Sporadic Sequential
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Shonen Jump Special Feature: Spot The Subtext!

Here's another reason to look forward to Viz's upcoming release of Slam Dunk: It turns out I'd totally missed the gay subtext the first time around:
Their [Rukawa and Sakuragi's] domestic banter in every panel was so charming and amusing that girls used this as their base for their relationship. Rukawa played the Kichiku-seme in this scenario. He would generally appear cold and uncaring, but in the end he would do anything for Sakuragi. Sakuragi was the wild monkey he had to tame.

Hmm, hot, sweaty men running around, bumping into each other, patting each other's butts, showering together... Nope, I'm just not seeing where these female fans find any fuel for their forbidden fantasies.

Actually, the whole fujoshi (i.e., "rotten girl") phenomenon is interesting to me. If I understand it correctly, female fans became enough of a force that Shonen Jump started making subtle concessions to them in the magazine, playing up story elements that could be used to construe that various male characters had romantic feelings for each other. Which is pretty impressive if you think about it: Imagine DC Comics doing anything to encourage homoerotic readings of the bonds between any of their male characters. (Or did Devin Grayson already do this?) Also interesting: Khursten suggests that the more SJ indulged the fujoshis' tastes, the less appealing the series became to those very fans:
However, after some more fan service, and even a little more towards the recent years, the magazine became over-saturated with fujoshi overtones and it’s no longer fun. Well for me, it lost the fun. As I said earlier, what was left for the fujoshi to imagine? More so, the fujoshi moe and maybe even regular moe diluted the core of their stories. Perseverance. Victory. Friendship. Although a few titles still keep these values, most have been written simply to whet the fantasies of the readers. In the end, you find yourself wondering “Why did I even read this story to begin with?”
In other words, sometimes giving the fans what they say they want (or what publishers assume they want) will actually disappoint them in the long run because it won't be what they really want. Which makes sense: if everything's explicit, where's the joy of discovering some unrevealed (or completely imagined) facet of a story? Part of the fun in teasing out some ribald reading of an old comic is the excitement of uncovering something new that no one else noticed before. (There's also the subversive thrill of anachronistically altering an outdated story in a manner that will undoubtedly upset more conservative fans.) Doujinshi could then be seen as a natural extension of the creative impulse of "decoding" the officially published stories: Fans take the subtext they've noticed and they make it the text. But it's no fun if the publisher does the work for you, because then the doujinshi feel redundant. And it can be annoying if it feels like the publisher or creator is simply pandering in a clumsy effort to cash in on a trend by throwing in some surface elements without understanding the real reason the material appealed to fans in the first place .

(I first became aware of the fujoshi phenomenon when a commenter pointed out that Bleach was a favorite among the so-called rotten girls due to all the tortured, angsting prettyboys Tite Kubo populates the series with. I still haven't noticed any homoerotic subtext yet, but that's mainly because whenever I read a new volume of Bleach I get caught up in all the action. Perhaps I'll have to go back and re-read Bleach while making a conscious effort to spot the subtext.)

WARNING: Do not search Google Images for "Bleach yaoi" unless you are prepared to go down a path your brain will never return from.

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