Hanamonogatari: Yuri, Iyashi and the lives of others (part 3)

Wherein the why of the tomboy lesbian exorcist is considered.hanamono-title-pg-web

Anime: Hanamonogatari – SURUGA DEVIL
Orig LN vol 9 of the series
Nisio Isin/ Studio SHAFT
(Warning: Monogatari series spoilers ensue.)

“Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.”
— Tiger, A.D.Hope

Nisio Ishin’s (and Studio SHAFT’s) Hanamonogatari does a better job of dropping a somewhat lesbian protagonist into a story beyond a simple “redo story with a female character” approach. In retrospect, it is one of the better segments in the entire Monogatari project. The title conceit is of course the height of cheek: the entire Class-S genre was invented by an author with a similarly titled series of stories back in the 1920’s [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya]. You might as well pop a 50 foot high flashing neon sign above the anime with the word YURI on it. Certainly the opening credits do not lack for lilies. I have touched on it previously but a re-watch and a noteworthy essay on the franchise [https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/02/25/monogatari-the-sexuality-is-the-narative/] prompts a revisit and a more considered appreciation.

I like it a lot, It is very good. It could almost stand alone without the help of the background of the Bake/ Monogatari story-verse, although knowing some of the franchise lore ads layers to the tale. It retains many of the quirky visual conceits of the Studio Shaft Monogatari exercise, as well as their penchant for sexulaizing the narrative but for Hanamonogatari these impulses are toned down and/ or far better harnessed to the over-all coherence of the story.

Chronologically, it is one of the later, if not the last of the stories that affect the town and the friends and family clustered around Koyomi Araragi and his brush with his town’s supernatural imbalance. Araragi-sempai makes a cameo appearance but is most important to the tale as an absence. The story belongs to the athletic, somewhat supernaturally cursed, somewhat lesbian identified, somewhat fujoshi Suruga Kanbaru. In many ways, she is a far better protagonist than Araragi.

Nishio Ishin is still cranking out light novels for this series. I hope to see more of her.

Cue the (slightly reworked) stock teaser:

“One morning, Suruga Kanbaru meets the troublesome Ougi Oshino, who calls himself a nephew of the exorcist Meme Oshino. He tells Suruga about a rumor of “the Lord Devil” that grants any wish. Suruga is worried that she might be the Lord Devil in a fugue state because she made a wish on a cursed monkey paw. The item was left behind by her mother and turned Suruga into a Simian-ish monster that acted on her jealousy and tried to kill Koyomi Araragi. To make sure her dormant curse has not re-awoken Suruga arranges to meet the Lord Devil but the one who greets her is unexpected – Rouka Numachi, her old basketball arch-rival.”

hana-rouka-profile-web

Within the larger Monogatari-verse, a recap of sorts will help to better position Suruga Kanbaru. A large part of the Monogatari-verse hinges on the suppressed love triangle (original application) between Koyomi Araragi, Hitagi Senjougahara and Tsubasa Hanekawa. Despite Hanekawa-san’s earlier help when he was turned into a vampire, Araragi-kun helps Senjougahara-san and she claims him as hers. Hanekawa-san may or may not remember all the details of her initial brush with the supernatural. We will get a better appreciation of the fine details after the last two instalments of Kizumonogatari hit the screens. No matter. Hanekawa’s stress over losing Araragi plus her miserable family/ not-family situation were enough to set lose at least two violent supernatural manifestations.

Araragi-kun just seems to attract supernaturally troubled young women after all, or perhaps trouble is drawn to his shadow-inhabiting ruined vampire, Kaii (oddity, abnormality, aberration), Kaii-devouring, adopted contractee Shinobu Oshino (AkA: the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, cold-blooded 598 year and some 10 month old Kiss-Shot-Acerola-Orion-Heart-Under-Blade) who now appears as a sometimes sullen, always haughty 8-year-old girl who needs an occasional drink of blood and donut offerings from her “master”). If one really cares to delve deep into Monogatari-verse lore, the problem lies with the deity-bereft Kitashirahebi (Northern White Snake) Shrine. It is a supernatural gravity well and all manner of weirdness is going to pop up around town until it is properly dealt with – but that’s another story.

Senjougahara is in the center of her own secondary love triangle: she was a highly regarded junior high school athlete before she lost her mass to a crab-god. Her only peer was Suruga Kanbaru, the one-year-younger girls’ basketball ace who also had a strong but never acted upon crush on her. Suruga had even gone as far as begging for cram-school lessons so that she could follow Senjougahara to a prestigious private high school, (per LN) only to lose her to an idiot boy with a dodgy reputation. Once again Suruga wished on the cursed monkey paw but this time she learned how it worked.

