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A place for you to post comments on our articles.
74

Terrific YAOI anime article! (and hamano's rather bloggish commentary)
Topic by: hamano
Posted: October 13, 2003 - 1:25 AM PDT
Last Reply: October 14, 2003 - 12:23 PM PDT

author topic: Terrific YAOI anime article! (and hamano's rather bloggish commentary)
hamano
post #1  on October 13, 2003 - 1:25 AM PDT  
Thanks for the terrific article on yaoi anime, GreenCine. This filled a gap in my anime education of the past coupla years, since I started watching a lot of anime after buying a DVD player. I used to watch a lot of cartoons when I was a kid in Japan (early '60s)... after my daughter was born I wanted to interest her in her Dad's native language....

Consequently, in addition to being a member here I own a lot of anime DVDs, some of which I bought primarily to entertain my daughter... She's 7 now, and our collections of Fushigi Yuugi, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Magic Knights Rayearth titles are pretty much complete (the second season of Rayearth featured a suspiciously close relationship between Lantis and Eagle Vision... Eagle was voiced by Megumi Ogata, who also did Yukito in Cardcaptor Sakura).

As I was reading your article, it occurred to me that yaoi may have been an edgy but logical next step beyond the shoujo manga that was popular around the time I was a teen.

The early to mid '70s were the years when the cross-fertilization between popular shoujo manga and the Takarazuka theater reached a peak, with the Takarazuka version of Ryoko Ikeda's manga "The Rose of Versailles". Takarazuka is a theater troupe that puts on romantic musical extravaganzas where all the characters, including male characters, are played by women. Most of the target audience is the same one that shoujo manga targets, and teen girls often got crushes on the most popular leading "men" of the troupe. (If you see the Marlon Brando film Sayonara his fighter pilot character is smitten with just such an actress).

In a lot of Ikeda's work, the most interesting character is often a tall, androgynous woman like Oscar in Rose of Versailles and St. Juste in Brother, dear Brother.

Now, shoujo romances have always incorporated the theme of forbidden love. In the beginning, there was Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," a story about a young heterosexual couple whose love is the victim of the antagonism between their families. Forbidden love was love between a man and a woman who were from different social backgrounds, from feuding families, from warring countries, love between gods and mortals, etc.

I think that in the late '60s to early '70s, this sort of conventional hetero love story was mined to death by the explosion of popular culture in Japan, especially with the mass publication of shoujo manga and the mainstream popularity of Takarazuka. To keep stories interesting, manga artists had to push the envelope a bit. This resulted in manga like the works of Ikeda, who might have noticed that there were female groupies of the popular Takazuka leading "men". So the dashing, handsome, accomplished, "masculine" heroine was born, a woman that no girl would be ashamed to get a crush on.

Not only would it be okay for girls in the story to fall for this heroine, but also the best looking male character in the story could fall for her. In fact, romantic scenes between the leading male character and the androgynous heroine would LOOK a lot like two beautiful men in love. On the other hand, if a girl character also fell in love with the androgynous heroine, that would be okay, too. A bit dangerous, but perhaps exciting...and often just platonic. In fact, I would speculate that heterosexual male fans of shoujo manga developed just around this time, because they found the idea of beautiful lesbians irresistible.

By the 1980's the whole shoujo lesbian theme had been co-opted by male fans and mainstreamed. A leading "man" from Takarazuka, Mayu Soyokaze, could find steady work being the voice actor for a very popular male swordsman named Kenshin. "Lesbian" characters appeared routinely in children's fare, like Sakura and Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura, and Sailors Uranus and Neptune in Sailor Moon. So female fans of shoujo manga had to turn things up another notch to keep stories interesting.

What do the female fans want? Maybe female GreenCiners ought to chime in here, but I think they want to see a pure love that is tested in every way possible, whether the story ends in triumph or in tragedy. So why not take that androgynous heroine and just turn her into a man? Characters like Oscar and St. Juste were very tall, thin, slim hipped and flat chested. Would any fans care if they were actually male? The answer in the late '80s and '90s Japan was NO. As news spread of a dangerous, incurable disease that was killing mostly gay men and as Rock Hudson, of all people, lay dying of that very disease, shoujo fangirls had found their last refuge. A romantic realm that would be unsullied by the prurient interest of mostly homophobic men and full of tragedy potential. I mean, if you browse the gay shelves of an adult video rental section, it becomes obvious that men, even gay men, prefer sex and action over love and romance. If there was ever a sexual politics undercurrent to the phrase yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi it may have been to exclude mainstream hetero male interest.

