Night Thoughts: Samurai Flamenco Finale

(Please note: This post contains spoilers for Samurai Flamenco)

As mentioned in the previous post, fujoshi fishing in non-BL anime for the most part flirts at the idea of  a BL but rarely acknowledges outright the (romantic) nature of relationship between two male characters. This in turns leaves that duty to the fujoshi fandom. (See Durarara, Kuroko no Basuke, Tiger and Bunny, among others). Exceptions exist, one being born yesterday.

Enter Samurai Flamenco‘s Hazama Masayoshi:

goto san-lets get married copy

In its own way, Samurai Flamenco is not an average anime. (Depending on the person, it is either above or below.) With unpredictability as its guiding star, Samurai Flamenco transforms from a seemingly harmless slice-of-life series into a fantastical landscape of alien invasions and righteous heroes.

Despite Samurai Flamenco‘s lapses in animation quality, drastic plot twists, and disconcerting female characters, it is nevertheless fearless: fearless in its genre-bending, fearless in its pursuit of metafictive analysis on entertainment, and fearless in its reflection on love. Truly, beneath the chaotic-alien-invasion-vigilanti-hero-turned-world-president-former-model-superhero-otaku story dwells a larger inquiry on the nature of love. While not evident at first glance, love arguably propels Samurai Flamenco‘s story, from Hazama’s obsession with heroes to the series’ surprising finale with Hazama proposal of marriage to Goto.

It is this very proposal and Hazama’s subsequent realization that his feelings toward Goto are love, that pushes Samurai Flamenco away the typical path of fujoshi fishing in shonen-esque series. The proposal onto itself appears to defy the conventions of “fujoshi fishing” by making Goto and Hazama “officially” a canon couple, a hope perhaps many fujoshi (including myself) desired. Yet, while this can be viewed as a victory for Team Fujoshi, claiming such victory may be evading a deeper meaning behind Hazama’s proposal.

When we enter the final episode, Sawada Haiji, a middle school student obsessed with Samurai Flamenco, had kidnapped Goto in an attempt to force Hazama to continue being his superhero alter ego. After a brief flashback to Goto’s past, Hazama enters the scene filled with meditations on love prepared to confront Sawada and save Goto. Rather than transform into a hero, however, Hazama chooses to battle as himself, confessing he truly does not understand love, but neither does Sawada. Positioning Sawada’s fantasies concerning Samurai Flamenco as a misguided love, Hazama stops Sawada by expressing his sincere care for him. Goto, freeing himself from Sawada’s constraints, then attempts to kill Sawada, prompting Hazama to save the both of them. Entirely naked and countering Goto’s claim that he is alone, Hazama proposes marriage to Goto, and then realizes that perhaps his desire to protect Goto and help him was love.

On the surface, Hazama’s actions seems to pander to the idealized fujoshi demographic: naked male, essentially love confession, marriage plan. Yet, Samurai Flamenco operates on a slightly different logic. The series positions the proposal in an expansive humanistic narrative about the human struggle against the inherent loneliness of being rather an an stance on gay marriage. By portraying marriage as a means to overcome Goto’s sense of isolation, Samurai Flamenco depoliticizes love and marriage by separating it from politically charged issues of sexuality, gender, and sex. Though wearing the pelts of BL, Samurai Flamenco, in accordance to its grand gesticulations toward high ideals such as justice and heroes, upholds a pure conception of love free from the complications of politics and BL.

Perhaps such purity in the face to life’s cruelty and true injustice, both politic and otherwise, is naive. Samurai Flamenco‘s humanistic meditations on love perhaps will be lost in an impending sea of fan fiction and doujinshi that even I myself may consume. Nonetheless, this finale has made its splash. Now it is time to see how other studios and fan will swim with the waves. (Perhaps…looking forward to this summer’s Free! a bit too much. How short the attention span is now in the age of mass media.)

Tiger and Bunny: Fujoshi Fishing

Partially because the dining halls are closed and partially because I cannot cook,  Korean cup-a-noodle sustained me this past week.

Spring Break

But, even though cup-noodle is satisfactory in both taste and price, there is a certain missing element. An elusive element of full satiation remains remote. It is the element of being real food. However, this does not stop me from returning to Korean cup-noodle, and in fact it is the coy hint of sustenance that draws me, the hope of potential gratification.

