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The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanFrom Dashing to Delicious: The Gastrorgasmic Aesthetics of ContemporaryBL MangaAntonija CavcicMurdoch University, Australia0284The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference Proceedings 2013Abstract‘Food is a regular feature, if not the centrepiece, of visual entertainment in Japan’(Cwiertka, 2005, p.416).The prominence (and to an extent, fetishization) of food in Japan is not a recentphenomenon, Western media’s current infatuation with food and the concept of ‘foodporn’ and/or the sexing-up of food media culture (as demonstrated in such programs asAnthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, The Naked Chef, or in Nigella Lawson’s ongoingBBC series), is a cultural movement which I define as ‘global gastrorgasmic texts.’While audio-visual media have a certain sensory advantage, Japanese gourmet mangahave attempted to embrace the fetishization of food since the 1980s with titles such asOishinbo (The Gourmet), Cooking Papa, or Bambino!. However, this paper concernsthe incorporation of the fetishization of food and the shift of focus from the aesthetics ofbeauty in the bishōnen (beautiful boys) in boys’ love comics to the gastrorgasmicaesthetics of food in boys’ love (BL) manga. By drawing examples from mainstream BLmanga (such as Yoshinaga’s iconic Antique Bakery series, the more recent What DidYou Eat Yesterday? and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy), as well asseveral minor publications, I will demonstrate how BL manga artists have arguablyincorporated and embraced gastrorgasmic themes and motifs. I argue that BL narrativesamplify the pleasure derived from visually “consuming” beautiful boys as well as thetantalising treats they prepare within the narratives. Furthermore, this paper questionswhat these gastrorgasmic texts might reflect about Japanese and global culture in thecurrent socio-economic climate.Key Words: Boys’ love manga, food fetishism, aesthetics of pleasure, economicsiaforThe International Academic Forumwww.iafor.org278


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanIntroductionIn the last ten to fifteen years, network television has seen an escalating number ofcelebrity chefs and their seemingly saucy and self-indulgent programmes such as thenot-necessarily naked but naughty Jamie Oliver, the lawless queen of food porn, NigellaLawson, or the bold and risqué spokesman of food porn for gourmets worldwide,Anthony Bourdain. Needless to say, there are a number of diverse socio-economic andcultural factors which have influenced this phenomenon, but one still has to questionjust what is it that can account for the sudden sexing-up or the increased fetishization ofcooking programmes on broadcast media? Bourdain’s personal observation is that suchshows are ‘the new pornography: it’s seeing people on TV, watching people makethings on TV that they are not going to be doing themselves anytime soon, just likeporn’ (as cited in Rosseau 2012, p. x). Similarly, Cheri Ketchum also notes that in thelast twenty years, media discourses about food have proliferated and she argues that theFood Network constructs a consumer fantasy world, that creates a sense of pleasurableintimacy for its viewers (2005, p.217).But is this voyeurism, or non-gender specific gastro-gaze, per se, just limited to the FoodNetwork or the plethora of competitive food-centred reality shows on broadcast mediain the West, or is it a global phenomenon? Apart from mere cultural observations, I, aswell as a number of scholars and anthropologists, am of the opinion that food pervadesevery aspect of life in Japan- more so than a lot of Western cultures. Indeed, before therewas a Naked Chef, there was an Iron Chef, and before there was an Iron Chef, therewere manga and anime titles and characters that were associated in any way and everyway to food. Cultural anthropologist, Katarzyna Cwiertka best epitomises this in herobservation that:Food is a regular feature, if not the centrepiece, of visual entertainment in Japan […andeven] popular animated characters bear food-related names, such as thecelebrated Anpan-man (Mr. Beanpaste Bun) and Sazae-san (Mrs. Top-shell) (2005,p.416).Thus, if one considers texts which incite food-fetishism and involve a kind ofvoyeuristic