A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

Worse, the Lucky Perv moment has passed not only without a man-smooch but without the long-awaited full-page floral background character portrait of either Hato and/or Madarame. Kio Shimoku sensei; how long do you think you can string your fans along without this tiny but essential bit of service?

I will accept either. I will even accept dopplegangers in Spotted Flower.

not a proper floral chara pageNot quite what I had in mind.

I will not be forever denied!

Perhaps I need to start a day counter page or something: 2,682 days without a floral chara portrait page…

I will have to change the name of this blog to “Why No Floral Chara Portrait Pages of Hato or Mada in Genshiken ???” , abbreviated as WNFCPPOHOMIG???

Kio Shimoku swears that he fears and abjures reading the fan commentary and fanfiction surrounding his creation. Such a statement is at best perfunctory: the levels of truth value, effect and shades of influence can be slippery once a fiction gets loose in the wilds of fanspace and takes on a life of its own. Weird stuff happens. I dare the author to remain oblivious. So far the dog might be yelping a few times per night, but it should be barking a lot louder.

So I vow to muck with the Genshiken fan-space-verse-headcannon-thingy until I get my floral chara page. Like floating transparent pink elephants in unnatural congress with cartoon unicorns, I dare you to unthink them once mentioned.

Which is by way of an oblique entry to another take on the auteur’s problem with fans. On one hand, once “invested”, fans want a story’s characters to perform in ways that they find satisfying. This can range from a happy ending, to behaviour, to the implementation of any number of plot cliches and tropes – all familiar and comforting to the readers.

For example; a full page, floral background chara portrait would…

If the story and /or characters poke at some larger issues that may reflect IRL concerns, more than a few readers and bloggers (including your truly) will burn too much powder on mapping loose congruences between the story verse and meatspace; especially if these have either to do with politics, religion, gender and /or sexuality.

On the other hand, fan imagination and secondary production; the theft/ appropriation of a story-verse for fannish exploration, amplification and elaboration all demand that the author leaving enough gaps, “space” and unknowns for fannish hearts to run wild in. Hence Comiket. Sure you can go postal on your intellectual rights, but then you don’t get any community or the marketing boost that comes from it. You lose the Love.

Even in Japan, the author, like the impossibly mythical Secretary of State, will disavow any knowledge of your action. Good Luck Mr Phelps. This mangaka interview will self- destruct in 5 seconds.

It is fun to read the fanfiction that grows up around the edges of an established and well-loved story. After a while, one can even get used to the slash-y (and/or pr0nish) nature of some of the output. Then I start wondering about patterns.

Fieldwork sitrep: Genshiken fanfiction is mostly too conservative. Even in its excesses it is either too simpleminded (Ohno or Ogiue get much pr0nish attention) or overly cute (HatoMadaHato make a sweet domestic couple). Yes, we all wish the charas well, (except when we want to see them hot and bothered) because like many other readers we want to see a happy ending that matches our own properly progressive IRL senses of self (without actually having to deal with messy real humans in meatspace), but Jeesh! Yawn! and C’mon! HatoMadaHato is never going to be Collectors, or a aspirationally positive LGBTQIA-lite version of Spotted Flower.

One wants the fanfic stuff to be just a bit over the edge in a weird or funny or innovative way. So far, Kio Shimoku and his studio minions are greedily winning the weird-a-thon in the fan-fic-verse. This is either cause for acknowledging the powers of le maitre or a bit of a failure of fan imagination.

lust und figurines

Consider the infamous Genshiken anime second season Yaoi episode (ep5). The wall of anime figurines and fine liqueurs,

the louche couple

Louche anything-that-moves Saki and Kou, SassXMada with Ogiue steaming as she winds her fancies about her.

Ogiue bliss

I also await the translation of the long-suppressed “The Return of the Otaku”. I think it at least had some Aliens, Time Travellers and Espers tomfoolery in it.

This is preposterous! Kio Shimoku has written better Genshiken fanfiction than his fans. Genshiken is all about fannish production, one would think that more than a few of its followers would get in the mood and start drawing and scribbling. A few do but want moar!

While chasing down some musings on Genshiken at wildgoosery.tumblr.com, I spotted a link to a bit of fluff by someone nymed Zpolice. I might have to reg up a pixiv account to see more of the HatoMada crossdressing date. The teaser illustration looks cute. Gotta admit that the fan-drawn Mada-chan has a real shoujo-ish vibe – I smell Uso-Lily-fluence. Main point in its favor: it shows some imagination.

With cable-tv’s backlot discovering Ho-yay, the mainstreamification effect is even more pronounced. USA cable viewers can watch all manner of gay positive retreads of 60’s social comedies. Meanwhile the grey lady, the New York Times has started running a Transgender Today series on the Opinion pages. The right -wing bible thumpers warned us this would happen. Next thing you know, blah blah blah… (time to smarten up and get serious, these are real lives here – must show some respect) Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture is suddenly feeling dated and musty, like Miss Haversham’s wedding table.

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

Oh, right: mess with the fan-cannon until I get my damn floral page!

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” ― Slavoj Zizek, “The Importance of Being Hegelian

Given how much fun Yajima’s mom is, what is Hato’s mom like? Massive bonus weirdness points if she looks a bit like Kaminaga. What if almost all the women in Hato’s town look like Kaminaga… (cue shining music)

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

What if Hato’s dad used to have a certain hobby? What did he look like crossdressed? Crap, (cue shining music) almost everyone, female or male in Hato’s town should end up looking like Kaminaga because of the weird rituals that call forth the eldritch horrors from beyond the colors of space-time each Walpurgis night – you do not want to be an outsider trapped in Kashukumaou over that weekend!

…Until…

…Instead of waking the sleeper in the pyramid, they summon up an infestation of telepathic, teleporting cartoon ducks who seem to live only for prying into human affairs, ruthlessly ridiculing them and popping into existence at mealtimes to swipe food – they love human food and booze. (per C.Smith, From Gustible’s Planet ).

“Do you eat this? It is not very good! Phhhtttthhhhttt!”

Just throwing out ideas here folks. I miss Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, it was full of this kind of nonsense.

At least the 20+ year old Stop Hibari-kun! shows that one can have some fun with gender issues while not being overtly vicious. The last character addition is even more fun than the Bifauxnen sports star with ill-defined longings, a Taka mom and Village People brothers.

Read powerful manga web

Swiped right out of Family Compo, Geki (taiga-chan) jiro-kun has the heart of a manly guy-hero trapped the wrong body, determined to achieve an ideal of male-ness based on 1970’s gekiga guy manga, (see Otaku research and anxiety about failed men – Galbraith(1)) complete with delinquent haircut and yankii attitude. Pity the series will remain abruptly unfinished for all time.

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

Meanwhile, most of the diaspora talk about Genshiken (including my own in this blog) have been mulling over the “wither Hato” question, with regards to it resonance with larger issues of meatspace sexuality and gender.

Take for instance this extremely cogent summation of the argument in favor of emerging trans* Hato

“”Hato lives in a culture very different from ours and struggles a lot with their identity and doesn’t fully have the resources to accept themselves as trans yet, but as an omniscient reader you’d have to deny a lot of evidence if you wanted to read Hato as cis.

Even very early on, they were buying feminine clothing and doing vocal training a while before they started attending the club, they said they didn’t want to change in the club room b/c they wanted the club members to see them as a woman as much as possible, they expressed gender dysphoria when facial hair started to grow in while presenting as female, and they said Kaminaga was always someone they aspired to be. When Hato stopped dressing in feminine clothing, they became very unhappy and the manga treated it as a complete denial of self, and they felt compelled to keep up their feminine body care regimen even while presenting as male. If Hato were merely crossdressing, I doubt it would be handled in this way. And of course let’s not forget Spotted Flower, where Hato was shown post-op. It cannot get more obvious than that.

Anyway, I was just surprised to see this post and thought I’d talk about it a little since someone brought it up.””

– posted at http://hatomada.tumblr.com/ as reblogged excerpt

And yup, you gotta admit that it pretty wells nails a lot of the usual indicators, unless Kio Shimoku just read a whole bunch of pop-lit on mtf transfolk, cribbed it and jammed it onto a chara that he had other plans for.
.

Must I mention freight trains again?

(I have been looking for an excuse to drop that venerable ancient AMV chestnut into this blog for ages!)

Besides, Why should I give up on my original hobby horse of Hato-chan the virtual rotten girl lesbian in the Genshiken? (Invoke together: There are no lesbians in the Genshiken!) Mada cruelly rebuffs Hato-chan; fly to Sue’s arms for comfort! Sue would be ok with a Hato-chan romance once she is sure that she doesn’t have to gently protect Hato’s fantasies. Sue is mighty! Sue is always there, looking at Hato. (Not quite creepy, yet…) What is you waiting for kiddo- an engraved wedding invitation?

Yeah, I ship SueHato and AngelaMada, you got a problem with that?

tainted web

Or I am just in denial about the possibility of man-love (or MtTW warm fuzzies) in the Genshiken. Atavism, moi, darn.

On the other hand…

I cannot resist a rejoinder to one of Wildgoosery‘s questions:

“I honestly cannot tell what’s going on inside Madarame’s head at this point. And I get the feeling that’s intentional — that we’re meant to understand that HE’S unsure of what he wants. Undeniably, he’s interested in women and in sex with women — the ongoing tension regarding breasts, Keiko’s or otherwise, makes that that pretty unambiguous.

But there has also been so much time on the page dedicated to his emotional and sexual reactions to Hato — and to the IDEA of being with someone like Hato — that it’s honestly taken me by surprise. While Keiko and Angela — and even Sue — have appealed to Madarame for reasons that center on their appearance and/or anatomy, the way he thinks and talks about Hato has been so much more….god, I hate to even say this because I know it makes me seem like just as much of a fujoshi as Yoshitake, but more ROMANTIC?

Whether it’s being overwhelmed with happiness over valentine’s chocolate or replaying all of his trap h-games, Madarame seems to be taking Hato’s interest…kind of seriously? The whole reason that Kugayama dragged him to the cabaret club in the first place was to convince him to stop considering Hato as an option.””
– http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Yup, Madarame Harunobu is far too naive, too shy, too good-hearted, too open and full of holes to ever think of playing with the Hatos. He would never, even unconsciously engage in … baiting, or a little bit of turnabout is fair play, would he?

If Madarame was considering a smooch, one has to give Kio Shimoku credit for dragging him to the edge of the cliff in a very manly way. Mada finally taken the initiative and gets his moment of forceful action, even if all the rotten girls go Squeeeeee.

After Sou-uke, Sou-uke, Sou-uke, first from Ogiue and Ohno, then Hato  letting go with public Sou-ukes to block Angela, then Kuchiki going into ass-grabbing fugue state, then the whole new club membership including Hato-chan reprising,  the spying session, the ritual dragging him off in public for Angela at the last Comiket, the broken wrist, the sudden harem nonsense only after he gets to stew in injured ronryness for a while (Risa delivering the moratorium news over the New Year’s holiday), Hato Nadeshiko, Valentine’s chocos and then phhttt, vanishment(!)… After being the Genshiken goat for so long, after reacting, reacting, reacting and trying to cope with all the nonsense situations thrown at him, with  the Hato continuum front and center through most of them, Madarame finally lands on top!

(He did consider coming on strong towards Sue. She dealt with that fast enough.)

Dumped again? Sod that – it ain’t over till I say it is over. Oh, but pretty boy here thinks HE’s gonna be the top, yeah… How’s that working out for you kid?

Boobs boobs boobs, whatever – Lolicon, remember? Imaginary and flat like board. Pre- as well as innocently a- sexual, with a bit of fancy footwork to get past squicky pedo-bear concerns by edging over into Josou game territory… Please tell me Kenjiro Hato, who is the most innocent, doe-eyed, manipulate-able, fantastic and uke-sh in the room tonight? Where is all that judo you keep up your sleeve? What’s wrong; fantasies got your tongue?

Which all might be some sort of cliche’d rotten girl plot chestnut, but still has enough internal logic to propel it along. And sure, I would agree with Wildgoosery’s proprietor if Hato chan or kun had actually even once dropped shields and talked with Madarame as Hato Kenjiro, kun or chan. But it never really happened. From their initial Mada-cooks-dinner meeting onward, any words that flew by Mada’s face from Hato were all part of one or another Hato puppet dance. (I might grudgingly exempt Hato’s first Comiket morning with Mada, but then he started Sou-uke-ing Mada in front of Angela) The strangest thing about the whole accidentally- pin- Hato- to- the- bed scene was that Madarame finally got to talk to the Hato behind the curtain.

Or did he? 

Two points for Mada. I guess the frisson of man-love is acceptable if you get to be in control? Dude.. are you sure you weren’t set up? Oh well, I will grudgingly accept a man-smooch involving Madarame – archetype and stand-in for all us awkward nerds – If I get my full page floral portrait!

I might be easy, but Kio Shimoku wants cheap too? No way!

Contrast: at a similar point in a certain Sect, the player gets a ring as a reply to her teasing. Folks said it was all just yuri pr0n. Hmmph!

Meanwhile, I for one welcome the new forceful Madarame. Sue was right to bring handcuffs. Girls, you have created a monster.

All harem routes must be cleared! If it wears a skirt (ever) it is fair game! The Revenge of the Otaku! Devastating Mada, the heartbreaker unleashed! That means you too Rika – yo skinny ass are belong to us! …And your pedo bear sister’s too.. Circle King will get all the girls and destroy Genshiken!

BoooWaaah!

Keiko will be a bit of a challenge: screw and dump her without the right kind of dramatic bullshit story and she will set you up for a beating from bouncer ex-boyfriends or a “chance” seduction by a skanky(er) friend with the clap as payback. Bad girls play rough.

Meanwhile that’s three up for Kio Shimoku. No tracking distraught Hato to the train station and replaying Ogiue/Sass as dawn breaks. Nuts!

Best to ease off on the playset levers. The circle trip arc is fun enough with the exercise of watching how other fans react to it. I note that some of the respondents in a senior bloggers’ discussions on recent chapters are wondering how the Japanese fans are taking it. Need to Know! Finding and adding other fans’ takes on the recent chapters is a great POV-shifting exercise. I am tickled that I completely missed some of the takes on Hato’s behavior, Madarame’s conflicted actions and the rest of the chara’s maneuverings, even while many of us spotted other similar trends elsewhere.

This of course is how fannish interaction and exchange works, even anonymously and over great distances and time. In the larger scheme of things, what x character thinks of y isn’t really that important, but understanding how to consider (I didn’t exactly entertain the notion, I just gave it a glass of water and an after dinner mint) others’ points of view is a fine diversion.

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

“Madarame, good as I’m sure his intentions are, has put Hato in a really shitty position — by allowing this “harem” to continue for so long, he’s set Hato up to be in direct competition with three women, two of whom are so much more experienced that they may as well be from another planet as far as Hato’s concerned. So of course Hato is doing everything he can to perform femininity as perfectly as he can manage — those are the terms that have been set for him.
There’s no escaping his total lack of experience with sex and romance — the only thing he can control is how well he performs the role of cute, female underclassman. But even in that, Hato is way out-matched — the bit about his accidentally getting Kuchiki much too drunk, for me, was shorthand for “you are in way over your head, even in the ‘giggling and pouring beer for men’ department.”

Still, he’s trying his best. Madarame has given him very little indication that he has any other choice.”
— http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Note: WordPress is taking my links used as attributions and making frames that insert  sections of the quoted source into the posts. I am trying to figure a workaround, in the meatime – no appropriation is intended, and you may have to copy & paste to open a link manually.

Yes; Shimoku-sensei lampshaded this, but a fen take on the setup is 180 degrees from the male fan point of view: the whole could be trans/ could be crossdressing late onset chunny-fugue Nadeshiko act by Hato looks so far above the feminine presentation abilities of the core female club members as to seriously pose a challenge. Sue is non-committal and will never flirt, Keiko- well Keiko is Keiko, so for guy readers, Hato-chan was really coming on strong. The only serious challenge was Angela – and only if she would ever tone down the carnivorous Amazon act, but again, she only pops up a few times a year.

Note that both points of view are equally valid. Digesting both is a treat for any infovore.

““Even if I might just be trying to force my own desires… All of our desires are just things we force on others anyway”
-Hato, Genshiken ch 66

Remember as well that Kio Shimoku loaded the dice long ago. Even if and when Hato finally ever realises that the Hato continuum was always a woman’s heart trapped in a man’s body, comes out and decides to transition and is treated in a positive and respectful manner by the entire Genshiken (that means no more shipping Hato, there would be no more male residual to ship); If the IRL concerns over respect of the fans are finally and fully addressed, do you think that the fan peanut gallery is going to shut (TF) up?

Fat chance: Hato is still a “fantasy of crossdressing”; too easy, too perfect, presented as as ideal cartoon transwoman while meatspace youth facing real challenges agonise over whether they can ever meet such unreal levels of presentation. Kio Shimoku isn’t off the hook yet. Look at some of the more respectful manga on gender issues. The “so cute she can’t be a girl” model is always a land-mine.

