Now This Is Only My Opinion, Volume 5

December 15th, 2007

I’m sorry that it took so long for me to get to this. The questions were really good this time and made me think, but it was just my crazy schedule that kept me from answering them, not the complexity. Thanks to everyone who asked questions for this round of “Now, This is Only My Opinion” and I’ll definitely look forward to the next round in spring!


Charles asks: Do you believe that Simoun might have been viewed by a larger audience if everyone in the series was Female?

After some serious thought on this, I have to say no. I think it would have been more popular if the bulk of the cast was female, but the lead was male and the plot was much, much simpler. There is a reason why harem anime is eternally popular and profitable. Complexity is not it. Dorky boys surrounded by beautiful girls who fawn over him, is. If the creators had gone for a Gundam-like franchise – which was not at all where they were going with Simoun – the lead would still have to be male for the average fanboy to care.

Haruchin asks: I was wondering if you might be able to identify some key characters in anime who speak in specifically accented Japanese? My favourite accent is the Kyoto dialect, so in the interests of narrowing the search, I’ll limit the question to Kyoto-ben in particular. We all know about Shizuru, but are there any others out there?

This did take some work, but thankfully not so much that I began to resent you. ^_^ Obviously, the Osaka-ben is instantly identifiable to many fans, and a lot of popular seiyuu use their Osakan roots to bring this across. Hisakawa Aya, one of my perennial favorites, is known for her Osaka-ben as Ichino in Battle Athletes and Kero-chan in Card Captor Sakura. And Ueda Kana, who also hails from Osaka, has used her native accent in several roles, including Mikan from Gakuen Alice. (Which really does explain the moment in the 17th Marimite novel when Yumi inexplicably speaks with an Osakan accent.) But as you say, Kyoto-ben is somewhat rarer. Interestingly, shortly after you asked this, I read a Mist magazine story in which one of the characters spoke with Kyoto-ben. It took me a moment to catch on because it looked so odd. ^_^

But, to answer your question, I found a nice little resource here which discusses “Kansai” accents and the qualities thereof:

They offer these characters as examples: Konoka in Mahou Sensei Negima, and Akesato in Peacemaker Kurogane.

I also found this surprisingly excellent answer on Yahoo Answers about the differences between the various regional accents and Standard Japanese that might be of interest to anyone who enjoys language in and of itself:

Anonymous wonders: Are there any academically peer-reviewed articles on yuri? What’s the state of yuri scholarship?

The answer to the first is “no.” The state of “Yuri scholarship” is that it is just starting to be a thing in and of itself. James Welker writes articles about lesbian readings of early BL/Yaoi magazines, and I have begun to get inquiries from people interested in pursuing research about Yuri, but as of yet, I have not seen any peer-reviewed academic research about Yuri. I hope the folks that have sent me inquiries will be kind enough to send me references to their works when they are published, but there is a general sense of frustration that no one has already written this so they can quote it. (Primary research is a bitch. ^_^)

I look forward to seeing some decent research on Yuri in the coming years.

Anonymous mentions: So why do some European cities have this bizarre spelling in English? Firenze is Florence, Venezia is Venice, Köln is Cologne, München is Munich, etc. What’s up with all of that?

Language. It’s totally freakish. I blame the Germanic tribes who came to England and didn’t know they didn’t know Romance languages, and the Normans who came to England who didn’t care about the right way to pronounce Germanic words. And above all, I blame Latin for being dead, but not dying out properly.

Anonymous writes: About how many people usually show up at the Yyuricon events? and do you know how seven seas yuri title sales doing compared to their other titles? and! is venus virus really not a yuri title?

I don’t keep exact count, because I really don’t care how many people come to an event. I haven’t seen any sales figures for Seven Seas’ Strawberry Line at all, much less as compared with their other titles. And I believe that there is not a single iota of anything like real affection/interest/desire between Lucia and Sumire, so no, it has no Yuri. It has Yuri-service, which is to say that screencaps and splash art imply a relationship that does not exist, so people with no discrimination see a relationship.

Scareknee wants to know: Currently, one of things I am looking to do as a job is be a librarian. How would you describe the job and how does one become a librarian? As in, any necessary degrees or whatnot?

