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Doing Manga as Leisure and Its Meaning and Purpose: The Case of Japanese Female Manga Fans Called Fujoshi

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Abstract

Fujoshi refers to female comics (manga) and related products such as animation (anime) fans who enjoy works that feature male homosexual relationships. What they consume are predominantly parodies of works in which, originally, male homosocial bonds were depicted. Fujoshi re-read these original works and replace homosocial bonds with homosexual ones, making parodies so that they can develop fantasies of male-male relationships that as females they can never experience in reality. This chapter examines the meaning and purpose of this unique type of leisure activity, which is experienced in Japan and other Asian countries today. By analyzing data collected through interviews with seven fujoshi women, we identify aspects of manga that makes them feel satisfied, fulfilled or happy in their activities, and we present contradictory findings, namely, the significant contribution of this type of leisure activity to the enhancement of quality of life of people engaged with these activities. At the same time, we consider the existence of tensions in the process of differentiation among these people as well as between them and others outside their communities. This chapter addresses the importance of sociological perspectives on the social differences within a fan community, even if such a community offers space to its members for mutual exchange, learning, understanding and respect.
Manuscript prepared for Global Leisure and the Struggles for a Better World, ed. A. Beniwal, R.
Jain, K. Spracklen. Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Doing Manga as Leisure and its Meaning and Purpose: The Case of
Japanese Female Manga Fans Called Fujoshi
Hiromi Tanaka & Saori Ishida
Manga: A Significant Leisure Form in Contemporary Japan
Tokyo International Convention Center is the largest convention center in Japan.1
Known as Tokyo Big Sight, it has an area of 80,000 square kilometers. About three
hundred of events are held every year. This excels other convention centers in the
country. Since its opening in 1996, many events have been held, attracting many
visitors (The total number of visitors exceeded one hundred million in 2007). For many,
it is nothing special – just a convention center built and used for large-scale events such
as motor shows and trade fairs. For some it can be a special place for a very different
reason. For people who love manga (Japanese comics) it is the place for Comic Market,
the largest manga fair in the world.
Also known as Comiket or Comike, this fair started in 1975, when a few fans
organized an event, on a much smaller scale than now, to create a space for manga fans
to show, sell or buy dōjin (dō=‘the same, jin=person), which refers to “self-financed,
self-published works created by an individual or collaboration between individuals”
(Tamagawa 2012, p. 108). About 700 people attended this very first event. Since then,
the number of attendees steadily increased, reaching 500,000 in August 2004 and
550,000 at the latest event held in December 2016.2 As the event grew larger and
larger, it was relocated at a larger venue, a convention center. Today attendees include
new comers and repeaters, individuals and groups called ‘manga circles’ or manga
1 Tok yo B ig S ight n.d., History, viewed 4 March, 2017 <http://www.bigsight.jp/topics/history.pdf>
2 The Official Comic Market Site n.d., Chronology of Comic Market, Comiket, viewed 4 March,
2017, <http://www.comiket.co.jp/archives/Chronology.html>.
2
societies. Comic Market serves as a forum for exchange among manga fans. It is
particularly important for those who produce their own works called dōjin3-shi
(magazine or booklet for dōjin), because they are outside the formal channel for
distribution, which is generally available only for professional artists and commercial
publishers.4
The fact that such a large-scale event exists and has been held regularly for a
significant period of time – since the 1970s until today – attests that manga is one of the
most popular and solid forms of leisure in contemporary Japanese society. It is known
nowadays that media contents such as animation (anime), manga (comics, either works
published as books or in, say, weekly or monthly magazines), games, and idols (see
Chapter ??? in this volume) are consumed by many people in Japan and abroad, and
these people are often called otaku.5 Among these contents animation is particularly
popular. Its product sales including films, videos, TV programs, online broadcasting
were over 200 billion yen (1,736 million USD) in 2015.6 Sales of comics have not
grown largely in the past years, probably due to the general decline of printed media
and the rise of digital media. Still, they have been steady around 500 billion yen (about
4,340 million USD) in the 2000s and were about 445.4 billion yen (about 4,016 million
USD) in 2016 (Zenkoku shuppan kyōkai/ Shuppan kagaku kenkyūjo 2017, pp. 4-11).7
One reason for this solid popularity of manga is that its contents are often used for other
types of media contents such as animation and games. Thus many anime and game fans
‘return’ to original contents published as manga.
