The way she acts and the color of her hair

“It works even if you don’t believe in it” –Niels Bohr

Wherein I get a bit wordy as I try to string along a whole bunch of concepts towards a coherent and easy to understand appreciation of the problemmatics of the yuri genre as opposed to the BL genre within the Genshiken ‘verse.

 

While we wait for the fan translation of Genshiken’s chapter 116, with its yuri teasing scenes, take a few moments to consider also the earlier Genshiken Nidiame anime extra #4, which laid the groundwork for a bump-up in the level of yuri teasing in the Genshiken. Sure there had been previous bits in the Genshiken, stray comments by Ohno and volume extra pages which poked fun at Sue’s hero worship of Ogiue, all while making sly shoutouts to Zetsubo Sensei’s Koji Kumeta – a friend of Kio Shimoku. (go to the wiki entry and wonder about the name of Kumeta’s ex-assistant; Combat Butler ???) The short Nidiame anime extra went a little further and at first seems somehow “off”; something whomped up by the animation studio as service, something that stretches the canon too far.

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One does not expect a group of fujoshi to suddenly start doing yuri self-shipping.

Chapter 116 of the genshiken supposedly has the yuri teasing harnessed to the goal of giving Kuchiki some fan-service so he doesn’t get all sulky about all the Mada harem goings-on. but there are no (presenting) males in the OVA Extra’s clubroom but some of us viewers. Why the improbable yuri?

After all, one of the usual conditions of BL narratives is the erasure of female characters; they either must be fujoshi cheerleaders or die-in-a-ditch evil women who will try to impede the inevitable m:m pairing. Massive amounts of theory and pop commentary on the genre offers the consensus that the women authors and readers do not want or need female presences within their fantasy spaces. Female characters would break the spell and ground to earth the electric charge of the male marionettes who are being danced towards their inevitable happy (and possibly sexed-up) ending. This rule is almost as powerful as the “its not as fun if they are real gay guys because real gay guys do that kind of stuff anyway” effect that produces the infamous “I‘m not gay, its only him” line that so infuriated (and still infuriates, though there are signs that the issue is sliding towards shoulder shrug territory) activists from the Japanese gay community. Then there are those fun self-deconstructing instances of violent non-consensual sexual assault that the sock puppets occasionally do to each other, but heh, they aren’t real and that’s the way guys act if they go haywire anyway. (1)

Still, a few questions are begged by these rare occurrences and by the glaring absence of lesbian/female same-sex desire anywhere within the Genshiken verse.

Or perhaps not so glaring. Normal Japanese fujoshi are supposed to be overwhelmingly straight women who enjoy BL tales of male:male intimacy as a “break” from reality, as a “healing” space, rather that a fantasy world to escape and stay in (as neckbearded basement dwelling NEET male otakus are supposedly wont to do with their loli materials). (2)

Contrary to early dismissive characterizations, Japanese fujoshi are not a bunch of asocial male otaku analogues (a la Kuragehime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Jellyfish); they are normal, above average achieving, well-socialised modern Japanese women who work, date guys, get married and buy consumer goods (including fan stuff – Japan respects purchasing power) and generally live productive normal lives. They just have this one little hobby that they don’t talk about too much, at least to outsiders. (3)

My ridiculous reason for thinking the absence important is the indisputable fact that a significant number of Japanese women who happen to like other women (and may or may not self-identify as ‘bians) also enjoy BL. Enough western female slash fen are gay and/or queer; some of the most articulate defenders of the genre have made no bones about this (see this blog’s bibliography section and past posts). I have reason to believe that while there was little pop culture discussion about fudanshi/ guys interested in BL in Japan in 2006-2008 when Kio Shimoku re-started the fearsome engines of the Genshiken, there was plenty of discussion about the fact that some Japanese could-be-‘bians had taken to BL because 1) extant yuri was either in short supply and/or vile male-gaze pr0n and 2) they appreciated the female exclusivist social that produced and consumed BL.

Hato should have been a young celibate ‘bian woman. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Grrrrrrrr! And that’s just sticking to BL. Yuri is a form of libidinized CJVC. Why does loli and otokonoko and BL rate a space in the Genshiken, but yuri does not? What poisoned yuri?

Meanwhile back to Hato, rather than Shinobu.

you-sure-you-not-cap-copy

Of course it had to be Hato. The minute Shinobu would walk through the door and casually let slip her identity, the entire Genshiken would fall into a gravity well of pr0nish hawt rezbian loser fan boy-isms. (there even is a vile hentai manga that has an all-female manga club that does nothing but sex each other down as nastily as possible: good hunting if you are so inclined – no I will not!) Fortunately, the crossdressing young guy trope was also making a bit of a breakout too. Voila: Hato.

This also adds a further structural reason for the absence of any ‘bians or even yuri in the fujoshi Genshiken: Kio Shimoku had enough on his plate trying to slip his weird creation into a female homosocial without having to juggle one more damn plotting concern. He needed something to disrupt it, but not too much. Too many balls in the air. Yet her absence remains glaring. Where is the yuri champion? She has to a be a “she”. It can’t be a Yuri Danshi. Kuchiki can’t handle it because he will destroy anything he touches. Even a male Bodhisattva would destroy any yuri he touched. It should have been Shinobu;

Please don’t bother trying to find her. She’s not there…
-Slavoj Zizek

The Nidiame extra #4 anime considered: (spoilers ensue)

In the clubroom, Rika Yoshitake complains that the current membership has shipped Madarame and all the other available males and that she is bored. Out of the blue, she proposes yuri pairings.snapshot20150930232932

Ogiue shoots down the first few that include her and Sue, her and Ohno and Ohno and Saki.

She used the SZS "I am in Despair" line

She used the SZS “I am in Despair” line

Just as you think that Ogiue is against any yuri in principle, she suggests Yajima and Yoshitake. Then Yajima and her highschool friend, than finally Yajima and Hato-chan. Yajima’s complaint is that in each case she is assigned a quasi-male role to the pairing.

snapshot20150930233303

The group then seems to give up on yuri and switches back to the stuco boys, however one of the stuco boys has an ever-present girlfriend. Ogiue admits that she never noticed the girlfriend, she was edited out by “the goggles”

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Discussion then moves towards Hato-kun’s wrestling experience in high school and finally the Hatoxbrother pairing that had been first mentioned by Kaminaga back at the school festival. There is some reluctance to take this further because Hato is present, but Hato-chan OKs it, even encourages it. They consider a historical story along the two brother theme for Mebeatame, with Ogiue worrying that 18+ content might bring down the wrath of the stuco on the club. Sue ventures that it won’t be an issue if they don’t get caught.

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Discussion then shifts to Ohno’s and unexpectedly Rika’s tastes for oyagi shipping and to some odd pairings of western politicians (4)

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With the club members in a shipping frenzy, Yajima declares that she cannot keep up with the “deviancy”

The episode ends.

I would pay arterial blood for a Shirobako season 3 about animating the Genshiken. Time and space would distort somewhere around episode 9.

Of course, years later in a parallel Shimoku-sensei universe, someone who looks like an older Hato who had a “boob job” is happily making dojins with someone who looks a bit like and older Merei Yajima and lo and behold, they aren’t just mangaka and assistant but lovers. So he was a virtual lesbian all this time, neh? Or is he just a pervy dude with a boob job? The OVA#4 was a setup. Duh! Duh? Some of the fandom are going to be unconvinced. No HatoMadaHato, no love.

SF 16p5 done in 5 minutes web600

The most obvious excuse for the lack of a ‘bian fujoshi in the Genshiken, within-story is that otherwise heteronormative fujoshi females would feel as uncomfortable about female same-sex intimacy, as stick-in-the-mud old straight guys feel about male same-sex intimacy. “Hey, I don’t swing that way, sorry it makes me a bit uncomfortable, it’s just me”, “No Homo“, to use the ugly, insulting vernacular disclaimer. It ain’t polite, it is a relic of far nastier times, I need to get over it, I’m working on it dammit, etc., but the effect is real, understandable and cannot be waived away with a smug denunciation. And it works on straight girls too; I would even argue that the flip-side might be more powerful in many cases. One could even extrapolate from the OVA that a group of women sitting around discussing fictional yuri pairings might feel a bit less comfortable given the chance that at any moment the conversation could slide over to them hurling ship at each other. Restricting the pairing to fantasy males establishes a social ceasefire as well as other forms of safety within the space.

Yet this discounts the historical fact that one of the major roots for the yuri genre, the 1920’s class-S female isolationist tales of spiritual female:female friendship (and perhaps more somewhere in the purple prose?) were extremely popular women’s literature throughout the 20th century in Japan. Japanese feminist speculative fiction, sociological sci-fi also had plenty of female isolationist/ female homosocial settings, usually whomped up to go at some aspect of structural sexism in Japanese society with hammer, tongs and ray guns.

Then genderfluid Shoujo tales and Bishonen tales came along, which morphed into more explicit BL stories and the Japanese female readership moved over en masse to shipping imaginary guys by around the year 2000. Anything that looked like female same-sex intimacy was left for loser fan boys who wanted hawt lesbo pr0n. The coincidence that the Adult Movie then Video industry also took off around this time and filled their B and C grade flicks with “lesbian” “schoolgirls” probably had some effect as well, (and a further effect will be addressed below) but the combination was enough that female interest in anything that looked like the old class-S stories evaporated. Even today, the yuri genre cannot pay the printing bills in Japan without the male readership, though there are indications that some straight women are reading the stuff again.

If we diaspora fans lived in Japan and could read and speak Japanese, the reasons for this would be glaringly obvious. But most of us don’t. And there has been a lack of deep English language research and historical material on the yuri genre in Japan. This is changing:

Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre by Verena Maser . 27.9.2013 Universität Trier
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

All I can say is that if this gets posted on a major yuri scanlation group’s discussion board as well as on Erica-sensei’s Okazu blog theory section http://www.yuricon.com/essays/ essay section (let’s just say that in terms of western yuri enthusiasts, the two camps don’t exactly see eye to eye) then it is worth a look.

Because it is a PhD thesis, and because such are usually made freely available to the public and not paywalled and because it it well researched and very readable, it may well become the go-to, on the web source for English language fans who need to know a bit more than what you can get at the wikipedia page for yuri.

I should be more emphatic:
I highly recommend that you download and read the work.
That link again:
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

You no interested in Yuri, only interested in BL Slash? You still read it. Skim the history bits, go to the editor interviews and fan survey sections. Much learning to happen. Nuff Said.

There are other short primers on yuri out there, but these lack a few things.

Original sin:

Any casual western fan who has been curious about yuri has probably heard of those 1920’s class-S stories of heartfelt female intimacy and friendship (no sex). You might have even heard of one of the more famous series; Hana Monogatari/ Flower Tales. Of course we didn’t read them. Here’s the executive summary that all the other academic-ish works neglected to emphasise; No Happy Endings. Ever! Complete and utter bummer, followed by complete and utter bummer, followed by another complete and utter bummer. One of the women/girls always moves away, gets married, dies, evaporates, loses touch, runs off and or does all or most of the preceding. Unless they both jump off a bridge. Enjoy your soulful school-girl friendships, they will be ruthlessly crushed beneath the boots of cold hard reality and the expectations of good Japanese female behavior. Oh, and you can’t ever visit your school chums, ever. No keeping in touch. All love must, like the flowers the tales are named for wither and fall. And then be ground into the mud…

The color of the sulla flower…

Bleh!

from the wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya

“One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( 花物語 “Flower Tales”, 1916–1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.[9][10]

Yaneura no nishojo ( 屋根裏の二處女 “Two Virgins in the Attic”, 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple.[11] This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya’s own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made (“To the Ends of the Earth”, 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

In 1925, Yoshiya began her own magazine, Kuroshoubi (Black Rose), which she discontinued after eight months.[9] After Black Rose, Yoshiya began presenting adult same-sex love as being akin to ‘sisterhood’ and complementary to heterosexuality, becoming more mainstream in her works.[12]”

Well at least in one story you get a woman-couple that is not destroyed by the mills of the gawdz. Whew! (5)

Apparently this effect is well known to western women who happen to like other women and who have bothered to hunt down what older members of their sisterhood had to put up with back in barbaric times. Non-traditional life choices didn’t get a lot of happy endings in popular narratives and long escape the grubby hands of the censors. (This is perhaps less well known to the hordes of LFB’s who have become yuri fans.) You needed that nice little “comic code” etc., crime & deviancy meet a bad end slipcover to be able to hang onto the furniture. As well, the effect seems especially pronounced in Japan, where tragic endings are traditionally equated with more serious and more emotionally poignant narratives. Mono no aware

As a friend once caustically remarked: “A perfect Japanese movie happy ending: everyone dies.

Crap! Even the nice indeterminate couple in Sailor Moon die, heroically. I heard they get resurrected/ reincarnated somehow but one should be able to do better 70 years after Flower Tales. But noooo… It always the girl couple dying, one reaching for the other’s hand as they expire. The girls get Pr0ned then fridged.

Add a famous 1930’s scandal of a lovers suicide between an ex-Taka “butch” woman and her “neko” paramour and the stage is set for a pathologization in Japanese popular culture narratives of female same-sex intimacy. Soulful class-S results in heartbreak, but is tolerable because it keeps the girlies out of the pool halls. Gender norm violating butch/femme behaviour is criminal and sick and will be hunted down and ruthlessly suppressed. (6)

“The feminization of men and the masculinization of women and the neutered gender that results is a modernistic tendency that makes it impossible for the individual, the society, or the nation to achieve great progress. Accordingly, since the manliness of man and the femininity of woman must forever be preserved, it is imperative that we not allow the rise of neutered people who defy nature’s grace.”
– General Ugaki Kazushige [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazushige_Ugaki], per Borovitz, The Discourse on “Love Between Men” in Interwar Japan: Iwata’s History of Homosexuality  http://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

It takes a bit of time before the genre can shake this off.

For me, only three questions arise out from the historical survey offered by the Maser work: the absence of a mention of the testimony of Dr. A. Mizoguchi (who nominally was writing about her experiences as a Japanese lesbian using early Bishonen/ proto-BL narratives as support and inspiration for her own awakening identity, but also included a chapter on her “state of the yuri” some 10-20 years earlier in her 2008 PhD thesis) and of a related allusion by Mizoguchi to an informal or otherwise suppression of lesbian narratives by Japanese publishers in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s. This one is a willothewisp, perhaps I got it wrong. (The third involves giant robots and will be dealt with later.)

The Maser work also has fascinating interviews with editors of magazines that handled yuri stories. These are remarkable in that most of the editors don’t seem to acknowledge any particular interest in the yuri genre. Genre is what the mangaka is interested in this week, editors just carry the bags and stoke the star-making machinery behind the popular stories. Content? Whatever, not my job. I find this hard to believe, but the methodology sure reads as sound.

Also of note is her research on the print runs, readership and economics of publishing yuri circa 2005-2012. This research also goes far in explaining one particularly obnoxious (It’s just me, your mileage may vary) manga, “Yuri Danshi” (whose genesis she spends some time on) and offers some insights into the effects that a largely heteronormative (but less so that originally imagined) readership that keeps the few yuri publications (that offer a bit more than raw “hawt rezbian pr0n”) in the black, has upon the genre.

To put it crudely; there aren’t enough lesbians in Japan (or women interested in female same-sex intimacy and desire who will buy the usual yuri fare) to support regular publication of anthology magazines that feature lesbian-ish stories.

