Now This Only My Opinion, the Eighth

February 7th, 2010

Well here we are, at the 8th iteration of Utter Nonsense and this was probably the most difficult one of all of them. You folks are asking me for opinions on hard stuff, now. :-)

I did my best. I hope you find it entertaining, educating, enraging and other “e” words.

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Q: What is one of the best examples of a character you’re supposed to like but completely and utterly hate with every fiber of your being?

A: Primarily the girl who transfers into a school, seemingly from a box locked in a closet for the past 15 years. She knows nothing of the school, its traditions, patterns, schedule or the fact that duels are fought every day at noon for who gets that last brownie.

I can’t stand willful, aggressive ignorance. Pick up the damn school handbook – look them up on the Internet, for pity’s sake!

Not cute. Not cute at all. Only beaten in uncuteness by real humans who blunder stupidly around in real life being a burden and pain because they are too lazy to look a thing up or get a clue.

Q: It seems that many Yuri mangas are based around ‘cutesy’ girls, young girls, or hyper- sexualized girls. Do you feel that these thematic/artistic choices portray the love between women as an immature or not serious thing?

A: Yuri manga are based around what the editor feels will best sell books. Complexity rarely sells. Simple jokes, one-dimensional characters are easier to sell, because they are easier for the reader to mask themselves into a role. That’s one thing.

Secondly, yes, of course. Many straight men are mostly convinced that lesbians are only waiting for the right guy anyway, and Japanese men know for an absolute certainty that regardless of what happened in school, most women go on to marry and have kids, because that’s what they do. So, love stories that take place in fantasy and school settings show Yuri as something immature, a fake love, a phase, something that they’ll grow out of.

Q: Which Yuri would you say is the closet-est portraying, the most realistic lesbian life-style, relationships, and struggles.

A: The short story “Fufu” from Yuri Hime S, Volume 10 was surprisingly excellent, Poor Poor Lips is an entirely unrealistic setup, but the charactrer of Ren as a lesbian is portrayed exceptionally well and Octave is very realistic all around, for adult relationships.

Kimochi no Katachi has fantastic exploration into young women’s feelings and, while again being absolutely ridiculous in setup, Hanjuku Joshi has some good moments about what it means to love another woman. Also, Aoi Hana is exceptional in regards to young love.

Q: If you could have any Yuri manga adapted into a live drama, which one would it be? And who would you cast as the leads?

A: Gunjo, no question. Secondly, Octave. I don’t know the names of too many live-action actresses, so I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

Q: What was your first job?

A: Serving food at a beach concession stand when I was 14.

Q: What was the craziest thing you ever did in college?

A: Moving 40 minutes away to live with my wife, and work full-time almost all four years.

Q: What is the most annoying thing a fan has ever done to you at a convention?

A: Shared extremely personal details that I had to smile and nod through, because I was trapped behind the table alone and couldn’t escape. Because I am a lesbian, people feel free to share their gender and sexuality issues with me and assume I give a shit which, frankly, I don’t. This happens to me all the time, I can’t tell you how many people have given me details they probably haven’t told their therapists…and should. I’m neither sympathetic nor empathetic, so it’s really pretty tortuous for me.

Q: Episode 10 of Sasameki Koto had this immense, Comiket-sized, all-female Yuri convention; intended joke or not, I unfortunately had to chuckle and facepalm at it. I know you’ve reported of the Japanese female Yuri-scene in Comiket, but what about the exclusive events?

A: I haven’t had the opportunity to attend either Maiden’s Garden or Girls Love Festival yet. One of my friends did attend – he wrote up a short report that he allowed me to share on the Yuricon Mailing List. Both events are still very small – only 100 tables or so, in a large space with other specialized events. Not hardly on the scale of Comiket (which is 30 years old, so give them a chance.) If I do attend one, I’ll be sure to share.

Q: A corollary to a previous question: What is one of the best examples of a character you’re supposed to hate but completely and utterly like with every fiber of your being?

Every Evil Psychotic Lesbian ever.

Q:
1. Good.
2. Yuri.
3. Anime.

Why can we only pick two of those words and not all three?

A: Because:

1) Comics
2) Cartoons
3) Fandom

There’s only a few really good comics or cartoons out of the whole body of comics and cartoons at one time, and everyone’s idea of “good” is different. I thought Aoi Hana was better than good, Yuri and anime…and licensed.

Perhaps your expectations are unrealistic and you should choose a more consistently high-quality genre. Good luck with that.

