Spotted Flower 26.5+27: Keep your eyes on me, now we’re on the edge of hell

Spoilers ensue (0)

1) Une Saison en Enfer

Sempai, I may have left my scent on your hanten.

In chapter 27 of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower ‘the Husband’ AKA Harunobu Madarame has arranged to meet up with his university club junior to nail down an alibi as to how a certain Mangaka’s signature scent ended up on a house coat/ hanten in Mada’s apartment. At least that’s the excuse. Madarame has clearly set up the meeting so that he could brag about his adventure to ‘the boyfriend of the other mangaka (Ogiue) who the boob-grabbing girl foreigner (Sue Hopkins) helps out’ (the habit of eliding names in Spotted Flower is getting clunky, c’mon it’s obviously the once and future…) Kanji Sasahara.

Just to make the exchange somewhat balanced, Kio-sensei added a surprise earlier this summer in a 2-page web-extra chapter (26.5) on the Rakuen Le Paradis website. After many years, Chika Ogiue’s assistant couldn’t take it any longer and jumped her sleeping liege, stealing a deep and thorough kiss, as Ogiue had a nap-dream of a romantic moment with her boyfriend. As the long-overdue dawn of explicit f:f intimacy in the Genshiken verse, the execution feels rushed and troublesome. I am also at a loss to translate the European scanlator’s colloquial final dialogue; I am guessing that Sue’s retort was something about “not being finished yet” (playing on the page inking that Ogiue requested before napping off) followed by a declaration that she has yet to secure Ogiue’s .. panties (???) This translation is clearly NOT even close:

One of the machine translations dropped the word “pants” into the output. It would fit… Who knows? Meanwhile at least one of Sue’s hands is up Ogiue’s sweatshirt and much further “taking” is strongly indicated in a final cut-out panel.

Hmmmmmph! Maria Sama is still watching.

I am even less impressed because any Sue x Ogiue appears to have been whomped up primarily as a set-up so that Sass-boy can have a somewhat equivalent “triangle” situation to discuss in comparison to Mada’s. Oh wot the heck. Steamy Sue x Ogiue times finally. Kio, may I suggest grabbing some Takemiya Jin for a few pointers, so it doesn’t come off as pure Loser Fanboy service… Please. OMG, no, not the Kurogane Kenn stuff !!!

Mada’s triangle is judged trickier as there is a newborn baby in the mix. For the most part, Sasahara-kun plays his role perfectly by re-iterating how much of a dawg/ player/ scumbag his sempai has become, all while dropping asides about how he would lurv a threesome with Ogiue and Sue (1).

So yeah… Guys.

Putting aside the growing suspicion that Spotted Flower is a Shimoku’s Gate probability line where the majority of all annoying fan pairings/ ‘ships’ that the author was pestered about over the years are to be played out by bored and horny 30-something year olds, the discussion between Mada and Sass is odd in that “no danger of accidental pregnancy from -this- infidelity” is a talking point… As opposed to say; ‘Hato finally got his wish and he uked me, as in took my ass, quite thoroughly!” — although the occurence is mentioned in passing. Madarame appears to be enthusiastic about sharing details, treating the tryst as a Man-of-the-World Experience Points bonus round, rather than displaying any uncertainty over his sexuality. Neither does he give any hint of having a crush on Hato.

Instead of the insecure and flustered contemporary guy harem lead, Madarame now aspires to an earlier (1970’s-1980’s bubble, pre-1992-crash) model of male infidelity as natural privilege, of the kind that so often made a complete fool out of Urusei Yatsura‘s “Darling”, Ataru Moroboshi.(2) If winning the “most interesting mistress experience award” wasn’t enough, Kio-sensei piles on a few extra privilege points. When Mada grumbles about a sense of melancholy and unreality surrounding his life of late, Sasahara spills to Mada that ‘the ex’, (who can only be Makoto Kousaka) was in a pitiful state after seeing [Kasukabe-san], crushed that he had not been judged worthy of husband-and-father-hood by her.

