The way she acts and the color of her hair

“It works even if you don’t believe in it” –Niels Bohr

Wherein I get a bit wordy as I try to string along a whole bunch of concepts towards a coherent and easy to understand appreciation of the problemmatics of the yuri genre as opposed to the BL genre within the Genshiken ‘verse.

 

While we wait for the fan translation of Genshiken’s chapter 116, with its yuri teasing scenes, take a few moments to consider also the earlier Genshiken Nidiame anime extra #4, which laid the groundwork for a bump-up in the level of yuri teasing in the Genshiken. Sure there had been previous bits in the Genshiken, stray comments by Ohno and volume extra pages which poked fun at Sue’s hero worship of Ogiue, all while making sly shoutouts to Zetsubo Sensei’s Koji Kumeta – a friend of Kio Shimoku. (go to the wiki entry and wonder about the name of Kumeta’s ex-assistant; Combat Butler ???) The short Nidiame anime extra went a little further and at first seems somehow “off”; something whomped up by the animation studio as service, something that stretches the canon too far.

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One does not expect a group of fujoshi to suddenly start doing yuri self-shipping.

Chapter 116 of the genshiken supposedly has the yuri teasing harnessed to the goal of giving Kuchiki some fan-service so he doesn’t get all sulky about all the Mada harem goings-on. but there are no (presenting) males in the OVA Extra’s clubroom but some of us viewers. Why the improbable yuri?

After all, one of the usual conditions of BL narratives is the erasure of female characters; they either must be fujoshi cheerleaders or die-in-a-ditch evil women who will try to impede the inevitable m:m pairing. Massive amounts of theory and pop commentary on the genre offers the consensus that the women authors and readers do not want or need female presences within their fantasy spaces. Female characters would break the spell and ground to earth the electric charge of the male marionettes who are being danced towards their inevitable happy (and possibly sexed-up) ending. This rule is almost as powerful as the “its not as fun if they are real gay guys because real gay guys do that kind of stuff anyway” effect that produces the infamous “I‘m not gay, its only him” line that so infuriated (and still infuriates, though there are signs that the issue is sliding towards shoulder shrug territory) activists from the Japanese gay community. Then there are those fun self-deconstructing instances of violent non-consensual sexual assault that the sock puppets occasionally do to each other, but heh, they aren’t real and that’s the way guys act if they go haywire anyway. (1)

Still, a few questions are begged by these rare occurrences and by the glaring absence of lesbian/female same-sex desire anywhere within the Genshiken verse.

Or perhaps not so glaring. Normal Japanese fujoshi are supposed to be overwhelmingly straight women who enjoy BL tales of male:male intimacy as a “break” from reality, as a “healing” space, rather that a fantasy world to escape and stay in (as neckbearded basement dwelling NEET male otakus are supposedly wont to do with their loli materials). (2)

Contrary to early dismissive characterizations, Japanese fujoshi are not a bunch of asocial male otaku analogues (a la Kuragehime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Jellyfish); they are normal, above average achieving, well-socialised modern Japanese women who work, date guys, get married and buy consumer goods (including fan stuff – Japan respects purchasing power) and generally live productive normal lives. They just have this one little hobby that they don’t talk about too much, at least to outsiders. (3)

My ridiculous reason for thinking the absence important is the indisputable fact that a significant number of Japanese women who happen to like other women (and may or may not self-identify as ‘bians) also enjoy BL. Enough western female slash fen are gay and/or queer; some of the most articulate defenders of the genre have made no bones about this (see this blog’s bibliography section and past posts). I have reason to believe that while there was little pop culture discussion about fudanshi/ guys interested in BL in Japan in 2006-2008 when Kio Shimoku re-started the fearsome engines of the Genshiken, there was plenty of discussion about the fact that some Japanese could-be-‘bians had taken to BL because 1) extant yuri was either in short supply and/or vile male-gaze pr0n and 2) they appreciated the female exclusivist social that produced and consumed BL.

Hato should have been a young celibate ‘bian woman. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Grrrrrrrr! And that’s just sticking to BL. Yuri is a form of libidinized CJVC. Why does loli and otokonoko and BL rate a space in the Genshiken, but yuri does not? What poisoned yuri?

Meanwhile back to Hato, rather than Shinobu.

you-sure-you-not-cap-copy

Of course it had to be Hato. The minute Shinobu would walk through the door and casually let slip her identity, the entire Genshiken would fall into a gravity well of pr0nish hawt rezbian loser fan boy-isms. (there even is a vile hentai manga that has an all-female manga club that does nothing but sex each other down as nastily as possible: good hunting if you are so inclined – no I will not!) Fortunately, the crossdressing young guy trope was also making a bit of a breakout too. Voila: Hato.

This also adds a further structural reason for the absence of any ‘bians or even yuri in the fujoshi Genshiken: Kio Shimoku had enough on his plate trying to slip his weird creation into a female homosocial without having to juggle one more damn plotting concern. He needed something to disrupt it, but not too much. Too many balls in the air. Yet her absence remains glaring. Where is the yuri champion? She has to a be a “she”. It can’t be a Yuri Danshi. Kuchiki can’t handle it because he will destroy anything he touches. Even a male Bodhisattva would destroy any yuri he touched. It should have been Shinobu;

Please don’t bother trying to find her. She’s not there…
-Slavoj Zizek

The Nidiame extra #4 anime considered: (spoilers ensue)

In the clubroom, Rika Yoshitake complains that the current membership has shipped Madarame and all the other available males and that she is bored. Out of the blue, she proposes yuri pairings.snapshot20150930232932

Ogiue shoots down the first few that include her and Sue, her and Ohno and Ohno and Saki.

She used the SZS "I am in Despair" line

She used the SZS “I am in Despair” line

Just as you think that Ogiue is against any yuri in principle, she suggests Yajima and Yoshitake. Then Yajima and her highschool friend, than finally Yajima and Hato-chan. Yajima’s complaint is that in each case she is assigned a quasi-male role to the pairing.

snapshot20150930233303

The group then seems to give up on yuri and switches back to the stuco boys, however one of the stuco boys has an ever-present girlfriend. Ogiue admits that she never noticed the girlfriend, she was edited out by “the goggles”

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Discussion then moves towards Hato-kun’s wrestling experience in high school and finally the Hatoxbrother pairing that had been first mentioned by Kaminaga back at the school festival. There is some reluctance to take this further because Hato is present, but Hato-chan OKs it, even encourages it. They consider a historical story along the two brother theme for Mebeatame, with Ogiue worrying that 18+ content might bring down the wrath of the stuco on the club. Sue ventures that it won’t be an issue if they don’t get caught.

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Discussion then shifts to Ohno’s and unexpectedly Rika’s tastes for oyagi shipping and to some odd pairings of western politicians (4)

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With the club members in a shipping frenzy, Yajima declares that she cannot keep up with the “deviancy”

The episode ends.

I would pay arterial blood for a Shirobako season 3 about animating the Genshiken. Time and space would distort somewhere around episode 9.

Of course, years later in a parallel Shimoku-sensei universe, someone who looks like an older Hato who had a “boob job” is happily making dojins with someone who looks a bit like and older Merei Yajima and lo and behold, they aren’t just mangaka and assistant but lovers. So he was a virtual lesbian all this time, neh? Or is he just a pervy dude with a boob job? The OVA#4 was a setup. Duh! Duh? Some of the fandom are going to be unconvinced. No HatoMadaHato, no love.

SF 16p5 done in 5 minutes web600

The most obvious excuse for the lack of a ‘bian fujoshi in the Genshiken, within-story is that otherwise heteronormative fujoshi females would feel as uncomfortable about female same-sex intimacy, as stick-in-the-mud old straight guys feel about male same-sex intimacy. “Hey, I don’t swing that way, sorry it makes me a bit uncomfortable, it’s just me”, “No Homo“, to use the ugly, insulting vernacular disclaimer. It ain’t polite, it is a relic of far nastier times, I need to get over it, I’m working on it dammit, etc., but the effect is real, understandable and cannot be waived away with a smug denunciation. And it works on straight girls too; I would even argue that the flip-side might be more powerful in many cases. One could even extrapolate from the OVA that a group of women sitting around discussing fictional yuri pairings might feel a bit less comfortable given the chance that at any moment the conversation could slide over to them hurling ship at each other. Restricting the pairing to fantasy males establishes a social ceasefire as well as other forms of safety within the space.

Yet this discounts the historical fact that one of the major roots for the yuri genre, the 1920’s class-S female isolationist tales of spiritual female:female friendship (and perhaps more somewhere in the purple prose?) were extremely popular women’s literature throughout the 20th century in Japan. Japanese feminist speculative fiction, sociological sci-fi also had plenty of female isolationist/ female homosocial settings, usually whomped up to go at some aspect of structural sexism in Japanese society with hammer, tongs and ray guns.

Then genderfluid Shoujo tales and Bishonen tales came along, which morphed into more explicit BL stories and the Japanese female readership moved over en masse to shipping imaginary guys by around the year 2000. Anything that looked like female same-sex intimacy was left for loser fan boys who wanted hawt lesbo pr0n. The coincidence that the Adult Movie then Video industry also took off around this time and filled their B and C grade flicks with “lesbian” “schoolgirls” probably had some effect as well, (and a further effect will be addressed below) but the combination was enough that female interest in anything that looked like the old class-S stories evaporated. Even today, the yuri genre cannot pay the printing bills in Japan without the male readership, though there are indications that some straight women are reading the stuff again.

If we diaspora fans lived in Japan and could read and speak Japanese, the reasons for this would be glaringly obvious. But most of us don’t. And there has been a lack of deep English language research and historical material on the yuri genre in Japan. This is changing:

Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre by Verena Maser . 27.9.2013 Universität Trier
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

All I can say is that if this gets posted on a major yuri scanlation group’s discussion board as well as on Erica-sensei’s Okazu blog theory section http://www.yuricon.com/essays/ essay section (let’s just say that in terms of western yuri enthusiasts, the two camps don’t exactly see eye to eye) then it is worth a look.

Because it is a PhD thesis, and because such are usually made freely available to the public and not paywalled and because it it well researched and very readable, it may well become the go-to, on the web source for English language fans who need to know a bit more than what you can get at the wikipedia page for yuri.

I should be more emphatic:
I highly recommend that you download and read the work.
That link again:
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

You no interested in Yuri, only interested in BL Slash? You still read it. Skim the history bits, go to the editor interviews and fan survey sections. Much learning to happen. Nuff Said.

There are other short primers on yuri out there, but these lack a few things.

Original sin:

Any casual western fan who has been curious about yuri has probably heard of those 1920’s class-S stories of heartfelt female intimacy and friendship (no sex). You might have even heard of one of the more famous series; Hana Monogatari/ Flower Tales. Of course we didn’t read them. Here’s the executive summary that all the other academic-ish works neglected to emphasise; No Happy Endings. Ever! Complete and utter bummer, followed by complete and utter bummer, followed by another complete and utter bummer. One of the women/girls always moves away, gets married, dies, evaporates, loses touch, runs off and or does all or most of the preceding. Unless they both jump off a bridge. Enjoy your soulful school-girl friendships, they will be ruthlessly crushed beneath the boots of cold hard reality and the expectations of good Japanese female behavior. Oh, and you can’t ever visit your school chums, ever. No keeping in touch. All love must, like the flowers the tales are named for wither and fall. And then be ground into the mud…

The color of the sulla flower…

Bleh!

from the wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya

“One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( 花物語 “Flower Tales”, 1916–1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.[9][10]

Yaneura no nishojo ( 屋根裏の二處女 “Two Virgins in the Attic”, 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple.[11] This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya’s own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made (“To the Ends of the Earth”, 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

In 1925, Yoshiya began her own magazine, Kuroshoubi (Black Rose), which she discontinued after eight months.[9] After Black Rose, Yoshiya began presenting adult same-sex love as being akin to ‘sisterhood’ and complementary to heterosexuality, becoming more mainstream in her works.[12]”

Well at least in one story you get a woman-couple that is not destroyed by the mills of the gawdz. Whew! (5)

Apparently this effect is well known to western women who happen to like other women and who have bothered to hunt down what older members of their sisterhood had to put up with back in barbaric times. Non-traditional life choices didn’t get a lot of happy endings in popular narratives and long escape the grubby hands of the censors. (This is perhaps less well known to the hordes of LFB’s who have become yuri fans.) You needed that nice little “comic code” etc., crime & deviancy meet a bad end slipcover to be able to hang onto the furniture. As well, the effect seems especially pronounced in Japan, where tragic endings are traditionally equated with more serious and more emotionally poignant narratives. Mono no aware

As a friend once caustically remarked: “A perfect Japanese movie happy ending: everyone dies.

Crap! Even the nice indeterminate couple in Sailor Moon die, heroically. I heard they get resurrected/ reincarnated somehow but one should be able to do better 70 years after Flower Tales. But noooo… It always the girl couple dying, one reaching for the other’s hand as they expire. The girls get Pr0ned then fridged.

Add a famous 1930’s scandal of a lovers suicide between an ex-Taka “butch” woman and her “neko” paramour and the stage is set for a pathologization in Japanese popular culture narratives of female same-sex intimacy. Soulful class-S results in heartbreak, but is tolerable because it keeps the girlies out of the pool halls. Gender norm violating butch/femme behaviour is criminal and sick and will be hunted down and ruthlessly suppressed. (6)

“The feminization of men and the masculinization of women and the neutered gender that results is a modernistic tendency that makes it impossible for the individual, the society, or the nation to achieve great progress. Accordingly, since the manliness of man and the femininity of woman must forever be preserved, it is imperative that we not allow the rise of neutered people who defy nature’s grace.”
– General Ugaki Kazushige [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazushige_Ugaki], per Borovitz, The Discourse on “Love Between Men” in Interwar Japan: Iwata’s History of Homosexuality  http://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

It takes a bit of time before the genre can shake this off.

For me, only three questions arise out from the historical survey offered by the Maser work: the absence of a mention of the testimony of Dr. A. Mizoguchi (who nominally was writing about her experiences as a Japanese lesbian using early Bishonen/ proto-BL narratives as support and inspiration for her own awakening identity, but also included a chapter on her “state of the yuri” some 10-20 years earlier in her 2008 PhD thesis) and of a related allusion by Mizoguchi to an informal or otherwise suppression of lesbian narratives by Japanese publishers in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s. This one is a willothewisp, perhaps I got it wrong. (The third involves giant robots and will be dealt with later.)

The Maser work also has fascinating interviews with editors of magazines that handled yuri stories. These are remarkable in that most of the editors don’t seem to acknowledge any particular interest in the yuri genre. Genre is what the mangaka is interested in this week, editors just carry the bags and stoke the star-making machinery behind the popular stories. Content? Whatever, not my job. I find this hard to believe, but the methodology sure reads as sound.

Also of note is her research on the print runs, readership and economics of publishing yuri circa 2005-2012. This research also goes far in explaining one particularly obnoxious (It’s just me, your mileage may vary) manga, “Yuri Danshi” (whose genesis she spends some time on) and offers some insights into the effects that a largely heteronormative (but less so that originally imagined) readership that keeps the few yuri publications (that offer a bit more than raw “hawt rezbian pr0n”) in the black, has upon the genre.

To put it crudely; there aren’t enough lesbians in Japan (or women interested in female same-sex intimacy and desire who will buy the usual yuri fare) to support regular publication of anthology magazines that feature lesbian-ish stories.

Also of note is the highlighting of one particular manga series on the fandom and the genre; to bring it up in a scholarly work takes some degree of courage. Apparently the genre defying, extremely problematically pornographic signature work by Kurogane Ken, Shoujo Sect figures prominently in fan responses – even in some female fan responses. This of course warmed my abject LFB heart, because the dammed thing caused a minor Saito Tamaki style post-Lacanian “trauma” in me when I first stumbled upon it. I am as easily enticed by the promise of a bit of exploitative girl/girl fluff as the next guy, so I was unprepared for the level of single minded commitment to kicking a tired cliche up a few notches that Sect takes on. You have been warned. Just yuri smut, don’t read too deeply. Maybe it’s just me? The extant scanlations lose a bit of the obsessive background details that were present in the original (Anon/SS?) scanlation efforts (via 4chan’s /a and /u board participants) Maser notes that even fans who normally eschew pornographic yuri variants were and continue to be seduced by the artwork and the high melodramatic romanticism of the work. Oh, and it is pure raw lolicon yuri smut. It may well be criminally actionable in some jurisdictions. The anime adaptation is sewage and best avoided.(7)

Here’s one other kicker that the Maser and most other researchers have failed to note: While it appears on the surface to be merely an upgrading of a usual “hawt lesbian schoolgirl secks” story, its plotting, pacing, character development and story arc are unmistakeably something else. They appear to be lifted wholesale from the tropes and conventions of BL tales. Shoujo Sect is BL with girl bodies. Nice trick Kurogane-sensei. Also of note is that for the most part, extremely libidinous happy endings ensue for almost everyone; unless your lover was a supernatural entity or you are a jealous, manipulative rapist sempai. (8)

Its the same story the crow told me, it the only one he knows

Contrast to 40 Years of the Same Damn Story, Pt.1 by Erica Friedman.
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/

In a short essay, Erica friedman runs through the signature yuri works in the canon, with an emphasis on the infamous Story A (girl confesses to girl, happy ever after). Erica-sensei’s rundown of the top 40 includes a story that I found missing from the Maser list, which is understandable as it is totally ridiculous:

“In the mid-2000s, Kannazuki no Miko created a whole new wave of Yuri fans, with an action riff on the couple from Shiroi Heya no Futari. Instead of 70s melodrama and partying, we were given giant robots and apocalyptic prophecies.”

Well, that one remains freaking weird but some of the artwork from it would become a classic yuri “signature” visual trope.

-STAR--Kannazuki-no-Miko-Review-with-MOOT-e10982160

Want more? click-eeee!

 

One must also mention that the couple in Miko end up fighting each other to the death on the moon, or something, it is unclear. They get to be reincarnated together though, so they can be together in the next life: Blergh! Fridged again!

Friedman also expands on a feature mentioned by Maser, the faux-seraglio effect that the marketing department dreamed up to lure in more LFB’s

“At the same time Kannazuki was recreating “Story A,” another series that was playing with the same key elements fooled a whole generation into thinking it was telling an original story, by stealing from *every* Yuri story that had gone before it. Strawberry Panic! added a new twist to “Story A,” – a pretend glimpse past the gauze boudoir curtains of an all-girls, no-guys-allowed world. This concept quickly became a typical feature of Yuri “Story A”s aimed at men. (Presumably to heighten the sensation of forbidden love they enjoyed in Yuri.) This added thrill has retroactively invaded popular girl’s series, such as Maria-sama ga Miteru. The radio and live shows – the audience of which are mostly men – now begin with a warning that boys are not allowed. And many Yuri anthologies that target a male audience provide that same warning on the cover, just so the audience knows it’s getting a glimpse of some forbidden women’s mystery.

Where Strawberry Panic! really excelled was as an homage to “Story A” through the ages.

The manga riffed on series like Card Captor Sakura, Himitsu no Kaidan and Maria-sama ga Miteru, while the anime stole openly from Kannazuki no Miko, the above series and even Western stories such as The Graduate and Wuthering Heights. (Amusingly, it wasn’t even the first Yuri anime to borrow from Wuthering Heights. That honor would probably have to go to Cream Lemon: Escalation.)””

It should be noted that Maser follows on the research and analysis that Erica Friedman has long made available to Western yuri enthusiasts, even highlighting most of the iconic works within this earlier short essay.

However, being a rather dense LFB (reformed MK II variant, most of the time…) it is one thing to read

“Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya)

OR

“In the beginning, “Story A” rarely had a happy ending. This is not because of the same-sex love, very few romance manga in the 70’s had happy endings. The typical couple were doomed to never be together for one reason or another. In the case of “Yuri” couples, the options were mostly one partner died or left to get married”. (Ibid Friedman)

…and another to read Maser’s synopsis of 8 or 10 of the Flower Tales. The old boot in the face over and over and over again efect really gets the point across. There were how many of these colossal downers? 52 of em? Gehhhh!

Female same-sex intimacy aversion therapy. 

Given the sad history above, one would think that girl meets girl and they walk off into the sunset is an improvement. Well, they could do better:

“To simplify everything for the purposes of conversation here – I prefer to read stories about women in love with women. No first-crushes, no girls in school, actual women who are a priori interested in women. I’m long past coming out and I like my characters to be, too. This does exist, it’s just rarer than “Story A,” because, as I pointed out “Story A” doesn’t make any awkward political or social statements.”” ibid Friedman comments section.

I suspect Erica-sensei did not need Maser’s research to elaborate the details of why Story A with its schoolgirls finding the hints of the beginnings of happiness are a plague on the land. Friedman knows yuri. Yuri has been a life-work for Erica Friedman. Erica Friedman deserves a civil commendation from the Japanese Emperor for promoting Japanese cultural products. A smart University would give Erica Friedman an honorary doctorate. A classy and smart university would take her blog site as original scholarship, convene 3 greybeards, email her two questions as a thesis defence and award her a full doctorate. It would be worth more to them than to her.

Still, for the slower among us, and that means me, seeing Maser’s research answers a few questions and begs a few more. It might be time for me to spend a week designing a survey page, linking it up on survey monkey and making this blog do some honest work.

Following on the section about editors, the survey chapter leaves me convinced that the Japanese male yuri fandom are either the stupidest creatures in the world or masters of deception. I suspect the latter. Yeah, I’m sure there is a creep factor in these and some want innocent loli bait (untouched by male defilement, yet sexualized) but I am also convinced that the success of Aio Hanna, Sasameki Koto , and now the overt lesbian subjectivity of Takemiya Jin et al. means that what some of the fandom is craving is more authenticity, a real view of a different, more mature romantic desire that can be understood, enjoyed and perhaps adapted to their (our) own desires and dreams. (9)

First Maser defines her fandom:

“When I speak of “fans,” I rely on the following definition: fans are “persons who for longer periods have a passionate relationship with an … external, public, either personal, collective, objective or abstract fan object and who invest time and/or money into the emotional relationship to this object.” (Roose, Schäfer, and Schmidt-Lux 2010, 12) To this we can add that “fandom is characterized by two main activities: discrimination and productivity” (Fiske 1990, 147) as well as the observation that fans form a complex and multifaceted community (Jenkins 1992b, 277).
[…]
Investment, discrimination, productivity and community are not four discrete characteristics. “

Then where she found them:

“Japan’s largest online message board 2channeru has a specialized board for discussing the yuri genre called “Rezu/yuri moe ita,” described as being for men and women who want to discuss rezu and yuri (although the exact difference between these two terms remains unclear), but cautioning: “While we do not actually exclude lesbians [bian na kata], this is also not a board aimed at lesbians [rezubian].” Since the board belongs to an external 2channeru subsection for erotic/pornographic content, both rezu and yuri are here connected to pornography.”

“”Mixi is only in Japanese and remains tightly locked: those who do not have an account cannot access any of its content (not even by searching on Google). In order to sign up, potential users need a Japanese contract mobile phone to receive an authentication email. This essentially excludes Japanese without a contract mobile phone and foreigners. Therefore (and due to language barriers), Mixi has almost no foreign users. Nevertheless, most users do not sign up under their real name. At least officially, usage of the “Rezu/yuri moe ita” is thus forbidden for users under the age of
eighteen.””

The lack of emphasis on the Tamaki post-Lacanian view of fandom is interesting, but the more inclusive, more diffuse definition above serves well enough. I’m just fixated on Tamaki’s thing, with his heavy emphasis on libidinized interest, faults and all.

To the survey:

Valid responses 1353 out of 2848 (47.5%) most of the rest ditched as incomplete, some other small disqualifications (d=25)

“females accounted for 52.4% of the respondents, while males accounted for 46.1% :
“non-heterosexual” females accounted for 30.0% of respondents,
“heterosexual” females for 15.2%,
“non-heterosexual” males for 4.7%, “heterosexual” males
for 39.5%, and “other” for 1.2% (don’t know: 8.1%; n/a: 1.3%).
I deliberately put all labels for “sexual identities” in quotation marks since they do not necessarily reflect the “sexual identity” of any of my participants. It could very well be the case that yuri content is enjoyed by females who are less interested in the political aspects of their “sexual identity” (namely the LGBT movement) and see sexual activities as something they do (or could do), but which do not define them. As Welker (2010b) notes, what connects “lesbian” Japanese women is their deviation from social expectations rather than a shared identity. Furthermore, as discussed, I find supposedly fixed categories such as “homosexuality” highly problematic. My usage here is a matter of convenience as it permits me to analyze my data in a meaningful way. The blanket term “non-heterosexual” is intended as a neutral way of describing all kinds of (fluid) “sexual identities.” I agree that it is not a perfect choice (Weeks, Heaphy and Donovan 2001, vii), but it seems like the English language is still short of a better alternative.
[…]
Yet enjoying what others did and doing it yourself are two different things, as the results for the question about fan work production show:
13.9% of respondents had produced both parodies and originals, 16.9% only parodies, 8.5% only originals, and 60.7% had produced no fan works at all.
Here we see that the fans of the yuri genre exhibit various ways of engaging with their favorite text(s): far more respondents consumed fan works (81.2%) than produced them (39.3%). Only 17.2% of all respondents neither consumed nor produced yuri fan works, a result that attests to the importance of this aspect of fandom. Further analysis shows that while 49.3% of female respondents answered that they had produced some kind of yuri fan work, only 27% of male respondents said this (***p<.001), a finding consistent with prior research on Japanese fan works (e.g. Orbaugh 2010, 177)”

Asked about the need for explicit depictions of f:f sex in the works, a great many of the respondents professed to be either not that interested or even against the raunch.