3 Dōjin is spelled as doujin in English materials, too.
4 In Japan books and magazines are usually sold from publishers via distributors to bookstores. This
is still the only formal way of publishing printed media, though the emergence of internet bookstores
such as Amazon affects this established distribution system and relative power of distributors.
5 In 2004, the Nomura Research Institute opened major findings of their research about an otaku
market in Japan, saying that the market is consumed by 2.8 million people and worth of 2900 億円.
See Nomura Research Institute (2004).
6 It was 202.5 billion yen in 2015, which is about 1.75 billion USD. See Media Development
Research Institute Inc. (MDRI)’s Pres Release on the animation market of 2015, published on
December 16, 2016, http://www.mdri.co.jp/review/data/2015anime.pdf, accessed 2017/3/11.
7 According to A monthly report published by Zenkoku shuppan kyōkai/ Shuppan kagaku kenkyūjo
(2017), digital comics accounted for 32.8 percent, digital comics magazines 0.7 percent, printed
comics 43.7 percent, printed comics magazines 22.8 percent. Digitalization of media makes printed
media including comics difficult to increase their sales, but manga as printed media appears to
remain important at least so far.
3
In short, manga is a cultural phenomenon which cannot be overlooked in Japan.
Its importance as a topic of academic discussion is increasingly shared between
researchers based in Japan and other parts of the world as its fandom expands beyond
national borders in the process of cultural globalization, driven by diffusion of new
information and communication technologies.
Why are so many people attracted to manga and related cultural artefacts? What
do these fans do and why? What happens when they enjoy manga? What does their
practice mean socially and culturally? What role does it play in their individual lives,
communities and wider society?
This chapter explores the social and cultural meaning of this particular form of
leisure, doing manga, various practices by those who enjoy manga as a leisure, from
buying and reading to more active involvement such as producing and selling own
works and communicating with others and building a community. This entails social
processes such as the formation of identity and community of individuals involved in
this leisure form. Because manga fandom is quite large and diverse, we focus on one
segment of manga fandom: female manga fans called fujoshi (腐⼥⼦), which literally
means a ‘rotten girl’. This word is a pun on another word, 婦⼥⼦, rather an old-
fashioned word meaning women. This word comprises of different Chinese characters
but are pronounced in the same way. ‘Rotten girls’ are seen or they even see themselves
self-derogatorily as being ‘rotten’ due to their ‘deviant form of leisure. They consume
images of male homosexuality verbally and visually narrated in manga, and yet these
manga are primarily produced by women for women, not gay men. A majority of these
women have a heterosexual identity. Women are generally expected to enjoy
heterosexual romance, which is in fact a major theme in shōjo manga (girls’ comics)
aimed at young female audience. But fujoshi do not follow this format. They rather
adore male homosexual relationships in their manga reading and by doing so, develop
fantasies surrounding male homosexuality. Also, fujoshi include both junior (say, early
teens, even some primary schoolgirls) and senior women. Though some stop being
fuojshi at some point in their life (they call this sotsugyō, graduation), many others
continue.
