For those who would yet sing

Wherein I engage in another long digressive trip down memory lane while attempting to answer a question.

“In every age, God sends a millennial angel to deliver his message to mankind. But the space between heaven and earth is a terrible void; in passing through it the angel is buffeted about by such forces that it loses its message, its memory, its purpose and finally its shape, until it is vomited forth across the night sky without form or substance knowing only a terrible hunger.” – Slavoj Zizek

Forget Baudrillard

,
WARNING! Incredibly meandering mess continues beyond the cutline!

You have been warned! Personal digressions, hobby horses and too many vocaloid videos ensue!. Hic sunt dracones!

UPDATE: Oh Snap! The full “live concert” video has been pulled. Below is a partial “live” version that was part of the “evolution” of the exploit.


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Why Hato: build up logically

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

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

Didn’t I start here?

Insanely long fan-out continues below the cutline, you have been warned…
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Warning! Warning! Category field breach!

As I read way too much manga online, I try to adopt M.J.Johnson’s earlier quoted dictum…

“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.”

…In a wider context, that is to say that if […] doesn’t work for me; Ok, but to condemn […] out of hand is to condemn all desires, including my own. The trick is to do so while still drawing a line, because some desires are just plain nasty, harmful, and criminally irresponsible, even within the realms of “fantasy is fantasy”.

As well, there is the ‘my boat” effect: This is the stuff I read and think about for enjoyment during my free time, and I know what I like. I think I know what I do not like. Of course I don’t know all of what I like, so I shouldn’t dismiss entire genres completely out of hand, on the other hand

Whatever!

That said, IMHO, pour moi, [add a few more caveats here] …

…historical themes, fantasy realms, anything involving “virtual reality” or “I fell into a game”, including virtual girlfriends, %99.98 of all sports manga, tales of horror, guro/grotesque, cat girls, alien girl dropped on surprised boy, teacher crush and incest angst potboilers, delinquent high school/ or yakuza grinders, death- fights- on- islands, lets start a band/ be an idol/ become the world’s greatest chef epics and anything with small magic ponies are about as avoidsome for me as yaoi/bl (except that the rotten girls who produce the last are my fave pure radioactive sociology candy).

And then there is the little matter of vampires…

Short form of hate-on: “Protector” by Larry Niven.

I encourage those of you who have met Niven’s creation to now pause and think of them as a thought experiment: something that works like a vampire but is diametrically opposite to the vampire character. Those who haven’t yet, go get some.

They would be as gods except for their innate compulsion to always think things through to logical extremes and immediately carry out a scorched earth conclusion – and that they must protect their blood-kin at all costs.

Nowhere does Niven claim to have created “protectors” as an antidote to the maddening mush that is high church canon for vampiric tales, especially post-Rice bodice (and suit-coat) ripper, slash- influenced teen fan-fic derived potboilers. (whew!)

So, you live forever, heal fast, have amazing strength, and that allows you to act like a spoiled rich spiteful teenager forever, Uhuh? I await the giant meteor impact on the next page. Most vampiric characters are small malicious boring fools. I am not the first to note this; there are 20+ sub-variants of this effect on the TV tropes site, but again, I judge it hardly worth the powder to blow the genre to ifny. Does not work for me. You may find small malicious boring fool characters quite amusing and endearing.

A few writers have worked this problem to comedic effect. Jody Scott’s Sterling O’Blivion is a wonderful, funny creation. Who can forget their first guilt- laden- catholic- time- travelling- lesbian- dance- instructor vampire novel? Especially if she falls head over heels for an alien manatee who insists on shapeshifting into the semblance of Virginia Wolf to attract our plucky heroine’s attentions? It was gushed over by old-school euroethnic middle-aged male sci-fi writers when it first appeared (which was so odd that stick-in-the-mud boy decided that he had to read it, oh so, so long ago – maybe it is her fault that I developed a taste for yuri?), and has gone on to become a minor cult classic. Sadness: footnoting this just led me to news of Ms. Scott’s passing in 2006. In lieu of an elegy, see her web page archived here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20071020180558/http://jodyscott.org/