Maser also asked about crossover interests between BL and Yuri:

“My survey covered this topic by asking participants whether they were interested in the boys’ love genre: 55.8% of respondents said they were interested, 34.2% said they were not, and 10.0% were not sure. This result supports the idea that the fandoms overlap. A further breakdown by “sexual identity” shows that it was mostly female and (to a lesser degree) “non-heterosexual” male respondents who liked both yuri and boys’ love: 75.3% of “non-heterosexual” females and 83.0% of “heterosexual” females, as well as 57.8% of “non-heterosexual” males answered this question with “Yes”—but only 27.2% of heterosexual” males did (***p<.001). This is probably not surprising given that the majority of boys’ love fans are female.”

Then there was related finding, one that is very, very Japanese:

“A further analysis of the responses to my survey indicates that iyashi was especially important for fans of specific texts. For example, 79.5% of those who gave the pornographic text Shōjo Sekuto as one of their favorite titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for 150 liking yuri manga (***p<.001, n = 132). In the case of those who preferred yuri anime, iyashi was especially important for the fans of the series Yuru yuri. 81.4% of those who gave Yuru yuri as one of their favorite yuri titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri anime (***p<.001, n = 113)”

Iyashi you say?

Iyashi is a catch all Japanese term for healing/ comforting/ soothing. The respondents would have us believe that a fine schoolgirl Story A (with or without a bit of skin) is at least as good as a visit to a cat cafe and a cup of chamomile tea while a mogy sits on your lap and purrs (liking cats stipulated). As I mentioned, yuri like Shoujou Sect is highly eroticised fiction. Perhaps finding characters with sexual agency who know what they like and find others to share the fun, without doing a two-year silent pining away while getting up the courage to mumble a confession and then run away blushing routine can be considered soothing. Likewise, the love conquers all-ness of the newer variants of the yuri genre is a great tonic for a battered soul. A final idea about soothing: Same ‘ole same ‘ole is in itself soothing. A well done rehash on a familiar theme is soothing. Even if “you cannot move forward”.
Moving forward is overrated.

Future surveys could include (a)Novelty (b)Ally of justice (c)Happy ending (d)Hope for a better world (e)Tourism (f)Postmodern consumption of an aesthetic (h)Comfortably familiar (i) A spectre is haunting Japanese queerdom (j)Masturbation aid (k)Sex manual and (l) perhaps a few others. Please select all that apply.

Some of the questionnaire comments were heartfelt:

“I think that in Japan, many yuri [texts] are about tragic love. Furthermore, there are also those created by males fantasizing about yuri. I always think that I would like to read yuri created by LGBT women [tōjisha16 josei].

In society, many negative things are murmured about homosexuality, for example “They can’t be saved,” “They can’t have children” or “Two females can’t live together.” Or the negation is said out loud. If that’s true, then I don’t understand why such works are valued”.[16 josei].”

Tōjisha, if we remember from a previous essay post is a favourite term in the political debates over gay rights in Japan. It means witness, someone with skin in the game, testimony from one involved.

And

“Someone who deviates from society is made into ‘a thing that can be enjoyed as fantasy.’ “

And

“”Extremely often Japan’s sexual minorities are consumed as “entertainment” in this way.
… There are only a few people I can trust. The reason is that I don’t want to be made into “entertainment.” I’m always wishing for a few very sincere and positive works about homosexuality. I’m constantly thinking that it would be good if the sentiment of homosexuality (not “lesbian” [rezu] as used in the world of porn) soaked into general [texts]. I cannot understand people who say “It’s a good work” about tragic stories. … Same-sex love is “love” [ren’ai] just like heterosexual love. … I wish that there were happy and sad stories in yuri just the way they exist about normal love. Homosexuality is absolutely not special. I want it to be much more equal, that we don’t color a completely normal thing to show that it’s “not normal.”

More goodies in the original, I could stretch this post out to the moon if I kept quoting the pithy stuff.

Back to the Genshiken clubroom. The rotten girls, plus Hato-as-chan are used to the idea of steering their male sock-puppets though steamy romance tales with plenty of hawt guy-on-guy action. Now even all us squeamish cis-male pale-skinned privileged old guys who grew up in barbaric times and as a result are a bit loathe to read a whole pile of raw steamy yaoi can understand the usual aspects of their genre. Just think Shoujou Sect with guys instead of girls and lots of lotion. That’s what the girls plus Hato read and aspire to draw. Sometimes they throttle back the naughty bits and situate the bonking off-stage or off-page. But yup, That’s pretty well it.

Given the freedom, safety and power this exercise affords, and given that their straight-girl hearts are easily as squeamish about looking at nekkid girls doing the nasty as I am about looking at nekkid guys etc., it is easy to understand the absence of yuri as a genre that is seriously considered within the Genshiken.

Except for those who have been tainted by furreign thinking.

Note that Ohno and to a lesser degree Sue are not particularly annoyed by bringing up the subject. Ohno has spent time in the States and has been corrupted by outlander ways. Also, as a cosplay guru, she is used to the idea of identity fluidity.(10)

Heroes fuck the way they want, the important thing is that they are heroes. Kanako Ohno’s hobby is becoming heroes. Sue is fully furreign and therefore inscrutable. Angela, when she appears is worse and carnivorous. Ogiue as a pro mangaka can stretch her mind and perhaps consider a fictional Yajimacci as male-ish enough to start the ball rolling, but Merei immediately becomes slash-kami MJ Johnson’s “Helmut” and declares that this is just normal female friendship.

snapshot20150930233207

And of course, on a meta level, the yuri teasing is just fodder for LFB’s. A bit of yuri frisson makes the dread machinations of the rotten girls a bit less scary to us guy readers. Once we are mollified, lo and behold, the club abandons the yuri goggles and goes back to shipping guys.

Expect nothing much more from the Genshiken in terms of yuri than occasional teasing, thrown as a sop to uncomfortable male readers when the BL goggles effect gets too strong.

Unless…

Let’s detour to the previously mentioned Sasemeke Koto/ Whispered Words. This one went on for a while during the 2005-2011 period when yuri began to shed its taste for dire endings. It was frequently compared to Sweet Blue Flowers, a more serious and considered work only because both lead female characters bore a superficial resemblance to each other. Of course the two stories were leagues apart: Koto is a rom-com and Flowers is a tale of disenchantment, personal growth and finding strength. Koto‘s Sumika struggles with her feelings and then the fear that she will be forever ignored by the girl she has decided that she cares deeply for. Flowers’ Fumi experiences one classic yuri relationship disaster after another and whatever does not kill her quietly makes her stronger. Fumi is a practicing lesbian who wears her heart on her sleeve. All the lousy crap that happened to her fictional antecedants happens to her, but she will not be broken. Sumika is a happy go lucky virgin tomboy with extreme martial arts powers trying to sort out her feelings and then work up enough courage to confess and get her first kiss.

What allows Sumika the space to consider same-sex desire, and then a fragile girl-crush on her childhood friend Ushio whom she has so long protected is only the presence of the lesbian beta couple [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BetaCouple] Tomoe Hachisuka and Miyako Taema. They are improbable. First they are a happy Lady Chatterly’s Lover trope, Miyako being the daughter of the family chauffeur. Tomoe is an 18yr old finance and business wizard who single-handedly saved the family business empire and has returned to finish high school as a last vacation in normal-ville before she goes back to runing Japan Inc(?) There are no invisible ninja bodyguards hanging around (cf Girl Saurus) but I am sure that all the students at the school know that anyone stupid enough to make rude comments in the direction of anyone who shows an interest in same-sex desire might not show up for classes the next day. Heck, they might just be vaporized where they stand by Low Orbital Ion Canon. Or their parents might end up on the dole. Still the hint that Sumika might be a “lesbian” and in a relationship is enough the threaten her run for the student council. Low Orbital Ion Canon can only do so much, but in the end Ushio, the girl that everyone knows crushes ineffectively on “cute girls” gets the position, so call it a win for the support team.

Tomoe meets a bit of reluctance from her fellow students setting up a lesbian isolationist club at school, but soon settles for a wimmen’s Karate club, as the effect is pretty much the same. Tomoe wants a girls’ club and she will get one. Tomoe also thinks that confessions are cute and must proceed according to a strict script, so it is up to Sumika and Ushio to figure out that they are meant for each other and nerve up to enjoy one long awaited kiss. Yes, all this was over one single solitary snog fer crissakes; just as the two are about to graduate. Oh heck!

Along the way there are plenty of impediments and distractions. Other folks crush on Sumika, one crossdressing bishonen, a girl classmate, a karate obsessed diminutive german transfer student (again female), a guy karate star, though this is more a ‘sweep her off he feet and inherit the family dojo‘ effect. There is also the threat that Ushio will have to move away to take care of her ailing grandma, though this gets resolved when her brother the yuri mangaka finds a woman who will up with him put. Strangely enough no one crushes on Ushio, who is the more conventionally pretty one. Her serial dramatic cute girl fascinations seem to have made her an object of comic relief. No one takes her seriously any more.

If one can get past Sumika’s super karate powers and the improbable rich girl/chauffeur’s daughter couple, the story is poignantly sweet. It turns on the idea of ‘cute’ as Ushio only pines for ‘cute girls’. It just takes her forever to figure out that cute is a very flexible concept that can also include ‘girl hero’. The hammers of the gawds do not smash their love to little bits. A happy ending ensues! The anime is not a complete mess, which is rare, though the manga is far superior.

Yet the power of the Tomoe/Miyako couple is the “shield” that protects and enables the entire exercise. As well as silencing bigots, it gives agency and legitimacy to female same-sex desire and makes it damn obvious than any social strictures against such are arbitrary and, with enough money, will and power, easily set aside. That they are a happily pair-bonded couple who fuck, sleep together and are for all intents and purposes married, normalises and legitimates normal human female lesbian sexuality and affection. Their importance cannot be under-rated. They are an improbable, even fantastic device but an essential one. (11)

In the theoretical literature surrounding the attraction that yuri and narratives of female same-sex intimacy have for male consumers, there is always a vague and somewhat politicised mumbling about an escape or respite from the demands of stereotypical male behaviour codes. This might be operative in some rare cases, but for the most part is smoke, intellectual laziness and misdirection. (12) The real, frightening problem is being alone. More and more people, male and female are learning that all the modern world offers them is a solitary life. If you can’t manage the earning power, social capital and the frame of mind to fit into what a proper nuclear family is advertised as being in your particular neck of the woods, enjoy your ‘roneryness. How to put up with, to live with another human being, when social codes no longer dictate who gets to do what and who has to silently defer is left as an exercise for the confused.

“…from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away…”
–L.Cohen, Democracy

You want me to do what? Fuck that! I’m outta here.

There aren’t a hell of a lot of good exemplary narratives out there of how to manage dealing with another human, even in the field of romance, let alone the grind of living with someone else year after year. Either in Hetlandia or Queerville. Sure they walk off hand in hand into the sunset, then what? The passive partner accommodates, the end. (13)

No wonder us guys are looking over the fence. No wonder the wimmens are driving guy BL sock-puppets all over the golf course greens to see what could happen. As a straight guy, how do I get along with a female human being, first in matters of the heart and then maybe playing house? For a long time? No idea. I thought I was just to strut around and act manly. No wonder so many guys are desperately reading yuri and not caring about the porn bits. If there are two wimmins and they get along, there must be some clue of what women are predisposed to put up with. Is this adaptable to my situation? Perhaps the fujoshi entertain similar questions about how to deal with a guy on a long-term basis? Oh shit, these are all just fantasy stories anyway,  they offer nothing but unrealistic longings and no one has the slightest idea of what they are going on about. Give up!

Maybe if real live lesbians and gay guys who are settled into long-term relationships start writing manga about their boring day-to-day domestic lives, we might get some new ideas…
Other than: The passive partner accommodates, the end

Perhaps the women who enjoy BL tales would then upgrade their cheesy stories and the silly yuri fluff that I occasionally sneak a peek at will offer me more than iyashi. Oh well, there is always Otaku no Musume-san if one of those blurry one-night stands has cosequences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaku_no_Musume-san

Perhaps somewhere out there, some two humans are living together, enjoying each other’s quiet company and deciding, day to day that life is pretty good and worth the effort to keep doing it that way. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps they have even arranged things so that one isn’t being damaged by the experience of living with the other.

We are open to suggestions here.

Anybody care to to add anything?

The silence is deafening.

All I hear is a bunch of social conservatives and more and more they sound like variant cruel and damaged sexual fetishists.

The passive partner accommodates, the end.

Social conservatives, religious or otherwise now all sound like perverts.

Who gives a rats ass that two X or Y might want to snog, compared to “you have to suffer all the rest of your life and behave like this or everything will get scary-scary-we-don’t-know but it will be bad.”

Let it.

Though the heavens fall.

Which points to a solution that I have long advocated for Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.

If the mangaka wants to address the glaring lack of any yuri fannning and/or fandom and/or ‘bian interest in BL narratives (which are real and significant though more limited in Japan than in western slash-spaces) within the Genshiken, Kio Shimoku must introduce a ‘bian couple as new members.

As theoretically interesting as the concept of a Yuri Danshi is, the execution makes for one heck’uva loathsome creep of a character: buddy boy is out. (14)

The ‘bians have to show up as a couple, otherwise yuri tropes run wild and turn the Genshiken into a yuri goggle fest LFB/fanservice pit. As well, female same-sex intimacy must be legitimized and demonstrated to be as normal as Ohno and Tanaka’s, Ogiue and Sass’ and Saki and Kou’s relationships. Only couples can have sex in Genshiken, Only individuals who are pair-bonded can have ever experienced sex. No non-virgin singles allowed in the Genshiken. This is why Keiko is a perpetual outlier. At least one of the two new members has to be interested in BL, because “while the characters are male, the hands that draw them and the hearts that put words in their mouths are female“. And the contradictions of BL as a woman’s genre that erases women can be played with for at least a few more years, while the contradictions of the yuri genre can be gently teased apart.

Unfortunately a realistic male:male couple would be too much to handle in the Genshiken: they freeze Hato and all shipping, in fact the entire exercise of BL fandom in its tracks. ‘Bians only for now, please. A confused gay-ish Hato is permissable, but if Madarame’s heart is ever won over the whole fantasy BL edifice will be imperilled. “No, we don’t do that. Sorry“. Fail.

Saki’s warning that the Genshiken critters have absolutely no experience whatsoever with real homosexual people needs more work. The members will squirm. Hato, both kun and chan will face a reflection of some of the fan controversies his indeterminacy has provoked. As well, the lack of any political or real-world consequences, interest or responsibility of the Genshiken members needs some gentle poking. Some of the more pointed questions asked by real-world theorists, such as the idea that perhaps otaku/fujoshi space provides a safe, ineffective hidy-hole for nascent minority sexual and gender expression in Japan, that might otherwise manifest in real life and demand justice, need to be thrashed out.

Or not…

The Genshiken can just roll along as it has done for a while now.

One should never underestimate the attraction of iyashi.

See also:

The Sexual and Textual Politics of Japanese Lesbian Comics
Reading Romantic and Erotic Yuri Narratives By Kazumi Nagaike
http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2010/Nagaike.html

Finding the Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga
by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington,
MA Thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

The Female Gaze in Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kathryn Hemmann PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania 2013
http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1920&context=edissertations

More about BL, some yuri, follow on the above:
Queering the media mix: The Female Gaze in Japanese Fan Comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community
by James Welker
http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

Lesbian Identity research in japan during the 1990’s
(or There are no lesbians in Japan, GET LOST Gaijin girl! The PhD thesis remains unpublished, available only in photocopy form at the University where it was lodged. I looked for it, So sad.)
Note that if they are significant numbers of Japanese women who like other women and enjoy yuri in Japan that it could be reasonable to assume that they are as similarly concerned with their privacy as Chalmer’s research subjects were.
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

2006-02-13-trouble_in_memphis detail

ENDNOTES:

(1) I am unconvinced. There is another term used in fandom: squick. Using fictional squick to negotiate with real-world squick and squick culture is… an interesting idea. Good luck with that. Watch your head.
Rape in yaoi
http://japaneselit.net/2011/05/13/rape-in-yaoi/

See also Nagaike, https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962

(2) Queering the media mix: The female gaze in Japanese fan comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

“Fujoshi and the power of female fans
[5.1] In Otaku joshi kenkyū: Fujoshi shisō taikei (A study of female otaku: Essays on fujoshi), journalist Sugiura Yumiko repeatedly assures her readers that fujoshi, the “rotten girls” who create and consume BL manga (note 36), are not poorly groomed antisocial misfits. “The majority of fujoshi,” Sugiura writes, “are adult women. They live in the real world, where things like ‘true love’ don’t exist. These women fall in love and get married in the real world, where society necessitates compromise. When they get tired, they take a break in a fantasy world, and then they go back to reality” (2006, 42). According to Sugiura, although fujoshi occasionally immerse themselves in fantasy, or delusion (mōsō), they are far from delusional (mōsōteki); for them, the world of BL is a break from reality (genjitsu), not the sort of separate reality (riariti) that attractive shōjo characters provide for male fans of the anime and manga media mix (see also Saitō 2006). Sugiura’s assessment of fujoshi is therefore largely positive (note 37). It is precisely because these women have a firm grasp on reality, she argues, that they are able to enjoy the fantasy of BL, which functions as a safe haven from the pressures of the real world.”

(3)” According to Sugiura’s interpretation, however, fujoshi are women who, while not completely passive, make no effort to actively engage with or change the media they consume. Even when Sugiura (2006) discusses the women who read newspapers on their way to work in order to gather more fodder for scenarios revolving around forbidden relationships between male political figures, she does not attempt to argue that they have any real interest in politics outside of BL fantasies. Sugiura even suggests that fujoshi have been largely ignored by the Japanese media because they are remarkably adept at hiding their fannish interests and because they don’t seem particularly unhappy or maladjusted. In other words, they do not challenge the status quo. As the subcultures associated with dōjinshi demonstrate, however, many fujoshi are not merely consumers; these women are quite active as producers as well. If fujoshi are unsatisfied with the phallocentrism and heteronormativity they see in the media mix, they create their own versions of official narratives in the form of dōjinshi fan comics, which may depict the homosexual escapades of male leads or go into more detail regarding the background and perspective of a female character who is shortchanged in favor of male characters in the original work. When female fans find themselves excluded from male-centered stories and discourse, they simply create their own.” —Ibid. Hemmann

See also Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend, Neojaponism
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

(4) Shipping real-life politicians is considered dangerous in Japan. Since the Edo era, nothing brings down the wrath of politicians more that pr0nish satire directed at them. Entire libraries of Shunga were obliterated when the publishers started to use their educational tomes to poke fun at power. Some still surfaces, See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

(5) If I knew how to write japanese and could manage a decent manga drawing or two (ooops, wrong art degree, we don’t all know how to do everything) I would start cranking out modern updates to Flower Tales in rude dojin form wherein really stupid things happen to keep the soulful innocents unhappily separated. heads explode, a lover turns into a cabbage, girl returns home and the village is swallowed up by a sinkhole, giant meteor impact, one of the pair gets kidnapped by the LDP and brainwashed into becoming a right-wing-nut female cabinet minister, just to finally exorcise via extreme ridiculousness the ghost of this tradition. The dialogue would just need to be random purple prose plus ellipses, lots of ellipses… Did… I … mention… …Elipses?

One minor insight can be gleaned from the relentless unhappy tone of the Hanamonogatari stories; (and Erica-sensei’s caveat that serious Japanese romance tales lean towards tragic endings; serious=tragic remains in force) the endless serial bummer parade goes a long way towards explaining why Anne of Green Gables is so popular among young women in Japan. Nobody gets destroyed/ killed/ fridged!

(6) Finding the  Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga  by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington, MA thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

“One important notion that emerged from the attempt to understand and analyze these female-female relationships contended that there were two kinds: one that was “normal” and “harmless” and “pure”—dōseiai—no more than a passionate friendship, between two feminine girls; and, on the other hand, one that was unacceptable, the ome, in which one of the girls had an “inverted” gender and displayed masculine tendencies, exerting a negative influence, it was believed, on the ypically younger, more feminine girl (Suzuki 24-5).
[…]
significant that otokoyaku were perceived as and referred to as chūsei, one of the terms for androgyny coined at the beginning of the twentieth century, meaning “neutral” or “in-between” .

(7) Spoilers ensue:
The girl boarders at the exclusive girls school are all very, very into romantic recreational sex with each other. Most prominent of these is the Player, Shinobu Handa. She has a harem of girl lovers and flies under the radar of the school authorities, who turn a blind eye to the boarding students’ quirks. The head of the student’s morals committee has nothing in principle against female same-sex desire; she even reads feminist Japanese social sci-fi (in the general tone of Joanna Russ-ish 1970’s scifi) but is extremely irritated by the Player’s irresponsible behaviour. When the Player flirts with her, she makes it clear that while she might be attracted to the Player, perhaps even more than the Player is attracted to her, any romance is out of the question as long as the Player continues to screw around.

Meanwhile side characters run around and couple for no particular reason and indulge in mild kinks amidst declarations of romantic love. One couple faces discrimination from straight day students and the silent one in the pair is unexpectedly revealed to be a supernatural presence that must evaporate if she voices her love. Meanwhile the Player has caught the eye of a jealous, possessive and manipulative “bad lesbian” upper-class-woman who can turn the self-assured Player into a simpering easily blackmailed victim. The Moral monogamist catches the bad actor sexually assaulting the Player, chases her down the hall and bludgeons her with a fire extinguisher. Scandal and expulsion ensue.

Some month later, the almost completely reformed Player tracks down her saviour, they exchange vows and consummate their romance. The vows are right out of The Song of the Wind and Trees and Thomas era Bishonen proto BL tales, though the newer English scanlations cut them down in length considerably and thereby lose the reference. A series of lighthearted comedic after-stories establish the happy couple in a lesbian isolationist social, but add one more junior member to the menage, because what the hell, this is yuri pr0n. Further omake have a shy new character repeatedly visiting a lesbian bar to try to come out and find true love among a clientele that seems to be mostly graduates of the old boarding school. However the new girl’s chances are repeatedly thwarted as old friends reconnect and an out of control drunken office lady keeps butting in and stealing all the fun. Eventually the OL and the new girl are set to collide and we can presume a happy ending ensues.

(8) A similar cross-genre appropriative strategy can be found in one of the signature works of the jousou/ otokonoko genre, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible. Here you have boys and cross-dressed boys in a classic boarding school isolationist space, in a genre that is a blatant effort to re-tread BL tales for a straight, mildly kinked male audience. What unfolds is yuri-ish with male bodies. Sneaky!

(9) From the respective Wikipedia entries:
Whispered Words (Japanese: ささめきこと Hepburn: Sasameki Koto?) is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takashi Ikeda May 26, 2007 and September 27, 2011.

Sumika Murasame (村雨 純夏 Murasame Sumika?)
The main character of the story, Sumika is intelligent, tall with long black hair and athletically gifted

Ushio Kazama (風間 汐 Kazama Ushio?)
Sumika’s best friend and classmate who lives alone with her brother, Ushio is a naive girl madly in love with cute girls. She often gets crushes but they are all one-sided.

Tomoe Hachisuka (蓮賀 朋絵 Hachisuka Tomoe?)
A classmate of Sumika and Ushio who is also a lesbian. She is in a relationship with another classmate, Miyako Taema. She is 18 years old, having taken two years off from school to save her family’s corporation from bankruptcy (a feat publicly attributed to her father). Due to this age difference, she has a more mature outlook on life than the other characters. The Hachisuka family is very wealthy and traditional, but they have no choice but to accept Tomoe’s habits.

