From time to time, I open up a Q&A here on Okazu to address random questions about life, love and Yuri. It’s been a while since we did the last one, but this will be our 10th edition of this, so let’s all eat some cake as we reflect on the deep questions you are asking. ^_^
I am always interested in the questions I’m asked – especially when there is no one simple answer for the question. As always I’m giving it my best shot, and welcome other opinions and perspectives in the comments.
In any case, here we go for the 10th edition of Now This is Only My Opinion!
Q: How are minority characters treated in Yuri?
A: Not surprisingly, this is an incredibly complex question, because Yuri is unlikely to be different than manga as a whole in this regard.
Treatments of foreigners in manga and anime as a whole tend to be very stereotypical, although there will always be exceptions to the rule. What I’m seeing more and more in Yuri manga specifically, is the addition of the “American otaku girl” as a minority. But I have no doubt that’s not what you meant. I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with minority characters in Yuri. Anthy from Utena, of course, fares no worse than anyone in the series and, by my interpretation a damn sight better than most. Chinese characters are rarely treated well in manga in general, although I recall a Chinese/Japanese relationship one-shot from a Yuri anthology in which their linguistic (and presumably cultural) differences were superseded by their love. I can’t think of any stories with a Korean character, so if any of you do, please let me know. There have been a few Yuri stories here and there with a woman with dark skin, perhaps stereotypical African features, but I can’t think of any where that is a *thing*. And there are always stories where Japanese girl goes to some unnamed southern tropical island and falls in love with some unnamed dark-skinned beauty. In those cases, the women are merely a fantasy role, although in one case I can think of she at least is given a personality.
As I say, it’s a very hard question. There are some Yuri series which feed into typical stereotypes and others that don’t. What we can say is minority characters have yet to become a typical part of the Yuri manga landscape outside something like Battle Athletes, which played quite openly with stereotypes.
Because Japan is so much more homogeneous than the US, even Tokyo as compared with, say, New York, there’s less minority presence. This is reflected in every form of entertainment, so it’s not that surprising to see it in manga.
Q: I don’t read much Yuri, and in part it’s because of my impression that Yuri characters tend, overall, to be very stereotypically feminine. By contrast, BL is, as a genre, highly invested in gender nonconformity, and even general shoujo has a fair amount of genderbending. Do you agree that Yuri characters are more hyperfeminine, and if so, do you think it’s because of the influence of male readers/writers?
A: No, I absolutely don’t agree. I going to guess that you’re just familiar with one kind of anime or manga.
For one thing, our earliest role models in Yuri were the exact opposite – women who were portrayed as being specifically masculine or with masculine skills/roles in shoujo series. Prince Sapphire of Princess Knight, Haruka/Sailor Uranus from Sailor Moon, Arisugawa Juri and Tenjou Utena from Utena, even Satou Sei in Maria-sama ga Miteru, who is compared with a Takarazuka otokoyaku, an actress that takes on a male role.
I talk about the two main tropes of Yuri in my two essays on Hooded Utilitarian. I strongly suggest you read the second one, about the Girl Prince.
Yuri did not start to show up in seinen and shounen manga until most of the main tropes had already been established by shoujo manga (again, I discuss this in my essay about the tropes of Yuri on Hooded Utilitarian.) Once those tropes did become part of the seinen/shounen landscape, of course they wanted their lesbians drawn sexy. Because the audience was primarily male, they embraced a trope of the pervy lipstick lesbian, who does things to other girls that the audience wishes they had the balls to do. But this is a very, very late interpretation and is found in far, far fewer series than the much more common cool, slightly masculine lesbian character.
What you’re doing is seeing something in the series you’ve read and watched and generalizing it to the whole genre. But as you say, you haven’t read or watched much, so you just haven’t seen anything that contradicts your experience. ^_^ Watch Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Q: Why do you occasionally use the word ‘space’ so much; and in odd (but not incorrect) places?
A: What an interesting question! I guess I’d call it a verbal tic.
Q: While I was in one of my dictionaries yesterday, I happened by the page listing Japanese government bureaus. I returned there for a second look, because I was sure my glance had misread one of them. Sure enough, I was wrong, there is no “Cabinet Lesbian Bureau.” It is the much more prosaic and boring “Cabinet Legislation Bureau.” It did give me a laugh and make me wonder if my Freudian slip is showing.
So, my question for you: if Japan were to have a cabinet level “Lesbian Bureau,” what should it’s charter be and who would you wish its members were (real or fictional)?
A: I’ll be honest, I never have any thought that I wish a fictitious character was somehow real, so that limits me to a much smaller pool of candidates.
In fact, the only person I could unequivocally say should be there is Osaka Assemblywoman and out lesbian politician, Otsuji Kanako. The charter would be to provide equal opportunities for lesbian representation in local, regional and national government.