“In my opinion, the idea of getting married to someone as eccentric as him didn’t suit her. And it’s normal. So really, you won her over with your own merits, senpai. And poor guy went back to my place, dejected, after you showed him your newborn daughter.
“Eh? You think so?”
“You look like you’re gloating. Disgusting.”

Also, a fortunate choice of translation: Madarame! You ‘three times asshole’ (as the italian scanlators put it) You DOUCHEBAG! (as Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit suggested.) I found this great essay on why douchebag is a perfect term for entitled manchildren (4).

Aggressively Foolish and Annoying; Expects Privilege.

Lest you think that I went on too long in previous posts about Madarame being Kio Shimoku’s Japanese exploration of the same themes as Updike’s ‘Rabbit’, (3) I can only say that I lack the mangaka’s skills at condensing the argument to a few lines of dialogue. Disappointed fan-boy butthurt over the manga story arc is no longer relevent; Kio-sensei’s ambitions have grown along with his chops. Or he is revisiting an earlier fascination with conflicted emotional plots; Heat Haze/ Kagerowic Diary/ Kagerou Nikki, Yonensai and Gonensai, as his confidence and abilities have grown. If anyone dropped the pictures and framed the dialogue with a smattering of convincing descriptive filler, Spotted Flower could stand toe to toe with most Murakami short stories. No talking cats required. Background music allusions optional. But such would be a criminal waste; Kio Shimoku loves the visual medium: Consider the cute, dishabille bedroom Hato and the look on their half-turned face! Priceless!

Wither Spotted Flower‘s Hato? Kio Shimoku missed his creation, returning them to the story in chapter 12. If their role was only to be the instrument of Madarame’s downfall, why was so much time spent adding depth to her character, her work life as an ero-donjinshi convention sales supported mangaka and her curious partnership with her manager-lover-(collaborator?) Merei Yajima? Unlike Murakami, whose women creations remain magically opaque to their male main characters, the spotted verse has tantalising snippets of characterisation for its women characters, and of course almost a complete character study for Hato as trans-fujoshi-ero-mangaka.

At first glance, and if you continue to squint, Hato has succeeded with Yajima’s help. Their dream of a fennish world to envelop them has come true, even if the cost has been pronounced. Rotten has consumed them. Rotten and the requirements of a hyper-expressed fujoshi practice govern far too much of their lives. In bed with Merei, Hato is still “collaborating” in their production. Merei will send her off, grudgingly citing “research”, even as she knows it is far more. Hato’s long-held infatuation is real and true, but can only be expressed as one or another variant of a late 1990’s BL bonk scene. And in her own way, Hato is just as irresponsible and immature as Madarame. This may tread perilously close to the sin of misgendering but she makes “guy” mistakes about relationship stuff, or at least Kio-sensei has her make mistakes in a way that echoes her residual – kept for BL field missions – guy-ness. Wondering if Yajima “had turned into” a lesbian and was in danger of being seduced by Sue was the most obvious example. The mpreg rediculousness was so off the charts as to be impossible to keep track of; with Hato’s body alternating between being treated as alienated residual and fujoshi lore turned post-gender sci-fi wish fulfilment.

Others can later debate how clumsy Kio-sensei was and where. The fact remains is that it was not necessary to a simple ‘The World of Mada Will Fall‘ plot to do any of this.

2) Wait for me, you’ve gone much farther… Too far.

I fear that both readers and writers of romantic comedies and romances have one thing in common. We have scant idea how a “real” romance (het or other) should “naturally” work. Is it that we suspect that without delusions and puppet scripts and assigned roles no one could ever meet up and sustain interest in another? Twitter and Tumbler are full of pseudonymous queer comments condemning this or that clumsy heterosexual pairing as “too het”, which I take as a shorthand for a sense of alienation and reification with the social role demands and expectations tack-welded onto too many girl meets boy stories. And that feeling reflects a truth. Guys and girls go to “sports bars” to find “normal”, straight, hard-working, easy to understand potential partners as much as they did 600 years ago at the harvest market’s festival.

