Why Hato: build up logically

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

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

Didn’t I start here?

Insanely long fan-out continues below the cutline, you have been warned…
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The shadow of the warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism. (TM)

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

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

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

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

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

Three cheers for cat-herders everywhere!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where indeed?

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

Wait, I’m confused now…

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

He has only ever fallen for women.

Next up: Contested spaces

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

The contradictions of peversity

“Sie mussen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen”

What a fine construction is Hato as a character. Perhaps Kio Shimoku originally created him on a whim, to set a “trap” fox amidst a fujoshi henhouse, but bit by bit he has been purposely built up as a roiling mass of contradictions. At every turn, the simple back-story has been passed up for a more complicated one, to the point where he comes within millimeters of becoming fantastic and completely unbelievable, or worse – just plain dangerously sick in the head. Both of this extremes have so far been avoided.

Hato must not be allowed to pull a “Perfect Blue”

When Hato protests that he is “not gay!”, he does not only declare that his 2D interests are separate from his 3D desires, he also underlines the oft-repeated complaint from the Japanese gay male community (and some of the wider international audience) that yaoi/ bl is a weird concoction made of heterosexual female desire projected on imaginary male characters – a simulation of how males, nominally straight, would act if stricken by some madness that mixes conventions nominally ascribed to female romantic literature with extremes of violent male misbehaviour in the pursuit of lust.

This is not to say there are no crossovers within the field. BL and yaoi have a much bigger market share than plain boring old bara, at least from what I have been able to surmise from the sources freely available to lazy foreigner like myself, and the fact that BL/yaoi remains a heterosexual product is an essential part of Shimoku’s balancing act.

Of course the Hato character has been stuffing his senses with BL and yaoi dojinshi for a few years, and as Kaminaga, has pointed out, this has had to have had some effect. Her tastes and her goggles prescribe the obvious solution – a target lock on someone who accepts him for who he is, and that of course means Madarame.

We have been told by Shimoku that Hato’s initial encounter with gay or yaoi dojinshi took place long before the art club, when he was still doing judo in junior high. Then we have a gap in the back story and Hato emerges as already interested in yaoi (but not bara?) and no longer doing judo, when he borrows Kaminaga’s dojin in the art club. Once discovered something really bad happens and he is outed by Kono. After that, he never went back to the club and was ostracised as “the homo” for the rest of senior high, only to pop up in full Hato-chan get up as a first year university student.

Back at the art club he wanted to draw. By the time he lands in the Genshiken, he can draw yaoi smut scenes quite well – some deep psychological block keeping him from drawing is circumvented if he puts on a dress and goes about drawing in the style (and incidentally the favourite subject) of Kaminaga. But he remains blocked in the sense that he cannot ink out a full story, even though he is well-versed in the tropes of the genre.

He also spends all his disposable income on cross-dressing gear and fujoshi reading material. It is reasonable to assume that he is thoroughly immersed in both hobbies, and enjoys both of them far more than he is letting on, even to the Genshiken fujoshi tribe.

As mentioned much earlier, and noted by many others, he is not “just” cross-dressing as a woman, or a “girl”, or as a female character from anime/manga a la cross-play, but as a fujoshi. He has created a fujoshi persona modelled on the one uber-fujoshi who affected him the most. He definitely enjoys being Hato-chan, but he does it exclusively at Genshiken, or at comic-fest or club activities. It is linked to him doing fujoshi stuff, compartmentalized along with his hobby, a perfect containment field for his perverse interests. If pushed, It will not be unrealistic that he squirms at a fudanshi label. Fudanshi would be easy.

Lastly, we must add that he is not cross-dressing as a “trap”, because that genre is something else completely; something better handled by ero games and Kousaka. This point is more obvious in the english translation, because the boy-girl term in japan is simultaneously more and less than the peculiar english term. Nevertheless, the difference between what the Hato-chan fujoshi character is and the characters in manga and ero-games are is there and has been telegraphed to us poor slobs by Shimoku. (thanks to certain translators for making this fine distinction clear.)

