Fanatic Friday: Toradora! And The Dilemma of Masculinity

Posted on Jul 17 2009


This Friday, we received a submission from 2-D Teleidoscope, about a rather interesting subject. Check it out below!

Run a search for “soushoku danshi,” and chances are that you’ll run into this piece from Slate. The article (with the help of a rather bad illustration) describes a new social phenomenon in Japan: Men who forsake the corporate ladder-climbing and aggression of their predecessors, choosing instead to live quiet lives of domesticity. These so-called “grass-eating men” care more about their hobbies and personal appearance than about conquering the workplace or the bedroom, which seems to worry some traditionalists.

Well then, how about this? Male otaku (which I’ll use as a catch-all term for convenience) are rarely considered manly. They fit the profile. Are they part of the grass-eating movement, too?

The answer seems to be no. The Slate article dedicates a grand total of two sentences to the possibility, which I think is a crying shame. The masculinity of otaku is a subject with surprising depth: Even if you discount the fact that many otaku are dateless social misfits, it’s still difficult to be seen as a man when one’s hobbies boil down to watching cartoons and collecting pretty dolls. And yet, there they are. There’s a lot of unspoken anxiety in otaku culture about this, which I believe comes out in the things we watch.

Take the romantic comedy Toradora!, which was the surprise hit of last year. The main character, Ryuuji, could be considered one of the soushoku danshi: He cooks, cleans and enjoys sales at the supermarket. But because of his fearsome expression, Ryuuji has to cope with people expecting him to be a thug. Of course, everything changes when he meets Taiga: People loosen up, he makes some friends, life is good.

And then in the last few episodes, Ryuuji’s future after high school becomes a central issue: Does he go to college and pursue a big-time career, even if that isn’t the life he really wants? Some might cry foul on the plot for introducing unnecessary drama at this point, and perhaps it was. But it’s also quite meaningful in context of Ryuuji’s original problem and the problem of all the men watching this show. If your life just doesn’t fit into the “program,” as a man or as a citizen, then what the hell are you supposed to be doing?

For Ryuuji, the answer is to have faith in his unlikely soulmate. He might be a bit lost and bewildered on his own, but together with her, hopefully, there’s a tomorrow to look forward to. If you play visual novels (or watch anime adaptations of visual novels, whichever), you’ll find that this is often the answer to the dilemma of masculinity. You are a man not when you have the right job or the appropriate pastimes, but when you believe, unconditionally, that you have found the love of your life.

For some of us, that still poses a problem. But hey, it’s a start.

For the full article please click here, and if you believe you have something worthy of a Fanatic Friday, then make sure to e-mail us at 918thefan(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

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  • 2DT July 17, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    Hey, I beat out the competition. Cool.

    Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

  • Kanashimi July 17, 2009 at 9:36 PM

    Thanks for the submission, I really enjoyed reading this actually. It had a good point, and was something I didn’t actually think on. I would have liked to see it be a little bit more in-depth, solely because it seemed like the article ended just when I was getting into it.

    Despite that, thanks again, it was wonderfully written!

  • Sandgolem July 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    wow really great writing 2D!

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