Genshiken 86: Hato gets lucky!

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

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

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

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

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

Will he start drawing fake yuri wrestling ecchi scenes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— “Re-Narrating Social Class and Masculinity in Neoliberal Japan, An examination of the media coverage of the ‘Akihabara Incident’ of 2008” David H. Slater, Patrick W. Galbraith in Electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies, September 2011
http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2011/SlaterGalbraith.html

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

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

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

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

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

Then again, there is always Kuchiki.

random endnotes:

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

A doctrine of fair use

This one is old, but still has its charm:

Ōoka Tadasuke (大岡 忠相?, 1677 – February 3, 1752) was a Japanese samurai in the service of the Tokugawa shogunate. During the reign of Tokugawa Yoshimune, as a magistrate (machi bugyō) of Edo, his roles included chief of police, judge and jury, and Yamada Magistrate (Yamada bugyō) prior to his tenure as South Magistrate (Minami Machi-bugyō) of Edo. With the title Echizen no Kami (Governor of Echizen or Lord of the Echizen), he is often known as Ōoka Echizen (大岡越前?). He was highly respected as an incorruptible judge. In addition, he established the first fire brigade made up of commoners, and the Koishikawa Yojosho (a city hospital). Later, he advanced to the position of jisha bugyō, and subsequently became daimyo of the Nishi-Ōhira Domain (10,000 koku).

Ōoka was born in 1677, but did not come into public notice until he was 35, when he was appointed an obscure judgeship. When he accepted this job, he found out that there was a long–standing boundary dispute between the farmers of the Yamada and Wakayama (Kishū) fiefs. While it was obvious that the Yamada claim was the just one, however, no previous judge had been fool enough to irritate Yoshimune, Lord of Kishū, as he was very close to the shogun, Tokugawa  Ietsugu. However, Ōoka took up the case, and immediately settled it on its merits.[1] Yoshimune was so impressed that when he became shogun five years later, he took the unusual action of promoting Ōoka over hundreds of other candidates, to the important post of machi–bugyō (magistrate) of Edo (old name for Tokyo). The post of machi–bugyō combined the duties of mayor, police chief, judge, and fire marshal. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%8Coka_Tadasuke)

pensive wannamote

Hmmm.. how would Ooka decide this one?

Now it so happened in the days of old Edo, as Tokyo was once called, that the storytellers told marvelous tales of the wisdom of Ooka Tadasuke. This famous judge never refused to hear a complaint, even if it seemed strange or unreasonable. People sometimes came to his court with the most unusual cases, but Ooka always agreed to listen.  And the strangest case of all was the case of the Stolen Smell.

It all began when a poor student rented a room over a tempura shop – a shop where fried food could be bought. The student was a most likeable young man, but the shopkeeper was a miser who suspected everyone of trying to get the better of him.

One day he heard the student talking with one of his friends:

“It is sad to be so poor that one can only afford to eat plain rice,” the friend complained.

“Oh,” said the student, “I have found a very satisfactory answer to the problem. I eat my rice each day while the shopkeeper downstairs fries his fish. The smell comes up, and my humble rice seems to have much more flavor. It is really the smell, you know, that makes things taste so good.”

The shopkeeper was furious. To think that someone was enjoying the smell of his fish for nothing! “Thief!” he shouted, “I demand that you pay me for the smells you have stolen.”

“A smell is a smell,” the young man replied. “Anyone can smell what he wants to. I will pay you nothing!”

Scarlet with rage, the shopkeeper rushed to Ooka’s court and charged the student with theft. Of course, everyone laughed at him, for how could anyone steal a smell? Ooka would surely send the man about his business. But to everyone’s astonishment, the judge agreed to hear the case.

“Every man is entitled to his hour in court,” he explained. “If this man feels strongly enough about his smell to make a complaint, it is only right that I, as city magistrate, should hear the case.” He frowned at the amused spectators.

Gravely, Ooka sat on the dais and heard the evidence. Then he delivered his verdict:

“The student is obviously guilty,” he said severely. “Taking another person’s property is theft, and I cannot see that a smell is different from any other property.”

The shopkeeper was delighted, but the student was horrified. He was very poor, and he owed the shopkeeper for three month’s smelling. He would surely be thrown into prison.

“How much money have you?,” Ooka asked him.

“Only five mon, Honorable Honor,” the boy replied. “I need that to pay my rent, or I will be thrown out into the street.”

“Let me see the money,” said the judge.

The young man held out his hand.

“Drop your coins from one hand to the other”, ordered the judge.

The judge listened to the pleasant clink of the money and said to the shopkeeper:

“You have now been paid. If you have any other complaints in the future, please bring them to the court. It is our wish that all injustices be punished and all virtue rewarded.”

“But most Honorable Honor,” the shopkeeper protested, “I did not get the money! The thief dropped it from one hand to the other. See! I have nothing.” He held up his empty hands to show the judge.

Ooka stared at him gravely.

“You can no longer call him thief, for he has paid you fairly.”

“I have decided that: the price of the smell of your food shall be the sound of his money.”

“Justice has prevailed as usual in my court.”

Thusly I offer compensation for what I have read, and invite you to enjoy my ridiculous blog.

The Pillow Book Of Sei Shonagon

Wherein your correspondent muses on some of the structural biases of fujoshi fantasy and other naughty stuff. What a mess! Too many excerpts from MJJ’s recently found posts from the defunct Aestheticism site. Very little structure to the observations. Painfully embarrassing personal asides. Warning: The quotes have graphic descriptions of fujoshi m-m fantasies and rude language. Pix are work-safe. Oh well, if this stuff was orderly and simple.. Oh fuggettit… Onward!

“It begs the question, what does it mean that all of these female-authored stories – which, I’d wager, constitute one of the largest existing bodies of erotica written by women, for women – should hardly feature women’s bodies at all?“
–Audrey Lemon – How Slash saved Me

“…reminds me of a German guy I knew in Tokyo to whom I lent some Eroica slash stories. Helmut returned them to me in agitation. ‘Don’t these writers realize men can be friends and not want to have sex?!’ Naturally, I said, but the point of the slash exercise is that the guys do have sex. He didn’t see it.”
–MJJ/ Aestheticism.com column

In Genshiken’s Chapter 82 Kio Shimoku has a go at staging some risqué “girl talk”, or at least fujoshi talk, as Rika and Yajima try to work out their anxieties and curiosities over male and fujoshi desire. By skillfully tossing in a few themes and red herrings that have surfaced in the literature on fujoshi subculture, he makes a convincing go of it. He also leaps around a bit to keep the reader’s bullshit detector quiet, while cranking up the embarrassment and awkwardness that serves as characterisation for his creatures.(1)

it is a bit hard to remember, but Rika and Yajima have been Genshiken members for only a few Genshiken months, making their appearance after the recruiting drive, just panels before Hato and serving as a foil and a legitimation for his fujoshi/ fudanshi interests. They are his “fellow fujoshi”, or as he lets slip, “us girls”. They still have a few reservations about this last bit, but at least they are all contemporaries. Ogiue might be a fujoshi, but as Genshiken president and published mangaka, she is always going to be their sempai. Sue is out of the loop and Ohno is the Genshiken’s fairy godmother. Contemporaries or not, when the mystery plastic thingy turns up, it must be Hato’s and it must be something used for kinky fun.