Hato might be better off sticking to their original mission: becoming a fujoshi (and/or a trans*fujoshi). Being fujoshi is Hato’s real and only one true love. If the Hato continuum ever really and truly falls in love for someone, the fallout will be a lot messier than “I am not the otokonoko you think I am, chose someone else“. Shimoku-sensei is weak at doing heartache. Time to dress like Sue or Ogiue, or even civilian Keiko, or stick with the frumpy Mikako Takeya persona. On the other hand, the Hatos’ insistence on an idealised presentation could – I guess – be sorted into the “arguments for a trans identity” column (dreams of an idealised female self).

And here is one final new yet old twist on HatoMadaHato that will really rile folks up: Consider the original complaint of Akio Nakamori’s second article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko (per Galbraith op cit) “Do Otaku love like normal people

“No, otaku do not love like normal people because they are attracted to fictional girl characters” -ibid

Don’t go there…

Note that Nakamori did not invent the term 2D complex, but he was the one who first dragged it out into the light of Japanese public discourse and stapled it to manga-maniacs-as-otaku in his infamously vitriolic  Otaku studies/ I am studying you column. And then he went on to paint this as the prime symptom of male otaku’s failure as men, calling them “myo ni okama-ppoi” or weird/ faggy. And then he conflated them with effeminate crossdressers, while his underaged girlfriend made eyh-yeuchh noises.

Clearly there is a lot more baggage hanging off HatoMadaHato than the euroethnic reader can first take in.

This is complicated. Which is part of the whole fan-space POV shifting/ sharing thing.

A full page floral background chara portrait would do much to allay the feelings of confusion…

…So would an action-packed fanfic of the circle on the run from the Kult of the Kaminagas and supernaturally animated 1962 era vintage Howard the Duck prototypes.(2) A few zombies would be kewl too…

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

…Or this whole post is too random; the shock of seeing Mada almost smooch a boy has obviously subconsciously upset me.

I wonder what Kuchiki is going to say in the morning.

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(1) A recent chapter; “Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith from the upcoming anthology: Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons (Soas Studies in Modern and Contemporary Japan) Hardcover – July 16, 2015 by Patrick W. Galbraith (Editor), Thiam Huat Kam (Editor), Björn-Ole Kamm (Editor), Christopher Gerteis (Series Editor) should not be missed. Grab it here: [www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men] and read it now. The writing is straightforward, lucid and reflects up-to-the-minute understanding on the material. Madarame (and Hato) are deeper character types then we first imagined. Lots of good stuff on the historical roots of the rage of the Ota-king, the shoujo-fication of manga, the role of japanese fen-dom and complicit guy editors, and much much more. The full book is a bit pricey for moi; guess I will be pestering a local library soon. A few more chapter excerpts are available via Academia.edu

(2) Where ya think Howie was swiped form, along with Martians Go Home (1954) [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martians,_Go_Home] The Kaminaga Kult is a blatant lift/ tribute to Stross’ Laundry series, especially The Apocalypse Codex, which you should hunt down and read, because they are massive fun and clearly Stross’ first love; they don’t go flat at the ends like his other stuff. Ps: brown as in “Dun”

An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

The tragedy of our predicament, when we are within ideology, is that when we think we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.”
– Slavoj Žižek (no, really)

Disenchanted and disappointed long-term fans aside, It is obvious where the attraction of the current Genshiken lies. The mangaka is also playing it coy; otakus and fujoshis are no longer the societal pariahs they once were, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise is now a comfortably boring slice of life sitcom. There is plenty of fun yet to be had, especially with the longstanding puzzle challenge: guess what Hato is!

Let’s try again. If you figure out what Hato “is”, you get the “reason” Kio Shimoku is telling the story!

Hato is (/written as):

A straight male otaku who was inexplicably drawn to BL, who uses female presenting personas to enjoy the fandom surrounding BL and who abstracts the desire portrayed within the genre to his own condition (whatever that may be).

He crossplays a fujoshi to be part of the charmed circle of fans. His conflicts over reading BL and his fear of being rejected and shamed again leads him to panicked fugue states wherein he offers “gifts” to the fujoshi social when he feels that his position is endangered. First he offers the possibility of shipping himself as a male seme to Madarame’s sou-uke. This causes distress and threatens his position in the group. Then he gives the circle the “gift” of his drawing potential, if they help him to unlock it. He cannot draw a full narrative, only clench scenes. The work is an amazing copy of Kaminaga’s, so he needs support to find his own unique style. Finally he must wear women’s clothes, or at least underwear when drawing. Boy-drawn BL might be too jarring to the circle – this blunts the shock, while retaining some shred of female exclusivity in the ritual production of fujoshi fan-made material.

His latest gift, the creation of Nadeshiko no Genshiken again offers a shipping fantasy/ possibility as a candidate in the Mada harem: a demure, passive ultra-feminine character, erroneously conflated with the josou/ otokonoko (trap) genre. The story that he believes that Madarame has an interest in these provides sufficient cover. As the rest of the harem is mostly composed of peripheral Genshiken affiliates, the circle is not threatened. (Sue really doesn’t belong and has denied membership in the harem, but as magical outlander girl she can claim observer status. This begs the peripheral question: how much could Sue blab? Harem dinner reports? The secret stash of Mada x Hato-chan drawings?)

Why BL (and yaoi)? It does something for Hato. I have previously wondered if he (could be written as having) tried  Bara/ “real” gay-male-made gay comics, but I missed something obvious. Hato has given no indication of finding these appealing. But neither does he offer any proof of interest in conventional m:f narratives, seinen or josei, yuri or even loli. He seems to like Durarara!! – based dojins and the works of a few hard-to-identify circles. He declines to borrow Madarame’s josou games. Male otaku style pr0n-ish loli ecchi stuff “works” on him (at least when in male persona, at comiket, reading the other guys’ hunt list loot) but it holds little of the fascination of rotten-girl authored smut.

Could it be that none of the other genres are interesting enough? Do conventional boy-plots only offer wish fulfilment along lines of now-disenchanted models? Yuri? (the female-authored/shinso variant) The girls are interesting but how to connect? Loli otaku smut? Creepy! Real gay guy comics – we like this, it is fun, you can do this/ fantasize about this, invoke often!

How depressing!

Hato’s fascination for BL seems to skip over commercial products for fan-produced works. His interest highlights the open-source copy and transform nature of fujoshi dojinshi culture. This is not surprising, given his interest in drawing .The rituals of secondary production, the fan communities and their tastes as well as the exchange and sharing of outre enthusiasms promises to be far more interesting than discussing the weaponry featured in Black Lagoon and Jormungand or arguing over which Gundam is cooler. Don’t even start with the ecchi stuff and the waifus – it is cringe inducing. The fujoshi stuff looks more “adult”, but not disenchanted. On a meta- level, his creator could be using Hato to acknowledge the incredible contribution womens’ fandom has made to Japanese manga culture, at the very least for expending story boundaries and serving as the backbone of comiket for the last 25 years. Hato’s fascination is a curious, but earnest tribute.

Contra:
Hato was drawing female Hato being clenched by manly Mada before the harem manifested. Before that he was interested in fantasy m:m erotica. Why can’t he just be a nice well-behaved male-presenting fu-danshi who likes guys? Or has he “the heart of a girl in a boy’s body”? He cannot draw BL in a polished style characteristic of the genre unless he is dressed, not as a fujoshi but as a woman.

Aside: I still think his male persona drawing is interesting – it should have been pushed further to see where it leads. Japan is full of polished manga illustrators, professional and amateur: why add another? – unless to worship his creator.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Wilde (use auto xlate)

As well as these, these and these

Finally, note how Kaminaga’s chiding “You can’t read this stuff without it having some effect“, echoes Dr Mizoguchi, yet Kio Shimoku plays one further trick. The original statement is anti-essentialist and queer (completely straight for the female BL readership doesn’t quite fit), while Kaminaga’s restatement is heteronormative and essentialist (that stuff will make you gay!) Kaminaga situates fujoshi practice firmly within heteronormative female experience, She will soon marry to prove this point. Kaminaga is not (written as being) a nice person.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male homosexual. He wants (is written as wanting) Madarame, as a male subject to another male. All his desires are for other males, (any interest in Kaminaga was misplaced admiration, or even a gesture towards that most elusive of Japanese feelings; ittaikan ) BL provides him an alibi; “its only you” is his way of negotiating his emerging sexuality. He dreams of a romantic, intense monogamous relationship, rather than meeting lots of sex-friends, so he avoids any stereotypically imagined gay “scenes” and/or their fiction; the fantasies provided by BL are more than enough for him at present. His crossdressing is a method, a hobby and a kink. Crossplaying a fujoshi first suggested a possible way to remain closeted and later when Hato as seme proved unworkable, a fall-back strategy. Wow; guess he is a bottom. But watch the drama unfold as he gets cold feet in the harem. Back to fanning over BL guys and his solitary fantasies for now. His creator is spinning a tale by staging a battle between “that stuff will make you gay” vs “that stuff might attract repressed young gay guys – what would happen?

Contra:
Hato presenting as a male is rare within Genshiken-space. This can be finessed if his crossdressing is his naive interpretation of the josou (trap) genre or an earlier take on stereotypically effeminate gay male identities. To naive (or over-enamoured with tradition) folks in Japan, presenting a “drag” feminine persona is seen as fulfilling a normal, if somewhat out-of-date stereotype of public male homosexuality(1). Drawing BL in pantsu is a symptom of a larger kink: Hato enjoys presenting in drag as adjunct of the libidinous charge he derives from his thrice-forbidden (as smut, as gay-ish smut and as a guy reading female smut) fantasy material. If Hato was gay, then he would do gay desire without prodding and what would be the fun of that? If Hato was an emerging transwoman, then the Stands would not try to ship him, because it would not be BL, it would be kind of straight and therefore boring.

Further problem:
this interpretation verges on extremely contentious IRL controversies, being related to the arguments used by hardline female-essentialists to denounce trans folk and inclusive queer ideas of feminism and female identity.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

An emerging, extremely repressed trans-woman. Hato is conflicted and his feelings of being wrong-bodied are just beginning to manifest themselves. Despite saying “I’m a guy”, Hato presents as a female in safe spaces and has idealized female selves; the rebuking Stands. Hato fantasizes about being female and intimate with Madarame (?), is concerned over facial hair when presenting as female, enjoys yaoi because it is a quintessential female libidinized activity and seeks out female socials. Hato naturally prefered to slip into the girls facilities to change (that’s stretching it – Hato feels no existential dread using the male facilities at comiket, except when costumed.) Trans-woman Hato would not be “gay” in her desire for Mada, as she would be female. Any residual male-ness in Hato is being shipped by the emerging female subjectivity via methods suggested by fujoshi enthusiasms, so as to be rid of “the accursed remainder” – how’s that for dragging euro-pop psychology into the Genshiken? Plot mojo comes from the unsuitability of the Genshiken fujoshi social in supporting an emerging transwoman.

Spotted Flower “proves” this. No-honestly-not-Hato-for-contractual-reasons will go on to become a successful BL mangaka, adopt a public female presence and undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Contra:
His internal dialogue as “a crossdressing male BL mangaka” does not acknowledge any gender confusion, simply that the sexualities implied by his interests resist conventional categorization. Initial BL smut drawn by Hato was m:m with him as seme. His first crush was the mighty, yet very female Kaminaga. Query: does the smut he draws for his private Mada x Hato posit him as female or as a crossdressing male?

As well, he has never expressed the feeling of being in the wrong body – the female Hato is an expansion of his self that he has created; She is limited to presenting as a fujoshi in fan-space socials. The Nadeshiko character is purposed to succeed as a harem member; if she was to succeed further by seducing Madarame, it would be cruel and disruptive. The heroic sacrifice also gives the retreat a storybook melodramatic tone. Any flirting has been within a chaste, Sue-chaperoned harem script.

The Stands are remarkably stupid or at least extremely purposeful: the original only teased Hato when he was in male-male ship-able situations, mostly with Madarame. It demanded that BL scripts be played out by male Hato. Perhaps this was to drive him more into a feminine persona, but it was sure a roundabout way of doing it. The second version, the flatter-chested Kaminaga-esque one, demands that he pursue Madarame even when he is in girl-character, but an internalized Kaminaga-ur-fujoshi-ish point of view would only do so if it still saw the core of Hato as male and therefore a target for demands he act out BL scripts. Even if Hato-san acknowledges and assimilates them into his conscious, admitted-to-himself desires, they remain focused on very limited concerns surrounding his fannish enthusiasms.

What little self-hatred or self-destructive behaviour Hato engages does not center around the suppression of a unitary female subjectivity, e.g. admitting that “he” “is a woman trapped in a man’s body”. Hato doesn’t engage in risky sexual behaviour, hang around in seedy bars or even engage in online attention-seeking/ shaming rituals. It is probably a good thing that his creator does not drag out all the tired and insulting stereotypes that suggest that anyone who suffers gender dysphoria issues will self-harm. Hato presents as female in a cloistered, extremely safe and supportive community and has used the space provided to develop new skills, make friends and enjoy normally proscribed enthusiasms. Hato! Check your privilege?

Finally, “word of kami” from Kio Shimoku and Spotted Flower are both notoriously hard to pin down. “Flower” may be any number of things. As well, the recent English language translated interview with the mangaka must be taken with a grain or three of salt, even as it adds very little to arguments one way or another. Contractual obligations forbid him from acknowledging ANY correspondence between Genshiken and Spotted Flower, and besides, he likes to play coy and maintain his secret identity; so even if he could, he wouldn’t. More questions are raised than answered by the doppelganger in Spotted Flower having a “boob job”  – which is how the mangaka lieks it! 

Hato is (/written as):

Originally straight, but inventing his own extreme (big R) Romantic, rebellious queer-ness/ gender-queer-ness. Part of this is a kink that fixates on sempais. All that Mada has to do is give him a pair of slippers and the kid would sit in a corner warming them against his chest (a historical trope beloved by medievalist Japanese fujoshi, as used in Haganai (2)) blubbering for the next hour. Hato holds the view that true romantic love must be powerful enough to break societal rules and bounds; that it is not only the finding of a soul-mate, but an extreme recreation of the self through desire. There are elements of classical masochism in his desires, but these run through fujoshi lore in any case. His cross-play and crossdressing serve to fit him to a fujoshi social, serve to offer the other members exchange and serve to pursue desire itself: gender and sexuality categories be damned – all while transcending, by transgressing not only his male role but the female social as well. The lad likes transgression, as long as it is well-behaved.

There is a strong whiff of narcissism here as well, although narcissism is less of a pathological  than a chronic condition of the modern subject, now that the global economy runs on it.

I repeat: the global economy now runs on narcissism. A bit of it is perfectly acceptable for well-adjusted citizens and don’t you really want an Apple watch?

If he was a transwoman caught in a male body, any romance would still be riajuu-ish. If he was gay, similarly riajuu. If he was “Bi” (that old standby of western slash-fen), he would be riajuu (and indiscriminate) If he gave up on BL and just fixated on loli charas he would still be uncomfortably riajuu, in the sense that all those other desires match up to what is expected of them, now that they are no longer deep dark secrets to be hidden but acceptable market niches and or “tastes”. In this sense, Hato is also Kio Shimoku’s way of dealing with the new-found acceptance that otaku and fujoshi have gained within Japan. He is a further disruption, in essence the last etranger standing in the Genshiken.

Hato’s desire has to be “you and only you” to break societal rules and thereby prove the power of its truth. This also confirms the authenticity of his self and that of the equally true and free and yet to appear soul-mate. This spell always invokes desire for desire, the lover is a phantasm that has yet to appear.

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

Then they take you.

Once more note that his original cross-play as fujoshi was an uncanny replica of his first crush, now soon to be his sister in-law. If she ever cuts her hair short she will look like her husband’s brother! And she has a bad case of rotten too, so she shares the itch! Hato: avoid family reunions!

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

Otaku-dom is no longer seen as an abject, pariah state, but as an otaku cross-dressing male fujoshi mangaka in training, the transgression is restored, redoubled and redoubled again. All Mada has to do to avoid the drama is to play boring until Risa enrolls.

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

Contra:
All this may be Hato’s cover/ rationalization for an underlying gender dysphoria condition, as it piles absurdity upon contradiction, upon further absurdity. Oh, and he is a manga character, so the mangaka is being clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive.

