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Name: Saotome, Haruna (早乙女ハルナ)
Alias: Paru (パル), Great Paru-sama (グレート・パル様 Fictrix Comica (漫画製造者)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Negima! Master Negi Magi
Originally a middle school student at Mahora Academy, Saotome Haruna is at that point already been working as a doujin artist under the pen name “Paru.” Though she shares a close friendship with her classmates Ayase Yue and Miyazaki Nodoka, she is originally unaware of the fact that her 10-year-old teacher, Negi Springfield, is actually a powerful magician because her friends are afraid that Haruna’s gossipy nature would reveal Negi’s secret to the world. After eventually finding out, she enters a magical contract with Negi (as do many of the girls in their class) and gains the ability to bring her drawings to life as golems (a magical artifact known as “Imperium Graphices”), also earning the title “Fictrix Comica.”
Haruna is a talented artist whose skills bring her much success in unusual ways. In one case while trapped in the magic world she introduces manga to their world and earns enough money to buy a large goldfish-shaped airship and names it after herself. In her adult life, she becomes one of the most popular and best-selling BL manga creators ever, her work enjoyed by both magic and non-magic users alike.
In addition to becoming a best-selling BL manga artist, Haruna also regularly attends doujin events as both an artist and a customer.
I’ve been reading one of Crunchyroll’s latest manga, Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (aka Kiss Him, Not Me) by Junko, which is premised around a fujoshi who loses a ton of weight after her favorite anime character dies and so inadvertently gives herself a makeover that attracts all the guys. Given the idea that the main character Serinuma Kae is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, I find it interesting how this is expressed, because it’s somewhat unconventional for shoujo manga.
When looking at characters in manga, one can generally get a sense of who the artwork is trying to attract based on how characters’ sexual features are drawn. In manga for girls, even when a character is supposed to have large breasts, they tend not to really stand out compared to how they’re portrayed in boys’ manga. This is quite noticeable, for example, when looking at the difference between how the character Maya looks in the Survival Game Club anime vs. the manga. Another example is when a work depicts its female characters wearing unrealistic shirts that look practically painted on. You rarely if ever see this in a shoujo series.
Kae has what I would call a face that is fairly typical for beauty standards in shoujo manga, but her body is closer to what you would find in a bishoujo series, that is to say a manga for guys all about attractive ladies such as Love Hina, making her a hybrid of sorts between the two styles. Moreover, while the clothing isn’t so unrealistic so as to basically be super spandex, there are times when Kae’s figure is accentuated and her clothing clings to her chest. Again, this would not be so surprising to me if it were in a series that ran in, say, Dengeki Daioh, but Watashi ga Motete Dousunda is definitely a shoujo series, as evidenced by the fact that so much effort is made to portray the guys themselves as various degrees of angst, handsomeness, and dream-boatitude.
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda is not the only series to do this, though maybe there’s something to be said (about me or manga more generally) about the fact that the first example that immediately came to mind was another fujoshi-themed manga, Mousou Shoujo Otakukei (aka Fujoshi Rumi) by Konjoh Natsumi. Like Watashi ga Motete Dousunda, Konjoh’s series portrays its guys as tall, attractive fellows in that way you’d more typically see out of shoujo manga, but the girls, especially the character Matsui Youko, are given a kind of physical attractiveness that is more in line with guy-oriented stuff.
In his introduction to his book The Moe Manifesto (a collection of industry, scholar, and fan interviews about the subject), Patrick Galbraith makes mention of how Azuma Hideo, the “father of lolicon,” created his cute girl characters by combining the expressiveness of shoujo characters with the bodies more in the style of manga pioneer Tezuka Osamu. It could be said that Watashi ga Motete Dousunda is going for a similar effect, though of course calling it lolicon wouldn’t quite be accurate, even if one were to take into account how the definition of that term has changed over time, as it seems to be less about the intersection between youth and adulthood, and more about expressing a new type of ideal.
Name: Kanamori, Hakata (金森 羽片)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School Astronomical Club
Kanamori Hakata is a high school student and a member of Ebisugawa Public High School’s “Tenmonbu,” or “Astronomical Club.” A cosplayer in addition to being a fujoshi, she is often teased and sexually harrassed by the club’s president, Todayama Kyouko. Kanamori is also extremely clumsy, and is a fan of a variety of series, including Saint Seiya.
Hakata is regularly seen carrying around yaoi doujinshi even in class.