Over this past week, I have contemplated the cup-noodle and came to the conclusion that it is this very sensation that sustains the Tiger and Bunny doujinshi industry, a sensation I call fujoshi fishing.

What exactly is fujoshi fishing?

Fujoshi?

Fishing?

Gay fishing?

Is it Tsuritama?

Tsuritama.full.1084399

Not exactly, though arguably Tsuritama does possess some fujoshi fishing aspect. Rather, fujoshi fishing is where series contains gaps in the text alludes to a larger, albeit not canon, BL narrative. True, fujoshi for the most part take even the most normal, buddy/bromance situation  out of context to fit a fujoshi fantasy. Yet, some series contain scenes need minimal out of context analysis because they possess a “hint” of something more. Such can be seen in nearly every episode of Tiger and Bunny. Below are only a small sampling:

From Ep. 2

From Ep. 2

From Ep. 9

From Ep. 9

From Ep. 19

From Ep. 19

From Ep. 19

From Ep. 19

From Ep. 24

From Ep. 24

From 1st ED

From 1st ED

While Tiger and Bunny does have an openly gay character (Fire Emblem), the anime remains  ambivalent on the exact nature between the title characters. Rather than cater to a particular audience, the creators of Tiger and Bunny maintains a delicate balance between including typical shounen-action elements and potentially BL-esque scenes, or what I like to call fujoshi fishing sequences. When watching the series, it is generally understood that a TigerXBunny (for for that matter BunnyXTiger) is not canon. However, much like cup-a-noodle, it flirts at it, leaving gap fan driven BL prosper. This (perhaps obviously) explains the continued popularity of the series among fujoshi (though Tiger and Bunny is redeemable beyond its fujoshi fodder) and its many other lives in flood of doujinshi churned out at Comiket and other venues every year. Furthermore, fujoshi fishing is not unique to Tiger and Bunny. In fact, most contemporary anime (see Yowamushi Pedal, Free!, and sports anime in general) contain fujoshi fishing.

Rather, the existence of fujoshi fishing says more about the power of fujoshi as consumers than anything specific about the anime itself. As a strong economic power and fan base, fujoshi can be viewed as one of the most hidden and lucrative demographic of today’s media. Though Tiger and Bunny is a progress anime in content wise, it also reveals the progressive (or at times transgressive) nature of the series’s consumers.

Tiger and Bunny: The Rising

This past weekend, I attended the much awaited North American premier of Tiger and Bunny: The Rising. (The movie actually began screening in Japan back in February, but thanks to Viz Media, Eleven Arts, and other high powers in the anime distribution industry, the movie reached Los Angeles far quicker than it would have two years ago.) For those not familiar with the series, it might be easier to describe it in stereotypical fujoshi shorthand: gay superheroes. (Of course this blatantly glosses over the ethical complexities the series presents about morality, justice, aging, etc. However, for the purposes of the article, I will be focusing on the film’s sexual politics.) Aside from the expected coupling of the anime’s title characters, the series also includes an ostensibly “gay” character: Fire Emblem, aka Nathan Seymour.

Fire Emblem

During Tiger and Bunny’s original run in 2011, Fire Emblem acted more as a comic relief: an effeminate, overly handsy (especially around Rock Bison)  man-woman of uncertain identification. Perhaps due to Fire Emblem’s exaggerated flamboyance and his limited screen time throughout the series, his character can be perceived as a stereotype, a flat embodiment of “gayness” that stands in stark contrast with the imagined homosexual romance between Kotetsu Kaburagi and Barnaby Brooks Jr. proliferating in doujinshi (fan-made manga) and fan-fiction fueled by the (sexual) tension sprinkled throughout the series. (See below)

From Episode 19

From Episode 19

ep25_133

From Episode 25

From Episode 24

From Episode 24

With Tiger and Bunny: The Rising, however, side characters often forgotten in series are brought to the fore, and Fire Emblem’s long absent backstory finally appears. To avoid spoilers for those wanting to see the film later, I will only say that the film reverses the comic-relief-character development long haunting Fire Emblem’s image; instead, we are given a rare glimpse into a Japanese media portrayal the struggles associated with coming to terms with sexual identity and social and self acceptance. For a series largely sustained by a fujoshi fandom, the appearance of a self-identified (rather than fan-identitied) character creates a rupture in the seemingly problematic dynamic between BL/ fantasy and  real/gay identity. Rather than flattening and perpetuating a doujinshi cut out of a BL sexual fantasy, Tiger and Bunny: The Rising inserts a “reality” to the fujoshi “dream” and forces to the fore questions long lingering in the fujoshi folds.  Can the (at times exploitive) imaginings of the gay identity co-exist with the social reality of those self-identifying as gay? Is the consumption of BL a form of homophobia that the film is endeavoring to counter? How might Fire Emblem’s back story impact the future of BL, the portrayal of gays in the media, and the fujoshi imaginings of homosexuality/gay identity?