I don't know if I'm saying that there is a drive by shoujo manga fans to try to create "a league of their own" where women can explore romantic themes without the interference of male prurience. Looking at how shoujo manga developed over my lifetime, this theory of the evolution of yaoi does seem valid. It would be interesting where things go from here, because now yaoi elements are showing up in TV anime series like Revolutionary Girl Utena...
hamano
post #2  on October 13, 2003 - 1:58 AM PDT  
Oh, here's a link to April Gutierrez's article, "Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi", in case it disappears from the GreenCine main page.

Also, a note on the Takarazuka Theater for anime fans. The anime/game franchise Sakura Wars is set in an alternate history Tokyo during the Taisho Era (Reign of the Taisho Emperor) which was between 1912 and 1926. The Takarazuka Theater was founded in 1914. The depiction of the stage performances of the Flower Division in Sakura Wars is rather loosely based on what Takarazuka shows are like.

Another note: If you watch Hand Maid May carefully, you'll notice that the morning soap opera show that May and Rena are addicted to is obviously a parody of a Ryoko Ikeda-type manga/anime series. There's some hilarious yaoi bits thrown into it!
IronS
post #3  on October 13, 2003 - 3:37 PM PDT  
Before this article, I just thought my cousin was odd. She's still odd, but at least her preference for yaoi anime has been explained somewhat (she's not Japanese though).
underdog
post #4  on October 13, 2003 - 4:36 PM PDT  
> On October 13, 2003 - 1:58 AM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Oh, here's a link to April Gutierrez's article, "Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi", in case it disappears from the GreenCine main page

Thanks for the love!

by the way, if there's an article you want to go back and look at but it's no longer linked to from the front page, you can always click on the featured articles link on the home page (or go to http://www.greencine.com/article) to look at the past articles.

For any article that is about a person (interview, etc), you can also go to the departments pull down menu on the left and select "people" to see them all indexed.

Cheers,
C
postmod
post #5  on October 13, 2003 - 5:09 PM PDT  

> What do the female fans want? Maybe female GreenCiners ought to
> chime in here...

how can i resist an invitation like that? ; )

you're far better versed in anime/manga than i but i do want to say that i don't think the majority of the characters in yaoi are conceived of by their creators or audience as gay men. they don't come out, they don't really discuss their sexuality, and they don't deal with realistic issues, like STDs. one of the classic tropes of the yaoi romance is one character, though he has never been interested in men before, falling for and pursuing one, as in the classic zetsuai. i think your point about it being a reaction to co-opted mainstream shoujo is interesting but assigning too much deliberation to the genre...i think it's more in the realm of pure fantasy.

i've always been interested in the yaoi and the growth of slash fanfiction in the west, and i think that there's something to be said for the appeal (to girls) of a genre that basically involves a world without women. yaoi seems a way to have an (often darker) romance without the "cute, perky, hard-working" properties of the typical female main character. and in the us, i wonder if it's not the same thing. i mean, the much discussed latent homoerotic angle of smallville is far more interesting than either of the two irritating female characters. in lieu of well-written women, the complicated relationship between the men promises more intrigue.

has male fandom really bogged down the shoujo world at all? they seem to still be going strong and often as sappy as can be (and don't get me wrong, i'm a sucker for it).
hamano
post #6  on October 14, 2003 - 1:19 AM PDT  
Oh, smiling toast... Are your eyes and mouth made with dried currants? Thank you for the excellent follow up!

... i don't think the majority of the characters in yaoi are conceived of by their creators or audience as gay men....

Yes...that's probably what I was thinking with my comment on how different yaoi seems from gay porn at the video store. Maybe gay GreenCiners ought to chime in here...

....i think your point about it being a reaction to co-opted mainstream shoujo is interesting but assigning too much deliberation to the genre...i think it's more in the realm of pure fantasy....