UPDATE: April 2016, post Genshiken ch122:
In light of the way in which Hato’s sexuality and gender expression was “slipped by” as the harem arc was ended, it is important to acknowledge that the mangaka has somewhat-formally acknowledged his creation’s “queer” not just with the consideration to enter into a same-sex relationship, but with the “fudanshi” identity:

An excerpt from a later post:

What do you mean by Fu-Danshi

K.Nagaike’s improbable Japanese heterosexual male BL fan aside, what exactly does the term “fudanshi” connotate on the street or in the aisles of Comiket, among Japanese fans. Is it “I’m a guy who reads BL” or is it “I’m a guy who probably is interested in guys and reads BL“? Unfortunately English language academic reports list few examples of fudanshi/ male BL fans. One mentioned in an early McLelland article (2) is nominally heterosexual. The Nagaike article that speculates as to the existence of straight fudanshi as “herbivore males” still eludes my grasp, but the summary smells fishy. Over %90 of the audience for BL and yaoi is reported to be female. The remaining %10 is a mystery but if one estimates by the two existing amateur studies, the heterosexual and asexual male readership makes up only %1-%2 of total Japanese readers. It could even be less. Noted Bara artist Tagame Gengoroh is listed as the co-author of the follow-up 2009 study and ventures therein that it would be reasonable to assume that some of the respondents who self-identified as neither “gay” or “bi” could be “closeted”, given the stigma still attached to male homosexuality in Japan.

“One high-school boy says that “It’s not that I’m gay”…. He goes on to say that he and a group of two or three girls buy these magazines and share them. The girls ask him “Ma-kun [his name], how about turning gay (homo ni nachaeba?)”, to which he replies “they say such irresponsible things but, basically, if it’s beautiful than either is OK,” a statement which is followed by the character warai, signifying laughter (presumably the speaker is suggesting an ironic stance to his last statement).

Males who read such fiction, he observes, do so in a context which brings them into proximity with women (as in the reading circle described above). These men are exposed to very different constructions of masculinity than those they would find in a reading circle comprised of other men. Moreover, the images of masculinity present in shōnen’ai fiction are obviously attractive to many women, so a man who is sexually attracted to women, may, either consciously or unconsciously, seek to cultivate them.”

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities , McLelland, p.246 Notes [https://books.google.ca/books?id=5SssBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246#v=onepage&q&f=false]

More on the idea of the straight Japanese fudanshi would be more readily available if the Nagaike article was not locked down behind academic paywalls. The Google Books excerpt seems to indicate that the actual study of fudanshi was done by a japanese aca-fan in 2008-2009. Approximately %20 of the respondents identified as “straight” or “asexual”; which would mean they comprise appx. %2 of all BL readers. Nagaike seems to impose a reading of “herbivore men” on the practice and -to my mind, distressingly – follows up on Dr. Saito Tamaki’s excursion into shota, which she does not differentiate the otokonoko/ josou  genre from.

Do Heterosexual Men Dream of Homosexual Men?: BL Fudanshi and Discourse on Male Feminization by Kazumi Nagaike pp. 189-209 IN: Boys Love Manga and Beyond History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker (2015) Citation:https://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781626740662
Excerpt at: https://books.google.ca/books?id=QAIbBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PT235&ots=IEOdW_57SF&dq=Do%20Heterosexual%20Men%20Dream%20of%20Homosexual%20Men%3F%3A%20BL%20Fudanshi%20and%20Discourse%20on%20Male%20Feminization%20by%20Kazumi%20Nagaike&pg=PT235#v=onepage&q&f=false

I would not be surprised if Kio Shimoku has his mitts on the Japanese study.
The rest of us will have to wait until someone translates:

Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.

Note that the 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
http://doujinshi.mugimugi.org/book/396607/

More: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/taimatsu_torch/

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.ca&sl=ja&u=http://picnic.to/~taimatsu/index.htm&usg=ALkJrhhoWTTK5M2pzzo0fAcy12Xjt_wJ7Q

 

Most of the confusion leads back to the logic bomb that is BL and yaoi.

As a spectre of male homosexual desire created and enjoyed by the female gaze, it haunts the Japanese patriarchy, positing an eroticized romantic exchange that both abstracts male behaviour stereotypes, including aggressive/ violent ones and rewrites them as female authored scripts of repressed, forbidden desire and identity to be shared among women.

It is raw, undiluted, powerful female sexuality. It disrupts. it mocks. It rages. It refuses “to take responsibility”. It plays hob with every “official” categorization it can lay its mittens on. It has issues. It is not well behaved. Bakhtin’s Carnival theories cannot touch it. It is far more insidious than “drag”. It will kill the puppy if you do not buy the magazine. But it also screams out for what it finds lacking in the real world.

It is the desire for desire, for a tale of “love” that destroys and remakes the entire world.

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

This is not uncommon in romantic fiction and there are plenty of other genres that take a related, but more well-behaved approach.

Hato is moving towards an extreme acting out of individuation within Japanese society, based on fujoshi romantic tropes that privilege transgression against social codes of sexuality and power, not transgendered identity. Hato’s solution seems to start with folk notions of two-souled individuation and play with them. It is a trial by combat of desire, as a possibility for escape or accommodation or salvation; against a society whose rules and structures appear to make any love or desire an impossible, naive longing.

Shut up and get back to work.

It is also a very old story: like Quixote, it dares to remake the world, hurling defiance while demanding that society obliterate it or accommodate it.

The problem for Hato and the furtive kami that creates him lies in the confusion that this presentation offers: within the Genshiken-verse it makes for fine plot mojo. However IRL concerns threaten to make the extreme liminality of the characterization and the situation appear (again) clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive. Nerves, in some quarters of the meat-verse are raw especially when you have skin in the game or know someone who does. Whatever “girl’s heart in a boy’s body” notions that have been left to float around should fast be circumscribed, or at least toned down to:

“Hato’s rotten enthusiasms made female, sharing space with him in his body”.

“Why can’t I have both? It’s less ronery this way!”

It would be wrong to go towards any soap-opera notions of split personality/ dissociative disorder. Both versions are aspects of Hato. Gender is what is treated as optional, yet essential to the “role” required. It is as if “male” and female” are relative and situationally based public facets of the self, like “sempai” and kouhai”. Extreme Judith Butler time. The female aspect of Hato declines to “drive the Hato truck” for any other purpose than her fujoshi interests. This begs the question: what role and/or purpose does Hato-as-male answer? Student? Son? The guy who helps carry drunk acquaintances back to their hotel?

Perhaps in a rejoinder to the pop psychology surrounding otaku (and fujoshi) studies, Kio Shimoku is edging towards positing moe otaku and fujoshi desire as emergent variant sexualities in their own right? (3)

Extreme otaku and fujoshi desire as a new form of queer, part of a larger tendency in the meat-verse towards asceticism and virtualism or fantasism? This strategy also holds the promise of understanding cybersex enthusiasts, cosplayers, furries and the Takarazuka Review. (Fantasy is fantasy and reality is ugly, complicated and leaves me cold!!!!) but is closer to the range of paraphilias than a sexuality. And it does nothing to answer messier questions of gender identity – unless gender identity takes a back seat to individuation in construction of subject-hood.

If this sounds too weird, imagine individual practitioners of an outre kink, who are fabulously wealthy, head a commercial empire and are descended from European nobility. Their indulgences are consensual and they do societal good works; no Dr Evil with fluffy white cat stuff.

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

Lookie how thin our modernist-derived ideas of “identity” are. Storybook critters all!

Hato likes BL, likes BL fanning and enjoys BL sexual fantasies (but he won’t say how). BL works for Hato and that’s the way he was created, even if it has been made difficult to precisely situate Hato within the enjoyment.

Bara and the rest of it doesn’t turn his crank. Doing fujoshi stuff as a guy is uncomfortable and has been a real heartbreak. Now that he can do rotten girl, it wouldn’t be as fun: he is comfortable with his fujoshi aspect and she helps him draw too! He only goes a bit weird when his place in his fannish circle (which underpins his identity) is threatened. The most maddening thing about Hato is that he is “just what it says on the label

He is also plainly uneasy with the idea of having 3D secks with anyone, male or female: at very least he must be in love first. Not mere riajuu love either: crazy, hits like lightning, very very frightening, break all the rules love. Special, unique, uncategorizable love. Not riajuu. Riajuu=death. Gay would be riajuu. Bisexual would be riajuu. Transwoman to male would be riajuu because Japan’s laws say that a transwoman is a woman and Hato’s rebellious subconscious is also very law-abiding and polite. Asexual would be riajuu. Aliens, time travelers or espers might do in a pinch but if they were too random they would be riajuu (they are alien, one expects them to do alien things) as well and therefore unsuitable.

The ideal lover would probably be someone as equally plagued by fantasies as Hato is. This of course is the older “misfits into the sack” view that posits that the best match for an X is another X – a large part of why we do the whole categorization thing in the first place. The further complication to this, a sardonic jest on the part of the mangaka, remains that so far Hato can barely manage friendship.

A further interesting question pops up. The libidinous spaces of Japanese fandom are filled to the brim with invented others defined by odly imagined sexualities and desires. Genshiken’s Saki lampshaded how tenuous these can get when she casually alludes to having (“real”) gay friends. Buzz-kill! But if the world is full of interesting real folks, why spend so much time creating the fantastic? Why all the straight boys and girls keep making up their versions of others’  sexualities, goes far beyond imagining what those people do and/or boxes of tissues. The latter wouldn’t be needed if these shoddy constructs and the fantasies created with them didn’t scratch some deeper itch. These needs are complex, submerged and multi-faceted, but by no means unique: they are largely conventional and mundane, when taken in toto. As such they appear as tantalizing clues that promise insights into how we fit into the messy world that we have created. They make fine fodder for pop psychology and sociology.

Nawww… It all means nothing. Just kick back and enjoy the silly stories…

A radical queer/ genderqueer approach is probably the most productive means of situating the questions posed by the Hato character, (and /or just throwing up one’s arms while exclaiming “fugggettit!”) as long as we qualify it by positing an extreme aversion to any limiting aspects that societies always seek to impose on any categorizations.

Demanding a place in the world that fits the shape of one’s own heart is always a risky and somewhat foolish enterprise but given the state of Japanese society and the Japanese economy, Hato’s passive-aggressive rebellion is not risking much. It isn’t like he is sacrificing a job for life, a loving bride who becomes a shufu and a happy family – these are in short supply lately. With little to lose and the breathing room offered by university little prevents him from doing some product development research.

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

Sometimes the world finds a place, even a tenured teaching position for nice Jewish cis-grandmother-ly folk, who are also gay “bear” trans-men. A trick like that however takes a lot of chutzpah as well as relentless, persistent and creative kicking.

Kenjiro Hato should seek out (or be written as seeking out) some new reading materials for pointers.

The alternative is to adopt the radical view championed by grumpy old neo-Hegelian Lacanians that the pursuit of a sexuality that fits one’s heart is fool’s errand because all sexuality is a manifestation of the universal force of human fail. Sexuality=fail and fail=eroticism and no one really fits in to anything or anywhere until we are measured for a pine box…

Suck it up and keep rowing.

 


.

(1) As well as the monk/ acolyte, warrior/ page tropes contained within the nanshoku/ wakashūdo/ shudō traditions, Also of note are the Onnagata (female-role) and wakashū-gata (adolescent boy-role) historical traditions of the theatre and floating world, Citing these however draws criticism from those who claim that an essentialist historic view is too often deployed to mask contentious current issues in Japan. For an overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan and an older work that was often cited in BL/yaoi bibliographies 10 years ago; an historical survey of male homosexuality in Japan, as it applies to the yaoi genre by Mark McHarry, originally printed in the Boston-based gay magazine, The Guide, November, 2003. Had to scrape “The Archive” a few times for this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20050111090154/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html
Note as well the interesting side-note in the wiki regarding the curious absence of the female from the first three generations of the genealogy of the gods, as found in the Nihon Shoki, which begs a whole slew of questions.

(2) The “jump the kouhai” scene from haganai is now even more confusing as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Yukimura Kusunoki turns out to be a girl who normally presents as a boy but also presents as a boy crossdressing as a girly maid to “learn masculinity” from the male main character. Yukimura-san’s gender-fluidity is ascribed to “family circumstances“, the other great explain-all of Japanese comedies of gender identity along with “it’s a hobby!” Now that her secret is out, she has switched to a butler routine, which just goes to show that trying to get any sense out of a comedy manga might be asking too much.

(3) Dr Saito Tamaki has wondered about this, but put it aside preferring to see otaku behaviour as an elegant adaptation to contemporary conditions. Dr Akiko Mizoguchi has suggested that nominally straight fujoshi who internalize the fictional sexualities are not “straight” any more, but is imprecise as to how one would characterise them – either as virtual yaoi males in bed or virtual lesbians in their fan circles: the “you cannot look at all that…” effect once again. Earlier hints of this tendency to “ghost the shell” of the Japanese otaku can be found, such as in the 1999 “I’m alone, but not lonely”, Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place by Volker Grassmuck, as well as his 2000 Man, Nation & Machine: The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society. Although both are highly conversational and impressionistic, with too much bubble economy and Gibson references  they have been widely cited as early materials in what would become “otaku studies”.

 

 

Afterword: As always this blog’s coverage of the Genshiken remains indebted to the “senior” bloggers on the series: Ogiuemaniax at WordPress and Astro Nerd Boy, as well as their commenters. This post and the last would have been far thinner without the discussions therein, especially https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/scattered-thoughts-on-the-view-of-anime-and-manga-as-sexist/  and  https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/hatoful-genshiken-ii-chapter-110/

My gratitude and admiration also go out to the anonymous folks in the grey reaches of the interwebs that make the series available to my outlander eyes, and to the mangaka, whose unreadable original tankobons I am accumulating as I can. 

Insane Bonus Track: A french documentary film from 1994: Jean-Jacques Beineix’s (Diva, etc.) rather sensationalist  ‘Otaku’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCj9cQdIr8

Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

“Oh the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter and on her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water” – Slavoj Žižek

C104p4 no BL this time

Behold Hato-chan V2 as she decides to create a full manga narrative.

c104p14 discouraged

And then behold the setback. The look of disappointment on her face is shocking, verging on tragic even though we are diverted by the greater shock of finding out the Yajima can plot out very effectively funny 4-koma works. We are used to seeing Hato succeed effortlessly in pretty much everything he or she tries, so of course a lapse is telling.

Previous failures were always presented more in the manner of a two-sided quirky “super power”: he cannot draw well unless crossdressed, and then she can only draw steamy m/m clench scenes. This both bolsters the arguments for becoming Hato-chan within a fujoshi social and gives Hato something to exchange with the rest of the members.

Drawing work-safe manga stories is in no way central to fitting into the magic circle, so getting it perfect the first time does not push the usual compulsion buttons. Of course it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is almost as if Hato’s disappointment stems not from the failure, or from the failure to realise in advance that the manga she drew was a failure but from the fact that this failure that offers no tactical advantage. Perhaps this is too recursive but Hato is nothing if not immensely skilled at fooling his and her self into action. But there is shock on her face as well as disappointment. Could it be that the biggest surprise of the afternoon has been that Hato has just discovered how much she (and he) really, really wanted to be able to tell a story?

c104p22 blank look

Hato is failing at his (and her) first attempt as a mangaka/”auteur”. Hanging out with the fujoshi and exchanging odd smut was supposed to be the promised land. Oh sure, Hato-chan always wanted to be able to draw her (and Hato-kun’s suppressed) fantasies, but that was what the clench scenes were for. Now a new desire is stirring, and failure to easily snag it has left the Hato continuum deeply unsettled. “We did not know that we wanted it!”

What a set-up!

As the creation of a very successful mangaka/ auteur, one who has put in his time and paid his dues creating emotionally dense realistic, dramatic manga (Kagerou Nikki (陽炎日記?) (1995), Yonensei (四年生?) (1997), Gonensei (五年生?) (1998)) Hato is not going to get off easy.

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka is still very much in its first chapters. We have yet to make it even to the church retreat chapter. We have Hato with a pop-post-Lacanian wound, when he learned of yaoi dojins and that they did something (not -for- but) to him. We have the reinforcing trauma of the high school Art club- his first disastrous attempt at infiltrating a fujoshi social. We have hir debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of hir tiny, limited super-power. Finally we have his stands urging him to ship himself with Madarame and the progression from the fantasy of a classic BL m/m seduction as Hato x Mada to the project of attempting a newer hybrid otokonoko/ otomeyaku Mada x Hato “something”. What mischief will our plucky hero(ine) get up to next?

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

The Lacanian-ish wound/ shock/ trauma idea is worth reviewing: In Saito Tamaki’s analysis, what defines the Otaku is the disconcerting libidinous charge or cathexis, the desire that a cartoon female character evokes in the male reader. This desire is traumatic because the poor guy knows that it is only a cartoon character and experiences all manner of dissonance and distress over finding himself so stimulated by a crude 2D fiction. I mean, what’s next? Getting a woody from a math equation? Surely this is the path to madness! (Don’t call me…) There is something wrong with my wiring! Must take steps to master and comprehend these unnatural urges! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Saito Tamaki’s moment of unresolvable Otaku desire is spun as an origin myth starring none other than a young Hayao Miyazaki:

“…Saito hypothesizes that the young Miyazaki was caught off guard by a sexual attraction to the film’s heroine. The girl (actually the spirit of a white serpent named Bai-Nang) was an impossible object, a fictional creature who therefore “contained already within her the occasion for loss” [emp. mine] – yet Miyazaki desired her. This experience of being made to experience pleasure against his will by a fictional construct” constituted a trauma for Miyazaki. Because unresolved traumas can only be repeated, for Miyazaki this meant the creation of a whole string of beautiful fighting girls in his own works. While Miyazaki tends to insist on the wholesomeness of his works and disavow any sexual component, in Saito’s analysis the appeal of Miyazaki’s beautiful fighting girls has everything to do with sexuality. Insofar as their repetition perpetuates a libidinal attachment to a fictional construct, they also challenge us to rethink our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register.”