Miyako Taema (当麻 みやこ Taema Miyako?)
Tomoe’s girlfriend. While she looks like an innocent and clumsy girl, and is popular with boys (who nickname her “Princess”), her true self is quite different, having a devilish, bad-mannered personality, and is always prone to bad-mouth or tease other people. Tomoe is the only one able to ‘control’ her; they are always together, and for this reason they had no friends before befriending Sumika and the others. Miyako is a daughter of Hachisuka family’s driver, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the rest of Tomoe’s household, but as with other things, they cannot go against her.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whispered_Words

Sweet Blue Flowers, known in Japan as Aoi Hana (青い花?, lit. Blue Flower), is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. It was serialized between November 2004 and July 2013

Fumi Manjōme (万城目 ふみ Manjōme Fumi?)
Fumi is a first-year student at Matsuoka Girl’s High School, and is a tall, shy girl prone to crying. Fumi comes back to the town she grew up in and she meets, without realizing it, her childhood friend Akira Okudaira. When they were much younger, Akira had been Fumi’s bodyguard, keeping her out of harm and consoling her when she cried. Fumi is a lesbian and had her first romantic relationship with her older female cousin Chizu Hanashiro, with whom she had sex [note: when she was 13 yikes!]. Soon after Fumi moves back to Kamakura, she finds out Chizu will soon get married to a man she has never met. Not long after meeting Yasuko Sugimoto in the literature club, Fumi develops a crush on Yasuko, who later asks her out.

Akira Okudaira (奥平 あきら Okudaira Akira?)
Akira, nicknamed “Ah” by some of her friends, is an innocent and cheerful girl in her first-year at Fujigaya Girls Academy. She is the childhood friend of Fumi and after meeting her again after ten years is friends again. She acts as a main source of advice for Fumi.

Yasuko Sugimoto (杉本 恭己 Sugimoto Yasuko?)
Yasuko is a popular third-year senior at Matsuoka Girl’s High School. She is a cool upperclassman and the captain of the basketball team, though Fumi mistakes her for being in the literature club when they first meet. After visiting Fujigaya Girls Academy and rejecting Kyōko’s confession, she asks Fumi out, who accepts. Yasuko developed romantic feelings for a teacher, Masanori Kagami, when she was attending Fujigaya. After his rejection, she switched schools and changed focus from drama to basketball. Yasuko has three older sisters who all attended Fujigaya: Shinako, Kazusa, and Kuri.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Blue_Flowers

(10) Impersonating and performing queer sexuality
in the cosplay zone by Katrien Jacobs, The Chinese University, Hong Kong
http://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%202/3.pdf

(11) Contrast this to the behaviour of the wealthy Sugimoto family in Blue Flowers. Although some members indulge their private female same-sex desires, they show no solidarity and offer no support to any outsiders. They look after their own interests, act in instrumental, rather than sentimental ways and the devil take the hindmost. They use other people, that’s what other people are for. Hello realism, you suck.

(12) When a “male” reads shōjo manga by ITŌ Kimio
(trans. Miyake Toshio)
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/169-175chap11Ito20101224.pdf

(13) Almost completely off topic, but adult work and home life in Japan are functional homosocials until retirement and then it all goes to heck – Pratchett would suggest they need man-sheds!
see Autonomy, Reciprocity and Communication in Older Spouse Relationships by Akiko Oda
http://www.dijtokyo.org/articles/JS21_oda.pdf

(14) Whew! I am glad we’re talking about a fictional universe, with fictional characters, made by one privileged member of his society. I am an outlander with similar privilege in my society, so of course I’m going open my big stupid and make silly suggestions. Meanwhile the politics in meatspace surrounding minority sexualities and gender expressions these days is angry and dire, and this old ain’t going anywhere near it. If it even looks like I am, I withdraw further and tender ritual apologies. Include me out, but I hope it all works out well. Please come to a happy agreement and be safe.

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Hic sunt dracones

If the Genshiken is a shadow or reflection of the contested approaches surrounding expressions of minority sexuality and gender in Japan, would we recognize it as such?
Or are these shadows fraught with their own problems?

Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality intone the Genshiken characters as they dance to Kio Shimoku’s pen-strokes. When some of his readers and fans take his characters or his treatment of them as having real-world resonance it is easy to pull back and exclaim “only a character”. Too easy perhaps. I try to mitigate some of my impulses towards repeatedly raising the cardboard flag by harping on aspects of the internal story limits that Shimoku-sensei has deployed to keep things fuzzy enough that the story keeps rolling along. I use the term “liminality” a lot, perhaps a bit too much, especially with reference to Kenjiro Hato, the de-facto focus of the second generation of the Genshiken.

And then there is the whole “It’s different in Japan”, “No it’s not” argument.

Too bad I haven’t really done my homework regarding the real-world conditions for gay, lesbian, trans, queer and related folks in Japan. It’s undoubtedly complicated there, at least as much as it is complicated here. Their complications are undoubtedly different, but not too different. Anyways, why should I care? Not really my problem. Ok, I could glance at the cheat sheet…

The wiki for Homosexuality in Japan will only get you so far: Monks, Samurai, Kabuki, Takarazuka, Mishima, a local politician, whatever…

From the simple fact that some folks desire members of their sex or know that creation made a slip-up and that they don’t quite fit the gender that they were assigned at birth by virtue of the conventional view of their body bits, things get complicated. Kio Shimoku’s Hato, as all fictional queer characters that go beyond one-dimensional cliché serve an important role. We can displace some of our curiosity onto a cartoon character.

Dammit Kio Shimoku! When are we going to get to eavesdrop on a good long talk between Hato and …. someone(!), anyone… so that we can figure out where in the Hato continuum Hato-ness falls? This is important to us. Unless Shimoku-sensei has an even more ambitious project in mind; to gently nudge us towards the notion that whatever is not really that important: mind one’s own business, behave civilly, respect, and if inclined befriend and support the person, not the tag. Once they decide to clue us in on any personal stuff about sexuality and gender we can then recognise that they don’t eat kittens and that life is better, more interesting and more fun if everybody gets a fair shake, because folks is folks.

That might be a bit too hearts and flowers to fly very far, but it’s as good a place as any to start.

Speaking of flowers; no full-page floral background chara portrait yet! Sadness…

Why anyone would think a cartoon character can give us any insight into real lives is another question. Oh they do; it’s just that the life they give us insight into ain’t the one we thought we were reading about.

This is going to take some shovel-work…

“”The perspectives held by straight people and gay people on straight people’s “reactions” to gay people will be significantly different. Many straight people (not just in Japan) have a reaction that goes something like this: “I don’t mind the idea but don’t really want to have to think about it.” Whereas actual gay people (not just in Japan) would very much like to see others like themselves represented in media, in the public sphere, and in business.””

‘How Does Japan Treat Gay People?’ Quora Answer by Erica Friedman reprinted in Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2015/05/28/how_does_japan_treat_gay_people.html (1)

Allow me to further muddy the waters: I have a sneaky suspicion that few advanced late modernist cultures have “gay spaces” so “colonized” by straight desire as Japan has.

Plenty of straight boys and girls in Japan “really want to have to think about it”, but their ideas are a bit…. odd. Why they feel the need to make up fantastic versions of queer desire for their comic books and cartoons is at least three of the seven mysteries of this high school. Aside from the usual pervy guys who think that “lesbians r hawt!” – either for old-school pr0n exploitation or upgraded Loser Fan Boy/ Yuri Danshi interest; nothing new there to us Westerners – there is also the pervasive effects of 30+ years of fujoshi fantasies, which are now an established pop culture niche market. Western slash fans have nowhere near that kind of commercial influence. Then one can add the entire hobby crossdressing thing, plus the otokonoko/ jousou game genre to annoy anyone with meatspace gender fluidity concerns. A simpler term for the effect; one that carries a whiff of admonition is fetishization:

“Slash is usually written by straight women, yes, and I think it appeals to straight women in the same way lesbian sequences in commercial pornography appeal to straight men. I always say that if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.”
Samuel R Delany

All of this makes for an elaborate, complex and fantastic queer-space of straight imagination that overlays the situation of real-life folks who are trying to find happiness, dignity, hawt fun and warm fuzzies in their lives. I suspect that western queer folks are going to get a whole lot more of this, now that many of the old prejudices are falling, to be replaced by cable networks sticking their ideas of queer into every new property they can think of.

Since this is all about “how they do it”, curiosity remains at a constant level across cultures. However western societal proscriptions against same-sex love and non-conforming gender identities must have until recently served to somewhat suppress representation and interest. In Japan, western categories of gay and queer identities were just so much more exoticism; like nuns in mini-skirts, Santa Claus, vampires and elaborate German layer cakes. Of course Japan had its own folks who liked folks of the same sex and folks who felt not quite comfy with the usual roles that came with their genitalia, but when you start trying to – categorize – ’em according to appropriated nifty outlander notions, things got… interesting.

So what has this to do with the Genshiken?

Kio Shimoku decided to play the Genshiken as a somewhat realistic ensemble story, albeit with light comedy and a few jabs towards fannish excesses. A fujoshi second generation Genshiken may have moved the goal posts a bit, but once Hato was dropped in, the story is now planted at the edge of much larger IRL concerns. At first it was all pervy straight boys, then pervy straight girls but now same-sex desire and gender identity are popping up in the Genshiken’s 3D (in-story “real) world, mostly because Hato, kun and chan wants to try on all kinds of neat ideas. That these ideas are a mish-mosh formed from the weird little stories that everyone was fanning out over can only lead to confusion. Thank the goddess that the rest of the club is not into fan-fiction about Morris dancing.

Is 3D queer desire going to destroy the Genshiken? Are happy endings or evenly distributed unhappy-but liveable endings possible? The first two Genshiken pairings were too easy, almost fated. The next one took a bit of work. This time there will be harem fallout and the possibility of circle queens or kings that could destroy the club. Can Otaku and fujoshi navigate complex personal politics of desire, sexuality and gender in contemporary Japan? Do they, as cartoon characters have to? How much preachy-ness and aspirational story line-ing will we get?

Will we as outlander fans be able to recognize it?

Time for a quick survey of the literature:

“…expressions of male-male sexuality in Japan, coupled with the fact that same-sex desire had multiple forms of expression in homo-erotic sub-cultures during the late 1940s and 1950s, prompts McLelland’s reflection that it is ironic for Western gay liberation activists to assume that all foreign locales have followed the same historical trajectory as they have, or that they alone can provide lessons on how future activism should unfold. While it is true that systematic processes of stigmatisation of same-sex love operated in Japanese society from Meiji on, one does not find an equation of homosexuality with evil in the same way as often occurs in Anglo-Saxon or Judaeo-Christian social and cultural contexts. The work of McLelland (2005), Lunsing (2003), Kazama and Kawaguchi (2003), and others remind us, then, that the foundational concepts of modern discourses of Western sexuality (“homosexual,” “gay,” “coming out,” “lesbian,” etc) evoke very different schemata and connotations in Japanese contexts; they bear new and originary meanings in translations and re-conceptualisations in Japanese language texts, and they exist alongside a wide range of “organic” conceptual categories of non-normative sexuality which can be drawn upon by participants within diverse textual and cultural forms in Japan. This historical overview can also serve as a reminder that “homophobia,” however we define it, exists in Japan in a way that is different from other locales, including those of Western cultural contexts. LGBT identifying individuals in Japan will evaluate the extent to which they want to employ or modify “Western” tactics to challenge inequalities wrought by homophobia, and to what extent they will draw on “organic” historical resources for the same purpose.””

‘Coming out in Japan A survey of attitudes among university students’ by Robert Ó’Móchain   http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol15/iss1/omochain.html

At least weird admonitions from the Book of Leviticus play little part in policy debates about public norms surrounding sexuality and gender in Japan. Japan worries more about a diffuse sense of Japanese-ness. Japan is at least as hung up on sex and intimacy as euroethnic societies but it expresses in slightly different ways. What is allowed in vernacular media by law and tradition is different enough to have spawned global commercial and gift-exchange networks to spread an ephemeral, local pop culture across the globe. Japan, as a non-judeo-christian late high modernist culture is our fave post-lacanian “Big Other” They are our “Rimmer from the double-double universe” with a few more doubles added. The are us, but not us, but they could have been us, and we might have been them. The urge to pick over their stuff for ideas we can swipe is irresistible.

Hit the search box up top for Adrian Piper again if you need more on this.

Normal variations in sexual preference go back through Japanese history as they go back through all human history. Similarly, whatever small statistical range of folks who felt themselves to be not exactly how society told them to be according to the private parts they were born with has probably been a constant all over the world since the paleolithic, but who cared what self-reproducing farm equipment felt? Plant and harvest or die. The few who could avoid agricultural servitude made up whatever they could get away with and if they were good at it, founded traditions. Or the survivors who mourned them did.

Japanese same-sex desire has adapted its public social manifestations to Japanese societal imperatives at least since Meiji times. Mercantilism? Colonialism? Militarism? We got a gay for that! Koha and Nampa stand out as examples on the male side. And then there is all of those outlander concepts to try out, appropriate and adapt. Some losses (or gains?) in translation are inevitable.

“Omit the reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks!”

‘Out Gays” or “Shameless Gays”? What Gets Lost, and What is Gained, when U.S. Queer Theory is Translated into Japanese?’ video of lecture by J. Keith Vincent at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko8-FFARvhw

Here is a consideration of the evolution of the public construction of identities surrounding female:female desire that touches on the western imports:

“From the groundbreaking 1894 translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s
Psychopathia Sexualis, translation has played a key role in leading Japanese to reexamine, redefine and reconstruct their sexualities, making possible the establishment of Japanese queer identities and communities in their current form. That is, using borrowed but quickly localized words, concepts, and ideologies, some Japanese have constructed their ownidentity, whether rezubian, gei [gay], baisekushuaru [bisexual], toransusekushuaru [transsexual], toransujendâ [transgender], kuia [queer], or heterosekushuaru [heterosexual]. Even seemingly indigenous words for homosexuality such as dôseiai [same-sex love], and earlier variants, including dôsei no ai, dôsei no koi [both also meaning same-sex love] and dôsei seiyoku [same-sex sexual desire], are in fact translation words that—based on imported notions of sexual perversion (Furukawa 1994, 1995)—represent a shift from seeing (male) sexual desire in terms of “color”, joshoku [female color], desire for women, and nanshoku [male color], desire for men. Perhaps due to the number of loanwords or the distinctions that are often confused in public discourse about gender, sex and sexuality, many queer publications, including every issue of Anîsu, contain lists of queer vocabulary.35 These lists also serve to inculcate prescribed (imported) forms of queer discourse, deepening a sense of community. The words most commonly used today related to female-female sexuality in Japanese are rezubian and rezu, both of which retain pornographic nuances based on their use at least since the 1960s in Japanese pornography (McLelland, forthcoming). Chalmers (2002: 39) remarks that “[t]he connection of lesbianism with pornography is so strong that most women on first hearing or seeing the word rezu (lezzo) associate it with pornography […] denying lesbians a psycho-sexual identity in which to claim a social space in which to move.”
– ‘Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community’ by James Welker http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

More for the reading list:

The previously referenced, ‘Yaoi: Redrawing Male Love’ by Mark McHarry has a quick roundup of historical reference to same-sex desire in Japan, along with its early (2003) survey of the yaoi genre. Note also the footnotes at the end of the essay and appendix, see: http://archive.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html

‘The role of the ‘tojisha’ in current debates about sexual minority rights in Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1213&context=artspapers

‘Death of the “Legendary Okama” Togo Ken: challenging commonsense lifestyles in postwar Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2551&context=artspapers

‘The Process of Divergence between ‘Men who Love Men’ and ‘Feminised Men’ in Postwar Japanese Media’ by Ishida Hitoshi and Murakami Takanori, translated by Wim Lunsing http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12/ishida.html

Wow, didn’t know the history of the term Hentai as applied to pop culture. Fake pop psychology noodie magazines after the war?

“The second characteristic of the genre was the animated exchange that took place between specialist researchers, amateur researchers and the readers themselves. The hentai magazines frequently organised round-table talks where medical doctors, writers, readers and editors came together.[4] Here the discourse of modern medicine which categorised perverse sexual desires as ‘abnormal’ stood alongside testimony from people who themselves had interest in these marginal sexualities. This queer space of the hentai magazines, then, allowed the official scientific discourse of the sexologists to interact with personal testimony from people designated ‘abu’ [abnormal]. That is, these magazines themselves functioned as a type of ‘contact zone,'[5] in which hegemonic and subaltern representations encountered and interacted with each other. Hentai magazines like Kitan kurabu created readers’ columns that stimulated discussion about articles and encouraged exchanges between their readers. Such readers’ columns not only functioned as personal advertisements which offered people with the same interests the opportunity to meet, but also they enabled readers with different sexual interests to engage in dialogue together.” – Ishida , ibid.

A policy prescription approach:

‘JAPAN: Discrimination against Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgender Persons; A Shadow Report, May 2009’
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/Japan_LBT_May09_japan_cedaw44.pdf

A critical view of the Japanese situation from a blogger who regularly posts a roundup of gender and sexuality issue coverage, mostly but not exclusively concerning Japan and fandom:

“Here’s what this should say:

The Japanese don’t oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds in the same way conservative factions of religions do in other countries. This, of course, just goes to show how heterosexual-identified cisgender people of all nations use religion as a front for their own bigotry, because by removing the “cause” of the queerphobia (religion), we are left with nothing but small-mindedness and fear. Change has come slowly for LGBT measures in Japan partly because queer individuals are terrified of being fired or disowned and have basically no legal recourse other than adopting each other for inheritance purposes. While there isn’t a history of police raids or sodomy laws (which lasted 1872-[19? -moi]80) as in the US and the UK, the school bullying crisis shows that, while violence against adults isn’t to the same level, violence amongst children and bullying to the point of suicide are. So, while one might claim that the Japanese value harmony so much that the LGBT community hasn’t faced overt discrimination, the lack of legal recourse for individuals whose jobs, housing, children, and property are threatened by institutionalized queerphobia are still huge national issues that must be addressed. Shibuya has taken a huge step in the right direction, hopefully one that will spur the national government to action.””

– ‘Japan Gender Reader: April/May 2015’ from The Lobster Dance (blog); http://odorunara.com/2015/05/16/japan-gender-reader-aprilmay-2015/

What of transgendered people in Japan? On the surface it looks like contemporary Japan dealt with the legal accommodation of transgendered individuals quite simply and dispassionately, as a medical condition. Reports however indicate that social acceptance of transgendered people is still extremely problematic. Closer examination reveals that “legally transitioned” can only occur after complete SR surgery, a point that is often glossed over in popular discourse (that one caught me too, looks like I will be going back and fixing a few older posts) At least some schools are accommodating some youth, in some ways, if they get a doctor’s note, sometimes, because the central government suggests that they should, if they need to, and anyway they don’t want any more messy bullying-suicide scandals than they already have.

The first time I saw this, it looked like edgy comedy.

Dammit!

Here is PBS Frontline taking a serious look at transgender teens in the USA: ‘Growing Up Trans’;
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/growing-up-trans/
No idea what it is like in Japan, but it is good that this is available. It might help some young folks.

More:

‘The Stonewall Transgender Guide to Japan, Section 6: Trans-Pacific:
Differences between Japan and the West’ http://stonewall.ajet.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Transgender-guide-final-1.pdf A chatty informative intro to transgender issues in Japan as a resource to visitors, with an emphasis on community. Sections 1-5 are more of a what to do if you are, and in Japan.

More LGBTQIA info for outlander English teachers and other Japan neophytes here: http://stonewall.ajet.net/start-here/
More not-so-recent academic papers (ca. 2006), here:
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12_contents.html
The difficulties of research into “lesbian” communities in Japan,
some 15 or 20 years ago, A Pilgrim’s Tale:
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

UPDATE: (much later) The City-Cost blog, in a round-up of LGBTQ issues in Japan provided a link to
Takurei’s Room: LGBT experiences, resources and news from Japan
http://takureinoroom.com/
Informative,  tojisha, aware, looks like a valuable go-to.

Wow, that’s more than enough research at least for me, for now. Not even an undergraduate first year survey course reading list, but at least enough to get the beginnings of some idea of what is going on in Japan. Enough to squeeze past any initial “whoaah; don’t need to know any of this, it weirds me out”. “Weirds me out” as an excuse is kind of lame, embarrassing  even.

As the above point out, queer folks in Japan are working things through, while trying to get the gummint to smarten up and while working on ways to cajole everyone else into realising that the sky won’t fall if a kid gets two wise mothers, or fathers.

A few things work in favor of a Japanese “best practice” solution: Not only is there not much nonsense about the Thang o Leviticus, but big science seems to still carry some weight, or at least offer ammunition for pissing contests by blustering old guys in Japanese political debates. It looks good to be on the side of doing the scientifically right thing. As well, some writers have suggested that outcome in Japanese social forms are at least as important as the characteristics of the individual practice, so while much needs to be adapted and tested out, adaptation is possible. Disneyland is all well and fine; what will it take to get a Shinto shrine to innovate?

Finally, when looking to the rest of the world, there is the unexpected benefit of the United States as negative example (in the way that social issues become fodder for the culture wars). This effect works nearly all over the industrialized world. I don’t think Canada would have ever moved its slow sorry ass on marriage equality if not for the ugly negative examples set south of the border.

Fiat judicia et sniff at those crazy yanks.

Maybe the old guy pols who run Japan are so far behind that they won’t off-their-ass on legal rights until they see how the recent US Supreme Court ruling shakes out. Could they be waiting for a USA example? Does the sky fall? How comprador! The Canadian political elite used to wait until they could tell how the stateside winds were blowing, but they gradually dropped “wait and see” for “get it over with painlessly” from the 1980’s onward. One way to find out would be to scornfully ask…

Here’s the current American “best practice” consideration of gay identity – “sanctified” in a Supreme Court Justice argument:

” Immutability. Kennedy tosses this into his opinion, bizarrely, as a side comment. Referring to gays who seek matrimony, he says, “[T]heir immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” Later, he speaks of “new insights” that have transformed society, including this one: “Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.” Kennedy doesn’t elaborate on these remarks, but they’re huge. Immutability is the biggest difference between homosexuality and polyamory. Even the pro-polyamory law review article cited by Roberts in his dissent acknowledges that immutability is a crucial factor in identifying unjust discrimination against classes of people—and that “polygamists are not born that way.””

– ‘Chief Justice John Roberts says the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling paves the way for plural unions. He’s wrong’ by William Saletan
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/06/is_polygamy_next_after_gay_marriage_chief_justice_roberts_obergefell_dissent.2.html

Meanwhile “don’t rock the boat”, “Don’t disturb the Wa” Don’t frighten the horses”, keep it at home or for the weekend and for the rest of the time pay ritual obeisance to the ideals of public Japanese-ness. You might live with your same-sex life mate, date same-sex lovers, participate in various queer socials, do a marriage-looking thing at Disneyland, you may even be in transition or have transitioned legally to your current gender, but the threat always looms that at any time you will be stuck in the misfit sack. Not quite a member of an untouchable caste, but not quite up to all the demands and responsibilities of being a fully Japanese person who does being Japanese, the properly Japanese way. Something like a Halfu, a returnee or a third generation Japanese “resident” of Korean heritage. And your employer and your landlord can then jack you around because of this too. How convenient for them.

“”Japan is a society where you can easily live a ‘typical’ lifestyle, But Japanese don’t respect our real choice, our real personalities. As long as you are ordinary, you are safe in this society.” –Aya Kamikawa
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/02/1051382096188.html

Plenty of straight folks can no longer live up to that Japanese ideal of “ordinary” either. Plenty of everyone are falling through the cracks. The economy can no longer support the dream. The whole Japanese family and social law thing needs a massive overhaul otherwise there wont be anyone left to work the kombinis, rent apartments, pay taxes and take care of the grandparents. In the end, Japanese social obligations and the customs they spawned are pragmatic. The “do it this way” for having and raising a family is failing massively. Start with marriage equality or better, sex and gender neutrality for marriage and family law. Who gives a rats ass who’s a member of the family. If you have more married folks of whatever genres you have a better chance that someone will do the grunt work of raising kids.

Single-motherhood in Japan is a near-guaranteed trip to the poor house. Revising the anti-war constitution, making teachers worship the Emperor and dreaming of everybody marching around like good little 1930’s army cadets might make some wrinkled old boy pols feel really really happy, but it won’t stop the demographic crash.

Clean up or abolish the family register system. Legitimize in law some financially viable alternative to the salaryman-for-life and stay-at-home good-wife wise-mother fantasy. Fix the damn labour code so that folks can afford to raise kids and that kids can actually spend a few hours per week with their parents. Overtime, parent leave, wage and medical/ pension payment benefit floor levels with no sneaky part-time, training, contract and/or subcontractor weasel outs. The works.

This is not me blowing hot air. Folks in Japan who give a rats’ ass over social policy have been pointing this stuff out for the last 20 years.

I hope someone is working on it, even if they will probably have to work on it for free.

