or three of salt, even as it adds very little to arguments one way or another. Contractual obligations forbid him from acknowledging ANY correspondence between Genshiken and Spotted Flower, and besides, he likes to play coy and maintain his secret identity; so even if he could, he wouldn’t. More questions are raised than answered by the doppelganger in Spotted Flower having a “boob job”  – which is how the mangaka lieks it! 

Hato is (/written as):

Originally straight, but inventing his own extreme (big R) Romantic, rebellious queer-ness/ gender-queer-ness. Part of this is a kink that fixates on sempais. All that Mada has to do is give him a pair of slippers and the kid would sit in a corner warming them against his chest (a historical trope beloved by medievalist Japanese fujoshi, as used in Haganai (2)) blubbering for the next hour. Hato holds the view that true romantic love must be powerful enough to break societal rules and bounds; that it is not only the finding of a soul-mate, but an extreme recreation of the self through desire. There are elements of classical masochism in his desires, but these run through fujoshi lore in any case. His cross-play and crossdressing serve to fit him to a fujoshi social, serve to offer the other members exchange and serve to pursue desire itself: gender and sexuality categories be damned – all while transcending, by transgressing not only his male role but the female social as well. The lad likes transgression, as long as it is well-behaved.

There is a strong whiff of narcissism here as well, although narcissism is less of a pathological  than a chronic condition of the modern subject, now that the global economy runs on it.

I repeat: the global economy now runs on narcissism. A bit of it is perfectly acceptable for well-adjusted citizens and don’t you really want an Apple watch?

If he was a transwoman caught in a male body, any romance would still be riajuu-ish. If he was gay, similarly riajuu. If he was “Bi” (that old standby of western slash-fen), he would be riajuu (and indiscriminate) If he gave up on BL and just fixated on loli charas he would still be uncomfortably riajuu, in the sense that all those other desires match up to what is expected of them, now that they are no longer deep dark secrets to be hidden but acceptable market niches and or “tastes”. In this sense, Hato is also Kio Shimoku’s way of dealing with the new-found acceptance that otaku and fujoshi have gained within Japan. He is a further disruption, in essence the last etranger standing in the Genshiken.

Hato’s desire has to be “you and only you” to break societal rules and thereby prove the power of its truth. This also confirms the authenticity of his self and that of the equally true and free and yet to appear soul-mate. This spell always invokes desire for desire, the lover is a phantasm that has yet to appear.

I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

Then they take you.

Once more note that his original cross-play as fujoshi was an uncanny replica of his first crush, now soon to be his sister in-law. If she ever cuts her hair short she will look like her husband’s brother! And she has a bad case of rotten too, so she shares the itch! Hato: avoid family reunions!

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

Otaku-dom is no longer seen as an abject, pariah state, but as an otaku cross-dressing male fujoshi mangaka in training, the transgression is restored, redoubled and redoubled again. All Mada has to do to avoid the drama is to play boring until Risa enrolls.

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

Contra:
All this may be Hato’s cover/ rationalization for an underlying gender dysphoria condition, as it piles absurdity upon contradiction, upon further absurdity. Oh, and he is a manga character, so the mangaka is being clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive.

UPDATE: April 2016, post Genshiken ch122:
In light of the way in which Hato’s sexuality and gender expression was “slipped by” as the harem arc was ended, it is important to acknowledge that the mangaka has somewhat-formally acknowledged his creation’s “queer” not just with the consideration to enter into a same-sex relationship, but with the “fudanshi” identity:

An excerpt from a later post:

What do you mean by Fu-Danshi

K.Nagaike’s improbable Japanese heterosexual male BL fan aside, what exactly does the term “fudanshi” connotate on the street or in the aisles of Comiket, among Japanese fans. Is it “I’m a guy who reads BL” or is it “I’m a guy who probably is interested in guys and reads BL“? Unfortunately English language academic reports list few examples of fudanshi/ male BL fans. One mentioned in an early McLelland article (2) is nominally heterosexual. The Nagaike article that speculates as to the existence of straight fudanshi as “herbivore males” still eludes my grasp, but the summary smells fishy. Over %90 of the audience for BL and yaoi is reported to be female. The remaining %10 is a mystery but if one estimates by the two existing amateur studies, the heterosexual and asexual male readership makes up only %1-%2 of total Japanese readers. It could even be less. Noted Bara artist Tagame Gengoroh is listed as the co-author of the follow-up 2009 study and ventures therein that it would be reasonable to assume that some of the respondents who self-identified as neither “gay” or “bi” could be “closeted”, given the stigma still attached to male homosexuality in Japan.

“One high-school boy says that “It’s not that I’m gay”…. He goes on to say that he and a group of two or three girls buy these magazines and share them. The girls ask him “Ma-kun [his name], how about turning gay (homo ni nachaeba?)”, to which he replies “they say such irresponsible things but, basically, if it’s beautiful than either is OK,” a statement which is followed by the character warai, signifying laughter (presumably the speaker is suggesting an ironic stance to his last statement).

Males who read such fiction, he observes, do so in a context which brings them into proximity with women (as in the reading circle described above). These men are exposed to very different constructions of masculinity than those they would find in a reading circle comprised of other men. Moreover, the images of masculinity present in shōnen’ai fiction are obviously attractive to many women, so a man who is sexually attracted to women, may, either consciously or unconsciously, seek to cultivate them.”

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities , McLelland, p.246 Notes [https://books.google.ca/books?id=5SssBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246#v=onepage&q&f=false]

More on the idea of the straight Japanese fudanshi would be more readily available if the Nagaike article was not locked down behind academic paywalls. The Google Books excerpt seems to indicate that the actual study of fudanshi was done by a japanese aca-fan in 2008-2009. Approximately %20 of the respondents identified as “straight” or “asexual”; which would mean they comprise appx. %2 of all BL readers. Nagaike seems to impose a reading of “herbivore men” on the practice and -to my mind, distressingly – follows up on Dr. Saito Tamaki’s excursion into shota, which she does not differentiate the otokonoko/ josou  genre from.

Do Heterosexual Men Dream of Homosexual Men?: BL Fudanshi and Discourse on Male Feminization by Kazumi Nagaike pp. 189-209 IN: Boys Love Manga and Beyond History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker (2015) Citation:https://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781626740662
Excerpt at: https://books.google.ca/books?id=QAIbBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PT235&ots=IEOdW_57SF&dq=Do%20Heterosexual%20Men%20Dream%20of%20Homosexual%20Men%3F%3A%20BL%20Fudanshi%20and%20Discourse%20on%20Male%20Feminization%20by%20Kazumi%20Nagaike&pg=PT235#v=onepage&q&f=false

I would not be surprised if Kio Shimoku has his mitts on the Japanese study.
The rest of us will have to wait until someone translates:

Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.

Note that the 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
http://doujinshi.mugimugi.org/book/396607/

More: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/taimatsu_torch/

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.ca&sl=ja&u=http://picnic.to/~taimatsu/index.htm&usg=ALkJrhhoWTTK5M2pzzo0fAcy12Xjt_wJ7Q

 

Most of the confusion leads back to the logic bomb that is BL and yaoi.

As a spectre of male homosexual desire created and enjoyed by the female gaze, it haunts the Japanese patriarchy, positing an eroticized romantic exchange that both abstracts male behaviour stereotypes, including aggressive/ violent ones and rewrites them as female authored scripts of repressed, forbidden desire and identity to be shared among women.

It is raw, undiluted, powerful female sexuality. It disrupts. it mocks. It rages. It refuses “to take responsibility”. It plays hob with every “official” categorization it can lay its mittens on. It has issues. It is not well behaved. Bakhtin’s Carnival theories cannot touch it. It is far more insidious than “drag”. It will kill the puppy if you do not buy the magazine. But it also screams out for what it finds lacking in the real world.

It is the desire for desire, for a tale of “love” that destroys and remakes the entire world.

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

This is not uncommon in romantic fiction and there are plenty of other genres that take a related, but more well-behaved approach.

Hato is moving towards an extreme acting out of individuation within Japanese society, based on fujoshi romantic tropes that privilege transgression against social codes of sexuality and power, not transgendered identity. Hato’s solution seems to start with folk notions of two-souled individuation and play with them. It is a trial by combat of desire, as a possibility for escape or accommodation or salvation; against a society whose rules and structures appear to make any love or desire an impossible, naive longing.

Shut up and get back to work.

It is also a very old story: like Quixote, it dares to remake the world, hurling defiance while demanding that society obliterate it or accommodate it.

The problem for Hato and the furtive kami that creates him lies in the confusion that this presentation offers: within the Genshiken-verse it makes for fine plot mojo. However IRL concerns threaten to make the extreme liminality of the characterization and the situation appear (again) clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive. Nerves, in some quarters of the meat-verse are raw especially when you have skin in the game or know someone who does. Whatever “girl’s heart in a boy’s body” notions that have been left to float around should fast be circumscribed, or at least toned down to:

“Hato’s rotten enthusiasms made female, sharing space with him in his body”.

“Why can’t I have both? It’s less ronery this way!”

It would be wrong to go towards any soap-opera notions of split personality/ dissociative disorder. Both versions are aspects of Hato. Gender is what is treated as optional, yet essential to the “role” required. It is as if “male” and female” are relative and situationally based public facets of the self, like “sempai” and kouhai”. Extreme Judith Butler time. The female aspect of Hato declines to “drive the Hato truck” for any other purpose than her fujoshi interests. This begs the question: what role and/or purpose does Hato-as-male answer? Student? Son? The guy who helps carry drunk acquaintances back to their hotel?

Perhaps in a rejoinder to the pop psychology surrounding otaku (and fujoshi) studies, Kio Shimoku is edging towards positing moe otaku and fujoshi desire as emergent variant sexualities in their own right? (3)

Extreme otaku and fujoshi desire as a new form of queer, part of a larger tendency in the meat-verse towards asceticism and virtualism or fantasism? This strategy also holds the promise of understanding cybersex enthusiasts, cosplayers, furries and the Takarazuka Review. (Fantasy is fantasy and reality is ugly, complicated and leaves me cold!!!!) but is closer to the range of paraphilias than a sexuality. And it does nothing to answer messier questions of gender identity – unless gender identity takes a back seat to individuation in construction of subject-hood.

If this sounds too weird, imagine individual practitioners of an outre kink, who are fabulously wealthy, head a commercial empire and are descended from European nobility. Their indulgences are consensual and they do societal good works; no Dr Evil with fluffy white cat stuff.

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

Lookie how thin our modernist-derived ideas of “identity” are. Storybook critters all!

Hato likes BL, likes BL fanning and enjoys BL sexual fantasies (but he won’t say how). BL works for Hato and that’s the way he was created, even if it has been made difficult to precisely situate Hato within the enjoyment.

Bara and the rest of it doesn’t turn his crank. Doing fujoshi stuff as a guy is uncomfortable and has been a real heartbreak. Now that he can do rotten girl, it wouldn’t be as fun: he is comfortable with his fujoshi aspect and she helps him draw too! He only goes a bit weird when his place in his fannish circle (which underpins his identity) is threatened. The most maddening thing about Hato is that he is “just what it says on the label

He is also plainly uneasy with the idea of having 3D secks with anyone, male or female: at very least he must be in love first. Not mere riajuu love either: crazy, hits like lightning, very very frightening, break all the rules love. Special, unique, uncategorizable love. Not riajuu. Riajuu=death. Gay would be riajuu. Bisexual would be riajuu. Transwoman to male would be riajuu because Japan’s laws say that a transwoman is a woman and Hato’s rebellious subconscious is also very law-abiding and polite. Asexual would be riajuu. Aliens, time travelers or espers might do in a pinch but if they were too random they would be riajuu (they are alien, one expects them to do alien things) as well and therefore unsuitable.

The ideal lover would probably be someone as equally plagued by fantasies as Hato is. This of course is the older “misfits into the sack” view that posits that the best match for an X is another X – a large part of why we do the whole categorization thing in the first place. The further complication to this, a sardonic jest on the part of the mangaka, remains that so far Hato can barely manage friendship.

A further interesting question pops up. The libidinous spaces of Japanese fandom are filled to the brim with invented others defined by odly imagined sexualities and desires. Genshiken’s Saki lampshaded how tenuous these can get when she casually alludes to having (“real”) gay friends. Buzz-kill! But if the world is full of interesting real folks, why spend so much time creating the fantastic? Why all the straight boys and girls keep making up their versions of others’  sexualities, goes far beyond imagining what those people do and/or boxes of tissues. The latter wouldn’t be needed if these shoddy constructs and the fantasies created with them didn’t scratch some deeper itch. These needs are complex, submerged and multi-faceted, but by no means unique: they are largely conventional and mundane, when taken in toto. As such they appear as tantalizing clues that promise insights into how we fit into the messy world that we have created. They make fine fodder for pop psychology and sociology.

Nawww… It all means nothing. Just kick back and enjoy the silly stories…

A radical queer/ genderqueer approach is probably the most productive means of situating the questions posed by the Hato character, (and /or just throwing up one’s arms while exclaiming “fugggettit!”) as long as we qualify it by positing an extreme aversion to any limiting aspects that societies always seek to impose on any categorizations.

Demanding a place in the world that fits the shape of one’s own heart is always a risky and somewhat foolish enterprise but given the state of Japanese society and the Japanese economy, Hato’s passive-aggressive rebellion is not risking much. It isn’t like he is sacrificing a job for life, a loving bride who becomes a shufu and a happy family – these are in short supply lately. With little to lose and the breathing room offered by university little prevents him from doing some product development research.

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

Sometimes the world finds a place, even a tenured teaching position for nice Jewish cis-grandmother-ly folk, who are also gay “bear” trans-men. A trick like that however takes a lot of chutzpah as well as relentless, persistent and creative kicking.

Kenjiro Hato should seek out (or be written as seeking out) some new reading materials for pointers.

The alternative is to adopt the radical view championed by grumpy old neo-Hegelian Lacanians that the pursuit of a sexuality that fits one’s heart is fool’s errand because all sexuality is a manifestation of the universal force of human fail. Sexuality=fail and fail=eroticism and no one really fits in to anything or anywhere until we are measured for a pine box…

Suck it up and keep rowing.

 


.

(1) As well as the monk/ acolyte, warrior/ page tropes contained within the nanshoku/ wakashūdo/ shudō traditions, Also of note are the Onnagata (female-role) and wakashū-gata (adolescent boy-role) historical traditions of the theatre and floating world, Citing these however draws criticism from those who claim that an essentialist historic view is too often deployed to mask contentious current issues in Japan. For an overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan and an older work that was often cited in BL/yaoi bibliographies 10 years ago; an historical survey of male homosexuality in Japan, as it applies to the yaoi genre by Mark McHarry, originally printed in the Boston-based gay magazine, The Guide, November, 2003. Had to scrape “The Archive” a few times for this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20050111090154/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html
Note as well the interesting side-note in the wiki regarding the curious absence of the female from the first three generations of the genealogy of the gods, as found in the Nihon Shoki, which begs a whole slew of questions.

(2) The “jump the kouhai” scene from haganai is now even more confusing as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Yukimura Kusunoki turns out to be a girl who normally presents as a boy but also presents as a boy crossdressing as a girly maid to “learn masculinity” from the male main character. Yukimura-san’s gender-fluidity is ascribed to “family circumstances“, the other great explain-all of Japanese comedies of gender identity along with “it’s a hobby!” Now that her secret is out, she has switched to a butler routine, which just goes to show that trying to get any sense out of a comedy manga might be asking too much.

(3) Dr Saito Tamaki has wondered about this, but put it aside preferring to see otaku behaviour as an elegant adaptation to contemporary conditions. Dr Akiko Mizoguchi has suggested that nominally straight fujoshi who internalize the fictional sexualities are not “straight” any more, but is imprecise as to how one would characterise them – either as virtual yaoi males in bed or virtual lesbians in their fan circles: the “you cannot look at all that…” effect once again. Earlier hints of this tendency to “ghost the shell” of the Japanese otaku can be found, such as in the 1999 “I’m alone, but not lonely”, Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place by Volker Grassmuck, as well as his 2000 Man, Nation & Machine: The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society. Although both are highly conversational and impressionistic, with too much bubble economy and Gibson references  they have been widely cited as early materials in what would become “otaku studies”.

 

 

Afterword: As always this blog’s coverage of the Genshiken remains indebted to the “senior” bloggers on the series: Ogiuemaniax at WordPress and Astro Nerd Boy, as well as their commenters. This post and the last would have been far thinner without the discussions therein, especially https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/scattered-thoughts-on-the-view-of-anime-and-manga-as-sexist/  and  https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/hatoful-genshiken-ii-chapter-110/

My gratitude and admiration also go out to the anonymous folks in the grey reaches of the interwebs that make the series available to my outlander eyes, and to the mangaka, whose unreadable original tankobons I am accumulating as I can. 

Insane Bonus Track: A french documentary film from 1994: Jean-Jacques Beineix’s (Diva, etc.) rather sensationalist  ‘Otaku’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCj9cQdIr8

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Repent! cried the reformed Loser Fan Boy…

… to the heart of the Yuri world!

Wherein I attempt a highly subjective and impressionistic consideration of the urgent need for an upgraded Yuri and contemplate the possibilities for a similarly upgraded male fandom. Warning; epic flood of man-splaining, sardonic humour, some bitterness follows below the cutline…

Complete with background music; an entire playlist is cued up…

Continue reading

Unbiased God: Genshiken ch 93 + 94

“Slash is usually written by straight women, yes, and I think it appeals to straight women in the same way lesbian sequences in commercial pornography appeal to straight men. I always say that if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.”
– Samuel R Delany

The tone of the Genshiken has shifted a bit since the Nidiame anime ended. Once again, it has gone into full Hato-focused-mode, with the fallout from his (less occasionally now her) yaoi-inspired man-crush on Madarame dragging the plot along. Those who were getting annoyed at all the “gay stuff” slowly wrecking their beloved Genshiken are going to be even more annoyed. Oh ye of little faith!

If Genshiken was that easy Mada would already be hitched up with Keiko, Yajima would be jumping Hato to try to stop him to stop hanging out in Ni-chōme and Sue would be trying to jump Ogiue every chance she got.

Something else is going on.

but first, a small aside about scripts and scanlations…

Even though the wait for Chapters 93 and 94 had me sweating, I swear I will wait through 4 months of drought should the successor to the bringer of light ever vanish into the ether before I start google-xlating and posting scripts from Bulgarian scanlations. We poor mortals just don’t know. We have no idea if the big K dropped more napalm, or someone got real-life busy, or just bored with the whole thing. I do not regret the scripts – at least I now know that a backup can be cobbled together. I found two other independent attempts, so I know that I wasn’t the only one who got withdrawal symptoms. But the current stuff is damn finely-crafted and well-done; it would take a year or more to ramp up a group effort to replace it.

We love and respect your work, please don’t leave us without our fix, waughhh!

One thing that I came away with from the script exercise: a foreign language reader dropped a comment thanking me for providing a summary in an easy-to-google-xlate text format. I think it should be best practice for all scanlation groups to release text format scripts along with their scans, so as to share the goodness across the gulfs of language, across the entire globe, a federation of leeching fans, going forward, into a brighter future…

Ok, back to some serious mulling-over the last two chapters. Spoiler lamp is ON

At first glimpse, the two chapters are simple and flow in a straightforward manner: only closer examination shows the staging genius of Kio Shimoku. It all comes together so naturally! In chapter 93, Madarame is stuck over the holidays in his messy apartment, alone and bereft of any harem. The absence of any follow-up by any of the four is disheartening. And his broken wrist hurts. When he finally gets a visit, it is from Rika and Yajima, or Rika with Yajima present to ensure that Rika doesn’t go off the rails. He soon learns that a truce agreement is in place and that there will be no visits from any of the interested parties. 3D lurv: Don’t buy the hype! The flashback to the old boys hanging out with him immediately after comiket also had a great feeling of authenticity to it, loaded with sympathetic guy-ish grumbling and rude allusions.

pig disgusting c93 p004Rika makes a few rude allusions too; both the boys and girls of Genshiken expect that their pr0n habit will be messy, but she quickly gets down to delivering her report and her ideas about the situation. In doing so, she assumes the voice of a great number of Genshiken fans (I posit that Japanese fans somewhat mirror diaspora opinions) and advances the suggestion that Keiko is the best choice for Madarame. Keiko is somewhat Saki-ish, riajuu, and available. She also is not Sue (our idol) or Hato-chan (our friend). Madarame can take that however he cares to – he is being gently put in his place, and that place is on the periphery of the current Genshiken.

No mention or thought of how uncomfortable it would be for Madarame to date Sas’s kid sister.

Madarame then wonders why she wasn’t pushing for Hato and gets a flood of goggle-inspired too-much-information before being told that it is really not the gang’s decision to make. Whatever Hato (as chan or kun) decides, they will support. Serves you right Mada for playing the “I’m passive I can’t decide” card.