-Making it Real: Fiction, Desire, and the Queerness of the Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent, Introduction to his co-translation of Saito Tamaki’s ‘Beautiful Fighting Girl’ University of Minnesota Press, 2011
https://www.academia.edu/3682539/Making_it_Real_Fiction_Desire_and_the_Queerness_of_the_Beautiful_Fighting_Girl

Ch4 p13 stick figures

rethinking our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register – that’s what we are doing!

By the way, the Bard of Studio Ghibli has not even deigned to dignify Tamaki’s speculation with a response. His disdain for low otaku culture however is legendary.

Note as well the direct Tamaki quote: “contained already within her the occasion for loss” (!) If that doesn’t pretty well describe the way that Madarame looks at all 3D women. The inversion that the otaku performs on the weighted potentials for loss between 2D and 3D fixations is one of the great double-think sacraments of his tribe.

“No matter what you do, no matter what you say,
the only real perfect love is one that gets away”.

-The Residents

And so the Otaku becomes a connaisseur of the effect and the great range of possible character deployments that cause his trauma and in doing so endlessly repeats and encourages the replication, distribution and elaboration of this traumatic artifact. Yet like a flanneur on the streets of last century’s Paris, he is now a somewhat distanced expert observer of the spectacle of excess.

“Seriality is the difference in repetition”
Some pomo guy, was it Jimbo? Google draws a blank. If not, then – moi! (win!)
“Screw you Muda, If I didn’t say it, I said it now, so talk to my lawyers”
– Slavoj Žižek.
Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” – Wash…

We now return to our regularly scheduled theory block-quotes:

“What seems different about otaku for Saito is that this formerly relatively private or even secret (if also widespread) practice has in the past few decades become an increasingly mass-mediated social role with an unprecedented amount of public visibility. Saito denies that the female partners of his (perverse) straight male otaku are in any sense “substitutes” for the heroines of anime that the otaku may (also?) adore and desire, and opines, “My personal impression is that marriage to another otaku of the opposite sex tends to be seen as the perfect ending to life as an otaku”. Vincent defends Saito from the charge of heteronormativity by arguing that while “Saito may describe the real-life sexuality of the otaku he knows as tending toward the heterosexual and the vanilla, . . . he never prescribes that it be so”. For Vincent, what gives Saito’s work its considerable interest to queer theorists is its theoretical tendency neither to privilege nor pathologize the otaku’s enjoyment of “the reality-producing charge [that] . . . the beautiful fighting girl sparks across the gap between” his outward performance of sexual “normality” (xx) and his sustained commitment to both his perverse imaginary pleasures and the media- saturated collective context that enables and sustains these pleasures.”

-Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory by Michael Moon
A review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki, translated by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson.
http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16379&context=criticism

Wow, the word queer keeps popping up; scary, scary, scary. No big deal; we are talking the mechanics of desire here, not the specifics. Besides, it works across all boundaries (and none). You doubt that Kio Shimoku had heard of Tamaki and his original year 2000 Japanese treatise on the BFG? See Mada’s little lecture with the stick figure lines above…

To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
burning

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

“And what about those relatively understudied (at least in this book)
female otaku? Saito offers no substantive consideration of them and
their practices; in his introduction, Vincent informs us that the author
has written about female otaku elsewhere, and that what Saito
seems to mean by “female otaku” are female fans of yaoi, another
huge subset of manga that, in contrast with girl-warrior narratives,
features beautiful schoolboys falling in love and (in many cases) having sex with each other—narratives that are mostly written and drawn by women authors for a largely female audience. (gay men my age might have found yaoi disturbing but fascinating when we were adolescents, but made do with Archie comics instead.)[3] In one of his few direct references to female otaku, Saito mentions not only yaoi but also shotakon, a manga and anime genre that features prepubescent or pubescent boys in romantic and sometimes erotic contexts (29).”
Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory, Moon, Ibid

Fat chance! Tamaki ventures only a tiny bit of post- Lacanian fluff on fujoshi desire in his 2006 essay Otaku Sexuality. Then he drops in the shota stuff! Gehhhh! Oh well; that explains Risa.

The folks who took issue with the blatant libidinization of Otaku desire, Azuma et al, with their Foucault/ Kojève approach are even more blind to the lack of the desiring female. As they erase desire within male Otaku moe, they seem to feel no need to give mention to fen desire at all.

A Japanese cultural critic with a background in the fine arts weighs in:

“The biggest problem of the book by Azuma lies in the fact that he has no view on female Otaku.”Of these discontents, the former means that aesthetics of “Moe” is not a comprehensive nature but only one aspect of the Otaku culture, when the latter refers to the gender problem within the Otaku culture.

This latter is my own discontent, too.

Indeed, it’s known there are a lot of female Otaku – of course, in my classroom in Japan – , but they have not been fully discussed. What kind of differences are there between male and female Otaku, then? Briefly speaking,(1)the gaze of female Otaku sometimes involves moments of homosexuality whether her interest goes to boys or girls:(1-a)Female Otaku who fall into the former category, gazing at relationships between beautiful male characters, are sometimes called “Yaoi,” while(1-b)those who fall into the latter category, develop interest in relationships between she herself(=subject)and female characters(=object).
However, the most important difference, I think, is that(2)the female Otaku sometimes has a specific aspect of transforming the body of herself: i.e. through costume play. In this phase, she tries to transform herself from the motive of doubting her identity, when male Otaku gazes and fetishizes a female figure composed of his favorite parts according to his “needs.”

OTAKU AS QUEER?

If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.

Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”

If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.

Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queerbut-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

In any case, I really think it’s anachronistic that such alleged (sub)culture of Otaku is promoted even by a governmental project. Otaku Culture and Its Discontents Or, why on earth do feminists in Japan hesitate to criticize such a male-centered movement?  By the similar argument, Azuma’s book is not only useless, but also harmful. Of course it would be like asking for the moon, if Azuma’s book dealt with the specific aspects of our age. But the subtitle of the book reads “Japanese Society from the View Point of Otaku.” Moreover the catch copy by the publisher reads “We cannot discuss Japan in 2000s without this book.” These remarks announce that the book presents a general theory.

The responsibility for this unhappy situation should be laid on the intellectuals who have not blamed such anachronistic male Otaku on the ground that they don’t know the Otaku well. Critique of Otaku culture can and should be made even by the people who have little or a little knowledge about Otaku culture even from Kantian transcendental point of view.
Of course, modernist must assume this responsibility, too. And that’s why I called today’s talk a little tentative.”

-Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, (October 17, 2007, University of Rochester)
http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf

Wow, it is either all queer theory all the way down, or (sometimes somewhat feminist) post-Lacanian stuff (or both). Cue Rio Otomo, who has recently published a fine essay on “Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love”:

“Viewed as irony, a seemingly monological pornographic text turns into a dialogical space, in which, as a reader, I extract, through a negotiation of distance, a pleasure of my own. This act of reading is an expression of my personal sexual fantasy, and I perform it in my own private space. Although it is my private practice, it is not a simple reflection of my private desire. I purchase the material to read, participating in public consumption, and at the same time my choice is to a large extent formed by the selection available to me in the market. Thus, what I believe to be my taste may not be truly mine, or rather, I may have been directed to prefer one thing to another by the socially constructed notions of what is desirable. Indeed, it can be said that the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I speak, all are my learned choice, and that my desire itself is largely what I learned to want. And yet, once I am aware that I embody and act out socially constructed desire through my reading, I can choose to be a critical and creative participant. A reader is, in this context, a public performer. In the following sections I look into different modes of reading in attempt to clarify particularities of BL reading.
[…]
When I read BL texts, I first identify different bodies, which are codes for different positions in the networks of human relations. The recognition of their differences provokes desire in multiple directions. I then re-enact the difference playing multiple roles in my single body—and, thus, reading (and writing) BL I am able to play with gender itself—a point also discussed by Fujimoto Yukari in her chapter in this volume. I am, thus, autoerotic, but my (female) body is erased in this process. Fantasy in its broad sense tells me a story in which I am everywhere. In BL texts I am simultaneously the character’s downcast eyes; the texture of the velvet couch he lounges on; the windows that fling open; and the wind that blows his curly locks. When his lover enters the room, I am also that lover who looks at him with heated desire. In reading like this, no single identification takes place, since the “I” is multiplied to govern each detail of the scene. The subject “I” as the unified centre no longer exists in this activity. Unlike Mishima’s narrator, I do not consolidate the subject “I” but instead lose sight of it in the landscape.
[…]
The distance that I thought existed between fantasy and myself does not seem reliable any more because I am now becoming my fantasy, writing the script, acting the roles, and capturing the scenes. I am efficient in creating pictures and narratives since my focus is on acquiring the utmost pleasure through the fantasy I am making. In the process, however, the “I” who is making disappears, a consequence that Mishima’s narrator could not afford   despite the happiness he knew it was offering. The disappearance of the “I” is the ultimate goal of fantasy making; I forget where I am and what I am. I do not remember whether I have even existed, when I am in a phantasmatic space. At that very moment of happiness I do not care how I appear to others; I am back in my childlike innocence. I have forgotten my gendered body. The reading subject is not born there, but disappears, as my autoerotic pleasure peculiarly excludes myself along with my body.
[…]
In the mid-1990s Nakajima Azusa made her feminist position clear, describing what she calls the “world of JUNE”:
{{The standing position for these girls has already been removed from the world they create… there is no “opposite” sex as the object of love. Turning themselves into shadow, the girls can play to their hearts content with materials unfamiliar to them, connecting one person to another, or making someone fall in love with another, without fear of being made to enter the “ring” where she is on display to be purchased by men.}}
[22 – JUNE magazine (1978–1979, 1981–1996), a popular BL-focused periodical, was during its time the hub for BL enthusiasts.]”

-The Politics of Utopia: Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love by Rio Otomo http://rio-otomo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2013.11.3FantasyPornographyBoyslove.pdf

Note that Otomo follows a fairly orthodox post-Lacanian script herein, when dealing with female desire as free-floating and un-fettered by a limiting phallic subjectivity.

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

“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.””

Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki , 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.

It appears that Tamaki and those with rejoinders to his brief mention of the fujoshi experience gloss over the initiatial Lacanian trauma/ shock/ wound of discovering yaoish desires (“Holy Shit !!! Are you serious ??? Where can I get… ?” – as one real life correspondent once exclaimed to me) in favor of the vertiginous pleasures of the shifting POV’s within these dangerous texts. Recall that Tamaki glosses over the fine details of the male experience of the “trauma” as well; which lead me in an earlier review to suggest a rude and simple flowchart.

Only Kio Shimoko, through Kanako Ohno makes any direct mention of the grotty details of any direct erotic use of the material, and what does he know? There is no law that requires that all erotic material must be consumed in “one hand play mode” either for guys or girls and any taxonomy of “appreciation” would probably be both pointless and corporatist-fascist; mega-corporations, as well as the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Academic researchers should consult ethics boards and then ask very, very politely.

The initial question however remains and seems to be only fleetingly addressed in materials available to the English-language-limited researcher. Mizoguchi (Akiko) mentions an initial discovery of early 49’er -style shoujo manga (fantasy European) boys romance tales as support and inspiration to her, as her lesbian identity awakened  –  This effect seems far more important than any fleeting erotic charge these texts may or may not have provoked. Only Kazumi Nagaike in her doctoral thesis- “Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father: Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire” [https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962] and her later (unfortunately titled) expanded work on the subject- “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” [ http://www.amazon.ca/Fantasies-Cross-Dressing-Japanese-Male-Male-Erotica/dp/9004216952] gets down and dirty on early and mid-twentieth century Japanese literature that serves as the direct ancestor to the genre. I have previously reviewed these; the source material, which Nagaike translates in some length is not for the squeamish but is more than sufficient to provoke a Lacanian “trauma” and subsequent cathexis – if that kind of stuff turns your crank.

The disconnect, or asymmetry of the experience of libidinised popular visual cultural material between the boys and the girls seems to grow the more one examines it and yet if the differences cannot be laid at the foot of some crude biological determinism, they must then be ascribed to societally gendered codes of behaviour and consumption.

No wonder the entire gender-sexuality-queer-theory-whatnot theory brigades are swarming all over the crash scene! (Be grateful they are; good work is being done there!)

I made no comment.
What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”

Perhaps a simpler solution would be for someone to swipe a time machine, go back to France after the war, feed Lacan some mind-altering pharmaceuticals and drag him to a whole lot of movie theatres.

As critical-theory inclined film essayists have long pointed out, a floating, decentered subjectivity is not merely a matter of who has a delusion between their legs. The camera can do all kinds of tricky things, even if the majority of film makers stick to simple tried and true omniscient “male gaze” visual narrative conventions. Remember the multiple/split screen effects in the Woodstock music documentary were breathtakingly avant-garde and daring for 1970. Such innocent days… We have better cameras and computers now, so we can go crazy in the head and perhaps vicariously enjoy the perspective of the -gasp- Lacanian autre (read: female inscribed by lack) with special effects.

Or Lacan was a bit full of it and we can trash the whole line of inquiry…

Whatever the case, Kio Shimoku’s character mechanics tack quite close to post Lacanian shores. Note the scene in which a sworn-off BL Hato-kun experiences the classic shock that Tamaki has grounded his approach on:

Ch88p17 still works

Of course Hato’s big trauma/ shock/ wound was meant to lie in wait for unsuspecting young women. The Beautiful Bonking Bishie(s) is supposed to be the female counterpart to the Beautiful Fighting Girl. I have probably burnt too much powder on this one already, but a few other fine distinctions can be teased out of the tangle of 2D desire. Tamaki’s BFG in her purest state is a thinly drawn character, a nominally female cypher that lives to fight, requiring little or no back story or motivation and possessed of a sexuality that is sublimated toward battle. She is the phallic, or non-female female, There is a world of difference between such a character –almost a one person clench scene– and a fully written fictional female, heroic or not. Similarly, the Bonking Bishies of a BL tableau are far removed from even the minimal characterizations of parody yaoi dojins. You still need to do author-thing work to get a working story. And reports have it that the rotten girls seem to want more story/ situation/ relationshippy characterization than the Otaku guys do for their critters.

And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;

So Hato is suddenly realizing that his grand “fujoshi desire” project must now include becoming the improbable “male crossdressing BL mangaka”.

“How can I win if they keep moving the goalposts???”

Something about Carnegie Hall…

Since the first moment Hato’s (first) Stand appeared, Kio Shimolu has been hiding this card up his sleeve. Hato mirrors (in a distorted form) the original problem faced by Shimoku – how to properly pull off an ensemble manga full of fujoshi charas when you are a guy. The Stand (and later Stands) were all about making Hato act out classic BL scripts. Whether Hato puts on a dress and gets all hot ‘n bothered with yaoi pr0n or whether the mere knowledge that such creatures as fujoshi and such narratives of desire as BL and yoai exist is enough of a trauma to set him on his course, is immaterial. The only real desire he has ever really shown is towards his project and his project involves authorship – whether he knows and/or admits it or not.

Dammit! We cannot completely scrap the Lacanian approach. Implicit in Tamaki’s trauma scheme is Lacan’s idea that all experience is mediated in the imaginary, that the “real” is something that would drive mere mortals crazy, and that in the moment that mad desire is sparked by the seemingly innocuous or ridiculous cartoon image “Sex is broken down within the framework of fiction and then put back together again“.

A Later Aside: Don’t look or listen to closely to the Lacanian ‘real” or you might find that it is a re-tread of Euroethnic Judeo-Christian mysticism. Alanis Morisette explains:

Ok, so reality, the cave, shadows, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Otaku hysteria born out of the trauma is fundamentally a narrative, creative act and therefore in becoming-otaku (or fujoshi) one must inevitably undertake creative acts of secondary production. One must learn to ride the waves of mass mediated images- of- the- imaginary or be swept away to drown in the torrent. You have to hack the spew.

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand
And puts a record on the gramophone.

Genshiken might well be a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shoujo components: shouldn’t we at least get to see Hato ache for Mada? …Or even ache for an idealised phantasm of Mada? Kio Shimoku is great at the timid hesitation of Otaku courtship, and damn fine at the in-relationship and/or in-well-married couple frictions and their minor (sometimes major) discontents but he seldom deploys full-throttle romantic mush. Ohno & Tanaka came the closest when Ohno got hammered at the cosplay shoot, but Shimoku-sensei doesn’t do over-the-top melodramatic longing. Saki had a tiny bit, but it was quickly dealt with. The happy couple kisses and we move on to in-relationship comedy situations. Shimoku’s works appear more realistic or slice-of-life because he plays all his romance-ish notes in a restrained, pragmatic, somewhat disillusioned key. It is the old chestnut about the Japanese courting couple, with the guy who cannot ask the girl to marry him –  so he asks her to be the one to make breakfast miso soup for him for the rest of his life.  Ooooooh! That sets the heart a’ flutter!

