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Hi, everybody!

As of last Thursday, I'm back in Japan, in my old neighbourhood (and in fact, my old apartment complex)in the western suburbs of Tokyo. It's a bit odd in its very familiarity: I still remember the train lines, where the shops are, even where to find certain products on the shelves, through a kind of automatic body-memory. For being so "far from home," it's remarkably homey. I just wish the language was coming back to me as fast! Some kind of brush-up language class may be in order. Suggestions welcome!

In anime terms, I found a local Comics Toranoana (time to manga: <1 day) while out getting apartment necessaries and picked up the fourth volume of Hetalia. I don't want to generalize based on one little shop, but the Hetalia boom seems to be fading, and I don't see a stand-out replacement for fujoshi yet. For the male otaku set, I see lots of Madoka doujin (since Toranoana sells both pro and amateur works), and lots of Vocaloid, as expected. Maybe I just notice what's familiar to me more, but I get the impression that the gap between what's popular in N.America and Japan is fairly narrow now. More observations to come once I make it out to Akiba and Otome Road, though.

What is really, bizarrely big on the streets is Mickey Mouse. Classic Mickey & Minnie are EVERYWHERE, much moreso than in 2010. I see them on towels, t-shirts, back-packs, you name it. Oddly, Mickey often seems to be wearing the British flag for pants. There's something to be said here about character goods and twisted brand nationalism, but I don't know what yet.

At any rate, today I'm heading to a lecture on post-90s Japanese art at Sophia University with some folks from the Anime and Manga Research List. I should get going right away, so here's to hoping I can actually find my way to the venue!
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In the year 2000, Saitou Tamaki published Sentou bishoujo no seishin bunseki, an early attempt at (psycho)analyzing Japan's budding otaku culture. I read sections of it in Japanese in 2010, but, frustrated by the psychoanalytic terminology, ended up working more off of others' critiques (notably Tom Lamarre's in The Anime Machine). From that exposure, I came to the conclusion that I did not like Saitou's general attitude towards otaku or fujoshi. Not at all. I thought it was condescending, pathologizing, heteronormative, and universalizing, in the way the worst psychoanalysis often is.

In 2011, the book was translated as Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson at the U of Minnesota Press. And reading the whole thing in English has changed my opinion, a little. I was surprised to find some ideas that I think do have value for creating a more nuanced and flexible idea of otaku, especially regarding the relation between image, reality, and sexuality. But these ideas are not things Saitou brings out well himself, and he often falls back on frustrating Freudian/Lacanian analyses that foreclose the potential of his own earlier suggestions.

Under the cut is a shorthand list of quotes and ideas I thought were helpful, and others I thought were rage-inducing.

Quotes and thoughts )

In conclusion, there are lots of interesting things to be found in the book, including long excerpts from letters written by Japanese and American anime fans and a comprehensive lineage of the beautiful fighting girl figure from 1958-99, with examples from dozens of series. There are also a few good concepts hiding like diamonds in the rough of lamentable psychoanalysis. It's not a long book or a very difficult one, if you've got some critical theory under your belt. Anyone who wants to study otaku should read it -if mainly as something to move on from.
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Today I'd like to write about Fujoshi no Hinkaku, or "The Dignity of Fujoshi." This semi-autobiographical manga-essay was written by an office worker/artist going under the pen name "Kusame," a pun on the characters for "rotten woman" in the word "fujoshi." It introduces readers to the world of Boy's Love fan culture through the character of Fujoko, an office lady and secret fujoshi who discovers that her strong, smart, fashionable boss Takayo also harbours a hidden passion for BL. Fujoko declares that if great women like Takayo can be fujoshi, she too will aim to become just like her. She will become a fujoshi with dignity!

A Fresh take on Rotten Women )

Kuragehime

Jan. 15th, 2011 01:17 pm
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When Kuragehime (“Princess Jellyfish”) debuted on Japanese television back in Fall 2010, my first thought was: oh my god, they made an anime about me. Ok, not exactly about me. I’m not an 18-year-old NEET living in a Tokyo apartment full of female otaku, like the heroine, Tsukimi. But a jellyfish-loving virgin geek girl? Yes indeed! And it’s cool to see a story about someone like that.

Well, that was my gut reaction to the premise. I’ve been following the series online since then, and really it’s not much like my life or the lives of any fangirls I know. But as far as the fall season’s crop of “otaku meta-anime” went, Kuragehime did turn out to be one of the most enjoyable: a show about some eccentric people who like eccentric things, told with heart and humour, in a non-exploitative way.

Also, the opening credits are pretty fun!

Himitsu, himitsu! )
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This week I've been really enjoying reading the posts that starlady38 and marshtide have been serving up on 70s shoujo manga (most recent only linked here; check around!). I wanted to contribute too, but sadly I've read very little 70s shoujo manga beyond Rose of Versailles. Then I remembered: ah, Kaze to Ki no Uta! I've watched the anime, at least, I'll dig up my notes on that! I went to my files. There were no notes. So I decided to watch it again and write some. This essay...thing...is the result.

The wind stirring my branches )
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So, this week’s “Hey, Answerman” column on the Anime News Network website has a write-in section about the “moe” trend in anime, which emphasizes cute characters meant to evoke tender feelings of protectiveness. In the course of the postings, someone linked to this article by Patrick Galbraith called Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan. I’m generally interested in anything related to otaku culture, but this one particularly caught my eye because besides the usual male otaku point of view, it also has a part on fujoshi, or, female yaoi fans. His basic idea:

"Fujoshi fantasy is based on playfully reading the virtual potential of characters. If, for example, someone is in reality gay, then he cannot be a yaoi character because the transgressive potential, the basis of a separate fantasy attraction, is erased. Fantasy and reality are independent fields, and fujoshi can fluidly access both."

I think Galbraith has a start here. At least, he bases his ideas on open-minded conversations with actual people instead of psychoanalytic bullcrap. But there’s still a problem, and that’s the nature of “transgression.”

“Hidden )

Edit: Hmmm, snazzy in-text links are not working for some reason. Well, Galbraith's article is here: http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html

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