Also of note is the highlighting of one particular manga series on the fandom and the genre; to bring it up in a scholarly work takes some degree of courage. Apparently the genre defying, extremely problematically pornographic signature work by Kurogane Ken, Shoujo Sect figures prominently in fan responses – even in some female fan responses. This of course warmed my abject LFB heart, because the dammed thing caused a minor Saito Tamaki style post-Lacanian “trauma” in me when I first stumbled upon it. I am as easily enticed by the promise of a bit of exploitative girl/girl fluff as the next guy, so I was unprepared for the level of single minded commitment to kicking a tired cliche up a few notches that Sect takes on. You have been warned. Just yuri smut, don’t read too deeply. Maybe it’s just me? The extant scanlations lose a bit of the obsessive background details that were present in the original (Anon/SS?) scanlation efforts (via 4chan’s /a and /u board participants) Maser notes that even fans who normally eschew pornographic yuri variants were and continue to be seduced by the artwork and the high melodramatic romanticism of the work. Oh, and it is pure raw lolicon yuri smut. It may well be criminally actionable in some jurisdictions. The anime adaptation is sewage and best avoided.(7)

Here’s one other kicker that the Maser and most other researchers have failed to note: While it appears on the surface to be merely an upgrading of a usual “hawt lesbian schoolgirl secks” story, its plotting, pacing, character development and story arc are unmistakeably something else. They appear to be lifted wholesale from the tropes and conventions of BL tales. Shoujo Sect is BL with girl bodies. Nice trick Kurogane-sensei. Also of note is that for the most part, extremely libidinous happy endings ensue for almost everyone; unless your lover was a supernatural entity or you are a jealous, manipulative rapist sempai. (8)

Its the same story the crow told me, it the only one he knows

Contrast to 40 Years of the Same Damn Story, Pt.1 by Erica Friedman.
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/

In a short essay, Erica friedman runs through the signature yuri works in the canon, with an emphasis on the infamous Story A (girl confesses to girl, happy ever after). Erica-sensei’s rundown of the top 40 includes a story that I found missing from the Maser list, which is understandable as it is totally ridiculous:

“In the mid-2000s, Kannazuki no Miko created a whole new wave of Yuri fans, with an action riff on the couple from Shiroi Heya no Futari. Instead of 70s melodrama and partying, we were given giant robots and apocalyptic prophecies.”

Well, that one remains freaking weird but some of the artwork from it would become a classic yuri “signature” visual trope.

-STAR--Kannazuki-no-Miko-Review-with-MOOT-e10982160

Want more? click-eeee!

 

One must also mention that the couple in Miko end up fighting each other to the death on the moon, or something, it is unclear. They get to be reincarnated together though, so they can be together in the next life: Blergh! Fridged again!

Friedman also expands on a feature mentioned by Maser, the faux-seraglio effect that the marketing department dreamed up to lure in more LFB’s

“At the same time Kannazuki was recreating “Story A,” another series that was playing with the same key elements fooled a whole generation into thinking it was telling an original story, by stealing from *every* Yuri story that had gone before it. Strawberry Panic! added a new twist to “Story A,” – a pretend glimpse past the gauze boudoir curtains of an all-girls, no-guys-allowed world. This concept quickly became a typical feature of Yuri “Story A”s aimed at men. (Presumably to heighten the sensation of forbidden love they enjoyed in Yuri.) This added thrill has retroactively invaded popular girl’s series, such as Maria-sama ga Miteru. The radio and live shows – the audience of which are mostly men – now begin with a warning that boys are not allowed. And many Yuri anthologies that target a male audience provide that same warning on the cover, just so the audience knows it’s getting a glimpse of some forbidden women’s mystery.

Where Strawberry Panic! really excelled was as an homage to “Story A” through the ages.

The manga riffed on series like Card Captor Sakura, Himitsu no Kaidan and Maria-sama ga Miteru, while the anime stole openly from Kannazuki no Miko, the above series and even Western stories such as The Graduate and Wuthering Heights. (Amusingly, it wasn’t even the first Yuri anime to borrow from Wuthering Heights. That honor would probably have to go to Cream Lemon: Escalation.)””

It should be noted that Maser follows on the research and analysis that Erica Friedman has long made available to Western yuri enthusiasts, even highlighting most of the iconic works within this earlier short essay.

However, being a rather dense LFB (reformed MK II variant, most of the time…) it is one thing to read

“Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya)

OR

“In the beginning, “Story A” rarely had a happy ending. This is not because of the same-sex love, very few romance manga in the 70’s had happy endings. The typical couple were doomed to never be together for one reason or another. In the case of “Yuri” couples, the options were mostly one partner died or left to get married”. (Ibid Friedman)

…and another to read Maser’s synopsis of 8 or 10 of the Flower Tales. The old boot in the face over and over and over again efect really gets the point across. There were how many of these colossal downers? 52 of em? Gehhhh!

Female same-sex intimacy aversion therapy. 

Given the sad history above, one would think that girl meets girl and they walk off into the sunset is an improvement. Well, they could do better:

“To simplify everything for the purposes of conversation here – I prefer to read stories about women in love with women. No first-crushes, no girls in school, actual women who are a priori interested in women. I’m long past coming out and I like my characters to be, too. This does exist, it’s just rarer than “Story A,” because, as I pointed out “Story A” doesn’t make any awkward political or social statements.”” ibid Friedman comments section.

I suspect Erica-sensei did not need Maser’s research to elaborate the details of why Story A with its schoolgirls finding the hints of the beginnings of happiness are a plague on the land. Friedman knows yuri. Yuri has been a life-work for Erica Friedman. Erica Friedman deserves a civil commendation from the Japanese Emperor for promoting Japanese cultural products. A smart University would give Erica Friedman an honorary doctorate. A classy and smart university would take her blog site as original scholarship, convene 3 greybeards, email her two questions as a thesis defence and award her a full doctorate. It would be worth more to them than to her.

Still, for the slower among us, and that means me, seeing Maser’s research answers a few questions and begs a few more. It might be time for me to spend a week designing a survey page, linking it up on survey monkey and making this blog do some honest work.

Following on the section about editors, the survey chapter leaves me convinced that the Japanese male yuri fandom are either the stupidest creatures in the world or masters of deception. I suspect the latter. Yeah, I’m sure there is a creep factor in these and some want innocent loli bait (untouched by male defilement, yet sexualized) but I am also convinced that the success of Aio Hanna, Sasameki Koto , and now the overt lesbian subjectivity of Takemiya Jin et al. means that what some of the fandom is craving is more authenticity, a real view of a different, more mature romantic desire that can be understood, enjoyed and perhaps adapted to their (our) own desires and dreams. (9)

First Maser defines her fandom:

“When I speak of “fans,” I rely on the following definition: fans are “persons who for longer periods have a passionate relationship with an … external, public, either personal, collective, objective or abstract fan object and who invest time and/or money into the emotional relationship to this object.” (Roose, Schäfer, and Schmidt-Lux 2010, 12) To this we can add that “fandom is characterized by two main activities: discrimination and productivity” (Fiske 1990, 147) as well as the observation that fans form a complex and multifaceted community (Jenkins 1992b, 277).
[…]
Investment, discrimination, productivity and community are not four discrete characteristics. “

Then where she found them:

“Japan’s largest online message board 2channeru has a specialized board for discussing the yuri genre called “Rezu/yuri moe ita,” described as being for men and women who want to discuss rezu and yuri (although the exact difference between these two terms remains unclear), but cautioning: “While we do not actually exclude lesbians [bian na kata], this is also not a board aimed at lesbians [rezubian].” Since the board belongs to an external 2channeru subsection for erotic/pornographic content, both rezu and yuri are here connected to pornography.”

“”Mixi is only in Japanese and remains tightly locked: those who do not have an account cannot access any of its content (not even by searching on Google). In order to sign up, potential users need a Japanese contract mobile phone to receive an authentication email. This essentially excludes Japanese without a contract mobile phone and foreigners. Therefore (and due to language barriers), Mixi has almost no foreign users. Nevertheless, most users do not sign up under their real name. At least officially, usage of the “Rezu/yuri moe ita” is thus forbidden for users under the age of
eighteen.””

The lack of emphasis on the Tamaki post-Lacanian view of fandom is interesting, but the more inclusive, more diffuse definition above serves well enough. I’m just fixated on Tamaki’s thing, with his heavy emphasis on libidinized interest, faults and all.

To the survey:

Valid responses 1353 out of 2848 (47.5%) most of the rest ditched as incomplete, some other small disqualifications (d=25)

“females accounted for 52.4% of the respondents, while males accounted for 46.1% :
“non-heterosexual” females accounted for 30.0% of respondents,
“heterosexual” females for 15.2%,
“non-heterosexual” males for 4.7%, “heterosexual” males
for 39.5%, and “other” for 1.2% (don’t know: 8.1%; n/a: 1.3%).
I deliberately put all labels for “sexual identities” in quotation marks since they do not necessarily reflect the “sexual identity” of any of my participants. It could very well be the case that yuri content is enjoyed by females who are less interested in the political aspects of their “sexual identity” (namely the LGBT movement) and see sexual activities as something they do (or could do), but which do not define them. As Welker (2010b) notes, what connects “lesbian” Japanese women is their deviation from social expectations rather than a shared identity. Furthermore, as discussed, I find supposedly fixed categories such as “homosexuality” highly problematic. My usage here is a matter of convenience as it permits me to analyze my data in a meaningful way. The blanket term “non-heterosexual” is intended as a neutral way of describing all kinds of (fluid) “sexual identities.” I agree that it is not a perfect choice (Weeks, Heaphy and Donovan 2001, vii), but it seems like the English language is still short of a better alternative.
[…]
Yet enjoying what others did and doing it yourself are two different things, as the results for the question about fan work production show:
13.9% of respondents had produced both parodies and originals, 16.9% only parodies, 8.5% only originals, and 60.7% had produced no fan works at all.
Here we see that the fans of the yuri genre exhibit various ways of engaging with their favorite text(s): far more respondents consumed fan works (81.2%) than produced them (39.3%). Only 17.2% of all respondents neither consumed nor produced yuri fan works, a result that attests to the importance of this aspect of fandom. Further analysis shows that while 49.3% of female respondents answered that they had produced some kind of yuri fan work, only 27% of male respondents said this (***p<.001), a finding consistent with prior research on Japanese fan works (e.g. Orbaugh 2010, 177)”

Asked about the need for explicit depictions of f:f sex in the works, a great many of the respondents professed to be either not that interested or even against the raunch.

Maser also asked about crossover interests between BL and Yuri:

“My survey covered this topic by asking participants whether they were interested in the boys’ love genre: 55.8% of respondents said they were interested, 34.2% said they were not, and 10.0% were not sure. This result supports the idea that the fandoms overlap. A further breakdown by “sexual identity” shows that it was mostly female and (to a lesser degree) “non-heterosexual” male respondents who liked both yuri and boys’ love: 75.3% of “non-heterosexual” females and 83.0% of “heterosexual” females, as well as 57.8% of “non-heterosexual” males answered this question with “Yes”—but only 27.2% of heterosexual” males did (***p<.001). This is probably not surprising given that the majority of boys’ love fans are female.”

Then there was related finding, one that is very, very Japanese:

“A further analysis of the responses to my survey indicates that iyashi was especially important for fans of specific texts. For example, 79.5% of those who gave the pornographic text Shōjo Sekuto as one of their favorite titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for 150 liking yuri manga (***p<.001, n = 132). In the case of those who preferred yuri anime, iyashi was especially important for the fans of the series Yuru yuri. 81.4% of those who gave Yuru yuri as one of their favorite yuri titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri anime (***p<.001, n = 113)”

Iyashi you say?

Iyashi is a catch all Japanese term for healing/ comforting/ soothing. The respondents would have us believe that a fine schoolgirl Story A (with or without a bit of skin) is at least as good as a visit to a cat cafe and a cup of chamomile tea while a mogy sits on your lap and purrs (liking cats stipulated). As I mentioned, yuri like Shoujou Sect is highly eroticised fiction. Perhaps finding characters with sexual agency who know what they like and find others to share the fun, without doing a two-year silent pining away while getting up the courage to mumble a confession and then run away blushing routine can be considered soothing. Likewise, the love conquers all-ness of the newer variants of the yuri genre is a great tonic for a battered soul. A final idea about soothing: Same ‘ole same ‘ole is in itself soothing. A well done rehash on a familiar theme is soothing. Even if “you cannot move forward”.
Moving forward is overrated.

Future surveys could include (a)Novelty (b)Ally of justice (c)Happy ending (d)Hope for a better world (e)Tourism (f)Postmodern consumption of an aesthetic (h)Comfortably familiar (i) A spectre is haunting Japanese queerdom (j)Masturbation aid (k)Sex manual and (l) perhaps a few others. Please select all that apply.

Some of the questionnaire comments were heartfelt:

“I think that in Japan, many yuri [texts] are about tragic love. Furthermore, there are also those created by males fantasizing about yuri. I always think that I would like to read yuri created by LGBT women [tōjisha16 josei].

In society, many negative things are murmured about homosexuality, for example “They can’t be saved,” “They can’t have children” or “Two females can’t live together.” Or the negation is said out loud. If that’s true, then I don’t understand why such works are valued”.[16 josei].”

Tōjisha, if we remember from a previous essay post is a favourite term in the political debates over gay rights in Japan. It means witness, someone with skin in the game, testimony from one involved.

And

“Someone who deviates from society is made into ‘a thing that can be enjoyed as fantasy.’ “

And

“”Extremely often Japan’s sexual minorities are consumed as “entertainment” in this way.
… There are only a few people I can trust. The reason is that I don’t want to be made into “entertainment.” I’m always wishing for a few very sincere and positive works about homosexuality. I’m constantly thinking that it would be good if the sentiment of homosexuality (not “lesbian” [rezu] as used in the world of porn) soaked into general [texts]. I cannot understand people who say “It’s a good work” about tragic stories. … Same-sex love is “love” [ren’ai] just like heterosexual love. … I wish that there were happy and sad stories in yuri just the way they exist about normal love. Homosexuality is absolutely not special. I want it to be much more equal, that we don’t color a completely normal thing to show that it’s “not normal.”

More goodies in the original, I could stretch this post out to the moon if I kept quoting the pithy stuff.

Back to the Genshiken clubroom. The rotten girls, plus Hato-as-chan are used to the idea of steering their male sock-puppets though steamy romance tales with plenty of hawt guy-on-guy action. Now even all us squeamish cis-male pale-skinned privileged old guys who grew up in barbaric times and as a result are a bit loathe to read a whole pile of raw steamy yaoi can understand the usual aspects of their genre. Just think Shoujou Sect with guys instead of girls and lots of lotion. That’s what the girls plus Hato read and aspire to draw. Sometimes they throttle back the naughty bits and situate the bonking off-stage or off-page. But yup, That’s pretty well it.

Given the freedom, safety and power this exercise affords, and given that their straight-girl hearts are easily as squeamish about looking at nekkid girls doing the nasty as I am about looking at nekkid guys etc., it is easy to understand the absence of yuri as a genre that is seriously considered within the Genshiken.

Except for those who have been tainted by furreign thinking.

Note that Ohno and to a lesser degree Sue are not particularly annoyed by bringing up the subject. Ohno has spent time in the States and has been corrupted by outlander ways. Also, as a cosplay guru, she is used to the idea of identity fluidity.(10)

Heroes fuck the way they want, the important thing is that they are heroes. Kanako Ohno’s hobby is becoming heroes. Sue is fully furreign and therefore inscrutable. Angela, when she appears is worse and carnivorous. Ogiue as a pro mangaka can stretch her mind and perhaps consider a fictional Yajimacci as male-ish enough to start the ball rolling, but Merei immediately becomes slash-kami MJ Johnson’s “Helmut” and declares that this is just normal female friendship.

snapshot20150930233207

And of course, on a meta level, the yuri teasing is just fodder for LFB’s. A bit of yuri frisson makes the dread machinations of the rotten girls a bit less scary to us guy readers. Once we are mollified, lo and behold, the club abandons the yuri goggles and goes back to shipping guys.

Expect nothing much more from the Genshiken in terms of yuri than occasional teasing, thrown as a sop to uncomfortable male readers when the BL goggles effect gets too strong.

Unless…

Let’s detour to the previously mentioned Sasemeke Koto/ Whispered Words. This one went on for a while during the 2005-2011 period when yuri began to shed its taste for dire endings. It was frequently compared to Sweet Blue Flowers, a more serious and considered work only because both lead female characters bore a superficial resemblance to each other. Of course the two stories were leagues apart: Koto is a rom-com and Flowers is a tale of disenchantment, personal growth and finding strength. Koto‘s Sumika struggles with her feelings and then the fear that she will be forever ignored by the girl she has decided that she cares deeply for. Flowers’ Fumi experiences one classic yuri relationship disaster after another and whatever does not kill her quietly makes her stronger. Fumi is a practicing lesbian who wears her heart on her sleeve. All the lousy crap that happened to her fictional antecedants happens to her, but she will not be broken. Sumika is a happy go lucky virgin tomboy with extreme martial arts powers trying to sort out her feelings and then work up enough courage to confess and get her first kiss.