Meanwhile in the snowy regions of Western Japan, Hato gets to face Kaminaga as his soon to be sister-in-law, in full sister-in-law-to-be mode. She is really getting into her new role. She has dyed her hair back to black, makes polite noises to the household, and gets the sudden urge to be all sisterly-supportive toward Hato even while scouting out his BL stash. Yup, here is an arch-fujoshi asshole completely reformed… Now pull the other one, it has bells on it.

think with what c94 p012Hato does manage to voice a bit of resentment towards her past behaviour, but for the most part is too troubled over what to do with his developing feelings for Madarame to really care about what Kaminaga is up to in her new oddly concerned guise. Kaminaga tries a gambit; get Kono and the other friend, Fuji(?) to meet up with Hato at a local restaurant. The results are uncomfortable. Kono doesn’t know what to do with her old feelings, and gets a bit creeped out when Hato starts going on about skin moisturization. Nor can she make the jump and discuss BL with a guy, which is the god/author setup moment Hato was waiting for: “See! I had to crossdress to be accepted!”

stop itoldyasoing c94 p018He also calls them his friends who he can talk with – which is so odd that I wonder if heavy irony was intended. These are the small-town fujoshi who turned his high school years into a lonely hell. And the meet-up is obviously some kind of poorly lashed together “How far gone is he? Is he still interested in girls?” exploration session. Friends like these, yup…

For all of it though, He does get some salvageable advice. Part of the Genshiken slice of life charm is the sheer amount of well-meaning, but not too useful “help” offered from all and sundry, from their own vested interest positions. Occasionally even a blind pig gets to find a truffle. Kono blurts out that if his hobby is causing him so much distress, then ditch it – it’s just a hobby. Of course her advice is tainted by self-interest, the Hato she still harbours a crush for is riajuu – but it gets him thinking.

Of course he will go back to Tokyo. Small town life is small and there isn’t a lot left for him there, though it felt good to clear the snow from the roof.

If Kono has any sense of occasion she had best run her ass over to the train station before he leaves and at least plead a copy of his next dojin from him. She can even say that the culture festival work was BETTER than Kaminaga’s stuff. C’mon, Kono, lets see some wiles!

As to why what he is returning to in Tokyo, that too deserves a bit more consideration.

A few choice bits:

All you fault c94 p010Oh yes, he does blame Kaminaga for his current dilemma, but is it the original one or the original, plus the stands that have been tormenting him? Or both, plus the Kaminaga he fixated on back in high school? Was it a crush or just severely overblown admiration? When Hato calls someone sempai, what demons lurk within his private meaning of the term? Really she’s not that responsible, unless a younger evil-genius Kaminaga had ran around their junior high school leaving yaoi dojins in the boys locker rooms in the hope of livening up her small town life.

To a certain segment of Genshiken fans, and a larger number of casual readers, Hato was always latent, and now has gone gay. But what an odd and tentative homosexuality it is. Were he a real-life individual, he would be free to explore his desire as he saw fit, and would end up somewhere within the fine gradations of however wherever’s gay culture so gradates. He would have a bit of a hard time at first, but any group eventually socialises newbies. Perhaps real Japanese gay communities have their own internal arguments about what to do with “another kid from the sticks who thinks he wants to do yaoi, as a seme”. There is way too much BL and Yaoi floating around Japan.

Hato however is a character, so what exactly is he being constructed as – what is the odd version of “gay” desire being created, and why?

Hato was never a “simple” male fudanshi leaning towards 3D man-love; he always compartmentalized his yaoi fantasies within the persona of a heterosexual, celibate, female fujoshi. Hato-chan was supposed to be safely “in charge” of that stuff, viacariously shipping Hato-kun as a forceful seme, but that reality never threatened the “real” male Hato, because fujoshis just do fantasies. But now “someone” wants to set 3D fujoshi Hato-chan up with a 3D Madarame as a nice, deferring, lovestruck, passive shoujo heroine, or at least as otomeyaku. Who is processing that fantasy? Which Hato is it coming from?

“Enomoto explains that “male fans cannot experience moe until they have fixed their own position”— an observation that may well have validity beyond otaku and yaoi fans. In general a man fears the undermining of his own subject position, and he must establish that position firmly before he can desire an object. This is probably the fate of all who possess a phallus (as distinct from a penis): if the position and orientation of the phallus is not defined, the male cannot face even the object of his own desire.”

– Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki (Translated by Christopher Bolton, Introduction by Kotani Mari) In “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. pps 222-249.

Kio Shimoku’s supportive cast of Genshiken characters bypass any simple questions of persecution (that’s left to small town high schools out in the snowy boonies) but if this was an attempt at a gay male coming of age story, then where are the beta couples, supportive (or predatory) older experienced gay guy(s), and a host of other tropes that I will transpose from non-exploitative “feels” yuri, having no idea how the bara genre handles this stuff when it is not getting down to raw nasty smut. Then there is his crossdressing…

Hato’s emergent pseudo-gayness is a thought experiment as to what might happen if an isolated small-town male used yaoi and BL tropes as a guide to “becoming” gay and/or trans, taken to extremes to be-labor a point and spin a fine tale. I have gone on previously that Shimoku might be pulling fast one on Saito Tamaki’s idea of hysterical trauma, with yaoi instead of the Beautiful Fighting Girl. And of course there is Dr. Mizoguchi… The results are going to odd. This stuff was generated by mostly straight females for their own amusement, and the studies surrounding it and it’s western counterparts are full of warnings from real guys who like guys that the wimmins are off on their own tangent. Plus the chief puppet-master of this tale is a guy, riffing on these contradictions.

As slash-kami MJJ reported a decade ago, her gay male correspondants would tell her: “real guys don’t fuck like that!”

Sorry Chip, you think we didn’t anyway?

“I know where I came from – but where did all you zombies come from? “I felt a headache coming on, but a headache powder is one thing I do not take. I did once–and you all went away. So I crawled into bed and whistled out the light. You aren’t really there at all. There isn’t anybody but me –Jane– here alone in the dark. I miss you dreadfully!”
-Oscar Wilde

“…to posit a gender, a God is necessary: guaranteeing the infinite.”
– Luce Irigaray

Who “owns” the popular construction of the ideas behind romance, love, sexuality and desire in modern societies? How is the territory staked out? What are the effects of the ways in which these are advanced? What happens when consensus is replaced by contested spaces? Is it all too complex for mere mortals to handle? Will society fall apart as a result?

No wonder the gender theory brigade are thick as thieves all over modern Japanese fujoshi cultural practices. I know something of the allure of this kind of raw sociology. I am lucky I have no vested interest in it or I would soon go all mad-boy about the whole thing and start Mwwwahhahhaahaa-ing all over this blog. Sociology taken too far has much of the same mirage-like appeal found in conspiracy theories. Hermetic knowledge! Power! Influence! The possibility of messing around with entire cultures! Wheeeeeee! Instead I watch from the sidelines, bemused…

Back to the Genshiken…

Note how Mada is left in a typically Madarame-esque situation due to his profession of passivity. He doesn’t even get to state any preference. His little harem fantasies are written to indicate that Hato-chan would be an acceptable member of a group attention-lavishing scene – whether he wants to bundle the whole gang off to the yurt is another matter. It is not that he can’t process all the attention, it is just that the processing has stopped at “Good to be King“. Sue as exotic temple dancer is a master-stroke.

Dare he try ANY kind of 3D and risk the destruction of this fantasy? But whose fantasy is it?

Something about butterflies… Who is dreaming and who is the dream?

Historically, Japan was at least two up on the prehistoric Western world’s guy-lock on romance tales thanks to Murasaki and Shonagon, but their works were not exactly in wide circulation until the twentieth century. And the narratives they advanced were hardly society-shaking. In the rest of the world, narratives of romantic love appear to be mostly male creations until late in the game. Sapho exists only in fragments, and they were enough to scare the bejesus out of the guys. I missed any University level courses on 17th to 19th century english lit, and so the exact timeline for earlier efforts but I vaguely recall that some “virtue tales” of female submission to rich suitors (Pamela, etc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela,_or_Virtue_Rewarded) were written by guys in the 1700’s. Even then controversy ensued, with a few satires and perhaps even Sade’s infamous Justine written in response.

England in the 1800’s got Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein (surely, a love story), so at least there was some female input, though Brontë first published under a male-sounding non de-plume. Skip forward into the twentieth century, and we see that popular romances, though penned by women were being converted into movies by large, very patriarchial movie studios. Who was more the author for Gone with the Wind; Margaret Mitchell or David O. Selznick & Co.?

Now everyone gets to toss their ideas into the ring. Straight girls and guys as well as gays and lesbians and the whole LGBTQ spectrum get to write their stories and argue about their individual ideas about the proper ways of finding happiness, true D’awwwwww and snuggles (or whatever else turns individual cranks). And, as always, one can write the odd bits that don’t fit well onto the mysterious, imagined “other”. Nothing new there either, but no more witch burning allowed.

humanityIt is one thing to attempt to imposes one’s whims onto mainstream notions of male: female love, desire and courtship. It is another thing entirely to “colonize” a minority sexuality of a different gender and/or society for your own amusement and pleasure, even if you get side benefits from allegorically addressing certain issues of roles and power within your society. And the rotten girls are not going to stop, no matter how many yaoi ronso episodes pop up. You might as well argue with the hardcore fans of other paraphilias that their fantasies are hurtful, mean and dangerous to real humans. The responses will be the same, and familiar to even Genshiken readers.

And now I feel a bit guilty for all the exploitative v1 yuri smut I have consumed over the years. Just a bit, It’s complicated…

Perhaps Madarame and Hato should hole up in Mada’s apartment and devour a stack of contemporary non-exploitative, woman-authored, lesbian approved “feels” yuri to get some insight into handling confusing feelings. Hato should bring his chan persona just in case. Since the quality of the advice currently offered to them is so ill-suited to their predicament in any case, a little from the other side of the trenches couldn’t do much more damage. Shimoku Sensei could have a field day dragging another empire of delusions into the fray.

Personally I would recommend, as I am currently enjoying, the works of Takemiya Jin.

Stop! It is dangerous to base one’s ideas of romance on popular fictional narratives. No good can come of it!

From my misppent youth, I remember the teenage sister of a friend who fell heavily for the high school freak, who was prone to acting out the worst excesses of “hippie” behaviour a decade and a half too late. She had her own problems; a taste for massive amounts of recreational hallucigens and other self-destructive behaviour. Their search for a model of a “normal” romance led them to lock themselves in the basement TV viewing room at her parents house and snuggle while watching soap operas in order to learn how to construct a conventional romance. I shit yee not! The resulting relationship was odd, full of imagined infidelities and one case of amnesia. 3D far weirder than 2D!

But reality is reality and…

On second thought, Mada and Hato better also grab a stack of Gintama tankubons. Ten years of it! Shout Out Time! Wow!

As for the works of Takemiya Jin, I had run into them before and a few glowing recs from Erica-sensei caused me to seek them out again. I now see that the collected volume she recommends was spread out across a slew of one-shots and various titles (as available to us cheapskate leeches), but take place around the same group of young women. There are hardly any herp derp hawt secks scenes, which used to be the whole point of yuri – but their absence is not missed.

What Takemiya-sensei’s stories do have plenty of is brooding, emotional relationshippy stuff, but measured out in believable doses. I find myself making D’awwwwww noises. And I really, really, really like the character artwork. Takemiya-sensei uses a fine strong line and is one of the few artists who can do the pointy-chin face and get away with it (for moi, your mileage, etc…). Most of the time I find the pointy face shojo heroine a a warning signal for a vapid helpless thing (or the occasional sword weilding heroine – who I have no problems in principle with – its just that they are far too patient with nasty fools to appeal to me [1]). These women are far from either extreme. They are practical romantics and that sets them up for no end of relationship troubles – somewhat like real life. Their expressive manga eyes brood over their predicaments while their mouths are set with a grim determination to figure the whole messy thing out somehow; to keep going, to take their desires seriously, even as these desires threaten to shatter them or turn them into lovestruck idiots.

Perhaps it is because I grew up aquainted with a few women friends who liked other women, lusted after one or another of them and once the adolescent hormone surge receeded, found them good occasional company. What stuck was an admiration for how their heartfelt longing for idealized romantic love was perpetually at odds with their cold, hard, pregmatic outlook on relationships and life. I always suspected that they secretly looked at themselves in the mirror and hoped to see a hero staring back. What the heck, who hasn’t?  There are worse things in the world than making a fool of oneself for love. I got lucky I guess: assholes come in all models but I pretty well missed the wimmen’s versions, so I can foolishly generalise in a sympathetic manner. Takemiya-sensei’s stories remind me of them somehow.

We get more than “story A” in Takemiya Jin’s works. Characters only pair up after a lot of consideration and worry that they will mess up existing friendships, or feel like crap if they are rejected and/or break up. There is also a small degree of powder ritually burnt about whether the intended one will think that yuri v2 romance (aka real gosh honest to goodness lesbian romance, as written by an “out” Japanese lesbian!) is weird. Some of the characters are deeply into the idea of romantic love, while others abjure it as too fraught with emotional danger – even though they secretly wish it could one day be theirs. Confessions don’t always bring instant happiness, though reconsideration pops up as a reoccurring motif. There is even a token gay guy friend of one of the more active lesbian characters; she gets stuck with him shadowing her at school, gets used as a beard by him, gets a lot of unanswerable “what should I do?” questions and then has to counsel his younger sister to stop manisfesting her misplaced jealousy as childish homophobia. The scene when sis is sure that older brother is doing gay as yaoi and needs to be calmed down is a hoot!

Pubic service yuri fragments_of_love_v001_ch004_029My only minor complaint is that Takemiya-sensei has the dark-haired brooding type and the active blonde type, and the blond older woman type and as the characters overlap between stories it is sometimes dfficult to remember who is who (and pining for who, while pined for by who) – especially when a story has two nearly identical dark-haired characters in a love triangle (one wears glasses). It gets a bit confusing.

So two reticent male Genshiken characters, one with a head full of loli crap and josou games, and another with a head full of yaoi dojins, wondering what to make of their feelings could do worse than take a few tips from the cautious life lessons offered by Takemiya Jin. Both Madarame and Hato are tentative about 3D anything, including friendship. Some of the wimmins in Takemiya Jin’s ‘verse do just end up as friends. Perhaps Shimoku sensei has been holding the (v2, non exploitative) yuri in reserve all this time?

If Kio Shimoku decides to push the Hato-crush plot even further he is going to get to have a whole lot of fun with the other big weak spot in yaoi-land; the idiotic, formulaic insistance on the seme/uke typology. And we have been getting some previous plot telegraphing about this: Hato always imagined his “objectivised male self” as a seme. Except that when he is in Hato-chan mode and trancing over Madarame – then he begins to think uke-Hato-chan-otome-yaku-whatever. Pity that Madarame is so damn passive, that he couldn’t even be a sou-uke, let alone any kind of seme. Sou-uke requires something beyond catatonic withdrawal.

Then toss in the “Am I turning gay, or can I get away with the [only for you] excuse?” from yaoi lore. While Hato can put off a few worries with this, Madarame would have to do a whole lot of sweating, even if he occomodates the experiment as a josou game fantasy that has come to life. Madarame is now too far gone to consider any 3D attention, from anyone. Expect vicious “How to cure a lolicon” and “josou sanmyaku” (Crossdressing Mountain Range – game) jokes ‘o plenty as he tries to find an emotionally safe place to curl up into and weather the storm.(2)

Meanwhile to Hato: Even if originally written as nominally straight in 3D matters, he must have found the idea of manly as-warped-by-pervy-women romance strangely appealing. So he somehow got stuck on the idea that yaoish romance was a good model for romance in general. Questions of bodies and genders could even have been put aside for a bit if the first BL-ish magazines he stumbled across featured androgynous bishies – he was, after all not developing secondary sexual characteristics as much or as fast as his junior high classmates. Hence the latest little ret-shade offered up to us by Shimoku-sensei. This offers a convenient plot excuse for leaving the judo club as well. Androgynous lovers who did rough, rapey man(ly) secks in tandem with over -the-top you-and-only-you-forever-even-if-the-earth-takes-my-dead-body romaticism did something for him. The female self he constructed was a way of denying the logical implications of his fantasies, as well as being the vehicle with which he could finally find a social wherin he could fan over them.

gasp c94p027The Genshiken finally empowers him to constuct his own fantasies; to engage in secondary, fannish production, to take charge of the mechanisms of his own desires and draw his story. But of course he can’t. He can only draw clench scenes. His imagination is primarily visual. From his stand(s), we can see that he has been written as having extensive trope genre knowledge, but canot turn it into a full “na-me” storyboard. In this matter having Ogiue help him is only a half-measure, because she is as visually based as he is. Rika is the only text-narrative-biased fujoshi in the Genshiken, and she has no off switch. No help there.

Could it be a suppressed narrator-Hato that is pulling all the strings?

“If I can’t get you to write it, I’ll make you live it! Dance my little puppet! Dance!”

What a fine detective story! Better than a murder mystery in a society of telepaths!

Hato should have imprinted on the v.1 yuri of Ken Kurogane. The polygamous “lets fuck like crazy right now” of gay and straight male pr0n, the over the top romanticism of yaoi but with female bodies and no damn seme /uke stuff to get in the way of a good sweaty tangle. Male mangaka, hmmmmmmm… Is Shojo Sect full of reworked yaoi and bara puppets presented as “girls”? The mirrors of desire in the manga-land funhouse are distorted as all heck! But at least then Hato-chan could have gone looking for a nice spunky girl who could best him (her) in a judo match…

Duh!

How far does Kio Shimoku care to push the Hato-crush motif? It looks like it can get cruel really fast, even if it is well in keeping with his habit of using the Genshiken to skewer otaku (and now fujoshi) foibles.

Personaly I still don’t buy any bit of Hato x Mada x Hato. Perhaps I am in denial, but I cannot believe either of them in any kind of physical relationship with anyone, given their current states. Both are now emotional wrecks. Of course Kio Shimoko can write Hato and Mada into a well-lubed orgy along with the rest of the crew, the brave little toaster, chibi-godzilla and a tentacled monster from the planet transexual in any upcoming chapter he cares to, but that would be the last chapter of the Genshiken. Done, Forever.

Also, while I used to be an enthusiastic Sue x Mada shipper, I now believe that Shimoku-sensei has dropped in too many scenes where it looks like Sue is embarrassed in Mada’s direction, but Hato is always there too in clear line of sight. If we need Sue yuri-ish hijinx in the Genshiken, then there is even a use for Hato-chan in the 3D secton of the Genshiken ‘verse. Sue might be able to salvage the wreck that is Hato, even if it might take months of chaste dating to calm him down,

Also, I am still waiting for the moteki field effect to hit Hato. Madarame had his four “suitors”, By my intuited rule of parallel haplessness, Hato should get some attention soon, from other girls besides Yajima and Kono. Phhhttttt! Kono doesn’t even count if she doesn’t get her game on soon.

Similarly, I can’t see Keiko doing anything but looking at Madarame and deciding that he is just too much work even for a love-struck young hostess. Let the big boobed gaijin girl have some fun next comiket; the moteki field has collapsed and unemployed, relationship-clueless, creepy manga consuming, sulking, passive Mada is once again hopeless. And all that 2D FOREVER stuff tastes like ashes in his mouth. Time for Mada to change his life.

Gambatte! Madarame-san! I know you can become #1 host!

If this keeps up, Ogiue will have to impose a NO DATING IN THE GENSHIKEN, DAMMIT! rule, just to calm things down a bit.

Snap out of it and go make some dojins!

Random Endnotes:

[1] You can’t fool me! I know that a proper lesbian vanquisher of evil looks like Hothead Paisan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothead_Paisan]. I rue the day I picked that thing up – a joke gift given to a straight female friend who was being teased +/or supported by her frends after one more disappointing relationship had just ended. Yikes! Cannot un-see, but it made a lot of sense within its context. You think Hothead Paisan would do any stupid rose duelling? She’d shoot the fucking goomba in the face, twice, cut off his junk, lay into anyone, male or female who stood in her way and burn the evil twit rose-dueling school to the ground. Problem solved! Run off into the sunset with the rose-maiden, and shoot a few rednecks on the way! …As long as the coffee didn’t run out. One wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity, but I understand where her creator was coming from.

I understand rage.

Recall:

“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

Closer to current manga practice, consider Gaku of Murasaki-iro no Qualia. She’ll off one of herselves, if herself gets in the way of saving her friend. That’s how to do hero!

[2] I have a suspicion that the josou one-off tale and the game noted by the Girl Cartoons josou genre essay series (pt3)

” Maintaining this line of reasoning—foremost, the assumption that many Josou works can be read as allegorical of the development of the fandom as a whole—we turn to the erotic visual novel 女装山脈 (josou sanmyaku) or “Crossdressing Mountain Range”, by Nounai Kanojo. Josou Sanmyaku draws a number of parallels to “How to Cure a Lolicon”, and while it is less explicitly allegorical, it nonetheless represents a typical conception of the development of Josou fandom, and development of attraction to the “otokonoko”—which, compared to “Lolicon”, is made very explicit here—and makes a few interestingly novel claims about the fandom which might almost be considered moral prescriptions.

To begin with, Josou Sanmyaku is aggressive in its invocation of the “otokonoko”. The three heroines², all crossdressing males, insist on referring to themselves not as 男の子 (with the kanji for “child”), but as 男の娘 (with the kanji for “young girl”). The “otokonoko” is established in the game’s mythos as something of a third gender, revealed eventually to even be able to bear children via supernatural means. Particularly in the first act of the game, which includes one erotic scene featuring each heroine, there is a strong undercurrent in the dialogue of the otokonoko being capable of providing pleasure far beyond that which a normal woman possibly could, and of the heroines’ goal being to “ruin” the protagonist such that he could not be satisfied by normal women again”.  – –  http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=72

were notorious enough, to serve as the model for Kousaka’s company’s crossdressing game in Genshiken.