If Hato goes after Madarame, he will have to shift his dressing style to fit the different archetype.

Hato has a compulsive character when it comes to becoming-fujoshi, absorbing y/BL, drawing, and previously judo before he got weird. This compulsion towards mastery and control allows him some safe space from the fallout of his contradictions.

Hato’s “fantasies” – as exclaimed to the girls of the Genshiken when he went into fugue state definitely involve or have been scripted onto poor Mada. I use the term fugue state for a reason: it is most likely to set in whenever something unpleasantly embarrassing in 3D life is about to pop up.

And of course, these fantasies betray his attempts at 3D friendship with Mada, recreating Ogiue’s original sin. Still this would be less of a problem if he only had more experience being a friend and having friends.

Hato appears to have no friends outside of the Genshiken. He has only one male friend, Madarame and he is going to mess that one up if gappel-san does not shut the fuck up immediately.

He is probably not very good at being a friend – he doesn’t know how to do it. He jumps in, interferes, assumes he know stuff, etc. Poor Madarame is publicly branded a sou-uke only because Hato needs to dissimulate in front of the rest of the Genshiken; he cannot reveal that he knows that Mada carries a torch only for Saki. And of course, everybody present already know this.

Madarame was at first uncomfortable with him when he was Hato-chan. More so in public. Recently that has lessened, as Mada now considers him as a male, even in drag, but one that is definitely bent. Still, “You sure you aren’t gay?” doesn’t seem to hurt as much from Mada as it would from the tribe. (Genshiken drinking game time!)

His concern for Madarame continuously fights with his stupid urges to ship him in some dojin production. Gappel/ Stand-chan wants to ship them both in 3D life.. Hato is vulnerable to Stand-chan when he is out of his protective Hato-chan armor.

Aside: One has to wonder how often does Stand-chan pop out? It must be really annoying to be sitting in economics class and have her hovering about. Hopefully she only pops out when around the Genshiken or around its members. When one considers the damage Milton Friedman did with his Ayn Rand obsession, the world, even a virtual manga-world might not survive another crazed economist.

His fujoshi creation is based on what he remembers of “Her”. There must be pieces missing. Will he find a new role model to fill in the blanks? Ogiue might provide a better example of balance, as long as she can hold her life together.

Then there is the problem of trust (with its obverse, the goggles busily looking for “holes”/ “openings” “survival instincts”) Ogiue and the rest of the fujoshi tribe do not fully trust him – they still consider him a guy, and as a guy with psychological quirks and a keen command of judo tricks, do not want him to be alone with anyone. And Hato always casts himself as the seme within his fantasies. This is also part of their fujoshi distrust of 3D males in general, which mirrors Mada’s discomfort with women, but there is much more to it than that. As I mentioned earlier, solid-world “lore”/prejudice is full of admonitions warning both straight and gay folks that transsexuals have inherent and pathological problems with truth-telling. And the fujoshi girls “know” that all male desire is violent.

Hato’s interactions with the tribe are simple on the surface: become the perfect fujoshi and do fujoshi things with fujoshis. He will not be developing any crushes. He desires nothing more than fitting in, enjoying his hobby, talking about the genre and perhaps expanding his ability to draw beyond yaoi-clench mise-en-scenes. He is as “harmless” as the fearsome gangster in Daespo Naughty Girls.

If any of the fujoshi girls ever would want a date with him, they would first have to ask Hato-chan if they could talk to Hato-kun after she leaves the clubroom and changes. I bet he would be a good conflicted character and freak out at such a request. Oh Doom and ruination of the charmed circle!

(another aside: I still think his “native” drawing style is interesting as all heck – what does Shimoku channel to get that?)

But Hato is still not-to-be-trusted, in a far greater way than Kuchiki is not to be trusted. To invoke the logic of Paranoia Agents, he is far more under the spell of his fantasies and the contradictions of his life that make up his desires; Here I go with the post-structuralists like Slavoj Zizek who claim that our desires are not an annunciation of our secret wants but a containment field for the contradictions inherent in those wants, made manifest in ridiculous, and yup inherently contradictory scripts.

