Shoujo sosuu

At this very moment, I should be having a great time in the hot springs of Gunma prefecture, but a last minute volcanic eruption in Iceland kind of trashed my plans for the whole week, and I am rotting away in my room instead. So now that everything is canceled, I'll try to blog a little for a change.

For starters, I'd like to introduce the first volume of Shoujo sosuu, literally “young girl prime numbers.” It's the latest all-age manga by Nagatsuki Misoka (serialized in Kirara Forward) whom you may know for his LO-published story-heavy eromanga A day in the life, or his later 4-koma HR. Shoujo sosuu doesn't have a lot to do with prime numbers, but it certainly does with young girls. It's the everyday life story of Anzu and Sumire, two twin middle school girls with somewhat constrasting personalities, and of their older brother, their friends, their acquaintances and so on. A standard setting perhaps, but with a rather unique spin on several levels.

An open letter to CNN by Nogami Takeshi

You have probably heard about CNN recently stirring up gratuitous controversy over Rapelay, an issue that should have died down almost a year ago. It is not difficult to imagine that lobby groups within Japan are using Western media to put pressure on Japanese elected officials on related issues. And it might be working: at any rate, that CNN report is getting quite a bit of attention on the Japanese Internet (though not yet on mainstream media). CNN is also getting many hits for that piece of quality reporting, to the point that reporter Kyung Lah got to put up an even finer follow-up article yesterday: a cultural-essentialist explanation of why Japan is so perverted. And there were a couple of silly CNN blog posts on the subject in between, to boot.

Nogami Takeshi, a Japanese mangaka known for such works as Koutetsu no shoujo-tachi (art, Shounen Ace), Serafuku to juusensha (Champion Red Ichigo) or various artworks for the Strike Witches franchise, has written an open letter to CNN in reaction to the latest report. He asked if someone could translate it. I am pleased to oblige. Note that I may not agree with all arguments made in this letter, and I don't really think it's likely to gain many supporters for our viewpoint, but it's an entertaining read.

News from the censorship front

Even with the Tokyo hijitsuzai seishounen reform proposal on hold for a while, the proponents of regulation have been keeping pretty busy. Before turning to the second part of the ongoing clarification post, I'd like to mention a couple of important news tidbits that seem to have received little attention on the English Internet.

Explanation of the hijitsuzai reform proposal (1/3)

As mentioned in the previous post, and despite suspicions of a last-minute reversal, it was decided last Friday that the so-called hijitsuzai seishounen reform proposal introduced a few weeks ago in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly would be given further consideration. It should not go to vote before the summer. It isn't dead yet, though, and since there has been a measure of confusion as to what the proposal was actually about or why it was introduced (including awfully researched pieces surfacing in the Western mainstream media), this is an attempt at clarifying things a little.

I initially set out to write a single tl;dr post on the subject, but it kept getting bulkier as I went along, so that cutting things into writable, and hopefully readable, pieces began to look like a good idea. This will be three-part post: this first part gives an overview of what the proposal is about, what it isn't about, and how it came about. The second part (later this week?) will be a more in-depth look at the major specific changes that the proposal meant to introduce, and the problems they create. The third part should cover the reactions to the proposal and future prospects regarding the whole affair.

Just another truce

So it seems that all hell won't be breaking loose just yet. Thanks to an unprecedented mobilization of the cream of the crop in all things manga (artists, publishers, critics, professors and more), the Minshutō majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly announced yesterday that they would push for a postponement of the vote on the “juvenile nonentities” (hijitsuzai seishounen) reform proposal and a reexamination thereof. Their allies are expected to support the motion as well. The Jimintō-Komeitō minority, who introduced the reform bill to begin with, does not seem prepared to back down, but if votes go along party lines (and since public announcements have been made, it is likely that they will), they should be overruled during Friday's debates.

Higurashi doujin opera

The Nerima culture center was hosting a pretty unusual event today: a performance of the Secondary-work Opera “Higurashi no naku koro ni”, a two-act operatic adaptation of 07th Expansion's sound novel. It was quite an interesting experience, and I'd like to jot down some quick thoughts about it, bullet-point-style.

Nanoha the movie 1st impressions

Having told of my disappointment from ten days ago, I guess it might be a good idea to also write about the parts of that week-end I enjoyed tremendously. A Chuugakusei nikki post is certainly in order, in particular, but that will have to wait for a few days. In the meantime, I'd like to share a few very short thoughts about the Nanoha movie. I won't be addressing any specific plot point, so you can consider this post almost spoiler-free.

Nagato Yuki no shoushitsu

After over two weeks straight of not doing much of anything but work, last week-end was a welcome break full of otaku activities: anison karaoke, Nanoha the movie 1st and shopping for Okada Kou's new book Chuugakusei nikki on Saturday, followed by a Sunshine Creation full of Hideyoshi doujinshi and Suzumiya Haruhi no shoushitsu on Sunday. Nanoha in particular was pure joy, and though it took me several, erm, sittings to finish it (it's just too useable), I can also tell you that Chuugakusei nikki is spectacular.

On the other hand, the Haruhi movie (known in English as The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, or was it Vanishment instead?) was a bit of a disappointment for me. Since impression posts I've read about it seemed to range from contented to ecstatic, I might as well try and explain why. This shouldn't spoil anything if you're familiar with the Shoushitsu storyline; I haven't read the novels myself, but the adaptation was reportedly quite faithful.

Ohime-sama dakko

While I don't really expect Dance in the Vampire Bund to reach masterpiece level by the end of the season, I wholeheartedly agree with hashi that it is the most promising show of the winter. Beyond the hilarious first episode, the mesmerizing opening sequence and the scenes of underage nudity (which we at strongly approve of), it is the way the show revisits original vampire myths in the light of contemporary sexual morality that really makes it shine, as was thoughtfully pointed out by E Minor over at Moe Sucks (a site that doesn't always suck!).

He does however express some reservations regarding the show's message which I must take issue with. In episode 2, he notes, Mina is “protected” by Akira a couple of times. Therefore, he concludes, despite its seemingly powerful, assertive heroine and its unconventional representation of sexuality, Dance in the Vampire Bund ultimately conveys a conservative view of gender roles. I think this is a misperception of the power dynamics at play in a couple such as Mina×Akira.

This loser is you: the appeal of netorare

A previous post suggested that otaku (moe otaku in particular) tend to have a very righteous approach to romantic relationships, in the sense that they value pure, sincere, genuine commitment to a romantic interest, both during a relationship and as a prerequisite to forming it (it's a trivial but significant observation that the genre overwhelmingly favors “confessing” over “asking out,” for instance). Since their ethos makes the commitment precede the relationship, otaku are prone to unrequited feelings and infatuation. And turning to 2D doesn't really help here for now: usually, your dakimakura won't talk back.

Of course, not all otaku are romantically challenged. Some are even rumored to be married with kids. Nevertheless, anecdotal observation and secondary evidence do suggest a strong connection between otakudom and a specific perception of romantic relationships (not a very successful one). It is a bit of a cliché, but one that has enough basis in reality that the medium itself can play with it in interesting ways—particularly by teasing the audience with a surrogate character modeled around that cliché.

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