Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Genshiken Nidaime: Victims, Villains, and Gender Relations among Japanese Otaku -- PART THREE

Part One
Part Two

Mada also doesn't need a broken wrist but he sure as hell gets one.
Emerging Female Space
As Hearts of Furious Fancies cribbed in this post, "The arc of Genshiken is long, but it curves toward female agency."

Apparently it does so at the expense of male agency.  Or at least the agency of male otaku.  Madarame is the prototypical male otaku.  Or perhaps I speak too soon, because Shimoku isn't finished.  There's more to come and perhaps I speak too soon.

Thus far, however, the conversion from male space to female space has been violent to the males.  They've been expelled by graduation, employment, and/or the change in atmosphere or relegated to the fringe as buffoons, like Kukichi.  The only male who is truly accepted in the space is Hato and that acceptance is strongest when Hato cross-dresses and behaves in a female manner, fanning out over and drawing the fujoshi comics that the girls enjoy.  Mada is on the cusp of acceptance but the primary reason he has any level or degree of belonging is because he is an object of female machinations--they're conniving and plotting to direct his romantic involvements.  Not all of them are guilty of this by action but more by association, which I'll discuss more in a bit.  Nevertheless, after his wrist is broken, Mada completely abandons the club in a physical sense, although he remains a topic of conversation and machination within the circle.

Consider the facts--female agency resulted in Mada's "confession" to Saki, her shooting him down, and the subsequent nullification of his own agency, dignity, etc.  On top of that, the creation of the harem, the forward advances of Hato and Angela, the abusive psychic violence of Keiko, the isolation of Mada by from his male friends, the removal of a safe male space where he can be male in a secure place, all of this serves to rob Mada of free will and agency, dignity and respect.  He becomes an object to the other characters.  He becomes their MacGuffin, something they can ship and slash without considering the consequences of these manipulations upon his heart and mind.  Hato cares about Mada and his feelings, true... but as an object, an archetype, a replacement for his former senpai and not as Mada.

Sue, Yajima, and Yoshitake spying on Hato and Mada in the club room.

Apparently all gender agency must come at the expense of the adjacent gender.  (I say "adjacent," not "opposite," due to my own personal beliefs on gender.)  Hato is just as much a victim as Mada.  Unfortunately, Rika and Hato's hometown acquaintances have maneuvered Hato into a position where his own self-actualization relies upon the further destruction of Madarame as an agent.  He must be reduced to a role in a BL doujinshi in order for Hato to self-actualize.  And Hato has signed on.  In other words, Hato has acquiesced to the New Order.  Males are now objects, females are empowered.  Hato has opted for being a female in order to fit into the New Order.  Hato has now compartmentalized Mada as the recipient of his affections.  Indeed, Hato has also compartmentalized his male self, done psychic violence to his masculine side.  Hato is in the process of nullifying himself as a man just as much as Mada has been nullified.

Darkness and evil incarnate behind that cute smile?
The proof is in the comic itself.  Hato-chan/Kaminaga-simulacrum is always there, lurking, pushing, taking the form of Hato's former senpai, Kaminaga, the woman that Hato wants to be and cross-dresses as.  She has only vanished once Hato has drawn her into himself, accepted her as himself, and chosen to bury his maleness as anything more than a possible sexual encounter with Mada in a seme-uke relationship.  An objectified relationship.  A fantasy relationship.  An object.  Not people.  Things.

And Yoshitake is enabling this.  Everywhere there is an opportunity to disrupt the status-quo, to shake things up, she's there.  She is the very symbol of the new Genshiken, the embodiment of the very meaning of the club's emergence as a female space and a place of female agency.

Or is she?  She ruminates and vacillates.  Is BL like a king from a fairytale?  Or can we manipulate, cajole, push a little here, and pull a little there, and manifest that king in reality?  Yoshitake is the villain (I know people will hate me for this) but she's a very, very, very interesting villain.  First she seems to be encouraging and then she turns around and tries to disabuse Hato and everyone else with "reasons Mada is a loser."  Then she gives that up and just rides the harem-train while whispering in Yajima's ear.

Rika Yoshitake is the Devil.  Or maybe Loki.
The above are reasons are why I view Yoshitake Rika as the villain of the manga, if villain it would have.  She's the primary instigator and enabler of everyone's own inner dilemmas and instead of helping one-another cut through the complications and really, truly self-actualize, she's contributing to the over-complication of everything.  She waffles as to whether the wants Mada's harem to exist or not.  She pushes Yajima with regards to her crush on Hato but also encourages Hato's crush on Mada.  She encourages Hato's fantasies of slashing Mada and himself.  The entire time she does these things, she's smiling.

The Villain

Maybe I'm missing something, here.  I am an American after all and TONS of Japanese nuance is lost on me.  However, to me, Yoshitake seems to be the female incarnation of the trickster god of myth and legend.  She's the anti-Japanese.  Far more than Angela and Sue, the Americans of the bunch, she's disruptive of the harmony in the group.  As a literary device, she's fantastic.  As a character, she's the Devil, the Adversary, tempting the characters with tantalizing visions and fantasies of their desires.  Just sign on the dotted line.  In blood, please.  Thank you.