gastro-gaze as a cultural movement which I define as ‘global gastrorgasmictexts,’ then manga, despite not having the same heightened sensory advantages as audiovisualmedia, nonetheless qualify as such texts and have since at least the 1980s withgourmet (gurume manga) titles such as Oishinbo, or The Gourmet (1983-), CookingPapa (1985) or Mister Ajikko (1986-1989). While such comics at that time were, andeven still are, generally targeted at men in the mainstream manga industry, over time,the trend gradually infiltrated the homoerotic realm of boys’ love comics and the sawthe emergence of Yoshinaga Fumi’s Antique Bakery (1999-2002). Since then, the motifhas also proliferated with lesser-known dōjin (self-published/slash) titles availableon major BL online distributor, www.dlsite.com, which boasts titles such as CandyCandy (2010), The Ecstasy Spreading through Your Mouth (2010), or Sugary Days(2010).Mainstream titles include the likes of Yasuei’s How to Eat Delicious Pasta (2013) andYoshinaga’s more recent titles, the massively successful What Did You Eat Yesterday?(2007-) and Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (2005).279


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanFig.1.0 (Yoshinaga, 2005).To further examine the origin, motifs and trends of this grossly gastrorgasmicphenomenon, I will firstly consider how gourmet-themed boys’ love manga differ fromgourmet manga as a stand-alone genre. The following arguments will then posit reasonsas to why BL motifs shifted to fetishizing food, whereby there is no human hero sincethe hero is now the dish, and how food within narratives is depicted so as to appeargastrorgasmic. To conclude, I will consider what these manga as gastrorgasmic textsreflect about Japanese society and global consumption trends as a whole. Due to thesheer volume of dōjin manga, as well as lesser-known mainstream publications, onlymainstream gourmet manga and gourmet-infused BL manga such as the aforementionedYoshinaga’s series will be sites of reference and analysis. However, before delving intothe analyses of the erogenous realm of the dashing, delicious and even delectable, as astarter, the aspects whereby gastrorgasmic boys’ love texts differ from gourmet mangawill be considered.2. Contrasting gourmet and gourmet-themed BL mangaAlthough having mentioned that gourmet comics' target readership was initially male,that did not necessarily suggest that women or children did not actively engage in theconsumption of such texts. However, Japanese cultural theorist, Lorie Brau notes thatfood and cooking came into greater prominence in manga in the 1970s, a context inwhich the narratives of boys’ comics which recounted the ‘trials of apprentices orathletes in their quest for mastery became a popular subject’(2004, p.36). One of the firsttitles to depict the ordeals of a specifically culinary quest was Hōchō-nin no Ajihei(Ajihei the Knifeman) from 1973-1977. The entire series adopted this quest typologycharacteristic of boys’ comics and thus arguably catered for the expectations of apredominantly male readership. Such ‘hero’s path’ typologies (emulating JosephCampbell’s model) have been outlined by Honda Masuko, who considers thecharacteristics of boys’ manga as narratives in which the protagonist desires a goal,confronts an obstacle and experiences a setback to achieving the goal, then overcomesthat setback (and successive setbacks) until finally reaching success (2010, p.25). Thisformula is relatively standard for most of the sports comics or even gourmet comics likeBambino! (2005-2009), which sees its ostracized Japanese protagonist rising from asloppy kitchen hand to a chef in an exclusive Italian restaurant. The same typology isalso exemplified in the iconic Oishinbo and Cooking Papa series. Both of these serieswere produced and set in the 1980s in the midst of the Japanese economic bubble.280