Rather than just conjuring up horribly bad resolutions to one’s wishes, the damn thing takes over one’s body and beats the living shit out of anyone in the way. Use it two too many times and you are stuck with a homicidal super-powered simian appendage that can sleep-walk you into murderous rampages. Araragi-kun was set to handle the situation by getting swatted around by an enraged super-powered young woman, until Senjougahara intervened and defused Suruga’s jealousy by denying Suruga’s love and then trivialising it by offering her a Class-S “petit-soeur” relationship. Kill my boyfriend and I will hate you and do everything I can to kill you… Or you can take the consolation prize and I will dote over you a bit. bakemonogatari-08-suruga-stop-web

That was rough on Suruga’s feelings and desires but it was enough to use her heartstrings to bind up the jealous demon. Senjougahara is a lot more confident and adventurous now that she has been cured of her affliction.suruga-stopped-2web

Suruga ends up as a third wheel to the couple. Unlike Shiki from 14-sai, no nurse bandaged up her arm, she did it for herself. What’s all the arm-bandaging for young lesbians who are thwarted in their first loves? We might have the beginnings of a trope here!

Suruga eventually takes on the role of a quasi-male-friend/ ex-rival and sometimes kouhai to Araragi-kun (who doesn’t seem to have any male friends), though she is not above flirting with and harassing him (fall for it and you lose big time buddy-boy!) or threatening to seduce one or both of his sisters. On the other hand, Senjougahara has warned Araragi that while he may spend too much time helping out young women while neglecting his girlfriend, if he ever, ever falls in love with one of them and out of love with her, she will be forced to kill the interloper, herself and probably take Suruga with her as an honor-guard into the next life. I will use my kouhai as I please.

I mention this only in contrast to more conventional approaches to the problems of love triangles. Add Suruga’s addiction to BL novels to her tomboy presentation and she fills the role of page-boy to her supernatural warrior upper-classmates.

Suruga has experienced the occult weirdness afflicting the town and knows of Shinobu. Senjougahara’s appreciation of her boyfriend’s “shadow” is sketchy. Suruga might even know of and have met Hachikuji Mayoi the wandering ghost. Suruga’s deceased mother was Tooe Gaen, sister of the fearsome Izuko Gaen and was esteemed to be an even more formidable exorcist; the memories of her mother’s harsh attitude towards her haunt her to this day. The cursed monkey paw was a dangerous gift/ legacy from her mother. Her paternal grandparents who took her in are extremely wealthy, retired and somewhat distant form her – or her from them, even as she lives in their luxurious old-style Japanese estate.hanamonogatari-suruga-room-mess-web

As Hanamonogatari begins, she is still afflicted by the monkey-devil possessed hairy arm which she keeps bandaged up. At night she packing-tapes it to a post hoping that this will be enough to keep her from going on any sleepwalking rampages (or at least indicate if she has – per LN). She has quit high-school sports for fear that using her supernatural strength and the chance that a competitive wish might trigger the monkey arm demon once more. The exorcist Meme Oshino has assured her that if she does not wish on it for the next few years, it should leave her by the time she reaches adulthood. She works off her troubles by running each day, sometimes to exhaustion.

On the first day of her third year of high school Suruga is worried that her arm has gotten up to mischief again, possibly because she is feeling despondent, missing Senjougahara and even Araragi who have both gone off to University. What she does not expect or need is to be dogged on her way to school by Ougi Oshino, who for some reason now appears before her as a boy.hana-boy-ougi-bike-web

Ougi is a recurring focus of trouble throughout the entire monogatari-verse. She, now he is somehow associated with the exorcists, though his/her kinship to Meme Oshino is suspect. Ougi is bad news; a stand-in for notions of justice, propriety and a curious idea of order which those with a psychological-literary bent would call out as a stand-in for a fear of death. Certainly Ougi looks the part. His/her face looks like the mask of Darker than Black‘s Hei, minus the lightening bolt mark. Ougi, male or female always appears as Nemesis.

hei-dtb-masked-1-web

 

ougi-girl-webHanamonogatari could have taken many different approaches to the problem posed by Suruga’s old junior high school basketball rival. Its genius lies in how it goes out of its way to discourage Suruga from intervening and to continue to do so after her initial concerns are put to rest. She is not sleep-rampaging as “the Rainy Devil”. The Lord Devil is an unemployed NEET with a sports injury that acts as a free trouble hot-line for silly teens with minor problems. Anything serious is referred to appropriate adult authorities and the trifling matters “accepted” are merely dealt with by a cryptic assurance that “Your problem will be taken care of“. Then the “Lord Devil” makes a point of doing nothing! It all seems to be some form of self-pitying wallowing by a washed up athlete who turned her anger and self-hatred into an unhealthy hobby. Suruga never even had a fleeting crush on the girl, nor did Rouka Numachi have a crush on her. If there was anything more than a rivalry on the courts, Suruga has long since forgotten about it. Moreover, Rouka does not want Suruga’s help, her interest or her pity.