4
Fujoshi constitute an important part of today’s Japanese popular culture of which
large portion is dominated by manga and related media contents. They may be a
minority among all the manga readers including passive or occasional readers, but in the
world of dōjin, in which passionate manga fans gather, as described above with an
example of Comic Market, fujoshi are a major actor who cannot be ignored.8 In this
chapter we illuminate this particular female manga fandom and explore the socio-
cultural meaning of their leisure practices and processes. To do so, we draw on our
interview data9 as well as existing research about yaoi, BL (boys love) and fujoshi. An
attention to fujoshi is important also because dominant public discourses about manga
fans have been primarily about men.10
In the following sections, we first explain terminological and historical
backgrounds against which fujoshi emerged. We then examine fujoshi with focus on
two major dimensions of this leisure phenomenon: manga reading and community
formation. We scrutinize their relation to manga as a media text both as an audience and
a producer of artworks such as dōjinshi and the ways they develop individual and
collective identities and build their own communities. To do so, we deploy a critical
sociological and feminist perspective to discuss the possibility of social change and
social differentiation in this phenomenon. We believe that this chapter can be a
contribution to a better understanding of a subcultural dimension of contemporary
leisure, which we argue entails both chances and risks for individuals’ doing leisure
ultimately their quality of life.
8 According to Kaneda (2007, p. 165), some 50,000 to 60,000 dōjin or amateur artists exist and
about seventy percent of them are women. Most of these women can be seen as fujoshi.
9 We c onduc ted se mi-structured interviews with seven fujoshi in November 2013 and February 2014
in Tokyo and conducted a qualitative content analysis of these interview data. Our informants were
seven heterosexual women aged from 20 to 32, resided in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. We
approached them either directly or through mutual acquaintances and they accepted to cooperate for
our study. We anonymize their names in this article. Regarding fujoshi’s sexual orientation, it is
important to note that not all fujoshi are heterosexual women. Few academic research exists that
elaborates sexual differences among fujoshi. Though not a systematic, empirical analysis, Mizoguchi
(2015) briefly discusses a lesbian way of enjoying Boys Love, drawing on her personal experience.
10 As Hori (2009, p. 118) states, a majority of participants at Comic Market, both as sellers and
buyers, are women and yet, media reports usually covered male fans. According to Murase (2003,
pp. 138-139), one reasons for that is that female otaku (manga and anime nerds) were so despised
that they were pushed away from media discourses. This has been exacerbated by stealth identify
shared by most fujoshi in Japan.
5
The Rise of Yaoi, BL and Fujoshi
The term fujoshi is rather a recent invention, but male homosexuality has been a
theme in Japanese shōjo manga from at least the early 1970s on. The origin of fujoshi is
usually traced back to these times, but a social and cultural phenomenon of fujoshi
entails some new quality which their precursors do not have.
In the 1970s a genre called yaoi emerged. Yaoi refers to "a way of expression by
which a non-sexual relationship between male characters is replaced by a sexual
romantic relationship” (Fujimoto 2007, p. 63). It is “also a general term for tells (mainly
novels and manga) which use such expression as a motif” (Fujimoto 2007, p. 63).
Today, a majority of yaoi are manga. At that time, several artists produced works
depicting male homosexuality, initially for a female readership of girls’ comics. For
example, now legendary artists such as Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya published
Tōma no shinzō (The Heart of Thomas, 1974) and Kaze to kino uta (The Poem of the
Wind and the Trees, 1976-1984) respectively. These works depicted inter-personal and
sexual relationships between boys attending German gymnasiums. With literary quality,
they have been admired as classics. These works were published in a weekly magazine,
Shukan shojo komikku (Weekly Girls’ Comics), a major manga magazine for girls’
comics. This means that manga with this theme of male homosexuality first found a
place in girls’ comics. But soon a new magazine specifically dedicated to such manga.
This magazine titled comic JUN was published in 1978. It was later renamed as JUNE
and existed until 2013 as a commercial manga magazine.11 This magazine originally
contained both novels and manga, many of which were aestetic (tanbi) in their style.
Some other magazines such as GUST (1990) and b-boy (1991) followed in the 1990s,
but JUNE importantly contained manga by amateur artists as well, a sign of dōjin
culture in which less meaning is attached to a barrier between professional and amateur
artists.
