As promised, Otomen debuted last night on Japanese TV. Britton Watkins created this guest post, which neatly summarizes the plot and characters.
Asuka’s Father was a soft-spoken and romantic gardener.
But the precocious youth Asuka adored him and emulated him at every turn.
Beautiful Mom thought Dad was just great too…
Reading a 1960s literary book by last century’s most celebrated Japanese to English translator, I was struck by his use of charmingly out-dated English. Famous North American translator describes how famous Japanese Meiji writer turned his attention from geishas to “slatterns.” The setting was the start of the 20th century, and the fiction writer was making the impossible biological transition from young man to middle age.
The context made clear that the “slattern,” lacking the art of the geisha, was a barely obscured word for prostitute. What a now quaint word to denote lack of sophistication, slovenly hair and costume, and inadequate hygiene.
With this delicious new word in mind, what did I see in the JR Metro but white plastic heart-shaped high heels? Yes, the heel itself was in the shape of a valentine’s day heart with the point serving as the base of the heel. Below is the closest approximation I could find on Google images. And, trust me, somehow the white plastic was even more slattern-ish than the lucite model.
My only question is why, even in Tokyo on a hot evening, can men not signal slattern-iciousness the way ladies can and often do? Step it up, herbivores-ladies danshi-gyaruo-otomen!
A TV version of the manga Otomen is starting soon in Japan (August 1, 11.10 pm, Fuji TV), as revealed by this Omootesando billboard. The story centers on high school junior Asuka Masamune: manly man and judo/karate/kendo master on the outside, lover of caramel macchiato, shōjo manga, sweets, and pink things on the inside. Apparently he romances a (female) classmate by teaching her how to do girly stuff.
I first heard of this term from my otaku and moe language teacher Bangin. He prefers this term over “soshokukei” (herbivores). Otomen, he defines, as young men who like BL and otome stuff (note the pink flower in the billboard which refers to girls’ anime styles), who are skilled at domestic crafts, and who act manly in public but are secretly feminine.
Thank you, Japanese television. Anyone else looking forward to this show?
“Many of the boys I’ve met told me they cannot go out of their house if their hair doesn’t look perfect,” she said. “They have also told me that their self-esteem goes up when their nails look nice.” -Quoting Ushikubo Megumi who invented this new term”soshokukei” (草食男子) or “herbivores” to describe the new generation of men, 20-34.
What a happy day to read a Japan Times article that 60% of young men today can be classifed as “herbivores.” Also called “ojo-man” (lady-like men), this term seems to share many characteristics with the term “otomen” introduced by my online moe sensei Bangin.
Bangin does a great job contrasting the two terms in this recent post, and attributing soshokukei to the recently disgraced SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi who got drunk and then arrested for public nudity last month.
What makes the Japan Times article so delicious is how they trace this new attitude to the post-bubble gloom generation and highlight extremely unmanly, dare I say “gay” behaviors. The article, of course, goes on to quote a sociologist who claims these girly men are “not gay”: herbivores are “searching for heterosexual love while turning unisex.” Haha.
So here goes the definitions:
- They are not as competitively minded about their jobs as men in older generations.
- They are fashion conscious and eat sparingly so they can stay thin and fit into skintight clothes.
- They are chummy with their moms and often go shopping together.
- They are not interested in dating girls, having relationships, or even having sex (choosing from a plethora of “self-help” toys instead).
I love how this new trend is also tied to the internet: Apparently these herbivores do not want to reproduce because they are “too physically tired to have sex, let alone start a family.” Supposedly, they are substituting sex with women with internet porn and “do-it-yourself” gadgets! A supporting quant stat is that condom shipments have been falling since 1999, the start of the internet revolution.
I am surprised that this focus on men’s hair and nails overlooks their incredibly tortured eye-brows. Ah, Japan and your girly men, WE LOVE YOU!