Genre is Fake (But Very Useful)

"You're all just jealous of my jet pack"

Credit to Tom Gauld

Every text I’ve read that has anything to do with genre study dedicates at least a few paragraphs to the disclaimer that genre is slippery, arbitrary, and, while a useful tool for analysis, kind of a pain in the ass. This pain is only made worse if we take this system of categories to be Holy Doctrine rather than something we made up to make talking about stories easier. So, okay, maybe genre isn’t fake. When I say genre is “made up” I mean genre is “socially constructed”, rather than “not real”. Here, Brian Attebery says it better:

Both literary studies and folklore are built on the idea of genres, rather as biology is built on categories, from kingdom to species, reflecting morphological similarity and common descent. However, unlike, say, raptors and perching birds, different genres do not exist until someone imagines them.

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Adolescence, Anxiety, and Amanchu!

Amanchu (1)

Let’s talk about a cute little show about scuba diving, and what it gets right about the benign terrors of high school.

Adolescence is, for many people, defined by a lack of self-esteem and a haphazard quest to find your place in the world. This is something Amanchu! portrays with loving care, telling the story of two nervous teenaged girls finding confidence and community in their shared hobby with both heartwarming gentleness and heartbreaking realism. The different ways their insecurity manifests, the underlying stress they face about finding purpose and a sense of identity, and how they help each other grow more confident, felt at times painfully true to my own teenaged experience, as I’m sure it did to many other viewers. Amanchu!’s slice-of-life school club setting means this is not a coming-of-age story with high stakes or high drama: it instead gives weight and importance to these girls’ down-to-earth struggle, creating a quiet and poignant story about friendship, love, and finding your feet in the weird world of high school. Continue reading

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Cozy Campfires, Bitter Broth: Female Relationships in Laid-Back Camp vs Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles

NoodleCamp 5

On paper, Laid-Back Camp and Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles sound quite similar. They’re both slice-of-life shows about girls with niche interests or hobbies, portrayed in loving detail—camping and ramen noodles, respectively. Each series also has a small ensemble cast headed by two standout main characters: a quiet, withdrawn girl with the greatest dedication to the special interest that is the subject of the show, and a more outgoing, effervescent girl who wants to be closer to her.

Alike as their premises may sound, the two shows go in very different directions in regards to this central relationship. In Laid-Back Camp, the main characters’ relationship develops over the course of the series and the show becomes a rewarding story about female closeness; Ms. Koizumi, on the other hand, sticks to the status quo established in its premiere, which creates a stale and repetitive story that perpetuates negative tropes about queer women along the way.

Jump to AniFem for the full post!

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Bear With Me: April ’18 Roundup

yeah horrifying

I don’t have a long preamble for this month–I am currently the world’s most boring person to chat with, since whenever someone asks “so what are you up to?” all I can say is “reading”. I think I’ve consumed more text in the last few months than ever before in my life. I’m crunching through entire books within days, something that’s so downright surreal that I made a Goodreads account just to show it off (and also to spend an afternoon not reading but still technically doing something productive). If anyone’s interested, I’m also considering making a page of book recommendations here on the blog for anyone interested in mythology, genre studies, queer studies, and the intersections of all three, since I’m finding a lot of cool stuff. Let me know if that sounds fun!

Now, enough about reading, and onto writing:

On the Blog:

Fairy Tales and Flowerbeds: Messing with Genre in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurikuma Arashi (in which Ikuhara anime deliberately plays with your expectations, and is also very gay)

Folklore, Worldbuilding, and Fun with Unreliable Narrators (in which the question of truth creates some spooky fun and depth of setting in Ash and Night in the Woods)

And the final episode writeup for A Place Further Than the Universe!

Fun Things Around the Web:

You know what’s fun, but that I don’t talk about a lot over here? Fashion history!

The entirety of BBC documentary A Stitch in Time is up on YouTube, so you can sit back and watch fashion historians, tailors, and costume designers puzzle out how to recreate outfits from famous paintings, teaching us much about their social context as well as their technical aspects along the way.

I love this sort of immersive, hands-on social history. The clothes people wore, the everyday objects they used, and the food they ate (incidentally, all of Supersizers Go is also up on YouTube at the moment) can tell us so much about day-to-day life throughout history. Fashion blogger Safiya Nygaard also recently completed a half-century-spanning series of historical fashion challenges to dig into these exact details, and the results are informative as well as very fun (and stands a better chance of not being taken off YouTube by the BBC…):

And now, articles:

Dear Marvel, Please Let Your Men Hug Each Other–come on guys, be afraid of Thanos destroying the universe, not of expressions of male affection!

Male Gaze, Female Eye: Comic Girls, Slow Start, Sakura Trick and Lewdness–if a show is made to appeal to straight dudes but a lesbian enjoys it, does that diminish the nature of the Male Gaze? Where do authorial intent and audience reception collide and/or cancel each other out? There is no simple answer.

Recently, I also discovered The Asexual, a web-published journal of creative writing and essays meant to showcase the ace community. Some personal favourites so far are journal founder Michael Paramo’s Beyond Sex: The Multi-Layered Model of Attraction“Meaningless Sex” by Heidi Samuelson, and My Waking Up by Adolfo Gamboa.

And it was the start of a new anime season, which means it was premiere review season! Head on over to AniFem’s collection of impressions to see if there’s a series there that sounds good!

And this month’s podcast rec is…

POL_HistoryofFun_Final_preview__1_.0

Polygon’s The History of Fun! More delightful social history, this time putting the magnifying glass over hobbies, games, and other things people do for fun, from the fraught path of Neopets to the surprising origins of roller derby (Victorian era marathons on wheels). It’s entertaining and educational, and of course packed full of nostalgia is that’s something you’re hankering for.

That’s all from me this time ’round. Take care out there everyone!

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Folklore, Worldbuilding, and Fun with Unreliable Narrators

NITW is that you god

Coming up with a solid mythology, belief system, or set of traditions and folklore, is a key part of a lot of fantastical worldbuilding—making stories to go within the story, if you will, to make the world feel more fleshed out. After all, it’s human nature to tell stories, and any group of humans will inevitably come with their own folklore, be they creation myths or cautionary tales. But the tricky thing with stories, especially ancient ones passed down by word of mouth, is that even though they’re presented as historical fact, they may not be as true as they once were. Or, in the case of the in-universe folklore I’m talking about in this post, they might contain more truth than the characters hearing them first realised—throwing the nature of the stories into question, and making the world they’re in much stranger, richer, and more mysterious for the reader engaging with them.

Spoilers for the end of Night in the Woods beyond this point! Continue reading

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Fairy Tales and Flowerbeds: Messing with Genre in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurikuma Arashi

Utena 6-800x

Everyone has a “brand” in their fiction, and the longer I think about it the more my brands seems to be “magical and metaphor-heavy queer girls’ coming-of-age stories” and “anything that messes with genre in a meaningful and interesting way”. Fortunately for me, this seems to be Kunihiko Ikuhara’s brand as well, as seen most obviously in Revolutionary Girl Utena and his more recent work Yurikuma Arashi. Both stories begin framed very obviously within a certain genre, only to have those familiar genre framings interrupted… and then the story itself becomes about dismantling that genre and pointing out how restrictive it can be.

Spoilers for the end of both series (including Adolescence of Utena) ahead! Continue reading

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A Place Further Than the Universe #13: The Girls Are Alright

Universe8

Guess who’s about to get all sappy about animated girls in Antarctica? It’s me! But it is the last time, so I may as well go all out. Continue reading

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