Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 12:48 on 16-06-2018, Raymond H
Ah, sorry if I sounded harsh! It's just that when the role of historical homophobia comes up in conversation I often find people who are so used to the Christian, religious type of homophobia that they assume, if the element of religion is changed or removed outright, then homophobia itself would not manifest or develop, which sadly isn't the case. My argument was less that Miyazawa would have had no religious impetus at all to hide his sexuality and more that if it was religious it most likely would have sprung from his Nichiren Buddhist beliefs, rather than Catholicism, and also that there were other, more likely forces at play in terms of him being pressured to closet himself. I think out of the two options, asexuality is probably more likely than homosexuality with Miyazawa. That being said, you've made some compelling arguments for there being a gay undercurrent to NotGR. I just don't know any other stories by him that deal with an intense relationship between two boys. There was The Restaurant of Many Orders but that was more macabre horror than existential drama.

I myself read the Julianne Neville translation of NotGR, which I thought was alright, though I've been told that the Sarah M. Strong and John Bester translations are better. Don't read the Joseph Sigrist and D.M. Stroud translation.

I see. I must say, Buff Fox Dad is quite the silver fox (tee-hee), though personally I find the girl cuter. She's probably in high school though (ugh). That's the problem with watching a lot of anime these days. I can't fawn over the cute girls without feeling like a filthy ephebophile anymore. I asked my friend about those two anime, and his response was essentially "Oh...yeah! Yeah, I know those two. Enh, I mean, they're okay, I guess. You'd probably like them." I don't know about the Kemono doujins, but knowing him he has a high tolerance for internet shenanigans (I learned what vore was from him), so I don't expect him to feel that scarred by anything he saw. However, in fairness, the internet is a vast and scary place.

I feel kind of bad for not really finishing Kemono, because not only have several friends recommended it to me, but it's also really popular with my students, and watching the same shows as them is a great way to bond and show that I'm not just some scary foreigner. But I just...wasn't feeling it? It just didn't click. I had a similar experience with Eromanga-sensei, though I at least still watch that, albeit sporadically.

I have to ask, two last questions,
1) How do you pronounce your username? Because I keep thinking it's like the German "Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil", but I don't know for certain
2) Is your username also your fursona name? Because apparently an ichneumon is an actual mythical animal, which, y'know, killed dem kleine Krokodils. And dragons. And cockatrices. Come to think of it they seem like violent little bastards.
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at 04:33 on 15-06-2018, Ichneumon
This is fair. I defer to your expertise on the matter. But I do think it worth considering the climate and attitudes within the faiths with which Miyazawa came to fashion his worldview at the time in accounting for how he might have led his life with respect to these things. That said, he just as well might have had no romantic interests at all, although I should certainly like to acquire a good translation of the novel and read more of his work in general should I seek a better understanding of him—and I certainly should like to!

Hmmm. My significant other informed me that Gingitsune has much the same appeal as Natsume Yuujinchou, but with a Buff Fox Dad as a deuteragonist, so decent anime and manga with furry appeal certainly exist (and Aggretsuko adds to that number), but all told... I get a feeling your friend has read some kemono doujinshi, and let me tell you, some of that shit is *wild.* But that’s kind of the point of doujin manga: You have complete creative freedom. Which can mean so, so many things.
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at 10:27 on 14-06-2018, Raymond H
Devoutly? That's...not the word I would have used. I mean, he wanted to be a Nichiren Buddhist priest before a fellow clergymen convinced him to write. And he was actually quite critical on the subject of the Christian afterlife. Miyazawa sympathized with Christianity, due to both it and Nichiren Buddhism stressing the importance of self-sacrifice and making the world a better place. However, he ultimately disagreed on the Christian idea that, once you've done these things and died, you are rewarded with heaven. Miyazawa believed that, while heaven was certainly something you deserved if you spent your life helping the world, it was ultimately a selfish thing to wish for, because if heaven and earth are separate entities, it means that the earth can never be as good as heaven, and thinking this way ultimately self-sabotages any attempts to make the earth better. You don't have to care about something you'll eventually leave for good, which will never be as good as the place you'll leave it for (You'll notice that while the Christian heaven is presented as a beautiful place, it isn't the last stop on the railroad). Because of this, while the Christians in NotGR are presented sympathetically, the true hero of the story, and the person we're really supposed to sympathize with, is Giovanni. He has every reason to quit life. His dad's a no-show, he has to work an unrewarding job to feed his family, his classmates regularly torment him, his mother is constantly ill, and by the end, the only friend he ever had has died and left him alone. However, Giovanni ultimately chooses to keep living, and to remain strong, not in spite of Campanella's death, but because of it. Campanella's soul will be reborn someday, and a piece of it still remains in Giovanni's heart. So long as that's the case, Giovanni will work towards making the world a better place, for the sake of his dearest friend. Giovanni chooses not to seek out heaven in the afterlife, but to work towards making a heaven on earth. This is ultimately the central thesis, the defining pillar, in all of Miyazawa's works.

