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In discussion of anime online, it is not entirely uncommon for someone to say that a certain anime is “made for autistics” or that “autistics dislike this show because they’re unable to pick up on the subtleties of human expression.” While there is a clear problem in terms of turning the term “autistic” into this general sort of insult, I would like to set that somewhat aside and to honestly consider what the following idea: what if anime (or other forms of media) were intentionally made for autistic people?

This post has actually been in the back of my mind for a few years now but I’ve always felt uncomfortable enough with the idea of writing it. My worry has been that, in bringing up a serious topic such as autism that I know very little about, I wouldn’t be able to do it proper justice even within the very limited scope of what I want to explore. However, after recently reading a post by Alain from Reverse Thieves about how the desire for “good” narrative pacing in anime among different people is more of a “horizontal” structure of preference than a “vertical” hierarchy of superior vs. inferior taste, it prompted me to move forward. In part, this is due to the fact that Alain launches his argument from a video of a talk given by Malcolm Gladwell, and in watching more videos of him, I came across this video where Malcolm talks about the strengths and weaknesses of making snap judgments, where he explains that everyone has periods of what he calls “momentary autism,” or points at which people are incapable of “reading minds,” something most non-autistic people take for granted.

As far as my personal experience, while I am not autistic myself (though I’ve of course been accused of it as some point in my internet life), I did have a roommate who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and he made me aware of what this concept of being unable to pick up on emotional cues really means, and how difficult it can be to deal with it in everyday life. While he explained that he himself had high-functioning autism/Asperger’s, which meant that he could participate relatively well in society, he also was unable to participate in the humorous banter common among our group of friends at the time. This was partly because of the difficulty in picking up social cues, but it was also because surprise and moments of improvisation can be downright frightening. Instead, he would read up on jokes and prepare them in advance, so that he could contribute to the laughter.

This idea has stuck with me for years, and over time it’s transformed into the question I asked at the beginning. Imagine what a true “autistic anime” would be, something that does not assume the ability to infer people’s intentions as a default, but says, “this anime/cartoon/movie assumes its main audience to have autism and attempts to be as fulfilling for them as what is expected of the majority of entertainment for non-autistic people.” Here, the horizontal structure of different preferences as equal would include those with the inability to pick up on others’ emotions easily. Or, perhaps to take it further, what if the majority of the people in the world were autistic and as a result most of our entertainment had to cater to such an audience if it wanted to be successful on a larger scale?

Of course, this is the point at which I should be presenting various conceptions of what such anime would possibly look like, but I’m at somewhat of a loss. I don’t remember if I actually read this somewhere or if I’m making it up in my head, but I recall seeing somewhere the idea that anime as it currently exists can often be appealing to autistic people because of the fact that in so many works characters announce their emotions very directly. I think the idea is that, when Naruto shouts that he won’t forgive Sasuke and his cartoonish face has all of its features exaggerated for instance, there’s little ambiguity. Perhaps there could also be something more structural in terms of narrative, so as to foreground surprises or even be designed to encourage multiple viewings such that the content becomes increasingly familiar but also has more to explore each time. I do not meant to encourage the stereotype, but I have to wonder if the way works such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, Gundam, indeed even Naruto have created fanbases that work off of re-watching these shows and delving into their tiniest details (often regardless of the context of character motivation) results in a similar appeal.

I think it’s easy to tell that my own ideas in this regard are kind of rudimentary and lack extensive research and familiarity with the subject of autism, but I wanted to express my own simple ideas in the hopes that someone more well-versed in the subject either personally or professionally might be able to tackle this subject better.

 

The Japanese manga site devoted to free and legal distribution of out-of-print manga, J-Comi, has relaunched as “Zeppan Manga Library.” This change has been effect since at least July 10th of 2014, when the tablet app was updated to reflect this new name.

J-Comi was originally created by Akamatsu Ken, author of Love HinaNegima!, and currently UQ Holder. As a show of his dedication to the project, he began by putting the entirety of Love Hina on the site.