UPDATE:  ‘Japan LGBT group files human rights complaint in bid for same-sex marriages’  by Tomohiro Osaki
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/07/national/social-issues/lawyer-lobby-handed-lgbt-rights-relief-request-pursuit-legal-sex-marriages/   Note how a legalistic approach is being persued, with the request to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) the nation’s biggest bar association to investigate the allegation and, if necessary, issue a warning to the central government to review its legislation.

Can we consider aspirational pop fiction like the Genshiken as part of the Japanese debate?

Quietly culturally appropriate emerging gender non-conforming and sexuality diffuse fujoshi Hato! So what if Hato gets or doesn’t get Mada. As long as no blood is shed, no one jumps off a roof, no quack therapists or religious nutters try to drag Hato (or the rest of the fujoshi members) off to “fix” them, no one tries to beat Hato to a pulp or screams at Hato and the rotten girls that GOD HATES FAGS, we can call it a win. The Japanese otaku social way, as exemplar of uneasy Japanese conformity that sometimes looks like civility and common sense, can be good.

Dont’cha just love a happy ending? I wonder how Takemiya Jin would write such a story?

Maybe Kio Shimoku will make things even more complicated.

He sure took a chance when he wrote Hato into the Genshiken. Did he have any idea he would get in this deep? Beyond the few guarded paragraphs in his latest interview, we can only speculate. Surprisingly enough, the more research I do on meatspace conditions surrounding sexuality and gender issues in Japan, the more I am struck by what a reasonable job he has done…

That sneaky so and so…

And he is aware of larger issues. A quick recap: a fujoshi membership doesn’t know any “real” out gay folk, as Saki chides. The echoes of the Yaoi Ronso debates, “it’s only you” and other mid-aughts pop theory surrounding fujoshi practice and queer issues. “Reading this stuff has to have some effect” (or does it?). Hato Hato Hato. What did I miss?

For all the embarrassed curiosity about queer-ish desire, one must acknowledge the fundamental straight-ness, the uneasy, yet pervasive heteronormativity of the Genshiken tale and its ‘tourism’ approach to Japanese queer concerns. Of course the characters are all nominally straight fujoshi and otaku boys and girls, as (I’m guessing) are most of the readers. If you poke Hato with a stick, both variants will embarrassingly mumble a straight-ish disclaimer. But the problem isn’t gay-straight or cis-trans, so much as fantasies of gay-ness and gender non-conformity. Everybody, when they bother has fantastic ideas about “the other”. The Genshiken runs on the play of how these are so important to the heart, but at the same time, so prone to clumsy misapprehension.

At the core of fujoshi fantasy is the idea that all males, because of innate male-ness are subject to the madness of uncontrollable lust and could at any moment, maybe, perhaps, suddenly go wild and pair off into seme and uke roles. And that by doing so they might finally, finally express some manner of dramatic, romantic displays of love, desire and longing and negotiated inter-dependency; what they are too effing lazy, privileged and thick to offer towards women.  “Gay” seems to be secondary to an essentialist view of males and their propensity to go berserk in interesting ways when confronted by strong feelings. If either or both of them were already gay, it would be somewhat less interesting. (but could still be ok if the drawings were hawt). A crit-speak way of putting this is “erasure of gay identity” but queer concerns are secondary to the curiosities and frustrations of the nerdy fangirls. Meanwhile the loser fanboy brigade has plenty of ideas about why and how “lesbians are hawt” and all of them are constructed for our entertainment. So all Japanese lesbians are either amazingly sexy cartoon fanservice babes, butch and femme and/or so emotionally wise and caring as to be able to work out any painful conflicts and disappointments that pop up. Except for the cheerfully psycho lesbian version of the BFG!

Even with a such a starting point, lookie where the Genshiken has dragged them, as it has dragged me.

Shimoku-sensei has been both skillful and lucky; he has not yet created a ridiculous, insulting or overly fantastic character. Some minor bits of Hato rankle, some are tiny plot contrivances and fancies (the Stands), but all in all the design and engineering is sound and durable. Not flashy, not revolutionary; good quality workmanship. The Nidaime anime could have blown it all by losing the nuance with too much otokonoko hijinx & Stands vibe, but it squeaked by. Fans continue to get sucked in and keep reading. Above all, there is tension in the Hato character, between the fantasy space of the Genshiken and the in-‘verse real world and between approaches to “resolving” Hato and within the self of the character that, if taken too much further would tear the character apart in an analogous ritually performative echo of the very tensions within the contested spaces of minority gender and sexuality identities in Japan. (whew!)

Hato is no simple ototkonoko joke chara, or a fantastic crossdressing heroic lead. Hato chan and kun are not tragic or despairing, Hato has interests and works towards them. Folks try to work things out, hard won personal growth occurs. There will be some conflicts and disappointments and mistakes ‘o plenty, but joining the Genshiken was a good thing for Hato Kenjiro. And Hato is good for the Genshiken, by in-‘verse measures alone.(2)

I wonder if Japanese fans who seek to advance the rights, status and acceptance of gay and trans folks are writing fan letters to Shimoku-sensei, praising him for what he gets right, gently offering suggestions that would improve the product and, most importantly, refraining from sanding him over some small quibbling point of imported political correctness. Be gentle with the mangakas – don’t scare them, they can be useful.

Lets see if he can do more.

Keiko seems to be itching to take a few pokes at Hato. I hope that it just won’t be a jealous girls’ competition.

Perhaps Keiko should take Hato to an okama bar.

If “the adversary” won’t highlight the contradictions, who will?

.

(1) Once again Erica-sensei nails it with deft economy. “Icon” !!!  No escaping it now. Congratulations on your acclamation!!!
Also interesting from the essay page: ‘Persuasion and Opinion in Pop Culture Fandom – Are We the Cart or the Horse? The Persuasive Power of Popularity’ http://www.yuricon.com/essays/persuasion-and-opinion-in-fandom/

(2) It is a wonder that the Genshiken isn’t swamped with new membership applicants, the loser club rep is now stretched thin. One pro mangaka, another one or two soon to follow, an acclaimed semi-pro cosplay cadre, very interesting members, solid alumni support (one recent sempai a rising talent at a game studio). Not too shoddy.

Off Topic:

‘Sherlock and the British Actor Boom: ‘Regifting’ Female Fandom in Japan’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto
https://www.academia.edu/13126858/Sherlock_and_the_British_Actor_Boom_Regifting_Female_Fandom_in_Japan?auto=download

More Off Topic:

Thomas Baudinette has recently been doing interesting research on the premise that Japan’s diffuse gay communities have begun to make a grudging peace with some aspects of fujoshi fantasies. Whether as “gateway drug”, “emergency substitute” or even quick “feels” fix. The last of these is probably the sneakiest, because guys have a limited range of strategies available to deal with the recognition of their own weaknesses: Ignore, do research or go Liddy (as in G. Gordon, who was famously so afraid of rats that he set out to conquer his fears in various over-the-top ways). Oooops, going overboard here, in any case some folks who happen to be guys who like guys, in Japan, are beginning to find BL and yaoi not too annoying. A short presentation:
‘Gay manga” in Japanese Gay Men’s Life Stories: Bara, BL and the Problem of Genre‘ by Thomas Baudinette. (you may have to reg yourself at Academia.edu as an “independent researcher” to access/ save the full paper – Do it, it is free and there’s lots of good stuff there).
https://www.academia.edu/11591779/_Gay_manga_in_Japanese_Gay_Men_s_Life_Stories_Bara_BL_and_the_Problem_of_Genre

Even More Off Topic:

Another neat thing: the blog post; ‘The Homoerotic Requirement’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto in her blog ‘Some of us are looking at the stars’ points out a key POV shift in Japanese reception of the “Potter-verse” as opposed to that of Western slash fans. In simple terms, western fen-written slash fanfiction sees Hogwarts as a private high school. Japanese fen see ‘The Heart of Thomas’ and a long tradition of fantasy European boarding schools settings for pining and bullied bishie boys.
https://lorimorimoto.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/the-homoerotic-requirement/#more-205

Insight: if the above effect carries over to tales of soulful friendship between young women, then Anne of Green Gables must have just blown Japanese minds because the spunky girl heroine did NOT meet a tragic end.

We can transcend it for you wholesale

And now, for something that doesn’t go on forever about Genshiken.

Many of you are aware that the Ghost in the Shell franchise is getting a new lease on life with the double barrelled ARISE prequel, a series of OAV anime and a manga that deal with the early days of Motoko Kusanagi , Section 9, Batou and the rest of the fun gang. Coincidental to this, there are a few Ghost In the Shell “impression” pieces in Mechademia 6, and I’ve stumbled across more than a few other crit-world treatments of it, and Mamoru Oshii lately.

GIS_A1

Now while it is really kewl to learn that Hans Bellmer’s Dolls are referenced in the opening segment of GIS (deploy theory word uncanny, LOS!) I would respect these little excursions if they would only tip their hats a bit towards the influences at work, at the time that GIS made its initial commotion. Ok, lets all say Harraway together, but really, the whole post-human thing is all so 1995, right? By now we are well into the post-post-human, aren’t we?

Being a long-term netizen is a lot like being a long-term academic: What is really surprising is what you can’t find mention of. So in the interest of future crit-heads going on about GIS and not sounding like they missed something, let me suggest that:

1) Some of the more popular USA type sci-fi does make it over to Japan in translation, and
2) It does not get “imitated”, Japanese creators merely join a “conversation” that has been a large part of the speculative fiction/ scientific romance genre since it first crawled out of Mary Shelly’s book (or Cyrano’s or Lucian’s)

With this in mind here are two words every critical appraisal of Ghost in the Shell should remember to at least include in the footnotes:

Winter Market

And just in case they weren’t paying attention:

Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market Winter Market 

Or, as the Major said so eloquently:

ffew wishes

And ya know that it is a real crying shame that the CBC radio production of it is nowhere to be found on the net, or even in the CBC archives.

Here’s a timeline:

The story was commissioned in 1985 by Vancouver Magazine
a synopsis: http://workingtropes.lmc.gatech.edu/wiki/index.php/The_Winter_Market
1986: included in the anthology BURNING CHROME
Also published separately in Stardate Magazine No. 11 March/April 1986
1989: Ghost in the shell Manga
1995: Oshii’s film

To be fair, Gibson’s little cyberpunk tale was not the first to posit transcendence through merging with the netmind/ AI / global network/ yadda yadda yadda, (or the last – I always liked Marc Stiegler’s Gentle Seduction (1989) better) Here is a page that started a USA-sci-fi bibliography on it, and there are plenty more. Myself I am holding out for snagging an e-copy of Stone’s The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age (and it ain’t only gendered identity that she deals with, despite the one review) but so far all I can find are inexpensive used dead tree versions which take up valuable space, are a pig to search and block-quote, and don’t get read and cited as much as they should by the laity.

Expect a review in a few months, I will have to break down and Amazon it sooner or later. A .99cent drm-free ebook download would make it IMMORTAL! but what do I know of the realities of academic publishing?

GIS Manga cover

Back to GIS_A: It is Quite Good! The new Major is just as brooding as she always was, but I like her younger lean look. The overdone cheesecake cyborg body of the first movie and the ’89 era manga/ SAC mullet was always jarring, but I suppose it had its uses. The plotting is all gummint conspiracy upon gummint conspiracy, upon etc, but that’s fine, as it serves to set up a curious echo of Gibson’s original “waste” sub-theme. Then again, the disposable soldier / cannon fodder is hardly a new thing either. The soundtrack is good too, even without Yoko Kanno. So I await the next installment of the ARISE OAV’s and the subsequent manga chapters. I just hope they don’t go sacrificing the Tachikoma(s) again – it is a cheap plot trick on par with killing off Old Yeller, and I have a soft spot for the little beasties.

I just wanted to get my 2 words in. You heard it here first; no Gibson footnote = the crit-speak rumination on GIS is shoddy. Half points only for the word cyberpunk. Would all academic reviewing be so easy peasy.

Next time: Vocaloids, the Khôra/ Chora and the odd things one could do with a Pentium-1, 133 MHZ on a kitchen table some 14 years ago… or something else.

 

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

In thy orisons be all my sins remembered

On Mary Sue, her origins, popularity and the ubiquity of simple wish-fulfillment narratives in melodramatic manga..

Walker, Cynthia W. 2011. “A Conversation with Paula Smith.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6. doi:10.3983/twc.2011.0243.
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/243/205

“It isn’t every fan who rates a Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue) and a mention on Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/04/21/mary_sue) for a term she invented, but Paula Smith will be forever known as the person who coined the phrase “Mary Sue.”

EnsignSue_869

In case you have never run into Ms. Sue before, here is her home page: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue

To stumble upon the Paula Smith interview left me momentarily stunned and then struck by a violent bout of nostalgia; not for the invention of the Mary Sue trope, but for the odd coincidence that I was at some of the very same early conventions she mentions, at the times mentioned, and probably ran into many of the same folks mentioned in her interview. I may have met her in passing but I can’t remember doing so. I did some table manning volunteering at Tri-con. How’s this for a secret handshake to prove I was there: I was privy to the not-so secret insider gossip that one of the celebs needed a quick prescription due to… la la la

Hold on tight, this one is going to be messy!

past kill me wannamotei

Oh misspent youth! I was playing hooky from high school and sneaking off to sci-fi conventions (…and Patti Smith concerts, which together warped both my sense of the future, and my ideas of female sexual agency).

Why would you want to read a blog post where I get all nostalgic about my misspent youth? I promise useful theory-ish insights! I swear! Something has been banging around in the idea bucket since my last post on prof. Saito Tamaki, and it involves Mary Sue, Shojo (or Shoujo) manga, professor Tamaki, Adrian Piper and why the new and improved yuri V2 is a lot closer to yaoi than everyone first thought.

On the construction of an imaginary other / an imagined other sex:

First Dr Saito Tamaki and his friend again…

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

The wimmens are supposed to lack the constraining need for the phallic signifier and therefore can better play with yaoi puppets and enjoy seme, uke and god-narrator-author points of view all at the same time. Taken to insulting extremes, this kind of psycho-babble suggests that women don’t even possess a conventional “identity” as unified subject, except as a reflection of a lack, so they can identify with and partake in desire with rocks, rivers, Hello Kitty, jet airplane turbines, living room furniture and days of the week.

The assumption here again is of a certain vulgar essentialist view of gendered behaviour that fits with the Freudian “original sin” mythology of the development of the modernist “subject”. Blah blah blah. This is as close to the core of the whole mess as one can get, and it presents a weak spot for critics to sink their hooks into it. Suffice it to say that once the wimmins theorists got hold of this little gem, they found a big internal contradiction in it: what is usually now refered to as “male hysteria”.

This is a theory in-joke, because the word hysteria derives from old greek or old latin or old middle earth dwarvish and means something like “womb madness” and therefore should be a relative of PMS – a girl thing. But instead of some 1950’s Betty screaming madly until Cary Grant slaps her upside, “male hysteria” is now far more common in pop culture overacting.

Some guy “breaks” under pressure and goes all violent/ fearful/ batshit psycho/ suicidal because he cannot live up to his internal standards of guy-ness. So Ms. Enomoto’s quip and Dr. Tamaki’s elaboration of it above is just orthodox Western psych canon, used in an interesting way. On the surface male-hysteria boy is just snapping under the pressure of defending his subject position. But If the subject position is so easily broken, was it, and all the high theatre of male-ness all there, and so fixed in the first place?

Whoooooohooooo Scary! Careful you don’t lose it buddy, or you will turn into a woman – which is even worse than being a gay man!

The best short-form version of this kind of thing that I have found so far is Rio Otomo’s work on how Mishima overdoes this kind of pop Freudian view of female-ness (http://rio-otomo.net/academic-papers/mishima-yukios-sex-which-is-not-one)

“Following the first coup attempt, Isao is arrested. During one of his long nights in prison, Isao dreams of turning into a woman. Although this episode functions as a prophecy of the next reincarnation, a young Thai princess, the description of Isao’s becoming a woman conveys more messages than is necessary for a lead into the following volume.

[Isao] felt as if the world had been turned inside out … his flesh had lost definite form, turned into flesh that was soft and swaying. He was filled with a mist of soft, languid flesh. Everything became vague. Wherever he searched, he could find no order or structure. There was no supporting pillar… Comfort and discomfort, joy and sorrow – all alike slid over his skin like soap. Entranced, he soaked in a warm bath of flesh. The bath by no means imprisoned him. He could step out whenever he liked, but the languid pleasure kept him from abandoning it, so that staying there forever, not choosing to go, had become his ‘freedom.’ Thus there was nothing to define him, to keep him under strict control. What had once wound itself tightly round and round him like a rope of platinum had slipped loose. (Mishima, 1985: 449-50)[9]

While Isao is determined to banish the memory of the dream, he cannot deny the fact that the sensation he felt was not thoroughly disagreeable. The feminine is defined here as freedom from the restrictions not only of body but also of mind:

Everything he had so firmly believed in was meaningless. Justice was like a fly that had tumbled into a box of face powder and smothered; beliefs for which he had meant to offer up his life were sprayed with perfume and melted. All glory dissolved in the mild warmth of mud… Sparkling snow had melted away entirely. He felt the uncertain warmth of spring mud within him. Slowly something took form from that spring mud, a womb. Isao shuddered as the thought came to him that he would soon give birth. His strength had always spurred him with violent impatience towards action, had always responded to a distant voice that conjured up the image of a vast wilderness. But now, that strength had left him. The voice was silent. The outer world, which no longer called to him, now, rather, was drawing closer to him, was touching him. (Mishima, 1985: 450)

A womb-like zone – comfort and pleasure ‘inside’ the skin – is within him. The body has now lost its contour, and a smell of ‘decaying seaweed,’ ‘an entirely organic odour’ has permeated this body. But whose voice are we hearing in this passage? Is there a speaking agent in this formless body? Judith Butler contends that there is no pre-existing agent behind performance, and that rather, the agent is an effect of performance (Butler 1993:30). [10] The voice of Mishima’s text speaks from the no-man’s land that lies between man and woman, and the owner of that voice is what Butler calls a ‘linguistic effect’, the image projected on the surface of the body in the bath. Through this transgender narrative Mishima destabilises the authority of a speaking subject, first and foremost that of male sex.

Let us read further the carnivalesque space which Mishima produces in this passage, in which the realm of the feminine undermines the said order. The woman-like being in the bath is overwhelmed by the sense of eternal pleasure, jouissance, and a division between subject and object disappears in her. There seems no scope of binaries conceived in her realm.

Justice, zeal, patriotism, aspirations for which to hazard one’s life – all had vanished. In their place came an indescribable intimacy with the things around him… Things clung to [Isao] like paste, and, at the same time, lost all their transcendental significance. Trying to arrive at some goal was no longer a problem. Everything was arriving here from elsewhere. Thus there was no longer a horizon, no longer any islands. And with no perspective at all evident, voyages were out of the question. There was only the endless sea. (Mishima, 1985: 450)

This new imagery of woman as a formless, all-inclusive existence like the endless sea is a considerable shift from the way in which Mishima depicts women in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The central character of that text, Mizoguchi, finds women’s corporeality incongruous to the spiritual value embodied in the beauty of the Golden Temple, which was handed down to him by his late father. All women – his mother; the woman who rejects him; the prostitute who accepts him; the pan-pan girl who accuses him – stir anger and hostility in him. The world of the Mother and that of the Father are clearly marked in black and white; there is no room for negotiation or switching positions between the two. Mizoguchi’s narrative indeed takes place within a strictly Oedipalised and regulated space. In contrast Isao’s dream scene presents a different narrativisation of the feminine, the one that posits a powerful antithesis to the ruling regime of the Symbolic order. The she-man, Isao, is without skin or body contour, and thus no longer demarcating himself as an autonomous and unified subject. He instead feels being part of the endless sea. This passage is one of the rare occasions in which Mishima makes a reference to the title of the tetralogy. He sexes the sea, as it were, and makes it fertile.”

Overwrought Mishima is overwrought!

What a classic Freud/ Lacan male mash-up fantasy of female-ness. Here is male hysteria creating an imagined (and rather silly) feminine other, just like the hegemonic “ruling regime of the Symbolic order” theory-verse does. If the female narrator is such an amorphous blob-monster, why are so many of her daughters creating Mary Sue avatars – which are pure naked agency, devoid of any polite restraint?

Sarcasm aside, Mishima is one of the big high lit novelists of 20th century Japan: If he wants to construct a pop-psychology cliche of “the female” built in the solitary mind of a male protaganist who is “breaking up” and bang it violently against his other fave cliche of masculinity the Shonen Jump-ish  Koha, then he is playing with extremes for novelistic effect. Fair ball – you can’t do that kind of thing in an essay. Just don’t get carried away and try to stage a real-life coup, then disembowel yourself.

“What is kōha? … youth, violence, naivety, straightforwardness, anti-social behaviour, small-group hierarchy, or ethnocentrism. If one looks closely, one will find that emotions in kōha mentality are represented by politics rather than romantic love. Politics in the Orient is the ideal of machismo and the relationship amongst men. Although both politics and romantic love are naturally saturated in emotionalism …what makes the former distinct from the latter is that while the latter strives for individualism, the former is the urge to mould oneself into an ideal shape [as part of the whole]. Therefore, [kōha affiliates] have no danger of self-mortification…their desperate attempt to preserve their power begins in conservatism and racial fundamentalism. Since action is considered to be the embodiment of their power that blindly aims at justice, kōha will never suffer from a guilty conscience for their own action. (Mishima, 1989: 1015)

Despite its often violent and anti-social behaviour, the men who were called kōha [the school of the solid] occupied the place of legitimate masculinity, while nanpa [the school of the soft] was not necessarily excluded from the patriarchal order, receiving a certain respect from kōha affiliates. As Japan rapidly evolved into the post-industrial society, in which kōha values were regarded as excessive and therefore redundant, nanpa became the norm. The hidden agenda of the article above are: Mishima’s denunciation of the modern novel, which he now calls ‘nanpa-style literature’ which has dominated the Japanese literary scene since the post-Meiji era; and his call for ‘kōha-style writing’ that represents Japan in its pristine state. The article also expresses Mishima’s yearning for a life that is steadfast, fleeting, emotional and devoid of psychological complexity, in other words, his longing for a story-telling that predates the modern novel. Kōha, according to Mishima, defies things logical and intellectual, demonstrating a Japanese native characteristic – distrust in logocentricism. Mishima is here re-defining the concept of masculinity (and the kōha-style that represents it) to be emotional and non-verbal, taking over the properties of the feminine. It is an ironical twist given by Mishima who started his writing career as an emblematic nanpa writer and is now steadfastly transforming himself into a boxer, a sport-reporter, a swordsman and an army officer. The politics that Mishima takes up is a natio nalism without logic and words; for him kōha literature – the story of Japanese masculinity – is a counter-discourse to the masculinity foregrounded by Western imagination.”

Yikes!

The project of imagining the other gender seems to be fraught with what i can only call “category slip”. Are we speaking of real-world behaviour here? Is it public or private behaviour? Or is it confined to the real of “play” or imagination? Does it stay in the safe space of “the simulated”, in recreational fiction, or in the imaginary that is built when the subject takes parts of the the imaginary world, performs a personal bricolage on the components and creates a personal “fantasy”. Are these fantasies best left private, or are they the stuff of the gift, of symbolic exchange? Should the exchange be limited to experts, or can anyone play?

We are already three or four layers deep in category slip here: public identity, to private life, to gendered categories of desire in recreational narratives. Things get messy really fast. One could easily start off trying to figure out why poorly socialized males obsess over certain types of stories and fall into speculation on the “desires of the beautiful fighting girl”? (yup, prof. Saito does it on occasion) Excuse me – she’s a one-dimensional category of fictional character, she can have any “desires” any particular writer cares to give her, or none at all. Myself, I think she wants to hijack a time machine and become Mishima’s mom. She should ask Dr. Doom; I hear he lets Squirrel Girl use it.

I bet Rio Otomo thinks she wants an account at fanfiction.net and a laptop.

Professor Saito Tamaki has a bigger problem than the limits of Freud-zoku concepts of gendered subjectivity. Either he has to go full blown Mishima and acknowledge that the subject is not only formed in relation to the other, but that the subject expends a ridiculous amount of energy first constructing the imaginary other out of all kinds of bat-shit crazy cultural detritus that is found lying around, or he can just  stick to the useful stuff, like the quasi-libinous kick that comes from being a second-order or third order producer of ephemera that surrounds the consumption of a cultural artifact. That has traction. Whooooeee! Its time for a big potlatch party! Make friends, hang out, play with your fave fan-stuff, do some mash-ups, put out a dojin – hey wait: sounds a bit like the idealized space of the Genshiken. Myself, I would drop the Freud-speak, or at least view it as one among many convenient “scripts” that can be rummaged out of the dumpster.