Rika’s “grow a dick!” exclamation is a restatement of this gender gap, as well as a fine narrative trick. This is not some Freudian throwback, but a bit of verisimilitude pinched from real-life fujoshi (if one can believe Mizoguchi) chatter, as well as political/ cultural humour among lesbian academia. For some odd reason it always reminds me of the Dwarf holy man in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book “Thud!

“It’s like using an axe… but without the axe.”

Rika is a wonderful shit-disturber, but in retrospect I now doubt that she will be revealed as a junior lesbian fujoshi in the Genshiken-verse. I must curb my enthusiasm and fall back to my previous conclusions: there will be no “out” gay characters in Genshiken unless they appear as an already happily paired-off couple, and Hato holds the token virtual-lesbian-fujoshi position. If I bungle this prediction, I have either seriously misread the whole Genshiken, or it is shark-jumping time. I put aside the girls’-only high school and the forcing her sister to crossdress. Honestly! And Shimoku-sensei isn’t going to fool me with Sue either!

I should control myself when posting comments on other blogs.

Besides, a Fujoshi’s “virtual dick” or “dick-stick” (yup, both used in real-life reports) is a heterosexual Japanese fujoshi joke (as well as a western academic lesbian joke). Here a western slash fen goes on about the elusive member:

“:#2 — “But he’s got nothing at all!!”, aka No Cock is Good Cock

Yeah well- sad fact is that one of the guys has to have a cock, so that anal sex can take place. But you don’t want a real cock, because real cocks are only fascinating to men (straight or gay, if the truth be told) and most women have other bits of a guy they prefer to think about. Now if my theory that the seme is a woman is true, the seme’s cock is necessarily a latex strap-on, so it’s no wonder if it’s totally nerveless and always up. However I don’t think most yaoi authors think in those depressingly realistic terms. They prefer the aesthetic. In picture yaoi the seme’s cock is an elegant affair, drawn in simple lines to create a pleasing outline. No toner or cross-hatching to suggest purplish skin and engorged veins etc. And it can accommodate some really odd positions. In text yaoi the seme’s cock is equally sketchily described and accommodates some equally odd sexual acts. And the reason for that is- need we say it again?- the seme as a person, and as a physical person, is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy cock. It can do things real cocks can’t (but fingers often enough can.) It’s the ideal sex organ. It can ram or it can tickle. It can pierce through to the bowels or coyly play about the entrance. It’s bloody *flexible*– it bends. What’s the use of fantasizing sex if you can’t fantasize it with the ultimate sex toy, hmm?””
From M.J.Johnson’s “The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi” (2002)

Yipe!

M.J.Johnson is the nom-de-plume of a western lesbian fujoshi/ slash enthusiast who lived in Japan for a few years during the 1990’s, read (and did early fan translations of) lots of Japanese fangirl doujins and then blogged a lot during the early 2000’s. Her posts must necessarily generalise from her own and friends’ particulars, but her insights remain extremely readable and thoughtful. Though sometimes what is most important is what she almost leaves out…

First; formalism in the genre:

Desire, like biological gender is innate, but its expression is socially mediated. Japanese fujoshi desire (we will worry about the rest of the world later) exists on the edges of a continuum of “normal” desire within that society and is shaped in a collective, collaborative project by the concerns, frustrations, aspirations, dreams and fears of its enthusiasts. That Japanese society exhibits a strong tendency to value form and surface as predicator of role and outward/ surface behaviour simply acts as one of main forces to shape that expression. Pervasive structural sexism is a big part too, but we gaijin shouldn’t feel that smug.

So much of Japanese fujoshi desire is about the articulation of “forms”; so much so that the rotten girls are often in need of another, more prosaic stick to dislodge clumps of vulgar lacanian theorist fanboys (and I’ve done it too) that accrete around their hobby, gushing about “the violence of the law”. One can posit that it would look a lot like a certain Onihime’s floor hockey stick.

Taxonomy is one of the laws of magic. So is Repetition.

A well-agreed-on formal structure invites collaboration, fan creation, discourse and the elaboration of tropes and /or “topoi” (as MJJ calls visual tropes). A trope ain’t a trope without tropers. Plaster is a skilled trade; drywall is a weekend DYI project that invites friends with trowels – the more the merrier!

“Ladies comics” and mainstream male pr0n are like Windows and OSX. Fujoshi fun is more like linux. Initializing a dick-function (to really really stretch the metaphor), within a community predicated on the enjoyment and exchange of narratives that satisfy distaff female desire is not too different from cosplay. (I have now stretched the “open-source” metaphor so far that I have damaged it.) Remember that it took the Japanese to turn a small tradition at western sci-fi conventions; the masquerade ball/ second evening piss-up, into a global cultural form.

You put on the uniform and assume the role. Young moms dress like young moms and become young moms. Salarymen dress like salarymen and become such. Go skiing, dress accordingly, go hiking, dress up in yama-girl gear. Be sure to also read the guide books on how to be a proper hiker first! The tsunami pine that survives the tsunami but dies of salt in its roots gets cut down, fiberglassed and reassembled like a plate of fake food in a restaurant window. This is somehow supposed to be inspirational. Rocks and gravel get raked into “gardens”. Form announces a consensus about function. The center holds little truth about the surface. I am by no means the first to comment on this (2)

The only really odd thing about fujoshi material is those bonking pretty-boy characters and behind them, the equally odd nature of the culture of collaboration that produces them:

Male pr0n fanatics may post their solitary efforts on forums and chans, but nothing is more prickly, passive-aggressive and hysterically solitary than a male pr0n enthusiast, except perhaps a western male geek in full defence-mode of the particular sci-fi/ comic/ manga/ anime thing he obsesses over. Male geek pride is too often inimical to a friendly discourse of form. Instead they stake their identities on loud proclamations of preference-as-holy-writ, often so insistently delivered that one would think they value them as their very lives. It makes for lousy “circles”.

That there are so few hysterical mastery displays by the Genshiken boys (Madarame’s fanboying in the group zine is not even close to the mildest examples of this kind of thing) is one of the great enabling plot liberties of the series. The Genshiken males keep a sheepish silence long enough to learn to tolerate other males’ takes on their fave things and eventually get to interact as friends. Real- life assemblages of geek boys are far more fraught with bruised egos and simmering anger over thwarted alpha-dog-of-this-particular-tiny-realm-of-fandom displays. Emotional critters wez guys is!

Of course no one is going to argue that Japanese women need socialization lessons from the fujoshi fandom, but fujoshi fandom is curiously social – curiously in that the subject material is centered around “solitary vices”. Fujoshi desire posits the role of agency as something that is exchanged, shared, messed with, worked on and then “put on” to see if it gets a round of approval as functional. The only hints of discord in the exercise comes from the great myth of the “pairing fight” – a disagreement over the understanding of the agree-upon rules of form that is probably more self- mocking humour than reality.

The formalistic “rules” of narratives of fujoshi desire are endlessly amenable to incremental adjustment and expansion of categories and sub-genres. I note from further readings from fangirls, that the rigid monogamy in fan-appropriated narrative versions of shonen series now makes room for a range of preliminary (?) pairings between characters within the seme x uke framework, and discounts one-dimensional displays of violent “want/take”.

