Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

“Oh the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter and on her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water” – Slavoj Žižek

C104p4 no BL this time

Behold Hato-chan V2 as she decides to create a full manga narrative.

c104p14 discouraged

And then behold the setback. The look of disappointment on her face is shocking, verging on tragic even though we are diverted by the greater shock of finding out the Yajima can plot out very effectively funny 4-koma works. We are used to seeing Hato succeed effortlessly in pretty much everything he or she tries, so of course a lapse is telling.

Previous failures were always presented more in the manner of a two-sided quirky “super power”: he cannot draw well unless crossdressed, and then she can only draw steamy m/m clench scenes. This both bolsters the arguments for becoming Hato-chan within a fujoshi social and gives Hato something to exchange with the rest of the members.

Drawing work-safe manga stories is in no way central to fitting into the magic circle, so getting it perfect the first time does not push the usual compulsion buttons. Of course it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is almost as if Hato’s disappointment stems not from the failure, or from the failure to realise in advance that the manga she drew was a failure but from the fact that this failure that offers no tactical advantage. Perhaps this is too recursive but Hato is nothing if not immensely skilled at fooling his and her self into action. But there is shock on her face as well as disappointment. Could it be that the biggest surprise of the afternoon has been that Hato has just discovered how much she (and he) really, really wanted to be able to tell a story?

c104p22 blank look

Hato is failing at his (and her) first attempt as a mangaka/”auteur”. Hanging out with the fujoshi and exchanging odd smut was supposed to be the promised land. Oh sure, Hato-chan always wanted to be able to draw her (and Hato-kun’s suppressed) fantasies, but that was what the clench scenes were for. Now a new desire is stirring, and failure to easily snag it has left the Hato continuum deeply unsettled. “We did not know that we wanted it!”

What a set-up!

As the creation of a very successful mangaka/ auteur, one who has put in his time and paid his dues creating emotionally dense realistic, dramatic manga (Kagerou Nikki (陽炎日記?) (1995), Yonensei (四年生?) (1997), Gonensei (五年生?) (1998)) Hato is not going to get off easy.

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka is still very much in its first chapters. We have yet to make it even to the church retreat chapter. We have Hato with a pop-post-Lacanian wound, when he learned of yaoi dojins and that they did something (not -for- but) to him. We have the reinforcing trauma of the high school Art club- his first disastrous attempt at infiltrating a fujoshi social. We have hir debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of hir tiny, limited super-power. Finally we have his stands urging him to ship himself with Madarame and the progression from the fantasy of a classic BL m/m seduction as Hato x Mada to the project of attempting a newer hybrid otokonoko/ otomeyaku Mada x Hato “something”. What mischief will our plucky hero(ine) get up to next?

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

The Lacanian-ish wound/ shock/ trauma idea is worth reviewing: In Saito Tamaki’s analysis, what defines the Otaku is the disconcerting libidinous charge or cathexis, the desire that a cartoon female character evokes in the male reader. This desire is traumatic because the poor guy knows that it is only a cartoon character and experiences all manner of dissonance and distress over finding himself so stimulated by a crude 2D fiction. I mean, what’s next? Getting a woody from a math equation? Surely this is the path to madness! (Don’t call me…) There is something wrong with my wiring! Must take steps to master and comprehend these unnatural urges! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Saito Tamaki’s moment of unresolvable Otaku desire is spun as an origin myth starring none other than a young Hayao Miyazaki:

“…Saito hypothesizes that the young Miyazaki was caught off guard by a sexual attraction to the film’s heroine. The girl (actually the spirit of a white serpent named Bai-Nang) was an impossible object, a fictional creature who therefore “contained already within her the occasion for loss” [emp. mine] – yet Miyazaki desired her. This experience of being made to experience pleasure against his will by a fictional construct” constituted a trauma for Miyazaki. Because unresolved traumas can only be repeated, for Miyazaki this meant the creation of a whole string of beautiful fighting girls in his own works. While Miyazaki tends to insist on the wholesomeness of his works and disavow any sexual component, in Saito’s analysis the appeal of Miyazaki’s beautiful fighting girls has everything to do with sexuality. Insofar as their repetition perpetuates a libidinal attachment to a fictional construct, they also challenge us to rethink our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register.”

-Making it Real: Fiction, Desire, and the Queerness of the Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent, Introduction to his co-translation of Saito Tamaki’s ‘Beautiful Fighting Girl’ University of Minnesota Press, 2011
https://www.academia.edu/3682539/Making_it_Real_Fiction_Desire_and_the_Queerness_of_the_Beautiful_Fighting_Girl

Ch4 p13 stick figures

rethinking our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register – that’s what we are doing!

By the way, the Bard of Studio Ghibli has not even deigned to dignify Tamaki’s speculation with a response. His disdain for low otaku culture however is legendary.

Note as well the direct Tamaki quote: “contained already within her the occasion for loss” (!) If that doesn’t pretty well describe the way that Madarame looks at all 3D women. The inversion that the otaku performs on the weighted potentials for loss between 2D and 3D fixations is one of the great double-think sacraments of his tribe.

“No matter what you do, no matter what you say,
the only real perfect love is one that gets away”.

-The Residents

And so the Otaku becomes a connaisseur of the effect and the great range of possible character deployments that cause his trauma and in doing so endlessly repeats and encourages the replication, distribution and elaboration of this traumatic artifact. Yet like a flanneur on the streets of last century’s Paris, he is now a somewhat distanced expert observer of the spectacle of excess.

“Seriality is the difference in repetition”
Some pomo guy, was it Jimbo? Google draws a blank. If not, then – moi! (win!)
“Screw you Muda, If I didn’t say it, I said it now, so talk to my lawyers”
– Slavoj Žižek.
Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” – Wash…

We now return to our regularly scheduled theory block-quotes:

“What seems different about otaku for Saito is that this formerly relatively private or even secret (if also widespread) practice has in the past few decades become an increasingly mass-mediated social role with an unprecedented amount of public visibility. Saito denies that the female partners of his (perverse) straight male otaku are in any sense “substitutes” for the heroines of anime that the otaku may (also?) adore and desire, and opines, “My personal impression is that marriage to another otaku of the opposite sex tends to be seen as the perfect ending to life as an otaku”. Vincent defends Saito from the charge of heteronormativity by arguing that while “Saito may describe the real-life sexuality of the otaku he knows as tending toward the heterosexual and the vanilla, . . . he never prescribes that it be so”. For Vincent, what gives Saito’s work its considerable interest to queer theorists is its theoretical tendency neither to privilege nor pathologize the otaku’s enjoyment of “the reality-producing charge [that] . . . the beautiful fighting girl sparks across the gap between” his outward performance of sexual “normality” (xx) and his sustained commitment to both his perverse imaginary pleasures and the media- saturated collective context that enables and sustains these pleasures.”

-Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory by Michael Moon
A review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki, translated by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson.
http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16379&context=criticism

Wow, the word queer keeps popping up; scary, scary, scary. No big deal; we are talking the mechanics of desire here, not the specifics. Besides, it works across all boundaries (and none). You doubt that Kio Shimoku had heard of Tamaki and his original year 2000 Japanese treatise on the BFG? See Mada’s little lecture with the stick figure lines above…

To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
burning

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

“And what about those relatively understudied (at least in this book)
female otaku? Saito offers no substantive consideration of them and
their practices; in his introduction, Vincent informs us that the author
has written about female otaku elsewhere, and that what Saito
seems to mean by “female otaku” are female fans of yaoi, another
huge subset of manga that, in contrast with girl-warrior narratives,
features beautiful schoolboys falling in love and (in many cases) having sex with each other—narratives that are mostly written and drawn by women authors for a largely female audience. (gay men my age might have found yaoi disturbing but fascinating when we were adolescents, but made do with Archie comics instead.)[3] In one of his few direct references to female otaku, Saito mentions not only yaoi but also shotakon, a manga and anime genre that features prepubescent or pubescent boys in romantic and sometimes erotic contexts (29).”
Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory, Moon, Ibid

Fat chance! Tamaki ventures only a tiny bit of post- Lacanian fluff on fujoshi desire in his 2006 essay Otaku Sexuality. Then he drops in the shota stuff! Gehhhh! Oh well; that explains Risa.

The folks who took issue with the blatant libidinization of Otaku desire, Azuma et al, with their Foucault/ Kojève approach are even more blind to the lack of the desiring female. As they erase desire within male Otaku moe, they seem to feel no need to give mention to fen desire at all.

A Japanese cultural critic with a background in the fine arts weighs in:

“The biggest problem of the book by Azuma lies in the fact that he has no view on female Otaku.”Of these discontents, the former means that aesthetics of “Moe” is not a comprehensive nature but only one aspect of the Otaku culture, when the latter refers to the gender problem within the Otaku culture.

This latter is my own discontent, too.

Indeed, it’s known there are a lot of female Otaku – of course, in my classroom in Japan – , but they have not been fully discussed. What kind of differences are there between male and female Otaku, then? Briefly speaking,(1)the gaze of female Otaku sometimes involves moments of homosexuality whether her interest goes to boys or girls:(1-a)Female Otaku who fall into the former category, gazing at relationships between beautiful male characters, are sometimes called “Yaoi,” while(1-b)those who fall into the latter category, develop interest in relationships between she herself(=subject)and female characters(=object).
However, the most important difference, I think, is that(2)the female Otaku sometimes has a specific aspect of transforming the body of herself: i.e. through costume play. In this phase, she tries to transform herself from the motive of doubting her identity, when male Otaku gazes and fetishizes a female figure composed of his favorite parts according to his “needs.”

OTAKU AS QUEER?

If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.

Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”

If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.

Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queerbut-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

In any case, I really think it’s anachronistic that such alleged (sub)culture of Otaku is promoted even by a governmental project. Otaku Culture and Its Discontents Or, why on earth do feminists in Japan hesitate to criticize such a male-centered movement?  By the similar argument, Azuma’s book is not only useless, but also harmful. Of course it would be like asking for the moon, if Azuma’s book dealt with the specific aspects of our age. But the subtitle of the book reads “Japanese Society from the View Point of Otaku.” Moreover the catch copy by the publisher reads “We cannot discuss Japan in 2000s without this book.” These remarks announce that the book presents a general theory.

The responsibility for this unhappy situation should be laid on the intellectuals who have not blamed such anachronistic male Otaku on the ground that they don’t know the Otaku well. Critique of Otaku culture can and should be made even by the people who have little or a little knowledge about Otaku culture even from Kantian transcendental point of view.
Of course, modernist must assume this responsibility, too. And that’s why I called today’s talk a little tentative.”

-Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, (October 17, 2007, University of Rochester)
http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf

Wow, it is either all queer theory all the way down, or (sometimes somewhat feminist) post-Lacanian stuff (or both). Cue Rio Otomo, who has recently published a fine essay on “Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love”:

“Viewed as irony, a seemingly monological pornographic text turns into a dialogical space, in which, as a reader, I extract, through a negotiation of distance, a pleasure of my own. This act of reading is an expression of my personal sexual fantasy, and I perform it in my own private space. Although it is my private practice, it is not a simple reflection of my private desire. I purchase the material to read, participating in public consumption, and at the same time my choice is to a large extent formed by the selection available to me in the market. Thus, what I believe to be my taste may not be truly mine, or rather, I may have been directed to prefer one thing to another by the socially constructed notions of what is desirable. Indeed, it can be said that the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I speak, all are my learned choice, and that my desire itself is largely what I learned to want. And yet, once I am aware that I embody and act out socially constructed desire through my reading, I can choose to be a critical and creative participant. A reader is, in this context, a public performer. In the following sections I look into different modes of reading in attempt to clarify particularities of BL reading.
[…]
When I read BL texts, I first identify different bodies, which are codes for different positions in the networks of human relations. The recognition of their differences provokes desire in multiple directions. I then re-enact the difference playing multiple roles in my single body—and, thus, reading (and writing) BL I am able to play with gender itself—a point also discussed by Fujimoto Yukari in her chapter in this volume. I am, thus, autoerotic, but my (female) body is erased in this process. Fantasy in its broad sense tells me a story in which I am everywhere. In BL texts I am simultaneously the character’s downcast eyes; the texture of the velvet couch he lounges on; the windows that fling open; and the wind that blows his curly locks. When his lover enters the room, I am also that lover who looks at him with heated desire. In reading like this, no single identification takes place, since the “I” is multiplied to govern each detail of the scene. The subject “I” as the unified centre no longer exists in this activity. Unlike Mishima’s narrator, I do not consolidate the subject “I” but instead lose sight of it in the landscape.
[…]
The distance that I thought existed between fantasy and myself does not seem reliable any more because I am now becoming my fantasy, writing the script, acting the roles, and capturing the scenes. I am efficient in creating pictures and narratives since my focus is on acquiring the utmost pleasure through the fantasy I am making. In the process, however, the “I” who is making disappears, a consequence that Mishima’s narrator could not afford   despite the happiness he knew it was offering. The disappearance of the “I” is the ultimate goal of fantasy making; I forget where I am and what I am. I do not remember whether I have even existed, when I am in a phantasmatic space. At that very moment of happiness I do not care how I appear to others; I am back in my childlike innocence. I have forgotten my gendered body. The reading subject is not born there, but disappears, as my autoerotic pleasure peculiarly excludes myself along with my body.
[…]
In the mid-1990s Nakajima Azusa made her feminist position clear, describing what she calls the “world of JUNE”:
{{The standing position for these girls has already been removed from the world they create… there is no “opposite” sex as the object of love. Turning themselves into shadow, the girls can play to their hearts content with materials unfamiliar to them, connecting one person to another, or making someone fall in love with another, without fear of being made to enter the “ring” where she is on display to be purchased by men.}}
[22 – JUNE magazine (1978–1979, 1981–1996), a popular BL-focused periodical, was during its time the hub for BL enthusiasts.]”

-The Politics of Utopia: Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love by Rio Otomo http://rio-otomo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2013.11.3FantasyPornographyBoyslove.pdf

Note that Otomo follows a fairly orthodox post-Lacanian script herein, when dealing with female desire as free-floating and un-fettered by a limiting phallic subjectivity.

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

“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.

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.””

Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki , in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

It appears that Tamaki and those with rejoinders to his brief mention of the fujoshi experience gloss over the initiatial Lacanian trauma/ shock/ wound of discovering yaoish desires (“Holy Shit !!! Are you serious ??? Where can I get… ?” – as one real life correspondent once exclaimed to me) in favor of the vertiginous pleasures of the shifting POV’s within these dangerous texts. Recall that Tamaki glosses over the fine details of the male experience of the “trauma” as well; which lead me in an earlier review to suggest a rude and simple flowchart.

Only Kio Shimoko, through Kanako Ohno makes any direct mention of the grotty details of any direct erotic use of the material, and what does he know? There is no law that requires that all erotic material must be consumed in “one hand play mode” either for guys or girls and any taxonomy of “appreciation” would probably be both pointless and corporatist-fascist; mega-corporations, as well as the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Academic researchers should consult ethics boards and then ask very, very politely.

The initial question however remains and seems to be only fleetingly addressed in materials available to the English-language-limited researcher. Mizoguchi (Akiko) mentions an initial discovery of early 49’er -style shoujo manga (fantasy European) boys romance tales as support and inspiration to her, as her lesbian identity awakened  –  This effect seems far more important than any fleeting erotic charge these texts may or may not have provoked. Only Kazumi Nagaike in her doctoral thesis- “Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father: Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire” [https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962] and her later (unfortunately titled) expanded work on the subject- “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” [ http://www.amazon.ca/Fantasies-Cross-Dressing-Japanese-Male-Male-Erotica/dp/9004216952] gets down and dirty on early and mid-twentieth century Japanese literature that serves as the direct ancestor to the genre. I have previously reviewed these; the source material, which Nagaike translates in some length is not for the squeamish but is more than sufficient to provoke a Lacanian “trauma” and subsequent cathexis – if that kind of stuff turns your crank.

The disconnect, or asymmetry of the experience of libidinised popular visual cultural material between the boys and the girls seems to grow the more one examines it and yet if the differences cannot be laid at the foot of some crude biological determinism, they must then be ascribed to societally gendered codes of behaviour and consumption.

No wonder the entire gender-sexuality-queer-theory-whatnot theory brigades are swarming all over the crash scene! (Be grateful they are; good work is being done there!)

I made no comment.
What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”

Perhaps a simpler solution would be for someone to swipe a time machine, go back to France after the war, feed Lacan some mind-altering pharmaceuticals and drag him to a whole lot of movie theatres.

As critical-theory inclined film essayists have long pointed out, a floating, decentered subjectivity is not merely a matter of who has a delusion between their legs. The camera can do all kinds of tricky things, even if the majority of film makers stick to simple tried and true omniscient “male gaze” visual narrative conventions. Remember the multiple/split screen effects in the Woodstock music documentary were breathtakingly avant-garde and daring for 1970. Such innocent days… We have better cameras and computers now, so we can go crazy in the head and perhaps vicariously enjoy the perspective of the -gasp- Lacanian autre (read: female inscribed by lack) with special effects.

Or Lacan was a bit full of it and we can trash the whole line of inquiry…

Whatever the case, Kio Shimoku’s character mechanics tack quite close to post Lacanian shores. Note the scene in which a sworn-off BL Hato-kun experiences the classic shock that Tamaki has grounded his approach on:

Ch88p17 still works

Of course Hato’s big trauma/ shock/ wound was meant to lie in wait for unsuspecting young women. The Beautiful Bonking Bishie(s) is supposed to be the female counterpart to the Beautiful Fighting Girl. I have probably burnt too much powder on this one already, but a few other fine distinctions can be teased out of the tangle of 2D desire. Tamaki’s BFG in her purest state is a thinly drawn character, a nominally female cypher that lives to fight, requiring little or no back story or motivation and possessed of a sexuality that is sublimated toward battle. She is the phallic, or non-female female, There is a world of difference between such a character –almost a one person clench scene– and a fully written fictional female, heroic or not. Similarly, the Bonking Bishies of a BL tableau are far removed from even the minimal characterizations of parody yaoi dojins. You still need to do author-thing work to get a working story. And reports have it that the rotten girls seem to want more story/ situation/ relationshippy characterization than the Otaku guys do for their critters.

And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;

So Hato is suddenly realizing that his grand “fujoshi desire” project must now include becoming the improbable “male crossdressing BL mangaka”.

“How can I win if they keep moving the goalposts???”

Something about Carnegie Hall…

Since the first moment Hato’s (first) Stand appeared, Kio Shimolu has been hiding this card up his sleeve. Hato mirrors (in a distorted form) the original problem faced by Shimoku – how to properly pull off an ensemble manga full of fujoshi charas when you are a guy. The Stand (and later Stands) were all about making Hato act out classic BL scripts. Whether Hato puts on a dress and gets all hot ‘n bothered with yaoi pr0n or whether the mere knowledge that such creatures as fujoshi and such narratives of desire as BL and yoai exist is enough of a trauma to set him on his course, is immaterial. The only real desire he has ever really shown is towards his project and his project involves authorship – whether he knows and/or admits it or not.

Dammit! We cannot completely scrap the Lacanian approach. Implicit in Tamaki’s trauma scheme is Lacan’s idea that all experience is mediated in the imaginary, that the “real” is something that would drive mere mortals crazy, and that in the moment that mad desire is sparked by the seemingly innocuous or ridiculous cartoon image “Sex is broken down within the framework of fiction and then put back together again“.

A Later Aside: Don’t look or listen to closely to the Lacanian ‘real” or you might find that it is a re-tread of Euroethnic Judeo-Christian mysticism. Alanis Morisette explains:

Ok, so reality, the cave, shadows, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Otaku hysteria born out of the trauma is fundamentally a narrative, creative act and therefore in becoming-otaku (or fujoshi) one must inevitably undertake creative acts of secondary production. One must learn to ride the waves of mass mediated images- of- the- imaginary or be swept away to drown in the torrent. You have to hack the spew.

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand
And puts a record on the gramophone.