I can totally answer that one! lol The job will differ depending on the environment you choose: academic, K-12, special, corporate, public, etc. And if you specialize in the technical aspects, you’ll be dealing with anything from the computer network to cataloging books, depending on your specialty. I’m a researcher, which means I do exactly what I’m dong *right now* all day long – answering people’s questions about who all knows what. lol And I love my job. I work in a corporate library.

The absolute best way to get any idea of what a library job can be like is to volunteer or get a part time job at a local library. You’ll get to see what it all means and how it all works. In order to get a “para-professional” job – that is, a job that supports the librarians, like document delivery, or library assistant – you’ll need at least a 4-year degree. For a professional job, you’ll want a MLS or MLIS as they call it now – a Master of Library and Information Science degree. If you put “MLIS program” into Google, you’ll see some schools with programs pop up. But you can also look at the American Library Association or Special Libraries Association websites for more info on a program near you. I went to Rutgers – its as good as any of them. :-) Best of luck to you – let me know when you graduate!

Anonymous inquires: Firstly, which flavours of pizza do you think each member of the Yamayurikai prefer? (my guess is that Shimako’s is whatever Sei-sama’s is…. and that Sachiko, if she could be persuaded at all, would have something like foie gras.)

Secondly, how would they resolve the inevitable dispute when ordering the pizza as to how much of each kind to get?

Sachiko is simply fascinated by the process of purchasing pizza, and she’ll eat whatever Yumi orders. Shimako favors strong flavors like anchovies and olives and Sei always asks for weird things, like taramosalata or corn smut. Youko prefers mushrooms, Eriko always orders pineapple because it makes everything else taste weird. Rei and Yoshino both like ham (and don’t mind the pineapple with that,) Noriko prefers plain old pepperoni, and likes olives, too. Yumi likes pepperoni or plain or corn. Touko doesn’t really have a preference, but she argues anyway. She eats whatever Yumi eats, too.

They never dispute the pizza issue. Whoever orders is considerate enough to get something everyone can agree on. They don’t let Sei order, or Sachiko. Sei orders weirdly and Sachiko takes too long, inquiring about toppings they don’t have. (Although Yumi is starting to think that she’s doing it on purpose.)

Frea posits the following: If you can only use one utensil the rest of your life for both eating and cooking, what would it be?

Spoon, no question. The answer was unanimous here. We’d all happily be spoons.

Have you read any good (non-anime/manga related) books lately?

Hell yeah. I am 7 pages from the end of Thomas Pynchon’s 1100 page Against the Day. Fabulous book – awesome writer. I also recently read a bunch of trashy lesbian novels which I have been and will be reviewing here on Okazu.

Have you read any of the other books of the Dune series? If so, how were they?

I read the first 5. The first one was excellent, then they degraded from there. The best part of the series is the National Lampoon spoof Doon, the Dessert Planet which I quote constantly.

What’s your opinion about fansubs/scanlations? Do you think they affect the anime industry?

I think that they are not a bad thing in and of themselves. Assuming we’re talking non-licensed material. They bring anime and manga that is otherwise not available to a wider audience and create a fanbase. BUT. They also bring a false sense of entitlement and ownership to the fans. The problem is, simply, that fansubbers/scanlators and their consumers are killing the anime/manga they purport to love. Justin Sevakis wrote a really cogent “open letter” to the industry both here and in Japan and I thought he not only summed up the problem exceedingly well, he also suggested a sensible way to approach an answer.

What is the origin of the terms “neko/tachi”?

This one took some work! Japanese Wikipedia on Lesbian Terms says that Tachi” comes from “Tachiyaku” the leading role of Kabuki, i.e., the male lead. There is no etymology provided for “Neko” on Ja.wikipedia, but just now, looking around I see one site (no sources) that says that “neko” comes from “nemu” + “ko” – meaning, the girl you sleep with.

Anonymous requests: Is yuri a reinvention of esu and ome? What’s the relationship between “esu and ome” and yuri? What has persisted from esu and ome? What has vanished?