Why Hato: build up logically

Wherein I go overboard, summing up the arguments in favour of Hato, and the odd plot contrivances that surround the character. Updated a bit after the anime’s ep 12 retcon. I think it’s finally finished, please enjoy!

Judging from comments on other blogs that cover Genshiken, both as manga series, and the new Nadaime anime, our favourite rotten boy character Hato is becoming a bit of an annoyance to some of the fandom. This is not only regrettable; it misses the point by a country mile. Back when I started this blog, part of the reason I did so was because of the story-telling/ plotting potential of this strange Hato creature set loose amidst the new fujoshi-filled Genshiken.

Didn’t I start here?

Insanely long fan-out continues below the cutline, you have been warned…
Continue reading

Genshiken ch 87 + 88: convention time

Time to try and figure out the latest two chapters; as usual there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Rather than just go on and on and on about what I think is way kewl about these, I will instead try using more pictures in a show and tell approach; one that may ask too many questions. (besides the ever-insightful Ogiue Maniax site among others, already has fine coverage of chapters 87 and 88.)

I have the notion that Shimoku-sensei likes to stuff a lot of extra information into his work – dropping hints – as in Saki’s sudden change of clothing style in chapters past hinting at something more momentous. So I will concentrate on trying to pick out the little things that struck me as out of place or slightly highlighted in these last two chapters.

But first: this one is for the Sirens! (I wish I had it a year ago to end my theory rant back then) I so love Japanese popular culture! Can there be any other mass events linked to pop culture that have such an overwhelming female audience that is so relaxed, assured and purposeful? No stage-managed  -squeeeeee-  bullshit Beatle- mania infantalisation ritual: the rotten girls built this space, they own it! May all the 8,000 gods of Japan bless them for it.

sirens 88 15

Hato’s dilemma:

The trouble with addictive behaviour is that it comes with the “state-specific learning” problem. If you do all your partying while pissed out of your gourd, you will have to relearn how to enjoy yourself socially when you try to stay sober. I doubt that there are many chapters of cross- dressing- yaoi- drawing- dojin-enthusiasts- anonymous in the greater Tokyo region, so Hato is a bit on his own on this one.

day job 88 20

And some fine cross-dressing it was! Is it just me or did Hato kick it up a notch when he needed the power-up to complete the page he promised Ogiue? Those school-girl stockings were never deployed before. Could it be that since he believes that female undies are what gives him drawing mojo, that he felt compelled to add a bit extra to his usual ensemble? It wasn’t high heels and garter belts yet, so perhaps his soul is not yet dammed for all eternity (whoooooooooooooohoooooooo!)

Very perverted 87 13

…And yup, Kio-sensei gets a chance to give us some -flash- while driving home the point. Looks like Hato’s notions of exciting female attire are still within the heterosexual realm, and that per Dr. Saito Tamaki’s theory of libidinization of the participatory nature of popular culture consumption and secondary production, (fans get off making dojins!) Hato has created a risque mish-mash of the act of drawing yaoi dojin materials and crossdressing.

“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

The big question is: what is he crossdressing as?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-fujoshi for the company of women?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-Kaminaga for super-drawing power?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male cross-dressing for his own kicks, which incidentally gives him super-drawing power?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-Kaminaga with the super-drawing power and the company of fujoshi friends to “rebuild what has been broken”, and somehow meet HER as an equal? (and then what? – best her in a drawing contest and have her swoon at his feet? She is going to marry his brother soon!)

Hato-chan becoming quasi-lesbian as the yaoi exchanged draws him closer to an ideal of rotten-girlish-ness that he finds comforting, fascinating and hawt as all heck? (He’s craving fujoshi loving as a quasi-fujoshi!)

Hato-chan becoming trap as embodying the “gift” exchanged by his fujoshi circle, as he subconsciously seeks to act out y/bl behaviour tropes in their gaze, as exchanged story? (Especially when his nemesis appears to pull his strings – wanting to get caught.)

Hato-chan becoming trap as he subconsciously seeks to be an object of male desire? (as fujoshi or not?)

Hato-chan becoming cross-dressing yaoi-boy as he goes distorted gay???

Contrast Hato’s cross-dressing to the conventional manga trope of the older cross-dressed male:

Behold the classic "drag queen" manga character, pops up in "Darker than Black", "Tokyo Godfathers" and many, many more.

Behold the classic “okama” or “drag queen” manga character, who pops up in “Darker than Black”, “Tokyo Godfathers” and many, many more.

One can’t really say hard gay, because if Hato was strongly pulled in that direction, he would have been reading “bara” and would have got on with it already. I have alluded to this before, but as a high-school student who found himself drawn to yaoi/BL manga and then ostracized  and bullied as the school “fag”, he must have checked out regular male gay manga and related material just to see for himself if he was “that way”. Since he has given no evidence of hoarding that kind of stuff, it is obvious that it didn’t work for him.

I probably missed one or two subtle variations. That’s Ok, Hato don’t know either. He isn’t even framing the question right yet!

For Science 87 12

Oh really?

Or is it all about the drawing?

Did Hato want to draw manga before he was exposed to yaoi? He wanted to draw by the time he was in the high school art club. Was he there for the fujoshi company, or because he wanted to draw the stuff in the company of fujoshi? For fujoshi? We can surmise that drawing well is very important to him, and as the creation of a skilled mangaka, stipulated within the story as a prized ability. I can sympathize with this little plot device, as I found art school drawing classes both exhilarating and the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. (Nope, I couldn’t draw a manga scene to save my life, but there are other ways to use the craft.)

Which came first? What is more important now? What he probably wants is to keep drawing the stuff, keep hanging out with the girls and reading the stuff, keep cross-dressing doing both, but not have “his little friend” pulling his strings in weird ways…

…Unless his little friend is an alien brain parasite (or ghost, or some other plot cheat – and there is no evidence of this so far; but the apocryphal “Return of the otaku” light novel suggests that such a rip-off resolution might be sprung if Shimoku-sensei ever gets the urge to just throw up his hands and walk away.

Nawww… Hato recognizes that his “little friend’ is some part of him that is pushing him in an odd direction because it is not getting what it wants. But what it wants is in no way as simple as Madarame’s affections.

Hato! Don’t let this all mess up your studies! You can crossdress and draw yaoi dojins even better if you have a well-paying job as an economics professor. Fun is fun but work is money for food!

Meanwhile at Comiket, Hato is re-acquainting himself with standard-issue, male-oriented pr0n-ish dojins:

lurid 88 17

Surprise Hato! This is the way regular (het male) pr0n is supposed to work. Poor lad, you have missed an important stage of development by hanging around with the rotten girls. What the heck did you think all that fujoshi smut was supposed to do? Did it effect you like this or not? Guess how your fujoshi friends feel when they are reading their stuff. Did you somehow manage to push all the “solitary vice” stuff aside for the “social enjoyment/ exchange” part of those yaoi dojinshi?

Thirty years later: Japanese Central Bank Governor Kenjiro Hato made his annual appearance at Winter Comiket as the cross-dressing co-founder (along with his wife, whom he met and courted during his undergraduate studies) of the Bunnykins no Tigger circle. Sales at the circle’s booth were brisk, and as usual he declined to discuss any matters of economic policy at the event, beyond his trademark statement “I understand irrational exuberance in market behaviour”.

Too much Hato musing, time to switch POV:

Comiket is not quite a western-style fan convention!

Angela Burton does not care! Notice that she has performed (twice!) the infamous GLOMP maneuver! Shimoku-sensei has done his homework and is playing with ambiguity again. Angela is either…  Or she is in full-metal fan- at- convention mode, North American variant.

GLOMP 88 2

Hato-GLOMP! Sue-GLOMP! Will she glomp again? She didn’t glomp Madarame, and now she won’t, because she thinks…

..But which one, and why?

…But which one, and why?

Very sneaky Shimoku-sensei! Is that Sue x Mada crush embarrassment?
Or Sue x Hato OMG I can’t talk to him about what I did, or Sue x Hato same plus I think I went too far and now I feel…

Sue just glares as Angela offers assurances of good behaviour and an unstated promise that she will not get in the way. What if Angela goes after Hato instead and Hato is the object of Sue’s gaze?

Oh My!

Overwhelmed Sue is overwhelmed!

Recall how Sue used to absorb all the free oxygen in any scene she appeared in. Ever since jumping Hato she has been in hiding, and not her usual spunky self, (manpad pantomime at the airport for Angela notwithstanding) She has reverted to shy-girl Sue, clinging to Ogiue for protection. The “She used to be such a shy girl” reveal from Ohno was a bit of a lampshade for this, but it looks like the mangaka is doing a few things while developing her character.

cling sue 88 21

Ogiue is her compass rose and the most powerful mage in the land of her dreams: a real live Japanese y/bl fan president of the best campus jp culture club, head of her circle, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka with an editor-in training boyfriend. And Ogiue has suffered for her youthful mistakes and surmounted the trauma born of them and emerged stronger!

subdued 88 12

Ogiue is Gandalf! Ogiue has just sold 1,000 dojins at Comiket! From a wall booth! Saint Bloody Crispin’s Day! Hero worship!

So, this is how a skilled mangaka turns a spunky comedic-relief character into a “real” one. Take hints of growing feelings for another character, then add complexity with unexpected inner turmoil and a sudden behaviour change. Presto! No longer a one-joke comic relief character! I Pagliachi!  I wonder if there is a term like “tsundere” for this trope.

"Don't get off the boat!"

“Don’t get off the boat!”

And while we are on the subject of character development, what is with the sudden desperate feelings swelling in the heart of young Merei Yajima? You just have to have an inkling that the whole ‘attraction” thing is something that she has put aside in her life, and that her body image has had something to do with that decision. And of course she loaded her own karmic plot engines; initially (written as being) annoyed at Hato’s crossdressing, then shocked at his fujoshi-bait just-showered bod, Now temptation himself is there all the time as a male in the clubroom. Oh crap!

“You cannot read all that stuff and not expect it to have some effect!”

yajima 88 25

My gawd, does she look sad!

Go ahead and jump him Yajima! The worst that can happen is a judo throw! We are getting way too many courtship judo throws in Genshiken – more fun than a Klingon honeymoon!

Other nice touches:

The puffs of breath at Comiket. Assume a temperature around 40F inside the “Tokyo Big Sight” center.

Ogiue seems to have mastered her new drawing pad computer. So endeth the era of screen-tone, line tape and x-acto knives. -snif-

Kuchiki can manage some english. We already knew this, but the reinforcement is a nice touch. Kuchiki has been acting a bit better lately, Is this perhaps a sign of new found maturity?

Madarame is present throughout both chapters, but not much happens. Is he keeping a low profile so as to avoid an Angela attack?

Yabusaki (Kumiko) and Naoko (Asada) have become ronin pledged to Ogiue-dono. Is there anyone left at the Manga Society that can draw? The Genshiken could use some new members – why don’t they commit? Why is the Genshiken not overflowing with new recruits, given that the prez is a dojin superstar and semi-pro magaka? Fujoshidom taint? Past bad reputation for the Genshiken?

Will Keiko Sasahara make an appearance? Who will get escort duty? Where is Sass? Shouldn’t he have dropped by to cheer his gf on with her sales?

Will  Kousaka be in full trap mode selling games at the company displays? Will a very gravid Saki make an appearance? How about a scary Kaminaga cameo?

Genshiken really does the ensemble cast, slice-of-life genre well!

So many fun questions!

One more day of Comiket left!

Postscript: Sign of the Times:

Behold the cover of this week’s Economist Magazine:

Oh NO! Not the Economist too!

Oh NO!      Not the Economist too!

Thou shalt not let the rotten girl intern commission the cover art!

The possibility of global causality violation

Wherein your correspondent wonders on where Shimoku-sensei got the idea of stuffing the new Genshiken with fujoshi and digs up a fresh trove of theory on fujoshi-dom

“It was only around 2006 that media interest turned toward fujoshi in and of itself. Women who expressed a positive interest in expressions of male-male romance began to be depicted in media aimed at the general public—for instance, in publications such as Yumiko Sugiura’s book Otaku Girls Research: Fujoshi Ideology (2006a), and in various manga about fujoshi as exemplified by Ajiko Kojima’s 2006 text My Neighbor Yaoi-chan (Tonari no 801chan). In 2006,[moi: this could be a typo, it is probably 2007] the magazine Eureka (Seidosha) published two special issues, Fujoshi Manga Compendium (June) and BL Studies (December), about boys’ love/shōnen-ai works and their fujoshi fans. Both issues contained critiques and essays by fujoshi from many age groups and professional backgrounds, and they strongly foregrounded insider points of view. They also made references to male readers of yaoi and BL. The word fudanshi, “rotten boy,” was used to denote male fans who liked fujoshi-oriented content, indicating that a taste for expressions of male-male romance was not as strictly gendered as was previously assumed.””
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/462/386.

The first generation of the Genshiken graduated in March 2006
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Genshiken_chapters). When it revived a few years later, the venerable clubroom soon turned into a pit of fujoshi mischief. What happened?

As noted above, the 2006-2007 period had a lot of fujoshi media awareness. Also, as previously went-on-about-for-too-long, the second season of the Genshiken anime also ran its infamous yaoi episode in 2007 (https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/i-do-not-feel-the-romance-i-do-not-catch-the-spark/) so there was a certain zeitgeist in the air.

A fair bit of the theory writing after this time mentions the importance of three or more specialized issues in the popular Japanese literary magazine Eureka.

Want to stop the whole pesky fujoshi mess in its tracks? Set the wayback machine guys, we are going to stop Eureka from publishing in 2007!
Hey this is more fun than Stein’s Gate!

Back to those issues: Their influence is explored in a short but important essay by Tomoko Aoyama: Eureka Discovers Culture Girls, Fujoshi, and BL:
Essay Review of Three Issues of the Japanese Literary magazine,
Yuriika (Eureka) http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/aoyama.htm

…Who also points out the importance of an earlier 2005 issue on “Culture Girls” (probably best understood as a survey of girl’s culture) and a late 2007 issue on Mori Mari:

“…the magazine has rarely dealt with women writers and artists—until relatively recently. Given this general background, the November 2005 Culture Girls issue has a special historical significance.

The issue quickly sold out and the term bunka-kei joshi (used broadly for young(ish) women culture vultures, intellectuals, writers, artists, and fans)[3] gained some currency in popular media. From this issue onwards Eureka has paid much more attention than before to a wide range of ‘Culture Girls’ favourite topics, artists, and genres.

The January 2006 Forefront of Manga Criticism issue, for example, included slightly more input from women commentators than the August 2005 supplementary issue Otaku vs Sub-Cul[ture].[4] Other topics featured in 2006 included singer Madonna (March), female manga artist Saibara Rieko (July), and women film directors (December). The trend was further heightened in 2007 (see Table 1), with the regular December issue dedicated to woman writer Mori Mari, who is regarded today as the pioneer of male homosexual fantasy stories for women, as well as the Fujoshi manga and BL Studies issues that are also reviewed in this essay. “

It should also be mentioned that one of the 2006 issues was devoted to the anthropological science fiction works of Ursula K. LeGuin. One can surmise that while the Earthsea saga was discussed, some discussion of the groundbreaking and gender-role questioning The Left Hand of Darkness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness) took place. Footnotes in later essays verify LeGuin’s influence on narratives in contemporary Japanese feminist fiction. (but damn if i haven’t lost the citations again – will fill this in when they re-surface)

[MUCH LATER: found it in a footnote in a survey article:

“(48) Yaoi in Japan appears to have arisen independently of slash, though both genres were influenced, as Thorn says, “by a global questioning of gender and sexuality” (personal communication). Ebihara (2002) says Hagio cited Western science fiction author Ursula Le Guin as a major influence on her works in the mid-1980s. Other Western authors who influenced shōjo manga artists were speculative fiction writers such as Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr. and Suzy McKee Charnas, especially their feminist-themed science-fiction stories, which Marlene Barr termed “feminist fabulation.” Thorn says Takemiya illustrated the covers for a paperback series of Le Guin’s works, and that Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness was translated into Japanese in 1972 and Russ’ “When It Changed” in 1974 (personal communication).”
– http://web.archive.org/web/20040815054437/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html   ]

The three issues were:

Bunka-kei joshi katarogu (Culture Girls’ catalogue, November 2005) ISBN4-7917-0140-2;
Fujoshi manga taikei (Fujoshi manga compendium, June 2007 supplementary issue) ISBN978-4-7917-0163-6;
and
BL (Bōizu rabu) sutadiizu (BL [Boys Love] studies, December 2007 supplementary issue) ISBN978-4-7917-0172-8.

While there were plenty of fujoshi before this, the media, the academics and mangakas looking for research got a veritable trove of material, done up as popular social science within the space of half a year.

Here is Aoyama on the Nov 2005 issue:

“The contributors to the Culture Girls issue vary immensely—certainly more widely than contributors to the other two issues. The issue is divided into several sections: literature, visual art, music, ‘Otaku-kei’ (manga, yaoi, BL, anime, digital games and gadgets etc.), and fandoms (pop music and comedians). The issue also includes a roundtable discussion with four ‘culture girls,’ the responses of twenty men (critics, writers, and artists) to the questionnaire about their ‘favourite culture girls’ and a culture girls’ chronology. As is clear from Takada Rieko’s opening essay, some of the contributors are more familiar with the conventional danshi-kei bunka (men’s culture), such as German literary studies (Takada’s own field), than the genres associated with bunka-kei joshi. In Takada’s view women academics, who have been working within the male-centred humanities, ‘do not deserve to be included in the Culture Girls’ Catalogue, which presumably expresses the creativity, intelligence, and misery of women who are free from the institutional restrictions and the shadow of men.'[5] And yet, as she also claims, it is worth noting that the decline of ‘men’s culture’ based on Western cultural hegemony has released ‘culture girls’ from the spell of their often turbulent personal relationships with the bunka-kei danshi.[6]

The significance of ‘freedom’ and ‘relationships’ is mentioned in many other contributions. Issues of gender segregation are also recurrent. Ozawa Eimi, Kimura Kana, Kodai Nariko, and several others deal with the dilemma of women academics, literary girls, and artists. Horikoshi Hidemi, who chaired the roundtable and compiled the culture girl chronology, notes that only after graduation did she realise that years of reading books written solely by male authors had suppressed her interests in girl culture.[7] Kanemaki Tomoko begins her essay ‘Joshi ota 30-nen sensō’ (30-Year War of Female Otaku) with a discussion of the absence of women’s views and voices in debates and studies about otaku. This is despite the fact that 71.2 per cent of the exhibitors and 56.9 per cent of general participants at the 30th Anniversary Comic Market[8] were women.[9] “

Aoyama then gets down to the two 2007 issues: (big honking quote warning!)