Genshiken might well be a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shoujo components: shouldn’t we at least get to see Hato ache for Mada? …Or even ache for an idealised phantasm of Mada? Kio Shimoku is great at the timid hesitation of Otaku courtship, and damn fine at the in-relationship and/or in-well-married couple frictions and their minor (sometimes major) discontents but he seldom deploys full-throttle romantic mush. Ohno & Tanaka came the closest when Ohno got hammered at the cosplay shoot, but Shimoku-sensei doesn’t do over-the-top melodramatic longing. Saki had a tiny bit, but it was quickly dealt with. The happy couple kisses and we move on to in-relationship comedy situations. Shimoku’s works appear more realistic or slice-of-life because he plays all his romance-ish notes in a restrained, pragmatic, somewhat disillusioned key. It is the old chestnut about the Japanese courting couple, with the guy who cannot ask the girl to marry him –  so he asks her to be the one to make breakfast miso soup for him for the rest of his life.  Ooooooh! That sets the heart a’ flutter!

Hato-as-chan acting out BL tropes, should be doing the full, overblown shoujo-esue Heart of the Song of the Wind and Trees & Thomas ” I am yours until the earth claims my body vow of undywing trew ruv at a perplexed Madarame. And where are the full-page floral background portraits (dammit!)? Instead Hato is following the timid courtship rules of the Genshiken: potential partners are approached slowly, tentatively, and with a wearying deliberation that recalls the purchase of a major appliance or a used car. This might be funny, but it is not very big on the desire thing. If Hato has gone quasi you-and-only-you gay for Madarame (even if it shocks the hold-over mainstream male Japanese fan-base, as well as the legions of followers across the grey alleys of the world-wide interwebs) there has been scant evidence of friendship, no evidence of love (even one-sided) no evidence of lust (beyond drawn 2D Hato-works) and no evidence of desire. One outburst of loneliness is all that we have seen. That, the prodding of the Stands and a lot of leveling up in Hato’s femme-ish presentation.

Hato you cad !!! You are just toying with Mada for material for your damn comic.

Meanwhile Sue has “had” in one moment, more of Hato – chan and kun, than Mada ever will.

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

I wonder what she is threatening Mada about in Chapter 105 (the raws are out!), and why the handcuffs ????

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

I am fanning out here, but I am also speculating about what i have long suspected as one of the over-arching plot engines of the whole fujoshi-with-Hato Genshiken. It’s not that you have to do the Anti-Oedipus becoming-woman/ becoming-monster thing to be a successful auteur. Nor is the consideration of decentered subjective multiplicities a feminist (or not) post-Lacanian or queer theory monopoly – though one can understand their interest in the idea. (Hegemony not good!) It’s just that the ability to load and process multiple subjectivities is helpful to the creative process in this day and age. Hato is being used as a slapstick allegory on this theme, as he edges towards being able to tell his stories. He will try all kinds of odd approaches. Like a certain cartoon penguin, He will not fail!

C’mon Hato, as an aspiring mangaka, you need a muse – being your own just isn’t cutting it lately. Sue or Yajimachi: pick one! (Sue best girl!) You can be a male crossdressing virtual lesbian BL mangaka and surpass all your sempais!

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

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On heroes and hero worship

Wherein I try to balance speculation about character mechanics with a slightly self-indulgent fan-out, in order to make up for dropping cryptic comments into other blogs when suddenly struck by insight…

“…Within a somewhat socially repressive environment, in which citizens are expected to conform and contribute to the social good, anime is a temporary escape from reality and crossdressing serves as an outlet for personal expression. Dressing as a girl allows Japanese boys and men (such as Haruhi Fujioka’s crossdressing father in Ouran High School Host Club and the countless “okama” in One Piece) to not just express their softer, feminine side, but to temporarily drop their burden of male responsibility. Attraction to these characters may also be tied to a sense of ease. Male viewers that like josou shounen characters may feel more comfortable relating to a boy that looks like a girl than an actual girl because jousou shonen anime characters consistently seem more compassionate, receptive, and considerate than female anime characters that expect normal boys to act like boys. Josou shounen themselves don’t look or act like boys and don’t demand that other boys live up to the stereotypical male characteristics that girls expect.

So setting aside preoccupation with gender, josou shounen anime characters are typically even more feminine and approachable than actual girl characters are. The argument may be made, in this case, that cute is cute, regardless of gender. But if that’s the case, why would heterosexual otaku supplement or even supplant attraction to female characters with josou shounen characters? Some otaku may be partially shifting their interest in cute anime girls onto cute anime boys that look like girls because the later provide the same opportunity for moé obsession without the need to respect conventional masculine and feminine gender roles. [July 23rd, 2010.]”

-http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

The above quoted explanation for the boys-in-skirts genre has a superficial ring of truthiness about it; lets take it apart and see if there is anything that can be teased out of it to illuminate Mada’s Genshiken harem and Hato-chan’s dilemma.

The burden of responsibility for the male role: here we are already into slip. It is assumed in this explanation that the attractiveness of a crossdressing male character comes in part from the vicarious admiration of the freedom that the role affords. The passage reads almost as it was noting the attraction of 3D crossdressing as hobby rather than simply noting that certain characters are attractive. This is not only the freedom to hang out with girls and do girly stuff, but to avoid the unpleasant, difficult and perhaps bankrupt male role. Note that there is no mention of “born in the wrong body”, This is gender tourism. The models for this twinned explanation are newspaper reports of “herbivore males” and the rich kid from Princess Jellyfish. The catchphrase for the effect would be “It’s my hobby!

The next suggestion – that conventional female manga, game and anime characters mirror real life females who make too many demands upon the broken male; either to be a stoic, silent male hero or to be successful, forceful, romantic and so perfect that almost all suitors are doomed to failure from the start. This is an analogue of the “she won’t date anyone who makes under X per year” news items from the first few years of the millennium. While this explanation has some plausibility a similar attraction is part of what drives lolicon desire, the full implications of it are horrific. Does this mean that a certain subset of otaku cannot even handle spunky girl characters? Passive-aggressive cultural blowback!

More could have been offered as explanation. The power relations hinted at in more dramatic versions of the otokonoko genre play with an implicit bargain between the otokonoko character and the almost- smitten boy object of desire. The otokonoko character plays an exaggerated, supportive, understanding feminine role and the boy character agrees to take her presentation as suitably feminine and desirable. flattery is exchanged for flattery. This means that for the first time, the nerd boy can be the one who gets to play coy, and both can place themselves above vanilla relationships. Riajuu winner-types of both sexes, long used to getting what they want would turn out to be too rigid, lazy or spoiled to give such a relationship a try, so the nerd and the crossdresser rise above them as harbingers of the cultural vanguard. This is the virtual Jack Kerouac Beat Generation redux effect.  Verily, there is nuthin new under the sun…

With the lights off, it’s less dangerous…

What kind of male main character is best to draw in male readership into a particular story? Is it an average guy, like Genshiken’s Sasahara? Does he have to worse than average; a clumsy horn dog or an ill-socialized nerd? Extremely shy around girls? Clueless? Perhaps the slightly melancholic normal guy with family troubles that leave him somewhat orphaned? Slightly unhinged? Bat-shit crazy?

One of the familiar tropes of high school romantic comedies and harem grinders gives us a somewhat shy, well-behaved guy with blond hair and/ or a “scary face” which means that everyone avoids him as a dangerous delinquent. Then the quirky girls flock around him. Then an otokonoko “page-boy”, a few lolis and at least one scheming over-sexed older woman.

If he is going to be socially awkward around girls, he can’t be too much of a freak; How is it that Madarame is on the outer edge of the limit while Kuchiki is beyond it? Is it that Kuchiki has too many weaknesses? Does Madarame only look acceptable because Kuchiki is worse? It looks like the limit is one interesting, forgivable life-effecting weakness per average young guy.

Perhaps we have a male analogue to one of the reasons why women populate BL tales with extreme male characters: to escape the power dynamics that are set in place before the story starts (power dynamics set up within the story are fair ball).

My limited exposure to North American female aspirational fiction- the kind where the bright young heroine comes to New York for her exciting new job, splurges on name brand crap and navigates the attention of the good guy and the dangerous guy, notes that the setting, the brand name props, the relentless consumption pattern name-dropping and the cookie cutter suitors all serve to create a theme park romance-ish experience to be binged upon by female readers who do not live in New York and cannot access bling or exciting suitors. It is almost allegorical, in the sense that the characters, setting and props have only to be named and remain barely described, fleshed out or given any “reality” within the story. Very lazy writing, but still popular. Sorry Azuma-san, your database looks like a 1950’s automat cafeteria.

I was really bored and stuck without any other reading material when I read that one centuries ago, so perhaps I over-generalize, but if this kind of thing is what women are supposed to be reading, then I can understand why some of them ruthlessly excise the annoying plucky heroine in favour of banging the guys together for some outre fun. The only alternative would be to peel the plastic wrap off the entire setting and expose what lies beneath as some murderous horror-show; which explains the appeal of the Buffy-verse. (both variants seem to posit the bad- boy- on- a- leash as an answer to the old Freudian question of female desire, which again makes the rotten girl response amusingly innovative.)

The relative newness of the otokonoko genre makes it easier to recycle all manner of hackneyed old romance chestnuts: Perfect girl falling for schlep buddy boy is too hard to believe, so Otoko! Otoko! Otoko! is just the newest way of giving the perfect girl character another hidden “flaw”/ back story to explain her odd tastes; ex-gang leader, alien, magic girl, time-traveller, angel, esper, reality shifter, teen prostitute, hidden royalty, riches, psychotic kitten-killer, etc., etc., After all, it’s all just grist for a galge and a few manga and anime spin-offs right?

Low res is best res

Behold Hato-chan V2. All the faults enumerated in the Rame is a loser session translate into some odd form of moe for Mada-and-only-Mada Hato. Moe enough to finally get Hato level up the femininity presentation and to use the cooking skills he practiced to return the meal that Mada made for him a half a year (almost five years real-time) ago. The “what the heck does she see in him?” effect works even if the perfect girl ain’t one.

Oh no I said a dirty word…

Of course since this is all part of a harem dating-sim game, it is natural and expected. Natural too is that Madarame can now interact with Hato-chan as feminine, but can feel a bit safer: Clumsy flirting with a genre situation Hato is less threatening than clumsy flirting with a riajuu cis-female. If Mada screws up, Hato will forgive or at least understand where the stupid guy tricks are coming from. If he goes too far, Hato will judo-throw him. With ironic genre quoting any goofy gesture or statement can be made as long as it is put in harem +/or josou genre quotation marks.

The excerpt’s writer suggests that the josou genre is not just a flight from/ beyond traditional gender roles in contemporary Japan but the making of new diffuse ones. This one gets a bit strained; if only because the characteristics of the “ideal” accepting otokonoko are as traditional as they come. In the riajuu world of fantasy cis-females they are represented by the geisha, the hostess and the floozie with a heart of gold who has retired from the trade and now runs a late-night izakaya. Strange how Keiko’s night job is to act something like her: it might be reading too much into her off-screen character to yell LAMPSHADE! yet.

Because they are presented in ironic quotes, they become trans(*)gressive. This is Judith Butler territory, but even she must be ready to refine her initial theories, as the nasty ole patriarchal society seems to have an almost infinite appetite for gobbling up the transgressive and excreting the co-opted useable. Chomp! Urrrrrp! Substitute you for my mum, At least I’ll get my washing done…

A far bigger question looms: why is Kio Shimoku is turning shy, crossdresses-to-be- a-fujoshi, imagines his BL male self to be a forceful seme Hato into a paragon of supportive accepting, inviting femininity and throwing her at Madarame?

To put it simply, because it won’t work!

It’s fun to lose and to pretend…

The problem is not simple gender/ sexuality prejudice. That would be low-class.

Hato-chan might be completely accepting of Madarame’s faults, and a future Madarame could be completely accepting of an intimate relationship with a trans girl-boy, but Hato’s current brand of feminine just doesn’t turn Mada’s crank. It does something else entirely.

It came to me in a flash while reading the detailed comments in a senior blogger’s notes on Chapter 98, when the reader discussion moved on to “What does Mada want?” The usual response is “he doesn’t know!”, but this is slightly disingenuous. We already know who he wanted, the question should be “when?” and “why“. To put it simply, Saki would never act like Hato is acting.

Madarame was fascinated by the riajuu Saki who invaded the Genshiken in search of her boy-next-door. Soon enough he was doing his usual Madarame fugue state creepy geek-out that he always does to keep himself safe from social mistakes (by pre-emptive strike) and the heartbreak of a crush on someone who is miles out of his league (which is pretty well how Madarame views almost all females).

Later Saki was dragged into cosplaying as the chairman from “Unbalance“- That was cute, but it was fap fodder at best. Only when she busts the upskirt camera creep and publicly “becomes” the avatar of Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad, does she become irresistible. At that moment, a small fierce flame is lit in the heart of Harunobu Madarame and his comfortable self is forever shattered.

Falling for an avatar

You poor shmuck! You have conflated a real girl as the incarnation of your favourite moe-blob heroine! Bakka! Bakka! Bakka!

He will go on to take Saki’s advice on how to dress better, tone down the creepy avoidance behaviour, get a job, and try to hold down a graduated almost- riajuu life, all in the forlorn hope…

What he thinks he wants is immaterial. We know what he will change his life for.

The boy only falls for girl heroes.

Best to frame “her” as a “heroic female”, or “the heroic feminine”. We are not talking Beautiful Fighting Girl here. Strong female lead or Heroine might be a bit too vague and/or shaded wrong. For all of my imprecision, she is a fairly conventional character in the many varieties of geek fiction. For geeky guy romantics the lure of the heroic female is almost irresistible; another face of the many ideas of the feminine constructed mostly, again by guys.

When she is created out of female desire, she looks a bit different, but similarities remain:

“Citing traditional European fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White,
and Briar Rose, Marilyn Farwell demonstrates the extent to which
Bildungsromane include “the same seemingly natural elements—problem, complication, resolution—that define all narratives and at the same time [trap] the female in a fatalistic apparatus.” Any adventure story dealing with the seemingly innocuous migration from girlhood to adulthood potentially “demands that woman be muted, silenced, and violated when she enters the time-line that forces her into the sexual story. By portraying the female’s adherence to traditional sexual and gendered conduct as proper and correct, such stories funnel women into one of two endings: heterosexual marriage, or death. Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin concludes that in western fairy tales, “There are two definitions of woman.
… The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed,
or punished. Both must be nullified.” Obedient women who succumb to
the “natural” progression from bashful virgin to sexual object to doting wife and selfless mother are rewarded, while those who disrupt the “order” of these events are met with contempt and disgust. (Women who resist 210 Catherine E. Bailey) dominant social scripts, being labelled sexual or gender “outlaws,” are thus often symbolically represented in adventure stories as monsters, vampires, and other threatening figures of the grotesque.

A more socially just narrative formula, then, would eliminate the conflict between a character’s status as a “nontraditional” woman and her status as a hero, which both Sailor Moon and Utena do.
[…]
From the very start, Utena is introduced as a character who
subverts commonly-held cultural assumptions about her sex. Utena
“should” jump at the chance of marrying the noble prince, yet instead of
falling in love with him, as we have been culturally conditioned to expect
her to do, she looks up to him as a role model. As a high school student,
she rebelliously wears a derivative of the male uniform and competes
alongside exclusively male peers in a variety of athletic activities.

She is generally regarded as a tomboy, and another character even affectionately refers to Utena as her “boyfriend.” Most importantly, in the spirit of becoming more “princely” and traditionally heroic, Utena prides herself on looking after the underdogs of the school and frequently intervening on their behalf. Yet it is important to clarify that Utena does not want to “become” a prince in the literal sense of the word. She does not want to relinquish her female body, she is not trying to “pass” as a man, and she resents it when people imply that she is somehow less of a woman simply because of her more performatively masculine behaviours. When she says she wants to become a prince, Utena is referring to her desire to exhibit the qualities her hero reflected: courage, compassion, strength. The “prince” becomes, then, a body of ideas, connoting a heroic agency that is unfixed from gender. Utena contrasts this to the idea of the “princess”—a  passive, helpless, and objectified entity.

Non-freudian approaches, Hero mythology, bildungsroman, and the problem of Euroethnic cultural traditions
http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/colloquy/download/colloquy_issue_twenty-four_/bailey.pdf

She’s overboard, she’s self-assured…

Whether pitched at males or females, she has something that both feel they need. The male-purposed heroic female character may look retrograde compared to Utena, but a few things are similar:

Consider the fantasy-world extreme version in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise: Hero might be the named hero, but he is at best a sidekick. All he does is cartoon fighting. The real hero is the voluptuous Demon Lord. Hero is doomed to fall for her, if not by her buxom charms, then by her fierce determination to bring peace to the world and if not by this project, then by blinding him with science, or 2 hour lectures on agriculture and economics. She will save the world for demons and humans, end famine, disease, serfdom and ignorance and she will get her guy, Dammit! I wonder if any of the Lord Kalvan series even made it over to Japan in translation? No matter, she is a better iteration of the character type than he could ever be. While she goes about sowing the seeds of an other-world renaissance, her Hero will knock heads as directed. He might even finally figure out that she was sweet on him. Whew! lotsa work being a heroic female.

The pont is that both Utena and the Demon Lord require and attract followers to their character and their project.

Mada could never see himself as the hero; but as a sidekick? Sure thing! He could imagine himself as able to do a slightly stumbling Rock Okajima if he could only find a Revy from Black Lagoon. Call him her “Knight” or some such other cheat, a hot girl hero needs a nebbish side-kick who can reload her spent clips while he grows a backbone.

In the end there is no such thing as leadership…

Heroes, especially the female kind attract allegiance, friendship and love: it doesn’t matter if it is unrequited. They burn so damn bright. It is pure charisma, the fires of which are usually stoked by the sheer desire to act with purposeful agency to create her reality. You see her pop up in plenty of shonen “girl with super powers/ alien powers” works, and from the start in yuri-ish works. Both shy boys and shy girls can crush on girl heroes. And even the boy hero is weak in the knees before a girl hero. She can even be a bit psychotic…

And now for my next trick..

A Genshiken girl-hero doesn’t have to be a super-powered action hero or keter-class reality shifter to be desirable, but she does need a few hero-like characteristics:

Her personality is shaped by her determination and agency in pursuit of a goal or project.

She has to suffer inner conflict about the price she has paid and remains willing to pay for pursuing it.

She displays an internal “moral” code.

Her past and present tribulations dispose her towards concern and empathy towards people, at least towards the members of her “band”.

Her flaws make her human, require struggle and personal growth to overcome and give the sidekick something to fuss over.

Ok, girl hero is heroic, so why pine for her?

When you become the secretly crushed-out sidekick to hero girl, you get motivated to become better, so as to support and be worthy of her. You become able to change yourself.

Don't worry dude, it'll work out..

So what if this sounds “beta as all fuck“; it is a primary and fundamentally social act in comparison to the solitary, sociopathic traits of the self-proclaimed objectivist alpha (one would think that if they are so alpha, they should just STFU and enjoy it). Often it provides the motivation for the sidekick to (re-) join a larger community. At the very least, heroes are interesting to hang out with.

Mada’s fantasy Saki is of course both more and less than the real Saki, but even the comfortably self-sufficient Kousaka would admit that “his” Saki compels him to be a better human being. Without Saki, Kousaka would be a mutant genius freak and would eventually fall prey to some manner of excess.

Mada wants!

Unfortunately, the current Genshiken is bereft of any spares. They seem to be all paired off already. Besides Saki, Ogiue can muster a good show of heroism, but she has made her choice. Ohno has her heroic moments, it takes single-minded courage to pursue her hobby -which when you get right down to it, is dressing up as girl heroes. I am sure that Tanaka-san considers her his hero.

I wonder how Hato looked at Kaminaga back in high school. Bad example. Hero fail. I have always suspected that more happened to Hato after he was outed than he has shared. I am sure that Shimoku sensei will provide us with a few more nasty flashbacks as needed, but Hato’s looking for a sempai habit must play no small part in his Mada fixation.

Why we have not been treated to a warming his hero’s sandals with his body gag yet is perplexing to me.

Between Keiko, Yajima, Rika, Risa and Sue we have very little hero material. Each could become “heroic”, but currently have no reason to try. They are all too busy just trying to figure their current lives and identities out . Hato, as kun or chan could become heroic: some would argue that his acceptance of the desires manifested by his Stands, and his crossdressing to become fujoshi are heroic enough, but so far he is his own greatest follower. It is getting a bit lonely now that the Stands are off on a bus tour.