Mada's totally bewildered.  He's the Job of the group, beleaguered.  The rest of the club pretty much clocks in as Job's friends and wife.  "Curse God and die!" Hato seems to say.  I wonder who is going to appear in a whirlwind and set everything to rights as God in the end?

See, most people perceive Hato as the protagonist of the story and it is true that the story is centered around Hato.  But I do not perceive Hato as the protagonist.  Not by a long shot.  I may be really missing something, here, but for me Mada is the main character.  This has developed into Mada's story for me and Mada is cast in the role of Job for certain.

Reality vs. Fantasy
Baudrillard would have a field day.  When you watch the television, it also watches you, right?  The thing that is symbolized eventually becomes the thing.  Or something along those lines.  Whatever.  Baudrillard was French, after all.

The hilarity of it all is that when Genshiken was male-dominated, the men didn't try to make the women into manga and anime characters.  Oh, sure, Ohno cosplayed and even got Saki and Ogiue to do it, too.  That enabled the male characters to perceive different aspects of the female characters' personalities (yes, even Ogiue's, much to her chagrin).  The male club members struggled with the reality vs. fantasy idea and at least Tanaka and Sasahara managed to overcome any sort of desire to make fantasy reality.  Mada did so very gradually--after all, for him fantasy was a defense mechanism against reality.

Okay, here's where Baudrillard comes in.  It's all about Simulacra and Simulation, right?  (This is sort of revenge for Hearts of Furious Fancies referencing Lacan.)  Power relationships between groups and all that.  Signs and the signified.  Alright, let's be honest, nobody knows what the hell post-structuralists talk about, and neither do they, but everyone pretends they do and so do the post-structuralists, and Derrida recanted on his deathbed, so it doesn't matter what we say because everything has meaning in relation to the network of signifiers around it that it is not, so we can only truly talk in double-negatives and ohmygodIjusthadananeurism.

Anyway, back to Baudrillard.  The fantasy BL manga is likened to "a king from a fairytale" by Yoshitake.  The drive, the desire of Yoshitake is to see their king from a fairytale realized.  They consume the fantasy, an unrealistic simulation of homosexual partnerships, and in response the fantasy begins to consume them.  Just like the citizens inhabiting not the empire but the map of the empire Baudrillard discusses (taken from Borges' "On Exactitude in Science"), the girls in Genshiken inhabit not the physical space of reality but the imagined space of the doujinshi.  Therefore, reality starts to decay around them.  Their will and desire is pulling their fantasy into reality, or conversely, themselves into the doujinshi they read.

But see, there's this reverse of Baudrillard going on.  These characters in the club live vicariously through their consumed entertainment and always have, even since the very first issue of the original.  The attachment to reality has always been strained to breaking.  I don't know if you can ever take narrative and picture and so divorce it from reality that it has no attachment whatsoever to said reality, as Baudrillard posits in the fourth stage of simulation.  Nevertheless, there is a gradual psychological detachment the otaku in the manga make from real life.  That they, themselves, are simulations makes it even more amusing because is creates a sort of infinite reflection loop like in a hall of mirrors.  They inhabit a mise en abyme.

Remember I mentioned Hato is perhaps a personification of Genshiken and not, actually, just a character?  Hato's own schizophrenia is a manifestation of this breakdown of reality in favor of the simulation.  Indeed, Hato's own simulacrum of Kaminaga within himself has become more real than Hato.

Now that Genshiken is a female space, making fantasy into reality is the name of the game.  Reifying the fictional as factual is their primary focus.  Yoshitake is the spearhead of this.  The thing is, this reification will inevitably result in psychic violence and objectification.  In this case, that violence is being done to Madarame.  It is important to note, however, that it is also being done to Hato.

Yeah, Ogiue slashed Madarame with Sasahara but she was doing so as a means to come to terms with her own feelings for Sasahara.  She was struggling with something and this provided an outlet for her to explore her attraction for Sasahara.  She never once attempted to maneuver Sasahara and Madarame into a romantic situation.

Yoshitake isn't like that.  Yoshitake has seized upon Hato, however briefly, as a way to make fantasy into reality.  Now that reality is dawning on her that it can only end in tears, she laughs maniacally and seeks to prod Yajima into positioning herself to play "hop on pop" in order to assuage Hato's broken heart once Mada breaks the news that he's straight and cis-gendered and not into people with male anatomy.

In the end, the real loser is going to be Mada.  He has done nothing to ask for this harem.  He's not responsible for its creation.  However, all of the accountability for its continuation and the responsibility for the hearts of the girls that are vying for his attention is placed upon his shoulders.  Like Governor Tarkin, Yoshitake has rolled up a Death Star on Mada's planet.  Hato is Darth Vader.

Concluded in Part Four.

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