Behind the scenes cosplay

Struggle under me: Your body is the collateral for the loan

Last weekend I helped my online moe language teacher, Bangin sensei, with his cosplay for the third time. Unlike the past two times– one in a small park, the other in a cosplay event– this time I would photograph Bangin and his friend Keith doing a Boys Love cosplay.

I love how Bangin originally explained his request by email:
Because this cosplay is BL, I would have to pretend to touch, kiss, or rape(not really of course!)…whatever. My friend is sure about this, so if you can accept it, I would like you to help us.

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Fundoshi v Fujoshi

Fujoshi, illustration

Another simple mistake in Japanese. Inquiring about the cultural activities of takenoko gathering, I innocently asked my in-laws, “Will there be any fujoshi?” Ooops. What I meant to ask was about fundoshi.

Above, a fujoshi, an anime and manga-addicted girl who enjoys boy-on-boy romance and sex stories known as BL (boys love). Below, fundoshi, a ritual loin cloth worn by men for some religious holidays.


Finally, one more fujoshi image, courtesy of recent commenter and blogger, imbeleth.

Fan girl ramblings blog

“How come I am uke?!”

Bangin cosplays Kyon on Otome Road

On Monday, I had the supreme pleasure of helping my internet friend Bangin, the master teacher of otaku vocabulary for the English-speaking world, cosplay Kyon from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.

Bangin’s idea was to have Kyon, the narrator, provide a tour of Otome Road, the fujoshi (female geek) world capital in Ikebukero. My role was to take hundreds of photos. It was great fun since I’ve long admired Bangin’s blog, and I’d watched seven English subbed episodes online between the time he asked me and when we did the cosplay.

A brief summary of the manga and anime story: Kyon, the narrator, is a high school freshman who is trying to grow up. He falls under the spell of a dominant female classmate who organizes the SOS Brigade to make contact with extraterrestrials, time travelers, and ESP experts. Basically, she’s looking for magic in the mundane world, a lovely concept. The story has plenty of otaku moe (school girls in uniform, including one who is used as sexual bait to gain a computer, new members and attention), and a slash fan story of Kyon’s romance with the “mysterious (male) transfer student Koizumi.”

My National Science Foundation and Fulbright-sponsored university research with Rio de Janeiro drag queens in the early 1990s only partly prepared me for the role of cosplay photographer. Make-up, costume, fantasy, role-playing, utter seriousness, a depth of knowledge and passion– all to be expected.

What surprised me was the concern to not be “too loud” or too noticed while performing. I had thought it would be fun to interact with the butler cafe doorman, or the many fujoshi pulling their wheelie bags full of manga and doujinshi (fan slash manga). This was not Bangin’s idea at all. And, oddly, no fujoshi approached us to ask about Kyon.

Here you can read Bangin’s post about Otome Road. It’s even funnier than I anticipated because Bangin writes the whole travelogue in Kyon’s voice– being “forced” by Haruhi, and warned by Koizumi about the catastrophe of closed spaces. His introduction ends with, “Today is going to be my worst day in all of my life. Will you follow me? I will show around.” There are many photos, observations and explanations!

The finale of the tour is very amusing. Across from the dozens of shops catering to fujoshi is a small, somewhat uncared-for-park, where the young customers open up their purchases (and homeless people make their home, which reminded me of San Francisco).

The photo at the top of the post shows Kyon’s shock and horror that he is the subject of a Koizumi x Kyon doujinshi. Bangin provided the quote, “How come I am uke?!”

“We’re both Japanese, let’s play it a little vague.”

Junjou Romantica "We're both Japanese, let's play it a little vague."

I am loving season two of Junjou Romantica. The characters’ passion, denial and misunderstandings continue to be “innocently romantic.” I love Misaki’s protest to his lover: “What’s the big deal. We’re both Japanese, let’s play it a little vague.”

Can denial make desire more passionate?

Junjou Romantica

Somehow this anime makes behavior that would seem stalker-like in other contexts seem sweetly romantic.

Junjou Romantica

The screenshots are great, but the voice actors are also super-talented. The younger Misaki is excitable, quick to anger, and innocent. The older Usagi is deep-voiced, authoritative, and passionate.

“Er, well, I suppose I was in love with a man myself”

Junjou romantica

Following a few blog links, I discovered this year’s most popular Boys Love anime, Junjou Romantica, with seasons 1 and 2 appearing on television. With a cast featuring university students, professors, and a famous novelist, this story tells the connected stories of four male couples.The title can be translated as Pure Romance.