His strong desire to “blend in”, to become-fujoshi (and in his mind fujoshi is an egalitarian community of exchange) keeps him from acting out and or acting out. Even his prodigious drawing abilities are hobbled by the need to fit in. The shock that Yajima feels when she hears that he must crossdress to draw properly is defused by his inability to control his talent. The steamy yaoi clench scenes that he can only produce are the perfect exchange gift to the rotten girl social, but his second biggest gift is needing their help to integrate these into a larger narrative structure. And Hato x Mada x Hato is supposed to be the third gift…

I’m worse at what I do best…

Hato has decided that along with being-fujoshi, what he-as-she wants is a steamy BL-ish otokonoko fusion cooking romance with Mada. To this end she becomes Nadeshiko no Genshiken. Mada when confronted by Hato’s hyper compliant femininity can bounce back and forth between obliviousness, creep fugue state and “ooops- I forgot you’re a guy”, and “I was only making a trope reference joke, but I’m still embarrassed”. “Noooooo… I’m more embarrassed…” replies Hato. Rinse and repeat.

Is this some new form of manzai?

Mada has already gone for a pantsu peek! It no longer matters that Hato is a crossdressing male, or whether or not Mada could accept him – Mada can upskirt, creep out, bring out the cat ears, drop harem lines ironically and live up to his part as an ill-socialised otaku over-responding to female-ish attention, but he won’t change his life for anyone less than a hero and neither Hato-chan or Hato-kun is one.

Hato is doing it wrong; pushing Mada to play “the prince” to Nadeshiko no Genshiken is too much, so the more perfectly hime s/he becomes, the more Mada will be overwhelmed by what he imagines should be the only response available to him. Mada will shy away and try to prove himself wrong for the part. No homophobia or transphobia need rear its ugly head.

And comedy of fail is maintained.

It is almost as if Genshiken is borrowing from the Yankee Girlfriend genre, at least for the parts when the atypical female tries to get feminine for her guy: even if she doesn’t screw up the hand-made valentines day chocolates, the boy is shocked at her out-of-character behaviour.

Can Hato drop the hime act become a fudanshi/fujoshi hero? How to do it? He or she needs to start doing something again, as in secondary production; drawing, creating again or he becomes a pitiable figure. If he is only defined by his sexuality/ gender performative-ness then he no more than a presenter of that sexuality/ gender. This is heroic enough during the consciousness-raising phase of the public politics of sexuality and gender, but is wearisome during subsequent phases which strive for recognition, rights, respect and equal treatment.

You have to be good at something else too otherwise you get to be a crossdressing trans* fudanshi neet. Then you hiki-out up in your dingy apartment day and night and wait until you get to star in a remake of Welcome to the NHK.

Of course this places an unfair burden on the individual member of a sexual minority group, but society is a work-in-progress, with the operative emphasis on work. The two gay guys and the one lesbian I knew back in my University days, who were drafted into “spokesperson” roles all had occasion to roll their eyes at the extra work they got stuck with, but they never gave up on their passions for their art, their journalism, their sports, their music, etc. They were fun, interesting people to work with. Perhaps I show my age here…

Best to make the best of all of your talents. Pity the Genshiken seems to require melodramatic foolhardiness and defenestrations before redemption:

Hato, standing in front of the Manken club window, exasperated and waving his wig at its members:

“You lazy cowards all of you.
You got the most in you, and you use the least.
You hear me, you?

Got a million in you and spend pennies.
Got a genius in you and think crazies.
Got a heart in you and feel empties.
All of you.
Every one of you…

Take a war to make you spend.
Take a jam to make you think.
Take a challenge to make you great.
Rest of the time you sit around lazy,
You. Pigs, You!

All right, God damn you! I challenge you,

Me!
Hato Kejiro!
Cross-dressing girly-boy fudanshi BL dojin artist!

Rot or live your dreams!
Come and find me and I make you dojinshi-creating heroes.
I make you great…

I give you a wall table at Comiket !!!

That would be overdoing it even for the Genshiken…

I feel stupid and contagious…

Perhaps if he joined Ogiue, in a public large-format drawing demonstration at the next cultural festival and drew something work-safe but rotten… That would be a start. Sue should join in too, I’m sure she can draw; she can do everything else.

Then he could stop acting like a doormat shoujo character and start acting more like a self-possessed adult: male, female, or a personal best of both. A crush on Mada is an odd first step for him to get him out of his own head, but he needs to go a lot further. He should think long and hard about that perfect imaginary sempai he wanted (definitely not Kaminaga!) and try dressing as that. Something might rub off on him.

Would a heroic Hato-chan or kun be more appealing to Madarame? At least it would make both variants a better friend. The Nidaime anime did have Hato asking Madarame to contribute to Mebaetame. Something has got to draw Mada out of his slump. And Genshiken might be one of the few manga out there that could get away with a respected serious, hero-in-daily-life otokonoko hybrid character. Usually you wouldn’t expect the two genres to mix well. The minute the otokonoko stops being seductive, s/he is usually deployed for comic relief.

Oh Heck, I wanted to drop this in somewhere..

The other possibility is that Hato is planning a double campaign, and that after a round of harem trope fun he will drop in on Mada in guy-format and act slightly sheepish for overdoing the femme stuff. “Sorry I got carried away, I wanted to do something special to make up for all the trouble I caused you with Angela and the sou-uke thing and the broken wrist. I’m an idiot, whatever… sorry ‘Bro. Did I turn gay? I don’t really know? Guess I read too much BL, but it never made me do anything like this before. If you are uncomfortable with it, I’ll stop it…” Yadda yadda yadda…

That would be sneaky… And/ or a real ass-backwards way of learning how to navigate male friendship.

Meanwhile, I swear that Sue is looking like she is looking closer and closer at Hato. (Ok, I am hobby-horsing here…) Of note is that she does not appear to distinguish between kun and chan; she interacts with the entire Hato, to the extent that her trademark stare seems to tunnel into the core of his being. What is holding her back, besides fangirling over any potential Hato x Mada x Hato is a respect and a tender concern for his silly dreams and for both his and Mada’s fragile mental stability. Or perhaps she views the unfolding Hato pursuit of Madarame like a slow-motion train wreck. She may prod and poke at Hato for over-girly-girly-ing, but she really likes the soup! If she was competing against him for Mada’s attention she would be doing more. She might make a complete fool out of herself in the process, but the fact remains that she is hanging back, waiting to see what happens. Something is off with this harem.

Or something else is going on: With all the yuri teasing that Kio Shimoku has been dropping onto Sue, could she be watching, pining away as the girly-boy of her dreams dotes on an inappropriate guy? Heartbreaking! Nawwww… Sue too cool for that… But if she likes the soup, she should demand cooking lessons.

If circumstances force Sue into doing something heroic we are more likely to get one smitten Mada and a full circular triangle; field strength %98 and holding.. We need a crisis, something that threatens the entire Genshiken. Saki was able to “save” the Genshiken from the stuco last time, Could a V.2 Sue do the same?

Hero or not, Sue will not glomp onto Mada. Sue already has a more or less platonic hero fixation with Ogiue, and what Ogiue represents to her cannot be found (yet) in anyone else. Neither Mada or Hato can claim to have gone from shameful abject yaoi fiend to successful circle leader, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka who won over the boy she once shipped, and who supports and protects her kouhais (– heh! Wait a second! Could Hato also be stuck in a loop of Ogiue worship ???) If Sue becomes heroic, she will do so in emulation of Ogiue and the needle of Hato’s heart will swing to her as to a lodestone. Madarame can’t do that. Then again if Hato becomes Ogiue-ish heroic, Sue would fixate on the new Hato. They would make one heck of a mutual admiration society.

We have too many Sancho Panzas! Someone has to be Quixote!

Once again the question arises: who and how is Sue shipping? Does she secretly draw? Is she writing fan-fiction, perhaps on english-language rotten-girl blog sites? What, beyond cosplay is her secondary fan production? If she is to emulate her hero, she must make something of her desires.

If Sue ascends to heroic mode then Kio Shimoku can bump Hato over from otokonoko to one of the more conventional variants of the crossdressing genre: desire to get close to the girl hero who is surrounded by an isolationist female social. That is going to take a bit of leveling-up as well

What of Keiko?

Keiko will never be the girl hero: within the strange fantasy-verse of the Genshiken dating sim, she is always going to be the temptress. She lives at the edges of the floating world, not the fan world. She would get Mada “dirty”, drain his funds, play with him and then slap him down. He might give it a try, but more likely he will avoid her like rat poison. He can talk to her, but only because he is in opponent mode. It all reminds me of polite Edwardian Anglican theology-talk that referred to Satan as The Adversary. Keiko would also turn up her nose at any real-life harem scene; she would get itchy after one minute of Hato’s dinner party at Mada’s apartment. She might play against the girls at the bath resort, but she won’t play harem with Madarame. She might be as riajuu as Saki, but she lacks the spark that would make Madarame crush on her and she realizes it. For this reason alone, his stupid, doomed otaku romanticism annoys her to no end. In the mirror of his eyes, she would always be less than what he desired and that is unforgivable.

This is one of the small hidden tragedies of the Genshiken, because Keiko X Mada would probably straighten her out as she cleaned up Madarame. Unfortunately both would have to get real and the Genshiken is all about finding a way to avoid getting real, abandoning your dreams, desires and odd hobbies and graduating on to grey riajuu drone-hood. Keiko represents the ultimate bad ending. Keiko x Mada would buy how-to-be-normal books and religiously follow them. Keiko x Mada would stop going to comiket.

What of the rest of the Genshiken girls?

Yajima has backbone, but needs another year before she would ever try something as dangerous as taking her own desires seriously,crushing seriously on Hato or assuming a leadership role. That Hato-kun can even draw a tiny spark from her is gift enough. With a bit of time however she will grow to be a formidable person. How long is Kio Shimoku planning to do the Genshiken?

Rika remains a cypher. She is more of a Peter Pan character than even Sue. Aside from her Reki-jo taste for historical BL fantasies and her thirst for booze she is as paper-thin as a shikigami, though her meddlesome antics mask this.

Angela could fit the heroic female role, but currently she is just a happy wandering Amazon. She is remarkably free of heroic angst. She doesn’t have any humanizing weaknesses. She is a tourist; Zeetha, the warrior princess, not Agatha Hetrodyne. Because she needs to display some weakness, her assumption that Sue is after Mada leads me to further discount Sue x Mada. After all, even Saki could flub an insight now and then. If she were ever to tone down the ZOMG and just communicate with Madarame she would own him in a day. Has Ohno not provided the fine details about Mada’s crush on Saki? Perhaps it is because she has never met Saki that she cannot figure Mada out. Cosplay a reluctantly sympathetic riajuu woman up-with-putting to win an otaku boyfriend? No problem! Or does she have to unearth and do a quick study on Unbalance to become Chairman-ish?

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

The big question remains: how much Madarame does she desire? Mada is an old-fashioned boy, he needs to be courted, or at least given the illusion of doing some courting. He would need to fall in love. She would have to demonstrate that she was willing to take responsibility.

Language need not be an impediment forever. Someone give her Mada’s email address. Google translate romance! Now that Shimoku-sensei has slipped in smartphones there’s an app for that. Even before this, cell phones in Japan could access live translation services for moderate charges, she did not have to rely on Ohno. Crossing vast distances to pursue your dreams is inherently heroic too. Sue got better at Japanese, Angela can as well. Long distance romances can strain the heart, but they can be wonderful. [1]

My bets are Sue x Hato, with Hato the rising fudanshi BL dojin star protegé of Ogiue and the next Genshiken president; Angela x Mada in a long distance relationship with Yajima and Rika as amused chorus watching the fun.

And then we would have room for some new characters.

Now I will wait a few months for Kio Shimoku to up-end this.

[1] Works for me, Ditto on the other thing too. 

In thy orisons be all my sins remembered

On Mary Sue, her origins, popularity and the ubiquity of simple wish-fulfillment narratives in melodramatic manga..

Walker, Cynthia W. 2011. “A Conversation with Paula Smith.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6. doi:10.3983/twc.2011.0243.
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/243/205

“It isn’t every fan who rates a Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue) and a mention on Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/04/21/mary_sue) for a term she invented, but Paula Smith will be forever known as the person who coined the phrase “Mary Sue.”

EnsignSue_869

In case you have never run into Ms. Sue before, here is her home page: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue

To stumble upon the Paula Smith interview left me momentarily stunned and then struck by a violent bout of nostalgia; not for the invention of the Mary Sue trope, but for the odd coincidence that I was at some of the very same early conventions she mentions, at the times mentioned, and probably ran into many of the same folks mentioned in her interview. I may have met her in passing but I can’t remember doing so. I did some table manning volunteering at Tri-con. How’s this for a secret handshake to prove I was there: I was privy to the not-so secret insider gossip that one of the celebs needed a quick prescription due to… la la la

Hold on tight, this one is going to be messy!

past kill me wannamotei

Oh misspent youth! I was playing hooky from high school and sneaking off to sci-fi conventions (…and Patti Smith concerts, which together warped both my sense of the future, and my ideas of female sexual agency).

Why would you want to read a blog post where I get all nostalgic about my misspent youth? I promise useful theory-ish insights! I swear! Something has been banging around in the idea bucket since my last post on prof. Saito Tamaki, and it involves Mary Sue, Shojo (or Shoujo) manga, professor Tamaki, Adrian Piper and why the new and improved yuri V2 is a lot closer to yaoi than everyone first thought.

On the construction of an imaginary other / an imagined other sex:

First Dr Saito Tamaki and his friend again…

“”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, see prev post for the full citation)

The wimmens are supposed to lack the constraining need for the phallic signifier and therefore can better play with yaoi puppets and enjoy seme, uke and god-narrator-author points of view all at the same time. Taken to insulting extremes, this kind of psycho-babble suggests that women don’t even possess a conventional “identity” as unified subject, except as a reflection of a lack, so they can identify with and partake in desire with rocks, rivers, Hello Kitty, jet airplane turbines, living room furniture and days of the week.

The assumption here again is of a certain vulgar essentialist view of gendered behaviour that fits with the Freudian “original sin” mythology of the development of the modernist “subject”. Blah blah blah. This is as close to the core of the whole mess as one can get, and it presents a weak spot for critics to sink their hooks into it. Suffice it to say that once the wimmins theorists got hold of this little gem, they found a big internal contradiction in it: what is usually now refered to as “male hysteria”.

This is a theory in-joke, because the word hysteria derives from old greek or old latin or old middle earth dwarvish and means something like “womb madness” and therefore should be a relative of PMS – a girl thing. But instead of some 1950’s Betty screaming madly until Cary Grant slaps her upside, “male hysteria” is now far more common in pop culture overacting.

Some guy “breaks” under pressure and goes all violent/ fearful/ batshit psycho/ suicidal because he cannot live up to his internal standards of guy-ness. So Ms. Enomoto’s quip and Dr. Tamaki’s elaboration of it above is just orthodox Western psych canon, used in an interesting way. On the surface male-hysteria boy is just snapping under the pressure of defending his subject position. But If the subject position is so easily broken, was it, and all the high theatre of male-ness all there, and so fixed in the first place?

Whoooooohooooo Scary! Careful you don’t lose it buddy, or you will turn into a woman – which is even worse than being a gay man!

The best short-form version of this kind of thing that I have found so far is Rio Otomo’s work on how Mishima overdoes this kind of pop Freudian view of female-ness (http://rio-otomo.net/academic-papers/mishima-yukios-sex-which-is-not-one)

“Following the first coup attempt, Isao is arrested. During one of his long nights in prison, Isao dreams of turning into a woman. Although this episode functions as a prophecy of the next reincarnation, a young Thai princess, the description of Isao’s becoming a woman conveys more messages than is necessary for a lead into the following volume.

[Isao] felt as if the world had been turned inside out … his flesh had lost definite form, turned into flesh that was soft and swaying. He was filled with a mist of soft, languid flesh. Everything became vague. Wherever he searched, he could find no order or structure. There was no supporting pillar… Comfort and discomfort, joy and sorrow – all alike slid over his skin like soap. Entranced, he soaked in a warm bath of flesh. The bath by no means imprisoned him. He could step out whenever he liked, but the languid pleasure kept him from abandoning it, so that staying there forever, not choosing to go, had become his ‘freedom.’ Thus there was nothing to define him, to keep him under strict control. What had once wound itself tightly round and round him like a rope of platinum had slipped loose. (Mishima, 1985: 449-50)[9]

While Isao is determined to banish the memory of the dream, he cannot deny the fact that the sensation he felt was not thoroughly disagreeable. The feminine is defined here as freedom from the restrictions not only of body but also of mind:

Everything he had so firmly believed in was meaningless. Justice was like a fly that had tumbled into a box of face powder and smothered; beliefs for which he had meant to offer up his life were sprayed with perfume and melted. All glory dissolved in the mild warmth of mud… Sparkling snow had melted away entirely. He felt the uncertain warmth of spring mud within him. Slowly something took form from that spring mud, a womb. Isao shuddered as the thought came to him that he would soon give birth. His strength had always spurred him with violent impatience towards action, had always responded to a distant voice that conjured up the image of a vast wilderness. But now, that strength had left him. The voice was silent. The outer world, which no longer called to him, now, rather, was drawing closer to him, was touching him. (Mishima, 1985: 450)

A womb-like zone – comfort and pleasure ‘inside’ the skin – is within him. The body has now lost its contour, and a smell of ‘decaying seaweed,’ ‘an entirely organic odour’ has permeated this body. But whose voice are we hearing in this passage? Is there a speaking agent in this formless body? Judith Butler contends that there is no pre-existing agent behind performance, and that rather, the agent is an effect of performance (Butler 1993:30). [10] The voice of Mishima’s text speaks from the no-man’s land that lies between man and woman, and the owner of that voice is what Butler calls a ‘linguistic effect’, the image projected on the surface of the body in the bath. Through this transgender narrative Mishima destabilises the authority of a speaking subject, first and foremost that of male sex.

Let us read further the carnivalesque space which Mishima produces in this passage, in which the realm of the feminine undermines the said order. The woman-like being in the bath is overwhelmed by the sense of eternal pleasure, jouissance, and a division between subject and object disappears in her. There seems no scope of binaries conceived in her realm.

Justice, zeal, patriotism, aspirations for which to hazard one’s life – all had vanished. In their place came an indescribable intimacy with the things around him… Things clung to [Isao] like paste, and, at the same time, lost all their transcendental significance. Trying to arrive at some goal was no longer a problem. Everything was arriving here from elsewhere. Thus there was no longer a horizon, no longer any islands. And with no perspective at all evident, voyages were out of the question. There was only the endless sea. (Mishima, 1985: 450)

This new imagery of woman as a formless, all-inclusive existence like the endless sea is a considerable shift from the way in which Mishima depicts women in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The central character of that text, Mizoguchi, finds women’s corporeality incongruous to the spiritual value embodied in the beauty of the Golden Temple, which was handed down to him by his late father. All women – his mother; the woman who rejects him; the prostitute who accepts him; the pan-pan girl who accuses him – stir anger and hostility in him. The world of the Mother and that of the Father are clearly marked in black and white; there is no room for negotiation or switching positions between the two. Mizoguchi’s narrative indeed takes place within a strictly Oedipalised and regulated space. In contrast Isao’s dream scene presents a different narrativisation of the feminine, the one that posits a powerful antithesis to the ruling regime of the Symbolic order. The she-man, Isao, is without skin or body contour, and thus no longer demarcating himself as an autonomous and unified subject. He instead feels being part of the endless sea. This passage is one of the rare occasions in which Mishima makes a reference to the title of the tetralogy. He sexes the sea, as it were, and makes it fertile.”

Overwrought Mishima is overwrought!

What a classic Freud/ Lacan male mash-up fantasy of female-ness. Here is male hysteria creating an imagined (and rather silly) feminine other, just like the hegemonic “ruling regime of the Symbolic order” theory-verse does. If the female narrator is such an amorphous blob-monster, why are so many of her daughters creating Mary Sue avatars – which are pure naked agency, devoid of any polite restraint?