What allows Sumika the space to consider same-sex desire, and then a fragile girl-crush on her childhood friend Ushio whom she has so long protected is only the presence of the lesbian beta couple [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BetaCouple] Tomoe Hachisuka and Miyako Taema. They are improbable. First they are a happy Lady Chatterly’s Lover trope, Miyako being the daughter of the family chauffeur. Tomoe is an 18yr old finance and business wizard who single-handedly saved the family business empire and has returned to finish high school as a last vacation in normal-ville before she goes back to runing Japan Inc(?) There are no invisible ninja bodyguards hanging around (cf Girl Saurus) but I am sure that all the students at the school know that anyone stupid enough to make rude comments in the direction of anyone who shows an interest in same-sex desire might not show up for classes the next day. Heck, they might just be vaporized where they stand by Low Orbital Ion Canon. Or their parents might end up on the dole. Still the hint that Sumika might be a “lesbian” and in a relationship is enough the threaten her run for the student council. Low Orbital Ion Canon can only do so much, but in the end Ushio, the girl that everyone knows crushes ineffectively on “cute girls” gets the position, so call it a win for the support team.

Tomoe meets a bit of reluctance from her fellow students setting up a lesbian isolationist club at school, but soon settles for a wimmen’s Karate club, as the effect is pretty much the same. Tomoe wants a girls’ club and she will get one. Tomoe also thinks that confessions are cute and must proceed according to a strict script, so it is up to Sumika and Ushio to figure out that they are meant for each other and nerve up to enjoy one long awaited kiss. Yes, all this was over one single solitary snog fer crissakes; just as the two are about to graduate. Oh heck!

Along the way there are plenty of impediments and distractions. Other folks crush on Sumika, one crossdressing bishonen, a girl classmate, a karate obsessed diminutive german transfer student (again female), a guy karate star, though this is more a ‘sweep her off he feet and inherit the family dojo‘ effect. There is also the threat that Ushio will have to move away to take care of her ailing grandma, though this gets resolved when her brother the yuri mangaka finds a woman who will up with him put. Strangely enough no one crushes on Ushio, who is the more conventionally pretty one. Her serial dramatic cute girl fascinations seem to have made her an object of comic relief. No one takes her seriously any more.

If one can get past Sumika’s super karate powers and the improbable rich girl/chauffeur’s daughter couple, the story is poignantly sweet. It turns on the idea of ‘cute’ as Ushio only pines for ‘cute girls’. It just takes her forever to figure out that cute is a very flexible concept that can also include ‘girl hero’. The hammers of the gawds do not smash their love to little bits. A happy ending ensues! The anime is not a complete mess, which is rare, though the manga is far superior.

Yet the power of the Tomoe/Miyako couple is the “shield” that protects and enables the entire exercise. As well as silencing bigots, it gives agency and legitimacy to female same-sex desire and makes it damn obvious than any social strictures against such are arbitrary and, with enough money, will and power, easily set aside. That they are a happily pair-bonded couple who fuck, sleep together and are for all intents and purposes married, normalises and legitimates normal human female lesbian sexuality and affection. Their importance cannot be under-rated. They are an improbable, even fantastic device but an essential one. (11)

In the theoretical literature surrounding the attraction that yuri and narratives of female same-sex intimacy have for male consumers, there is always a vague and somewhat politicised mumbling about an escape or respite from the demands of stereotypical male behaviour codes. This might be operative in some rare cases, but for the most part is smoke, intellectual laziness and misdirection. (12) The real, frightening problem is being alone. More and more people, male and female are learning that all the modern world offers them is a solitary life. If you can’t manage the earning power, social capital and the frame of mind to fit into what a proper nuclear family is advertised as being in your particular neck of the woods, enjoy your ‘roneryness. How to put up with, to live with another human being, when social codes no longer dictate who gets to do what and who has to silently defer is left as an exercise for the confused.

“…from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away…”
–L.Cohen, Democracy

You want me to do what? Fuck that! I’m outta here.

There aren’t a hell of a lot of good exemplary narratives out there of how to manage dealing with another human, even in the field of romance, let alone the grind of living with someone else year after year. Either in Hetlandia or Queerville. Sure they walk off hand in hand into the sunset, then what? The passive partner accommodates, the end. (13)

No wonder us guys are looking over the fence. No wonder the wimmens are driving guy BL sock-puppets all over the golf course greens to see what could happen. As a straight guy, how do I get along with a female human being, first in matters of the heart and then maybe playing house? For a long time? No idea. I thought I was just to strut around and act manly. No wonder so many guys are desperately reading yuri and not caring about the porn bits. If there are two wimmins and they get along, there must be some clue of what women are predisposed to put up with. Is this adaptable to my situation? Perhaps the fujoshi entertain similar questions about how to deal with a guy on a long-term basis? Oh shit, these are all just fantasy stories anyway,  they offer nothing but unrealistic longings and no one has the slightest idea of what they are going on about. Give up!

Maybe if real live lesbians and gay guys who are settled into long-term relationships start writing manga about their boring day-to-day domestic lives, we might get some new ideas…
Other than: The passive partner accommodates, the end

Perhaps the women who enjoy BL tales would then upgrade their cheesy stories and the silly yuri fluff that I occasionally sneak a peek at will offer me more than iyashi. Oh well, there is always Otaku no Musume-san if one of those blurry one-night stands has cosequences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaku_no_Musume-san

Perhaps somewhere out there, some two humans are living together, enjoying each other’s quiet company and deciding, day to day that life is pretty good and worth the effort to keep doing it that way. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps they have even arranged things so that one isn’t being damaged by the experience of living with the other.

We are open to suggestions here.

Anybody care to to add anything?

The silence is deafening.

All I hear is a bunch of social conservatives and more and more they sound like variant cruel and damaged sexual fetishists.

The passive partner accommodates, the end.

Social conservatives, religious or otherwise now all sound like perverts.

Who gives a rats ass that two X or Y might want to snog, compared to “you have to suffer all the rest of your life and behave like this or everything will get scary-scary-we-don’t-know but it will be bad.”

Let it.

Though the heavens fall.

Which points to a solution that I have long advocated for Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.

If the mangaka wants to address the glaring lack of any yuri fannning and/or fandom and/or ‘bian interest in BL narratives (which are real and significant though more limited in Japan than in western slash-spaces) within the Genshiken, Kio Shimoku must introduce a ‘bian couple as new members.

As theoretically interesting as the concept of a Yuri Danshi is, the execution makes for one heck’uva loathsome creep of a character: buddy boy is out. (14)

The ‘bians have to show up as a couple, otherwise yuri tropes run wild and turn the Genshiken into a yuri goggle fest LFB/fanservice pit. As well, female same-sex intimacy must be legitimized and demonstrated to be as normal as Ohno and Tanaka’s, Ogiue and Sass’ and Saki and Kou’s relationships. Only couples can have sex in Genshiken, Only individuals who are pair-bonded can have ever experienced sex. No non-virgin singles allowed in the Genshiken. This is why Keiko is a perpetual outlier. At least one of the two new members has to be interested in BL, because “while the characters are male, the hands that draw them and the hearts that put words in their mouths are female“. And the contradictions of BL as a woman’s genre that erases women can be played with for at least a few more years, while the contradictions of the yuri genre can be gently teased apart.

Unfortunately a realistic male:male couple would be too much to handle in the Genshiken: they freeze Hato and all shipping, in fact the entire exercise of BL fandom in its tracks. ‘Bians only for now, please. A confused gay-ish Hato is permissable, but if Madarame’s heart is ever won over the whole fantasy BL edifice will be imperilled. “No, we don’t do that. Sorry“. Fail.

Saki’s warning that the Genshiken critters have absolutely no experience whatsoever with real homosexual people needs more work. The members will squirm. Hato, both kun and chan will face a reflection of some of the fan controversies his indeterminacy has provoked. As well, the lack of any political or real-world consequences, interest or responsibility of the Genshiken members needs some gentle poking. Some of the more pointed questions asked by real-world theorists, such as the idea that perhaps otaku/fujoshi space provides a safe, ineffective hidy-hole for nascent minority sexual and gender expression in Japan, that might otherwise manifest in real life and demand justice, need to be thrashed out.

Or not…

The Genshiken can just roll along as it has done for a while now.

One should never underestimate the attraction of iyashi.

See also:

The Sexual and Textual Politics of Japanese Lesbian Comics
Reading Romantic and Erotic Yuri Narratives By Kazumi Nagaike
http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2010/Nagaike.html

Finding the Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga
by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington,
MA Thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

The Female Gaze in Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kathryn Hemmann PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania 2013
http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1920&context=edissertations

More about BL, some yuri, follow on the above:
Queering the media mix: The Female Gaze in Japanese Fan Comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community
by James Welker
http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

Lesbian Identity research in japan during the 1990’s
(or There are no lesbians in Japan, GET LOST Gaijin girl! The PhD thesis remains unpublished, available only in photocopy form at the University where it was lodged. I looked for it, So sad.)
Note that if they are significant numbers of Japanese women who like other women and enjoy yuri in Japan that it could be reasonable to assume that they are as similarly concerned with their privacy as Chalmer’s research subjects were.
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

2006-02-13-trouble_in_memphis detail

ENDNOTES:

(1) I am unconvinced. There is another term used in fandom: squick. Using fictional squick to negotiate with real-world squick and squick culture is… an interesting idea. Good luck with that. Watch your head.
Rape in yaoi
http://japaneselit.net/2011/05/13/rape-in-yaoi/

See also Nagaike, https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962

(2) Queering the media mix: The female gaze in Japanese fan comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

“Fujoshi and the power of female fans
[5.1] In Otaku joshi kenkyū: Fujoshi shisō taikei (A study of female otaku: Essays on fujoshi), journalist Sugiura Yumiko repeatedly assures her readers that fujoshi, the “rotten girls” who create and consume BL manga (note 36), are not poorly groomed antisocial misfits. “The majority of fujoshi,” Sugiura writes, “are adult women. They live in the real world, where things like ‘true love’ don’t exist. These women fall in love and get married in the real world, where society necessitates compromise. When they get tired, they take a break in a fantasy world, and then they go back to reality” (2006, 42). According to Sugiura, although fujoshi occasionally immerse themselves in fantasy, or delusion (mōsō), they are far from delusional (mōsōteki); for them, the world of BL is a break from reality (genjitsu), not the sort of separate reality (riariti) that attractive shōjo characters provide for male fans of the anime and manga media mix (see also Saitō 2006). Sugiura’s assessment of fujoshi is therefore largely positive (note 37). It is precisely because these women have a firm grasp on reality, she argues, that they are able to enjoy the fantasy of BL, which functions as a safe haven from the pressures of the real world.”

(3)” According to Sugiura’s interpretation, however, fujoshi are women who, while not completely passive, make no effort to actively engage with or change the media they consume. Even when Sugiura (2006) discusses the women who read newspapers on their way to work in order to gather more fodder for scenarios revolving around forbidden relationships between male political figures, she does not attempt to argue that they have any real interest in politics outside of BL fantasies. Sugiura even suggests that fujoshi have been largely ignored by the Japanese media because they are remarkably adept at hiding their fannish interests and because they don’t seem particularly unhappy or maladjusted. In other words, they do not challenge the status quo. As the subcultures associated with dōjinshi demonstrate, however, many fujoshi are not merely consumers; these women are quite active as producers as well. If fujoshi are unsatisfied with the phallocentrism and heteronormativity they see in the media mix, they create their own versions of official narratives in the form of dōjinshi fan comics, which may depict the homosexual escapades of male leads or go into more detail regarding the background and perspective of a female character who is shortchanged in favor of male characters in the original work. When female fans find themselves excluded from male-centered stories and discourse, they simply create their own.” —Ibid. Hemmann

See also Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend, Neojaponism
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

(4) Shipping real-life politicians is considered dangerous in Japan. Since the Edo era, nothing brings down the wrath of politicians more that pr0nish satire directed at them. Entire libraries of Shunga were obliterated when the publishers started to use their educational tomes to poke fun at power. Some still surfaces, See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

(5) If I knew how to write japanese and could manage a decent manga drawing or two (ooops, wrong art degree, we don’t all know how to do everything) I would start cranking out modern updates to Flower Tales in rude dojin form wherein really stupid things happen to keep the soulful innocents unhappily separated. heads explode, a lover turns into a cabbage, girl returns home and the village is swallowed up by a sinkhole, giant meteor impact, one of the pair gets kidnapped by the LDP and brainwashed into becoming a right-wing-nut female cabinet minister, just to finally exorcise via extreme ridiculousness the ghost of this tradition. The dialogue would just need to be random purple prose plus ellipses, lots of ellipses… Did… I … mention… …Elipses?

One minor insight can be gleaned from the relentless unhappy tone of the Hanamonogatari stories; (and Erica-sensei’s caveat that serious Japanese romance tales lean towards tragic endings; serious=tragic remains in force) the endless serial bummer parade goes a long way towards explaining why Anne of Green Gables is so popular among young women in Japan. Nobody gets destroyed/ killed/ fridged!

(6) Finding the  Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga  by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington, MA thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

“One important notion that emerged from the attempt to understand and analyze these female-female relationships contended that there were two kinds: one that was “normal” and “harmless” and “pure”—dōseiai—no more than a passionate friendship, between two feminine girls; and, on the other hand, one that was unacceptable, the ome, in which one of the girls had an “inverted” gender and displayed masculine tendencies, exerting a negative influence, it was believed, on the ypically younger, more feminine girl (Suzuki 24-5).
[…]
significant that otokoyaku were perceived as and referred to as chūsei, one of the terms for androgyny coined at the beginning of the twentieth century, meaning “neutral” or “in-between” .

(7) Spoilers ensue:
The girl boarders at the exclusive girls school are all very, very into romantic recreational sex with each other. Most prominent of these is the Player, Shinobu Handa. She has a harem of girl lovers and flies under the radar of the school authorities, who turn a blind eye to the boarding students’ quirks. The head of the student’s morals committee has nothing in principle against female same-sex desire; she even reads feminist Japanese social sci-fi (in the general tone of Joanna Russ-ish 1970’s scifi) but is extremely irritated by the Player’s irresponsible behaviour. When the Player flirts with her, she makes it clear that while she might be attracted to the Player, perhaps even more than the Player is attracted to her, any romance is out of the question as long as the Player continues to screw around.

Meanwhile side characters run around and couple for no particular reason and indulge in mild kinks amidst declarations of romantic love. One couple faces discrimination from straight day students and the silent one in the pair is unexpectedly revealed to be a supernatural presence that must evaporate if she voices her love. Meanwhile the Player has caught the eye of a jealous, possessive and manipulative “bad lesbian” upper-class-woman who can turn the self-assured Player into a simpering easily blackmailed victim. The Moral monogamist catches the bad actor sexually assaulting the Player, chases her down the hall and bludgeons her with a fire extinguisher. Scandal and expulsion ensue.

Some month later, the almost completely reformed Player tracks down her saviour, they exchange vows and consummate their romance. The vows are right out of The Song of the Wind and Trees and Thomas era Bishonen proto BL tales, though the newer English scanlations cut them down in length considerably and thereby lose the reference. A series of lighthearted comedic after-stories establish the happy couple in a lesbian isolationist social, but add one more junior member to the menage, because what the hell, this is yuri pr0n. Further omake have a shy new character repeatedly visiting a lesbian bar to try to come out and find true love among a clientele that seems to be mostly graduates of the old boarding school. However the new girl’s chances are repeatedly thwarted as old friends reconnect and an out of control drunken office lady keeps butting in and stealing all the fun. Eventually the OL and the new girl are set to collide and we can presume a happy ending ensues.

(8) A similar cross-genre appropriative strategy can be found in one of the signature works of the jousou/ otokonoko genre, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible. Here you have boys and cross-dressed boys in a classic boarding school isolationist space, in a genre that is a blatant effort to re-tread BL tales for a straight, mildly kinked male audience. What unfolds is yuri-ish with male bodies. Sneaky!

(9) From the respective Wikipedia entries:
Whispered Words (Japanese: ささめきこと Hepburn: Sasameki Koto?) is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takashi Ikeda May 26, 2007 and September 27, 2011.

