HEY EVERYBODY!!!! This my awesome paper i wrote for my Anime class last year! Read it! Its cool. Sorry about the lack of images (just take my word for it). I actually have the citations but I figure nobody really needs to read them on here. ENJOY!!!!
Among activities of fans around the world, the further fantasizing of an already fictional place is specific to culture surrounding media like anime. Anime fans, otaku, all over the world experience different anime by adding to the fictional world; this is the foundation of what it means to be an otaku. In his essay, Otaku Sexuality, Saitō Tamaki says that, “Dressing up and producing these dojinshi comics are among the activities otaku must participate in to maintain their credentials, something that sets them apart from run of the mill fans.” By experiencing the anime in this way otaku hold a fictional world bigger than that of the original anime. Also, as Saitō Tamaki explains, the sexuality differences between males and females allows for female otaku to experience a specific form of anime called Yaoi. This experience of Yaoi crosses over to the female experience of cosplay. By examining the anime series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and surrounding fan culture one can deduce that cosplay, dojinshi and fan art are within the fictional, series-specific world upheld by the otaku and that cosplay as an extension of otaku creativity and sexuality is able to cross genders. The relationship between the main characters of Simon and Kamina will be examined in terms of the anime and then in terms of original Yaoi works based on the series. Also, tendencies of anime convention attendees will be described and analyzed to support an explanation of cosplay and gender. Finally, the main character Yoko, along with points from Saitō’s essay, will be used to explain cosplay and sexuality.
The Gainax television series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is about a young boy Simon and his quest to save the human race and save his image of self-worth in the process. Simon [image A] and his “bro” Kamina [image B] live in an underground village in which Simon is employed to dig using a hand-operated drill. While digging, Simon finds a small, glowing artifact in the shape of a miniature spiral drill. It is with this artifact that Simon turns on a mecha head dubbed Lagann by Kamina. Kamina, who wishes to experience the surface world like he once did as a child, gets his wish granted when the village is attacked by an enemy mecha, called a ganmen. With the help of a big-breasted sharp-shooter named Yoko, and the newfound Lagann, the two young men defeat the ganmen and leave the underground to explore the surface.
Yoko reveals that the ganmen are mecha sent out by the beastmen to oppress the humans and keep them underground. Thus, Kamina and Simon join the rebellious efforts of the humans living on the surface. After the defeat of another ganmen, Kamina steals the mecha and uses his powerful will to force the system to obey him. He dubs his robot Gurren. Not long after, Simon and Kamina combine their mecha to form Gurren Lagann. As the series progresses, the Gurren Brigade (the group led by Kamina and Simon) gains more members and power. Although he is the leader and source of inspiration for the brigade, Kamina dies in battle while trying to add a powerful enemy ganmen to the team. With the acquisition of this giant ganmen, the team heads to the capital city of the beastmen. The rest of the series consists of the Gurren Brigade fighting for the freedom of the human race.
Throughout this beginning arc of the series, the relationship between Simon and Kamina is very close to what they themselves call it: a brotherhood. Simon’s parents were killed in an earthquake many years prior and Kamina’s father left him to explore the surface world. The two orphans have no one but each other. Because Kamina has such a strong will, he frequently gets into trouble with the village chief. He relies on his “little brother” more than Simon can fathom at this point. No one in the village associates themselves with a troublemaker like Kamina, except Simon, Kamina’s only true friend. Because Simon believes in Kamina so strongly, Kamina believes in Simon’s character as well and supports him in his times of struggle. This causes Simon to rely on the moral support that Kamina gives him. This strange, dependent relationship they share, based on believing in each other’s quality, is their form of love. Although between two males, there is nothing homosexual about it. This lack of homosexuality is where I would like to begin my explanation of the basis of Yaoi and Yaoi dojinshi.
In his essay, Saitō explains the interesting phenomenon of Yaoi and the sexuality of the Yaoi fan. In one passage he says that Yaoi is “based on subtle gestures, looks, and expressions, or on fragments of dialogue, how and when will it move into its romantic phase of sexual attraction?” An excerpt from a dojinshi (found on fanfiction.net) will show just what this means: “Simon’s head snapped up when he heard his aniki’s [bro’s] voice. He blushed when he saw Kamina smirk at him. He was so busy thinking about Kamina that he didn’t notice the man right in front of him. Kamina offered his hand and gave the boy a real smile. Simon blushed harder and took his aniki’s hand, hoisting himself into Gurren. He sat on the control panel and sighed.” Entitled Akumu, this fan fiction is solely an episode in which Simon has a nightmare then is consoled by Kamina who had the same dream. They sit together in Gurren and they confess their love for one another and they kiss. Although short, Akumu perfectly illustrates what Saitō is referring to. The two men simply interact, their love from the anime translated into romantic love, and after an exchange of feelings they kiss. As is the case in Akumu, sexual attraction in Yaoi does not always lead to sexual activities. This is especially true of dojinshi.
