Wherein your correspondent wonders on where Shimoku-sensei got the idea of stuffing the new Genshiken with fujoshi and digs up a fresh trove of theory on fujoshi-dom
“It was only around 2006 that media interest turned toward fujoshi in and of itself. Women who expressed a positive interest in expressions of male-male romance began to be depicted in media aimed at the general public—for instance, in publications such as Yumiko Sugiura’s book Otaku Girls Research: Fujoshi Ideology (2006a), and in various manga about fujoshi as exemplified by Ajiko Kojima’s 2006 text My Neighbor Yaoi-chan (Tonari no 801chan). In 2006,[moi: this could be a typo, it is probably 2007] the magazine Eureka (Seidosha) published two special issues, Fujoshi Manga Compendium (June) and BL Studies (December), about boys’ love/shōnen-ai works and their fujoshi fans. Both issues contained critiques and essays by fujoshi from many age groups and professional backgrounds, and they strongly foregrounded insider points of view. They also made references to male readers of yaoi and BL. The word fudanshi, “rotten boy,” was used to denote male fans who liked fujoshi-oriented content, indicating that a taste for expressions of male-male romance was not as strictly gendered as was previously assumed.””
The first generation of the Genshiken graduated in March 2006
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Genshiken_chapters). When it revived a few years later, the venerable clubroom soon turned into a pit of fujoshi mischief. What happened?
As noted above, the 2006-2007 period had a lot of fujoshi media awareness. Also, as previously went-on-about-for-too-long, the second season of the Genshiken anime also ran its infamous yaoi episode in 2007 (https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/i-do-not-feel-the-romance-i-do-not-catch-the-spark/) so there was a certain zeitgeist in the air.
A fair bit of the theory writing after this time mentions the importance of three or more specialized issues in the popular Japanese literary magazine Eureka.
Want to stop the whole pesky fujoshi mess in its tracks? Set the wayback machine guys, we are going to stop Eureka from publishing in 2007!
Hey this is more fun than Stein’s Gate!
Back to those issues: Their influence is explored in a short but important essay by Tomoko Aoyama: Eureka Discovers Culture Girls, Fujoshi, and BL:
Essay Review of Three Issues of the Japanese Literary magazine,
Yuriika (Eureka) http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/aoyama.htm
…Who also points out the importance of an earlier 2005 issue on “Culture Girls” (probably best understood as a survey of girl’s culture) and a late 2007 issue on Mori Mari:
“…the magazine has rarely dealt with women writers and artists—until relatively recently. Given this general background, the November 2005 Culture Girls issue has a special historical significance.
The issue quickly sold out and the term bunka-kei joshi (used broadly for young(ish) women culture vultures, intellectuals, writers, artists, and fans) gained some currency in popular media. From this issue onwards Eureka has paid much more attention than before to a wide range of ‘Culture Girls’ favourite topics, artists, and genres.
The January 2006 Forefront of Manga Criticism issue, for example, included slightly more input from women commentators than the August 2005 supplementary issue Otaku vs Sub-Cul[ture]. Other topics featured in 2006 included singer Madonna (March), female manga artist Saibara Rieko (July), and women film directors (December). The trend was further heightened in 2007 (see Table 1), with the regular December issue dedicated to woman writer Mori Mari, who is regarded today as the pioneer of male homosexual fantasy stories for women, as well as the Fujoshi manga and BL Studies issues that are also reviewed in this essay. “
It should also be mentioned that one of the 2006 issues was devoted to the anthropological science fiction works of Ursula K. LeGuin. One can surmise that while the Earthsea saga was discussed, some discussion of the groundbreaking and gender-role questioning The Left Hand of Darkness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness) took place. Footnotes in later essays verify LeGuin’s influence on narratives in contemporary Japanese feminist fiction. (but damn if i haven’t lost the citations again – will fill this in when they re-surface)
[MUCH LATER: found it in a footnote in a survey article:
“(48) Yaoi in Japan appears to have arisen independently of slash, though both genres were influenced, as Thorn says, “by a global questioning of gender and sexuality” (personal communication). Ebihara (2002) says Hagio cited Western science fiction author Ursula Le Guin as a major influence on her works in the mid-1980s. Other Western authors who influenced shōjo manga artists were speculative fiction writers such as Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr. and Suzy McKee Charnas, especially their feminist-themed science-fiction stories, which Marlene Barr termed “feminist fabulation.” Thorn says Takemiya illustrated the covers for a paperback series of Le Guin’s works, and that Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness was translated into Japanese in 1972 and Russ’ “When It Changed” in 1974 (personal communication).”
