owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
I don't know whether it's a terminology issue or something else, but Fujimoto seems to sometimes conflate cross-dressing and being transgender in a way I'm not entirely comfortable with. Nevertheless, I haven't actually read most of the manga she brings up, and often I can't even find a summary on Wikipedia, so I have chosen to translate things literally and I apologize for what I get wrong.

There is not enough brain bleach in the world for the section on men's magazines, right where she starts talking about hermaphrodites in manga. I don't know if it needs a warning, but there it is. (More seriously, that section also has some discussion of rape).


And Then, Towards Polymorphous Perversity

Manga about cross-dressing boys and shounen ai emerged in an almost continuous chain (from 1972-1973 to about 1975. Rose of Versailles and Ooshima Yumiko's "To Joka," which deals with a character who undergoes a drug-caused sex change from male to female, appeared right around the beginning of this.) It's clear that this was a time of great change in ideas about gender roles and gender images, especially when you look at the manga about gender role reversal that appeared in the wake of these works. Satonaka Machiko's "Mister Lady" (from 1976) is about fraternal twins – a brother who wishes he were a girl, and a sister who wishes she was a boy – who sometimes switch places. You could call this a remake of "The Changelings," in the same vein as "The Change" (discussed earlier) and Kihara Toshie's "Variant Reading of The Changelings." [The Changelings – Torikaebaya Monogatari – is a Heian-era tale about "two siblings whose mannerisms are those of the opposite sex, and their relationships in the Emperor's court," according to Wikipedia].

In this one, the characters say:

Sister: Women are worthless. I wish I'd been born a boy. Someone strong and manly who could stand up to any hardship! I hate women who are just worried about love and fashion, and oh, someone was mean to me, I'm so sad! Men have the real power that supports the world.
Brother: Men are too simplistic. As soon as something happens, they just flip out and get violent. I wish I'd been born a girl. A girl who could look on the world with a gentle attitude... with a heart that seeks beauty, compassion, tears. Everything that women make is filled with love. If everyone on earth was a woman, there wouldn't be any wars.

It feels like they're reading their lines about gender roles from a home economics textbook! This alone gives you a grasp of the environment in which these works were created.

Yuzuki Hikaru's "My First Experience" (from 1975) takes this even further. A mad scientist transplants the brain of a woman into the body of a man, and vice versa (and what's more, they like each other!). Yuzuki Hikaru later wrote several works using this same pattern, but in this one, the man (in spirit) experiences pregnancy and birth. The woman (in spirit) looks at this and decides that she wants to remain as a man, but is unable to. It's an extremely interesting work in how it looks at gender consciousness and the body.

Somewhat later in shounen manga, Ishizaka Kei wrote "When Love Is Put To The Test," ("Peaceful Family," vol. 2), which depicts a future society where gender roles have been completely reversed.

Between these works, the field of gender confusion in shoujo manga kept growing larger, and works emerged, whether dealing with cross-dressing or homosexuality or other types of changes, that seemed to enjoy that confusion in itself.

Works dealing with gay couples began to appear in a significantly different form than the earlier shounen ai manga. Eroica and Klaus in Aoike Yasuko's "From Eroica With Love," and Bancoran and Maraich in Maya Mineo's "Patalliro!", are adult men, and these works are comedic examples. Akisato Wakuni's "Sleeping Beauty" and "Tomoi" are attemps to realistically depict the lives of gay men in America, and they have risque conversations like,

(while making Natto rolls) "Which is thicker, mine or yours?"
"If you put that Natto roll in your mouth, you'll know. Wait, don't actually do it!"

(Later there's a storyline about AIDS and the ending is pretty dark, recalling Yoshida Akimi's "California Story" and its male prostitute Eve.)

You also see motifs from yaoi doujinshi being picked up in major publications. Ozaki Minami's "Zetsuai – 1989" (serialized in Margaret, from 1989), as you can tell just from the title [desperate love], relies heavily on yaoi tropes. Kouga Yun, who'd previously appointed herself the "queen of doujinshi," became an author of highly original material. In "Genji" (serialized in Wings), Ebata Katsumi is approached by Yoshitsune because of his resemblence to his beloved dead brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo (this is science fiction, not actual history).