Sarcasm aside, Mishima is one of the big high lit novelists of 20th century Japan: If he wants to construct a pop-psychology cliche of “the female” built in the solitary mind of a male protaganist who is “breaking up” and bang it violently against his other fave cliche of masculinity the Shonen Jump-ish  Koha, then he is playing with extremes for novelistic effect. Fair ball – you can’t do that kind of thing in an essay. Just don’t get carried away and try to stage a real-life coup, then disembowel yourself.

“What is kōha? … youth, violence, naivety, straightforwardness, anti-social behaviour, small-group hierarchy, or ethnocentrism. If one looks closely, one will find that emotions in kōha mentality are represented by politics rather than romantic love. Politics in the Orient is the ideal of machismo and the relationship amongst men. Although both politics and romantic love are naturally saturated in emotionalism …what makes the former distinct from the latter is that while the latter strives for individualism, the former is the urge to mould oneself into an ideal shape [as part of the whole]. Therefore, [kōha affiliates] have no danger of self-mortification…their desperate attempt to preserve their power begins in conservatism and racial fundamentalism. Since action is considered to be the embodiment of their power that blindly aims at justice, kōha will never suffer from a guilty conscience for their own action. (Mishima, 1989: 1015)

Despite its often violent and anti-social behaviour, the men who were called kōha [the school of the solid] occupied the place of legitimate masculinity, while nanpa [the school of the soft] was not necessarily excluded from the patriarchal order, receiving a certain respect from kōha affiliates. As Japan rapidly evolved into the post-industrial society, in which kōha values were regarded as excessive and therefore redundant, nanpa became the norm. The hidden agenda of the article above are: Mishima’s denunciation of the modern novel, which he now calls ‘nanpa-style literature’ which has dominated the Japanese literary scene since the post-Meiji era; and his call for ‘kōha-style writing’ that represents Japan in its pristine state. The article also expresses Mishima’s yearning for a life that is steadfast, fleeting, emotional and devoid of psychological complexity, in other words, his longing for a story-telling that predates the modern novel. Kōha, according to Mishima, defies things logical and intellectual, demonstrating a Japanese native characteristic – distrust in logocentricism. Mishima is here re-defining the concept of masculinity (and the kōha-style that represents it) to be emotional and non-verbal, taking over the properties of the feminine. It is an ironical twist given by Mishima who started his writing career as an emblematic nanpa writer and is now steadfastly transforming himself into a boxer, a sport-reporter, a swordsman and an army officer. The politics that Mishima takes up is a natio nalism without logic and words; for him kōha literature – the story of Japanese masculinity – is a counter-discourse to the masculinity foregrounded by Western imagination.”

Yikes!

The project of imagining the other gender seems to be fraught with what i can only call “category slip”. Are we speaking of real-world behaviour here? Is it public or private behaviour? Or is it confined to the real of “play” or imagination? Does it stay in the safe space of “the simulated”, in recreational fiction, or in the imaginary that is built when the subject takes parts of the the imaginary world, performs a personal bricolage on the components and creates a personal “fantasy”. Are these fantasies best left private, or are they the stuff of the gift, of symbolic exchange? Should the exchange be limited to experts, or can anyone play?

We are already three or four layers deep in category slip here: public identity, to private life, to gendered categories of desire in recreational narratives. Things get messy really fast. One could easily start off trying to figure out why poorly socialized males obsess over certain types of stories and fall into speculation on the “desires of the beautiful fighting girl”? (yup, prof. Saito does it on occasion) Excuse me – she’s a one-dimensional category of fictional character, she can have any “desires” any particular writer cares to give her, or none at all. Myself, I think she wants to hijack a time machine and become Mishima’s mom. She should ask Dr. Doom; I hear he lets Squirrel Girl use it.

I bet Rio Otomo thinks she wants an account at fanfiction.net and a laptop.

Professor Saito Tamaki has a bigger problem than the limits of Freud-zoku concepts of gendered subjectivity. Either he has to go full blown Mishima and acknowledge that the subject is not only formed in relation to the other, but that the subject expends a ridiculous amount of energy first constructing the imaginary other out of all kinds of bat-shit crazy cultural detritus that is found lying around, or he can just  stick to the useful stuff, like the quasi-libinous kick that comes from being a second-order or third order producer of ephemera that surrounds the consumption of a cultural artifact. That has traction. Whooooeee! Its time for a big potlatch party! Make friends, hang out, play with your fave fan-stuff, do some mash-ups, put out a dojin – hey wait: sounds a bit like the idealized space of the Genshiken. Myself, I would drop the Freud-speak, or at least view it as one among many convenient “scripts” that can be rummaged out of the dumpster.

Bad method acting school time: “What’s my character’s motivation?”

I won’t hold my breath.

OR: Prof Saito Tamaki knows all this, but Japan has lousy disability pension laws and regulations and he is trying to symptom-ize the condition so that Hikis and really withdrawn otaku – types get coverage and do not starve to death ????

Query: Is hikikomori in the DSMV ? prof Saito pioneered the study of the condition! That’s a pretty high honour  Remember, no DSM listing, no insurance coverage, at least in the USA, Canada, etc.. I can find no mention that it is in the DSMV yet. Perhaps one has to dress the condition up in Freud drag to make it “real” within the clerisy. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-244X/12/169

On presenting the public self:

Shift POV back to memory lane:

Way back then I swear I bought some of those early Mary Sue Star Trek fanzines! No one warned me they were gendered artifacts. I was soooooooo crushed when I was told by someone who I lent them to that they were nothing but horribly written girly wish-fulfillment fantasies. Sure they were, but they had steamy hawt (and rather odd) secks scenes in them! No slash thankfully. Whew! Only original heterosexual characters bonking, so it wasn’t too weird; no Kirk/ Spock/ Mary Sue threesomes.

Let me say that again. They were written by female fans and they had hawt secks scenes in them, and I was rather young at the time, and by the way this was in the early Pleistocene era and they used mimeograph machines to print the things! (Damn, I am still putting off that honking big theory post I promised 2 months ago!). Those fan-women/ fen were -gasp- sexual creatures, as much as Patti Smith was, and incidentally equally unconcerned with being embarrassed about  publicly taking their desires for reality.

Oh brave new world that hath such creatures in it!

Did I mention my high school was very catholic? And that all this took place in the early Pleistocene era? Dinosaurs and Playboy bunnies walked the earth. Skinny, nearsighted geek boys who couldn’t do sports were supposed to have absolutely no chance for romance and misbehaviour – at least until we finished University. And yet I already knew a terrible secret…

Hijinx ensued.

This January I saw a 68-year-old Patti Smith perform at a concert hall in Shibuya. She still can’t play guitar to save her life, and routinely makes an ass of herself on stage and gets Japanese culture and mythos dead stupid wrong, and has a Mishima fixation, and none of it matters, because she is a rock and roll goddess and at 68 years of age she can wank out on stage all she wants. She is still hawt! She doesn’t look a day over 50…

And her soul sisters in the Mary Sue brigades have taken over the world.

What I am trying to say is that a certain moment in time, with just the right mix of technology, and weirdness, mass culture suddenly allowed a lot of folks who previously had stuff to say, but couldn’t bear the hassle and expense, who were shut out of the commercial channels, to get up on stage and “act out”. Fanwriters didn’t have word processors yet, let alone the interwebs (no gopher, pine, email and usenet groups, not even fidonet!  – that would all have to wait until the 1990’s) but they did have slightly more available IBM Selectric typewriters and Gestetner (screen cut mimeograph machines go back to the 1920’s or earlier) machines that were fairly easy to borrow or appropriate. And they had an expanding fan convention culture, no longer centered on traditional “hard” sci-fi.

Meanwhile over in rock and roll land, “at the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating…”

Perhaps it would be best to ask Lenny Kaye, garage band historian, pop music anthropologist, producer, meddler and lead guitar to the Patti Smith Group (still after all those years and yup, he was holding it together in Tokyo that night..) what changed. Or go read the liner notes to Nuggets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenny_Kaye

Whatever the reason, something had slipped in the control rooms of the big record companies some 30 years before mp3’s would destroy them and plenty of people like Patti Smith got up on stage to bring their own messy, raw and painfully, embarrassingly naive idea of how rock’n’roll should be done to anyone who would listen.

And yeah we look the same
Both pumpin steel, both sweatin
But you know she got nothin to hide
And I got something to hide here called desire
I got something to hide here called desire
And I will get out of here–
You know the fiery potion is just about to come
In my nose is the taste of sugar
And I got nothin to hide here save desire
And I’m gonna go, I’m gonna get out of here
I’m gonna get out of here, I’m gonna get on that train,
I’m gonna go on that train and go to New York City
I’m gonna be somebody, I’m gonna get on that train, go to New York City,
I’m gonna be so big, I’m gonna be a big star and I will never return,
Never return, no, never return, to burn at this Piss Factory
And I will travel light.
Oh, watch me now.

Patti Smith, Piss Factory (1974)

Bloody amateurs! Mary Sues all of them!

The sins of Mary Sue are all sins of degree. Recall slash-kami “Mary Jean Johnson’s” admonition about yaoi fan-writing:

“Yaoi isn’t like other fictional writing. It’s a private vision written for personal satisfaction, and to apply the standards by which we judge ordinary literature to yaoi is to willfully ignore this private element. You can say ‘Male pregnancy stories don’t do it for me’ if you like, but to say ‘Male pregnancy stories are stupid and childish and people should stop writing them’ is not only arrogant, it’s dangerous. All fantasies are legitimate or none are, and to discredit the male pregnancy fantasy is automatically to discredit your own fantasy of mutual empowerment and non-penetrative sex. As for trashing a fanwriter’s style, it’s like shooting the piano player. Chances are she’s doing the best she can. The only way you get to play the piano better is by playing the piano more. And quite possibly she writes that way because she likes writing that way, typos and all, and belongs to that huge group of people (of whom Word’s Spell-check is one) who really believe that its should be written it’s on all occasions.””

It could also be that plotting standards have slipped precipitously, or that naive story telling is comfortably non-threatening to a modern mass audience (as is tone-deaf pop singing), but ms. Sue has found a permanent place as one of the zashi-warashi of contemporary Japanese Visual Culture. Blame Comike(t)  It doesn’t matter. She is wabi-sabi as all heck; a flawed guardian spirit/ meta-heroine. (we will leave aside Western women’s genre fiction, either young adult or the slightly older age bracket’s “spunky girl in the big city finds interesting well-paying job, brand name goodies and two competing good boy/ bad boy lovers”) At least ms. Sue gets written, a lot! You can’t keep a gal like her in the kitchen, or off the page.

Did I mention she is Legion?

Mary_Sue_Comprasion

Trick question: both are Mary Sue; one is just a bit more polite sneaky about it.

Ogiue is not a Mary Sue. Neither is Watamote (she might be the anti-sue), but Mary and her cousin Marty (sometimes Gary) Stu (AKA Die Wesley Crusher Die!) are damn hard to escape in manga land. Genshiken may be free of the both of them, but adolescent themed fiction is up to its ears in them and their ilk, so much so that their “meta”, Chuunibyou has been also rising in the popularity stats. Note how Chuuni is a “bit” different Western models of high-school “acting out”

chuuhibyou chart

No matter, we will still read the stuff, unbelievable main character with special powers and all – if the rest of the story does something for us.  Mary Sue and over-the-top wish-fulfillment charas have colonized throwaway shoujo Manga, while her cousin Marty has made a home for himself in any number of harem high-school grinders. One day he will grow up and become Walter Mitty, or Hunter Thompson, or some rap star or even Oscar Wilde.

I have NO IDEA what this means!” – Oscar Wilde

Back to misspent youth stories:

Somewhere in the attic is a box full of treasure crap from those days. After the labour day weekend worldcon in Toronto, our paths diverged. Star Trek fandom was getting too commercial and uncomfortably a-social (at least for me). Paula Smith’s sisterhood found the guy-verse of mainstream sci-fi fandom suffocating and used the lameness in early trekkie fandom to carve out a female fen-space. They went on to do “vidding” which I believe is a slash variant done with VCRs. For me, mainstream sci-fi had more wild, wonderful and risqué stuff to rot my impressionable male teen-age mind.

The costume balls at sci-fi conventions had semi-professional girl (yes, as in teen, yikes!) models in extremely skimpy outfits (who swooped in to bag the cash prizes), all-night movies (to nap through), real computer games (a terminal to U of Toronto mainframe playing something called “sumer“) and late night drinking parties that did not ask if you were of age. Of course I had to keep my enthusiasms to myself; bad trekkie behaviour had tarred the lot of us as the lowest form of annoying noob.

I might have been the over-enthusiastic motor-mouthed young fan who so pestered the venerable Isaac Asimov that he proposed to another senior writer that I should be strangled lest I grow up to become another ??? (was it Harlan Ellison?) (Then again, this might have been a running joke between senior writers at that convention, as there were at least a hundred overenthusiastic male youth running amok that weekend.)

You would think that I would have stayed with this life throughout my teen years – alas ugly mundane reality intervened and violently pulled me out of geek paradise soon thereafter.

Of course I still watched Star Trek reruns whenever I could, and read Analog, and all the used sci-fi paperbacks I could get at 3 for $1, but the worldcons were too far away, and there were no Genshikens at the universities I managed to later squeak into. (There were however university newspapers and someone left Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail 72 lying around.. Hijinx ensued… )

On the precarious nature of the subject:

Yipes! too much geek reminiscing. According to professor Saito and his posse, I and all my male brethren at the time were supposed to be fixing our own positions and our identities, developing our subjecthood vis-a-vis “the other” and male-hysterically defending it and phallic agency/ privilege etc., etc., etc. Or in the language of the day “To yourself be(ing) true”.

Right!

Good effing luck locating this “yourself” thing buddy…

Or we were supposed to be trying to score with Mrs Robinson…

Perhaps 40 years of economic decline and the interwebs changed all this. Liminality is now the buzzword for everyone under 40. As for over 40, again – good luck!

And we all are what we do. We have to change what we do a lot, and in life we all get to do what we are second best at…

I feel your pain..

I feel your pain..

The whole modernist subject/ other myth was never really even modernist – it was a romantic narrative born out the rupture of euroethnic peasant life caused by industrial urbanization. It was cobbled together by swiping ideals of semi-autonomous behaviour from tales of imaginary privileged nobility and shoe-horning them into a guild model of profession-derived identity so that the new city dwelling underclass didnt go stark raving mad once they left their villages. Dick Whittington meet Horatio Algier, and both of you make sure to stop demanding to be fed before your women-folk! (Strange how rates of tuberculosis tumbled once economics and social practice allowed that European females should get to eat meat protein too – note the the “subject” was a gendered concept even back then. women didn’t count.)

One doesn’t have to go all postmodern to realise how shaky the modern subject always was – modernism always knew this too: go read some T.S.Elliot or at least some Auden. Later you can have a bit of Ginsberg if you promise not to freak out at the gay bits. There is also a nasty analysis of WWI mass hysteria by Modris Eckstein called Rites of Spring The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age that riffs on what happened when it all went balls up.

Postmodern, database, grand narrative fail, total new thing, yup, right,

Meanwhile, I like to think that all the low-budget sci-fi I ingested, including many poorly written wish fulfilment fantasies (both fanzine and commercial pulp varieties) gave me something akin to the only true modern capital that does not depreciate: a taste for different points of view (and a self-reflective sense of humor).

You’ve probably got it too (or why are you here reading this?), but only a certain vintage of graybeard nerd will grasp all the shades of truly embarrassing horror in Futurama’s Zap Brannigan. Want more? Try Spinrad’s vicious parody “The Iron Dream”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Spinrad#The_Iron_Dream) You have been warned. Adolf as Marty Stu done viciously!

In my first year of university, I struggled with my paper on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, frustrated beyond reason at my inability to wrap my head around a 400 year old fable, while the tiny, tinny TV speaker interrupted me with Shatner’s Kirk over-acting out his passion for Flint’s daughter Miranda.

(Miranda! Huh! Ker-Ching! Enlightenment! Good marks!) Who said all that sci-fi crap was useless? Oh Gawd! Forbidden Planet too! WTF is it with all the Tempest rip-offs in sci-fi? On is not The Tempest the penultimate Marty Stu vehicle for an ageing male playwright? That’s why I like Greenway’s Prospero’s Books so much; it is the Arials that take over the writing of his tale of vengeance in his magic book and stir him to mercy and humanity.

Cue Adrian Piper:

“Here the aim of appropriation would not be to exploit deliberately the Other’s aesthetic language, but to confound oneself by incorporating into works of art an aesthetic language one recognizes as largely opaque; as having a significance one recognizes as beyond one’s comprehension. Viewed in this way, exploitation is an unintended side-effect – the consequence of ignorance and insensitivity – of a project whose main intention is to escape those very cognitive limitations.
[. . .]
The appropriative character and formalism of Euroethnic art is, then,intrinsically connected with its self-awareness (or self-consciousness). To recognize an alien cultural practice as different from one’s own, and as inaccessible to understanding with respect to content, is implicitly to recognize one’s own cultural practice as a cultural practice, with its own rules and constraints. This just is the awareness that one’s own cultural practice is merely one among many. And the recognition that alternative cultural practices are cognitively inaccessible just is the awareness that one’s own furnish the only available conduit for interpretation of formal anomaly. So the cross-cultural appropriation of alien formal devices is a reminder of one’s own subjectivity. Self-consciousness of this kind is a necessary condition of innovation. “

Adrian Piper is not the only modernist theory wizard to riff on this. Charles Taylor does a very good job at explaining how what we think of as “identity” differs radically from what our self-reproducing farm equipment forebears thought about the matter. We would struggle to get their idea of it, and ours might drive them mad. Baudrillard’s gem “The Mirror of Production“, which alienated him from French Marxian orthodoxy gleefully takes a similar insight and lays into the historical myth of dialectical materialism with it. (but succumbs to the old trap of an edenic “legend of the fall”)

I even recall an anthropological sci-fi story that riffed on the “bicameral mind” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes) theory and located its “subject” (or ur-subject) in a hero that didn’t hear the voices of his tribe as group proto-unconscious, and as such was able to lie about what “god” told him to do to save his tribe. Even as it gave our hero powerful headaches.

Think outside the box! One could argue that the truly modernist subject is the one that can “load” alternative, multiple, contradictory modes of processing reality. Whoops! we just fell into Deleuze and Guattari land! Or Elliot’s Wasteland. (hint: try reading it as a screenplay)

How to fool yourself for fun:

Back to clumsy wish fulfillment stories and “bent” libidinous manga:

Just because we guys are supposed to “fear the undermining of (our) own subject position” in public, (“A real man speaks only with his fists!” declares the shonen manga hero.) doesn’t mean that we cannot be tempted by the illusion of forbidden knowledge in private. Especially if we can rationalise the excursion as an intelligence gathering mission with bonus naughty bits. What we (and the gals too) read in the easy chair, or watch on the monitor, or load on the console is a private matter carried out under the sign of “play”. It is the epitome of personal space. That the reading material would drift into pr0n land is not surprising. What surprises me is how fast it has drifted out again.

Plenty of correspondents have followed up on Rachel Matt Thorn’s early observation that yaoi and BL are offshoots of shoujo manga. What is even more surprising is how yuri – traditional home of fake lesbo orgy smut has of late been re-situating itself within shoujo manga conventions.

Yuri’s new cover story is that it tells tales of girls love and therefore it is “really” for girls investigating that forbidden longing, like the melodramatic Japanese S-class lesbian-ish short stories of the 1920’s. There may be more than a few women in Japan who read and are stirred by the stuff, but what Erica-sensei calls “the creepy male gaze” present in much of it complicates the issue.

What is inescapable is that the majority of current yuri and shoujo-ai is nothing more or less than shoujo manga for male readers. (referred to by some as Loser Fan Boys – I use the term ironically, re-appropriating it with a certain mock-embarrassed grin. “Why are men broken?” indeed…  ) There still is plenty of girl-on-girl-on-girl smut out there, but it is slowly being edged out by this new curious hybrid form that might be for women who like women, but not quite.