I think that certainly seems to be true for slash fanfic here in the West. What an education I'm getting! The big difference between Japan and the US is that Japan DOES have a big mainstream shoujo manga/anime culture that is absent in the West. There we DID have the development of the androgynous heroine as well as the parallel popularity (among female fans, anyway) of the Takarazuka otoko-yaku. I would think that this presence in mainstream media was a really good incubator for yaoi since the leap from androgynous heroine to dashing yaoi hero is not at all difficult.

The interesting thing is that there IS a mainstream example of Western yaoi/slash-type fiction in the Anne Rice vampire novels. As someone with largely hetero-male tastes, that's probably the closest I've got to those kinds of male characters (Lestat/Armand, Lestat/Louis look! i'm using slashes!). Are these types of characters common in women's romance novels? Maybe another example is literature surrounding the Glitter Rock subculture, but I haven't seen Velvet Goldmine yet. Incidentally, I found the relationships being explored in Descendants of Darkness icky enough that I stopped watching after Vol. 1.

On the other hand, I can't detect an example of an androgynous heroine in the vein of Oscar or St. Juste at all in the Western mainstream. Maybe Martina Navratilova, but she's a real person (and therefore maybe offended by such a characterization...sorry, Martina!). Maybe we can pitch Boys Don't Cry as a new WB TV series!

....i think that there's something to be said for the appeal (to girls) of a genre that basically involves a world without women....

I wonder why that manifests itself now in yaoi as a world of men? Maybe a world of beautiful genderless beings would be too far out; there has to be SOME grounding in reality...

Let's see...the audience is primarily heterosexual women (I'm assuming). So...
A) The reader can find both romantic leads attractive. The yaoi couple are a hunky man and a hansome boy, both of which are objects of female romantic fantasy.
B) The reader feels anxiety toward competition from other women, so let's get rid of them! That sounds crazy, but I'm gonna think about it...
C) The reader can't identify with conventional heroines any more...Conventional female roles are so subordinate/badly written/underwritten that they are unattractive or boring.
D) My theory - the reader wants a playground that is sooooo alien to the heterosexual male world view that she can indulge her fantasies there freely without the intrusion of conventions imposed on all mainstream culture by the phallocentric world order. (under this theory a matriarchal society wouldn't produce yaoi literature...)

I wonder why there isn't a reverse-yaoi genre in shounen manga/anime. I guess that would be comics about worlds populated exclusively by women who are, what, successful strippers? Wait! I guess we can just rent these!

....the much discussed latent homoerotic angle of smallville is far more interesting than either of the two irritating female characters....

Is that what women think of what we call "male bonding"? Hmm... interesting thought. Is there an aspect of "male bonding" that women are jealous/envious of because "it" is missing in a close friendship between two women? I've never thought of the term "penis envy" as a literal term, but it gets bandied about quite a bit. Is "penis envy" really "male bonding envy"??? (This is starting to sound like a Carrie Bradshaw article.)

....has male fandom really bogged down the shoujo world at all? they seem to still be going strong and often as sappy as can be (and don't get me wrong, i'm a sucker for it)....

The momentum of shoujo culture in general in Japan is as strong as ever. This is probably because Japanese culture itself is so bifurcated. One way to look at Japan is that it's a country where men and women live in two parallel cultures, side by side, always separate but always overlapping. shoujo and shounen aren't really subgenres...they're parallel industries.
IronS
post #7  on October 14, 2003 - 12:23 PM PDT  
> On October 14, 2003 - 1:19 AM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Is that what women think of what we call "male bonding"? Hmm... interesting thought. Is there an aspect of "male bonding" that women are jealous/envious of because "it" is missing in a close friendship between two women? I've never thought of the term "penis envy" as a literal term, but it gets bandied about quite a bit. Is "penis envy" really "male bonding envy"??? (This is starting to sound like a Carrie Bradshaw article.)
> ---------------------------------

Perhaps it's the "if the guys can communicate amongst themselves, why can't they communicate with women" situation. A man rarely talks to a woman the same way as her women friends do. However, the sneaky suspicion is that he can to his buddies and is just holding out on her. He's holding back on a part of himself from her and he is not sharing. Since women know how women communicate with each other, having guys communicate like women can be the draw.

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