Faraway Places (Yaoi Manga)


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Basing their dojinshi on popular media characters, they took the terms Yamanashi , Ochinashi , and Iminashi no climax, no point, no meaning to characterize Sakata's dojinsh Loveri. Yaoi is formed by the three terms. As used by Sakata and her group, yoai is an ironic subversion of a traditional Japanese narrative structure consisting of an introduction, development, transition, and conclusion Natsume, personal communication, June 6, Both yaoi and boys' love are, according to their creators and consumers, forms of love "superior" to heterosexual varieties. Just as it has innumerable exponents today, it had other originators, both identifiable and unidentifiable--a paradigm case of Barthes' "the death of the author" Barthes, One of the most important appearances was the publication of Keiko Takemiya's sensational manga Kaze to Ki no Uta A Poem of Wind and Trees , the story of the beautiful young French boarding school student Gilbert Cocteau who is continually falling into bed with other boys.

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Takemiya personal communication, 14 August, explained how she struggled to convince her editor at Syogakukan, one of Japan's big-three manga publishers, to print her story in the weekly girls' manga Shojo Comic. Much to the publisher's surprise, the story was an instant success, it was serialized for many years, and introduced boys' love into the popular visual culture of adolescent girls. The erotic magazine for young women, which combines manga and short stories, within a few months evolved into the still popular June Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, Slash exists primarily as a literary form since, if the live actors are drawn in cartoon form, they become like manga or cartoon characters, that is to say, they become dojinshi yaoi.

The eighties was a time when the dojinshi sold at comic markets shifted from mostly original stories and characters to parodies of popular manga and animated cartoon characters Yonezawa, personal communication, August 17, In parodies still prevail and yaoi is the predominant parody genre.

The yaoi parody may be traced to when the animated TV cartoon Captain Tsubasa became enormously popular.

Dojinshi and the Comic Market

Interestingly, the anime was based on a series from the weekly boy's magazine, Shonen Jump. The story is about how a soccer team led by protagonist Captain Tsubasa competes with one strong team after another to finally win a tournament. By the summer of , about out of 3, groups exhibiting at the market created parodies of Captain Tsubasa Inokai, b, p. During the nineties Yaoi artists started looking to commercial manga and anime for a great variety of interesting characters for their parodies.

But it is too simple an explanation to claim that the parodies are just about the characters. Every male character from the popular media becomes fair game. For example, the comic markets in Taiwan featured Harry Potter dojinshi, and it takes little imagination to visualize the various possibilities for romantic relationships between Harry and Malfoy. The implicit assumption underlying yaoi stories is that the love between males is superior to ordinary forms of love than exist between males and females. This assumption may result from young Japanese females' beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, about their male-dominated society in which many women believe that once married romance will disappear, replaced by the duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper.

In thousands of ways mere male friendships, and sometimes improbable or taboo relationships--say between brothers, are transformed into romantic relationships. This ideal romantic love is never thwarted by little things such as petty jealousies. This supposed superior love, although ostensibly between males, displays distinctly feminine qualities. The characters in yaoi parodies, for example, combine delicate almost feminine physical features with physical strength.

Indeed most of the males are slender, physically beautiful, fragile, sensitive, and in many instances they appear androgynous. Before yaoi emerged, female fans associated with June magazine were enamored with tanbi which implies refined aesthetic taste and an obsession for beautiful things Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, This obsession pervades boys' love narratives. Curiously, even in the case of rape or rough sex, a gentleness characterizes many yaoi stories.

The elegance with which many of the dojinshi are designed and drawn is another dimension of beauty to which we must refer. Indeed it is impossible for yaoi artists to explore an obsession for beautiful bodies if the figures are crudely drawn. Yaoi and boys' love stories and characters are generally exquisitely designed; both the draftsmanship and composition of dojinshi far exceeds the work of amateur comic artists in the United States. We have provided possible explanations for the generally high level of graphic skill found among East Asian children and teenagers, factors such as the practiced perceptual skill and facility required to produce thousands of written Japanese or Chinese characters, the vast number of graphic manga and anime images upon which young people may model their own drawing, and, perhaps, also the national curricula in countries such as Japan and Taiwan where figure drawing is generally approached more systematically and rigorously than in the West Toku, b, Wilson, a.