Sumika Murasame (村雨 純夏 Murasame Sumika?)
The main character of the story, Sumika is intelligent, tall with long black hair and athletically gifted

Ushio Kazama (風間 汐 Kazama Ushio?)
Sumika’s best friend and classmate who lives alone with her brother, Ushio is a naive girl madly in love with cute girls. She often gets crushes but they are all one-sided.

Tomoe Hachisuka (蓮賀 朋絵 Hachisuka Tomoe?)
A classmate of Sumika and Ushio who is also a lesbian. She is in a relationship with another classmate, Miyako Taema. She is 18 years old, having taken two years off from school to save her family’s corporation from bankruptcy (a feat publicly attributed to her father). Due to this age difference, she has a more mature outlook on life than the other characters. The Hachisuka family is very wealthy and traditional, but they have no choice but to accept Tomoe’s habits.

Miyako Taema (当麻 みやこ Taema Miyako?)
Tomoe’s girlfriend. While she looks like an innocent and clumsy girl, and is popular with boys (who nickname her “Princess”), her true self is quite different, having a devilish, bad-mannered personality, and is always prone to bad-mouth or tease other people. Tomoe is the only one able to ‘control’ her; they are always together, and for this reason they had no friends before befriending Sumika and the others. Miyako is a daughter of Hachisuka family’s driver, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the rest of Tomoe’s household, but as with other things, they cannot go against her.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whispered_Words

Sweet Blue Flowers, known in Japan as Aoi Hana (青い花?, lit. Blue Flower), is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. It was serialized between November 2004 and July 2013

Fumi Manjōme (万城目 ふみ Manjōme Fumi?)
Fumi is a first-year student at Matsuoka Girl’s High School, and is a tall, shy girl prone to crying. Fumi comes back to the town she grew up in and she meets, without realizing it, her childhood friend Akira Okudaira. When they were much younger, Akira had been Fumi’s bodyguard, keeping her out of harm and consoling her when she cried. Fumi is a lesbian and had her first romantic relationship with her older female cousin Chizu Hanashiro, with whom she had sex [note: when she was 13 yikes!]. Soon after Fumi moves back to Kamakura, she finds out Chizu will soon get married to a man she has never met. Not long after meeting Yasuko Sugimoto in the literature club, Fumi develops a crush on Yasuko, who later asks her out.

Akira Okudaira (奥平 あきら Okudaira Akira?)
Akira, nicknamed “Ah” by some of her friends, is an innocent and cheerful girl in her first-year at Fujigaya Girls Academy. She is the childhood friend of Fumi and after meeting her again after ten years is friends again. She acts as a main source of advice for Fumi.

Yasuko Sugimoto (杉本 恭己 Sugimoto Yasuko?)
Yasuko is a popular third-year senior at Matsuoka Girl’s High School. She is a cool upperclassman and the captain of the basketball team, though Fumi mistakes her for being in the literature club when they first meet. After visiting Fujigaya Girls Academy and rejecting Kyōko’s confession, she asks Fumi out, who accepts. Yasuko developed romantic feelings for a teacher, Masanori Kagami, when she was attending Fujigaya. After his rejection, she switched schools and changed focus from drama to basketball. Yasuko has three older sisters who all attended Fujigaya: Shinako, Kazusa, and Kuri.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Blue_Flowers

(10) Impersonating and performing queer sexuality
in the cosplay zone by Katrien Jacobs, The Chinese University, Hong Kong
http://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%202/3.pdf

(11) Contrast this to the behaviour of the wealthy Sugimoto family in Blue Flowers. Although some members indulge their private female same-sex desires, they show no solidarity and offer no support to any outsiders. They look after their own interests, act in instrumental, rather than sentimental ways and the devil take the hindmost. They use other people, that’s what other people are for. Hello realism, you suck.

(12) When a “male” reads shōjo manga by ITŌ Kimio
(trans. Miyake Toshio)
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/169-175chap11Ito20101224.pdf

(13) Almost completely off topic, but adult work and home life in Japan are functional homosocials until retirement and then it all goes to heck – Pratchett would suggest they need man-sheds!
see Autonomy, Reciprocity and Communication in Older Spouse Relationships by Akiko Oda
http://www.dijtokyo.org/articles/JS21_oda.pdf

(14) Whew! I am glad we’re talking about a fictional universe, with fictional characters, made by one privileged member of his society. I am an outlander with similar privilege in my society, so of course I’m going open my big stupid and make silly suggestions. Meanwhile the politics in meatspace surrounding minority sexualities and gender expressions these days is angry and dire, and this old ain’t going anywhere near it. If it even looks like I am, I withdraw further and tender ritual apologies. Include me out, but I hope it all works out well. Please come to a happy agreement and be safe.

An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

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

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

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

Hato is (/written as):

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

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

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

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

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

How depressing!

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

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

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

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

As well as these, these and these

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

Hato is (/written as):

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

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

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

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hato is (/written as):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then they take you.

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

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

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

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

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

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

An excerpt from a later post:

What do you mean by Fu-Danshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

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

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

Shut up and get back to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

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

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

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

Suck it up and keep rowing.

 


.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

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

C104p4 no BL this time

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

c104p14 discouraged

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

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

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

c104p22 blank look

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

What a set-up!

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

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

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

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

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

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

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

Ch4 p13 stick figures

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

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

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

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

-The Residents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

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

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

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

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

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

This latter is my own discontent, too.

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

OTAKU AS QUEER?

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

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

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

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

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch88p17 still works

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

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

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

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

Something about Carnegie Hall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

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

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

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

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

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

Thus love betrays us

Warning: plenty of gender role issues and stereotypes are going to be tossed around herein, and some may be handled clumsily in the course of inquiry and exposition. I’m reaching here – cut me a bit of slack…

In chapter 102 of Genshiken Madarame has finally ended up at Keiko’s hostess club and is drowning his confusion in expensive drinks, courtesy of salaryman Kugayama’s (AKA Kugapii) who thinks that what Mada needs is some conventional gender-role’d interaction with women.


Should have tried it this way

While the earlier idea of visiting a soap-land and “losing it” was discarded for something a bit less frightening, there is a strong undercurrent in the previous chapter of Kugapii seeking to fix Madarame’s distress by expanding his horizons in societally approved directions (Kugapii is also looking for a wing-man in his own forays into barely know territories). Madarame’s confusion and discomfort at finding himself happy with Hato-as-chan’s attentions; receiving Hato-chan’s valentines day chocolate; his revisiting of his josou game collection and his attendant male hysteria is all but announced as being the exclusive result of him being only exposed to the feminine through his interactions with the atypical Genshiken females. After Saki, it is all just much-younger rotten girls and one closeted cross dressing boy. Time for some “real” female interaction.

Keiko does not disappoint: Starting off as a proper hostess, she quickly drops her act and becomes the Keiko we all know and lurv, fully entitled to her personal judgements (honne entitled?) about Madarame and exasperated at him. Mada gets an earful and is relegated back to her fave “watermelon-boy “Wantanabe” status. (cue the beach scene – what happens to watermelons at the beach?) But the best part of Keiko’s rant is a full-page (plus a half-page wind-down) blast at Hato:

Bad Karma, a sensual obsession

So… Keiko is a transphobe? Or is this personal?

Before that, consider Keiko the hostess: At one extreme, solicitous and friendly. At another extreme, into direct personal scolding mode – so much so that her co-worker calls her on it. And then a few minutes later, subservient in her job-role; she cannot leave since she was specifically requested, nor politely (pull the other one – this must be a point-of-work-pride thing: the mark buys the drink without being asked) ask Mada to buy a round. Figure that the night’s festivities can easily run well over $500. Dude, you OWE Kugapii big time!

Why she invites Madarame back to her place after all this is a whole ‘nuther thing to be left for Chapter 103…

Aside from the fun possibility that Keiko is being re-written in as the villainous woman trope from a yaoi grinder, why would she “Irae Babylon! Mighty is thy Judgement!”? It makes her look like a bully, or at least someone loading up the howitzer to deal with a fly. As well she tries to make it clear; she cannot condemn Mada if he wishes to go off and find some man-love, but Hato (chan or kun?) is personally suspect and nothing but trouble – he has already done inconsiderate things to Madarame and can be expected to do more and worse.

What things? Where has she gleaned her information from?

Kio Shimoku has just expanded the field strength of his reality-is-reality Vs fantasy-is-fantasy motif, and he is edging into the territory of IRL controversies. After all, Hato-as-chan manifests only in the safe space of the Genshiken social, where Hato has gradually been elevated to VIP member and object of interest by the real (gotta use the polite academic term) cis-females therein. Whenever her fugue states and over-rotten episodes have caused fallout, Hato has been supported by the rotten girls, even as they occasionally essentialise him as a perverted freak behind his back (no, it is not Hato’s buttplug, it is part of Ohno’s costume). But now Hato has cranked Hato-chan up to 11, she is courting Madarame, visiting him, cooking for him and going full metal nadeshiko in his direction. Something about all this has set Keiko off, even to the extent of considering Madarame’s behaviour with Hato as being an injury to Saki.

How could that be?

Gen ch102 p19web

A polite and nuanced explanation that gives Keiko the benefit of the doubt would be that the fallout from Hato’s frustrating can’t decide liminality dance makes him a danger to himself/herself and others, but she doesn’t really have enough knowledge of the fine details of the Hato saga to pull that off. She is going by gut impression and what she knows and has previously frowned at: (in her view) a self-serving ego gratifying indecisiveness, a glimpse of Hato-chan getting much to close to Madarame during the neck-fugue state episode and her sudden enlistment into the harem competition. The combination carries a strong whiff of jealousy and bigotry.

competitionp21web

Getting bested by Angela or even Sue would be bad enough.

Is that the only reason why Keiko considers Hato not just “fake”, but dangerously- defective- as- a- human- being fake?

This sure looks like old-school canon transphobia, springing from the same sources as the derogatory term “trap”, and still a rather heavy bone of contention even within the gender-politics community, even if internal politics has shifted the goalposts a bit over the last 40 years. We humans like our “others” in neatly defined categories and boxes, and sometimes the violation of these categories can provoke a visceral, irrational disgust and over-the-top hate-on, especially when the category violation threatens the boundaries of our own chosen categories. Check your privilege time perhaps… or something closer to the sleep of reason and the monsters that wait beyond it. Checking privilege does little to de-fuse pure post-Lacanian psychobabble horror and that horror is regrettably very real. We need better tools to deal with it.

Amazingly, IRL culture wars surrounding this effect are spilling over into the popular media and even into the manga/anime blog- verse. And there are a lot of raw, exposed nerves on all sides of the arguments. If a few select articles in Slate and other publications are to be relied on, it seems that a small subset of trans-folk, who have worked hard to become the sex that they feel that they are, despite the body dealt to them at birth are viscerally cheesed off with the vulgar, lower-class, commercial behaviour of the drag demi- monde. Bricks are flying back and forth. Meanwhile some folks take the Judith Butler “presentation” paradigm as a gospel of liberation, while others feel that it is a deep insult; “I am not presenting as, I am!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/05/30/is_tranny_a_slur_or_an_identity_who_decides.html

Bleh(!) say others, transgression as an art form is a good way to shake up fascist hegemonies (you fascist…).

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/22/5639386/why-trans-people-arent-big-fans-of-rupaul-right-now

Well, at least some of them…

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/24/is_drag_a_trans_identity_or_just_a_job_a_queen_explores_her_art.html

A few years ago I would have been scared spit-less to read about any of this stuff, and I am probably pissing off some folks by this clumsy vicarious little excursion into an area of personal politics that all sides hold very close to their core sense of being.

Why can’t everyone just get along?

Because why everyone can’t get along is the core of the problem.

Fictional representations in JVC tropes (and global pop cultures in general) only serve to further muddy the waters; the transgendered vs the trap vs the otokonoko vs the drag queen vs the might be gay – might not, might be trans, might not female impersonator vs the josou game’s better than female charas all serve as imperfect fun-house mirrors to bitterly contested spaces in the 3D ‘verse. And then they upend the problem by encouraging folks to go on little what-if excursions. They are only cartoon characters, right?

“”The culture surrounding “passing” is problematic as it classifies people who don’t or don’t want to fit into two narrow, relatively stagnant categories of male or female as problems themselves while simultaneously discrediting the “authenticity” of people who do have passing privilege. There is no way to win. A person who is not deemed masculine or feminine “enough” is ridiculed and reviled for not having correct body language; for lacking or for possessing body hair in “right” or “wrong” places; for not having hips or chests that are the “correct” shape; for being too tall or short, too broad or too slight; for not having one’s makeup or wig look “right” and so on.

Yet the corollary is that a person who does pass, who looks close enough to “socially acceptable” standards for femininity or masculinity is considered a “trap” or dishonest, which can also lead to that person being outed and attempts to harm or humiliate upon “discovery.” Some times even safe spaces are not entirely safe, as gender policing can also be a problem within the queer community.””
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Gender policing eh? Sounds nasty:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

Yikes!

Perhaps it is time to pull a Schultz…

“I know nothing, I see nothing…”

Later: Ok, It’s not that big of a deal;  the minor fights at the edges of the great project of asserting the rights of all people have been going on for ages. See:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/06/the_new_york_post_says_feminism_is_imploding_is_wrong.html

See also for this really neato pre-internet archeology article on AOL and FIDONET and early gay BBS forum activities (wow! Fidonet! that takes me back, never knew…) Looks like folks have been arguing this one for decades

” That policy prompted the Great Trans Debates and the Great Bi Debates every six months or so,” Goodloe recalls, “as everyone weighed in with their opinions of who counted as a ‘woman’ and whether bisexuals should be allowed in ‘lesbian only’ space.” –http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/08/lgbtq_nerds_and_the_evolution_of_life_online.single.html

Lookie at the new neighbourhood Kio Shimoku has written himself into.
Nawww, that is all just gaijin weirdness, they make a lot of noise, don’t they?

Come the revolution everyone will walk around wearing a biographical sandwich board stating their personal preferences and outlooks, as well as their personal histories and how they legitimately and authentically arrived at them, at least until we all wear Google Glass. Or perhaps as one really odd sci-fi writer has suggested we will all wear elaborate facial makeup markings to indicate what we feel like being TODAY.

Anything else is the salt-monster from Star Trek or its direct ancestor; CL Moore’s Shambleau 

Read it yourself and tell me it ain’t ‘nuthin more than medusa repackaged… https://archive.org/details/Shambleau19331948

A more reasonable alternative is the path of inclusivety, and a sensitive politically correct essayist should keep an eye on the best practices in the field to add letters as needed.

Extend Shields!

“LGBT: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and visibilize the Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities under our umbrella.” — http://lgbcenter.ucdavis.edu/lgbt-education/words-that-are-transphobic-and-why

Well, that sounds like a more reasonable approach, I hope it works out…

So… Hato is not indecisive or liminal or even suffering from gender-panic induced dissociative personality disorder: the Hatos are genderqueer (stuff your categories, we know what we like!) and since the Hato continuum is still a virgin in 2,5D land, despite having consumed two metric shit-tonnes of distaff pr0n, they are somewhat in the same space as Watamote’s anti-heroine Kuroki Tomoko.

Perhaps Keiko is simply pissed off at Tomoko-ish behaviour in Hato.

Living up to societal sex/ gender role ideals is hard for everyone. Hence the appeal of virtual/ fictional vacation tour packages at greatly reduced rates.. One essayist suggests another take on rotten-girl desire:

“For many girls, the pretty, but unmade-up boys of manga and anime are in fact far more like themselves than the huge busted, bombshell women that are both likely to inhabit anime [and] manga designed for men and boys, and that are a regular part of our western media viewing experience.

Blogger Kerryg (2009), writes about the mere possibility of the female gaze in her Hub entry, ―The Female Gaze. She argues that of course a female gaze exists, but is only beginning to appear in explicit ways (in the work of women filmmakers, such as Sophia Coppola). ―However, she suggests, ―it is much more common for women and girls to subvert the intended gaze of media than to create their own Gaze. For many, this is an unconscious process; for others, it is knowingly revolutionary‖ (2009). She cites the work of fangirls as evidence of this move, offering that they are “Re-cutting the world to match their eyes”.
– Bringing Smexy Back: Fangirl Production, AMVs, and Transgressive Sexuality, Elizabeth Birmingham – http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bringing-Smexy-Back-by-Elizabeth-Birmingham.pdf

(The referenced Kerryg essay can be found here:  http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Female-Gaze)

Which leads to a further weird digression:

I must take back any dismissive asides previously made in the direction of Ouran Host Club, thanks to the elegant exposition at: http://gaggingonsexism.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/what-i-love-about-haruhi-fujioka/
(the earlier cited paper on it  didn’t work for me – too much blah blah, the 3rd party Mizoguchi mis-attribution made the BZZZZZT – Wrong alarm go off and the conflation of Japanese dojinshi parody with western gay male camp is strained. The author would have gained more traction by using a compare and contrast parallel evolution approach. Finally the analysis ignores the centrality of the Haruhi character.)