The consensus is that guys reading this stuff is an excusable quirk and still guy-like as long as there is still -some- smut in the story. (We can always delude ourselves into thinking we are picking up a few rezbian ruv techniques when looking for the naughty bits – the shoujo-ai stuff is in many ways creepier because it is often just an excuse for lolicon. Hi Madarame!) As the flip-side of yaoi for rotten girls, the illusion that those yuri- stories- which- are- not- total- smut- fests are somehow more “authentically lesbian” plays both to an urge towards affected political correctness and the thrill of peeking into the girl’s (completely fake, staged) changing room. Wow! there are even female mangakas writing it, so the newer stuff must be “real-er”.

Saito’s asymmetry is rapidly being levelled out. Note the change from old yuri to new yuri: the newer stuff bows to romantic convention and avoids threesomes and moresomes.

On the interwebz no one knows you are a...

On the interwebz no one knows you are a…

The overwrought romantic dialogue (little more than what Erica-sensei calls “story A”) is extra spice and offers forbidden insight into the mind of that most enigmatic of all creatures; the female, portrayed in its “purest” state (no guy in the way). Wasn’t it Amis again who quipped that romantic love was a lesbian invention? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sappho) Contemporary smut-lite- might- be- lesbian- approved- yuri exudes concentrated female emotional truth-iness! (even when penned by male mangakas.. Yeah right…)

Can any guy actually think that real females emote like this? That a real-life woman will get hostile towards you because she cannot express her deepest feelings or melt when one deploys some affected “sensitivity”. Bakka! Emotional awareness is suspect in males; one is either a dangerous “player”, an emo or worse – Richard III. Snap out of it!

Perhaps the allure of the illusion of forbidden lore is too strong. The rotten girls keep insisting that their contrived boys-ruv is “purer” because the unequal power relations in a male-female relationship are snuck past in their stuff, and they don’t need lesbian love stories because they already know how this romance stuff works on females. It is us blockheads who are incomprehensible. Where is Dr. Zizek when we need him? I keep ringing his office and all I get is some Tireseus jerk!

Smut- lite- contemporary- yuri (shoujo-ai V2 ???) shares many of the characteristics of yaoi for rotten girls as it provides a risk-free simulation space for playing with elaborate and overdone narratives of emotional “relationship-y” courtship behaviour and romance – much as yaoi-space gives rotten girls a chance to simulate what it would be like if fuckmad predatory male behaviour could somehow accommodate all the same relationship-y emotional stuff that the wimmens crave, but recognise as a blind spot in traditional guy behaviour and a dangerous liability to themselves in the real world.

And the girls like to see crude representations of bishie guys getting it on, while we guys are only reading yuri because we are waiting for the hawt girl-on-girl action. DURR HERP DUR DERP!

A spectre is haunting the modern subject:

And then the melodrama  starts to bleed all over the place…

You doubt me? Why then do Otaku characterise their moe blobs in terms of tropes of courtship behaviour? Tsundere might be stupidly simplistic but it is still an exponential leap from slut or frigid. Did the tendency of male otaku to characterise their fave charas in such a manner carry over form rotten girls’ elaborate typologies of semes and ukes? (recall female to male ratios at early comikets) Or was it the other way around? Or were both tribes caught in the inexorable pull of Azuma Hiroki’s database?

“What’s my motivation?” Who cares. It still is all about emotional relationship-y melodrama and fluff. Add a horrible tortured past for the main character and both tribes can get all emo and angsty while waiting for the resolving secks scene. (If it was shonen manga it would be a fight scene.. no wonder the rotten girls have such fun)

Aoi Hanna and Sasameke Koto have no hawt secks scenes, but still have plenty of LFB fans. As mentioned previously, much angsty chaste longing ensues. Maybe just a happy ending is enough. Looks like we won’t get one with Aoi Hanna: the MC will be lucky to make it out of high school sure of herself as an autonomous lesbian subject, but radically disenchanted from the magical world of young high-school love. Odysseus slumps over spent, still tied to the mast as his ships slip by the Sirens’ rocks; Kristeva’s German burgher contemplates Holbein’s “Dead Christ” and realises that he is completely and terribly alone in the world and the Enterprise warps out of the system seconds before its sun goes nova…

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism ™

Call it a win and cue theme music.

Hanna is of course “better literature” than Koto, precisely because of the unresolved ending. The real love story here is the love that Fumi Manjōme might be finally able to develop as a full person, for herself.

Not satisfied? Plenty of other “creepy” bits of contemporary visual culture have all the emotional angst, the over-powerful hero (/heroine) the hawt secks and the just-so story happy ending anyone could want. As for the bleed-over, what is with all the weird emotional stuff coexisting with violent rape-y behaviour in manga like Tsukehime and Melty Blood ? It does not fit! It should not be there; then we recall that both are derived from modified eroge games where the goal is to clear all the females in the harem.. And kill some vampires too..

I think you have to get all the females to feel for you, and not  piss off/ break any hearts in order to get them all to help you kill the last boss. Ok! A mechanistic reason for having to pay attention to the emotional interpersonal messy stuff, we can process that, no problememo!

“Muwwhahhaha! See how easily these fan-boys can be tricked!”

At least this approach is a bit more direct than building a complicated theory edifice of otaku and fujoshi libidinal shift to the realms of imaginary. The rotten girls and Loser Fan Boys are just processing allegorical narratives, looking for stuff they can use, trying to work out puzzling contradictions by running scenarios (wow, just like the CIA) and indulging in a bit of “wouldn’t it be nice (or really hawt) if…” all while reading trashy stories.

Have another chocolate!

I think the whole 2D-only fixation phenom is pure learned affectation and subculture trope. It is a device for mangaka to shatter characters like Mada with, and look how easy that was.  It is too close to other recent fashionable male misbehaviour, like “herbivore men”.

Here’s a further weird thought: In trying to get a handle on faux-feminine emotionalism, aren’t guys finally implicitly recognizing full autonomous subject-hood in the elusive feminine narrative? Wow, that’s one up on the Freud-zoku.

And while we are at it, when a gendered “ruling regime of the symbolic order” recognizes rotten girl practice, does it miss a very very old sci-fi trope?

Analogy time: a bunch of nekkid humans get abducted by alien zoo-keepers – how to prove sentience? The “cage” is too damp for fire and 3.1415 banged on the walls is not getting through. All seems lost until one person weaves a wicker cage for a cricket-like pet. Release and apologies from the aliens ensues.

Only intelligent beings put other critters in cages. And only fully autonomous modernist “subjects” make silly porn of “others”. Could all the Freud -zoku hysterical theory around rotten girl practice be an elaborate denial mechanism?

Methinks you doth protest too much.

All this could well be a lot more dangerous to “hegemonic narratives of gender roles and desire” then wanting to shack up with your Nintendo DS Lite. There is no prohibition in the West against guys reading Harlequin romances, but neither does Harlequin offer faux-lesbian romance series for Loser Fan Boys to peep at. Once again Japan ichiban no cultural innovator!

Once Mary Sue gets lose in fan fiction, she so distorts the genre with her quick and dirty emotional payoff that the effect soon bleeds over into related, then all genre fiction – just as fan-fiction and/or dojin practice and tropes bleed over into commercial products. This ensures that elite “taste”, which was always a good cover story for more complicated gate-keeping is blown aside.

Whoops! I Might have gone too fast on that last one! Lets try that again in a nice orderly sequence:

1) Mary Sue gets lose.
2) Mary Sue evinces a desire for wish-fulfillment, melodrama and easy emotional payoff in fan-lit.
3) Commercial genre fiction takes the piles of it as market research and starts cranking out variations.
4) The cheap thrill spreads throughout mass culture.
5) Loser fan boys and rotten girls start peeking over the fences when looking for smutty stories.
6) Entropy sets in and all plots and tropes start to converge.

Profit!

As for  “fantasy is fantasy (or simulation space) and reality is reality”, we can assume that everyone is scared shitless of their fave hobby narratives getting lose in the real world. Fortunately keeping a public face and a private life is what adults are supposed to do in Japan, and the rest of the world too.

Here’s the Western version of the shop manual – feel free to tinker. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Presentation_of_Self_in_Everyday_Life)
Note how later sociologists expanded the concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_Trouble

Poorly written, formulaic, wish-fulfilment fiction has always been with us (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion) as has tone-deaf singing. What is so odd about Mary Sue is how she serves as a symptom of global mass culture’s ability to democratise her violence. She is the (originally) wimmens’ AK47 of narrative, if not the 3D printable gun. And the freedom is intoxicating for both girls and boys. We will not be rid of her for a while, so we might as well offer her a glass of barley tea and recognize her naive charms, and the deep longings that she embodies – desires which may be somewhat like our own as well.

scape_god_AN OATH v001_c001_036 web

Awwwwwww, (careful, don’t get carried away!)

Hold the presses! I just heard that Prof Saito has an article on fujoshi in Mechademia 6! Perhaps he has had to shave off some of the sharper corners of his theories in order to accommodate fujoshi practice. I’m sure I can pick up a copy for $12 used on eBay (plus $48 shipping, because the stupid bookstore will only send it super expensive overnight registered) Anyone care to lend me their MUSE login fo Jstor? Dammit! Mechademia used to be openly downloadable to all. -sulk-

One more time in unison please: Academic journal paywalls suck!

Next time: So many ideas about Genshiken 87 and 88, but can I trust those Bulgarian scanlation scripts and Google xlate? And what of the whole messy epic digression on technology and fan “productive consumption” and those mimeograph stencils? How about D+G’s Temporary Autonomous Zones and Fujoshi/ Otaku space? This one writes itself, wonder why we are not already up to our eyeballs in it?

Must get organized!

Random endnotes:

For more information on the rise and fall of the mimeographed (and later xeroxed fanzane, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factsheet_Five

http://www.factsheet5.org/  and http://www.alternativepressreview.org/
both seem to have stopped mid 2010

From the Wiki:

The magazine was originally published in 1982 by Mike Gunderloy on a spirit duplicator in his bedroom while he lived in an Alhambra, California slanshack. The original focus was science fiction fanzines (the title comes from a short story by science fiction author John Brunner), but it included other reviews. Bob Grumman contributed a regular column on avant-garde poetry from 1987 to 1992.

Gunderloy later moved to Rensselaer, New York, where he continued to publish. By 1987, he was running a zine BBS, one of the first associated with an underground publication.[3]In 1990, Cari Goldberg Janice and (briefly) Jacob Rabinowitz joined as co-editors.[4]Gunderloy quit publishing Factsheet Five following the completion of Issue #44 in 1991.[2]

Hudson Luce purchased the rights to Factsheet Five and published a single issue, Issue #45, with the help of BBS enthusiast Bill Paulouskas, cartoonist Ben Gordon, writer Jim Knipfel, and artist Mark Bloch, who had authored a mail art-related column called “Net Works” during the Gunderloy years.[5]

R. Seth Friedman then published the magazine for five years in San Francisco, with the help of Christopher Becker and Jerod Pore, until Issue #64 in 1998. Circulation grew to 16,000 during that time.[6]

Gunderloy currently works as a computer programmer and farmer. He co-authored the book SQL Server 7 in Record Time ISBN 0-7821-2155-1.

Mike Gunderloy’s Factsheet Five Collection of over 10,000 zines and mail art is now held at the New York State Library in Albany, New York, where it occupies 300 cubic feet (8.5 m3).[7] However, only about 4000 zines in the collection have been cataloged.[8] About 1/4 of the zines in the collection are listed on Excelsior, the New York State Library’s electronic catalog; staff of the Manuscripts & Special Collection can help locate other items.[9] Two hundred and forty zines that R. Seth Friedman donated are in the collection of the San Francisco Public Library.[10]

Either World Domination or something about bananas

Wherein your correspondent tries to write something two weeks after my emergency surgery for something nasty that almost left me blind in one eye. Fortunately all went well and I will not have to wear an eye-patch for the rest of my life. Still a bit cross-eyed though, which makes reading and writing a headache. Hooray for Canadian socialized medicine! Sorry, no massive theory post on fan production and distribution yet…

Instead, a quick ‘n dirty review of

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.

The oblique intro:

I need a manga or a visual novel with an odd plot so badly that I am tempted to learn Ren’py and make it myself. I need a set of adopted twins, boy and girl, home-schooled in Japan, and raised by a very rich odd couple; a gay captain of industry who is “papa” and a pre-op transwoman “mom”. Pop culture lore has it that in Japan, a doctor’s note can get your gender re-assigned even without the need for surgery; so this little just-so story plot twist ain’t tooooo far out – except that the only news reports I have heard about in Japan involve couples where both parties were originally female.

Much later: Ok this might be a bit insensitive, or at least inelegant: Real world transitioning folks in Japan still face substantial discrimination and hassles. See: Woman waging lawsuit to eliminate prejudice against gender identity disorder,   By CHO TSUIN, October 30, 2014 at:  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201410300009

Anyways, the “parents” are only a plot device for the kids: I need to redo Rousseau’s Emile, and put the boy and girl genius twins in first year university psychology class (let’s call them Emile and Emilia, or Mike and Michelle V. Smith), because I am sick to death of reading pop psychology that is %98 coherent, only to run time and time again into Freud’s mumbo-jumbo castration theory of sexual development and the origins of desire.

How Annoying!

It is like finding out that your favourite theorist or singer or actor is also a member of a nut-bar cult.

It needs to be whacked, but good, if only in fiction.

I guess Varley (viz: Steel Beach) and before him Delany (try Triton) have touched on this before, but they never ruined a story by hammering home the point, so a crude low-grade preachy plot device tale may be in order, if only as a great opportunity for some low comedy.

I want the twins to calmly point out in psych class that they must either be gods or demons, because everyone else has such quaint ideas about sex and desire, and this must be because their “mom” “had one”.

It has to be twins because “I can’t believe etc” and we need both male and female variants for the thought experiment. And for extra plot mojo, the only odd thing that mom and dad taught them was how to fight ZOMBIES!

Otherwise they are well-adjusted, open-minded, sociable and not too hung up on secks, though of course they do tend to stick very close to each other…

Hilarity ensues…

On second thought, they would still be patriarchal constructs. The story needs a set of opponents; the other set of “new-family type” twins at the university: studious, hardworking, student government rule sticklers, raised by two hard-working lesbian moms. Of course they resent the heck out the easy-going rich kids, Freudian voodoo theories notwithstanding.

Hey! Shimoku-sensei! Are your editor’s minions getting the translated weekly intel sheets to you? This is a winner. C’mon! this should be easy for someone who came up with Ramen Angel Pretty Menma! My gift for all the Genshiken I have read and avoided paying for… OR maybe I can give it to the creator of Franken Fran.

Come to think of it, this is probably the reason for the western conservative right-wing nuts’ abject horror over the idea of gay marriage, So a Del Rey licensing deal is in the bag!

Which is by way of introduction to the work of prof Saitō Tamaki, or at least the most accessible bits of it available to us heathens in the chapter on Otaku Sexuality in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

And an introduction to my main complaint about it.

MUCH LATER: Duh! I ended up hypothesizing a pale imitation of the 1990’s era manga (and later anime) Family Compo [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/FamilyCompo] which featured an impossibly sweet trans* family and their recently almost-adopted teen relative. The daughter however has been gender-fluid all her life. She currently likes being a girl, but buddy boy can’t figure out if she is really a she, or if it matters. For an artifact, it is fairly respectful, though full of anachronisms and idealised crossdressing +/or trans* stereotypes. And no moe-blob drawing either.. Wow!

Perhaps you have read my previous posts, where prof Saitō is quoted by other writers as the prime source for the idea that Japanese otaku display extraordinary self-control in  keeping their fantasy lives separate from their real lives. As this is one of the main plot tensions in Genshiken, and because early reports of his work tended to explain this characteristic in a very odd way, I thought I should track a sample of his work down, and this version is prof. Tamaki’s own updated Cliff notes for westerners. The article is well worth the read. As a bonus, we get some updated musings on fujoshi sexuality as well. As a non-bonus, we get something scary.. (NO! not Astro Boy!!!!)

Much to my surprise and relief, there is no trace of Nihon-jiron essentialism anywhere in view. Perhaps the original oft-mentioned “Japanese culture isn’t big on platonic ideals” thing was a misreading, or early conjecture that was dropped. Prof Saitō gets street cred for inventing the term Hikikomori and has spent lots of time dealing with social isolates and obsessives of all stripes. While he is sympathetic to Japanese fans, his opinions carry a great deal of weight in popular Japanese discourse on the extremes of fan behaviour.

“Prejudices about otaku based in ignorance have circulated easily for some time, even in my own field of psychiatry. One typical (mis)diagnosis is that otaku have a schizophrenic personality disorder. (My own opinion is that otaku clarify the limits of the very concept of personality disorders, but I leave this argument for another time.)

Perhaps this kind of misunderstanding should be seen as a symptom of psychiatry’s shift from a participatory activity to a system of observation. I would not go so far as to identify myself as an otaku, but my correspondence with the young people described below has led me into a rather profound relationship with this world—certainly beyond what I could call fieldwork. For all of these reasons, I feel that this record of my observations may have some clinical significance at the present time.

In 2000 I published a book titled Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki (Armored cuties: A psychoanalysis). The title names an icon that has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Japan, particularly in manga and anime— the sentō bishōjo. Literally this means “beautiful warrior girl,” though the translation I prefer is “armored cutie.” It seems to me the popularity of this strange image is virtually unique to my country. Many Western series, from Alien to Tomb Raider, feature fighting women, but they are almost all Amazonian women. Until recently the West had almost no works that featured girl warriors in the kindergarten or elementary school range. How did these sentō bishōjo come about, and how are they consumed? My book posed a series of questions along these lines, and I believe it was able to point the way toward some answers. And since it was the otaku who were most in love with the icon of the sentō bishōjo, this book also had to describe the otaku in some detail.

In 2003, as a kind of follow-up and expansion on the arguments in Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, I published a book on the linked motifs of adolescence, media, and sexuality titled Hakase no kimyōna shishunki (The doctor’s strange adolescence). The present chapter is adapted from material in that latter book, particularly the second chapter on otaku sexuality. It summarizes many parts of the argument in Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, though it skips some of the introductory description, for example, on the origin of the term otaku and the evolution of its use. And it goes beyond the earlier work in elaborating my arguments about the issue of sexuality and fiction.”

As you can see, he also invented the Beautiful Fighting Girl trope/ concept, and has a certain understanding of, and sympathy with his subjects’ enthusiasms. So a reader should pay attention; there is going to be good stuff here. take for example his definition of Otaku:

“It may be true that otaku have certain distinguishing features of appearance, but criticisms of these things amount to nothing more than personal impressions. If a critique never moves beyond these kinds of impressions, the critic will never escape the trap of narcissism; in other words, these criticisms simply reveal the means by which the critic sustains his or her own self-love.

This is the first difficulty with theorizing otaku: from the outset all these theories (sympathetic and unsympathetic) have been exposed to these impressions and value judgments. So my own approach here will be to avoid value judgments as far as possible and try to describe the otaku formally. My descriptors for otaku are as follows:

• They have an affinity for fictional contexts (kyokō no kontekusuto).
• They resort to fictionalization in order to possess the object of their love.
• They have multiple orientations when it comes to enjoying fiction.
• For them fiction itself can be a sexual object.”

Two things jump out: the libidinization of Otaku desire (Helllooooooo! Genshiken!) and the deft pre-emptive swipe at any critics which echoes my fave reason why one should be very careful insulting people – it only reveals to the whole world what is in your anxiety closet. Myself, I am afraid of simple, stupid answers, I guess because I am prone to them myself.

As a short digression on Japanese fan desire, his essay misses some of his more interesting ideas about manga style and visual conventions that are presented in his “Beautiful Fighting Girl”  (V1.2?), as updated and translated in 2011. Here from the Mechademia review by Nina Cornyetz (http://mechademia.org/reviews/nina-cornyetz-review-of-beautiful-fighting-girl-by-saito-tamaki/)

“I think Saitō’s book is best when describing manga as a specific semiotic system characterized by “atemporality,” “high context,” and “multiple personality space.” Atemporality refers to the subjective rendering of time, or the suppression of chronological time in the anime/manga diegesis. [7] “High context” refers to how sets of semiotic codes specific to cartoons and animation are layered one over another, to construct a visual space that is “excessively overdetermined in meaning and highly redundant.”[8] Saitō surmises that this multiplicity of monologic codes characteristic of manga resembles that of a person with multiple personality disorder, in that individual characters are partial and incomplete.”

