Why Hato: build up logically

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

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

Didn’t I start here?

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

Warning! Warning! Category field breach!

As I read way too much manga online, I try to adopt M.J.Johnson’s earlier quoted dictum…

“You can say ‘Male pregnancy stories don’t do it for me’ if you like, but to say ‘Male pregnancy stories are stupid and childish and people should stop writing them’ is not only arrogant, it’s dangerous. All fantasies are legitimate or none are, and to discredit the male pregnancy fantasy is automatically to discredit your own fantasy of mutual empowerment and non-penetrative sex.”

…In a wider context, that is to say that if […] doesn’t work for me; Ok, but to condemn […] out of hand is to condemn all desires, including my own. The trick is to do so while still drawing a line, because some desires are just plain nasty, harmful, and criminally irresponsible, even within the realms of “fantasy is fantasy”.

As well, there is the ‘my boat” effect: This is the stuff I read and think about for enjoyment during my free time, and I know what I like. I think I know what I do not like. Of course I don’t know all of what I like, so I shouldn’t dismiss entire genres completely out of hand, on the other hand

Whatever!

That said, IMHO, pour moi, [add a few more caveats here] …

…historical themes, fantasy realms, anything involving “virtual reality” or “I fell into a game”, including virtual girlfriends, %99.98 of all sports manga, tales of horror, guro/grotesque, cat girls, alien girl dropped on surprised boy, teacher crush and incest angst potboilers, delinquent high school/ or yakuza grinders, death- fights- on- islands, lets start a band/ be an idol/ become the world’s greatest chef epics and anything with small magic ponies are about as avoidsome for me as yaoi/bl (except that the rotten girls who produce the last are my fave pure radioactive sociology candy).

And then there is the little matter of vampires…

Short form of hate-on: “Protector” by Larry Niven.

I encourage those of you who have met Niven’s creation to now pause and think of them as a thought experiment: something that works like a vampire but is diametrically opposite to the vampire character. Those who haven’t yet, go get some.

They would be as gods except for their innate compulsion to always think things through to logical extremes and immediately carry out a scorched earth conclusion – and that they must protect their blood-kin at all costs.

Nowhere does Niven claim to have created “protectors” as an antidote to the maddening mush that is high church canon for vampiric tales, especially post-Rice bodice (and suit-coat) ripper, slash- influenced teen fan-fic derived potboilers. (whew!)

So, you live forever, heal fast, have amazing strength, and that allows you to act like a spoiled rich spiteful teenager forever, Uhuh? I await the giant meteor impact on the next page. Most vampiric characters are small malicious boring fools. I am not the first to note this; there are 20+ sub-variants of this effect on the TV tropes site, but again, I judge it hardly worth the powder to blow the genre to ifny. Does not work for me. You may find small malicious boring fool characters quite amusing and endearing.

A few writers have worked this problem to comedic effect. Jody Scott’s Sterling O’Blivion is a wonderful, funny creation. Who can forget their first guilt- laden- catholic- time- travelling- lesbian- dance- instructor vampire novel? Especially if she falls head over heels for an alien manatee who insists on shapeshifting into the semblance of Virginia Wolf to attract our plucky heroine’s attentions? It was gushed over by old-school euroethnic middle-aged male sci-fi writers when it first appeared (which was so odd that stick-in-the-mud boy decided that he had to read it, oh so, so long ago – maybe it is her fault that I developed a taste for yuri?), and has gone on to become a minor cult classic. Sadness: footnoting this just led me to news of Ms. Scott’s passing in 2006. In lieu of an elegy, see her web page archived here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20071020180558/http://jodyscott.org/

Vampires are of course as popular as french pastry in manga-land. Most are as stupid and obnoxious as the western product. The “Blood, the last Vampire” anime short was a groundbreaker, (the vampire as ur-BFG) but sequels degenerated into post-Rice mush. The live-action movie sucked. There is a bishie BL prequel to v2 out in manga format. Blergghh! OOOps Doesn’t work for me…

Negima‘s goth-loli vampire was a slightly better creation, at least by the time she popped up to time-travel-ex-machina at the end of the epic. Her initial character grew considerably, aided by her reclusive, anti-social outlook played against the sad, defiant crush that drove her to support the boy magician – the son of her barely requited love. Still, she could have used her considerable knowledge, power, longevity and cynicism to become a capitalist dynast or even make some school friends years earlier, rather than hide in a bottle. How can one live so long without picking up even a shred of (dare I say it ) humanity?

Which leads to the very popular, initially engaging, extremely densely written and ultimately unsatisfying world of “Dance in the Vampire Bund“.

I should have known better. This is one of the drawbacks of hunting for something new. You think you have found an interesting exception to the category and then lots of somethings go wrong. Most of the time it is “workmanship”: the story falls apart, goes nowhere, reverts to all those tropes of the genre that I already know do not work for me.

And then you get the really ambitious ones that turn into a monumental train wreck, or worse a monumental train wreck made up of all the annoying bits of multiple avoided genres…

All while you realise that your train wreck is a tasty smorgasborg for the series’ fans.

from the wiki:

“The story revolves around Mina Tepeş, princess-ruler of all vampires, and her protector — Akira. Like other vampires, Mina has been in hiding with her people for many years. Seeking to end centuries of isolation, Mina gains permission to create a special district for vampires, “The Bund,” off the coast of Japan by paying off the entire national debt of the Japanese government. Mina then reveals to the world the existence of vampires and her desire for both races to live together. Tensions, however, run high as fearful humans and extremist vampire factions begin to interfere with Mina’s wish for peace with the human world.”

The main problem with Bund is that it tries to be all vampire stories, and a whole bunch of other genres, all at once, to everyone. So at any moment we are getting “Japanese society falling apart due to panic and suspicion” (The Martians Have Landed on Maple Street), The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, a high school power struggle tale, suicide bomber terrorist threats, nanotech infection epidemics, geopolitical machinations by corrupt politicians, court chivalry romance, goth loli fanservice (Mina-hime is way too young, and her outfits way too skimpy – certain parts of the localised US anime had to be censored) werewolf bonding/ betrayal grinder and rotten girl fanservice vehicle with a furry yaoi rape scene.

It also has battling maids, Rasputin, elite commando strike teams, human and vampire riots, a South American drug-cartel running spoiled aristocrat vampire lord, a stripper with the heart of gold, a runaway nuclear reactor, black helicopters, a shotacon couple turned vampires, cute kids who save the day by navigating the hidden sewer tunnels under the city, and oh gawd, I lose track.

So far no done- as- an- Andrew- Lloyd- Webber- Musical episode. No Mecha or magical little ponies…

Yet.

Who again is this thing written for?

Moar wiki:

“The manga series is serialized in Media Factory’s seinen manga magazine Comic Flapper”

Even more wiki:

“Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 18–30 year old male audience, but the audience can be older with some manga aimed at businessmen well into their 40s. In Japanese, the word Seinen means “young man” or “young men” and is not suggestive of sexual matters. (The female equivalent to seinen manga is josei manga.) It has a wide variety of art styles and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant- garde to the mundane and to the pornographic. Because of the emphasis on storyline and character development instead of action, some seinen series are often confused with shōjo, or girls’ manga. [citation needed]”

Is this a separate genre from moe-blob fiction? Is this what turns Madarame’s crank? Is this closer to Saito Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl stuff? Or it is just pure lolicon?

A few points of interest:

The plotting frequently relies on the obedience that the vampiric bite-er can compel of the bite-ee, a hardwired behaviour that forms an absolute hierarchy of deference that culminates with the princess herself. I am guessing that this resonates with the sempai/kouhai and sensei/ student deference patterns in real-life Japanese society. That these patterns are breaking down only makes the mythologized version more resonant. (This is a Baudrillard conceit on my part, plz ignore if jarring, I just like doing it)

The “hidden hand” secret society behind %90 of the upheavals in the story has even used this effect to sow global confusion with a nanotech “virus” that overstimulates the obedience compulsion in vampires, causing them to commit self-destructive terrorist acts in the belief that their regional vampire leaders are ordering them to do so. (An allegory of religious extremism? How quaint!)

A Vampire “Bund” or (never mentioned) Dejima! What a way to deal with the immigrant question!

Gaijin ways and bad behaviours are contagious. A vaccine might not always be available.

The dance in the aristocratic court of the vampire princess“: These tropes begin to vex, but have enough of a resonance with the origins of the vampire mythos in euroethnic society to hold my attention. The origins of the Western vampire mythos owed a lot to taking the vestiges of a corrupt, venal, oppressive European aristocracy and essentializing them within a bogie. Nosferatu was always a post-french-revolution Sade-ian aristo, after the pure peasant girl and one step ahead of the Bastille day mob. Blood- sucking parasites all! Van Helsing was no Marx, but he might be a friend of Engels.

The court of the vampire loli princess is still an absolute monarchy, and has to be absolutely ruthless whenever the aristocratic ambience needs a boost. While necessary to the chivalry themes that are deployed surrounding the protagonist Akira, they also serve to set at least two strong friendship vs deference subplots in motion. There is also the entire succession/ marriage of the true-bloods sub-plot which sets the stage for much court intrigue and loli lust angst.

Oh, and we get to see the princess’s “true form” adult, voluptuous, armoured fighting girl (so not underage, therefore not really loli smut – she just “hides” as a half-nekkid prepubescent tyrant so she wont be married off to some regressive scumbag from the old vampire aristocracy.) Yeah, right…

With all her advanced medical resources and cynical realpolitik, the idea of keeping a dewer flask of liquid nitrogen, a turkey baster and some very sharp knives close at hand when her slimy true blooded suitors come calling somehow eludes her.

The concluding arc of the manga, with Mina and her doppelgänger plays the court chivalry and deference notes to extremes. I wonder if our heroine’s last trick will be to introduce a virus/ nanotech/ plot device that breaks the obedience compulsion in vampires and grants all of her subjects free will as she institutes a constitutional monarchy. So much for sequels.

