Yuri Manga: KuroYome (くろよめ)

October 10th, 2011

It is said that behind every successful man is a woman. The saying represents the sacrifices women have made to support their husbands in their work – sometimes curtailing their own careers, or putting in long hours of caretaking, for no money and no credit.

Kuroyome (くろよめ) by Kazuto Izumi proposes the idea that for women to truly be successful, they too need a helpmeet and caretaker…in other words, a wife.

On the one hand this idea makes my teeth grind, and on the other it makes my teeth grind.

The stories in this volume are mean to be cute and sweet, about a high-powered business woman who finds comfort and care in the capable hands of an adorable and adoring wife for rent…and then treats them like crap and drives them out until they realize that they are helpless when it comes to doing the least little thing to take care of themselves and run back to their “wife,” beg forgiveness and ask to be taken back.  *If* these high-powered women were high-powered men, there’s a good chance we’d say, “Don’t do it! He’s a selfish asshole!” But because they are women, we’re supposed to smile and nod and be happy for them.

Yome, Komomo – Don’t do it, run, she’s an asshole!

The stories are not stabbingly awful, but as each hinges on a crisis created because the high-powered businesswoman is an asshole to the wife I just can’t like it. Yome and Komomo are competent women and I want them to find someone who appreciates them, not just for the dinners they make.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 6 (I imagine this appealed greatly to the otaku crowd, see below)
Characters – were 4 and were 8 and sometimes both at the same time
Yuri – 7
Service – 10 – Otaku have very conservative ideas about gender roles and marriage. It would make sense to most of them that a “wife” is, because *she is a wife,* submissive and supportive. Clearly, these gentlemen did not grow up in my household.

Overall – 6

Real feminists train their sons to make their own goddamn beds. Just sayin’

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23 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    The moe child-bride aspect of this is also creepy.

  2. tomo says:

    I hate the stereotyping that working women can’t do any sort of housework well.

  3. BruceMcF says:

    Do Japanese salarymen still work the stereotypical absurdly long office days? I’d be surprised if an individual salaryman or salarywomen working the stereotypical massive unpaid overtime to show how enthusiastic they are could do housework very well, just due to the time deficit.

    But incompetent at housework makes it a personal quirk why the salarywomen needs a home helpmeet, rather than an insane aspect of an organizational culture.

  4. There’s an inherent fallacy in your use of the hours issue. Yes, office hours are long at Japanese companies, and after hour obligations stressful. But not just for salarymen – careerwomen are asked to do long work hours AND take care of male counterparts at after hour obligations AND come home and cook and clean AND raise the kids…while their husbands are working long hours and having female colleagues pour their beer and hostesses serving them at after hour clubs.

    This is very much an issue of expected gender roles.

    As Anon pointed out, quite rightly, Komomo and Yome are both presented as child brides, cute, sweet, innocent, no discernible skills other than homemaking (until it turns out Komomo can write, proofread and edit too, which the author is perfectly glad to use without credit.)

  5. @tomo Me too. I hate any presentation of a human who can’t take out garbage and straighten their desk, for pity’s sake. I can understand no being able to cook, but *cleaning* is pretty simple and takes no special skills to at least keep empty food cartons out of a room.

  6. Kasia B.W. says:

    Months have passed and I still find your “LoserFanBoy” category awfully offensive.

    Why won’t you change it to “LoserFanGirl” every second review? Or better, put them both at the same tme? Now, you’re just associating a lot of negative features with one particular gender and the fact that it isn’t the gender that I represent doesn’t help. Yes, I am what you call “LoserFanBoy” to a certain extent and I might be a loser but… a boy? There’s no need to dissect my likings into “boy” and “girl” parts and thus, is there? So, please, consider this.

    That said, Polish manga publisher “Waneko” is preparing a release of Yuri manga. We don’t know the title yet, I’ll let you know if any details show up.

  7. @Kasia B.W. – I do use Loser FanGirl (and Loser FanBeing and Loser FanErica, among others) where they are relavant.

