Archive for the Now This Is Only My Opinion Category


Thoughts on the Future of Yuri, 2017 Edition

April 30th, 2017

It has been my pleasure and honor to read. watch, write and speak about lesbian-themed Japanese animation and comics for 15 years now. And during that time, I have watched the creators and readers and viewers of Yuri – the “we” and “us” of this blog – promote and support this genre through gestation and into birth. 

I’ve written at length over the years about the history of Yuri. How we got here, from the literary roots of “S” stories of the early 20th century Japan, to mid-century exploration of sexuality and gender by the Year 24 Group.  In addition, in 2013, I wrote a short Yuri Needs List. In the years since that list, we haven’t quite gained any of the elements that I had hoped for, but in some ways we’ve gained something more critical – validity as a genre. Bookstores in America and Japan are starting to recognize Yuri as a genre within the medium of manga, although there is much left yet to do. Publishers are willing to  invest in Yuri because now there is a market for it. 

It is true that publishers (and, often, creators and readers) find it simpler to squeeze a genre into well-established and comfortable tropes. For Yuri, this obviously means stories set in school, where pressures of coming out, living together, political invisibility and lack of social and political clout and rights are simply nonexistent. It’s worth noting that none of the popular Yuri best-sellers available in English this year challenge these tropes. It is also worth noting, as fellow writer and Yuri fan Sean Gaffney (of A Case Suitable for Treatment) noted, that “the default for Yuri manga in NA has become ‘good if predictable’ rather than ‘not awful pandering’.” 

Another thing we’ve accomplished is that , as I write in my essay Yuri – A Genre Without Borders, Yuri has gone global. Anthologies explicitly labeled “Yuri” are commonplace, as tropes, artistic cues and manga style art has traveled past Japan’s borders.

Now, as we move past Yuri’s infancy, it’s worth taking a look at what we want for the future. ^_^ The list this year is short, but intense. I’ll count down in order of urgency.

 

3) More Diversity in Yuri

You may be looking at the header here somewhat quizzically. More diverse? Manga is already a priori works by what in the west are considered people of color, isn’t it? Well, yes, but also no. Because Yuri manga made by Japanese creators are created for and sold to a Japanese audience, it’s no more “diverse” there than primarily white mainstream comics are here in America. It would be nice (but non-critical) to see non-Japanese characters in Yuri. There are foreign lesbians living and working in Japan.

Even more importantly, when I say “diversity, I mean it would be nice to see diversity of lifestyle. We’ve had series published in Japan that discuss being lesbian parents, such as  Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?), and Higashi  Koyuki and Masahara Hiroko’s Futari no Mama kara, Kimi-tachi he (ふたりのママから、きみたちへ), or Fujima Shion’s Yurinin (ゆりにん) but none have been translated.  Alternative families are a thing world-wide and no less inside the lesbian community than outside. It’s time.

And, lastly, I still await a really good Yuri series about older couples. This is inevitable, as the current crop of Yuri artists are going to age…and some of them are going to draw from their experiences dating or being in a relationship as an older lesbian. But I want it now. 

 

2) Lesbians

In the 1920s in Japan, it was a radical act for two girls to decide to live together, rather than submit to family pressure to marry. In the intervening years, Yuri manga still tended to be focused on hothouse environments of school. The underlying assumption was often that, upon graduation, the girls will move into adult life, become wives and mothers and remember this childhood love fondly. The situation is better now than it was, even just a few years back.  After Fumi came out in Aoi Hana in 2011, I assumed we’d see a veritable waterfall of coming out in Yuri, but…so far it remains a trickle. Even in Yuri series running in the one all-Yuri monthly manga magazine. there’s a lot of same-sex like and love without lesbian identity. That said, there is a shift happening. You can see it in manga being published by Yuri artists for themselves in either print or online and in work by the few out lesbian Yuri artists, like Takemiya Jin and Nakamuya Kiyo.  There’s been a visible shift in the past decade as stories about lesbians and by lesbians and for lesbians pull closer to and overlap with Yuri manga, giving Yuri readers a chance to understand the Japanese lesbian community. 

It’s somewhat predictable that, as soon as we do see more lesbians in Yuri, we’re going to have to wade through dozens of “coming out” narratives, in which we are inundated with stories of girls who realize they like that other girl and, by extension, girls. Personally, I’d like to skip right to the part where about half of Yuri manga is just about lesbian lives. Luckily for me, another positive trend is real-life lesbians creating comic essays about their lives, like Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, available in June from Seven Seas. These comic essays tell real-life stories from real Japanese lesbians, which helps with both Japanese lesbian visibility and the melding of Yuri manga and lesbian content. 

There’s a lot of room for good queer content to enrich Yuri manga and vice versa. My fingers are crossed.

 

1) A Sport Series

I am never giving up this dream.

For the last several years, I have made this my highest priority for a very simple reason – sports manga are a perfect environment for sexual tension. This past year in Japan, fans of BL were treated to an incredibly popular anime series called Yuri on Ice! that featured a same-sex romantic relationship in the world of men’s figure skating. I am impatiently awaiting a Yuri Yuri on Ice!.