Prior to the re-branding I had not visited the site in quite a while, so I don’t know for sure what changes have occurred as a result of this transformation. One interesting note, however, is that light novels are on the site now. While people might know about modern light novels-turned-anime such as Sword Art Online, Toradora, and My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, most of the light novels on the site are older, less commonly known titles, such as Hayami Shinji’s Summer Road,which was first published in 1988, and Arisato Akara’s Under Heavens Family from 2001. I haven’t read any of the light novels yet myself, but the idea of approaching different sets of tropes compared to contemporary light novels sounds pretty exciting.

There’s also a manga in the “sexy” category that ran in CoroCoro Comic called Famicom Rocky (pictured above), and I can’t wait to find out what the heck that’s all about.

The sexy category is not to be confused with the site’s adult section.

Name: N/A
Alias:
Student from Warm Watch Group (見守る会の生徒)
Relationship Status: 
N/A
Origin:
Mayo Chiki

Information:
This girl is a student of Roran Academy and a member of the “Subaru-sama Warm Watch Group,” a fan club for the butler of the Suzutsuki household and Roran student Konoe Subaru. Their group, comprised mostly of fujoshi, are in favor of Subaru’s friendship with a male classmate named Sakamichi Kinjirou, which puts them constantly and secretly at war with a rival group opposed to that relationship, “Shooting Star Subaru Sama,” aka S4. This member is one of the few in the Warm Watch Group other than their leader Narumi Nakuru to interact directly with Kinjirou.

Fujoshi Level:
After rescuing Kinjirou from an S4 member’s attack, she asks him if he is the “seme” (top) or the “uke” (bottom).

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Since the last chapter, Madarame has been mulling over Hato’s Valentine’s chocolate. Feeling a sense of happiness over receiving them yet also confused and alarmed by this very reaction, he seeks the advice of Kugayama, who is the only other guy out of the old Genshiken crew to not have a significant other and thus won’t spill the beans to the girls. As the two get increasingly drunk over some barbecue, Madarame reveals where he believes the confusion lies: to him, Hato is a man and therefore someone Madarame can relate to, whereas women are so foreign to him that he doesn’t know how to even begin dealing with their affections. Kugayama suggests going to a soapland to help him get over his fear of women, but realizing that it’s probably too big a jump for either of them they consider instead going to a cabaret club, more specifically Keiko’s.

For a chapter basically consisting of two scenes and a brief look into Yajima’s attempt to improve her figure drawing with the help of Yoshitake, there’s actually a whole lot to unpack. At this point, it’s something I expect from Genshiken even putting aside my own tendency to analyze the series in depth, but the more I thought about the simple events and topics of this chapter, the more complex the exploration of otaku sexuality and its perception in the otaku mind becomes.

Although I’ve had to re-assess the manga’s messages when it comes to attraction and sexuality a number of times, at this point one thing continues to be certain: Genshiken presents the idea that one’s “2D” and “3D” preferences neither overlap entirely nor are they truly separate. It wasn’t that Hato was in denial when he originally said his preference for BL existed purely in the realm of doujinshi and the like, but that he honestly felt that way. However, as we’ve learned, even the distinction between “2D” and “3D” is tenuous, as the characters of Genshiken ship real people (or at least imaginary approximations of real people). I would argue that BL was not Hato’s realization of homosexuality, but something which made the idea a distinct possibility in his mind that helped him to clarify his feelings for Madarame.

While I don’t think Madarame is having the same thing happen to him, I do think his actions in this chapter reflect a similar semi-disconnect between his 2D and 3D desires. Consider the fact that one of Madarame’s warning signals was that he began re-playing his otoko no ko eroge. One would expect the situation to be that ever since Madarame received the chocolates that he began to look into those games, but he in fact had them for a while. While Madarame maintained is self-identity as heterosexual, he was playing those types of games the whole time, and as implied in the chapters where he first discusses his experience with those games, it’s less about being into guys 2D or 3D and more about the use of sexual expression coded generally as “female” in otaku media that appeals to him. Hato, who similarly performs “femininity” looks to be hitting the same triggers in Madarame, and the very fact that this deliberateness in the end positions Hato to be male is also what makes Madarame feel as if he can relate to Hato better than any woman.

