The Fujoshi Files 174: Mejiro Juon

Name: Mejiro, Juon (目白樹音)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Princess Jellyfish

Information:
A popular yaoi manga author, Mejiro Juon lives in Amamimizukan, a girls-only shared home occupied by nerds and geeks. Due to her social anxiety, she never reveals her face to others, and instead communicates purely through written notes. She was not always in BL; in her younger days, she even drew shoujo manga.

Compared to her housemates, Mejiro adheres most strongly to Amamizukan’s “No Men” policy.

Fujoshi Level:
Other than the fact that she is a published author of BL works, nothing specific is known about Mejiro Juon’s fujocity.

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The Glory of NEETS, and the Creation of an Archetype

How did being a NEET become an endearing quality in fictional characters?

NEET is a term first created in the UK and imported to Japan. Standing for “Not in Employment, Education, or Training,” it’s another way of saying you’re unemployed and probably mooching off of your parents, and most likely somewhere in your 20s to 30s (or beyond). The United States has a similar stereotype in the basement dweller, but whatever the phrasing, it would normally be rather unusual to have such characters be figures of admiration, desire, and more. And yet, this is exactly what we’ve seen out of Japanese media. The geek girls of Princess Jellyfish admit to not having jobs and relying on their folks, but readers connect with them rather than shunning them. Futaba Anzu, one of the characters in THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls, is not technically a NEET (she has the job of being an idol), but embodies the spirit, being a lazy lay-about whose shirt features the classic slogan of the NEET: “If I work, I lose.”

futabaanzu

People don’t necessarily cheer for the forthright and responsible (some would say boring) characters in fiction, but there’s something in particular about embracing the NEET that seems strange on the surface to me, as it’s not exactly an admirable quality in normal contexts. At the same time, there’s a rebellious element, and many have argued that Japan’s economy, rather than the NEETS themselves, are to blame. But the rebellion feels a bit…pathetic, even if possibly admirable.That’s not so much in the sense that NEETS are losers, but it calls to mind the image of an inept geek try their hardest to go camping, only to get lost and fall in a hole. In the end, they’re safe because they can just go back to their home, but within their specific circumstances they’ve tried, even if they end up looking like fools in the process. There’s a tinge of failure, or perhaps fear of failure, and maybe that’s why people connect to them.

One possibility is that a lot of people are or have experienced being NEETS, and it’s probably no coincidence that a character like Anzu would be popular from a mobile game revolving around management of idols. After all, idols are a kind of illusion that fans willingly fall into, and I wouldn’t be surprised if being a NEET inspires the desire to break away from the real world, justified or not. However, one thing that is made clear from Princess Jellyfish and Futaba Anzu is that, at least when it comes to fictional portrayals of NEETS, what defines them first and foremost is passion for something, but most especially passion for the impractical.

princessjellyfish-neet

Anyone who’s watched anime or read manga for a long time has noticed a kind of reverence for the teenage years, and one factor behind that is the idea that it’s the time in your life when you can truly devote yourself to a task regardless of its practicality. As mentioned by Bamboo on The Anime Now Podcast’s review of Love Live! The School Idol Movie, the difference between an “idol” and a “school idol” in the world of Love Live is that even if you can’t succeed as the former, you can become a beloved school idol through hard work and passion for your beliefs. It’s a safe space away from the realities of a harsh industry. NEET characters, whether they’re older (Princess Jellyfish) or not (Futaba Anzu), appear as if they want to extend this mindset into their later years, fighting against a society that tells them to grow up.

Given the ways in which middle school and high school are framed within Japanese media, it’s maybe no wonder that this happened. It’s supposed to be the prime of your life, the time when your soul burns brightest, and then you’re supposed to quietly file it away or adjust it to how the real world works. Even if it’s arguably socially irresponsible to do that, I think it’s understandable, and maybe this is where NEET characters really draw their power from. They’re characters who hold onto their dreams, but tinged with the colors of reality that contextualize them in ways that don’t turn their impractical aspirations into a pure fantasy.

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Cross Fight, Cross Fight: Genshiken II, Chapter 62

What was once fated to shine brightly for a few moments in the grand scheme of the universe now has been given new life, as Genshiken II has shed its limited-time status and has revived itself as a fully serialized title. That’s right, Genshiken is back in full force and I can only be pleased by the news. Almost as if to symbolize this new beginning for Genshiken, Chapter 62 feels almost like another introduction to the series and the madness contained therein. Let’s take a look.

As Angela returns for her third trip to Japan and Yabusaki puts the finishing touches on her Fullmetal Alchemist doujinshi, Ogiue is working frantically to complete the second half of her debut as a legit manga artist. Luckily she has the help of the current Genshiken freshman as well as Sue, but the whole situation begins to derail when Hato becomes self-conscious of the fact that his facial hair is growing in. Yajima suggests that Hato wouldn’t have this problem if he dressed like a guy, given that guys aren’t embarrassed by facial hair, but Hato has no men’s clothing with him. Fortunately(?), Ohno left everyone some cosplay outfits, but things get quickly out of hand and everyone ends up working on Ogiue’s manga while cosplaying.  Even Ogiue decides to join the “party” in an effort to take responsibility. The chapter ends with Yabusaki coming in to help Ogiue, only to lecture them for goofing off. Naturally, Ohno deeply regrets not being around for this rare occasion of cosplay goodwill.

