Fujoshi Friday: King of the Animals Part II

(Note: This is a continuation of the previous post applying Hiroki Azuma’s theory of database consumption to the anime K.)

With regards to the database characteristics used in K, let us first look at the series’s character design.

In K, we have our gothic lolicon character, Anna Kushina,

Anna_Profile

a character pairing of Shion and Nezumi from 2011 anime No. 6,

Shion and Nezumi (No. 6)

Shion and Nezumi (No. 6)

Shiro and Kuro (K)

Shiro and Kuro (K)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the MEGANE power duo, Fushimi Saruhiko and Munakata Reisi,

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oppai wielder, Seri Awashima,

Awashima_Seri_Concept

 

and the oft naked, pink-haired, cat-girl, Neko.

Neko1

Relationship between the characters aside, the characters’s dominant features evoke meaning that has developed over a multitude of anime and manga series.  In other words, the “database” of anime design features can only mold the audience’s desires and expectations of these characters even before watching the series. We see this time and time again, leading to the questions concerning the relationship between the consumer and producers of anime.

In Otaku, Azuma characterizes database consumption as leading to “animalistic tendencies,” reducing desires into easily fulfillable tastes in specific “types.” In his consumption model, Azuma defines human as having desires that are essentially unfulfilled, and it is that state that makes us humans. However, with the rise of otaku in beginning in the 1970s and blossoming in the 1980s, the “database” has filtered human desire into satiable, compact impulses for particular “types” and characteristics. That state of fulfillable desires in turn transforms the human into an “animal” without concern for larger themes or truths behind the facade of design. For example, the fujoshi that likes megane characters, or even more specifically, seme megane characters. The itch for the seme megane can then be satiated through the search and subsequent discovery of media possessing those database derived tastes. Capitalism then uses this model to mine from these database desires, as can be seen in such name as K.

is not particularly unique in attracting fans by adhering to prefab motifs commonplace in contemporary anime. Yet, under this model, the consumer appears to be slave to the media machine because of their “animalistic” desires. While Azuma’s model attempts to clarify otaku culture, the consumer is perhaps merely a victim of media fueled capitalism…

Tune in next week for further discussion on Azuma’s theory of database consumption

 

Fujoshi Friday: King of the Animals Part I

From July 5th to 18th K: Missing Kings, the filmic emissary of the (aka: K Project, K (anime), [K], and Gay among other monikers) franchise, premiered in Los Angeles and Paris and hit Japanese theaters before infiltrating cities across the United States in specially arranged screenings. Though weighed down by its character leadened plot and slightly caffeinated muzak, the K anime series nonetheless maintains a hearty international fan base propelling this film’s vigorous virgin voyage that will perhaps drive the franchise’s further media venture.

K is moderately popular. So what?  This is all fine and well for K fans, but what has this to do with my beloved [insert popular series]. While not particularly acclaimed or easily understandable anime series or film, the way in which appeal operates between the series and fans provides an entry point understanding how anime and manga today, particularly those geared toward fujoshi, operates.

Enter Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animal.

otaku

A slim book originally published for the general Japanese populace in 2001, it reached American shores in 2009 with under a more academic guise. Due to that eight year translation gap combined with the normal passaged of time, the book tends to feel a bit dated especially with its discussion of technology and female otaku, or rather for the latter, its lack of discussion on female otaku and fujoshi. However, Otaku provides a useful model to begin dissecting female fandoms. In Otaku, Azama explains beginning in the 1970s, Japanese media consumption shifted from the consumption of large “grand narratives” addressing vast themes on human existence to “database consumption,” or rather the consumption of specific traits and archetypes, typically associated with character types, that stem from a larger “database” of character types. Rather than searching for vast themes and narratives, the consumer are instead seeking characteristics provided by media that satisfy desires. Thus, the Otaku becomes the consummate database consumer as he (since Azuma only discusses male otaku) forages anime, manga, and games for the right scratch to his itch.

Let us return back to K. Perhaps among the most outstanding flaws of the series is the lack of coherent narrative. This is particularly apparent in K: Missing Kings (or rather K: Missing Plot). However, the film succeeds in drawing from this “database” of desirable traits embodied by the lightly developed and well designed characters.

BidIW6aCEAATx73.jpg-medium

Without even examining the content of the movie, the key art of K: Missing Kings overwhelms the viewer with a variety of character fitting a particular “type” based on design and body posture, a process relying on audiences, even those not familiar with the series, reading these traits and associating it with past characters and anime with similar designs, or in other words, the database. Herein we can see how narrative is backpedaled in the K franchise, instead relying on the the invisible but pervasive database used as a seductive means to draw fans.

Tune in next week for Part II for a further discussion of K and Azuma’s Otaku.

Announcement: Fujoshi Fridays

Despite the unannounced hiatus and the haphazard posts, yowlingyaoi continues, this time with renewed (or at least recycled) energy and (hopefully) academic fervor. Beginning next Friday, a new series titled Fujoshi Friday begins. In these posts, I will attempt to apply academia to subjects often written off as mere entertainment with doujinshi, anime, and the media portrayal of fujoshi will be of particular focus. I also encourage anyone with ideas or input to please comment on these posts! Hopefully these will spark a much needed dialogue on these topics. Thank you everyone (anyone???) reading~

 

thank you copy 4

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.)