    Loser FanBoy is what the word “otaku” means to the average Japanese person, i.e., creepy guy who likes buying female figurines so he can look at the underwear. The LFB rating specifically measures the salacious fetishtry with which a series drools over the female characters, especially their secondary sexual characteristics.

    Loser FanGirl is my equivalent to the word “fujyoshi” (i.e., “rotten woman” and that would measure the squeeing of female fans over certain character characteristics.

    Otaku and Fujyoshi are common, understood terms in Japanese fandom. They are obviously terms of malice that have been “reclaimed” by those they oppress and used with pride.

    While I appreciate your perspective, I’m perfectly comfortable with using LFB and LFG as English language equivalents and don’t plan on changing my scoring headers.

  8. Kasia B.W. says:

    You said that these terms are not only understood, but also used with pride by Japanese fandom. I say English-speaking fandom also knows and uses them. But look: while the “fujyoshi” is not gender-neutral, “otaku” is. You disposed of this gender neutrality, kept the malice and thus created unfounded English term. I can’t imagine calling myself “LoserFanBoy”, but I might call myself “otaku”. So why force an English equivalent when it’s not possible to create one, why cause misunderstandings and repel potential readers when it can be easily avoided?

  9. @Kaisa B.W. “Otaku” is indeed understood in Japan to refer to men, primarily because the creepy fan stereotype is mostly men.

    As I said, while I understand your perspective, I am comfortable with my equivalents and do not intend to change them.

  10. Kasia B.W. says:

    You say it is understood to refer to men, because of the stereotype, I say (Japanese) society is generally smarter than that. Bad sterotypes exist, but we can make world better by not re-enacting them.

    That’s something I seriously believe in and realize in my daily life. And hey, I care enough to write about that and I’m thankful for the responses.

  11. @Kaisha B.W. I respect that you’re doing your part to change the world. The moment Japanese gashopon (vending machine) figurines aren’t made specifically so you *must* look at the girls’ underwear in order to put them together, I will consider changing my headers.

  12. BruceMcF says:

    I can’t find the fallacy.

    “careerwomen are asked to do long work hours AND take care of male counterparts at after hour obligations AND come home and cook and clean AND raise the kids…while their husbands are working long hours and having female colleagues pour their beer and hostesses serving them at after hour clubs.”

    That seems to me to reinforce and deepen rather than contradict my surface impression of this as a fantasy resting on convenient cute distractions from the reality.

  13. What I was responding to was your question’s wording regarding 1) salarymen and the incorrect expectation that a working woman would somehow be free of the requirement of housework. For most woman in the wolrd (not in Japan, here in the US, and everywhere else) the expectation is that housework and child-rearing are the things she *should* be doing and anything else is extra. So a salaryman would not be expected to keep a clean house, but a careerwoman would.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “They are obviously terms of malice that have been ‘reclaimed’ by those they oppress”

    Oppressed?

    In an interaction such as

    “the 3D girls in our anime club have saggy tits, I wanna stay home with my Lolita Complex instead”
    “he left our club because he hates me for growing breasts, what an otaku”
    [time passes and word gets around]
    “…If that fat bitch called me an otaku, I’m proud to call myself an otaku!”

    which of these two anime fans is the oppressed one?

  15. @Anonymous – Congrats on finding something (else) to poke at in this review.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Aw, I just found something to comment about in a comment. I found nothign to poke at in your review because you make so many good points! :)

  17. @Anonymous – Fair enough.

    Opression is in the eye of the opressed.

    I’m going to skip your hypothetical situations and say that for many nerds, geeks and dorks, oppression comes in several forms – being made fun of in school to a varying degree and the sense of isolation felt when no one around us understands or cares.

    In some cases this is mild, in some it can be outright abusive, as I’m sure you must realize.

    You might think that no one is, say, actively presenting legal action against being a manga geek, but take a look at the recent case of Christopher Handley, Brandon X or Bill 156 and you will realize that in many cases being a nerd is enough to make one a target for institutional oppression. Yes, I was using the term loosely. No, I was not making it up out of whole cloth.