The elegantly depicted "ideal" love, seemingly between males, exists within a variety of narrative contexts--adventure, science fiction, sports, ordinary domestic settings, schools, spy intrigue--and the sex scenes are the most important part of the story. In the grossest varieties of yaoi, sex is all there is. Frequently sex scenes explode before even a sliver of narrative context is established; the transitions of ordinary fiction delay the action unnecessarily.

The yaoi narratives appear pornographic, especially in the eyes of Western viewers. Pornography, however, implies depictions of situations that sexually arouse viewers. In yaoi, this is not necessarily the case. Until recently, yaoi was the very opposite of Shunga, the Japanese pornographic woodcut prints, in which sexual organs are exaggerated and no detail of the sexual act is left to the imagination.

In yaoi, with all the sexual acrobatics, until recently genital areas were never shown. Now some yaoi have become explicitly graphic. They seem to be little more than stories of relationships between two males, but is what appears so obvious even about males? The movement toward specificity notwithstanding, for yaoi artists and fans alike, fantasy is still the operative word. Time and time again we heard this distinction: male pornography is about reality; yaoi is about fantasy.

Some semiotic digging seems in order. In yaoi narratives there is a seldom varying rule specifying two clearly defined "male" roles. One protagonist is seme and one is uke. Seme is a man whose attitudes and actions are "on top," aggressive, and affirmative, in other words it's the stereotypical role attributed to males.

The aggressive role is contrasted with the "on the bottom," passive, and submissive uke stereotypical role attributed to females. Yaoi narratives feature endless variations of the rape of a uke type by a seme type who, despite his aggression, truly loves his passive uke partner Nakajima, , pp. In boys' love dojinshi, relationships are gentler than those found in the more violent yaoi narratives.

But gentle and smooth or violent and rough, these relationships, created by young females, take place between males. What do they mean? Roland Barthes, the always-insightful reader of signs, might see in yaoi and boys' love a fascinating challenge in his project to decipher the "Empire of Signs.

But the interests of two art educators, one a Japanese female who has lived and taught in America for more than a decade and the other a male American with European ancestry, differ markedly from those of Barthes. We began our own semiotic process by doing a very un-Barthes-like thing; we asked dojinshi artists and fans "what does yaoi mean? This is especially so in the case of a cultural rhizome Deleuze and Guattari, , Wilson, consisting of freewheeling dojinshi fans and artists who absorb influences from manga, anime, video games, and who knows what else, in order to collaboratively create and consume texts as complex as yoai and boys' love.

These texts are surrounded by an expanding tangle of intersecting interests, ideas, ideologies, and interpretations which are virtually impossible to diagram Wilson, Nevertheless, it's fascinating to listen to dojinshi fans' and artists' explanations of what they're up to. This is the starting point for our discussion of yaoi and boys' love as signifiers.

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When we asked variations of the question, what does it mean when heterosexual females have a passion for creating and reading stories involving love between males? We think that it is especially notable that respondents within the dojinshi subculture were invariably careful to draw a distinction between the genre of manga created for the gay male community. On the other hand, yaoi and boys' love dojinshi, which "are fantasy," are seen as the imagined relationships between males, which exist only in the minds of female yaoi creators and readers.

These two types of depictions of human sexuality, to the unknowing viewer may appear virtually the same, but to the two sets of creators and interpreters--one predominantly gay male and the other predominantly heterosexual female--are signs whose meanings are a world apart. Japanese females, as Yonezawa personal communications, August 17, and September 5, explained, use yaoi characters to express their own longing.

The male characters provide ways to symbolize romantic love that may seem absent from typical heterosexual relationships--especially from the anticipated "realities" of heterosexual marriage. Yonezawa also explained that taking two popular male media characters for whom a yoai creator has a fondness and putting them in a romantic relationship provides a "double-jolt" of improbability--of unreality.

