Thus love betrays us

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

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


Should have tried it this way

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

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

Bad Karma, a sensual obsession

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

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

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

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

What things? Where has she gleaned her information from?

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

How could that be?

Gen ch102 p19web

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

competitionp21web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, at least some of them…

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

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

Why can’t everyone just get along?

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

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

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

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

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

Yikes!

Perhaps it is time to pull a Schultz…

“I know nothing, I see nothing…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extend Shields!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads to a further weird digression:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can only guess at either. Confused yet?

It’s complicated…

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

Other stuff of note happened upon of late…

How the Philippines does rotten girl:

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

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

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

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

Incidentally a fine usage guide for tyro translators: 

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

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

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

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

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

Get rich at Comiket?

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy Fujoshi studies of the year bibliography:

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

Another fan studies resource:

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

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

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

And finally:

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

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

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

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For those who would yet sing

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

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

Forget Baudrillard

,
WARNING! Incredibly meandering mess continues beyond the cutline!

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

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


Continue reading

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 Pillow Book Of Sei Shonagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I should control myself when posting comments on other blogs.

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

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

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

Yipe!

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

First; formalism in the genre:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look what happened to Mom! “(3)

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

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

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

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

ASIDE: “Who speaks my name in shadows?”

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

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

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

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

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

Duh? Dat so Captain Obvious? Your point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frinstance:

“Unmarked categories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Handmaiden’s Tale Batman!

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

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

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

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

Back to some heteronormative male fear-disgust reactions:

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

Kill it with fire!

At a safe distance…

Off to the re-education camps!!!

(Note the rising angst-flood of male hysteria)

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

Yeeee-Haw! It's Male Hysteria time!

Yeeee-Haw! It’s Male Hysteria time!

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

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

“Humor is an interrupted defense reflex…”

...nuff said...

Those nightmares sound familiar…

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

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

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

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

if you did, you would shatter with rage…

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

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

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

From MJJ again, on slash sex:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Laurie Anderson once asked

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese merchants and publishers like fujoshis!

MJJ again, from 2002:

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

Today they are a market segment.

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

Random endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Laws of Magic

This blog is rapidly getting out of hand.

These have been kicking around my workbooks for the last 100 years, and they need to get out into the real world before I get hit by a beer truck. Dump fuel and ignite first, then explain:

Here are the laws of magic:

1)  Similarity
2)  Contiguity
3)  Contagion
4)  Repetition
5)  Opposition
6)  Displacement
7)  the Secret
8 ) Taxonomy
9)  Ritual
10) Hermeneutic

37)  37

Yes! finally got rid of them! Those of you who have a passing acquaintance with fantastic literature will recognise the first few as sir James G. Frazer’s laws of magic.
20+ years ago I ran across the review of a book on advertising that proposed using J.G.Frazer’s laws of magic, along with the 4th law, to understand PR/ advertising/ mass culture and the utter unavailability of a decent lunch in downtown Dover Beach ON for under $10.

Aside: NO….. I am not suggesting that there the Golden Bough is anything but a folly, and an inadvertent romp in the euroethnic victorian male anxiety closet. But Whooooooeeeeee ! what a romp! Why did he and Jung never cross paths?

What struck me was the approach of this long-forgotten book; it had nothing to do with fantasy or spells, or pudgy middle-aged pasty types looking for an excuse to get naked with each other. Rather it was a kind of home-fry semiotics; an attempt to lay down some quickie rules on making convincing narratives and dropping meta-narrative hooks into a tale. Heuristics for toothpaste ads, shaggy dog stories and do it yourself religions. I took it upon myself to add the remaining 6 to make a deca-whatever-bloobloo and add one more just because the number 37 pops up again and again for no particularly good reason.

Quick recap: simile, metonym, metaphor.

Repetition; aka: Invoke often, use a bigger hammer.

Opposition; aka dialectic, opposites attract/ repel / compare/contrast.

Displacement; or how to bundle the entire field of semiotics into one word. Related concepts involve transcendence, floating signifier, Baudrillard’s angry crystal (DAMN! I love Jimbo! what poetry!), the Lacanian idea of the law and the god nailed high. Break a tool, make a symbol. have a nice day.

The Secret; of course I can’t tell you how this one works. Also the hidden, and the disappeared/ destroyed/ absent/ forgotten.

Taxonomy; the arbitrary violence of sorting.

Ritual; how we kill gods.

Hermeneutic; any narrative scheme works well enough if internally consistent; if we are lucky it might be useful under some conditions (swiped and expanded from Niven)

37 (REDACTED)

I realise that dropping this into a blog on a Japanese manga is akin to exclaiming that:
“All of the problems in the world can be explained by the propensity for liquids to flow into inconvenient places” or attempting to explain the American civil war in terms of a political economy of energy sources (a university course I once suffered through).

On the other hand, the more I research into what has been written on Genshiken; on other weird manifestations of desire in manga; on obsessive fan cultures that spread across the globe via the net and on the way identity and misappropriation unfold across cultural spaces, the more I am convinced that the structure of the whole ball-o-wax is fundamentally simple.

The devil lies in the details.