As troubling as the too young and too skimpily clad vampire princess is the fujoshi fan-service that sneaks into the story line. I should have expected it when the schoolgirl friends, maids and the princess started to get interested in the fan-fiction written by the good-hearted (non-vampire) girl.

fujoshi time ditvb_33_27

Fujoshi wink-wink-nudge-nudge should have no place in a guy’s manga, but the author and the publisher know that rotten girls troll these magazines for pairing fodder. Here is iron-clad proof that at least one mangaka is ready to exploit this effect.

Not only did the ship-your-male-aquaintances trope pop up. Before you can say “childhood crush” we are introduced to a very effeminate, sometimes cross- dressing werewolf pack buddy of Akira, one who went through a traumatic rite-of-passage with him, and who has extreme ideas of how to demonstrate the strength of the bond forged during that time. Even princess Mina gets jealous until it dawns on her that wolf is a dude!

This would be no problem, even when the mangaka tossed in a gratuitous yaoi-rape scene wherein effeminate wolf sacrifices himself to calm down a berserk-mode werewolf, one of the four buddies damaged horribly during the survival test/ rite of passage.

This is what gets the rotten girls off?

It went a bit like this, only with more taut bishie thigh, ass, screaming and clawing..

furries Plushophiliac

Wasn’t it nice of me to spare you the details? Wow, I didn’t freak out in disgust. I might have a few years ago. Award myself 2 “adult maturity points” and keep reading. (lose one point for subbing in the furry pic – couldn’t resist)

But worse is to come: What really, really, really pissed me off was that a few chapters later it is revealed that gay- wolf- boy has been allied with the nameless conspiracy and is murderously sabotaging and killing off all manner of allies and friends because he is gay, and if only the princess can have Akira, then anyone else who looks up to him should die, die, die – including himself, preferably by Akira’s vengeful hand.

Uh Huh! The faggot did it, motivated by psychotic faggot-lust, with some faggotty death urge tossed in.

Ya can’t trust them… they just do that stuff.

Rotten girl tropes of motivation for extreme behaviour merge with mean-spirited old-school homophobia. Ok, the mangaka is a guy, so this is not a ‘true” fujoshi-made bl/y artifact, but it gave me the same angry sinking feeling that I got when I realised that every single goddamn P.D. James mystery could be solved early on by finding the “artsy” character. Find the hidden freak, they did it. Throw away the book, change the channel on the Beeb tellie version on PBS Mystery. They will murder again and again indiscriminately to cover their tracks, driven by artsy (often gay or lesbian) psycho-ness while the detective gets more and more depressed.

That, like Bund is just lazy writing that hides behind a nasty inflexible way of looking at people.

Even a middle age straight boy of euroethnic extraction can get riled up in a politically correct way if the alternative is stupid brain-dead fascist shyte.

Meanwhile in the real world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has decided that all that Western gay marriage stuff is seriously undermining the country (by doing what? letting a few people snuggle their way?). The Duma has now passed strict laws against anything that can be considered “gay propaganda”. I presume that means that a lot of scanlated fujoshi manga is going to have to vanish from rusky servers and a few of New Russia’s rotten girls will end up in the slammer along with Pussy Riot’s singer. Will yuri be exempt? Does Putin, like the book of Leviticus, Queen Victoria and Saito Tamaki believe that lesbianism is inconsequential?

Don’t try to smuggle any Anne Rice books into Moscow.

Moscow does not believe in yaoi.

Both the meta-fictional world and the real world betray similar urges towards the cynical uses of bigotry.

I might drop by “the Bund” again in half a year to see if my hunches on the plot-mess plays out. Even psycho gay-wolf boy, thought dead, has re-appeared: will he sacrifice himself to atone for his past sins, or will he murder and betray again? Maybe he will just find another pretty wolf-boy, settle down and declare that evil hidden conspiracy nanotech made him do it. Perhaps a few mecha will be dropped into the mess; so we can have werewolf special forces elite commandos (they carry SG1 issue P90’s) piloting mechas against Chinese vampire bio-engineered tentacle raping 50 foot high slime monsters. (though we already have had a tentacle rape creature in one fight scene…)

Followed by a giant meteor impact, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown, with Japan sinking and everyone having to cross-dress to survive, but only through the magical power of friendship.

Contrast Bund to a the remix of tried and true sword and sorcery tropes in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wikis/Maoyu) As mentioned, I avoid sword and sorcery stories, but the allegorical device of naming all the characters after their roles, plus the first battle scene in the court of the Demon Lord hooked me.

The Demon Lord is a voluptuous, bookish demon lady economist and historian. She looks great with or without reading glasses. She wants only peace and prosperity for both demons and humans. She plans to end the perpetual wars between humans and demons with applied agricultural science, potatoes, mercantilist economics, and the help of the hero (named Hero) who shows up to battle her and gets an economics lecture and a marriage proposal of sorts (Hero  is a bit dense about romance, he hasn’t quite figured out the whole deal yet – surprise: she’s sweet on him!).

It reminds me of all the 1970’s era “rise of civilization” mainframe computer games like Sumer, and of H.B.Piper’s Lord Kalvan (aka Gunpowder God). Maoyuu plays to its strengths as allegory of rationality vs the harsh realities behind the romanticism of sword and sorcery feudalism. It does one thing, and does it well.

Nozomu Tamaki I am wise to your tricks! Pull your socks up and finish off this manga off properly!

Oh wait.. non-vampirised human girl wakes up in the school infirmary! It was all a dream!

Rage.

Another category field breach:

I like the drawing style and cynical humour of the relationships in Rendou Kurosaki’s Houkago Play. I know that he (?) also writes ecchi stuff, both in yuri and yaoi -land. I generally try to avoid yaoi, –hey it’s just me- but I had to look up his oneshot “ON” because I had read everything else of his that was scanlated.

I do not know how to process it.

I had the benefit of the aggregator site’s “yaoi” warning; its original readers in a josei mag must have wondered at least for a few pages whether one of the couple was male or female. Soon enough all becomes clear, and depressed young gay kid is letting the slightly older “beatnik” character come in his face. I guess the depiction of gay secks isn’t too shocking. Then the couple cuddles while they struggle to express how they feel. Neither can express themselves well out loud.

dont kill yoself little gboy -ON Kurosaki Rendou p10 web

I was overcome with a real strong feeling of “hey young gay kid, don’t throw yourself off a bridge! It will get better, somehow…

Yeah, they are just fictions, but my sympathy buttons were pushed.

I award myself 2 more adult maturity points.

This doesn’t look like what bara is supposed to be, doesn’t have the ritualised pairing characteristics and ass-rape of canon yaoi, and lacks the happy ever after of yuri’s “story A“. And it is by a male mangaka. I am guessing it would be completely at home in some gay-positive western publication aimed at troubled teens, but Japan ain’t supposed to give a whit about real LGBTQ folks.

Whatizzit ???

Is this moe for a certain subset of the tribes of rotten girls or do most hate it?

One of my senior advisors at the editorial desk, Bill Occam is grumbling at me that if seinen magazine staff know that rotten girl readers check seinen magazines for bishie material, then josei magazine staff can expect that closeted young male Japanese gay guys probably troll through josei magazines looking for a yaoi/bl fix, and it does well for sales to toss a sympathetic affirmational cookie in their direction now and again.

At least genre innovation is alive and well in the pages of manga magazines. A correspondent reports that one of the big yuri series for LFB’s (popular with western wimmins too), one which I have avoided because the characters look too young –hey it’s just me– features clumsy sex fail comedy. I have often wondered why such an inescapable part of human intimacy is missing from manga-land.

Non-idealised funny/ sad mediocre bonking is the last frontier! Considering how much of it exists in the real world, it might be a revolutionary thing to advance social scripts on how to deal with it.

It made Dennis Arcand’s Declin a hit

So category field breach can go either way I guess.

Which leads me to an AWSOME THOUGHT EXPERIMENT!

How would Genshiken read/ look like if done by Aoi Hanna/ Wandering Son’s Takako Shimura?

… Pause for dramatic effect…

Hmmmmm…. Redrawers and typesetters needed.

Genshiken ch 87 + 88: convention time

Time to try and figure out the latest two chapters; as usual there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Rather than just go on and on and on about what I think is way kewl about these, I will instead try using more pictures in a show and tell approach; one that may ask too many questions. (besides the ever-insightful Ogiue Maniax site among others, already has fine coverage of chapters 87 and 88.)

I have the notion that Shimoku-sensei likes to stuff a lot of extra information into his work – dropping hints – as in Saki’s sudden change of clothing style in chapters past hinting at something more momentous. So I will concentrate on trying to pick out the little things that struck me as out of place or slightly highlighted in these last two chapters.

But first: this one is for the Sirens! (I wish I had it a year ago to end my theory rant back then) I so love Japanese popular culture! Can there be any other mass events linked to pop culture that have such an overwhelming female audience that is so relaxed, assured and purposeful? No stage-managed  -squeeeeee-  bullshit Beatle- mania infantalisation ritual: the rotten girls built this space, they own it! May all the 8,000 gods of Japan bless them for it.

sirens 88 15

Hato’s dilemma:

The trouble with addictive behaviour is that it comes with the “state-specific learning” problem. If you do all your partying while pissed out of your gourd, you will have to relearn how to enjoy yourself socially when you try to stay sober. I doubt that there are many chapters of cross- dressing- yaoi- drawing- dojin-enthusiasts- anonymous in the greater Tokyo region, so Hato is a bit on his own on this one.

day job 88 20

And some fine cross-dressing it was! Is it just me or did Hato kick it up a notch when he needed the power-up to complete the page he promised Ogiue? Those school-girl stockings were never deployed before. Could it be that since he believes that female undies are what gives him drawing mojo, that he felt compelled to add a bit extra to his usual ensemble? It wasn’t high heels and garter belts yet, so perhaps his soul is not yet dammed for all eternity (whoooooooooooooohoooooooo!)

Very perverted 87 13

…And yup, Kio-sensei gets a chance to give us some -flash- while driving home the point. Looks like Hato’s notions of exciting female attire are still within the heterosexual realm, and that per Dr. Saito Tamaki’s theory of libidinization of the participatory nature of popular culture consumption and secondary production, (fans get off making dojins!) Hato has created a risque mish-mash of the act of drawing yaoi dojin materials and crossdressing.