If Miyazawa was pressured to hide his sexuality (which is, again, a reasonable theory), it would have been due more to political (he lived to see the rise of imperialism and fascism, both of which stress the importance of keeping the bloodlines pure and making lots of pure-blooded babies) or social (he grew up in a small, rural town, which tend to be known for distrusting and destroying anything they deem too strange and different) reasons than religious (Christianity certainly exists here, and a friend/tutor of mine is in fact Christian herself, but it's never gotten big or powerful enough to have that major an effect on the national policy or zeitgeist).

Another possibility that occurred to me is that the relationship between Giovanni and Campanella is left ambiguous for the same reason their race or nationality is left ambiguous, to more easily allow anyone to project their own experiences with love and loss. I myself have never lost a lover (cripes that sounds silly when I type it out), but I have lost family, so the angle of Miyazawa's sister appeals and resonates with me, and depending on the experiences of whoever is watching the film or reading the book, a different relationship may seem more apparent, one that will more deeply resonate with them.

You're right. The vibe I get from those two is very much akin to the feeling of first love. And if I made it sound as though I overtly opposed a gay romantic reading to the story, I must apologize. I think it's a perfectly valid and appropriate way to view the story. However, whether that was intentional on the author or director's part is something which I'm unsure on.

Believe me, as someone who wrote his Senior Thesis on Kenjy Miyazawa, and who visited his museum when I studied abroad in Iwate, I also have a lot to say about him. Indeed, I still want to translate some of his works (I don't think it'd be humanly possible to translate all of them in a single lifetime, but one can dream).

Also, I asked my friend if he knew any good furry anime, and he paused for a while before replying "I...know furry anime." The only one he thought was good enough to recommend or even admit to reading unironically was Beastars though, which I haven't read myself, but have seen art of.
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at 06:44 on 14-06-2018, Ichneumon
As you might have noticed, I have a *lot* to say about this subject. :P
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at 06:42 on 14-06-2018, Ichneumon
Miyazawa was devoutly Catholic before the Vatican II reforms. If he were gay, I can imagine its presence in his work being quite circumspect. And indeed, Giovanni’s infatuation is still subtle, the almost familial bond through their fathers and their social connections coloured by something budding yet very intimate—the desire to share one’s whole life and secret self with someone who you feel can understand you in a way not even family can. First love, to be more blunt, clear to the audience and seemingly to clever, kind Campanella, who knows exactly where he is going and how this will shatter his sensitive friend, but not quite to Giovanni himself. (I would also say that, in addition to the themes of sacrifice, the story explores different kinds of love and loss through Giovanni’s absent father, the boys’ journey, and of course the conclusion, in a way that does not make the further romantic angle inherently contradictory or out of place.)
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at 10:49 on 13-06-2018, Raymond H
In all seriousness though, your condolences are appreciated. I don't think I'm going to be deported just yet, although I may be barred from the restaurant for life. Considering the two options though I am okay with this. I'll keep y'all updated.

manga by and large displays a much greater number and diversity thereof than anime.

Yeah, I think that's honestly just because you can get away with more in manga than anime, since one is printed and the other broadcasted.

but I don't see a lot of people talk about just how thickly laid on the homoromantic subtext is on Giovanni's side of the equation.

I think the reason for that is that Miyazawa never really hid the fact that he wrote Galactic Railroad as a means of dealing with his sister's death, whom Campanella is a stand-in for, so when the deeper connection between him and Giovanni is analyzed, it's usually through the lens of a more familial love. Miyazawa secretly being gay or asexual certainly is within the realms of possibility. He never expressed any real interest in romance, and even when they appear in his stories, romantic relationships are noticeably chaste. At the same time, I know Gisaburo Sugii took some liberties with the original Railroad story, and considering he also directed Stormy Night, it wouldn't surprise me if he inserted a gay romantic subtext where none was intended. It's been a while since I read the original novel, so I'd have to go back to check, but yeah, movie-Giovanni and Campanella are probably the steamiest it gets in a Miyazawa story.
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at 23:18 on 12-06-2018, Raymond H
Well, on the bright side, I found this, which led me to this.
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at 03:30 on 12-06-2018, Robinson L
Seconded on the condolences - yikes, what a week.
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at 20:28 on 11-06-2018, Ichneumon
Yow. My condolences...