11 Tod ay, J UNE is published as a DVD manga magazine by JUNET. Its official homepage can be
seen at http://www.june-net.com.
6
In fact, while these commercial magazines were published, dōjin culture became
quite active. The publication and following popularity of two works from shōnen
manga are important in this context. These two works are Captain Tsubasa (1981-1988)
and SLAM DUNK (1996). The first is a story about soccer, the latter about basketball.
Both works were originally published in a popular boys’ manga magazines, Weekly
Shōnen Jamp. Quite a few homoerotic parodies of these two works were published in
the 1980s and the 1990s respectively. This is because both works narrate male athletes’
homosocial worlds characterized by their strong bonds. There are a few female
characters, but they are highly marginalized, outside such strong companionship which
can be seen among male characters. Also, heterosexuality is presumed to be a norm.
Though this is not limited to sports manga12, these two manga were extremely
influential for the rise of fujoshi fandom.
While parody production developed in the 1980s and the 1990s, the
commercialization of male homoerotic manga for female audiences proceeded. Many
manga of this kind were produced and published by commercial publishers. A new
word for this genre was made in the 1990s: boys love or BL. This term more directly
refers to male homosexual themes, but some terminological difference is implied
between yaoi and BL. BL generally refers to works produced by professional artists and
published by commercial publishers, whereas yaoi implies self-production or dōjin by
amateur artists mainly of parodies based on other already published works by
professional artists (Shīna, 2007). Importantly, the term fujoshi contains both these
aspects. This means that broadly speaking, fujoshi include readers of BL, but they also
succeed yaoi’s tradition of self-production, mainly parodies. This, however, does not
mean that fujoshi is just a new term and nothing new. It is important to note that the
current fujoshi fandom emerged in a different socio-cultural context from that of the
1970s and the following two decades during which yaoi and later BL developed.
Namely, the rise of contemporary fujoshi fandom is strongly related to and was
promoted by the introduction and the expansion of new digital media in the late 1990s
to the late 2000s and traditional mass media’s reaction to this new situation.
12 For example, Saint Seiya (1986-1996) was also popular for parody production, but this manga
was not about men’s sports but action or combat.
7
In Japan, the internet users increased when broadband services were introduced
and expanded. Yahoo! Japan was launched in 1996 and 2 channel, one of the most
popular online forums, in 1999. Social network services called mixi started to operate in
2004, offering a new, easy-to-use platform for communication to individuals. Two new
services added to this in the second half of the 2000s: Twitter (since 2006) and pixiv
(since 2007). Both services are convenient for communicating and exchanging of
illustrations. Of particular importance is pixiv. It was created specifically for the
purpose of exchanging manga. In the past, amateur artists created their own homepages
to upload and share their illustrations and/or manga. On the contrary, pixiv offers a
ready-made platform to its users for this purpose. This is great for amateur artists who
otherwise might not have any channel for distributing their works. In addition, pixiv
allows its users to communicate with each other in an easy format. Twitter and pixiv
expanded dramatically in the late 2000s due to the introduction of smartphones such as
iPhone (2008 in Japan). Smartphones enabled easy access to the internet and promoted
online-communication significantly. Fujoshi made and still make much use of these
new services and devices. All these new technological developments contributed to the
emergence of contemporary fujoshi fandom which consists of both virtual and real
communities with the former as an indispensable part of their every-day leisure
practices.
Though this virtual element is a key to understand fujoshi, we should not forget a
role played by conventional media. As mentioned above, the term fujoshi was originally
used only in online communities. However, it became visible in conventional mass
media in the 2000s. In the mid-2000s general media began to cover or mention fujoshi.