– http://web.archive.org/web/20040815054437/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html ]
The three issues were:
— Bunka-kei joshi katarogu (Culture Girls’ catalogue, November 2005) ISBN4-7917-0140-2;
— Fujoshi manga taikei (Fujoshi manga compendium, June 2007 supplementary issue) ISBN978-4-7917-0163-6;
— BL (Bōizu rabu) sutadiizu (BL [Boys Love] studies, December 2007 supplementary issue) ISBN978-4-7917-0172-8.
While there were plenty of fujoshi before this, the media, the academics and mangakas looking for research got a veritable trove of material, done up as popular social science within the space of half a year.
Here is Aoyama on the Nov 2005 issue:
“The contributors to the Culture Girls issue vary immensely—certainly more widely than contributors to the other two issues. The issue is divided into several sections: literature, visual art, music, ‘Otaku-kei’ (manga, yaoi, BL, anime, digital games and gadgets etc.), and fandoms (pop music and comedians). The issue also includes a roundtable discussion with four ‘culture girls,’ the responses of twenty men (critics, writers, and artists) to the questionnaire about their ‘favourite culture girls’ and a culture girls’ chronology. As is clear from Takada Rieko’s opening essay, some of the contributors are more familiar with the conventional danshi-kei bunka (men’s culture), such as German literary studies (Takada’s own field), than the genres associated with bunka-kei joshi. In Takada’s view women academics, who have been working within the male-centred humanities, ‘do not deserve to be included in the Culture Girls’ Catalogue, which presumably expresses the creativity, intelligence, and misery of women who are free from the institutional restrictions and the shadow of men.' And yet, as she also claims, it is worth noting that the decline of ‘men’s culture’ based on Western cultural hegemony has released ‘culture girls’ from the spell of their often turbulent personal relationships with the bunka-kei danshi.
The significance of ‘freedom’ and ‘relationships’ is mentioned in many other contributions. Issues of gender segregation are also recurrent. Ozawa Eimi, Kimura Kana, Kodai Nariko, and several others deal with the dilemma of women academics, literary girls, and artists. Horikoshi Hidemi, who chaired the roundtable and compiled the culture girl chronology, notes that only after graduation did she realise that years of reading books written solely by male authors had suppressed her interests in girl culture. Kanemaki Tomoko begins her essay ‘Joshi ota 30-nen sensō’ (30-Year War of Female Otaku) with a discussion of the absence of women’s views and voices in debates and studies about otaku. This is despite the fact that 71.2 per cent of the exhibitors and 56.9 per cent of general participants at the 30th Anniversary Comic Market were women. “
Aoyama then gets down to the two 2007 issues: (big honking quote warning!)
“Compared with the broad, ambiguous, and somewhat hesitant tone that permeates Culture Girls Catalogue, the two later issues are much more clearly focussed and less reserved. Fujoshi manga taikei opens with a dialogue between the Naoki Prize winning popular novelist Miura Shion and sociologist Kaneda Junko. Titled ‘”Seme x uke” no mekurumeku sekai: dansei shintai no miryoku o motomete’ (The dazzling world of ‘seme x uke’: in pursuit of the charm of male body), the two women discuss thematic and technical freedom, innovation and diversity in BL manga. Their topics range from the significance of depicting uke men’s nipples and body fluids to the much wider types of protagonists, including the ‘fat, bald, and old.' Terms such as seme (lit. attacker), uke (lit. receiver), and riba (reverse/reversible) are used without gloss. One of the important points raised in this dialogue is the homophobic (e.g. ‘I’m not gay but I love you.’) and misogynistic expressions (‘Stop treating me like a woman!’) that used to be commonly found in BL works. These are much less common now, however, as BL has become more and more diversified and includes critiques of gender stereotypes and discrimination. While the dialogue thus emphasises the positive aspects and specific innovations of BL, it also mentions the negative view that was dominant until the mid-1990s and is still present.
As mentioned above, gender asymmetry and segregation are the central issues in the Culture Girls’ Catalogue. Many contributors to Fujoshi manga taikei also discuss these. Ueno Chizuko, for example, emphasises in her essay ‘Fujoshi to wa dare ka?’ (Who Is Fujoshi?) :
despite the post-war Americanization and permeation of heterosexism [dēto eiji ‘date age’], Japanese gender segregation culture has been reproduced. ‘Couple culture’ has failed to establish itself in Japan…Sub-culture media are filled with couples; however, the imagined sex differs immensely between male and female cultures. It rather amazes me that real sexual intercourse is possible at all between men and women who have separately developed such gender-asymmetrical sexual fantasies.