On a lighter note, I am well aware of basically every show and comic you mentioned there, but still, it should be noted that with queer male leads, manga by and large displays a much greater number and diversity thereof than anime. On that note, however...

Night on the Galactic Railroad is fascinating for a whole host of reasons, but I don't see a lot of people talk about just how thickly laid on the homoromantic subtext is on Giovanni's side of the equation. Which honestly makes the film even more haunting. (I will say that I feel like the "sensitive mistreated boy with one very close friend" quite frequently has this subtext, particularly in older works where an explicit acknowledgment of budding homosexual interest would be taboo, but it's *really* pronounced in the adaptation.)
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at 12:23 on 11-06-2018, Raymond H
Hey gang! I'm back! Sorry 'bout that! This week I was stricken with a cold, pushed to give up a potential job offer, beleaguered by bureaucratic loan-consolidators, hit by a car, forced to break up with my girlfriend, laughed and mocked at by someone I opened up to concerning a childhood trauma, threatened with assault charges after I threw some water in said someone's face, and almost fired and deported on the spot. Only one of those things is a lie.

On the subject of furry anime, I guess any anime with talking animals would work. Night on the Galactic Railroad springs to mind immediately, but there's also Hamtaro, and, Squirrel and Hedgehog is anime, right? (Kidding, kidding)
As for good gay leads, My Younger Brother's Husband, Wandering Son (more about Trans characters than straight-up gay, but still), and Shimanami Tasogare are good. I haven't personally read that last one, but my friend highly recommends it. I really hate Husband's English translation, especially since my final project for my translation class was about how to address the character Mike's unique speech pattern (which it looks like the official translation simply ignores), but it's by Gengoroh Tagame, who was a big figure in the 80's bara scene (which for many gay men was the only place to get a comprehensive sex ed back then), so it's legit. I'd have to ask my friend for a more comprehensive list.
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at 04:20 on 08-06-2018, Ichneumon
Now I'm contemplating "furry anime" as a thing and realising just how few I can think of, even as someone deep in both fandoms. That said, finding non-stereotypical queer male leads in anime is arguably even more difficult...
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at 12:03 on 05-06-2018, Raymond H
Yes! All according to my diabolical plan!
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at 21:25 on 04-06-2018, Arthur B
I binged Aggretsuko over the weekend, it's pretty fun.
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at 20:36 on 04-06-2018, Robinson L
Raymond: apparently the official name was Stout Meetinghouse so you're absolutely right.

That makes more sense.


Ichneumon: People who deny the Holodomor are terrifying to me in concept in the same way that Holocaust deniers are, even if in practice they're slightly less than prepossessing.

I've encountered both, and while they were not, to me, particularly scary at the time, there was a similar, unsettling detachment from reality as I know it.


Coincidentally, I found out last night that a couple of my sisters are watching Aggretsuko on Netflix, so interesting convergence, there.
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at 12:31 on 03-06-2018, Raymond H
Funny you should say that. I got a gay, Black, furry, nihilist, paranoid schizophrenic best friend who adores Feneko. He doesn't even like girls, but he likes Feneko.
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at 03:07 on 03-06-2018, Ichneumon
Let's not talk long about tankies. People who deny the Holodomor are terrifying to me in concept in the same way that Holocaust deniers are, even if in practice they're slightly less than prepossessing. But then, so were the fascists I've had the amusing misfortune to speak with.

As for Aggretsuko, all I have heard indicates that it is thoroughly charming yet mature, in the actual meaning of the word. But I am also shallow and gay and Haida is *adorable.*
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at 01:31 on 03-06-2018, Raymond H
Ah, also, I'm not entirely sure what the building itself was called. I just know that every Sunday people would gather there to do Quaker-things, and it looked kind of like a church, and apparently the official name was Stout Meetinghouse so you're absolutely right.
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at 00:47 on 03-06-2018, Raymond H
I understand the concern, and yet I would say that's where the cutesy Sanrio aesthetic comes in handy. By coating everything in a layer of saccharine, chibi cuteness, Aggretsuko manages to be biting, but never bitter. If it strikes too close to home for you, I understand, but I'd say it manages to deal with depressing themes without ending up depressing itself.
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at 18:15 on 02-06-2018, Robinson L
That makes more sense. And I'm gonna take a wild guess that it was a campus meeting house, rather than a church - Quakers generally don't go for those things, either. No worries, though, I'm just as ignorant when it comes to most world religions, or even most permutations of Christianity, for that matter.

it's kinda funny/sad that the first time I heard the word "tankie" it was from a guy who wore it as a mark of pride.