So, this heavy chapter obviously has a ton of references, and it’s not exactly big on character development, so I think it’s a good idea to find out just who they all are. Some of them I got, some of them I needed to do some internet detective work. Here’s a list of the costumes worn by each Genshiken member.

Yajima: Yagyuu Juubee Mitsuyoshi, the rather large and voluptuous heroine of Sekiganjuu Mitsuyoshi.

Hato: Ashikaga Yuuki, the cross-dressing main character of the School Days sequel, Cross Days.

Yoshitake: Kurashita Tsukimi, the Jellyfish-obsessed protagonist of Kuragehime.

Sue: The titular character of Comic Master J, a super manga assistant.

Ogiue: Nakano Azusa, underclassman guitarist from K-ON!

The entirety of Ohno’s selection for Hato consists of crossdressing characters. Though I can’t recognize all of them, at least one of them is Maria from Mariaholic. Yajima’s outfit is arguably the most embarrassing, coming from a manga series by the character designer of badonkadonk resource Real Drive, but given Yajima’s personality that must have been the most conservative outfit of the bunch. It’s interesting that Ohno would see “overweight girl” and interpret that as “cosplay as thick ladies,” though it makes sense in retrospect. Yajima’s outfit this chapter shows that she’s actually quite busty, and much like when Ogiue first cosplayed way back when though, it kind of makes you aware of the fact that Yajima’s baggy clothes are partially the result of shame. How appropriate it is then that Yoshitake is dressed as a character with a similar dilemma.

Ogiue as Azusa of course makes it own kind of sense, especially when you factor in the fact that the girls of the light music club pushed Azusa towards the Azunyan cat motif somewhat resembles Ohno’s own constant persuasion of Ogiue into cosplay. In fact, Ohno can draw a number of parallels to K-ON!‘s Yamanaka Sawako.

Interestingly, everyone except Ogiue is dressed as a main character, despite the fact that Ogiue was pretty much the central focus of the second half of the original Genshiken. If I were to be somewhat liberal with my interpretation, I’d say that this is symbolic of the direction of Genshiken II, where the new girls are starting to establish themselves as the main stars of the new series. As I’ve said before though, I’m quite okay with this, despite my fondness for Ogiue, as it feeds into one of the themes of Genshiken, that of the continuous renewal of the club.

Looking forward, with Angela around, the chances of a Sue-centric chapter rise greatly. And in the spirit of Sue, we’ll end with a fourth-wall-breaking image.

Best Anime Characters of 2010

BEST MALE CHARACTER

Koibuchi Kuranosuke (Kuragehime)

A handsome ladies’ man from a wealthy background with a talent for crossdressing, Koibuchi Kuranosuke is larger than life, the kind of character who you would almost be able to say is “too unrealistic” if weren’t for how natural and convincing he is as an individual, and if you’re used to this sort of thing via extensive experience with shoujo and josei, he stands out that much more. Straightforward yet enigmatic, helpful yet selfish, intelligent and savvy yet frightfully naive at times, Kuranosuke is equal parts intriguing stranger and close personal friend, and it makes him both fascinating to watch and easily relatable.

From the very first time he saves Clara the jellyfish and enters Tsukimi’s life, you know that Kuranosuke is a man you can respect, even before you know that he’s a man. He’s not a saint and he won’t solve everyone’s problems as he has his own to deal with, but he tries hard to help others, in particular working to help Tsukimi and the rest of the “Sisterhood” recognize that their stereotypes of themselves are self-imposed. It’s a fight I can definitely get behind.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Kurumi Erika, Cure Marine (Heartcatch Precure!)

Though I can describe Kurumi Erika by her general traits — talkative, friendly, clever, energetic– I feel that it doesn’t quite do her justice. With Erika you have someone who is much more than the sum of her parts, an endearing character whose traits cannot simply be divided into “strengths” and “flaws,” but are aspects of Erika that have both positives and negatives. Erika’s gift of gab is tempered by the perils of being a motormouth. She is incredibly hardworking and focused when it comes to her interests and will go out of her way to accomplish her goals, but can be incredibly lazy and ignorant towards anything that fails to inspire her passion. All of this stems from Erika’s sense of emotional honesty and her full-speed, no-brakes approach to life.

In a series with particularly strong characterization, Erika stands out in a big way, and I hope that she and her fellow Cures have a positive impact on not just the way characters are written for anime, but also how they are received by the fans and how they may influence those watching to better themselves. Erika feels real, not in the sense of evoking reality or being a simulation for it, but in that she is an emotionally complete individual. She is an inspiration for anyone who has every hesitated due to fear of being unable to grow as an individual.