AERA, a weekly magazine published by The Asahi Shimbun, one of the major
newspaper companies in Japan, featured fujoshi in 2005 and 2007. A literary magazine
Eureka (2007) published an issue dedicated to fujoshi in 2007. This issue included a
number of essays written by critics and academics and helped activate an intellectual
discussion about yaoi, BL and fujoshi, from fujoshi's identity to yaoi's possibilities and
outlook. Also interesting was that many of the authors came out as fujoshi. Besides
printed media, TV also began to form a discourse about fujoshi. For example, a popular
drama for junior-high school students, titled Chūgakusei nikki (Junior high school
8
student diary) took up fujoshi in one of the drama's episodes in 2007.13 This was
surprising for many, because this drama's broadcaster is NHK, the only public
broadcaster in Japan. These various media coverages form public discourses about
fujoshi, and these discourses not only made female manga fans who love manga about
male homosexuality visible in the society but also gave a new language to those fans,
particularly those who primarily read and not produce on their own, to identify
themselves as fujoshi.
Reading Manga as a Media Text
A media researcher, Stuart Hall (1980), once proposed a typology of audiences’
reading of a media text. He rejects a notion that audiences are passive beings, basically
receive media messages without critical interpretation, and instead argues that the
reception of media audiences are not unitary and they can actively engage in their
interaction with media texts.
Hall differentiates between three types of reading in terms of audiences’ reception
of media messages encoded in the text: dominant, hegemonic or preferred reading,
negotiated reading and oppositional reading (Hall 1980). According to his theory, it is a
dominant reading in case a reader accepts a hegemonic meaning encoded in the text.
Hereby there is no reflection on dominant ideology in the society on which this
encoding was performed. It is a negotiated reading if an audience accepts such a
hegemonic meaning yet with some reflection on their own social position or experience.
So there is some kind of intervention in the discursive space created by media. An
oppositional reading means that an audience rejects a dominant meaning. This is the
most radical reaction that can be taken by an audience. This typology can be useful for
articulating different ways that audiences react to media texts.
13 This episode broadcast on 19 May, 2007 was titled ‘Datte suki nandamon! Fujoshi datte koi wo
suru だって好きなんだもん!〜腐⼥⼦だって恋をする〜. It featured female junior high
school students who are fujoshi as main characters. One of these girls worries about losing her love
because of her fujoshi identity.
9
Applying this to fujoshi’s way of reading manga, it can be regarded as negotiated
reading. What fujoshi negotiate is homosociality depicted in original manga which they
use for their parody production. Because homosociality is characterized by homophobia
and misogyny (Sedgewick 1980), fujoshi confronts with a dominant ideology of gender
and sexuality encoded in media texts.
Fujoshi’s reading manga involves a practice called ‘yomikae’ (replacement
reading) or ‘mōsō’ (delusion). What they replace is homosociality in original manga. “A
male friendship can be smoothly transformed in a romantic one” (Informant G) in
fujoshi’s reading. For this ‘homosexualization’ fujoshi typically pick shōnen manga
produced for young male audience typically by male artists in which homosocial worlds
of men are typically narrated. In these original manga, explicitly sexual illustrations are
rare. It is probably because this genre is primarily for boys including young children.14
However, like many other genres, its world view is based on heterosexism, even if it is
not mentioned, and homosexuality is implicitly tabooed. Homosexual characters are
quite rare and if depicted, they tend to be trivialized.15 Replacement reading is a radial
way of reading, because it put such tabooed homosexuality at the foreground.
Replacement reading entails two other effects related to gender and sexuality.
First, it allows fujoshi to create a space in which they are free from women’s
subordination in unequal gender relations with men, a structure that exists in the society
and penetrates manga. Several researchers discuss this point (Nakajima 1991; Fujimoto
1998). Women are not main characters, sometimes even invisible, in a newly created
world of parodies. This makes it difficult to succeed women’s marginalization and
subordination from original manga. To create such a new world means for female
audiences that they can stay away from such a gendered pattern of sexuality there, albeit
in their delusion. They are not bothered by heterosexism and unequal gender relations
there, however temporal and fictive it may be.
14 Though shōnen manga are produced for young male audience, their audiences include young and
adults, both male and female. Also, recently, more and more female artists publish their works in
shōnen manga magazines. Whereas there are not so many men who read girls manga. See Ishii, et al.