Hato-as-chan acting out BL tropes, should be doing the full, overblown shoujo-esue Heart of the Song of the Wind and Trees & Thomas ” I am yours until the earth claims my body vow of undywing trew ruv at a perplexed Madarame. And where are the full-page floral background portraits (dammit!)? Instead Hato is following the timid courtship rules of the Genshiken: potential partners are approached slowly, tentatively, and with a wearying deliberation that recalls the purchase of a major appliance or a used car. This might be funny, but it is not very big on the desire thing. If Hato has gone quasi you-and-only-you gay for Madarame (even if it shocks the hold-over mainstream male Japanese fan-base, as well as the legions of followers across the grey alleys of the world-wide interwebs) there has been scant evidence of friendship, no evidence of love (even one-sided) no evidence of lust (beyond drawn 2D Hato-works) and no evidence of desire. One outburst of loneliness is all that we have seen. That, the prodding of the Stands and a lot of leveling up in Hato’s femme-ish presentation.

Hato you cad !!! You are just toying with Mada for material for your damn comic.

Meanwhile Sue has “had” in one moment, more of Hato – chan and kun, than Mada ever will.

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

I wonder what she is threatening Mada about in Chapter 105 (the raws are out!), and why the handcuffs ????

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

I am fanning out here, but I am also speculating about what i have long suspected as one of the over-arching plot engines of the whole fujoshi-with-Hato Genshiken. It’s not that you have to do the Anti-Oedipus becoming-woman/ becoming-monster thing to be a successful auteur. Nor is the consideration of decentered subjective multiplicities a feminist (or not) post-Lacanian or queer theory monopoly – though one can understand their interest in the idea. (Hegemony not good!) It’s just that the ability to load and process multiple subjectivities is helpful to the creative process in this day and age. Hato is being used as a slapstick allegory on this theme, as he edges towards being able to tell his stories. He will try all kinds of odd approaches. Like a certain cartoon penguin, He will not fail!

C’mon Hato, as an aspiring mangaka, you need a muse – being your own just isn’t cutting it lately. Sue or Yajimachi: pick one! (Sue best girl!) You can be a male crossdressing virtual lesbian BL mangaka and surpass all your sempais!

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

Return the gift

Too much in the way of non-Genshiken fun this last month in the few still moments between the shit-storm of IRL work pressures. I even managed to make it to an honest-to-goodness academic conference (ostensibly discussing theoretical approaches to fan studies) full of very enthusiastic slash-fen! Aimed for Kousaka-level “Wow! Great work!” interactions but probably only managed lurking Kuchiki status. Just like Genshiken; except the clubroom was full of Kaminaga-level rotten girls who also happened to be graduate and post-graduate researchers. It was fun in an odd way: They all were happily glowing in the lights of their enthusiasms. They were wonderful! I wonder how the other 3-4 (one via Skype) guys present felt?

Much about the conference and the useable insights generated therein will have to wait, but by way of an appetizer, here is an odd bit of compare and contrast social anthropology: Japanese rotten girls KNOW that the larger public knows of their tastes, and that franchise owners will bait and pander to them. They enjoy the attention, all while seeking to subvert it and make it (once again) their own private party.

The Western, anglo-euroethnic fan-girl/ slash enthusiast still for the most part thinks that she is still in deep cover and that her enthusiasms are protected by elaborate secret handshakes, passworded forums (forii?) and segmented arrays of divergent fandoms that make it hard for the man to gauge, market, monetize and pander to her tastes.

I hate to break it to the wimmens, but your secret is out.

Oh, and us guys had better get used to a whole lot more goggle-bait; pseudo-m/m homosexual looking wink wink nudge nudge moments tossed into every damn tv show, movie and performance from now on until the end of time. It is not a gay plot; but It is after your girlfriend, your sister and your mom. Get used to it!

Capitalism knows no country, and it cares even less about gender norms than it does about citizenship. TM

Last month I had decided to catch up on the Dr.Who franchise, and ploughed through season 3 of Sherlock. The wedding episode was good, the other two felt clunky. As well I decided to see what the spin-off lads (and lassies) at Torchwood were up to with the Children of Earth season/arc. Just a bit of light video to decompress from work, along with a re-watching of The Fifth Element (Whooohah!), the CGI Harlock, Tim’s Vermeer (you must see it!), Beyond the Boundary (good), a quirky electric girl anime (almost an ikumen story) and massive amounts of odd you-tube clips (pulse-jet bicycle exploits, Japanese media arts installations, etc.) Interactive maps of geo-tagged cat pictures from around the world and everything by Charles Stross I could lay my hands on.

Imagine my surprise when some of the fen at the conference started going on about the near sadomasochistic interaction between the producers of certain BBC franchises and their female fandoms. Pander in a way that appears to be listening to the fen-base but then lie and deny any influence. Feelings within the fen-dom are a bit hurt. Some of the more LGBTQIA activist fen even went so far as to characterize this behaviour and the trolling within the series as Gay-baiting.

Gay-baiting?

Oh yes, ‘dem nasty BBC producers are sneaking all that stuff into Torchwood, Dr. Who and Sherlock to attract a gay male audience, yup, right! The could not possibly know of the super-secret covens of squeee-ing fangirls… No way; still a deep dark secret, nobody here but spinsters with cats and Harlequin romances; pay no attention, these are not the fans you are looking for…

Ship and ship again!

Please pull the other one, it has bells on it.

If the producers wanted a gay male viewership they would invite them directly, Same for a lesbian demographic. They for example, would not have Torchwood‘s Ianto Jones mouthing the classic “It’s only him” (“I’m not gay”) line a few episodes before he is dramatically killed off.

“It must always be: “I’m not gay, it’s only him” for maximum fujoshi squeeee!”
-Slavoj Žižek, Introduction to Transmedia Marketing Strategies,
Tessier-Ashpool Marketing Associates, 2011, Chapter 2; The Fangirl.

Nor would the producers of Sherlock dare to do the Holmes casual “I’m a pederast, Watson is my lover” throwaway line to shock some annoying idiot at a dinner party, as one of the earlier Holmes side-story movie (c.f.Seven-percent Solution?) did. Even if you can play with a furious Watson for a few minutes… Nope, It’s all left to Mrs. Hudson.

You cannot keep the fangirls interested unless you tease and tease and tease again but never resolve. This leaves them acres of space in which to fan out, ship and fanfic. Close the gaps and you lose the magic. Admit to baiting them and again you lose the magic. Add the potential of copyright lawsuits to the mix and stir, Mmmmm: secret secrecy recipe!

So the term you want, but avoid using, Oh dear sisterhood is Slash-baiting, and it is aimed dead cold at you, with low orbital ion cannon.

They know very well that you exist.

I admit it is a bit of a hurdle for the 30+ cis-gendered straight male mind to digest at first, but once assimilated it is very easy to understand and process… (Unless the lacanian wound opened by the realization causes you to go all obsessive study-study-study about it…) And turn into marketing. No more hiding. No point.

I would also venture that these BBC producer guys probably draw their understanding of the phenom from casual literature about Japanese fujoshi (and their diaspora sisters) as the fujoshi is a more unified concept than the diffuse tribes of western slash-fen. These marketing types are a scary analogue to Hato; spam-bots trying to masquerade as fujoshi. Corporate cross-dressing as a Turing test.

Once again; instrumental profit-accumulating enterprises don’t really care about meat-ware concerns like citizenship, sexual politics or even ideology beyond base levels that favour self-preservation. Fox News would go hard Maoist if it could make more money that way, or at least spin-off a clone division to capture that market.

“Transgression, sex and networks; these were all on his mind when Glashwiecz phones again.” -Stross, Accelerando

Whew! That Charles Stross stuff came in handy. He wasn’t the first to notice any of this but his restatements sure are elegant.

A similar effect is underway in what I like to call immersive marketing spaces or marketing V3.0 which has been enabled by the web 2.1 clutter of feedback/response channels.

So the producers, writers, stars and even virtualised characters will blog, twitter, tumbler, meet, greet, con, self-fic, self-dojin, sign autographs, reply in the letter columns and publish fan-art on the back pages of the monthly magazine. In fact they MUST do all of these to %110 and the minute a new tactic of pseudo-intimacy with their consuming public is developed it must be massively and parallel-ly implemented across the franchise. Welcome to the permanent corporate cross-platform, multi-channel selfie from now until the sun grows cold.

Present state of the art in Japan runs from %60 in manga to %95+ in Visual-Kei.

Western fen/fans: prepare for the onslaught, it approaches like a thief in the night.

Don’t let this bullshit kill what you love.

In the meantime, watch the marketing droids occasionally screw up and have a good laugh.

I betcha they try to sell you Sherlock’s boxer shorts.

and righteousness like a mighty stream…

Congratulations to the 2014 Hugo winners, with special congratulations to John Chu for his short story: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, which can be read at  http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere.

I am highlighting this story for a few reasons. First there was a bit of a trolling controversy set up in the nominations this year and it looks like the fans who voted for the Hugos were less than impressed by the trick. The sci-fi community has had plenty of similar controversies in the past, including entire religions trying to game the system.

Good try, nice of you all to drop a high school debating club gambit into the fandom… Not!

More importantly, more stories like John Chu’s The Water… are exactly what are needed to again show that the entire opening up of the field of narrative, of story-telling by voices that have previously kept (or been kept) silent is a great, honorable, beautiful and needed thing. And it was done with such heart; the minimum of sci-fi tricks; no scaring the horses; a real class act! Damn! What a sweet love story, with guys… (1)

And because this is a blog about Genshiken, manga, anime and games – mostly from Japan, I hope that some Japanese rotten girls get a translated copy of this story, find it boring and then realize that while they can still make their own personal hawt fantasies, something that is closer to “authentic” and “not-other” is sitting off to the side waiting for them whenever they are ready for it. Some of them already are. Heck, this one should be emailed to a whole bunch of -insert your fave ass-hat bigot- for- profit here- but they would ignore it and/or just use it as proof of some damned conspiracy or another.  That’s what they do to put food on the table; it is the banality of evil made even more stupid and banal.

Oh K-rist must stop now…

As for a whole bunch of the rest of us; including a middle age cis-gendered het guy like me who is still working on getting the stupid bogie-men of all manner of different prejudices learned in my youth out of my wetware, stories like this are a relief from the aforementioned bullshit that makes up “the culture wars” (2).

Glad I developed the sci-fi habit way back when – It helps a bit.

Well done and well done!

Thank you John Chu.

PS: Yup; the majority of fans who voted really meant to prove that heartfelt writing, even if dealing with history, gender politics and stories deserved applause, hence the award for “Best Related Work” / Best Fan Writer essay: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley  http://www.sfwa.org/2013/05/guest-post-we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative/ …Just in case the high school debating club team didn’t get the message: -FLICK- on de ole forehead… (And not in any way to say the essay won for controversy and not quality – dammit everything goes sideways when the little politiks games intrude.)

 Meanwhile in the non-controversy department, Equoid by Charles Stross http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid  (Wow thats 3 winners all free and legal for the web-reading!) Is buckets of Lovecraftian fun, with 3 more freely available “Laundry” tales out there as well.  

Thanks and congrats to these writers and their web enablers/ crew/ co-conspirators for the fine reading materials! Guess I can stay off the manga aggregator sites tonight,

Random Endnotes:

1) Later: Zeitgeist time? The fans voting for the Hugos had no way of knowing that the gentle “Love is Strange” movie was about to be released. see:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

2) Later again: So I gushed enthusiastically about this story to a married lesbian friend and she shivered when the “meet the parents” theme came up. I then made a few noises about how painless it was for a stick- in- the- mud- straight- guy to read a m-m gay romance story. Her very gentle rejoinder: “Don’t worry, a lifetime of reading het stuff hasn’t turned me straight”. Extreme Duhhh!-on- me moment!

On heroes and hero worship

Wherein I try to balance speculation about character mechanics with a slightly self-indulgent fan-out, in order to make up for dropping cryptic comments into other blogs when suddenly struck by insight…

“…Within a somewhat socially repressive environment, in which citizens are expected to conform and contribute to the social good, anime is a temporary escape from reality and crossdressing serves as an outlet for personal expression. Dressing as a girl allows Japanese boys and men (such as Haruhi Fujioka’s crossdressing father in Ouran High School Host Club and the countless “okama” in One Piece) to not just express their softer, feminine side, but to temporarily drop their burden of male responsibility. Attraction to these characters may also be tied to a sense of ease. Male viewers that like josou shounen characters may feel more comfortable relating to a boy that looks like a girl than an actual girl because jousou shonen anime characters consistently seem more compassionate, receptive, and considerate than female anime characters that expect normal boys to act like boys. Josou shounen themselves don’t look or act like boys and don’t demand that other boys live up to the stereotypical male characteristics that girls expect.

So setting aside preoccupation with gender, josou shounen anime characters are typically even more feminine and approachable than actual girl characters are. The argument may be made, in this case, that cute is cute, regardless of gender. But if that’s the case, why would heterosexual otaku supplement or even supplant attraction to female characters with josou shounen characters? Some otaku may be partially shifting their interest in cute anime girls onto cute anime boys that look like girls because the later provide the same opportunity for moé obsession without the need to respect conventional masculine and feminine gender roles. [July 23rd, 2010.]”

-http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

The above quoted explanation for the boys-in-skirts genre has a superficial ring of truthiness about it; lets take it apart and see if there is anything that can be teased out of it to illuminate Mada’s Genshiken harem and Hato-chan’s dilemma.

The burden of responsibility for the male role: here we are already into slip. It is assumed in this explanation that the attractiveness of a crossdressing male character comes in part from the vicarious admiration of the freedom that the role affords. The passage reads almost as it was noting the attraction of 3D crossdressing as hobby rather than simply noting that certain characters are attractive. This is not only the freedom to hang out with girls and do girly stuff, but to avoid the unpleasant, difficult and perhaps bankrupt male role. Note that there is no mention of “born in the wrong body”, This is gender tourism. The models for this twinned explanation are newspaper reports of “herbivore males” and the rich kid from Princess Jellyfish. The catchphrase for the effect would be “It’s my hobby!

The next suggestion – that conventional female manga, game and anime characters mirror real life females who make too many demands upon the broken male; either to be a stoic, silent male hero or to be successful, forceful, romantic and so perfect that almost all suitors are doomed to failure from the start. This is an analogue of the “she won’t date anyone who makes under X per year” news items from the first few years of the millennium. While this explanation has some plausibility a similar attraction is part of what drives lolicon desire, the full implications of it are horrific. Does this mean that a certain subset of otaku cannot even handle spunky girl characters? Passive-aggressive cultural blowback!

More could have been offered as explanation. The power relations hinted at in more dramatic versions of the otokonoko genre play with an implicit bargain between the otokonoko character and the almost- smitten boy object of desire. The otokonoko character plays an exaggerated, supportive, understanding feminine role and the boy character agrees to take her presentation as suitably feminine and desirable. flattery is exchanged for flattery. This means that for the first time, the nerd boy can be the one who gets to play coy, and both can place themselves above vanilla relationships. Riajuu winner-types of both sexes, long used to getting what they want would turn out to be too rigid, lazy or spoiled to give such a relationship a try, so the nerd and the crossdresser rise above them as harbingers of the cultural vanguard. This is the virtual Jack Kerouac Beat Generation redux effect.  Verily, there is nuthin new under the sun…

With the lights off, it’s less dangerous…

What kind of male main character is best to draw in male readership into a particular story? Is it an average guy, like Genshiken’s Sasahara? Does he have to worse than average; a clumsy horn dog or an ill-socialized nerd? Extremely shy around girls? Clueless? Perhaps the slightly melancholic normal guy with family troubles that leave him somewhat orphaned? Slightly unhinged? Bat-shit crazy?

One of the familiar tropes of high school romantic comedies and harem grinders gives us a somewhat shy, well-behaved guy with blond hair and/ or a “scary face” which means that everyone avoids him as a dangerous delinquent. Then the quirky girls flock around him. Then an otokonoko “page-boy”, a few lolis and at least one scheming over-sexed older woman.

If he is going to be socially awkward around girls, he can’t be too much of a freak; How is it that Madarame is on the outer edge of the limit while Kuchiki is beyond it? Is it that Kuchiki has too many weaknesses? Does Madarame only look acceptable because Kuchiki is worse? It looks like the limit is one interesting, forgivable life-effecting weakness per average young guy.

Perhaps we have a male analogue to one of the reasons why women populate BL tales with extreme male characters: to escape the power dynamics that are set in place before the story starts (power dynamics set up within the story are fair ball).