In psychologist Kayama Rika’s view, fujoshi have two contradictory traits, namely, the otaku-like (i.e. erased or blurred) ‘self’ and feminine orientation for relational narrative. Kayama also notes that ‘while more women are released from relationship-based illnesses, at the same time the number of women who suffer more deeply has increased.'
Sociologist Ishida Hitoshi discusses the gap between the ‘real gay’ and gays as represented in yaoi/BL and the lack of dialogue between the fujoshi and the ‘real gays.’ In BL Studies Ishida further examines the ‘autonomy’ and ‘appropriation’ in BL representations. Mizoguchi Akiko offers another angle: she argues that while the majority of yaoi artists and their audience are heterosexual women, ‘nevertheless its discursive space is highly lesbian.’ [ moi: Note the appearance of A. Mizoguchi, writing for the popular Japanese reader, in Japanese, while she was finishing up her PhD thesis ] Like Miura and Kaneda, Mizoguchi confirms the increase of non-homophobic and more diversified representations including, for example, gay human rights issues. Diversity is also evident in other essays including Mori Naoko’s discussion of ‘hard’ (sexually explicit) BL and Yoshimoto Taimatsu’s analysis of male BL fans (fukei 腐兄 and fudanshi 腐男子). Yoshimoto also deals with the BL subgenre called shota, which involves pre-adolescent boy protagonists. The topic of shota appears in many other essays and interviews but with the unspoken understanding that this has nothing to do with ‘real’ paedophilia, child pornography, and censorship. As Mark McLelland and others have pointed out, this presents a great contrast to the sensitiveness of these issues in the West.
BL Studies includes further updates and useful theoretical and bibliographical overviews. Kotani Mari proposes the notion of C (in contrast to the famous A, P, and V in Inagaki Taruho’s Shōnen’ai no bigaku (The Aesthetics of Love for Boys, originally published in 1968) to analyse the sexuality of homme fatal(e) protagonists. Kotani argues that homme fatal narratives should be understood as stories of C, that is the symbol for service for women’s autonomous and personal pleasure without oppression or invasion.
Referring to her own pioneering monograph on girls’ comics, Watashi no ibasho wa doko ni aru no? (Where is My Place? 1998), Fujimoto Yukari summarises two main points:
First shōnen ai [the earlier genre that dealt with male homoeroticism] was created to flee from various gender restrictions and sexuality taboos; Once the mechanism is established, however, it has enabled girls to ‘play sexuality’ and opened up a possibility for them to change their viewpoint from passive to active.
Then she discusses a number of issues and misunderstandings with updated data and references such as Nagakubo Yōko’s Yaoi shōsetsu ron (On yaoi novels, 2005).
Kaneda Junko’s overview of theories on yaoi is equally useful. She argues that there are two general inquiries. First of these is the psychological approach that concerns ‘Why do you like yaoi?,' which implicitly assumes that there are some problems to be solved. The other is a gender studies approach that asks ‘What does yaoi signify to women and to society?.' Kaneda cites Kotani, Nagakubo, Mizoguchi, Ishida and many other studies in regard to this latter inquiry. While this issue includes Shiina Yukari’s essay on the popularity of BL manga in America, generally the discussions in all three volumes are limited to Japanese-language publications, audiences, artists, and scholars. [emp. mine]
The focus on the more recent and specific is apparent in BL Studies. The opening roundtable discussion looks at the major themes, changes, and topics in BL manga in 2007. The three most popular themes were ‘[male] pleasure quarters, Arab, and [male] brides,' while there was also the first BL fiction to deal with tuna fishermen (a major industry supplying Japan’s sushi trade). Several different kinds of seme are mentioned. Recent publications on yaoi, BL, and fujoshi, including those written from male viewpoints and/or for a male audience, are also discussed. While Fujoshi manga taikei includes interviews with two artists: Nobi Nobita and Kyūshū Danji, BL Studies features seven interviews. These are highly interesting, as they go into specific details and examples, which often correspond to the points raised in the essays. Each issue also includes an illustrated guide to major BL artists and texts. Perhaps these and the cover illustrations (by Hajimekku, Kusama Sakae, and Tojitsuki Hajime) best illustrate the freedom and diversity discussed above.
