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I’ve come to the conclusion that the Coppelion anime feels like the Coppelion manga with its edges filed down. I don’t mean just that they’ve removed all references to nuclear radiation, or that if you add up all of the elements of each version that one is more “serious” than the other, but that there’s a distinct difference in presentation.
Though the manga is more overt with its criticisms of nuclear energy, at least at first, it’s also wackier in a lot of ways. Amidst the tragedy, characters make wild and contorted faces almost like they’re One Piece characters, and there’s even more fanservice to boot. Aoi, who comes across as more cutesy in the anime, has a greater degree of comic relief in her in the manga, and I think it just has to do with that sense of exaggeration.
Here’s Aoi in the anime:
And here she is in the manga:
Also note the difference in Ibara’s facial expressions.
I think in some ways, this difference in feel does more to change the contents of Coppelion than even the censoring, like the wackiness adds a certain element of permeating ugliness to the story which helps to foreground the social and environmental issues a bit more. That might just be my personal preference though, and I find as the show gets into the second arc it starts to adapt the original material better.
Hato is back home in order to try and sort out his feelings. Kaminaga and Hato’s brother Yuuichirou are there too, and though Kaminaga (who now insists of being called “sister”) does her best to give advice to Hato about Madarame, her fujoshi brain interferes with her words and intent quite a bit. Eventually, thanks to a meeting with Konno and Fuji, Hato realizes that his feelings for Madarame mean he doesn’t want to leave Genshiken, and resolves to head back to Tokyo.
Chapter 94 is the first time in Genshiken that we’ve actually seen a character’s hometown life elaborated upon to this extent. Sure, there have been flashbacks, like Ogiue in junior high or Madarame discovering doujinshi for the first time, but ask yourself this: how many of the characters’ parents have we seen? The answer is just Hato’s.
Hato’s thought process shows that part of his turmoil is his desire to try and justify his own feelings, to try and compartmentalize everything internal into a consistent emotional map. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of latent homophobia, and if I had to venture a guess it might have more to do with trying to defy his past reputation when gossip spread about him reading yaoi and his classmates constantly made reference to how gay he is. It reminds me of a documentary I watched recently where a girl raised by two gay men talked about how she spent most of her life strongly insisting she was 100% heterosexual as a way of fighting back against the people who assumed that gay men would inevitably raise gay children, but eventually realized she was bisexual. Of course, I don’t know if Hato’s situation is quite the same, but I sense similarities. Kaminaga’s advice to essentially not sweat the small stuff, albeit filtered through her fujoshi self, is perhaps the moral of this chapter.
Kaminaga has grown on me more with this chapter. Her new hairstyle (did she dye it or un-dye it?) gives her a real “classical Japanese beauty” look reinforced by panels like the one above, which then clashes heavily with her ever-”rotten” personality. It’s an interesting contrast, and when I think more about it, the fact that Kaminaga is the way she is but has married (or is about to marry? it’s not entirely clear) a super normal guy in Yuuichirou speaks to something a bit different from the other relationships in Genshiken, even Kohsaka and Kasukabe’s. I think it’s because Yuuichirou and Kasukabe are different kinds of “normal.” One is a straight and narrow type, the other is socially successful, and it speaks to how “normal” is a kind of spectrum in itself.
Being Konno is suffering. Her own feelings for Hato turn this into a kind of love triangle, but Hato doesn’t even realize she likes him, and the fact that her advice of “if it’s causing you so much suffering, why not leave the club?” actually helps Hato realize that, yes, he does like Madarame after all. Not too long ago I wrote that a common form of moe we see is a normal life filled with a series of tiny tragedies, and I think that describes Konno’s situation quite well. I can only imagine how Konno would slide further into despair if she knew the person Hato likes is a guy. After all, when Konno originally learned about Hato’s crossdressing, she assumed that her responsibility as the root of all the gossip that had spread about Hato in high school had actually turned him gay, in turn sabotaging her own chances at romance. Of course, this isn’t resolved yet and Hato x Konno might actually become a thing in the end.