My limited exposure to North American female aspirational fiction- the kind where the bright young heroine comes to New York for her exciting new job, splurges on name brand crap and navigates the attention of the good guy and the dangerous guy, notes that the setting, the brand name props, the relentless consumption pattern name-dropping and the cookie cutter suitors all serve to create a theme park romance-ish experience to be binged upon by female readers who do not live in New York and cannot access bling or exciting suitors. It is almost allegorical, in the sense that the characters, setting and props have only to be named and remain barely described, fleshed out or given any “reality” within the story. Very lazy writing, but still popular. Sorry Azuma-san, your database looks like a 1950’s automat cafeteria.

I was really bored and stuck without any other reading material when I read that one centuries ago, so perhaps I over-generalize, but if this kind of thing is what women are supposed to be reading, then I can understand why some of them ruthlessly excise the annoying plucky heroine in favour of banging the guys together for some outre fun. The only alternative would be to peel the plastic wrap off the entire setting and expose what lies beneath as some murderous horror-show; which explains the appeal of the Buffy-verse. (both variants seem to posit the bad- boy- on- a- leash as an answer to the old Freudian question of female desire, which again makes the rotten girl response amusingly innovative.)

The relative newness of the otokonoko genre makes it easier to recycle all manner of hackneyed old romance chestnuts: Perfect girl falling for schlep buddy boy is too hard to believe, so Otoko! Otoko! Otoko! is just the newest way of giving the perfect girl character another hidden “flaw”/ back story to explain her odd tastes; ex-gang leader, alien, magic girl, time-traveller, angel, esper, reality shifter, teen prostitute, hidden royalty, riches, psychotic kitten-killer, etc., etc., After all, it’s all just grist for a galge and a few manga and anime spin-offs right?

Low res is best res

Behold Hato-chan V2. All the faults enumerated in the Rame is a loser session translate into some odd form of moe for Mada-and-only-Mada Hato. Moe enough to finally get Hato level up the femininity presentation and to use the cooking skills he practiced to return the meal that Mada made for him a half a year (almost five years real-time) ago. The “what the heck does she see in him?” effect works even if the perfect girl ain’t one.

Oh no I said a dirty word…

Of course since this is all part of a harem dating-sim game, it is natural and expected. Natural too is that Madarame can now interact with Hato-chan as feminine, but can feel a bit safer: Clumsy flirting with a genre situation Hato is less threatening than clumsy flirting with a riajuu cis-female. If Mada screws up, Hato will forgive or at least understand where the stupid guy tricks are coming from. If he goes too far, Hato will judo-throw him. With ironic genre quoting any goofy gesture or statement can be made as long as it is put in harem +/or josou genre quotation marks.

The excerpt’s writer suggests that the josou genre is not just a flight from/ beyond traditional gender roles in contemporary Japan but the making of new diffuse ones. This one gets a bit strained; if only because the characteristics of the “ideal” accepting otokonoko are as traditional as they come. In the riajuu world of fantasy cis-females they are represented by the geisha, the hostess and the floozie with a heart of gold who has retired from the trade and now runs a late-night izakaya. Strange how Keiko’s night job is to act something like her: it might be reading too much into her off-screen character to yell LAMPSHADE! yet.

Because they are presented in ironic quotes, they become trans(*)gressive. This is Judith Butler territory, but even she must be ready to refine her initial theories, as the nasty ole patriarchal society seems to have an almost infinite appetite for gobbling up the transgressive and excreting the co-opted useable. Chomp! Urrrrrp! Substitute you for my mum, At least I’ll get my washing done…

A far bigger question looms: why is Kio Shimoku is turning shy, crossdresses-to-be- a-fujoshi, imagines his BL male self to be a forceful seme Hato into a paragon of supportive accepting, inviting femininity and throwing her at Madarame?

To put it simply, because it won’t work!

It’s fun to lose and to pretend…

The problem is not simple gender/ sexuality prejudice. That would be low-class.

Hato-chan might be completely accepting of Madarame’s faults, and a future Madarame could be completely accepting of an intimate relationship with a trans girl-boy, but Hato’s current brand of feminine just doesn’t turn Mada’s crank. It does something else entirely.

It came to me in a flash while reading the detailed comments in a senior blogger’s notes on Chapter 98, when the reader discussion moved on to “What does Mada want?” The usual response is “he doesn’t know!”, but this is slightly disingenuous. We already know who he wanted, the question should be “when?” and “why“. To put it simply, Saki would never act like Hato is acting.

Madarame was fascinated by the riajuu Saki who invaded the Genshiken in search of her boy-next-door. Soon enough he was doing his usual Madarame fugue state creepy geek-out that he always does to keep himself safe from social mistakes (by pre-emptive strike) and the heartbreak of a crush on someone who is miles out of his league (which is pretty well how Madarame views almost all females).

Later Saki was dragged into cosplaying as the chairman from “Unbalance“- That was cute, but it was fap fodder at best. Only when she busts the upskirt camera creep and publicly “becomes” the avatar of Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad, does she become irresistible. At that moment, a small fierce flame is lit in the heart of Harunobu Madarame and his comfortable self is forever shattered.

Falling for an avatar

You poor shmuck! You have conflated a real girl as the incarnation of your favourite moe-blob heroine! Bakka! Bakka! Bakka!

He will go on to take Saki’s advice on how to dress better, tone down the creepy avoidance behaviour, get a job, and try to hold down a graduated almost- riajuu life, all in the forlorn hope…

What he thinks he wants is immaterial. We know what he will change his life for.

The boy only falls for girl heroes.

Best to frame “her” as a “heroic female”, or “the heroic feminine”. We are not talking Beautiful Fighting Girl here. Strong female lead or Heroine might be a bit too vague and/or shaded wrong. For all of my imprecision, she is a fairly conventional character in the many varieties of geek fiction. For geeky guy romantics the lure of the heroic female is almost irresistible; another face of the many ideas of the feminine constructed mostly, again by guys.

When she is created out of female desire, she looks a bit different, but similarities remain:

“Citing traditional European fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White,
and Briar Rose, Marilyn Farwell demonstrates the extent to which
Bildungsromane include “the same seemingly natural elements—problem, complication, resolution—that define all narratives and at the same time [trap] the female in a fatalistic apparatus.” Any adventure story dealing with the seemingly innocuous migration from girlhood to adulthood potentially “demands that woman be muted, silenced, and violated when she enters the time-line that forces her into the sexual story. By portraying the female’s adherence to traditional sexual and gendered conduct as proper and correct, such stories funnel women into one of two endings: heterosexual marriage, or death. Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin concludes that in western fairy tales, “There are two definitions of woman.
… The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed,
or punished. Both must be nullified.” Obedient women who succumb to
the “natural” progression from bashful virgin to sexual object to doting wife and selfless mother are rewarded, while those who disrupt the “order” of these events are met with contempt and disgust. (Women who resist 210 Catherine E. Bailey) dominant social scripts, being labelled sexual or gender “outlaws,” are thus often symbolically represented in adventure stories as monsters, vampires, and other threatening figures of the grotesque.

A more socially just narrative formula, then, would eliminate the conflict between a character’s status as a “nontraditional” woman and her status as a hero, which both Sailor Moon and Utena do.
[…]
From the very start, Utena is introduced as a character who
subverts commonly-held cultural assumptions about her sex. Utena
“should” jump at the chance of marrying the noble prince, yet instead of
falling in love with him, as we have been culturally conditioned to expect
her to do, she looks up to him as a role model. As a high school student,
she rebelliously wears a derivative of the male uniform and competes
alongside exclusively male peers in a variety of athletic activities.

She is generally regarded as a tomboy, and another character even affectionately refers to Utena as her “boyfriend.” Most importantly, in the spirit of becoming more “princely” and traditionally heroic, Utena prides herself on looking after the underdogs of the school and frequently intervening on their behalf. Yet it is important to clarify that Utena does not want to “become” a prince in the literal sense of the word. She does not want to relinquish her female body, she is not trying to “pass” as a man, and she resents it when people imply that she is somehow less of a woman simply because of her more performatively masculine behaviours. When she says she wants to become a prince, Utena is referring to her desire to exhibit the qualities her hero reflected: courage, compassion, strength. The “prince” becomes, then, a body of ideas, connoting a heroic agency that is unfixed from gender. Utena contrasts this to the idea of the “princess”—a  passive, helpless, and objectified entity.

Non-freudian approaches, Hero mythology, bildungsroman, and the problem of Euroethnic cultural traditions
http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/colloquy/download/colloquy_issue_twenty-four_/bailey.pdf

She’s overboard, she’s self-assured…

Whether pitched at males or females, she has something that both feel they need. The male-purposed heroic female character may look retrograde compared to Utena, but a few things are similar:

Consider the fantasy-world extreme version in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise: Hero might be the named hero, but he is at best a sidekick. All he does is cartoon fighting. The real hero is the voluptuous Demon Lord. Hero is doomed to fall for her, if not by her buxom charms, then by her fierce determination to bring peace to the world and if not by this project, then by blinding him with science, or 2 hour lectures on agriculture and economics. She will save the world for demons and humans, end famine, disease, serfdom and ignorance and she will get her guy, Dammit! I wonder if any of the Lord Kalvan series even made it over to Japan in translation? No matter, she is a better iteration of the character type than he could ever be. While she goes about sowing the seeds of an other-world renaissance, her Hero will knock heads as directed. He might even finally figure out that she was sweet on him. Whew! lotsa work being a heroic female.

The pont is that both Utena and the Demon Lord require and attract followers to their character and their project.

Mada could never see himself as the hero; but as a sidekick? Sure thing! He could imagine himself as able to do a slightly stumbling Rock Okajima if he could only find a Revy from Black Lagoon. Call him her “Knight” or some such other cheat, a hot girl hero needs a nebbish side-kick who can reload her spent clips while he grows a backbone.

In the end there is no such thing as leadership…

Heroes, especially the female kind attract allegiance, friendship and love: it doesn’t matter if it is unrequited. They burn so damn bright. It is pure charisma, the fires of which are usually stoked by the sheer desire to act with purposeful agency to create her reality. You see her pop up in plenty of shonen “girl with super powers/ alien powers” works, and from the start in yuri-ish works. Both shy boys and shy girls can crush on girl heroes. And even the boy hero is weak in the knees before a girl hero. She can even be a bit psychotic…

And now for my next trick..

A Genshiken girl-hero doesn’t have to be a super-powered action hero or keter-class reality shifter to be desirable, but she does need a few hero-like characteristics:

Her personality is shaped by her determination and agency in pursuit of a goal or project.

She has to suffer inner conflict about the price she has paid and remains willing to pay for pursuing it.

She displays an internal “moral” code.

Her past and present tribulations dispose her towards concern and empathy towards people, at least towards the members of her “band”.

Her flaws make her human, require struggle and personal growth to overcome and give the sidekick something to fuss over.

Ok, girl hero is heroic, so why pine for her?

When you become the secretly crushed-out sidekick to hero girl, you get motivated to become better, so as to support and be worthy of her. You become able to change yourself.

Don't worry dude, it'll work out..

So what if this sounds “beta as all fuck“; it is a primary and fundamentally social act in comparison to the solitary, sociopathic traits of the self-proclaimed objectivist alpha (one would think that if they are so alpha, they should just STFU and enjoy it). Often it provides the motivation for the sidekick to (re-) join a larger community. At the very least, heroes are interesting to hang out with.

Mada’s fantasy Saki is of course both more and less than the real Saki, but even the comfortably self-sufficient Kousaka would admit that “his” Saki compels him to be a better human being. Without Saki, Kousaka would be a mutant genius freak and would eventually fall prey to some manner of excess.

Mada wants!

Unfortunately, the current Genshiken is bereft of any spares. They seem to be all paired off already. Besides Saki, Ogiue can muster a good show of heroism, but she has made her choice. Ohno has her heroic moments, it takes single-minded courage to pursue her hobby -which when you get right down to it, is dressing up as girl heroes. I am sure that Tanaka-san considers her his hero.

I wonder how Hato looked at Kaminaga back in high school. Bad example. Hero fail. I have always suspected that more happened to Hato after he was outed than he has shared. I am sure that Shimoku sensei will provide us with a few more nasty flashbacks as needed, but Hato’s looking for a sempai habit must play no small part in his Mada fixation.

Why we have not been treated to a warming his hero’s sandals with his body gag yet is perplexing to me.

Between Keiko, Yajima, Rika, Risa and Sue we have very little hero material. Each could become “heroic”, but currently have no reason to try. They are all too busy just trying to figure their current lives and identities out . Hato, as kun or chan could become heroic: some would argue that his acceptance of the desires manifested by his Stands, and his crossdressing to become fujoshi are heroic enough, but so far he is his own greatest follower. It is getting a bit lonely now that the Stands are off on a bus tour.

His strong desire to “blend in”, to become-fujoshi (and in his mind fujoshi is an egalitarian community of exchange) keeps him from acting out and or acting out. Even his prodigious drawing abilities are hobbled by the need to fit in. The shock that Yajima feels when she hears that he must crossdress to draw properly is defused by his inability to control his talent. The steamy yaoi clench scenes that he can only produce are the perfect exchange gift to the rotten girl social, but his second biggest gift is needing their help to integrate these into a larger narrative structure. And Hato x Mada x Hato is supposed to be the third gift…

I’m worse at what I do best…

Hato has decided that along with being-fujoshi, what he-as-she wants is a steamy BL-ish otokonoko fusion cooking romance with Mada. To this end she becomes Nadeshiko no Genshiken. Mada when confronted by Hato’s hyper compliant femininity can bounce back and forth between obliviousness, creep fugue state and “ooops- I forgot you’re a guy”, and “I was only making a trope reference joke, but I’m still embarrassed”. “Noooooo… I’m more embarrassed…” replies Hato. Rinse and repeat.

Is this some new form of manzai?

Mada has already gone for a pantsu peek! It no longer matters that Hato is a crossdressing male, or whether or not Mada could accept him – Mada can upskirt, creep out, bring out the cat ears, drop harem lines ironically and live up to his part as an ill-socialised otaku over-responding to female-ish attention, but he won’t change his life for anyone less than a hero and neither Hato-chan or Hato-kun is one.

Hato is doing it wrong; pushing Mada to play “the prince” to Nadeshiko no Genshiken is too much, so the more perfectly hime s/he becomes, the more Mada will be overwhelmed by what he imagines should be the only response available to him. Mada will shy away and try to prove himself wrong for the part. No homophobia or transphobia need rear its ugly head.

And comedy of fail is maintained.

It is almost as if Genshiken is borrowing from the Yankee Girlfriend genre, at least for the parts when the atypical female tries to get feminine for her guy: even if she doesn’t screw up the hand-made valentines day chocolates, the boy is shocked at her out-of-character behaviour.

Can Hato drop the hime act become a fudanshi/fujoshi hero? How to do it? He or she needs to start doing something again, as in secondary production; drawing, creating again or he becomes a pitiable figure. If he is only defined by his sexuality/ gender performative-ness then he no more than a presenter of that sexuality/ gender. This is heroic enough during the consciousness-raising phase of the public politics of sexuality and gender, but is wearisome during subsequent phases which strive for recognition, rights, respect and equal treatment.

You have to be good at something else too otherwise you get to be a crossdressing trans* fudanshi neet. Then you hiki-out up in your dingy apartment day and night and wait until you get to star in a remake of Welcome to the NHK.

Of course this places an unfair burden on the individual member of a sexual minority group, but society is a work-in-progress, with the operative emphasis on work. The two gay guys and the one lesbian I knew back in my University days, who were drafted into “spokesperson” roles all had occasion to roll their eyes at the extra work they got stuck with, but they never gave up on their passions for their art, their journalism, their sports, their music, etc. They were fun, interesting people to work with. Perhaps I show my age here…

Best to make the best of all of your talents. Pity the Genshiken seems to require melodramatic foolhardiness and defenestrations before redemption:

Hato, standing in front of the Manken club window, exasperated and waving his wig at its members:

“You lazy cowards all of you.
You got the most in you, and you use the least.
You hear me, you?

Got a million in you and spend pennies.
Got a genius in you and think crazies.
Got a heart in you and feel empties.
All of you.
Every one of you…

Take a war to make you spend.
Take a jam to make you think.
Take a challenge to make you great.
Rest of the time you sit around lazy,
You. Pigs, You!

All right, God damn you! I challenge you,

Me!
Hato Kejiro!
Cross-dressing girly-boy fudanshi BL dojin artist!

Rot or live your dreams!
Come and find me and I make you dojinshi-creating heroes.
I make you great…

I give you a wall table at Comiket !!!

That would be overdoing it even for the Genshiken…

I feel stupid and contagious…

Perhaps if he joined Ogiue, in a public large-format drawing demonstration at the next cultural festival and drew something work-safe but rotten… That would be a start. Sue should join in too, I’m sure she can draw; she can do everything else.

Then he could stop acting like a doormat shoujo character and start acting more like a self-possessed adult: male, female, or a personal best of both. A crush on Mada is an odd first step for him to get him out of his own head, but he needs to go a lot further. He should think long and hard about that perfect imaginary sempai he wanted (definitely not Kaminaga!) and try dressing as that. Something might rub off on him.