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanAlthough businessmen had the money to eat out, for a man to be a food-savvy by eitherbeing a decent cook or absolute foodie was a desirable character attribute, so in a way,comics served as a kind of didactic tool to enhance a man’s cultural capital. WhereCooking Papa’s goal is to do a hard day’s work in the office and still have enough timefor his hobby (cooking for his family, making his lunch, and helping out others with hiscooking skills), Oishinbo’s hero Yamaoka’s goal as a culinary journalist is constantly tocreate the “ultimate menu” and prove himself to his father, Kaibara, his rival in theseries.If we acknowledge the basic narrative structure of Oishinbo, Cooking Papa andBambino! as a standard in gourmet manga, we can thus surmise that for most traditionalgourmet manga, the narrative is goal-oriented and although the goals may differ, I arguethat the protagonists’ overriding aims are to please others or themselves by concocting(and often consuming) the most mouth-wateringly mesmerising meals they possibly can.In addition, as in other genres of boys’ comics, the element of competition, conflict andresolution are all involved. As Lorie Brau reminds us, ‘Competition not only plays asignificant role in dramatizing the subject of food on Japanese television in Iron Chef orWhich Dish? It also appears frequently in gurume manga’ (2004, p.39). However, interms of Laura Mulvey’s concept of the gaze in regard to gourmet manga, I suggest thatit is not particularly drawn to any one of the female (or even male) characters. The gaze,I suggest, becomes a gastro-gaze, whereby the dish is the object of desire or isfetishized. This gastro-gaze also applies to gourmet-themed boys’ love manga as a genreof girls’ comics, though, girls’ comics originally, and still now, follow quite a differentnarrative structure. However, before any consideration of the thematic and stylisticdifferences between boys’ and girls’ comics, I suggest that Honda’s outlined narrativetypology for boys’ comics can also be applied to girls’ comics. However, the majordifference is, as Honda suggests,the value highlighted in each text is ‘love.’… In boys’ narratives, the protagonistsachieve victory. In girls’ narratives, however, there is no clear distinction betweenwinners and losers. Since in boys’ genres the goal is external, it is obvious whether ornot success has been achieved. Love… is an abstract goal sought internally. Therefore,its attainability is not automatically associated with external developments (2010, p.27).Given this argument, one can surmise that the fundamental elements of girls’ comics arelove, the overall atmosphere, and the sensations and feelings evoked by the text (beingthere as opposed to the more goal-oriented getting there nature of boy’s comics). That is,relishing in the here and now rather than planning the next move and having one’s eyeon the prize, so to speak. Boys’ love manga, as a genre of girls’ comics, nonethelessembrace particular elements of girls’ comics. Love, for example, has also beenconsidered central to the plot by Dru Pagliassotti in her qualitative research on boys’love fandom. She contends that the romantic storyline within boys’ love manga isimportant to its readers and that in her 2005 survey of such readers, ‘the largest group ofrespondents reported that the single most important element of BL manga was “slowlybut consistently developing love between the couple”’(2008, p.59). If love, as scholarsand fans have noted, indeed drives the plot in boys’ love manga as a genre of girls’comics, then overcoming all obstacles to reach that pivotal moment of true love, or theromantic climax, per se, can be considered the internal goal of the protagonists in boys’love manga, regardless of whether it involves agency or merely destiny. However, asgourmet themes have infiltrated the genre, I argue the gastrorgasmic depictions of food,281


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanthe fetishism of food, if you like, have shifted the object of desire to food. This, Ibelieve, is best epitomized by the emergence of titles such as Not Love But DeliciousFoods Make Me So Happy.To demonstrate how the element of love is incorporated into this typology, consider, forinstance, the following figures taken from a gourmet-themed BL narrative. AlthoughMorning’s primary readership for What Did You Eat Yesterday? is male, given that thenarrative revolves around a professional gay couple living together in Tokyo and theoccasional allusions to love and romance within the narratives, I suggest one maynonetheless sub-classify it as BL manga. To briefly set the scene, this series involves thedaily life of a lawyer, Shiro and his boyfriend Kenji (who of course, lives up to thestereotype of gay hairdressers). There are very few