Name: Sakuraba, Midori (桜庭緑)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Gakuen Polizi
Sakuraba Midori is a student at Hanagaki All-Girls’ High School and a long-time member of the undercover inter-school student police force “Gakuen Polizi.” Having transferred from another school, Sakuraba is paired up with a new agent named Sasami Aoba. Though often exasperated with Sasami’s enthusiasm and rookie mistakes, the two work to solve various issues pertaining to the student body. Cool and reticent, Sakuraba is also a member of the manga club and often draws BL manga in her spare time, though she tries to keep it a secret from others.
Sakuraba’s manga appears to be solely dedicated to yaoi. Though she argues that BL manga is just a hobby for her, she also devoted a considerable amount of attention to it.
As Hato and Yajima struggle to make more manga, Kuchiki announces that he’s finally finished his senior thesis and wants to have a club trip in celebration. Though Kuchiki would prefer to travel abroad, the other members can’t afford to do so and they ultimately decide on going to Nikkou, and to stay at Yajima’s parents’ house, which is close to Nikkou. However, the club soon finds out that not only is Madarame coming along but so are some of the girls interested in him—Angela and Keiko. Moreover, Yajima somewhere deep inside sees this as an opportunity to get closer to Hato.
I feel a bit sorry for Kuchiki at this point. Think about it: Genshiken is the closest thing he has to friends, and all of them barely tolerate his existence. They have good reason for treating him that way, of course, but even what’s supposed to be a farewell vacation in celebration of Kuchiki finishing his senior thesis is secretly a “finally Kuchiki will be out of our hairs for good” adventure. On some level, I respect Kio for keeping Kuchiki around all this time, even if he’s rarely present. I feel that with a character this grating, most manga would have jettisoned him for the sake of popularity, but there Kuchiki was, being “that guy” after Haraguchi graduated long ago. It’s as if there’s a need to remind people that being a dork isn’t always endearing, but that the issue comes less from just being socially awkward and more from lacking consideration for others in your words and actions. The only question is, if this manga continues, will someone new and equally irritating eventually take his place?
As for the real meat of the story this month (sorry Kuchiki but you’re a side note even in this chapter), it looks like the feelings of jealousy (?) expressed by Hato towards Yajima and her superior manga-making skills are blossoming into something more. Though, to be accurate, it’s more like Yajima is trying to passively seize this opportunity to get closer to Hato in a way she never could, as an equal (or perhaps even a superior). It wasn’t so long ago that Yoshitake was barely able to get Yajima to admit that she has feelings for Hato, and to see her begin to sort of, kind of make a move is nothing if not impressive. I think the idea being expressed through their interaction is that, for Yajima, being able to see Hato as imperfect boosts her own confidence and thus her ability to see Hato as a “possibility” in her life. This comes across clearly when Yajima gives Hato advice on his manga, saying that it’s only half-done. Yajima has never acted like that around anyone, let alone Hato, the closest being when she acts as the “big sister” (or maybe something more?) to Mimasaka, or when she’s looking to strangle Yoshitake. There’s also something very real about the creator’s blocks that Hato and Yajima are experiencing, as Hato is struggling to get his story out in a cohesive sense while Yajima’s brilliance came from a lot of pent up emotion and a situation that is just difficult to replicate.
One of the main factors in the trip to Nikkou is Madarame and the Girls Who Love Him, which is not only a cruel joke against Kuchiki but also evidence that, despite some traumatic experiences with them, Keiko and Sue’s stories aren’t over yet (Sue isn’t mentioned but I’m sure she’ll be a part of the trip somehow). On top of that, it’s now Angela’s turn to have her chapter, and the fact that the setting is a trendy tourism spot makes me wonder if it’ll be Angela’s flirtation cranked up to 11 (especially if she catches wind of what Keiko attempted), or if she’ll go for a more subdued approach in her (mostly accurate) assessment of how to nab an otaku boyfriend.
As a final, Ogiue-related note, Ohno’s comment on the Karuizawa trip being the start of Sasahara and Ogiue’s romance made me realize that, probably much like Ogiue herself, I had always associated that whole thing with trauma and pain. You can even see Ogiue’s reaction to this when Kuchiki mentions Karuizawa and she’s the only one with a sweatdrop. However, Ohno has a point, and it really is the turning point for Ogiue, her sense of self, and her happiness. Karuizawa is when she managed to finally let it all out, whether in a long and sad drunken rant to the other girls, or to Sasahara as they were walking. It’s kind of amazing that the meaning of such a significant moment in Genshiken, for Ogiue, and by extension for this blog Ogiue Maniax, could still continue to change.