Would a heroic Hato-chan or kun be more appealing to Madarame? At least it would make both variants a better friend. The Nidaime anime did have Hato asking Madarame to contribute to Mebaetame. Something has got to draw Mada out of his slump. And Genshiken might be one of the few manga out there that could get away with a respected serious, hero-in-daily-life otokonoko hybrid character. Usually you wouldn’t expect the two genres to mix well. The minute the otokonoko stops being seductive, s/he is usually deployed for comic relief.

Oh Heck, I wanted to drop this in somewhere..

The other possibility is that Hato is planning a double campaign, and that after a round of harem trope fun he will drop in on Mada in guy-format and act slightly sheepish for overdoing the femme stuff. “Sorry I got carried away, I wanted to do something special to make up for all the trouble I caused you with Angela and the sou-uke thing and the broken wrist. I’m an idiot, whatever… sorry ‘Bro. Did I turn gay? I don’t really know? Guess I read too much BL, but it never made me do anything like this before. If you are uncomfortable with it, I’ll stop it…” Yadda yadda yadda…

That would be sneaky… And/ or a real ass-backwards way of learning how to navigate male friendship.

Meanwhile, I swear that Sue is looking like she is looking closer and closer at Hato. (Ok, I am hobby-horsing here…) Of note is that she does not appear to distinguish between kun and chan; she interacts with the entire Hato, to the extent that her trademark stare seems to tunnel into the core of his being. What is holding her back, besides fangirling over any potential Hato x Mada x Hato is a respect and a tender concern for his silly dreams and for both his and Mada’s fragile mental stability. Or perhaps she views the unfolding Hato pursuit of Madarame like a slow-motion train wreck. She may prod and poke at Hato for over-girly-girly-ing, but she really likes the soup! If she was competing against him for Mada’s attention she would be doing more. She might make a complete fool out of herself in the process, but the fact remains that she is hanging back, waiting to see what happens. Something is off with this harem.

Or something else is going on: With all the yuri teasing that Kio Shimoku has been dropping onto Sue, could she be watching, pining away as the girly-boy of her dreams dotes on an inappropriate guy? Heartbreaking! Nawwww… Sue too cool for that… But if she likes the soup, she should demand cooking lessons.

If circumstances force Sue into doing something heroic we are more likely to get one smitten Mada and a full circular triangle; field strength %98 and holding.. We need a crisis, something that threatens the entire Genshiken. Saki was able to “save” the Genshiken from the stuco last time, Could a V.2 Sue do the same?

Hero or not, Sue will not glomp onto Mada. Sue already has a more or less platonic hero fixation with Ogiue, and what Ogiue represents to her cannot be found (yet) in anyone else. Neither Mada or Hato can claim to have gone from shameful abject yaoi fiend to successful circle leader, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka who won over the boy she once shipped, and who supports and protects her kouhais (– heh! Wait a second! Could Hato also be stuck in a loop of Ogiue worship ???) If Sue becomes heroic, she will do so in emulation of Ogiue and the needle of Hato’s heart will swing to her as to a lodestone. Madarame can’t do that. Then again if Hato becomes Ogiue-ish heroic, Sue would fixate on the new Hato. They would make one heck of a mutual admiration society.

We have too many Sancho Panzas! Someone has to be Quixote!

Once again the question arises: who and how is Sue shipping? Does she secretly draw? Is she writing fan-fiction, perhaps on english-language rotten-girl blog sites? What, beyond cosplay is her secondary fan production? If she is to emulate her hero, she must make something of her desires.

If Sue ascends to heroic mode then Kio Shimoku can bump Hato over from otokonoko to one of the more conventional variants of the crossdressing genre: desire to get close to the girl hero who is surrounded by an isolationist female social. That is going to take a bit of leveling-up as well

What of Keiko?

Keiko will never be the girl hero: within the strange fantasy-verse of the Genshiken dating sim, she is always going to be the temptress. She lives at the edges of the floating world, not the fan world. She would get Mada “dirty”, drain his funds, play with him and then slap him down. He might give it a try, but more likely he will avoid her like rat poison. He can talk to her, but only because he is in opponent mode. It all reminds me of polite Edwardian Anglican theology-talk that referred to Satan as The Adversary. Keiko would also turn up her nose at any real-life harem scene; she would get itchy after one minute of Hato’s dinner party at Mada’s apartment. She might play against the girls at the bath resort, but she won’t play harem with Madarame. She might be as riajuu as Saki, but she lacks the spark that would make Madarame crush on her and she realizes it. For this reason alone, his stupid, doomed otaku romanticism annoys her to no end. In the mirror of his eyes, she would always be less than what he desired and that is unforgivable.

This is one of the small hidden tragedies of the Genshiken, because Keiko X Mada would probably straighten her out as she cleaned up Madarame. Unfortunately both would have to get real and the Genshiken is all about finding a way to avoid getting real, abandoning your dreams, desires and odd hobbies and graduating on to grey riajuu drone-hood. Keiko represents the ultimate bad ending. Keiko x Mada would buy how-to-be-normal books and religiously follow them. Keiko x Mada would stop going to comiket.

What of the rest of the Genshiken girls?

Yajima has backbone, but needs another year before she would ever try something as dangerous as taking her own desires seriously,crushing seriously on Hato or assuming a leadership role. That Hato-kun can even draw a tiny spark from her is gift enough. With a bit of time however she will grow to be a formidable person. How long is Kio Shimoku planning to do the Genshiken?

Rika remains a cypher. She is more of a Peter Pan character than even Sue. Aside from her Reki-jo taste for historical BL fantasies and her thirst for booze she is as paper-thin as a shikigami, though her meddlesome antics mask this.

Angela could fit the heroic female role, but currently she is just a happy wandering Amazon. She is remarkably free of heroic angst. She doesn’t have any humanizing weaknesses. She is a tourist; Zeetha, the warrior princess, not Agatha Hetrodyne. Because she needs to display some weakness, her assumption that Sue is after Mada leads me to further discount Sue x Mada. After all, even Saki could flub an insight now and then. If she were ever to tone down the ZOMG and just communicate with Madarame she would own him in a day. Has Ohno not provided the fine details about Mada’s crush on Saki? Perhaps it is because she has never met Saki that she cannot figure Mada out. Cosplay a reluctantly sympathetic riajuu woman up-with-putting to win an otaku boyfriend? No problem! Or does she have to unearth and do a quick study on Unbalance to become Chairman-ish?

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

The big question remains: how much Madarame does she desire? Mada is an old-fashioned boy, he needs to be courted, or at least given the illusion of doing some courting. He would need to fall in love. She would have to demonstrate that she was willing to take responsibility.

Language need not be an impediment forever. Someone give her Mada’s email address. Google translate romance! Now that Shimoku-sensei has slipped in smartphones there’s an app for that. Even before this, cell phones in Japan could access live translation services for moderate charges, she did not have to rely on Ohno. Crossing vast distances to pursue your dreams is inherently heroic too. Sue got better at Japanese, Angela can as well. Long distance romances can strain the heart, but they can be wonderful. [1]

My bets are Sue x Hato, with Hato the rising fudanshi BL dojin star protegé of Ogiue and the next Genshiken president; Angela x Mada in a long distance relationship with Yajima and Rika as amused chorus watching the fun.

And then we would have room for some new characters.

Now I will wait a few months for Kio Shimoku to up-end this.

[1] Works for me, Ditto on the other thing too. 

Unbiased God: Genshiken ch 93 + 94

“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

The tone of the Genshiken has shifted a bit since the Nidiame anime ended. Once again, it has gone into full Hato-focused-mode, with the fallout from his (less occasionally now her) yaoi-inspired man-crush on Madarame dragging the plot along. Those who were getting annoyed at all the “gay stuff” slowly wrecking their beloved Genshiken are going to be even more annoyed. Oh ye of little faith!

If Genshiken was that easy Mada would already be hitched up with Keiko, Yajima would be jumping Hato to try to stop him to stop hanging out in Ni-chōme and Sue would be trying to jump Ogiue every chance she got.

Something else is going on.

but first, a small aside about scripts and scanlations…

Even though the wait for Chapters 93 and 94 had me sweating, I swear I will wait through 4 months of drought should the successor to the bringer of light ever vanish into the ether before I start google-xlating and posting scripts from Bulgarian scanlations. We poor mortals just don’t know. We have no idea if the big K dropped more napalm, or someone got real-life busy, or just bored with the whole thing. I do not regret the scripts – at least I now know that a backup can be cobbled together. I found two other independent attempts, so I know that I wasn’t the only one who got withdrawal symptoms. But the current stuff is damn finely-crafted and well-done; it would take a year or more to ramp up a group effort to replace it.

We love and respect your work, please don’t leave us without our fix, waughhh!

One thing that I came away with from the script exercise: a foreign language reader dropped a comment thanking me for providing a summary in an easy-to-google-xlate text format. I think it should be best practice for all scanlation groups to release text format scripts along with their scans, so as to share the goodness across the gulfs of language, across the entire globe, a federation of leeching fans, going forward, into a brighter future…

Ok, back to some serious mulling-over the last two chapters. Spoiler lamp is ON

At first glimpse, the two chapters are simple and flow in a straightforward manner: only closer examination shows the staging genius of Kio Shimoku. It all comes together so naturally! In chapter 93, Madarame is stuck over the holidays in his messy apartment, alone and bereft of any harem. The absence of any follow-up by any of the four is disheartening. And his broken wrist hurts. When he finally gets a visit, it is from Rika and Yajima, or Rika with Yajima present to ensure that Rika doesn’t go off the rails. He soon learns that a truce agreement is in place and that there will be no visits from any of the interested parties. 3D lurv: Don’t buy the hype! The flashback to the old boys hanging out with him immediately after comiket also had a great feeling of authenticity to it, loaded with sympathetic guy-ish grumbling and rude allusions.

pig disgusting c93 p004Rika makes a few rude allusions too; both the boys and girls of Genshiken expect that their pr0n habit will be messy, but she quickly gets down to delivering her report and her ideas about the situation. In doing so, she assumes the voice of a great number of Genshiken fans (I posit that Japanese fans somewhat mirror diaspora opinions) and advances the suggestion that Keiko is the best choice for Madarame. Keiko is somewhat Saki-ish, riajuu, and available. She also is not Sue (our idol) or Hato-chan (our friend). Madarame can take that however he cares to – he is being gently put in his place, and that place is on the periphery of the current Genshiken.

No mention or thought of how uncomfortable it would be for Madarame to date Sas’s kid sister.

Madarame then wonders why she wasn’t pushing for Hato and gets a flood of goggle-inspired too-much-information before being told that it is really not the gang’s decision to make. Whatever Hato (as chan or kun) decides, they will support. Serves you right Mada for playing the “I’m passive I can’t decide” card.

Meanwhile in the snowy regions of Western Japan, Hato gets to face Kaminaga as his soon to be sister-in-law, in full sister-in-law-to-be mode. She is really getting into her new role. She has dyed her hair back to black, makes polite noises to the household, and gets the sudden urge to be all sisterly-supportive toward Hato even while scouting out his BL stash. Yup, here is an arch-fujoshi asshole completely reformed… Now pull the other one, it has bells on it.

think with what c94 p012Hato does manage to voice a bit of resentment towards her past behaviour, but for the most part is too troubled over what to do with his developing feelings for Madarame to really care about what Kaminaga is up to in her new oddly concerned guise. Kaminaga tries a gambit; get Kono and the other friend, Fuji(?) to meet up with Hato at a local restaurant. The results are uncomfortable. Kono doesn’t know what to do with her old feelings, and gets a bit creeped out when Hato starts going on about skin moisturization. Nor can she make the jump and discuss BL with a guy, which is the god/author setup moment Hato was waiting for: “See! I had to crossdress to be accepted!”

stop itoldyasoing c94 p018He also calls them his friends who he can talk with – which is so odd that I wonder if heavy irony was intended. These are the small-town fujoshi who turned his high school years into a lonely hell. And the meet-up is obviously some kind of poorly lashed together “How far gone is he? Is he still interested in girls?” exploration session. Friends like these, yup…

For all of it though, He does get some salvageable advice. Part of the Genshiken slice of life charm is the sheer amount of well-meaning, but not too useful “help” offered from all and sundry, from their own vested interest positions. Occasionally even a blind pig gets to find a truffle. Kono blurts out that if his hobby is causing him so much distress, then ditch it – it’s just a hobby. Of course her advice is tainted by self-interest, the Hato she still harbours a crush for is riajuu – but it gets him thinking.

Of course he will go back to Tokyo. Small town life is small and there isn’t a lot left for him there, though it felt good to clear the snow from the roof.

If Kono has any sense of occasion she had best run her ass over to the train station before he leaves and at least plead a copy of his next dojin from him. She can even say that the culture festival work was BETTER than Kaminaga’s stuff. C’mon, Kono, lets see some wiles!

As to why what he is returning to in Tokyo, that too deserves a bit more consideration.

A few choice bits:

All you fault c94 p010Oh yes, he does blame Kaminaga for his current dilemma, but is it the original one or the original, plus the stands that have been tormenting him? Or both, plus the Kaminaga he fixated on back in high school? Was it a crush or just severely overblown admiration? When Hato calls someone sempai, what demons lurk within his private meaning of the term? Really she’s not that responsible, unless a younger evil-genius Kaminaga had ran around their junior high school leaving yaoi dojins in the boys locker rooms in the hope of livening up her small town life.

To a certain segment of Genshiken fans, and a larger number of casual readers, Hato was always latent, and now has gone gay. But what an odd and tentative homosexuality it is. Were he a real-life individual, he would be free to explore his desire as he saw fit, and would end up somewhere within the fine gradations of however wherever’s gay culture so gradates. He would have a bit of a hard time at first, but any group eventually socialises newbies. Perhaps real Japanese gay communities have their own internal arguments about what to do with “another kid from the sticks who thinks he wants to do yaoi, as a seme”. There is way too much BL and Yaoi floating around Japan.

Hato however is a character, so what exactly is he being constructed as – what is the odd version of “gay” desire being created, and why?

Hato was never a “simple” male fudanshi leaning towards 3D man-love; he always compartmentalized his yaoi fantasies within the persona of a heterosexual, celibate, female fujoshi. Hato-chan was supposed to be safely “in charge” of that stuff, viacariously shipping Hato-kun as a forceful seme, but that reality never threatened the “real” male Hato, because fujoshis just do fantasies. But now “someone” wants to set 3D fujoshi Hato-chan up with a 3D Madarame as a nice, deferring, lovestruck, passive shoujo heroine, or at least as otomeyaku. Who is processing that fantasy? Which Hato is it coming from?

“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 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.

Kio Shimoku’s supportive cast of Genshiken characters bypass any simple questions of persecution (that’s left to small town high schools out in the snowy boonies) but if this was an attempt at a gay male coming of age story, then where are the beta couples, supportive (or predatory) older experienced gay guy(s), and a host of other tropes that I will transpose from non-exploitative “feels” yuri, having no idea how the bara genre handles this stuff when it is not getting down to raw nasty smut. Then there is his crossdressing…

Hato’s emergent pseudo-gayness is a thought experiment as to what might happen if an isolated small-town male used yaoi and BL tropes as a guide to “becoming” gay and/or trans, taken to extremes to be-labor a point and spin a fine tale. I have gone on previously that Shimoku might be pulling fast one on Saito Tamaki’s idea of hysterical trauma, with yaoi instead of the Beautiful Fighting Girl. And of course there is Dr. Mizoguchi… The results are going to odd. This stuff was generated by mostly straight females for their own amusement, and the studies surrounding it and it’s western counterparts are full of warnings from real guys who like guys that the wimmins are off on their own tangent. Plus the chief puppet-master of this tale is a guy, riffing on these contradictions.

As slash-kami MJJ reported a decade ago, her gay male correspondants would tell her: “real guys don’t fuck like that!”

Sorry Chip, you think we didn’t anyway?

“I know where I came from – but where did all you zombies come from? “I felt a headache coming on, but a headache powder is one thing I do not take. I did once–and you all went away. So I crawled into bed and whistled out the light. You aren’t really there at all. There isn’t anybody but me –Jane– here alone in the dark. I miss you dreadfully!”
-Oscar Wilde

“…to posit a gender, a God is necessary: guaranteeing the infinite.”
– Luce Irigaray

Who “owns” the popular construction of the ideas behind romance, love, sexuality and desire in modern societies? How is the territory staked out? What are the effects of the ways in which these are advanced? What happens when consensus is replaced by contested spaces? Is it all too complex for mere mortals to handle? Will society fall apart as a result?

No wonder the gender theory brigade are thick as thieves all over modern Japanese fujoshi cultural practices. I know something of the allure of this kind of raw sociology. I am lucky I have no vested interest in it or I would soon go all mad-boy about the whole thing and start Mwwwahhahhaahaa-ing all over this blog. Sociology taken too far has much of the same mirage-like appeal found in conspiracy theories. Hermetic knowledge! Power! Influence! The possibility of messing around with entire cultures! Wheeeeeee! Instead I watch from the sidelines, bemused…

Back to the Genshiken…

Note how Mada is left in a typically Madarame-esque situation due to his profession of passivity. He doesn’t even get to state any preference. His little harem fantasies are written to indicate that Hato-chan would be an acceptable member of a group attention-lavishing scene – whether he wants to bundle the whole gang off to the yurt is another matter. It is not that he can’t process all the attention, it is just that the processing has stopped at “Good to be King“. Sue as exotic temple dancer is a master-stroke.