Everything and everybody repeatedly screams: “don’t pick up the kitten”.

And then Rouka Numachi steals the curse from Suruga Kanbaru’s arm.

Bereft of the power and curse of her arm and burdened with a terrible realisation, Suruga Kanbaru, daughter of Gean-Sensei, kouhai to Araragi Koyomi, beloved petit-soeur of Hitagi Senjougahara and apprentice exorcist sets aside her self-doubt and rouses herself to action.

The Monogatari franchise has been dismissed by some as the Monologue-atari series. Nisio Ishin’s nearly endless dialogue relentlessly questions and draws out the motivations, the curious mixtures of selfishness and impulsive selfless behaviour towards others as his characters work through their supernatural predicaments. No urge towards action goes unexamined and complex motivations are considered to be the most potent for the truths they contain. Desire and regret are charged with power, more so if they are acknowledged. Friendship as a ward against loneliness and isolation is valued, even as its demands are seen as fraught with danger. Everything is out of balance and balance itself might be a deadly delusion. The universe is a cold and dangerous place; shit happens relentlessly.

Amidst the larger conventions of the franchise, Suruga could have easily been written as compelled to intervene. Rouka Numachi could have been an old flame, her power might be threatening someone, “The Lord Devil” could be a developing small time swindle that will get out of control as Kaiki’s swindle on junior high school students did. Suruga could get dragged into the mess because the Araragi siblings played Fire Sisters and got in over their heads. If one closely watches Hanamonogatari, much of the incidental interaction with other characters exists almost entirely to rule out such reasons. Kanbaru Suruga has as much reason to care about her old basketball rival as we have to care about her — or the conflicted desires of cartoon junior high school girls caught in a love triangle that dares not speak its name.hana-numachirouka2-web

Nisio Ishin goes even farther than eliminating the usual plot devices that would compel Suruga to action. As Rouka tells her bitter tale of how she was visited by pitying acquaintances from her school and how her abject state moved some of them to open up and tell her their problems – because they could look down on her, he further blocks the audience and shames Suruga. If she is to act, she must not act out of pity. Did her meeting with the con artist Deishuu Kaiki give any hints towards a righteous reason to continue? All he did is advise her against getting involved and buy her a lavish meal at a Korean-style barbecue restaurant.hana-kaiki-meat-web

Meat is good, eat up. Eat more meat! I am enjoined from entering the town and the mummified devil bits are valuable, the more valuable and the more dangerous as they are brought back together. If someone wants them, let them have them and steer clear. Otherwise, Kaiki seems to have once nurtured a severe respect-crush on Suruga’s mom (or he is lying?). Ever since he got chewed out by Senjougahara he lets slip occasional flashes of sentimental bloody-mindedness.

hana-kaiki-meat2-web
He knows of magic but having no powers of his own he is not bound by the limits or responsibilities of any. He has made it clear to Senjougahara that the religious cultists, including one that abused a young girl have all mysteriously suffered very very bad, occasionally terminal luck (or he is lying again).

Watch the scene as he offers Suruga his card for a second time, holding his arm immobile over the table’s cook-pit. Brilliant!

Suruga is torn between walking away from Rouka Numachi and intervening; so torn that she runs herself to exhaustion one night. Ridiculously, she is found at a crossroad by none other than Araragi-sempai. He informs her that he and Senjougahara are busy but homesick and that they both miss her. He offers vague reassurances but she declines to ask him for any help beyond a promise that he will drop by in a few days to help her clean up her room. The joke that her room, the size of a dining hall is buried in 3 metric tons of BL light novels is an amusing, recurring distraction.suruga-araragi-bl-books

Araragi-kun’s reappearance will later be an excuse for some mild fanservice. In a series noted for gratuitous skin and sexual harassment, Hanamonogatari is remarkably restrained and well-behaved. We get an early peek at Suruga’s athletic bod, a lot of her in running gear and a brief glimpse of her sleeping in the nude but Araragi goes out of his way to downplay his interest… by going off on a creep-out tangent about his younger sisters. Suruga’s sexuality puts her in a special position in Araragi’s gaze; quasi-male (while surrounded by BL books!). While confronting Rouka Numachi over the theft of her demon arm we are treated to a moment of clichéd yuri mashing only to see Suruga paralysed by the forceful propositioning and quickly decide that she is being played.hana-mash2

Once again, Nisio Ishin closes off another reason why Suruga should care enough to intervene. Earlier in Hitagi End, Kaiki likewise went through the possible reasons for helping out with Senjougahara and Araragi’s snake god problem. Why bother? Atonement? Restitution? Money? Lingering feelings for a young girl? Only the most tenuous of excuses decided the issue for him: Suruga Kanbaru, Tooe Gaen’s daughter would be saddened by their deaths.