Name: Fujiyoshi Sakurako (藤吉桜子)
Alias: The Virgin Mary (聖女マリア)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Hebi to Maria to Otsuki-sama
Fujiyoshi Sakurako is a high school student attending St. Otaku Women’s Academy. A closet fujoshi, she maintains an outward image of innocence and purity to the extent that she is referred to by fellow students as the Virgin Mary. The only people who initially know her secret are her mother, a famous romance novelist, and her best friend (and otome game otaku) Yori. Sakurako has experience drawing doujinshi as well as reading plenty of it.
Initially blackmailed by two high school boys who discover her hobby, Sakurako discovers that the two are actually the true identity behind “Maria Megu,” Sakurako’s favorite BL artist. She begins working as an assistant for them.
Sakurako kills two birds with one stone, maintaining her image as a refined lady while reveling in her own fujoshi ways by hiding her BL inside of fine literature books.
Name: Kuroda, Chouko (黒田蝶子)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Kyoumeiseyo!! Shiritsu Todoroki Koukou Tosho Iinkai
A member of the Todoroki High School Book Committe, Kuroda Chouko is the perfect student, skilled in both academics and sports, reliable, and blessed with good looks. Unknown to most, however, Kuroda is also an extremely rotten fujoshi who is particularly fond of super sentai. Fantasizing over pairings of imaginary characters and fellow club members, Kuroda has also created some BL doujinshi herself.
While most fujoshi are satisfied with thinking of pairings in terms of the traditional “Character A x Character B” or “B x A” scenario, Kuroda has come up with a whole system of pairings using additional mathematical symbols to represent different concepts. These include A ∞ B, A ≠ B (which creates something of a tsundere relationship), and A ≡ B.
Note: This post contains spoilers.
When you look at the manga Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s hard to believe that it lasted for over eight years. Sure, it’s not much compared to Ah! My Goddess, which also ran in Monthly Afternoon but for an astounding 25+ years. Yet the everyday romance of a boy and a girl connected by, of all things, a literal swapping of saliva, feels less like it should have been a consistent presence in manga and more an odd one-off (which it originally was). But last Mysterious Girlfriend X has, getting over the years not only an animated adaptation that is available both streaming and on home video in the US, but even seeing the actual manga itself available in English.
Given its long publication history, I’ve found that my life has naturally progressed since I began reading it all those years ago, and that when I come back to the title it’s from a different place. Yet, I still remember my feelings towards Mysterious Girlfriend X from back then, and it’s interesting for me to compare both the feeling of reading it one month at a time versus all at once, and from a person about 8 years younger to where I am today.
Mysterious Girlfriend X is the story of a young couple. Tsubaki Akira one day meets the eccentric Urabe Mikoto, and on some bizarre impulse decides to taste some of her drool that had been left on her school desk. Afterwards, he finds himself ill in a way inexplicable to doctors. Eventually, he learns the cause from Urabe herself: he’s having withdrawal after not being able to taste her saliva after a few days. The reason? Love, simple as that. According to Urabe, Tsubaki has fallen in love with her, and their only choice is to become a couple, especially given how Urabe herself reciprocates his feelings. However, their relationship is an unconventional one, and though they won’t even kiss or hug, they’ll taste each other’s drool. For some strange reason, this “bond of drool,” which allows them to communicate unspoken thoughts and feelings with each other, is a connection beyond typical human comprehension, brought about by love and desire.
Given this description, it would be very easy to assume that Mysterious Girlfriend X is some kind of saliva fetish manga, but in that regard the title is often misunderstood. What I described above is the initial premise to get things moving, and rather than having the manga consist of different ways to present drool lust as some sexual deviancy, it’s more a means to an end to explore various facets of their relationships, from Tsubaki learning about Urabe, to Urabe understanding her own feelings better, to the growth of their relationship in comparison to others’. In Bakemonogatari, the character Senjougahara comes up with a word to describe the main character Araragi’s feelings towards her: not moe or whatever, but captivation. Tsubaki’s view of Urabe is a similar phenomenon.
Having re-read the entire series recently, I noticed that marathoning it results in quite a different experience. This is obvious to a certain extent, but what I mean more specifically is that when I originally read the series month to month, it was easier to notice long trends (some might even call them ruts) that the manga was going through. However, reading it all at once made me aware that Mysterious Girlfriend X has rough arcs and turning points for Tsubaki and Urabe. I doubt the series had some kind of intricate forethought behind it (Legend of the Galactic Heroes this manga is not), but some seeds were sowed along the way, and by the end they bear fruit.