(2009).
15 For example, ONE PIECE, one of today’s most popular sh
ō
nen manga, includes a male
homosexual character. He is highly trivialized as being passive, coward, weak, not looking good. He
even despises himself as a ‘faggot’ (okama). See Sawada, Suzuki and Miyata (2017).
10
Second, replacement reading allows women to develop sexual subjectivities. In
Japan as well, there is a sexual double standard that defines sexual behavior and act
differently for men and women. Women are expected to be pure and innocent and
sexually passive (though with an exception of a certain type of other women such as
prostitutes). Nevertheless, fujoshi gained a new voice to talk about sexuality freely,
when it comes to this way of enjoying manga. There is another aspect related to their
subjective way of engaging manga. They reject a male gaze (Mulvey 1975) which
persistently exists in media. Women have long been positioned socially and culturally as
an object of male sexual or sexist gaze. This occurs daily, but as gender and media
scholars point out, it can be seen particularly in media. Women are often sexually
objectified in various media contents such as advertisements, TV commercials, movies,
televisions, popular music, games, and videos. It is no wonder that women feel sexually
anxious or even threatened (Nakajima 1991; Ueno 1998). In this context fujoshi’s
replacement reading uniquely creates new space in which women are not objectified nor
sexualized. Some critics such as Fujimoto (2001) and Ueno (1998) content that this is
one reason why fujoshi enjoy male homosexuality.16
Fujoshi therefore are active readers of manga and negotiate existing gender and
sexuality norms which are hegemonic in Japanese society. They radically transform
homosociality in which women and sexual minorities are marginalized into male
homosexuality in which women are free from dominance by men in social relations of
gender and sexual minorities, particularly male homosexuals are at the center of the
stage. Considering the fact that media are still not democratic enough in terms of
representation of women and minorities, fujoshi’s manga reading through which a new
medial and discursive space emerged can be seen as innovative. However, this
innovation has some limits.
There are at least two limits. First, fujoshi accept gendered representation of
women in original works, usually without any critical engagement. For them, a heroin
in an original shōnen manga is ‘a beautiful flower among guys’ (Informant C), a flower
which is so fragile that it has to be taken care of. This means that fujoshi generally
accept a heroin as she is. They do not necessarily reject its gendered representation,
16 Some even see this reading as a kind of women’s ‘revenge’ against men. See Nimiya (1995).
11
even if they sometimes feel uneasy about portrayals of women such as emphasized
femininities (e.g. dependent, passive) and idealized physical feminine beauty (e.g. slim
waist, extremely large eyes and breasts). Such a heroin can be turned into a different
type of character through replacement reading, but this does not happen. Fujoshi’s main
interest are male characters and their coupling. Their attention is not adequately paid to
other aspects such as portrayals of women and original stories. Second, they enjoy
coupling male characters in their replacement reading who are not sexually related in
original works at all, but male homosexual relations fujoshi create often seem to be
another version of gendered heterosexuality. For example, new couples created by
fujoshi are often one man who typically plays an aggressor’s role (seme or top) and the
other man who plays a passive role (uke or bottom).17 These two limitations mean that
fujoshi’s manga reading intervenes certain aspects of existing gender order constructed
in media texts of manga, but it leaves other aspects of the structure unproblematized.
These unchallenged aspects are rather sustained, even reproduced through fujoshi’s
parody making.
Enjoyment and its Constraints in Fujoshi’s Community
However limited for social change fujoshi’s manga reading can be, most of them
probably do not care what kind of potentials their leisure practices might have for the
society. What is important for them is rather a fact that they enjoy this form of leisure.