Or to put it simpler, Japanese visual culture assumes that you will pay attention, pick up the hints as the story progresses and doesn’t spoon feed you as much as North American pop culture narrative. Cornyetz also has a bit of a problem with the Lacanian jargon – not for its density, but for its suitability to the task of deconstructing the genre. For now, Otaku Sexuality gives us the “lite” version of most of Saito’s favorite themes:

“…But all of the above are also seen to some extent in the mania of other fans. The behavior that sets otaku apart is the act of loving the object by possessing it. For example, the largest of all otaku events is the Komikku Maaketto (“comic market”), abbreviated as Komike in Japanese and held twice a year in August and December. Here, hundreds of thousands of otaku (many dressed as their favorite manga and anime characters) gather to buy and sell independently produced comics called dōjinshi. Just attending Komike is a crash course in the world of the otaku.

Dressing up and producing these dō jinshi comics are among the activities otaku must participate in to maintain their credentials, something that sets them apart from run-of-the-mill fans. Over thirty thousand groups produce and sell their dō jinshi at Komike, and most are second-order texts, that is, takeoffs on well-known manga and anime. I believe dōjinshi are significant because they constitute an otaku “rite of ownership,” whereby the fans take the works they love and make them their own through the act of parody, which is to say by fictionalizing them even further. Dōjinshi are one crystallization of this activity, though more recently Internet mailing lists and discussion boards have also become sites for publishing independently authored stories. In venues like these that are more text-based than the visual dō jinshi, participants contribute “SS”—original short stories or “side stories” with characters and settings borrowed from favorite works.

The most popular among the dōjinshi are the pornographic parodies in the “eighteen and over” genre. It is easy to hold these works up and proclaim disgust with the otaku, but unless one can overcome this visceral dislike, it is impossible to perceive the otaku’s true nature. As my list of otaku descriptors indicates, the issue of the otaku is one of sexuality, and it is this genre that displays their unique qualities in distilled form. It is not easy to locate a sexual object in fiction itself: that represents a taste for something far more direct than we see in the fetishism of ordinary fan manias. Many otaku actually have imagined sexual relationships with their favorite manga and anime protagonists, and masturbate to these fantasies.”

From this we get a natural digression into loli-smut and the first hint of the fantasy is fantasy/ reality is reality division, with the obligatory reference to that infamous otaku child-murderer, and the observation that he has not been followed by hordes of imitators; so perhaps otaku are under-represented as violent deviants in general society. It is the “normal” drunk salaryman who gropes the pretty lady, Train Man saves her.

Comike(t) also gives him a chance to introduce fujoshi activity:

The first thing to point out is that the producers and consumers of yaoi texts are overwhelmingly women. The majority of participants in the Komike comic market are women (contradicting the idea that otaku are mostly male), and the majority of those female participants are yaoi aficionados. Certainly, the number of gay men producing or consuming these texts is virtually nil. If the desires of yaoi authors are directly reflected in these texts, then how should we characterize their sexuality?

Clearly, it represents a set of desires that cannot be described in terms of the psychoanalytic theory that has defined perversion (tō saku) up to now. What is significant here is again the fact that the imaginary sexual lives of the yaoi crowd are totally separate from their everyday sexual lives. Some contend that one should investigate sexuality by considering actual sexual activities, but I have always argued that today the real or the actual is something layered, something increasingly devoid of any firm foundation. In this situation, fantasies may in fact be the most appropriate material for investigating sexuality. More pointedly, real sexual acts are far too much of an admixture to consider when analyzing the structural aspects of sexuality.

Here, the fact that yaoi fans (yaoi aikōka) and otaku are sexual late bloomers actually works in our favor: because they are unacquainted with the realities of sex, they can pursue these sexual fantasies in a purer form.

On the matter of fujoshi desire (and note that he explained in the work, that he avoids the term fujoshi), Saitō relies of the testimony of a noted, eloquent producer yaoi. But wait: keep watch on the text – the great Freudian signifier is about to pop out, like something through a hole in the screen from an Ishihara novel… cue the signifier

“Enomoto Nariko is a figure who sheds considerable light on yaoi fantasies and sexuality. She is the author of the popular manga Senchimento no kisetsu (Sentimental season), serialized in the weekly comic magazine Biggu komikku supirittsu (Big comic spirits). She has also created numerous dōjinshi under the name Nobi Nobita. As recorded in Sōhyō (Criticism) — an anthology of her critical works she issued herself as a dōjinshi—Enomoto started out as a yaoi author. She became known for a piece of criticism titled “Adults Just Don’t Get It,” its title drawn from the Japanese title of François Truffaut’s 400 Blows (1959). That essay used R. D. Laing’s Divided Self to read the celebrated anime serial Neon Genesis Evangelion (the psychology of which has been taken up even at meetings of the Japanese Association of Pathography). Evangelion’s director Anno Hideaki was reportedly so impressed with Enomoto’s interpretation that when he made the films based on the series, he incorporated a number of details that reflected her ideas…”

[…]

“Distinguishing the sexuality of male and female otaku means distinguishing male and female moe, and there are some evident differences. For many male otaku, the trigger for moe is either a character’s cute figure or the situation she finds herself in. What then is the object of moe for the female otaku who constitute the yaoi group? In fact moe is a term that yaoi fans do not generally use themselves, but Enomoto puts it perfectly when she says that while a male otaku may be “Asuka moe,” a yaoi fan is “phase moe.” “Phase” here represents one phase of a relationship. Let us suppose, for example, that a certain manga depicts a relationship of mixed friendship and antagonism between two boys. This relationship will be the focus of attention for these women fans: based on subtle gestures, looks, and expressions, or on fragments of dialogue, how and when will it move into its romantic phase of homosexual attraction? That is the universal theme of yaoi texts.

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.

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.

This passion manifests itself in a different posture toward the text. For example, male otaku will often debate matters of textual interpretation with one another, but yaoi readers will argue fiercely about the combinations of characters in a parody or the choice to assign a character the seme or uke role in a sexual encounter. The latter sort of debate is unthinkable among male otaku, although both kinds of argument represent the struggle described above to “possess the work.”

Should yaoi texts be regarded as proof of the charge entertained above, the confusion of “fiction” with “reality”? In fact, these fan authors realize that the gay connections between characters in the textual worlds they create could never realistically exist. Regarding the absence of female characters in these parodies, Nobi Nobita explained to me that “when women are depicted, it can’t help becoming weirdly real.” Clearly there is no confusion between reality and fiction here.

Hmmmmmmm I smell echoes of Mishima’s Sea of Fertility again – or at least what I know of it from Rio Otomo‘s criticism. Mishima’s influence is unavoidable in Japanese modernist fiction and his heroic male youth archetype (who reads a lot like a slightly more asocial version of Wagner’s Sigfried) is pure Shonen Jump and always counterpoised against some extreme notion of a protoplasmic dissolving-all-encompassing emotional and physical sensation field of metaphorical gooo in female sexuality.

“I was lost in the valley of pleasure, I was lost in the infinite sea..” –P.Smith

Shogenai..,

Another correspondent invoked by Saitō:

“The yaoi creator Nakajima Azusa has written an analysis of yaoi titled Children of Thanatos, which is interesting as an act of self-analysis by one of the genre’s key players. The book’s description of yaoi has a number of points in common with theories of otaku I advanced in my first book on otaku, Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki. First, Nakajima writes that nearly all yaoi writers are heterosexual women with husbands and children and that she has never met one who was a lesbian. This corresponds with my own observation about the scarcity of homosexual otaku. Like otaku, yaoi fans are living out separate sexualities. They lead heterosexual lives, but their fictionally oriented sexuality turns to male homosexual relationships. These fictional sexual objects are not proxies for the real; instead, the space of fiction has a wholly independent economy of desire, a point yaoi fans share with male otaku.”

So far, Saitō’s conjectures and reportage are interesting and nuanced, Unfortunately the veneration of Freud’s demon bones intrudes:  (honking big quote warning!)

“The Origins of Asymmetry

Actual heterosexual relationships appear symmetrical in the sense that the man desires the woman and the woman the man. But as we know, in any male-female relationship, the fundamental orientation of the male’s desire differs from that of the woman. (In that sense, love is nothing more than an exchange of illusions.) We must refer to psychoanalysis — particularly Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan — to understand these structural differences between male and female desire.

Psychoanalysis teaches that female and male desire have contrasting makeups from the moment they are constituted. What first gives rise to male desire is the process of symbolic castration. When the father intrudes into the happy sufficient union that exists between the mother and the young child, he severs their connection. At this point the male child discovers that his mother lacks a penis. The mother’s  omnipotence (the omnipotence of the ego) is abandoned and replaced (along with the absent penis) by the signifier of the phallus.

When the male child obtains the primal tool of language that is the phallic signifier, the male child becomes a speaker and enters the symbolic world. By experiencing symbolic castration, he becomes a neurotic subject, and from that point the full range of desires becomes possible. Constituted as it is in this way, male desire has castration anxiety at its heart and must always seek the “object a” lost through castration. Desire directed at the object a incarnates desire as an illusion within the symbolic world, but never reaches the actual object.

On the other hand, female desire arises in a more roundabout way. Women also undergo symbolic castration to become a neurotic subject, but afterward, a woman discovers her own anatomical difference. She moves toward the mother’s position because both daughter and mother lack a penis. In males, gaining the phallus does not stave off desire for the mother, but for females, desire directed at the mother must be redirected through castration. For females, the mark of lacking a penis makes it possible to desire the phallus from the mother’s position.

The male follows a chain of metaphors directed toward the desired object a that he cannot attain. In the process, he constructs the illusion called knowledge. What he tries to possess (e.g., the illusion of woman) is actually a stand-in for the singular object a that perpetually eludes his grasp. And what is the situation for women? They locate themselves in the position of that which is desired by the male, the position of the mother. But this location represents a state of lack. Women can locate themselves only as beings lacking from the symbolic world, where women do not exist, and it is from this position of lack that women desire the phallus they do not have. This is the diametric opposite of the male orientation that constructs illusions.

The object of otaku desire, the sentō bishōjo, or armored cutie, is none other than object a, the girl who identifies with the penis. It is in an effort to become the possessor of these figures that male otaku construct the various illusions around them: fiction/criticism, novels, dōjinshi, and so forth. What is at the heart of the issue here is the reality the sentō bishōjo has by virtue of existing completely within fiction — by virtue of her state of lack. In Sentō bishōjo no seishin bunseki, I described this as “the inverted hysteria of visual space.” There is not room here to repeat all the details of that argument, but in summary it consists of the following points:

1. When a male desires a female, she is “hystericized” (hisuteriika).
2. Hystericization is desire that perceives a two-layered structure to the object: a visible outer layer that attracts or entices, and an unseen deeper level, the object’s true nature (like a hidden trauma).
3. The sentō bishōjo has a number of features that correspond to those of actual hysteria.
4. However, the sentō bishōjo can experience battle (“jouissance” enjoyment) without trauma (such as the experience of “rape” that motivates many “real” fighting women). In this sense she presents the mirror image of actual hysteria.

For male otaku desire, what is important is precisely that the desired object is lacking. If the premise of the sentō bishōjo is that she is fictional and lacking, it is only this that makes her eligible as an object of desire. But the illusionary quality of these warrior girls must have a concretely visual aspect. In the experience of moe, these visual elements occupy a central place, because inasmuch as these sentō bishōjo are objects of desire, they must provide some toehold for the author and reader to identify with them ironically. It is only in the visual dimension that the male can project his image narcissistically on the object. This accounts for the male predisposition to be attracted by physical appearances, and it may also explain the tendency among agents of male desire to supplement their own lack with a fetish.

How, then, does the desire of yaoi readers differ from that of otaku? Here we can directly apply what was said earlier about female desire. It may seem impossible for female readers to identify themselves directly with anything in a gay love story, particularly one from which female characters have been banished. But this is part of the fundamental process that enables desire. In the everyday world, it is by virtue of being the object of male desire that women are able to constitute their own position as a lack. If male otaku feel desire for the lack of the object, in yaoi female desire it is important that one be a lacking subject oneself.

So excluding women from yaoi texts is more or less necessary in order for the reader to alienate herself as the agent of desire. This current of desire, meticulously prepared, is then directed toward the phallic relationship of the men in the text. This phallic connection results from the fact that males, having penises, can take either the “active” seme or “passive” uke role in the sex act. Female penis envy is highly abstracted in these texts; the object of envy is rather the phallic positioning inherent in this relationship. Because of this, women can identify with any character in the story. A woman can never assert her own existence in these dramas of phallic desire, but it is precisely because of this inability that she can attempt an identification that is less limited than that of the male. The actual world contains many examples of this freedom women have as sexual subjects.”

Cixious has dealt with this bias at length, so it might be better to press on. There is something that can be rescued from this all, but the price may be a bit steep:

“It is known that men often form homosocial bonds—male unions that lead automatically to homophobia. The resistance heterosexual men generally feel toward homosexual connections is far stronger than the resistance heterosexual women feel toward lesbianism. On the stage of the imagination where desire is played out, men always try to become the agent of that desire, which is why they try to explain desire’s origins, and why in turn I am writing this. Put another way, men can feel only the kind of desire that can be described.

To all appearances, the desire of women is constituted much more passively. Women do not like to assert themselves as agents of desire, which is why their desire is so often hard to describe. Can one rationally explain women’s taste for jewelry? It is not even fetishism. This resistance to description is directly expressed by the phrase that gives us the word yaoi: “No climax, no conclusion, no meaning.”

As I mentioned, in these fanciful homosexual relations the thing regarded as most important is who has the seme and who the uke role. Among yaoi readers there are fierce debates about these assignments. This supports our ideas about yaoi desire: what matters is the relation between characters and the phase of that relationship.

Consider a slightly different formulation: if we identify otaku desire as the desire “to have,” yaoi desire is the desire “to become.” Extending a postulate of psychoanalysis that “a heterosexual is one who loves women,” we can say that women are fundamentally heterosexual beings. This is in part the reason why psychoanalysis does not regard lesbianism as an abnormal sexuality (tōsaku) but as an example of “acting out.” Yaoi readers are not trying to possess the homosexual relationships in yaoi texts; they are trying to identify with the phallic relationship itself. What permits them to experience jouissance is the form of their desire as a wish “to become.” [emp mine]

Nice to know that Freudian psychiatry, Queen Victoria and the book of Leviticus are in agreement!

“The moe of male otaku is mainly a fetishistic desire “to have.” It is a desire not for reality itself but for reality’s shroud or mantle. For that reason the elements of moe tend to multiply. For example, the visual ornamentation of manga and anime characters is increasing. It is easy to speak about the virtual quality of this kind of otaku sexual love, but it is hard to say the same kinds of things about yaoi. It may be because yaoi identification with the object seems to be constituted far more directly than otaku possession, which is, after all, possession of a substitute. In that sense, we might say that yaoi moe is a far more enjoyable experience than otaku moe is.”

“And I Tiresias have foresuffered all;
Enacted on this same divan or bed;;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall;
And walked among the lowest of the dead”
-The Wasteland,  T.S. Elliot,
(http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/eliot01.html)

Nope, the quote is ironic mode ON: the original Tireseus got to experience a female orgasm and liked it a lot! His only crime, for which the goddess blinded him, was to blab about the experience.

Guys: avoid viagra, cialis and tantric sex – it will turn you into a woman. Multiple or prolonged orgasm in males is the work of SATAN! That’s why the rotten girl’s fuck puppets are so prone to it!

Perhaps the rotten girls are convinced that our natural propensity to singular climax is what makes us crazy in the head and are trying to give us a gift to fix our sad lack, if only in their fiction?

Omne animal post coitum triste

Perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough…

Saitō then goes on to touch on an even more extreme geek perversion, shota – which he claims has equal male and female devotees, but (thankfully!) leaves any in-depth examination for future research.

(I am either hysterically defending my narcissism here or setting boundaries. Of course I prefer the latter explanation, but I could be deluded…)

The essay then gets back onto productive tracks with a discussion of fictionality and layered readings and possession vs fetishism. Basically the facility for and enjoyment of layered readings keep the possession from becoming too fetishistic – the act becomes that particular desanguinated form of french post-structuralist joy – jouissance, but at least the otaku and the fujoshi are not crazy in the head – they are just cultural producers – in effect writers, mangakas (and artists?) in their own right (though this last word, the dread A-word is never spoken)

Oh well, leave it at creator and call it a win:

“Calling the otaku “creators” will produce objections that most of their work is childish in the extreme: lacking in originality, imagination, expressive skill, and so on. But these criticisms are no more than impressionistic critiques and imagined value judgments. This kind of approach is incompatible with psychoanalysis, but unfortunately even among critics who write from a psychoanalytic perspective we still see a number who are trapped in this kind of narcissistic posture. And from them we hear that tired refrain telling the otaku to “grow up and face reality.”

One can always counter this kind of impressionistic criticism with more of the same. For example, consider Japanese academic knowledge and its insignificance to the world at large (particularly in the humanities). From one perspective the otaku’s knowledge is much more globally relevant than what is taught in our universities. The fact that Japanese anime clubs exist at almost every American university can only bolster this impression.

Japan’s greatest cultural export is anime, a commonplace that still bears repeating. Since Sakamoto Kyu¯ ’s “Sukiyaki Song” topped America’s Billboard music chart in 1963, the only Japanese works to repeat this feat in their own category are the anime films Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Poketto monsutaa: Myu¯ tsu¯ no gyakushu¯ (1995, Pokemon: Mewtwo’s Return).21 The supposed “insularity” of otaku knowledge is a delusion of academics. But even if the texts created by otaku are regarded as childish, it may be a fortunate thing for us. A brilliant work has an aura that tends to stay the hand of anyone who would analyze it, but this is not a problem when we explore the creative process through the otaku. Nakai Hisao famously suggested that a line drawn by a patient and a line drawn by a genius are “philosophically equivalent.”22 In fact, the creative activity of otaku may reveal creation in its most primitive form, because the distance between desire and creation is so short.” [emp. mine]

This is extremely valuable!

You don’t have to be a great artist to be an artist. Joseph Beuys wanted everyone to be an artist, and the western Fluxus movement makes stuff that is so pathetically lame as to blur the boundaries of the definition of “art” in favor of the spontaneity of creation within a social realm. Having no talent or inspiration is no damn excuse. “You have 3 minutes left, I expect a performance piece for the class!

Compared to Fluxus, Japanese visual culture is modular and reproducible in form and content, to an extent that it begs for fan involvement, appropriation, exchange and production. New technology helps grease the tracks (which will be dealt with in the long put off future post), but the urge to productive involvement that makes fan desire so radical is foregrounded in the otaku and fujoshi social, as much as in earlier North American car/ motorcycle sub-cultures and global computer hardware/software sub-cultures.

And to riff on an essay I read 1/2 an eons ago in Analog Magazine (and can’t find the citation for), it was the AK47 that changed war and lead to “the democratization of violence” (a term picked up by Muammar Gaddafi who liked western sci-fi), just as the modular, cheap shoddy IBM pc x86 architecture personal computer (which heh, developed out of the cpm bus board computers as well as the apple II) moved history a hell of a lot more than the $10,000 mac plus did.

Vernacular cultures are more powerful than elite cultures, especially if the tools and rules are cheap, easily mastered and distribution/ exchange channels can be found. I am not a big fan of rap, but I understand its appeal. But that’s for a future post..

Back to Saitō:

Next we get some quick and dirty analysis on Miyazaki:

“Miyazaki saw it [Hakujaden (Panda and the Magic Serpent)] 1958 as a teenager and fell in love with its heroine, then went on to become Japan’s master of the animated image. But from one perspective, his work has a quality of Freudian “repetition compulsion” that is sad. Possessed as a boy by an anime beauty, Miyazaki is fated to produce one charming heroine of his own after another, and through them to support otaku culture. This compulsion that revolves around beautiful young girls (largely absent in Miyazaki’s creative partner Takahata Isao, for example) repeats the initial trauma of Miyazaki’s early experience. This is clearly a chain of transference: a transference from receiver to transmitter mediated by the icon of the beautiful girl. Miyazaki’s inability to escape it is shown by his countertransferent dislike for adult anime fans (otaku), a scorn he makes no effort to disguise.”

