Many Happy Returns: Spotted Flower Ch 20.5

Will Spotted Flower become Genshiken Sendaime?
Spoiler lamp is on for Chapters 20.5-21.5(?)

The latest English scanlation of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower has surfaced. Chapter 20.5 is just plain wunnerful. It has been less than a year since the Genshiken ended and it looks like Kio Shimoku is getting busy again. Our win; we get 16 pages of alternate-universe, ten-years-later fujoshi fanning; starring a recognisable genderbent ero-dojonshi-mangaka and their manager, plus a new character (their editor for their commercial output) and some old friends at Comiket. Kio-sensei packs a lot into those 16 pages, along with the an overload of boobie jokes.

A brief refresher on Spotted Flower. Because of its publication in a different magazine, owned by a different publishing company, Spotted Flower could never be an “official” follow-up to Genshiken. Contracts and intellectual property issues. “The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions…” Unofficially, Spotted, which has run for 7 years of three-times-per-year shorts, most recently as a regular in Hakusensha’s Adult/ Josei Rakuen Le Paradis magazine (and later collected into 2 tankobon volumes) has always served as Kio-sensei’s personal AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic and spinoff of his Genshiken. With the source story ended, Spotted is free to seek its own destiny. I hope that the mangaka and the magazine are thinking about permanently expanding the number of pages for each release; becoming in effect a full series. A web and Twitter search has turned up news of further larger chapters. 14pps in the March 2017 volume 23 of Le Paradis. Volume 21 carried the baby naming chapter 20.

The upcoming Volume 24 of Le Paradis threatens to release 28pps + 4 bonus pages (ch 22?) on June 30 (2017). See: http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol24/

Spotted Flower chapter 21 looks like the old gang visiting the new parents. As well, alt-Hato’s editor is about to find out more about her rising star BL auteur. We will have to wait. The 0.5 numbered chapters are devoted to alt-Hato and alt-Yajima, the whole number ones to the happy couple.

A few oblique observations on Spotted Flower:

Boobies as text:

Kio-sensei knows that guy otakus like boobies and uses them as signifiers for “sexy” and “womanly”. Sometimes one would prefer that he spend more time on the entire character rather than mashing the boobie button. He spends far less time on say, legs, butts or curvy hips (though alt-Hato, following perhaps on the Nidaime anime, has been given an impressive silhouette). When he bothers, his adult, especially adult female body chara renderings are varied and respectful – especially for larger frames. As well, he can deploy incredibly nuanced facial expressions to depict emotion. But those boobies! Alt-Ohno’s overdone nursing breast explosion. Alt-Hato and Alt-Sue’s assisted developments. Breast size is also marked as one of the stereotyped things that female socials are supposed to natter on about and rank themselves /display envy about. For a mangaka who inventively and respectfully depicts different body types, especially women’s body types, this trick feels like a throwback or at least a concession to an earlier form of stupid, easy service for Chads.

The entire Sue the pettanko western girl doing exploratory feels of well endowed Japanese women joke – which had gone on for years – is a reversal gag on a hoary manga/anime fanservice trope. It might even have slipped into reality. A friend reported that it happened to her for realsies in a women’s public bath in Korea but any envy/competition reading strips off complex layers of social interaction within the act: “Oh look a foreigner in our bath. How do we break the ice? This will be something to compliment her on, talk and laugh about and thereby welcome her into our social.

Nope, just competition and jealousy in the hen-yard. Fail!

Angela Burton(!) The sleep-over at Yajima-san’s parents’ house. And now, alt-Merei’s tender service to her lover interrupted by alt-Hato’s (at first impression) idiotic blundering question. Add to this all the Madarame-sempai interaction: “I have no breasts”(!) from Hato. Sue feeling under-endowed and therefore somehow inadequate in his eyes. While Mada might mutter to himself that it’s no big deal; lolicon, otokonoko games, etc., he neglects to open his pie-hole, announce the point and set worries to rest. Mada=otaku. Otaku=boobies want. A simple equation; the burden of more personal, more fraught exchange avoided.

Boy Detective.

Genshiken Nidaime turned on the character of Hato Kenjiro, the boy who wanted to be a fujoshi. Not a Fu-Danshi but a fujoshi. From this ridiculous conceit, everything he has (been written, etc) done followed naturally. And so continues to follow alt-Hato.

I though BL could make everything come true.

