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From Fujimoto Yukari's book, "Where Do I Belong? The Shape Of the Heart As Reflected in Shoujo Manga."


Disclaimers
This is an awkward, first-draft kind of translation for several reasons:

1) I just don't have time and energy to do a clean, polished translation;
2) There were points where I felt that by clarifying the text, I would be imposing my own interpretation on it in a way I wasn't comfortable with.

I'm presenting Fujimoto's essay here not because I agree with everything in it but because I find her thinking complex and provocative, and she's clearly extremely knowledgeable about the history of manga and the social context around it. I'm happy to debate her arguments in comments (Uh, to the extent that I ever manage to answer comments -- I'm sorry I'm so bad at that) but I don't have nearly the knowledge of manga history that she does.

The book was published in 1998, and many of the manga she talks about were written in the 1970s and 1980s; I feel that some of the things she writes about have changed since the book was written, or since the manga she wrote about were written.

I have translated titles where there's an official English title, where the translation seemed relatively unproblematic, or where the full Japanese title would get unwieldy. Please let me know if you want the original Japanese title of anything in particular, and I'll try to make a full bibliography at the end if I have time.

This is only the first nine pages of a 47-page chapter.

It Started With Takarazuka

Right now, it's probably the fans of shoujo manga who have the greatest understanding of crossdressing, homosexuality, and other forms of crossing gender boundaries – even if that understanding can be somewhat problematic. That's the extent to which the world of shoujo manga has peeled off different elements of sexualities and gender roles and reassembled them with other elements to create varied new forms and images.

It should be mentioned that the history of shoujo manga started with hermaphroditism. I don't have to tell you that I mean Tezuka Osamu's "Ribon no Kishi" [lit. Ribbon Knight, but the official translations use the title Princess Knight]. Serialized in Shoujo Club starting in 1953, it was the first shoujo story manga, and achieved a huge popularity as soon as it was published, even being adapted into a ballet and a radio drama. (Or so I'm told. I wasn't yet born.) With some changes to the story, it was published in Nakayoshi starting in 1963 and again attracted a large number of fans.

I myself encountered it in this format at the age of five, and it set off thirty years of manga reading. As is well known, this is the story of Sapphire, a princess born with the heart of a boy and the heart of a girl as a result of a prank by the angel Tink. Because of the country's law that she cannot inherit the throne as a woman, she is raised as a boy. As the tale progresses, Archduke Juralmin, who's plotting to take the throne for himself, the angel Tink who's trying to retake the "boy" heart he mistakenly gave to Sapphire, a witch who's trying to take Sapphire's "girl" heart to make her own daughter more womanly, and Prince Franz from a neighboring country, who falls in love with Sapphire, all become involved in the story. In the course of it, Sapphire constantly changes from boy to girl, from girl to boy, but intriguingly, this is only a problem of the "heart." For example, there's a scene where, after having her "girl heart" stolen by the witch, she triumphantly returns to the castle from which she was exiled, saying, "By the laws of this land, if I'm a boy I should be the heir to the throne!" But when the thwarted Archduke tries to verify Sapphire's sex – the method he uses is fortunetelling! I can laugh at it now that I'm grown up, but at the time, I didn't have even a shadow of a doubt saying, "But what happened to her body?" Perhaps that's just the gender consciousness of a child. But I would like to emphasize that Tezuka is not dealing with sex, but rather with gender, and gender identity. As attested to by modern sexology, gender is not finally a matter of physical appearance and biological characteristics, but something psychological. It seems like an extremely symbolic thing that the first birth cries of shoujo manga dealt with this issue (and it may be related to Tezuka being a doctor. Certainly, he had always had an interest in issues of sex and gender, and before Princess Knight had written Metropolis, with an androgynous robot as its main character).

Tezuka said that his reason for writing Princess Knight was to "transfer the world of Takarazuka to the world of shoujo manga." This is a meaningfully layered phrase for shoujo manga. First, by borrowing the concept of women playing male roles from Takarazuka, Tezuka imprinted the idea of crossing across gender boundaries on the very birth of shoujo manga. Secondly, Takarazuka is a dream world separated from everyday life, a cocoon of fantasy woven by girls. And so, even if there are members of the opposite sex, they could never pose a danger to women. Rather, they're more like a woman's "other self" who can say exactly the words a girl wants to hear. Takarazuka is a reification of the genderless world inside a young girl's mind. This is a unique aspect of Japanese culture, without many other examples in the world, and it developed in the Japanese cultural atmosphere where a culture of heterosexuality and "couplehood" is not strongly enforced, but rather, men and women are permitted to form their own separate worlds. The very fact that manga is separated into "for men" and "for women" is proof that in Japanese culture men and women inhabit different worlds with different value systems.