“Compared with the broad, ambiguous, and somewhat hesitant tone that permeates Culture Girls Catalogue, the two later issues are much more clearly focussed and less reserved. Fujoshi manga taikei opens with a dialogue between the Naoki Prize winning popular novelist Miura Shion and sociologist Kaneda Junko. Titled ‘”Seme x uke” no mekurumeku sekai: dansei shintai no miryoku o motomete’ (The dazzling world of ‘seme x uke’: in pursuit of the charm of male body), the two women discuss thematic and technical freedom, innovation and diversity in BL manga. Their topics range from the significance of depicting uke men’s nipples and body fluids to the much wider types of protagonists, including the ‘fat, bald, and old.'[18] Terms such as seme (lit. attacker), uke (lit. receiver), and riba (reverse/reversible) are used without gloss. One of the important points raised in this dialogue is the homophobic (e.g. ‘I’m not gay but I love you.’) and misogynistic expressions (‘Stop treating me like a woman!’) that used to be commonly found in BL works.[19] These are much less common now, however, as BL has become more and more diversified and includes critiques of gender stereotypes and discrimination. While the dialogue thus emphasises the positive aspects and specific innovations of BL, it also mentions the negative view that was dominant until the mid-1990s and is still present.[20]

As mentioned above, gender asymmetry and segregation are the central issues in the Culture Girls’ Catalogue. Many contributors to Fujoshi manga taikei also discuss these. Ueno Chizuko, for example, emphasises in her essay ‘Fujoshi to wa dare ka?’ (Who Is Fujoshi?)[21] :

despite the post-war Americanization and permeation of heterosexism [dēto eiji ‘date age’], Japanese gender segregation culture has been reproduced. ‘Couple culture’ has failed to establish itself in Japan…Sub-culture media are filled with couples; however, the imagined sex differs immensely between male and female cultures. It rather amazes me that real sexual intercourse is possible at all between men and women who have separately developed such gender-asymmetrical sexual fantasies.[22]

In psychologist Kayama Rika’s view, fujoshi have two contradictory traits, namely, the otaku-like (i.e. erased or blurred) ‘self’ and feminine orientation for relational narrative.[23] Kayama also notes that ‘while more women are released from relationship-based illnesses, at the same time the number of women who suffer more deeply has increased.'[24]

Sociologist Ishida Hitoshi discusses the gap between the ‘real gay’ and gays as represented in yaoi/BL and the lack of dialogue between the fujoshi and the ‘real gays.’ In BL Studies Ishida further examines the ‘autonomy’ and ‘appropriation’ in BL representations.[25] Mizoguchi Akiko offers another angle: she argues that while the majority of yaoi artists and their audience are heterosexual women, ‘nevertheless its discursive space is highly lesbian.’ [ moi: Note the appearance of A. Mizoguchi, writing for the popular Japanese reader, in Japanese, while she was finishing up her PhD thesis ] Like Miura and Kaneda, Mizoguchi confirms the increase of non-homophobic and more diversified representations including, for example, gay human rights issues. Diversity is also evident in other essays including Mori Naoko’s discussion of ‘hard’ (sexually explicit) BL and Yoshimoto Taimatsu’s analysis of male BL fans (fukei 腐兄[27] and fudanshi 腐男子). Yoshimoto also deals with the BL subgenre called shota, which involves pre-adolescent boy protagonists. The topic of shota appears in many other essays and interviews but with the unspoken understanding that this has nothing to do with ‘real’ paedophilia, child pornography, and censorship. As Mark McLelland and others have pointed out, this presents a great contrast to the sensitiveness of these issues in the West.[28]

BL Studies includes further updates and useful theoretical and bibliographical overviews. Kotani Mari proposes the notion of C (in contrast to the famous A, P, and V in Inagaki Taruho’s Shōnen’ai no bigaku (The Aesthetics of Love for Boys, originally published in 1968)[29] to analyse the sexuality of homme fatal(e) protagonists. Kotani argues that homme fatal narratives should be understood as stories of C, that is the symbol for service for women’s autonomous and personal pleasure without oppression or invasion.[30]

Referring to her own pioneering monograph on girls’ comics, Watashi no ibasho wa doko ni aru no? (Where is My Place? 1998),[31] Fujimoto Yukari summarises two main points:

First shōnen ai [the earlier genre that dealt with male homoeroticism] was created to flee from various gender restrictions and sexuality taboos; Once the mechanism is established, however, it has enabled girls to ‘play sexuality’ and opened up a possibility for them to change their viewpoint from passive to active.[32]

Then she discusses a number of issues and misunderstandings with updated data and references such as Nagakubo Yōko’s Yaoi shōsetsu ron (On yaoi novels, 2005).[33]

Kaneda Junko’s overview of theories on yaoi is equally useful. She argues that there are two general inquiries. First of these is the psychological approach that concerns ‘Why do you like yaoi?,'[34] which implicitly assumes that there are some problems to be solved. The other is a gender studies approach that asks ‘What does yaoi signify to women and to society?.'[35] Kaneda cites Kotani, Nagakubo, Mizoguchi, Ishida and many other studies in regard to this latter inquiry. While this issue includes Shiina Yukari’s essay on the popularity of BL manga in America,[36]  generally the discussions in all three volumes are limited to Japanese-language publications, audiences, artists, and scholars. [emp. mine]

The focus on the more recent and specific is apparent in BL Studies. The opening roundtable discussion looks at the major themes, changes, and topics in BL manga in 2007. The three most popular themes were ‘[male] pleasure quarters, Arab, and [male] brides,'[37] while there was also the first BL fiction to deal with tuna fishermen (a major industry supplying Japan’s sushi trade). Several different kinds of seme are mentioned. Recent publications on yaoi, BL, and fujoshi, including those written from male viewpoints and/or for a male audience, are also discussed. While Fujoshi manga taikei includes interviews with two artists: Nobi Nobita and Kyūshū Danji,[38] BL Studies features seven interviews. These are highly interesting, as they go into specific details and examples, which often correspond to the points raised in the essays. Each issue also includes an illustrated guide to major BL artists and texts. Perhaps these and the cover illustrations (by Hajimekku, Kusama Sakae, and Tojitsuki Hajime) best illustrate the freedom and diversity discussed above.

These three volumes are essential readings for anyone interested in BL, yaoi, and girl culture in contemporary Japan. They are also very useful and interesting for students and researchers of broader gender studies and Japanese popular culture and many other fields even though readers unfamiliar with the terms, genres and broader socio-cultural context may have some difficulties. As outlined above, each volume has its own aims, significance and emphasis. Culture Girl Catalogue marks an important turning point for Eureka from its traditional focus on male-dominant, and Euro-American oriented elite culture to a wider range of both elite and popular cultures produced and received by women. Fujoshi manga taikei and BL Studies more specifically deal with both technical and thematic innovation and diversification in the relevant genres. Earlier negative images and discourses surrounding fujoshi have been replaced by positive recognition of their creativity. The discursive centre has shifted from ‘liberation from’ and ‘alternative to’ to ‘freedom for.’ Needless to say, there are still many issues and areas unexplored or underrepresented in these volumes.”

Wow!

You can betcha that if you are going to move to Japan and do serious gender studies research on otaku/ fujoshi/ queer/ yadda yadda yadda issues surrounding “modern visual culture”  that you will be practicing your hard-won ability to read japanese of photocopies or scans of these three Eureka issues. Now if only some kind scanlator or blogger would care to have a go at the whole mess, the rest of us could be enlightened.

In any case, the evidence mounts that Kio Shimoku had access to this material, and if he avoided it, he was at least soaking in a field of enquiry where the topics covered in these three issues were at the cutting edge of discussion about manga and Japanese visual culture.

That the muddy footprints of these Eureka issues can be found hidden in the corners of the pages of Genshiken Nidame is undeniable.

Meanwhile some fresh fujoshi studies material finally bobs to the surface, and (three cheers!) it is not hidden behind an academic paywall.

We will now pause for a mandatory “Boo Hisss” at Mechademia and it’s habit of hiding behind an academics-only paywall. Repent and free your research!

Here is some fresh theory writing:

Please visit the TWC website and snag the following articles from Issue 14

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/issue/view/14

all of which seem to have come out of Glocal Polemics of ‘BL’ (Boys Love): Production, Circulation, and Censorship symposium at Oita University (Japan, Oita city near Fukuoka) held on 22nd & 23rd January 2011
(http://www.isc.oita-u.ac.jp/e/news_window_epdf/BLworkshopprogram.pdf)

Goodies include:

Symposium: The possibilities of research on fujoshi in Japan by Midori Suzuki, Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/462/386

more…..

Rotten use patterns: What entertainment theories can do for the study of boys’ love by Björn-Ole Kamm, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/427/391

“This shift from asking the problematic question “why” to asking “how” mirrors developments during the 1970s within the field of media use research. A growing disenchantment with media effects theories led to a new interactive perspective on media use and to new concepts and models that understand media preference (such as for a particular genre) as arising from societal, biographical, and situational contexts and not from an essential personality trait. The same change is apparent within the discourse on boys’ love.

[1.4] Exchange between the fields of communication studies and manga studies remains limited. Most manga research ignores theories of media use, neither applying nor critiquing them. Similarly, communication research still focuses on television as the sole producer of symbols, ignoring media systems outside the North Atlantic sphere—or, more precisely, outside the United States. Consequently, it continues to rely on a Hollywoodesque “hedonistic principle” as the basis for theories of entertainment (note 3). Manga as an entertainment medium has been mostly ignored. The aim of this article is to address the weaknesses on both sides. In an attempt to foster a dialogue between communication studies and manga studies, I evaluate the uses and gratifications approach (UGA) and outline a conceptual framework for the analysis of boys’ love and its diverse patterns of use. Following the UGA and attending to the genre’s tayōsei, my framework also favors direct contact with the readers (and producers) instead of analyzing texts only.””

Later:

“Early UGA research limited the concept of audience activity to the decision-making process, for example, deciding which movie to watch or manga to read. This approach was based on the premise that people are aware of their needs and the media content that will best fulfill those needs.

[4.2] Instead of assuming that the world is completely knowable and individuals have access to all the information they need to make decisions, as rational choice theories imply, later conceptualizations of the UGA were more consistent with symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969). Interactionists assume that the (life) world is “created by processes of defining situations and interpreting actions and objects…[and] that these definitions and interpretations are to be seen as neither natural nor permanent, but socially constructed and provisional instead” (Westerik et al. 2006). Humans process their world symbolically, because they act toward objects according to the meanings they ascribe to those objects. These meanings are based on experiences, on earlier interactions with these objects, and on interactions with other humans. Such interactions are recursive and framed by changing contexts, resulting in corresponding changes in the meanings.””

“”[4.5] After repeated experiences with BL, the interviewees in my study have learned what they can gain from it or, more precisely, from a specific range of titles and authors within the genre. A use pattern develops to such a degree that reading manga, commercial or amateur, sexually explicit or romantic, is not a “problematic issue” (figure 1) but a routine. When Misato comes home stressed after school, she knows that she can relax by rereading one of her favorite BL manga. There is no need for her to search for another way to find relief from stress. Because the time involved in the decision process decreases, use patterns can be seen as a form of media competency (Schweiger 2007).”

Sounds useful!

Another fine paper:

Simulation and database society in Japanese role-playing game fandoms: Reading boys’ love dōjinshi online by Lucy Hannah Glasspool

Just from the title, we KNOW that we are going to get a bleep-load of interpreted Baudrillard, and some Azuma. “Simulation and cultural capital of a country, of objects, of familiarity with by fans” will be dropped out of a cloaked cargo plane like Mithril’s avenging mechas.

A sample:

“[4.4] Baudrillard (1990) has a good deal to say about pornography as a symptom of the hyperreal: as sex without the potential for his concept of playful seduction, it is “the mechanical objectification of the signs of sex” (27). The more explicit it becomes, the more it can be considered an empty simulacrum: “The more one advances willy-nilly in sex’s veracity, in the exposure of its workings, the more immersed one becomes in the accumulation of signs, and the more enclosed one becomes in the mindless over-signification of a real that no longer exists” (33). Baudrillard concentrates here on hard-core photographic/live-action pornography, which, although similar in some respects to the drawn contents of many erotic dōjinshi, is possibly less playful. It may be that the creators and consumers of these fan texts are less obsessed with “games of sex” than “with play itself” (13). In either case, the pornographic element of dōjinshi may add another layer to the build-up of elements that enable the classification of such fan works as simulacra.”

later

“[4.10] The ways that an idea of Japaneseness is maintained by fans can also be seen in dōjinshi themselves. Apart from raw scans and hard copies—which of course constantly remind their readers of their origin by the fact that they are in Japanese—many scanlated digital versions also contain what are recognized by fans as Japanese characteristics, which cannot be observed in the localized versions of the RPGs they are based on. The dōjinshi are English enough for the content to be comprehensible, but some foreign features remain intact. They fetishize the “rubric of cultural/Japanese difference” (Allison 2006, 15).

[4.11] Scanlations of FFVII dōjinshi like K. Haruka’s Endorphine (2001) and Bring You Back to Me (2003) retain some Japanese words without attempting literal or cultural translation, such as the diminutive suffix -chan, which has a specific meaning in Japanese but no real equivalent in English. The translator assumes that the readers, who are likely to have some knowledge of the RPG upon which the dōjinshi is based, will also know enough about Japanese culture to recognize the word and understand its meaning.

[4.12] Many scanlations, though translated into English, leave Japanese script intact in the form of sound effects, which are often an integral part of the artwork and difficult to remove (they are sometimes overlaid with English effects instead). This is an aesthetic decision rather than one that consciously promotes the idea of Japaneseness, but it nevertheless contributes to the apparent cultural specificity of the text.””

[5.8] As might be considered appropriate for works drawn from the medium of games, these techniques of borrowing particular elements and discarding others are playful. Such texts are intended for the pleasure of specific in-the-know users. Although practices like pastiche are criticized by theorists such as Jameson (1983) for being “neutral and ‘blank’ parody, parody that has lost its sense of humor” (114), Baudrillard (1990), in his theorization of the silent masses, suggests that a lack of earnestness or overt social or political content is sometimes the only method of protest. In the context of contemporary capitalist cultures, rife with simulation, the masses do not respond seriously to simulations of meaningfulness; rather, people subvert it by refusing to engage or produce serious meanings for themselves. They “take the hyperlogic of the play of signs to its most banal” (Grace 2000, 103). In this kind of inertia, they frustrate and trouble attempts to make a serious matter of fixing gender.”

What really makes this paper interesting is how the author ends by decrying the relative lack of serious study of fujoshi dojins, by the fujoshi-studies mafia aka “the usual suspects” and their Japanese brethren. It seems that the rotten girls are suspicious of academic outsiders and worry about a possible double whammy clampdown driven by moral panic and copyright concerns. Don’t ask don’t tell comes to fujoshi-land.

Finally, this one caught my eye:

Reflection on Chinese boys’ love fans: An insider’s view by Erika Junhui Yi, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States

Interesting point: while Mizoguchi et al go on about virtual lesbian spaces and others call fujoshi-dom ‘queer” Chinese rotten girls bear the brunt of a much simpler form of discrimination. Chinese society don’t like weird, it don’t like homosexuality of any stripe and it don’t like uppity wimmins. If the latter looks at anything that looks “gay”, then they are gay, and therefore must be lesbians/ queers/ gays/ disruptive/ abject/ dangerous all rolled into one without distinction. Send them all off to the re-education through labor camps, let Marx sort them out!

So much for Western “queer theory” privilege. Ouch!

So these articles will be a lot of fun to grind up against Genshiken and other manga. Anyone who gives a whit for this kind of “theory moe” is invited to partake!

Next time, something light and pleasant

Fujoshi moe-nogatari

Wherein your correspondent reviews another bit of important fujoshi-studies literature, as part of an ongoing survey project to skim through notable articles, try to make sense of them, and then grind them up against Genshiken (or other manga/anime) to see if any sparks fly:

Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/660182  JSTOR: Signs, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Autumn 2011), pp. 211-232 (somehow not locked down in Jstor – grab it before they change their mind)

Galbraith is pretty well unavoidable in the field; when he gets around to looking at fujoshis acting as fujoshis you get to witness a first-rate academic popularizer at work. You get the feeling he has run through the theory/ world interface more than a few times in classes and symposia and knows what he wants to say. If I was still a grad student working in the field, I would be torn between admiration and jealousy. “Goddammit he just grabbed all the good stuff!

Well, there is plenty of fujoshi misbehaviour to go around in Japan, and he has done the fieldwork – lots of fieldwork, so calm down and pay attention! This article and his moe one: Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan are now required reading.

(Big honking quote warning:)

“All of my informants self-identify as fujoshi, a term transforming the Japanese word for ladies into a homonym meaning rotten girls. Fujoshi are rotten because they are enthusiastic about yaoi, a genre of fan-produced fiction and art, usually manga, that places established male characters from commercial anime, manga, and video games into unintended romantic relationships, roughly analogous to “slash” fiction outside Japan (Jenkins 1992; Pagliassotti 2010).

Stories range from depicting boys just holding hands to boys having sex, sometimes roughly, always passionately, and appear as text and images in physical and virtual forms.

Yaoi evolved from the mainstream commercial medium of shojo (for girls) manga and shares the genre’s focus on romance and interpersonal relationships, but yaoi is dedicated to relationships between androgynous men. In a country where patriarchal family values persist, fujoshi are criticized for pursuing yaoi and are described as rotten because they are attracted to fantasies of sex that is not productive of children (Sugiura 2006).

However, fujoshi typically lead heteronormative lives despite their queer fantasies, which they describe as nothing more than play. Indeed, fujoshi consciously situate their fantasy as digression: the term yaoi is an acronym for “no climax, no punch line, no meaning” (yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi). This follows a long tradition in Japan of asobi, or play that is outside the expectations and rules of the everyday (Hendry and Raveri 2002).

Yaoi erases the female in fantasy because female-male or even female-female couples are too close to reality. Male-male couples, by contrast, are positioned as what fujoshi call “pure fantasy” (junsui na fantajı). In this way, yaoi represents what psychoanalyst Saito¯ Tamaki describes as “asymmetrical” desire “deliberately separated from everyday life” (Saito 2007, 245). For fujoshi, fantasy is something that coexists with reality as a separate set of possibilities.

Fujoshi fantasy centers on intimacy. Sharalyn Orbaugh (2010) notes that rape is a common motif in yaoi, but adds that “rape is always motivated by the aggressor’s extreme love and desire for the victim” and “the victim eventually comes to accept and reciprocate the aggressor’s love”. As Orbaugh sees it, yaoi characters are vulnerable and abject (they describe themselves as strange), but they accept each other as true or destined lovers. The bond is key. The characters do not identify as gay (and often outright deny it) but fall in love with someone who happens to be the same-sex; the bond between them is special and ireproducible.

Likewise, yaoi tends to feature the charismatic boys of shonen (for boys) manga. Be they friends or rivals, the characters in these action-adventure stories tend to have very strong feelings for one another. Fujoshi reinterpret touches, words, and glances in shonen manga as indirect expressions of affection: they pick up on implicit tensions in male relations and playfully imagine intimacy. I call this “transgressive intimacy,” or emotional and erotic potential that is latent in the everyday and separate from it. Fujoshi are devoted to exposing and exploring transgressive intimacy in their fiction and art, and among themselves. Some of my informants, even those with boyfriends, described themselves as lesbians.(see orig Mizoguchi fn 9 below)

My informants generally imposed temporal and spatial limits on their contact—they often “do not want to know” one another, as one informant frankly told me, outside of their shared experiences as fujoshi, which tends to focus discussions and interactions on yaoi. Fujoshi relationships, like yaoi relationships, are based on a mutual status as abject and vulnerable (hence fujoshi describe themselves as rotten) and are consciously separated from reality as moments of transgressive intimate potential in fantasy space.

Intimacy among fujoshi is characterized by playful surface interaction. At the most basic level, when the interaction occurs online, it is a construct between the user physically sitting in front of the computer and the other imagined beyond the screen (a flat viewing surface mediating interactions with a fujoshi partner who is not deeply engaged, talking about supposedly “meaningless” fantasy). Philosopher Azuma Hiroki uses the metaphor of the screen to describe the nature of late-stage capitalism as “hyperflatness” (Azuma 2009, 102). Drawing on Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, Azuma theorizes that the grand narrative has broken down, leaving only fragmentary moments of sensual pleasure obsessively reproduced in a flat world without meaning, since meaning was generated by the grand narrative.

This goes a long way toward explaining fan fiction and art, but it fails to explain the sociality and intimacy of sharing these moments of pleasure or sensual intensity. On this point, Suzuki Kensuke has theorized “neta communication” (neta teki komyunike¯shon), or topic-oriented communication in which the topic itself is less important than the communication act (Suzuki 2002).

Neta means material, as in the material a comedian draws on when making jokes on stage. Those needing reference for how such communication functions need look no further than Seinfeld, an American sitcom where a comedian and his friends draw on an endless string of topics from trivial matters in everyday life to fuel discussions that unfold like performances. While extreme in arguing that humans have reverted to buzzing like bees in hive interactions, neta communication theory highlights the importance of the phatic function of language, which seems crucial to understanding fujoshi. Communication and interactions may be surface, but they are not trivial. As Elspeth Probyn (1996) suggests, the social world is a “surface” upon which “all manner of desires to belong are conducted in relations of proximity to each other” .

If you can get the in-journal pdf from the link, the footnotes are easier to manage as they sit at page bottom.. Here’s one that caught my eye:

“9) While there certainly are lesbian fujoshi, and while not wanting to deny my informants their sexual agency, I should point out that it seemed to me that they were using the term “lesbian” not to indicate a sexual orientation but rather to mean “deeply intimate with members of the same-sex.” This sort of intimacy, or special friendship, at girls’ schools is not historically unique (Pflugfelder 2005).”

Shortly following is a footnote that does the big ooooops! on Mizoguchi due to a bit of careless quoting:

“Mizoguchi Akiko (2007) has also worked on lesbianism among yaoi fans and has stated that she “became” a lesbian because of exposure in adolescence (Mizoguchi 2008, vi) “

Whoops! I have previously made noise about this. Let me dig at it a bit more:

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi has to be dealt with in any discussion of yaoi in Japan: Her main thesis posits that while the majority of yaoi consuming Japanese females are “straight”, their social exchange of libidinous material constitutes a “virtual lesbian space”. The puppets look male, but the hands that draw them are female, in a female productive fan community. Her “virtual lesbian” thesis confuses the heck out of “straight’ fujoshi research, to the extent that there is a temptation to fuzzy-fy her stuff and slip by it.  There goes the odd charm of fujoshidom: “normal” Japanese women with perverse desires – as if they were all “real” lesbians, they would be “bent” anyway, so looking at m-m pr0n would be no big stretch: They would be all “virtually butch” or some such rude miscomprehension.

For me, her “virtual lesbian” concept helped me put the whole Genshiken Hato-plot-trick in context (and left me a bit queasy about reading yuri, though I still can’t bring myself to read her fave stuff). Dr. Mizoguchi knows all about yuri, but keeps seeing the male “social” hiding behind the female characters.

One reason I harp on this is that the frank personal testimony that Mizoguchi used in her thesis is what made it real and readable, and while I suspect it might be a tad embellished, the story of a young lesbian isolated in her social using the tropes of a classic BL tales to recover from a painful rejected confession is pure high heroic romanticism!

Lets dig up the Mizoguchi passages in question:

“But of course I had crushes on girl friends prior to that time. Especially serious was one episode with a classmate in college, whom I ended up telling that i was in love with and wanted to become lovers with. She was surprised and said she was sorry but she could only be friends with me, and proceeded to advise me that i should try to correct my ways so I could fit back into a straight lifestyle, as the lesbian or bisexual life would surely be more difficult.