Fer krissakes! Unreliable narrator is unreliable! Google is your friend. Science can’t do that yet. If it could it would kill you and besides, an ero-dojin-mangaka could not afford it. Still, this kind of foolish banter is perfect and poignant for the worries it lets slip. Folks are growing up, settling down, having kids. Sempai is a father?!? Note the obvious (fertile, clock ticking, ticking) unsaid in the room. Nope! Didn’t notice it at all, La La La. Poor alt-Merei, like she needs another handful.

My thanks once again to long-time correspondent B.Sellers for not only giving me the heads up about ch 20.5 hitting the sites but for citing the venerable 90’s manga Family Compo in the report.

The problem of course lies squarely in the lap (ooops, yeah, but for now lets stick to metaphor) of alt-Hato’s (and their creator’s) unique vision of genderqueer. Whether to avoid drawing the attention of IRL tojisha folks or to grind off the serial numbers and avoid a trace-back conformity audit to source material, alt-Hato remains a “mostly” cis-gendered, heterosexual male person who does not think that they can “be” a woman. A Fujoshi? Perhaps, and fujoshi is all that Hato (and alt-Hato) ever dreamt of being. This of course is extremely problematic but Japan (and the mangaka) pretends not to worry about such things. It is possible, along the furthest edges of considered western non-binary, genderqueer activism to respect this dream. Hato will be Hato. Fuck everyone’s categories and nasty self-serving infra-tribal battles. Queer is as queer does. Leave the ero-dojin-mangaka alone.

Until editor-san finds out.

“If the fujoshi ever found out I was a guy…”

What a fun plot twist! As a dojin artist, alt-Hato could remain as anonymous as they wished. You can hide all manner of participation within a “dojin circle” Going pro means entirely different levels of public accessibility and interaction. The editorial staff are the first hurdle. Then come interviews, signings and publicity. Kio-sensei knows all about these challenges; his nom-de-plum and his standing plea to his fans to only photograph his hands can serve as inspiration. A booth at Comiket need only feature a someone or two, perhaps wearing the ubiquitous Japanese allergy/cold mask(s). Once in the spotlight, the pressures on alt-Hato to conform to ancient and annoying Japanese stereotypes of public behaviour for persons with ‘deemed male at birth’ bodies who present as female would be intense. Alt-Yajima’s “Host of a TV Entertainment show” suggestion and alt-Hato’s “No Damn Way!” must be considered in the light of the Japanese entertainment industry’s past ‘use’ of such.

Going public would again open up the confusing question of sexuality, this time on a far more dangerous stage. Crossdressing + breast enhanced guy BL ero-mangaka? Must do guys, right? Likes girls, or one particular woman? This is confusing – wouldn’t that be Yuri? The situation is as troublesome but not identical to all manner of internal shit-fights within western activist feminist and trans communities. Those controversies have been ongoing for decades. Japanese practice removes much of the heated activist controversy and replaces it with brutal commercial objectification and exploitation. “New Half“? “Okama“? “XXX Resbian Sex Secrets“? Crossdressing Gay Actor“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihiro_Miwa] “Hard Gay“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaki_Sumitani] An ero-mangaka can keep one foot in the exalted realm of “the author”; the man or woman of letters; Nihon Bunka — Japanese Culture with a capital C. …Even as the other foot dances along the edges of “the floating world”. The latter might float but it always was and remains brutal.

Alt-Hato as a trans-fujoshi virtual lesbian might work as a manga character. For Hato Kenjiro’s creator, the character served a number of useful functions, including testing the limits of support and accomodation that a “good fan club” and a fujoshi social could offer. Let’s run the setup once again and see how it could be adapted to the meta of a character that is an “out” genderqueer ero-mangaka:

Women enjoy BL and Yaoi even though the tangle of fictional, sexed bodies excludes representing them. Numerous women who like women share in this enjoyment, even at one further remove from IRL desire. Within the Genshiken/Spotted Flower verse, the old line explanation of BL/yaoi as a pure fantasy of desire and romance holds like an absolute game engine rule. Why should Hato/alt-Hato have to desire 3D guys just because ze enjoys women-written fantasies of guy-looking characters fucking? Sex with a 3D guy for Hato and or alt-Hato is a non-playable character, even if the Hato continuum has built their lives around the enjoyment and then connoisseur-ship of fantasies of such intimacy. Therefore it is not improbable that Alt-Hato likes girls, either as residual straight guy or virtual lesbian fujoshi. Mada always was part of the fantasy. As “the only man I’ll ever…” he remains so. The only loose end would be the ero-mangaka’s 3D immersion/ performance/ commitment to the romantic ideal of the genre. Does this mean that alt-Yajima has put on a public “butch” or “tachi” persona? Family Compo Redux!