Q: Any pleasant surprises in the manga publishing world this year? Series you didn’t expect to be licensed, companies that took an unexpected turn in direction, and such. Any unpleasant surprises in the manga publishing world this year? Is there anything manga related that has you excited for next year? Anything you’re dreading to see?

A: Licensed…not so much. Hardly anyone gives Yuri the time of day, yet. I only pay about half attention to manga licensing announcements, because no one is licensing any of the best Yuri out there. All of the good Yuri licensing last year was in anime.

The problem is with me – I don’t read much English manga. So I really don’t much care what gets licensed, except to report on it to the Yuri Network, or for review.

Nonetheless, I’ll half answer this. I’m *still* amazed and pleased that Hayate x Blade was licensed and I’m still appalled that Yen will license crap like Suzunari but not something wonderful like Poor Poor Lips.

Q: Would you say that Yuri suffers from too much editorial direction/censorship, or is the opposite true with some mangaka having zero direction ala Manga no Tsukurikata?

A: I think that has got to be specific to each magazine and each writer/editor combo. In general, in Japan, editors have a lot of power over the story. It’s nothing to do with Yuri per se, it’s the same as the fact that in Japanese movies, directors have all the power.

I’m sure there are mangaka who just draw whatever and send it in, get together with their editors every once in a while and collect a paycheck, too. :-)

Q: With the surge of Yuri popularity in Japan there is (thankfully) more ecchi and hentai Yuri manga to be found that fall outside of the stereotypical male fantasy of how lesbians have sex and into the reality of how lesbians REALLY have sex. (Not that we don’t trib, I just can’t even remember the last time I did!) Could you list a few titles that you feel portray a realistic sexual relationship between women?

A: Uh…..

I have so much trouble answering that question I don’t know where to begin. First of all, clearly your idea and mine of what “realistic” sex is is going to be different. And I don’t share your opinion about more hentai being a good thing.

Secondly, porn is porn and not a sex manual. It’s not meant to be realistic, it’s meant to make you horny.

Thirdly, it should be pretty clear from my reviews that I dislike most of what other people find to be appealing.

All that having been said, I’m afraid you’re on you’re own for finding realistic lesbian porn. You might want to check into Bian literature (created by lesbians for lesbians,) or take a look at English-language lesbian lit, rather than Yuri.

Q: Do you believe male mangaka should write or make YURI? (or even if the editor should be male itself) I mean equal rights it is but the question is if they convey the whole concept of YURI to begin with. (there is a different view on the other side of the fence)

A: Yes, absolutely. It’s infantile to think that a writer’s gender and sexuality has anything at all to do with their ability to write. By your standards I should only ever write lesbian characters because I can’t *possibly* understand what a straight woman or man could be like.

A good story is a good story, no matter who writes or edits it.

Q: If you could have any animation studio adapt any Yuri manga, which studio and which manga would you choose? Also, why would you choose those specifically?

A: I don’t pay the slightest attention to what studio does what, so I’ll make something up – Gunjo by JC Staff. I picked them because they were the only ones I could think of at the moment. Sorry…I’m a seiyuu otaku, not a studio otaku. :-)

Q: When did you start learning Japanese. How long have you been learning until you could understand Japanese media?

A: I’ve been learning for about 8 years or so. I started to be able to understand after a little while, because it was pure memorization of words and language is a hobby of mine, so I see the patterns without too much difficulty. Now it’s purely memorization of more and more vocabulary. I am terrible at speaking though, because I don’t practice at all.

Q: Is there any series, manga, book or whatever you absolutely loathe, but you also like it? I mean in the sense that you know it’s horrible and insulting to you, yet you can’t help yourself. In short, what is the guiltiest of your guilty pleasures?

A: Air Master. It was repulsive, offensive, stupid and annoying and I love, love, love it with all my love. :-)

Q: What’s the most annoying ques… oh, wait, that’s already basically answered in the post itself.

Oh, yeah, now I remember.

What do you reckon is the most effective way for a fan to promote Yuri anime in social media?

And, yes, that’s probably three questions snuck in there (on Twitter I’d be out of space long since) … in general, for a particular series with a legit stream, and for a particular series (*cough drill-chan FTW cough*) that is coming out only on DVD.

A: Talk to people about it. That’s what Social Media is. It’s spaces that allow you to talk about things with people. Since you can’t do a promotion, and you’re not the owner of the series so giving things away is unlikely, get out there and talk to people about it. Find people who want to talk about the kinds of things that series is, and talk to them. This wouldn’t be different whether you’re promoting a streaming or DVD version.