intimate scenes, and thus far, therehave been no homo-erotic depictions in the series whatsoever. Upon my own personalexamination of the content in the series, the results revealed that roughly sixty per centof each manga is comprised of recipes and didactic cooking instructions. In thisparticular excerpt, we observe as Kenji and Shiro are out with their friend, Wataru, towatch his partner, Daisaku, play amateur baseball. The tension between both couplesseems to lie and be resolved in the food which they bring along to the picnic, which isthe origin of the first obstacle of the scene. Both Shiro and Daisaku go head to head toprove to their lovers who made the more delicious bentō.At the beginning of the scene, the baseball bat, ball and crotch are the only sexualallusions within the excerpt as the three friends watch the game (2012, p.41). Whilstwatching, Kenji opens up the bentō that Shiro prepared and expresses how tasty it looks(46). Wataru (who is paranoid about the chemistry between his boyfriend and Shiro)criticises the soccer mum-like appearance of Shiro’s bentō (47). Wataru retaliates byrevealing his own kawaii (cute) bentō and stressing that the pink ham and redness of thepaprika reflects how gay bento should look (48). Everyone seems generally impressedwith how cute the bentō looks. However, all the while Daisaku is commenting on howdelicious and healthy Shiro’s rice balls and bentō are (49). Wataru then tries one of theegg rolls and rice balls and admits that Shiro’s bentō actually is delicious (50).Thereafter, Daisaku even asks for one of Shiro’s recipes (52), which signals Shiro’svictory in the conflict. In a last resort attempt (53), Yoshiyuki points out that Shiroprepared everything the night before and that not even the rice is fresh. Shiro attests thathe woke up early that morning to boil the rice and thus reigns as the victor. However, toend the scene, Daisaku appeases Wataru in suggesting that his bentō was also delicious.So, in spite of the inter-partner conflict, both cooks managed to please their boyfriendswith their delicious bentō boxes. Thus, the element of competition is lost and love isshared through the hero of the day, namely, the dish.Here the fetishization of the bentō for the reader is that which may be unattainablewithout agency but can nonetheless be vicariously enjoyed through reading.Interestingly though, the recipes are clearly outlined for the reader and thereby rendersthe fantasy feasible. Love, then, would be attainable. It is also no longer an abstract goalsince food is the means through which to obtain it. Food additionally functions as anexpression of desire, or more often than not, is the object of desire. What this enables isthe flexibility to alternate between a gaze involving sexualfetishism to a food-fetishizing gastro-gaze. Finally, the fusion of fantasy (in depictionsof non-normative romance) and the feasible (the simple satisfaction derived from food)offers a multitude of gratifications beyond the target readership. The difference then,282


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanbetween gourmet manga and BL manga as gastrorgasmic texts is that with the former,food is used as a tool to reach one’s personal goal (whether it is to distinguish oneselffrom others or outdo one's competitors). In contrast, in gourmet-themed boys' lovecomics, love is the goal. That love may be reached when food is utilised as a tool (or anexpression of love/desire) or love is simply the readily attainable food- that taken forgranted daily satisfaction that any reader may get at the 'Bing!' of a microwave.3. Accounting for gourmet-themed BL phenomena: 美 少 年 + 美 味 = 美 ²Having compared and contrasted traditional male-oriented gourmet manga and gourmetthemedBL manga, it is significant to proceed by considering why BL motifs haveshifted to fetishizing food and how the manga mise en scène, depicts food in agastrorgasmic lightOne can make several assumptions as to why this phenomenon has flourished. Consider,for instance, that since the dawn of BL in the 1970s the settings and motifs have focusedprimarily on boarding schools, schools or contexts where a clear hierarchy is defined.Fig.2.0 Dōjin website (dlsite, 2010).According to the data in Figure 2.0, the largest number of titles falls under the genres ofboys’ love, manga involving minors, schoolyard settings, and couples with agediscrepancies. These trends have persisted for decades and seem to show no signs ofslowing. The bishōnen, the innocent archetype and object of desire, remains a staple inBL trends. Having said that, the change in readership is where the shift in motifs occurs.To elaborate, the fans of the 1970s who grew up with BL are now in their forties orover, while the young fans can start from junior high school or even elementary school.Thus, in order to cater for both groups and a wider range of audiences, creating more‘adult’ manga with older protagonists, a greater sense of realism, and offering something283