Dare he try ANY kind of 3D and risk the destruction of this fantasy? But whose fantasy is it?

Something about butterflies… Who is dreaming and who is the dream?

Historically, Japan was at least two up on the prehistoric Western world’s guy-lock on romance tales thanks to Murasaki and Shonagon, but their works were not exactly in wide circulation until the twentieth century. And the narratives they advanced were hardly society-shaking. In the rest of the world, narratives of romantic love appear to be mostly male creations until late in the game. Sapho exists only in fragments, and they were enough to scare the bejesus out of the guys. I missed any University level courses on 17th to 19th century english lit, and so the exact timeline for earlier efforts but I vaguely recall that some “virtue tales” of female submission to rich suitors (Pamela, etc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela,_or_Virtue_Rewarded) were written by guys in the 1700’s. Even then controversy ensued, with a few satires and perhaps even Sade’s infamous Justine written in response.

England in the 1800’s got Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein (surely, a love story), so at least there was some female input, though Brontë first published under a male-sounding non de-plume. Skip forward into the twentieth century, and we see that popular romances, though penned by women were being converted into movies by large, very patriarchial movie studios. Who was more the author for Gone with the Wind; Margaret Mitchell or David O. Selznick & Co.?

Now everyone gets to toss their ideas into the ring. Straight girls and guys as well as gays and lesbians and the whole LGBTQ spectrum get to write their stories and argue about their individual ideas about the proper ways of finding happiness, true D’awwwwww and snuggles (or whatever else turns individual cranks). And, as always, one can write the odd bits that don’t fit well onto the mysterious, imagined “other”. Nothing new there either, but no more witch burning allowed.

humanityIt is one thing to attempt to imposes one’s whims onto mainstream notions of male: female love, desire and courtship. It is another thing entirely to “colonize” a minority sexuality of a different gender and/or society for your own amusement and pleasure, even if you get side benefits from allegorically addressing certain issues of roles and power within your society. And the rotten girls are not going to stop, no matter how many yaoi ronso episodes pop up. You might as well argue with the hardcore fans of other paraphilias that their fantasies are hurtful, mean and dangerous to real humans. The responses will be the same, and familiar to even Genshiken readers.

And now I feel a bit guilty for all the exploitative v1 yuri smut I have consumed over the years. Just a bit, It’s complicated…

Perhaps Madarame and Hato should hole up in Mada’s apartment and devour a stack of contemporary non-exploitative, woman-authored, lesbian approved “feels” yuri to get some insight into handling confusing feelings. Hato should bring his chan persona just in case. Since the quality of the advice currently offered to them is so ill-suited to their predicament in any case, a little from the other side of the trenches couldn’t do much more damage. Shimoku Sensei could have a field day dragging another empire of delusions into the fray.

Personally I would recommend, as I am currently enjoying, the works of Takemiya Jin.

Stop! It is dangerous to base one’s ideas of romance on popular fictional narratives. No good can come of it!

From my misppent youth, I remember the teenage sister of a friend who fell heavily for the high school freak, who was prone to acting out the worst excesses of “hippie” behaviour a decade and a half too late. She had her own problems; a taste for massive amounts of recreational hallucigens and other self-destructive behaviour. Their search for a model of a “normal” romance led them to lock themselves in the basement TV viewing room at her parents house and snuggle while watching soap operas in order to learn how to construct a conventional romance. I shit yee not! The resulting relationship was odd, full of imagined infidelities and one case of amnesia. 3D far weirder than 2D!

But reality is reality and…

On second thought, Mada and Hato better also grab a stack of Gintama tankubons. Ten years of it! Shout Out Time! Wow!

As for the works of Takemiya Jin, I had run into them before and a few glowing recs from Erica-sensei caused me to seek them out again. I now see that the collected volume she recommends was spread out across a slew of one-shots and various titles (as available to us cheapskate leeches), but take place around the same group of young women. There are hardly any herp derp hawt secks scenes, which used to be the whole point of yuri – but their absence is not missed.

What Takemiya-sensei’s stories do have plenty of is brooding, emotional relationshippy stuff, but measured out in believable doses. I find myself making D’awwwwww noises. And I really, really, really like the character artwork. Takemiya-sensei uses a fine strong line and is one of the few artists who can do the pointy-chin face and get away with it (for moi, your mileage, etc…). Most of the time I find the pointy face shojo heroine a a warning signal for a vapid helpless thing (or the occasional sword weilding heroine – who I have no problems in principle with – its just that they are far too patient with nasty fools to appeal to me [1]). These women are far from either extreme. They are practical romantics and that sets them up for no end of relationship troubles – somewhat like real life. Their expressive manga eyes brood over their predicaments while their mouths are set with a grim determination to figure the whole messy thing out somehow; to keep going, to take their desires seriously, even as these desires threaten to shatter them or turn them into lovestruck idiots.

Perhaps it is because I grew up aquainted with a few women friends who liked other women, lusted after one or another of them and once the adolescent hormone surge receeded, found them good occasional company. What stuck was an admiration for how their heartfelt longing for idealized romantic love was perpetually at odds with their cold, hard, pregmatic outlook on relationships and life. I always suspected that they secretly looked at themselves in the mirror and hoped to see a hero staring back. What the heck, who hasn’t?  There are worse things in the world than making a fool of oneself for love. I got lucky I guess: assholes come in all models but I pretty well missed the wimmen’s versions, so I can foolishly generalise in a sympathetic manner. Takemiya-sensei’s stories remind me of them somehow.

We get more than “story A” in Takemiya Jin’s works. Characters only pair up after a lot of consideration and worry that they will mess up existing friendships, or feel like crap if they are rejected and/or break up. There is also a small degree of powder ritually burnt about whether the intended one will think that yuri v2 romance (aka real gosh honest to goodness lesbian romance, as written by an “out” Japanese lesbian!) is weird. Some of the characters are deeply into the idea of romantic love, while others abjure it as too fraught with emotional danger – even though they secretly wish it could one day be theirs. Confessions don’t always bring instant happiness, though reconsideration pops up as a reoccurring motif. There is even a token gay guy friend of one of the more active lesbian characters; she gets stuck with him shadowing her at school, gets used as a beard by him, gets a lot of unanswerable “what should I do?” questions and then has to counsel his younger sister to stop manisfesting her misplaced jealousy as childish homophobia. The scene when sis is sure that older brother is doing gay as yaoi and needs to be calmed down is a hoot!

Pubic service yuri fragments_of_love_v001_ch004_029My only minor complaint is that Takemiya-sensei has the dark-haired brooding type and the active blonde type, and the blond older woman type and as the characters overlap between stories it is sometimes dfficult to remember who is who (and pining for who, while pined for by who) – especially when a story has two nearly identical dark-haired characters in a love triangle (one wears glasses). It gets a bit confusing.

So two reticent male Genshiken characters, one with a head full of loli crap and josou games, and another with a head full of yaoi dojins, wondering what to make of their feelings could do worse than take a few tips from the cautious life lessons offered by Takemiya Jin. Both Madarame and Hato are tentative about 3D anything, including friendship. Some of the wimmins in Takemiya Jin’s ‘verse do just end up as friends. Perhaps Shimoku sensei has been holding the (v2, non exploitative) yuri in reserve all this time?

If Kio Shimoku decides to push the Hato-crush plot even further he is going to get to have a whole lot of fun with the other big weak spot in yaoi-land; the idiotic, formulaic insistance on the seme/uke typology. And we have been getting some previous plot telegraphing about this: Hato always imagined his “objectivised male self” as a seme. Except that when he is in Hato-chan mode and trancing over Madarame – then he begins to think uke-Hato-chan-otome-yaku-whatever. Pity that Madarame is so damn passive, that he couldn’t even be a sou-uke, let alone any kind of seme. Sou-uke requires something beyond catatonic withdrawal.

Then toss in the “Am I turning gay, or can I get away with the [only for you] excuse?” from yaoi lore. While Hato can put off a few worries with this, Madarame would have to do a whole lot of sweating, even if he occomodates the experiment as a josou game fantasy that has come to life. Madarame is now too far gone to consider any 3D attention, from anyone. Expect vicious “How to cure a lolicon” and “josou sanmyaku” (Crossdressing Mountain Range – game) jokes ‘o plenty as he tries to find an emotionally safe place to curl up into and weather the storm.(2)

Meanwhile to Hato: Even if originally written as nominally straight in 3D matters, he must have found the idea of manly as-warped-by-pervy-women romance strangely appealing. So he somehow got stuck on the idea that yaoish romance was a good model for romance in general. Questions of bodies and genders could even have been put aside for a bit if the first BL-ish magazines he stumbled across featured androgynous bishies – he was, after all not developing secondary sexual characteristics as much or as fast as his junior high classmates. Hence the latest little ret-shade offered up to us by Shimoku-sensei. This offers a convenient plot excuse for leaving the judo club as well. Androgynous lovers who did rough, rapey man(ly) secks in tandem with over -the-top you-and-only-you-forever-even-if-the-earth-takes-my-dead-body romaticism did something for him. The female self he constructed was a way of denying the logical implications of his fantasies, as well as being the vehicle with which he could finally find a social wherin he could fan over them.

gasp c94p027The Genshiken finally empowers him to constuct his own fantasies; to engage in secondary, fannish production, to take charge of the mechanisms of his own desires and draw his story. But of course he can’t. He can only draw clench scenes. His imagination is primarily visual. From his stand(s), we can see that he has been written as having extensive trope genre knowledge, but canot turn it into a full “na-me” storyboard. In this matter having Ogiue help him is only a half-measure, because she is as visually based as he is. Rika is the only text-narrative-biased fujoshi in the Genshiken, and she has no off switch. No help there.

Could it be a suppressed narrator-Hato that is pulling all the strings?

“If I can’t get you to write it, I’ll make you live it! Dance my little puppet! Dance!”

What a fine detective story! Better than a murder mystery in a society of telepaths!

Hato should have imprinted on the v.1 yuri of Ken Kurogane. The polygamous “lets fuck like crazy right now” of gay and straight male pr0n, the over the top romanticism of yaoi but with female bodies and no damn seme /uke stuff to get in the way of a good sweaty tangle. Male mangaka, hmmmmmmm… Is Shojo Sect full of reworked yaoi and bara puppets presented as “girls”? The mirrors of desire in the manga-land funhouse are distorted as all heck! But at least then Hato-chan could have gone looking for a nice spunky girl who could best him (her) in a judo match…

Duh!

How far does Kio Shimoku care to push the Hato-crush motif? It looks like it can get cruel really fast, even if it is well in keeping with his habit of using the Genshiken to skewer otaku (and now fujoshi) foibles.

Personaly I still don’t buy any bit of Hato x Mada x Hato. Perhaps I am in denial, but I cannot believe either of them in any kind of physical relationship with anyone, given their current states. Both are now emotional wrecks. Of course Kio Shimoko can write Hato and Mada into a well-lubed orgy along with the rest of the crew, the brave little toaster, chibi-godzilla and a tentacled monster from the planet transexual in any upcoming chapter he cares to, but that would be the last chapter of the Genshiken. Done, Forever.

Also, while I used to be an enthusiastic Sue x Mada shipper, I now believe that Shimoku-sensei has dropped in too many scenes where it looks like Sue is embarrassed in Mada’s direction, but Hato is always there too in clear line of sight. If we need Sue yuri-ish hijinx in the Genshiken, then there is even a use for Hato-chan in the 3D secton of the Genshiken ‘verse. Sue might be able to salvage the wreck that is Hato, even if it might take months of chaste dating to calm him down,

Also, I am still waiting for the moteki field effect to hit Hato. Madarame had his four “suitors”, By my intuited rule of parallel haplessness, Hato should get some attention soon, from other girls besides Yajima and Kono. Phhhttttt! Kono doesn’t even count if she doesn’t get her game on soon.

Similarly, I can’t see Keiko doing anything but looking at Madarame and deciding that he is just too much work even for a love-struck young hostess. Let the big boobed gaijin girl have some fun next comiket; the moteki field has collapsed and unemployed, relationship-clueless, creepy manga consuming, sulking, passive Mada is once again hopeless. And all that 2D FOREVER stuff tastes like ashes in his mouth. Time for Mada to change his life.

Gambatte! Madarame-san! I know you can become #1 host!

If this keeps up, Ogiue will have to impose a NO DATING IN THE GENSHIKEN, DAMMIT! rule, just to calm things down a bit.

Snap out of it and go make some dojins!

Random Endnotes:

[1] You can’t fool me! I know that a proper lesbian vanquisher of evil looks like Hothead Paisan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothead_Paisan]. I rue the day I picked that thing up – a joke gift given to a straight female friend who was being teased +/or supported by her frends after one more disappointing relationship had just ended. Yikes! Cannot un-see, but it made a lot of sense within its context. You think Hothead Paisan would do any stupid rose duelling? She’d shoot the fucking goomba in the face, twice, cut off his junk, lay into anyone, male or female who stood in her way and burn the evil twit rose-dueling school to the ground. Problem solved! Run off into the sunset with the rose-maiden, and shoot a few rednecks on the way! …As long as the coffee didn’t run out. One wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity, but I understand where her creator was coming from.

I understand rage.

Recall:

“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

Closer to current manga practice, consider Gaku of Murasaki-iro no Qualia. She’ll off one of herselves, if herself gets in the way of saving her friend. That’s how to do hero!

[2] I have a suspicion that the josou one-off tale and the game noted by the Girl Cartoons josou genre essay series (pt3)

” Maintaining this line of reasoning—foremost, the assumption that many Josou works can be read as allegorical of the development of the fandom as a whole—we turn to the erotic visual novel 女装山脈 (josou sanmyaku) or “Crossdressing Mountain Range”, by Nounai Kanojo. Josou Sanmyaku draws a number of parallels to “How to Cure a Lolicon”, and while it is less explicitly allegorical, it nonetheless represents a typical conception of the development of Josou fandom, and development of attraction to the “otokonoko”—which, compared to “Lolicon”, is made very explicit here—and makes a few interestingly novel claims about the fandom which might almost be considered moral prescriptions.

To begin with, Josou Sanmyaku is aggressive in its invocation of the “otokonoko”. The three heroines², all crossdressing males, insist on referring to themselves not as 男の子 (with the kanji for “child”), but as 男の娘 (with the kanji for “young girl”). The “otokonoko” is established in the game’s mythos as something of a third gender, revealed eventually to even be able to bear children via supernatural means. Particularly in the first act of the game, which includes one erotic scene featuring each heroine, there is a strong undercurrent in the dialogue of the otokonoko being capable of providing pleasure far beyond that which a normal woman possibly could, and of the heroines’ goal being to “ruin” the protagonist such that he could not be satisfied by normal women again”.  – –  http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=72

were notorious enough, to serve as the model for Kousaka’s company’s crossdressing game in Genshiken.

Why Hato: build up logically

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

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

Didn’t I start here?

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

Warning! Warning! Category field breach!

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

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

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

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

Whatever!

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

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

And then there is the little matter of vampires…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from the wiki:

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

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

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

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

Yet.

Who again is this thing written for?

Moar wiki:

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

Even more wiki:

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

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

A few points of interest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fujoshi time ditvb_33_27

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

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

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

This is what gets the rotten girls off?

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

furries Plushophiliac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moscow does not believe in yaoi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rage.

Another category field breach:

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

I do not know how to process it.

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

dont kill yoself little gboy -ON Kurosaki Rendou p10 web

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

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

I award myself 2 more adult maturity points.

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

Whatizzit ???

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

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

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

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

It made Dennis Arcand’s Declin a hit

So category field breach can go either way I guess.

Which leads me to an AWSOME THOUGHT EXPERIMENT!

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

… Pause for dramatic effect…

Hmmmmm…. Redrawers and typesetters needed.

Genshiken ch 87 + 88: convention time

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

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

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

sirens 88 15

Hato’s dilemma:

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

day job 88 20

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

Very perverted 87 13

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

“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

The big question is: what is he crossdressing as?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Science 87 12

Oh really?

Or is it all about the drawing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

lurid 88 17

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

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

Too much Hato musing, time to switch POV:

Comiket is not quite a western-style fan convention!

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

GLOMP 88 2

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

..But which one, and why?

…But which one, and why?

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

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

Oh My!

Overwhelmed Sue is overwhelmed!

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

cling sue 88 21

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

subdued 88 12

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

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

"Don't get off the boat!"

“Don’t get off the boat!”

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

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

yajima 88 25

My gawd, does she look sad!

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

Other nice touches:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many fun questions!

One more day of Comiket left!

Postscript: Sign of the Times:

Behold the cover of this week’s Economist Magazine:

Oh NO! Not the Economist too!

Oh NO!      Not the Economist too!

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