Q: Most Western lesbian works, if not center around, then contain many, many themes references to, the social discrimination and identification issues/angst faced by the characters. They often detail the experience of fitting into the GLBT community as well. Most lesbian works of manga, anime, etc., however, if not rarely, then not always, contain anything of the sort, instead focusing on romance; the complications in the relationships of the characters seldom seem to revolve around their sexuality or societal perception of same-sex couples, and rarely do the characters seem to seek out other GLBT people or become involved in activism. The downside of this is obvious – a perceived lack of realism and opportunity for reader identification – but, on the other hand, I’ve always thought most American GLBT works tend to go too far the opposite direction, in that all characters often face complete and utter societal rejection and, in the end, appear flat-out doomed, and that ALL relationship conflicts revolve entirely around the characters in them questioning their sexuality, being rejected due to it, attempting to maintain secrecy, trying to come out at the age of fifteen, etc (Desire Lines, anyone?). Even lesbian books advertised as being a “romance” – and not, primarily as a “lesbian novel” – seem to do this. My questions are, why is there so little Yuri containing themes of lesbian identification, why is there so little Western lesbian fiction not focused entirely on sexuality angst, and which direction do you prefer the works you read/watch to take?

A: You’re comparing apples and buffalo.

The West is not Japan and where we tend to use literature to work things out, they tend to use literature to act out things that cannot be and are not discussed in public. Where we highly politicize LGBT life, in Japan they tend to keep it private – in part because of the doctrine of public vs private life.

And most important, the west is still highly individualistic where the east is largely still focused on the needs of the many over the needs of the one. Parading your sexuality around is 1) No one’s business; 2) Going to make your family suffer embarrassment and 3) No one’s business.

Basically, you can’t compare two radically different things.

I’ve read Japanese works that are about “being” lesbian and coming out (Real Bian is a manga currently being serialized on the internet on that topic,) and tons of lesbian lit in English that’s not about coming out, so perhaps you could read the “Books to Watch Out For” newsletter or read the book reviews in a few LGBT publications and pick some other fiction books to read.

I don’t prefer anything, I take things as they are. What I *like* is stories about women who are gay and know it and past the whole awkward coming out thing and stuff that happens to them that’s good fiction. Like Shoujoai ni Bouken.

Q: Oh, and if it’s okay to ask another question (and if “Have you heard of–” questions are allowed), have you read the manga Horou Musuko? It’s not Yuri, but it’s about two transgendered children, and I’ve always wondered what your opinion of it would be.

A: Haven’t read it. While gender issues and gender switching do occasionally come up here
on Okazu, it’s not really something that’s a hook for me at all. I’m told it’s quite good by people who have read it.

Q: What are your thoughts in general on all this anti-lesbian/anti-Yuri stuff coming out through the woodwork a lot recently, especially by males? Do you expect this crappy trend to continue? As a side: Have you encountered any anti-yaoi/anti-gay stuff by women or is this just another wonderful example of society’s double standards?

A: My thoughts are, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. If you are referring to Maria-holic and the like, my answer is, you gotta expect that when *anything* gets popular, there’s a backlash. I haven’t seen enough to call it a “trend” so I guess my other opinion is that you should ignore what annoys you and focus on good stuff instead.

Since I read very little Yaoi/BL, I can’t possibly pretend to know much about any backlash there, but I can say I know human nature and my guess is sure, someone probably wrote something anti-BL and someone probably printed it somewhere. Shoujo and josei manga are full of poking fun at BL, so probably they aren’t taking it so seriously.

Q: Don’t you think there is a lack of originality in Yuri? It’s filled with school settings and lesbian students. It was good in the beginning, but it gets boring. The last Yuri anime I’ve watched that blew me away was Mnemosyne. I wish that there were more titles out of the all-girl school thing.

Could you name some?

A: No, I don’t think there’s a lack of originilaity in Yuri. I believe that way more than 90% of writing is crap and there’s basically a lack of originality in everything, which frees me up to enjoy things for what they are. Check back through my archives for the words “about adult women” for series that fit the bill for you. Have fun!

Q: And now for something completely different…
Yuri manga provides a window into portrayals of lesbian relationships in the popular culture of Japan. Although similarities between stories in Japan and the US allow for cross-over appeal, cultural differences can affect what stories are told and how they are told. For example, LGBT adolescent stories in the US often spend a great deal of time on “coming out” to oneself while in the Yuri manga more emphasis is on the relationship “coming out”. This difference fits within the social-psychological theories of cultural differences in individualism (self as seen as autonomous) vs. collectivism (self as seen as inherently tied to close others). An emphasis in coming out to oneself makes sense in a culture that views individuals as autonomous while a focus on outing one’s relationships makes more sense in a culture where the emphasis is on the self in relation to others.