Q: What is the best way to spread Yuri-love (more precisely, love of reading Yuri works) to straight friends?
A: We’ve dealt with this question here before. You can’t and no one likes a friend who proselytizes. IF, and only if, you can think of a series that your friend would genuinely enjoy for other reasons, then introduce them to a series that fits those criteria. Otherwise you’re just being a pain. I mean really, would you want them to proselytize mecha to you when you don’t like mecha?
Q: Could you go through all the components of the Six Degrees of Yuri? I’ve read it somewhere before, but have been unable to find it again for precise quoting when telling people about it =D.
A: Six Degrees of Yuri is a riff on the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. In short, it’s the utter lack of coincidence that you’ll see the same voice actors and actresses over and over again in series with lesbian themes or characters.
Q: What is the best present for one lesbian to give to another?
A: Whatever would make the other one happiest.
Q: What’s one interesting item you have on your Bucket List?
A: I only have two things left on my Bucket List, in fact. Of them, one is to see the Palace at Knossos, Crete.
Q: Short of actually going to Japan, what do you think is the best way to learn Japanese both in terms of effectiveness and cost considerations?
A: Another entirely complex question. The problem here is that people learn differently, and what will work for one person may simply not for another.
If there are no classes available, there are a lot of beginner’s exercises online you can work with.
Effectiveness is going to entirely depend on you and how you learn. Language tapes might work great for you, or they may not, so there’s no one way I can suggest that is sure to be a winner for you.
Q: Is Japan the only country in Asia where domestic authors of lesbian themed works are regularly published? Is there anything like Yuri manga and anime in South Korea, China, etc.?
A: Honestly, I have no idea. I’m putting this question up so hopefully my readers can answer it for us. I’d also like to know.
Q: What are your ground rules for having a public blog and protecting your privacy?
A: The main ground rule is that when one decides to go online, one should not be delusional about the concept of “privacy.” There isn’t any privacy anymore, whether a person decides to be in the public eye or just has a Facebook page. (For instance, once a year there is a scare about zOMG, your name address phone # is available on XYZ site! But all that is public info and it is and always has been available, whether you like it or not.)
My biggest concerns are not privacy, as such, but safety. I do draw the line at tolerating threats of or implications of physical violence. When I receive those, I take measures.
And, while I let my readers into my thoughts and feelings, you do not have full access to all areas of my life, of course. ^_^
Q: How would you start an anime/manga club specifically for adults, not just the typical high school and college age fans? How would you go about advertising it, what kind of venue should it be held at, should it be more of a discussion group vs marathon viewing, and what steps would you use to go about keeping the group going and growing?
A: That’s a great question and I have no definitive answer for you. Years ago, when there was a local video store with a fair selection of anime I toyed with the idea of creating fliers and advertising such a group there.
Now, it’d be that much harder, with digital distribution.
Here’s a suggestion – try your local library. Offer to show anime that anyone might like. My library shows up to PG-13 anime. You might get some kids, but there also might be adults who come. You could also go for stealth advertising and stuff fliers in adult-oriented manga that has anime (say Planetes) with contact info…but librarians usually notice that kind of thing. ^_^
As for going and growing…group dynamics will affect this, and the venue and the age/level of maturation of the members. Groups always grow, get settled, go through cramps, die. It’s nothing personal when people drop out, it just means you always have to be growing the group and time and place affect that.
Q: Ok, just a question, since it has been a topic of conversations, albeit not so much a heated debate as an occasional statement by given sides, what is your opinion of “futanari” is it/are they in your eyes Yuri, Yaoi, Str8, or something else…?
A: I’ve talked about this way back in 2004. I think of futanari as having two separate approaches to the topic; women with penises, and men with breasts. Women with penis series like Stainless Night are, IMHO, Yuri. A man with breasts series, like Chimera or Purple *might* have some Yuri, but are not in and of themselves Yuri. The audience in Japan is mostly straight adult males.
Q: What is your opinion of the trend of taking old myths or legends that had male characters as the central protagonists and creating stories around gender reversed versions of them?
A: Generally, I like reworking of myths. In fact, that is one of my primary hooks in having been captivated by anime and manga. Gender reversal is rarely something I care about and, as I am very female-centric in my interests, I don’t know that I’d specifically watch or not watch a series that starred male characters in a typically female role. I’m otaku, not fujoshi, and prefer the girls to the guys.
I usually have no idea what I’d watch or not until I have an opportunity to do so. Yes, I have watched Ikkitousen, and Kohime Musou. If it were the other way around, say a BL version of Orihime and Hikoboshi, it would depend on other factors in combination with the story to determine whether I’d watch it. (Thinking about it though…that would be a pretty cool story idea and I probably *would* watch it! ^_^)
Thanks again to all of you who wrote in with questions! I see I’m going to have to get smarter to keep up with you all. ^_^