Much as Ken Kurogane’s “yuri-lesbian-alien-schoolgirls” try all manner of provisional play, before settling down to “true ruv” and the only ‘bad lesbian” is the predatory one who wants the “player” character to herself and stoops to blackmail and threats to get her way. She gets pummelled with a fire extinguisher by the heroine who rescues “the player” and later declares true unending love. Said “player” more or less reforms and accepts true love. Moral of the story: never use your fists – you can hurt them! … But I digress…

No wait.. Moral of the story: Higgamous hoggamous yaoi is still monogamous, but now serially so. Unlike fanboy yuri, threesomes and moresomes are still frowned upon.

So the Genshiken anime yaoi episode is truer to type than first thought. The Kousaka character is probably what MJJ-sensei characterises in an essay as a ‘super-slut” a character whose only identity is that of a pan-sexual polymorphous player. And I thought it was all just seme x uke. The male super-slut is a trickster figure who exists solely to foreground the sex. He will try anything once or twice; even incest and Morris dancing. In a sense, he represents the event horizon of the boundaries of sexuality within the story. Think of the Rocky Horror show if you need an easy example. Some limits are necessary; if anything is possible, nothing is hawt.

The virtual dick that the fangirls laugh about is of course the role of agency – the power to make things happen as the story and within the story as that ghostly appendage. It is wielded by the seme – proxy to the author and reader and imposes an oft-violent “pleasure” and incidentally subordination/ non-/ loss of/ agency on the passive uke/catcher/ receiver/ bottom character. But it is wielded in the guise of an over-the-top imagining of male desire in berserk mock-homo mode, so at times the result is something like a newbie attempt at doing hard-boiled detective story dialogue:

MJJ-sensei again, on the sins of fanwriting: (arm the Bulwer-Lyttons!)

“Cock”. Yes you have to use it in here-and-now tough guy stories or teenage stories or whatever stories, cause that’s what guys in general call their cocks. You don’t have to use it every sentence just for the thrill of using it. ‘Duo pulled out his rampant cock and shoved it in Wufei’s face. The black-haired pilot eyed the brunette’s cock with contempt. ‘You think I care how big your cock is?’ the obsidian-eyed youth spat. You will, my Asian charmer. My cock will teach you. The master of Death Scythe flipped the delicate Chinese pilot onto his belly and shoved his throbbing cock inside the butt that normally warmed Shenron’s control chair.”

Ok, I only tossed that in because it was funny big time. Derivative source warning flag up – again we have observations on western slash slipping into Japanese bl/y territory.

That a phallic agency is conflated, mirrored and fetishized within the creation of fujoshi narratives is only strange insomuch as the nature of that agency is reflected and recreated moment to moment as a collective discourse within a community of (mostly) women.

That cock is a group-mind cock! The lacanian phallus has been stolen by the wimmins! Monsters from the “id”! A legion of Harley Quinns with a smattering of Hothead Paisans (You have been warned!) are trying out their xmas gift machine guns. Hijinx to Ensue!

“Lance! keep your effing head down!!!”

Once again, the sexual “pleasure” of the fantasy, for the consumer/ creator is “agency”. Pleasure for the author and reader is derived from the fantasy of imposing a weird idea of overwhelming physical pleasure on a character written as an incomprehensible “other”, by a character that is a cardboard projection of an imagined male “id” and therefore male-privileged sexual agency incarnate.

The uke as “other” is both incomprehensible male and mock-female. Because this “other” is by definition “alien” we get the MIB explanation “because they are aliens, they do alien things!” And the “alien” thing both seme and uke do is derive implausible enjoyment/ satisfaction/fulfilment from this arrangement. Finally the whole uncomfortable mess is wrapped up in ribbons of narrative magic posited as “this is the way those alien boy-things do love” to turn it into a just-so story.

After all, isn’t “love” something that makes women do stuff that goes against everything that is is good and safe and proper and fun?

“Look what happened to Mom! “(3)

That this sounds rather sick and squicky is both besides the point and central to it. That’s what the whole theory-term “the other” was invented for. Few Baudrillard fans quote his “Seductions” because it endlessly kneads this goo around for hundreds of pages, but as an executive summary, this will do – for it and a whole slew of other pop culture-psych-social-anthropology theory that is about the best we have to explain this and similar messes, right now.

Necessarily “the other” for fangirls is a wee bit different than for theory-boys.(4) Rika would probably find her dick-for-a-day problematic. Rather than a list of all the ways that a real mr. woody can be unpredictable and prone to painful damage and embarrassing non-performance, what is worth noting is how the seme or even less structured “top” role in fujoshi and slash fantasies is writtens as taking its pleasure from playing its role, rather than from the nerve endings of its imagined naughty bits. Even ejaculation is posited more as a symbolic role-playing pleasure than the result of an actual physical climax. If mr. seme is enjoying all that thrusting into the helpless uke, he traditionally gives very little sign of it – at least according to two infamous fan typologies mentioned in previous posts. Vocalizing pleasure during the act is somehow weak and uke-like? It is as if the uke gets to loudly acknowledge all nerve ending stuff for the pair, as well as the role/ emotional enjoyment stuff.  This one requires testimony from Japanese fujoshi. Who gets to say what when, and what? Is the speaking role indicative of shifting reader/author identification/ POV?

If the exchange of fantasies within the fujoshi community is about agency, then the uke is also what is left over in the exchange, “the accursed share”, the bits that the fantasist was trying to get rid of, give away, but stubbornly remain.

It is not that what remains is “feminine”, but rather that it is the parts of the societally proscribed yet problematically internalized feminine that the narrative is in flight from; the parts that are supposed to fit, but just effing won’t! So give them to a fictional pretty boy and kick back to watch the fun! And yet these accursed things pursue throughout the narrative like vengeance. Medusa might have her laugh, (pace Cixious) but she doesn’t get the last one. “The farmers (the social real) – they always win.” Biology always threatens as destiny. And yup m-preg does pop up an effing lot in fujoshi tales.

ASIDE: “Who speaks my name in shadows?”

I may have it completely wrong, but I venture that my modest experience that women generally find it distracting and annoying when a guy yaps while screwing carries over to women’s fantasies of all types: Grunting occasionally is allowed. Anything more  trespasses on her active construction of the event-as-it-happens. Years ago I had a lover who insisted on a porno movie mantra that she repeated continuously throughout our lovemaking. It was really, really annoying as all heck, and yet it worked on me just as much as it was necessary for her.

A powerful grad-student study mojo threatens here: Who gets to yammer, and when during various forms of fantasy narratives. Would the “top” blab more before or during or after than the “bottom” in wimmen’s yuri vs LFB man-made yuri? For fujoshi made m-m vs guy-made bara. Western vs Japanese?  I swear, this is not just an instant masters degree but a chance to see how the high theory of various feminisms mirrors (or not) in the vulgar vernacular. Some lucky fujoshi is gonna get tenure on this one, all while voraciously reading her fave fare as “research” – my gift – enjoy!

Such are the  terrible engines of fujoshi desire. With such internally self-generated, self-replicating chains of contradictions to fuel the fun – one could power starships with this stuff, if only it did not turn to mist in the light of day.