The best moment of the chapter in my opinion comes at the very end. We find Kaminaga drunkenly watching Yuuichirou and his old judo club buddies grapple each other under the influence of alcohol, clearly enjoying the fantasies inspired by reality. It’s unclear to what extent the redness of her face is due to alcohol versus perversion. Juxtaposed on the page next to a reference to a Whisper of the Heart reference (for Hato) and a Samurai Troopers reference (for Kaminaga’s own entertainment), it encapsulates her character pretty much perfectly, the manga panel equivalent of a bumper sticker saying “801 Fujoshi 4 Life.”
For any enterprising business folk, that one’s for free.
Speaking of business, Kio’s comments this month are about how Sue is a DLC skin for Akihabara’s Trip, a game where you search through Akiba and find witches by stripping them. Questionable qualities of the game aside, Sue is somehow incredibly appropriate for this, and would probably make the proper Those Who Hunt Elves and Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! references to boot.
Name: Mihara, Touko (三原塔子)
Alias: Mihara Touko (三原とうこ）
Relationship Status: N/A
Mihara Touko is a doujinshi artist turned published manga author hailing from Yamagata prefecture in the Tohoku area of Japan. A long-time fujoshi, she regularly attends doujin events, and as a result has met a variety of like-minded individuals, including the fujoshi of Ryouhoku High, Megumi, Yuki, and Eri. In addition, she is high school friends with Ishioka Yuri, to whom she introduced BL. As a native of Yamagata, Touko speaks in a thick Tohoku dialect.
Wise to the point of slyness, Touko was able to offer advice to Satou Megumi when she was in doubt over how seriously she should take her own hobby. Notably, she pointed out the major difference between making comics for oneself and revising one’s own work for the sake of fostering serialization. Her own work, Hana to Kaminari (“Flowers and Thunder”), debuted in the magazine Sylph, known for titles such as Fujoshissu!
The specifics of Touko’s fujocity are unclear other than the fact that she has devoted much of her time and energy to fujoshi-minded work both amateur and professional. A better indicator however may be the way she has tried to foster a fujoshi mindset in not only her friend Yuri but other girls as well. In this sense, Touko’s abilities as a fujoshi may be greatest in her ability to sense potential.
Name: Sawada, Yumi (沢田ゆみ)
Relationship Status: Single
Sawada Yumi joined the Ryouhoku High School manga club when her friend Komura Mai brought her along. Unlike Mai, Yumi is shy and more quiet. She also likes to dress up in gothic-lolita fashion even on hot days, but ducks into buildings frequently to keep cool. She will sometimes even go so far as to wear a goth-loli outfit to Comic Market.
Though not terribly vocal about her fujoshi thoughts (let alone anything else), she still exhibits a mind for BL, easily gelling with the existing fujoshi of the manga club, particularly when it comes to pairing the two new male members, Yonekawa Akito and Nakamura Shingo.
I’ve been thinking a lot about female characters in anime and manga recently (not exactly a surprise, I know), and it’s something where, even if I don’t have a fully formed argument or point to make, I feel compelled to write something down. Forgive me as I meander through my own thoughts in an attempt to piece it all together.
About a month ago I was reading the comments section on polygon.com in regards to the portrayal of female characters in video games. I can’t remember which game they were talking about, but one commenter said something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t bring up Japan when trying to show strong women in video games because it’s such a sexist culture. Just look at anime and manga,” and it made me bristle. I do think Japanese culture is sexist in many ways, but the idea that this perception of Japan as sexist made it impossible for Japanese fiction to have really good female characters in this person’s eyes bothered me because I’ve seen plenty from every period of anime and manga.
I know it was just one comment on a video game article, but it got me thinking more broadly about what people see in anime and manga, and to what extent the image of anime and manga as sexist is fueled by what people want to see. I recently saw a comment that criticized Heartcatch Precure! for encouraging girls to be stereotypically feminine by having the character of Itsuki, who normally dresses like a boy, express a desire to be more girly. While I know there are plenty of examples of tomboy characters who end up feeling like they need to dress like girls to attract their male love interest, Itsuki’s story is more about how she suppressed the side of her which enjoys cute things out of a somewhat misguided sense of duty and responsibility. Yet, rather than taking this as the message, it was like as soon as the person saw the rough outlines of the stereotype, surely it would play out the same as always.