What an interesting thing; even if it does go on, and on, and on…

The manga is clearly aimed at giving its (presumed) young female readership a lot of eye-candy and some rotten-girl-lite titillation, but it also solves the problem of the female gaze by inserting into the story an androgynous heroine who is unconcerned with her or anyone else’s outward gender presentation. As the series goes on, stereotypes of gender presentation and playful transgression are heaped willy-nilly one on top of another and all Haruhi can do is sigh with mild annoyance and occasionally puncture ego balloons with deadpan snark. And while the boys get weirder and weirder in search of the ultimate host club experience for their “typical” female clientage, they also begin to fixate on her – especially by trying to get her to act as a properly feminine girl during her off-hours.

Meanwhile she gets to (at first reluctantly) enjoy being part of an over-the-top band of guys – what academia charmingly refers to as a “homosocial”. The only whiff of nastiness comes during reoccurring episodes of class-war snobbery and when a central casting nasty lesbian separatist club (who watches over us again???) from a nearby girl’s school decides she could be a perfect Bifauxnen and tries to steal her away from her oddball social club. Tsk tsk! Thou shalt not use “lesbian” as a pejorative, to do so is insensitive and low-class! Sensible, polite and serious Haruhi gets 2 points on the set-up.

Not quite an obverse of Hato, but close enough for 3-chord rock and roll.

Except that even such a manga-verse comparison can be fraught with complications. The word-of-the-day is transmisogyny, and is best illustrated by the following exposition on Wandering Son: (note that pronoun usage follows presentation and Deemed X At Birth acronymage is used)

“In junior high school, Takatsuki and Nitori meet Sarashina Chizuru, a cis-identified girl who just enjoys wearing a boy’s uniform because she feels like it fits with her cool persona. She turns up to school a few times in it and also tends to wear non-regulation ties with her girls’ uniform. Sarashina’s blatant disregard for the rules gives Takatsuki courage to wear the boys’ uniform that was given to him by Yuki, a transwoman who acts as mentor and confidant to Takatsuki and Sarashina. (In the manga, the uniforms belonged to Takatsuki’s older brother and sister.)

When Takatsuki wears a boys’ uniform to school, everyone thinks that he is cool and edgy like Sarashina. Part of this fairly positive reaction stems from his peers are viewing Takatsuki as a tomboy engaging in temporary cross-dressing instead of a transgender boy trying to dress toward how he wants to be perceived. Although the administration is annoyed with Takatsuki for breaking the dress code, the other students’ misreading of Takatsuki’s actions as fun and temporary largely protect him from transphobic reactions, although their reaction causes a sense of discomfort for him, as it plays upon the disconnect between how one sees their own gender presentation and how others see them. This discomfort also occurs earlier in the manga when Takatsuki gets his first period and is teased by the other boys because it “proves” that he’s “really a girl.”

Like Takatsuki with his androgynous clothes and binder, Nitori also wears clothes that make her comfortable in her gender expression in her free time. Outside of school, she wears a long wig and skirts at home with friends in public in disguise, often with Takatsuki, and is delighted when she “passes” (more on this later). Her success in passing in public, her friends’ admiration of how good she looks in girls’ clothes, and Takatsuki’s wearing of a boy’s uniform at school leads Nitori to follow Takatsuki’s example and to come to school in her girl’s uniform. However, Nitori is immediately recognized by the teachers and then mocked mercilessly by her peers. She is sent to the school nurse and then sent home from school. In the anime version, the characters sometimes talk to the camera, and after this incident, they discuss how differently everyone reacted to Nitori’s and Takatsuki’s perceived cross-dressing, noting that girls’ fashion offers more options for gender expression in clothing, and that Takatsuki’s interest in androgynous and masculine clothes is treated as more normal than Nitori’s interest in feminine wear. Few anime are this deliberate about how the masculine is prioritized and deemed culturally cool but the feminine is reviled, and how DMAB people who embrace culturally feminine clothing and pursuits often face greater social consequences, from ridicule to violence.”
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Back to why exactly is Keiko so pissed off at Hato? Are we back in the old days of a trans-gendered individual who seeks to realize their subjective gender racking up more authenticity points than a cross-dresser, who is a “mere tourist or hobbyist”?  Is it the old cant that passing imposes a certain burden upon forthright behaviour for individuals during transition (which is even more insulting than the “trap” acusation). Or is it a Japanese don’t rock the boat thing? Is Hato’s gender-switching suspect only because it disturbed the wa and breaches honne? Can a Westerner ever even begin to understand all of the baggage contained in her outburst?

To paraphrase Master Sorceror Sean O’Lochlainn
“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

We can only guess at either. Confused yet?

It’s complicated…

Or… I am just using this Genshiken mise-en-scene as an excuse for a quick n nasty survey of the common arguments surrounding the gender politics of trans* characters.  Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.

Other stuff of note happened upon of late…

How the Philippines does rotten girl:

Appropriating Yaoi and Boys Love in the Philippines, Conflict, Resistance and Imaginations Through and Beyond Japan – Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin, Osaka University, Volume 13, Issue 3 (Article 13 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 6 October 2013.  http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol13/iss3/fermin.html

“My research largely confirms the point McLelland made in his comparison of Japanese and English-language yaoi and BL websites: we will witness many groups of women around the world sharing similar sexual fantasies, yet the rhetorical space they occupy in their transgressions could never be more different.”

Has a very big section on Genshiken, Ogiue and Hato and yup, I like the mirror conceit too:

The Great Mirror of Fandom: Reflections of (and on) Otaku and Fujoshi in Anime and Manga by Clarissa Graffeo, MA English Thesis, 2014
http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFE0005172/Graffeo_-_Thesis_-_Great_Mirror_of_Fandom.pdf

Incidentally a fine usage guide for tyro translators: 

Hey, you’re a girl?: Gendered expressions in the popular anime, Cowboy Bebop – Mie Hiramoto http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/ellmh/Hiramoto_2013_Hey%20youre%20a%20girl.pdf

The Genshiken girls (and Hato) are written as reading this stuff? Warning – NSFW images, purple prose and rape fiction apologia/ triggers:

https://www.academia.edu/3993649/Forbidden_Love_and_Forbidden_Desire_Themes_in_the_WWII_Yaoi_Manga_of_Fusanosuke_Inariya

Yaoi is destroying Japanese families. Warning – cum hoc ergo propter hoc  fallacies, errant bullshit and possible trolling:

https://www.academia.edu/2368322/Explanations_for_Japanese_Population_Decline

Get rich at Comiket?

http://fanhackers.transformativeworks.org/2012/06/how-much-money-do-doujinshi-creators-actually-make-some-statistics-from-comiket/

“”Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

the circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo.”

Stop writing to Margaret mangakas before release date, or send a pic of you holding the mag, bought in NY:

http://moromi.tumblr.com/post/87934810142/important-for-the-hnr-fandom-please-read

Heavy Fujoshi studies of the year bibliography:

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2013 Ed.
http://animemangastudies.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/342/#more-342

Another fan studies resource:

The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 1
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=269
and
The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 2
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=333

Good news on the guy front; The kids are all right. All that pre-judging is just us old baby boomers’ violent expectations.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/07/18/its-time-to-stop-defaming-our-boys/

And finally:

I was beginning to fear that the rather expensive Routledge anthology PERVERSION AND MODERN JAPAN addressed neither when at last I hit upon “Packaging desires: The unmentionables of Japanese film” by Jonathan Abel. Yup, it’s all about PANTSU in soft-core Japanese porno films, and its a rollicking great hoot of a theory-moe ride – which is to be expected of a paper that grew out of a joke presentation titled “Die Zizek, Die!

Sooner or later I must review the whole thing here. Abel is the translator of Azuma’s Database etc., while Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent (translator of Tamaki’s BFG) as editors are both very agreeable reads in their own rights. It is just that collection is a bit of a slog unless you are really, really into post-Lacanian detritus and its use in critical writings on Japanese cultural stuff.

…And you manage (as I do) to find some of it amusing.

On heroes and hero worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the lights off, it’s less dangerous…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low res is best res

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

Oh no I said a dirty word…

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

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

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

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

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

It’s fun to lose and to pretend…

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

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

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

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

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

Falling for an avatar

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

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

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

The boy only falls for girl heroes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s overboard, she’s self-assured…

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

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

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

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

In the end there is no such thing as leadership…

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

And now for my next trick..

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

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

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

She displays an internal “moral” code.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mada wants!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m worse at what I do best…

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

Is this some new form of manzai?

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

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

And comedy of fail is maintained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All right, God damn you! I challenge you,

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

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

I give you a wall table at Comiket !!!

That would be overdoing it even for the Genshiken…

I feel stupid and contagious…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What of Keiko?

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

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

What of the rest of the Genshiken girls?

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

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

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

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

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

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

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

And then we would have room for some new characters.

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

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

Hylas and the Nymphs

I Don’t Like You at All, Big Brother! (Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne—!!) is a typical Japanese brother- sister incest high school harem sex comedy manga, following on the heels of the “siscon” genre’s popular “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute“.

Waughhh! What did I just write? Typical? Incest? Harem? High school? Sex? Comedy? Manga? Oh My! Oh no; not another one of those Gauguin exercises where mysterious Japan is other-ized as some inhibition-free, pervy paradise of forbidden weird cultural production!

Warning: Spoiler lamp is ON!

This blog is not “Weird Pervy Japan Manga Reviews” or even “Rocket News“. Everyone, even the purveyors of the fantasy know that Japanese cultural quirkyness is vastly, overwhelmingly, exponentially exaggerated. Japan is a highly urbanized, densely populated modern late-industrial/ knowledge-based diversified economy based society full of normal overworked, overstressed, extremely polite, reserved and slightly melancholic citizens. All in all, they make the Swiss look like football hooligans. They also read a lot.

And yup, the streets are very safe.

But the longing to go wild and break all the rules, fall into perdition and perish publicly in a bonfire of vanity and shame must beat in many Japanese hearts, if only as a fantasy, .. If only for an instant…  Long enough to snag them into reading some really well crafted low comedy.

I Don’t Like You at All, Big Brother! first appeared in 2008. It is still going strong after 6 years, sixty-something chapters and 9 collected volumes. Two seasons of anime have been made from it – of which I have not watched.. When first making its appearance via grey channels in the West it got middling reviews as somewhat funny; pretty much a collection of genre tropes with oddball character design and drawing quirks. The complaints over the skinny asto-boy tube- sausage legs continued into reviews of the anime which also was received with ho-hum enthusiasm.

And now I must ruin your day and tell you that there is no incest or sex in the manga -so far- and I am guessing there probably wont be any in the future. Phhhhtttt! Nothing but titillation and rude comedy. This is probably why the reviews were so middling. It takes a good reviewer to praise a work that pwned them.

It is however extremely funny! I admit it, I be hooked…

Thanks to a listing on a senior blogger’s ongoing fujoshi cataloging project, I looked up the series, thinking that the Genshiken’s current emphasis on harem and otokonoko/ josou (as genre and counter to loli excess) tropes needed a bit more background research. (Aside: on the josou front, Brocken Blood, as currently scanlated into English is an inadvertent train wreck of funny! I want to apprentice to their scangroup’s cleaner and typesetter! Arial Bold Italic! Whooo Haha! Please don’t ever change!)

The Oniichan hero of the tale (to be referred to herein as buddy boy) wishes above all to gaze upon and touch a real-life 3D nekkid female. Much like a dog that chases cars, he seems incapable of considering what he will do once he succeeds. In the meantime, he has become a pr0n maniac. He collects pr0n, lots of pr0n! A good quarter metric ton of pr0n! 19 Gigabytes of pr0n on his pc! (which was a lot back in 2008) Pr0n magazines, pr0n games, pr0n site jpgs, pr0n dvds. At school he is known as the Prince of Pr0n – girls fear that they will become soiled just by exchanging a few words with him. He has even banded together with other sheepish guys to trade off his surplus pr0n. At night he sneaks off to bookstores to buy more pr0n. And he uses up multiple boxes of tissues each week in celebration of the solitary vice.

Here beginneth the first lesson: Boys: moderate your enthusiasms!

PLeas take me back oniichan_no_koto_nanka_zenzen_suki_ja_nai_c12.5_nirpan.006web600

He tries to stop, puts out his collection to the trash while bidding it a tearful farewell but within the week he is back buying more pr0n. So he’s a bit of a worm. He does however have three redeeming features: first, he is not an otaku (this seems to be important: in the story-verse there are worse things than being a pr0n maniac). Secondly, his day-to-day interactions with 3D females involve nothing more than cleavage staring and panty peeking. He avoids skirt flipping, groping or hidden cameras because that would be an unseemly cheat – he does follow an internal code of conduct. And finally he feels responsible enough to try to be a good older brother towards his immouto; he is not a siscon.

The problem, as with all harem tales lies with the females: Some girls take his normal but excessive interest in their anatomy as a signal that he is ripe for exploitation or at least entanglement into their delusions.

Here beginneth the second lesson: Their delusions are far stronger.

The first of these is his 16-year-old sister. As a healthy 17-year-old he is torn between the urge to sneak an occasional peek at her panties and trying to act responsibly distant and protective of her. Immotou-chan however considers her brother’s undivided attention as an absolute right and will have it no matter what. After all he may be “a perverted zoo monkey who masturbates 50 times a week” but if he is not thinking about her, then she has failed as a female. When she finds that she is adopted (and buddy boy probably knows this too, but considers the secret a sacred oath that he will never reveal to her) she becomes even more determined to own him. She wakes him every morning by jumping on his chest so he gets a panty shot. She secretly prunes his pr0n collection so that it is full of forbidden incestuous lust tales for little sister (siscon) materials. Short, thin, little sister-types have also been selected for, among the general imagery of the stash. She makes sure that he will have easy, sometimes almost unavoidable access to the laundry hamper full of her undies. She demands shared baths. She gets a massive kick out of the embarrassed attention she gets. Such are the tropes of the genre. They must be well-liked: a later 2011 entry into the genre, Satsuki Complex repeats the same wake-up scene, only with a crossdressing younger brother. Then it ups the ante by having dad crossdress as mom.

Oniichan is a monkey

Of course if anything were ever to happen it would be all his fault. His mother is worried that he may just one day cross the line, but is oblivious to her daughter’s tricks. The father is a good-natured mostly absent salaryman who will confiscate his sons extreme porn books if they show up outside his son’s room, possibly for his own consideration. Mom has mixed feelings about that; like father, like son.

thankz dad kll me noaw

Dad “confiscating” his son’s bondage porn

The adopted younger sister trick is dealt with early in the tale, just in time for the reappearance of the twin-tail hair sporting, moved- away- but- now- back childhood girl “friend”. They were 5 years old when she left – you can’t really call her a girlfriend. Except that she considers it that way. He is hers.. They played doctor together (to the point where she decided that he needed on the spot circumcision – she’s a doctor’s daughter) and she is sure that he promised to marry her when they grow up. She has no idea where immouto-chan came from and considers her as an impediment. The ceasefire frienemy-ship between twin-tails and immouto is icy, calculated and funny as all heck. Twin-tails is also an accomplished stalker, with the financial resources that allow her to keep an eye on buddy boy. Dude, close the drapes in your room!

Stalker girl fun

Two girls do not a harem make, so in short order the closeted fujoshi class president girl bumps into buddy boy and is soon blackmailing him into keeping her BL habit secret, all while forcing him to buy BL for her at the late-night book store, while trying to get him to read BL for insight into whether the stories have any correspondence with real males.

Oh shit you read that stuff!

Can he see what she sees in her pr0n genre, or is she truly cursed and abject? Buddy boy of course will lie valiantly to keep her from narking on his pr0n habit. Soon he dreams up another excuse to comply with her demands: she will infect his sister with fujoshi habits if he doesn’t play along. Also she has enough curves and cleavage to be interesting, and her severe public demeanor along with her BL influenced style of wheedling reads to him like an ever-escalating promise of kinky play (Which of course never happens). He is hooked.