Vampires are of course as popular as french pastry in manga-land. Most are as stupid and obnoxious as the western product. The “Blood, the last Vampire” anime short was a groundbreaker, (the vampire as ur-BFG) but sequels degenerated into post-Rice mush. The live-action movie sucked. There is a bishie BL prequel to v2 out in manga format. Blergghh! OOOps Doesn’t work for me…

Negima‘s goth-loli vampire was a slightly better creation, at least by the time she popped up to time-travel-ex-machina at the end of the epic. Her initial character grew considerably, aided by her reclusive, anti-social outlook played against the sad, defiant crush that drove her to support the boy magician – the son of her barely requited love. Still, she could have used her considerable knowledge, power, longevity and cynicism to become a capitalist dynast or even make some school friends years earlier, rather than hide in a bottle. How can one live so long without picking up even a shred of (dare I say it ) humanity?

Which leads to the very popular, initially engaging, extremely densely written and ultimately unsatisfying world of “Dance in the Vampire Bund“.

I should have known better. This is one of the drawbacks of hunting for something new. You think you have found an interesting exception to the category and then lots of somethings go wrong. Most of the time it is “workmanship”: the story falls apart, goes nowhere, reverts to all those tropes of the genre that I already know do not work for me.

And then you get the really ambitious ones that turn into a monumental train wreck, or worse a monumental train wreck made up of all the annoying bits of multiple avoided genres…

All while you realise that your train wreck is a tasty smorgasborg for the series’ fans.

from the wiki:

“The story revolves around Mina Tepeş, princess-ruler of all vampires, and her protector — Akira. Like other vampires, Mina has been in hiding with her people for many years. Seeking to end centuries of isolation, Mina gains permission to create a special district for vampires, “The Bund,” off the coast of Japan by paying off the entire national debt of the Japanese government. Mina then reveals to the world the existence of vampires and her desire for both races to live together. Tensions, however, run high as fearful humans and extremist vampire factions begin to interfere with Mina’s wish for peace with the human world.”

The main problem with Bund is that it tries to be all vampire stories, and a whole bunch of other genres, all at once, to everyone. So at any moment we are getting “Japanese society falling apart due to panic and suspicion” (The Martians Have Landed on Maple Street), The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, a high school power struggle tale, suicide bomber terrorist threats, nanotech infection epidemics, geopolitical machinations by corrupt politicians, court chivalry romance, goth loli fanservice (Mina-hime is way too young, and her outfits way too skimpy – certain parts of the localised US anime had to be censored) werewolf bonding/ betrayal grinder and rotten girl fanservice vehicle with a furry yaoi rape scene.

It also has battling maids, Rasputin, elite commando strike teams, human and vampire riots, a South American drug-cartel running spoiled aristocrat vampire lord, a stripper with the heart of gold, a runaway nuclear reactor, black helicopters, a shotacon couple turned vampires, cute kids who save the day by navigating the hidden sewer tunnels under the city, and oh gawd, I lose track.

So far no done- as- an- Andrew- Lloyd- Webber- Musical episode. No Mecha or magical little ponies…

Yet.

Who again is this thing written for?

Moar wiki:

“The manga series is serialized in Media Factory’s seinen manga magazine Comic Flapper”

Even more wiki:

“Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 18–30 year old male audience, but the audience can be older with some manga aimed at businessmen well into their 40s. In Japanese, the word Seinen means “young man” or “young men” and is not suggestive of sexual matters. (The female equivalent to seinen manga is josei manga.) It has a wide variety of art styles and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant- garde to the mundane and to the pornographic. Because of the emphasis on storyline and character development instead of action, some seinen series are often confused with shōjo, or girls’ manga. [citation needed]”

Is this a separate genre from moe-blob fiction? Is this what turns Madarame’s crank? Is this closer to Saito Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl stuff? Or it is just pure lolicon?