MJJ almost described a perfect imaginary member, but then could not resist mentioning fingers. Her fingers. The finger of a real-life woman who proclaims that she loves other women. Even if you are one of the tribe of women who love other women and who still enjoy top/ bottom role delineations, you have to admit that fingers are way way different that dildoes, let alone dicks. Touching one’s lover is whole different thing than bonking them or going at them with a sex toy. Real-life guys have fingers too, and we too soon enough learn how to be considerate with them and considerate in general in the presence of the ones we love. Else we are going to to spend the rest of our days as ronrey basement-dwelling neckbeards.

The point that every reasonably functioning sexually active adult should acknowledge is that there are 2 distinct aspects to the fun of love-making; the pleasure of one’s own body and the pleasure of being able to give pleasure to your lover. (awwww… that sounds so 1980’s) Admittedly a great deal of roleplaying fetishistic sex has one party eschewing/ limiting their physical stimulation to impose such on the other party, but even from a purely mechanical point of view, we must agree that this is “extra” – closer to the solitary vice than what two people can do with each other at the same time. Crudely put, in the language of straight missionary position sex: getting your back clawed a bit while she writhes around is plenty better than just feeling her writhe around as you screw, which is still better than her just lying there. And touching her while you thrust madly is better than just thrusting madly.

Duh? Dat so Captain Obvious? Your point?

Fetishism limits the direct feedback loop of mutual physical contact as communication during sex.

How closely do the narratives of fujoshi fantasy follow this form to emphasize the illusion of agency?

Blatant formal rules for mutual give-and-take and consideration are not what fantasies are for. It is hard enough to get the writers to remember to put rubbers on their fuck-puppets. (the North american porno movie industry is fleeing California over a State law that mandates that all filmed naughtiness “play safe”.) Fantasies are for avoiding all the troublesome work, empathy, miscommunication and perpetual fail that hovers about the scene while real-life love tries its best to find and make a bit of happiness for a few moments, at the price of the “full measure of [one’s] time.”

And all the give and take stuff can be tough for the gal, as well as for the guy (or the bottom as well as the top, or the uke as well as the seme). It can be a bitter admission of defeat/ inadequacy. The guy/top/seme is supposed to be driven to fits of very apparent mad lust just by the mere existence and intensely radiating fuck- me- now- dammit- field powers of the gal/ bottom/ uke. Having to do all those Cosmo magazine sex tricks is what unloved ugly-stick partners have to do because they are just not that appealing on their own. Or the thrill is gone…

Definitely not fantasy material. Sounds like work. See endnotes for why guys should be very, very, VERY careful buying naughty underwear for their girlfriends.(5) And Gawd help you if you drank waaaaaaay too much and you prove inadequate to the moment! What if she takes it personally? (if ?????)

Shimoku-sensei’s Spotted Flower is so deadly on-target in this respect that it hurts. What is a frustrated pregnant girl to do when buddy-boy gets all scared of your delicate condition? She even deployed the striped schoolgirl panties to no effect! (6) The main problem with the Spotted couple, and with Ogiue + Sass is the notion of the pairing itself – that a rotten girl will feel so alienated from mainstream society as to “settle” for an Otaku boy.

“the problem with that theory is that fujoshi don’t give up on seeking [social] acceptance — the majority dress perfectly normally, work out, even have boyfriends (shock!). Anecdotally, they are usually on some form of the treadmill: either interested in a lifelong career, or looking to get married and become a homemaker. So (and again this is anecdotally) the distaste for otaku comes because of the whole otaku dropout thing. That isn’t what they want for themselves, and it definitely isn’t what they want in a partner. One of the pillars of yaoi/BL and even regular shojo manga is that one of the romantic antagonists has money and/or status and isn’t ashamed of it.”

From a reply by the author in comments:
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

Nasty Kaminaga is closer to a “real” fujoshi than any of the Genshiken fujoshi characters. Saki + Kou are of course a perfect couple. If the previews for Genshiken’s ch83 are right, then Madarame ain’t gettin’ any, any time soon. Unemployment is a rotten cologne on any guy. Beyond this, Genshiken avoids the class-war tropes of Shoujo/ bl/ yaoi. Shame on Neojaponism for skating past this one too; the closest we have to any analysis on this is the Amorous Arabs essay by Kazumi Nagaike. The easiest way to deal with this elephant in the room is the old saw: “abuse of power comes as no surprise” while recalling that adolescent fiction of both sexes is the fiction of the powerless.

Feminist/ queer/ gender theory concepts of subversion and resistance grow out of the recognition of the structures of power in society, and then attack the myths and hidden assumptions inherent in these.

Frinstance:

“Unmarked categories

The idea of unmarked categories originated in feminism. The theory analyzes the culture of the powerful. The powerful comprise those people in society with easy access to resources, those who can exercise power without considering their actions. For the powerful, their culture seems obvious; for the powerless, on the other hand, it remains out of reach, élite and expensive.

The unmarked category can form the identifying mark of the powerful. The unmarked category becomes the standard against which to measure everything else. For most Western readers, it is posited that if a protagonist’s race is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is Caucasian; if a sexual identity is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is heterosexual; if the gender of a body is not indicated, will be assumed by the reader that it is male; if a disability is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is able-bodied, just as a set of examples.

One can often overlook unmarked categories. Whiteness forms an unmarked category not commonly visible to the powerful, as they often fall within this category. The unmarked category becomes the norm, with the other categories relegated to deviant status. Social groups can apply this view of power to race, gender, and disability without modification: the able body is the neutral body.” – some wiki entry on philosophical concepts of power

Note how this theme provides nice background music for an MJJ essay on why it has to be males bonking:

“”Gender fuck. (Which of you is the woman? a) Neither b) Both c) Toss a coin d) Him, he’s shorter e) Him, but only on alternate Thursdays.

Because the roles aren’t automatically assigned by sex, the characteristics commonly regarded as ‘female’ can belong to either of the guys involved, or both, or neither. (The neither stories are pretty bleak.) You can give the guys attitudes and behaviors that aren’t normally found in men, straight or gay. They can be super-romantic. They can swear eternal devotion and be ready to die for their loved one. They can cry, and moon over the question of does he love me or not, and spend hours discussing their feelings with their partner. As Joanna Russ has pointed out, famously, these men are an amalgam of what women consider desirable male and female qualities male bodies, male status/ power, female relating styles, female priorities (love and human connection are more important than politics, economics, or soccer.) These men are the female idea of ideal human beings.
[ my note: warning – If Russ is commenting on it, it’s about slash. ]

This is one form of m/m. There’s another, not as pretty, in which negative female characteristics are given to one guy or the other. Passivity, helplessness, victim mentality, masochism (‘He’s untrue, beats me too, but he’s my man’ as the old blues song has it.) These stories have the classic sadistic ring to them: sexual and sentimental pleasure in torturing a helpless person because he’s helpless. Some people- very few- do ‘get the strong guy’ stories; but what presses more buttons is a male who has female relating styles and priorities (love is more important than soccer and a functioning anus) being put in the most degraded female position possible (sexual and emotional slavery), where you can then watch him suffer. The reader is evidently supposed to identify with the victim, so maybe the purpose of the exercise is to give readers a masochistic thrill.