At the start of Mysterious Girlfriend X, the narrative is mainly about Tsubaki trying to learn about firstly what it means to have a girlfriend and secondly the utter enigma that is Urabe. Here, both he and the reader get to see for the first time not only the bizarre “bond of drool,” but also Urabe’s superhuman skill with a pair of scissors that she tucks into her underwear, her willingness to swap spit but not kiss, her refusal to ever let Tsubaki have a photograph of her smiling, and other eccentricities that separate her from others. She comes across as alien both literally and figuratively, perhaps even occult, especially when compared to the relatively normal relationship between Tsubaki’s best friend Ueno Kouhei and his girlfriend Oka Ayuko. We also learn about Tsubaki’s family, particularly his very motherly sister.
Gradually, the layers of mystery surrounding Urabe are peeled back. The first major turning point comes amidst this relationship between Tsubaki, Urabe, and the reader, as we learn about Tsubaki’s late mother through the fact that Urabe can read his latent memories from when she passed away (through his drool of course). Though Tsubaki is unmistakably a reader-insert character to some degree, here he becomes an individual of his own, and the connection between the two deepens.
From there, we get to see how Urabe herself changes, how she sees the relationship from her perspective. In particular, the manga begins to present Urabe’s own character flaws, such as her possessiveness (which turns out are also shared by Tsubaki), as well as her own growing desire to be with Tsubaki. Here, she becomes more human, and while still an unusual person is less mysterious by virtue of how much time the two spend together. The most notable events in this part of Mysterious Girlfriend X occur when Tsubaki’s bond with Urabe is put to the test. First, an old crush of Tsubaki’s comes back to try and seduce him. Second, an idol who bears a striking resemblance to Urabe (and thus a source of jealousy for Urabe when Tsubaki begins to secretly collect magazines of her) trades places with Urabe. When I first read these storylines, they felt like mini-arcs much like what came before, but now I realize that they are more or less milestones for Urabe and Tsubaki, the points at which their feelings resonate more strongly than mere appearances or past loves.
At the same time, the introduction of the Urabe look-alike, Imai Momoka, also signals another turning point for the series, towards what might be the most meandering and out-of-control part of the manga. Here, Mysterious Girlfriend X begins to enter a realm of fantastic occurrences and even stranger fetishes. While Mysterious Girlfriend X is not exactly a realistic series in certain key aspects, it starts off feeling somewhat grounded in an almost palpable sense of intimacy and desire between Tsubaki and Urabe. In early chapters, the dark attractiveness of Urabe is expressed in moments such as this, which are weird but understandably are thrilling for Tsubaki:
In contrast, immediately after Imai Momoka we get, of all things, “eating bacon while wearing cat ears”:
Other questions from this part of the manga include “Wouldn’t it be great to count the moles on your girlfriend’s body?” and “What’s more attractive, droopy eyes (like Nozomi from Love Live!) or slanted eyes (not in the racist sense, but like Ogiue)? Eventually the series is able to parlay this into some forward progression between the two, introducing another rival for Urabe in the competition for Tsubaki’s affections (the aforementioned “droopy eyes”), but when you’re reading from month to month it can feel like a kind of narrative limbo. I do want to point out once again though that all of this has more or less nothing to do with saliva, further reinforcing the fact that the drool in Mysterious Girlfriend X is more a kind of means to an end, and representative of many more things than simply a fetish. It’s a substitute for kissing but also much more, a way to access each others’ feelings and to capture the otherworldly feeling of being young and in love.
Even with the holding pattern that the series suffers, one thing that becomes especially clear during thatmost unusual section of Mysterious Girlfriend X is the evolution of the creator Ueshiba Riichi’s art style, which becomes less round and cute as was his way in his previous manga, and a bit sharper and more angular. Whereas his characters looked shorter and roundrr, by the second half of the series they begin to look not only more mature but more expressive as well, especially with Urabe’s cat-like eyes. Even Ueshiba himself points out this change when he discusses how his changing art style might make things difficult for the character designers.
Another clear indication of Ueshiba’s improved character drawing skills is Oka, who physically is supposed to be as small as an elementary school student but with the body of an adult. The way this is originally portrayed is rather jarring, as Oka looks more like a human being who was hit by a shrink ray, but as the series progresses she ends up looking more properly like a girl who’s simply really short.