"All right, fine, I'll sleep with you. I look like him, right?"
"I hate gays. It's disgusting. But I like what feels good."

After the deed is done, he says, "Get out, you asshole. I told you not to come in!"

When pressed that if it was the real Yoritomo he would probably die of humiliation, he answers, "Well, I'm not a girl, you know. It doesn't mean anything to me!"

Oh, my. Kids these days!

Ooshima Yumiko's "Tsurubara Tsurubara" is a unique masterpiece about a boy who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a certain woman. Reading this work, I'm struck with the sense that no matter how strong social pressures seem to be, individual consciousness can overcome it – in other words, in front of a stubborn self-awareness, the world itself has to give way. Readers can feel, for a moment, that the entire world has changed. And there's no end of other works that play with gender similarly – Takaguchi Satosumi's "Lucky-kun," Akisato Wakuni's "The BBB," Toumiya Senko's "Loves of a Bright Young Man." And thus, shoujo manga became a garden of roses [as in Rose of Versailles] and green carnations [Green Carnation, a shounen ai manga by Yamagishi Ryoko].

Of course, cross-dressing continued to be a major theme. (Kawahara Izumi's "Moonlight Dress," as introduced in Watanabe Nobuo's "The Age of Unmanliness," is particularly interesting), and you also have Naka Tomoko's series about a lesbian countess. ("True Love Is The Gigolo's Pleasure" and others). In her "Green Boy 2," a plant that shows illusions gives birth to a boy who can become a boy or a girl, the protagonist also turns into a man or a woman, and the story unfolds a melee where gender relations are erased. In the middle of that, you're told, "Male and female in the same organism – isn't that common sense for an evolved plant?" and you can do nothing but retreat. What's more, the plant takes the form of a woman and becomes the heroine's lover, and bears fruit – just a sample of the anarchic polymorphous perversity that shoujo manga has progressed to!

With ladies' comics, however, the number of works dealing with crossing gender boundaries has greatly decreased, while the depictions have become much more realistic. For example, there's Uchida Shungiku's "On a Languid Night," where the heroine falls in love with a gay man, and Satonaka Machiko's "Cinderella Husband," where the heroine is shocked to discover her husband's cross-dressing. "Cinderella Husband" in particular is focused on depicting the psychology of a cross-dresser – wanting to forget the "real" you even for a moment, being scared of telling your family. The wife tries to be understanding and supportive of her husband's cross-dressing, but the husband becomes dissatisfied and starts thinking of trying BDSM, and in the end cross-dressing is treated as just another kind of fetish, so the theme is somewhat confused. Hitomi Akiko's "Shura-Hime" (1990) depicts the pain and revenge of a man who's been forcibly castrated, as a police officer's younger brother, having found out he's close to death, becomes a political fixer's paramour in order to collect information. In men's magazines, as well, there are several examples where becoming a woman is represented as a humiliating thing.

This trend is connected with the fact that compared with shoujo manga, ladies' comics have more focus on the external world. As I said at the beginning of the chapter, the boys in shoujo manga are fundamentally a reflection of girls' own inner worlds; they're supplements to the girls themselves, not a separate, objective existence (though this has been changing lately). This is related to the idea that women see themselves as only having sexual existence in the context of being able to arouse men's sexual desires – that is, women are only able to see themselves as sexual beings through the viewpoint of men. This is true too of ladies' comics, but because the view of sex is less developed in girls' manga, it's easier for conduct these experiments in crossing gender boundaries; ladies' comics are more strongly influenced by reality. But as ladies' comics have only recently started out, and the genre is still unripe, you can't say that new kinds of experiments in sex won't emerge in the future...

And in fact, lesbian characters show up much more frequently in ladies' comics, so much so that there are now specialty manga magazines for lesbian erotica. But there are a lot of works that don't go much beyond the clichés of pornography, and it remains to be seen what women who understand the realities of sexuality will write, how they will cross swords with reality, and how they will open up new ground in crossing gender boundaries.
A Two-Way Pendulum: The Case of Men's Magazines
So, what about men's magazines? In men's magazines as well as women's magazines, there are a surprising number of works that deal with crossing gender boundaries, but you can't say that they've been as fruitful as shoujo manga, and they haven't arrived at a new concept of gender. Novels such as Hiruma Hisao's "YES YES YES" have made a lot more progress. Gender is just not as important an issue for boys.