There are most certainly a good deal of works which go out of their way to objectify women for male consumption, but I just find that there are also plenty of instances of well-portrayed women and girls in anime and manga. Whether it’s Princess Jellyfish or Rideback, Kekkaishi or Gowapper 5 Godam, it seems like these female characters get ignored because they’re, somewhat ironically, not as eye-catching as a Queen’s Blade or an I Wanna Be the Strongest in the World! There seems to be this idea that anime = sexism, and while even the works I mentioned as strong examples aren’t entirely devoid of sexism themselves, I also don’t think it’s as simple as just slapping the misogynist label on Japanese media as a whole. Messages regarding women in anime and manga can be so diverse and divergent.
At this point I’ve seen a lot of 60s and 70s shoujo, and I’ve noticed a clear trend of mischievous tomboy heroines from that time period. Even putting aside an extreme example such as Oscar from Rose of Versailles who was raised as a man to uphold her family’s proud military tradition, you have Candy from Candy Candy, who’s adventurous and constantly challenging the conceitedness of the upper class, and Angie from Petite Angie, who is portrayed as an extremely clever detective. You have Ayuko from Attack No.1, whose aggressive desire to win at volleyball inspires the rest of her teammates, and Yumi from Sign wa V! who initially plots to sabotage her teammates because of how much she despises volleyball. Hiromi from Aim for the Ace, Lunlun from Hana no Ko Lunlun, Masumi from Swan, the list goes on and on. All of these characters have their fair share of personal agency (even if it’s not always an ideal amount). Given that the trend of the strong, mischievous tomboy was clearly a “thing,” and I do believe it continued in some form well beyond the 70s (Utena is an obvious one, but perhaps Lina Inverse from Slayers counts too, for example?), I just have to wonder about the disconnect between that and the perception of anime and manga as inherently misogynistic and where it may have come from.
Is it a matter of age of these older titles, that if people were able to access the works these characters are from, that they would change their minds? Is it that shoujo doesn’t act enough as the “face” of anime and manga? Could it be that, as much as we’d like to think we’ve gone beyond the stereotype, anime is still viewed as essentially “porn or Pokemon?” If the ratio were different, and there were just fewer fanservice titles or works where girls are basically a cheerleading squad for the heroes, would detractors be more charitable towards anime and manga, or is it inescapable as long as some titles are still like that? For that matter, to what extent does the western image of the submissive Asian woman affect and interact with how people see all female characters coming from Japan, and how does it differ from the similar stereotype as viewed by Japan (I can of course admit that it’s there too)?
What shapes people’s views of female characters in anime and manga? I guess that’s the question I want to explore the most.
Akagi recently made its official English-language debut on Crunchyroll. In light of this, I’ve begun to think about the character of Akagi Shigeru and his peculiar sense of ethics.
For the most part everything about Akagi revolves around the “gamble,” experiencing that life or death scenario where not even your wits may be enough to save you. He cares little for the law, for love, or even money, and in his pursuit of death he’ll even run out in the middle of the night and beat thugs senseless without any regard for concepts like “justice.” What’s strange about Akagi (aside from the obvious) is on a few occasions he will actually come to the aid of some poor individual who’s usually stuck in some terrible gamble where they’re losing money to unscrupulous vultures. This seeming sense of compassion appears somewhat inconsistent with Akagi’s amorality, but I think there is a definite logic to the character.
In order to understand why Akagi will help others, I think it’s important to also understand why Akagi will go to great lengths to break someone’s spirit. When Akagi sees someone getting taken to the cleaners, he sees not only the man being grifted but the grifters themselves, and in those manipulators he sees people who think they’re guaranteed to win no matter what. The idea of a zero-risk wager goes completely against Akagi’s ideal for what gambling should be. In his eyes, something is only a gamble when everyone has to put their lives on the line either figuratively or literally. It’s why he’s so disgusted with Fake Akagi, who uses number-crunching and probability to take the safest route and minimize loss.
This is what drives his major matches throughout the series, as Akagi finishes his opponents when they’ve given up the gamble and are going for guaranteed scenarios. Against the blind man Ichikawa, Akagi sees how he is willing to swap tiles out to create a safety net, and so severs those ropes through mind-boggling moves. Urabe tries to find a point at which he could simply run away almost risk-free, so Akagi moves to topple him by making Urabe doubt his own discards. Washizu is blessed by the gods with both luck and wealth, and Akagi takes it upon himself to instill fear in him.