Eventually though the series begins to wrap up, and I think the most telling thing about Mysterious Girlfriend X and its motivations as a bizarre romance come from how it builds up towards its conclusion. The most significant developments at this point are not characters taking the next step physically so much as them sharing more information with each other. We learn how Oka and Ueno became a couple. More and more characters learn about Urabe and Tsubaki’s relationship, notably Tsubaki’s sister, who throughout the series has run into Urabe multiple times under the pretense that she is merely one of Tsubaki’s classmates. As Urabe reveals the truth about her connection with Tsubaki (conveniently leaving out the drool thing), there is a passing of the torch as Tsubaki’s sister, who has pretty much been a mother to Tsubaki all his life, acknowledges Urabe as the one who will become the most important woman in his life. Whether reading on a monthly basis or altogether, the way in which Mysterious Girlfriend X heads towards its ending is somehow surprisingly tame yet still quite appropriate for how the series has been throughout.
There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the ending to Mysterious Girlfriend X, as the manga throughout its 92-chapter run has teased a kiss between Tsubaki and Urabe while also showing many other couples kissing. Even in the final chapter a kiss never happens, as while Urabe finally asks for one, Tsubaki refuses upon learning that it would mean the end of the ritual that has defined their relationship up to this point (kissing is basically exchanging saliva, so there would be no need to do it the other way). Instead, Tsubaki asks if they can’t just keep doing their routine as they always have, at least until they graduate high school. For some readers, this ending is the ultimate denial of what the series had building towards, and indeed the series appeared to be working its way towards their first kiss. However, I find that it’s clear, given how much their relationship grows over the course of the manga, that their first kiss will happen, they will have sex for the first time at some point, but these events will happen off the page, in a future that the manga does not allow us to witness except in our imaginations. By keeping their kiss away from readers’ eyes (but at the same time showing plenty of other characters kissing throughout the series), it is the final emphasis the bond of drool as representative of their strange love as indicative of not just how love looks when you’re young, but also how it feels. Following that, one might say that the point of those almost-kisses is purely in the tease and enjoying that tease is fun in its own way.
The final chapter also has a number of callbacks to significant events throughout the series, including Tsubaki’s late mother, and the excitement that sparked Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship in the first place. The example below also of course shows off the difference in art mentioned above.
Ueshiba writes at one point that he never had a high school romance, let alone something as unusual as the one depicted in Mysterious Girlfriend X, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to find that the quirks that were seemingly brought forth through sheer fantasy on Ueshiba’s parts are closer to reality than perhaps he even realized. Moments which seemed ridiculous five to eight years ago are not so far from actual reality as I’ve witnessed it. Sure, I haven’t seen anyone stick their finger into someone’s mouth and eat their drool, but the meaning and intent behind those actions also exist in reality, or at least the “realness” of one’s emotions.
Naruto final chapters SPOILERS.
As an anime fan, I don’t have a lot of character pairings to which I’m super devoted. However, the closest I come to having a true “ship” is Naruto x Hinata. Based on how their relationship began and has developed over the course of Naruto, I find that it makes the most sense, and had hoped that Hinata would have her happy ending. After all, Hinata saw before anyone else how hard-working Naruto is, and was the first to understand his pain, wile Naruto is the catalyst for Hinata’s own growth.
Now that the final chapter of Naruto all but confirms that Naruto and Hinata not only end up together but even have a couple of kids, all I can say is…
That said, I never actually participated in any “shipping wars” or whatever. However, I finally understand on some level the joy that more dedicated shippers feel when their desired pairing ends up being canon. There’s a strange satisfaction in knowing that all of the little moments that caught my attention as a reader ended up bearing fruit.
Now all that’s left is for me to someday feel the agony of defeat, but for the time being:
Oh, and for all of the confusion and convoluted plot developments, it looks like Naruto ends just fine.
In preparation for the American bluray release of Genshiken: Second Generation (aka Genshiken Second Season, Genshiken Nidaime, Genshiken II), Anime News Network and NISA are accepting questions from fans for an interview with creator Kio Shimoku. Keep in mind that Kio has historically given very few interviews even in Japanese, so this is a very rare opportunity for anyone who’s a fan of Genshiken and the man himself.
I of course will be submitting my own question, and it will most likely be Ogiue-related. Also, I may have bought the Japanese blurays already, but I definitely plan on picking these up as well.
(Thanks to Patz for telling me about this.)