A few points of interest:

The plotting frequently relies on the obedience that the vampiric bite-er can compel of the bite-ee, a hardwired behaviour that forms an absolute hierarchy of deference that culminates with the princess herself. I am guessing that this resonates with the sempai/kouhai and sensei/ student deference patterns in real-life Japanese society. That these patterns are breaking down only makes the mythologized version more resonant. (This is a Baudrillard conceit on my part, plz ignore if jarring, I just like doing it)

The “hidden hand” secret society behind %90 of the upheavals in the story has even used this effect to sow global confusion with a nanotech “virus” that overstimulates the obedience compulsion in vampires, causing them to commit self-destructive terrorist acts in the belief that their regional vampire leaders are ordering them to do so. (An allegory of religious extremism? How quaint!)

A Vampire “Bund” or (never mentioned) Dejima! What a way to deal with the immigrant question!

Gaijin ways and bad behaviours are contagious. A vaccine might not always be available.

The dance in the aristocratic court of the vampire princess“: These tropes begin to vex, but have enough of a resonance with the origins of the vampire mythos in euroethnic society to hold my attention. The origins of the Western vampire mythos owed a lot to taking the vestiges of a corrupt, venal, oppressive European aristocracy and essentializing them within a bogie. Nosferatu was always a post-french-revolution Sade-ian aristo, after the pure peasant girl and one step ahead of the Bastille day mob. Blood- sucking parasites all! Van Helsing was no Marx, but he might be a friend of Engels.

The court of the vampire loli princess is still an absolute monarchy, and has to be absolutely ruthless whenever the aristocratic ambience needs a boost. While necessary to the chivalry themes that are deployed surrounding the protagonist Akira, they also serve to set at least two strong friendship vs deference subplots in motion. There is also the entire succession/ marriage of the true-bloods sub-plot which sets the stage for much court intrigue and loli lust angst.

Oh, and we get to see the princess’s “true form” adult, voluptuous, armoured fighting girl (so not underage, therefore not really loli smut – she just “hides” as a half-nekkid prepubescent tyrant so she wont be married off to some regressive scumbag from the old vampire aristocracy.) Yeah, right…

With all her advanced medical resources and cynical realpolitik, the idea of keeping a dewer flask of liquid nitrogen, a turkey baster and some very sharp knives close at hand when her slimy true blooded suitors come calling somehow eludes her.

The concluding arc of the manga, with Mina and her doppelgänger plays the court chivalry and deference notes to extremes. I wonder if our heroine’s last trick will be to introduce a virus/ nanotech/ plot device that breaks the obedience compulsion in vampires and grants all of her subjects free will as she institutes a constitutional monarchy. So much for sequels.

As troubling as the too young and too skimpily clad vampire princess is the fujoshi fan-service that sneaks into the story line. I should have expected it when the schoolgirl friends, maids and the princess started to get interested in the fan-fiction written by the good-hearted (non-vampire) girl.

fujoshi time ditvb_33_27

Fujoshi wink-wink-nudge-nudge should have no place in a guy’s manga, but the author and the publisher know that rotten girls troll these magazines for pairing fodder. Here is iron-clad proof that at least one mangaka is ready to exploit this effect.

Not only did the ship-your-male-aquaintances trope pop up. Before you can say “childhood crush” we are introduced to a very effeminate, sometimes cross- dressing werewolf pack buddy of Akira, one who went through a traumatic rite-of-passage with him, and who has extreme ideas of how to demonstrate the strength of the bond forged during that time. Even princess Mina gets jealous until it dawns on her that wolf is a dude!

This would be no problem, even when the mangaka tossed in a gratuitous yaoi-rape scene wherein effeminate wolf sacrifices himself to calm down a berserk-mode werewolf, one of the four buddies damaged horribly during the survival test/ rite of passage.

This is what gets the rotten girls off?

