KOIMONOGATARI : A Look on YAOI Fandom

Writer’s note :  From this post, you can expect a criticism of yaoi fandom’s reaction towards the non-yaoi related works and characters. This criticism is done through Tagura Tohru’s manga Koimonogatari and later on it is expanded to general behaviour. All of the captions from Koimonogatari used in the article are taken by me from the original copy published by Birz Comics. 

Cover of Koimonogatari

Cover of Koimonogatari

Tagura Tohru’s work recently became popular in the English-speaking fandom due to her Koimonogatari series. There are three manga of her that have been translated into English; 2 of them are completed and Koimonogatari is ongoing. The translation is done by non-professional people and Koimonogatari is not licensed yet in U.S. or in any other regions. Its first volume is just published and as sensei states, it will have two other volumes and then it will be finished, too. Cello Mello is a collection of one-shots and Haikei Niisan-sama is a one volume (7 chapters+1 omake) long with blood-related incest theme. Haikei Niisan-sama was also amazing but it will be the topic of a different article.

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Our straight protagonist, Hasegawa Yuiji, has his close group of friends in his classroom and a girlfriend. He suspects his classmate, Yoshinaga Yamato is gay because he thinks that Yamato is secretly eyeing his close friend, who is in the group. He doesn’t think much badly about Yamato but he doesn’t feel anything positive too; just plans on how to react if he were to make a move on his friend. Later on, Yuiji finds out that Yamato is really gay and his suspicions about him having a crush on his friend are true; however after getting to know him, Yuiji’s feelings gradually gets softer and they start to get along. Since his secret is out, being nervous about Yuiji at first, Yamato starts to lean on Yuiji more and through talking to Yamato about love, Yuiji starts to question his own love life and attitude towards his girlfriend.

Now, it usually goes like this in yaoi; our straight guy questions his own love life and -kind of- realizes that he actually never ever loved his girlfriend and starts to incline towards our gay protagonist. This scenario is also what fandom expects out of Koimonogatari. Yet, for the reasons that will be explained along the article, hopefully Yuiji and Yamato will stay as friends. Another point is that the story is at the end of its first volume and there is not a single sign indicating a love interest, considering it will end in two volumes and the pace of the story, it will seem forced if they were to end up together.

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Just a friendly hug officer, nothin’ to see here!

The reason why this expectation is problematic is probably because how I process what I watch. For example, while watching Kuroko no Basuke, it doesn’t occur to me that Kagami and Kuroko would be interested in each other in a romantic/sexual way, or speaking in fandom terminology, I do not ship them (it applies for any other anime and manga, for any other pairing). I assume what I am given, nothing more. After reading fan fiction or doujinshi only, I say “Oh, they look great together./ No, they don’t really suit each other.” because they are represented in that way. It should not come out as stating what others feel is wrong or they cannot ship whoever they want; on the contrary, the quarrel going on in the fandom about ‘which pairing suits each other best’ is very disturbing. However, I strictly oppose the notion of “Two close friends will eventually feel something romantic/sexual no matter what.”. This makes it seem like friendship is devalued and seen only as a stepping stone towards romantic relationship. Yuiji and Yamato’s friendship is really enjoyable; they help each other, show each other different perspectives and grow up along the way. This is beautiful in its way and as valuable as the romantic counterpart. The other works of Tagura Tohru are out-of-the-ordinary stories so there is still hope for Koimonogatari series to stay in the cliché-free area as much as possible.

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This seems to be the general problem of yaoi fandom. Comments such as “Look, Makoto and Haruka are sitting next to each other and it’s official art!!” have the underlying “Even the creator of Free! thinks that Makoto and Haruka belong to each other.” sense. Seeking out the tiniest details, trying to prove that their pairing is the ‘head canon’ feels so much like trying to prove God’s existence through scientific method. Well… science could care less about whether God exists physically or not. Trying to find bits that are actually irrelevant to its original state somewhat seems absurd and futile. It is only natural for close friends from a sports anime to be portrayed close in original art, it doesn’t imply anything romantic. The possibility of that specific official art can be a fan-service is not ruled out, certainly, but still it is fan-service; it is done precisely because fans would love to see those characters in that way.

Imagining how lovely it would be if the two characters were in a romantic relationship is one thing but going frantic about it and sometimes going to lengths as to diss every other person who does not share your opinion is disrespectful and as stated before, this point of view underlines that friendship is nothing more than a phase which has to evolve into romantic feelings or needs to contain sexual tension. It is also refreshing to see male friendship in a yaoi manga, the reason being it is a bit unrealistic to see every male character around the main couple is/turns out as a couple, too, like being gay is infectious.

Overall, the hope of Yuiji and Yamato staying as friends lives on because these four chapters were so soft and nicely paced with good character development. Since Yuiji tries to be on better terms with his girlfriend, it would put the characters in an awkward position if he were to suddenly start having feelings for Yamato. It would surely be interesting to read two protagonists, one being gay and the other being heterosexual as a change.

My heart went out of my chest seeing this scene!

My heart went out of my chest seeing this scene! σ(≧ε≦o)

Terminology

shipping : Stating that two characters – who are not interested in each other romantically in original series – are seen as a couple.

head canon : Sometimes one character is shipped with different ones in the same series by the people in fandom and a couple being head cannon means that, they are the couple who are suited each other the best.

fan-service : Shots, scenes added into anime/manga or official art done by the creator(s) to fulfill its fans’ desires to some extent. It may be the panty shots of that character which is irrelevant to the scene or may be official art to portray two characters from a series that fans would like to see as a couple.

omake : Extra

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