When I was younger I used to wonder about the innocent fools who would slowly drive their customised cars up and down the main street of my town on warm summer weekend nights. Would they sit down years later and tell a child that he or she was born because some butt-ugly piece of Detroit metal with oversized tires attracted mom to dad?

Yes, Tyler, you’re here because of that ’73 Cordoba with the bitchin’ chrome mags!

This uneasiness is part of why straight folks womp up queer characters for romance tales: supposedly the “scripts” and roles apply less, so perhaps we can watch attraction play out unencumbered by anything more than lust and genre clichés. Simulations. Reduce the variables and re-run the scenarios. We might yet understand the human heart, or at least come up with a few more stories as to how hearts might romp if only they could slip their leashes.

Hello!, have we forgotten someone?

When LGBTQ+ characters show up in vernacular narratives, too often the impression for IRL LGBTQ+ readers is mixed, if not problematic. Even if run-of-the-mill bigotry has been somewhat toned down, rendered déclassé and boorish in the better neighborhoods of the global village, those of minority sexualities and gender expressions face further challenges of “erasure”. ‘It is fine whatever you get up to: I/ we/ society simply don’t want to see (any trace of) it“. The mere public existence of LGBTQ+ people acting as if they have as much right to be where and as anyone else -might- “frighten the horses” . When Shadow-of-gay characters appear, they are no longer invisible but too often they are routinely used in annoying one-dimensional story conventions: over-fanserviced or one or a couple of tragically killed off lesbians, outlandish performing ‘Hard-gay” guys and for trans*/ gender non-conforming/ non-binary folks, the otokonoko, the okama, the butch dyke and the crossdresser. No wonder IRL LGBTQ folks feel whiplashed. The choice between erasure or burlesque representation is not much of a choice.

Given that us straight folks ain’t gonna stop making up LGBTQ charas, some pointers or at least suggestions from the tojisha community might be a really really good idea. A decade ago Dr Mizoguchi made it clear what she thought should be extirpated from BL: so-called “rapes of love” and “I’m not gay, it’s only you”. Less obvious was her weariness with both exotic and straights-struck-by-lightning guys. What of just-so, hard-working, “yeah, I’m a gay man, what of it?” protags for BL stories?

Without looking for one singular “rulebook” for lesbian representation, one can probably intuit that extreme fanservice, including threesomes and moresomes; “killing your gays” and the insidious Maka Maka effect (fanservice angst-y f:f schmexy while either or both of a pair wait for “the right guy”) should take a rest. For gay guys, probably it’s more a matter of degree. You have the guy who works with the woman MC. You don’t have to  “queen him out” so that he can be a team-mate/ sidekick and not a romantic interest. An offhand mention is sufficient. See how useful guy privilege is?

To these obvious pointers, we can now add a few new ones for trans* characters, thanks to Twitter threads by Bogi “Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs @bogiperson”.

Who?

“I both edit and review a lot of trans-related fiction. I edited Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 (#Lammys winner) and the upcoming Transcendent 3 too. :)”

Ok, thems sound like experience points.

  • Writing thread! Introducing trans and/or intersex characters – some common and less common pitfalls! 
  • Worldbuilding thread! Some pitfalls related to shapeshifting, gender, and trans people.
  • Worldbuilding thread! How (not) to include trans people as background characters – some common mistakes.
    — Threads archived at: [ https://threadreaderapp.com/user/bogiperson ]

Nowhere in these is there a requirement that trans* charas must be perfect Whoever-Xues (we need a name/term for the wish-fulfilment self-insert non-binary chara – my suggestion with an X in this case follows the Chinese convention of pronouncing a leading X as Sh) These tips make plenty of sense and as a bonus, rid potential stories of more than a few groaners.

It was a dark and stormy night as our otokonoko protagonist stood naked in front of the mirror” can now be excised for one further reason. I found it a fun game to keep a tally of how Kio-sensei’s Hato fares as I went through the lists. Some of the tropes might be too western-specific, others subverted (the Stand(s) were incredibly useful) while others were purposefully worked against to follow a theory-ish plot-point. The last of these; a trans social for Hato remains glaringly absent because Hato instead chose a fujoshi/ otaku social. We shall see how far Kio Shimoku continues to push a conceit noted by Takahiro Ueda; that “otaku is a violence against gay” [http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf]

Is it time to make Spotted Flower‘s snoopish editor Endou queer, so that she can drag Hato and Yajima off to a cozy Ni-Chome bar?