In both cases, since the franchise deals in supernatural action adventure and reluctant heroics, we know that both Kaiki and Suruga will talk themselves into sticking their necks out. Likewise Araragi can never resist helping out a supernaturally distressed young woman – perhaps because he must atone for the trauma of the events recalled in Ougi Formula and Sodachi Riddle/ Sodachi Lost. Or perhaps simply because he is the hero of the franchise. An entire anime cours, Tsukimonogatari is built around the notion that buddy boy should give up on playing action hero. Best to let monsters kill monsters.hana-ararag-ammends-web

When Suruga finally resolves to try to save (or exorcise) Rouka Numachi, her reasons are uniquely hers. First, the monkey-devil-arm curse was hers and she was dealing with it. What was hers was taken from her. Secondly; bereft of the strength and agility the paw had granted her, she may well wonder if she could push herself to face a supernaturally powered opponent. A threat is a challenge. Finally, she recognises in Rouka Numachi a fellow sportswoman and athlete, one who faced giving up something that she loved and derived identity from and who, by nature of the banality of the loss, did not fare as well as one who was cursed with a super-powered homicidal devil-arm.

One Monogatari side-story had Araragi-sempai resolve to teach his kouhai some humility by challenging her to some one-on-one basketball. He powered up by having Shinobu drink more than her usual maintenance dose of his blood to boost his vampire powers. Suruga brought her “Rainy Devil” power to the court. She whooped his ass over a 2 hour marathon match 99 to 0 but thanked him enthusiastically. Since getting the monkey-paw powers she had not been able to go full-out on the court with anyone.hanaball-float-web

If Suruga is to exorcise her old rival, she will do it one on one, on the basketball court. The elegance of the resolution to the problem of Rouka’s demonic possession was of course “built” to be solved only by Suruga Kanbaru, by who she is uniquely written as being. There is affection, and respect, not pity in her actions. Suruga is not a boy-character in a girl body or even a straight tomboy athlete turned into a Studio SHAFT fanservice “lesbian” fujoshi athlete who is petit-seour to her junior high school crush and sidekick to her ex-rival in love. Suruga might be struggling with all manner of doubts regarding her self-identity and future but she is already ironically detached and mildly disenchanted from their hold on her. When they reach out to paralyse her, even though she thought she had long ago killed their power over her, her character shines.hana-water-court-web

Had Kaiki not sent his final gift, she would have found something else to bait Rouka with. She doesn’t need supernatural powers any more. Because she knows herself, she knows how to win against Rouka and she knows why she will do it.

“1am tip for writing a character of an identity you don’t share: imagine a teen of that identity picking up your book at their worst moment” — ‏@mara_fitzgerald via Twitter

Once again: why are the three friends in Asterism all girls? If one was a boy, we could have a standard love triangle. Why is Suruga Kanbaru a self-proclaimed, if chaste “lesbian”? Why did Shiki-chan have to hurt? Is it that sticking well-behaved, sympathetic minority sexuality characters into a story can solve a few plotting problems and create a modicum of novelty, allowing for a “territorial expansion” in storytelling, wherein old tropes can be recycled into new tales? An author could have used sci-fi aliens or you-fell-into-a-game trickery to do similar, though at the loss of immediacy.

I have been suggesting that in each case, the authors are pursuing an unexpected expansion of the field strength of the concept of iyashi.

Iyashi-kei, the “healing” genre is one of those uniquely Japanese things, like the taste “Umami”. A lot of fans as well as civilians might find formal Iyashi-kei works too boring, too cloying to deal with. It’s all warm fuzzies all the time. Interesting, safe locale, nothing much happens. Days go by. Grass grows, paint slowly dries. Aaaaarrrrghhhhh!