“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

The big question is: what is he crossdressing as?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-fujoshi for the company of women?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-Kaminaga for super-drawing power?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male cross-dressing for his own kicks, which incidentally gives him super-drawing power?

Hato-chan as heterosexual male becoming-Kaminaga with the super-drawing power and the company of fujoshi friends to “rebuild what has been broken”, and somehow meet HER as an equal? (and then what? – best her in a drawing contest and have her swoon at his feet? She is going to marry his brother soon!)

Hato-chan becoming quasi-lesbian as the yaoi exchanged draws him closer to an ideal of rotten-girlish-ness that he finds comforting, fascinating and hawt as all heck? (He’s craving fujoshi loving as a quasi-fujoshi!)

Hato-chan becoming trap as embodying the “gift” exchanged by his fujoshi circle, as he subconsciously seeks to act out y/bl behaviour tropes in their gaze, as exchanged story? (Especially when his nemesis appears to pull his strings – wanting to get caught.)

Hato-chan becoming trap as he subconsciously seeks to be an object of male desire? (as fujoshi or not?)

Hato-chan becoming cross-dressing yaoi-boy as he goes distorted gay???

Contrast Hato’s cross-dressing to the conventional manga trope of the older cross-dressed male:

Behold the classic "drag queen" manga character, pops up in "Darker than Black", "Tokyo Godfathers" and many, many more.

Behold the classic “okama” or “drag queen” manga character, who pops up in “Darker than Black”, “Tokyo Godfathers” and many, many more.

One can’t really say hard gay, because if Hato was strongly pulled in that direction, he would have been reading “bara” and would have got on with it already. I have alluded to this before, but as a high-school student who found himself drawn to yaoi/BL manga and then ostracized  and bullied as the school “fag”, he must have checked out regular male gay manga and related material just to see for himself if he was “that way”. Since he has given no evidence of hoarding that kind of stuff, it is obvious that it didn’t work for him.

I probably missed one or two subtle variations. That’s Ok, Hato don’t know either. He isn’t even framing the question right yet!

For Science 87 12

Oh really?

Or is it all about the drawing?

Did Hato want to draw manga before he was exposed to yaoi? He wanted to draw by the time he was in the high school art club. Was he there for the fujoshi company, or because he wanted to draw the stuff in the company of fujoshi? For fujoshi? We can surmise that drawing well is very important to him, and as the creation of a skilled mangaka, stipulated within the story as a prized ability. I can sympathize with this little plot device, as I found art school drawing classes both exhilarating and the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. (Nope, I couldn’t draw a manga scene to save my life, but there are other ways to use the craft.)

Which came first? What is more important now? What he probably wants is to keep drawing the stuff, keep hanging out with the girls and reading the stuff, keep cross-dressing doing both, but not have “his little friend” pulling his strings in weird ways…

…Unless his little friend is an alien brain parasite (or ghost, or some other plot cheat – and there is no evidence of this so far; but the apocryphal “Return of the otaku” light novel suggests that such a rip-off resolution might be sprung if Shimoku-sensei ever gets the urge to just throw up his hands and walk away.

Nawww… Hato recognizes that his “little friend’ is some part of him that is pushing him in an odd direction because it is not getting what it wants. But what it wants is in no way as simple as Madarame’s affections.

Hato! Don’t let this all mess up your studies! You can crossdress and draw yaoi dojins even better if you have a well-paying job as an economics professor. Fun is fun but work is money for food!

Meanwhile at Comiket, Hato is re-acquainting himself with standard-issue, male-oriented pr0n-ish dojins:

lurid 88 17

Surprise Hato! This is the way regular (het male) pr0n is supposed to work. Poor lad, you have missed an important stage of development by hanging around with the rotten girls. What the heck did you think all that fujoshi smut was supposed to do? Did it effect you like this or not? Guess how your fujoshi friends feel when they are reading their stuff. Did you somehow manage to push all the “solitary vice” stuff aside for the “social enjoyment/ exchange” part of those yaoi dojinshi?

Thirty years later: Japanese Central Bank Governor Kenjiro Hato made his annual appearance at Winter Comiket as the cross-dressing co-founder (along with his wife, whom he met and courted during his undergraduate studies) of the Bunnykins no Tigger circle. Sales at the circle’s booth were brisk, and as usual he declined to discuss any matters of economic policy at the event, beyond his trademark statement “I understand irrational exuberance in market behaviour”.

Too much Hato musing, time to switch POV:

Comiket is not quite a western-style fan convention!

Angela Burton does not care! Notice that she has performed (twice!) the infamous GLOMP maneuver! Shimoku-sensei has done his homework and is playing with ambiguity again. Angela is either…  Or she is in full-metal fan- at- convention mode, North American variant.

GLOMP 88 2

Hato-GLOMP! Sue-GLOMP! Will she glomp again? She didn’t glomp Madarame, and now she won’t, because she thinks…

..But which one, and why?

…But which one, and why?

Very sneaky Shimoku-sensei! Is that Sue x Mada crush embarrassment?
Or Sue x Hato OMG I can’t talk to him about what I did, or Sue x Hato same plus I think I went too far and now I feel…

Sue just glares as Angela offers assurances of good behaviour and an unstated promise that she will not get in the way. What if Angela goes after Hato instead and Hato is the object of Sue’s gaze?

Oh My!

Overwhelmed Sue is overwhelmed!

Recall how Sue used to absorb all the free oxygen in any scene she appeared in. Ever since jumping Hato she has been in hiding, and not her usual spunky self, (manpad pantomime at the airport for Angela notwithstanding) She has reverted to shy-girl Sue, clinging to Ogiue for protection. The “She used to be such a shy girl” reveal from Ohno was a bit of a lampshade for this, but it looks like the mangaka is doing a few things while developing her character.

cling sue 88 21

Ogiue is her compass rose and the most powerful mage in the land of her dreams: a real live Japanese y/bl fan president of the best campus jp culture club, head of her circle, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka with an editor-in training boyfriend. And Ogiue has suffered for her youthful mistakes and surmounted the trauma born of them and emerged stronger!

subdued 88 12

Ogiue is Gandalf! Ogiue has just sold 1,000 dojins at Comiket! From a wall booth! Saint Bloody Crispin’s Day! Hero worship!

So, this is how a skilled mangaka turns a spunky comedic-relief character into a “real” one. Take hints of growing feelings for another character, then add complexity with unexpected inner turmoil and a sudden behaviour change. Presto! No longer a one-joke comic relief character! I Pagliachi!  I wonder if there is a term like “tsundere” for this trope.

"Don't get off the boat!"

“Don’t get off the boat!”

And while we are on the subject of character development, what is with the sudden desperate feelings swelling in the heart of young Merei Yajima? You just have to have an inkling that the whole ‘attraction” thing is something that she has put aside in her life, and that her body image has had something to do with that decision. And of course she loaded her own karmic plot engines; initially (written as being) annoyed at Hato’s crossdressing, then shocked at his fujoshi-bait just-showered bod, Now temptation himself is there all the time as a male in the clubroom. Oh crap!

“You cannot read all that stuff and not expect it to have some effect!”

yajima 88 25

My gawd, does she look sad!

Go ahead and jump him Yajima! The worst that can happen is a judo throw! We are getting way too many courtship judo throws in Genshiken – more fun than a Klingon honeymoon!

Other nice touches:

The puffs of breath at Comiket. Assume a temperature around 40F inside the “Tokyo Big Sight” center.

Ogiue seems to have mastered her new drawing pad computer. So endeth the era of screen-tone, line tape and x-acto knives. -snif-

Kuchiki can manage some english. We already knew this, but the reinforcement is a nice touch. Kuchiki has been acting a bit better lately, Is this perhaps a sign of new found maturity?

Madarame is present throughout both chapters, but not much happens. Is he keeping a low profile so as to avoid an Angela attack?

Yabusaki (Kumiko) and Naoko (Asada) have become ronin pledged to Ogiue-dono. Is there anyone left at the Manga Society that can draw? The Genshiken could use some new members – why don’t they commit? Why is the Genshiken not overflowing with new recruits, given that the prez is a dojin superstar and semi-pro magaka? Fujoshidom taint? Past bad reputation for the Genshiken?

Will Keiko Sasahara make an appearance? Who will get escort duty? Where is Sass? Shouldn’t he have dropped by to cheer his gf on with her sales?

Will  Kousaka be in full trap mode selling games at the company displays? Will a very gravid Saki make an appearance? How about a scary Kaminaga cameo?

Genshiken really does the ensemble cast, slice-of-life genre well!

So many fun questions!

One more day of Comiket left!

Postscript: Sign of the Times:

Behold the cover of this week’s Economist Magazine:

Oh NO! Not the Economist too!

Oh NO!      Not the Economist too!

Thou shalt not let the rotten girl intern commission the cover art!

The tactics of mistake

wherein your correspondent finally winds up a post that started as a review of “Boys, Be Ambitious!; Shounen yo Taishi wo Dake!” that went nowhere for the longest time, even though he should be doing homework…

Shounen yo Taishi wo Dake! (Boys, Be Ambitious!) is a so-so drawn soft-pr0nish manga about a gormless lad who goes to an art school in Hokkaido and gets lucky, repeatedly. It claims to be written and drawn by HANAMIZAWA Q-taro (see also this), but is really written by a gaggle of graduates from a Hokkaido art school, to convince gormless boy manga readers to go to art school in Hokkaido.

It might be cold as heck up there, but you will get laid! (they lie!)

It could solve a lot of problems for the ronery boys, girls and in between – both real and imagined… If only…

It also illustrates a few problems with the kind of manga that Genshiken-ers and other dojinshi enthusiasts are reading and creating.