“Whether or not I will lead a non-normative life is not your business. I will make my own decision and I know I will not lie to myself. The chosen lifestyle might be the more difficult one, but that is not the point.”

At the time of this conversation in 1985, I had not heard of lesbians except for “homosexuality as a mental disorder” and a few “lesbian scandals” in show business. [ …] How then was I able to gain access to such a strong sense of lesbian pride? (p9) […] When I realized this, what came to my mind was the only “homosexual” representation I had access to in the 1970’s, that is, so-called “beautiful boy” comics (bishonen manga) within the “girls comics’ (shojo manga) genre.. ” (p10, Mizoguchi 2008))

K-rist piloting a Tracer unit in a schoolgirl outfit!!! If this ain’t a “Batman moment” stuck into a PhD thesis, I don’t know what is! I am not making fun of it, and it is fair game to call attention to it, as it was foregrounded in her thesis. The oath moment is one to self and to public agency. Perhaps the problem pops up later at the end of her personal testimony around P44:

“I “became” a lesbian after [emp mine] the beautiful boy protagonists’ homoerotic/ homosexual episodes in the “beautiful boy” comics in the 1970’s “girls’ comics”. precursor to the yaoi genre. Now approximately a million women – still a minority in Japan with a population of over 127 million – are participating in a “virtual lesbian” community, which has the potential lesbian and feminist activism based on shared pleasures among women and their sexual fantasies.” (Mizoguchi 2008)

So: there is the quote, but way out of context. Mizoguchi has made a point of invoking Judith Butler a whole lot on “becoming”, and therefore the quotation-marks- loaded “I became” must be positioned to be read as meaning something like “I initially constructed my public persona as a lesbian, by adapting the narratives and tropes of..” Butler is a big gay theorist who posits as desirable that one acts publicly to present one’s life and sexuality as a real social fact (although some parody of what is grating on you from heteronormative society is considered part of the deal too.) Just think of the ID creature in the film “Forbidden Planet”, powerful, diffuse and impossible to pin down, because it is re-created instant to instant – such is identity to Butler.

Note also Mizoguchi’s use of the word after, as in “take after“, “inspired by“, “enabled by the script” rather than “after I got hit by a train, I died”. So “I became” without the Butler concept emphasis is problematic.

Why I am I digressing on this? Pace mr. Galbraith, I am not on a search and destroy mission. The thing about Mizoguchi, as personified in her 2008 PhD thesis is how she straddles and threatens the gender and fantasy is fantasy/ reality is reality conventions of the yaoi social. They are all supposed to be “straight” women – what is she doing in there? Also, she has made it a big point of her praxis to point out that the nastier plot conventions in yaoi can hurt, insult and confuse real solid-life gay males, and possibly all homosexuals, and that less nasty alternatives are available. The potential for radical disenchantment in her critique is serious. Shimoku -sensei is not the only one who likes to poke at Saito.

ASIDE: prof Saito is a good target to kick. His main argument, that Japanese culture can easily maintain the fantasy is fantasy x reality is reality divide reads at first a lot like the usual “japan-is-special” essentialism that goes by the name of Nihon- jinronSure, different cultures process things differently, but Nihon- jinron arguments end up being “just-so” stories; long on “yup” and short on “why?” Then again, prof Saito invented the term Hikikomori, and has written extensively on Otaku sexuality and social withdrawal in Japan. If I am going to carelessly wave an essentialism stick at his work, I will have to dig it up, read it and only then mouth off.

Back to Akiko Mizoguchi and Galbraith:

Her popping up in this Galbraith essay right before the strong tip-of-the hat to that fantasy x reality/ private x public problem highlights this.  There are a few differences between Western slash and fujoshi culture, and one of them is that political correctness, or token formal consideration of such complaints is a lot more part of slash communities than of fujoshi culture. After all, up to half of the readership can be gay males in Western slash communities, while fujoshi culture is still estimated to be %90+ female.

Galbraith next goes on to highlight the notion that the thing that really turns the fujoshi crank is the relationship rather than the skin alluded to in the stories. From that flow the infamous “rapes-of-love” trope and the “I’m not gay, but” tropes. Both of course (invoke often!) annoy the heck out of some real gay folks, but both are defended endlessly as necessary for the “special“, “unique in the whole world -awwwww” characteristics of the fetishized (and endlessly re-imagined) relationship.

Galbraith is also deft at signalling that he gives some credence to the notion that the mirroring between the story characters as not just queer, but outsider/ abject/ transgressive/ outlaw behaviour in pursuit of the “one-n-only” mirrors the obsession and self-mocking abject stance of the fujoshi. So of course they have their puppets do nasty things to each other before finding true love. Because they are “fallen” themselves and that their desires are “transgressive”. (So they are all goth variants ???)

The other thing about fujoshi insistence on the “not-gay-but” trope, is that if the male fuck-puppets in question were gay, then the desire would be grounded in the realities of everyday “normal’ gay desire, which is too damn close to the way “real” guys act anyway – at least from the fujoshi pont of view. That ain’t hawt any more. More interesting is why such things are hawt to them.

pr0n lovers web SHIFT POV!

Back to Genshiken and Hato for a moment: I am dead serious about Hato being a “kage-Mizoguchi”, the shadow of the warrior (I am theory-moe-ing on my Kurosawa reference) because what his cross-dressing not-quite-fudanshi presence does is continuously short-circuit whole categories of gendered space and the fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality field.

Hato is by no means a perfect Mizoguchi “shadow”. While he makes a somewhat adequate virtual-lesbian fujoshi, he has no Butlerian “became” in his crossdressing persona, (yet) and his 3D desire for women is currently directed at one unobtainable nasty female character, (with occasional bouts of Madarame desiring fugue states).

Worse, he has not yet sworn his oath, and/ or taken any larger political/ social stand – his performance is extremely personal and extremely closeted. And, he is a judo-skilled, female desiring, seme-role assuming, compulsive yaoi consuming snake in the fujoshi garden of Eden. The whiff of potential predator about him is unmistakable, and made worse by his refusal to resolve, to “become” something that would clear up the confusion.

Oh, and he is a cartoon character – this is a blog about manga.

At some point I will have to drag the whole liminality (standing at the threshold, neither entering or refusing to enter, very fashionable in theory land, blah blah) thing into the light, but for now lets ignore it.

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi is a real, solid-life public lesbian academic fujoshi theorist, and that public role is not “just” a truth that she vowed to live, but coincidentally a consideration to her heterosexual fujoshi sisters. A similar side effect of her “politically correct” campaign presents itself. Her “vow of truth” has the potential for a real buzz-kill when the gals start snorting about some nasty fantasy stuff, but it also lays her cards on the table (else why would she get so confessional in her PhD thesis?)

I would guess that some of the younger heterosexual fujoshis she runs into roll their eyes when she pokes at their tropes for having nasty real-world bleed-over potential, but conversely I doubt that any of them worry that she is sneaking into their midst to corrupt some sweet young fujoshi. In shojo-ai manga terms, a character loosely modelled on her would be closer to the “out” ultra-rich, ultra capable young lesbian Tomoe in Sasameki Koto. Her public position situates her within her social as a safe, if slightly stodgy expert figure. Her younger sisterhood might also point out that she grew up reading “Heart of Thomas’ and Song of the Wind and Trees” and not  “Shinji I wont let you rape my ass until you pay me that 40,000 yen…”  dojins.

I am waiting for a Karaoke session episode with the Genshiken fujoshis: Sue gets to sing The Who’s “Rough Boys“. All join in … Perhaps a vocaloid flash video is out there somewhere ???

This analysis of mine is clumsy, and possibly a bit annoying to any real Dr. Mizoguchi who may stumble across this, but I hope I am getting the point across. Whether or not Shimoku had heard of her when he constructed Hato, (later: oh I do think he has) he is getting a lot of plot juice out of having Hato poke at the same contradictions that she embodies (without the resolutions) – contradictions specifically bounded around sexuality and the reality/ fantasy interface, and these contradictions are building up a powerful charge of potential 3D world fallout; which is also Shimoku-sensei’s number one plot trick.

Hato is not a “real” fudanshi in the strict sense: a man who enjoys the company of women as a man, as they read and “exchange” yaoi. The Galbraith essay under consideration notes the testimony of a real-life “Ogiue” who found a short and pudgy, sympathetic “Sass”, even if her fave semes are tall thin and nasty. Other testimony.,in other places have more than a few guys hanging out with the rotten girls, because they enjoy the company (…Where the girls are.. la la la ) and manage to process the material in some way (which could range from a complete homoerotic reading to one that “reads” the characters as abstracted female desire). The undertones of 3D male longing are inescapable: perhaps these fudanshi “like” fantasy man-smut, but also “desire” a nice fujoshi girl.

At least “they” know that the gals are sexual creatures, and “they” have managed to worm “their” way into close fujoshi proximity to talk dirty with them. And as for guilt about hiding a bit of male predator behaviour? These girls are predatory in their own right! The “rotten girls” are also “dirty girls“. But Hato tried this once in high school and it blew up in his face. Hence Hato V2. A fudanshi Hato would be way too easy, as would a pure “trap” Hato.

ASIDE: If his “little friend” is going to trance him into chasing Mada, shouldn’t his outfit change from synthetic fujoshi to “trap” otokonoko? Hato keeps quiet and puts on one of his insipid “I like it” grins. The kid is wallowing in it!

Shift POV back to Galbraith:

The overwhelming majority of Japanese fujoshi are inscribed as heteronormative in their “real” lives. It complicates the heck out of things to posit that they also are susceptible to latent lesbianism. Mizoguchi even deals with this too, but brings up the prodigious smut intake, much like Genshiken’s Kaminaga: “You cannot read all that stuff without some effect!” (This mirroring of Mizoguchi by Kio Shimoku is another fun coincidence.. or…)

In any case, the accepted compromise in fujoshi studies at this point is to stretch the definition of queer a bit more, drop it over fujoshi desire, and keep marching… No wonder a newer generation of fujoshi theorists are going all Duluze and Guattari – the rhizome/ desiring machines/ body without organs thing is a neat way to get around the contradictions in the internal logic of the whole mess, even if it feels like trying to grab fog.

Here in a footnote, Galbraith attempt to put the train back on the tracks:

“Informants regularly told me that the beautiful boys in yaoi are separate from so-called real gays (riaru gei). Fujoshi conscientiously mark their Web sites with the reminder “yaoi is fantasy.” This is partially in response to serious criticism from homosexual men in Japan, who accuse fujoshi of misappropriating the homosexual male image and misrepresenting reality for their own pleasure. Recently, self-identified gay male characters have appeared in manga featuring male-male romance, but the social weight and consequence of their sexual orientation is nullified. For an overview of the criticisms of yaoi, see Vincent (2007).”

There is also that little matter of the new laws against certain forms of virtual smut in Japan.

After a bit more about other approaches to fujoshis and yaoi, including a big shout-out to Matt Thorn (academic papers are a lot like rap concerts – you need the shout-outs!) Galbraith pulls out his fave way of looking at things: moe.

For him, moe expands on the little-used Bronisław Malinowski concept of phatic – originally a term used to describe how crystals split, but repurposed by Malinowski as a form of super shibboleth that in-groups exchange as a token of their in-group-ness (shibboleth is an old testament password thing – I say To-may-to, if you say To-mah-to, you are a thingamite enemy spy and I kill you!) Malinowski’s phatic concept didn’t really go too far when first launched, but is back with a vengeance in this time of the world-wide interwebs. It dovetails nicely in with Azuma’s database/ echo chamber theories too, so sticking phatic into an understanding of moe is a damn fine analysis trick!

From the earlier mentioned paper on moe:

“The moe response is progressively defined as a convergence of media transmission and personal reception, but it can engender sociality when shared with others. Morikawa explains that fans can functionally understand a great deal about the taste, range and personality of others based on what they do and do not describe as moe (Morikawa 2008). For example, if one says megane-moe, or glasses moe, he or she is saying that characters wearing glasses are stimulating and also that he or she responds to, or at least understands, that aesthetic. This emblazons a mode of communication with neither the mediation of a logical language nor the limitations of rational boundaries. Moe can thus be used to empathetically express deeply personal, intimate and even transgressive emotions in networks of mutual exposure and vulnerability. I observed this among fujoshi, who cultivated a group of ‘moe friends’ to talk about yaoi.” http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan

Note that moe is an affect (a theory term version of “effect”) rather than a traditional phatic subject, like nascar racing or Star Trek. Moe is a (shared) feeling/ condition that arises from the consideration of the fujoshi/ otaku phatic object – closer to “intense wow feeling!” “that works!” or “Way Kewl!”, but limited/ bounded by the fujoshi/ otaku material under consideration. Note also that any representation as to it being a tool for ultimate truth is a mistake of the reader: social science tools are better understood as points of view or data mining algorithms; used to extract insight. They also have their own phatic characteristics (theory -moe! brain hurts!)

“When together, fujoshi persistently discuss yaoi characters and relationships until they trigger moe. One fujoshi guides others through her fantasy by teasing out a story, helping listeners understand and share a moment of revelation and pleasure. Yaoi products are thus used to re- enchant relationships. Moe is most often a reaction to characters encountered in yaoi, but even people, animals, and inanimate objects can be imagined as characters in romantic or sexual interplay.[…a few paragraphs of discussion about “queer” space skipped] Be it with characters or with one another, fujoshi experience intimacy as transgressive potential cordoned off from everyday reality. This article will examine how fujoshi produce, consume, and share yaoi in pursuit of moe and the sets of discussions and relationships that are made possible across physical and virtual fields.” (p216)

Galbraith does an excellent job of doing a fast roundup of the emergence of yaoi in Japan, though you will miss his thoroughness if you have not done a bit of reading in the field. He pretty well hits all the important bits. Ending in the mid 2000’s he defines his study subject:

“The distinction from shonen ai is conceptually important. Fujimoto Yukari has argued that “shonen ai was created to flee from various gender restrictions and sexuality taboos,” but, once the mechanism was established, it “enabled girls to ‘play sexuality’” (quoted in Aoyama 2009). Fujoshi are those who are most interested in playing sexuality, which is most possible through yaoi, since it is self-consciously defined as meaningless and set apart from reality. My definition stresses enthusiasm because the fujoshi I encountered had libraries of hundreds, even thousands, of physical yaoi books and regularly visited dozens of Web sites. My informants self-identified as fujoshi in 2006 and 2007, at the height of an emergent discourse on fujoshi. I follow my informants in using the term fujoshi because it marked associations and distinctions central to the meaning-making process explored in this article.”

Then:

“Moe is a response to fictional characters or representations of them (Galbraith 2009). It is concerned with virtual potential, not real people, and is a reaction “prior to the formation of a distinct subject or viewing position” (LaMarre 2009, 281). Moe is the goal of producing, consuming, and sharing yaoi. Focusing on moe opens a window into the ways fujoshi use yaoi to generate and share affect [note the term, emp mine]. Moe is at once the most important and the most impenetrable aspect of fujoshi activity. All my informants resisted defining the concept during formal interviews. Informants notably all described moe as something that can only be captured partially, interpreted in the moment in different ways by different people. They were sure, however, that what distinguishes a fujoshi is an interest in yaoi and a sense of moe. Informants referred to non-fujoshi as “normals” (ippanjin), and they described such women as “short on dreams and long on satisfaction” (yume nashi, kanketsu ari).

Another way to say this was that non-fujoshi are riaju, meaning “fulfilled in reality,” and often used as an insult. Sachiko said, “A normal girl has no moe,  so love is her moe. That can be satisfied in life. Fujoshi can never be satisfied because moe is completely separate from love. It’s fantasy.”

Fujoshi spoke of their “rotten filter,” which screens out the potential for heteronormative romance in their fantasy and emphasizes signs of transgressive intimacy. This fantasy provides a set of possibilities for fujoshi distinct from their everyday lives, as demonstrated by their pursuit of moe even when they had a boyfriend or husband, at times imagining their male partners in relationships with other men (see also McLelland 2001, 4). As Saito (2007) points out, the reality of heterosexual relationships and the virtual potential of homosexual couplings are separate and coexistent. Yaoi scripts (fantasy) were read across the bodies of physical partners (reality), a “meaningless” play of symbols in pursuit of moe.”

SHift POV. Those damn goggles, and the innate taste for yaoi-moe among females should not be discounted. It is real and can pop up out of nowhere to strike!

Am odd  thing happened to me recently: I was yakking with a woman who had come on-site at my workplace about nothing much, killing time before an event and the conversation between us and an intern shifted to comic books and manga. She surprised the intern by being quite knowledgeable about western comics, but professed no deep knowledge of, or interest in manga as she considered their imagery as part of what japanese females “have to put up with ever day“.

“Oh don’t worry” I mumbled, “they have their own ways of dealing with that.”

ooooops! Intern looks embarrassed; he reads manga on scanlator sites and yaoi has become so popular among western slash girls (and others) that it is crowding out the “normal” fun stuff. This piques her interest. A short clinical explanation of yaoi as woman-produced and consumed pornographic artifact in Japan follows.

Suddenly her eyes go all starburst-y!

“Holy Shit! Where can I get that ???” etc., followed by a very fervent and exuberant declaration that she would pay good money to see her boyfriend get crazy with his best friend! (Yikes!)  Well, that cat is out of the bag and Google is her best friend now. Her boyfriend is gonna have to adapt. True story! Just like a light switch snapping on! I was present at the birth of a Canadian fujoshi. Wow! and scary all at once!

Back to Galbraith:

What follows in the article are narrative testimonies and descriptions of his fujoshi acquaintances playing with yaoi moe as a social space, perhaps “queer’ in a wide definition of the term, and then experiencing some disenchantment with the hobby, as life pressures take on a bigger part of their attention. Since his correspondents were all university women, this reader can’t help think about the Genshiken, but in his example it looks like the women gradually “graduate out” of fujoshi-dom. Class-S fujoshi? FUGs? (fujoshi-until-graduation, to echo 1990’s lesbian slang?) Even then, he notes that two of them pop up again, a few years later, back in the “scene”, even while they are happily partnered up with guys.

Galbraith’s article is a fine introductory survey of the phenomena and good research material should any male mangaka want to construct a few fujoshi characters on the fly to drop into a university or even high school comedy. (it is assumed that a female mangaka could just go mingle with the real thing.) It is bound to be required reading in all manner of fujoshi studies courses, and might also relieve some of the curiosity a puzzled straight guy might feel if he runs into a nest of fearsome fujoshi. What the paper does not do is examine how strange the effect of fujoshi desire is on larger society, but given Galbraith’s interest in Otaku sociology, I can bet that more than a few follow-ups are on the way.

In the meantime, now we guys all know why certain aggregator sites are up to the brim with y/bl stuff, and won’t freak out as much when a graphic (Yikes! Gehhh!) cover pops up in front of us by accident (That kind of over-reaction makes me feel stupid and prejudiced, but that’s how I grew up, so i am working on it). And if we have to put up with strong goggle-influenced humour in our heteronormative high-school hijinx comedies, we will at least know what the heck is going on and who is being given fan-service. (It aint us, but the context is fascinating.)

tomodochi get goggles real bad web Oh brave new world that has such edgy gals in it!

Don’t freak out, you still have a chance with them, most of them at least.

How reassuring!

For a less comforting take on the same, see the earlier cited: Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend in Néojaponisme

Dude, you still need to get a good paying job!

Lets see if any of it offers a wider solution, or at least gives comfort, freedom or agency to those women in Japan (hey, the guys need some help too) who want to force some much-needed change on a society that really really needs to do some changing if it is going to maintain its standard of living. The structural problems in the Japanese economy are not going to get fixed with a simple “Cool Japan” campaign. Large sections of family law, labor law and corporate governance, as well as workplace social norms are going to have to change, if they are going to fix their economy. And every single one of these problems touches on obsolete codes of social behaviour which are currently crushing the younger generation, holding down the birth rate and family formation, and killing Japan’s GNP. Who’d have thunk that a little cronyism and machismo could bankrupt a country?

Note the last few paragraphs of this interview on contemporary feminism in Japan – the filmmaker is so pessimistic about any social progress that she is in effect leaving it to the LGBTQ community to get things rolling:

Interviewer: “Feminism has never really taken off in Japan. And women seem to lack a common platform to share their problems.”

“We don’t have opinion leaders. But while our battle for equality for women ended in defeat, what has come to our rescue is the movement by sexual minorities. Japanese society has very little know-how on redefining genders, but the LGBT movement is slowly happening here, and it offers a ray of hope.

I go to meetings of Rainbow Action (a group for sexual minorities in Japan), where they run a monthly kamo (“Maybe I’m …”) cafe. Anyone can drop by and confide issues they have, without giving their names. They can say, “Maybe I’m a lesbian,” or “Maybe I’m a girl, though I’m supposed to be a boy,” or “I think I’m gay, but I can’t tell my mom.” Or heterosexual people can also drop in and share problems, like, “I joined the company through the connection of my father, so I can’t quit even though I want to.” Nobody feels out-of-place there. It’s a really relaxing environment, where people share ideas on how they can liberate themselves from constraints of sexism. In Japan, feminism, women’s lib and men’s lib all kind of floundered. But the rainbow flag might make it.”

– Documenting the gender imbalance – TOMOKO OTAKE interviews Yu Negoro, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/03/03/people/documenting-the-gender-imbalance/#.UVix82icWbQ

Just how revolutionary is this desire?