One might argue that since Yaoi is based on the relationship between the characters rather than the image of the characters, as are the forms popular to male otaku, the relationships can often times exceed the subtle and enter into the extreme sexual world. However, a simple search of the adult counterpart of fanfiction.net, adultfanfiction.net, will show only four results for this particular anime series. This is a direct contrast to the approximately one hundred fifty results found on fanfiction.net thus proving Saitō’s point that most Yaoi is based in the pre-sexual phase of a relationship (adultfanfiction.net requires proof of age and material posted is not censored to cater to underage audiences while fanfiction.net is censored). However, there is nothing stopping the reader/viewer from fantasizing about subsequent sexual acts. The otaku can create in the rest of the story for themselves.
This tendency of continued fantasy (a commonality among all otaku) certainly explains the origins of dojinshi themselves and of fan art. For example, the relationship between Simon and Kamina never becomes homosexual, but there are gestures of love and emotions between the characters that can easily be questioned in the style of Saitō: “how and when will it move into its romantic phase of sexual attraction?” This question, unless the characters in the series actually have a romantic relationship, never gets answered in the telling by the original author/creator; therefore, fans take it upon themselves to answer the question. The answer is: now. Now is when the characters’ love will move into sexual attraction. All a fan has to do to is to create the Yaoi and the characters move into that romantic phase. Thus, dojinshi and fan art are born.
As a general rule, the most popular characters have the most stories written about them. For example, there is an immense popularity of two of the main characters of the series Naruto, Sasuke and Naruto. There are countless love stories written on the internet and acted out in the world of anime conventions (i.e. a Naruto cosplayer is rarely seen without his or her own Sasuke cosplayer to interact with). This explains the prominence of dojinshi and fan art created of Simon and Kamina as a romantic couple.
Now, although there are drawings and dojinshi of most of the characters in the series (not just Simon and Kamina), there seems to be very few works of the character Leeron. Assumed gay, Leeron is a flamboyant, semi-cross-dressing mechanic who joined the Gurren Brigade early in the series (it is difficult to tell whether he is in women’s clothes or not since no one else in the series wears anything similar).[image C] When he is first encountered by Simon and Kamina he flirts with Kamina and offers to please him with his fingers, providing a good laugh for the viewer. This forward personality, although comical, does not leave much room for the Yaoi question especially since Leeron is a homosexual to begin with. Much of the enjoyment of writing dojinshi is creating a fantasy of something that is already a fantasy, hence the popularity of romantic pairings between heterosexual males. On the website deviantart.com, a hub of artists of all kinds, searching the words “Leeron” and “Yaoi” only begets a handful of images, none of which show Leeron in a romantic setting.[image D] He is only shown as a predator, eyeing men from across the image, his usual activity (again, not leaving room for fantasy of fantasy). This is a direct contrast to the images found of Simon and Kamina when the words “Simon,” “Kamina,” and “Yaoi” are entered. Images vary from simple embraces to themed drawings.[images E & F] In addition, The mere quality of the works shows great care and attention to detail in the Simon Kamina romances and only a simple composition and much less detail in the Leeron romance.
This difference in the usage of characters in original romances can be attributed to two things: character popularity and ease of creating a new action for the particular character. Although, it is not a perfect model this can be used to determine the popularity of using such characters as subjects in original romances. It is here that I would like to switch over to my discussion of Yaoi and gender within cosplay.
In the cosplay world the most common practice that is shared by all cosplayers is taking photos or having photos taken of oneself. Generally, a photo shoot or single photo is meant to portray the same character that the anime also portrays. For example if one were cosplaying as Kamina they might do a powerful pose grasping the hilt of a katana, a classic alpha-male Kamina pose, or if cosplaying as Leeron they might do a very effeminate and flirtatious pose. So, depending on what statement the cosplayer wants to portray, he or she can change the pose. This is where Yaoi comes into play. The cosplayer and fellow cosplayers have the opportunity to pose in a way that conveys a homosexual situation. Here I must break to quickly explain the concept of the sign.