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanunique in the narrative that is desirable, caters for the older fans as well as drawingyounger fans who might be interested in the new and unique point of fetishism.However, what alternative attractive element to the bishōnen could be appropriated andallure a greater target readership in Japan? If we recall that food is arguably centrepiece,of visual entertainment in Japan, then the proof is in the pudding, for lack of a betterexpression. If the possible reasons why gourmet-themed manga have become a newtrend relate to expanding the target market as well as appeasing old and new fans, thenthe logical question to follow is how the motif has been appropriated to make it thecentrepiece of the narrative. To address this matter, as a general indication, I examinedthe framing and focus of food within the panels, as well as the amount of panelscontaining food or mentioning food in Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me SoHappy.Needless to say, but I must stress that this is not a realisticindication but it demonstrates the potential prominence of food in manga. Uponexamining the content, the statistics revealed that of the total 709 panels, 477 panelsdepicted food or alluded to food, arguably making food the centrepiece of 67 per cent ofthe panels. Given that the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) local contentquota is 55 per cent, we can surmise that at least for this title, the cake takes the cake.Once again, it must be stressed that examining a larger volume of manga would benecessary to make such assumptions about the genre but for argument’s sake, I suggestthis information is adequate.In addition to the ratio of food content, the focus and framing of food in the panelsdemonstrate how food is fetishized and objectified. Take for instance, the panel in whichYoshinaga takes her gay friend out for sushi (Figure 3.1). The high angle framing of thesushi as it rests on the table objectifies the sushi, suggesting its role in the narrative asthe object of desire.Fig.3.1 (Yoshinaga, 2005). Fig.3.2 (Yoshinaga, 2005).In addition, aside from the drooling and heavy breaths in Figure 3.1, as the sushi isconsumed in Figure 3.2, close shots are primarily employed to enhance thegastrorgasmic effects. This is the money shot, if you like, of gastrorgasmic texts. Similardepictions are found in Figure 3.3 as Yoshinaga and a friend go French. The mouth is284


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanalways slightly ajar to emphasise the subject’s salivation. Other motifs and keiyu(motion lines), which are employed to fetishize food or convey a gastrorgasmic effect toconsider are the lightning bolts in Figure 3.4 to convey extreme satisfaction and thecommonly used arrows to emphasise the object of the gaze such as the ice cream beingfetishized in the bottom panel.Fig.3.3 (Yoshinaga, 2005). Fig.3.4 (Yoshinaga, 2005).In Figure 3.5, there is the iconic BL flower motif to express feelings of love or passion.Note how the tilted head too reinforces the pleasure of consumption. Whilst some maynot be convinced of the fetishisation of food in the former figures, this last excerpt(Figure 3.6) illustrates, if not epitomises, the prominence of food fetishism in BL manga.One need not look beyond the framing of the panels during the dunking, dipping andshoving of tender Vietnamese rolls into the subjects’ mouths. Can one honestly counterarguethat there is nothing remotely gastrorgasmic about these panels?Fig.3.5 (Yoshinaga, 2005). Fig.3.6 (Yoshinaga, 2005).285


