otome road

“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?!”

Ikebukero, Otome Road, home of fujoshi

To answer the my question about mother-daughter boys love, last Sunday, in the midst of Golden Week, I made a solo pilgrimage to Ikebukero. I was looking for Otome Road (おとめどり、Maiden Road), the epicenter for fujoshi (腐女子、or female otaku who are boys love fans). Despite an abundance of maps, Otome Road is not listed as such, so I had to find my way with the help of Wikipedia’s directions.

Getting closer, I ran into this costumed character promoting a manga and game store. Note that she’s standing next to a “love” motel; the tell-tale sign is the “rest” vs “stay” prices. Am I too old to be a maiden? Fortunately, Elfin Leid made no judgments.
Elfin Leid

Passing under a towering highway overpass, I was on the western side of Sunshine 60, once the tallest building in East Asia, when I saw the huge Animate manga/anime store. I recognized it from the Canadian geek’s web post.

Soon I braved the narrow staircase and explored five of the eight levels. I learned that “adult” meant girlie erotic art, while “girl” meant boys love. Of course! The store was mobbed with teen and pre-teen girls. Yes, there were a few mothers my age with their pre-teen daughters. Lovely.

Animate, Ikebukero

Feeling overwhelmed, I went to the mall below Sunshine 60 for some lunch. I learned that bad tonkatsu (とんかつ)is almost as bad as cheap sushi. Leaving the restaurant, I noticed the atrium was packed with people watching a 30 something “school girl” with a deep voice. Turns out it was famous Maeda Ken. A stranger helpfully confirmed that he’s “sort of” famous and a guy; he then explained he was “gay,” which he then “softened” to “maybe bisexual.”

Maeda Ken

Back on Otome Road, I ran into this strange couple. My poor Japanese made me stumble but I finally learned that they are not interpreting famous manga characters (cosplay) but rather creating original characters.

Original characters, Ikebukero

I toured K-Books (several shops on the same street) and a costume shop. Since you’re not supposed to snap photos in the bookstores (oops, I guess I violated that policy once), I calmly took this Boys Love poster photo outdoors. It always amazes me how much Japan celebrates reading!

Boy Love

Finally I ran across this poster for a new super-tranny band, called SuG. Rock on, fujoshi!
Heavy Positive Rock

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