Do you feel that much (or very little) of the Yuri story is lost once translated into English? Have you or your colleagues noted common misunderstandings among Americans about Yuri manga stories?

A: Nope.

Look, I get that academics think academically about things, but this is *entertainment.* Normal humans read comics and watch anime to be entertained, not to parse portrayals of a subculture vs the large cultural perspective, except – maybe – on an instinctive level. I.e., a lesbian may be looking for a good rollicking lesbian yarn and might potentially think “I like books with strong lesbian leads,” but is unlikely to think, “I’m looking for a positive media representation that mirrors my own beliefs and experience so that I can feel represented in popular media.” The latter may be true – and is exactly the reason why sites like Afterellen.com exist – but it’s not how people think. ;-)

Translations are, as I have said about a gazillion times, really personal. One translator “gets” things differently than another. Some companies have, in the past, translated the word Yuri as “girl-on-girl” but that has nothing at all to do with the portrayal of lesbians or misunderstandings about Yuri, it has to do with the fact that most American anime and manga companies are staffed by fans (often Fanboys) and not every fan is sophisticated, worldly, well-read or socially ept, even if they are the editor-in-chief of a publishing company.

To be honest, my colleagues and I don’t have conversations like this. My colleagues in publishing tend to talk about relationships with mangaka, or the trials and tribulations of distribution. Sometimes we talk about food.

My “colleagues” in Yuri equal pretty much Erin S., and while we might potentially have this discussion, we haven’t, yet. :-) Not generally, anyway, although we have mentioned egregious mistranslations to one another over the years.

And, above all else, there hasn’t been a whole lot of Yuri translated officially. To be honest, I don’t think much is lost overall in our work at ALC – we work *really* hard to make sure it’s not. I know the translations for Hayate x Blade have had a lot of thought put into them. I can’t think of too many other Yuri manga that are so complex as to have anything to misunderstand, except for the word “Yuri” itself.

Q: If Shoujoai ni Bouken could be adapted into an anime, what would the list of voice
actresses look like?

A: Yuriko would be played by Ogata Megumi, and Mariko woould be played by Hisakawa Aya and I don’t care about the rest. :-)

Q: What are some of the worst translations you’ve ever had to suffer through, be it from a book or movie? Did they contain sentences that were unintentionally hilarious, and if so, do you have any funny quotes of those to share?

A: The Lucky Star manga, Volumes 1 and 2 from Bandai. I think I shared some quotes in my review of Volume 1. And one of the best bad translations ever is the one done for the movie Naked Killer. One of the final lines of that movie is etched into my brain eternally. “I still have time to take the gastric lavage.” She didn’t.

Q: From a market standpoint, wouldn’t one of the best way to jump start the Yuri manga market is for companies to license racier Yuri manga titles. That way while the readers will get their smut, they’ll also get some semblance of a Yuri story.

A: Actually, from a market standpoint that would be the absolutely WORST way to promote it.

1) Porn is incredibly hard to distribute – bookstores won’t touch it. Graphic novels are harder to market at all, and less likely to slip past the kinds of people who like to be outraged about things than something in print, because a picture of two people having sex is obviously what it is.

2) The people who most want that, i.e. young men, are statistically the group least likely to buy it.

3) It’s mostly crap and it’s already hard to find good Yuri. Why waste money publishing crap?

Q: If they made a sequel for Burst Angel, how likely would it be that Sei-who-is-not-named-Beth would contract scarlet fever taking care of a poor German family? Or would it be more likely that she contracts TB?

As a follow up, have you read Geraldine Brooks’ book, March?

A: Sei-who-is-not-named-Beth, would come down with a cancer of the brain developed when
she took care of a family on a tanker her Triad owned that had corrupted Venusian minerals on it. But Emi would have downloaded a copy of her brain into a backup cybernetic brain and after the painful parting scene where Meg cries and Jo walks away and punches a wall in her frustration at not being able to save her, Sei-who-is-not-named-Beth would be okay again.

And no, not only have I never read the sequel, I have not read the original Little Women because, as a child, I found it rather boring and gave up. I was very much a tomboy and preferred stories of cowboys and military battles to slice-of-life about girls who played with dolls and died of scarlet fever.

Q: I know that you’ve been there a few times, so is there any item from Japan that you cannot buy online that you miss?

