Now This is Only My Opinion, Big 10th Edition!

November 27th, 2011

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relationship one-shot from a Yuri anthology in which their linguistic (and presumably cultural) differences were superseded by their love.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.

First, take a look at local colleges or adult school programs and see if they have a class you can take. Spend some time memorizing the hiragana and katakana syllabaries.

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. ^_^

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8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    “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…”

    The nitpicker in me now goes “what about the Ainu, who are an indigenous minority in Japan instead of an immigrant one, is there any manga with Ainu characters?”

    “…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*…”

    There’s also the non-Yuri The Embalmer by Mihara Mitsukazu. The man character goes to embalming school in Pittsburgh and his professor Tina Wildberry is African-American with hair that’s either texturized or naturally that curly (hairstyle #5 at http://digitalfemme.com/journal/index.php?itemid=365 ). She is shown as hot, smart, and marriage material.

    “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?”

    Hear, hear! :D I bet it also applies to spreading love of any genre and applies to friends who are not straight too.

    One more way to spread the love of a genre of book, video, etc. is to recommend that your library buy a copy. Don’t annoy the librarians about this either; use whatever method your library offers (does it have a web page form? an email address to sending suggestions? a paper form to fill out when you go there?). This way, more people will have a chance to see the titles when they browse and decide whether or not to check it out for themselves instead of never knowing about it in the first place. :D

  2. I have not read every single series ever published, so all I can say is that I don’t know of any series that deal with Ainu, other than a few fantasy series in which the Ainu are represented by other tribes.

    As for libraries – I’m been pushing that for years. I donate all my English language books, with a few exceptions, to the local library, and encourage others to do so, as well.

  3. @Anonymous – I appreciate you digging up an illegal download site, but we do not support that kind of thing on Okazu. I’m glad you answered your own question, and I’be be glad to post the title of the series, without the link to a site that distributes manga it has no right to distribute.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “we do not support that kind of thing on Okazu.”

    Of course! :) That’s why I never expected you to post it publicly here.

    “I’be be glad to post the title of the series, without the link”

    OK!

    Someone said:

    “I’m looking for any manga that involves groups that are considered minority in Japan. Preferably “indigenous” ones (not some exotic American that just moved into the country). Aside from above i suppose Chinese go into the same group, but i’m Ok with Taillessness, Vietnamese people and the rest of Eastern Asia that is close to Japan (eee… Russian included ).”

    other people answered:

    “Chidaruma Kenpou Onorera ni Tsugu
    Kamui Den If I recall, Kamui lives in a Ainu village.”

    and

    “well, i remember that in Shaman King horohoro, one of the major character, is an Ainu (or at least i think that’s what he was, an indigenous people of hokkaodo).”

    and

    “Needles and Oranges”

    and

    “Ainu and Ryuukyuu are going to be pretty understated- we have plenty of manga set in Okinawa, so I guess there’s some Ryuukyuu culture involved, but generally both have been pretty hybridized… they’re started groups clammoring for restoration of certain traditions for the sake of keeping culture alive, but generally I think those are going to be too recent to appear in manga yet, and it’s unlikely that there would be many scanlated that deal with actual culture, rather than just supplementing a few stereotypes in order to avoid having to give a side character much development.

    “If we’re just looking at ethnic lines, then aside from the previously mentioned three, only Brazilians and Chinese have terribly significant population numbers. However, if you look at the other minorities- the social victims, Burakumin, Hibakusha (atomic bomb victims), etc, then there are a few more options.

    “I can’t really think of any manga involving Burakumin (it probably would get shot down long before a chance at publication), but I suppose Yuunagi no Machi, Sakura no Kuni does deal with hibakusha.

    “For what it’s worth, it might also be worth reading Grotesque, by Natsuo Kirino. There are some applicable sections concerning Chinese and half-Japanese…Plenty of stuff for Hibakusha as well, and there are a few foreign characters in a number of Japanese novels, but I don’t want to shove too many textual sources down your throat, and I can’t think of any centered on Ryuukyuu or Ainu anyway.”

    and

    “Now then… as far as actual suggestions are concerned. There’s a short story by Murakami, using him as a launching point, called “A Slow Boat to China,” which is in whichever the earliest of his English collections is. It’s a little personal (it’s about the protagonist’s image of China, rather than Chinese in Japanese society), but it talks about the presence of Chinese in Japan. Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids has a Korean in it, though it’s WWII Japan, it has contemporary relevance. It’s particular relevant that’s he’s an outsider here, I think.

    “I’m positive there are a number more, but I’m blanking at the moment…. I’ll come back later. Generally I think I’d recommend text over manga for this particular task. Manga is a highly commercialized market, and doesn’t really have the old blood elitist literati backing up its “purity” in the same way you see with text, so it tends to be less intellectual. I can dig up academic papers and that sort of thing if you want too, or at least drop some names of authors of nonfiction for you to look into. If it’s something you’re generally interested in, there’s quite a lot to absorb.”

    and

    “Ainu:
    Yuusha Dan
    Samurai Spirits
    Yuki no Taiyou

    “Chinese:
    Tetsudou In, Love Letter
    Cardcaptor Sakura”

  5. A response to a question involving “Russian included”. Manga, now to be anime, called Brave 10 includes a Russian ninja (just how cool is that), to be voiced by Yuu Asakawa (double the coolness).

    And a new question, to Erica. The mentioning of “American otaku girl” as a “new minority” is rather interesting. I’d appreciate names of series where this happens.

  6. @Mikhail – Off the very top of my coffee-deprived head, I am thinking of “Kimono Nadesico” from Yuri Hime, (which very clearly had its roots in a Noriko/Shimako fan comic.

    There was another one, perhaps a MangaTime Kirara (or one of the 4700 derivative Mangatime magazines) that also did, but my brain cannot recall the title at the moment.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “As for libraries – I’m been pushing that for years. I donate all my English language books, with a few exceptions, to the local library, and encourage others to do so, as well.”

    How about the Japanese-language books you don’t want to keep? Do you donate those to the Japanese-language collections of a state or university library? :)

  8. @Anonymous – None of the local university or state libraries here accept donations private donations, and none have a Japanese language collection. I donate some of the Japanese language books to the library for their free book rack, since the local library also does not have a Japanese language collection. I’m told that a few books have been kept for the shelves, though. I run contests to give readers of Okazu books and from time to time I sell them at Book-Off.

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