When I analyzed the other major Fukumoto hero Itou Kaiji, I said that Akagi would probably be a little jealous of Kaiji because Kaiji may be closer to the gambling ideal than Akagi can ever be. In that situation, you cannot even rely on your own strengths, and Akagi, with that pesky thing called talent, requires more effort to walk the tightrope between life and death. Getting back to the downtrodden sad sacks of the world, Akagi doesn’t need to teach them what it’s like to fear or suffer. Life has already given that lesson better than Akagi ever could. So instead Akagi tries to teach them what it’s like to stare death in the face, because being a gambler isn’t about guaranteed failure either, but the willingness to move ahead, even if it’s one small step.
Name: Komura, Mai (小村舞)
Relationship Status: Single
Komura Mai is a member of Ryouhoku High School’s manga club, which she decided to join after attending the school festival while still in junior high. As the main catalyst behind her decision to join the club was the manga artwork of member/president Satou Megumi, Mai holds her in high regard. Cheerful yet restrained, Mai is also friends with Sawada Yumi, whom she brought to the manga club as well.
Mai’s immediate fondness of Megumi’s work indicates that she is fairly deep. In addition, she is able to act on the same wavelength as the existing members of the manga club, like with the pairing of male members Yonekawa Akito and Nakamura Shingo and their friendship built on contrasting personalities.
It’s winter break. After the old guard of Genshiken (+ Kuchiki) discuss Madarame’s sudden romantic prospects from their old school otaku perspective, Madarame finds himself being visited by Yoshitake and Yajima. Of the four potential partners (Hato, Keiko, Angela, Sue), Yoshitake recommends Keiko for Madarame due to her similarities with Saki. The chapter ends with the image of Hato visiting home, where he meets his brother Yuuichirou and Kaminaga, who are pretty much married now if not already so.
A lot of previous chapters have been some sort of closure, whether that’s with Madarame and Saki, or Hato’s feelings, but this one feels like a transition. Between the mention of Yoshitake’s sister Risa taking college entrance exams and Ogiue and Hato visiting back home on top of everything Madarame is going through, it gives me an impression of a change coming almost on the level of Ogiue’s appearance and the shift in focus over to her. Given how many chapters Genshiken II has run already this kind of makes sense, as Ogiue appeared at a similar point.
I’m really impressed with how the manga portrays Madarame handling suddenly being the center of romantic attention, because I find that his concerns and his thought process make complete sense for his character. When given time to dwell on the idea, he imagines a simultaneous arrival of all four at his doorstep, like a scene straight out of Infinite Stratos, because anime and manga are his primary “harem” imagery even more than just straight up pornography. When Madarame hesitates in choosing, his explanation is that it is such an unfathomable situation because he expected attracting even one member of the opposite sex to be a miracle, and given his self-image his words rings with the familiarity of truth. At the same time, I don’t think he’s being entirely honest because if he was really okay with any girl, he would have had some wild times with Angela (who’s gone back to America) already.
In Madarame’s situation I think we can see both the exploration of the otaku or geek mind when it comes to romance, as well as an investigation of the harem genre. Madarame’s attitude towards women is initially a kind of passive desperation, a case of “anyone will do” because just that prospect of romance is so out of reach based on his self-image. When given a choice, however, his mind has to adjust because desperation is no longer the driving force because now he has to take the others into account, as well as what he really wants. Obviously he doesn’t really want a harem ending or just sex based on his actions (or more accurately inaction), and I think he’s realizing that there’s more to consider about a love life than just whoever says “yes” first.
If you’re having trouble relating to Madarame, imagine that it’s about being unemployed (which Madarame is!) rather than about romance. In a situation where someone is unemployed for ages, there’s an increasing desperation for finding a new job, to the point that eventually anything will do. Then, one day a bunch of job offers appear and they’re all actually good jobs. Instead of it being about getting paid, there are now a bunch of new variables to consider. Which job pays the best? Which job seems the most enjoyble? Which one is best for long-term planning? Which one is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? If not unemployment, then college also works. Which is the best school? Which is the most affordable or convenient? Which has the subject you want to study the most? There’s a lot more to think about, and of course it’s literally impossible to choose all of them.