Over these next couple of weeks, I intend to analyze the Tiger and Bunny franchise more in-depth to understand exactly the operations of fujoshi created imaginings of the BL vs. Reality and perhaps find tentative answers to these questions.

(Note: For those new to the blog, I am a self-identifying fujoshi, as in a woman whose consumption of BL has become an integral part of my lifestyle. That does not mean one cannot be critical to the issues presented by BL, particularly the objectification of a sexual identity. However, the larger social systems enmeshed in the fujoshi identity must also be understood along with the gay identity within BL. With hopes, yowlingyaoi can provide an unbiased as possible analysis of BL and fujoshi without too much fluff.)

Manga of the Month: Otona no Mondai

Otona no MondaiFor a genre  flooded with the fictional fluids of mating men, rarely do you find a Boy’s Love manga with a protagonist not involved in a Boy’s Love relationship, much less one that tackling the concept of the “gay identity” and its social realities. Ima Ichiko, however, provides a counter narrative to the overarching erotic and somewhat exploitive portrayal of intimate (including romantic and filial) relations, between men in her 1997 manga, Otona no Mondai (Adult Problems). Written during Japan’s Lost Decade following the 1980s economic bubble burst, Otona no Mondai illustrates a Tokyo enmeshed in a tide of changing social dynamics and  relations by following the story of Naoto, an exasperated college student on the brink of a heterosexual relationship.

When the readers enter the story, we find Naoto grappling with the impending marriage of his father to a man only six years older than himself. (In Japan, gay marriage is not technically legal. However, men may “unofficially” marry by adopting their partner, thus allowing the couple to share a name and be of the same family, though legally one partner becomes a father and the other a son.) Much less about the mechanics of gay love (or in less delicate terms, smut), Ima positions her story as a wider narrative about family bonds by  the exploration themes of divorce, remarriage, gay marriage, and mixed families within Naoto’s Japanese-convention defying family. Rather than stratifying the father’s gay marriage, Ima instead normalizes it within the context of Naoto’s social reality. Nonetheless, Ima also include instances of discrimination toward the gay relationship, even directly addressing, albeit humorously, the perceived origin of homosexuality (genetic? contagious? a choice?). Perhaps it is indeed the humor of the story that saves the manga from maudlin melodrama and shrouds the story with a veil of reality. Through a comedic form, Ima illuminates relevant yet potentially dense discussions on the effects of divorce,  remarriage,  discrimination, and contemporary Japan’s social issues.

Art-wise, Ima’s manga ages well. The realistic,  1990-esque style suits the realism and sitcom-y humor of the story. While not particularly experimental with form, Ima’s handling of  transgressive themes within functional, if not typical panel pacing insinuates these themes are more  “normal” than one would expect.

Specifically concerning divorce and gay and heterosexual marriage, Ima endeavors to portray them on an equal field with equal power in creating and recreating families. At the heart of Otona no Mondai, we don’t find so much a story about Boy’s Love, but much rather one about love of family. Ima anchors Boy’s Love into reality, exposing its larger social implications as a human relationship, not merely a uke and seme collision. Of an older generation of manga, Otona no Mondai is almost an oddity within the spectrum of BL manga currently on the market. Seemingly forgotten by time, Ima’s work remains pertinent to today’s world rippled with sexual politics and changing family norms. For all those in search of a more adult read, Otona no Mondai can act as your gateway to a new level of Boy’s Love based more on love than boys.