Csikszentmihalyi (2008) calls the state of an individual in which the person is
absorbed in a certain activity and amused a ‘flow’. According to him, both pleasure and
enjoyment are important elements of one’s quality of life, but this is not enough for
one's quality of life, because it " helps to maintain order but by itself does not create a
new order" (Csikszentmihalyi 2008, p. 46). Pleasure is the state that one's expectations
based on biological needs or social environment are met. This includes, for example,
good food, good sex, good experience in travelling. These things, which he defines for
17 More recently, some fujoshi enjoy role switching, which they call 'riva' (reverse or reversible).
This is, however, rather a new trend.
12
pleasure, can occur within one's expectations. On the other hand, enjoyment gives more
meaning and complexity to life. It is something experienced beyond one's expectation,
such as getting a new perspective in doing sports, reading a book, working hard on
something.
Csikszentmihalyi (2008) stresses the importance of enjoyment for an individual’s
life, because a ‘flow’ exists only in the latter. According to him, enjoyment promotes
one’s growth, while pleasure does not have this quality. For enjoyment individuals need
to use their expressive skills, which enable them to express subjective experiences.
Examples of this include a runner's high and loss of fatigue. Only expressive skills can
make their activities meaningful and bring about enjoyment. In addition, these skills are
often crucial in forging friendship and companionship in the leisure process.
This applies to fujoshi and at least three factors promote their enjoyment. First,
replacement reading, which is discussed in the previous section, offers a new way of
reading manga to them. They learned a different way of developing fantasy and
creativity. Second, those who produce own manga feel positively challenged. It goes
without saying that it is not easy to produce good works. They make tremendous efforts
to produce manga. That’s why, they, feel a sense of accomplishment when their efforts
turn out to be something good, and want to take this challenge again. This engagement
can be seen as a flow. This experience of flow requires individuals to keep their original
motivation. An impetus to do that (produce own manga for fujoshi) need to arise
internally without any external impetus (Csikszentmihalyi 2008). As one informant (G)
put it well, fujoshi basically produce their own works for self-containment and nothing
else. Third, they “have fun” (Informant G) in making friends with and communicating
with them. Such an exchange can promote self-development in producing own manga,
too, because they “could learn different perspectives” (Informant C) from each other.
Csikszentmihalyi (2008) says that shared objectives and activities in friendships bring
about enjoyment. This can be seen among fujoshi, too, but it is even more truly so for
them, because it is not always easy for them to get to know other fujoshi due to their
stealth identity in the public.
These factors play a positive role to enhance fujoshi’s well-being and promote
their community formation. At the same time, however, several other factors need to be
recognized because they can affect fujoshis enjoyment both on an individual and a
13
community level. Of particular relevance in this context is external and internal
differentiation between fujoshi and others and among fujoshi.
Fujoshi’s community is united, partly because they emphasize differences
between fujoshi and non-fujoshi whom they call ‘ordinary people’ (ippan-jin). In other
words fujoshi are exclusive to others. This is related to their stealth identity. Fujoshi in
Japan18 generally think, “basically they should not come out” (Informant C). Some
even do not like their works are disposed to the public. In fact, many fujoshi hide their
identity from friends and families, disguising themselves as being just manga fans. Such
external differentiation can be observed in their own discourses about non-fujoshi
people. One of our informants (Informant E), for example, compares herself with other
non-fujoshi women who do things women are expected to do such as “investing money
in improving their appearance, going to a beauty salon, and saving money for future
marriage.” In saying so, this informant clearly downplays herself because she does not
behave in accordance with social norms referring to expected femininities and instead is
engaged in something else that she cannot openly talk about. In short, fujoshi's
enjoyment may coexist with such stigmatization.19
Fujoshi’s community is united, but this unity has also some cracks. Fujoshi’s
community is originally thought to be a non-hierarchical, communicative space for
mutual exchange and understanding. It has been said to be gap-bridging rather than
dividing. One sign for gap-bridging is an attempt to lower a barrier between amateur
artists and professional artists. However, their community is not completely free from
tensions among its members. First, their tastes for works, characters and coupling as
well as their interpretations of original manga vary and sub-groups are formed easily.