It could be more complicated; the Genshiken could have had furries.

Oh snap! Scrag the furries jokes! This is serious! it is all fine and fun to speculate on well-worn story tropes in Japanese anime, games and manga. And then to speculate how to cookie-cutter these into a manga. Behold the violence of the database. In meat-space the way trans/ gender-nonconforming folks are represented can hurt. Can be complicit in real harm: even more so than most obnoxious fictional otherings. The kind of things that authors, readers and societies have to learn not to do any more, if only because we now have better, more exciting and more nuanced replacements for these chestnuts.

Kio Shimoku created a complex character who only wished to expresss as a female subjectivity within the context of fujoshi fandom, for a number of internal story-mechanics reasons. Now a reflection of that character re-appears and they (are written, etc.) have built their entire life around living in that fandom and presenting as a woman. Kio-sensei may in the future have his character self-identify as a transwoman, a  transwoman who is a fujoshi or even the improbable idea of a trans-fujoshi. Or as something else. What interaction alt-Hato now has with anyone removed from their immediate circle of aquaintances is either as an anonymous female person or as a (gendered as female) fujoshi-ero-dojin-mangaka. The character remains fraught with internal contradictions – why shouldn’t they/ their character be given the space to breathe within them? Can Spotted be both libidinised low comedy and aspirational fiction?

I can only hope that Kio-sensei does not “reveal” the initial impetus for both alt-Hato and alt-Sue’s “urge to augment” as fallout from comments by a very dense alt-Madarame who brushed both of them off for being flat-chested. Note to Kio Shimoku: Please Do Not Go There. Even Madarame’s legendary and insufferable “spineless perv luck” has limits. I remain puzzled by why either of them would bother with augmentation. A ridiculous rack is a pain in the back – for life. Any of their women friends should have (been written, etc.,) told them this on numerous occasions. Boobies remain problematically over-inscribed in Kio’s story-worlds.

The Strongest Fan

Sue Hopkins and her alt-Sue incarnation has always carried within her character a large measure of inscrutability. The outlander woman fan/ fen as Force of Nature. Purposefully opaque. Trouble with capital T. Ariel the magical spirit. Her lore is deep, her reserves of magic yet to be revealed You saved my life so I will save yours 3 times, then go my own way. In the meantime she observes, prods, samples, tastes and gorges on experience, even as nothing touches the core of her being. None shall ever know moi. Were she native Japanese the mangaka would turn her into another Benzaiten manifestation.

Impatient. Unconcerned with social mores and prescriptions. Beyond good and evil. Grabs boobies.

Poor alt-Hato! While alt-Sue is a good-looking woman (character), it is not her bod and new tits that make her attractive. She radiates. Anyone would… And so alt-Hato lets slip his clumsy insecurities. This was wonderfully handled, even as the poor jerk reveals his fears and delusions. Yes your manager loves you… Asshat! Lookie at all the up-with-you-put she has to lavish upon you and your misbehavior. Yes, you are massively dependent on her arts and her charms.

Don’t fuck up!

Nope: your mad genderbent lurv skillz have not turned her into a lesbian despite your new tits, stylish wardrobe and constant rotten-girling. That means that at least for now, she is not going to throw you over for alt-Sue, even if alt-Sue is amazing. All this may carry a crude whiff of some idea of virtual-lesbian fujoshi-dom, even as it denies any same-sex desire by alt-Yajima. Whatever. Women in Japan, regardless of inclination still get stuck carrying the relationshippy bucket. Yo alt-Hato-chin; you should consider a grovelling apology for vamping in front of your old sempai while your manager had to stew in the next room. Reason by analogy time. If you became worried and insecure…. wait for it… Duhhh!

Kio-sensei has always been better at showing couples chafing than at being lovy-dovey. Also falling apart. Lets hope he keeps that one in the bottom drawer.

Alt-Sue is undoubtedly chief assistant to alt-Ogiue-sensei, the successful commercial ‘mainstream” mangaka. A voracious consumer of women’s pop libidinised fiction. The uber-fen. Probably does not like girls “that way” if only because the creator of this ‘verse seems to go out of his way to avoid “realistic” lesbian desire – whether from a fear of clumsiness with yuri tropes, to hide one of the main sources for the making of the Hato character (cf Mizoguchi, 2005) or out of a larger predisposition. So how is alt-Sue doing?