She explained that having boys play the roles of both males and females provides a way for exploring relationships between love and sex. Takemia's analysis is echoed by Fred Schodt, who has made extensive studies of manga , He speculated that yaoi permits girls to experiment with love and lovemaking devoid of the usual anatomical encumbrances, "baggage" was the term he used: no breasts, no female plumbing, and especially no fear of pregnancy and babies Schodt, personal communication, February 17, Schodt's explanation can be extended.

Is it possible that in yaoi young Japanese females seek symbolic escape from the social roles to which they are assigned? This is a fantasy which was created by females who wish to dream, at least for a little while, of a life different from the one society seems prepared to give them. There are more speculative and more pessimistic explanations of the meaning underlying. Some fans, one said, are "depressed by men, they're dissatisfied with them. Yaoi also permits women to reconstruct themselves along masculine lines and to gain status, "some don't want to be women, they want to be a man!

Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, offers an even more extreme interpretation applied to the readers of the magazine he edits. The explanations offered by dojinshi creators and fans, we think, should be taken seriously. Within them it is possible to see elements of plausibility. Intuitively, the inhabitants of the dojinshi subculture have sensed some, but perhaps not all, of what yaoi and boys' love signify. In our quest for signification we must dig more deeply. Yaoi dojinshi are filled with thousands upon thousands of beautiful coupling male bodies.

The interpreters of yaoi and boys' love are unanimous in their conclusion that the dojinshi narratives are not about gay relationships. The yaoi territory of the dojinshi subculture provides a site where females are free to experiment with the possibilities and the prospects for their own identities, to construct new notions of gender for themselves, and to rehearse potential romantic and sexual relationships. But these signs are signs of what? We must read even more deeply. Double Lives. Eda, one of Taiwan's most revered female dojinshi artists 4 commented on the fact that many dojinshi artists and fans who attend comic markets dressed as their favorite manga, anime, computer game, and movie characters lead double lives personal communication, May 8, Their parents are unaware of their immersion in the dojinshi subculture.

For example, one of Taiwan's most well known dojinshi artists is an elementary school teacher; her students and school colleagues do not even know that she creates dojinshi; she believes that knowledge of her "other life" would harm her teaching career. Dojinshi groups take names such as Secret Society. The clandestine "double-life" which characterizes many members of the dojinshi subculture could be a metaphor for what yaoi and boys' love signify. In dojinshi the body of the individual creator or reader is recontextualized in relationship to myriad other bodies and thus the boundaries of gender are deconstructed, recombined, and reconstructed symbolically.

The symbolic bodies are not, however, one construct but an entire spectrum of bodies and ways of being. The aggressive female, the passive female, and the simultaneously passive and aggressive female become possibilities for being. The powerful female is envisioned, but power and less-power come in many tints, and hues.


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There exist within the yoai characters thousands of shades of domination and submission, which, interestingly, reinforce cultural stereotypes about the role of women, and on the other hand present new feminist possibilities. It is a broad spectrum of choices, some falling clearly within existing roles and some beyond them.

Individual readers may seek their identity within current cultural prescriptions and others may experiment with the virtually unknown. It is the beyond-now which makes yaoi a site for the social reconstruction of gender roles. The traditional binary forces of positive or negative, black or white, above or below, hard or soft may point to a deeper cultural phenomenon, Taoism and yin and yang.

However, the coexisting spectrum of shades of gray, the-somewhere-between-positive-and-negative, and the either and neither-above-or-below point to instability, transition, reformulation, and change. Yaoi may signify a dissatisfaction, an uneasiness, with traditional female identities and the desire to experiment with new identities and new power relationships. Nevertheless, the precise character of the new conceptions of male and female, such as the "dual" feminine and masculine "personalities" posited by Takemiya personal communication, January 22, are difficult if not impossible to fix.