The female sex is something Madarame has viewed his entire life as a realm of distant fantasy, only barely entering his purview of reality when Kasukabe suggested that maybe they could’ve had something if circumstances had been different. This, I think, is why Madarame has trouble deciding what he feels in reaction to Sue and Angela (via Ohno) giving him romantic chocolates as well. Madarame has expressed interest in 2D characters similar to Sue, and there’s no doubt that he finds Angela attractive on some level, but they’re a foreign existence, both figuratively and literally. In that sense the anime girl and the real girl are equally “farfetched.” This is also what makes the Chekhov’s gun that is Keiko’s heavily photoshopped business card so powerful. Not only is it the case that Madarame’s refusal to visit the cabaret club back in Chapter 59 potentially overturned the next chapter, and not only is Keiko one of the other girls into Madarame, but Keiko herself plays a “character” at her workplace. Even firmly within the realm of “3D,” the line between fantasy and reality blurs.

Another thing I find interesting about this whole notion that Hato’s feelings are easier to respond to because Madarame can relate to them as a fellow guy is how this somewhat mirrors one of the reasonings touted for why people get into BL of shounen manga. Traditionally, female characters and love interests in battle/sports/competition manga have been on the sidelines, and most of the displays of fiery passion consist of male rivals and enemies confronting and antagonizing each other, which leads to more time and effort to devoted to those relationships than the ones between the hero and his would-be girlfriend. While this isn’t quite the same as what Madarame and Hato have, what is similar is this concept of guys being able to understand each other on some deeper level (or with girls in yuri), whether it’s intrinsic or something that’s developed over time. In the case of Madarame, it’s perhaps an inevitability given his inexperience with women. In a way, Kugayama’s solution of breaking the “mystique” of the opposite sex through the use of a “professional,” while extremely typical in various cultures (there was even a King of the Hill episode on the subject) is itself also a breakthrough for the otaku-minded, as it involves a desire to get away from the ideal of sexual purity and enter “reality,” though even that conception of the world is fueled by a fantasy. There’s a more I could say about Kugayama as well, but I’ll leave it alone for now except to say that Kugayama in some ways occupies Yajima’s position.

As for the scene with Yajima, Yoshitake, Hato, and Sue, although it’s fairly short, it is notable that Yajima is actually trying to improve her drawing despite being previously resigned to suck at it forever, and Hato’s mention that he’s been drawing manga lately is likely going to mean that he’s gotten past his previous dilemma of only being able to draw BL when dressed as a girl and a rather bizarre style when as a boy. The “disappearance” of the two voices that accompanied Hato (his other self and the other Kaminaga) were likely a prelude to this development. I suspect we’ll see more in the next chapter.

Also, Ogiue does not appear in this chapter but is at least mentioned twice, once when Madarame believes Sasahara would definitely tell her if Madarame were to divulge his secret struggle, and once when Yoshitake states that it was Ogiue’s suggestion for Yajima to do some rough sketches.

 

Name: Narumi, Nakuru (鳴海ナクル)
Alias:
Narunaru
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Mayo Chiki

Information:
The cat-eared high school student at Roran Academy with an extreme fondness for glasses, Narumi will go as far as to dive out windows to save a pair. She, like many of the girl at her school, is a big fan of fellow student and butler Konoe Subaru, and is even the president of the “Subaru-sama Warm Watch Group,” one of two major Subaru fan factions in her school. The Warm Watch Group is constantly at odds with their rival group, S4 (Shooting Star Subaru Sama), though neither is aware that Subaru is actually a girl.

Narumi and the rest of the Warm Watch Group are mostly fujoshi, and thus support the friendship between Subaru and “his” male friend, Sakamachi Kinjirou. Narumi herself goes as far as to write BL novels starring thinly-veiled analogues of the two which are so lengthy that they require someone with superhuman strength to staple the pages together, and then acts out the scripts. Owing to the popularity of her doujinshi, she has a loyal fan club of her own.

Fujoshi Level:
Narumi once turned down a boy who had confessed to her, for the reason that she has dedicated her entire high school life to creating BL.

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After years of wanting to go but never finding the opportunity to do so, I decided to finally visit the Stripmuseum in Groningen. “Stripmuseum” means “Comics Museum, so don’t get any funny ideas. Then again, I feel like there’s a greater acknowledgement of nudity in Dutch comics compared to especially American comics, and so maybe the joke isn’t too out of place.