The Pillow Book Of Sei Shonagon

Wherein your correspondent muses on some of the structural biases of fujoshi fantasy and other naughty stuff. What a mess! Too many excerpts from MJJ’s recently found posts from the defunct Aestheticism site. Very little structure to the observations. Painfully embarrassing personal asides. Warning: The quotes have graphic descriptions of fujoshi m-m fantasies and rude language. Pix are work-safe. Oh well, if this stuff was orderly and simple.. Oh fuggettit… Onward!

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

“…reminds me of a German guy I knew in Tokyo to whom I lent some Eroica slash stories. Helmut returned them to me in agitation. ‘Don’t these writers realize men can be friends and not want to have sex?!’ Naturally, I said, but the point of the slash exercise is that the guys do have sex. He didn’t see it.” -MJJ/ Aestheticism column

In Genshiken’s Chapter 82 Kio Shimoku has a go at staging some risqué “girl talk”, or at least fujoshi talk, as Rika and Yajima try to work out their anxieties and curiosities over male and fujoshi desire. By skillfully tossing in a few themes and red herrings that have surfaced in the literature on fujoshi subculture, he makes a convincing go of it. He also leaps around a bit to keep the reader’s bullshit detector quiet, while cranking up the embarrassment and awkwardness that serves as characterisation for his creatures.(1)

it is a bit hard to remember, but Rika and Yajima have been Genshiken members for only a few Genshiken months, making their appearance after the recruiting drive, just panels before Hato and serving as a foil and a legitimation for his fujoshi/ fudanshi interests. They are his “fellow fujoshi”, or as he lets slip, “us girls”. They still have a few reservations about this last bit, but at least they are all contemporaries. Ogiue might be a fujoshi, but as Genshiken president and published mangaka, she is always going to be their sempai. Sue is out of the loop and Ohno is the Genshiken’s fairy godmother. Contemporaries or not, when the mystery plastic thingy turns up, it must be Hato’s and it must be something used for kinky fun.

Rika’s “grow a dick!” exclamation is a restatement of this great gender gap, as well as a fine narrative trick. This is not some Freudian throwback, but a bit of verisimilitude pinched from real-life fujoshi (if one can believe Mizoguchi) chatter, as well as political/ cultural humour among lesbian academia. For some odd reason it always reminds me of the Dwarf holy man in Terry Pratchett’s Discword book “Thud!”

“It’s like using an axe… but without the axe.”

Rika is a wonderful shit-disturber, but in retrospect I now doubt that she will be revealed as a junior lesbian fujoshi in the Genshiken-verse. I must curb my enthusiasm and fall back to my previous conclusions: there will be no “out” gay characters in Genshiken unless they appear as an already happily paired-off couple, and Hato holds the token virtual-lesbian-fujoshi position. If I bungle this prediction, I have either seriously misread the whole Genshiken, or it is shark-jumping time. I put aside the girls’-only high school and the forcing her sister to crossdress. Honestly! And Shimoku-sensei isn’t going to fool me with Sue either!

I should control myself when posting comments on other blogs.

Besides, a Fujoshi’s “virtual dick” or “dick-stick” (yup, both used in real-life reports) is a heterosexual female Japanese fujoshi joke (as well as a western academic lesbian joke). Here a western slash fen goes on about the elusive member:

“:#2 — “But he’s got nothing at all!!”, aka No Cock is Good Cock

Yeah well- sad fact is that one of the guys has to have a cock, so that anal sex can take place. But you don’t want a real cock, because real cocks are only fascinating to men (straight or gay, if the truth be told) and most women have other bits of a guy they prefer to think about. Now if my theory that the seme is a woman is true, the seme’s cock is necessarily a latex strap-on, so it’s no wonder if it’s totally nerveless and always up. However I don’t think most yaoi authors think in those depressingly realistic terms. They prefer the aesthetic. In picture yaoi the seme’s cock is an elegant affair, drawn in simple lines to create a pleasing outline. No toner or cross-hatching to suggest purplish skin and engorged veins etc. And it can accommodate some really odd positions. In text yaoi the seme’s cock is equally sketchily described and accommodates some equally odd sexual acts. And the reason for that is- need we say it again?- the seme as a person, and as a physical person, is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy cock. It can do things real cocks can’t (but fingers often enough can.) It’s the ideal sex organ. It can ram or it can tickle. It can pierce through to the bowels or coyly play about the entrance. It’s bloody *flexible*– it bends. What’s the use of fantasizing sex if you can’t fantasize it with the ultimate sex toy, hmm?””
From M.J.Johnson’s “The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi” (2002?)

Yipe!

M.J.Johnson is the nom-de-plume of a western lesbian fujoshi/ slash enthusiast who lived in Japan for a few years during the 1990’s, read (and did early fan translations of) lots of Japanese fangirl dojins and then blogged a lot during the early 2000’s. Her posts must necessarily generalise from her own and friends’ particulars, but her insights remain extremely readable and thoughtful. Though sometimes what is most important is what she almost leaves out…

First; formalism in the genre:

Desire, like biological gender is innate, but its expression is socially mediated. Japanese fujoshi desire (we will worry about the rest of the world later) exists on the edges of a continuum of “normal” female desire within that society and is shaped in a collective, collaborative project by the concerns, frustrations, aspirations, dreams and fears of its enthusiasts. That Japanese society exhibits a strong tendency to value form and surface as predicator of role and outward/ surface behaviour simply acts as one of main forces to shape that expression. Pervasive structural sexism is a big part too, but we gaijin shouldn’t feel that smug.

So much of Japanese fujoshi desire is about the articulation of “forms”; so much so that the rotten girls are often in need of another, more prosaic stick to dislodge clumps of vulgar lacanian theorist fanboys (and I’ve done it too) that accrete around their hobby, gushing about “the violence of the law”. One can posit that it would look a lot like a certain Onihime’s floor hockey stick.

Taxonomy is one of the laws of magic. So is Repetition.

A well-agreed-on formal structure invites collaboration, fan creation, discourse and the elaboration of tropes and /or “topoi” (as MJJ calls visual tropes). A trope ain’t a trope without tropers. Plaster is a skilled trade; drywall is a weekend DYI project that invites friends with trowels – the more the merrier!

“Ladies comics” and mainstream male pr0n are like Windows and OSX. Fujoshi fun is more like linux. Initializing a dick-function (to really really stretch the metaphor), within a community predicated on the enjoyment and exchange of narratives that satisfy distaff female desire is not too different from cosplay. (I now have stretched the “open-source” metaphor so far that I have damaged it.) Remember that it took the Japanese to turn a small tradition at western sci-fi conventions; the masquerade ball/ second evening piss-up, into a global cultural form.

You put on the uniform and assume the role. Young moms dress like young moms and become young moms. Salarymen dress like salarymen and become such. Go skiing, dress accordingly, go hiking, dress up in yama-girl gear. Be sure to also read the guide books on how to be a proper hiker first! The tsunami pine that survives the tsunami but dies of salt in its roots gets cut down, fiberglassed and reassembled like a plate of fake food in a restaurant window. This is somehow supposed to be inspirational. Rocks and gravel get raked into “gardens”. Form announces a consensus about function. The center holds little truth about the surface. I am by no means the first to comment on this (2)

The only really odd thing about fujoshi material is those bonking pretty-boy characters and behind them, the equally odd nature of the culture of collaboration that produces them:

Male pr0n fanatics may post their solitary efforts on forums and chans, but nothing is more prickly, passive aggressive and hysterically solitary than a male pr0n enthusiast, except perhaps a western male geek in full defence-mode of the particular sci-fi/ comic/ manga/ anime thing he obsesses over. Male geek pride is often inimical to a friendly discourse of form. Instead they stake their identities on loud proclamations of preference-as-holy-writ, often so insistently delivered that one would think they value them as their very lives. It makes for lousy “circles”.

That there are so few hysterical mastery displays by the Genshiken boys (Madarame’s fanboying in the group zine is not even close to the mildest examples of this kind of thing) is one of the great enabling plot liberties of the series. The Genshiken males keep a sheepish silence long enough to learn to tolerate other males’ takes on their fave things and eventually get to interact as friends. Real- life assemblages of geek boys are far more fraught with bruised egos and simmering anger over thwarted alpha-dog-of-this-particular-tiny-realm-of-fandom displays. Emotional critters wez guys is!

Of course no one is going to argue that Japanese women need socialization lessons from the fujoshi fandom, but fujoshi fandom is curiously social – curiously in that the subject material is centered around “solitary vices”. Fujoshi desire posits the role of agency as something that is exchanged, shared, messed with, worked on and then “put on” to see if it gets a round of approval as functional. The only hints of discord in the exercise comes from the great myth of the “pairing fight” – a disagreement over the understanding of the agree-upon rules of form that is probably more self- mocking humour than reality.

The formalistic “rules” of narratives of fujoshi desire are endlessly amenable to incremental adjustment and expansion of categories and sub-genres. I note from further readings from fangirls, that the rigid monogamy in fan-appropriated narrative versions of shonen series now makes room for a range of preliminary (?) pairings between characters within the seme x uke framework, and discounts one-dimensional displays of violent “want/take”.

Much as Ken Kurogane’s “yuri-lesbian-alien-schoolgirls” try all manner of provisional play, before settling down to “true ruv” and the only ‘bad lesbian” is the predatory one who wants the “player” character to herself and stoops to blackmail and threats to get her way. She gets pummelled with a fire extinguisher by the heroine who rescues “the player” and later declares true unending love. Said “player” more or less reforms and accepts true love. Moral of the story: never use your fists – you can hurt them! … But I digress…

No wait.. Moral of the story: Higgamous hoggamous yaoi is still monogamous, but now serially so. Unlike fanboy yuri, threesomes and moresomes are still frowned upon.

So the Genshiken anime yaoi episode is truer to type than first thought. The Kousaka character is probably what MJJ-sensei characterises in an essay as a ‘super-slut” a character whose only identity is that of a pan-sexual polymorphous player. And I thought it was all just seme x uke. The male super-slut is a trickster figure who exists solely to foreground the sex. He will try anything once or twice; even incest and Morris dancing. In a sense, he represents the event horizon of the boundaries of sexuality within the story. Think of the Rocky Horror show if you need an easy example. Some limits are necessary; if anything is possible, nothing is hawt.

The virtual dick that the fangirls laugh about is of course the role of agency – the power to make things happen as the story and within the story as that ghostly appendage. It is wielded by the seme – proxy to the author and reader and imposes an oft-violent “pleasure” and incidentally subordination/ non-/ loss of/ agency on the passive uke/catcher/ receiver/ bottom character. But it is wielded in the guise of an over-the-top imagining of male desire in berserk mock-homo mode, so at times the result is something like a newbie attempt at doing hard-boiled detective story dialogue:

MJJ-sensei again, on the sins of fanwriting: (arm the Bulwer-Lyttons!)

“Cock”. Yes you have to use it in here-and-now tough guy stories or teenage stories or whatever stories, cause that’s what guys in general call their cocks. You don’t have to use it every sentence just for the thrill of using it. ‘Duo pulled out his rampant cock and shoved it in Wufei’s face. The black-haired pilot eyed the brunette’s cock with contempt. ‘You think I care how big your cock is?’ the obsidian-eyed youth spat. You will, my Asian charmer. My cock will teach you. The master of Death Scythe flipped the delicate Chinese pilot onto his belly and shoved his throbbing cock inside the butt that normally warmed Shenron’s control chair.”

Ok, I only tossed that in because it was funny big time. Derivative source warning flag up – again we have observations on western slash slipping into Japanese bl/y territory.

That a phallic agency is conflated, mirrored and fetishized within the creation of fujoshi narratives is only strange insomuch as the nature of that agency is reflected and recreated moment to moment as a collective discourse within a community of (mostly) women.

That cock is a group-mind cock! The lacanian phallus has been stolen by the wimmins! Monsters from the “id”! A legion of Harley Quinns with a smattering of Hothead Paisans (You have been warned!) are trying out their xmas gift machine guns. Hijinx to Ensue!

“Lance! keep your effing head down!!!”

Once again, the sexual “pleasure” of the fantasy, for the consumer/ creator is “agency”. Pleasure for the author and reader is derived from the fantasy of imposing a weird idea of overwhelming physical pleasure on a character written as an incomprehensible “other”, by a character that is a cardboard projection of an imagined male “id” and therefore male-privileged sexual agency incarnate.

The uke as “other” is both incomprehensible male and mock-female. Because this “other” is by definition “alien” we get the MIB explanation “because they are aliens, they do alien things!” And the “alien” thing both seme and uke do is derive implausible enjoyment/ satisfaction/fulfilment from this arrangement. Finally the whole uncomfortable mess is wrapped up in ribbons of narrative magic posited as “this is the way those alien boy-things do love” to turn it into a just-so story.

After all, isn’t “love” something that makes women do stuff that goes against everything that is is good and safe and proper and fun?

“Look what happened to Mom! “(3)

That this sounds rather sick and squicky is both besides the point and central to it. That’s what the whole theory-term “the other” was invented for. Few Baudrillard fans quote his “Seductions” because it endlessly kneads this goo around for hundreds of pages, but as an executive summary, this will do – for it and a whole slew of other pop culture-psych-social-anthropology theory that is about the best we have to explain this and similar messes, right now.

Necessarily “the other” for fangirls is a wee bit different than for theory-boys.(4) Rika would probably find her dick-for-a-day problematic. Rather than a list of all the ways that a real mr. woody can be unpredictable and prone to painful damage and embarrassing non-performance, what is worth noting is how the seme or even less structured “top” role in fujoshi and slash fantasies is writtens as taking its pleasure from playing its role, rather than from the nerve endings of its imagined naughty bits. Even ejaculation is posited more as a symbolic role-playing pleasure than the result of an actual physical climax. If mr. seme is enjoying all that thrusting into the helpless uke, he traditionally gives very little sign of it – at least according to two infamous fan typologies mentioned in previous posts. Vocalizing pleasure during the act is somehow weak and uke-like? It is as if the uke gets to loudly acknowledge all nerve ending stuff for the pair, as well as the role/ emotional enjoyment stuff.  This one requires testimony from Japanese fujoshi. Who gets to say what when, and what? Is the speaking role indicative of shifting reader/author identification/ POV?

If the exchange of fantasies within the fujoshi community is about agency, then the uke is also what is left over in the exchange, “the accursed share”, the bits that the fantasist was trying to get rid of, give away, but stubbornly remain.

It is not that what remains is “feminine”, but rather that it is the parts of the societally proscribed yet problematically internalized feminine that the narrative is in flight from; the parts that are supposed to fit, but just effing won’t! So give them to a fictional pretty boy and kick back to watch the fun! And yet these accursed things pursue throughout the narrative like vengeance. Medusa might have her laugh, (pace Cixious) but she doesn’t get the last one. “The farmers (the social real) – they always win.” Biology always threatens as destiny. And yup m-preg does pop up an effing lot in fujoshi tales.

ASIDE: “Who speaks my name in shadows?”

I may have it completely wrong, but I venture that my modest experience that women generally find it distracting and annoying when a guy yaps while screwing carries over to female fantasies of all types: Grunting occasionally is allowed. Anything more  trespasses on her active construction of the event-as-it-happens. Years ago I had a lover who insisted on a porno movie mantra that she repeated continuously throughout our lovemaking. It was really, really annoying as all heck, and yet it worked on me just as much as it was necessary for her.

A powerful grad-student study mojo threatens here: Who gets to yammer, and when during various forms of fantasy narratives. Would the “top” blab more before or during or after than the “bottom” in wimmen’s yuri vs LFB man-made yuri? For fujoshi made m-m vs guy-made bara. Western vs Japanese?  I swear, this is not just an instant masters degree but a chance to see how the high theory of various feminisms mirrors (or not) in the vulgar vernacular. Some lucky fujoshi is gonna get tenure on this one, all while voraciously reading her fave fare as “research” – my gift – enjoy!

Such are the  terrible engines of fujoshi desire. With such internally self-generated, self-replicating chains of contradictions to fuel the fun – one could power starships with this stuff, if only it did not turn to mist in the light of day.

MJJ almost described a perfect imaginary member, but then could not resist mentioning fingers. Her fingers. The finger of a real-life woman who proclaims that she loves other women. Even if you are one of the tribe of women who love other women and who still enjoy top/ bottom role delineations, you have to admit that fingers are way way different that dildoes, let alone dicks. Touching one’s lover is whole different thing than bonking them or going at them with a sex toy. Real-life guys have fingers too, and we too soon enough learn how to be considerate with them and considerate in general in the presence of the ones we love. Else we are going to to spend the rest of our days as ronrey basement-dwelling neckbeards.

The point that every reasonably functioning sexually active adult should acknowledge is that there are 2 distinct aspects to the fun of love-making; the pleasure of one’s own body and the pleasure of being able to give pleasure to your lover. (awwww… that sounds so 1980’s) Admittedly a great deal of roleplaying fetishistic sex has one party eschewing/ limiting their physical stimulation to impose such on the other party, but even from a purely mechanical point of view, we must agree that this is “extra” – closer to the solitary vice than what two people can do with each other at the same time. Crudely put, in the language of straight missionary position sex: getting your back clawed a bit while she writhes around is plenty better than just feeling her writhe around as you screw, which is still better than her just lying there. And touching her while you thrust madly is better than just thrusting madly.

Duh? Dat so Captain Obvious? Your point?

Fetishism limits the direct feedback loop of mutual physical contact as communication during sex.

How closely do the narratives of fujoshi fantasy follow this form to emphasize the illusion of agency?

Blatant formal rules for mutual give-and-take and consideration are not what fantasies are for. It is hard enough to get the writers to remember to put rubbers on their fuck-puppets. (the North american porno movie industry is fleeing California over a State law that mandates that all filmed naughtiness “play safe”.) Fantasies are for avoiding all the troublesome work, empathy, miscommunication and perpetual fail that hovers about the scene while real-life love tries its best to find and make a bit of happiness for a few moments, at the price of the “full measure of [one’s] time.”

And all the give and take stuff can be tough for the gal, as well as for the guy (or the bottom as well as the top, or the uke as well as the seme). It can be a bitter admission of defeat/ inadequacy. The guy/top/seme is supposed to be driven to fits of very apparent mad lust just by the mere existence and intensely radiating fuck- me- now- dammit- field powers of the gal/ bottom/ uke. Having to do all those Cosmo magazine sex tricks is what unloved ugly-stick partners have to do because they are just not that appealing on their own. Or the thrill is gone…

Definitely not fantasy material. Sounds like work. See endnotes for why guys should be very, very, VERY careful buying naughty underwear for their girlfriends.(5) And Gawd help you if you drank waaaaaaay too much and you prove inadequate to the moment! What if she takes it personally? (if ?????)

Shimoku-sensei’s Spotted Flower is so deadly on-target in this respect that it hurts. What is a frustrated pregnant girl to do when buddy-boy gets all scared of your delicate condition? She even deployed the striped schoolgirl panties to no effect! (6) The main problem with the Spotted couple, and with Ogiue + Sass is the notion of the pairing itself – that a rotten girl will feel so alienated from mainstream society as to “settle” for an Otaku boy.

“the problem with that theory is that fujoshi don’t give up on seeking [social] acceptance — the majority dress perfectly normally, work out, even have boyfriends (shock!). Anecdotally, they are usually on some form of the treadmill: either interested in a lifelong career, or looking to get married and become a homemaker. So (and again this is anecdotally) the distaste for otaku comes because of the whole otaku dropout thing. That isn’t what they want for themselves, and it definitely isn’t what they want in a partner. One of the pillars of yaoi/BL and even regular shojo manga is that one of the romantic antagonists has money and/or status and isn’t ashamed of it.”

From a reply by the author in comments:
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

Nasty Kaminaga is closer to a “real” fujoshi than any of the Genshiken fujoshi characters. Saki + Kou are of course a perfect couple. If the previews for Genshiken’s ch83 are right, then Madarame ain’t gettin’ any, any time soon. Unemployment is a rotten cologne on any guy. Beyond this, Genshiken avoids the class-war tropes of Shoujo/ bl/ yaoi. Shame on Neojaponism for skating past this one too; the closest we have to any analysis on this is the Amorous Arabs essay by Kazumi Nagaike. The easiest way to deal with this elephant in the room is the old saw: “abuse of power comes as no surprise” while recalling that adolescent fiction of both sexes is the fiction of the powerless.

Feminist/ queer/ gender theory concepts of subversion and resistance grow out of the recognition of the structures of power in society, and then attack the myths and hidden assumptions inherent in these.

Frinstance:

“Unmarked categories

The idea of unmarked categories originated in feminism. The theory analyzes the culture of the powerful. The powerful comprise those people in society with easy access to resources, those who can exercise power without considering their actions. For the powerful, their culture seems obvious; for the powerless, on the other hand, it remains out of reach, élite and expensive.

The unmarked category can form the identifying mark of the powerful. The unmarked category becomes the standard against which to measure everything else. For most Western readers, it is posited that if a protagonist’s race is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is Caucasian; if a sexual identity is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is heterosexual; if the gender of a body is not indicated, will be assumed by the reader that it is male; if a disability is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is able-bodied, just as a set of examples.