Or possibly the whole thing is a female form of catharsis: the catharsis that comes from seeing hostility represented openly. The male action pic gives you the catharsis of violence with scores of anonymous bodies being gunned down and blown apart. It makes sense to me that the female form requires a closer attention to the object of the violence (that has to be a person suffering, not an anonymous Hollywood extra) and a narrower focus on the emotions involved. The focus seems to be not physical violence and suffering so much (in spite of all those rapes) as emotional violence and suffering. Well, emotions ‘R’ us, most of the time.”

Why the Guys? or, Navel-gazing on a Sunny Afternoon by MJJ

Holy Handmaiden’s Tale Batman!

Wait a sec tho – things are getting confusing here: Sometimes MJJ is sure that the seme is the woman as reader/ author. Other times the uke is the woman as receiver and emotional proxy. Would she still be around blogging, I guess that she would answer that it is both and neither, always at the same time. Perhaps the POV jumps from the seme during the foreplay to the uke during the secks. Who can tell? MJJ is a westerner who tended to fold her slash interests into her yaoi interests, so the tropes of one field merged into those of the other – which is why one has to be cautious with western comments on native Japanese fujoshi culture, even when the western correspondent lived in Japan and could read and fan-late the stuff.

That said, MJJ was pretty much in concurrence with what Zizek has to say about fantasies being a containment field for the contradictions of desire, rather than just desires themselves.

All of this also gets nastily Hegelian, really fast. Yup; vulgar dialectic of master and slave time. Ur-Yaoi! Two Conan the Barbarian types freely wager all on the mountain-top for a chance to dominate. Suppress retching reflex and take the safeties off the claymores. Mark Twain recognized that Alfred Nobel was a heckovalot more dangerous to history than dialectics. Mark Twain had just gone through the American civil war. Incidentally this is why casino gambling is so effing pathetically useless and sad. Fuck the slots – all of you just go out into the parking lot and beat each other senseless. Winner gets everyone’s cash, minus the state’s cut. But do it slowly, so the rotten girls can watch.

ASIDE: Hmmmmm… Hato is taking economics. Wonder if he fetishizes “rent-seeking behaviour” by corporations? Keep in mind that it is the State that sets the artificial arena of the rules that allows rent-seeking behaviour. ( for those of you who don’t pay much attention to economics, read “the rich fucking over everybody with rigged rules, rather than actually employing folks and making stuff” ) Will he grow up to be a good leftist economist like certain New York Times columnists? What will be the dark secret of his amazingly intuitive economic theories? 

Back to some heteronormative male fear-disgust reactions:

This crap does not advance the project of civilization! Thugs fighting and fucking is just thugs fighting and fucking, and you can’t keep the lights on and the stores full of food when too much of this shit spills out onto the streets!

Kill it with fire!

At a safe distance…

Off to the re-education camps!!!

(Note the rising angst-flood of male hysteria)

“A WELL REGULATED MILITIA BEING NECESSARY TO THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE, THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED !!!!! “

Yeeee-Haw! It's Male Hysteria time!

Yeeee-Haw! It’s Male Hysteria time!

“You see – We’ve tried”, reply the girls – “it is too deep within YOU!” (You too ladies; that school massacre boy got all his guns from his mom – who he shot first) so the most fujoshis and slash fen can do is trivialize it – and they’ve come up with some really fun ways of trivializing it!)

I am theory boy! 
Son of bitch! 
You want  Columbine?
You want Akiba massacre?
You want school and theatre shootings? suicide bombers? civil wars?
You want more armies of child soldiers?
Humanity is pig disgusting!
Fujoshi fantasies is murderer!
Fucking baka perverts domo me

“Humor is an interrupted defense reflex…”

...nuff said...

Those nightmares sound familiar…

All that violent domination-submission stuff is right out of the straight anxiety closet. Pure “the other” again at work. Tar some poor bastard outcast will all our secret ickky fear feathers. Heck, even herr Hegel was stretching a metaphor in a time and place where aristos (the descendants of very successful thugs) endlessly fought over land and peasants in an eternal zero-sum game that was war in Europe before the rise of “modern” mass politics and citizen armies. If anyone is is prone to violence and degradation with towards gay guys, it is usually the gangs of nominally “normal” bashers who have terrorized gay folks for centuries. There was a big nasty reason why the “love that dared not speak its name” didn’t dare: It would get savagely beaten to death by god-feerin’ clowns. And as to why straight women should pick up on that violent fear vibe, even in Japan, where supposedly male homosexuality -as a private indulgence – was better tolerated; straight male violence towards women would be more than enough to paint most males as one step away from going berserk under “some” circumstances . We will not mention Nanking, nope, not at all.

So yeah, you are going to see dom/sub stuff in gay and lesbian culture, but it is more likely “turn it into theater to take the edge off reality” role-playing that has been absorbed from mainstream culture and being turned back on itself. And you are going to see a whole heck of a lot more real nastyness, in absolute and relative terms in straight culture just because they are more of us “normal” types to misbehave horribly.

So no wonder Japanese gay guys get angry at fujoshis “leering like dirty old men” at yaoi, and filling the magazine shelves with stuff that will just deepen the despair and confusion of youths who find themselves in a crisis over their emergent sexuality. Just think: a silly dojin fantasy or 10 could send some poor kid off a school roof or train platform.

Naw, you can’t take the stuff too seriously.

if you did, you would shatter with rage…

So with that, back to agency. This essay started with the ghostly appendage as symbol of agency, moved to the speaking role as agency, thence to the forgoing of give and take within sex to instrumental, objectifying narratives in fantasy and now questions the whole exercise of power within the structure of fujoshi works. So again – why guys? (just because they think we are hawt?) To really play with the power dynamics in a relationship, fujoshi/ slash-fen assert that it is best to control the variables.

Some theorists have commented that fangirls prefer m-m fantasies because they want to avoid being seen as/ contaminated by/ imprinted upon by the mock-lesbian narratives of yuri. Fujoshis might reply that a yuri battle of power and sex between two bitchy women executives could get so implausible and boring so fast as to really really be a dry hump – even if you get off on f-f action. Even loser fanboys must admit that Borg Queen x Janeway just doesn’t do that much…

Unless one gets off within the granola confines of 1990’s era politically correct, vanilla American slash fiction… (the following was too funny to leave out)

From MJJ again, on slash sex:

A gay man once remarked about western slash that the characters always behaved like recognizable gay men until they got into bed and then they suddenly turned into middle-aged women. Hours and hours of foreplay are followed by gradually building climaxes and an explosive very wet orgasm- and then another, and another, and another… and then the two men have a cozy conversation about how much they love each other and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Real men, he said, don’t do that.

Hours and hours? Middle aged women? Further study is required…

In the meantime, to take the whole power-weapons-might-ability m-m thing over the top, howabout using cartoon characters that can’t be mistaken for real folks no matter how hard you try?

Here are some cartoon male weapons making moon-eyes at each other for the amusement of fujoshis, Finally! No humans were harmed in the making of this wet dream!

Ok, I stole this from http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html image, it ROCKS!