A digression with Lost Extras:

Has anyone noticed that we thieving leeches have not yet laid our mitts upon any English-translated Genshiken Volume Extras since volume 15? The extra panels from volumes 16 through 21 remain un-scanlated. These are traditionally whomped up as a bonus by the mangaka as the originals are re-formatted for release in a tankobon. I have gone out of my way to secure all 21 volumes of the original Japanese run of the Genshiken. There they sit in a neat pile. Sorry about my complete inability to understand Japanese. Google photo-recognition translate is a mess. No, I am not going to bring down the wrath of the big K upon myself and this blog by copying them and plopping them onto the web. Besides, If I did so, I wouldn’t admit it; I haven’t yet figured out how to chain VPNs together and wouldn’t trust the dodgy new owner of 4chan not to track IP addresses of image uploaders in any case. I can never get Tor to work and remain suspicious of it.

The only images I upload here are by way of critical comment, study and analysis. Even the parody ones by a dodgy eastern-European (or something) scan-group, who insist on putting their own wrong words into the dialog bubbles, are presented by way of example of fannish secondary production. As I hold an art degree and have given at least one conference talk on these matters, this is pure “fair use”. Have another fricking Zizek quote, just to hammer it home. Lookie at my Academia.edu account. No 3.1416-R8-cy here, nothing to see, move along.

I declare that the yet-to-be processed volume extras will remain as a way for us outlander fans to prove our devotion and appease our curiosity by buying up all the official English releases when they finally hit the shelves.

Whenever something finally happens, we will all be able to see that one page in the volume 21 extras (or was it the bonus leaflet cover?) that looks like Sue dragging Mada off, perhaps to silence any speculation as to exactly how things are going with them?

Did I mention the extremely irritating spineless perv luck effect? Sarraryman-boy privilege at 9000, again! Be sure to accompany her home, Casanova!

Perhaps alt-Sue is not a kiss-less rotten-girl wizard (sorceress? witch?) with a boob-job. I wish her chara well. May she have snacked on all the 3D cuddles she desired as she gorges on 2D yaoi-smut.

As for Alt-Saki, the wife, not the child; despite petabytes of online fan speculation it was ridiculously easy for Kio-sensei to pair her up with alt-Buddy Boy. The volume extras for Spotted Flower are instructive. Again, the woman had to do all the work. Perhaps Spotted Flower ch21 will have ‘the ex-boyfriend” casually mention how he still does not feel the urge to start a family. Wham! You didn’t have to disappear Kousaka-san or have him screw around, go gay or get hit by a beer truck. He had only to stand in the way of a ticking fertility clock. Women DO that kind of thing in manga, otherwise Japan sinks, -urrr- suffers irrecoverable population decline. Can we all say rigid gender role expectations? Stories are easier to plot out that way. All together now…

See also: loser-dog women, christmas cake women, the unmarried, amazingly hawt but still single and slightly psycho 29-year-old woman high-school teacher. Cross reference with Merei’s mom’s comment upon first setting eyes upon Madarame and Kuchiki.

Why this digression on sexuality and gender expression in Spotted Flower (with carry-over from the Genshiken) characters? I must point out that despite featuring a transwoman-appearing character, their virtual-lesbian-appearing partner, the libidinized BL/yaoi fandom they work in, the discussions of improbable male-pregnancy plot-lines, the flirting with alt-Mada and the hints of his married-life kinkeries, that Spotted Flower remains the most heteronormative “queer” manga that I can find. Buddha on a Bicycle! This thing is about having a baby and becoming a good child- raising couple. Alt-Ohno and the yet-to-be-met Alt-Tanaka (was he there in ch20’s hall somewhere?) already have two kids. And the pressure will be building – I predict – for our lesbian-appearing couple except that, yes! Japan will have no problem whatsoever registering their marriage certificate. Meanwhile, all the queer-appearing characters drop caveats and disclaimers: “Nope we still… and/or nowhere enough… not.

“I’m not gay, it’s only you.”

Spotted Flower must provoke all manner of mixed reactions within the Japanese queer community. If I ever get wind of any these reactions, I’ll try to repost/ mention them here. For now, I stick to my side of the street. As well, despite alt-Hato’s breasts (and possibly hormones) all the Spotted Folk are earnestly vanilla. Cosplay and Stripsu Pantsu. Otokonoko games. Alt-Hato is drawing dojins that follow the kind of historical story-lines that Yoshitake used to obsess over. Alt-Hato and alt-Yajima cuddle (and presumably bonk the old-fashioned way). Happily boring; male bodies with female bodies trying to stay together trying to find some small measure of contentment – 1.2 times per week (barring pregnancy).

