Kenka Banchou Otome (Girl Beats Boys)

I don’t normally review anime, but I ended up watching all of Kenka Banchou Otome (Girl Beats Boys). It has no corresponding manga, being based on a video game. And, really, there is hardly any there there…

… but I kind of loved it, anyway.

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It may be time to admit that I have a problem.  I really love delinquent high school boys… and badass girls.

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So we have our hero(ine), Hinako.

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She ends up going to an all-boys school called, Shishiku Academy, under the most ridiculous, suspender of disbelief-snapping, contrived set of circumstances, ever.

Even though she was raised as an orphan, turns out Hinako is actually the twin sister of Hikaru, the second son of a yakuza boss.  Hikaru fakes an accident between them and bullies Hinako into cross-dressing and taking his place at the Academy.  He, meanwhile, cross-dresses and takes her place at an all-girls school. (Literally nothing is made of his sub-plot, even though I kind of think he’s pretty happy with this arrangement given that he has posters of a male pop star, Mirako Yuuta, on his bedroom wall, and once in the dress, he’s never seen out of it.)

However, Hikaru neglects to mention that this all-boys school is a 24/7 fight club. Or that his brother, Onigashima Houou, is the toughest tough of the 3rd years and became king of the school in a matter of months.

Hinako is tasked with doing the same.

Turns out, she’s good at it.  Being an orphan meant she got bullied a lot, and with the help of a fellow-orphan nii-san, she got tough fast. Plus, she’s studied martial arts… so, surprise! (no surprise.) she quickly rises to the top.

In the way of these things, pretty much anyone she defeats in battle, she also wins over their hearts, and they become ‘bros (seriously the term used in the anime).

Weird quirk of this anime? A lot of slang is actually defined for you in still-frame cut-scenes.  Also, the characters have these odd moments where they seem to be talking to the audience, 4th wall breaking style, at odd intervals.   I’m sure this is entirely a mimic of part of the gameplay.

Oh, and another thing, the episodes are 8 minutes long.

They do manage to cram a fair amount of drama into those eight minutes (though I initially though something was wrong with my iPad when I was watching this because I thought, “that wasn’t long enough; did the feed cut out after the intro?”)  There’s, of course, the constant threat that Hinako’s true gender will be discovered, but also there are mini-arcs about friendship and loneliness and tragic backstories.

My favorite character was Kira Rinatarou, who is the first to guess the truth about Hinako, and who ends up having a secret connection to her past.

But the whole thing is kind of… dumb? Far-fetched? Ridiculous?  YES. YET I LOVED EVERY EIGHT MINUTE GEM.

I’m such a loser. 😛

If any future commenters want to point out my bad taste, throw this one in my face. I’ll have no defense.

Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! by Hatori Bisco

Hatori Bisco-sensei is probably best known for Ouran High School Host Club, but I have to admit to bouncing out of that anime when I tried to watch it, dubbed. (Sorry, J. Michael Tatum! I loved you in the dub of Black Butler, though, I promise!)

This is a similar kind of story to Ouran… in that our hero, Ranmaru, ends up accidentally stumbling into a college zombie movie and ruins it. The bombastic art squad president, Ryuji Goda, gang-presses super-negative Ranmaru into helping them as reparations.

Apparently, no one is scanlating this one….

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Urakata!!/Behind the Scenes!! is basically about a lost lamb–or as Goda calls him at one point “the dude majoring in wool-gathering from the pessimist department in the school of listlessness”–who finds his people, his tribe: the “art squad.”

Ranmaru comes from rough, small town fisher folk. He grew-up feeling useless.  Due to this, he’s become an extremely negative person. But, of course, even before the end of the second chapter, Ranmaru discovers that, because of his humble beginnings, he’s particularly well-suited for making the most out of limited supplies–a skill set that that the underfunded “Art Squad” desperately needs.

The rest of the volumes is Ranmaru getting to know the other members of the group and learning how to fit-in in various ways.

I’m surprised that this one is labeled as ‘shoujo,’ while Nozaki-kun is ‘shounen.’  I guess this really is a marketing issue. There’s not even much hint of a strong romance (though there is a mild one between Ranmaru and the costumer, Ruka Enjoji), though I could see how this story, even with its heavily masculine cast, might appeal more to girls than to boys.  Most of the story arcs have a feel-good ending, not unlike Barakamon (though that one is listed as shounen, too.)

Ah, well, a marketing mystery.

I would recommend this, but you’ll have to find it via the library or actually buy it.  I’m not sure if it’s worth the price of a brand-new manga, but if you can pick it up somewhere free, I would.

The Trials and Tribulations of Queer Otaku

I’m going to go off-script for a moment and make some general commentary prompted by an essay over on Yaoi Playground.  Apparently, there’s some shipping crisis over in the Tokyo Ghoul fandom.  I’m not going to pretend I know anything about what’s happening there. Knowing ship wars from Bleach, I’m sure it’s ugly af. But, Yaoi Playground’s essay implied that gay/queer ship fans are particularly angry.  As soon as I heard that, I have to admit, that my sympathy shifted 180 degrees.