Here’s a few takes on the effect:

“Nothing really happens, but in a really good way.”
— Iyashikei on TV Tropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Iyashikei

 

” The term “iyashi” can be translated as “healing”, so that makes iyashikei [a] healing series. Iyashikei is most often considered a sub-genre of slice of life series, because all iyashikei series feature the same character-centered nature of slice of life: There is no real continuing plot and in most cases no conclusion, but the mostly episodic stories are depicting people’s lives without any drama or suspense. However, what differs iyashikei from slice of life is the healing effects: In short, iyashikei calms the reader and leaves them with light-hearted, maybe with a hint of melancholy. The typical of characteristics of iyashikei are a few characters who all feel sympathetic towards each other; close, slowly developing relationships without conflicts as we might know them; an appreciation for nature and the small, beautiful things in life – and most importantly, iyashikei series are mostly located in another time and another world as we live in. Despite the similarities to our lives, iyashikei series are supposed to set us in another world where our sorrows actually are practically non-existent.
— A PRESENTATION OF “IYASHIKEI” SERIES AND THEIR EFFECTS by Sasa, July 20th, 2007 https://web.archive.org/web/20100923131442/http://chrome.dasaku.net/?p=501
.

” Most people use pop culture as a diversion from their mundane reality, and I’m not going to get excited about a music video that shows some lanky guy sitting at his laptop, writing a blog essay about Japanese marketing.”
— The Soft Appeal by W. David MARX (Marxy) Neojanism, August 16, 2005  http://neojaponisme.com/2005/08/16/the-soft-appeal/

Compared to some recent trends in Japanese popular fiction, say “detective stories written by women that leave you feeling bad”, (yup, it’s now officially a thing, called Iyamisu. Wait until the expat press blerghs on it) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsuo_Kirino], Iyashi-kei tales are slow, safe, happy and free of anything that would disturb the reader.

Gawd, I lurv the Aria anime. Nothing bad happens (repeat somewhat hysterically in CAPS!!). Aria, if you have not previously met her, is an apprentice gondolier on a very watery terraformed Mars, who works the canals in New Venice. Slow poling of gondolas ensues. I found Aria years ago while hunting for something suitable for the nieces and immediately loved it, if only because work at that moment was being a real mind-killing sucking hole of futility, annoyance and despair. Have a relax! The genre is critiqued, obliquely in Paranoia Agents, where the pressure to crank out one more soothing hit cartoon mascot watching paint dry anime drives all involved into a catastrophic reality-warping mass delusion.pa-radio-man-web

One of the above considerations of Iyashi went on to clumsily position it near to the more dramatic concept of “catharsis”. While both are states of mind brought on by consuming fictional narratives, the gulf between the two states is far too wide to bridge by mentioning one after the other. We should strive to maintain the separations of both the mechanics and effects. Iyashi is a pleasant 4 hour drive in the country with a picnic lunch stop midway. Catharsis starts with everyone else in the car feeling less than the driver, then adds a sudden hurricane-blizzard which the driver refuses to pull over to wait out, a 137 vehicle pile-up on the highway, a few gasoline tanker explosions, death, injury, panic, selfishness, heroism, sacrifice, more death and a final numb exhaustion among the survivors. Both take place in cars.

The ancient Greek dramatists who gave us catharsis, did not do iyashi. Comedy was done by the coarsest of the poor — slaves and by non-humans — satyrs, Tragedy was the realm of heroes, the exemplary among us whose hubris led to over-reach and a curse when the gods stepped in to toy with them. The chorus was where the audience was best represented; as bystanders, sympathetic onlookers and old guys – when ineffective warnings and good-old-days admonitions were needed. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_chorus]

A cosmology that only has space for rude animal lusts, fools, the demotic chorus, exemplary heroes and gods is ultimately pitiless and therefore hopeless. It can also be further “compressed” to render it nihilistic. Suruga’s mother’s remembered voice claims that gods and devils were only flip sides of the same condition. Here the shade of Tooe Gaen is full of shit.

Consider Rouka in contrast to the Monogatari-verse’s Hachikuji Mayoi:

“Every time Hachikuji appears thereafter, two things happen: Araragi’s perverted antics, and his verbal catharsis. The relationship is inappropriate, same as any adult confiding in a child about adult issues is inappropriate. But in many ways, Mayoi is an adult, and that idea is expanded upon in Kabukimonogatari. If Araragi is unable to confide in her then the whole world is destroyed. She bares his mental burdens as a true friend would, and to be honest, that is quite beautiful. But it’s inappropriate, and represented as such.
— Wave Motion Cannon
https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/02/25/monogatari-the-sexuality-is-the-narative/

It is a shame that she declines to appear in Hanamonogatari. Perhaps that would have been too much. For Japanese fans who have read the 19 (or more) light novels in the franchise, Hachikuji Mayoi is more than a child, or even the ghost of one. She might be the most powerful character of the entire opus. We’ve seen her put Araragi-perv in his place, seen her adult alt-probability self hold out against a zombie apocalypse, watched as Araragi broke down as the grey fog erased her (and at the risk of committing massive spoilers form the LNs), seen her pass on, return, be sent to hell, rescue Araragi from hell and in turn be rescued by him and finally ascend one last time to godhood. She originally died trying to visit her mother. She will be there to listen and put up with your nonsense and show understanding and friendship; compassion not pity or fear. She may be a wandering ghost but she retains that part of humanity which we have declared to be the best of us.