Oh ... wow, that's a new one on me. (Not the term, or the fact of having met such a person, but that they actually claim the label.)

We're still friends, although we don't discuss politics.

Probably for the best. I've met at least one Stalin/Mao/North Korea apologist who seems like really good folks, but yeah, I don't think trying to have too many political conversations with them would go well.

re: Aggretsuko
Thanks, that tells me a lot. It sounds pretty good, but it also sounds like there's a good chance it would hit way too close to home just at the moment; I might decide to put it off for a while.
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at 04:11 on 02-06-2018, Raymond H
Also, now I'm deeply curious about what sort of Quaker institute has a campus church which celebrates Sunday mass. Not saying I find it unbelievable, just saying I really want to hear that story.

Wait...I just looked it up, and apparently mass is a predominantly Catholic term. Quakers have meetings for worship. Man I'm bad at this whole Christian thing! I guess that's just what happens when your grandparents are Baptist, your parents are Catholic, you were baptized Methodist, and your college was Quaker.

Nah, 's cool. I get where you're coming from, and you're not wrong. I appreciate the concern, though.

Yeah, it's kinda funny/sad that the first time I heard the word "tankie" it was from a guy who wore it as a mark of pride. We're still friends, although we don't discuss politics.

On the subject of Aggretsuko, the main subject matter, and its main selling point, is its dealing with the millennial workforce. Basically, Retsuko belongs to the generation of workers born after the bubble economy burst in '91, and so she and her friends struggle to survive in a corporate system that has failed to update with the economy, and thus gives them pitiable wages for inhumane hours and poor prospects for the future. There's also the fact that Retsuko is an Office Lady, a position personally designed to weed women workers away from promotion and scuttle them away as soon as they marry, but even without that cultural context, Retsuko's story can resonate with anyone who has ever worked a dead-end job or felt trapped in a harsh, cold, uncaring corporate environment. Aggretsuko is ultimately a comedy, but it's the kind of comedy that addresses the pain and dissatisfaction many young workers find themselves possessing. Throughout the series, Retsuko feels unhappy, and latches on to some idea or action she believes will allow her to escape her current existence, only to find that every solution to a problem presents its own new set of problems. There will always be areas of your life that you will be unsatisfied with. Nobody gets a perfect happily ever after. But you do make connections, have experiences, and find new things that make life a little more bearable. It's like Holly said "As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?"
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at 18:15 on 01-06-2018, Robinson L
Raymond: I mean, I don't know about you, but if I'm trying to find ammunition against organized religion, Quakers seem like the most impotent salvos I could find.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, I should put that up on my wall somewhere. (Although from what I hear about certain Evangelical branches of the society, you wouldn't be entirely starved for material.)

Also, now I'm deeply curious about what sort of Quaker institute has a campus church which celebrates Sunday mass. Not saying I find it unbelievable, just saying I really want to hear that story.

I should make clear that I found a whole plethora of socialist individuals during my college experience, ranging from the honorable and admirable to the cranky and North-Korea-idolizing. The cranks make for better stories, but they don't erase the existence of their saner brethren

Nah, 's cool. I get where you're coming from, and you're not wrong. I appreciate the concern, though.

Coming back to the original topic, you've made a good case for the English dub of Aggretsuko, but for the sake of casual anime viewers, would you care to make a pitch for what the heck kind of show it is, and why one might be interested in watching it?
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at 12:15 on 01-06-2018, Raymond H
Well, it usually was their parents' account, so they still weren't paying for it. Uh...yeah.

I am reminded of a quote by George Orwell: "In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England." Which I suppose is unfair to feminists, but which I find doubly hilarious because
1) The college was a Quaker institute
2) The more, shall we say, interesting individuals who self-described themselves as socialists on campus would go on long and bitter tirades about how disgusting and horrible organized religion is, and how if they ever went to Sunday mass at the campus church they'd only go there to start a fight because those darned religious whackjobs had it coming. I mean, I don't know about you, but if I'm trying to find ammunition against organized religion, Quakers seem like the most impotent salvos I could find.

(Also for any actual socialists in the playpen, I should make clear that I found a whole plethora of socialist individuals during my college experience, ranging from the honorable and admirable to the cranky and North-Korea-idolizing. The cranks make for better stories, but they don't erase the existence of their saner brethren.)
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at 10:29 on 01-06-2018, Arthur B
At the risk of sounding like an Internet grandpa... kids these days don't even know how to pirate right.
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at 02:58 on 01-06-2018, Ichneumon
...wow.
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