Queer fans get the shaft a lot.  And not in a good way.

There’s a couple of things going on here that I’d like to address specifically from a queer point of view.

I feel like queer fans of shounen have been blind-sighted by sudden canon pairings a LOT.  Naruto and Bleach being the most obvious and most egregious examples of this. Both Bleach and Naruto are shounen manga. What most queer fans read shounen for is the same thing I imagine all shounen fans sign up for: Explosions! Action! BIG-SWORDS! Cool fights! Honor and Justice! Big, obvious, evil bads!  Random, unbelievable, but totally awesome power-ups!

Am I right, fam?

Romance, if it’s present at all, tends to be very much of a subplot.  Both Naruto and Ichigo had straight love interests, but that was not what the story was meant to be ABOUT, at least it didn’t seem that way when the stories started.

Then, all of a sudden, at the end, there were marriages and babies and WTF.

I think straight fans should have been angered by those endings, too, and, from what I can tell, many of them were.  Ending an action story with some kind of unnecessary time skip where there are marriages and babies makes literally no sense, and in fact does great harm to your story. You can tell J.K. Rowling I said so, too.  I get the impulse to tie up all the loose threads, but unless you’re specifically writing romance, what a good writer should focus on is making sure that the PLOT is complete: the bad guy(s) are defeated and the world/characters have changed/learned something.

Queer fans are particularly hurt by this impulse because no one ever thinks of us.  (Exceptions being Yuri on Ice! and Legends of Korra.) But, 99.999999% of the time, no matter how hard you shipped their ‘precious friendship,’ the likelihood that the male hero is going to end up with their best male friend/rival is zilch.

The reason queer fans get angry about this isn’t because we expect everyone to be gay, it’s because there is LITERALLY NO REASON TO END AN ACTION MANGA THIS WAY.  The manga can end without a canon ship tacked on.

You don’t see queer fans being upset when the shoujo couple gets together, do you?  (I mean, there are crazy fans, so probably you do, but…) most people know going into shoujo that they’re going to get a girl falling for a boy! That’s the main point of the genre.  Romance novels, end with a romantic HEA.  That’s the deal.

Similarly, no one expects a yaoi hero to suddenly fall for a woman at the end (though I have seen that happen in yuri, so I guess there are exceptions to every expectation/rule.)

My point is, I think queer fans get particularly bent out of shape when a manga that is not otherwise marketed as romantic feels the need to slap on a straight romance.

Speaking of Harry Potter, this move also often feels punitive. I am pretty sure Rowling knew how hard a lot of her fandom shipped Harry and Draco.  I’m also pretty certain that Kubo-sensei knew that most of his fandom preferred one straight ship over the other (all you have to do is see how the Bleach: The Musical was written to confirm.  Similarly, if Kubo-sensei was ever in the audience when the fans screamed when Renji and Byakuya held hands briefly or when Kyouraku flirted with Ukitake, he also knew that he was purposefully breaking hearts when he broke those fan favorite gay couples apart.)  I felt that, too, when Isayama-sensei tacked in a wholly unnecessary “no homo” comment on Reiner and Bertholdt in some of the later chapters of Attack on Titan. Like, it came so out of the blue, that my only conclusion is that the mangaka was reacting to fandom.

And, that’s the second thing.  We have to put up with a lot of queer-baiting.  When I discussed this before in conjunction to Let’s Take the Train Together, Shall We…? a lot of straight fans got bent out of shape.  But, this is a real phenomenon. There are plenty of examples of queerness being used as a tease or as a joke, so that the straight/cis reader can be titillated and/or have a moment of “Oh, haha! People think they’re a couple! How uncomfortable for them, teehee!” when the author has no intention of ever getting the two same-sex characters together.

Often, this happens in shows/manga that I really enjoy.  An example I brought up on my comment over at Yaoi Playground, is Free! Iwatobi Swim Club/Eternal Summer. I loved that show for its queer subtext, but let’s be honest: no one gets together at the end. No one ever explicitly comes out as queer.  People will argue that’s not what that show was about (it’s about swimming!), but I will argue right back that the writers knew what they were doing and did so intentionally.  There’s a whole episode that’s entirely subtextual where Nagisa has to “come out” to his parents and is kicked out.  I mean, sure, you can read that entirely on its surface, but subtext only works if there’s a there there, if you know what I mean?

Girl’s Monthly Nozaki-kun has a lot of this, too.  I also adored that story, and because it’s a shoujo, I was not mad about the ending of the anime.  But, there are definitely moments where there’s a gay element that gets played up…. remember the dating sim episode?  I loved it, but it was a wink-and-a-nod, not full on ‘baiting,’ per se, but it was queerness played for laughs.

These queer-baiting moments aren’t meant to be hurtful, I don’t think.  I think they’re just as the Wikipedia article defines queer-baiting: what they are is trying to draw in queer-friendly audiences.  But, that being said, they are also done with NO INTENTION of ever making good on the queer ship tease.

Queer fans get double-slapped this way.  We get your straight pairing rammed down our throats, while we’re also expected to laugh along at hilariously awkward it is when straight people get mistaken as a gay couple.