It went a bit like this, only with more taut bishie thigh, ass, screaming and clawing..

furries Plushophiliac

Wasn’t it nice of me to spare you the details? Wow, I didn’t freak out in disgust. I might have a few years ago. Award myself 2 “adult maturity points” and keep reading. (lose one point for subbing in the furry pic – couldn’t resist)

But worse is to come: What really, really, really pissed me off was that a few chapters later it is revealed that gay- wolf- boy has been allied with the nameless conspiracy and is murderously sabotaging and killing off all manner of allies and friends because he is gay, and if only the princess can have Akira, then anyone else who looks up to him should die, die, die – including himself, preferably by Akira’s vengeful hand.

Uh Huh! The faggot did it, motivated by psychotic faggot-lust, with some faggotty death urge tossed in.

Ya can’t trust them… they just do that stuff.

Rotten girl tropes of motivation for extreme behaviour merge with mean-spirited old-school homophobia. Ok, the mangaka is a guy, so this is not a ‘true” fujoshi-made bl/y artifact, but it gave me the same angry sinking feeling that I got when I realised that every single goddamn P.D. James mystery could be solved early on by finding the “artsy” character. Find the hidden freak, they did it. Throw away the book, change the channel on the Beeb tellie version on PBS Mystery. They will murder again and again indiscriminately to cover their tracks, driven by artsy (often gay or lesbian) psycho-ness while the detective gets more and more depressed.

That, like Bund is just lazy writing that hides behind a nasty inflexible way of looking at people.

Even a middle age straight boy of euroethnic extraction can get riled up in a politically correct way if the alternative is stupid brain-dead fascist shyte.

Meanwhile in the real world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has decided that all that Western gay marriage stuff is seriously undermining the country (by doing what? letting a few people snuggle their way?). The Duma has now passed strict laws against anything that can be considered “gay propaganda”. I presume that means that a lot of scanlated fujoshi manga is going to have to vanish from rusky servers and a few of New Russia’s rotten girls will end up in the slammer along with Pussy Riot’s singer. Will yuri be exempt? Does Putin, like the book of Leviticus, Queen Victoria and Saito Tamaki believe that lesbianism is inconsequential?

Don’t try to smuggle any Anne Rice books into Moscow.

Moscow does not believe in yaoi.

Both the meta-fictional world and the real world betray similar urges towards the cynical uses of bigotry.

I might drop by “the Bund” again in half a year to see if my hunches on the plot-mess plays out. Even psycho gay-wolf boy, thought dead, has re-appeared: will he sacrifice himself to atone for his past sins, or will he murder and betray again? Maybe he will just find another pretty wolf-boy, settle down and declare that evil hidden conspiracy nanotech made him do it. Perhaps a few mecha will be dropped into the mess; so we can have werewolf special forces elite commandos (they carry SG1 issue P90’s) piloting mechas against Chinese vampire bio-engineered tentacle raping 50 foot high slime monsters. (though we already have had a tentacle rape creature in one fight scene…)

Followed by a giant meteor impact, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown, with Japan sinking and everyone having to cross-dress to survive, but only through the magical power of friendship.

Contrast Bund to a the remix of tried and true sword and sorcery tropes in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wikis/Maoyu) As mentioned, I avoid sword and sorcery stories, but the allegorical device of naming all the characters after their roles, plus the first battle scene in the court of the Demon Lord hooked me.

The Demon Lord is a voluptuous, bookish demon lady economist and historian. She looks great with or without reading glasses. She wants only peace and prosperity for both demons and humans. She plans to end the perpetual wars between humans and demons with applied agricultural science, potatoes, mercantilist economics, and the help of the hero (named Hero) who shows up to battle her and gets an economics lecture and a marriage proposal of sorts (Hero  is a bit dense about romance, he hasn’t quite figured out the whole deal yet – surprise: she’s sweet on him!).

It reminds me of all the 1970’s era “rise of civilization” mainframe computer games like Sumer, and of H.B.Piper’s Lord Kalvan (aka Gunpowder God). Maoyuu plays to its strengths as allegory of rationality vs the harsh realities behind the romanticism of sword and sorcery feudalism. It does one thing, and does it well.