Final Thoughts

Though not intentional on my part, I realized while writing my thoughts on Kuranosuke and Erika that the two have much in common. Both are outgoing with sunny dispositions. Both are highly passionate about fashion and believe in the positive transformative effects it can have on people. And both are eager to meet and help others, but their enthusiasm and extroverted natures can make them seem abrasive to those who can’t keep up with their pace. They feel human. On an additional storytelling level, both are able to show that you can have incredibly straightforward and simple characters that are also complex and fully developed, whether it’s a show for adults (Kuragehime) or for children (Heartcatch Precure!). Perhaps most importantly, having people who can encourage you to grow for the better can be incredibly uplifting, whether they’re real or fictional, and that’s exactly what they do.

The Enemy’s the Fashions! Kuragehime’s Look at Anti-Beauty

Kuragehime, aka Jellyfish Princess, has so far been quite a genuine look at the lives of female otaku. Though certain elements of the story are exaggerated for comedic effect, the show really feels sincere overall, particularly when it comes to the uncomfortable conflict that can occur when dorks, particularly female dorks, run up against the frightening monster that is Fashion.

Already from episode 1 you get the idea that main character Tsukimi and the other girls find fashion to be an anathema. Living in Tokyo, going outside means having to deal with the constant, almost unconscious social pressure that results from not looking “like everyone else.” They know they’re different from others, and being reminded of it constantly and from all angles doesn’t make them any more comfortable. Their home, known as Amamizukan is a haven, not merely because it’s visually devoid of the perceived runway drive-bys that make the outside so dangerous, but also because it’s seen as mentally and emotionally free. So when the threat is made internal, either by a “beautiful woman” stepping through their door, or through having one of their own transformed into “one of them,” it’s like the sanctity of their home (and their existence) has been violated by that which they fear most.

In episode 3, Tsukimi is given a glamorous makeover by the cross-dressing Kuranosuke, and her reaction to seeing herself comes in two parts. First, she is unable to accept herself as attractive. Second, she frets over what her peers would think if they saw her. When Tsukimi imagines herself being crucified by her friends, she envisions it taking place on Otome Road in Ikebukuro, which is itself a haven for female otaku, particularly fujoshi, within a greater trendy shopping/fashion city, reflecting the status of their home within Tokyo. This reveals a lot about how Tsukimi defines herself, not just internally but also in relation to others.

While “beauty” can be defined in any number of physical ways (let alone more intangible ones), it’s clear that Tsukimi does not consider herself to be beautiful. By saying that she “doesn’t want to be pretty,” Tsukimi defines beauty as something foreign to her existence, or that to look attractive would mean that she isn’t be true to herself. I can relate. Having been ridiculed in the past because of my clothing, “good fashion” and “good looks” became symbols of the enemy, the barriers which prevent people from seeing that it’s the inside that counts, as taught by one Ugly Duckling. But when you think about it, if the inside is really what’s important, then people should not be judged negatively simply because they’re attractive and make an effort to be attractive.

Fashion can be seen as a way to hide your flaws. In that sense, fashion becomes a “lie” made all the more egregious by glitz and glamour, but it’s a perspective marred by pessimism, where a person allows the negative aspects their appearance to define them more than the positive ones. Instead, you can think of fashion as accentuating your better qualities, where you define “good-looking” on your own terms, and the difference between fashionable and unfashionable can be as simple as an anime t-shirt that fits versus one that doesn’t. But this isn’t what Tsukimi is doing. Rather than making a declaration that sweats and unkempt eyebrows are a sign of her own personal beauty, she has defined “being pretty” as a state that she can only achieve through deception and trickery, that whatever “beauty” is, she isn’t. To look good is to be one with the enemy, and neither she nor her housemates at Amamizukan can accept that (or at least that’s what Tsukimi believes).

So when it comes to the second part of Tsukimi’s reaction, the fear that she would be branded a traitor by her comrades in geekdom, there is more at work than simply group pressure. Tsukimi and the other girls have so violently rejected the “standard” world that they have created their own anti-fashion values, where everything is upside down. While I appear to be contradicting what I said earlier about defining fashion on your own terms, this isn’t quite what’s going on, as the girls are actually casting in a negative light the very attempt to look better. Because they feel ostracized by the outside, they shun it right back to the point that they feed their insecurities, rather than grow more comfortable, and in doing so they end up being not so different from those they wish to distance themselves from.

I know the emphasis that fashion can have on a group dynamic like this can be difficult for a lot of guys to comprehend, so I’m going to provide a more aggressive, arguably more “masculine” nerd equivalent. Imagine that a Star Trek fan gets beat up in school by a bunch of jocks. As a result, he begins to associate anything having to do with physical prowess and athletic activity with stupidity and the worst human traits. Then, he manages to find a Star Trek club and makes some friends, even going to science fiction conventions. He’s happy, but within that community he becomes the guy who judges others by their Star Trek knowledge (which by this point has also branched out to Babylon 5 and other works), and to not be up to his level is to simply not be up to par. Just as this poor nerd “bullies” with his intelligence and fandom knowledge, unconsciously mirroring the very bullies who torment him, the anti-fashion, anti-beauty attitude of Tsukimi and friends emerges in a similar fashion.

Is Amamizukan truly free then? Yes, but only if you follow their rules. That doesn’t make them bad people, though.