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“Out of the otaku population, female otaku have the most spending power, which is one of the reasons why you see an increase of boy love publications and anime featuring good looking guys.” - Danny Choo on CNN GeekOut
Over the past couple of years, I have noticed that things were changing in the anime/manga world. There were more and more titles that seem to have attractive male characters. Even though “moe” series targeted towards males are still running rampant, the anime/manga world has been filled with titles (such as Blue Exorcist, Naruto, BLEACH, Gintama, Black Butler, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Bakuman, Axis Powers Hetalia, and Tiger & Bunny) that have a variety of male characters for female fans to swoon over. Especially females who are into yaoi and boys’ love. This has led to the rise of the fujoshi, a community of fangirls that has the power to shift the gender balance for the better. Some male otaku have felt threatened and intimidated by the fujoshi, but this is just another example of how strong the purchasing power of women is despite the state of the global economy.
If you don’t know what a fujoshi is, here’s some history on the term. The term is used to describe a woman who likes to imagine male anime/manga characters getting together in a romantic relationship. They also tend to absorb yaoi/boys’ love material in anime/manga form and play video games that revolve around being with pretty boys. The interesting thing about the “fujoshi” term is that it’s a pun on the original meaning of fujoshi. The original meaning of fujoshi is “upper-class lady”. For the fujoshi that are into boys’ love, the term means “rotten lady”. The difference is in the “fu” part (the first character) of the name when written in kanji.
婦女子 - fujoshi (upper-class lady)
腐女子 - fujoshi (rotten lady)
You could associate this term with female otaku, but not all female otaku are into yaoi/BL and have suggestive thoughts about male characters. Regarding the market for yaoi/BL, the yaoi/BL anime/manga segment in Japan has generated a revenue of 21.3 billion yen in 2010. There’s even an area dedicated to the fujoshi known as Otome Road in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan. Fujoshi-centered manga, including Fujoshi Kanojo, Tonari no 801-chan, and Fujoshi Rumi, have been written and then later became adapted into live-action dramas or movies. There are even fujoshi characters in popular anime and manga series as well. Some of the more notable ones include Harumi Fujiyoshi of Sayonara! Zetsubou Sensei, Mio Naganohara of Nichijou, and Ogiue Chika of Genshiken.
It is alarming that a number of male otaku seem to be frightened by fujoshi. Is it because of the patriarchal view of Japanese society? Do Japanese men see themselves as the ones that should dominate in all aspects of life and culture? They could be afraid of women’s abilities to control them easily because men can’t resist a woman’s charms when she is able to utilize them to her advantage. I mean, isn’t that why some of them are into moe in the first place since the girls in that genre are non-threatening? Though honestly, this is a case of men being extremely stubborn and resistant to new ideas. Any supposed change feels like a personal attack upon their ego. They want to hold on to what THEY believe to be true. It seems as if the male otaku who aren’t fond of the fujoshi don’t want to research outside of their inner circle and think about how the fujoshi can bring some needed diversity and change. Male otaku also seem to ignore one simple business truth: women rule the world of shopping.
The purchasing power of women in Japan has gone up significantly over the years, due to greater work opportunities for Japanese women. Also, it is noted that Japanese women tend to spend mostly based on their own needs and family needs. If they happen to enjoy certain things, they will definitely make purchases based on their interests. Women also have a habit of loving to treat themselves after a hard day’s work as well. Combine the rise of female employment with women’s purchasing preferences and you have a segment to make a great deal of revenue from. Let’s take a look at one manga publisher that has seemed to take advantage of this: Shueisha and their Shonen Jump label.
Japanese blogger, MoePri, wrote a pair of articles (Part I and Part II) about how Shueisha has somehow managed to trigger off reactions in the brains of fujoshi to get them to fantasize about the male characters in Shonen Jump series. MoePri also notes that "The Prince of Tennis" was a big spark in gaining the attention of fujoshi when it was serialized. Since then, Shueisha decided to appeal more to a female audience. Most Shonen Jump titles that appeal to fujoshi don’t have a great deal of male fanservice, but there are scenes that seem somewhat suggestive.
What Shueisha has done is promote stories that are detailed to a huge degree. Women like to look into details more than men do. They also tend to integrate all the details into one idea and use that to make a decision in purchasing. In essence, women seek the ”perfect answer”.
Here’s an example using Gintama. A fujoshi may hear about the title from other fujoshi and might consider buying it. She begins to research Gintama and may find the story to be quite vivid. The fujoshi will also look at other factors that may interest her. What if a certain male character draws her in? She may begin to think heavily about the character. Let’s say our fujoshi swoons over male characters who wear glasses. Gintama features one such character: Shimura Shinpachi. She decides to read a brief bio of the character and happens to find Shinpachi adorable. At the same time, she enjoys the relationship Shinpachi has with the main character, Gintoki Sakata. Gintama is then marked by her as a title that she must follow. While the fujoshi finds the story of Gintama to be an important factor to follow it, what really drives her to financially support the series is Shinpachi himself as he fulfills her desire for cute boys wearing glasses and them being important to the main male character. Shinpachi was her “perfect answer” to purchasing Gintama.
Over the next few years, it seems that a huge battle might be fought between otaku and fujoshi in the anime/manga market. It is quite possible that the fujoshi can come out on top because of the increasing purchasing power of women in Japan and women’s tendencies to spend heavily on luxury goods (anime/manga goods can fall into this category). Also, here’s a thought about the potential of fujoshi from Thomas:
"Because men are not turned off on "Tiger & Bunny" the way women are turned off of otaku panderfests."
Constantly marketing to one segment doesn’t encourage further growth at all. Women are a huge component of growing an economy. The Japanese economy isn’t doing so great and it can benefit from increasing opportunities for women. This in turn leads to great spending and we will have a good flow of goods and services. Everybody wins in this situation.
If a male otaku wants to rant about the fujoshi, give the gent a business textbook for him to study. Hell, the book probably has to be in a moe-style manga format, so that he wouldn’t be intimidated. If Peter Payne of J-List can love the fujoshi (and understands the positive impact they can have), so can you. I seriously don’t mind if fujoshi ruled the anime/manga world. While some may be creepers (what fandom doesn’t have creepers?), they are generally a group of women who want anime/manga titles to have great stories that just happen to have great-looking males.
To quote Peter Payne, "The world is better with awesome fujoshi fangirls in it.”