“Until all the hells are empty.”

Recognise her yet?

Oh Heck: Any excuse for my favourite fan-created earworm:

In contrast, Rouka Numachi is a demon, or at least a lost soul. Motivated by self-hatred and bitter spite, “The Lord Devil” pretends to care and pretends to act on the problems brought to her but makes a point of doing neither. Surprisingly enough, the fame of her efficacy still spreads. No wonder she ends up working the same side of the street as Kaiki. Did the depths of her despair attract the first of the devil-bits to her? She has made it her purpose to collect them all, to accelerate the process of becoming-monster, becoming-demon that awaits all angry souls who can not find peace, who cannot accept who they are or who they must become after fate deals them a lousy hand. Devils and lost souls must be exorcised.

Suruga Kanbaru and Hanamonogatari have been the subject of more than a few excellent fan essays. Hanamonogatari and the Crossroads [http://wrongeverytime.com/2014/09/29/hanamonogatari-and-the-crossroads/] takes up the theme of Suruga’s self-doubts, which is a curious approach because at least on the surface, genki Suruga seems to be the one of the less troubled characters in the franchise. She is not troubled by her self-proclaimed sexuality, even though she doesn’t go out of her way to advertise it. Nor is she troubled by her ridiculously excessive BL light-novel habit, except for the way the clutter takes over her room and buries any number of bought and borrowed pairs of nail clippers (per LN). Having to drop out of school sports was sad but all third-year students have to drop out to study for University entrance tests anyway and she can still run. If she needs to worry, nothing so concentrates one’s attention as a homicidal demon arm.

All her other worries are more in the realm of worrying that she should be worrying about what other people consider important enough to worry about. The remembered voice of her dead mother chides her to decide, or to act if she can’t decide otherwise she is “just water”. But water goes with the flow and most of the time, so does Suruga. If anything, her past experiences of being suddenly seized by overwhelming desire and resorting to the monkey paw must have left her wary of falling into such a trap again. Violent jealousy and longing should stay between the covers of her favourite reading materials, suitably abstracted to fakee-gay male bodies and easily managed — at least until they bury her in her room.

Here is a curious resonance between Suruga’s BL addiction and the respondents in the V. Maser’s study. Yes; those libidinized same-sex romances might be schmexy-hawt, but the abstraction from their reader’s condition is just enough to render them soothing, healing; iyashi.

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

— Verena Maser, Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre, pps 149-150. 27.9.2013 Universität Trier http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

And:

It appears that iyashi encompasses far more than mere relaxation and/or escapism. Respondents could choose the reasons “Reading these manga relaxes me.” and “Reading these manga helps me to flee from my day to day life.,” but only 36.5% and 23.7% did so, respectively. For those who preferred yuri anime, the respective numbers were equally low with 39.6% and 29.1%. It is possible that iyashi was seen as a more acceptable answer than “escape.” Yet iyashi as a reason for consuming yuri texts did also surface in a qualitative analysis of comments about yuri on Mixi that I conducted in 2008 and the term iyashi can also frequently be found in blog posts on various yuri texts. It is further quoted in some of the personal essays in the Eureka special issue on yuri (e.g. Takashima 2014, 118). I would therefore argue that at least some fans see iyashi as a genuine reason for liking yuri manga/anime and/or the yuri genre in general.”
Ibid Maser, p.150.

And:

“The respondents’ “sexual identity” was another important factor for quoting the reason iyashi: 82.9% of “non-heterosexual” male respondents as well as 73.4% of “heterosexual” male respondents gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri manga. The same reason was also quoted by 60.7% of “non-heterosexual” female respondents, but only by 45.2% of “heterosexual” female respondents (***p<.001).[12] In the case of yuri anime as well, iyashi was given especially by male respondents. It was quoted by 76.5% of “non-heterosexual” males and 74.0% of “heterosexual” males, compared to 55.0% of “heterosexual” females and 54.0% of “non-heterosexual” females (*p<.05).[13] These results would correspond with the suggestion that men feel emotionally healed by the cute characters of moe anime (Galbraith 2009a, under “Japanese critical discourse”).
Ibid Maser, p.150.

