So my notes on this panel are REALLY incomplete, partly because it was late & I was zoning out quite a bit, but also because I started a Twitter discussion & was then discussing it on g-chat ^^;;;
BUT. Notes on anime/manga panels at WisCon are usually few/far between, so I'm posting everything I've got. If anyone else has more, feel free to add to this or etc.
Is the Boys' Love genre an appropriation of gay male sexuality, or an expression of female sexuality? Are there realistic series about gay men outside of BL that were written by/for men? What about realistic lesbian characters? Let's talk about the representation of LGB characters in anime & manga—what we've seen, and what we'd like to see.
10:30-11:45pm, Conference Room 4Panelists:
Andrea Horbinski, Emily Horner, Julie Andrews
AH: Don't be shy in contributing!
[Panelists introduce themselves. I ignore their introductions because I am familiar with all of them!]
EH: When 17-20, I read so many BL manga that were written for women about same-sex male relationships. I read a lot of really bad ones & really good ones. There was a really big problem with the fact that relationships were totally fantasy, nothing to do with the reality of being a gay person. But at the same time, they were tremendously important to me for many reasons. It's been complicated for me to unpack.
Reading classics like "Heart of Thomas" and "Song of the Wind and Trees" was great.
You get a sense of wistfulness & teenage love. But not a realistic representation at all.
AH: Heart of Thomas is by Hagio Moto. Just released in English, finally. The translation is pretty good.
One of the things that's interesting about BL is how in the 1970s, it started in some respects by female manga writers/creators as a way to get out of the problems of representing heterosexual relationships in a very sexist society. Unless it's a fantasy, het relationships are potentially highly unequal. By having a relationship between two boys, then they don't have to deal with that inequity. They evolved afterward.
Another classic is Rose of Versailles by Ikeda Ryoko. The anime just released in English.
The manga hasn't been released in English.
Aud: Can we talk about pirated copies?
AH: YES. PIRACY IS AWESOME.
Aud: It's scanslated in English.
AH: [Rose of Versailles is] an historical fantasy manga set in France, a woman raised to fulfill a man's role in the royal guard. A really huge series in terms of starting BL. A way for female creators to explore potential different forms of relationships. As tropes developed, power differentials [and here I drifted]
EH: Idea of flexible identification between two main characters. Even if really unequal power dynamics, there's not a strong sense that you have to identify with the heroine or being loved by the male hero. You can identify with the person being rescued and
with the person being chivalrous & doing the rescuing. It strikes me as an interesting thing. Sometimes you cringe.
AH: Floating identification on part of readers.
Aud: Why would relationships between men be written for women readers?
EH: What I've read is that Hagio Moto and Taki Miyakato (I think I may have misheard this manga-ka!) were introduced to German bildungsromans set at European boarding schools.
Lots of sexual tension between male characters & they were like, "This is really interesting." They reinterpreted it into a romantic relationship. There were all these manga for boys - soccer manga, team defeating supernatural evil manga.
Women would write doujinshi (self-published fan comics) where team members would be in romantic relationships with each other.
Women reappropriating a male genre by imposing female identified romance tropes on it.
[missed some points]
JA: Trying to get rid of power dynamic [between people in a relationship] but then it snuck in anyway. Seme/uke dynamic: Definitions are part of Western/American culture. Not every gay man identifies as top/bottom. It's part of a thing. In BL manga, it's a very big part.
[I picked a fight on Twitter here]
Aud: I don't know about manga or stuff like that, but in fanfic, the traits of the characters will change to fit the fic. Teen Wolf: Stiles gets a foot shorter.
Aud: Wanted to mention fan culture vs. creators is not very rigidly separated in Japan. Doujinshi artists often then become professional artists.
AH: Yoshinaga Fumi has sold doujinshi of her own work that are sexually explicit at Comiket. She started out doing doujinshi of Rose of Versailles.
[I miss more points here as I send more tweets.]
AH: The panel description includes the question about whether BL is an expression of female sexuality or expression of male sexuality. A dude wrote an essay saying it's an expression of female sexuality.
EH: I did read that essay. [Missed the rest of response]
AH: It's much less easy to be out in Japan than other countries.
JA: It's a trope in other comics. Ouran High School Host Club: club is a bunch of guys, so girls at the school can come in & fawn on the gay boys (the twins). They have types.
Aud: Do you guys know when that essay came out in relation to "Not love but delicious food makes me so happy" [a one-shot mostly autobiographical manga by Fumi Yoshinaga] when Yoshinaga finds out she has a gay friend & apologizes for fetishizing him?
AH: Feel like manga came out in Japan in 2006.
AH: Lesbians more visible than gay characters - am I right?
JA: Sailor Moon. [Discussion of Zoisite
, a character who was an effeminate gay man in the Japanese anime, & changed to a woman in the English dub.]