One can often overlook unmarked categories. Whiteness forms an unmarked category not commonly visible to the powerful, as they often fall within this category. The unmarked category becomes the norm, with the other categories relegated to deviant status. Social groups can apply this view of power to race, gender, and disability without modification: the able body is the neutral body.” – some wiki entry on philosophical concepts of power

Note how this theme provides nice background music for an MJJ essay on why it has to be males bonking:

“”Gender fuck. (Which of you is the woman? a) Neither b) Both c) Toss a coin d) Him, he’s shorter e) Him, but only on alternate Thursdays.

Because the roles aren’t automatically assigned by sex, the characteristics commonly regarded as ‘female’ can belong to either of the guys involved, or both, or neither. (The neither stories are pretty bleak.) You can give the guys attitudes and behaviors that aren’t normally found in men, straight or gay. They can be super-romantic. They can swear eternal devotion and be ready to die for their loved one. They can cry, and moon over the question of does he love me or not, and spend hours discussing their feelings with their partner. As Joanna Russ has pointed out, famously, these men are an amalgam of what women consider desirable male and female qualities male bodies, male status/ power, female relating styles, female priorities (love and human connection are more important than politics, economics, or soccer.) These men are the female idea of ideal human beings.
[ my note: warning – If Russ is commenting on it, it’s about slash. ]

This is one form of m/m. There’s another, not as pretty, in which negative female characteristics are given to one guy or the other. Passivity, helplessness, victim mentality, masochism (‘He’s untrue, beats me too, but he’s my man’ as the old blues song has it.) These stories have the classic sadistic ring to them: sexual and sentimental pleasure in torturing a helpless person because he’s helpless. Some people- very few- do ‘get the strong guy’ stories; but what presses more buttons is a male who has female relating styles and priorities (love is more important than soccer and a functioning anus) being put in the most degraded female position possible (sexual and emotional slavery), where you can then watch him suffer. The reader is evidently supposed to identify with the victim, so maybe the purpose of the exercise is to give readers a masochistic thrill.

Or possibly the whole thing is a female form of catharsis: the catharsis that comes from seeing hostility represented openly. The male action pic gives you the catharsis of violence with scores of anonymous bodies being gunned down and blown apart. It makes sense to me that the female form requires a closer attention to the object of the violence (that has to be a person suffering, not an anonymous Hollywood extra) and a narrower focus on the emotions involved. The focus seems to be not physical violence and suffering so much (in spite of all those rapes) as emotional violence and suffering. Well, emotions ‘R’ us, most of the time.”

Why the Guys? or, Navel-gazing on a Sunny Afternoon by MJJ

Holy Handmaiden’s Tale Batman!

Wait a sec tho – things are getting confusing here: Sometimes MJJ is sure that the seme is the woman as reader/ author. Other times the uke is the woman as receiver and emotional proxy. Would she still be around blogging, I guess that she would answer that it is both and neither, always at the same time. Perhaps the POV jumps from the seme during the foreplay to the uke during the secks. Who can tell? MJJ is a westerner who tended to fold her slash interests into her yaoi interests, so the tropes of one field merged into those of the other – which is why one has to be cautious with western comments on native Japanese fujoshi culture, even when the western correspondent lived in Japan and could read and fan-late the stuff.

That said, MJJ was pretty much in concurrence with what Zizek has to say about fantasies being a containment field for the contradictions of desire, rather than just desires themselves.

All of this also gets nastily Hegelian, really fast. Yup; vulgar dialectic of master and slave time. Ur-Yaoi! Two Conan the Barbarian types freely wager all on the mountain-top for a chance to dominate. Suppress retching reflex and take the safeties off the claymores. Mark Twain recognized that Alfred Nobel was a heckovalot more dangerous to history than dialectics. Mark Twain had just gone through the American civil war. Incidentally this is why casino gambling is so effing pathetically useless and sad. Fuck the slots – all of you just go out into the parking lot and beat each other senseless. Winner gets everyone’s cash, minus the state’s cut. But do it slowly, so the rotten girls can watch.

ASIDE: Hmmmmm… Hato is taking economics. Wonder if he fetishizes “rent-seeking behaviour” by corporations? Keep in mind that it is the State that sets the artificial arena of the rules that allows rent-seeking behaviour. ( for those of you who don’t pay much attention to economics, read “the rich fucking over everybody with rigged rules, rather than actually employing folks and making stuff” ) Will he grow up to be a good leftist economist like certain New York Times columnists? What will be the dark secret of his amazingly intuitive economic theories? 

Back to some heteronormative male fear-disgust reactions:

This crap does not advance the project of civilization! Thugs fighting and fucking is just thugs fighting and fucking, and you can’t keep the lights on and the stores full of food when too much of this shit spills out onto the streets!

Kill it with fire!

At a safe distance…

Off to the re-education camps!!!

(Note the rising angst-flood of male hysteria)

“A WELL REGULATED MILITIA BEING NECESSARY TO THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE, THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED !!!!! “

Yeeee-Haw! It's Male Hysteria time!

Yeeee-Haw! It’s Male Hysteria time!

“You see – We’ve tried”, reply the girls – “it is too deep within YOU!” (You too ladies; that school massacre boy got all his guns from his mom – who he shot first) so the most fujoshis and slash fen can do is trivialize it – and they’ve come up with some really fun ways of trivializing it!)

I am theory boy! 
Son of bitch! 
You want  Columbine?
You want Akiba massacre?
You want school and theatre shootings? suicide bombers? civil wars?
You want more armies of child soldiers?
Humanity is pig disgusting!
Fujoshi fantasies is murderer!
Fucking baka perverts domo me

“Humor is an interrupted defense reflex…”

...nuff said...

Those nightmares sound familiar…

All that violent domination-submission stuff is right out of the straight male (and female) anxiety closet. Pure “the other” again at work. Tar some poor bastard outcast will all our secret ickky fear feathers. Heck, even herr Hegel was stretching a metaphor in a time and place where aristos (the descendants of very successful thugs) endlessly fought over land and peasants in an eternal zero-sum game that was war in Europe before the rise of “modern” mass politics and citizen armies. If anyone is is prone to violence and degradation with towards gay guys, it is usually the gangs of nominally “normal” bashers who have terrorized gay folks for centuries. There was a big nasty reason why the “love that dared not speak its name” didn’t dare: It would get savagely beaten to death by god-feerin’ clowns. And as to why straight women should pick up on that violent fear vibe, even in Japan, where supposedly male homosexuality -as a private indulgence – was better tolerated; straight male violence towards women would be more than enough to paint most males as one step away from going berserk under “some” circumstances . We will not mention Nanking, nope, not at all.

So yeah, you are going to see dom/sub stuff in gay and lesbian culture, but it is more likely “turn it into theater to take the edge off reality” role-playing that has been absorbed from mainstream culture and being turned back on itself. And you are going to see a whole heck of a lot more real nastyness, in absolute and relative terms in straight culture just because they are more of us “normal” types to misbehave horribly.

So no wonder Japanese gay guys get angry at fujoshis “leering like dirty old men” at yaoi, and filling the magazine shelves with stuff that will just deepen the despair and confusion of youths who find themselves in a crisis over their emergent sexuality. Just think: a silly dojin fantasy or 10 could send some poor kid off a school roof or train platform.

Naw, you can’t take the stuff too seriously.

if you did, you would shatter with rage…

So with that, back to agency. This essay started with the ghostly appendage as symbol of agency, moved to the speaking role as agency, thence to the forgoing of give and take within sex to instrumental, objectifying narratives in fantasy and now questions the whole exercise of power within the structure of fujoshi works. So again – why guys? (just because they think we are hawt?) To really play with the power dynamics in a relationship, fujoshi/ slash-fen assert that it is best to control the variables.

Some theorists have commented that fangirls prefer m-m fantasies because they want to avoid being seen as/ contaminated by/ imprinted upon by the mock-lesbian narratives of yuri. Fujoshis might reply that a yuri battle of power and sex between two bitchy female executives could get so implausible and boring so fast as to really really be a dry hump – even if you get off on f-f action. Even loser fanboys must admit that Borg Queen x Janeway just doesn’t do that much…

Unless one gets off within the granola confines of 1990’s era politically correct, vanilla American slash fiction… (the following was too funny to leave out)

From MJJ again, on slash sex:

A gay man once remarked about western slash that the characters always behaved like recognizable gay men until they got into bed and then they suddenly turned into middle-aged women. Hours and hours of foreplay are followed by gradually building climaxes and an explosive very wet orgasm- and then another, and another, and another… and then the two men have a cozy conversation about how much they love each other and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Real men, he said, don’t do that.

Hours and hours? Middle aged women? Further study is required…

In the meantime, to take the whole power-weapons-might-ability m-m thing over the top, howabout using cartoon characters that can’t be mistaken for real folks no matter how hard you try?

Here are some cartoon male weapons making moon-eyes at each other for the amusement of fujoshis, Finally! No humans were harmed in the making of this wet dream!

Ok, I stole this from http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html image, it ROCKS!

Dojin art swiped from one of the circles at Transfunket.  Fire up the google xlate and go to http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html

Behold the perverse desires of the Deceptacons! via Tokyo Scum Brigade’s coverage of Transfunket:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/10/transfunket-fujoshi-in-diguise.html   If the videos and pix are down, try this page of links to all the dojin circles that were showing there. May your google xlate work better than mine.

As Laurie Anderson once asked

¿Qué es más macho, pineapple or knife?
Well, let’s see. My guess is that a pineapple is more macho than a knife.
Sí! Correcto! Pineapple es más macho que knife.

I think I have dragged this one out as long as I can…

Perhaps like the Laurie Anderson song, this is all ancient history.

As commercial BL becomes a profitable niche market in Japan, the original girls’ romance roots of the genre (shoujo manga) are brought to the foreground and depictions of m-m romance are pushed in the direction of a sensitivity towards imagined real-world gay male concerns, or the girls’ ideas of how to treat depictions of gay guys respectfully, or at least in a “politically correct” manner (as opposed to the desires of actual Japanese gay male bara readers). And there is always the novelty of trying to merge some more “realistic” male gay details/ verisimilitude into the conventions of the genre. Hey! The publishers might grab some extra market share along the way. Meanwhile shonen manga hedges its bets and loads the shotgun with goggle bait so that it can “salt” its pages and maintain a certain of level of fujoshi appropriation and market interest. The hardcore fan produced stuff stays tucked away on the tables at comiket and sealed in plastic sleeves in the speciality stores of maiden road.

Rika is representative of the “new generation” of socially accepted/ recognised/ tolerated fujoshi: according to current reports, the market is now going out of its way to cater to their tastes. Nothing says acceptance in Japan better than “market share”. Per Okazu’s Erica-sensei, the whole of “maiden road” is now exclusively bl/y for fujoshis – yuri is harder to find, even though she declares that more “quality” (woman friendly) yuri and shoujo-ai is reportedly being published. Sometimes a yuri-loving woman has to go dig through the otaku-pits of Akiba to find some (fear not, she reports that off-the-main-trail supplies have been located).

Japanese merchants and publishers like fujoshis!

MJJ again, from 2002:

All of this misses the point. Most yaoi characters aren’t even realistic men, let alone gay ones. Most yaoi is fantasy pure and simple, on the level of unicorns and elves. It may be the only fantasy here that’s 100% female-created, and I think should be cherished just for that. But this flies in the face of western belief that the personal is political, and that a fantasy can’t exist totally separate from social reality. If yaoi goes mainstream, I think it will be forced, consciously or unconsciously, to conform to notions of what’s politically correct and acceptable. At that point it will cease to be the untrammeled expression of female eroticism, as it is in Japan, and will cease to be yaoi. (emp added)

Today they are a market segment.

Go ahead Rika, have another beer and talk as loud as you want…

Random endnotes:

(1) We poor gaijin miss a whole bunch of things when we read Japanese stories that feature embarrassment, and take it only as western-style embarrassment. The abrahamic religious concept of “sin”, as it is libidinized in our culture is less prevalent in Japan. Generally, what is done in private is a private matter, But if what should be kept private slips out into the public, then that is both shame and kink, as in the western libidinized “sinful”. And of course the definition of ‘public” and “private” are fluid and subject to detailed contextual rules.

(2) Hmmm! Something is wrong here! The referenced paragraph was just a quick allusion to one of the big gaijin truisms about Japan – You can find similar on Neojaponism, and in that curious Japanese Culture blog that promotes a whole lot more theory than mine and many others… However, imagine my surprise, as I finished writing it and was trolling through the MJJ/ Aestheticism essays on archive.org when I ran into a paragraph that was thematically the same as what I had just written, except she had no access to the yama-girls reference and had used an earlier one. And I am quite sure I had not read hers before. So up goes a warning flag! If there is one thing I have learned in theory land is that when this kind of groupthink pops up we (the groupthinkers) are missing a whole lot of the picture. This requires further study.

That said, another interesting thing about that “Japanese Culture” blog (burogu.com) above, is the writer’s fascination with a modified/ inverted Lacanian analysis, and his insistence on the Japanese habit of reinforcing surface appearance with sequences of familiar, repeated surface behaviour, practiced through “kata” , e.g; the warm-up exercises in martial arts, etc. This too could yield an interesting take on all Japanese narrative form, not just amateur naughty tales, if patterns of action endlessly repeat across stories. Okazu’s Erica-sensei has voiced annoyance at the ubiquitous “story A” in yuri. Is that “kata”? Familiarity is reassuring. Get it perfect through practice! Invoke Often!

(3) See (4) Also, one more time from the previously referenced essay by Rio Otomo:

“What happens to the daughters of these housebound women in the suburbs? Have they turned into the yaoi girls who are the consumers of the cute boy images and their erotic stories? The participants of the otaku debate unanimously agree that in this context gender difference is asymmetrical. The girls who do not want to repeat the Mothers’ life have two choices; to embody their time-frozen images as a little girl in order to get men’s attention, or to live in the liminal space between such images and their own bodily actuality.”

(4) …And neither have anything to do with the Lady Lucrezia Mongfish-Heterodyne, though the Foglio’s characterization of their big-bad is a hoot!

(5) Muda-kun’s iron law of why you buy naughty knickers for your sweetie at your peril:

a) You will not spend anywhere near enough. Quality lady knickers are expensive!
b) She will find your choices will be uncomfortable and ridiculous.
c) They wont fit – and if you are crazy enough to still try this, make damn sure you err on the side of too small.
d) “So you are saying I need this stupid junk to make myself attractive to you ???”

DEATH FLAG goes up!
Here are some extra considerations..

e) A gift card to a reputable firm (not a sex shop!) is marginally acceptable, only after she comments on the poor fit/ trouble/ expense of finding comfy undergarments. Anything less than $100 fails via rule (a), so be prepared to take the hit in the wallet. Ask her which store before buying the gift card. Wait until it is sometime near her birthday. Or just offer your credit card. Even if she makes more than you do!
(f) No, you can’t watch her buy them.
(g) above goes 10X for high-heeled shoes. Don’t even go there!
h) No wonder guys lust after young inexperienced women; you think you can find a naive one that will let this stuff slip, don’t you? Bakka!!!

(6) Muda-kun’s corollary to the iron law – henceforth known as the Spotted Flower exception:

If she does end up deploying fancy knickers for you, you better have a blue pill in reserve – even if you are 16 years old and exceptionally virile. Because if you fail at this point you have just… dug… your… own… grave !!!  … Just sayin’… No pressure…

Contested spaces

I invoke the Commonwealth!
I know what was in Orthroerir;
Orthroerir was in it,
In it, it was hoarded,
Hoarded, it was stolen,
Stolen, it was spilled,
Spilled, I caught it,
Caught, it was given away,
Given away, it stays my own,
My own is the Commonwealth
I invoke it!
The land may not be hidden from its lover.

Silverlock – J.M.Myers (1949)

John Myers Myers “Commonwealth of Letters” is an imaginary space carved out of the western literary canon by a fan of the classics. Perhaps one of the oddest sub-culture books of the 20th century, it was rescued from obscurity by science fiction fans who adopted it in a fit of mad love. It is still recommended as an odd treat within that community.

As proto-fan-fiction or fiction of enthusiasm, it situates its adventures within a space bounded by the enthusiasms it celebrates, and populated with the characters of the same. Amusingly enough, the climax of Silverlock’s quest is to emerge from a descent to the lowest levels of the underworld to drink at the spring of wisdom – only to be expelled from the space, back into the real world. A less elegant but analogous process would end a fan fiction about a fictional fan-space fanning over fannish things in a feedback howl and system crash.

Multiplying entities without necessity is an act of love.

Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken and Akiko Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian yaoi-space are closely related “commonwealth of interests” propositions that attempt to impose a narrative onto layered readings of real life conditions. Both center around communities of play and imagination, both are minority reports, and both contest issues within these larger communities and their shared cultural fantasies, as they relate to larger “solid” social realities.

Genshiken to Otaku/Fujoshi to real-life current Japanese society as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian space yaoi-verse to bl/yaoi enthusiasts to current Japanese society.

Mizoguchi would probably protest that her theoretical space entails has a different project than Shimoku’s:

“My critical examination of yaoi begins with the premise that yaoi does not represent any person’s reality, but rather is a terrain where straight, lesbian, and other women’s desires and political stakes mingle and clash, and where representations are born.” (Mizoguchi 2010, see below)

Why does she give rats ass? Well, she likes the stuff, but doesn’t like the potential for less-than-nice depictions of gay folk to bleed over into the real world. Such bleed-over could (1) reinforce stereotypes in the larger community and aid and abet the pain such misunderstanding causes real life LGBTQ folks, and (2) This is a wild guess, but since she found support in the commonwealth of bishonen stories when she needed it at a young age, she wants to make sure the life preservers are well maintained.

So she is going to contest and encourage the contestation of depictions of gay folk in BL/yoai works, even though they are pseudo-gay fantasy characters made in overwhelmingly large part by heterosexual women for purposes that run on a continuum from escapist pop fiction to escapist pop friction. This urge is sometimes refered to by its N.American moniker when taken to extremes as “Politically Correctness”.

On the other hand, Mizoguchi is a citizen and member of the downtown business improvement association of the commonwealth of yaoi, and recognises its pleasures and its worth; she doesn’t want to break it. She is sensitive to and feels for the needs and wants of its sister-citizens. I am guessing that potential improvements have all been well thrashed over before in slash-space and queer-space:

Such typically include less negative stereotyping, more complexity and nuanced characters, more public health and safety awareness and the importance of agency and consent: less catching, more inviting, etc. Cultural differences between the slash-verse and the yaoi-verse make the details different, and I can only infer her concerns from her writings and footnotes. Her views remain necessarily complex, even quasi- ecological:

“My research is informed by Teresa de Lauretis who has written in relation to her analysis of the feminist debates on pornography (produced for heterosexual men). “Feminist analysis and politics have always proceeded concurrently with—indeed have been prompted by—the social injury suffered by women, but the strength of feminism, or what social power it may have, does not disprove that injury” (de Lauretis 1994: 146). In other words, de Lauretis suggests that neither the propornography position that pornographic representation occurs in the realm of fantasy, nor the anti-pornography position that pornography equals violence against women is entirely appropriate.
By theorizing the female subject as a complex amalgam of conscious and political subjecthood and private and psychoanalytic subjectivity, she has shown that the seemingly contradictory double movement is inherently necessary in feminist work on representation (de Lauretis 1994: 147) 
As Judith Butler argues, theoretically a female subject is not restricted to identify with the female position in a fantasy scenario, but is also capable of identifying with the male position or the scenario as a whole. However, as the female subject always also functions at the level of social subject, she—who de Lauretis calls “Dworkin”—may not be able to secure enough distance from the pornographic text, since such a text is a public representation that depicts women’s debasement.
This double movement is clearly manifest in the context of the yaoi phenomenon. The fact that women have engaged in reading these male homoerotic representations as representing their fantasies for several decades attests to the efficacy of the theory of the psychoanalytic subject of fantasy; that is, the fact that the subject is not restricted to identifications with one position (usually equivalent to their own position in real life) in the fantasy scenario. At the same time, however, the fact that so many Japanese women continue to need male homoerotic representations that are significantly remote from their own reality (emph. added) also indicates the injury suffered by women. “
“Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond” – Akiko Mizoguchi

In other words; don’t kill the freedom and the diversity that is so critical to the empowering nature of the space – just try to nudge the canon to spruce it up a bit.

Then there is the issue of her proposition that yaoi is an emergent sexuality in its own right:

“The majority of yaoi women fans are heterosexual. Some might argue that calling those fans who are in heterosexual relationships in real life “lesbian” is inaccurate. Of course, they are not generally considered lesbians nor are they lesbian-identified themselves. But, if their sexual fantasies are filled with male-male homosexual episodes, is it still accurate to call them completely heterosexual?
A friend, a happily married woman in her 30s with two kids, told me, “Not so much these days, but until a few years ago, I could not really recognize sex with my husband as a male-female act. In my mind, I transformed what I was doing to the male-male act in the BL fictions”. Is it adequate to call her completely heterosexual? From the point of view of defining sex as genital activity, the answer is yes. At the same time, however, we know that fantasies are deeply involved in human sexuality. My friend’s male-male fantasy, which happens simultaneously with her heterosexual genital act, is as important as the act itself. In this sense, it is not accurate to consider her 100% heterosexual. In addition, I would argue that a person’s sexual fantasies, accompanied by her genital act with another person, a masturbatory act, or no act at all, are equally significant for the subject of such fantasies to such an extent that calling such fantasies “virtual sex” is appropriate (Mizoguchi 2007: 56-62).
Of course, at the most overt level, my friend was engaging in sex with her husband as “virtual gay men”, just like the male characters in yaoi narratives in her mind, but at the same time she was aware that the characters were women fans’ agents and not really representations of real-life gay men. Thus she was psychologically in the company of her fellow female fans in the yaoi community while physically she was with her husband.” (Ibid. Mizoguchi)

Hmmmmm sounds crowded in the bedroom!

