Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

My Photo
Name:
Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rape in Yaoi Manga

This is an updated version of a review of Ayano Yamane's Target in the Finder, now reissued by DMP and retitled Target in the Viewfinder, that originally appeared in LA Alternative, Dec. 23-29, 2005.


During its brief time on the manga scene, Be Beautiful specialized in yaoi (gay-themed manga by and for women) and the New York-based publisher's selections seemed intent on testing what the American market found acceptable. The company appeared to pay little or no heed to possible cultural conflicts between Japanese and American views of what may be appropriate for comics. All the manga they published had an 18-up age rating, and some titles such as Ayano Yamane's Target in the Finder were hard to stomach even for adults.

Since the demise of Be Beautiful, DMP has resurrected the Finder series (now called the Viewfinder series) which remains one of the darkest and most disturbing manga ever published in America, and also one of the most popular. The plot--such as there is one--stretches over at least five volumes and concerns the sadistic Japanese gangster, the sadistic Chinese gangster, and the innocent kidnap victim who spends most of the series getting raped and tortured by one or the other. The first volume, which DMP now calls Target in the Viewfinder, features five graphic male-on-male rapes along with assorted murders, torture and slightly more consensual sex acts. That's a lot of activity for a graphic novel that's less than 200 pages long.

Although Viewfinder is an extreme example, it's not atypical for yaoi manga. Dozens of yaoi manga available in English have at least one scene of either rape or attempted rape. Fans often casually call such material "non-con," short for "non-consensual."

Like almost all yaoi, the Viewfinder series is created by a young woman whose art is often praised. More disturbing than the content itself are the outdated attitudes towards rape these works exhibit: in dozens of yaoi manga, rape is an act of passion, "No!" means "Yes!" and it's supposed to be completely acceptable because the victim (uke) secretly enjoys it. The rapist never ends up in jail, the victim never suffers lasting scars. In the first volume of Viewfinder, the victim opens his door to his rapist and gets raped again, so many fans argue it must be true love. Of all the yaoi so far published in the US, only a few exceptions even bother to show a darker interpretation of non-consensual sex.

Of course artists have the right to probe into dark corners and adults have a right to seek out such material if they choose. However, publishers owe consumers a better system than indiscriminately marketing violent rape fantasies--in comics--with no regard for either realism or what may turn out to be very serious real-world consequences. Recently there have been cases of people getting in trouble with the law for manga they ordered through the mail or took through customs.

When I first reviewed Target in 2005, I suggested publishers might want to separate consensual and non-consensual material between different imprints, to provide customers with more guidance than just an age rating in selecting reading matter. No publisher has stepped up to structure their yaoi lines this way, however. In fact DMP is now publishing the Finder series as part of their June line, which was originally created as a home for soft yaoi--the genre at its most innocent and childlike. Obviously that's not the case anymore.