3) Per Aspera

That’s two of them.. Please read the thread archives for the rest. My two cents towards adding to a “best practice” code of conduct for straight writers dreaming in queer would be that that ya can’t go wrong if you keep the tone of the settings, or at least of the actions of your idea-of-queer character “aspirational”. That appears to have worked well a few times. You can also hide a fair amount of sloppy behind it.

Meanwhile…

Kio-sensei’s new thing about the chorale ensemble seems to be taking up most of his recent attention. I look forward to eventually reading it, even buying the tanks next time i make it to Japan. Spotted Flower remains viable and exultingly open ended. Yajimacci! Hato-sensei’s mainstream debut and how Endou-editor-san manages it (is she completely out of her depths when it comes to broaching the DMAB subject?) Saki’s suspicions; Saki going home to see mom for a month (a very typical Japanese post-natal tradition) Mada at loose ends.

Mada and Hato must end up at a love hotel! It should be one of those really tacky ones that look like a castle! Bonus if they get to their room and Mada pulls out 2 six-packs of beer, munchies and a game console loaded up with ototkonoko games. Hey Mada, if you dont bring some blue pills then we’ll all know that you plan to do the po po pitiful me sou-uke hime routine… forever!

Otherwise, Mada’s next big level-up event will be Kousaka popping him one in the snout.

 

ENDNOTES:

(0) LATER: I had been taken by a silly notion to prefix a few posts with links to neato stuff I found online and simple life hacks in order to throw shade at a right-wing  web-philosophe. Huh? That really screwed up the flow. Ok, so I move it HERE:

Nor see three great movies… (a diversion as prologue)

I just heard that some philosophy professor became an internet sensation with his cranky “get-off-my-lawn” conservatism partially by the trick of slipping some simple life tips into his screeds. Could it be that “You might do better impressing a girlfriend if you brush your teeth and floss. Now here is some softpedalled transphobia…” is a winning rhetorical strategy?

Fine, two can play. Here’s one from left field: Your shower. You got one? Does it have a shower head on a hose? If so, I am going to make your life a tiny bit better. Most shower hoses are those metal clad thingies and they are typically 80cm-1meter long. Urasai! Buy a 1.5m, no screw that a 2m one! Wrap the shiny ends in duct tape before tightening with rusty pliers. Don’t mess up the rubber washers. I should sign up for an affiliate on these but haven’t yet. Here’s an Ebay search: Wow, lookie $5-$7 including postage. You could also try to find one cheaper on Aliexpress.com (all their stuff is cheaper if you use their app). Grab one, it will get to you in a month and then your life will be a tiny bit better and you will subconsciously associate all my opinions with happiness. I think I’m going to do more of these, as a semi-regular annoyance/ feature. Mwahhh Hahhh Hahhh!
Anyway, what kind of philosophe aspires to be a bully?

(1) As well as the European fan translators, I am indebted to Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit for help puzzling out chapter 27. Please support the magazine and Kio-sensei; Rakuen LeParadis can be purchased as an e-book/ Kindle publication on Amazon.co.jp
[https://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?__mk_ja_JP=%E3%82%AB%E3%82%BF%E3%82%AB%E3%83%8A&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE&rh=n%3A465392%2Ck%3A%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE]

(2) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urusei_Yatsura] . Rumiko Takahashi [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumiko_Takahashi] remains a living god of manga. As of writing at 60, she is still working; her current project being the retro flavored (Kyōkai no) Rinne.

(3) Not for a microsecond am i suggesting that Kio Shimoko is cribbing from Updike. Guy misbehavior is ubiquitous, there is plenty to go around. I’m just suggesting they both have booths at the same county fair.