Like the protagonist of Moso Shojo Otaku-kei / Fujoshi Rumi (Natsumi Konjoh) when our heroine gets interested in the guy she had previously objectified, she is unable to contemplate relations with him unless she adopts a yaoi-space derived “male” persona. (the boy, Takahiro might be more adaptable than she thinks: “I am shocked and appalled Rumi-san! – oh what the heck, the power of romance has won me over – gimme some sugar!”)

Contrast this to the Genshiken-verse. Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken is a reflection of, and a prescription for Otaku-and-Fujoshi space as much as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian separatist space is a reflection of a greater yaoi-space. Both are popular cultural products; though they sell in different markets I would even expect some cross-over customers now that Shimoku is creeping around in fujoshi territory. Both situate within the phenomena of their attentions as well; they “ride” on cultural phenomena that in turn ride” on larger cultural tendencies within the solid/ real world.

In Genshiken, the tropes of the “school club” dictate the story setting: the club has to attract members or it will be de-authorized. The club serves as a haven for outcasts with differing ideas and interests within the “visual culture” universe, within a real world of impending disenchantment and preparation for adult work life. Club members have to deport themselves with minimum standards of restraint in their own enthusiasms and respect for other member’s enthusiasms. Solidarity against outside threats is required; as well, a group-produced product for the larger enthusiast community and/or “outside world” is a stated group goal and measure of the vitality of the entire micro-social fiction. Of course, the odd thing about the Genshiken member’s varied fan interests reside in their one common perversion: they all have to one degree or another libidinized their fan interests.

Hmmmmmm… That sounds familiar.

The action in Genshiken lies in working out the rules of how exactly to deal with the natural urge to contest the space of a commonwealth. Myers’ commonwealth was a violent anarchy; Silverlock needed a savvy friend to get through it in one piece. Genshiken starts off as a male bastion invaded by rai-ju female desire, followed by a cosplay fen (archaic usage: female fan) and finally a horde of fujoshi. These in turn get a boy-girl who wants to share their interests, all while foreign fan-girls stir the pot and the old-guard otaku males get used as material for pairing fantasies. Only the promise of a safe space for their interests keeps them together. They try to work things out. We read about how they try. We gain comfort in the idea that such a space can be imagined. Then some of us blog, start Genshiken inspired groups at Universities, make lewd dojins and scurry around the web getting obsessive and derivative.

The Genshiken-verse is less overt or ambitious in its commitment to guilt-free
weirdness that Mizoguchi’s virtual-lesbian yaoi-verse, but the urges are somewhat parallel. Shimoku’s space is heteronormative, but strives for understanding. Misoguchi’s space is activist queer, and at times separatist, but it looks like it values a certain degree of diversity. (though I am betting that it privileges female diversity, as it is currently is %90+ female in Japan) Both stress the importance and fun of active participation in the production of artifacts for their communities.

In the past, human societies could only get worked up about and “contest” the space of “faith”: help build a cathedral, go on a pilgrimage or burn a heretic. Today, while it has been said that all roads on the internet lead to either pr0n or linux distributions (or cat pictures), the volume of nested commonwealths has expanded in a way that recalls bacterial growth, or the old commie joke: “you put three Trotskyites in a room – how many factions do you get?”

(This overload effect also refutes the worst fears of the Frankfurt School, and calms most of their radical-though-intolerant aesthetics. Nuremberg has been trivialized by rock concerts and home shopping tv – there is no need to ban epic poetry. Rejoice!)

The only side effect of this wave is that all of these commonwealths appear to pick up a sexualized charge the minute they wade into the world-wide webs.

When too much weirdness seeps out of fan-space, real solid-world authorities get concerned and start stomping around with big muddy boots. The big issue in last year’s solid-world Japanese popular visual culture community has been the Tokyo regulations banning “indecent acts depicted by imaginary persons” as championed by a right-wing populist politician who used to write porny stories about dissolute rich youth.

Meanwhile in China and Hong Kong, wholesale yaoi crackdowns raged through the latter half of the last decade, much to the shock of innocent Funu (chinese rotten girls), who just wanted look at the pretty cartoons and relax. As for the west, the potential for moral panic has kept most yaoi-stuff off commercial shelves and in shady back rooms: Definitely not on Amazon or your fave online e-book sales site. Besides, western fans are cheap-ass leeches who are used to pyr8 goodies, free fan-fiction and dodgy web scanlations.

Here’s a new space of contention: Pay for the damn stuff!

There is a whole body net-enabled sociology/ anthropology/ theory that peeks in on communities of enthusiasm: I recommend a glimpse at the infinite variety of the madness of fans at the Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) site. While the writing is of variable quality, the range of subject matter is far-reaching and interesting. Care to read about a tempest in a teapot at a Dr Who fan-fiction site? TWC has got it covered, although after a while all the accounts of fan-fights begin to merge into one another (meh!). My past-life experiences in the pits of fannishness taint my views. I was a geek youth in pre-internet days; shared its culture terms and rites, and carried with me the sense that whatever the future brought, I had already read about it. I even did cosplay, before it was cosplay – when it was the costume ball at fan conventions (only once, and the sad state of my costume lead to my discovery of  FAIL). I bought and hoarded dittoed fanzines and fanfiction. All of that stuff got put away when I went off to University. See this fun paper for an expanded view of this kind of nostalgia  I miss you [all] dreadfully!

For up to the minute serious contestations, don’t forget the fun folks at Intersections; who when not doing boring gender theory studies are always on the prowl for a weird new thing – especially when it is an example of local (mis-) appropriation of Cool Japan detritus, This one caught my eye:

On the Japanese Doll Complex – by Katrien Jacobs

“”On the Japanese Doll-Complex highlights Chinese people’s appropriation of Japanese dolls or doll-like alter egos. I conducted interviews with several people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. I wanted to analyse the experience of ‘owning a doll’ or ‘identifying with a doll’ by looking at several kinds of doll fantasies and how dolls assist people in recovering innocence and gender-fluidity. Chinese men are massively into Japanese porn stars, into hentai figurines, or life-size dolls that have a convincing and arousing skin texture. They also manifest themselves as cosplayers or cross-dressers who want to embody pretty girls. Women, on the other hand, construct fantasies about gay love and they impersonate the beautiful and effeminate men of yaoi animations (Boy Love).””

Behold the documentary – You couldn’t make this stuff up!
Sex Brain Melody (Episode 2): On The Japanese Doll Complex
(Warning: NSFW!)

http://vimeo.com/3017377
Embedded at http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/jacobs_film.htm

Also see her part 1 video on Hong kong pr0n panic: http://vimeo.com/3016343

On the Japanese original:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/05/making-sense-of-dollers.html

Contestation of fan-space is a symbolic libidinous exchange in its own right.
Life would be boring without fans running wild.

The shadow of the warrior

In her doctoral thesis: “Reading and Living Yaoi – Male-Male Fantasy Narratives as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan” Akiko Mizoguchi posits the radical proposition that Japanese women fans of BL/yaoi are engaging in virtual lesbianism and/or creating a virtual lesbian/ gendered space when they discuss and meet to pursue their hobby of reading, talking about, exchanging and sometimes creating fantasy male-male romance/ sex narratives. (Holy Joanna Russ Batman!)

“Doing yaoi” is seen not only as a real exchange of highly sexualized fantasy material, but a symbolic lbidinal exchange, complete with “preferences”, “roles” and a free-floating sense of agency /command of lore or “law” that can be self- mockingly ascribed a phallic function.

Did Kio Shimoku ever read or consult with Akiko Mizoguchi? An an “out” lesbian manga enthusiast and academic theorist, who also studied in the USA and teaches in Tokyo, she writes in both English and Japanese, and her work is personable and easy to follow even as it is resolutely feminist, pro-yaoi and pro-LGTBQ.

Any random mangaka looking on the net or through the journal stacks for bl/yaoi information from a fan-academic would probably run into her work. Knowing Shimoku’s m.o., her personal (well resolved) contradictions would draw him to her work like a moth to a flame. (1)

Hold that though, but first more on Mizoguchi’s work:

That the precursor to bl, “bishonen” manga helped her navigate her sexuality at a young age makes perfect sense as she relates it, even if “yaoi helped me come out as a lesbian” sounds at first like one big mess. A script that valorized “other” desire valorized and empowered her desires. It even provided her with the language she needed to answer graciously after her first crush rejected her. Even in the absence of scripts better  tailored to her desires, this was enough. She found allies when she needed them, and later she realized that while the character mouths that spoke them were nominally male, the hand that wrote them was most likely a woman’s.

She has maintained her interest in BL/yaoi to the point of earning a PhD on it, teaching theory around it, and unlike numerous western lesbians who have “adopted” yuri and shoujo-ai and are trying to raise it to respectable maturity,(2) Mizoguchi, while not condemning it in its entirety declares yuri problematic for her and not really her number one fave thing. She’s sticking with BL/yaoi.

An extreme simplification of the view she puts forward in her thesis is that yuri for her is “tainted” by the mark of the patriarchy. As an occasional Loser Fan Boy (c.f. E.Friedman’s blog’s rating system) I know that the majority of the stuff is mostly written by males, to satisfy my male gaze, my curiosity and my – ahem- prurient interests. Especially when Ken Kurogane writes it – “PWP” doesn’t just mean plot- what- plot, (pr0n w/o pecker works too) and that can be a fine thing indeed!

Still I might have learned too much since my first brush with yuri pr0n: his signature work – which on first encounter bowled me over now re-reads as clumsy, repetitive and occasionally mean-spirited – besides being little more than near plot-less smut in manga form. Only the “mermaid” chapter, the series resolution and the joke bonus after-series/ omake redeem it a bit. And like yaoi-bait characters, its creatures are nothing close to human; gay, lesbian, straight or otherwise. Not realistic at all, but mercifully free of “I must pine away silently while I build up my courage to confess” tropes. His puppets clang together like magnets and fuck like rabbits. Then when I shake my head and wonder why I keep reading, he throws in just enough humor or over-the-top gushy romanticism to get me to read the next page. And damn if there isn’t more smut there waiting for me. Unfortunately after reading too much theory I now must ask if (gahhh!) I am engaging in a symbolic libidinal exchange with a bunch of otaku guy pr0n addicts when I read the stuff? That somehow feels not good. Curse you Mizoguchi <grin> for planting the seed of doubt.

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism. (TM)

On the other hand, there is material here that can be used for further exploration of the Genshiken- verse. Remember that the Genshiken is different from all the other “visual culture” clubs at the University: Its cover story is that it a hybrid model, its reality is that the “study material” is highly sexualized, starting with the initiation rites and running through the dojinshi expeditions. Everyone goes to comiket, then runs home to enjoy their loot. The place is a cesspit of pervy otaku, and later a den of pervy fujoshi. Notable members have been expelled from other clubs and dumped in the Genshiken for their sins. “I am Ogiue and I hate Otaku!” Concepts of symbolic libidinal exchange emphasize the weirdness of the Genshiken; a club that has in the past been presented as a covert field observation post for post-graduate social science research into pr0n consumer-fans.

Back to Mizoguchi and yaoi-space: for her: authorship, rather than chara is the most important thing in romance and raunchy manga. Female authorship! Female authorship that creates out of a culture of interaction with female fans! “Virtual lesbian separatism” – in her own words.

Most Yuri, to radically simplify her position, feels fake and exploitative to her, and is made by and /or for guys. For instance, she bristles at Maka Maka, and hey, it drags, and it is thin on romanticism, and the sex stuff is formulaic – the only thing that redeems it is that the characters are drawn as adults and not loliconstructs. For Mizoguchi, Maka Maka is annoying because the two main characters play with each other, but still center their emotional lives, desires and sexuality on men, which privileges the gaze of the male reader. No matter how much LFB’s protest that the characters are written as “bi”, they are inscribed as available- and- willing to male fantasy: typical japanese rezbian sex-show fodder in manga form. I bring this up, because it is an odd complaint. Lots of yuri pr0n posits male- less space (pwp) and is still built for the male gaze. Is it that with adult female characters, the s-class tropes (impending boyfriend/ husband?) are absent and so the unsatisfying boyfriends must be dropped in, to get in the way? Is this analogous to the “why doesn’t she just die in a ditch” effect in yaoi?

Mizoguchi’s section on Yuri also in some way mirrors the discomfort that het males feel with BL/yaoi – she even addresses this by arguing that the serious and persistent power imbalances within society make for significant difference between males looking at yuri and females looking at yaoi. Fair ’nuff – I’ve heard these arguments before, mostly in heated discussions in crit classes. The only way I made it through them was by muttering the old sci-fi/ fantasy mantra “magic is matter of symbology and intent” to myself. (It helped a bit – hooray for displacement strategies!) Shimoku in Genshiken (and also the parodic yaoi episode in Girl Saurus) takes this on with “Ogiue’s sin”. I guess no one likes to be objectified, but without it the whole fantasy exercise, as noted previously in the Zizek quote (and the masthead of the bwog) falls apart. “all of our desires are just things we force on others” indeed.

If Mizoguchi’s position at first glance seems conflicted, she appears to have resolved it quite well. Why the M-M fake gay stuff? Because she likes it, so piss off! Reading her footnotes, you get the sense that she even takes some small credit for trying to make the genre a bit more sympathetic to real-world LGTBQ concerns by smearing the rapey stuff and the signature “I’m not gay but,” line with a big gooey bad-taste brush. From what little I have heard of the western analog to bl/yaoi – slash fiction, its champions try to enforce similar if not far more stringent codes of political correctness on it – which sounds like herding cats to me.

Three cheers for cat-herders everywhere!

Mizoguchi also brings up the “conflict of interest” or “wolf in the fold” question by proxy in her discussion of a “more modern” yaoi series that deals with an openly gay Japanese construction worker. She notes how the writer of the series deals with the het guy characters worrying that their gay co-worker will “come on” to them with a blend of humor and a series of teachable moments that aim to put down the prejudice that all gay males are ultra-promiscuous predators, so all gay male yaoi characters (and by inference all other LGBTQ characters and real-world LGBTQ folk) must be too. To hold to the old view is hurtful, offensive, in bad taste, and worse: bad writing – them’s the new rules! (3) Never underestimate the power of a “canon” within a fan genre.
Contested space indeed!

All of this leads back to Kio Shimoku and his Hato character. Did he toy with the idea of dropping a lesbian fujoshi into the pot? Too dangerous! The yuri trope temptation would lurk in the shadows and drag the whole exercise down the wrong path. Besides, as I have idiotically asserted previously, “There Are (almost) No Lesbians in Japan!”

There are plenty of women who love other women; a few publicly declared activists; plenty of gaijin gals who are looking for lurv and material for a masters thesis from the that Monty- Python- skit University in Australia; but the term seems obnoxious to many of the Japanese sisterhood – poisoned by plain pr0n, including yuri, and s-class shoujo-ai, nosy media and a century of push back by an extremely patriarchal society. I wish I could find that online journal article – now lost, that had an exasperated gaijin lesbian researcher looking for genuine Japanese lesbian survey respondents at wimmins bars and meetings. The punch line is that she gets repeatedly brushed off by Japanese- women- who- happen- to- love- other-women- and- wish- that- the- rest- of- the- world- including- nosy- furreign-girls- would- just- mind- their- own- business. Did they really start calling themselves something that sounds like “carpenter” in Japanese or did our plucky researcher get her leg pulled? (Perhaps this is changing: more and more folk show up at the two pride parades in Tokyo each year – did I get that right? there was something in Metropolis about why they have two Tokyo parades – oh well, matsuri are movable feasts in japan, the more the merrier!)

Remember, this is a culture that won’t countenance same-sex marriage, but will readily allow gender reassignment in the official rolls, as long as you bring a doctor’s note (LATER: ooops: actually a whole lot more and it will still be a damn hard slog) or you can adopt your significant one. Perhaps also incorporation as a partnership works?

So dropping a “lesbian” main character into the Genshiken would pose too many problems (though I am still convinced that one could show up if handled as already happily in a relationship). But take the manga flavor of the month – a trap ooops cross-dressing guy who just so happens to look like a cute girl and give him a conflicted back story that makes him want to re-construct himself as a rotten girl, for the purpose of entering into a (crit-speak on) symbolic libidinal exchange within a community of women/ fujoshi and voila! we have a very serious, very truthful “I’m not gay!” Hato with no “buts” needed. And he only falls for women, (Later: at the time, it will take years before the “only you” effect raises its head) even while reading and drawing man-smut.  And damn if he wont turn out to be perfectly well-behaved, and he won’t jump anyone because that would be gauche and poor writing.

Madarame’s virtue (and anatomy) is safe, no matter how much stand-chan prods Hato-kun. It’s the frisson of dangerous possibility within the prodding that is being exchanged, because that’s what fujoshi with over-active “goggles” do. “Unfair!” say the girls: “you get more frisson because your alter-ego is a guy! You can ship yourself! SHARE!” And Hato-chan likes to share! (Note well that I use “ship” as pairing fantasy; the currency of the exchange within the fujoshi social. Still I wonder why Mizoguchi never discusses “the goggles”) (4)

Having worked so hard, Hato will never risk destroying the magic circle he joined by getting a crush on any of the Genshiken fujoshi either. Why look for sex when he has found something better, something that he has sought with single-minded determination for so long. We are told that BL/yaoi piqued his interest even before he sought out the fujoshi at his high school art club (V10 p148) We assume that what piqued his interest was the subject matter. Was there more to his desire? Could it be that he is written as a young male who gets his satisfaction from the exchange of man-smut with women, and/ or the degree to which he enjoys man-smut depends only on the degree that it fits within the potential for such an exchange? One can get off on all kinds of things,  and a convoluted solution like this maintains Genshiken as a heteronormative space,  but where the heck would Kio Shimoku get such an idea?

Where indeed?

Hato is not only Kage-Kaminaga, he is Shimoku’s Kage-Mizoguchi

Wait, I’m confused now…

Such a solution ensures that no matter how many yaoi puppets he has looked at or drawn, Hato has always spoken truthfully (if incompletely) about his desires:

He has only ever fallen for women.

Next up: Contested spaces

Footnotes:

(1) Whoa! I just hooked extra batteries to the playset field and have expanded its scope beyond all reasonable boundaries of playing what if with Genshiken characters, to suggesting authorial influences.. For now lets just consider the fantasy of Kio Shimoku getting ideas from the works of Akiko Mizoguchi as shorthand for “dealing with somewhat similar concerns”, zeitgeist, working the same district on different sides of the street etc. You want a down to earth essay, go read a mechanical engineering paper. This is my toy! Mwaaaahahaha! I push the lever forward…

[Much Later: I think I have found enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that if he would have had to work hard to miss her stuff and research yaoi at the time he started with fujoshi characterizations.]

(2) Mizoguchi’s real-world academic space is a small village; she has run into Erica Friedman a few times at least  – they go to each other’s conferences, and while they hold opposite preferences on yuri and yaoi, they strike similar activist chords. I hope they consider each other allies. I was also surprised to see that Mizoguchi supervised the translation of Allucquére Rosanne “Sandy” Stone‘s work “The Empire Strikes Back: A posttranssexual manifesto”  – anyone who is a friend of Sandy Stone must be way kewl. I first ran into the amazing Sandy Stone years ago at a puny little conference where she wowed everyone at the proceedings and the after-party. Two years later, I am hundreds of miles away, walking around Toronto and suddenly I hear my name called out and it’s Sandy Stone saying Hi! and inviting me to another of her conferences that evening – and I have no academic rep or anything. I was just a late-return to school undergrad art student of one of the profs who invited her to speak at the University of nowhere-ville two years before. Now that’s class! So Akiko Mizoguchi  goes up 3000 points in my books by association. Stone’s work is not just for readers of queer theory, but for anyone who wonders how technological extensions of identity have and will induce extreme states of flux in how we define ourselves, as selves. If you’ve enjoy John Varley’s sci-fi novels you’ll enjoy Stone.

(3) added later – yup, its a canon rule now: the later scanlation of Aoi Hanna by Dynasty is finally out (though the  /u crew did an amazing job of the 1st pass) and during the election arc we have the senior-most of the out couple making the pronouncement in a class group that “It’s not like we’re nymphomaniacs! I don’t go chasing after anyone wearing a skirt!” (ch40 p17) Of course the entire plot of Hanna hinges on the backstory of Kazama developing serial unrequited crushes for “cute girls” and needing support from her straight and “not-cute” friend. But these were politely unrequited pining-away-from-a-distance crushes.
No harm no foul.

(4) Again, later – Almost missed this one, because it flew by so fast: Hato’s sharing can at times have an odd effect on his fujoshi friends, and the effect is magnified for Ogiue who is a published mangaka. Recall when she was reviewing materials for the club zine and came upon a steamy grope scene done by Hato featuring her characters. “My characters are making love” “Is this what a doujinshi of my manga would be like?” (ch74) Is this a translator shading or a spot-on rendering of Shimoku’s nuanced description? Because she could have used other terms.