Following on that insight, Hato is also stupidly romantic: “Things need time to develop”, rooting for Mada going after Saki, “still having a chance”, “did they fight for her?”, etc. He needs this romanticism to balance the rapey obsessional scripts of what sex by a male must be in order to conform to his fantasies.

What sets off Bl/y from regular gay pr0n is its over the top girly-romance conventions are posed against the violent acting out of sex by two characters seized by archetype. In a sense, there is ALWAYS a third person present in every yaoi sex scene, represented by the fujoshi voyeur, but embodied in the inexorable gaze of the law of seme x uke. And the law in this case demands absolute obedience to their respective roles.

interlude – all the children sing:

“”Within an hour the news had reached the media machine
A male caucasian with a gun had gone berserk in Queens
The area had been sealed off, the kids sent home from school
Fourteen people lying dead in a bar they called the Kicking Mule

Oh they pleaded to your sanity for the sake of those inside
“Throw out your gun, walk out slow just keep your hands held high”
But they pumped you full of rifle shells as you stepped out the door
Oh you danced like a puppet, like a marionette on the vengeance of the law””

I would dearly love to ask some hard-core Japanese fujoshi if their dojins ever include “realistic” and (this is important) humourous accounts of sex act failure. Suddenly one party can’t stay hard, the other stops squirming and moaning and yawns or starts laughing, someone gets the hiccups and /or farts, etc. Do the happy couple ever just give up and cuddle? This is the test of romance with straight couples, it would be the height of vanity to assume that it did not occur with gay couples, it is integral to real- solid- world love in all its glory, so why shouldn’t it take place among the oh-so-serious puppets of yaoi-land?

Whether the genre has any scripts for friendship, beyond the horrible ghost of it – friendzoning, is a fundamental question. Hato-as-character has to have absorbed the stupid conventions of the genre, and its obsessional scripts mesh well with his obsessional nature. Like Madarame who has welded a strange doomed Otaku-nobility over his shyness to deal with a painful longing for female love and a hopeless feeling that he will never get any, Hato’s fundamental flaw might well be that he is really, really, really bad at making friends, either male or female.

Oh, why not another interlude –

Becoming Hato-chan is a brute-force solution to a number of contradictory 3D problems, but by the logic of the narrative arc, the solution must present even more danger – the sorcerer’s apprentice(s) must always pay for their powers.

As for the goggles, they are supposed to be subversive, but in a far more profound way they impose only the violence of the law upon innocuous everyday events:

“”This link between sexualization and failure is of the same nature as the link between matter and space curvature in Einstein: matter is not a positive substance whose density curves space, it is nothing but the curvature of space. By analogy, one should also ‘desubstantialize’ sexuality: sexuality is not a kind of traumatic substantial Thing, which the subject cannot attain directly; it is nothing but the formal structure of failure which, in principle, can ‘contaminate’ any activity. So, again, when we are engaged in an activity which fails to attain its goal directly, and gets caught in a repetitive vicious cycle, this activity is automatically sexualized – a rather vulgar everyday example: if, instead of  simply shaking my friend’s hand, I were to squeeze his palm repeatedly for no apparent reason, this repetitive gesture would undoubtedly be experienced by him or her as sexualized in an obscene way.””
-Zizek, A Plague of Fantasies, p91.