Uh that’s a bit cruel, one could come up with a few alternative explanations, but lets let it pass.. Saitō then brings up Takashi Murakami’s superflat  and Azumi’s the database as a prelude to a very interesting take on otaku and by inference fujoshi sexuality:

“Let me then summarize my argument up to this point. There are three driving forces behind otaku evolution: sexuality, the transference from reader to author, and the comic market. Otaku desire (the desire to possess through fictionalization) is supported by all three. We must wait for more concrete research on the comic market and authordirected transference. Here I have focused on the connection between creative activity and sexuality. “

[emp mine again -you should try it yourself prof Saitō, there is a reason people get into making art.. Start here]

The final issue I treat in this chapter is the intersubjectivity of sexuality, or the evolutionary changes in expression that have made that intersubjectivity possible. Naturally, the driving force for sexuality is the “actual reality” of sex. In this sense, otaku are trying to face the reality of their own sex constructively. But this kind of reality differs from the search for a sexual partner in the actual world.

In my book focusing on the sentō bishōjo, I suggested that this behavior was a survival tactic employed by otaku to “resist datafication.” As the illusory notion that “everything can be turned into data” becomes more and more widespread, how can one protect sexuality from the same fate? The answer is to spin out a limitless number of illusions from the single source of sexuality.[emph. mine] The sentō bishōjo, what I have also called the “phallic girl,” is a powerful icon that serves as the medium for these illusions. The most effective strategy against the restricting forces of datafication may be to oppose them with the unrestricted possibilities of illusion, that is, narrative. And I am convinced that an important role served by otaku culture is to preserve illusion’s unbounded character.

Hmmmm… I’ve heard that one before…

“Captain, you’re getting dangerously close to the planet killer”.
“I intend to get a lot closer. I’m going to ram this ship right down that thing’s throat!”

This is the old overload it until it blows up sci-fi trope, and what the heck – it worked well enough in real life to defuse the Frankfurt school’s loathing of mass culture. One stadium filled extravaganza is a Nazi propaganda triumph, but 3 each weekend, every weekend is just the concert, the game or the convention that you are too broke or bored to attend.

The essay ends with a jarring reference once again to shota, or rather a sub-genre; robo-shota (Waughhh! bad things happen to Astro-Boy!) as some kind of point of convergence/ vanishing point/ event horizon of otaku/ fuloshi desire and of course a mandatory “more research is required” , along with a plea to not condemn it out of hand…

(Sorry, must condemn – kill it with fire!)

“This is a desire so thoroughly fictionalized that one hesitates even to call it perverse (tō saku). Before one turns away from its strangeness, it is worth considering the limitlessness of the imaginative power that is fed by otaku sexuality.  Maidroid is the emblem of a sexuality that depends only on these contexts to develop, a sexuality deliberately separated from everyday life. . If narrative is possible even after the “end of history,” that possibility may reside in emblems like these. But in the way they develop, these high context expressions are impoverished in the syntagmatic axis, even as they show such richness along the paradigmatic one. We see this in anime, where the almost excessive variation in setting and character combines with a tendency toward cookie-cutter story lines and ideas. It is for this reason that a high-context superflat space needs some stimulus from outside itself, to destabilize its internal context. Born at the boundary between modern art and otaku culture, the concept “superflat” itself functions as a point at which to introduce that externality. If we have a role to play in these processes, it should not be as critics or as opponents of otaku culture.

We should interact constructively with otaku; we should overcome our resistance enough to offer our own interpretations; and we should work from outside to keep stimulating the otaku imagination.”

Obviously, prof Saitō’s thesis is complicated, nuanced and extremely productive, even as it wears its biases and faults and blind spots (or at least currently unfashionable opinions) proudly pinned to its lapel.

Of the original reason for investigating prof, Saitō; the fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality law of otakudom, we are much further into the depths of how the mechanism supposedly enforces a psychic division of labor. The multifaceted, creative reading and production of endless variations on a favoured theme grounds itself in the realm of the imagination and would cease to function if it was to consciously “bleed” over into the real world. It would be like ordering fast food in haiku and writing fanzines on the park sidewalk. Yet at the same time fictional narratives have a habit of influencing real life, as herr doctor Freud’s work-as-trope proves.

There is a whole lot of useful material and insight here, and to ask Saitō to go a bit easy on the Freud-speak is to ask him to delegitimize himself in the eyes of the rest of his tribe of psychologists. But honestly! There are no lesbians at Comiket ??? Lets all redefine lesbian in a way that is far more violent than my past joke-conceit that the overwhelming majority of women-liking women in Japan were suspicious of the term and wanted some privacy (please!). And guess why they really aren’t lesbian? Cue monsieur Ishihara’s fave trick again.

moe ishihara web

It’s an interesting point of view, but lets not turn it into a permanent cultural festival.

Saitō gets closest to the issue with his emphasis on creative play, but must perforce pretend not to see the huge social element in fan creativity, or at least to view it in an un-social light. After all communication is merely the wielding of the phallus by a neurotic subject, which I guess is why men can’t really have any friends.

The biases in the cult of Freud and those who follow make a detached retina seem like a mild inconvenience. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is still short one eye, He does not necessarily get to be King.

The emphasis on layered reading and inter-textuality is productive, and is handled far better than the soulless vertigo of the original database model; it leads to a better explanation/ understanding of the reality is reality vs fantasy is fantasy divide, than any tentative, previous, mis-read or mis-attributed reference to a weak adherence in Japanese culture to ‘western” ideas of a platonic model of ideals. You cannot really do much with the latter, whereas the former is the gooey stuff of high late modern (don’t say postmodern please!) culture, and as such is likely to spread like a virus through all industrial/ “post”-industrial cultures.

Looked at this way, it is the next step up from North American car, motorcycle and home computer building sub-cultures, and on par with social media, electronic music and video mashup subcultures.

And don’t tell me that they weren’t libidinized.

“Says Red Molly to James “That’s a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like”
Says James to Red Molly “My hat’s off to you
It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I’ve seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme”
And he pulled her on behind and down to Box Hill they did ride”
– 
Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lCH5JgWCZY

Another useful point of view is the asymmetrical approach to male otaku and female fujoshi consumption of libidinized fan material. Male sexual fantasy is pretty easy to understand: and Madarame makes a good go of it to Saki with his line drawing speech early on in Genshiken. Yup, just cave paintings of beings we really really want but have trouble catching, let alone understanding and communicating with. Saki’s reaction is truthful as well – them damn stick figures won’t help much, and will probably get in the way of interacting with real women.

But Ohno and Ogiue, and later the rest of the rotten girls are harder to fully fathom. Sure, they could be making up for a certain lack, or they could have found a way to enjoy a virtual woody without having to give up a more efficient and far more pleasurable arrangement. Or they could be trying to get back at Freud-daddy and his thick-headed followers, and all the stupid boneheaded sexism that hides stupid unfair, corrupt and ultimately self-destructive patterns of behaviour in a certain society (and ours too). Or they could be trying to, as previously suggested, give us guys the gift of multiple orgasms. Or they could just be wired so that reading about rough (or nice vanilla) sex by fictional males really turns their crank, and then they drape some good behaviour tropes over the mess (reads like romance) so they don’t feel too abject when they look at themselves in the mirror later, and because a good raunchy story is fun to share.

The asymmetry effect could merely be a side-effect of more developed patterns of female social interaction,

While it is true that every generation believes that it has invented sex, it is also true that the amount of smut, and its availability in absolute terms is far greater today than could be imagined by even the most jaded of our ancestors.

We are up to our ears in smut. We have country-wide junkyards full of rusting smut. The smut recyclers can’t keep up with it, the pile of debris grows ever skyward. We have barges and container ships that illegally dump smut, along with worn t-shirts and broken electronics on the shores of “failed states”. The smut concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere have for the first time in history exceeded 400ppm!

Houston we have smut!

Why can’t the rotten girls customize theirs too?

The rest of the book that this essay is contained in (“Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams :Japanese science fiction from origins to anime”) goes on at length to describe how Japanese science fiction was used by many writers, including women writers, to highlight social contradictions and play with alternatives. Could a theory of vernacular fiction/ narrative and social change be more productive than an orthodox Freudian psychoanalytical approach?

Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.
..might be a misquote of Chesterton, but it is snappier.

A Freudian approach to fujoshi desire constitutes female desire as a lack, an engulfing void that seeks to absorb the absent phallus – symbol of female lack and flaw, and as such experience imagined male sexual play from an undifferentiated, multiplicitous point of view, absorbing all into a subject-less vortex of sensation, or something. It also drapes a lot of dissimulation and elaboration over the crude metaphor and metonymny that is at the heart of the the Freud myth: Woman as castrated male, and as hole/vessel, orifice that engulfs the male member, and guardian of the chthonic wound from whence blood issues monthly and new life springs forth from pain and gore.

“Here’s to the hole that never heals!”

Go too far with this, and you can end up like Apollo in the Orestia’s The Friendly Ones, reduced to gibbering to a jury of Athenian farmers that the female of the species is only some kind of container full of potting soil that adds nothing to the life that develops during pregnancy. While Church philosophers a thousand years later took this as “natural philosophy”, the 600BC Athenian audience hooted with laughter at the fine corner Athena had backed her stupid, arrogant brother into. Even he realised his fuck-up and shortly after left the “trial” in a huff.

Prof. Saitō: what do you make of m-preg yaoi stories? Are fujoshi texts trying to impose a revenge of pregnancy upon males? Are they “gifting” their imagined male creatures with something they lack in real life, much like the aforementioned multiple orgasm digression? Or are they playing with an even greater horror than their violent pseudo-homosexual coupling? Male pregnancy is something deep in the collective male anxiety closet: viz Cordwainer Smith’s “The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal” – a well-crafted nasty little homophobic nightmare straight out of the pop psychology anxiety closet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crime_and_the_Glory_of_Commander_Suzdal
and
http://bookos.org/book/284287/c1d64f )

Intelligent cat creatures created in the wink of an eye, locked in eternal battle with a world full psychotic pregnant faggot-bogiemen bent on exterminating all women from the galaxy. Little surprise that this tale was the product of the writing hobby of the man who helped develop the concept of “psychological warfare” for the allied war WWII war effort.

These are all elaborate narratives built on very shaky chains of metaphor and association; they make for fine tales and myths, but sin against William of Occam’s simple prescriptions for making sense of the world.

Perhaps an alternate reading could be suggested by the dismissive comment of another critic of fujoshi practice; “that the girls are all just playing with dolls“. But one underestimates such play at one’s peril, for is not such play the stuff of high modern literature? Or is the third-person omniscient narrative, with jumps to multiple, sometimes conflicting and unreliable first person points of view not seen as the height of the contemporary craft of the novel?

Fujoshi desire is simultaneously the view of the goddess and the view of the void – a trick that matches and possibly one ups Job’s inscrutable big-papa-in-the- sky.

Then the fujoshi spoke to her sisters out of the whirlwind. . ..

The girls are better at multitasking, just as we are better at fixating on one thing to the point of obsession. Of course your mileage may vary and a sound exercise regime can help in levelling the differences. Guys – multitasking won’t turn you into someone’s bitch, though it may turn you into an employable telephone tech support worker. However your brain will hurt for the first four months.

And as a further aside; someone must be able to make sense of a women’s (or men’s) taste in jewelry, otherwise how could so much money be made on the exercise?

Multiplying entities without necessity is an act of love, not an act of science. (TM)

As for the escapism or coping mechanisms that the libidinization of Japanese visual culture provides, one would be remiss if one failed to note the very real social, economic and generational pressures that bear down upon folks in Japan in this particular moment in time. The old models are not working too well for anyone, unless you are really rich or retired with a good pension. Or does the search for the Lacanian “object a” explain the Japanese invention of the Love Hotel?

Demographics and economics have as much to offer to the understanding of otaku and fujoshi behaviour as strategies of layered reading and creative consumption. Even Lacan understood that post WWII France was something different from Freud’s fin-de-siecle Vienna. (hence the shift from incest taboo to the dead- father- as- the- law). One may also add that Freud didn’t have a monopoly on castration myth-spinning; That we don’t have J.G.Frazier-ian psychoanalists (we might get some Jung) is only an accident of history. We could be all reading that the otaku and /or fujoshi secretly want to slaughter all their psychic competitors to become the symbolic king of the sacred grove at Nemi, even while knowing that their reign will be short, and end in their murder by the next fool… All while they are powerless to escape the ritual of the sacred and the sacred nature of the ritual.

As per a previous post:
Hermeneutic: any narrative scheme works well enough if internally consistent; if we are lucky it might be useful under some conditions.”
Also
Repetition, aka: Invoke often, use a bigger hammer.”
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/the-laws-of-magic/

If this stuff was repeated daily for the last 100 years by an ordained clerisy dedicated to helping you make sense of the weird crap that your wetware throws up at you, you would fall in line and structure your angst accordingly. No wonder Scientology is trying to muscle in on the action.

Add to this the powerful attraction that Freudian just-so stories have to any lazy hack writer,scriptwriter, songwriter, playwright, screen-writer, mangaka and poet over the last century and the tropes of the mythos become inescapable; to the point of folding in upon themselves as parody and meta-fiction. Want some Freud “anal phase” narrative? Check out the scatologically excessive animated Korean masterpiece Aachii and Ssipak! I have always wondered what would happen when a fully fledged Freudian / Lacanian analyst got his hands on this one.

Otaku Sexuality
As the repair guy opined in “Brazil” – ‘we’re all in it together!”

Closer to psychology’s home turf, I also wonder about the lack of research connecting the otaku personality with ADD and aspergers syndrome. A large part of the otaku thing could well be a socially mediated response to biochemical variations in the brains of a certain subset of the population. A hundred years ago they would have all made great craftsmen. Perhaps given the great fear of amphetamines in any form by the Japanese government makes such a diagnosis useless? No ritalin for otakus!

Perhaps I need all this to keep my narcissism going full blast, lest the “insert lyrics from a song from the doors here” jeebies gets me at night. Could be, could be, rabbit… But I would also hope that one could pry a few more useful insights from the exercise. As with all my reviews that so far have flailed away against the violence of the Freudian mythos, I would urge that it is time to kick the ladder away, leave behind the bogies, and preserve the insights that are grounded in hard work, and real life interaction with real folks.

Of the latter, prof Saitō’s work contain insights that shine, and will doubtlessly yield even more in the future.

I’m just a bit annoyed to see the good stuff marred by a mean-spirited and ugly superstition that supports the oppression one half of humanity by means of a half-assed just-so story. It is Eve cursed by original sin, it is a secular pseudo-religious superstition,

It is like listening to an antebellum white southerner justify slavery.

It is unworthy of serious scientific endeavor!

Stop it now!

Time for a yaoi dojin along the lines of “Even a monkey would get annoyed with Sigmund Freud” – Something like 20th Century Boys… The two illustrations in this post are from Monkey Business – the Idiot’ s Guide to Tokyo’s Harmful Books Regulation, a fine example of otaku agitprop. See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

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

SURVEY & RESEARCH METHODS #3: The Murphy Engine + On Monogamy

Between work pressures, research continues, and my health improves a bit. For relaxation, I have been reading plenty of happy, nothing-bad-or-difficult-happens manga, while picking at online journals, Mechademia (must do more with the article that highlights the twin influences of mr. Database vs mr. Gainax) and have been continuing to enjoy massive real-world news fix(es) with the help of Calibre ebook management software’s amazing ability to absorb online periodicals. Too much news can be a mixed blessing though.. But first:

Going back through my posts, I feel I must add one small thing in praise of Hiroki Azuma’s (mr.database’s) analysis of the Otaku. While I still feel that the “database” theory can be wildly over-applied, I must commend him as the first to seriously comment on what Western bloggers now call the echo chamber effect in online political discourse. So that while using “the database” to find (and/or create) perfect loli characters might be fringe activity, using the Fox News blogosphere or the Huffington Post -verse to insulate yourself from “annoying wrongheaded bullshit that you just don’t have time to deal with”, is now a major feature of contemporary politics. He spotted it. Cue the end of public debate. Two cheers and a tiger for Hiroki Azuma.

In the news, more on troubles in Japan rebuilding after 3/11: As part of the background of this blog is exploring how fiction mirrors the breakdown in workable societal roles and processes surrounding individuation, identity, mating and desire in Japan, it comes as a shock (but not too big a shock) to see that the finely tuned mechanisms of political consent in Japanese society are cracking up under the strains of the horrible damage inflicted by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear accident and the later summer rainstorms. Of course the Diet is in a mess and the bureaucracy is thomping around using the crisis as a great opportunity to seize territory (heh, so apparently is the Yakuza, we await hearing more from Jake-sensei) But the last straw surely must be taking reconstruction money and spending it on RESEARCH WHALING !!!!

OMG! WTF?

I am happy that this is a manga blog. I gave up on polisci.

If it was about Japanese politics I would be three miles past I AM IN DESPAIR stage and well on to FUCK YOU ALL nihilistic mode. I am keeping an eye open for some other blogger to do the dirty work.

I WILL NOT be setting up a “Let’s predict future Japanese government policy by assuming that every dead-stupid asshat- worst-possible-idea will be implemented by a confluence of crazed bureaucrats, fringe political party backroom operators and desperate industry sleazebags “ generator…. Nope… not me…

“The Reconstruction ministry has partnered with extreme right-wing political insiders to develop a loli brothel comfort women theme park in [ x ] devastated prefecture. Under-age North Korean and Thai orphan children to be “hired” as “trainee workers” to help develop “tourism”. Whale meat to be served at theme park food stalls, along with raw, freshly killed puppies and kittens. Power for the facility will be provided by incinerating tsunami waste, unclaimed bodies and e-waste until the unshielded Monju breeder reactor can be brought online.” ….

News Flash! An epic fail policy balls-over-tea-kettle scandal at the highest levels of Japanese politics was averted when Big Japanese Man and an un-named superhero who could only yell Netch koma, netch koma appeared on the scene of a secret late-night backroom conference between high level bureaucrats, far -right party insiders, board members of certain failing industries and utilities and shadowy talent agency executives. The two heroes proceeded to subdue a phalanx of bodyguards and then mysteriously vanished, spiriting away with them the aforementioned conspirators. . . . . .

Within the hour reports emerged of a disturbance hundreds of miles away at the famous Monkey Hot Spring, where it it is reported that more than a dozen drunk angry nekkid old men suddenly appeared out of thin air above the monkey pool and dropped, in a tangle of pasty flesh, into the warm waters below. The commotion then brought to the pool the senior matriarchs of the hot spring monkey band, who jumped into the pool and proceeded to groom and stroke the angry, confused old guys. Within 15 minutes, all were weeping profusely and apologising to the monkeys and annoyed park staff, pledging that they would stop acting “Baka”, make public atonememts, and devote themselves to trying to help all the people of Japan get through this difficult time.

Press conference scheduled for 10am.

Of course the Murphy’s Law Asshat Policy Generator Engine is not limited to use in Japan; I cannot watch American news lately. It is too depressing.

One word: Newt.

Like I said, Not going there…. Back to desire in manga:

I came across the spoiler (warning!) last episode of the rather sweet not-qite-Yuri series Sasameki Koto (Ikeda Tasheki). and was touched by the scene where the (finally) happy pair get to ring the bell at brother’s wedding. I gather the bell ringing is some syncretistic catch-the-bouquet thing at Japanese weddings (or a good proposal for one) and remembered something similar in my past, when two friends had a wonderful back-yard marriage ceremony and then expressed the hope that the much-loved-by-all gal couple in attendance could also soon tie the knot (if they so chose). Well, since I live in Canada, this all worked out well soon enough. Hooray for sentimentality!

Enthusiastic western fans, both guys and gals have been gushing about Koto for years, and have noted that while it dragged on forever and remained extremely chaste, its heart was in the right place. True love conquers all. No one expected Koto to end up as a loser-fan-boy pandering tangle of two-good-15-better 2D nubiles groping each other, which is always a danger in a genre which presents wimmen’s “love” for a male audience. (That’s what donjishi and the works of Ken Kurogane are for).

Monogamy in narratives of desire is one of the odd variables within the Yuri and Yaoi genres. As others have noted, the classic Yaoi story line – especially the hard-core smut variety – is not only informed by a formal seme/uke characterisation, but also by an  exclusive, obsessive, monogamous desire that drives to seme to transgressively pursue and take the uke. Questions of gender identity and sexual preference are subsumed under the older idea of love/desire as a madness for “the one” that impels a catastrophic break with rules (as well as much odd speculation on aspects of male arousal).