Dojin art swiped from one of the circles at Transfunket.  Fire up the google xlate and go to http://egolife.egoism.jp/index2.html

Behold the perverse desires of the Deceptacons! via Tokyo Scum Brigade’s coverage of Transfunket:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/10/transfunket-fujoshi-in-diguise.html   If the videos and pix are down, try this page of links to all the dojin circles that were showing there. May your google xlate work better than mine.

As Laurie Anderson once asked

¿Qué es más macho, pineapple or knife?
Well, let’s see. My guess is that a pineapple is more macho than a knife.
Sí! Correcto! Pineapple es más macho que knife.

I think I have dragged this one out as long as I can…

Perhaps like the Laurie Anderson song, this is all ancient history.

As commercial BL becomes a profitable niche market in Japan, the original girls’ romance roots of the genre (shoujo manga) are brought to the foreground and depictions of m-m romance are pushed in the direction of a sensitivity towards imagined real-world gay male concerns, or the girls’ ideas of how to treat depictions of gay guys respectfully, or at least in a “politically correct” manner (as opposed to the desires of actual Japanese gay male bara readers). And there is always the novelty of trying to merge some more “realistic” male gay details/ verisimilitude into the conventions of the genre. Hey! The publishers might grab some extra market share along the way. Meanwhile shonen manga hedges its bets and loads the shotgun with goggle bait so that it can “salt” its pages and maintain a certain of level of fujoshi appropriation and market interest. The hardcore fan produced stuff stays tucked away on the tables at comiket and sealed in plastic sleeves in the speciality stores of maiden road.

Rika is representative of the “new generation” of socially accepted/ recognised/ tolerated fujoshi: according to current reports, the market is now going out of its way to cater to their tastes. Nothing says acceptance in Japan better than “market share”. Per Okazu’s Erica-sensei, the whole of “maiden road” is now exclusively bl/y for fujoshis – yuri is harder to find, even though she declares that more “quality” (woman friendly) yuri and shoujo-ai is reportedly being published. Sometimes a yuri-loving woman has to go dig through the otaku-pits of Akiba to find some (fear not, she reports that off-the-main-trail supplies have been located).

Japanese merchants and publishers like fujoshis!

MJJ again, from 2002:

All of this misses the point. Most yaoi characters aren’t even realistic men, let alone gay ones. Most yaoi is fantasy pure and simple, on the level of unicorns and elves. It may be the only fantasy here that’s 100% female-created, and I think should be cherished just for that. But this flies in the face of western belief that the personal is political, and that a fantasy can’t exist totally separate from social reality. If yaoi goes mainstream, I think it will be forced, consciously or unconsciously, to conform to notions of what’s politically correct and acceptable. At that point it will cease to be the untrammeled expression of female eroticism, as it is in Japan, and will cease to be yaoi. (emp added)

Today they are a market segment.

Go ahead Rika, have another beer and talk as loud as you want…

Random endnotes:

(1) We poor outlanders miss a whole bunch of things when we read Japanese stories that feature embarrassment, and take it only as western-style embarrassment. The abrahamic religious concept of “sin”, as it is libidinized in our culture is less prevalent in Japan. Generally, what is done in private is a private matter, But if what should be kept private slips out into the public, then that is both shame and kink, as in the western libidinized “sinful”. And of course the definition of ‘public” and “private” are fluid and subject to detailed contextual rules.

(2) Hmmm! Something is wrong here! The referenced paragraph was just a quick allusion to one of the big gaijin truisms about Japan – You can find similar on Neojaponism, and in that curious Japanese Culture blog that promotes a whole lot more theory than mine and many others… However, imagine my surprise, as I finished writing it and was trolling through the MJJ/ Aestheticism essays on Archive.org when I ran into a paragraph that was thematically the same as what I had just written, except she had no access to the yama-girls reference and had used an earlier one. And I am quite sure I had not read hers before. So up goes a warning flag! If there is one thing I have learned in theory land is that when this kind of groupthink pops up we (the groupthinkers) are missing a whole lot of the picture. This requires further study.

That said, another interesting thing about that “Japanese Culture” blog (burogu.com) above, is the writer’s fascination with a modified/ inverted Lacanian analysis, and his insistence on the Japanese habit of reinforcing surface appearance with sequences of familiar, repeated surface behaviour, practiced through “kata” , e.g; the warm-up exercises in martial arts, etc. This too could yield an interesting take on all Japanese narrative form, not just amateur naughty tales, if patterns of action endlessly repeat across stories. Okazu’s Erica-sensei has voiced annoyance at the ubiquitous “story A” in yuri. Is that “kata”? Familiarity is reassuring. Get it perfect through practice! Invoke Often!

(3) See (4) Also, one more time from the previously referenced essay by Rio Otomo:

“What happens to the daughters of these housebound women in the suburbs? Have they turned into the yaoi girls who are the consumers of the cute boy images and their erotic stories? The participants of the otaku debate unanimously agree that in this context gender difference is asymmetrical. The girls who do not want to repeat the Mothers’ life have two choices; to embody their time-frozen images as a little girl in order to get men’s attention, or to live in the liminal space between such images and their own bodily actuality.”

(4) …And neither have anything to do with the Lady Lucrezia Mongfish-Heterodyne, though the Foglio’s characterization of their big-bad is a hoot!

(5) Muda-kun’s iron law of why you buy naughty knickers for your sweetie at your peril:

a) You will not spend anywhere near enough. Quality lady knickers are expensive!
b) She will find your choices will be uncomfortable and ridiculous.
c) They wont fit – and if you are crazy enough to still try this, make damn sure you err on the side of too small.
d) “So you are saying I need this stupid junk to make myself attractive to you ???”

DEATH FLAG goes up!
Here are some extra considerations..

e) A gift card to a reputable firm (not a sex shop!) is marginally acceptable, only after she comments on the poor fit/ trouble/ expense of finding comfy undergarments. Anything less than $100 fails via rule (a), so be prepared to take the hit in the wallet. Ask her which store before buying the gift card. Wait until it is sometime near her birthday. Or just offer your credit card. Even if she makes more than you do!
(f) No, you can’t watch her buy them.
(g) above goes 10X for high-heeled shoes. Don’t even go there!
h) No wonder guys lust after young inexperienced women; you think you can find a naive one that will let this stuff slip, don’t you? Bakka!!!

(6) Muda-kun’s corollary to the iron law – henceforth known as the Spotted Flower exception:

If she does end up deploying fancy knickers for you, you better have a blue pill in reserve – even if you are 16 years old and exceptionally virile. Because if you fail at this point you have just… dug… your… own… grave !!!  … Just sayin’… No pressure…

The tactics of mistake

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

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

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

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

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

But first, a word from our sponsor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

etc…

Back to “art school confidential”…

Why am I bothering?

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

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

Cue the synopsis that snagged me:

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

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

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

Again why bother?

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

“My characters are making love”

Well, they are doing something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh shit! I did that! Duh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won’t even speculate about yaoi puppets..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only Futurerama can save us.

Yawn!

Finally, as for real art schools:

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

Ars longa
, vita brevis

Genshiken 81 – some thoughts on the royal harem route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La la la.

Unrelated news of the weird:

Right-wing Mayor’s wife heavily into Cosplay!