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The museum is fairly small but it’s easy to spend a few hours there. The first exhibit that greets visitors is the work of Don Lawrence, a British artist who drew the fantasy comic Storm before passing away. Apparently it has always targeted a primarily Dutch audience, to the extent that the later artists who continued the work have all been Dutch. Another early introduction is artist Don Kriek, creator of Gutsman, not to be confused with a certain Robot Master.

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There are a lot of comics samples to look at, going from the earlier days of Dutch comics, such as Tom Poes to ones that have been around for ages such as Suske en Wiske, Agent 327, and Franka, as well as more recent works like Dirkjan and Sigmund. It also touched on properties that may not be “Dutch” or even “Dutch-language” necessarily but have left a mark such as Tintin and Donald Duck. As I can’t really read Dutch, I’m sure that my experience was somewhat limited (though remedied to an extent by an English-language pamphlet), and I can only imagine that people who are literate in the language could spend an even longer time there.

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One thing I found interesting was that there was a small section dedicated to “Dutch manga.” Given some of the arguments and disagreements that people get into in terms of what “is” or “isn’t” manga, it’s kind of fascinating to see the Stripmuseum just outright state that, yes, there can be such a thing as Dutch manga, and that it operates under a somewhat different visual grammar. Though my experience with Dutch comics history is pretty shallow at this point (most of the museum information was new to me), I wonder if this ability to accept native-produced material as “manga” is but the newest step in a long line of appropriation, and I mean that in the best way possible. Not only is there the example of Donald Duck (where the magazine named after him is the longest-running Dutch comics magazine ever), but Dutch artists even took the American comics character Perry Winkle, renamed him “Sjors,” and paired him with a kid from Africa, essentially turning it into an entirely different work.

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stripmuseum-sjorsensjimmie-later

I also thought it was notable that Sjors & Sjimmie has been drawn by a number of artists over the years, especially because Sjimmie’s design started off as quite racist but was changed significantly over time. Another interesting fact I learned is that Mark Retera, the artist of Dirkjan, was inspired by Gary Larson of The Far Side. Seeing as The Far Side is one of my favorite comics ever, I feel like I should give Dirkjan a shot.

stripmuseum-dirkjan

If you’re ever in the Netherlands, give it a shot, though I must warn that the train ride can be pretty long if you’re traveling from one end of the country to the other. It was also my first time in Groningen and that city is beautiful. Maybe I should stop by there again just to take a look. It reminds me a bit of Los Angeles mixed with Amsterdam.

stripmuseum-bars

stripmuseum-fokkeensokke

 

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stripmuseum-gutsman

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Name: Tanaka, Mitsuki (田中美月)
Alias: Hokuto (北斗)
Relationship Status: Dating
Origin: Cyber Yaoi Girl

Information:
Tanaka Mitsuki is a college student who discovered yaoi in her final year of high school. Especially fond of the series Ai no Doronuma, Mitsuki discovers along with her internet connection a thriving Aidoro community. Mitsuki thus spends most of her time chatting with her fellow fans online, and eventually even meeting them offline as friends.

Mitsuki is in a relationship with a fellow student named Koshimura, though she is afraid to tell him about being a fujoshi, and he assumes her desire of privacy is out of shyness, rather than out of wanting to hide her BL collection. While Koshimura does not know the truth, however, his friend Tamagaki does, which makes interaction between Mitsuki and Tamagaki both comfortable and awkward. Mitsuki typically tries to deny that she’s an otaku, going out of her way to exclaim, “My, I’m such a normal girl!” whenever she does anything contrary to fujoshi stereotypes.

Fujoshi Level:
Generally a strong fujoshi, Mitsuki blows most of her budget on yaoi books and internet through which to keep up with her fellow fujoshi.

When it comes to characters in fiction, it’s fairly common for me to find characters that resonate with me. Much rarer, however, is to find a character that is more of a kindred spirit, someone who fundamentally connects with who I am. This is the experience I have when reading the manga Mogusa-san, the romantic story of a girl who loves to eat all the time.