I’m not even going to touch the odd fetishizing of our sex that happens.

My point is, if you run across a queer fan who is angry about a straight ship becoming canon?  Try to consider the source. Some fans are just crazy, we all know that. But, sometimes this hurt we’re feeling comes from all the other places where we were unexpectedly, or even intentionally, jerked around. We love our ships with the same passion you do.  We hate to see ours broken, but was also have this huge history of having to be broken.  It used to be that even gay writers wrote only tragic gay romances, where you could find love, but it had to be torn from you.  Ukitake had to die, that was the only way to have pure queer love.

And we’re sick of it.

Thank goodness for “Yuri on Ice!,” eh, fam?

Hana, Saita by Fujikura Mao

So, there I was on Mangasaurus.com looking for more random manga to read.  I decided to go down the slice of life category and saw this cover which was labeled slice of life, yaoi:

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I thought, eh, looks kind of ‘yaoi hands’ from the cover, but it’s one chapter, so what the hell.

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I click on the chapter and I get this:

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Hmm, the uke looks a bit more fem here…. but, okay…

Even though I’m introduced to Sari, a high school girl with a passion for nail painting, I think… okay, I have read light-yaoi where a woman was involved.  Technically it was shoujo, but the boys were into each other and she was their friend.  It was was called Tora to Ookami, and I reviewed it here: https://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/tora-to-ookami-review/

But, so I’m reading along in Hana, Saita, and I keep waiting for the guy interest to come along.  Sari is worrying about her life, how all her girlfriend are getting serious about life after high school and all she wants to do it paint her nails.  She goes to the library and sees basketball star, Kuroiwa, studying.  They strike up a conversation and he compliments her nails.

I’m still thinking, “What a nice gay boy.”

Which I pretty much continue thinking, despite rumors that Kuroiwa is dating his female former basketball manager, pretty much up until this moment:

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Oh!  He’s bisexual!

Yeah, no, turns out Hana, Saita is a shoujo romance of the very straight variety.

Which is fine. I have no problem with straight people. Some of my friends are straight.

In all seriousness, the story was fine.  I mean, it was predictable.  The basketball manager was just a pushy older broad and Kuroiwa confesses his true love for Suri as they walk home together.

Shoujo flowers, the end!

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Yep, the cliche has become meta commentary

So, I dunno, if you like the straight romance thing it was fun, and actually complete, so I could recommend it.

 

Natsuzora ni Kimi to Mitu Yume by Iida Yukiko/Hirao Auri

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I was bored and looking for some manga to consume quickly and so I went to MangaPanda and hit the “surprise me” button.  I landed on this.  I decided to dive into Natsuzora ni,  Kimi to Mitu Yume since MangaPanda marked it as complete in one volume… which was kind of a lie.

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The set-up seemed promising.  Our high school heroine, Yuuri, is approached by an insistent stranger who begs her to attend the funeral of a classmate, Hirose Takaya.  Yuuri has never heard of Hirose, but she’s told he was obsessively in love with her.

Yuuri spends the next several pages being highly inconvenienced by this (not making me like her very much, honestly.) She doesn’t want to go to the funeral and even tries to brush off Hirose’s insistent friend by saying she’ll only go, if he pays her to (which he agrees to do, much to her astonishment.)

She’s such a jerk that she won’t even go in or attend the actual services.  Finally, Hirose’s friend pressures her into meeting with Hirose’s mom, who gives her Hirose’s journal. Hirose’s journal is filled with his stalker notes. Yuuri is legit freaked out by this and decides to burn the journal.

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I’m with ya, sister, stalkers aren’t sexy

The very last panel shows a burning husk of the journal followed by a side panel that reads: “With this, it’s over. That’s what Yuuri thinks.  However…”

And that’s where it ends.

I did a little digging and MyAnimeList.net tells me that Natsuzora ni, Kimi to Mita Yume was published in 2010.  Another site told me that in Japan there’s another volume, which no one seems to have scanlated, so my assumption is that since it hasn’t been done by 2016, no one will.  So, I have no idea how this manga ends.*  But, what the hey, after the clusterf*ck that is Bleach, I’m kind of used to that.

Natsuzora ni, Kimi to Mita Yume‘s category is supernatural, so I can only assume that the stalker stalks poor Yuuri from Beyond.  Since it’s also categorized as shoujo, I’m also kind of assuming that Yuuri gets at least somewhat over her repulsion of Hirose by the end. Or maybe learns to love herself, through him, since she keeps wondering in this volume how anyone could love someone like her.

Or… maybe that’s just me, stupidly expecting a story to follow the theme and plot it started with.  Maybe the plot just stops, Yuuri hooks up with that girl she chats on the phone with in the third chapter, they have magic babies, and Hirose becomes a internationally famous boxer.

Seems just as likely.

Not that I’m bitter about Bleach‘s end. Nope. Not at all, why do you ask?


* If anyone knows of a scanlation that I missed I wouldn’t mind finding out how this story actually goes.  It was moderately interesting and I read fast.