The perspectives, positions, tastes, and orientations seem to exist in a frightening rhizomatic flux. Yaoi appears to reinforce conservative gender roles while simultaneously providing models for liberating roles. The choices are there and the readers and writers may, consciously or unconsciously, choose this, or that, or the other model--or their combinations. What are the consequences of being double-minded, playing with double-edged-ness, possessing double-pleasures, double-troubles?

Perhaps this is an instance about which Jacques Lacan writes--of "the incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier" Lacan , He claimed that no anchoring of particular signifiers to particular signifieds is possible. Like Lacan, Derrida refers to the free-play of signifiers which point beyond themselves to other signifiers in an "indefinite referral of signifier to signified" Derrida , We believe that the range of double-duty disengaged signifiers permit the creators and consumers of yaoi and boys' love to be as-I-am-now while symbolically having as-I-might-be identities posited by the "other" who just happens to appear in the form of others' [male] bodies.

The slippery less-known [to the female] male body provides a nearly-blank slate on which to scrawl, scrub-out, and sometime even with an elegant line draw new forms of femininity. As art educators, we were drawn to the dojinshi subculture because we saw the profound influence manga had on the drawings of Japanese young people.

Once we glimpsed the subculture we were astonished by its size, depth, complexity, and importance to the lives of an enormous number of Asian and a growing number of American teenagers. Here is an enormous chunk of visual culture created and controlled almost entirely by young people for their own purposes. Even more importantly, those purposes involved, among other things, their drawing, redrawing, and erasing the lines of gender and identity, and in the process, probably changing society in unpredictable ways. We were even more surprised that few art educators in Asia or America are even taking note of what is happening.

The content of yaoi and boys' love are signs to which we have attached meaning. Our initial interpretations notwithstanding, we have engaged in a semiotic process for which there is no foreseeable end.

From one instance of signification emerges more signifiers in an ongoing chain of meanings--a manifestation unlimited semiosis which Eco examines with such insight. Yaoi, and boys' love are signs of teenage power within the realm of visual cultural. They represent the power of young peoples' artworks in which art teachers play virtually no role. We art teachers should examine these manifestations of power residing within the visual culture of youth in relationship to the visual cultural power represented by formal art education curricula.

Foucault viewed power in relationship to knowledge, seeing a mutually constituting relationship between power and knowledge. We may view art education curricula and instruction as well intentioned efforts by the educational establishment and art teachers to educate students through the processes of art-making and acquisition of knowledge relating to the history, philosophy, and interpretation of art and artworks.

Encouraged by society, through our instruction we art teachers provide students with art knowledge assumed to contribute to their intellectual, social, cultural, and aesthetic wellbeing. Bourdieu would see art education as an effort to provide students with the advantages that come from possessing certain forms of educational and cultural capital , pp. The knowledge associated with cultural capital is, however, conveyed within formal contexts--school classrooms--where adults have enormous power over what students will "learn" about "art. Early proponents of discipline-based art education saw art history, criticism, aesthetics, and art-production, not artworks, as the primary content of art education Wilson, b, pp.

Thus, formal art knowledge is formed within relationships where adult-sanctioned power is exercised. This knowledge, when willingly accepted by students, contributes to the development and proliferation of new power relationships--this is certainly the case when an art student is inspired by his or her teacher and subsequently succeeds, say, in having artworks purchased by a prestigious art museum.

Students, however, do not always accept the art knowledge offered them by teachers. They may see it as irrelevant, as having little worth. While ignoring the content of formal art instruction, students may prize other forms of visual culture such as comics, anime, video games, and music videos, which are still denigrated by some art teachers. In the relationship between the school art curricula and the dojinshi subculture in Japan we have a paradigm case in which youth visual cultural power is in competition with the visual cultural power represented by the art curricula. This situation, we might note, is not unique to Japan or to Asia.