But first, a word from our sponsor:

I think that scanlators must have the best fun reading manga, even if they have the hardest time of it. In going slowly over the originals, photoshopping out and/or over the original text, figuring out the japanese, the idioms, the references – you would have to be without curiosity to not be drawn in by every reference that you need to track down, to get it all just right. Anime fansubbers used to be obsessed like this too – I remember the first grey copy of Spirited Away I saw, there were so many footnote subs running with the dialog subtitles as to shame an undergraduate essay. The immersive feeling was breathtaking. I guess this kind of obsession is now considered to be too invasive, but some of it still survives, for some series. The folks at Sumimassen used to go completely crazy on my favourite Despairing Sensei. Alas, that is all over now, and I have no idea if the detective episodes in the anime somehow refer to Genei Hakurankai.

Blogging has its advantages too: Half of me is greedily consuming slightly outre, often cheesy manga, the other part of me is trying to situate it in my crummy understanding of Japanese society, of otaku tropes, and of the various harebrained theories that I am trying to trot around the park. And I have an excuse to try to read almost any genre I can stomach, at least for a few pages, on the principle that I need more data.

Mmmmmmmmm Shoujo Manga! Do Japanese girls read this treacle! Wow! this one is a bit low-class (underage monogamous sex, wish-fulfilment fame and money, absent upper middle class parents, la la la, true love, happily ever after at 17) Who the heck is this aimed at.. (shibuya? gayu? yankee girls?) Oh look: another bishie male lead! here comes a shout-out to the “goggles” tribe.

Class-S Yuri? Wow! her first boyfriend caught a bad case of magic cock syndrome and acted like a snotty 14-year-old boy who thought he was a Host – plot crank! “She cannot trust men after this!” -crank- Query: are Japanese LFB’s subconsciously “absorbing a “don’t do this” lesson while they turn the page waiting for the next 2D thigh shot? Whooooeeeee! Here comes the “mother set up interviews for an arranged marriage” trope! What exactly are the current m-f demographics in Japan right now for teens, young adults, etc. A demographic gender imbalance should cause a certain change in behaviour. Hmmmmmmmm.

Revolutionary Girl Utena? Don’t know if I can handle the pointy faced artwork and the high-school fight tropes without retching. Oh well, It is undoubtedly a milestone first order derivation from a certain groundbreaking historical gender-bender. ROSES! get it? ROSES!!! Oh wait, have to work tomorrow, and for the next few weeks, months..

Heh! free Penguin Musume Heart on Viki.com (wow: legal fansubbing model!) wait! Gahhhhhkkkkk! Oh! A “Sebastien” butler! Cosplay geek girl school election! Hijinks galore . This thing is still pretty lame. I wonder how much of this POS shows up in slightly mutated form in Genshiken. In SZS? Do I care?

Franken Fran: Huh! where the ^&%&^%* does this fit in? Oh fugget it!

etc…

Back to “art school confidential”…

Why am I bothering?

I wanted to take a break from challenging manga for a while, and since I wandered into the shallow end of the gender studies pool, I thought I would back out and try to find some good wholesome guy manga (Gintama to be dealt with later). Next thing you know I find myself in ecchi-land.

Besides – “art school confidential” is a subject dear to my heart, even if the
school ‘o’ art that our happy hero bumbles into bears no relation whatsoever to any real- life art school on this planet. Come to think of it, the movie was pretty fail as well.

Cue the synopsis that snagged me:

“Without doing much research on the school or surrounding areas, Hibino Ryouichiro picks an art school in Hokkaido. Tricked by the school advertisements, he goes to the campus only to find out it is a desolate and cold campus. The only glimmer of happiness for Ryouichiro are the girls on campus. Just hours after meeting Kisaragi Riho, the cute girl on campus, she seduces him only to find himself outside naked after she is done with him. Feeling heartbroken and used, he finds comfort in Aso Tomoe, who lives on the floor below at the dorms. Although it is freezing outside, it is hot underneath the sheets for Ryouichiro.”

That’s pretty well it, except that girl 2 refers to, and gets the boy to secretly refer
to girl 1 as “the slut”, boy gets to have pagan/ fake witchcraft sex with the hawt 28-year-old lady teacher (gets scared, runs away after), boy and girls 1 + 2 go out drinking and end up in a drunken threesome, boy makes a list of pr0n sex tricks to get the girls to agree to, gets caught out, boy and girl 2 break up, boy seeks solace in the arms on girl 1, and so it goes, on and on and on.

Looking at the mess askance, it is like Archie comics at an art school, with sex – the girls are even somewhat jp-manga-ized versions of Betty and Veronica.

Again why bother?

The smut pages are what gives it away: if Hato drew het scenes, they would be like this!!! They are usually full-page, focus on the girl (or woman) involved, are laden with flare effects and sensitive lines, with the women in the throes of pr0ny passion.

“My characters are making love”

Well, they are doing something.

The quality of the drawing in the rest of the scenes is just enough to bump the plot on down the road – lots of it is extremely weak, even factoring the comedic “chibi” sections, the fave crutch of deadline challenged manga artists.

One can surmise that the artist started with, and still dotes on static sex scenes in dojins, then tries to flesh out a plot as best as he/they can! A missing link in the jump from dojin to pro manga! Discovered in the wild! Wow!

The style, kleenex-thin plot and treatment of the sex scenes also follow the norms of soft core dojinshi and manga pr0n. The lad’s member goes transparent/ outline, and then disappears for a better view of the “action”. The girls look too damn young. Girl 1 is a dark-haired princess type, girl 2, is labeled “plain” even though she is of course good-looking, and the intimacy is fast, forced, lacks whole-body contact (sometimes referred to as cuddling), and affection. You would think buddy boy would at least fall in lurv, get a bit sentimental, but to him the whole mess is the frantic clearing an eroge. If he was caring and sensitive he’d be too much of a Mary Sue – this way the otaku readers can identify with him and feel superior at the same time. This is how we do characterization.

At least they use rubbers; two cheers for health education.

In contrast to a slew of other school harem manga (well this IS a University after all) the girls don’t just fall all over the idiot boy and flash their breasts and panties. All that relentless and essentially chaste teasing falls away before a “might as well get it over with now” approach to moar hawt secks naow dammit!

In her 2009 TED lecture Cindy Gallop put out a very short critique of internet delivered pr0n as default sex education for American males, and claimed that it made them lousy lovers (she likes younger guys, dates them, and gets intimate with them). She even tried to set up a web 2.0 site, to flesh out the idea, but it is pretty thin, looks like she hoped she could get an instant book off the effort and then gave up/ wrote one anyway. (the possibility that she could just be enjoying a bit of boasting as an experienced older lover should not be discounted either)

In Japan, the default sex education for males must be “modern visual culture” – as well as net pr0n. For women? Hmmmmmmm.

What of the “ambition” (or perhaps “daring”) of the title. Our hero isn’t very either,
unless you count his urge to go through a little black book of porny things to try on women once they invite him into bed. Most of the time he just walks around in a daze and gets hit on be bored women. Girl 1 seems to use sex as a way of getting and keeping friendship – our hero is a side interest to her between sessions with her (offscreen, never seen) boyfriend. She will even try to make friends with Girl 2, and then cement that friendship in the only way she knows how. The older (oops, past 25 – practically a crone!) lady professor is taken with the idea that the kid would stare at her boobs and likes the idea of going all pagan while making big ugly sculpture.

Girl 2 is mildly jealous of Girl 1 and wants to “lose it”. She also wants to try things
like a better hairstyle and nail polish, and going steady, which of course boy doesn’t notice and screws up. I would venture that %99 of all males in a relationship have fucked up on this one too, so it is cruel to expect buddy boy to come up with the accepted response, but heck, it lurches the plot forward, so whatever. Not that any Otaku out there are going to be suddenly more observant while dating because of this, but they might be a tad less bewildered when they mess up in the real world.

“Oh shit! I did that! Duh!”

Wonderfully educational this wish-fulfillment manga is, neh? Gallop also makes the point that pr0n grazing allows young guys (and I suppose young girls) to sample and then draw their own personal lines, beyond which lies the “too weird” stuff, thereby constructing and validating a “normal” desire.

So a simple romp like “ambitious” can hide a few tricks in plain sight.

Like a dog that finally catches the car tires he habitually chases, and unlike the usual takes- forever- before- they- finally- get- up- the- courage vehicles such as “my too-hawt aunt wants me to seduce 14 coeds so that she can finish her research on Genji, but so far it’s an uphill climb, because I was bullied by girls as a kid” we get to imagine what happens when normal clueless manga lad catches the eye of one, or two, or three, or more manga girls. At least he hasn’t gone all “leisure suit Larry” yet. That will lose him his stunned deer- in-the-headlights charm.

He hasn’t forced himself on any of them, and the manga is doing its best to make such an approach pointless, so ‘Ambitious” gets another two points for teaching the important stuff first (no forcing, use a condom, smile and go for it) before it starts preaching fine points of etiquette and sensitivity. Oh, and the girls always take the initiative in sex and relationships – at least in mangaland. I am not too sure what the guy’s duty is. Perhaps the next few chapters will whittle it down to daily bathing and rudimentary grooming… and getting rid of that damn list. This kind of list-ticking-off seems to be an endemic error of western pr0n watching guys, and the habit looks like it is near universal. A ton of ero-games and ecchi manga, on top of the net-pr0n has probably exacerbated this problem – though it would be interesting to see if certain sub-forms and narrative tropes actively resist it.

If “Ambitious” is “wholesome”, normal, ecchi or hentai manga, it isn’t any worse – and perhaps a lot better than a previous generation’s reliance on skin magazines (hundreds of them, easily accumulated when the university students moved home in spring – literally bales of porn, free for the hauling! gahhhhhhhhhh!) Of course, there is an abundance of squick out there, but as Gallop suggests, it serves a small purpose as well.

Part of me can see the advantages, in terms of plot novelty, of forgoing another 20-chapter boy meets girl, girl meets boy, but both are too shy to confess fest to cut to the chase and tackle basic relationship etiquette.

To expand the argument a bit, a noted reviewer / blogger on Yuri, has often commented on how she gets bored and annoyed with what she calls “story A” (meet cute, overcome shyness and misunderstanding, declare love – even in face of societal pressure, have some idealized girl-sex, walk off into sunset.) I presume she means that she would prefer to see some more working out of the day-to-day frustrations of relationships, beyond simple fight- over-nothing-make-up-with-sex scenes.