Bad method acting school time: “What’s my character’s motivation?”

I won’t hold my breath.

OR: Prof Saito Tamaki knows all this, but Japan has lousy disability pension laws and regulations and he is trying to symptom-ize the condition so that Hikis and really withdrawn otaku – types get coverage and do not starve to death ????

Query: Is hikikomori in the DSMV ? prof Saito pioneered the study of the condition! That’s a pretty high honour  Remember, no DSM listing, no insurance coverage, at least in the USA, Canada, etc.. I can find no mention that it is in the DSMV yet. Perhaps one has to dress the condition up in Freud drag to make it “real” within the clerisy. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-244X/12/169

On presenting the public self:

Shift POV back to memory lane:

Way back then I swear I bought some of those early Mary Sue Star Trek fanzines! No one warned me they were gendered artifacts. I was soooooooo crushed when I was told by someone who I lent them to that they were nothing but horribly written girly wish-fulfillment fantasies. Sure they were, but they had steamy hawt (and rather odd) secks scenes in them! No slash thankfully. Whew! Only original heterosexual characters bonking, so it wasn’t too weird; no Kirk/ Spock/ Mary Sue threesomes.

Let me say that again. They were written by female fans and they had hawt secks scenes in them, and I was rather young at the time, and by the way this was in the early Pleistocene era and they used mimeograph machines to print the things! (Damn, I am still putting off that honking big theory post I promised 2 months ago!). Those fan-women/ fen were -gasp- sexual creatures, as much as Patti Smith was, and incidentally equally unconcerned with being embarrassed about  publicly taking their desires for reality.

Oh brave new world that hath such creatures in it!

Did I mention my high school was very catholic? And that all this took place in the early Pleistocene era? Dinosaurs and Playboy bunnies walked the earth. Skinny, nearsighted geek boys who couldn’t do sports were supposed to have absolutely no chance for romance and misbehaviour – at least until we finished University. And yet I already knew a terrible secret…

Hijinx ensued.

This January I saw a 68-year-old Patti Smith perform at a concert hall in Shibuya. She still can’t play guitar to save her life, and routinely makes an ass of herself on stage and gets Japanese culture and mythos dead stupid wrong, and has a Mishima fixation, and none of it matters, because she is a rock and roll goddess and at 68 years of age she can wank out on stage all she wants. She is still hawt! She doesn’t look a day over 50…

And her soul sisters in the Mary Sue brigades have taken over the world.

What I am trying to say is that a certain moment in time, with just the right mix of technology, and weirdness, mass culture suddenly allowed a lot of folks who previously had stuff to say, but couldn’t bear the hassle and expense, who were shut out of the commercial channels, to get up on stage and “act out”. Fanwriters didn’t have word processors yet, let alone the interwebs (no gopher, pine, email and usenet groups, not even fidonet!  – that would all have to wait until the 1990’s) but they did have slightly more available IBM Selectric typewriters and Gestetner (screen cut mimeograph machines go back to the 1920’s or earlier) machines that were fairly easy to borrow or appropriate. And they had an expanding fan convention culture, no longer centered on traditional “hard” sci-fi.

Meanwhile over in rock and roll land, “at the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating…”

Perhaps it would be best to ask Lenny Kaye, garage band historian, pop music anthropologist, producer, meddler and lead guitar to the Patti Smith Group (still after all those years and yup, he was holding it together in Tokyo that night..) what changed. Or go read the liner notes to Nuggets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenny_Kaye

Whatever the reason, something had slipped in the control rooms of the big record companies some 30 years before mp3’s would destroy them and plenty of people like Patti Smith got up on stage to bring their own messy, raw and painfully, embarrassingly naive idea of how rock’n’roll should be done to anyone who would listen.

And yeah we look the same
Both pumpin steel, both sweatin
But you know she got nothin to hide
And I got something to hide here called desire
I got something to hide here called desire
And I will get out of here–
You know the fiery potion is just about to come
In my nose is the taste of sugar
And I got nothin to hide here save desire
And I’m gonna go, I’m gonna get out of here
I’m gonna get out of here, I’m gonna get on that train,
I’m gonna go on that train and go to New York City
I’m gonna be somebody, I’m gonna get on that train, go to New York City,
I’m gonna be so big, I’m gonna be a big star and I will never return,
Never return, no, never return, to burn at this Piss Factory
And I will travel light.
Oh, watch me now.

Patti Smith, Piss Factory (1974)

Bloody amateurs! Mary Sues all of them!

The sins of Mary Sue are all sins of degree. Recall slash-kami “Mary Jean Johnson’s” admonition about yaoi fan-writing:

“Yaoi isn’t like other fictional writing. It’s a private vision written for personal satisfaction, and to apply the standards by which we judge ordinary literature to yaoi is to willfully ignore this private element. 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. As for trashing a fanwriter’s style, it’s like shooting the piano player. Chances are she’s doing the best she can. The only way you get to play the piano better is by playing the piano more. And quite possibly she writes that way because she likes writing that way, typos and all, and belongs to that huge group of people (of whom Word’s Spell-check is one) who really believe that its should be written it’s on all occasions.””

It could also be that plotting standards have slipped precipitously, or that naive story telling is comfortably non-threatening to a modern mass audience (as is tone-deaf pop singing), but ms. Sue has found a permanent place as one of the zashi-warashi of contemporary Japanese Visual Culture. Blame Comike(t)  It doesn’t matter. She is wabi-sabi as all heck; a flawed guardian spirit/ meta-heroine. (we will leave aside Western women’s genre fiction, either young adult or the slightly older age bracket’s “spunky girl in the big city finds interesting well-paying job, brand name goodies and two competing good boy/ bad boy lovers”) At least ms. Sue gets written, a lot! You can’t keep a gal like her in the kitchen, or off the page.

Did I mention she is Legion?

Mary_Sue_Comprasion

Trick question: both are Mary Sue; one is just a bit more polite sneaky about it.

Ogiue is not a Mary Sue. Neither is Watamote (she might be the anti-sue), but Mary and her cousin Marty (sometimes Gary) Stu (AKA Die Wesley Crusher Die!) are damn hard to escape in manga land. Genshiken may be free of the both of them, but adolescent themed fiction is up to its ears in them and their ilk, so much so that their “meta”, Chuunibyou has been also rising in the popularity stats. Note how Chuuni is a “bit” different Western models of high-school “acting out”

chuuhibyou chart

No matter, we will still read the stuff, unbelievable main character with special powers and all – if the rest of the story does something for us.  Mary Sue and over-the-top wish-fulfillment charas have colonized throwaway shoujo Manga, while her cousin Marty has made a home for himself in any number of harem high-school grinders. One day he will grow up and become Walter Mitty, or Hunter Thompson, or some rap star or even Oscar Wilde.

I have NO IDEA what this means!” – Oscar Wilde

Back to misspent youth stories:

Somewhere in the attic is a box full of treasure crap from those days. After the labour day weekend worldcon in Toronto, our paths diverged. Star Trek fandom was getting too commercial and uncomfortably a-social (at least for me). Paula Smith’s sisterhood found the guy-verse of mainstream sci-fi fandom suffocating and used the lameness in early trekkie fandom to carve out a female fen-space. They went on to do “vidding” which I believe is a slash variant done with VCRs. For me, mainstream sci-fi had more wild, wonderful and risqué stuff to rot my impressionable male teen-age mind.

The costume balls at sci-fi conventions had semi-professional girl (yes, as in teen, yikes!) models in extremely skimpy outfits (who swooped in to bag the cash prizes), all-night movies (to nap through), real computer games (a terminal to U of Toronto mainframe playing something called “sumer“) and late night drinking parties that did not ask if you were of age. Of course I had to keep my enthusiasms to myself; bad trekkie behaviour had tarred the lot of us as the lowest form of annoying noob.

I might have been the over-enthusiastic motor-mouthed young fan who so pestered the venerable Isaac Asimov that he proposed to another senior writer that I should be strangled lest I grow up to become another ??? (was it Harlan Ellison?) (Then again, this might have been a running joke between senior writers at that convention, as there were at least a hundred overenthusiastic male youth running amok that weekend.)

You would think that I would have stayed with this life throughout my teen years – alas ugly mundane reality intervened and violently pulled me out of geek paradise soon thereafter.

Of course I still watched Star Trek reruns whenever I could, and read Analog, and all the used sci-fi paperbacks I could get at 3 for $1, but the worldcons were too far away, and there were no Genshikens at the universities I managed to later squeak into. (There were however university newspapers and someone left Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail 72 lying around.. Hijinx ensued… )

On the precarious nature of the subject:

Yipes! too much geek reminiscing. According to professor Saito and his posse, I and all my male brethren at the time were supposed to be fixing our own positions and our identities, developing our subjecthood vis-a-vis “the other” and male-hysterically defending it and phallic agency/ privilege etc., etc., etc. Or in the language of the day “To yourself be(ing) true”.

Right!

Good effing luck locating this “yourself” thing buddy…

Or we were supposed to be trying to score with Mrs Robinson…

Perhaps 40 years of economic decline and the interwebs changed all this. Liminality is now the buzzword for everyone under 40. As for over 40, again – good luck!

And we all are what we do. We have to change what we do a lot, and in life we all get to do what we are second best at…

I feel your pain..

I feel your pain..

The whole modernist subject/ other myth was never really even modernist – it was a romantic narrative born out the rupture of euroethnic peasant life caused by industrial urbanization. It was cobbled together by swiping ideals of semi-autonomous behaviour from tales of imaginary privileged nobility and shoe-horning them into a guild model of profession-derived identity so that the new city dwelling underclass didnt go stark raving mad once they left their villages. Dick Whittington meet Horatio Algier, and both of you make sure to stop demanding to be fed before your women-folk! (Strange how rates of tuberculosis tumbled once economics and social practice allowed that European females should get to eat meat protein too – note the the “subject” was a gendered concept even back then. women didn’t count.)

One doesn’t have to go all postmodern to realise how shaky the modern subject always was – modernism always knew this too: go read some T.S.Elliot or at least some Auden. Later you can have a bit of Ginsberg if you promise not to freak out at the gay bits. There is also a nasty analysis of WWI mass hysteria by Modris Eckstein called Rites of Spring The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age that riffs on what happened when it all went balls up.

Postmodern, database, grand narrative fail, total new thing, yup, right,

Meanwhile, I like to think that all the low-budget sci-fi I ingested, including many poorly written wish fulfilment fantasies (both fanzine and commercial pulp varieties) gave me something akin to the only true modern capital that does not depreciate: a taste for different points of view (and a self-reflective sense of humor).

You’ve probably got it too (or why are you here reading this?), but only a certain vintage of graybeard nerd will grasp all the shades of truly embarrassing horror in Futurama’s Zap Brannigan. Want more? Try Spinrad’s vicious parody “The Iron Dream”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Spinrad#The_Iron_Dream) You have been warned. Adolf as Marty Stu done viciously!

In my first year of university, I struggled with my paper on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, frustrated beyond reason at my inability to wrap my head around a 400 year old fable, while the tiny, tinny TV speaker interrupted me with Shatner’s Kirk over-acting out his passion for Flint’s daughter Miranda.

(Miranda! Huh! Ker-Ching! Enlightenment! Good marks!) Who said all that sci-fi crap was useless? Oh Gawd! Forbidden Planet too! WTF is it with all The Tempest rip-offs in sci-fi? Is The Tempest the penultimate Marty Stu vehicle for an ageing male playwright? That’s why I like Greenway’s Prospero’s Books so much; multiple Arials take over writing his tale of vengeance in his magic book and stir him to mercy and humanity.

Cue Adrian Piper:

“Here the aim of appropriation would not be to exploit deliberately the Other’s aesthetic language, but to confound oneself by incorporating into works of art an aesthetic language one recognizes as largely opaque; as having a significance one recognizes as beyond one’s comprehension. Viewed in this way, exploitation is an unintended side-effect – the consequence of ignorance and insensitivity – of a project whose main intention is to escape those very cognitive limitations.
[. . .]
The appropriative character and formalism of Euroethnic art is, then,intrinsically connected with its self-awareness (or self-consciousness). To recognize an alien cultural practice as different from one’s own, and as inaccessible to understanding with respect to content, is implicitly to recognize one’s own cultural practice as a cultural practice, with its own rules and constraints. This just is the awareness that one’s own cultural practice is merely one among many. And the recognition that alternative cultural practices are cognitively inaccessible just is the awareness that one’s own furnish the only available conduit for interpretation of formal anomaly. So the cross-cultural appropriation of alien formal devices is a reminder of one’s own subjectivity. Self-consciousness of this kind is a necessary condition of innovation. “

Adrian Piper is not the only modernist theory wizard to riff on this. Charles Taylor does a very good job at explaining how what we think of as “identity” differs radically from what our self-reproducing farm equipment forebears thought about the matter. We would struggle to get their idea of it, and ours might drive them mad. Baudrillard’s gem “The Mirror of Production“, which alienated him from French Marxian orthodoxy gleefully takes a similar insight and lays into the historical myth of dialectical materialism with it. (but succumbs to the old trap of an edenic “legend of the fall”)

I even recall an anthropological sci-fi story that riffed on the “bicameral mind” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes) theory and located its “subject” (or ur-subject) in a hero that didn’t hear the voices of his tribe as group proto-unconscious, and as such was able to lie about what “god” told him to do to save his tribe. Even as it gave our hero powerful headaches.

Think outside the box! One could argue that the truly modernist subject is the one that can “load” alternative, multiple, contradictory modes of processing reality. Whoops! we just fell into Deleuze and Guattari land! Or Eliot’s Wasteland. (hint: try reading it as a screenplay)

How to fool yourself for fun:

Back to clumsy wish fulfillment stories and “bent” libidinous manga:

Just because we guys are supposed to “fear the undermining of (our) own subject position” in public, (“A real man speaks only with his fists!” declares the shonen manga hero.) doesn’t mean that we cannot be tempted by the illusion of forbidden knowledge in private. Especially if we can rationalise the excursion as an intelligence gathering mission with bonus naughty bits. What we (and the gals too) read in the easy chair, or watch on the monitor, or load on the console is a private matter carried out under the sign of “play”. It is the epitome of personal space. That the reading material would drift into pr0n land is not surprising. What surprises me is how fast it has drifted out again.

Plenty of correspondents have followed up on observations that yaoi and BL are offshoots of shoujo manga. What is even more surprising is how yuri – traditional home of fake lesbo orgy smut has of late been re-situating itself within shoujo manga conventions.

Yuri’s new cover story is that it tells tales of girls love and therefore it is “really” for girls investigating that forbidden longing, like the melodramatic Japanese S-class lesbian-ish short stories of the 1920’s. There may be more than a few women in Japan who read and are stirred by the stuff, but what Erica-sensei calls “the creepy male gaze” present in much of it complicates the issue.

What is inescapable is that the majority of current yuri and shoujo-ai is nothing more or less than shoujo manga for male readers. (referred to by some as Loser Fan Boys – I use the term ironically, re-appropriating it with a certain mock-embarrassed grin. “Why are men broken?” indeed…  ) There still is plenty of girl-on-girl-on-girl smut out there, but it is slowly being edged out by this new curious hybrid form that might be for women who like women, but not quite.

The consensus is that guys reading this stuff is an excusable quirk and still guy-like as long as there is still -some- smut in the story. (We can always delude ourselves into thinking we are picking up a few rezbian ruv techniques when looking for the naughty bits – the shoujo-ai stuff is in many ways creepier because it is often just an excuse for lolicon. Hi Madarame!) As the flip-side of yaoi for rotten girls, the illusion that those yuri- stories- which- are- not- total- smut- fests are somehow more “authentically lesbian” plays both to an urge towards affected political correctness and the thrill of peeking into the girl’s (completely fake, staged) changing room. Wow! there are even female mangakas writing it, so the newer stuff must be “real-er”.

Saito’s asymmetry is rapidly being levelled out. Note the change from old yuri to new yuri: the newer stuff bows to romantic convention and avoids threesomes and moresomes.

On the interwebz no one knows you are a...

On the interwebz no one knows you are a…

The overwrought romantic dialogue (little more than what Erica-sensei calls “story A”) is extra spice and offers forbidden insight into the mind of that most enigmatic of all creatures; the female, portrayed in its “purest” state (no guy in the way). Wasn’t it Amis again who quipped that romantic love was a lesbian invention? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sappho) Contemporary smut-lite- might- be- lesbian- approved- yuri exudes concentrated female emotional truth-iness! (even when penned by male mangakas.. Yeah right…)

Can any guy actually think that real women emote like this? That a real-life woman will get hostile towards you because she cannot express her deepest feelings or melt when one deploys some affected “sensitivity”. Bakka! Emotional awareness is suspect in males; one is either a dangerous “player”, an emo or worse – Richard III. Snap out of it!

Perhaps the allure of the illusion of forbidden lore is too strong. The rotten girls keep insisting that their contrived boys-ruv is “purer” because the unequal power relations in a male-female relationship are snuck past in their stuff, and they don’t need lesbian love stories because they already know how this romance stuff works on females. It is us blockheads who are incomprehensible. Where is Dr. Zizek when we need him? I keep ringing his office and all I get is some Tireseus jerk!

Smut- lite- contemporary- yuri (shoujo-ai V2 ???) shares many of the characteristics of yaoi for rotten girls as it provides a risk-free simulation space for playing with elaborate and overdone narratives of emotional “relationship-y” courtship behaviour and romance – much as yaoi-space gives rotten girls a chance to simulate what it would be like if fuckmad predatory male behaviour could somehow accommodate all the same relationship-y emotional stuff that the wimmens crave, but recognise as a blind spot in traditional guy behaviour and a dangerous liability to themselves in the real world.

And the girls like to see crude representations of bishie guys getting it on, while we guys are only reading yuri because we are waiting for the hawt girl-on-girl action. DURR HERP DUR DERP!

A spectre is haunting the modern subject:

And then the melodrama starts to bleed all over the place…

You doubt me? Why then do Otaku characterise their moe blobs in terms of tropes of courtship behaviour? Tsundere might be stupidly simplistic but it is still an exponential leap from slut or frigid. Did the tendency of male otaku to characterise their fave charas in such a manner carry over form rotten girls’ elaborate typologies of semes and ukes? (recall female to male ratios at early comikets) Or was it the other way around? Or were both tribes caught in the inexorable pull of Azuma Hiroki’s database?

“What’s my motivation?” Who cares. It still is all about emotional relationship-y melodrama and fluff. Add a horrible tortured past for the main character and both tribes can get all emo and angsty while waiting for the resolving secks scene. (If it was shonen manga it would be a fight scene.. no wonder the rotten girls have such fun)

Aoi Hanna and Sasameke Koto have no hawt secks scenes, but still have plenty of LFB fans. As mentioned previously, much angsty chaste longing ensues. Maybe just a happy ending is enough. Looks like we won’t get one with Aoi Hanna: the MC will be lucky to make it out of high school sure of herself as an autonomous lesbian subject, but radically disenchanted from the magical world of young high-school love. Odysseus slumps over spent, still tied to the mast as his ships slip by the Sirens’ rocks; Kristeva’s German burgher contemplates Holbein’s “Dead Christ” and realises that he is completely and terribly alone in the world and the Enterprise warps out of the system seconds before its sun goes nova…

Disenchantment is the sacrament of modernism ™

Call it a win and cue theme music.

Hanna is of course “better literature” than Koto, precisely because of the unresolved ending. The real love story here is the love that Fumi Manjōme might be finally able to develop as a full person, for herself.

Not satisfied? Plenty of other “creepy” bits of contemporary visual culture have all the emotional angst, the over-powerful hero (/heroine) the hawt secks and the just-so story happy ending anyone could want. As for the bleed-over, what is with all the weird emotional stuff coexisting with violent rape-y behaviour in manga like Tsukehime and Melty Blood ? It does not fit! It should not be there; then we recall that both are derived from modified eroge games where the goal is to clear all the females in the harem.. And kill some vampires too..

I think you have to get all the females to feel for you, and not  piss off/ break any hearts in order to get them all to help you kill the last boss. Ok! A mechanistic reason for having to pay attention to the emotional interpersonal messy stuff, we can process that, no problememo!

“Muwwhahhaha! See how easily these fan-boys can be tricked!”

At least this approach is a bit more direct than building a complicated theory edifice of otaku and fujoshi libidinal shift to the realms of imaginary. The rotten girls and Loser Fan Boys are just processing allegorical narratives, looking for stuff they can use, trying to work out puzzling contradictions by running scenarios (wow, just like the CIA) and indulging in a bit of “wouldn’t it be nice (or really hawt) if…” all while reading trashy stories.

Have another chocolate!

I think the whole 2D-only fixation phenom is pure learned affectation and subculture trope. It is a device for mangaka to shatter characters like Mada with, and look how easy that was.  It is too close to other recent fashionable male misbehaviour, like “herbivore men”.

Here’s a further weird thought: In trying to get a handle on faux-feminine emotionalism, aren’t guys finally implicitly recognizing full autonomous subject-hood in the elusive feminine narrative? Wow, that’s one up on the Freud-zoku.

And while we are at it, when a gendered “ruling regime of the symbolic order” recognizes rotten girl practice, does it miss a very very old sci-fi trope?

Analogy time: a bunch of nekkid humans get abducted by alien zoo-keepers – how to prove sentience? The “cage” is too damp for fire and 3.1415 banged on the walls is not getting through. All seems lost until one person weaves a wicker cage for a cricket-like pet. Release and apologies from the aliens ensues.

Only intelligent beings put other critters in cages. And only fully autonomous modernist “subjects” make silly porn of “others”. Could all the Freud -zoku hysterical theory around rotten girl practice be an elaborate denial mechanism?

Methinks you doth protest too much.

All this could well be a lot more dangerous to “hegemonic narratives of gender roles and desire” then wanting to shack up with your Nintendo DS Lite. There is no prohibition in the West against guys reading Harlequin romances, but neither does Harlequin offer faux-lesbian romance series for Loser Fan Boys to peep at. Once again Japan ichiban no cultural innovator!

Once Mary Sue gets lose in fan fiction, she so distorts the genre with her quick and dirty emotional payoff that the effect soon bleeds over into related, then all genre fiction – just as fan-fiction and/or dojin practice and tropes bleed over into commercial products. This ensures that elite “taste”, which was always a good cover story for more complicated gate-keeping is blown aside.

Whoops! I Might have gone too fast on that last one! Lets try that again in a nice orderly sequence:

1) Mary Sue gets lose.
2) Mary Sue evinces a desire for wish-fulfillment, melodrama and easy emotional payoff in fan-lit.
3) Commercial genre fiction takes the piles of it as market research and  cranks out variations.
4) The cheap thrill spreads throughout mass culture.
5) Loser fan boys and rotten girls start peeking over the fences when looking for smutty stories.
6) Entropy sets in and all plots and tropes start to converge.

Profit!

As for  “fantasy is fantasy (or simulation space) and reality is reality”, we can assume that everyone is scared shitless of their fave hobby narratives getting loose in the real world. Fortunately keeping a public face and a private life is what adults are supposed to do in Japan, and the rest of the world too.

Here’s the western version of the shop manual – feel free to tinker. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Presentation_of_Self_in_Everyday_Life)
Note how later sociologists expanded the concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_Trouble

Poorly written, formulaic, wish-fulfilment fiction has always been with us (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion) as has tone-deaf singing. What is so odd about Mary Sue is how she serves as a symptom of global mass culture’s ability to democratise her violence. She is the (originally) wimmens’ AK47 of narrative, if not the 3D printable gun. And the freedom is intoxicating for both girls and boys. We will not be rid of her for a while, so we might as well offer her a glass of barley tea and recognize her naive charms, and the deep longings that she embodies – desires which may be somewhat like our own as well.

scape_god_AN OATH v001_c001_036 web

Awwwwwww, (careful, don’t get carried away!)

Hold the presses! I just heard that Prof Saito has an article on fujoshi in Mechademia 6! Perhaps he has had to shave off some of the sharper corners of his theories in order to accommodate fujoshi practice. I’m sure I can pick up a copy for $12 used on eBay (plus $48 shipping, because the stupid bookstore will only send it super expensive overnight registered) Anyone care to lend me their MUSE login fo Jstor? Dammit! Mechademia used to be openly downloadable to all. -sulk-

One more time in unison please: Academic journal paywalls suck!

Next time: So many ideas about Genshiken 87 and 88, but can I trust those Bulgarian scanlation scripts and Google xlate? And what of the whole messy epic digression on technology and fan “productive consumption” and those mimeograph stencils? How about D+G’s Temporary Autonomous Zones and Fujoshi/ Otaku space? This one writes itself, wonder why we are not already up to our eyeballs in it?

Must get organized!