Before long she is in full Fujoshi-Rumi Boku mode. Despite all her odd fangirling, she might well be the most normal and fully rounded female character in the tale. She has very little guile, and is as much in thrall to her awakening libido as buddy boy is. And why not? At least he isn’t a disgusting otaku. At a pool park swim, she suddenly gets fascinated with the idea of “accidentally” touching, pinching and flicking her hair at his nipples. This turnabout is fair pay moment is funny as heck. Boys, be ambitious, find yourself a pervy fujoshi girlfriend!

Why date a fujoshi

If she runs away for a while once she gets conflicted over her feelings, there is always the stern, sexy older tutor to fixate on. Buddy boy’s grades suffer from the distractions of too much female interest and too much pr0n. Soon he is in danger of being held back a grade if he does not ace a make-up test. The University psychology student who is hired as his tutor has her own theories as to why teenage males fail in their studies. Not only is (almost) all his porn located and confiscated, but he is terrorized into swearing that he will not masturbate more than twice in the week before the test (!) As well, she promises him a “special treat” if he passes. His mind is now racing with conflicted feelings of dread, desire and the inability to get five different subjects – including math and English, into his fap-addled skull. In short order Sensei has also figured out what immouto and stalker-chan are up to and is playing them off against one another. Buddy boy is caught in the middle.

Then it gets worse. Sensei can tell when buddy boy breaks his promise as he becomes happy and stupid the day after, forgetting half of what he learned. She tears up pages of his favourite remaining three porn books to spur him on. (Those girls are innocent! please spare them! cries buddy boy!) She leans her cleavage ever forward toward his gaze. As a chimpanzee pr0n addict he goes into serious withdrawal from his vices in the days leading up to his test. The other females won’t let him sleep much either. After he passes his test he is too wound up and shell-shocked to take Sensei up on her offer, even though (surprise!) she might even be game for something lewd. It turns out she is a serious pervert in her own right and has completely captured and trained her own younger brother as gawd knows what. (Never trust a psych major!)

She then gives some advice to stalker girl and immouto, just to stir the pot for fun, even as they both see her revealed as the ultimate successful “brocon”. Older women are even more fearsome than teenage women.

Six years into this, and undoubtedly a few more girls will be thrown into the mix. The anime apparently had at least two more in the story; they have yet to pop up in the manga. Meanwhile buddy boy is scared shitless of twin-tails, even if she is offering him her body (and immediate marriage), scared shitless of his crazed sister, who he still feels the need to be a responsible older brother to (despite peeking lapses), scared somewhat shitless of class president, who will show up to tutor him at midnight dressed in a male school uniform with a bag over her head; she being too embarrassed to deal with him as female to male, and really really scared of women in their twenties who can read him like a (cheap pr0n) book. Oh heck, they can all read him…

CUT UP WHAT REMAINSoniichan_no_koto_nanka_zenzen_suki_ja_nai_c07_nirpan.oniichan_007_017web600

Enjoying your harem yet, dude?

After all, the root of the word comes from the islamic arabic haram proscribed, dangerous, forbidden- for- a- good- reason. Think Danger! Mine field! if you need context. Taboo is too far off as a useful reading. Various cultures have all in the past combined sexism with proscription towards males about the dangers of getting greedy when it comes to desire and the female “other”. There is the myth that one of the Chinese ideograms for trouble/ disaster was originally derived from a pictograph of multiple females under one roof. A yiddish tale tells of two feuding old guys, whose friendship ended in bitter jealousy, and of how one was taught a lesson by an “Angel of the Lord”. Three wishes, but whatever you get, your ex-friend gets ten times as much. Guess the third wish.

But these historical cautionary tales miss the nuance of the Japanese visual culture harem genre as it developed out of dating sims and ero-games. It is a bit like Zizek’s “symptom” ninjitsu. A hint towards the important difference can be found in the last few pages of Genshiken’s Chapter 98 dinner at Madarame’s apartment (or at least as far as my crummy google x-late-fu can determine) when Madarame muses about the “protagonists” in the 3D harem game he finds himself in. As player he is merely the point of view. The “heroes’ of the harem genre are always the girl characters and their motivations that have to be skilfully navigated by the (male-p.o.v.) player lest all manner of bad endings ensue.

I tried to read through the main entry in the genre: My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, but after four chapters found it thin on comedy and the plot premise strained. So the little sister wants a littler sister to fixate on as some kind of transference of her feelings for ??? Huh? Where are the rude gags? I must be missing something because it has even more adaptations, chapters, volumes, anime and spin-offs than it’s knockoff. shogenai… 

Earlier versions of the comedy- harem genre are full of an excess of quirky female desire. The now-completed Girl Saurus/ Girl Saurus X opus had more than enough nasty gags built on 1.5D female secondary characters after the hapless lad. I also liked the odd Fujimura-kun and his mates (Fujimura-kun Meitsu) and the complimentary/ competing Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai franchise for this kind of stuff, but they all go too easy on the guys.

We are legion

The mangaka behind Fujimura-kun Meitsu has an even odder, new franchise in play with Aizawa-san Zoushoku, the tale of how an average high-school guy becomes the love interest of the school princess Aizawa-san. She seems to have the ability to split into multiple each- is- an- emotional- aspect- of- her versions whenever she feels any emotional pressure. They usually disappear later (I hope the original is not starving to death in the magic hole in the ground she stumbled into!) it all reminds me of a famous, very spooky pre-Raphaelite painting:

Danger! Danger Will Robinson!

Hylas and the aforementioned clone nymphs

Lookie at all the sexy cheesecake… Wait a sec there boy! Something is not quite right here! Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Run away! Run away!

Western Sociology used to favor a conceit borrowed from social anthropology called structural functionalism: It might look weird on the surface, but it must be there for a reason. It seems the harem genre in modern Japanese visual culture is ever so useful in the socialization of young (and not so young) males. It offers them a pervy hook and then clobbers them relentlessly with be- careful- what- you- wish- for slapstick. Romantic monogamy is probably the sanest and safest route for any harem situation and if you need more you better stick to 2D. It’s not about you, anyway. Yeah, you should be embarrassed about overdoing it with the pr0n, but worse; the girls know it happens – you aren’t special… Get over it! Learn to present yourself publicly in a proper manner. Learn discretion! Stop staring at her cleavage! And don’t neglect your studies either! Now get back to work!

Talk about moralizing! If not for the smoke screen of panty shots and titillation it would be fit for Sunday school… Well, almost…

Now that Madarame’s harem is going to be front and center in the Genshiken  for the next little bit, we can expect plenty of meta-musings on the genre and its conventions. Ch98 already looks like it is full of them. (wish my google- xlate- fu was better) One of the conventions is that as long as you politely engage with the game-girls, you can enjoy the pleasant attentions of multiple female characters so long as no decisive moves are made. Don’t disturb the “Wa”. Enjoy the free meals, be careful with the banter. Pretend you misunderstood if the flirty stuff goes too far.

Poor Madarame! He already tried fixating on one and only one special woman. A vicarious harem experience isn’t that bad consolation prize at all (though the broken wrist wasn’t much fun). I wonder how long it will take him to figure out why Sue is there; as a harem protagonist her actions are a bit off. Sure it may look like she is waiting to see if any Mada x Hato sparks fly, but who is she chaperoning and who is she waiting for on the rebound?

Meanwhile some Risa needs to be added to the pot. And where the heck is Keiko?

Everything that rises must converge

“most amps go up to ten. … These go to eleven. ” -Slavoj Zizek

Risa is due back to the hallowed halls of the Genshiken club room! Rejoice!

smut more recruits.web300Rika’s  shotacon younger sister will be popping back in to the Genshiken soon and that means the perv level of the Genshiken girls will kick up at least one notch. And not a second too soon! While Kio Shimoku has always treated the odd enthusiasms of the Genshiken members as Greek tragedies treated murder – much discussed, but carried out offstage, the mayhem remains integral to the story. The tradition of the Genshiken as a safe space for young people caught up in embarrassing fringe desires must be maintained. Time however has overtaken their kinks: the play of old-school otaku and vanilla grade fujoshi seems quaint: no longer abject but merely a commonplace hobby, like bird-watching.

Fortunately Shimoku-sensei stuffed a few cards up his sleeves.

Risa of course was one such ace, but the otokonoko genre references might turn out to be even more valuable.

Recall that in Genshiken time we are simultaneously in 2007 and 2014. In 2007, the “boys in skirts” genre was known, but was yet to become the next big thing in Japanese visual culture. In 2014 the bloom is already off the Bara.

Set the Way-back Sherman…

The first references to the otokonoko/ josou genre in the Genshiken show up when Kuchiki first encounters Hato-chan. Then they are followed by Kousaka’s josou game,  “I could take care of that for him”, and get full star treatment in the Nidaime anime. Three quarters of a year in Genshiken time and more than four years of “real time” have passed since Hato-chan walked into the club-room. The buildup towards the full use of otokonoko/ josou tropes has been slow, with the fujoshi fun and the stands making enough of a racket to make full deployment of “so embarrassed I’m crossdressing”, “forced to crossdress by girls/ scary older women”, “beginning to enjoy the attention” and so on, unnecessary, His crossdressing is discovered almost immediately by the girls, and any discrete skirt flipping/ bulge ogling takes place while he is asleep. The shower scene doesn’t count as part of the genre. Almost all of the cross-drama has taken place as inner dialogues over the odd arrangement that allows him to fan over BL stuff without feeling that his “real” self is threatened.

Voiced instances of the genre tropes carried an ironic, or at least referential tone and are linked to the tastes of the male characters. (Any interest from Ohno can be put down to the cosplay effect)  As in the real-life josou games and narratives previously noted, the genre at first glance appeared to be posited as a counter trend to the stagnating field of loli moe blobs. Perhaps heat-death was setting in; there are only so many ways to sexualized under-age 2D females: once incest, yuri-cest and twin-cest were all thoroughly overdone the thrill is diminished. “My younger sister can’t be so boring“. Time to move on to the younger brother who likes to/ has been wheedled into dressing up like a girl.

There was a point to my previous sloppy post, beyond the low comedy of 4chan trap crossdressing threads: diaspora fans (I am trying to find a different word than “western”, bear with it, please) were all pretty well following Kuchiki, Madarame or Kousaka variant scripts: “That’s gay dude!“, “couldn’t be that cute”, “doesn’t really matter”,  “If it has a skirt, it’s a [2d] girl [eroge chara]” and “OMG I’m beginning to …”

otokonoko argument on 4chn web600

The genre incorporates all these reactions within its narratives as well- hence the added enjoyment of restating them in rude vernacular on an anonymous image board.

>Traps=/y/
>Traps have never been /y/, and /a/ has been gay for traps since before it was /a/.

or per TV tropes:

“Otokonoko features both girl-on-crossdresser and guy-on-crossdresser stories (it’s one of the few places where you will find m/f stories and m/m stories side-by-side in the same magazine). The target audience is men who crossdress (or are interested), and men who have a fetish for crossdressers, and the art styles and tropes are typically those of male-oriented romance / ecchi / hentai material. There is also a significant Periphery Demographic of female readers. (Although guy-on-guy otokonoko is often mistaken for Boys Love Genre, anything targeted to women is not otokonoko.)”

You sure ’bout that?

The crossdress comedy genre indeed seems to be the property of second-tier shonen/ seinen magazines:

No Bra ran for 5 volumes from 2002 in Gekkan Shounen Champion, Brocken Blood has 9 volumes from 2003 on in Shonen Gahosha/ Young King.

Depsair broken scanlate fail c8p13 web600

Tripeace 2008-2013 ran in Square Enix’s Shounen Gangan, who also gave us Fudanshism- Fudanshi Shugi (2008 – 2013, 7 volumes)  Prunus Girl (2009-) and Josei Danshi (2012 on). As a video game company that spins off properties into manga and anime they appear to really like the genre’s potential.

Softbank mobile’s Flex Comix Next carries Suemitsu Dicca’s Oto x Maho since 2008 and most of the other titles it publishes are seinen (remember her(?) name  – we will return to her works in a bit.). Comic Rex runs Himegoto (2013) and 2 spin-offs that have been re-merged into the main story.

There are tons more – I just pulled a sampling from the TV tropes Otokonoko page and aggregator searches as examples.

“Melodramatic” treatments of a crossdressing character, such as  Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku (2010, Moba Man – Shogakukan) and Bokura no Hentai (2012, Comic Ryu -Tokuma Shoten – seinen) seem to be pitched as more pervy knock-offs of Takako Shimura’s  gentle and bittersweet  Hourou Musuko/ Wandering Son. (2002-2013 Comic Beam – Seinen). They are more than they first appear to be.

Don’t call me daughter…

So far, so seinen. It can be assumed of course that the fujoshi brigades were busy trolling these offerings for fun stuff to ship from the start, as the “as long as she/he is cute” seems a fine way to lead two males into some steamy seme x uke action. But the genre is still supposed to be aimed at curious guys (and I am willing to bet, far more popular in “the west” than in Japan). Things get a bit fuzzy when one starts wondering about where all these odd tales first popped up.

Job confronts_fudanshismch2.11 web600

In 2010, Comic Rex spun off its josou titles into a full-blown otokonoko magazine “Waai – boys in skirts“. Inside the pages were odd bits of crossdressing advice, tons of make-up ads and among other series, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! Other magazines popping up to cash in on the craze included Million Publishing’s Oto Nyan,/ Oto Nyan Omega (2010-2012). All could be considered to be following on the heels of the 2010 Wagahai wa “Otokonoko” dearu! (I am an Otokonoko!): a manga/ book how-to guide for 3D otokonoko enthusiasts written by Nanami Igarashi.

Manga critic and historian Jonathan Clements wrote this about the genre in 2012 (Big block-quote warning!):

” I’m sure you’ll agree, this is something of a subgenre of a subgenre. But ever since spinning off from the boys’ magazine Comic REX in April 2010, WAai has still had enough faith in the size of its readership to punt out 270 pages of  glossy, high-quality printing four times a year – that’s once per season, in order to ensure varying uses of colours and imagery. The cover to this issue by Akira Kasakabe has two attractive ladies in a state of summery deshabillé, sorting out their lippy and watching the midsummer fireworks. Oh, except they are not ladies. They are both blokes, it says here.

If at first you can’t believe your eyes, the strapline at the top makes it as
clear as possible: “Inside this publication are cute kids, but they are not
girls. This is a new magazine for otoko no ko of the new generation.” The
Japanese otoko no ko literally means Man-Girl or Mannish Girl, but is it
intended here to mean “ladyboy”? We are back in the fascinating world of the implied reader – is this a magazine for boys who like dressing up as girls, or is it a magazine for girls who like to look at boys dressed up as girls?

WAai’s niche is still small – it is half the size and double the price of
mainstream magazines, and is not included in the online sales figures of the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association. But this is how all new niches start; the publisher Ichijinsha would be mad to print a million copies and hope that the readership to match it magically arrived out of nowhere.

The Japanese mainstream has treated the otoko no ko “phenomenon” with a degree of suspicion – perhaps wisely, considering the penchant of the media for making up new fads on the spot and hoping the herd will follow. In 2010, the Engan bus company offered spoof free tickets to transvestites as an April Fool’s joke. Later in the year, the same company offered a free ticket promotion for real, but only to female passengers who would dress up as sexy “moe” girls. The transvestites should sue!

The use of the term otoko no ko has been gaining ground in Japanese for the last ten years. But it’s only in the last two years that it has suddenly blossomed into a definable subculture, with its own publications, slang, traditions and inevitable media attention. WAai isn’t even the only magazine for otoko no ko. Already in the last year, the Japanese market has seen the arrival of Change H, Oto(star)ko and Otoko no Ko Club magazines. Meanwhile, Enterbrain has test-marketed the manga anthology Super Otoko no Ko Time, and Square Enix has tried Joso Shonen Anthology (Boys in Girls’ Clothing). Newtype, the trend-setting anime magazine, has already tested an experimental title for the otoko no ko market, with the release in August 2011 of a live- action photography special featuring boys dressed as girls. It sold out on the day of release – but was that a sign of an untapped market, or simply of deliberate under-printing to manufacture headlines?