And:

“In Japan, the “iyashi boom” occurred together with the “boom of pure love [jun’ai]” (Hayashi 2005, 94) in fictional texts. Iyashi has been argued to be a central aspect of the stories about “pure love,” a love that is thought to have more value than any physical commodity (94–95). Purity and innocence are considered to be essential characteristics of the yuri genre, and it would seem like these are also important factors for the feeling of iyashi enjoyed by many of its fans. Still, it remains unclear what exactly the fans are “healed” of: is it frustration with the demands of contemporary Japanese society or is it more about personal problems? Does iyashi even mean the same for everyone? A deeper investigation of this issue would be needed.[18]”
Ibid, p.157.

Fan and academic lore has a habit of positing the fujoshi and her western cousin, the Slash fen as uncomfortable in the bodies. Certainly some are, as in the classic testimonial by Audrey Lemon,How Slash Saved Me
http://web.archive.org/web/20021124081322/http://www.goodgirl.ca/how%20slash%20saved%20me.html. Others are sick of the 24/7 objectification and sexualization of women in pop culture representation. But if we flip-side over to the male yuri reader, we can also ask of both sides of the avenue: “Is that all?

As a guy reader who likes yuri tales, I’m not annoyed with Kazuki and I don’t abstractly identify with Shiki-chan or Suruga Kanbaru. Nor am I threatened by the happenstance that Nisio Isin decided to use Suruga instead of Araragi as the hero-de-jour this time. I harbour no urge to virtual-lesbian or even “Les-bro” out on the story. Because the skin remains interesting, I will cop to the older Loser Fan Boy tag, but I was never Stockholm-syndromed by angry poser-extremists (wont dignify the neckbeard insult-label by mentioning it) into becoming more sympathetic. I did what little interest that may look like “sympathetic” all by my effing lonesome because it filled a personal need to understand and increased the enjoyment I derived from later recreational readings in the genre. That’s all. The process is commonly called fandom. No sins against Dr. Occam needed. It wasn’t a conspiracy or drugs in the water.

Lets all read some nice Class-S girl-crush stories. (Kaiki would suggest otherwise; ok — with a snack) Lots of folks who happen not to be lesbians (let alone athletic Japanese lesbian schoolgirls) seek them out because they are pleasantly diverting. They have absolutely nothing, or at least very little to do with most of us. That’s the whole idea. Could this be the simple, number one ultimate hidden reason behind all that BL for the women? Nawwww.. Must be the schmex! Or the romance, or some other secret girl-thing

It’s called fiction ™ for a reason: It really doesn’t matter what happens and a measure of distance from one’s own howling self is often a good idea. No Old Yellers will be killed off to remind anyone of the dog you loved when you were a kid. No wet stray kittens will be left in the box by the side of the road. You want resonant reminders of that ex-lover who was less than fully human? Or of how your boss is a psychotic robot pain machine from the hell dimension (Soon to be a cabinet pick for the next administration)?

Ok, we can probably find something but I advise against it.

The only glaring problem with this otherwise cozy arrangement is that we end up reading and writing about characters who somewhat resemble real folks. As well, these real folks, who previously didn’t see much in the way of characters with their concerns in popular stories — or saw gross, insulting caricatures of their concerns, read these stories too. They are, for obvious reasons, interested in them if only to see what manner of foolishness is being trotted out to poorly represent them and perhaps to pick up enough of the craft surrounding such storytelling to attempt repairs.

We formalise this process when it involves trademarks and copyrights but not when it involves others that resemble In Real Life folks. Just try to sell your dojin featuring a certain cartoon mouse doing distaff things at Comiket. I dare you. I hear you liek relentless lawyers, so we put some relentless lawyers on top of these other relentless lawyers so that they can all relentlessly lawyer every last bit of money and blood out of the marrow in your bones. That way you and anyone else will never never never do such a thing again to sully the perfect money-making machine that is everyone’s favourite rodent.

Those odd three-sexed alien superpowered werewolves are beginning to look like a good idea. Fear Copyright collectives.

Wiser minds than mine have noted that the fictional spaces that deal with the representations of others are all now contested spaces. Dr. Mizoguchi, writing about BL and yaoi declared:

“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.”
— A. Mizoguchi, “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond”
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf

If we read the really heavy examinations and analyses of theorists who have a stake in such representations we will undoubtedly learn some neat new things, but our need for cheesy diverting little stories will not evaporate. Tomboy sports girl with a superpowered monkey-arm curse? Lets also make her a gay fujoshi! How Kewl Is That?