Issues of sexual identity, class, power, ethics and plot all fall before cupid’s arrows.

Yaoi posits that monogamistic obsession (and a lot of 2D boy skin doing rough things) is very appealing to the fujoshis and (what the heck) a wider female readership.

Monogamy in sexual fantasy = gal thing Duh!

In contrast, classic exploitative Yuri work either features nasty gals doing lots of nasty things to/with lots other nasty gals for (one assumes) boy readers to fap to, or nice girls doing lots of nice things with lots of other nice girls for boy readers to etc. If you drop one or two boys into it, they recall late R.H.Heinlein (gahhhhhhhhhh! Oh shame! Oh mortifying embarrassment!) tales – No wait! Lets leave the hero’s mom out of it!.

Polygamy in sexual fantasy = guy thing Duh!

Higgamous hogamous Yaoi is monogamous!
Hoggamous higgamous, Yuri polygamous! 

What is absent in both genres is any idea of individual development while attempting to hold fast to prescribed societal models of growing up, falling in love, getting married and holding down a job. Does that make the (very odd – I thought it was only a heavy-handed sex-education manual manga) Futari Ecchi manga the most transgressive manga of them all?

blah blah blah blah blah!

want moar hot statistics

? ? ? ?

(snort!)

One or several Lupins

“”Franny is listening to a program on wolves. I say to her, Would you like to be a wolf? She answers haughtily, How stupid, you can’t be one wolf, you’re always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, with five or six others. In becoming-wolf, the important thing is the position of the mass, and above all the position of the subject itself in relation to the pack or wolf-multiplicity: how the subject joins or does not join the pack, how far away it stays, how it does or does not hold to the multiplicity.””
1914: One or Several Wolves? A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thousand_Plateaus)
have fun at http://notabenoid.com/book/9056/27642/

On narratives of escape, identity and re-definition, the other, the self and the group:

I feel for the poor Otaku, especially the middle-aged ones who grew up with the Lupin III franchise, and who tuned in to watch the 30th anniversary special GREEN VS RED (2008). Instead of another lighthearted master-thief and buddies pull off an amazing caper and right a few wrongs on the way, we get a meditation on middle-aged male ennui, decline, ageing, all mirrored against a backdrop of bleak societal cynicism and murderous corruption. Yikes! Bummer! But wait! Mr. mid-life crisis Otaku is gonna get a little fable about escapism, disenchantment and accommodation with the real world.
(OH Heck, it’s OZ time again!)

The “plot” is simple yet confusing:

The “original” Lupin III is nowhere to be found, perhaps he is dead, retired, or perhaps he never was. In his place are scores of peter pan types who have cast off their everyday lives and complaints and have become Lupin. There is no longer an original, yet many still NEED a “real” Lupin to give their lives meaning. And so there are Lupins all over the place, scheming, plotting heists, fighting each other, running from the cops and Zenigata, thwarting evil capitalist plans, siding with the bad guys, hiding from their girlfriends, trying to charm Fujiko Mine, and getting busted for shoplifting from a Kombini. SHOPLIFTING!

I blame Baudrillard! Of course, if there is more than ONE Lupin, there has to be many! An excess of Lupins, a horde, a swarm, a profusion to make the point. If there were only two, one would be a fake, the other real.

All of the Lupins remain masters of arcane tech, and disguise (except shoplifter Lupin).. Kinda like 2chan Otakus (neojapon article) (Part of me hopes that Azuma doesn’t play with this one in a later essay, but I can’t see how he could resist)

There is a mcGuffin, a diamond that is not a diamond, but an abomination, a couple of villains that are chillingly evil (one who cores his son for a new body) and there are plenty of odd Highlander-esque showdowns to determine who is or will be the REAL Lupin. Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa, and Fujiko Mine cynically hang with one or another of the Lupins not out of “friendship” but according to how much “fun” they derive at the moment. In the end true Lupin-hood remains elusive – or omnipresent – available to all who need to escape from real life’s complaints.

Of note to those of us with a hunger for such things are the odd moments when a posse of Lupins break the Shoplifter Lupin out of police headquarters (or are they too late?) and then argue in a hideout over proper Lupin behavior. The cops bust the joint, but one of the more “real Lupins” and the shoplifter are on bathroom break and escape. In pairs they fight over who is real – in a group they see no contradictions in their multiplicity and only argue about what is canon Lupin behaviour!!!!

In the end, “our” Lupin makes a tentative peace with his real-world life. Others slip off to live the dream a while longer. The cops haul away the bad guys, and none of them get the girl until they GROW UP!

As one blogger commented: (engage cpt Obvious persona) “Lupin has been an idea. What the people watching have always wanted to be at one point. Even if its to a small extent. Funny, Charming, “Cool and Smart.” Able to be free. Lupin has no binded (sic) to anything. He has no family, only acquaintances. He is free to do whatever he wants. Come on who here never once gave a thought to what it would be like to actually be Lupin III? If Lupin III could actually exist in this world?”

Trickster figures have a habit of disappearing and popping up when needed. I note the newest incarnation, ANONYMOUS and their cyber-fun with “the system” (which is often little more than cyber-doorbell ringing and leaving a flaming paper bag full of dog poop on the doorstep) is open to both sexes. It is fun to watch the man yell cyber-terrorism and count up inflated hypothetical losses – just in case the chance to boost their operating budgets or sue some basement dweller presents itself later.

Occasionally Anonymous saves the day, such as when they busted a certain nasty little American security consulting firm that was using custom software and contractees to manufacture multiple fake personas for neo conservative customers – in an attempt to influence political discussion in the US “blogosphere”. (Sock-puppettry: wholesale rather than retail impersonation was their crime – each agent could multitask control 16 or more fake blog respondents – go dig it up on BoingBoing) Epic Battle of the simulations! The masked wonders vs the puppet masters!

We have all been reading too many comics!

More D&G:

“”Who is Freud trying to fool? The wolves never had a chance to get away and save their pack: it was already decided from the very beginning that animals could serve only to represent coitus between parents, or, conversely, be represented by coitus between parents. Freud obviously knows nothing about the fascination exerted by wolves and the meaning of their silent call, the call to become-wolf. Wolves watch, intently watch, the dreaming child; it is so much more reassuring to tell oneself that the dream produced a reversal and that it is really the child who sees dogs or parents in the act of making love. Freud only knows the Oedipalized wolf or dog, the castrated-castrating daddy-wolf, the dog in the kennel, the analyst’s bow-wow.””

The analyst is forever trying to shoehorn an individual, atomized reading onto a group phenomena. The analyst never looks at the surplus exchanged within the pack, especially if the surplus is vaguely pornographic and violates a slew of copyright laws. The analyst never considers how the subject changes within the pack from self/ other to in/ out, how much, how close/ far, how often, and why.

One grand narrative, dead or dying? Many petit recits? Or the pack and the call to escape, to become something different, something more?

ASIDE: Finished with Azuma’s Otaku now.

A groundbreaking work, despite a few metaphors stretched to breaking limits, and the problematic focus of viewing the solitary Otaku through Lyotard-tinted goggles. More Lacan and more Zizek would have been fun, (Much later: them two are problematic as well!) as would have been more examination of the social and technological conditions on the ground that have helped foster Otaku culture. Azuma also softpedalled the curious fact that so much of the Otaku world is day and night, comics and pr0n and the slippage between the two is relentless. Dry discussions of human and animal desire/ consumption were probably needed so that the research could remain serious, but the choice to do so has consequences. Still I infer that the current jp. media canard about grazing herbivorous men owes a debt to this work.

Much later: You can visit Azuma’s “database”, in English – it is called TvTropes and it functions more as a shared vocabulary rather than a “certain magical index”. Also when I was first picking through this stuff, I had no idea how much Dr. Saito Tamaki’s works had stirred up the pot, so “Database Animals” needs to be seen in proper context. Part of that context involves “secondary production”, otherwise why would a vocabulary be so necessary?

In any case, there are some fine resources and blog essays on “Database”:

Azuma summarizes himself:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060819205959/http://www.hirokiazuma.com/en/texts/superflat_en1.html

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 1
http://superfani.com/2010/08/06/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-1/

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2
http://superfani.com/2010/08/16/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-2/

Otaku annotated: adventures in moe, porn, and postmodernism
http://superfani.com/2010/04/10/otaku-annotated/

Finally, while the powerful feedback loop between fans and creators is discussed, and the dojinshi, mash-up, game patches (not to mention scanlators, pirates, etc etc) are mentioned, none of the “goggles” are particularly convincing in describing the DRIVES that encourage this behavior, or how the technology – my little matter duplicator metaphor- makes the gift, symbolic exchange, potlatch, the devil’s share, and so on inevitable and fun and part of the community.

The entire beyond objectification – the symbolic exchange of women thing needed to be explored. Women??? What about Yaoi??? (Yeehaw! got my next post topic!)

You cannot analyse Otaku by the representation of Otaku in Otaku literature. For example, a question emerges: how many Otaku obsessively stick to expensive originals, and how many exchange illegal dupes? Do they reserve their disposable income for their “pet” series/ characters and dupe the rest, or dupe all and buy figurines (wait until 3d printers – makebots become affordable!) or what? Digital media is so effing easy to copy.

First-hand experience in Japan, with japanese implementations of Windows hardware point out that there is a lot less DIY among users, but yahoo auctions and a robust mail/ delivery company infrastructure ensures that even the most isolated otaku can get all the used gear they need. Genshiken mentions this in its story, but cautiously edits out the inevitable result, much like pubic hair. We can assume that the Otaku-verse is full of
savvy computer users and pirate dubs.

Final argument: pirate copies and scans take up less ROOM!

What else – the footnotes are useful.

Of course it is 10 years or more since Otaku came out, technology and technologically assisted communities have advanced considerably. I can sit at my kitchen table in southwestern Ontario and follow kotaku, neojaponism, and hellodamage, newsonjapan and a host of other fun blogs and sites. If really, really interested or in need of a radical encounter with the other, I can try my luck with Google translate. If I am interested in Otaku culture, I can indulge myself. I can kick back and read 5 volumes of Mechademia if I really want a fun time (Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh!).

OMG! Does this mean I have become a database animal? Turn off laptop NOW! Join a political party and a square dance club quick!

RANT:
In many ways, it is FAR EASIER for me to research out and blog this stuff than it is to read my local newspaper online, or watch local tv newscasts, which have gone digital /ATSC. Because everything in Southwestern Ontario is an afterthought to bosses and pols in Toronto, the local newspaper’s web site is junked up with ads and runs on a hideously slow server – we are talking minutes here with a lousy internet connection. (this blog post is taking at least an hour to run through formatting and spell-check! Grrr!) Meanwhile, the two local TV stations were not given a proper budget for their new digital transmitters and their crisp high-definition signals are now unavailable without big 1960’s style outdoor or attic antennas or $350/year cable subscriptions. Japan is now closer to me than my local newspaper.

Of course the American stations come in perfectly; as I type this, some new cop shop has the blond babe detective chasing down organleggers! How depressing the thought of all those middle american types now worried that bad guys are going to swipe their kidneys!!

Gahhhhhh! I am in despair! I blame Larry Niven!

Next time: Mousou Shoujo Otakukei AKA Fujoshi Rumi –
Beyond turnabout is fair play to objectification and the symbolic exchange of men: Comedy and power?

The work of Art in the age of matter duplication

Still on Azuma’s Otakus . . .

To better understand Baudrillard’s Simulations, one has to take a detour between Walter Benjamin and the vertigo of democratized narrative consumption and exchange. Believe it or not, we will have to deal with radar tubes, a rather odd little space opera and some canibals.

George O Smith helped develop military radar during WWII. After that he wrote rather typical american sci-fi for J.W.Campbell’s Astounding, the premiere organ of American scientific romance, a form of vernacular modernism.
(Heinlein once called Marxism science fiction – it is only polite to return the compliment.)
Arthur C Clarke is credited with inventing the idea of the communication satellite, but Smith went further, setting his stories on a power transfer space station/ satellite in equilateral orbit with Venus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Equilateral)

Most of these tales are ripping good J.W.Campbell mentored yarns, with no sociology or deeper message at all. Then something goes awry. The author digs up a long lost ancient piece of magical tech in the sands of Mars, and our heroes get a working matter duplicator. Hijinx and world economic collapse ensue. Suddenly everyone is ramming food, money, diamonds and the Mona Lisa through their magic thingy and nothing is worth anything any more, but everyone has too much stuff. Did I mention the plot for world domination by Dr. Evil and his two sidekicks “Wally” and “Benji”?

Naw… couldn’t have, no way… 1945. . . Lets just say the idea was in the air.

The point of Walter Benjamin’s original short essay was essentially:

“WHAT IS TAKING YOU SO LONG ?”

Everything else is mass produced and reproduced. Why the archaic fetish surrounding the original wotk of art? Benjamin was a modernist and a marxian. He liked narratives of development and progress. I’ve read Bejamin’s Origins of German tragic Drama – whew.. what a slog! Quick recap: Cervantes and Shakespear make like John the baptist and announce the coming of the modern realistic character in fiction, thus prefiguring the modern individual bourgeois identity. Charles Taylor and Jean Baudrillard could have had a fine night’s drinking over this and never come to blows. The signifier always floats free, a wealthy bourgeois society with nifty tech just speeds the plow. Whats next? A
post-modern treatise on the lack of originality in pop music?

Aside:
Did you know that Shakespear had a late play – now lost but noted by contemporaries – that featured a cameo by Don Quixote? And that Milton’s description of Paradise was lifted chapter and verse from Montaigne’s description of the idillic state of nature supposedly enjoyed by the aboriginal (non-pants-wearing) population of the east coast of America before the Virginia colonists messed things up? Dig out your copy of “The Canibals” and then read Milton, and maybe even Kojève. Why do I mention this?

The whole becoming animal thing trotted out in Azuma is a cultural artifact born out of vernacular euroethnic christianity facing the other in the guise of mythical new world savage; Garden of Eden, noble savage, Arial or Caliban; all so many recycled goth – loli character tropes in maid outfits and cat-ears. Eden meant a whole different thing to Euro-peasants before 1492.

PS.. If a certain Wrong-headed prof at the University of South Western Ontario – who trashed my research on this, later pinched this little find, all I can say is phtttttttttt! Said clown exclaimed to a class full of impressionable undergraduates that Montaigne was a racist. Irony? Sarcasm? the drye mocke? Duh!

On the subject of petty tyranies, there is another explanation for strategies of cynical reading mentioned by Azuma; one that Zizek grew up with. Opression is still a reality in human existence. The great fallen marxist project is often taken as a dead grand narrative, but the story behind it, and the story behind western capitalist democracies –
That we are more than self-reproducing farm equipment!
– remains a work in progress. Free individuals have the right to their respective dreams, and that right extends to playing mix-n-match with them, individually, or as part of a community of play. And if the State, power, wealth and capital seek to stifle your life, play can be a vehicle for all manner of subversions.

Again: “WHAT IS TAKING YOU SO LONG ?”

Research notes: About Montaigne’s Canibals and Milton – the passage about Eden pops up in Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, but the link is never mentioned.
At the time, I assumed this is a well-know minor “easter egg” in classical studies, but perhaps not.
Also, I don’t know enough early Japanese literature to venture a definite statement on this, but I feel that as in europe, times of peace and economic surplus invariably lead to satyrical, mix-n-match, fantastic works that poke fun at power. Anyone out there an expert in Tokugawa vs Edo period shunga? Was it all naughty bits, or were there political/ class subversions in the texts?

Still with Azuma . . .

Next up… one or several Lupins…

Assimilating Our Culture, That’s What They’re Doing!

I am still reading Azuma’s Otaku and I think it is time for a sharp corrective, or at least a counter-view: If we dispense with the grand narrative vs. petit recits cant, and the legends of the fall of post-war Japan and take the view that appropriation and misreading are central to the consumption and exchange of texts in modernism, then we can see otaku culture in a less damming light.

We can also make sense of the way “Japanese visual culture” romps through euroethnic cultural and religious mythologies with such spirited abandon, and steals anything not nailed down.

Shrine Maidens with witches brooms? WTF not! Why not throw in a few mini-skirted nuns locked in battle with vampires, while Jesus and Buddha try to find a decent veggie pizza in Tokyo ???? This kind of fun has been going on since Lucian and Rabelais – and the gatekeepers hated them too! (Ya didn’t think the Villon quote was all HST did you.. I’ve read Villon, and Pantagruel, and Lucian’s philosopher slave market, and…)

Adrian Piper’s
“The Logic of Modernism,” Flash Art January-February, 1993

Continue reading

I who have sat by Thebes below the wall and walked among the lowest of the dead

Per recommendation, I am reading

Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals by Hiroki Azuma (2001). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroki_Azuma

It is interesting to see where he is going; so far so good – he uses Jean Baudrillard’s simulacra usefully, and avoids many of the dry, pro-forma references to post-modernity that plague much contemporary critical theory. A bit too much “end of history” so far though – a product of the times I guess. As well, I prefer high (or low) late modernism to the idiot simplification “postmodernism” – grand narratives were never that important, or rather the Yuri rule kicks in: one good, two better, oh why not 3, 4, 5. . . Guess I like Baudrillard, think Lyotard is over-rated and enjoy a bit of D&G when I want to be pleasantly confused.

A side note on Baudrillard: I find resonance in the use of Jimbo to theorise on otaku culture. Read lots of Baudrillard – including his art magazine interviews and articles and older work, and you will recognise that he harbored a barely concealed taste for American social sci-fi of the 1960’s’ If you don’t believe me, ask Terry Eagleton. Baudrillard dropped P.K.Dick footnotes into his serious stuff long before the practice became fashionable!

Jimbo was a fan – and he is now used to explain otakudom.. this is touchingly sweet!

Nice that his work continues to redeem the Frankfurt school of its profound distrust of mass culture.

Further digression: Characteristic of many such fans is that the prior reading of secondary and/or tertiary sources inform the eventual reading of the primary source. Nothing wrong with that, but anyone who has been there will recognise small quirks, like his use of Levi-Straus.

OMT: Baudrillard’s work is at it’s best poetic, narrative, tangential and oblique.
That is why it survives – he also had good translators.
Sometimes they left the original alone – what can beat “le crystal se venge”

Back to Azuma:
The “animal” / “database” part of Azuma’s argument is interesting, but I am suspicious of overused metaphor – unless poetics is involved. A “Biking Restaurant” (Jp: Viking, smorgasborg, buffet) does not signal the end of the Big Mac, and a disenchantment with a grand narrative does not signal a disenchantment WITH narrative. It is easy to confuse and opening of possibilities, brought on by affluence with a decline of tradition and social cohesion. Grand narratives were fundamentally products born out of scarcity – most predated functional sewers and water filtration systems in European cities. “Heh! Dont shit in your drinking water!” , improved nutrition and decreases in infant mortality are pretty damn good narratives in themselves. Looks like “if it bleeds, it leads” works just as well in critical theory as it does in tabloid journalism. . .

Despite my arguments with parts of his thesis, his one looks like a keeper! Good Stuff!

(later: More than good stuff, it seems to be one of the pillar works in Otaku studies – with the countervailing arguments going to Gainax’s Okada Toshio and his various writings.
Mechademia 5 seems to have a pile of stuff on this, so I will have to plough through it)

Found some good blog articles: http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

A quick ‘n nasty guide to the mechanics of the Yaoi sex scene:
http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/fandom/that-japanese-bl-sex-scene-page/  now archived at:  http://web.archive.org/web/20081222062255/http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/the-western-bl-sex-scene/

Must get the working notes on Fujoshi(s) Yaoi, Yuri (compare, contrast) and “cultures of enthusiasm” into some coherent shape. There is also a lot of fun to be had with Barbie, G.I.Joe (be all that you can be! – the terror of mass narcissism as an economic engine), The Shipping News (Hi Annie – what are you doing to those cowboys?) and the odd role of social class in Yaoi and Yuri (scarier than nasty sex, don’t look!)

Best way I can figure to start so far is to ask: Is Fujoshi desire some new form of Queer?”