One of my passions in life is food. When I travel, I mainly think in terms of things I can possibly eat. That is not to say that I am a “foodie,” as the term usually implies someone who is in constant pursuit of the next superbly executed dish. Rather, whereas a typical foodie would not touch Chef Boyardee after having freshly made authentic Italian pasta, I can eat both. I can switch freely between Époisses and Kraft American Singles and not feel that my culinary experience has been ruined. Nor do I consider myself someone with no sense of taste whatsoever, or someone who can’t appreciate finer qualities in food. Trying new dishes, revisiting old ones, complex flavors, simple tastes, approaching different cultures through their cuisine, I simply love the experiences that come with eating. So, when Mogusa-san (whose name is based on mogumogu, the onomatopoeia for munching) shows a similar fondness for eating, I feel this sense of deep understanding with the character. Heck, I even made her my Twitter banner.

Food manga is a fairly ubiquitous genre, and is usually based around the intense experience of eating something so delicious that it can only be described in metaphor. Yakitate!! Japan, The Drops of God, Oishinbou, Gokudou Meshi, all of these series are about the pleasures of specific dishes and how they were made with love and care. Mogusa-san is a different experience, as it’s more about the feelings derived from the act of eating itself. It’s not just that Mogusa is always hungry or has a large appetite (common features in manga characters) which makes this manga a joy to read, but that the sheer bliss on her face—the wide-eyed sense of wonder, the small but genuine smile, the soft blush that fills the panels—is delightfully overpowering, while also more or less describing how I feel whenever I eat. On a certain level, I find this to be something missing from most food manga.

Mogusa-san feels no need for hyperbole at least when it comes to describing taste, but where its sense of exaggeration does lie is in how Mogusa manages to accomplish the task of eating nearly 24/7. While Mogusa is embarrassed about her love of food (because every girl around her is more about dieting), it certainly doesn’t stop her because Mogusa has mastered the art of stealth eating. She keeps packages of eel jerky in her wallet, appearing at a glance to be no different from any other flat object. In the image below, Mogusa is supposedly eating only two of these Take no Ko chocolate snacks, but in fact switches between them constantly to make it seem as if she’s only been eating one the whole time. In this way, the techniques used by other food manga to describe the taste of dishes transfers over to Mogusa’s sneaky tactics.

I’ve been told that through the act of eating I make food look delicious, and this is also what I get from looking at Mogusa. As much as I love to eat, I also am fond of watching other people enjoy food as well and i n this respect, I also end up connecting to the boy who befriends Mogusa, Koguchi Torao. It’s rather satisfying to me to see someone’s face light up when they eat something that truly blows their mind. In fact, part of the experience of traveling for me is seeing others’ faces light up as they taste something new and exciting, or something familiar and comforting. The art does a good job of showing not only Mogusa’s sense of happiness while eating, but also the fact that Koguchi appears to fall in love with her every time she decides to chow down on something, which, again, is all the time.

Mogusa-san began on the web-only Shueisha platform Tonari no Young Jump, but has since begun serialization in the real Weekly Young Jump magazine due to its popularity. While the first volume has already been published, you can still read a few chapters online in Japanese, and while the language barrier is an issue I think this manga is one where that matters a little less. It’s a manga that I feel profoundly drawn to, and if you love eating the same way I do (or maybe just really like Sasha from Attack on Titan), there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way.

 

 

 

Name: Shiina, Mafuyu (椎名 真冬)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Seitokai no Ichizon

Information:
Shiina Mafuyu is a shy and demure girl who often has her face buried in a video game. So addicted to video games is Mafuyu that she will bring multiple home consoles and portable systems with her on long trips. Though open to diverse genres, Mafuyu mainly plays visual novels, for which she creates internet guides.

Along with her older sister Minatsu, Mafuyu is a member of the Hekiyou Academy student council, voted in by her fellow students. There, Mafuyu participates in the idle discussions which characterize the student council, and has a tendency to pair the only male council member, Sugisaki Ken, with another male student named Nakameguro. She is also somewhat antagonistic towards Ken’s younger sister as the two have “overlapping characters.”

Fujoshi Level:
Mafuyu describes herself as “half-games, half-Boys Love.” She believes being able to fantasize about a pen and a pencil together is a fundamental skill.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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