A respected senior reviewer and essayist once set down a list of test criteria for a tolerably believable female protagonist:

Does female character have agency?
Does she have society?
Does she have personality?
Is she merely a female-shaped male hero doing male hero things while being female?
— E.Friedman, The Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/02/27/fearless-defenders-comic-issue-1/

One can easily extrapolate these rules to wider concerns of LGBTQIA+ representation, as well as towards a host of diverse “otherings”. Certainly Suruga Kanbaru fits her story like a well-worn running shoe; Nisio Isin “uses” her well and makes sure that she is far better suited than Araragi-kun at dealing with this particular exorcism. Even studio SHAFT cooperated and dialed the cheap titillation down 6 notches. Dropping Suruga into the story forced the issue. Girl-crush has not been very good to her. It drove her to use the cursed monkey paw a second time and almost killed someone. Having a petit-soeur relationship with Senjougahara was pleasant but she could not have helped but notice that big sister’s heart was elsewhere. This desire stuff, as well as the love stuff that supposedly lies behind it is complicated.

When Rouka mashes on her she is paralysed, then gets a peck on the cheek and a laughing admonition: “Let’s keep things pure, shall we. We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, so we shouldn’t play with fire too much“. Clearly she is out of her depths when it comes to matters of the heart, let alone earthly desires. She is a genki sports girl. Back away, keep things light. There will be time enough for love.

The alternative would slide Hanamonogatari in the direction of a reszbian pinku exploitation groaner. Keep Ougi female-presenting, as Suruga would have to harass and/or be harassed by every other female in the story. Who needs Kaiki? Do we have any dangerous sexy female exorcists hanging around? Can we work an all-girl yuri high school into the story? How about Shinobu and a rezbian zombie attack? No, wait: a yuri high school that turns into a pit of sex-crazed rezbian school girl zombies? And they are also all loli idols and underwear models!

Yo! Ishin-san, SHAFT! Talk to me!

Oh well, there’s always room on AO3.

Bloody tourists are always underfoot… with ideas!

The yuri market in Japan is a telling example. There just isn’t enough of a market for %100 lesbian (or even %80 lesbian) realistic or even sympathetic tales to pay the printing bills for a major magazine. Loser Fan Boys, Yuri Danshi and even Yuri-Straight-Josei readers are required. We are not going away any time soon. Them magazines have something we too need. The only useful strategy of accommodation is to encourage customer engagement through education and up-selling based on growing market sophistication. Tojisha folk will act for their place in the production process, to hopefully better reflect their lives and tastes but the rest of us clods will have to be gently sold on the benefits of authenticity, novel point of view, product sophistication, local color and a host of other characteristics that we will simply process as “value-added product”.

And since we all carry around our own globally reaching publishing houses (or at least can plant one on our kitchen tables) the contestation over what hits the page and the screen is going to become rather noisy and crowded for the next little while. In the end, some practices will be generally acknowledged as probably not a healthy place to go and everybody can so program their blocklists accordingly. Unless we all keep mooching the stuff and everyone goes broke. Back to AO3 again.

Circle back to Rouka and her hobby of collecting misfortune. Nisio Ishin was not simply having her talk talk talk to fill pages and time. He was playing with the grey spaces that obscure disparate motivations, tastes and actions — for characters and readers alike. Rouka had her reasons for collecting misfortune and these had little to do with “saving” or “helping” the people she listened to. Except for that first piece of the monkey-devil, all her interactions were opaquely transactional. The folks who had their problems solved may have imputed a motive or even “goodness” or “compassion” to her but that was their own comforting misunderstanding. For Rouka, who needed relief from her own troubles, the misery of others was like the taste of honey.

…And so she was driven to gorge on it.

Advertisements

The way she acts and the color of her hair

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

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

 

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

snapshot20150930233001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile back to Hato, rather than Shinobu.

you-sure-you-not-cap-copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

She used the SZS "I am in Despair" line

She used the SZS “I am in Despair” line

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

snapshot20150930233303

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

snapshot20150930233330

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

snapshot20150930233729

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

snapshot20150930233858

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

The episode ends.

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

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

SF 16p5 done in 5 minutes web600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original sin:

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

The color of the sulla flower…

Bleh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more? click-eeee!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

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

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

Female same-sex intimacy aversion therapy. 

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

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

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

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

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

First Maser defines her fandom:

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

Then where she found them:

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

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

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

To the survey:

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

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

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

Maser also asked about crossover interests between BL and Yuri:

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

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

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

Iyashi you say?

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

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

Some of the questionnaire comments were heartfelt:

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

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

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

And

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

And

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

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

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

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

Except for those who have been tainted by furreign thinking.

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

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

snapshot20150930233207

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

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

Unless…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are open to suggestions here.

Anybody care to to add anything?

The silence is deafening.

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

The passive partner accommodates, the end.

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

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

Let it.

Though the heavens fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not…

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

One should never underestimate the attraction of iyashi.

See also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006-02-13-trouble_in_memphis detail

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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