Continuing on, Zizek asks if not all perverse scripts are not fundamentally conservative:

“”The obverse of this inherent sexualization of power due to the ambiguity (reversibility) of the relation between the one who exerts power and the one subjected to it – to the failure of the direct symbolic exercise of power – is the fact that sexuality as such (an intersubjective sexual relationship) always  involves a relationship of power: there is no neutral symmetrical sexual relationship/exchange, undistorted by power. The ultimate proof is the dismal failure of the ‘politically correct’ endeavour to free sexuality of power: to define the rules of ‘proper’ sexual rapport in which partners should indulge in sex only on account of their mutual, purely sexual, attraction, excluding any ‘pathological’ factor (power, financial coercion, etc.): if we subtract from sexual rapport the element of ‘asexual’ (physical, financial…) coercion, which distorts the ‘pure’ sexual attraction, we may lose sexual attraction itself In other words, the problem is that the very element which seems to bias and corrupt pure sexual rapport (one partner behaves violently towards the other; he forces his partner to accept him and indulge in sex with him because the partner is subordinated to him, financially dependent on him, etc), may function as the very phantasmic support of sexual attraction – in a way, sex as such is pathological…
But, again: does not the open display of the repetitive sexualized rituals of power sustain the power edifice, even (and especially) under the false pretence of subverting it? Under what conditions is the staging of the hidden obscene supplement of a power edifice effectively ‘subversive’?””
(ibid, p92)

Thankfully, Zizek is going on about an abstract Lacanian ideal of fantasy driven sex. We are (thankfully) not yet at the point that all human couplings are devoid of their inherent charm and pleasure and rely solely upon two fundamentally alien monads imposing incomprehensible scripts on each other. I do however note that such a stark and inhuman view of human interaction pops up again and again within the mind’s eye of the totalizing imagination, one step removed from the hysterical power fantasies of the tyrant:

“At its heart, marriage in traditional Japan was
a matter of duty, not just love. Well within living
memory, arranged marriages (miai) predominated,
while “love matches” (renai kekkon) were anomalies.
Love matches did not exceed arranged pairings until
1970—yet by 2005, only six percent of all new marriages
fit the traditional mold. The collapse of arranged
marriage seems to have taken something with it.
Remarkably 
enough, there is a near perfect correlation
between the demise of arranged marriage in Japan
and the decline in postwar Japanese fertility.”
Japan Shrinks Nicholas Eberstadt, Wilson Quarterly – Spring 2012

Ok; accusing a mild-mannered demographer of harbouring THEY LIVE notions of MARRY AND REPRODUCE social engineering urges sounds harsh, until one is confronted with the facts on the ground that make marriage and family formation such a real and persistent problematic for individuals within that society. Removing a bit of freedom for the masses always makes things easier,  Just chain the peasants in their huts and sell off the babies, n’est-ce pas?

Oops! perhaps I was too affected be something I watched last night.

What becomes apparent with all this mirroring and doubling is that the process of creating a narrative, a fantasy about the Hato-character set lose in the “hen-house” of fujoshi desire is one of skilfully piling up contradictions that remain in suspension, much as the conflicted fantasies-as-wrappers-for-contradictions lead the poor characters in their wild puppet-dance.

As m. Goethe sed: “you may sleep, but I must dance!”

Good Job!

PS: Insomuch as trying to make sense of the initial shock that came from realizing that yaoi/Bl exists and plays such a powerful part in the lives of women, in japan and (in itself and with variants) around the world was one of the initial reasons for this blog, I was pleased to stumble for the second time upon Rachel Matt Thorn’s

“Girls and Women Getting Out of Hand”
(http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/outofhand/index.php)

Later: Revised version:
https://www.academia.edu/12110339/Girls_And_Women_Getting_Out_Of_Hand_The_Pleasure_And_Politics_Of_Japans_Amateur_Comics_Community

WOW! – and she did it 10+ years ago! And he consults Japanese studies and even runs them! WOW! Ouch! Must be careful not to re-invent the wheel! Their observations about the female (fujoshi) throngs at comiket during the late 1990’s was what I had in mind for the end link for the previous “Mermaids” post, but then I lost the source and had to sub in a more prosaic description of comiket attendance figures. The link back to their essay has now been restored, and oh yeah, (*DAMN!)

Good Job!!!

One or several Lupins

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

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

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

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

The “plot” is simple yet confusing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have all been reading too many comics!

More D&G:

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

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

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

ASIDE: Finished with Azuma’s Otaku now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else – the footnotes are useful.

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

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

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

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

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

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