The trouble is that within the flavours of Yuri that valorise f/f love (as opposed to
pure nasty hentai for LFB’s), the sex act itself is privileged – it is the holy defining
big thing of the relationship and the participants’ identities, and of course it is perfect and satisfying beyond all bonds of imagination. Uh huh! Yuri lesbian characters don’t have problems with one or more of the couple being lousy, clumsy, clueless lovers? having pr0nish lists? having personal grooming and hygiene issues?

I won’t even speculate about yaoi puppets..

Recall that monsieur Zizek characterises all eroticism and fantasy within the realms of repeated, epic fail.

Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower has a nice het couple with otaku backgrounds trying to get through their first few year of happy domestic life, with job pressures, looming GROW- UP!/ maturity fears and pregnancy making the road a bit bumpy. Whether or not they are alternate-reality versions of the Genshiken characters is beside the point. The big question is how they can reconcile their otaku tastes (and yup – these tastes are “libidinized”) with the “realities” of domesticity.

Here’s some rai-ju “same-old same-old” on the pr0n vs reality debate in the west:
(http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/11/11/does-pornography-deserve-its-bad-rap)

Shimoku-sensei (remember, his mangaka persona is a pseudonym – he is a well-married, somewhat normal-ised family man in the solid world) will occasionally try to work the difficult, grotty bits of “life” into his manga: A little searching will find grey zone scans of Digopuri /Hell’s Princess (Jigo Puri: The Princess of the Hell)
to frighten the heck out of prospective couples.

Could it get worse? How about a “yuri” manga based on this story:
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/transsexual-denied-recognition-as-father

So… Did the “father” really want to do a full re-assignment, (news report unclear if the change was paper work or paperwork + surgery) or was originally-she just a bit butch and wanted to marry her sweetie? No matter, the ass-hat bureaucrats in Japan required her to “become a man”. Fine! Ok!, Happy marriage! Later, after a bit of turkey baster improvisation (or clinic fees) sweetie is with child. Surprise! The ass-hat bureaucracy strikes back: the kid is a bastard! What next? A tsunami? A power plant melt-down?

All epic Japanese tales either start with an ass-hat inflexible judgement from authority, or a suicide.

Do the vast panoply of narratives in manga offer more in the way of possible social scripts to Japanese readers than the more segmented paperback fiction/ comic book/ high literature/ net pr0n categories offer Western consumers.

Japanese auteurs seem far more willing to stretch a narrative beyond any reasonable limit if they feel that the story is gong nowhere. How else does one explain the movies of Minoru Kawasaki Fave domestic send-up: http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/koala-carnage-whale-of-a- film/2006/02/03/1138836416714.html

So, the problem resolves simply: Western fiction is too effing limited, and lingering puritanism segments fictional narratives in a way that undermines possible benefits to developing social scripts. Anyone want to ride this hobby-horse through some grad school halls?

Only Futurerama can save us.

Yawn!

Finally, as for real art schools:

1) Art school girls are exogamous. The last thing they need after a hard day of forced creativity is another budding narcissist under foot, especially one with an earning potential as low as theirs. Art-school guys, be ambitious, go after the Drama dept. girls. As a friend remarked: once one does you, it becomes a competition. Higgamous hoggamous..
2) Tip for getting along with your peers: NO ONE likes your taste in music – try
earbuds!
3) Learn to floss! Your breath stinks! Bathing and laundry are good too.
4) Protip: Boys and girls – resist the urge to chat up the life-drawing models. Polite interaction during breaks to demonstrate that you do not objectify them is ok – anything more ist verbotten! Snap out of it and keep drawing!
5) Sex is ok, but learning to draw is better than the “I know Kung Fu!” thing in the Matrix.

Ars longa
, vita brevis

Genshiken 81 – some thoughts on the royal harem route

Chapter 81 of Genshiken is now available to us leeches, and Kio Shimoku has of coursed dashed all immediate hopes for Sue x Mada shippers. Ogiue Maniax‘s preview was spot on, and this one was Keiko continuing to orchestrate Madarame’s ceremonial catharsis, until Kousaka, and then the cosplay brigade (with draftees) gets into the act.

No point in restating the analysis of the translator and other bloggers, but I will say that I am impressed as heck with Kousaka’s trap-game trolling. Kousaka didn’t go all Heinlein.. Naw.. He has become an adult. This is most unexpected.. Perhaps a son? He has grown a heart! An adult fun-loving, generous heart. That he would do such, with such humor, for Madarame is beautiful.

the explanation of the Sue line is an easter egg from the xlator

As for Sue, the only odd bit is that she is drawn a couple of times studiously avoiding staring at Mada and Saki, as they emerge from the clubroom only to vanish and re-appear at the end of the chapter making obscure references to the novel  Royal Harem Tales which was adapted to the almost-ghibli Like the Wind, like the Clouds anime movie. Huh??? Want more! Note the “studiously avoiding” again! Hope is not lost!

What else? Keiko is just being a bit closeminded about traps oops gender dysphoric Hato and his perceived indeterminacy – no need to read a huge jealousy vibe into it the tale yet. It has been 2 hours since she found out that Hato was cross-dressing, then found out he has all kinds of goofy kouhai behavior towards Madarame, then drafted him and Sue into their mission.  She is probably just re-doing the Yajima thing.

Saki has not given up on her moetekki brainwave; she made a big thing to Mada about sticking around the campus – she means the club – to get some harem route action. I wonder if she sees anything that we poor solids don’t; she did tell Madarame he should have taken Angela up on her offer. Most I can make of this is that she believes the only girl(s) for Mada are otaku-ish.

Tanaka and Kugayama go off with Madarame to drink at his place: no bar crawl. Wonder where Hato is going to change? Nope that can’t be right – Hato probably pulled a quick change somewhere else for the festival.

So I hope Kio-sensei can wring a bit more fun out of the night after the cultural festival. A heckuvalot has happened, both in Hato-land and in Mada-land but the new kids are not getting a lot of attention. Do they meet up with Sue and the manga club exiles for some heavy drinking? Something has got to do some plot advancement, now that Hato’s big secret is out of the bag and Mada’s big crush has been laid to rest.

La la la.

Unrelated news of the weird:

Right-wing Mayor’s wife heavily into Cosplay!

—Quote—

Ichigen koji (218)
Posted by Ampontan on Saturday, November 3, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

“Even though it’s the same body, I don’t get tired of it because she creates many changes by adorning it with many different costumes. My wife was a classmate in high school, and I’ve known her for 20 years. We have six children (now 7) and that’s because she fully develops her artistic ideas. School uniforms…tennis team outfits…all sorts of things.”

– Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru talking about his marriage

— end —

Don’t know whether to Yikes or Awww!  Said pol did admit to an affair back in 2008, but I guess he somehow won his way back into his wife’s good graces.
Somehow this reminded me of Spotted Flower, but I can’t exactly say why.

Otherwise, here in blog-land, things might get a bit sparse – work is going to get frantic soon (read yesterday). Time to stuff one’s ears with wax and row.

The Shipping News

(wherein your correspondent goes all fanboy for a bit, as an exercise in reacquainting myself with the effect – yup, sure thing, How’s that working out for you..)

Just as I had began to sour on the imaginary social of the Genshiken, on how the bonds of friendship and concern seem to be failing its members and alumni at critical moments, my faith is renewed by the enthusiasm of other fans.

Over at Astro Nerd Boy’s blog good coverage of the recent Genshiken chapters and a resurgent argument for a Sue x Mada arc!

Squeeeeeee! My eyes go all cartoon starbusrst-y!

PLAYSET FIELD AT MAXIMUM!!!

A Sue x Mada arc might save the day, if only because it would be the perfect excuse to give Sue some back-story. This is long overdue – heck even Kuchiki got a one-evening confession and the promise of a job at graduation, but Sue remains a cypher. For all we know, Sue could be a filthy rich 24 year-old divorcee who used to pilot an M9E Gernsback for Mithril. Time for her to drop her no-speaky-except-anime-quotes act and get some serious character attention.

Besides doting on Ogiue – not falling for Kio-sensei’s red herring – where is the interaction with her old friend Ohno? Ohno and Tanaka must keep her supplied with loli costumes – One would think there would be girl-talk. Could Ohno really have given up her urge to play matchmaker after loading Madarame up with Saki cosplay pix? Does Ohno have a nice thicky envelope of Sue loli cosplay pix stashed away, ready to drop on Mada’s rebounding heart?

Sue feels comfortable enough around Madarame to ride him, ship him, kiss him, and volunteer his apartment as a change-room for Hato. While she has little hesitation and no guilt over shipping Mada in general or in particular (get over your broken heart – try yaoi ruv!) there must be more to her continuous choice of loli cosplay outfits than her chibi stature. Shimoku could always re-jig it to suggest that her pushing lewd dojins at Madarame was a tactical maneuver to hide her growing urge to poke at Madarame with a stick.

As for Hato, while there are sure to be a few more odd Hato/ Mada moments, neither’s virtue is in any danger from the other. Per previous, Hato has worked hard for his quasi-lesbian fujoshi status. But he is (as one fan suggested) deep in the throes of “Iwantonlythebestforyou” sentimentality for his sempai (all that sempai/kouhai stuff is a recurring Hato delusion), so we can expect more comedic errors. Meanwhile Madarame remains very het, but so wrapped in 2d pervy delusions (trap ero games too!) that he can’t talk to real women without his head filling with embarrassing distractions.

The best thing about having Hato underfoot is that Hato serves Mada as training wheels to get over his “can’t talk to girls” shyness. Stand-chan will ensure that Hato will prefer being Hato-chan while interacting with Madarame for the time being; so in effect Hato-chan becomes Madarame’s quasi-lesbian buddy. And having a lesbian buddy is a damn fine thing for a shy het guy: no pressure, nothing personal in the friendzoning, good practice interacting and perhaps a few insights into the inscrutable female mind (or an unreasonable facsimile thereof).