A: Doujinshi. Buying that online requires I use a buyer. I prefer to buy directly at events. It’s not the same experience. It’s also much more expensive to buy online.

Q: In an all out battle of Xena versus Sailor Uranus, how do you think it would go?

As a follow up, would anything change if both of their partners (Gabrielle vs. Sailor Neptune) joined as well? And of course I mean end of the series kickass Gabrielle and not silly farm girl Gabrielle.

A: Wow, flashback to my rec.martial-arts days, when So-and-so vs. Whosits conversations ruled the Intertubes. ^_^

Gabrielle is an ass fighter, and she sucked with her sai, so Michiru would wipe the floor with her – also distance weapon vs close up. Gabrielle wouldn’t have a chance. Xena would win, assuming she could avoid the first “World Shaking,” because she didn’t mind inflicting pain on people, while Haruka never really did more than punch Makoto in close-up fighting.

Q: Do you think that there will ever be a time in the future that books made of paper will cease to be printed?

A: Yes. And sooner rather than later.

Q: Do you have any new predictions for Yuri with the popularity of series like Sasameki Koto and Aoi Hana?

A: Yes, it will fade in popularity for a year, then return again, then fade out, the come back again. ^_^

Q: Do you think a better communication line between Yuri mangaka and their foreign audience would create a better Yuri community? (i.e. maybe inspire more fans to cash in and support their authors?)

A: I think that the authors are already out there and totally accessible *right now.* The size of the overseas market is vastly overestimated by overseas fans, so if they want to talk to their favorite mangaka, if they make even a teeny effort to learn basic Japanese, they will find the mangaka to be appreciative, friendly and accepting.

It’s a Japanese media, by Japanese artists…it’s not fair or sensible to expect them to learn your language so you can say “hi” on Twitter.

***

And there you have it. My opinion on…stuff. Thanks again for all the questions!

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9 Responses

  1. Phew. Now that was an informative read. Thank you for your time in answering my question!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think that Fujieda Miyabi is proof that gender truly doesn’t matter when writing a good Yuri story.

    Thank you for the read; it was quite informative.

  3. JRB says:

    “Porn is incredibly hard to distribute – bookstores won’t touch it.”

    I’ve got to say, Borders is putting any damn yaoi they think will sell out on the shelf, porn or no porn. My theory is that as long as the cover looks respectable, they don’t care. Although maybe they just don’t know what’s in there.

  4. Ed Sizemore says:

    I think you did a great job answering my question. I need to read Hayate x Blade.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @ JRB

    Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering too. Even I noticed a bunch of boys’ love titles in bookstores (mainly Borders) that are even shrink-wrapped obviously because they have mature content. Whatever connections those yaoi publishers used to get their product onto the shelves, couldn’t the publishers use similar connections and tactics to put some of the smuttier Yuri titles onto shelves (assuming they licensed it)?

  6. @JRB @Anonymous – You’re missing the most important parts of my answer and one that I have beaten half to death, so I’m not sure why people don’t get this:

    THERE AREN’T THAT MANY PEOPLE WHO **BUY** YURI.

    **Popularity of scanlations does not translate into good sales.**

    Here’s an idea – if you guys think it’s a great idea, go ahead, try to make money printing smutty Yuri, instead of asking companies to do it for you. Have fun. let me know how it goes for you.

    Or, here’s my answer in smaller words, since the more complex one failed to make an impression:

    No. It’s not a good idea, it’s a STUPID idea.

    Can we move on now?

  7. JRB says:

    Erica:

    I’m not saying anything about the economic feasability of publishing Yuri. I’m just pointing out that having explicit sexual content isn’t an insurmountable problem in getting manga into bookstores, or at least it hasn’t been for yaoi and Aurora’s LuvLuv line of smutty josei (which sold poorly and was cancelled, but still shows up in Borders).

    Your post said “Porn is incredibly hard to distribute – bookstores won’t touch it.” That was all I was responding to.

  8. @JRB – I understand what you’re responding to, and I believe you are misunderstanding what you see.

    Yes, the occasional BL title that is shrink-wrapped ends up on a chain bookstore shelf. Maybe even a whole dozen or so do. This does not represent the simplicity with which adult titles can get into a chain book store.

    If your local store has a lot of BL what you are seeing is the after-effect of lots of pre-orders, because bookstores only stock what they know will sell, and other, related factors. Individual bookstore managers can make a different in their store, as well.

  9. Frea says:

    Thank you for your entertaining and educating answers. As for enraging, hmm.. maybe enragingly hilarious? Hilariously enraging? Well, anyway, thank you.

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