All of this puts the typical harem or pseudo-harem anime complaints into a different light. You might hear people say, “Why is the harem lead such a wuss? If I were him, I’d have a go with everyone.” Although many harem leads are generic and neutral characters and that lends itself to that ambiguity, I think generally harem series deep down operate under a moralistic frame which some see as over-valuing virginity or passivity, but which I find to be about not being able to fully escape a sense of empathy (this is why fans tend to have a “favorite pairing”). In order to maintain the fantasy in harem series this aspect typically isn’t terribly prominent, but with the greater realism of Genshiken it comes more to the forefront.
The rest of the chapter reinforces this feeling as well. When the guys are huddled in Madarame’s apartment reading doujinshi, Kugayama brings up the idea that even most otaku who are all into the 2-D girls and such aren’t actually against being with real women, which references an older conversation back in the earliest days of Genshiken when Saki asked about this same topic. Being between all otaku men who are aware of this, however, the conversation becomes more about that otaku image in flux. The battle lines drawn a few chapters ago between virgins and non-virgins comes up again here, as Tanaka with his steady relationship and Madarame with his new circumstances seem to flutter beyond the horizon where otaku are not supposed to reach and yet clearly have. Genshiken has become about how the concept of otaku is in flux, but we rarely get to see it from the older generation’s perspective, so I appreciate this.
Although the chapter is mainly about Madarame, it’s also a Yoshitake chapter in that she’s very prominent in the latter half of the chapter. Yoshitake’s nerdish vibrance is on full display here, whether that’s obscure history references, her now-familiar knowing glances at Yajima, or the fact that at the end of the day she’s still that girl who ignored the opposite sex in favor of debating history from a fujoshi perspective with her friends in high school. Her reaction towards Madarame’s decision and assuming he really wants a harem is maybe the highlight of the chapter as her head tilts all the way back in shock. This chapter also made me realize how differently Kio uses Yoshitake’s glasses compared to, say, Madarame, as their variable transparency helps to give Yoshitake that sense of energy and slyness.
I sometimes see people complain that Genshiken spends too much time on Hato and not enough on Yoshitake and Yajima. While I think it’s a valid criticism for the most part, I find that one of the reasons this is an issue is because even though the other two don’t get as much focus they’re still portrayed extremely well in their moments and interactions. For example, one of the most significant parts of Yoshitake’s advice is strongly hinted at in this chapter, which is that she’s watching out for her friends in suggesting Keiko as the right choice for Madarame, as she doesn’t want to hurt Yajima. Moments like these make you want to learn more about them, because if they were boring or uninteresting no one would care. Nobody ever asks about Kuchiki’s backstory, after all.
As for Yoshitake’s recommendation, I know there have always been fans of Madarame and Keiko, even going back to the days when the original Genshiken series hadn’t even finished and there was no real inkling towards this pairing. I gave my thoughts on this pairing previously, but Yoshitake’s logic that Keiko is the most like Saki in that she’s able to talk candidly is pretty interesting, especially because from what little we’ve seen of Keiko’s love life (in that she has one at all), her communication with her boyfriend at the time was pretty poor in comparison to how she talks with “Watanabe.” Madarame’s mental mix-up of Keiko and Saki aso makes me think that it may not only be a matter of personality but that she also resembles Saki in the way Keiko carries herself. If that’s the case, I wonder if this is simply down to “similarity” or if Keiko is supposed to be someone who’s actually emulating Saki. Kio’s mention of his other ongoing series in the side bar then makes me wonder if indeed Keiko x Mada is the Real Spotted Flowers.
As for Hato, he strikes an impressive figure at the end of the chapter as he works to shovel the snow off of his family home’s rooftop. There’s something about him exuding such a “masculine” aura that feels unfamiliar due to the fact that most of the time the manga shows him as crossdressing. Hato’s interactions with his brother and Kaminaga will be the focus of the next chapter. We see that Kaminaga’s changed her hairstyle, and I wonder if it has anything to do with finding out that Hato basically has a wig matching hers.
In all honesty though, what I really want to see is the other visit home mentioned this chapter, which is that Sue has accompanied Ogiue back to (I assume) her hometown in Yamagata. Not only is there something potentially wonderful about Sue interacting with Ogiue’s family, but we’ve never actually seen Ogiue’s relatives at all. The best we’ve gotten is that Ogiue once mentioned having a little brother, but it was part of a hasty explanation after being outed as a fujoshi, so we don’t even know if this little brother actually exists.