A furreign eccentric mystery girl is the next step up, but still far enough removed from a paralysing confrontation with a rai-ju like Saki. Watch out Mada! That’s how they trick you!

Meanwhile, Hato is about to get “moetekied” big time too, and have his hard-won membership in fujoshi paradise threatened by smoothness-lust from at least 2, possibly 3 or more girls. If Shimoku-sensei can’t pull a Mada & Hato Sadie Hawkins run-and-hide scene out of this one (“Dammit Hato, I thought you understood them!” “Yeah right! – I just dress like them, keep your head down..”) he should pack up his pen-set.

I have already placed my bets for this chase: Tuxedo-Mask-Risa x Hato Moon.

Something has to happen soon for Sue, and Mada is as good a candidate as any. As pointed out by observant fans, Ogiue and Ohno (heck Kuchiki too) will be graduating this “year”. Sue has senior status as well, though being a magical exchange student she can stretch out her studies as long as Shimoku needs her to hang around and stir the pot. Still she is one of the few remaining originals who remember Madarame as more than the odd sou-uke alumnus.

What of Keiko? First off, can we really assume she is a slut? (ooops, lets say sexually experienced and perhaps inclined to bestow her favors upon Madarame) She might have been a typical over-wrought teen drama queen, but now she has studies to hold down at business college, and a big brother who doesn’t seem too concerned with her part-time job – wouldn’t Ogiue say something if it was obvious that sister-in-law-to-be was self-destructing and boyfriend didn’t care? Perhaps she really is just a bar hostess who talks up weary salarymen and then sends them home. In any case, she is still much too rai-ju for Madarame to handle, too inscribed by her job as a financial predator to be taken seriously, and almost family with Sasahara-big-brother close at hand. Unless Shimoku wants to crank Madarame’s moeteki up to 11 and recast him as a Host (which would be a hilarious nod to Kumeta – Hosts being the traditional weakness of love-struck hostesses) Keiko is safe from Mada and vice versa – though she cares enough about him to meddle a bit. Kuchiki (Mmmmmmm Banker Boy!) – perhaps, Madarame, no way. Such are Good Endings for foot soldiers.

Maybe Madarame just walks off into the sunset? What a waste. A Sue romance would be sparks-fly-a-licious – far more fun than Spotted Flower and a great excuse to keep one standard-issue Otaku male somewhat involved with the current Genshiken. Madarame having no idea how to act; either in a relationship, or in an intimate situation. Sue with her own ideas about how a proper boyfriend should behave, trying to get it across to him in manga/ anime quotes, even if she is fluent in moon-speak. Plenty of fun about furreigners never really really being accepted in Japanese society. And… you can still have Hato underfoot, so everyone has to move to pair him off to get him out of the happy couple’s hair.

Yup,  you end up on this island, and then they hunt you…

So Sue.. If she can break the gaijin prime directive she has been operating under for the last year. How to start? Hmmm lets hook one extra battery to the playset field generator..

After Saki, Madarame finally leaves the clubroom. Keiko, Hato and Sue surround him and press for juicy details, Madarame demurs , but in the process of the conversation shifting to the next comiket, Madarame asks Sue for Angela’s email address. Sue stops dead, glares at him, looks down at her elaborate loli cosplay outfit, yells (in english) “IDIOT!”, throws her magical girl staff at him and stomps off.

Sqweeeeeeeeeeee!

Ain’t Genshiken a big heaping pile o fun, or what!?!

One day later (dammit!)
Ogiue Maniax has the early preview for Ch81 up! Darn! Shimoku-sensei proved that he can leave the playset far behind in the dust, by doing something totally unexpected: getting the whole gang to have some FUN TOGETHER to cheer Madarame up. Then to top it all off, Tanaka and Kugayama go off with Madarame to go drinking (!?!) ABOUT TIME! There is also a whole bunch of trap otokonoko themed cosplay & ribbing, and plenty of subtle clues planted for future character development. Note to self: never underestimate Shimoku-sensei’s ability to juggle a whole bunch of chainsaws and cabbages at the same time, while moving the whole mess towards a glorious mini-epiphany. Impressed I am! (but not quite giving up on Sue x Mada yet…)

Burden of dreams

Ch80 sees Madarame finally (almost-) confess and Saki gets to (hopefully) help him move on/ get over it already.

Then she cries.

It is a damn powerful plot moment, but is it more; part of a larger tendency within the Genshiken story line, or even a bit of preaching to all real-life Otaku and ‘ronry boys who have carried unreasonable torches for unreasonably long times?

Damn you Shimoku-sensei! Once again our solitary vices are have real-world fallout. In the Genshiken-verse, an unacknowledged crush is a horrible burden to lay on someone, no matter how nonchalantly you deny any interest. You can protest that you are only interested in 2D until you turn blue – but the elephant in the room remains to disrupt the harmony of the group and your interactions with everyone.

“All of our desires are just things we force on others”. And a younger Ogiue ends up in her own personal hell for innocently shipping her classmate.

This is a variation on a long-standing Japan-joke; Man throws himself in front of a train in a downtown Tokyo station and the news report always ends with “over 200,000 commuters were inconvenienced”.

But the Genshiken-verse doesn’t know how to deal with the opposite of lonely, silent pining either (unless you are the superhuman Kousaka and the girl next door) – or perhaps it would have been different if Angela hadn’t been a busty blond gaijin girl. Mada just needs a slow courtship with a yamato nadeshiko fujoshi. One who does not already have a love interest. And one who can be a friend as well, and who is an heir to a manga publishing empire, and..

Ok, so we won’t hold our breath.

Saki had to carry the Madarame crush-can for a long time, and finally had to do most of the work in the clubroom scene, once she clued into what the cabal had set up. But it was her choice to give no notice of Madarame’s long and odd fascination with her, no matter how many envelopes full of cosplay pictures ended up in a guilty scatter for all to see.

“Thanks Ohno! I knew that something like this would happen!” would have nipped a lot of trouble in the bud, but would have disturbed the social harmony of the group. And even at this point, we are asked to believe that Madarame’s reality field was so warped that he conveniently forgot that everyone saw him with Ohno in secret agent drag mess up the hand-off of envelopes full of Saki cosplay pix. Madarame needed to get over his Saki (or fantasy-Saki) crush ages ago; it has gone on for some four years of Genshiken-time, and has been presented by Shimoku as one of the main symptoms of a classic form of otaku failure-to-launch. But Shimoku is smart enough to drop hints at the power of such a delusion, and how it meshes perfectly with real-life’s disappointments.

One fan’s comment on the whole mess reminds us all that Madarame would feel that a full confession to Saki could seem like a betrayal of sorts towards Kousaka, who Madarame counts as a friend. Add that to the betrayal of the grudging friendship that Mada has developed with Saki and that Saki has with Mada. In this light, the nose hair confession is a stroke of genius: Some things can barely be said in a space where chaperones are still expected when Genshikeners – at least women club members, hesitantly interact with the opposite sex.

The real problem with Mada’s hopeless crush is that he remains a prototypical unsocialized otaku guy. He may have grown a bit from his earlier weird extremes, but he still lives too much in his otaku head. Maybe he needs to get buddhist, learn meditation and practice mindfulness. Even in his present incarnation, he finds it insanely hard to talk to women. His inner dialog, misapprehensions and fears make for a horrible jumble whenever he opens his mouth. Not only is he shy with women, but his personality is an edifice of fantasy built to accommodate, validate and support that shyness and reconcile it with his pervy otaku desires. Too much moe, too many 2D lolis. Shimoku has always classed the otaku and later the fujoshi as a variant species of pr0n addict.

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

Then they take you…

This of course is a well-worn manga trope; it makes for an endless stream of comedic errors. Once again I point out the cringingly funny girl version of this: “Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!” a once-confident girl brought low by too many otome dating sim games. (Also see this.)

So we get to watch a small catharsis unfold for Madarame, and Saki has no other way to show her friendship for him but to slap a little white lie onto the gaping wound. But Saki’s attempt to boost Mada’s confidence needs to be “spun” in a positive direction fast, or the delusion will reset with full force.

Which puts Shimoku in a bit of a tight spot: continue Mada’s fantasy and milk the last few laughs out of it, or get preachy and risk the narrative flow.

What Saki needed to say was something like “…At first you were a real scary unappealing Otaku, and you often still are, because you seldom can get out of your head long enough to interact with women-as-human-beings. But if you could put aside the crap in your head that is making you double-think everything, and stop mistaking shyness and pervy embarrassment for some idiot form of noble heroism, then you make a pretty good friend. Lots of people care about you, and some girl out there – NOT ME!- might take a chance on you, and you and whoever that silly woman might be deserve a shot at happiness, if you can actually snap to long enough care about her as a human being, and not as a loli fantasy, yadda yadda yadda..”

That won’t work.

In the manly guy-verse, this kind of bind is dealt with by means of repeated withering ironic ribbing from a ‘bro, delivered when the hero is in the depths of despair: “Yup! Women just melt when you stare at their tits and gibber – especially the fat ones!” “Make sure you forget to bathe for a week, cut your own hair and wear your best comfy hikki clothing when you ask her out!” “Make sure you tell her how she reminds you of your fave moe character, and then snort a lot” “Getting a girlfriend is no way as important as remaining a ronry guy who will die alone in a 6 tatami room 40 years from now surrounded by figurines and fuck pillows! 2D forever!”

Tough Love! But even advice from the losers club is a bit hard to find in the Genshiken-verse: as I have mentioned before, there aren’t a lot of normal male role models floating around the clubroom. Of all the old guys, Tanaka is the closest to a regular guy – who through passion and good luck has a shot at a great relationship and workable small business. But he won’t butt in. Sasahara has done nothing to establish any advice giving mojo (aside from dojin plotting) within the larger group: all his mentoring got tangled up with his crush on Ogiue. Kousaka remains a superhuman cipher. He wont seriously intervene. While he has a soft spot for the Genshiken crew, I doubt that he even considers their problems as problems.