However, you do have examples like Eguchi Hisashi's "Stop! Hibari-kun" and Takahashi Rumiko's "Ranma ½," whose protagonist, Tendou Ranma [This is a mistake on the author's part; Ranma's family name is Saotome], fell into a cursed spring and now changes into a girl when splashed with cold water and changes back into a boy with hot water. Other subcharacters include Ukyo, a girl who dresses as a boy, and Kurenai, a boy who dresses as a girl. The manga has a shoujo-ish flavor and became very popular among girls as well. Much of the manga's charm comes from the combination of the cuteness of girl-Ranma and the occasional glimpses of boy-Ranma's intensity. There's a sublime combination of Ranma's time as a boy and his time as a girl, and in some ways Ranma is almost a girl's vision of an ideal man. I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't want Ranma to reverse the curse and be a man all the time.

Lately, Hojo Tsukasa of "City Hunter" fame has started the series "Family Combo." When the protagonist loses his parents, his mother's younger brother's wife is supposed to come and take care of him, but when she shows up she looks a lot like the protagonist's mother. That's right – the wife is actually his mother's brother, and the person who he thought was his uncle is actually a woman. Because of this plot about the "mannish woman" and "womanly man," it was originally planned to run in a shounen magazine, but it was treated like a hentai story, and so it was moved instead to the seinen magazine "All Man."

The story has only been running for a little more than a year, but the pacing is good and the story is enjoyable, and I laughed at the story where the protagonist asks his aunt and uncle to "Please, just come dressed normally" to the parent teacher contest, and they try to dress according to their biological sexes, but they just end up looking like they're in drag. Even more than that, they have a beautiful daughter (?), but when you look at her picture album, it seems that she changes genders every year or two. "Because I have those two for parents, when I was little I always thought that I could just change genders freely. But when I got to middle school it got to be a pain to keep changing around ,and with the world the way it is now I guess it's easier to be a girl... so, I'm a girl all the time now." Is this daughter actually a girl or a boy? That seems to be the key to the next developments in the story.

Works like these, or Oku Hiroya's "Hen" (which was also turned into a TV program) have some degree of shared sensibility with works in women's magazines, but overall when it comes to gender boundary crossing there's different characteristics in men's and woman's magazines. In men's magazines women are primarily an object of sexual desire, so the first examples that come to mind are boundary-crossing in the service of sex. For example, a man might cross-dress to be able to enter a woman's world, and be able to get closer to the girl he likes. Of course the anxiety about whether or not his identity is going to be revealed comes into play in scenes that involve sex in some way --physical exams, or changing rooms, or going into communal baths together, where women could be seen naked. The cross-dressing is a method for peeping at women. There's Ishikawa Yuugo's "Spring Urara," where the main character cross-dresses to play on the girls' baseball team, Ono Shinji's "Me, Tamasaburou," where the main character turns into a girl as a result of a ball hitting his crotch (but occasionally turns back to a boy) and gets close to the girl he likes, and Amamiya Jun's "Puttsun Make Love," where a genius makeup artist dresses as a girl in order to take pictures of girls' dressing rooms. There's also stories where the cross-dressing isn't just for peeping at women, but for understanding them, like in Tachihara Ayumi's "I'm Willy," where a former playboy becomes a woman after eating irradiated asparagus, and comes to experience the feelings of women and reconsiders his own past actions.

The other motif that you see frequently is cross-dressing in mystery and suspense stories, where the criminal dresses as a woman to evade the police, or the detective dresses as a woman to conduct the investigation. This is a pretty frequent storyline – Ooshima Yasuichi's "Detective Oyako" (vol.22), Tokumaru Yasuji's "Loli Cop," Nagai Gou's "Violence Jack" – but the main point of them is to surprise the readers with the reveal that what you thought was a woman is actually a man. In that respect, there's a similarity with the cross-dressing women in shoujo manga – in that, when the secret is revealed, it has the effect of emphasizing the original sex. In shoujo manga, what stands out is the woman's sexual existence, but in these detective manga, what stands out is the man's strength. To extend this theme, there's Hirano Jin's "Devil in a Black Dress," where an impotent man dresses as a woman and becomes a serial killer, and Etou Kazuya's "It's Rouge," where the killer dresses as a woman when he kills, and hides his weapons in makeup tools.