Aud: [Discussing Starlight characters in Sailor Moon] The magical girl transformation sequences clearly have male bodies. In anime and the manga, they are cross-dressing women. [I think I must have written this down incorrectly ^^;;] Why did that change?
Aud: Re-translations of the Sailor Moon manga that are coming out now in the U.S., volume 11 just came out last week & had first appearance of the Starlights, the various Starlights relationships as [my attention was pulled elsewhere].
Aud: There's a scene in the Sailor Moon anime where Rei is embarrassed about having Takarazuka magazine. That's a sign of lesbian interest/tendencies. It's totally a stereotype.
[I missed things that were said.]
Aud: I found that manga really discomforting. Anime is much lighter.
EH: I read one volume & thought if anyone was that mean about my writing, I would break up with them.
AH: CLAMP. Very successfully sort of written a lot of manga that trade on BL tropes and lesbian tropes too, to some extent. But never actually write an actual BL manga.
Aud: Gouhou Drug [aka: Legal Drug] portrays a m/m relationship.
[I missed stuff]
Aud: We've discussed series w/LGB characters. Do we know of any creators who identify as LGB?
EH: It is really hard to find this information because manga-ka are really private about their lives.
Author of [?!] is a lesbian, otherwise I don't know too much.
Aud: 4-panel manga which is very short, a few streets. Lillicious has done scanlation - Happy Picture Diary. Very clearly semi-autobiographical. Woman is into yuri/etc., wishing she had gone to an all-girls school. Really reads like written from within the community.
Aud: [discussion of characters in Cardcaptor Sakura: Glimpses of the m/m relationship with Sakura's brother & his friend.
AH: It is heavily teased in Gate 7 [manga by CLAMP] that one of the characters is bisexual.
EH: There is a BL trope that this relationship [whichever relationship you're in at the present time] is the only one that counts in your whole lifetime, so being bisexual is kind of besides the point.
Aud: Why is [BL] way more prevalent in that culture?
AH: I can't make a statement about relative prevalence. It sells better [in Japan] - people there are more responsive to market research? [laughter]
I don't know. I'm on the board of the OTW. We had a survey. 5,000 is a large sample, but no way to relate that to the absolute size of whatever --
Aud: Wanted to ask people who have been Japan. How hard is it to be out in Japan?
EH: I get the impression that it's still quite hard. To be promoted, need to give impression that you're a good family person. You need a wife to do domestic tasks while you're working 100 hours a week. There's a lot of pressure to have kids and grandkids in the U.S. too. Get the impression it may be even stronger in Japan. Same-sex marriage isn't on the table.
Aud: Politicians coming out is at publicity level.
AH: There are a couple gay areas in Tokyo and Osaka, and outside of that it's --
Japanese society was very oriented toward corporate stuff & the family in early post-war period. That's not really realistic any more. There aren't enough company jobs for everyone who gets college degrees.
[I missed things!]
EH: BL takes place in a fantasy world. Often these are nominally realistic settings (high school, etc.) but things would not unfold as they do in the real world.
Aud: I'm not super familiar with BL, but from the outside, I have the impression it's more on the romance & less on the physical.
EH: There is a huge spectrum. Some very, very explicit stuff.
JA: Difference between BL and yaoi?
EH: Technically, yaoi specifically refers to doujinshi as opposed to commercially-produced work. BL is the umbrella term, and it includes yaoi.
Aud: My understanding is that stress on the corporation & nuclear family structure came with modernization, and before that, there were actually fairly flexible attitudes toward sexual orientation. Does that tie in at all to whole [anime/manga] industry?
I know it's not the same culture at all, but in Korea, system of homophobia. It's tolerated so long as you get het-married eventually. Does that tie in to duality of society not making laws and systems to counteract discrimination, but there's still an openness to seeing it [I missed the rest of the question]?
AH: I am given to understand that prior to beginning of Westernization in 1868/1880s, there was a different paradigm for understanding same-sex relationships. There's a book called Cartographies of Desires, haven't read it yet. Arc that he describes ends in 1950s with medicalization of homosexual behavior.
[I missed things!]
Discussion of the new swimming anime! Aud: The company that made it usually does moe - they did K-On!
Aud: What's moe?
AH: Moe is a style in which characters who are in high school are depicted as looking 12. Unapologetically aimed at men, although women enjoy them too.
A trailer was made of an anime swimming team. Fandom/Tumblr made relationships and etc. Last month, the company said they're making it into an anime. Their fanbase of male moe fans was not too enthusiastic about this.
Fujoshi means rotten women - women who like BL. [more discussion of fujoshi]
EH: I have a book about how being a fujoshi can make you succeed in the office - talk about sports & politics by shipping everyone.
Onabe - before fujoshi? Haven't heard terms in combination.
Aud: Thought "fujoshi" was specifically a fan context.