Reflecting on Sex and Sexuality in Professor Ginkgo Chronicles

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I am writing this in response to a friend’s post-graduate project that involves bringing together experiences from the fan fiction and LGBT communities. You can find out more about her project here. This is a reflective essay on my experience writing my Pokemon fan fictions, Professor Ginkgo Chronicles (PGC) and Oda Twin Chronicles (OTC).

It’s been a long time since I even thought about writing anything about this project, my novel-sized baby, my attempt at putting my own original character into the Pokemon universe. This is by no means an announcement that I will be continuing where I left off (I think there was going to be a battle or something?), nor a proposal for a new project (Rocket Aurelie didn’t do so well). I have since moved on to bigger things, but it’s nice to look back on what started as an exercise on what it might be like to be a Pokemon professor and warrior (uhm… spoilers?) and see where that has gotten me since. But rather than glance at what the PGC series has done for me as a writer, fan, and — at present — an educator, I would like to take time to discuss something juicier: sexuality.

Now before I get into this discussion, I should point out some of my own dispositions on matters of sex and sexuality. First off, I identify as cisgender male. That means I was born male, and I express myself as one. Second, I currently identify as an heterosexual ally of the LGBTQI community, but I have questioned my own sexuality. Although I do not always think about it, that questioning will never end. Third, I also come to this community as asexual, which to me isn’t so much based on whom I am attracted to, but to what degree. In this case, physical contact scares me unless it’s someone I absolutely trust.

Shuichi Oda (aka Prof. Ginkgo), the non-comforming male

To no surprise, Prof. Shuichi Ginkgo is essentially a reflection of me if I were in the Pokemon universe. He’s observant, he’s too ambitious for his own good, and he’s probably a womanizer just by hanging out with a lot of girls. His partner Vileplume is my favorite Pokemon, and when I was younger, I admit that I had the hots for gym leader Erika. The fact that she spends most of my fan fiction whacking Shuichi on the head is probably a subtle gesture to my masochistic tendencies, but honestly, I just thought it was funny.

I never intended on making Prof. Ginkgo an overpowered protagonist in a narrative about Pokemon. Ironically, I invested more on the human aspect of the story than the Pokemon! In this universe, professors often take the proverbial back seat while the hero trainers go off and have all the fun adventures. However, I wanted to give voice to a person who is not a 10-year-old who has dreams of being the very best like no one ever was. I mean let’s be honest here: we can’t all be Pokemon masters! This was one of my intentions in writing the climax to PGC where the hero isn’t Shuichi, but a pre-teen and his Emolga! Honestly, it was also because you never actually hear about professors (other than the ones who give you your starter Pokemon in the games) doing awesome things, so keeping a low profile is just part of the job description, along with getting a new name that sounds like a tree.

I certainly could have made Prof. Ginkgo the hero. In fact, I had plans to give him Arceus-like powers in OTC had I finished the series. But I felt that it was more important for him to grow from his narrative rather than do something in it, a storytelling technique that I have come to love about shojo manga and anime. Even though Shuichi was a guy, I felt that he didn’t have to be macho hero at the end of the day, even if he had every chance to do so. And let’s be real: with a custom made tactile weapon and a harem of gym girls at his disposal, there were plenty of temptations on my end to go that route! To me, Shuichi’s narrative was my reminder that I can still do amazing things without being the hero, something that our overly masculine culture likes to say otherwise. I just had to figure out what was most important to me.

Experimenting with gender fluidity

I hadn’t experimented with the idea of gender fluidity within Shuichi, albeit there were plenty of chances for him, just by being affiliated with an all-girls gym. But when I dive into activities where I am getting into fictional characters’ heads, such as writing anime reviews or making fanfic characters, thinking like a girl does become necessary. So when I brainstormed ideas for OTC during NaNoWriMo one year, I took on the task of being Shuichi’s female counterpart, Shuko Oda.

Now to be honest, I did rig a cliché “separated at birth” narrative for her that also tied into the Pokemon warrior lore that PGC gets into toward the end, but to me, she really was my second self. A female self, if you will. She’s reserved, she asks a lot of questions, and at the time, she wasn’t sure about her role as a priest, a similar tension that I had about my own faith at the time I was writing it. Although she was made up on a whim, Shuko did play a huge role in the OTC narrative by assessing the Ransei conflict on a holistic level. Unlike Shuichi, I never wanted Shuko to have a definitive answer to any of her decisions or inclinations, yet still have the confidence to express herself when she knew something was wrong. This was my motivation for Shuko’s interactions with Muneshige, as she kindly yet firmly called him out every time he made a bumbling mistake (men, am I right?), and why she still had deep attachments to a war-torn nation that would have otherwise exploited her. Again, I had not written an end to the series, but I did have at least one ending route where Shuko becomes a hero of Ransei and stays to reconstruct the land she once called home.