—Quote—

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

– A person who has something to say about everything

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

– Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru talking about his marriage

— end —

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

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

The Shipping News

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

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

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

Squeeeeeee! My eyes go all cartoon starbusrst-y!

PLAYSET FIELD AT MAXIMUM!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sqweeeeeeeeeeee!

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

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

Burden of dreams

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

Then she cries.

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, so we won’t hold our breath.

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

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

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

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

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

Then they take you…

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

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

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

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

That won’t work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genshiken ch 80 preview – the second tear

Condolences, from one robot to another:


“Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! ”
-M. Kundera

So he finally…

Contested spaces

I invoke the Commonwealth!
I know what was in Orthroerir;
Orthroerir was in it,
In it, it was hoarded,
Hoarded, it was stolen,
Stolen, it was spilled,
Spilled, I caught it,
Caught, it was given away,
Given away, it stays my own,
My own is the Commonwealth
I invoke it!
The land may not be hidden from its lover.

Silverlock – J.M.Myers (1949)

John Myers Myers “Commonwealth of Letters” is an imaginary space carved out of the western literary canon by a fan of the classics. Perhaps one of the oddest sub-culture books of the 20th century, it was rescued from obscurity by science fiction fans who adopted it in a fit of mad love. It is still recommended as an odd treat within that community.

As proto-fan-fiction or fiction of enthusiasm, it situates its adventures within a space bounded by the enthusiasms it celebrates, and populated with the characters of the same. Amusingly enough, the climax of Silverlock’s quest is to emerge from a descent to the lowest levels of the underworld to drink at the spring of wisdom – only to be expelled from the space, back into the real world. A less elegant but analogous process would end a fan fiction about a fictional fan-space fanning over fannish things in a feedback howl and system crash.

Multiplying entities without necessity is an act of love.

Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken and Akiko Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian yaoi-space are closely related “commonwealth of interests” propositions that attempt to impose a narrative onto layered readings of real life conditions. Both center around communities of play and imagination, both are minority reports, and both contest issues within these larger communities and their shared cultural fantasies, as they relate to larger “solid” social realities.

Genshiken to Otaku/Fujoshi to real-life current Japanese society as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian space yaoi-verse to bl/yaoi enthusiasts to current Japanese society.

Mizoguchi would probably protest that her theoretical space entails has a different project than Shimoku’s:

“My critical examination of yaoi begins with the premise that yaoi does not represent any person’s reality, but rather is a terrain where straight, lesbian, and other women’s desires and political stakes mingle and clash, and where representations are born.” (Mizoguchi 2010, see below)

Why does she give rats ass? Well, she likes the stuff, but doesn’t like the potential for less-than-nice depictions of gay folk to bleed over into the real world. Such bleed-over could (1) reinforce stereotypes in the larger community and aid and abet the pain such misunderstanding causes real life LGBTQ folks, and (2) This is a wild guess, but since she found support in the commonwealth of bishonen stories when she needed it at a young age, she wants to make sure the life preservers are well maintained.

So she is going to contest and encourage the contestation of depictions of gay folk in BL/yoai works, even though they are pseudo-gay fantasy characters made in overwhelmingly large part by heterosexual women for purposes that run on a continuum from escapist pop fiction to escapist pop friction. This urge is sometimes refered to by its N.American moniker when taken to extremes as “Politically Correctness”.

On the other hand, Mizoguchi is a citizen and member of the downtown business improvement association of the commonwealth of yaoi, and recognises its pleasures and its worth; she doesn’t want to break it. She is sensitive to and feels for the needs and wants of its sister-citizens. I am guessing that potential improvements have all been well thrashed over before in slash-space and queer-space:

Such typically include less negative stereotyping, more complexity and nuanced characters, more public health and safety awareness and the importance of agency and consent: less catching, more inviting, etc. Cultural differences between the slash-verse and the yaoi-verse make the details different, and I can only infer her concerns from her writings and footnotes. Her views remain necessarily complex, even quasi- ecological:

“My research is informed by Teresa de Lauretis who has written in relation to her analysis of the feminist debates on pornography (produced for heterosexual men). “Feminist analysis and politics have always proceeded concurrently with—indeed have been prompted by—the social injury suffered by women, but the strength of feminism, or what social power it may have, does not disprove that injury” (de Lauretis 1994: 146). In other words, de Lauretis suggests that neither the propornography position that pornographic representation occurs in the realm of fantasy, nor the anti-pornography position that pornography equals violence against women is entirely appropriate.
By theorizing the female subject as a complex amalgam of conscious and political subjecthood and private and psychoanalytic subjectivity, she has shown that the seemingly contradictory double movement is inherently necessary in feminist work on representation (de Lauretis 1994: 147) 
As Judith Butler argues, theoretically a female subject is not restricted to identify with the female position in a fantasy scenario, but is also capable of identifying with the male position or the scenario as a whole. However, as the female subject always also functions at the level of social subject, she—who de Lauretis calls “Dworkin”—may not be able to secure enough distance from the pornographic text, since such a text is a public representation that depicts women’s debasement.
This double movement is clearly manifest in the context of the yaoi phenomenon. The fact that women have engaged in reading these male homoerotic representations as representing their fantasies for several decades attests to the efficacy of the theory of the psychoanalytic subject of fantasy; that is, the fact that the subject is not restricted to identifications with one position (usually equivalent to their own position in real life) in the fantasy scenario. At the same time, however, the fact that so many Japanese women continue to need male homoerotic representations that are significantly remote from their own reality (emph. added) also indicates the injury suffered by women. “
“Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond” – Akiko Mizoguchi

 

In other words; don’t kill the freedom and the diversity that is so critical to the empowering nature of the space – just try to nudge the canon to spruce it up a bit.

Then there is the issue of her proposition that yaoi is an emergent sexuality in its own right:

“The majority of yaoi women fans are heterosexual. Some might argue that calling those fans who are in heterosexual relationships in real life “lesbian” is inaccurate. Of course, they are not generally considered lesbians nor are they lesbian-identified themselves. But, if their sexual fantasies are filled with male-male homosexual episodes, is it still accurate to call them completely heterosexual?
A friend, a happily married woman in her 30s with two kids, told me, “Not so much these days, but until a few years ago, I could not really recognize sex with my husband as a male-female act. In my mind, I transformed what I was doing to the male-male act in the BL fictions”. Is it adequate to call her completely heterosexual? From the point of view of defining sex as genital activity, the answer is yes. At the same time, however, we know that fantasies are deeply involved in human sexuality. My friend’s male-male fantasy, which happens simultaneously with her heterosexual genital act, is as important as the act itself. In this sense, it is not accurate to consider her 100% heterosexual. In addition, I would argue that a person’s sexual fantasies, accompanied by her genital act with another person, a masturbatory act, or no act at all, are equally significant for the subject of such fantasies to such an extent that calling such fantasies “virtual sex” is appropriate (Mizoguchi 2007: 56-62).
Of course, at the most overt level, my friend was engaging in sex with her husband as “virtual gay men”, just like the male characters in yaoi narratives in her mind, but at the same time she was aware that the characters were women fans’ agents and not really representations of real-life gay men. Thus she was psychologically in the company of her fellow female fans in the yaoi community while physically she was with her husband.” (Ibid. Mizoguchi)

Hmph! Sounds crowded.