These sub-groups can clash. This “aggravate relations” (Informant B) between members
and can cause distress in some occasions. Also, differences in the amount of possessed
resources can bring about tensions, too. Kaneda (2007) name three factors as important
elements that lead to stratification within fujoshi's community: drawing skills,
interpretative skills, and a commitment or an 'attachment' to works without asking any
18 As far as the authors are informed, stealth identity may not be not so important for fujoshi in other
countries.
19 More recently, it can be observed that some fujoshi even in Japan do not share such
stigmatization. This needs to be examined in future research.
14
return. Our informants as well emphasize the importance of drawing skills, but for this
very reason some feel frustrated, because they they “cannot express as [they] want” as
artists (Informant F), while others appear to be good, even better. Some even use their
drawing skills to achieve commercial success, i.e. commercial publication of self-
produced manga. Originally, fujoshi’s self-production is supposed to be something that
involves challenge for artistic self-expression and love for manga. Those who are well
aware of this cannot help but criticize those who seemingly forget this and run for
‘money’ or to fulfil the desire for recognition. If so, the original objective of producing
own manga may withdraw and rather the pursuit of success grows. This can affect a
flow and enjoyment in fujoshi's community.
Epilogue: Complex Leisure Practices and Processes by Fujoshi
So far, we have focused on unique female manga fandom called fujoshi (rotten
girls) and examined practices and processes of this leisure phenomenon. In closing, we
argue the following three points on the basis of our analyses presented in this chapter.
First, these female manga fans have created their own media spaces in an
androcentric heteronormative society. Replacement reading is a radical practice,
because it transforms men’s manga media into a completely different type of media for
female audiences about male homosexuality. Women called fujoshi create homoerotic
narrations for themselves and enjoy these narrations. An alternative media practice can
be seen in this seemingly inexplicable way of enjoying manga, because they managed to
develop ways by which they ward off some elements of women’s subordination and
objectification, albeit in their fantasies.
This practice is, however, ambivalent and its agency for social change is severely
constrained. This is the second point. Fujoshi's manga reading partially challenges
hegemonic ideology of gender and sexuality such as homophobia and misogyny. At the
same time they accept other gendered aspects embedded in textual worlds of manga.
Heterosexual, unequal gender relations are incorporated in male homosexual
relationships they newly create. They also avoid standing in direct opposition with
problematic gender representation in original manga. In principle, they show respect for
15
original manga they use for their parody making. This means that their enjoyment,
despite some possibility of change, is not critical enough to bring about changes in
manga and, more broadly, in the society as a whole.
Finally, a leisure phenomenon of fujoshi has another ambivalence. Fujoshi enjoy
themselves through reading and producing manga and mutual exchange among them,
but this enjoyment can be eroded in case that differences from non-fujoshi or
differences among them are emphasized. Regarding differences from non-fujoshi
women, it is a key how they negotiate dominant gender norms that stigmatize their
identity as a 'deviant' female manga fan. Regarding internal differences, it is important
whether fujoshi can retain its original democratic quality of their community. Drawing
on Habermasian theory of communicative action, Spracklen (2009) argues that leisure
has the potential to promote democratic, horizontal exchange on the basis of
communicative rationality rather than instrumental rationality. At least internally, a
quest for horizontal communication, bridging differences, connecting each other
through a commonality has been strong among fujoshi. Even a general hierarchy
between professional artists and amateur artists did not play a marginal role among
them. Potential or actual existence of tensions needs to be controlled or at least balanced
in their community so that they can keep democratic the original nature of their
community and ultimately enjoyment in their leisure activity.
Fujoshi is a complex leisure phenomenon, and it is evolving. New phenomena
include a lowering trend in the age of fujoshi, popularization and the possibility of de-
stigmatization, the emergence of fudanshi (rotten boys; see Yoshimoto 2007),
transnational expansion of fujoshi fandom. What do these changes mean for leisure and
society now and in the future? It is the task for future research to find some answers to
this question.
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