(4)[ https://gawker.com/douchebag-the-white-racial-slur-we-ve-all-been-waiti-1647954231 ]

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Homewrecker

Spotted Flower chapters 22/ 23 reconsidered in light of the recent English fan translation. Spoilers Ensue. See also the earlier posts
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/spotted-flower-chapters-22-23-les-etrangers/
and
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/privilege-set-me-free/

— Fer krissakes, give it a rest already!
— No Way! Roll third feature:

Nine months after the Japanese publication of Spotted Flower chapters 22 and 23, a definitive English scanlation appeared in mid-March 2018. While most of what transpired within had already been known and discussed, the English version has served to put some readings into sharp perspective and (unfortunately, to me) close off others.

It doesn’t look like “It was all a dream” and worse, it looks like someone while eager for sex, repeatedly suffered hydraulic pressure failure and so agreed to other arrangements. As well, they prefaced their invitation to the bedroom with an outpouring of whining self-pity. The tone of the encounter shifts from “two guys (or at least dick-owners) trying things” to raw BL (yaoi) seme x uke roleplaying.

Continue reading

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23: les etrangers

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23
Kio Shimoku
Rakuen Le Paradis, Vol 24, June 30, 2017

WARNING: Spoilers ensue. Methodical, theory-sodden clinical speculation on cartoon man-sex scenes and grating 4chan excerpts below the cut line.

LATE NIGHT FINAL UPDATE: 9 months after chapters 22 and 23 were published, the English fan-translations surfaced in mid March 2018. In light of this, certain concluions, based on personal machine translations and the story told by the pictures must be modified. The disappointed 4channers were closer to the story line than I was.

A number of follow-up posts are indicated:
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/privilege-set-me-free/
and
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/homewrecker/

Continue reading

Many Happy Returns: Spotted Flower Ch 20.5

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

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

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

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

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

A few oblique observations on Spotted Flower:

Boobies as text:

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

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

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

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

Boy Detective.

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

I though BL could make everything come true.

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

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

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

Until editor-san finds out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Strongest Fan

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

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

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

Don’t fuck up!

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

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

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

A digression with Lost Extras:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not gay, it’s only you.”

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

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

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

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

Oh heck! This is complicated!

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

Profit!

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

How the mangaka got their verisimilitude back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not holding my breath.

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

Towards an expanded topology of contemporary fen praxis

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

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

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

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

Where are my secret fujoshi secrets revealed?

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

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

The whole effing spend your entire adult paycheck Media Mix.

This requires field study!

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome back, we missed you!

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

Hey? Are you gonna give the characters names?

 

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

Cascade point

A short note on the newly appeared Spotted Flower (episode 17):

Kio Shimoku is a master storyteller. I am in awe.

He still has it; the razor sharp steel right below the surface of the light comedic touch. I am impressed with the mid-late 20-ish Hato and Yajima gappel-sans but the tension between gappel-Mada and gappel-Hato is powerful and rife with “the sadness of the folly of men” all at the same time.

Note how gappel/not-Hato positions herself as her and his own gender expression. The male part is there still, not an accursed remainder but part of a whole. All of gappel-Hato is locked in a never-resolved dance of what could have been with gappel-Mada. And as for gappel-Mada; why does he wander over seeking advice from the person who is in some ways less than and other ways much more than a friend?

Can I wrap my head around such a BL-ish longing? I think the mangaka has invented a new one for the lore. The wanting is far more powerful than the having.

Gappel-Yajima knows that the obsession is etched deep into her lover’s soul. It will not be easily, if ever done away with.

And so, she becomes practical…

Shut up and keep rowing.

Gappel-Yajima is mighty.

I like borrowing the gappel-(donger) conceit for the Spotted Flower verse. Zetsubo Sensei’s Kōji Kumeta is a friend of Kio Shimoku and the farcical undertones of his invention carry over. The title conceit references the very first short stories of Timothy Zahn, wherein a probability shifting space drive let the pilots see ghostly images of their alternate lives and drove them all to depression and despair with what might have been. One of the tales is a update on Cordwainer Smith’s “Burning of the Brain”, but done with regrets as waypoints. There is a metaphor and a cautionary tale in here somewhere, but I’ll let it run off into the night.