I hope we find out.
When it comes to manga oriented around a fujoshi main character, there are two big trends. First, they tend to come from pretty unknown authors in fairly obscure magazines. Second, the story typically revolves heavily around how their love of yaoi impacts the heroine’s relationships. Often there’s a romantic bent to this, where the girl’s fantasies directly impact her interactions with the guy she’s into. Even titles I adore such as Genshiken and Fujoshissu! possess these qualities in part, and while the fujoshi heroine subgenre is not exactly big, it’s produced a lot of similar works.
This is why Tora to Ookami is such a fine oddity. Having ran in Betsuma, which has been home to other popular titles such as Lovely Complex and Aishite Knight, what’s even more interesting is its creator, Kamio Youko. Fans of shoujo might recognize her as the author of Boys Over Flowers, a title which is spoken of in the same breath as other big shoujo works such as Nana, and has been adapted not only into anime but multiple live-action dramas around the world in different languages. In a certain sense, this title is quite a leap for fujoshi-themed manga, skimming along the mainstream even if not directly a part of it.
What I find especially impressive about Tora to Ookami, however, is how it addresses the second trend. A lot of times fujoshi characters, whether they’re in the spotlight or on the sidelines, are fujoshi first and foremost. Their hobbies revolve heavily around anime and manga if not yaoi outright. They’ll throw out random lines from an anime, most often Gundam or Glass Mask, or just have a one-note gimmick (constant pairings or glasses, for instance). They either have, or have had in the past, personalities and appearances which tend towards the image of the shy and nerdy girl. With Mii, the heroine of Tora to Ookami, however, you get a stronger sense of a well-rounded individual where she’s certainly into yaoi but it doesn’t dominate her life, nor her approach to interacting with others.
While Mii writes BL fiction, she’s also a chef who works at her family’s small restaurant, and that aspect of her plays a much more significant role in Tora to Ookami than her googly eyes over seeing her two love interests interact with each other. She may be a fujoshi, but she’s also a strong-willed person who’s more than willing to sacrifice her social life in order to help her grandma maintain their restaurant because it’s what she cherishes. Liking BL is just a natural facet of her among others, and because Mii’s fujoshi identity isn’t the central focus of the manga, her romance is able to develop in a way where the outcome isn’t simply determined by who can accept her for being a fujoshi. Although her fandom pops up occasionally in her interactions with her love interests, especially the titular Tora and Ookami, it’s pretty much never about wanting them to act more like characters from BL manga, nor does it involve confusing fantasy with reality.
I don’t know how well Tora to Ookami did in Japan, but six volumes is a fairly decent run, and at the very least it shows that fujoshi heroine manga don’t have to be limited by the fujoshi “gimmick.” As much as I enjoy the stories which do utilize the recurring fujoshi manga trends, Mii’s character is rather refreshing because of how she has more to her than yaoi, but also doesn’t trivialize that aspect of her. She’s believable as a fujoshi, but also believable as a human being.
Name: Isihioka, Yuri (石岡ゆり)
Relationship Status: Dating
Ishioka Yuri is a college-aged woman who moved to the prefecture of Yamagata in the Tohoku region of Japan when she was little. While growing up, she spent years exchanging letters with her friend and long-time crush Roppongi Takefumi. A shy and clumsy girl since childhood, Yuri was able to begin a relationship with Takefumi upon moving back to her old hometown.
In Yamagata, Yuri was able to make a few friends, notably her neighbor Kana and eventually in high school her classmate Mihara Touko. As a fujoshi, Touko began introducing Yuri to various classic BL stories, which Yuri enjoyed without quite knowing what they were. Yuri is also a skilled pianist, having performed in recitals as a child.
It is unclear as to whether or not Yuri is fully a fujoshi, but the fact that she displays a Dear Girl ~Stories~ Hibiki cell phone strap is possible evidence as such. In addition, her friend Touko seemed intent to slowly mold Yuri into a fujoshi during their high school years, and the fact that Yuri was so moved by those BL stories indicates that the potential is definitely there.