Thus, when Tezuka brought the world of Takarazuka into manga, the direction of shoujo manga was decided. Afterwards, shoujo manga achieved curious developments where they could repeat experiments in crossing gendar boundaries in the context of girls' own internal, "genderless," worlds.

The Cross-Dressing Girl, From Caterpillar to Butterfly

Many of the manga that have achieved the greatest acclaim in the larger world are, for some reason, ones that center on crossing gender boundaries in some form or other – for example, Rose of Versailles, whose beautiful heroine dressed as a man, and Song of the Wind and Trees and Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun, which dealt with male homosexuality. The earliest examples, and the ones that formed the template for the boundary-crossing that followed, are the examples of women crossdressing as men, following in the footsteps of Princess Knight. In this lineage, Hagio Moto wrote "Snow Child," the story of a girl who was raised as a boy to be able to inherit, and who decided to commit suicide at the age of fourteen when her secondary sexual characteristics would become impossible to deny. Tezuka himself created the young thief "Dororo," who travels with the demon Hyakkimaru as he travels in search of his stolen body parts, as a cross-dressing girl. A little later, Yamagishi Ryoko created "Shrinks Pawn," whose heroine is an orphan who started dressing as a boy after the man who occasionally gave her food told her he hated women.

In these works you see a motif of the girl who crossdresses as an evasion of growth. For some reason these girls feel denial about their identity as women, and attempt to seal up their own femininity. So when their disguise falls apart and it's revealed that they are women, it's their femininity – their physicality, their sexual existence – that strikes us most. The scene in "Shrinks Pawn" where the heroine's identity is revealed by a trail of blood from between her legs is emblematic. In Yamagishi Ryoko's other works – where her characters are often girls who exhibit a strong and conscious evasion of their own sexuality – the moment where the heroine is revealed as a woman seems like a transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. As if to underline that, the "filthy orphan" that the heroine had been takes a bath and emerges as a woman, as if another person – and becomes the hero's lover. ("Shrinks Pawn" is no exception.)

In other words, the crossdressing is only a preliminary step to the girl becoming a woman, and an object of the opposite sex's love. The crossdressing is an expression of denial of the sexual self. This seems quite reasonable to me at a time when a woman's sexual identity was not necessarily something happy, but could potentially also be a source of hatred and fear. At the end, with the promise of a happy expression of sexuality, the girls can abandon their cross-dressing and grow up. In effect, being a woman only emerges with the possibility of romantic love; there's absolutely no need for "womanhood" except in the context of being an object of desire for the boy you love!

This is further underlined by works in which the girl who worries about her own tomboyishness is told, "You're the most womanly girl in the world to me," or the ones in which the male protagonist crushes on the cross-dressing girl and worries about his own sexuality, until finally he discovers the truth and realizes with relief that he's "normal," and love blooms between them. (This is seen in many of Hagio Moto's works such as "Herbal Beauty" and "X+Y") The time when they're in love but the disguise cannot yet be revealed is depicted as almost unendurable pain.

Aside from these, there is also the motif where a girl actively chooses cross-dressing in order to participate in social roles that would otherwise be barred from her, and these especially stand out in historical stories. This is the pattern of Oscar in "Rose of Versailles," and in Yamauchi Naomi's retelling of "The Changelings," "The Change," where Kira, the twin sister, dresses as a boy (and changes places with her brother, who was raised as the princess, when she falls in love). Oscar is particularly interesting in that she dresses as a woman for her first love, Axel von Fersen, but for her true love Andre she doesn't once dress as a woman, even after they have become lovers. This seems like a source of tension between them, but while Fersen is a member of the Swedish nobility, and doesn't return Oscar's feelings, Andre is the son of a servant, and he's the one who long carried an unrequited torch for Oscar. Seen in that light, it seems like a proof of the "Daruma-Otoshi Theory," which says that a man is in a one-up position just by being a man, and if you try to choose a partner who's equal to you in things like education, you actually won't be equal; if you want an equal relationship you would have to choose a man who's less well-off compared to you.

So, the only time "womanhood" really becomes a problem for a woman is when she's loved by a man. At other times, she's conscious that she could be either a woman or a man without problem. This serves as a template for all the gender-boundary-crossing in shoujo manga.

The Cross-Dressing Bishounen
So then, what about boys who cross-dress? One of the new images that shoujo manga has created is the "beautiful boy" who can be mistaken for a woman, or who cross-dresses as a woman. The pioneers of this idea were Kishi Yuuko's "Tamasaburou, Love's Rhapsody" (Bessatsu Shoujo Comic, from 1972) and Naka Tomoko's "Hana no Bijohime" (from 1973). From the beginning, beautiful boys have been a staple of shoujo manga, so what is it that distinguishes these? These were the first attempts to consciously confuse the idea of gender. As you know, descendants of these works continued to appear, until gender became a veritable battlefield of shoujo manga.