Random endnotes:

For more information on the rise and fall of the mimeographed (and later xeroxed fanzane, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factsheet_Five

http://www.factsheet5.org/  and http://www.alternativepressreview.org/
both seem to have stopped mid 2010

From the Wiki:

The magazine was originally published in 1982 by Mike Gunderloy on a spirit duplicator in his bedroom while he lived in an Alhambra, California slanshack. The original focus was science fiction fanzines (the title comes from a short story by science fiction author John Brunner), but it included other reviews. Bob Grumman contributed a regular column on avant-garde poetry from 1987 to 1992.

Gunderloy later moved to Rensselaer, New York, where he continued to publish. By 1987, he was running a zine BBS, one of the first associated with an underground publication.[3]In 1990, Cari Goldberg Janice and (briefly) Jacob Rabinowitz joined as co-editors.[4]Gunderloy quit publishing Factsheet Five following the completion of Issue #44 in 1991.[2]

Hudson Luce purchased the rights to Factsheet Five and published a single issue, Issue #45, with the help of BBS enthusiast Bill Paulouskas, cartoonist Ben Gordon, writer Jim Knipfel, and artist Mark Bloch, who had authored a mail art-related column called “Net Works” during the Gunderloy years.[5]

R. Seth Friedman then published the magazine for five years in San Francisco, with the help of Christopher Becker and Jerod Pore, until Issue #64 in 1998. Circulation grew to 16,000 during that time.[6]

Gunderloy currently works as a computer programmer and farmer. He co-authored the book SQL Server 7 in Record Time ISBN 0-7821-2155-1.

Mike Gunderloy’s Factsheet Five Collection of over 10,000 zines and mail art is now held at the New York State Library in Albany, New York, where it occupies 300 cubic feet (8.5 m3).[7] However, only about 4000 zines in the collection have been cataloged.[8] About 1/4 of the zines in the collection are listed on Excelsior, the New York State Library’s electronic catalog; staff of the Manuscripts & Special Collection can help locate other items.[9] Two hundred and forty zines that R. Seth Friedman donated are in the collection of the San Francisco Public Library.[10]

Either World Domination or something about bananas

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

Instead, a quick ‘n dirty review of

Otaku Sexuality
by Saitō Tamaki

Translated by Christopher Bolton,  Introduction by Kotani Mari 

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

The oblique intro:

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

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

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

How Annoying!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilarity ensues…

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

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

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

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

And an introduction to my main complaint about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shogenai..,

Another correspondent invoked by Saitō:

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

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

“The Origins of Asymmetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omne animal post coitum triste

Perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is extremely valuable!

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

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

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

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

Back to Saitō:

Next we get some quick and dirty analysis on Miyazaki:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm… I’ve heard that one before…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moe ishihara web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston we have smut!

Why can’t the rotten girls customize theirs too?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is unworthy of serious scientific endeavor!

Stop it now!

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

Genshiken 86: Hato gets lucky!

Wherein the previously promised post, “Love and only love” gets put off for an examination of the latest chapter of Genshiken, even if I have to work from Bulgarian (?) scan scripts…

scan script provided by "strong girl-boy friends" group

.If Hato should have learned one thing from Madarame, it is: don’t keep the secret envelope taped behind the bookshelf/ desk. That being said, Hato just got more intimate female attention and skinship than he has ever had in his whole life. If that don’t have some effect, at least in terms of appreciation for what a determined fujoshi girl can do to make a young trap’s body go weak and heart sing, then Hato’s next clothing spree should be for monk’s cloth. The shock of the envelope reveal is going to pass a lot sooner than the memory of what he felt on his neck.

No turning that smooch/lick on the neck into “fantasy is fantasy”.

Will Hato now go all Kuchiki whenever he sees Sue and demand a rematch?
Subdue me! Subdue me!

Will he start drawing fake yuri wrestling ecchi scenes?

How will he draw? If the volume extras are to be taken as canonical, he needs at least a bra and pantsu to be able to draw in fujoshi-mode. Perhaps a sports bra and gym shorts will now suffice.

And what of Sue? Nurturing the impression that a cross-dressing, yaoi reading, pr0n drawing Hato could possibly be drawn to a 3D Madarame, especially after seeing him fixate on Mada’s neck was a reasonable reconciliation of fantasy and reality, and one that would also brush away any nagging stirrings of interest she felt developing towards Madarame, if any was developing. What a shock to now be responsible for:

1) finding Hato’s embarrassing secret;
2) committing the politically incorrect sin of trying to impose a sexuality on a friend who had been previously bullied in such a manner (she might have been trying to signal that she was supportive of Hato “coming out” – Oooops!);
3) killing his crossdressing hobby;
4) ruining any chance for him to discover his innermost desire to jump Madarame and finally
5) causing a small fierce flame with her name on it to be lit in the heart of Hato-kun!

No wonder Sue is hiding over at Ogiue’s apartment.

The reverse pairing issue had been telegraphed by Ogiue’s previous request for a guest illustration in her next dojin, and Hato had made a point of indicating that he was not too fixated on his favourite pairing orders; something that the casual literature on fujoshi culture tends to emphasise as a trope of the tribe, along with the attendant “pairing fight”. But drawing his analogue as a trap and as uke to a sou-uke is about as transgressively abject as Genshiken-version fujoshidom could get without hauling out whips and chains.

Other correspondents have pointed out that Hato and his puppet-master both have too much invested for him to make a completely clean break with his cross-dressing and quasi-fujoshi habits. Perhaps we will finally get a whiff of Mizoguchi and have Hato blurt out “yeah, but women draw it“. Shimoku-sensei is going to have a lot of fun elaborating on how he undergoes a process of radical disenchantment. Since the Genshiken-as-social is coming up on being a ten-year project for its creator, I would expect that the failures and successes of the emergence of Hato V2 will mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the club.

One of those strengths is Madarame’s acceptance. It needs to be shown as a strength and not an opening/ holes/ vulnerability (Shimoku-sensei has telegraphed this a few times) and he needs to pass it on.

Another strength is the Genshiken’s newly revived record of cooperative productivity, at least while under female stewardship. I have gone on too much previously on how both Ogiue’s and Hato’s high school groups were bad socials (they bullied and produced nothing as a group – the University manga club is not too useful either) The Genshiken’s productivity can also be measured in terms of its members’ personal growth: Ogiue with Sass and then with Hato, Sue, Yajima, Rika and the rest of the irregulars created some respectable publication output but the process also helped “create” Ogiue and to a certain extent Sasahara. Ohno and Tanaka have gained as much from Genshiken-enabled cosplay as they have put in. Madarame’s failure to launch could be taken as a sign of the weakness of the club in helping a hardcore male otaku, or it could have saved his life. Who knows how worse he would have been without it?

Lots of us western Genshiken fans have been clamoring for more Sue back story (Moar Sue super-powers! Where is her cloaked Gernsbeck M9A ???) but Madarame is equally enigmatic. We know Ogiue’s and Hato’s past traumas, some hints about Yajima and Rika a bit about Ohno, less about Tanaka a tiny hint about Kuchiki, but nothing at all yet about Madarame (or the Prez and Kugayama for that matter, but they have left the stage).

What did Madarame do with himself before university? What is his background, and how does he (or his parents) pay for a degree at a reasonably prestigious university? How did he become an otaku? Why did he give up on 3D females? Can he socialize with guys beyond the confines of a safe, male-otaku enclave like the Genshiken? What women fluster him into his uber-geek-creep mode and to what extent is he now comfortable with the Genshiken fujoshi tribe?

The earlier incarnation of Madarame could be manic in his enthusiasms and prideful in his knowledge of his favorite bits of fannishness. His embarrassment in the face of women when the libidinous,”creepy” side of his hobbies spilled out would cause him to retreat into even more stereotypically creepy otaku behaviour: a form of pre-emptive self-sabotage that always ended with him declaring that he is only interested in his fantasy world anyway, and therefore harmless. There was a point to his geek-out routine as a reply to the gesture by Kousaka and the gang: it was consciously self-ironic. The brief return of the “old Madarame”; the first time as tragedy, the second time as playful farce.

Gailbraith interviewed fujoshi who spoke of “graduating out” to meet real world responsibilities. Is there any literature on male otaku “graduation” besides Train Man vs Radio Wave Man? So far the issue is studied only in passing: when a maladjusted loner goes berserk, or when a publicity seeking geek spokesman marries his favourite video game character.

Any talk of graduating out, and it surely exists on 2chan, puts professor Saito’s reality x fantasy pronouncements under pressure. The tug between the two extremes is not specific to otaku or Japan. Western geeks had their fiawol and fijagh as early as the 1960’s. I still need to find a digest of Prof Saito’s arguments to see if his assertions ground in present-day sociology, but clearly the ability to keep reality and fantasy separate exists along a continuum for any population.

To admit cultural difference is no error: one has only to look at the differences between American and Canadian house lots and the Japanese practice of walling off their compounds to discern a certain higher regard for privacy and the separation of public and private space. But these practices have history and reasons behind them. Japan is a crowded place, neighbours are too damn close all the time and codes of behaviour are socially enforced. Middle class patterns of land use borrow from historical upper class models. Obviously people need some place to retreat to and psychic personal space will serve when physical personal space is hard to find. There is little in the way of a societal zeitgeist regarding platonic ideals required to set up a strong :public is public” x “private is private” distinction in society. After all, this is the free societal space that otaku and fujoshi inhabit. The term otaku literally means “of the house” or something like “man [or woman] of the house”. (Squire or esquire; a property owner, is a close approximation and equally archaic/ inappropriately formal in original use). The only transgression occurs when the boundaries are breached.

Saito’s hypothesis has pop-culture followers. Recall Honda Toru’s Radio-Wave Man manifesto as a response to Train Man:

“In 2005, Honda Toru published Dempa Otoko, or “The Radiowave Man”, a manifesto condemning Densha Otoko for depicting otaku as immature individuals who must “grow up” and accept social roles and responsibilities. Honda criticized the story for failing to understand the true nature of otaku, showing little more than how to participate in commercialized “love capitalism” (ren’ai shihon-shugi) by dressing nicely, buying gifts and going on dates to trendy spots; that is, how to engage in proper acts of consumption. What the franchise misses, according to Honda, is that otaku do not need to be redeemed or rehabilitated by romance with the opposite sex — or even with living creatures. Honda advocates finding love with two-dimensional characters, which offers a chance to achieve, or resuscitate, a “pre-social” masculinity.27 This love does not end in childbirth, marriage, sex or even courtship; its distinctiveness in part lies in its unconsummated fantasy potential. In this way it offers a way out of the “real,” or the “body politic centered by the reproductions of family” (Allison 2000, p. 173). Thus, for Honda, Densha otoko not only misses, but also jeopardizes one of the few truly counter-hegemonic masculinities available to young men in Japan today.“

http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2011/SlaterGalbraith.html

Hato’s character seems to be constructed in such a way as to push the limits of the private x public/ fantasy x reality opposition to extremes. As such, he can be seen as a continuation of themes that started with Ogiue’s high school “sin” and Madarame’s absolutist “néant” (1) position – a position that mirror’s Honda’s.

Kio Shimoku has played this chord before, it is reasonable to assume we will hear more of it.

Hato’s journey of disenchantment and then accommodation (or crisis and dialectical synthesis) is just beginning. Or Shimoku-sensei will deploy Risa in full girl-to-boy crossdresser mode and set her after Hato-kun, so no matter how hard he tries, he still ends up in gender confusion land.

As for Madarame, he needs a new lurv interest to make a tangle work. Perhaps he will surprise the heck out of Keiko next time and call her bluff by inviting her out of a not- at-your- club rai-ju Saturday afternoon date. He must have some familiarity with Train Man (or its Genshiken- verse analogue) and he has, through Saki learned the value of better grooming and dress. In his mind, while Keiko the pest would be completely off-limits for romance or club visitation action she would make a great safe practice date. And that might get her off his case too! All he has to do is behave well so that Sasahara doesn’t get annoyed. She isn’t an otaku, her job makes her a financial predator that trades on male loneliness and longing and her previous teenage Gayaru misbehaviour and lack of University socialization paint her with lower class behaviours and ambitions. Never underestimate social class subtexts in Japanese manga or larger Japanese society. No danger that she will pop up dressed as his favourite loli 2D chara and break his heart, but it would stir the pot a bit.

About time for Genshiken love triangle/ quadrangle/ tangle, along the lines of a Shakespearean love comedy. At least no one is yet smitten with a donkey.

Then again, there is always Kuchiki.

random endnotes:

1) lit. “the deny-er”. Used metaphorically against the classic catholic concept of the turning from god as absolute sin, see for example Carbonne14‘s Le Dortoir: In the full version, a man returns the the ruined orphanage dormitory of his youth, enters the classroom, sees the word “dieu” (god) on the chalkboard, angrily rubs it out and gets ready to blow his brains out.. See most of it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yzrUH2bBNE. And yes, you should grab a beer and watch the whole effing thing, because it is damn fine!

The place promised in earlier days: On Usotsuki Lily

It’s like Japanese women’s pornography, without the pornography… (TM)

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/UsotsukiLily
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_(magazine)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayumi_Komura
http://usotsukilily.wikia.com/wiki/Usotsuki_Lily_Wikia fan wikia, somewhat empty; there is no english language wikipedia entry yet.

Note: Spoiler warning! It seemed unfair to so use this manga without giving it a thorough treatment (that goes on wayyyy too long), so spoilers ensue… 

A year ago, I mentioned Usotsuki Lily (lit: playfully lying lily/yuri) as part of the “trap-lite” (Much Later: I need a new term, as the T-word is harmful. For now;) Josou-lite wave that gained prominence in Japanese manga over the last five years. Plenty of theory-powder has been burnt over “dissatisfaction with gender roles in contemporary Japanese society”, however the trend seemed to produce very little but low-level titillation and plenty of harmless fluff. When pushed to the wall it could always retreat into historicism, given japanese cultural traditions in theatre and the “floating world”.

“The jouso- lite is like a superhero with stupid powers – given a small chance to force society into a truce, for a few moments, in a small place…”

Central to the effort were bishie- looking young male characters that had a tenuous plot-device “reason” besides sexuality and/or gender expression to play as a female persona. While the frisson of homoeroticism was always part of the story formula, “real” homosexuality was always kept off stage, or at least confined to the chorus. As well, the overwhelming majority of these stories were extremely chaste, as befitting high school and young adult love comedies.

Besides, the idea that a good-looking representation of a young person, preferably male, could be drawn to look good in both gender roles seemed to be an easy shojo manga formula for drawing twice the eye candy.

Androgyny makes a mangaka’s job easier.

Sexually active main characters were relegated to darker works which emphasised pathology, criminality and abuse.

Of course I missed a few things…

ON VIOLENCE AND SOCIAL CAPITAL:

“I and the public know, what all schoolchildren learn.
Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return”  
— W.H. Auden

As mentioned in the earlier post, there were a few problems with the approach. One was the tendency to indulge in the trope that a cross-dressing male could “teach” a young female how to better present herself as a female, or reveal some heretofore hidden female essential characteristic. I guess this is fine if one sees all gender as performative – otherwise it is patronising as all heck.

Another major problem was the idea that somehow youthful gender dysphoria could be met with grudging, non-violent derision that would quickly move towards group solidarity and acceptance. “Look how adult and broad-minded we all are!” becomes the watch-word of the group, standing in proxy for the reader.

Meanwhile, contemporary Japan experiences ever-growing levels of violent school bullying, sometimes leading to injury and death, often by suicide. You don’t have to suffer from gender dysphoria issues – any odd kid can get targeted.

As laudable is the project of trying to promote social norms of tolerance and understanding within a manga narrative, one has to take any such efforts as (as mentioned previously) water wearing away at a stone.

“Tolerance” has never stopped bullying before, there is no reason to assume it will now. Bullying only stops when ALL fellow students, teachers, principals, parents and the police ruthlessly suppress it %110 of the time, and these seldom have the time or energy to do so unless they face an overwhelming reason to do so.

In North America, the reason at least for good middle-class schools boils down to one word: Columbine.

Given the strict controls over firearms and bladed weapons in Japan, one can not see any such admittedly horrific shift in potentialities arising.

The only thing that seems to suppress bullying in Japanese schools is over-work. The relentless pressure to attend cram schools, as documented in The Making of Japan’s New Working Class: “Freeters” and the Progression From Middle School to the Labor Market by David H. Slater (you read high school manga? You should really read about the real thing in Japan!)  serves to suck up every last-minute of spare time for middle-class youth. This of course is never mentioned in school-situated manga, lest all the characters suddenly vanish. The greatest myth of the accepting high-school/ junior college social is that there are any students left to socialize and form one. So much as well for after-school club activities.

Despite this harsh reality, the idealised fantasy social spaces provided by manga serve an important aspirational purpose – a fantasy safe space and play space, while introducing and promoting to their readers implied concepts of attitudinal social capital.

Japanese mangakas sooner or later always get preachy. Because they keep in active contact with their fans, they also tend to assume a mediating position towards diverse fan desires, and inevitably are tempted towards offering an idealised vision of a social space, along with model behaviours that lead to ‘character growth”.

We do not need the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to explain this for us; the notion of setting down a social class-linked hierarchy of preferred modes of behaviour towards uncertain situations gives a strong whiff of the processes that Boubou’s tribe of sociologists (as well as the Chicago school of Sociology before him) have been harping on for decades. You may be born into a social class, but you exercise this distinction through your behaviour. Your knowledge of these behaviours and the opportunity to grow familiar with and use them, as well as who you can use them on, is your “social capital”.

Once again in shojo manga, in a somewhat mainstream example (as opposed to the odd derivative bl/yaoi variants), the idea of nudging a canon (which would contain an analogue or reflection of a social structure with prefered modes of behavior and ways of deploying social capital) in a certain direction pops up.

ON THE FANTASY OF UN-GENDERED SPACES:

Ed Wood: “I like to dress in women’s clothing.”
George Weiss: “You’re a fruit?”
Ed Wood: “No, not at all. I love women. Wearing their clothes makes me feel closer to them.”
George Weiss: “You’re not a fruit?”
Ed Wood: “No, I’m all man. I even fought in W.W.2. Of course, I was wearing women’s undergarments under my uniform.”

— Ed Wood (used as lead for the Wholesome Crossdresser page at TVtropes. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WholesomeCrossdresser)

Uso Lily starts out with the paper-thin premise that Hinata, a “normal girl” who wants a hot boyfriend is suddenly smitten by the sight of a never-seen-before good-looking male fellow student. There is of course a reason why she hasn’t seen him before; he usually attends school dressed very convincingly as a girl. Because this series runs in Margaret Magazine, the drawing style and plotting is pure shojo manga style. That means wispy bishie hair, big expressive eyes, thin androgynous bodies on both sexes, and plenty of flare effects and floral backgrounds in the D’Awwwwww! moments. There is plenty of desire, chaste yearning, communication failures, shyness, relationship angst and growing pains – all played for laughs, and no actual sex. (Much later: they finally do become a couple, and it is so considerate, romantic and sweet as to almost defy belief – D’Awwwwwwwww…)

Because “fated love” plays a privileged role in the genre, it turns out that the boy, En Shinohara only reverted to male dress because he was smitten when he saw her only moments before. D’Awwwwww!

The whole point of a shojo manga like Uso lily is to provide a steady barrage of such D’Awwwwww! moments. One could run a drinking game with them and get seriously poisoned in no time flat. Note: fear the unfiltered sake in big bottles! You have been warned!

The mangaka, Ayumi Komura routinely breaks the “fourth wall” and all but proclaims this as the purpose behind the series. Every single shojo manga plot trope that drifts by will be grabbed and stuffed into the nabe pot, along with one new magic ingredient: all characters will be nudged into crossdressing as much as possible, for any reason.

usolily explained

Hijinx ensue.

If this sounds like a mess, it is a surprisingly effective one. Please note that there is no current english language wikipedia entry for this series, (see above for an incomplete fan wikia site) so a bit of summary is necessary. The fact that the mangaka is also rather careless about naming her characters and resorts to reader contests to finish their names gets in the way of fannish summarizations. (Anyone so inclined can feel free to poach any of the following, to remedy this)

The boy En crossdresses because he grew up in a family of quirky guys, the majority of whom are a bit too prone to chase skirts, or in the case of one brother, anything that moves. (His youngest brother is the most sensible; he’s matter-of-fact-ly gay) En gets viscerally angry at male misbehaviour to the extent that the sight of men (including his own reflection in a mirror) makes him lash out violently. He can control himself most of the time when he sees his brothers and when in female dress. Later he learns more self-control and will simply vomit/ cough up a bit of blood when exposed to “annoying guys”.

En can defend himself, but seldom has to. The threat of male violence never comes from guys who want to beat “that fucking faggot” to within an inch of his life. There is no gay-bashing, queer-bashing or trannie bashing in this small portion of manga-land. The only threat of violence comes from mild-mannered delinquents who mistakenly hit on En when he is in drag, or when he puts himself in front of girls (or his sweetie Hinata’s meek salaryman dad) who are so threatened and then explodes in rage at the miscreants. “Surprise assholes! I’m a guy! Grrrrrrrrrr! foam at mouth!” So far all the miscreants have been weirded out by this and have run off without beating him to a pulp. To be fair, when Hinata got in trouble with a groper, while trying to save him from acting as groper bait, he did manage a solid roundhouse punch. He then decided that he will aim for a job as a cop-in-drag when he grows up. Time for him to start taking Judo.

En holds an extremely romanticized view of women: they are wonderful all the time in all ways, and any character faults they display are a result of male misbehaviour/ male societal oppression. His crossdressing is all about surface appearance – an homage to this ideal. His desires are heterosexual and naively romantic, hence his fascination with Hinata, the “normal” girl. Her normality makes her his ideal woman, in the sense of a platonic ideal that represents and embodies all women (which neatly takes care of the family tendency towards a roving eye). He has lines that he will not cross(dress): no pantsu (he wears boxer shorts) and no bras (though he will don falsies and bra for “special ops”). He wears wigs to give him the right girlish look. He also has no unwanted body hair, “because this a cross-dressing manga” explains the mangaka.

The gal Hinata Saotome is normal and cute enough (I guess she serves as some kind of stand-in for the young female readership), but worries continually that her boyfriend is cuter then her. She wishes he would just stop cross-dressing, but comes to realise that she can wait for his little problem to gradually work itself out, lest he get physically sick from crossdressing withdrawal. Besides, she lacks self-confidence and En in drag is less likely to attract any other girls (though he does attract the occasional guy)

En avoids the annoying trope of “showing the real girl how to dress better” by being not completely skilled in cross-dressing by himself. It turns out that his oldest bother An, a lecherous, polymorphously perverse beautician/ fashion consultant is the one who dresses him; originally to stop En from smashing the bathroom mirror every morning and later because it is fun to see how cute he can make his younger brother look. Unlike Genshiken’s Hato, En has not confessed to any “I like it – its my hobby!” sentiment.

(Much later: he does eventually get around to admitting that it is fun and then proceeds to make up for lost time in the “I like it – its my hobby!” department. The mangaka then throws a corrective at him.)

Their mother is strong, independent, slighty weary of her hubby’s wandering eye and absent for five-year stretches, so the rest of the brood including their father is quite happy with En’s habits. When older brother An gets a magical manga-flu he will sexually harass anyone, including his brothers. He is devoted to his job and his customers – especially if they are cute women (cute guys are ok too) and keeps closets full of clothes and accessories. An could cross-dress a small army, and is often called to work his magic on En’s school friends.

The “middle” brother Ken, is a fairly normal womanizing guy. The youngest brother Ten is “no-big-deal” gay, and does not adopt any stereotypical negative “gay” behaviour patterns. He is just a normal good-natured young guy who happens to like guys, specifically one guy…

Hinata has a younger brother Taiyou, a “normal” mom and dad, and recently a puppy. Her father’s initial resistance to En as boyfriend centered only on the societal difficulty that having a cross-dressing guy for a future husband would cause their daughter. No visceral reaction against the boyfriend’s kink was displayed. As for the younger brother Taiyou, he is also extremely normal and wishes he could fall in love with a nice girl. He has of course been pressured into crossdressing to fill in for Hinata, and resembles her strongly in this state, but in this manga everyone gets cross-dressed eventually. En’s youngest brother Ten has a youthful gay crush on him that is not appreciated, but is refused without too much over-reaction.

We will return to Taiyou: the mangaka has plans for him..

Hinata’s school friends represent little more than a chance for the mangaka to play cupid and come up with ever more implausible reasons for cross-dressing. They are all extremely accepting, and the rest of the school is mostly tolerant and well-behaved because of the charm of “good-looking” and/or “cute” guys and girls overrides any “Ewyuck” factor. Male teachers can be fooled into letting En crossdress with a few fake tears, female ones get accessorizing advice (relayed from An) to buy them off. The majority of the boys at the school either don’t care or find En to be novelty eye-candy. The girls occasionally get jealous at his presentation of as a girl, but then En gets all “all women are the best” preachy and bores them to tears with effusive praise. Besides they find him cute to look at as well, and when he reverts to male dress, his “hot-ness” excuses all his sins.

