When I made the unfortunate, and rather stupid, decision of moving to Japan I crated all my stuff up in a big box, marked “magic dragon island” on it and then sent it off with my body a few days behind. My beneficiaries in Japan received it, made no mention of it and when I arrived and was promptly fired from my job I left it there to sick to pick it up along with the 80 kilos of luggage I was carrying at the time. In my time in Japan I was consistently told I liked anime. Now, there’s a problem with this comment. I grew up in Houston, home of the anime nerds. We had fan subs before there were fan subs, we had anime shops well probably like a decade after L.A. or something, but we had the internet and me and my younger brother somehow managed to get entire fansubbed libraries of things like Evangelion and Vision of Escaflowne. I loved ‘m. I watched them constantly and the stories of ennui with in, the suffering of these bug eyed folks touched me. I remember somewhere towards the end of an all night barrage of Vision of Escaflowne something snapped and that was it. I was no longer into anime. Haven’t watched a series or dug a single ova since then. That was it, no more anime.
Now humans are sadly complicated things. I love anime design, I really do. School girls, hyper-cute “kawaii” (I believe that is the word) shit is awesome. I love it, but I’m not into anime. The plots don’t grab, the stories don’t move me, I just don’t feel the connection. Convincing Japanese people of this proved impossible. A simple set of stereotypes guided their actions. They could not be swayed, possibly because aggravating someone like me is the whole point. But anyway, years pass by, things trickle under the bridge and along comes Fortune Summoners. A demo on steam of a Japanese bug eyed cutesy all girl, mega-girly game. It’s awesome. Is it as awesome as Princess Maker or the DS dating sims? I don’t know, but the game has ok-ish combat. You unsheathe your sword, up to parry, and take out some slimes. The girl has ambivalent physics, jumps soar you over gaps, but also leave long skids. The game doesn’t control quite right on a mouse and keyboard to my liking, but I have a wii-mote and will try that.
Now did a group of Japanese developers across the pacific have the same experience as me growing up? No, they didn’t. They continued to fascinate over girly books and school girls with magical powers. They continued to dream. Now they apparently make low budget fantasies for trans-gender obsessed geeks. Fortune Summoners reeks of indie production values. It is a niche game in a niche game in which women are not just unspokenly superior, but cram in the hallways of its magical school and venture out to taken on foolish quests by mischievous boys. Bilitis is not a sexual action here, it dictates the very fabric of society. Cuteness becomes a virtue, and our protagonist and her new found friend share an instantaneous bond so deep it might as well be out of an Agnis Varda film. Kawaii feminism runs deep, but is its unspoken pedophilia a notion to the audience’s own unspoken inability to grow up? Does the otaku dig the kids cuz he’s still a kid himself? Maturity requires experiences and geeks, dateless and often friendless, never grow with the same maturity as others. They never learn about tricks and traps as quickly, we’re condemned like Heidegger to always be stepping into fox holes. My point is initial relationships, friendships, the bonds of socializing are often denied to the fan base that makes up a great part of these games. If I’m understanding correctly there are women biologically and culturally assigned to that sex who dig these games, but I feel like for me this is a form of extimacy. The doll like girl is out, the Alice of my dreams she has never had a relationship, never blossomed into sexual maturity, never puked at a party after a guy roofied her, never felt violated by a man (possibly one like me), she is still pure in a way I see myself. Is kawaii for male fans there fore a means of storing femininity outside the self? Is it a wish for a self that missplaced in sexuality goes unfullfilled? And is the fan boys like myself behind forming a kinda kawaii feminism? A sisterhood of the girly things?
Madonna has recently decided to inaugurate two other divas to her stage. Miss Nicki Minaj and Ms M.I.A. are now sharing stage with the sophistication of the material girl. By sophistication, I mean look at the performance in this video. Madonna is well beyond the simple hunks that defend her. M.I.A. is able to command the stage with out sexuality… well for me at least. Her politics and imagination are enough to fill a song.
The lesson behind these two gender performances (Madonna and M.I.A. Miss Minaj I will leave for another day) is that a woman’s politics or self is primary and sexuality secondary. Despite all her prolific eroticism, Madonna always remains aloof from domination, even when she desires. What these women are passing between themselves are dialogues more complex than anything found in kawaii. Having been assigned to women, these three have found jubilation in gender messages that exert a surprisingly hefty weight on the patriarchy (especially in M.I.A.’s case). And what’s with those dancers in the Madonna video? Faded out anime cheerleaders, they exist faceless and slightly creepy especially in the light of three women so articulate and complex. And perhaps that’s the point, nothing in M.I.A.’s performance or Madonna’s suggests that such storehouses of the feminine have anything to do with being a woman.