Genshiken‘s Saki-prime once mentioned that she had gay friends/acquaintances. Alt-Saki/ the wife seems to have forgotten them. Fer krissakes, Kio-sensei; the dog was barking before with the absence of IRL lesbians in the Genshiken. This also masked the absence of IRL gay men. That pooch is now out in the courtyard howling. It is going to look rather insulting unless someone in the new Spotted-verse, even a peripheral someone likes members of their own sex.

Over here in the outlands, it is called “erasing“. It is considered a not-good thing.

On the other hand, if you clumsily represent, you risk doing a different not-good thing.

Oh heck! This is complicated!

You don’t have to make Kousaka gay. Or Sue non-binary (newfangled speak for ‘Bi”). Any of the female editorial staff at the publishing company can be a fujoshi who likes 3D women. Or you can whomp up an honest to goodness gay male BL fan character. Some do exist. Go get that handy fan-fudanshi study “Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]“. by Yoshimoto, Taimatsu.The author still sells copies and has a website for orders. [http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm]
It has testimonial interviews that you can swipe. The research is much easier now. Then you can have everyone feel uncomfortable when the editorial staff meets the mangaka and assistant.

Profit!

Since I’ve switched on the infamous ‘playset field’, it’s time for:

How the mangaka got their verisimilitude back!

We outlander types can peer in on (parts? of) chapter 21.5 as a web preview on the Rakuen Le Paradis web site – at least for now. Click on the cover image to load the pages.

No, here: 
http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol23/trial/0424_kio/index.html?pagecode=1

Forget the problem of creating a believable otaku university club crammed with 2017-era geek guys and rotten girls. Instead, why not use a contemporary adult social; something that you can get research notes on. Say, the offices of a manga magazine publisher. Far more interesting too. The following in no way reflects upon the real conditions in any division of hakusensha.co.jp or its staff.

I like Le Paradis. They keep putting sexy adult women on their covers. All of them look like they are in the middle of torrid, romance-drenched assignations. Very grown-up and steamy. A fair amount of yuri, some BL and a noteable amount of heterosexual romance. Some backsliding, as the works inside have their share of teen characters. A josei magazine that can interest guys too – and I think that goes a bit of the distance towards explaining why Spotted Flower ended up there. Spotted might have been one of the lightest of the regular offerings. Time to up the game, now that the happy couple have their new child to deal with.

Then again 14-sai runs in Le Paradis, So do works by Takemiya Jin, Rendou Kurosaki and even of late, Kōji Kumeta. Yipe! I could run this entire blog solely on their output. I am now a convert to “Neo-Josei“! Fer krissakes, make a licensing deal with Crunchyroll Manga Service for simultaneous translated releases or something. Give me advance preview peeks and a pittance and I will regularly sing/ blog forth thy praises. Retain an aged outlander!

YO Hakusensha!!! I for one welcome my new Josei overlords.

Not holding my breath.

May I first suggest putting a hard link for Le Paradis at the bottom of your main magazine listing page? It is one of yours, right? Why are you hiding it? If the gravure bikini model pics mag gets a link, why not Le Paradis?

Towards an expanded topology of contemporary fen praxis

(Whooo-boya! I got to use praxis in an essay, again!)

Please review the Ogiue Maniax re-reading of the original Genshiken; [https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/return-to-genshiken-volume-3-stimulation-simulation/]

This is an excellent examination of the details that went into making the original mid-2k’s Genshiken a beloved classic. Note how the blog’s proprietor highlights how “infra” the game discussion gets (even as the English translation struggles to keep up with it). The youtbe clip of the fan-made fighting magical girls game drives home the weirdness of hardcore fandom at the time. As I have previously noted, behind some of the old-guard male fandom’s vitriol about the women-led second generation’s club practice lay the obvious conclusion that Kio Shimoku knew very little about what fujoshi and women otaku actually enjoyed and DID when they fanned out. (To be fair, fujoshi socials were a lot more secretive in 2009 than they are today.) The boy Genshiken followed anime and manga, read naughty derivative dojins, played games and derivative fan-games, constructed plasmo, even gunpla models (Plastic models, a subset being models from Gundam franchise) helped out with female-led cosplay events and wrote TLDR fan essays for publication and kept up with online fan BBS’s.