This last bit gives the mangaka a chance to deliver body image confidence lectures to stand-ins for her female readership. All girls are goddess-derived, and as such have only to realise their innate personal gifts and confidently highlight them. Dieting is dangerous and unnecessary, anorexia is never mentioned. This over-romantic view of all womankind makes Hinata worry, but only to the degree that En can then heap routine love-struck praise on her. Of course En also worries that other guys will figure out that Hinata is the perfect ideal girl and woo her away from him – a possibility that she is oblivious to.

This routine is deployed to full extent with the tall shy girl Gotou-san (Keane Gotou) She’s pitiable and ungainly, but after an En pep-talk, she has her own epiphany when she decides to try a bit of androgynous dress. Shazaaam! She is admired by all. Girls swoon for her (she is the main back up girl-girl plot device) while guys find her strangely enticing. She develops self-confidence and poise, though at one point she seeks out En, then An for girly-girl fashion advice. (In the language of the TVtropes site she is a Bi-faux-nen; a manga character favourite variant of the Bishonen, lifted from the otokoyaku/ male-role actress Takarazuka tradition.) She has the class rep, a quiet guy, in her sights. It’s all good though; she doesn’t even need the makeover – class rep Souichirou Aikawa, sees her only as a girl, even if she wears a boy’s school uniform and as his perfect woman. Heartfelt D’Awwwwww! moments ensue.

Other class friends get paired off as fast as the side-stories for them can be rolled out. This is shojo manga after all, and pairing off young love is %98 of the exercise. (D’Awwwwww!) Everything cranked out by the theory mills about relationships in BL/yaoi goes double for straight-up shojo. Childhood friends Kojirou Amakusa (a Samurai enthusiast) and the kendo champ girl Komachi Ashiya, daughter of a kendo dojo running mother and a mangaka who specializes in historical samurai epics are of course fated for each other, and of course he has to ‘win her hand’ in an overly cute story arc. (D’Awwwwww!) Otherwise, the mangaka just enjoys drawing them, especially Kojirou, who alway appears in samurai cosplay dress. He also speaks in affected oldee- tyme-ee Japanese.

Then there are the two pairs of twins at the school – this makes its own gravy. The girls Emi and Niko Hashimoto, (their sole characteristic at first, besides being twins, is that they are manga enthusiasts and lousy cooks) quickly capture the hearts of the boys Rio and Rui Sawamura, who let on that they were waiting for the girls to make a move, because they were “fated on a biological level” to be together (D’Awwwwww!). Later it turns out that one of the couples is adept at seeing spirits.

Naoto, a cynical and somewhat touchy guy is one of En’s only male friends. A bit of rotten girl innuendo is deployed at first over this, but his excuse for not having a girlfriend is that he is a bit of a melancholy jerk, and that he “only likes older women with big boobs”

It doesn’t take long before an equally cynical, somewhat more mature looking upper-classwoman notices him. (D’Awwwwww!) Sempai aka Reina Kojima is a “carnivorous woman” only in the sense that she speaks her mind, will punch out anyone who gives her trouble, and carries a miniature cat-tiger-pet (the size of a large rat) on her shoulder. She also has cleavage, so Naota is in heaven, even if he won’t admit it. Later it develops that he has a reason for his sour (read asshole) behaviour: He is the son of a very rich, self-made construction magnate who is a controlling paranoid tyrant. Reina has her hands full getting tyrant dad to smarten up and accept their love. She repays the favour by laying down the law on Naoto that he is going to take his duties as successor to the family empire more seriously. (D’Awwwwww!)

The pair come with side characters too, childhood friend/ butler Kage (lit. shadow, he needs to be paired up) and the suggestion that Reina’s mini – tiger-thing pet “Rawr” is the reincarnation of a sick boy who befriended and defended a then weak and bullied Reina in grade school only to die during an operation. (Much later: turns out he was only in a coma – lets see if the mangaka finds him a nice house cat.)

The mangaka also devotes a few bonus chapters to a few of the older guys and how they met their loves (the cafe’s owner, the mangaka father) for some more obligatory D’Awwwwww!. And there are a few new characters that can be dragged out into the light to pair off cutely, especially after some flimsy plot device gets everyone to crossdress.

It is important to note that no character suffers from any identifiable gender dysphoria issues. No one “feels like an x in a y’s body”. In the Uso Lily -verse an assumed gender role is not so much performative of an underlying desire, as it is cosplay; fashion and clothing.

Since I am wasting effort on this thing, why not include a few typical western fan responses:

“I apologise for the lack of summary. It’s long and I can’t get over the cross-dressing. This is for Fujioshi. Enjoy”. (http://ankemaybe.blogspot.ca/2010/09/usotsuki-lily.html)

“I love their personality. xD It’s also one of the few mangas I found that a guy loves cross-dressing. The art is also very nice! I recommend this manga to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, comedy, gender bender, romance, and shoujo”. (http://shorenx.blogspot.ca/2010/12/usotsuki-lily.html)

“It really is twisted but at the same time really cute, funny and sweet! Manga lovers out there should definitely try this one! Hope this becomes an anime! XD”. (http://firstblogpaige.blogspot.ca/2011/05/usotsuki-lily-manga-my-recent-favorite.html)

“Even though I personally am not into this kind of genre with a deep shoujo sense, I though this was an interesting story. The art is really good, but Saotome’s personality isn’t really played out well (in the first chapter at least). I also like the base of the story because its simple and flowing, which makes a good manga. One with no detailed storylines are hard to follow that’s why they tend to be disliked by younger people, (because usually they are Seinen manga)”. (http://mangachaos.blogspot.ca/2012/11/usotsuki-lily-review.html)

“This is an ongoing manga by Ayumi Komura; it’s a story of romance, comedy, gender bender and school life, I totally recommend this manga to anyone that enjoy a cute and innocent story about love and of course to those who like to laugh with the ironic situations of life”. (http://maujg.blogspot.ca/2011/06/usotsuki-lily-manga-review.html)

“This plays out as an episodic romantic comedy, so there are tons of ridiculous situations for our two leads, and plenty of laughs to be had every chapter. The romance that slowly develops between them is sweet too, in its own strange, special way. The side characters in the series also have rather peculiar romances, which makes the story all the more amusing (such as two sets of twins falling for each other, and a boy and girl who acted as role models for a manga artist’s samurai comic). On top of this, the author of Usotsuki Lily enjoys breaking the fourth wall from time to time, and pokes fun at herself and the comic, clearly aware at just how ridiculous the manga is. =D”. (http://yumestate.com/2011/shoujo-manga-shoucase/#more-2596)

We can take these as a qualified endorsement that the formula is working.

ON RELATIONSHIP PORN:

Rachel Matt Thorn was not the only researcher to note how the tropes of shojo manga carried over to its derivatives in BL, (and later in yaoi) but she was one of the first. The point seems so simple it is often glossed over, but it remains a defining characteristic of the genre. Perhaps an analogy can give it prominence: Martin Amis once remarked that science fiction was a lot like colonial literature, that the setting played such a prominent role as to be a secondary main character. Yes; the moon is a harsh mistress. In a similar vein, the relationship dynamics of shojo manga is a secondary character/landscape/substance of the narrative just as it is in other derivative forms of girl’s romance stories, BL (and yaoi that ventures beyond simple fuck mise-en-scenes).

Back to Hinata’s younger brother Taiyou. The mangaka uses him like a wedge to crack open a wall and slip a few idealised gay characters into a very heteronormative manga-land. More important is why they are there. Expanding the relationship dynamics of a story beyond simple heteronormative pairings expands the potential field of narrative exponentially. Even by simple dint of mathematics, one can see the appeal to authors. The only danger lies in taking it too far:

polymorphous Ten usotsuki_lily

“If anyone can pine for anything, then no pining is interesting”. (TM)

Expanding the field to include well-behaved young gay male characters is “daringly transgressive”, on another level, it is still profoundly conservative. And because of the continuous crossdressing, the effect can safely provide some fun gender boundary “blur” while providing lots of bonus rotten-girl squeeeeee lite.

En’s youngest brother Ten has fixated on Taiyou, even though there is a guy called Saeki who yearns for Ten. Previously Taiyou had seen this wonderful girl at school, and had fallen for her. Well, that was embarrassing – ya fell for your older sister’s crossdressed boyfriend. Taiyou does not continue to fixate, (much) nor does he hurl himself off a bridge; he just wants a cute girlfriend – one who is a girl.

Ten gets wind that Taiyou is helping out at the plot contrivance cafe where Hinata and En work, and has a brilliant idea. He will go see Taiyou cross-dressed (because he looks “almost” like his brother in drag), and will drag along a friend Saeki because the cafe only serves couples. Meanwhile Taiyou is not officially an employee at the cafe; he is just filling in for Hinata who has a bad cold, so of course he is crossdressed as well. Did I mention the “any excuse” rule in this manga?

not handing over usotsuki_lily

Hijinx ensue and Taiyou agrees to later meet with Ten to try to sort things out. Saeki will tag along for the meetup too. Ten decides to show up crossdressed and turn it into a “date”. Jealousy ensues. Saeki starts acting petty, as the whole mess starts sliding towards rotten girl territory fast.

Taiyou gets jostled, tripped and finally pushed into a fountain by Saeki, all while Ten, still in drag pretends to be oblivious to the bullshit. While Ten-chan is off getting a towel, Taiyou gets pissed off at Saeki and tries for a simple resolution.

Cue the shojo relationship porn:

austin 1 usotsuki_lilyMoments later…

austin 2 usotsuki_lilyThen…

austin 3 usotsuki_lily

What to make of this “comedy of errors”? The two young gay males don’t come off very realistic, but at least nobody goes into “mr. hard gay comedy shock routine” or “yaoi seme mode“. Instead it is all feelings, “feelings, feelings, nothing more than feelings” for the next 20 pages.

Young (and very chaste) male-male yearning is represented politely, as a matter of fact – in the sense that no one goes into tainted love/ ughh- thats- gross/ abject mode, but at the same time these are not young males speaking their lines. They are some kind of idealised ultra-sensible BL critters that think (and speak) like (female) updated Jane Austen characters.

Ten is in troublesome, scheming-mode even as he blurts out his plans to worm his way into “normal” Taiyou’s attention, but at the same time “doesn’t want to lose Saeki as a friend.” Saeki’s pettiness is revealed as (rather mild all things considered) hopeless yearning turned into jealousy, and Taiyou is left soaked and completely confused by the complicated mess he’s stuck in the middle of; one that will not resolve with a simple “here: you do this, you do that, problem solved!“. As a bonus, he gets a full declaration of love from a crossdressed Ten.

While Taiyou is caught in the middle, he remains a good-natured well-behaved person so he does not spit venom and abjection at Ten, or Saeki. He even has a bit of empathy for both of them. Perhaps that Ten could soon be an in-law counts as a reason for a good behavior imperative in Japanese manga-land? Later Saeki gets dragged over to Hinata and Taiyou’s house, with Ten in tow to apologize for his petty behaviour. Taiyou gets to ask why? “Why fall for a guy when you look normal and could get a nice girl?”

Pride lecture time usotsuki_lily
Suddenly Saeki gets the high moral ground. Note that Saeki does not pull a 1970’s BL oath defending his need to live truthfully in the manner that so moved so many 1970’s female readers. Society has changed. There is likewise no need for the problematic “I’m not gay but” line. Instead it is an assured “I know what I like“. The Saeki character might be revealed as still a BL trope – a “normal” guy who just gets fixated on a “special one and only” but the dynamic has been updated so as to wiggle past any of the old-style insulting “I’m not gay, but” tropes.

In the end lots of friendzoning ensues.

Score 3 wins for the Mangaka. First she gets to preach from high moral ground, and she gets to deploy some light BL candy-floss for her (assumed mostly female) readership. Finally she does it while slipping past a yaoi-ronso faux-pas; which both gains and promotes social capital! Win-win-win!

The Mangaka is not yet finished with Taiyou:

A few chapters later he spots a plain but somewhat cute glasses girl/ young woman up a tree, meets cute (she falls on him) and ends up working at her oddball craft store. How the store pays the rent is a mystery, as the craft items can get downright creepy. The girl/woman/ proprietor is more than a bit odd and introverted, and only keeps the store going as an excuse to see her childhood female friend, who routinely drops by. Taiyou fades into the background. Her childhood friend departs…

Soon it is revealed that store-girl has a long standing unrequited crush on her friend, but will never, never, never speak dare its name… Except to Taiyou. Wow! an honest- to- goodness female homosexual character in a chaste shojo manga! A potential for real yuri, or at least some shojo-ai. That puts Lily one, no wait, three, perhaps four sympathetic gay characters up on Genshiken.

Of course, the friend is oblivious to this, and worries that store-girl is not getting on with her life. A solution is at hand: prod young Taiyou into making nice at store-girl, then bow out of the picture. Sure enough, store-girl gets very sad when her friend stops visiting, and then gets surprised when young Taiyou confesses that he likes store-girl, even though he understands (sigh!) that she probably can’t reciprocate. “Oh well!” says she, “why not try being normal”. Taiyou gets a girlfriend.

D’Awwwwww!   …    Whooops!

A Mangaka who routinely breaks fourth wall to interact with her readers can expect more than a few negative comments on this, especially since she sets herself up as an expert at current politically correct tolerance in Margaret Magazine – land. Is the mangaka seriously suggesting that lesbians just need to find the right guy to get “cured”?

Of course not, it is just an excuse to pull Ten back out of the plot sack.

Ten, who can’t help keeping apprised of what Taiyou is doing with his life (not being quite a young gay stalker…) sees the happy new couple in the store window and then sits on a park bench as the snow falls lightly: “It was inevitable, best to cry a bit and let it go” (aint shojo manga over the top!) But wait: next bench down is store-girl’s friend crying too!

D’Awwwwww!

Of course, only a sympathetic young gay gentleman can politely offer a handkerchief to this crying woman, all while explaining that his motives are pure because of course… Two seconds later crying woman admits to herself and this stranger that she must be feeling sad because she always had real feelings for store-girl that she had denied for so long. And now she has set them up and lost her friend forever Bwahhaaahh!

Time for the amazing super powers of young be- true- to- yourself- gay- guy to appear and save the day!

Uso Lily Ten gets serious1

And…

Uso Lily Ten gets serious2
And of course Ten is rewarded for his impulsiveness when he discovers that her crush is the same girl who has gotten together with Taiyou.

When Taiyou leaves the store all happy, he gets to hear that he now has a female rival for store-girl’s affections (the same person who set him up) and that pest-boy (ooops be-true to yourself gay guy) is helping her. Taiyou already knows that store-girl really wants crying-girl and will undoubtedly do the right thing. Only store-girl remains in the dark.

A proper respectful, sensitive resolution is guaranteed. Cross-dressing will be implemented as part of an ungainly plan to salve the feelings of store-girl and move her towards a moment of personal acceptance and courage to confess her feelings for her childhood love. Happy somewhat adult women friends will go off into the sunset, move to Kamakura and adopt a few cats.

Taiyou will end up girlfriendless again after a lot of goggle-bait is trotted about, but he is young and this will make him a far nobler character and a great catch when some girl his age target locks on him. Ten might even snap out of it and make Saeki happy.

This is like some interminable Shakespearian shepherd tryst.

A CRUSADE FOR MODESTY:

The readership is going to lurv it to death, which causes a bit of cognitive whiplash when one realises how “normal” this manga is for shojo manga in Japan. If this thing was made in the USA, the mangaka would soon find her house under siege from fundamentalist haters.

In certain countries the mangaka could risk beheading.

No one can seriously complain that this manga is perverted, it carries with only the frisson of the forbidden within its pages. En and Hinata were given a free luxury hotel room, and room- sneaking opportunities during the school trip but still behaved themselves. Hinata has desires, but is still a bit shy. En’s cross-dressing throws her off a bit too. En has lots of desires too, but is too good at controlling himself, to the point that during intimate opportunity #2 Hinata worries that he has lost interest in her; even though she admits to herself that she will probably just panic and push him away again – he should at least try!

Meanwhile fake samurai boy cannot resist any longer and gets a bit too familiar with kendo girl; He kisses her on the (gasp) collarbone. Yikes! Extreme freak out! “Never touch me again!” “All guys are perverts!” Much guilt and embarrassment on both sides! Long plot arc with D’Awwwwww! and crossdressing to resolve the mess.

Naota/ Reina and the twin couples are left in reserve to repeat the formula on. This could go on for a while. The only constant is “don’t rush things” and that the girl is the ultimate arbiter of when and what degree of intimacy feels right. Full sexual romance is seen as a mark of adulthood. You also get red bean paste cakes to celebrate. (this is another common trope, deployed in this manga to cause embarrassment in cautious couples).

What puzzles me is why I keep peeking in on the mess every few months. I don’t have professor Thorn’s eye for shojo manga, but this thing screams raw sociology at me. It has been happily grinding away since 2009, has 64 plus chapters and looks like a winning recipe. And part of this recipe is its light touch when it comes to scary problems of youthful desire and sexuality, served up with cross-play and heaps of formulaic relationship mush.

“D’Awwwwww!-service”

I doubt that there would even be yaoi (or other) dojins made by rotten girls (or others) on this thing. (Would the author do a Ogiue style “My characters are… whatever… “) It is too sweet and harmless.

Harmless is good.

Harmless can sneak around and do all kinds of worthwhile mischief.

Harmless might even keep some poor oddball youth with or without minoroty sexuality and/or gender identity problems from jumping off a roof, and/ or prod a microscopic few of the riajuu/ hoi polloi into the absorbing the idea that tormenting their oddball classmates is low-class, unacceptable behavior.

Watch how issues are contested in social space. Drip, drip, drip…

Lets leave it to Rachel Matt Thorn to provide the coda:

“In drawings and in words, revolution is easy. In fiction, one can rewrite the world, remodel human relationships, with the stroke of a pen. Here, at the Comic Market and in countless smaller venues throughout the country, throughout the year, women and men paint worlds so outrageous that the mainstream media won’t touch them. But out there, on the lawn, on the street, in the home, in the workplace, the stakes are much higher. Even those who dream the wildest dreams become timid when confronted with the weight and complexity of social reality.

But let us look again. These women and men, dismissed by so many as otaku, as reclusive geeks, are taking small risks. They are crossing lines that many others couldn’t cross. They are finding their own place, making their own way, while most of the societal mainstream takes the easier, socially sanctioned course. They are holding hands, talking to one another, enjoying each other’s company”.

— Matt Thorn, Girls and Women Getting Out of Hand
http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/outofhand/index.php
archived at:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140109042024/http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/outofhand/index.html

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

Thank you Ayumi Komura.

Congratulations and please keep drawing!

1) Updated 2016 to reflect professor Thorn’s prefered pronoun use.

Much Later: Although I never got around to a sequel essay/review on Usolily’s final volumes, the 2016 release of the quasi-doujin “Otokonoko no Koto” (About a Boy)
oneshot by Komura Ayumi prompted me to see if I could pull off an analysis of a prime example of “sparkling fluffy BL”, even if it contained mildly explicit m:m material. See for yourself if it works: “Usotsuki Daisy” ( January 11, 2017 )
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/usotsuki-daisy/

Fujoshi moe-nogatari

Wherein your correspondent reviews another bit of important fujoshi-studies literature, as part of an ongoing survey project to skim through notable articles, try to make sense of them, and then grind them up against Genshiken (or other manga/anime) to see if any sparks fly:

Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/660182  JSTOR: Signs, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Autumn 2011), pp. 211-232 (somehow not locked down in Jstor – grab it before they change their mind)

Galbraith is pretty well unavoidable in the field; when he gets around to looking at fujoshis acting as fujoshis you get to witness a first-rate academic popularizer at work. You get the feeling he has run through the theory/ world interface more than a few times in classes and symposia and knows what he wants to say. If I was still a grad student working in the field, I would be torn between admiration and jealousy. “Goddammit he just grabbed all the good stuff!

Well, there is plenty of fujoshi misbehaviour to go around in Japan, and he has done the fieldwork – lots of fieldwork, so calm down and pay attention! This article and his moe one: Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan are now required reading.

(Big honking quote warning:)

“All of my informants self-identify as fujoshi, a term transforming the Japanese word for ladies into a homonym meaning rotten girls. Fujoshi are rotten because they are enthusiastic about yaoi, a genre of fan-produced fiction and art, usually manga, that places established male characters from commercial anime, manga, and video games into unintended romantic relationships, roughly analogous to “slash” fiction outside Japan (Jenkins 1992; Pagliassotti 2010).

Stories range from depicting boys just holding hands to boys having sex, sometimes roughly, always passionately, and appear as text and images in physical and virtual forms.

Yaoi evolved from the mainstream commercial medium of shojo (for girls) manga and shares the genre’s focus on romance and interpersonal relationships, but yaoi is dedicated to relationships between androgynous men. In a country where patriarchal family values persist, fujoshi are criticized for pursuing yaoi and are described as rotten because they are attracted to fantasies of sex that is not productive of children (Sugiura 2006).

However, fujoshi typically lead heteronormative lives despite their queer fantasies, which they describe as nothing more than play. Indeed, fujoshi consciously situate their fantasy as digression: the term yaoi is an acronym for “no climax, no punch line, no meaning” (yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi). This follows a long tradition in Japan of asobi, or play that is outside the expectations and rules of the everyday (Hendry and Raveri 2002).

Yaoi erases the female in fantasy because female-male or even female-female couples are too close to reality. Male-male couples, by contrast, are positioned as what fujoshi call “pure fantasy” (junsui na fantajı). In this way, yaoi represents what psychoanalyst Saito¯ Tamaki describes as “asymmetrical” desire “deliberately separated from everyday life” (Saito 2007, 245). For fujoshi, fantasy is something that coexists with reality as a separate set of possibilities.

Fujoshi fantasy centers on intimacy. Sharalyn Orbaugh (2010) notes that rape is a common motif in yaoi, but adds that “rape is always motivated by the aggressor’s extreme love and desire for the victim” and “the victim eventually comes to accept and reciprocate the aggressor’s love”. As Orbaugh sees it, yaoi characters are vulnerable and abject (they describe themselves as strange), but they accept each other as true or destined lovers. The bond is key. The characters do not identify as gay (and often outright deny it) but fall in love with someone who happens to be the same-sex; the bond between them is special and ireproducible.

Likewise, yaoi tends to feature the charismatic boys of shonen (for boys) manga. Be they friends or rivals, the characters in these action-adventure stories tend to have very strong feelings for one another. Fujoshi reinterpret touches, words, and glances in shonen manga as indirect expressions of affection: they pick up on implicit tensions in male relations and playfully imagine intimacy. I call this “transgressive intimacy,” or emotional and erotic potential that is latent in the everyday and separate from it. Fujoshi are devoted to exposing and exploring transgressive intimacy in their fiction and art, and among themselves. Some of my informants, even those with boyfriends, described themselves as lesbians.(see orig Mizoguchi fn 9 below)

My informants generally imposed temporal and spatial limits on their contact—they often “do not want to know” one another, as one informant frankly told me, outside of their shared experiences as fujoshi, which tends to focus discussions and interactions on yaoi. Fujoshi relationships, like yaoi relationships, are based on a mutual status as abject and vulnerable (hence fujoshi describe themselves as rotten) and are consciously separated from reality as moments of transgressive intimate potential in fantasy space.

Intimacy among fujoshi is characterized by playful surface interaction. At the most basic level, when the interaction occurs online, it is a construct between the user physically sitting in front of the computer and the other imagined beyond the screen (a flat viewing surface mediating interactions with a fujoshi partner who is not deeply engaged, talking about supposedly “meaningless” fantasy). Philosopher Azuma Hiroki uses the metaphor of the screen to describe the nature of late-stage capitalism as “hyperflatness” (Azuma 2009, 102). Drawing on Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, Azuma theorizes that the grand narrative has broken down, leaving only fragmentary moments of sensual pleasure obsessively reproduced in a flat world without meaning, since meaning was generated by the grand narrative.

This goes a long way toward explaining fan fiction and art, but it fails to explain the sociality and intimacy of sharing these moments of pleasure or sensual intensity. On this point, Suzuki Kensuke has theorized “neta communication” (neta teki komyunike¯shon), or topic-oriented communication in which the topic itself is less important than the communication act (Suzuki 2002).