Like the protagonist of Moso Shojo Otaku-kei / Fujoshi Rumi (Natsumi Konjoh) when our heroine gets interested in the guy she had previously objectified, she is unable to contemplate relations with him unless she adopts a yaoi-space derived “male” persona. (the boy, Takahiro might be more adaptable than she thinks: “I am shocked and appalled Rumi-san! – oh what the heck, the power of romance has won me over – gimme some sugar!”)

Contrast this to the Genshiken-verse. Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken is a reflection of, and a prescription for Otaku-and-Fujoshi space as much as Mizoguchi’s virtual lesbian separatist space is a reflection of a greater yaoi-space. Both are popular cultural products; though they sell in different markets I would even expect some cross-over customers now that Shimoku is creeping around in fujoshi territory. Both situate within the phenomena of their attentions as well; they “ride” on cultural phenomena that in turn ride” on larger cultural tendencies within the solid/ real world.

In Genshiken, the tropes of the “school club” dictate the story setting: the club has to attract members or it will be de-authorized. The club serves as a haven for outcasts with differing ideas and interests within the “visual culture” universe, within a real world of impending disenchantment and preparation for adult work life. Club members have to deport themselves with minimum standards of restraint in their own enthusiasms and respect for other member’s enthusiasms. Solidarity against outside threats is required; as well, a group-produced product for the larger enthusiast community and/or “outside world” is a stated group goal and measure of the vitality of the entire micro-social fiction. Of course, the odd thing about the Genshiken member’s varied fan interests reside in their one common perversion: they all have to one degree or another libidinized their fan interests.

Hmmmmmm… That sounds familiar.

The action in Genshiken lies in working out the rules of how exactly to deal with the natural urge to contest the space of a commonwealth. Myers’ commonwealth was a violent anarchy; Silverlock needed a savvy friend to get through it in one piece. Genshiken starts off as a male bastion invaded by a riajuu woman’s desire, followed by a woman cosplayer and finally a horde of fujoshi. These in turn are joined by a crossdressing boy who wants to share their interests, all while foreign fangirls stir the pot and the old-guard otaku males get used as material for pairing fantasies. Only the promise of a safe space for their interests keeps them together. They try to work things out. We read about how they try. We gain comfort in the idea that such a space can be imagined. Then some of us blog, start Genshiken inspired groups at Universities, make lewd doujins and scurry around the web getting obsessive and derivative.

The Genshiken-verse is less overt or ambitious in its commitment to guilt-free
weirdness that Mizoguchi’s virtual-lesbian yaoi-verse, but the urges are somewhat parallel. Shimoku’s space is heteronormative, but strives for understanding. Misoguchi’s space is activist queer, and at times separatist, but it looks like it values a certain degree of diversity. (though I am betting that it privileges women’s diversity, as it is currently is %90+ female in Japan) Both stress the importance and fun of active participation in the production of artifacts for their communities.

In the past, human societies could only get worked up about and “contest” the space of “faith”: help build a cathedral, go on a pilgrimage or burn a heretic. Today, while it has been said that all roads on the internet lead to either pr0n or linux distributions (or cat pictures), the volume of nested commonwealths has expanded in a way that recalls bacterial growth, or the old commie joke: “you put three Trotskyites in a room – how many factions do you get?”

(This overload effect also refutes the worst fears of the Frankfurt School, and calms most of their radical-though-intolerant aesthetics. Nuremberg has been trivialized by rock concerts and home shopping tv – there is no need to ban epic poetry. Rejoice!)

The only side effect of this wave is that all of these commonwealths appear to pick up a sexualized charge the minute they wade into the world-wide webs.

When too much weirdness seeps out of fan-space, real solid-world authorities get concerned and start stomping around with big muddy boots. The big issue in last year’s solid-world Japanese popular visual culture community has been the Tokyo regulations banning “indecent acts depicted by imaginary persons” as championed by a right-wing populist politician who used to write porny stories about dissolute rich youth.

Meanwhile in China and Hong Kong, wholesale yaoi crackdowns raged through the latter half of the last decade, much to the shock of innocent Funu (chinese rotten girls), who just wanted look at the pretty cartoons and relax. As for the west, the potential for moral panic has kept most yaoi-stuff off commercial shelves and in shady back rooms: Definitely not on Amazon or your fave online e-book sales site. Besides, western fans are cheap-ass leeches who are used to pyr8 goodies, free fan-fiction and dodgy web scanlations.

Here’s a new space of contention: Pay for the damn stuff!

There is a whole body net-enabled sociology/ anthropology/ theory that peeks in on communities of enthusiasm: I recommend a glimpse at the infinite variety of the madness of fans at the Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) site. While the writing is of variable quality, the range of subject matter is far-reaching and interesting. Care to read about a tempest in a teapot at a Dr Who fan-fiction site? TWC has got it covered, although after a while all the accounts of fan-fights begin to merge into one another (meh!). My past-life experiences in the pits of fannishness taint my views. I was a geek youth in pre-internet days; shared its culture terms and rites, and carried with me the sense that whatever the future brought, I had already read about it. I even did cosplay, before it was cosplay – when it was the costume ball at fan conventions (only once, and the sad state of my costume lead to my discovery of  FAIL). I bought and hoarded dittoed fanzines and fanfiction. All of that stuff got put away when I went off to University. See this fun paper for an expanded view of this kind of nostalgia  I miss you [all] dreadfully!

For up to the minute serious contestations, don’t forget the fun folks at Intersections; who when not doing boring gender theory studies are always on the prowl for a weird new thing – especially when it is an example of local (mis-) appropriation of Cool Japan detritus, This one caught my eye:

On the Japanese Doll Complex – by Katrien Jacobs

“”On the Japanese Doll-Complex highlights Chinese people’s appropriation of Japanese dolls or doll-like alter egos. I conducted interviews with several people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. I wanted to analyse the experience of ‘owning a doll’ or ‘identifying with a doll’ by looking at several kinds of doll fantasies and how dolls assist people in recovering innocence and gender-fluidity. Chinese men are massively into Japanese porn stars, into hentai figurines, or life-size dolls that have a convincing and arousing skin texture. They also manifest themselves as cosplayers or cross-dressers who want to embody pretty girls. Women, on the other hand, construct fantasies about gay love and they impersonate the beautiful and effeminate men of yaoi animations (Boy Love).””

Behold the documentary – You couldn’t make this stuff up!
Sex Brain Melody (Episode 2): On The Japanese Doll Complex
(Warning: NSFW!)

http://vimeo.com/3017377
Embedded at http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/jacobs_film.htm

Also see her part 1 video on Hong kong pr0n panic: http://vimeo.com/3016343

On the Japanese original:
http://tokyoscum.blogspot.ca/2012/05/making-sense-of-dollers.html

Contestation of fan-space is a symbolic libidinous exchange in its own right.
Life would be boring without fans running wild.

The contradictions of peversity

“Sie müssen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fudanshi would be easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

interlude – all the children sing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Job!

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

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

https://www.academia.edu/12110339/Girls_And_Women_Getting_Out_Of_Hand_The_Pleasure_And_Politics_Of_Japans_Amateur_Comics_Community

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

Good Job!!!