That’s not really a nutshell answer question – it’s more like the subject of a whole paper. ^_^

“Ome” and the term that superseded it, “Esu” were both related to early 20th century socio-political feminist (and associated lesbian) movements. Like the American feminists of the 1970s, there was both an assumption of purity in an all-female society – a power in “sisterhood” (Esu) – and a split over whether the next step, political lesbianism, should be embraced or rejected. I won’t attempt to make any conclusions about any of the above. I’m just summing up the situation. The term “Yurizoku” was coined at just about the time that the “Lavender menace” appeared and again, it’s well beyond my ability to make any direct connection, except to say that the the post-Stonewall 1970s were a time of socio-political upheaval everywhere and gays and lesbians all over the world were starting to speak up.

In as much as one can say that every generation reconstructs the one before them, the answer to your question is yes – and no.

No first. No, because “Yuri” was reinvented, not by lesbians seeking identity, but by men using the newly coined word to label lesbian sex for their own titillation. These doujinshi artists and porn makers were not looking backwards to the roots of Japanese lesbian identity.

But, yes. Because *I* was. Yuri was imported to the west with that meaning of “porn for men.” Then I got a hold of it and reinvented the word to include not only the explicit lesbian porn, but stories of romance, and even more importantly – stories written *by* women, by lesbians, for a female/lesbian, audience (something that in Japan is still not called “Yuri.”) So, yes, I purposefully reached back to the roots of Esu, to Yoshiya Nobuko’s works, and gathered in everything that reflects lesbian experience under the umbrella “Yuri.” The fact that Yuri is commonly seen as a genre for women here in the US (I base this on the emails I receive and the interviews I have done) means that I’ve been successful in my “reclaiming” of the term.

I hope that this is a coherent enough answer, ’cause it’s all you’re gonna get without me being paid by the word. ^_^

Diana asks: Whenever or wherever I read manga or watched anime someone will said something like this to me ‘What are you? 12?’. As I’m 20 years younger than you, so, why do you think they said that to me and what am I suppose to tell them back?

The reason they say that is that their only experience of anime is Pokemon and the like. Face it – most anime is marketed here to children. Not teens – children. And this is that three-second moment you get when someone who doesn’t give a shit asks you something in an aggressive manner forcing you to respond quickly because they really don’t care, they just wanted to pretend to. Depending on your mood, you could try “I’m young at heart.” Or if you were feeling sarcastic you could try, “Yes. ‘Survivor’s’ too complex for me.” But it’s probably not worth the effort. I’d smile, shrug and say, “There’s more than just Pokemon in the world of anime” and move on.


Well, that’s it for this round! That was a lot of work guys! LOL but it was fun. Great questions – I hope my answers don’t suck. Thanks to everyone who wrote in!

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12 Responses

  1. jrwelker says:

    In response to Anonymous #1 above and Erica’s reply: Thanks, Erica, for pointing out my work. I haven’t seen any peer reviewed work on Yuri either. When I was researching the topic about 4 or 5 years ago, the only decent work in Japanese was by Fujimoto Yukari (in Watashi no ibasho wa doko ni aru no?). She’s a critic rather than an academic (and how in this forum could I find fault with that?) but I’ve found her summaries and analyses quite useful. I myself did write a book chapter (non-peer reviewed) a few years ago on Yuri narratives in the 1970s and 80s and I would be happy to share it with whomever asks. At the time I wrote it (around 2002–it was published finally in 2006) tho’ the word Yuri was not widely used in its current meaning. While there was Yuri symbolism in some of the early narratives (not necessarily meaning the same thing since it’s unclear if the term predates the 1976 usage in the homo magazine Barazoku). As a result, I don’t call the narratives “Yuri” but I do discuss a number of them and summarize some of Fujimoto’s key points, so at the very least it might be a place to start, especially if you don’t read Japanese.

  2. James –

    You know I’d be interested in the book. :-) And thanks for commenting, it’s always a pleasure to have your input.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have nothing of use or importance to add except that an extended fic involving the yamaYurikai ordering pizza would be awesome. XD

  4. kieli says:

    Interesting. I never knew that there was an entire history to “Yuri” and the literary genre itself. As a relative newcomer to Yuri, it seems that I’ve barely scratched the surface in understanding this topic. Thanks for your in-depth analyses and research. You’ve given me much food for thought (and impetus to do my own research).