The archetypal pattern here is "Tamasaburou, Love's Rhapsody," whose protagonist is a bishounen and an expert in Japanese dancing. Sometimes he dresses as a graceful woman and goes in place of his female friend to preliminary meetings for arranged marriages, to help her to break things off. At other times he doesn't dress as a woman, but does use female language. And rather than being gay, his greatest love is actually his childhood friend Rena. It's a comical story that revolves around these two lovers, as well as Kojirou-sensei who seems nonplussed by Tamasaburou and his cousin Akihiro, an actual gay person (and sadist) who likes bishounen.

What I would like to emphasize here is that Tamasaburou is skilled not only in dancing but in many arts, he's an excellent student (except, for some reason, for classics), and though he's not particularly athletic he does practice aikido well enough to throw off an opponent. So he's a kind of "superman," and even if he's a little girlish he's attractive as a lover to readers; he's cute, and he seems like the kind of person you can always rely on in the end.

It's the same with "Bijohime," where the twins Bijomaru and Himemaru ["Bijo": beautiful woman; "Hime": princess.] have excellent grades, have leadership positions higher than student body president, and are strong as well. They will cross-dress when necessary, but normally use male language and mannerisms. Other works in this line include Kawahara Yumiko's "First part omitted – Milk House" (Bessatsu Shoujo Comic, from 1983), and Tada Kaoru's "Deborah-san series," which was recently adapted into a movie. (Appeared irregularly in Bessatsu Margaret starting in 1987). In "Milk House," the main character is Suzune, who enjoys cross-dressing; in "Deborah-san," the main character is a beautiful young man who doesn't cross-dress but does use female language and dyes his hair blond. Both have excellent grades, and Deborah is strong in fighting and his family owns a tea house (Once, he's thrown down by a rival suitor to his girlfriend who has a black belt in judo, but after learning aikido for a short time he's able to win a rematch) – so this is a similar premise to "Tamasaburou." Even in Shounen manga there's Eguchi Hisashi's "Stop! Hibari-kun!" (serialized in Shounen Jump from 1981), where Hibari is good at school and sports (and plus, is the son of a yakuza boss), and also enjoys cross-dressing.

What you see in these examples is that, for it to be taken as a positive thing that a male character cross-dresses or uses female language, first he has to meet the requisite qualifications of being an ideal man: family, intelligence, beauty, and being able to win a fight. Only then can a very effeminate man be seen as a love interest for the heroine. But on the other hand, just by pasting those values on top, shoujo manga have succeeded in putting a man in a skirt in a heterosexual romance scenario. Perhaps, if asked "If your boyfriend wore a skirt, what would you do?" today's girls might not say "Eww, that's gross!" but rather "Huh, well, I guess if it looks as good on him as on Suzune-kun."

Now, all of this applies only when the boy in question is the heroine's love interest (and by extension, the reader's). Shoujo manga is truly rich in side characters. "Mamas" from gay bars, and gay characters who use effeminate language, frequently appear, and without any hint of mockery or bias. They're accepted as just another type of human being existing in the same world. Because of their homosexuality they are compartmentalized from the complications of the heterosexual relationships, and can therefore make good friends. In the late 80s this progressed to the point where gay characters could appear not just as neighbors, but as brothers and fathers. In Yachi Emiko's "Dream of the Toys" the older brother works at a gay bar, and in Yamaguchi Miyuki's "Bullet X Hero" the main character's father is now her mother. There's even a story where the heroine's younger brother undergoes a sex change, becoming a more beautiful woman than the heroine and a rival in love.

(no subject)

8/4/11 01:21 (UTC)
coffeeandink: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] coffeeandink
You are SO AWESOME. I am not going to have time to read this carefully until this weekend, but I am so grateful you did this!

(no subject)

8/4/11 02:52 (UTC)
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] laceblade
I'll be so glad when Ribbon Knight finally comes out in the U.S.!

Umm! There is also a Haigo Moto tag on the vintage manga tumblr account! It is here.

Thank you for translating this! It is so awesome!

(no subject)

8/4/11 12:16 (UTC)
littlebutfierce: (ouran haruhi)
Posted by [personal profile] littlebutfierce
Thank you very much for translating this!!

(no subject)

10/4/11 04:35 (UTC)
branewurms: (Utena - Anthy x Utena)
Posted by [personal profile] branewurms
Thanks for this! So interesting!

(no subject)

21/4/11 06:25 (UTC)
starlady: (utena myth)
Posted by [personal profile] starlady
I think Hi izuru kuni no teishi (sp?) is usually translated as Prince of the Land of the Rising Sun, not that it's ever been published here, SADFACE.

But anyway, thank you again for doing this! And I must say, even your rough prose reads really well. :)

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