Friday, September 2, 2016

Non-Con in Manga: Passion, Finder, Rin, Fake, and Black Sun

As in paperback romances, the hero or
or heroine's thoughts (lower right hand
corner) relieve us of misunderstanding.
"Non-con" refers to "non-consensual sex." It is used instead of "rape" when discussing manga for reasons that will become clearer below.

Other than female-looking ukes, "non-con" raises the most controversy in Amazon comments. There are those who ignore it for the sake of the story; those who embrace it; and those who refuse to read anything that contains a non-con scene.

The problem here is the same problem that haunts the explicitness=eroticism claim. Camille Paglia is right: human sexuality is far more complex than verbal "no's" or "yes's" allow for. I think many readers know or sense this--hence the use of the less loaded (connotatively-speaking) "non-con."

Such reviewers will still apologize, however, explaining that they don't normally like this kind of thing (even I'm going to do this).

My main points are these: (1) a visual medium takes into account more than verbal claims and (2) "offense" is largely personal.

1. The art/dialog combination does matter.

Some reviewers criticize the first volume of Passion by Shinobu Gotoh/Shoko Takaku, which opens with a supposed non-con scene between a student and his teacher. The student is the seme.

Other reviewers defend the series by saying, "But it's only one scene!"

I finally read the first volume and laughed my head off. Like any good "submissive" in the dominatrix universe, the uke teacher is completely in control of the event. In a later scene--when he is clearly NOT interested in someone's advances--he reacts with abrupt disfavor, kneeing the guy in the groin.

The teacher's objections in the opening scene are not to the sex--they are to the student's inexperience. He is annoyed at being seduced by an incompetent. Hence the student's apologies!

Although this is not literally stated, neither are the non-con assumptions literally stated. The art and the dialog (and context) carry the message together.

2. It's personal. 

I have found certain non-con scenes disturbing and I have occasionally thrown out my hands (and the book) in disgust. I have also been thoroughly disturbed by manga volumes (and paperback romances) with no non-con scenes which nonetheless create a troubling relationship.

Generally speaking, I find an in-your-face domineering character (like Jamal from Black Sun who is an in-your-face que sera sera kind of seme) less problematic than an emotionally abusive one. Rin contains no non-con scenes (that I remember) and yet I can't (re)read it, despite the gorgeous art. The high school junior looks about 10 (rather than 17) while the senior continues (even past volume 1) to use the junior to fulfill a smothering emotional need in his personal life. My skin literally crawls--even though I admire the series' theme (based on archery) and love the art. (Fake, below, tackles a similar problem in a far more mature way.)

In comparison to manipulative "you must love me" scenarios,
one of my favorite Fake scenes occurs when Dee accepts that
he can't force Ryo to feel the same...and it isn't Ryo's fault. It's life.
In comparison, the most blatant non-con scenes out of the series I have read/own probably belong to Finder. Yet I find Finder entirely entertaining. It's 7+ volumes of romping, erotic fantasy (and I think that the art & dialog together make clear that the fantasy is Akihito's, even when he is off-stage). I don't mean that everything is a "dream." Rather, the storyline/relationship is the equivalent (though better written and substantially more amusing) of Twilight: a youthful fantasy of being absolutely beloved (admired and stalked, etc. etc. etc.).

This isn't stuff that any sane woman (or man) would want to happen to them in real life. And that's the point!!

Where these lines are and when they have been crossed is up to the reader. Only I hope readers will be patient with each other and remember that while there are general "norms" for behavior in a society, the intimate relations between couples come down, in the end, to those couples. "Rough" sex, to cite one example, is not always wrong--except when it is . . . for that couple.