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japan4. DiscussionIn the grand scheme of things, this article has attempted to distinguish gourmet-themedBL manga from traditional gourmet manga, as well as attempting to postulate why thegourmet boom has infiltrated boys’ love manga, and outline the methods which artistshave employed to glorify and fetishize food. To conclude on a more profound, or beefierlevel, if you like, it is significant to reflect on what these manga reflect about Japanesesociety and global consumption trends.Firstly, I acknowledge that a number of contentious assumptions have been madethroughout this article, and yet I will conclude with yet another based on personalobservations. That is, I argue that in contexts of either an economic crisis or aneconomic boom, food becomes fetishized. To elaborate, in the former context, whenstruggling with budgets, people tend to fantasise about or vicariously enjoy the luxury ofbeing served or consuming fine food made by another, or at least learning how toreproduce such recipes at home. In the latter context, people have the capital to affordfine food but want that extra edge, that something more that no one else can have. That‘because you’re worth it’ ideology prevails and food, of all things commonplace, iscertainly not excluded. Having said that, one could further argue then that Japan’seconomic bubble in 1980s partly influenced the boom in gourmet manga; and thesuccessive global recession in the early twenty-first century saw the massive influx ofgastrorgasmic texts as well as gourmet-themed BL texts. Given this argument, whatdoes this then reflect about Japan and global trends in food media? Perhaps thesignificance of it all lies in Frederick Kaufman’s suggestion that, food porn, like sexporn, like voyeurism, are all measures of alienation, not community. As such, theybelong to realms of irreality. Irreality, of course, is attractive to anyone who may bedissatisfied with the daily exigencies of his or her life (Kaufman, as cited in McBride2010,-p.45).BibliographyBajira 2012, Sugary Days, Sel-Fac, Japan.Brau, L 2004, ‘Oishinbo's Adventures in Eating: Food, Communication, and Culture inJapanese Comics’, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 4,pp.34-45.Cwiertka, K 2005, ‘Culinary Culture and the Making of a National Cuisine’, In JRobertson (ed.), A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan, Blackwell, Malden.Dlsite girls’ titles 2013, viewed 1 May 2013, http://dlsite.com/girlsGyū, J 1973-1977, Hōchō-nin no Ajihei, Shueisha, Tokyo.Honda, M 2010,‘The genealogy of hirahira: Liminality and the girl’, In T Aoyama & BHartley (eds.), Girl Reading Girl in Japan, Routledge, London.Ichijima, A, Tanaka, K & Umakoshi, T (directors) 1993, Iron Chef, television program,Fuji Television, Japan.286


The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanKan 2010, The Ecstasy Spreading through Your Mouth, 724kan, Japan.Kariya, T 1983-, Oishimbo, Shogakukan, Tokyo.Ketchum, C 2005, ‘The Essence of Cooking Shows: How the Food Network ConstructsConsumer Fantasies’, Journal of Communication Inquiry, Vol. 29, pp. 217-234.Kimiyoshi 2010, Candy Candy, Zombie Productions, Japan.Llewellyn, P (director) 1999, The Naked Chef, television program, BBC2, England.Liebler, T (director) 2005-, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, television program,Travel Channel, United States.McBride, A.E 2010, ‘Food Porn’, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture,Vol. 10, No 1, pp. 38-45.Pagliassotti, D 2008, ‘Better Than Romance? Japanese BL Manga and the Subgenre ofMale/Male Romantic Fiction’, In Levi, A, McHarry, M & Pagliassotti D (eds.), Boys'Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-cultural Fandom of the Genre,McFarland & Co, Jefferson.Rousseau, S 2012, Food Media: Celebrity Chefs and the Politics of EverydayInterference, Berg, London.Sekiya, T 2005-2009, Bambino!, Shogakukan, Tokyo.Takeno, K (series producer) 1997, Which Dish? (どっちの 料 理 ショ- ), televisionprogram, Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation, Japan.Terasawa, D 1986-1989, Mister Ajikko, Kodansha, Tokyo.Ueyama, T 1985, Cooking Papa, Kodansha, Tokyo.Yasuei 2013, How to Eat Delicious Pasta, Comic Box, Tokyo.Yoshinaga, F 1999-2002, Antique Bakery, Shinshokan, Tokyo.——2005, Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy, Ohta Books, Tokyo.——2012, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Kodansha, Tokyo.287

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