Sexy time? Maybe

As far as love interests are concerned, Shuko’s was… hastily written. I did mention that Shuko was married but almost immediately divorced her husband, but I never adequately explained why. The husband in question didn’t even have a name! More or less, I wanted to illustrate that she was hurt in a relationship in the past, which is why she seems to keep her distance from a lot of people. To that extent, Shuko was representing my asexual self.

Shuichi’s love life on the other hand was a lot more colorful. And frankly, his narrative is more idealistic to me than it is based on something real, as in I imagined a lot of it. Despite what can be common in fan fiction writing, Shuichi does have several heterosexual romances. His first love in PGC, Mei Jia, became Shuichi’s inspiration for Prof. Ginkgo’s name, thus bringing about one of my personal favorite chapters that I had written, Her Ginkgo, My Sakura. But as many a shonen series may go, Mei Jia died when Shuichi was still in undergrad, and I purposefully hid that fact from Shuichi’s present until about halfway through PGC, frankly because I needed to establish some misunderstanding made by the antagonist, the voluptuous Prof. Sakura.

Shuichi’s other love interest was his former classmate turned villain, Prof. Sakura, although it was more like he was her love interest rather than the other way around. I will admit that when I wrote the series, I did give Shuichi a far more sexist perception of her, referring to her as a witch (or the euphemism that we’re all really thinking) and always making her out to be the criminal mastermind. However, if I did have more time to go into the details, I did want to go back and justify some of Prof. Sakura’s actions, not necessarily to de-villainize her, but at least show how her decisions in life were not so easy to make. You might say that I borrowed a lot from seinen manga and anime to establish very complex characters for a noir setting of Pokemon. Prof. Sakura definitely comes across as a lot more sexual than Shuichi is used to, considering how the rest of the girls from Celadon Gym treat him more like a punching bag than a potential bed warmer.

The only other girl that is important to Shuichi’s life is Amy, and by OTC they are in a confirmed relationship. However, I do hint that Shuichi’s decision to be in that relationship is reluctant, and he doesn’t appear to have any emotional attachment to her, as stated in one very quick line in Chapter 22. To me, this is honestly how I feel about a lot of relationships in my life, where I feel like physical attachment is more nonchalant than something of utmost importance. It’s not like I am incapable of enjoying sex or the physical comfort of a partner, but the feeling I get from it does tend to be very low or suppressed. To be honest, I would find a girl like Amy more attractive by spending a lot of time with her and doing anything, whether it’s work, idle chat, or a good meal. That’s why Shuichi ultimately decides to choose Amy over a number of other minor characters who seem to have more sexual advances toward him. All Amy has to do is show up mysteriously in her trench coat, letting him know they have work to do, and his libido is all fired up! (Oh dear. That actually sounds terrible!)

While it was not in my original intention when I wrote it, at least one friend of mine read into one relationship in PGC that was BL-esque, and that is Shuichi’s love-hate relationship with Nathan. Looking back on my writings, I chuckle and realize that it was definitely a possibility, considering how much he thinks of him, how much he worried about him, and really would have made his reluctant relationship to Amy more clear, especially given that Amy clearly states that she was in love with Nathan (too?)! And to top it all off, Shuichi states early on in PGC that Nathan died, meaning that even at present, his potential homoerotic subplot would remain unrequited!

I didn’t have plans to write a BL for Shuichi and Nathan, but I was going to flesh out their characters a lot more, had I kept going on my planned, (somewhat) shorter spin-off, Rocket Aurelie Chronicles. However, if someone else were to write a fanfiction for the fanfiction (is that even a thing?) I actually would be curious how that might turn out. However, I don’t feel very confident in writing anything explicit like that myself.

What next?

Looking back, writing myself as both Shuichi and Shuko Oda was quite a phenomenal experience for a time, and it did allow me to express much deeper thoughts I had about sex and sexuality, particularly that of my own. But like I said, their narratives are things of the past, and I can’t say that I would be continuing them any time soon.

For now, both of these fanfictions are available for reading on my blog, in all of its flawed and incomplete glory. I hope that to the few who do find the time to read them, they may also learn something from it as I have about writing it.

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