These three volumes are essential readings for anyone interested in BL, yaoi, and girl culture in contemporary Japan. They are also very useful and interesting for students and researchers of broader gender studies and Japanese popular culture and many other fields even though readers unfamiliar with the terms, genres and broader socio-cultural context may have some difficulties. As outlined above, each volume has its own aims, significance and emphasis. Culture Girl Catalogue marks an important turning point for Eureka from its traditional focus on male-dominant, and Euro-American oriented elite culture to a wider range of both elite and popular cultures produced and received by women. Fujoshi manga taikei and BL Studies more specifically deal with both technical and thematic innovation and diversification in the relevant genres. Earlier negative images and discourses surrounding fujoshi have been replaced by positive recognition of their creativity. The discursive centre has shifted from ‘liberation from’ and ‘alternative to’ to ‘freedom for.’ Needless to say, there are still many issues and areas unexplored or underrepresented in these volumes.”
You can betcha that if you are going to move to Japan and do serious gender studies research on otaku/ fujoshi/ queer/ yadda yadda yadda issues surrounding “modern visual culture” that you will be practicing your hard-won ability to read japanese of photocopies or scans of these three Eureka issues. Now if only some kind scanlator or blogger would care to have a go at the whole mess, the rest of us could be enlightened.
In any case, the evidence mounts that Kio Shimoku had access to this material, and if he avoided it, he was at least soaking in a field of enquiry where the topics covered in these three issues were at the cutting edge of discussion about manga and Japanese visual culture.
That the muddy footprints of these Eureka issues can be found hidden in the corners of the pages of Genshiken Nidame is undeniable.
Meanwhile some fresh fujoshi studies material finally bobs to the surface, and (three cheers!) it is not hidden behind an academic paywall.
We will now pause for a mandatory “Boo Hisss” at Mechademia and it’s habit of hiding behind an academics-only paywall. Repent and free your research!
Here is some fresh theory writing:
Please visit the TWC website and snag the following articles from Issue 14
all of which seem to have come out of Glocal Polemics of ‘BL’ (Boys Love): Production, Circulation, and Censorship symposium at Oita University (Japan, Oita city near Fukuoka) held on 22nd & 23rd January 2011
Symposium: The possibilities of research on fujoshi in Japan by Midori Suzuki, Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan
Rotten use patterns: What entertainment theories can do for the study of boys’ love by Björn-Ole Kamm, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/427/391
“This shift from asking the problematic question “why” to asking “how” mirrors developments during the 1970s within the field of media use research. A growing disenchantment with media effects theories led to a new interactive perspective on media use and to new concepts and models that understand media preference (such as for a particular genre) as arising from societal, biographical, and situational contexts and not from an essential personality trait. The same change is apparent within the discourse on boys’ love.
[1.4] Exchange between the fields of communication studies and manga studies remains limited. Most manga research ignores theories of media use, neither applying nor critiquing them. Similarly, communication research still focuses on television as the sole producer of symbols, ignoring media systems outside the North Atlantic sphere—or, more precisely, outside the United States. Consequently, it continues to rely on a Hollywoodesque “hedonistic principle” as the basis for theories of entertainment (note 3). Manga as an entertainment medium has been mostly ignored. The aim of this article is to address the weaknesses on both sides. In an attempt to foster a dialogue between communication studies and manga studies, I evaluate the uses and gratifications approach (UGA) and outline a conceptual framework for the analysis of boys’ love and its diverse patterns of use. Following the UGA and attending to the genre’s tayōsei, my framework also favors direct contact with the readers (and producers) instead of analyzing texts only.””
“Early UGA research limited the concept of audience activity to the decision-making process, for example, deciding which movie to watch or manga to read. This approach was based on the premise that people are aware of their needs and the media content that will best fulfill those needs.
[4.2] Instead of assuming that the world is completely knowable and individuals have access to all the information they need to make decisions, as rational choice theories imply, later conceptualizations of the UGA were more consistent with symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969). Interactionists assume that the (life) world is “created by processes of defining situations and interpreting actions and objects…[and] that these definitions and interpretations are to be seen as neither natural nor permanent, but socially constructed and provisional instead” (Westerik et al. 2006). Humans process their world symbolically, because they act toward objects according to the meanings they ascribe to those objects. These meanings are based on experiences, on earlier interactions with these objects, and on interactions with other humans. Such interactions are recursive and framed by changing contexts, resulting in corresponding changes in the meanings.””
“”[4.5] After repeated experiences with BL, the interviewees in my study have learned what they can gain from it or, more precisely, from a specific range of titles and authors within the genre. A use pattern develops to such a degree that reading manga, commercial or amateur, sexually explicit or romantic, is not a “problematic issue” (figure 1) but a routine. When Misato comes home stressed after school, she knows that she can relax by rereading one of her favorite BL manga. There is no need for her to search for another way to find relief from stress. Because the time involved in the decision process decreases, use patterns can be seen as a form of media competency (Schweiger 2007).”