Night Thoughts: The Saga Continues

Well, I admit. Maintaining this blog has not exactly ranked highly on my priority list. Rather, I have been contemplating the meaning behind yowlingyaoi. Should I even have started a blog? Does anyone actually care? Why do I want people to care? Or is this merely an ego trip, a minuscule “ha ha! I own this part of the Internet,” when really, I don’t. These ideas so arrogantly posted here are nothing too original and the real brilliance resides in the innumerable mangaka today inventing and reinventing the genre of Boy’s Love. All I am doing is nibbling at the crumbs of their glory, defecating pellets mistaken for real thought and uniqueness. Yet, despite it all, I have decided to carry on as business as always, to actually care about yowlingyaoi and its potential readers. For the service of the BL fan community and those who identify as a fujoshi, I wish to become a contributing member of the oft misunderstood culture.

In the end, all I hope is to dispel the layers of assumptions suffocating BL and the fujoshi community today and to spotlight the luminaries of BL mangaka.

With this being said, yowlingyaoi is now officially back into action.

Manga of the Month: Genshiken Nidaime

久しぶり!(Long time no see!) Apologies to anyone that reads this blog (if there is anyone…) Due to a variety of life circumstances, I had to sacrifice writing for Yowlingyaoi. But, now I’m back and ready for action!

Currently, I am living in the International Capital of Boy’s Love, Tokyo, home to Akihabara, Ikebukuro, and Comiket. I will be sure to post about Tokyo (especially Ikebukuro) in the coming months. In the meantime, here is October’s Manga of the Month!

Previously, I posted sporadically about Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken Nidaime, a revamp of his otaku original with a fujoshi twist. In the past, Genshiken Nidaime flirted with the idea of real “Boy’s Love,” or rather the realities fujoshi often contort to fit their fantasies. However, it never crossed the strict barriers between the humdrum of everyday and the “exotic” and “forbidden” yaoi love affairs trapped on the page. That is, until the most recent arc.

Enter once again Hato-kun!

horriblesubs_genshiken_nidaime_-_07_720p-mkv_snapshot_16-18_2013-08-17_12-21-30

When we last saw Hato-kun (on this blog), he indulged in an cross dressing to allow him greater access into the fujoshi community. A self-proclaimed fudanshi (a male afficionado of Boy’s Love), he nonetheless maintained a delicate balance between his pleasures and his sexuality, raving over real life ships of his friends (particularly Genshiken ever suffering sempai, Madarame) while at the same time affirming his straightness. Yet, as Hato-kun becomes closer to Madarame and as Madarame gains a slew of potential love routes, Hato-kun confronts the truth of his dreams.

Evading any important plot points for those who have not read the manga or are still in the process of reading it, it should be known that Kio Shimoku appears to be questioning how we understand gender, sexuality, and the boundaries transecting all of the above. Kio Shimoku explored in the original Genshiken the process of consumption, the formation of identities, social foundations, and how one finds a place in society with these social connections. He then takes this further in Genshiken Nidaime by focusing on an even more marginalized population, the fujoshi and fudanshi, and questions the societal pressures those loving BL confront through Hato-kun’s character development.

In turn, Kio Shimoku also outlays one of the central issues beating in the heart of BL: the meaning of the “gay” identity. An oft repeated phrase in BL goes along to the effects of “I’m not gay. But I love you.” With the recent turn of events between Hato-kun and Madarame’s relationship, Kio Shimoku brings this phrases to life into his 2D world like an epic social experiment. While his world remains as fictional as the one his characters obsess over, the metafictive approach to the narrative (ranging from his pretenses of reality, the usage and misusage of anime and manga tropes, such as the harem) elevates Genshiken Nidaime to a humorous social commentary asking a difficult questions: can a man love a man without being labeled or accepting the label “gay” or “homosexual,” how is love defined by gender, what is the worth of our hobbies in the light of social acceptance.

Kio Shimoku, as he demonstrates in his earlier works Yonensei and Gonensei, approaches the most intimate aspects of self-discovery and the excruciating journey of growing up with humor and sensitivity. Not afraid of “Slice of Life,” Shimoku slices, dices, and grills the lives of his characters into an savory meal beckoning to consume.

Genshiken Nidaime just finished up as an anime and is currently being published in the United States by Viz Media. Happy reading~

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Apologies to All!

Sorry for the surprise hiatus!!!

Due to a variety of life events, I had to put Yowlingyaoi on the back burners.

But, Yowlingyaoi will be back for business starting this June!!!!

Thank you everyone!

Thank you Yoshihara Yuki! (From Darling wa Namamono ni Tsuki)

Thank you Yoshihara Yuki! (From Darling wa Namamono ni Tsuki)

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