Neta means material, as in the material a comedian draws on when making jokes on stage. Those needing reference for how such communication functions need look no further than Seinfeld, an American sitcom where a comedian and his friends draw on an endless string of topics from trivial matters in everyday life to fuel discussions that unfold like performances. While extreme in arguing that humans have reverted to buzzing like bees in hive interactions, neta communication theory highlights the importance of the phatic function of language, which seems crucial to understanding fujoshi. Communication and interactions may be surface, but they are not trivial. As Elspeth Probyn (1996) suggests, the social world is a “surface” upon which “all manner of desires to belong are conducted in relations of proximity to each other” .

If you can get the in-journal pdf from the link, the footnotes are easier to manage as they sit at page bottom.. Here’s one that caught my eye:

“9) While there certainly are lesbian fujoshi, and while not wanting to deny my informants their sexual agency, I should point out that it seemed to me that they were using the term “lesbian” not to indicate a sexual orientation but rather to mean “deeply intimate with members of the same-sex.” This sort of intimacy, or special friendship, at girls’ schools is not historically unique (Pflugfelder 2005).”

Shortly following is a footnote that does the big ooooops! on Mizoguchi due to a bit of careless quoting:

“Mizoguchi Akiko (2007) has also worked on lesbianism among yaoi fans and has stated that she “became” a lesbian because of exposure in adolescence (Mizoguchi 2008, vi) “

Whoops! I have previously made noise about this. Let me dig at it a bit more:

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi has to be dealt with in any discussion of yaoi in Japan: Her main thesis posits that while the majority of yaoi consuming Japanese females are “straight”, their social exchange of libidinous material constitutes a “virtual lesbian space”. The puppets look male, but the hands that draw them are female, in a female productive fan community. Her “virtual lesbian” thesis confuses the heck out of “straight’ fujoshi research, to the extent that there is a temptation to fuzzy-fy her stuff and slip by it.  There goes the odd charm of fujoshidom: “normal” Japanese women with perverse desires – as if they were all “real” lesbians, they would be “bent” anyway, so looking at m-m pr0n would be no big stretch: They would be all “virtually butch” or some such rude miscomprehension.

For me, her “virtual lesbian” concept helped me put the whole Genshiken Hato-plot-trick in context (and left me a bit queasy about reading yuri, though I still can’t bring myself to read her fave stuff). Dr. Mizoguchi knows all about yuri, but keeps seeing the male “social” hiding behind the female characters.

One reason I harp on this is that the frank personal testimony that Mizoguchi used in her thesis is what made it real and readable, and while I suspect it might be a tad embellished, the story of a young lesbian isolated in her social using the tropes of a classic BL tales to recover from a painful rejected confession is pure high heroic romanticism!

Lets dig up the Mizoguchi passages in question:

“But of course I had crushes on girl friends prior to that time. Especially serious was one episode with a classmate in college, whom I ended up telling that i was in love with and wanted to become lovers with. She was surprised and said she was sorry but she could only be friends with me, and proceeded to advise me that i should try to correct my ways so I could fit back into a straight lifestyle, as the lesbian or bisexual life would surely be more difficult.

“Whether or not I will lead a non-normative life is not your business. I will make my own decision and I know I will not lie to myself. The chosen lifestyle might be the more difficult one, but that is not the point.”

At the time of this conversation in 1985, I had not heard of lesbians except for “homosexuality as a mental disorder” and a few “lesbian scandals” in show business. [ …] How then was I able to gain access to such a strong sense of lesbian pride? (p9) […] When I realized this, what came to my mind was the only “homosexual” representation I had access to in the 1970’s, that is, so-called “beautiful boy” comics (bishonen manga) within the “girls comics’ (shojo manga) genre.. ” (p10, Mizoguchi 2008))

K-rist piloting a Tracer unit in a schoolgirl outfit!!! If this ain’t a “Batman moment” stuck into a PhD thesis, I don’t know what is! I am not making fun of it, and it is fair game to call attention to it, as it was foregrounded in her thesis. The oath moment is one to self and to public agency. Perhaps the problem pops up later at the end of her personal testimony around P44:

“I “became” a lesbian after [emp mine] the beautiful boy protagonists’ homoerotic/ homosexual episodes in the “beautiful boy” comics in the 1970’s “girls’ comics”. precursor to the yaoi genre. Now approximately a million women – still a minority in Japan with a population of over 127 million – are participating in a “virtual lesbian” community, which has the potential lesbian and feminist activism based on shared pleasures among women and their sexual fantasies.” (Mizoguchi 2008)

So: there is the quote, but way out of context. Mizoguchi has made a point of invoking Judith Butler a whole lot on “becoming”, and therefore the quotation-marks- loaded “I became” must be positioned to be read as meaning something like “I initially constructed my public persona as a lesbian, by adapting the narratives and tropes of..” Butler is a big gay theorist who posits as desirable that one acts publicly to present one’s life and sexuality as a real social fact (although some parody of what is grating on you from heteronormative society is considered part of the deal too.) Just think of the ID creature in the film “Forbidden Planet”, powerful, diffuse and impossible to pin down, because it is re-created instant to instant – such is identity to Butler.

Note also Mizoguchi’s use of the word after, as in “take after“, “inspired by“, “enabled by the script” rather than “after I got hit by a train, I died”. So “I became” without the Butler concept emphasis is problematic.

Why I am I digressing on this? Pace mr. Galbraith, I am not on a search and destroy mission. The thing about Mizoguchi, as personified in her 2008 PhD thesis is how she straddles and threatens the gender and fantasy is fantasy/ reality is reality conventions of the yaoi social. They are all supposed to be “straight” women – what is she doing in there? Also, she has made it a big point of her praxis to point out that the nastier plot conventions in yaoi can hurt, insult and confuse real solid-life gay males, and possibly all homosexuals, and that less nasty alternatives are available. The potential for radical disenchantment in her critique is serious. Shimoku -sensei is not the only one who likes to poke at Saito.

ASIDE: prof Saito is a good target to kick. His main argument, that Japanese culture can easily maintain the fantasy is fantasy x reality is reality divide reads at first a lot like the usual “japan-is-special” essentialism that goes by the name of Nihon- jinronSure, different cultures process things differently, but Nihon- jinron arguments end up being “just-so” stories; long on “yup” and short on “why?” Then again, prof Saito invented the term Hikikomori, and has written extensively on Otaku sexuality and social withdrawal in Japan. If I am going to carelessly wave an essentialism stick at his work, I will have to dig it up, read it and only then mouth off.

Back to Akiko Mizoguchi and Galbraith:

Her popping up in this Galbraith essay right before the strong tip-of-the hat to that fantasy x reality/ private x public problem highlights this.  There are a few differences between Western slash and fujoshi culture, and one of them is that political correctness, or token formal consideration of such complaints is a lot more part of slash communities than of fujoshi culture. After all, up to half of the readership can be gay males in Western slash communities, while fujoshi culture is still estimated to be %90+ female.

Galbraith next goes on to highlight the notion that the thing that really turns the fujoshi crank is the relationship rather than the skin alluded to in the stories. From that flow the infamous “rapes-of-love” trope and the “I’m not gay, but” tropes. Both of course (invoke often!) annoy the heck out of some real gay folks, but both are defended endlessly as necessary for the “special“, “unique in the whole world -awwwww” characteristics of the fetishized (and endlessly re-imagined) relationship.

Galbraith is also deft at signalling that he gives some credence to the notion that the mirroring between the story characters as not just queer, but outsider/ abject/ transgressive/ outlaw behaviour in pursuit of the “one-n-only” mirrors the obsession and self-mocking abject stance of the fujoshi. So of course they have their puppets do nasty things to each other before finding true love. Because they are “fallen” themselves and that their desires are “transgressive”. (So they are all goth variants ???)

The other thing about fujoshi insistence on the “not-gay-but” trope, is that if the male fuck-puppets in question were gay, then the desire would be grounded in the realities of everyday “normal’ gay desire, which is too damn close to the way “real” guys act anyway – at least from the fujoshi pont of view. That ain’t hawt any more. More interesting is why such things are hawt to them.

pr0n lovers web SHIFT POV!

Back to Genshiken and Hato for a moment: I am dead serious about Hato being a “kage-Mizoguchi”, the shadow of the warrior (I am theory-moe-ing on my Kurosawa reference) because what his cross-dressing not-quite-fudanshi presence does is continuously short-circuit whole categories of gendered space and the fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality field.

Hato is by no means a perfect Mizoguchi “shadow”. While he makes a somewhat adequate virtual-lesbian fujoshi, he has no Butlerian “became” in his crossdressing persona, (yet) and his 3D desire for women is currently directed at one unobtainable nasty female character, (with occasional bouts of Madarame desiring fugue states).

Worse, he has not yet sworn his oath, and/ or taken any larger political/ social stand – his performance is extremely personal and extremely closeted. And, he is a judo-skilled, female desiring, seme-role assuming, compulsive yaoi consuming snake in the fujoshi garden of Eden. The whiff of potential predator about him is unmistakable, and made worse by his refusal to resolve, to “become” something that would clear up the confusion.

Oh, and he is a cartoon character – this is a blog about manga.

At some point I will have to drag the whole liminality (standing at the threshold, neither entering or refusing to enter, very fashionable in theory land, blah blah) thing into the light, but for now lets ignore it.

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi is a real, solid-life public lesbian academic fujoshi theorist, and that public role is not “just” a truth that she vowed to live, but coincidentally a consideration to her heterosexual fujoshi sisters. A similar side effect of her “politically correct” campaign presents itself. Her “vow of truth” has the potential for a real buzz-kill when the gals start snorting about some nasty fantasy stuff, but it also lays her cards on the table (else why would she get so confessional in her PhD thesis?)

I would guess that some of the younger heterosexual fujoshis she runs into roll their eyes when she pokes at their tropes for having nasty real-world bleed-over potential, but conversely I doubt that any of them worry that she is sneaking into their midst to corrupt some sweet young fujoshi. In shojo-ai manga terms, a character loosely modelled on her would be closer to the “out” ultra-rich, ultra capable young lesbian Tomoe in Sasameki Koto. Her public position situates her within her social as a safe, if slightly stodgy expert figure. Her younger sisterhood might also point out that she grew up reading “Heart of Thomas’ and Song of the Wind and Trees” and not  “Shinji I wont let you rape my ass until you pay me that 40,000 yen…”  dojins.

I am waiting for a Karaoke session episode with the Genshiken fujoshis: Sue gets to sing The Who’s “Rough Boys“. All join in … Perhaps a vocaloid flash video is out there somewhere ???

This analysis of mine is clumsy, and possibly a bit annoying to any real Dr. Mizoguchi who may stumble across this, but I hope I am getting the point across. Whether or not Shimoku had heard of her when he constructed Hato, (later: oh I do think he has) he is getting a lot of plot juice out of having Hato poke at the same contradictions that she embodies (without the resolutions) – contradictions specifically bounded around sexuality and the reality/ fantasy interface, and these contradictions are building up a powerful charge of potential 3D world fallout; which is also Shimoku-sensei’s number one plot trick.

Hato is not a “real” fudanshi in the strict sense: a man who enjoys the company of women as a man, as they read and “exchange” yaoi. The Galbraith essay under consideration notes the testimony of a real-life “Ogiue” who found a short and pudgy, sympathetic “Sass”, even if her fave semes are tall thin and nasty. Other testimony.,in other places have more than a few guys hanging out with the rotten girls, because they enjoy the company (…Where the girls are.. la la la ) and manage to process the material in some way (which could range from a complete homoerotic reading to one that “reads” the characters as abstracted female desire). The undertones of 3D male longing are inescapable: perhaps these fudanshi “like” fantasy man-smut, but also “desire” a nice fujoshi girl.

At least “they” know that the gals are sexual creatures, and “they” have managed to worm “their” way into close fujoshi proximity to talk dirty with them. And as for guilt about hiding a bit of male predator behaviour? These girls are predatory in their own right! The “rotten girls” are also “dirty girls“. But Hato tried this once in high school and it blew up in his face. Hence Hato V2. A fudanshi Hato would be way too easy, as would a pure “trap” Hato.

ASIDE: If his “little friend” is going to trance him into chasing Mada, shouldn’t his outfit change from synthetic fujoshi to “trap” otokonoko? Hato keeps quiet and puts on one of his insipid “I like it” grins. The kid is wallowing in it!

Shift POV back to Galbraith:

The overwhelming majority of Japanese fujoshi are inscribed as heteronormative in their “real” lives. It complicates the heck out of things to posit that they also are susceptible to latent lesbianism. Mizoguchi even deals with this too, but brings up the prodigious smut intake, much like Genshiken’s Kaminaga: “You cannot read all that stuff without some effect!” (This mirroring of Mizoguchi by Kio Shimoku is another fun coincidence.. or…)

In any case, the accepted compromise in fujoshi studies at this point is to stretch the definition of queer a bit more, drop it over fujoshi desire, and keep marching… No wonder a newer generation of fujoshi theorists are going all Duluze and Guattari – the rhizome/ desiring machines/ body without organs thing is a neat way to get around the contradictions in the internal logic of the whole mess, even if it feels like trying to grab fog.

Here in a footnote, Galbraith attempt to put the train back on the tracks:

“Informants regularly told me that the beautiful boys in yaoi are separate from so-called real gays (riaru gei). Fujoshi conscientiously mark their Web sites with the reminder “yaoi is fantasy.” This is partially in response to serious criticism from homosexual men in Japan, who accuse fujoshi of misappropriating the homosexual male image and misrepresenting reality for their own pleasure. Recently, self-identified gay male characters have appeared in manga featuring male-male romance, but the social weight and consequence of their sexual orientation is nullified. For an overview of the criticisms of yaoi, see Vincent (2007).”

There is also that little matter of the new laws against certain forms of virtual smut in Japan.

After a bit more about other approaches to fujoshis and yaoi, including a big shout-out to Matt Thorn (academic papers are a lot like rap concerts – you need the shout-outs!) Galbraith pulls out his fave way of looking at things: moe.

For him, moe expands on the little-used Bronisław Malinowski concept of phatic – originally a term used to describe how crystals split, but repurposed by Malinowski as a form of super shibboleth that in-groups exchange as a token of their in-group-ness (shibboleth is an old testament password thing – I say To-may-to, if you say To-mah-to, you are a thingamite enemy spy and I kill you!) Malinowski’s phatic concept didn’t really go too far when first launched, but is back with a vengeance in this time of the world-wide interwebs. It dovetails nicely in with Azuma’s database/ echo chamber theories too, so sticking phatic into an understanding of moe is a damn fine analysis trick!

From the earlier mentioned paper on moe:

“The moe response is progressively defined as a convergence of media transmission and personal reception, but it can engender sociality when shared with others. Morikawa explains that fans can functionally understand a great deal about the taste, range and personality of others based on what they do and do not describe as moe (Morikawa 2008). For example, if one says megane-moe, or glasses moe, he or she is saying that characters wearing glasses are stimulating and also that he or she responds to, or at least understands, that aesthetic. This emblazons a mode of communication with neither the mediation of a logical language nor the limitations of rational boundaries. Moe can thus be used to empathetically express deeply personal, intimate and even transgressive emotions in networks of mutual exposure and vulnerability. I observed this among fujoshi, who cultivated a group of ‘moe friends’ to talk about yaoi.” http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan

Note that moe is an affect (a theory term version of “effect”) rather than a traditional phatic subject, like nascar racing or Star Trek. Moe is a (shared) feeling/ condition that arises from the consideration of the fujoshi/ otaku phatic object – closer to “intense wow feeling!” “that works!” or “Way Kewl!”, but limited/ bounded by the fujoshi/ otaku material under consideration. Note also that any representation as to it being a tool for ultimate truth is a mistake of the reader: social science tools are better understood as points of view or data mining algorithms; used to extract insight. They also have their own phatic characteristics (theory -moe! brain hurts!)

“When together, fujoshi persistently discuss yaoi characters and relationships until they trigger moe. One fujoshi guides others through her fantasy by teasing out a story, helping listeners understand and share a moment of revelation and pleasure. Yaoi products are thus used to re- enchant relationships. Moe is most often a reaction to characters encountered in yaoi, but even people, animals, and inanimate objects can be imagined as characters in romantic or sexual interplay.[…a few paragraphs of discussion about “queer” space skipped] Be it with characters or with one another, fujoshi experience intimacy as transgressive potential cordoned off from everyday reality. This article will examine how fujoshi produce, consume, and share yaoi in pursuit of moe and the sets of discussions and relationships that are made possible across physical and virtual fields.” (p216)

Galbraith does an excellent job of doing a fast roundup of the emergence of yaoi in Japan, though you will miss his thoroughness if you have not done a bit of reading in the field. He pretty well hits all the important bits. Ending in the mid 2000’s he defines his study subject:

“The distinction from shonen ai is conceptually important. Fujimoto Yukari has argued that “shonen ai was created to flee from various gender restrictions and sexuality taboos,” but, once the mechanism was established, it “enabled girls to ‘play sexuality’” (quoted in Aoyama 2009). Fujoshi are those who are most interested in playing sexuality, which is most possible through yaoi, since it is self-consciously defined as meaningless and set apart from reality. My definition stresses enthusiasm because the fujoshi I encountered had libraries of hundreds, even thousands, of physical yaoi books and regularly visited dozens of Web sites. My informants self-identified as fujoshi in 2006 and 2007, at the height of an emergent discourse on fujoshi. I follow my informants in using the term fujoshi because it marked associations and distinctions central to the meaning-making process explored in this article.”

Then:

“Moe is a response to fictional characters or representations of them (Galbraith 2009). It is concerned with virtual potential, not real people, and is a reaction “prior to the formation of a distinct subject or viewing position” (LaMarre 2009, 281). Moe is the goal of producing, consuming, and sharing yaoi. Focusing on moe opens a window into the ways fujoshi use yaoi to generate and share affect [note the term, emp mine]. Moe is at once the most important and the most impenetrable aspect of fujoshi activity. All my informants resisted defining the concept during formal interviews. Informants notably all described moe as something that can only be captured partially, interpreted in the moment in different ways by different people. They were sure, however, that what distinguishes a fujoshi is an interest in yaoi and a sense of moe. Informants referred to non-fujoshi as “normals” (ippanjin), and they described such women as “short on dreams and long on satisfaction” (yume nashi, kanketsu ari).

Another way to say this was that non-fujoshi are riaju, meaning “fulfilled in reality,” and often used as an insult. Sachiko said, “A normal girl has no moe,  so love is her moe. That can be satisfied in life. Fujoshi can never be satisfied because moe is completely separate from love. It’s fantasy.”

Fujoshi spoke of their “rotten filter,” which screens out the potential for heteronormative romance in their fantasy and emphasizes signs of transgressive intimacy. This fantasy provides a set of possibilities for fujoshi distinct from their everyday lives, as demonstrated by their pursuit of moe even when they had a boyfriend or husband, at times imagining their male partners in relationships with other men (see also McLelland 2001, 4). As Saito (2007) points out, the reality of heterosexual relationships and the virtual potential of homosexual couplings are separate and coexistent. Yaoi scripts (fantasy) were read across the bodies of physical partners (reality), a “meaningless” play of symbols in pursuit of moe.”

SHift POV. Those damn goggles, and the innate taste for yaoi-moe among females should not be discounted. It is real and can pop up out of nowhere to strike!

Am odd  thing happened to me recently: I was yakking with a woman who had come on-site at my workplace about nothing much, killing time before an event and the conversation between us and an intern shifted to comic books and manga. She surprised the intern by being quite knowledgeable about western comics, but professed no deep knowledge of, or interest in manga as she considered their imagery as part of what japanese females “have to put up with ever day“.

“Oh don’t worry” I mumbled, “they have their own ways of dealing with that.”

ooooops! Intern looks embarrassed; he reads manga on scanlator sites and yaoi has become so popular among western slash girls (and others) that it is crowding out the “normal” fun stuff. This piques her interest. A short clinical explanation of yaoi as woman-produced and consumed pornographic artifact in Japan follows.

Suddenly her eyes go all starburst-y!

“Holy Shit! Where can I get that ???” etc., followed by a very fervent and exuberant declaration that she would pay good money to see her boyfriend get crazy with his best friend! (Yikes!)  Well, that cat is out of the bag and Google is her best friend now. Her boyfriend is gonna have to adapt. True story! Just like a light switch snapping on! I was present at the birth of a Canadian fujoshi. Wow! and scary all at once!

Back to Galbraith:

What follows in the article are narrative testimonies and descriptions of his fujoshi acquaintances playing with yaoi moe as a social space, perhaps “queer’ in a wide definition of the term, and then experiencing some disenchantment with the hobby, as life pressures take on a bigger part of their attention. Since his correspondents were all university women, this reader can’t help think about the Genshiken, but in his example it looks like the women gradually “graduate out” of fujoshi-dom. Class-S fujoshi? FUGs? (fujoshi-until-graduation, to echo 1990’s lesbian slang?) Even then, he notes that two of them pop up again, a few years later, back in the “scene”, even while they are happily partnered up with guys.

Galbraith’s article is a fine introductory survey of the phenomena and good research material should any male mangaka want to construct a few fujoshi characters on the fly to drop into a university or even high school comedy. (it is assumed that a female mangaka could just go mingle with the real thing.) It is bound to be required reading in all manner of fujoshi studies courses, and might also relieve some of the curiosity a puzzled straight guy might feel if he runs into a nest of fearsome fujoshi. What the paper does not do is examine how strange the effect of fujoshi desire is on larger society, but given Galbraith’s interest in Otaku sociology, I can bet that more than a few follow-ups are on the way.

In the meantime, now we guys all know why certain aggregator sites are up to the brim with y/bl stuff, and won’t freak out as much when a graphic (Yikes! Gehhh!) cover pops up in front of us by accident (That kind of over-reaction makes me feel stupid and prejudiced, but that’s how I grew up, so i am working on it). And if we have to put up with strong goggle-influenced humour in our heteronormative high-school hijinx comedies, we will at least know what the heck is going on and who is being given fan-service. (It aint us, but the context is fascinating.)

tomodochi get goggles real bad web Oh brave new world that has such edgy gals in it!

Don’t freak out, you still have a chance with them, most of them at least.

How reassuring!

For a less comforting take on the same, see the earlier cited: Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend in Néojaponisme

Dude, you still need to get a good paying job!

Lets see if any of it offers a wider solution, or at least gives comfort, freedom or agency to those women in Japan (hey, the guys need some help too) who want to force some much-needed change on a society that really really needs to do some changing if it is going to maintain its standard of living. The structural problems in the Japanese economy are not going to get fixed with a simple “Cool Japan” campaign. Large sections of family law, labor law and corporate governance, as well as workplace social norms are going to have to change, if they are going to fix their economy. And every single one of these problems touches on obsolete codes of social behaviour which are currently crushing the younger generation, holding down the birth rate and family formation, and killing Japan’s GNP. Who’d have thunk that a little cronyism and machismo could bankrupt a country?

Note the last few paragraphs of this interview on contemporary feminism in Japan – the filmmaker is so pessimistic about any social progress that she is in effect leaving it to the LGBTQ community to get things rolling:

Interviewer: “Feminism has never really taken off in Japan. And women seem to lack a common platform to share their problems.”

“We don’t have opinion leaders. But while our battle for equality for women ended in defeat, what has come to our rescue is the movement by sexual minorities. Japanese society has very little know-how on redefining genders, but the LGBT movement is slowly happening here, and it offers a ray of hope.

I go to meetings of Rainbow Action (a group for sexual minorities in Japan), where they run a monthly kamo (“Maybe I’m …”) cafe. Anyone can drop by and confide issues they have, without giving their names. They can say, “Maybe I’m a lesbian,” or “Maybe I’m a girl, though I’m supposed to be a boy,” or “I think I’m gay, but I can’t tell my mom.” Or heterosexual people can also drop in and share problems, like, “I joined the company through the connection of my father, so I can’t quit even though I want to.” Nobody feels out-of-place there. It’s a really relaxing environment, where people share ideas on how they can liberate themselves from constraints of sexism. In Japan, feminism, women’s lib and men’s lib all kind of floundered. But the rainbow flag might make it.”

– Documenting the gender imbalance – TOMOKO OTAKE interviews Yu Negoro, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/03/03/people/documenting-the-gender-imbalance/#.UVix82icWbQ

Just how revolutionary is this desire?

No, No, Not Rogov!

Anyone who tramples around in the theory-verse surrounding modern culture is going to eventually stumble upon Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Be warned, if you have not yet had the pleasure, your brain will hurt. Short version: they have some major bones to pick with psychology and the way we think about things, or have been led to think about things surrounding power in society. Gawd that’s vague. Did I mention the brain hurting part yet?

Suffice it to say, D&G get used a lot in various academic circles, and this can lead to some odd in-jokes:

Behold a D&G ish romp with pokemon:
“Gotta Catch ’em All”: Capitalism, the War Machine, and the Pokémon Trainer
Davin Heckman  (http://www.rhizomes.net/issue5/poke/pokemon.html)