A lurking larger theme in the Genshiken saga is precisely how the Otaku and later Fujoshi manage to order the progression of their lives without such senior advice and examples from rai-ju society. The Genshiken-verse has three functional couples. They share very little among from themselves, or towards their kouhai about the challenges of maintaining a quasi-normal relationship. The active mode of “help” or intervention in the current Genshiken is clumsy meddling. The members are sympathetic, but barely able to manage support – when they do chose to support they are too fast to take a narrow view shaded by their enthusiasms; support Hato, but throw Mada under the sou-uke bus, feed Mada Saki cosplay pics, drag Saki and Mada into the clubroom on impulse.

In a society that enshrines the idea of the sempai-kouhai model, but has seen it and all the other models of order and ascription fall before economic stagnation, the bubble crash and globalization, the longstanding appeal of the Genshiken-verse is how this band of misfits somehow muddle through without “normal” scripts.

Another odd thing about the Genshiken-verse: it is a habit in “meta” manga stories to have the “heroic theme” of the story-within-the-story lend strength or at least inspiration to the characters. Those of us with too much time for our enthusiasms do it in real life, so it is natural that the trope would find its way into the plots of the stuff we like. No anime fan in a long distance relationship can resist a sideways reference in real life to Hoshi no Koe (go on, I dare you…) just as no metal-head can resist blurting out a few choice lyrics when they mesh with a particularly resonant real-life moment.

For all the references towards manga, anime, games and light novels in Genshiken, it is nearly devoid of this kind of sentimentality. Any such “influence” in the Genshiken-verse is minor, played for laughs, and invariably dysfunctional. I guess Unbalance and Ramen Angel don’t quite cut it as inspirational literature, and yaoi and loli smut are in the end just smut. Witness how Sue destroys a poignant moment by waving yaoi dojins in front of Mada after letting out a rare, coherent bit of sympathetic advice (because it was Sue, and delivered intelligibly, we must assume it was a direct quote from some anime/ manga source.) Wow, gee thanks Sue!

So: no help from a larger society, no help from your peers, no help from your fictions. A small amount of clumsy friendship to ease the pain. stir occasionally and simmer.

Kousaka, showing a rare moment of human concern has no problem stating that he loves Madarame, even while wearing an ero-game trap otokonoko outfit, and he has no consideration for the codes of chaperonage that the rest of the tribe find so necessary. But Kousaka is an alien superman, and he doesn’t count. The rest of the tribe in the room do not know how to handle his simple pronouncement, and so are twice shamed.

In fact the only member of the Genshiken who has consistently shown sempai-mojo is Madarame: He supported both Ogiue and Hato without judging their quirks and for his efforts he was labeled sou-uke and “full of openings”.

Perhaps it is time that Madarame finds a new apartment after all.

The contradictions of peversity

“Sie müssen 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 crossdressing 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/ she/ they come 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 women’s 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 women’s 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 doujinshi 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 doujinshi 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 woman 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 an otokonoko (what westernised fandon frequently translates using the nasty term “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 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 doujin 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 used to be 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/yaoi 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 doujins 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 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.

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 ‘de-substantialize’ 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!

Addendum: 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 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!!!

Watching the detectives

Is Kio Shimoku writing primarily for otaku fanboys or is he trying to branch out to a BL/yaoi loving wimmins audience too? Will fujoshis read G2 for the identification thrill, or does it detract from their primary mission of gorging on yaoi, yaoi and more (urp!) yaoi. I cannot believe that Hato x Mada is being dangled in front of the solid japanese fujoshi tribes to lure them into reading Genshiken. Perhaps isolated proto fujoshi will reach out and find support among others of their kind, encouraged by reading about the Genshiken fujoshis – as if women need help and socializing advice from a comic book. Perhaps all the lonely rotten boys will feel better about their lives and form dojin circles?

Then again, what do I know?

Aside from echoes of previous debates, this last issue is closer to current problems of plot mechanics than would first appear. If as previously discussed, the mangaka holds up 3D interaction as a panacea for otaku, then the current Genshiken ain’t helping nearly as much as it could/ should/ wants to. If he is writing for Otaku guys, then he has painted a number of his characters, and himself into a perpetual despair corner. Bad ending! This dating sim does not function! You offer me 10 years of idealised productive social, and then tell me that the odds are that I will still end up as a ronery 40yr old virgin?

“Fuck this otaku shit! Time to drink heavily, form a punk band, overcome my shyness and get laid!” (gratuitous link here)

Put another way, Madarame, Hato (and Kuichi – too late for you Kagupi) are not going to get much life-help from the gals, and Tanaka, Sass and Kousaka are in not much of a position to offer grown-up manly-man advice.

With apologies to oppressed solid communities everywhere, the guy characters in Genshiken are suffering from adult male role model deficit syndrome.

If the Genshiken fujoshi have to negotiate and avoid the oppressive female roles proscribed by Japanese society (Kogal, OL, devoted japanese housewife, self-loathing hikki fujoshi etc.), then the menfolk have a similar problem: how to navigate the shoals of unemployable graduate, salaryman who gave up his dreams, peter pan, freeter, and always always the ronery guy. And they have much fewer social resources to call upon to help them figure it all out. The only place where the Genshiken anime exceeded the manga was the brief moment when Kugayama gave Sass some “don’t make my mistake” real-world advice,

Even smutpeddlers like Ken Kurogane have his yuri bait sigh and contemplate arranged marriages (usually before a night of debauchery with another lonely gal – I smell trope!) . Genshiken is free of this but the absence of an alternative is telling.

If Genshiken’s target audience is primarily japanese male Otaku then the natural direction of the narrative must veer towards a conventional resolution, with a token nod towards keeping some of their youthful enthusiasms as hobbies and inspirations.

Some sensitivity training towards LGBT issues and crazy foreigners can be commended and encouraged as a sign of personal development and maturity, but no one’s world view or view or their core being is going to be shattered by Hato or Sue. The larger japanese formula of distrust the unknown outsider until proven safe, then give him/her/hir a comedy role on a variety show (see ten thousand articles posted on intersections) is repeated in Genshiken,

To hammer home the point, almost all of Genshiken’s current crop of angsty kids are virgins. There are no practicing gays anywhere near Genshiken. Beyond the paired off couples, there are no practicing heterosexuals in the Genshiken: KS even made a point of hammering this home in the high school romance story chapter (they should have interrogated Sas’s sister, no point in quizzing Sue – she is an alien!). So much for one of the main ideas behind a modern university education.

So what? this kind of argument got me in trouble once before, on /u when I pulled a compare and contrast between Aoi Hana  and Sasameke Koto.

To clarify matters, this is not about the playset, but a (for want of a better word) quantum level of plot mechanics and engineering within a manga storyline.

To continue the example, while Genshiken presents a comedic view of an idealised otaku / fujoshi club, it’s relationship plot mechanics, including the Ogiue/ Sass romance, barely venture beyond the playful comedic hesitancy of the romance(s) of Sasameke Koto, With its cartoon super strong girl, childhood lesbian-if-I-ever -find-a-cute-girl-to ruv-me friend and their supportive shoujo-ai oriented group of friends; the entire long slog was over a first kiss fer gawd sakes!

The glaring exception to the chaste environment was the one martian lesbian couple, an 18- year old business genius super competent and confident rich girl and her chauffeur’s daughter lover, who had a fairytale matter -of-fact relationship fueled by cartoon uber-wealth-power mojo, 3 matter-antimatter reactors and a fleet of low obital ion cannon. Yup, martians. (Perhaps I exaggerate a bit – oh! I forget to mention the army of ninja bodyguards?)

Even then, that one couple was as “conventional” as Ogiue and Sasahara, Ohno and Tanaka and Saki and Kousaka.

Contrast that kind of story to the pain-drenched plot mechanics of Aoi Hana: our lead character is gay, she was seduced and abandoned by a woman cousin when she was 13. She has had real lesbian secks much too young; but for better or for worse realises that it works for her. Later she is toyed with by a snotty rich girl who is on the rebound from a relationship with a male teacher, and then takes up with a caring woman teacher only to see her new love develop a horrible disease, break off the affair and move away somewhere to die. (Holy well-o-loneliness Batman!!!) Now this girl is trying to have a “normal” teen girl romance with a sweet young thing that she has known since childhood, whom she now realizes she likes, and who likes her, Naturally she is paralyzed by the thought of dragging someone innocent into the world of hurt and confusion that she has experienced.

This is a level of storytelling that is different and out-of-place in a story like Genshiken, In retrospect, putting Koto or Genshiken up against Aoi Hana is unfair: just hit the wiki link provided for Takako Shimura and see why.

So why bring this up?

If any of the Genshiken characters was to be written as being actively gay or strongly leaning that way, we would have heard it, with fireworks, flashing 50-foot high neon signs and a parade with marching bands and elephants ALREADY. The author would have to do it, thems the internal consistency rules.

If, and its a big IF, a (long-overdue) gay character shows up at the door of the Genshiken, they will have to already have a long-term partner and be in all respects a model boy or girl couple. In the Genshiken world, sexually active folks pair off and become responsible mentors/ sempai.

Shimoku has set up the Genshiken-verse as a place where otaku characters look at something like sex, but for the most part fear and avoid contact with it because it is dangerous, it offers nothing but disappointment, and it hurts like heck.

In times gone by, a young confused celibate person (or character) would be expected to be “innocent” – in the sense that they had very little or no knowledge of the grotty details of sex and of the day-to-day complications of intimacy, This characteristic made them desirable to all manner of predators, including authors.

Today’s variant suffers from too much information – a great deal of it spurious, and is actively avoiding the entire 37-car pile-up in favor of watching the carnage from the sidelines. Why else do they spend so much time reading distaff pr0n? What point but distance for yaoi, yuri and loli enthusiasts? It is a rare occurrence when such can summon their courage and jump the fire.

Can the Genshiken offer more than acceptance to such characters?
Does it have to offer anything to work as a satisfying story?