  18. BruceMcF says:

    “What I was responding to was your question’s wording regarding 1) salarymen and the incorrect expectation that a working woman would somehow be free of the requirement of housework”

    In the real world, a time deficit for careerwomen at least a great as for salarymen does not imply equally generous social accommodation of that time deficit. As you detail, its not “at least a great” so much as “substantially greater”, and yet the social accommodation is substantially less.

    However, I had understood from the review that in the fantasy version of Japan under discussion, these careerwomen are freed of the requirement of housework that real careerwomen face by virtue of having their cute little helpmeets.

    I’m referring to “until they realize that they are helpless when it comes to doing the least little thing to take care of themselves” as a pat plot device that tidily avoids observing the absurdity of the real world demands.

    And, yes, I had understated the magnitude of the absurdity that is being avoided.

  19. @Bruce_McF – Yes, the fantasy element in this volume is quite strong. ^_^

  20. Anonymous says:

    “for many nerds, geeks and dorks, oppression comes in several forms – being made fun of in school to a varying degree and the sense of isolation felt when no one around us understands or cares.”

    In some cases, that’s bullying and oppressive behavior, I agree.

    In some other cases, that’s a *response* to bullying and oppressive behavior. When someone else rejects you first and “isolates” you instead of welcoming you into his or her social life first, why *not* shun him or her *in return*?

    I’m not sexist for still disliking racism even when it comes from a racist who’s a woman, I’m not racist for still disliking sexism even when it comes from a sexist who’s not white, and I’m not a bully when I still dislike homophobia even when it comes from someone who prefers Japanese cartoons to American football. :)

    “in some it can be outright abusive, as I’m sure you must realize”

    Of course! For examples, the sexual harassment and racism and homophobia some female and/or neither-white-nor-Japanese and/or non-hetero geeks face from *both* many non-geeks of their societies *and* the male, white or Japanese, and/or heterosexual geeks of their societies.

    In high school I was a geeky girl who expected the geeky boys to at least tolerate me because I believed the hype from adults about how playing a sport or having many friends makes a kid a snob and makes him or her less accepting, and ended up pretty damn lonely as a result. Now, I know better, have more self-respect, give more people a chance, and spend more of my time with people both geeky and non-geeky who actually do and say nice things instead of wasting it on bigots who are supposedly “nice guys” for their hobbies and their lack of social experience.

    “You might think that no one is, say, actively presenting legal action against being a manga geek, but take a look at the recent case of Christopher Handley, Brandon X or Bill 156 and you will realize that in many cases being a nerd is enough to make one a target for institutional oppression.”

    It’s not their nerdiness that got ’em targeted, it’s their pro-rape propaganda. Whether or not “hey look how sexy men and animals raping girls is!!!” and “hey horny teen boys with little sisters, look how sexy raping little sisters is!!!” are free speech messages or not, they’re not pro-manga-geek messages.

  21. @Anonymous – You cannot say with any certainty that it was their “pro-rape propganda” that got them targeted. I have no idea what you think you mean by that, but your response seems very much a “being angry at both sides” type thing.

    You’re blaming Handley for wanting to read comics you think you disapprove of – even though you don’t actually know what he was reading, because that was never released to the public. What was released to the public was that he was being prosecuted for a handful of frames among many hundreds of pages of manga. That sounds like being targeted for his geekiness to me, AND blaming bullies for bullying.

    I don’t know what point you’re making at this point, so I’m bowing out of the conversation.

  22. Anonymous says:

    This whole book was such a sketchy premise to begin with. Aren’t the “wives” for rent just long-term hookers?

    I don’t know…

    About the only thing that I related to was the whole birthday flashback. That would scar any child and did drum up some sympathy. Everything else was a waste of time.

  23. @Anonymous – Not hookers, maids. The “wives” cooked, cleaned and supported their employer in daily duties. There’s no sex (or implication of sex) in the story.

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