Yuri has had one-shots and chapters and storylines a-plenty in which any number of captains of Softball, Ping Pong, Tennis, Track clubs fall for their teammates, coaches, co-captains or managers, but we just don’t have a series that digs down and has the blood and guts and oni coaches and heart-rending failures and soaring triumphs we require in a sports manga series. And we’ve had any number of blood and guts and demon coaches and heart-rending failures and soaring triumphs in sports manga series starring women in Japanese, but few of these have ever made into English and none have had that explicit romance we’re looking for. We need a smoking hot Yuri sports rivalry.

Softball, Ping Pong, Tennis, Track are all fine. Rugby would be nice. Or Motocross. That would be lovely

Swimming. Ice skating (although, thanks Yuri on Ice!, you’ve made *that* redundant and derivative for us.)

Martial Arts. Volleyball.  Horse-jumping. Anything. Just give me a damn Yuri sports series already! I will not stop asking for this.

This is my wish for our Yuri Future – a sports love-hate rivalry that burns the pages up for 12 volumes. Is that too much to ask?

For 15 years, I’ve watched this genre take tentative steps forward from stories in which characters left to get married or died, to being “together” and even going so far, these days to saying “I love you” and living together. Sometimes, even, to having a lesbian in the story.

I can hardly imagine what I’ll be asking for 15 years from now…but it had better not still be a sports series.

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Out of the Office, Onto the Streets

January 21st, 2017

Today, we march.

The Women’s March on Washington, and all the Sister Marches in all 50 states and dozens of cities internationally, have issued a comprehensive and progressive political platform and today I invite you all to get out and join your voice to others’, be seen and heard in your city and state.  If you cannot march, you can still be active in support.

Please consider joining a march near you. We need to be seen by the whole world resisting this push towards fascism and the undermining of American democracy by people who do not care whether we, our friends and family, live or die. I’ll see you out on the streets today and back in the office tomorrow.

 

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Art is Resistance – Yuri Manga, Politics and Okazu in 2017

January 1st, 2017


 

 
 
 

 
  

 
 

I’ve been trying to find a way to discuss 2017 here on Okazu without writing a purely political post. Every single time I have attempted to do so, I’ve ended up deleting it. In some cases because I have become too angry at the things I feel have to write. Sometimes I’ve self-censored to not offend people who tune in here for news about comics and manga.

But today I was reminded by Notes From The Resistance that language is – and always has been – a weapon. And likewise, comics have always been political acts, acts of rebellion and protest and defiance and propaganda. And LGBTQ comics have, likewise, always been the voice of people largely silenced by mainstream media.

I’ve made a few promises to myself in the last month. I’ve committed to working only on and with genuinely diverse books and publishers. I’ve committed to listening to and speaking with voices I haven’t formerly opened up to. 

I re-read this post on defending democracy about twice a week and hope you will too. Unfortunately for all of us, the checks and balances we presumed we had in the government are gone and a liberal democracy has no real defense against that.

So what does this have to do with Yuri manga? I’ll be doing a talk – my first of several – in January 2017, on the way fans pushed for and created spaces for LGBTQ stories in manga. When I return home I am joining a march to protest the inauguration of a patsy for a foreign government as President of the United States, a man who has hand-picked a Cabinet that will dismantle the last 150 years of American progress…and I encourage you to protest, as well. There are marches all over the US being planned. If you care at all about anyone who is a non-white, non-Christian, non-male, you will make your voice heard that this is not acceptable.

Despite the pressure by straight men to keep Yuri manga in a space of fetishized infantilism, Yuri manga is and always has been, stories of women in love with other women. Yuri manga is lesbian. Yuri manga is our story. I commit to continuing to speak for and about women who love other women, to demand Yuri from creators and publishers that represent the stories of women who love other women. 

My primary goal for 2017 on Okazu is getting to the point where we can pay our guest writers and get their voices out there and heard by as many people as possible.  Your subscriptions on our Patreon will help achieve this goal!

I commit to keeping Okazu radical and outspoken and for those of us who care that women who love women deserve a place for ourselves at the table of social and political discourse and representation in entertainment on our own terms.

And I think it’s only fair to warn you, my dear readers, that I’m not planning on stopping using words and pictures to speak up against the wall of injustice I can see being built already. 

A lot of you have been with me for years and I appreciate that more than I can ever express. I hope you’ll stay with me in the year to come. I think it’s going to get harder before it gets better, so keeping Okazu and the Yuri community here for all of us is important to me. 

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Art is resistance. Tell your stories, draw your stories, sing your stories and support artists who tell those stories for you. 

Come here to Okazu to share your stories and tell other people where to find those stories, too. We all need them. Making sure our stories get out is an act of resistance we can all share. Make 2017 the year you back diverse causes, creatives and creations in your entertainment, consumer and business behaviors.

Happy New Year to all to all of you. Here’s to great art in 2017

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The End of the World, Technology, Fandom and You

January 1st, 2016

I started off 2015 with a thought piece on the ecosystem of comics and our place, as consumers and fans, in that ecosystem.

This year, I want to talk about the end of the world. ^_^ Not of the Earth, although that’s certainly something we could and should talk about, but about the end of the world as you know it. The end of your fandom as you know it.