In recent years there has been a prominence of sign making by convention attendees. This tendency is similar to that of a homeless person using a sign to gain sympathy or to ask for donations. Basically, signs are an introduction to a person or their purpose. For example, convention attendees wanting physical contact in the form of a hug will oftentimes give away “free hugs” or request for hugs from others by means of a sign. One particular slogan I would like to discuss is “will Yaoi for Pocky.” This sign expresses that whoever holds it will engage in a Yaoi pose for a photograph or otherwise enjoyment of the customer in exchange for Pocky, a Japanese snack food used as a pseudo-currency at conventions. Strangely enough, the people holding these types of signs are rarely both male. They are almost always a male and a female or two females. This can be explained easily but it shows something very important and complex about cosplay. Saitō states simply that “The resistance heterosexual men generally feel toward homosexual connections is far stronger than the resistance heterosexual women feel toward lesbianism.” What this means is that it is more common for two heterosexual females to dress up as males and engage in homosexual activities than it is for two heterosexual males to do so, based on their resistance to homosexuality.
This brings me to the gender of characters and cosplayers. If a character is a male this doesn’t mean that he will only be cosplayed by males. Actually sometimes it is more common for a female to cosplay that character, which is the case for Simon. Because he is younger and paired (not necessarily romantically) with a very masculine character, it is a natural desire for females to dress up as him. A female dressing up as male character is not as limiting as I have explained it; in reality, females dress up as any character they want to. As Saitō explains, they “can attempt an identification that is less limited than that of a male.” This is inherently why so many women are interested in Yaoi. Application of this tendency explains the common practice of female cosplayers providing live Yaoi for spectators. But isn’t this Yuri since it is two women?
Again, the answer can be found in Saitō’s essay: he explains that both male otaku and female Yaoi fans have a heightened sense of fiction and that it is a world of its own, why many otaku do have normal sex lives despite their irregular desires within the appropriate media. What this means is that otaku can create and support an active world of fiction within and around an anime. This allows them to keep cosplayers (along with dojinshi and fan art) in that fictional world and as such, the actual gender of the cosplayer does not matter provided that they succeed at masking it well enough. So, from the otaku’s point of view the cosplayer is really the gender of the character, but from the cosplayer’s point of view getting into costume and changing gender is a form of play, hence the action called cosplay.
This form of play, as I am about to argue based on Saitō’s description of the origins of sexuality, is a form of sexual play. Saitō describes, a psychoanalytic theory, that males have sexuality because of the connection with their mothers and the impeding on that connection by their fathers. The male must find a new object to fill the hole where the mother once was. Basically, the male desire’s the object to complete himself. The origin of female sexuality is more complicated, however. The female identifies with the mother who is the same as she is and therefore experiences sexuality because she is wanted by the male. “In the everyday world, it is by virtue of being the object of male desire that women are able to constitute their own position as a lack” is how Saitō puts it. In order to progress further I must return to our characters from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
It is highly doubtful that there has ever been a greater object of desire than Yoko. She wears nearly nothing, has brains, stands up for herself, and (for lack of a better term) kicks ass.[image G] Yoko is everything a male otaku could ever want. Why then, when many male otaku are considered to have poor social skills and be creepy, do so many females want to cosplay as Yoko? The answer: because cosplay is often a form of sexual play in which women, like Saitō says, can be a blatant form of male desire. Although not always the case with cosplayers, dressing up in costume has a long history of being a sexual practice.
Interestingly enough, although female cosplayers dress up to become the object of male desire that they identify with male cosplayers do not always dress up to become the character they identify with, the male who seeks the object. In the world of cosplay, there are less men cosplayers than there are women cosplayers. This is in part because as a sexual act the male will cosplay to become the object he desires, thereby becoming complete. This self desire has implications of narcissism and also of homosexuality, explaining why many men do not cosplay. To desire oneself, as a man, is to desire a man, which is homosexual, the fear of many heterosexual males as stated earlier. This puts male cosplayers into two groups: the cosplayers that identify with the character they are dressed up as for personality or reverence reasons and the cosplayers who dress up to become the object of their own desire (whether they are homosexual or not).
The fictional world upheld by the otaku includes series-external elements located within the fan culture of anime. Included, is the art of writing dojinshi, a common practice among Yaoi fans; cosplay, done as a form of reverence, identification, or sexual play; and the drawing of fan art, a visual dojinshi. These forms although practiced for these reasons, they are not only practiced for these reasons. The world of anime and anime conventions that surrounds it is very complex and will take much more to fully explain it.