All the guy readers were perfectly willing to put up with girls running the club if they could peek in and pick up some anthropology. More fun then K-on; Fujoshi-raku. Perhaps they could then make interesting small-talk if they ever ran across a real live fujoshi. Instead: BL, BL dojins, pairing talk and unconfortable sparks between a young guy who wants to be a fujoshi and the leftover uber-geek. WUT?

Where are my secret fujoshi secrets revealed?

BLergh! “It’s all rotten stuff now and THAT TR*P!”

I have also pointed out that No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (WataMote) had more female otaku verisimilitude in it than all of Genshiken Nidaime. And a magic wand personal massager too!. Criticise New Game as Cute Girls Doing Karoshi, but the idea that games for women, made by women are a robust market and not just a niche shelf of silly otome games involving pigeon boyfriends (or butler vampire dogs) offers glimpses of what Genshiken Nidaime missed. Women do Gunpla. There is a huge game market for women. Voice actor audio, Net-broadcast extras. The merchandise. The Cosplay. The online fandoms. The posters and limited edition whatevers that come with the BD release.

The whole effing spend your entire adult paycheck Media Mix.

This requires field study!

Now we have an ambitious young genderqueer mangaka and their very able manager/ assistant, with an editor pushing to mainstream their output. Opportunity seldom knocks twice. Played right, Spotted Flower could expand into a full mad romp/ game map through the entirety of the beat-a-property-to-death process that is modern Media Mix Marketing in CVJC. Stick to the women’s side of the avenue. You can still pop back every chapter for at least %40 coverage devoted to Otaku hubby and wife raising their first child hijinx.

Kio could get to do a manga (partially) about making manga, the holy grail/ old chestnut dream of all mangakas – if only because there is always plenty of material for next month’s chapter close at hand.

Oooh, A signing for the mangaka.
They are planning an anime!
Seiyu! Production committee meetings.
Marketing Department!
Theme music by dodgy Talento agency bands.
Console and phone game versions
Lookie; a spin-off light novel series!
Bonus audio disks, posters, key chain fobs,
Figurines, CM’s, PV’s, online forums, fanfiction.

Long walks down Otome Street to take notes.
A scene where the editorial staff gets to meet and query a group
of grown-up, employed, married contemporary fans?

Why should Saekano have all the fun. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saekano:_How_to_Raise_a_Boring_Girlfriend]

Welcome back, we missed you!

Gripe, gripe, gripe. Picky fans are picky.
We wouldn’t pick if we weren’t already completely, hopelessly sucked in.
Urusai!
Wait – the contradictions have sucked us all in… again!
Sensei knows best.

Hey? Are you gonna give the characters names?

 

Update: See also: Astro Nerd Boy‘s review, if only for the “Brian” graphic
(damn! forgot that ‘un!)
https://anime.astronerdboy.com/2017/06/spotted-flower-chapter-20-5-1-manga-review.html

Either World Domination or something about bananas

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

Instead, a quick ‘n dirty review of

Otaku Sexuality
by Saitō Tamaki

Translated by Christopher Bolton,  Introduction by Kotani Mari 

In “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. pps 222-249.

The oblique intro:

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

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

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

How Annoying!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilarity ensues…

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

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

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

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

And an introduction to my main complaint about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shogenai..,

Another correspondent invoked by Saitō:

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

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

“The Origins of Asymmetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omne animal post coitum triste

Perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is extremely valuable!

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

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

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

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

Back to Saitō:

Next we get some quick and dirty analysis on Miyazaki:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm… I’ve heard that one before…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moe ishihara web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston we have smut!

Why can’t the rotten girls customize theirs too?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is unworthy of serious scientific endeavor!

Stop it now!

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

The possibility of global causality violation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three issues were:

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

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

Here is Aoyama on the Nov 2005 issue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

Here is some fresh theory writing:

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

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

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

Goodies include:

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

more…..

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

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

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

Later:

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

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

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

Sounds useful!

Another fine paper:

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

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

A sample:

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

later

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, this one caught my eye:

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

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

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

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

Next time, something light and pleasant

The shadow of the warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism. (TM)

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

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

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

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

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

Three cheers for cat-herders everywhere!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where indeed?

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

Wait, I’m confused now…

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

He has only ever fallen for women.

Next up: Contested spaces

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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