Nozomu Tamaki I am wise to your tricks! Pull your socks up and finish off this manga off properly!

Oh wait.. non-vampirised human girl wakes up in the school infirmary! It was all a dream!

Rage.

Another category field breach:

I like the drawing style and cynical humour of the relationships in Rendou Kurosaki’s Houkago Play. I know that he (?) also writes ecchi stuff, both in yuri and yaoi -land. I generally try to avoid yaoi, –hey it’s just me- but I had to look up his oneshot “ON” because I had read everything else of his that was scanlated.

I do not know how to process it.

I had the benefit of the aggregator site’s “yaoi” warning; its original readers in a josei mag must have wondered at least for a few pages whether one of the couple was male or female. Soon enough all becomes clear, and depressed young gay kid is letting the slightly older “beatnik” character come in his face. I guess the depiction of gay secks isn’t too shocking. Then the couple cuddles while they struggle to express how they feel. Neither can express themselves well out loud.

dont kill yoself little gboy -ON Kurosaki Rendou p10 web

I was overcome with a real strong feeling of “hey young gay kid, don’t throw yourself off a bridge! It will get better, somehow…

Yeah, they are just fictions, but my sympathy buttons were pushed.

I award myself 2 more adult maturity points.

This doesn’t look like what bara is supposed to be, doesn’t have the ritualised pairing characteristics and ass-rape of canon yaoi, and lacks the happy ever after of yuri’s “story A“. And it is by a male mangaka. I am guessing it would be completely at home in some gay-positive western publication aimed at troubled teens, but Japan ain’t supposed to give a whit about real LGBTQ folks.

Whatizzit ???

Is this moe for a certain subset of the tribes of rotten girls or do most hate it?

One of my senior advisors at the editorial desk, Bill Occam is grumbling at me that if seinen magazine staff know that rotten girl readers check seinen magazines for bishie material, then josei magazine staff can expect that closeted young male Japanese gay guys probably troll through josei magazines looking for a yaoi/bl fix, and it does well for sales to toss a sympathetic affirmational cookie in their direction now and again.

At least genre innovation is alive and well in the pages of manga magazines. A correspondent reports that one of the big yuri series for LFB’s (popular with western wimmins too), one which I have avoided because the characters look too young –hey it’s just me– features clumsy sex fail comedy. I have often wondered why such an inescapable part of human intimacy is missing from manga-land.

Non-idealised funny/ sad mediocre bonking is the last frontier! Considering how much of it exists in the real world, it might be a revolutionary thing to advance social scripts on how to deal with it.

It made Dennis Arcand’s Declin a hit

So category field breach can go either way I guess.

Which leads me to an AWSOME THOUGHT EXPERIMENT!

How would Genshiken read/ look like if done by Aoi Hanna/ Wandering Son’s Takako Shimura?

… Pause for dramatic effect…

Hmmmmm…. Redrawers and typesetters needed.

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]

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

The Pillow Book Of Sei Shonagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I should control myself when posting comments on other blogs.

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

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

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

Yipe!

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

First; formalism in the genre:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look what happened to Mom! “(3)

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

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

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

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

ASIDE: “Who speaks my name in shadows?”

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

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

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

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

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

Duh? Dat so Captain Obvious? Your point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frinstance:

“Unmarked categories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Handmaiden’s Tale Batman!

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

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

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

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

Back to some heteronormative male fear-disgust reactions:

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

Kill it with fire!

At a safe distance…

Off to the re-education camps!!!

(Note the rising angst-flood of male hysteria)

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

Yeeee-Haw! It's Male Hysteria time!

Yeeee-Haw! It’s Male Hysteria time!

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

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

“Humor is an interrupted defense reflex…”

...nuff said...

Those nightmares sound familiar…

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

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

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

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

if you did, you would shatter with rage…

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

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

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

From MJJ again, on slash sex:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Laurie Anderson once asked

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese merchants and publishers like fujoshis!

MJJ again, from 2002:

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

Today they are a market segment.

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

Random endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?”