The February 2016 issue of Smithsonian Magazine discusses when phonographs were new in the early 20th century. Pundits warned of “‘gramomania’, a growing obsession with buying and collecting records that would lead one to ignore one’s family.” Sound familiar?

The reality of human existence is that we crave and loathe technological advance in equal measure. We disparage any technology we do not ourselves use, art we do not ourselves like, political ideologies we do not ourselves agree with, for whatever reason.

This is true with representation in fandom. We fight, tooth and nail against changes to “our” series. Series that we didn’t write, produce and may never have supported in any way, but with which we identify. George Lucas rails against the changes in Star Wars, even as the changes make it more accessible to people who are not white men. (I, for one, loved the diversity, not just in the leads, but the background, where people on the planet and in the air were notably of many ethnic backgrounds. For me, that was the best part of The Force Awakens.)

So let’s go back to the pundits of the early 20th century for a moment, railing against this isolating new technology – the phonograph. Pundits rail against every new technology in this same way. It will isolate us, it will destroy society and families. Comics, games, science fiction….everything we as a culture of fans embrace and love – it’s all stuff pundits have and continue to tell us is bad for us, bad for society, bad, bad, bad. Which of course implies a moral superiority for eschewing this new stuff. Whatever it is.

In competition with this, we get the techno pundits, screaming “game changer!” with every new toy made. They imply a moral superiority for having the newest, the best, and staying on top, which is the only place possible, otherwise you are a sheeple.

The reality for most of us is that adoption of new technology is asymmetrical, sporadic and putters out as we either can’t afford or are not interested in whatever new thing just debuted.

So, what’s my point? My point is that fandom as you knew it is dead. It died a while ago and you didn’t notice. And it was reborn and died several times since then. Every generation of fans recreates all the slang, the in-crowdness, the exclusion, the inclusion. But now that fandom isn’t just an old school scifi convention, those waves come faster, and they look different. Remember, it was only a few decades ago when scifi fans hated anime and all those new weird people who came to *their* conventions. That’s a good thing. There wasn’t moral superiority in keeping women or people of color out of fandom, any more than there is in virulently hating Microsoft. Or anime. Or Twilight.

And as we start this new year, I am reminded that there is nothing *wrong* with any of us, things are not getting worse, and that pundits have basically been recycling the only article they have between the lot of them for hundreds of years.

Human society is complex. Anxiety is part of human nature. Fear of things changing is part of human society and so is fandom.

Embrace the stuff you like. Enjoy it to the fullest any way you can. Create derivative works, share them. Just remind yourself, the next time you offhandedly begin to dismiss the new wave of fans, or the most recent hot new thing that isn’t interesting to you personally, that it’s not the end of the world. Anime  didn’t destroy fandom, it expanded it. Twilight didn’t destroy fandom, it expanded it. Phonographs didn’t destroy the world, neither did comics, or computer games.

We’re fine.

You’re fine.

Fandom is fine.

As we head into a new year, remember to have fun the way you want to – and let other people have fun the way they want to. There’s room for all of us and by that I mean all of us.

Here’s looking forward to a fabulous 2016 for all of us.

Happy New Year!

 

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Danshi Kinsei! Yuri no Hanazono Manual (男子禁制! 百合の花園マニュアル)

December 27th, 2015

manualIn years past, for no particular reason, it has become the habit here at Okazu to end the year with an amazingly good book and start the year with a truly terrible one. I am switching it up this year for a reason. This will be the last truly terrible book I review here on Okazu. ^_^

As we close the year, I’m making a change. I’ve almost completely stopped reviewing hentai anthologies because while they have female characters having sex, they rarely are anything other than emotionless porn. I’ve also stopped getting, reviewing or often even mentioning series I find revolting. Is this censorship? No. It’s curation. I’m not stopping anyone from reading about, buying or enjoying these things. In some cases I solicit guest reviews for them. It’s just that having to page through stuff that makes me unhappy makes me unhappy. I love Yuri and don’t want to be unhappy reading it. I obviously cannot change the fact that there will always be people who think it a fetish to fulfill their wanking needs. I don’t feel any compulsion to encourage that.

Which leads me to Danshi Kinsei! Yuri no Hanazono Manual (男子禁制! 百合の花園マニュアル ). On the assumption that anything labeled “Guys forbidden” would be a cesspool of fetishes created for those very guys who prefer to imagine they are seeing something forbidden, I threw this book in my last order from Amazon JP.

My assumption was correct.

This book is a “manual” in the sense that, if you are utterly bereft of imagination and cannot for the life of you come up with a single scenario in which two girls might have sex for your shitty porn fic, this book will give you ideas. ^_^ Cesspool of fetishes it is.

I didn’t even bother reading the text, the premise was so absurd and the scenarios so awful.

Ratings:

Overall – 0

This is the last 0 I will ever give here. There is so much good Yuri in the world. I will continue to celebrate it and promote it with pleasure and positivity.

With this promise, I wrap up all my reviews for 2015. Next up – Top 10 Lists and on to 2016 for some great Yuri!

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