Its aficionados are keen to point out that these characters are not transsexuals – they are transvestites, dolled up in women’s clothes as an
attempt to show a sensitive side. They are, we are assured, boys who like the idea of softness and silkiness, experiments with lipstick and girlish pursuits – an assertion which places them firmly on a timeline that reaches back for several generations, to the manga revolutions of the 1960s that valorised flower-sniffing sensitive types in reaction to the ludicrously macho heroes of the day. Japanese Wikipedia even has its own page on the phenomenon, which goes to great pains to point out that otoko no ko have absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. Just because a boy wears women’s clothes, he is not homosexual, nor does he “want” to be a woman. The artwork in WAai makes that abundantly clear, with images of characters in bikinis and lingerie, pouting for the camera but displaying telltale flat chests and posing pouches that leave nothing to the imagination.

However, there is a flipside. Is this really a magazine for transvestites? The editorial content delivers one message, but the advertising tells a different story. If we want to be cynical for a moment, let’s not immediately assume that otoko no ko materials reflect a grass-roots demand that Japanese conglomerates are sweetly serving. Let’s instead assume that a bunch of large cosmetics companies have realised that heterosexual men represent a bogglingly large untapped market for sales of make-up. Has some bright spark at Shiseido or Nivea suggested that the marketing team take a step beyond “metrosexual” and try to flog lip-gloss and crimpers directly to absolutely everybody?

WAai’s concept of femininity does appear oddly and over-enthusiastically
consumerist. In other words, its attitude is that women are “made” by buying stuff. Shopping maketh the woman, in WAai’s eyes – it’s a beautician’s idea of beauty, and seems largely materialist and product-orientated.

This is a no-win situation for critics. If we question the motives of the
publishers, we are attacking transvestites’ right to be different. But if we
report on a “phenomenon” that isn’t really a phenomenon at all, but a cynical appropriation of a subculture as an excuse to bootstrap a new fashion fad, then we are mere stooges of the marketing machine. Meanwhile, it is arguably the height of cynicism to latch onto someone’s heartfelt beliefs and lifestyle, merely because you want to shift a job-lot of depilatory cream. If it’s “in” to be a transvestite this season, that’s all very well, but that’s like saying its fashionable to be Asian, or short-sighted, or tall. What happens next year?
[….]
Meanwhile, there is a heavy and frankly boyish concentration on new anime series, with larger-than-normal features dedicated to modern serials such as Astarotte and Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts. Games reviews also take up a substantial proportion of the front matter, including self-explanatory titles such as The Boy Loves Dressing Up as a Maid and Bokukano: Ladyboy Sex Chat.

Regular readers of this magazine may have noted on several occasions that the Japanese comics market is embroiled in a massive argument about the depiction of minors. Its most recent incarnation was in September 2011, when two members of the Japanese parliament presented a petition calling for anime, manga and games to adhere to the same sort of censorship rules as other publications. In other words, there is still a massive fight about the depiction of little girls in print, and it is your correspondent’s suspicion that a large part, if not all of the otoko no ko phenomenon is not about reader demand at all, but merely a new way of circumventing the censor. Just as white panties and blank crotches, tentacles and robots formed new and odd tropes in anime and manga, could it be that bluntly stating that these “girls” are really boys is a sneaky way for certain publishers to hang onto images of flat-chested dollymops, without incurring the wrath of future censors? If so, it’s a very sneaky trick, but let’s not assume it’s a sign of sea-change in attitudes
towards cross-dressing… Unless it is.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade and Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 92, 2012.”
— from http://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/2014/02/25/waai-boys-in-skirts/

 A job-lot of lip gloss ain’t the only thing being peddled though. I am going to risk over-emphasizing Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! not only because it does what it does in such an odd way, but also because of her other works.

The premise is odd: Misbehaving rich kid males and a few trannish poor guys get packed off to an all male boarding school way up in the mountains where the school rules state that they must cross-dress on alternating weeks. Seems like LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness caused more damage to Japanese culture than previously assumed. This will get them to stop acting like jerks towards women, give them a chance to learn / learn of “feminine-ish” wiles and incidentally practice the responsibilities of their respective social classes while testing the strengths and weaknesses of male friendship.

A Confederacy of Dunces…

Aside from gratuitous cross-dressing tips (I bet a cookie these were lifted from Igarashi-chan’s book) there is a whole lot of way too insightful dialogue on the dangers of seeking approval, much ado about superficial X authentic attraction and plenty of the use of the abstracted feminine as other to construct male subjectivity. The story quickly lurches towards the quasi-shoujo realms of a chaste shonen-ai tale, with occasional panchu shots. Suemitsu Dicca is a big fan of the inviting abstracted “feminine”, otherwise know in fujoshi circles as the inviting/ trickster uke. Noted too is the play of social classes in the story; another big fave of BL tales.

Those wishing to see what else Suemitsu-sensei has written better be ready for hard-core yaoi dojins.  The mangaka is fully rotten. Yikes! Otokonoko tries to seduce newly met male friend, male friend is already quite gay and thinks he is seducing innocent, confused cross dressing youth. Human orifices can’t do that ensues. Note to mangaka: no glove, no love! Being a smut purveyor entails certain responsibilities in this age (what has this blog done to me? A year ago I would have freaked at seeing something like that. now all I can say is yup, looks textbook rotten…).

“Officials have already met with leaders of Japan’s $5.5 billion adult
entertainment industry in an attempt to develop regulations that conform to some small standard of basic human decency. Attending the talks were the heads of several major studios, including WoundSexerCo, Maid Molest Universal, Innocent Schoolgirl Despoil Youngest Daughter Lips Plunder Incest Distribution, and Sunrise-Rape-Rape-Nihon.
In what may signal a chastening within the industry, leading film producer
Golden Dawn Global issued a press release this week voicing its “humility and bewilderment” and offering to cease international distribution of its blockbuster series Pregnant Ladyboy Sodomized Facedown In The Rice Bowl, a 23 -part epic that has reportedly left thousands of viewers feeling repulsed, defiled, and forever doubtful about the inherent goodness of mankind.”
http://www.theonion.com/articles/japan-pledges-to-halt-production-of-weirdo-porn-th,2657/

Earlier efforts at the “do I care if it is a girl?” genre are better at getting the characterization down to believable limits. Any reader may be reasonably forgiven for wanting to wring the neck of the lad in No Bra, because he is such a pathetic horny wimp. Even when he somehow gets enough resolve to track down his barely remembered childhood friend’s true circumstances, it will take a major meltdown for him to man up and tell the truth. Like Mada, it is not a case of ‘can’t process” but that processing has stopped at Good to be King.  Oh well; magic dick syndrome is a classic young guy fail. At least his internal dialogue is far more guy-like. The annoyance develops only as a side effect of us buying the premise!

Full blown rotten narratives have a bad habit of transplanting an articulated emotional complexity onto male characters that would be out-of-place, even in female characters. Hyper-Shojo-ism!

I await a dojin-ish series where the main characters just appear to sit staring at each other while they process ever more elaborate internal monologues about trying to guess their own position and second-guess the other’s. Every 4 pages the characters are allowed to voice a few non-committal words to keep the game going. The same panel art repeats endlessly.

While the ZOMG panchu- with- bulge LoL! versions of the genre are simply loli retreads, the more complex versions can be reasonably classed as attempts to take classic BL/yaoi dojin tricks and turn them into a viable niche market product that can be pushed on X-curious otakus while delighting the hearts of the fujoshi tribes. Add to this that a subgrouping of fujoshis were always too interested in too-young protagonists, and that the flat-chested hairless otokonoko is a way to “18+” their nasty shota tastes with plenty of chances for otokonoko x otokonoko and/ or otokonoko x manly bishie pairings. Very convenient, in fact too convenient…

Houston we have double box-office!

Unfortunately for Japan’s publishing community it looks like the execution of this nefarious marketing scheme (Mwahhh-hahhh!) still needs work. As of 2014 all of the otokonoko magazines have folded. A few collections and tankubons will bring in some cash, but the genre is clearly not yet ready for prime time. (Curses, foiled…) This despite the impression that the boy-in-skirts trick was the new MSG of manga and anime; just sprinkle on any old hackneyed series and it was suddenly all edgy and fresh again. Still a niche of a niche, or of several niches…

Which in an odd way makes it perfect for the Genshiken.

Both the boys and the girls in the club-room can think of the otokonoko genre as their own private Idaho, or indulge themselves in the illusion that the other side has been suckered into thinking it was made for them, when really… All while accommodating/ displacing real-life concerns about legislation, western suspicions and “a certain bear

Welcome to the desert of the real

In the Genshiken, riajuu heterosexual desire is so fraught with danger that allegories taken from extreme narratives of human-ish pairing are the only way to approach it. or:
riajuu heterosexual desire is so boring and unattractive that it must be “charged” /”cathected” with tales of improbable longings in order to make it navigable and worth the effort.

Sin+Copyright fujoshi_rumi c47p66 web600

Or both.
And of course there will be consequences…

Unbiased God: Genshiken ch 93 + 94

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

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

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

Something else is going on.

but first, a small aside about scripts and scanlations…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few choice bits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry Chip, you think we didn’t anyway?

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

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

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

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

Back to the Genshiken…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But reality is reality and…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snap out of it and go make some dojins!

Random Endnotes:

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

I understand rage.

Recall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Hato: build up logically

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

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

Didn’t I start here?

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

Fairest of the fair

On Makoto Shinkai’s Hoshi No Koe, and Saito Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl

hoshi no koe - 004

Few anime have sized my imagination and remained as resonant in memory as the short 2002 OVA Hoshi no Koe, known in english as Voices of a Distant Star. A decade after I first got my hands on a lovingly transcoded and fansubbed grey version of it, I remain a gushing a fanboy whenever I remember its charms and search it out on the web to watch it one more time. For those of you who missed it, I will steal liberally from the wiki entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_of_a_Distant_Star), editing and re-arranging the page synopsis for emphasis and clarity:

“Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ Hoshi no Koe?, lit. “Voices of a Star”) is a Japanese anime OVA by Makoto Shinkai. It chronicles a long-distance relationship between two close junior high-school friends who communicate by sending emails via their mobile phones across interstellar space. It was originally released to DVD on 2 February 2002

The narrative begins in 2047. A middle-school girl named Mikako Nagamine is apparently alone in a hauntingly empty city, trying to contact people through her cell phone. She finally says, in an empty classroom with stacked chairs, “Noboru? I’m going home, okay?”, a rhetorical question which is answered with a busy line on her cell phone. She then wakes up to discover that she is in her “Tracer”; a heavily armed “mecha” orbiting Agartha, the (fictional) fourth planet of the Sirius System and begins her descent to the planet Agartha.

hoshi no koe voices2

A flashback gives us the beginning of her travels. Mikako was recruited to the UN Space Army in a war against a group of aliens called the Tarsians, named after the Martian region (Tharsis) where they were first encountered.
The narrative hints that the aliens were friendly at first and then suddenly slaughtered the earth colonists on Mars and left the planet. Humans have salvaged their technology and are determined to track them down.
Mikako, selected as an exemplary student has been drafted or has volunteered for the Space Army and must break the news to her childhood friend Noboru Terao, then undergo mecha pilot training on Mars. Mikako pilots a Tracer, a giant , heavily armed robotic “mecha” as part of a fighting squadron attached to the spacecraft carrier Lysithea.

When the Lysithea leaves Earth to search for the Tarsians, Noboru is left behind. The two continue to communicate across interplanetary, and eventually interstellar space via the email facilities on their mobile phones. On the edge of the Solar System, the fleet meets a swarm of Tarsian vessels and Mikako’s Tracer must confront a curious alien pod-ship that attempts to examine her Tracer, capture her and/ or kill her. As Mikako destroys the alien pod, the fleet scrambles to evacuate to the Sirius planetary system via a space-warp. As the Lysithea travels deeper into space, the emails take increasingly longer to reach Noboru on Earth, and the time-lag of their correspondence eventually spans years.

In the middle of the anime proper, she sends an email to Noboru (which shows the date 2047-09-16), with the subject “I am here”, saying “to the 24-year old Noboru, from the 15-year old Mikako” which will reach him 8 years, 224 days and 18 hours later.

Hoshi no koe on Agartha

On a seemingly empty, earth-like Agartha, Mikako must once again confront a lone alien; apparently telepathic, it presents itself to her in a hallucination as a lookalike younger version of herself. While “speaking” the alien “her” morphs into a Tarsian and then into an older version of herself. The same room where she woke up in the beginning of the animation is presented again, with the same ambience, but this time she is squatting in the corner, sobbing and pleading with her doppelgänger to let her see Noboru just one more time to be able to say “I love you” to him. The other being says “It will be all right. You will see him again”. The alien also makes vague promises of humanity’s growth in understanding.

The ship’s alarm interrupts the exchange, warning her in its characteristic overdone female british accent that “Tarsians are existing everywhere on Agartha!”. Mikako cries even more, yelling “I don’t understand!”, but her training kicks in and she avoids a ground blast and has to engage the Tarsian pod-ships in close combat. A climactic space battle ensues.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Noboru receives the message, albeit almost 9 years in the future. A voice-over dialogue commences between the two of them which functions as a synchronous soliloquy on the same subject.

Back in orbit around Agartha, three of the four carriers have been destroyed by suicide attacks by Tarsian motherships. The Lysithea remains intact and Mikako, once roused to battle is a formidable fighter. She leads a breakthrough past the defending Tarsian pod-ships and destroys the last remaining Tarsian mother ship. After winning the battle, Mikako in her damaged Tracer drifts in space.

The manga version has a 16 years old Mikako send a message to 25 years old Noboru, telling him that she loves him. By this time Noboru has joined the UN, who have launched a rescue mission for the Lysithea. When Mikako hears the news from her crew mate that UN is sending help for their rescue, she consults a list of people on the mission, Noboru being one of them. She ends by saying that they will definitely meet again.

Voices of a Distant Star was written, directed, animated and produced entirely by Makoto Shinkai on his Power Mac G4. Makoto and his wife, Miko provided the voice acting for the working dub (A second Japanese dub was later created for the DVD release with professional voice actors). Makoto’s musician friend Tenmon, who had worked with Makoto at his video game company, provided the soundtrack. Shinkai cited Dracula and Laputa as inspirations to make Voices.

A manga serialization based on the series in Afternoon magazine from Kodansha in Japan. It was run monthly from February 2004 to December 2004. The story of the manga begins at the same point as the start of the anime and carries the story a little bit beyond the anime itself. Makoto Shinkai wrote the manga, with illustration work done by Mizu Sahara.””

(per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_of_a_Distant_Star, with edits)

(Damnation! I am back to my bad block-quoting habits again!)

Voices of a distant star is exceedingly fast-paced and dense  narrative for its 26 minutes; a casual viewer might have trouble following the action, let alone making sense of the plot. As a long-time reader of American science-fiction, I immediately “read” it as playing with some of the same themes used by Joe Halderman’s landmark Forever War (1974) series and his later Mindbridge (1976).

Elite youth conscription, interspecies war against incomprehensible aliens, lovers separated by time dilation effects and aliens who are telepathic clones who either cannot understand individualism, or believe that the fears expressed in human subconscious thoughts are actually conscious desires (We thought you wanted to fight for fun!) helped me impose a coherent “understanding” on a fragmented narrative that was frightening in its beauty and over-wrought in its emotionalism.

Just say that I am a sucker for long distance romance stories.

hoshi no koe dont mess with grim girl

A few jarring idiosyncrasies in the story help fix it in my memory, and give it an unmistakable “Japanese Anime” feel. Mikako pilots her Tracer from a ovaloid pod-seat with a 360 degree holographic display, so she seems to float in space or above landscapes, while ticker-tape displays on the edges of her field of vision keep her and the viewers updated. Fortunately for me, the UNEF uses english for display text. Now if they could only buy her a proper uniform. Yes, the fleet’s deadliest Tracer pilot wears a middle-school uniform throughout her battles. She is truly a “schoolgirl in a mobilesuit”.

hoshi no koe detail

Another oddity: the years 2046-2056 are a nostalgic time for the Japanese cell-phone market, as they have re-issued the iconic Sharp J-phone, suitably updated to relay sms messages through UN Fleet channels. Anyone out there who needs to cosplay Mikako (or Noboru) can have mine (no I didn’t fanboy out, I got it in a pile of phones from my sweetie’s relatives) for a suitable bribe plus shipping. As a final insult, the J-phone is obsolete and its 2G wcdma protocol is no longer supported by Japanese cell phone companies. Cosplay use only, sorry.