It's not so much that these two forms of visual culture are in open conflict, rather they exist apart in separate territories within the vast visual cultural realm. Nevertheless, it is ironic, on the one hand, that teachers expend great effort to make art a part of students' lives, and yet we know virtually nothing about whether or not art instruction changes the lives of general education students. On the other hand, those same students, with little or no encouragement from adults--and frequently with adult disapproval, make dojinshi creation and consumption a central component of their lives.

Is this a problem for art education? Should these two clusters of power within art education be treated as hopelessly antagonistic and irreconcilable? Foucault has a useful response to this type of question. He refers to "a new economy of power relations. He argues for the investigation of forms of resistance, taking as a starting point a series of oppositions--things such as the power of men over women, parents over children, of psychiatry over the mentally ill, of medicine over the population, to which we might add teachers over students, and in the case of dojinshi and other forms of visual culture, power that some youth exercise over others, and a power that the dojinshi creators apparently have to diminish the importance of art instruction in the eyes of students.

Foucault claims "it is not enough to say that these are anti-authority struggles; we must try to define more precisely what they have in common" Foucault, , p. Indeed, we believe that art education could benefit enormously for a discussion of what art curricula and dojinshi have in common. Art teachers value students who draw well, who are good designers, whose works deal with important social issues, say, such as matters of identity, who make discriminating aesthetic judgments, students who have a passion for art--well certain kinds of art.

We have just described the hundreds of thousands of youth--it's probably millions of youth--who inhabit the dojinshi subculture. Should the dojinshi subculture be brought into that curriculum? The new Japanese middle school art textbooks do devote two or three pages to manga, suggesting that this aspect of popular culture should become a component of the curriculum.


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The new textbook were implemented in April, Toku, a. Some would go so far as to transform art education into visual culture education. Herein lies the problem. Dojinshi and its yoai and boys' love components flourish because they are subversive, beyond control, and because they stand in opposition to conventional societal norms. To put these forms of youth visual culture in schools would probably rob teens of the pleasures that surround their creation and consumption: when we require students to do and make what they themselves have elected to do on their own becomes no longer their own.

Moreover, when the subversive is sanctioned it loses its social transformative functions. Surely, schools should not be in the business of assisting students to create dojinshi. I hear you. I heard about the iffy non-con part of the series and I really object to that sort of.. Now that I write this, it does sound like those characters in Tyrant Fall in Love. I read your Scary Yaoi Fangirls posts and I thought you hit the nail on the button. I myself have seen the craziness! Not in any way did I thought you portrayed as being a homophobe.

It was a well written blog. Am I a Yaoi Fangirl? Yes I am — just not one of the crazy ones. There are some good Authors out there and I am a fan. Why would anyone pick up a book in the first place? My sister reads romance such as Danielle Steele. One thing you have to learn about people and many, many fangirls in the world is that they do not like to read. They like to look at the pretty pictures. This goes especially for the yaoi fangirls that just want to see the hot man love.

On top of that, most human beings see very base words. We like to think of ourselves as people who see the world in all colors, but when it comes to words, we usually see it in black and white. And it seems that human beings naturally love conflict, because they will latch onto the negative. I recently had an experience with a writer that I gave comments to. I liked her story, quite a bit.

I told her so; and with specific points that I really liked as well. But I made the mistake of giving one small opinion, that I tried to phrase as nicely as I possibly could. There is the potential for intelligence within the human race. But for the most part, this is how people are. Sure makes me feel a little more special, lol. I have to say i was gonna make example of Yuri, but i like it too, so i cannot make it example in my point of view. Those things you said of countries and stuff, made me feel that you think that only in Asia has normal Yaoifans and not scary Yaoifangirls.

I just wanted to say, in every country there is scary Yaoifangirl and in every country has normal Yaoifans. But in Europe neighbour countries can be like night and day.

Example i live in country, where people are subdued, but i know that there is scary Yaoifangirls, and my neighbour country has not so subdued peoples. But of course there are different kind of people. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Anime Bento Manga, Anime and a sideorder of Bishies. To these people — please get a life. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading September 14, at pm. September 15, at am. Atazure says:. September 25, at am. October 2, at am. August 23, at pm.

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