These two motifs – cross-dressing in pursuit of sex and in mystery stories – don't fundamentally disturb pre-existing notions of gender. In fact, if anything, they reinforce them. Except for "Ranma" and "Hibari-kun," and a small handful of other examples, mentioned earlier, virtually all of the gender-boundary-crossing in the mainstream men's magazines fits into these two pattern. But in erotic magazines and small-press zines, you see occasional other examples of men crossing gender boundaries.

One step further from cross-dressing in pursuit of sex are manga featuring characters who are complete hermaphrodites, so-called "Futanari." Mutsu Toshiyuki's "1 ½" (though this was published in Young Jump, a major magazine), Ishikawa Fumiyasu's "Enchanting Fox, Woman Fortune-teller," Yazaki Tooru's "Bishounen Boy" are examples of these, but it's a premise that never shows up in shoujo or josei manga. And while it's emphasized that the hermaphrodite character can do "both things," the character is always cute or glamorous, and proud of their sex appeal, so it's the female sexuality that gets emphasized.

The character in "1 ½" takes two forms, the father Haruno Youju and the daughter Haruno Sumire, but there are a lot more scenes where Sumire appears, especially naked, and there are hardly any scenes where it matters that Sumire has a penis. Haruno Youju might as well not be there at all. The most sensible interpretation is that there's two characters, Youju and Sumire, and Youju is just a side character.

The character in "Enchanting Fox, Women Fortuneteller" started out as male and female fraternal twins, but somehow they fused into one character, so the character has both male and femal genitalia, and also has twice the strength and intelligence of a normal person. But while there are a lot of sex scenes, virtually none of them are as a man, and the character's sexual attractiveness as a woman is an important point. So, ze uses hir beauty as a weapon to attract partners, but if they let their guard down ze will attack with the strength of a man (plus a woman). This isn't too different from a premise that involves a very strong woman.

Yazaki Tooru's "Bishounen Boy" brings this too a new level of ridiculousness. The protagonist, an ordinary boy, is asked to cross-dress and model for a lesbian photographer, and while dressed as a woman is raped by a woman with a dildo. After this, the boy awakens to his true internal womanhood, and has sex reassignment surgery in order to become a woman, but because of a prank by a doctor, he becomes a hermaphrodite whose clitoris becomes a penis when it is stimulated. Later, ze is abducted and given a drug to turn hir into a sex slave, but the drug reacts with hir sex hormones and ze explodes with male strength. Even though this blinding series of physical phenomena, ze is consistently depicted as taking a passive role sexually, even with an erect penis. (All of hir sexual partners are women).

What you see in these works is an effort to bring the "woman" as an idealized sexual object into the body of a man. Men are trying to construct a double-sided coin with perfect womanhood on one side and perfect manhood on the other. This is a huge difference from shoujo manga where women will take a male form in order to control the pain that women have to experience.

In shoujo manga, when a woman cross-dresses as a man, the masculinity is never something that's emphasized. It's just portrayed as a normal result that if you are not a woman, you have to be a man. On that point, the stories in men's magazines are significantly different, because womanhood is emphasized in opposition to manhood, and sexual attractiveness is emphasized in particular.

Thus, stories in men's magazines emphasize the differences between men and women, seeing gender as a bipolar thing. So it's only natural that there are more and more cases of being unable to bridge that gap.

The proof of that is that in men's magazines, more and more often you feel the pain of those who can't be "normal," who can't be either a man or a woman.

(no subject)

13/4/11 00:21 (UTC)
laughingrat: A detail of leaping rats from an original movie poster for the first film of Nosferatu (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] laughingrat
I should probably be reading these. They sound fascinating. Does Japan have much conversation right now about trans* issues? I ask because "Tokyo Godfathers," while easily having the most sympathetic portrayal of a transwoman I've seen in movies (which might not be saying much, honestly), was also heavily problematic.

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