Other anachronisms are the Japanese urban scenes which update the utility poles to make them wireless, but preserve freight rail transport so as to give the viewer plenty of transition scenes that pay homage to Yasujirō Ozu. This is an oddity compared to contemporary Japan: I have never seen a freight train in Japan, only passenger trains. I know they must exist, but they hide them well. Nothing like a war with aliens to shift rail use back to material transport.

Also in terms of visual tropes and homages paid, I commend the obsessive viewer to compare the scene where Mikako’s Tracer chases a Tarsian pod ship across a lake surface on Agartha with a later similar scene in Howl’s Moving Castle. Such imitation homage is a standard part of the “society” of producers in modern Japanese visual culture. Even barbarian furreigners have caught on; one could run a dangerous drinking game prying apart the giant robot fight scenes in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but that is for another day, or a more experienced anime blogger. Oh heck… Pay close attention to the “slice the Kaiju in half from head to toe” during the “breach” battle scene. And the Jaeger is missing an arm!

A la recherche du temps perdue

Voices of a Distant Star spurred more than a few love-it-to-death acts of appreciation from anime fans in the rest of the world. Though an official dub would soon appear, the initial grey zone fan-subbed release was one of the first using the .mkv video encoding package and a then-obscure high-resolution video codec. An advance subtitle protocol was also used so that fonts, placement and timings could be better controlled, all while the enthusiast group made strident declarations that it would not release a smaller, more download friendly and low-powered computer watchable version of the video. It was just too beautiful to ruin with fuzzy video encoding and ugly subtitles.

Back in 2003, high-speed internet was less common than it is today and hobby machines were far less powerful. High definition videos could take a week of all-night dial-up downloading, as modern conveniences like bittorrent and file-drop sites were rare or nonexistent. A determined Japanese anime leech would get a “news-reader” program and possibly some text attachment plug-ins and then would see if their internet provider carried the alt.binaries newsgroup hierarchies and did not impose message length limits. In the latter cases they were left to find an open news group server, wait 30 minutes to load the hierarchy and finally the newsgroup “articles” availability and set their “reader” programs to download huge text messages overnight, which could then be reassembled, decoded, repaired with extra error-correction data sent in further huge messages, unpacked and joined up into their prize.

Back then you really worked for your anime fix. Figure from three evenings to a week per short anime. More if the postings evaporated and you were left pleading for a re-post of a section. Finally when your latest catch sat on the desktop of your home pc, you would have to chase codec packs and find a highly efficient media player so that the .mkv could play without stuttering or causing your machine to crash. If you had a mac, you crossed your fingers and hoped that VLC could handle the load. Quicktime would only play what Apple allowed you to play, with some few exceptions provided by dodgy utilities.

Still the payoff was worth the prolonged effort. You got the newest “good stuff” – the better it was, the more the legions of anonymous fans worked in loose cooperation to disseminate it to the faithful. Also the subtitles often came with footnote subtitles, explaining difficult cultural and translation points, and striving for authenticity. Commercial releases had stupid cutesy hillbilly voiced dubbing and “localized”, poorly translated subbing. The fansubs for one release of Ghibli’s Spirited Away had more footnotes than an average undergraduate sociology paper. These ran above the frame, while the dialogue ran below it. The fansubbers and distributors all knew they were possibly committing a civil-law tort, (as opposed to a crime – it wasn’t back then and still isn’t in many jurisdictions) against the rights-holders but always justified their actions in terms of love for the product and revulsion over the lack of properly venerated western releases. They saw themselves as elite missionaries. From 1999 to 2005, this was pretty much the way lots of anime made it into cheapskake gaijin hands. (Aside: this has absolutely nothing to do with the “download by usenet” come-ons you see on certain sites. Avoid unless you want to hand your machine over to netcriminals.)

No one really has the time for this sort of thing any more.

beautiful-fighting-girl-saito-tamaki-paperback-cover-art

Voices of a Distant Star was created and released after the year 2000 publication of Saito Tamaki’s Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl. The book was and remains a landmark, if only because so many responses to it were offered in the wake of the controversy it stirred up. A full treatment of Tamaki’s opus is beyond this post, but a preliminary contrast between Mikako and his ideal fighting heroine is a useful exercise. Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl is an emotional cypher at her core. In contrast to the American (super) heroine who is often older and carries a traumatic back story that is overcome through heroic activities, the BFG fights because she was born/ created to fight. Fighting is what she does, and she derives that curious sex-deprived joy of French critical theory – jouissance – from her battles. Male characters, especially sports-consumed young male characters are often written with similar thin motivation, but even they eventually get some back story. The BFG gets a revealing outfit an a mofo big weapon, often long, very rigid and dangerous. The symbolism is obvious, forced, and after the publication of Tamaki’s study, self-consciously ironic. (The doc sez it is supposed to be a phallic symbol, so make it BIGGER!)

The pit does not stare back, but sometimes it glances provocatively over its shoulder and winks:

Another aspect of Tamaki’s BFG, which he initially glosses over or misses is how unlike most female characters, the BFG is emotionally stunted and unconcerned/ unskilled in social interaction and empathy. For the male otaku consumer, she is a fantasy character that could not only whomp his ass without breaking a sweat – or the asses of anyone who ever tormented him in real life, but one that he, a ronery basement dwelling neckbeard could give tips to on social interaction (!) Perhaps he could even help her with those mysterious, troubling feelings she is beginning to experience when she is with him…

Bwah Hah Hah! No really…

What nailed this point home to me was an obscure shojo-ai manga, Transistor Teaset that featured a plucky girl electronics geek trying to keep the family electronics parts store in Akihabra alive, and her friends who both had mostly-innocent designs on her affections. At some point they all end up building a “robot maid”, and the gamine- like otaku- ish younger friend then insists that it must speak only one line, in our heroine’s recorded voice:

“What – is – this – thing – called – love ???”.

Here was the emotionally vacant BFG lampooned with vicious and devastating comedic economy. Robomaid subsequently runs amok and ends up haunting the back streets of Akiba town, headless yet still issuing forth her doleful plaint. (off-topic, but of note: the next story arc “Lets meet at Mansaibashi Bridge” is a beautiful retelling of a classic Japanese ghost story and is worth hunting down.) Even a “real” girl in a manga can poke fun at the emotional void in the heart of the BFG.

Back to our heroine Mikako and her problem. An elite “fighter”/ mecha/ Tracer pilot she has learned not only how to wield a complex weapon to defend herself, but to kill. Her weakness is her homesick longing for her male friend, and the regrets she harbours that she was never able to tell Noboru that she loved/ loves him. This lack of traumatic back story is enough to place her solidly within the Tamaki typology, but she is also something else, something missed in Tamaki’s elaborate typology of fighting girl types and something far more dreadful – born out of the wars and disturbances of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century: a child soldier.

Black sails returning:

Among other quips, Jean Baudrillard was known for his cryptic comment that “the messiah always arrives a day too late“. What he meant was that by the time an existing trope or social form goes “hysterical” it is already without consequence; “already out of fashion” (or out of the reality of social force and into fashion) as the case may be. So that by the time Stallone’s Rambo was re-winning on film all the disappointing stalemate battles of 40 years of American foreign adventure, the most lethal, cheap and deployable soldier available to the world’s warlords could be found not in the ranks of elite mercenary corps, or SEAL teams, or even angry Vietnam era veterans, but in the frightened survivors of slaughters in equatorial African villages. Just have your speed-addled terrorized child soldiers kill all the adults in a village, then force half the surviving children slaughter the other half, beat and starve the surviving few, then load them up with amphetamines and you have the twenty-first century’s newest, cheapest and deadliest fighters. You might lose half of them in any battle, but more can be made when needed. Welcome to the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Or you could opt for the high-tech version, popularised early on in American sci-fi by Orson Scott Card in his Ender’s Saga.

Mikako is closer to Card’s Ender. Unlike the Forever War‘s William Mandella and Marygay Potter, Mikako was nowhere near university age when conscripted/ recruited. Halderman wrote Forever War on the tail of the Vietnam conflict; in 1974 the idea that a nation’s best and brightest youth would be sacrificed to a lottery of perpetual war and death – the Minotaur’s Maze updated, was shocking enough: no need to suggest that Unka Sam would go after school children, yet…

Unlike Saito Tamaki’s BFG, both Halderman and Card spent extra time and effort around the question of how to motivate their young pawns to fight ruthlessly. In the first actual battle in Forever War, the recruits find themselves under the spell of hypnotic conditioning that turns them into beserk homicidal fighting fiends upon hearing a trigger phrase. This ensures that they don’t waste time gawking at the stringy “Tauran” enemy in inoffensive looking transparent bubble suits. Friendly fire casualties ensue, and half the surviving earth soldiers go mad from post-traumatic symptoms. Card uses the computer-game metaphor, ruthless drill/ competition and remote telemetry to achieve similar depersonalizing effects. Both sagas started as short stories that allegorised limited hypothetical arguments. Both went on to grow in the telling, but Halderman’s opus remains more humane and appealing to me.

Some day I must dig up a Japanese translation of Halderman’s Forever War and send it to Dr. Tamaki – or perhaps I am years too late.

Strange how the female child warrior gets a completely different treatment in manga and anime than her male counterparts. Jormungand‘s Jonah and Full Metal Panic‘s Sagara Sousuke are afforded far more room for emotional agency, while the restraining of their lethal reflexes becomes a reoccurring sub-plot. The BFG simply fights, rests, waits and fights again.

230px-Nausicaa2cover

Of note is that Tamaki’s highlighting of Princess Nausicaa as a prototypical sub-type of BFG must be taken in the context of Hayao Miyazaki’s longer effort on the Nausicaa manga. Serialized in Tokuma Shoten’s monthly Animage magazine, the first chapter was printed in February 1982 and the final chapter 59, was eventually published in the March 1994 issue of Animage. Many aspects of the manga were unconventional, its layout, pencil-only art work, the pacing of the story and the visual sense of scale, as well as the apocalyptic arc of the entire saga did much to give Tamaki notes for his prototypical “Miko” or “priestess-medium” type. She alone takes on the responsibility of deciding that the ancient technology that waits for the purification of the land must be destroyed. Some synopsis’s suggest that she perishes in the process.

“She is beyond good and evil, Western values mean nothing to her”

Tamaki cautions against simple plot-readings of the BFG trope, instead seeing her archetype as the locus of hysteria in character and reader alike. I may have read this part wrong, because the hysteria section of his work is the one point where his arguments become completely and utterly opaque. Many reviewers have warned that the work, available in English translation since 2011 is full of dense post-lacanian psycho-babble and that it meanders all over the place.  Upon finally securing a paperback version and reading the entire thing I found it logically ordered, well researched and carefully argued and a reasonably good if not too challenging a read. It is far superior to his shorter work on Otaku Sexuality examined earlier in this blog.

Except for the hysteria section.

Best I can make out is a feedback/ overload condition between everyone and everything surrounding the shocking realization that someone could create and present the BFG as a character. The BFG is a trauma on the (male) imagination, a shock-as-wound that male fandom keeps falling into; one so popular that fan-producers and commercial producers are driven to recreate her again and again so that the trauma can be forever experienced and re-experienced and shared with new converts.

stuff works the way it should crop

The trauma of course is the BFG’s real, physical libidinal effect on the (again male) reader. One shouldnt get horny thoughts from looking at a manga heroine. Surely this is the path of madness. (Don’t call me…) Hato’s reading of het male oriented dojins allows him to experience this thrill in a ridiculously funny context. He is surprised, yet reassured that the “normal” stuff still has some effect for him. His original trauma was something quite more surprising and “other” than a mere armored cutie. Was Shimoku-sensei having even more fun with Hato then we originally thought?

The afterword to Tamaki’s 2006 paperback re-issue of Sento bishojo no seishinbunseki (戦闘美少女の精神分析), (Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl) recommends the Genshiken manga series as a valid fictional treatment of a University-age otaku community. Hato was created shortly thereafter. His traumatic wound was fixating on yaoi pr0n at an early age: a type of “trauma” that may serve as the female analogue to the Beautiful Fighting Girl (the Beautiful Bonking Bishonen?), but is comically mis-applied to a young male. Tamaki’s repeated promises to examine fujoshi sexuality have all so far come up short; he lacks access to correspondents and he is too steeped in the sexism that lays deep within the very grammar of post-lacanian psychoanalysis to yet pull off a convincing theoretical framework.

easy to replicate effect final

Others have adapted the post-lacanian methodology: Kazumi Nagaike’s work can be read as a worthy and useful variation on the theme, especially when one considers her update of her 2004 thesis, published as “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” rather than the original/ (previously reviewed in this blog) first efort. Unfortunately “Fantasies” has a list price of $130, so Google Books excerpts and the original freely downloadable thesis are all mere mortals like us will see of it. “Fantasies” seems to lose a lot of “the veneration of the demon bones of Freud” that plagued her earlier academic effort and delves deeper into the cathexis, the shock of a “scopophillic“/ voyeuristic libidinous charge that female readers of rough yaoi pr0n and earlier variants experience in their first encounter with the hawt stuff.

Some divergence between the male and female experience, especially among communities can be extrapolated. Per Tamaki, the males become ironic connoisseurs of the effect, internalizing the shock of desire for a fiction and turning it into knowledge and mastery of the formal elements of the narrative. Taken too far, this leads to the “database animals” scratching an itch with products from the Otaku automat. The female variant enjoys a similar social urge to share and promote the thrill/ trauma/ wound, but also values narratives that use nested levels of storytelling as a guide to the initial “enjoyment’ of the weirdness depicted in their fave tales. So at least claims Nagaike as she details the plot convolutions of early 20th century Japanese literature that takes up proto-yaoi themes. Nagaike’s “Fantasies” even features long appendices with her translations of the examined proto-yaoi tales. Some of these are not for the squeamish.

Of course later fujoshi social practice also engages in elaborate typologies of plot tropes, that crystallize around the pairing dynamics of the male characters. Given the high percentages of historic participation in Japanese fan-produced parody culture, including their participation at decades of Comikets, it is a wonder that some theorist has not declared male otaku culture as largely derivative of female fan parody culture, if not strongly influenced by it.

I just wish Nagaike had used a better title. The “cross-dressing” here is all conceptual and virtual, by the fujoshi (and proto-fujoshi) who assume a fake-male/ fake-gay-male viewer position to better enjoy the some naughty stuff. Unfortunately the title puts the work into the F-to-M trans theory pile where it languishes and disappoints those interested in the  issue.

Other attempts at playing the post-lacanian hysteria card to explain fujoshi or wider shojo desire are perhaps more ambitious, or more lazy or more poetic. Mechademia Vol.6 has Frenchy Lunning deploying Kristeva’s theory of the abject in her “Under the ruffles: Shojo and the morphology of Power“. What we get is the vertiginous flow of Kristeva-esque hyperbole a la full Powers of Horror (get your copy  here) mode, without the rigorous buildup. We all love Kristeva for her poetics, but she can get away with it because she also brings a feast to the table. Just saying… we critical-theory-moe types can be greedy and ungrateful.

Urrrrp! Needs more meat, less ruffles.

Voices of a Distant Star is chock full of moe, but Mikako the child soldier is more reluctant hero than battle zombie girl, great honking plasma sword notwithstanding. (push the SWORD button and yell “For My Family!”) One thing that Tamaki never really delves into is the difference between a hero girl, or girl hero and the Beautiful Fighting Girl. The BFG is an object of pure, shocking, disconnected libidinous desire. The American female super-heroine is an older “real woman” working off some injustice. But where is our hero of a (next) thousand (female) faces? As I ventured early on in this blog, Dorothy of OZ is not a very solid foundation for building a tradition of a female Bildungsroman upon. (for more on this and the idea of the frauenroman see this site.)

Much remains to be discovered as to the appeal of the Beautiful Fighting Girl, or heroic girl, or the shojo hero (as opposed to the shojo heroine?)

At this point all I can venture is that idealizing and/ or desiring heroic female agency is probably healthier for males and females, than idealizing and desiring female subservience and powerlessness.

Call it a win.