  5. Frea says:

    Thank you for the research and thought that you’ve put into answering all the questions; your answers are great. Curiosity definitely begets more curiosity.

    After reading that open letter, it’s struck me how similar the situations of the anime industry and the music industry are. Piracy is tugging on the linchpin of both of these (and to a lesser degree movies, books and games.) It really is a touchy subject and, as Justin Sevakis puts so eloquently, major rethinking of how to go about it will need to be done. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle (or don’t) this whole thing and if they can entice and wrangle a larger majority of those with a sense of social responsibility.

    *kicks my soapbox away* Whoops.. how’d that get there?

    On a much, much lighter note, I completely second the fic with pizza and the yamaYurikai. *grins* corn smut indeed…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Erica,

    Thank you so much for your good answers! I’ll have to put my thinking cap on for the next Now This Is Only My Opinion. I promise not to ask “So what’s the state of Yuri scholarship *now*?” then – like as not there’d be no change.

    I’ve got a followup question, if it’s not asking too much – you say in your response to the esu/ome question “stories written *by* women, by lesbians, for a female/lesbian, audience (something that in Japan is still not called “Yuri.”)” this seems to beg the question, is there a word for “Yuri by women for women” in Japanese? (probably not?)

    Thank you again.

  7. anon – I think I’ve mentioned this in other posts. Mostly what we see as “Yuri” tends to be categorized by the intended audience – shoujo, shounen, josei, seinen and not seen as “Yuri” at all. The stuff Ichijinsha is publishing tends to go by “Girls’ Love” and/or “Onna no ko x Onna no ko”. For the older Ladies Comics audience, you’ll see “Onna x Onna” or “Onna-doushi.”

    The fact that there are so many ways to describe these stories, and that none or few authors make the connection between girls in love and lesbian love, is precisely while I lumped it all together under “Yuri,” which had that connection backwards with lesbians.

  8. Everyone – thanks for your questions and comments. :-)

    And under extreme pressure, I have actually written that pizza fic. :-)

  9. Skotti says:

    I have to admit, I totally respect your knowledge. As much as I disagree on certain reviews you’ve given, I can’t deny your intelligence and wisdom.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    (and for the record, it was obvious to *me* Lucia loved Sumire more than just familiar/friendship kind of love. Though as I said, that’s just my interpretation.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    And once again, Wikipedia trails along behind Yuricon…

    – it doesn’t cite Okazu, but it cites Rosa Chinensis’s article on Woman-loving Women.

    PS. I can’t seem to find your fanfic on the YamaYurikai ordering pizza. Is it only available on the Yuricon Mailing List? Will it be made available on Worldshaking Fanfic some time in the near future? Thank you.

  11. Kazu-kun says:

    This piqued my interest:

    “Erica Friedman said: Mostly what we see as “Yuri” tends to be categorized by the intended audience – shoujo, shounen, josei, seinen and not seen as “Yuri” at all. The stuff Ichijinsha is publishing tends to go by “Girls’ Love” and/or “Onna no ko x Onna no ko”. For the older Ladies Comics audience, you’ll see “Onna x Onna” or “Onna-doushi.””

    For what I can tell, while publishers/producers don’t use the term Yuri, and use instead terms such as those you listed (specially Girls’ Love), the readers/audience do use this term. Japanese blogs prove that much. You can tell the use of Yuri to describe attraction between girls in manga/anime is quite wide spread nowadays.

    Also, publishers seems to be pretty much aware of how the word Yuri is used. After all, Sun Magazine and Ichijinsha did use it for the titles of their Girls’ Love publication (Yuri Shimai, Yuri Hime, etc).

    I agree with you though, in that only a few authors make the connection between girls in love and lesbian love. Which bring me to this little gem:

    Strawberry Shake Sweet chapter 08 – New Years.

    Saeki: “So, it’s just the old “I just happened to fall in love with someone of my own sex” line”? And here I thought it was just a cliche…”

    Kaoru: “Oh, no, I definitely like her because she’s a girl. I mean, I like girls.” LOL

    Ok, Strawberry Shake is just a light-hearted comedy but how great is that line!! ^^

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