Continued from previous post, in interest of length.
Click here for Part 1.
Click here for Part 3.
Humanity and the Future in Japanese Animation
During this panel, speakers A Smith and S Colclough focused on Japanese media specifically pertaining to matters of human conditions and post-humanism as portrayed in anime. While these two speakers did not have visuals for their respective presentations, their words still held value in the discussion of these media.
A Smith brought up the idea of science fiction in various media as a genre that requires extensive knowledge of multiple references from other media in order to understand most of the aspects of a sci-fi series. Having said that, he focuses specifically on Space Dandy to drive in this point, an anime that while considered in the sci-fi genre, appears to pay homage or otherwise parody what one might expect out a sci-fi series.
Smith did share a handful of spoilers (granted in his retelling rather than in visuals) in order to explain the references that drive his point, however it goes to show that the extent of sci-fi knowledge goes beyond just finding certain points in Space Dandy to be amusing. According to Smith, there are many examples in the series which give reference to very popular memes from other sci-fi series, as well as references to some of the more obscure examples of the genre. Having said that, it is certainly relishing in the idea that all of these aspects are in the realm of sci-fi, which is a very large genre, while also making fun of many parts of the genre.
While one can’t really take Space Dandy seriously as a series, Smith may suggest that it embodies the very soul of what is sci-fi, despite making fun of its enormous library of titles, making it perhaps the science fiction of science fictions.
Following Smith’s presentation was S Colcough’s discussion on post-humanism as portrayed in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. Post-humanism refers to the possibility of the evolution in a human construct, whether it is that we go beyond what is currently human, or otherwise heading in the direction of dehumanizing ourselves. While sci-fi and post-humanism often suggest this philosophy in a futuristic and otherwise improbable setting, Colcough agrees that understanding why we understand these concepts pertains to how we might see humanity even within ourselves. After all, we can’t discuss post-humanity without discussing what we consider to be human.
Now I’ve discussed this kind of point in several of my blog posts, so this discussion had hit very close to home for me. Discussing matters of humanity and post-humanism can be discussed in just about everything. However, Colcough focuses her point through the Evangelion universe, as she describes the premises of certain characters throughout the series, particularly Shinji and Rei.
Again, much of her discussion contained spoilers, but was very necessary in showing that an idea of turning ourselves into something less human may be the next step in our current evolution. She also states that the plot twist at the very end is more amusing to her as a means to watch others’ reactions rather than watching it for herself. I have to agree when it comes to the things I watch, as it shows that we are just as curious to know what people are thinking of things we like, as we are about the thing itself.
Fan Art and Fan Comics in Japan
While scholars love to analyze anime and manga in terms of the industry as a means to discuss media mix, scholars also find it equally important to analyze the industry in terms of its consumers, or shall I say, fans.
For this series of presentations in the symposium, I managed to see two of the three speakers (I unfortunately had to bee-line out of the panel early in order to get somewhere else at the convention) discuss these matters.
K Hemmann began the discussion with a look at “Queering the Media Mix,” analyzing the role of yaoi in female fandom.
In case you didn’t know, “yaoi” refers to a specific theme in [Japanese] media which puts men in very homoerotic scenes for the enjoyment of women. In another way, as one of my friends once put it, yaoi is written/drawn “by women, for women… about homosexual men.”
For the purposes of her research, Hemmann focuses specifically on fan-made yaoi, where women have fantasized male characters from widely popular “male-oriented” series and put them in homoerotic sequences, many of which are very explicit, despite suggesting that they do not have these homosexual tendencies. According to Hemmann, this desire to put masculine characters in these sequences may suggest a refusal to accept the patriarchy and “manhood” that seems to overshadow much of Japanese (and worldwide) culture. To deny the normalcy of manly urges for the female form is to deny the idea that men can be in power over women. And when it comes to fan-made yaoi, even the manliest of characters can’t be left unturned!
Similarly, R Redmond’s approach to the question of yaoi in Japanese fan comics (dojinshi) also suggested these tendencies. His research, however, focused more on the linguistic aspects of these stories.
The word “yaoi” is defined as a Japanese acronym for “Yama nashi, Ochi nashi, Imi nashi” (“No peak, no fall, no meaning”), which may suggest the behavior that male characters seem to have in the bedroom for these kinds of works.
In his research, Redmond found that the many shounen mangas that are referenced in fan-based yaoi suggest very strong, masculine tones from their male characters, using language that clearly defines them as men. In the yaoi, however, the gender-specific language is not necessarily feminine for the “passive” character, but has a tendency to be less weaker as an expression of masculinity. This again may suggest that such characters are to be removed from the typical manhood that is often portrayed, but not feminized. Big difference!
Redmond focuses his current research on this topic within the realm of Japanese dojinshi, but he finishes his presentation by challenging us, other present or future scholars, to check out the possibility in researching this topic in English fan fiction.
One thing I’ve learned to appreciate about these scholars is that the idea of knowledge is a discussion, not a lecture. He is opening the suggestion to more research on this, leaving us to find our own answers, and perhaps share these answers with him and others.
Of course, in this presentation, Redmond also makes the best unintentional quote of these symposiums, as he imitates a strong masculine tone, saying “I’m a man, and I’m gonna rub it in your face!”
My logic may have been thrown for a loop when he said that as I, and the rest of the audience, got a huge laugh out of that. I guess it goes to show these academics, while nerdy, are still very much human, and they certainly have a sense of humor!