Another fine paper:
Simulation and database society in Japanese role-playing game fandoms: Reading boys’ love dōjinshi online by Lucy Hannah Glasspool
Just from the title, we KNOW that we are going to get a bleep-load of interpreted Baudrillard, and some Azuma. “Simulation and cultural capital of a country, of objects, of familiarity with by fans” will be dropped out of a cloaked cargo plane like Mithril’s avenging mechas.
“[4.4] Baudrillard (1990) has a good deal to say about pornography as a symptom of the hyperreal: as sex without the potential for his concept of playful seduction, it is “the mechanical objectification of the signs of sex” (27). The more explicit it becomes, the more it can be considered an empty simulacrum: “The more one advances willy-nilly in sex’s veracity, in the exposure of its workings, the more immersed one becomes in the accumulation of signs, and the more enclosed one becomes in the mindless over-signification of a real that no longer exists” (33). Baudrillard concentrates here on hard-core photographic/live-action pornography, which, although similar in some respects to the drawn contents of many erotic dōjinshi, is possibly less playful. It may be that the creators and consumers of these fan texts are less obsessed with “games of sex” than “with play itself” (13). In either case, the pornographic element of dōjinshi may add another layer to the build-up of elements that enable the classification of such fan works as simulacra.”
“[4.10] The ways that an idea of Japaneseness is maintained by fans can also be seen in dōjinshi themselves. Apart from raw scans and hard copies—which of course constantly remind their readers of their origin by the fact that they are in Japanese—many scanlated digital versions also contain what are recognized by fans as Japanese characteristics, which cannot be observed in the localized versions of the RPGs they are based on. The dōjinshi are English enough for the content to be comprehensible, but some foreign features remain intact. They fetishize the “rubric of cultural/Japanese difference” (Allison 2006, 15).
[4.11] Scanlations of FFVII dōjinshi like K. Haruka’s Endorphine (2001) and Bring You Back to Me (2003) retain some Japanese words without attempting literal or cultural translation, such as the diminutive suffix -chan, which has a specific meaning in Japanese but no real equivalent in English. The translator assumes that the readers, who are likely to have some knowledge of the RPG upon which the dōjinshi is based, will also know enough about Japanese culture to recognize the word and understand its meaning.
[4.12] Many scanlations, though translated into English, leave Japanese script intact in the form of sound effects, which are often an integral part of the artwork and difficult to remove (they are sometimes overlaid with English effects instead). This is an aesthetic decision rather than one that consciously promotes the idea of Japaneseness, but it nevertheless contributes to the apparent cultural specificity of the text.””
[5.8] As might be considered appropriate for works drawn from the medium of games, these techniques of borrowing particular elements and discarding others are playful. Such texts are intended for the pleasure of specific in-the-know users. Although practices like pastiche are criticized by theorists such as Jameson (1983) for being “neutral and ‘blank’ parody, parody that has lost its sense of humor” (114), Baudrillard (1990), in his theorization of the silent masses, suggests that a lack of earnestness or overt social or political content is sometimes the only method of protest. In the context of contemporary capitalist cultures, rife with simulation, the masses do not respond seriously to simulations of meaningfulness; rather, people subvert it by refusing to engage or produce serious meanings for themselves. They “take the hyperlogic of the play of signs to its most banal” (Grace 2000, 103). In this kind of inertia, they frustrate and trouble attempts to make a serious matter of fixing gender.”
What really makes this paper interesting is how the author ends by decrying the relative lack of serious study of fujoshi dojins, by the fujoshi-studies mafia aka “the usual suspects” and their Japanese brethren. It seems that the rotten girls are suspicious of academic outsiders and worry about a possible double whammy clampdown driven by moral panic and copyright concerns. Don’t ask don’t tell comes to fujoshi-land.
Finally, this one caught my eye:
Reflection on Chinese boys’ love fans: An insider’s view by Erika Junhui Yi, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States
Interesting point: while Mizoguchi et al go on about virtual lesbian spaces and others call fujoshi-dom ‘queer” Chinese rotten girls bear the brunt of a much simpler form of discrimination. Chinese society don’t like weird, it don’t like homosexuality of any stripe and it don’t like uppity wimmins. If the latter looks at anything that looks “gay”, then they are gay, and therefore must be lesbians/ queers/ gays/ disruptive/ abject/ dangerous all rolled into one without distinction. Send them all off to the re-education through labor camps, let Marx sort them out!
So much for Western “queer theory” privilege. Ouch!
So these articles will be a lot of fun to grind up against Genshiken and other manga. Anyone who gives a whit for this kind of “theory moe” is invited to partake!
Next time, something light and pleasant