Back to the idea of the Genshiken as a productive social that offers friendship and acceptance and a chance for some happiness and perhaps personal growth through common projects:

Hato’s high school social persecuted him, and Kaminaga upon finding that her “fun” has created a creepy double of herself, was not exactly in an understanding mood. Condescension and objectification is all that she offered her brother-in-law-to-be. And why should she offer otherwise? Aside from internal character consistency, every good BL tale has to have the evil intruding woman character to hiss at.

Some of the other members of the posse felt uncomfortable, or even guilty, but make no mistake, his old high school art club was a BAD SOCIAL as much as Ogiue’s high school “friends” were. Final telling point: neither bad social created anything in a common effort.

It therefore falls to Genshiken, as the good social to pick up the pieces or fail.

Ogiue has already tried to help with Hato’s drawing block… Hato has proved to himself that he can draw beyond imitating Kaminaga’s style, in collaboration, and without drawing hard pr0n (although the pressure that built up popped when the student council boys showed up at the club room). Ogiue takes her sempai/ chairman responsibilities seriously – her quick move to slip into the reunion scene with Hato and Kaminaga et al. shows that she remembers how caustic “old high school friends” can be. Hato picked up the vibe though and overcompensated to smooth things out – this probably accelerated the descent of all present into full metal pairing mode; an attempt at changing the subject that goes awry.

But it has become clearer to any who care to put 2 + 2 together that Hato was holding out during the high school crush confession scene. What to do with the realisation?

Sue helped Hato a bit too, with her “you do this, you do that” gambit, but pushing folks at other folks is pretty much the limits of her powers of intervention.

Sue is Ariel from the Tempest.. A hard-core american japanophile who has the resources to be a foreign student at a prestigious Japanese university; her friendship with Ohno has led her to a nest of fujoshi and otaku, and she is just soaking it all in. But too much involvement will break the spell.

In retrospect, any disapproval toward Angela’s advances towards Madarame probably stemmed not from trying to preserve a Hato x Mada script, but a deeply held sense of the limits of a participant observer position; her place.

Sue might be geeeked on Ogiue as a perfect specimen of an Otaku/fujoshi/ dojin-artist who has made the leap towards publication and a riajuu romantic life, but I think Shimoku is having too much fun with the readers by pandering to a Sue x Ogi subtext.

Kuchiki is Caliban to Sue’s Ariel. He wont get any chance to do anything, as he has no position but boke from which to do it from, even though he is becoming quite a cosplay (and cross-play) enthusiast. Until he starts making the damn costumes he wont get any respect points.

Not much help can be expected from the other new/current members: They are still coming to terms with Hato and their own place within the Genshiken. Feeling uncomfortable with him or protective of him is not enough. Even dropping pedo-bear girl on Hato wont solve anything – even if she cross-plays as Tuxedo Mask. (DAMN! put the playset away for a few moments!!) Maybe its time to pull a moeteki spell on Hato – that would confuse things for another 10 chapters. (Awwww.. c’mon, Risa would make a great Tuxedo Mask to a Hato-moon, kawaaaaaaiiiiii!)

The trouble is that gag solutions seem to be the only ones that lend themselves to solving crisises in the current Genshiken. The last time the story line got serious was with Sas and Ogi’s courtship, and the motivation behind all the sturm und drang was as odd as Ogiues hobby.

It is not in the nature of the Genshiken characters to seriously pry into personal matters. They might do so playfully, as in the school romance story moment, but part of the Genshiken acceptance code seems to be don’t ask don’t tell. For example, what do we really know about Madarame from before his time with the Genshiken?

As senior-most of the Genshiken tribe, Madarame is the patron saint of the doctrine of acceptance within the Genshiken, and he is now doomed for it. Worse, the plot is in danger of grinding to a halt if this passive happy acceptance dreck continues on too long.

Sometimes you need some raw emotion, like this:

from Houkago Play, the scanlators re-arrange to read l->r

Bonus weirdness: Rocketnews is a pain, but sometimes they find  something: http://en.rocketnews24.com/2012/06/04/using-gay-sex-to-teach-japanese/
no hotlink for them because of the sensational dumbed-down tone, but the details are of note. OK I’ll give ’em the hotlink, whatthehey…

Fearful Symmetry

Just because you have two fools in the same boat doesn’t mean you have to ship them.

I have to hand it to Shimoku-sensei: not only has he set a whole slew of characters in motion, he has used them all as a perfect distraction for a masterful bit of author’s sleight-of-hand!

In chapter 77 Hato got sanded by HER, his fearsome uber-fujoshi first crush and yaoi drawing goddess/ muse/ demon. It’s not like he got caught stealing her undies or anything, he just stole her face, and her drawing style, and…
From his dissimulation in the next chapter, this meeting has hurt like heck.

And lest it slip by in the clubroom crowd scene in the very next chapter, Madarame has been well and truly poked and prodded by his fearsome first crush, as Saki seeks to apply a few TIME TO MOVE ON kicks to a particularly stubborn otaku butt. “Moteki“? really? This I have to see…

All the fluff about shipping Madarame and Hato falls before the stronger bond that these two guy share: they are both classic loser males, wounded with unrequited WANT for the girl they can’t have, and fittingly worked over by the same.

These guys dont need to discover man-secks; their bond is the more primordial cry of the wounded male ego when it realises that all the torch carrying in the world has given them nothing but sore arms. Nought, nadda, zip, nuthin.
Welcome to the “waughhh! she really fucked me over good! waughhh!”” sobbing society. I feel your pain bro, chin up, have another beer, we all go through it. The jukebox is playing Solitary Man. The lyrics are begging the question:
perhaps you are doing something wrong, neh?

Have a seat by the fire and grab a drum.

If it is any consolation, this is something that the girls, even the fujoshi tribe will never share, and never really understand.

On one side, the queen bee of harsh reality, on the other side the queen bee of depraved fantasy. Note how Saki becomes the center of the Genshiken when she drops in. The author doesn’t just hang a lampshade on it, he lets off fireworks, just as HER posse earlier made it plain along with the flashbacks that she was the alpha wolf in Hato’s high school fujoshi pack.

Results: pretty much the same in terms of devastation. Hato got a bit of hidden drawing talent released for his troubles, while Madarame got some fashion advice. Bad ending, no wins possible in this eroge.

And of course both of them brought it on themselves.

And they probably both realise it.

As noted by one who must remain nameless, Hato presumes to know a bit more about Madarame than he really does, and that leads him to jump in at inopportune moments. I would venture to add that Hato is suffering from over-identification with Madarame’s plight, having just taken a few more kicks to his already suppressed manhood, all while putting up as much of a brave front as he could muster in the face of his tormentors. I suspect that Madarame will now feel a certain bro-ship with Hato-kun, if he ever gets the whole story. Or maybe he will have to feel broship with Hato-chan, which seems to be the only way to make Hato’s internalized version of HER shut the eff up when anywhere near Madarame. Cross-dresses just to talk with the girls, yeah, right!

“None of it hurt a bit, I just wanted to hang with the fujoshi and discuss deviant comix,,”

“None of it hurt a bit, I’m just chillin, reading my little book o loli manga…”

Madarame won’t argue the accusation that he is into hardcore s&m pron, and/or that he is a lolicon, or even that he chases sheep (just kidding!), as long as his sacred vow to remain 3d celibate until the fates drop Saki into his lap remains unquestioned.

And Hato gay(?), or Hato just wanting to talk about yaoi with the girls, or Hato being able to finally draw when he assumes a girl persona based on the most hardcore fujoshi he has ever encountered all lay down smoke to cover his original sin.

And now both are confronted with their unobtainable ones becoming truly well married off and really, tuly, rai-ju-ly unobtainable. I concur with the observation by another commenter that Saki’s dress looks downright maternity-ish, and deeply out of character with the old Saki.

Both Madarame and Hato have constructed selves that make sense of, and allow them to avoid facing their loss and disappointment. Madarame was a hard-core otaku who suddenly had to confront a hopeless crush, and so has retreated deep into a vow of uber-otaku 3D celibacy.

Hato faced an even more complicated problem: finding himself strangely interested in yaoi comix, he ran headfirst into HER and was overwhelmed. His solution is much weirder than Madarame’s but holds a certain internal consistency.

The really, really, really odd thing is that a wig is all that he needs to look like HER. Did he fall for a mirror image of himself? As Zeus said to Narcissus: “watch yourself Boy!” And what does that say about his brother? At least Hato has fixated on an uber-fujoshi and not an idol

Both fantasy-derived identities require that the objects of their fixation remain timeless, unchanging and remote, so as to preserve the illusions that feed them. Yeah right, how’s that working out for you guys?

Genshiken is, at its core a romantic comedy of errors, and with a full cast of otaku and fujoshi the potential for comedic error is cranked to 11- with Madarame and Hato stuck center stage singing the goat song.

Otoku wa tsurai yo!

Otaku wa tsurai yo!

Addendum: The ever-insightful ogiue maniax coverage on this chapter is out, and on the Hato question he is completely for ambiguity – which he notes Shimoku  has been playing for great effect. (and which I too am ideologically in favor of) But I’m sticking to my hunch – Part of Hato is still residually straight and even more fixated on (Ok, start using HER name) Kaminaga than Madarame is on Saki. The yaoi stuff, to the extent that Hato is interested in it, throws a curve, and the fujoshi tribes are perfect to keep to confusion swirling, but it is all smoke, mirrors and story-slight-or-hand! Fer crissakes! He’s got a mini-her stuck in his head, telling him that he has to ship everything, including his male self whenever he is anywhere near anything to do with his “hobby”. The only time she leaves him be is when he becomes Hato-chan. If anything, this is less about sexuality and more about the otaku guy getting shot down and retreating into a fugue state – with perhaps a side poke at the Japanese penchant to take “mastery” in a hobby to extremes.

I feel your pain, dude!

Hato is Madarame V2.5, and V.1 never even got his “day of flight”.  Madarame is too invested as a character to be left hanging, and too developed to simply be paired off with one of the girls and trundled off into the sunset. Can, will the Genshiken, as a community, in spite of their fixations support them until they resolve their contradictions?

Shimoku-sensei has upped the ante!