Like all Boys Love, this anime is clearly written by and for women. Gay romance and sex is a fantasy displaced onto men for maximum erotic exploration. Few if any of the characters identify as gay. The sex is generally forced and desire denied, while simultaneously there’s also sweetness and true love.

Super hen, ne. ちょう変、ね!(Very twisted).

Equally amazing is that these shows have a huge international fanbase, who fansub them into English within a week or two of broadcast. All episodes can be found online for free. Season 1 can be found here.  The first five episodes of Season 2 here.

Here’s some more stills, showing ostensible rejection of attention, “but” . . .

Junjou Romantica

Sex that’s borderline rape.

Junjou Romantica

More denial of desire.

Junjou Romantica

A rare role reversal, saved for the finale of Season 1.

Junjou Romantica

The voice actors are hilarious, and the visual style very entertaining. When the characters frequently become mad, the drawings get simplified, and characters regress to children. There’s also some excessive use of falling flowers.

Season 1 has a rock and roll love song in the opening. I’ve learned most of the lyrics:

I want to see you, just want to see

If the more we’re together, the lonelier we get,

Let’s hold each other’s hands until we’re not lonely anymore

Don’t let go of that hand, don’t let go

Because I’m here beside you

Keep on smiling, always smiling

And make flowers bloom

Junjou Romantica

“Don’t get arrested”

"Don't get arrested"

“Don’t get arrested”. So the husband warned me when I told him I was going to the sentou (銭湯) to relax and help me get to bed soon for an early morning job call with the U.S. tomorrow.

Don’t get arrested” is a a delightful over-statement and also conveys that perhaps I am uniquely capable of being imprisoned for my moe (萌え) interests.

Without a doubt the husband uses the phrase to echo my mother’s inappropriately saying the same unpleasant phrase (for instance, when hearing that I had to hand out $20 bills to interview skateboarders for a large corporate web design project).

Anyway, I visited the sento in old Nishi-Shinjiku which my gaijin (外人)friend M. showed me last week. While there are plenty of places in Japan for single-sex nudity, it is one of the few that allow tattoos. The first time M. and I went together there were no tattoos, but large numbers of attractive young men bathing at 1 am before closing. Tonight I went earlier, and was delighted to see four handsome sleeves and one full back piece.

Here’s a web image of a sentou. The only one I could find with partial nudity.

"Don't get arrested"

And here’s the dangers that perhaps the hubb imagined. (I was imagining something more along being abducted as a yakuza bride).

"Don't get arrested"




American Maid Cafe

In Los Angeles, America’s first maid cafe opened. It’s not for otaku (nerds), says the owner. Can the same concept succeed in a different culture? Maids, good luck!

Moe Moe (萌え萌え)

Moe Moe (萌え萌え) means very “moe.” Coming from anime & manga otaku or “geeks” (オタク), moe means both fetish and (non-sexual) hobby. Love the ambiguity of Japanese. Wikipedia uses the example of 眼鏡っ娘萌え, meganekko-moe, “glasses-girl moe.” Unlike the U.S., eye-glasses in cartoons and in real life can inspire fetishized desire. For the ladies only, there’s even a Tokyo “eye-glass and suits” male host bar called Love-all.

In Japan, otaku moe has a surprisingly large influence on more general (albeit) perverted culture and into mainstream language. In other words, you don’t have too be an anime/manga fan to appreciate and adopt some of the words and “hobbies” these fantasy worlds generate for adult viewers.

In my Nakano hikikomori moments (ひきこもりみたい)– a reference to Japanese shut-ins who remain locked in their rooms at their parents for 6 months or more– I’ve found the internet an amazing resource for words that are not covered in my college-level Japanese language textbook. Japanese themselves seem to love the discovery and use of new words; my sister-in-law Yoko told me how delighted she was to learn about o-nii-kei (お兄系) from this very blog (and she was the one who introduced me to gyaru-o and Men’s Egg).

In my exploration of moe moe, there’s been no better guide writing in English than a blogger named Bangin (バンギン). He describes his blog, titled “Japanese words of anime fans, by anime fans, for anime fans: On this blog, I will introduce and explain Japanese slangs, Japanese-English words, or 2ch words, or any other popular words among anime fans (or whoever).”

With rain in the forecast for the next few days, I’ll be devoting a number of posts to words, ideas and moe I’ve discovered on Bangin-san’s blog. Of course, any misunderstandings or errors are mine alone. Thank you, Bangin Sensei. バンギン先生ありがとうございました!

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