Archive for March 8th, 2008

Kyon will always be Kyon.

I've been bitten by the fanfiction bug, again.

This isn't to say that I'm abandoning all my other stories, but like my habit of starting new characters in City of Heroes without first attending to the level grinding of older ones (a habit known among CoH players, and probably MMORPG players in general, as "altitis"), I shall be juggling multiple self-imposed responsibilities in the service of my hobbies, in much the same way I will move mountains for that which I find interesting, but will recoil away from anything remotely resembling actual work.

Shin of Atarashii Prelude has made posts on this phenomenon here, here, and here, if you wish to find out more. I have inadvertantly ramped up my participation in the associated AnimeSuki thread, which has taken on the self-appointed task of establishing what appears to be an unofficial Official Fanon, at least with regards to the AnimeSuki community, if not wider. I have no official place or title in this New Order, but I spam my input anyway, because the Muse is a chronic workaholic.

For those who are inveterately lazy, I welcome you as fellow slackers, and provide a brief summary of the concept: switch the genders of the characters in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Explore the possibilities.

My interest in this endeavour is manifold, and I should admit in the interests of full disclosure that not all of the reasons are entirely wholesome. The general impression of Female Kyon, who has apparently gained a fandom nickname of "Kyonko" (there's a whole list of fandom nicknames for the genderswapped counterparts, as well as alternates due to this being fandom), is that of a short ponytailed snarky girl. Someone described her as "aww… tiny little cute sarcastic person", and I keep that description close to my fanboy heart, if only because it is reinforced by the fanart (mostly worksafe) of exactly that.

But I've always identified more easily with Itsuki, and in keeping with the "more good-looking than thou" motif, Female Itsuki provides the eye-candy. (If you're wondering, Female Itsuki's Japanese fandom name is Itsuki-with-different-kanji, while her English fandom name is Itsuko. I tried to push for "Mitsuki" a bit half-heartedly, but it didn't stick.)

On a more rarefied level above the cries of "squeee cute", I've always been fascinated by switching gender roles in stories. And I do mean "gender roles", using the slightly more sociological definition, rather than simply changing the Y chromosome to X and vice versa. If I change the characters from male to female, and vice versa, what would the effects be on both their fictional environment and the consumers of that fiction?

Almost by necessity, the large-scale "everyone changes" projects are the domain of fanfiction. There are several stories out there with a single character, or perhaps a very small group of them, who change genders, but everyone else remains the same. Whether or not gender roles are explored in the first place, and how far they go if so, varies greatly. In Ranma 1/2, Ranma's experiences with cold water are often played up for comedy, or occasionally as an aspect of battle. In Kashimashi, Hazumu's alien-induced sex change focuses on the romantic angle, and takes a back seat to the love triangle which forms (with all three participants being female).

In those cases, the plot is that the character used to be Male, and now he's Female. (Or vice versa, but I'll use Male-to-Female as a convenient example.) The main characters know that the Female used to be Male. The story, if it bothers to, could revolve around how the former Male now comes to terms with being Female, and how the other characters react with the Female That Is when they're used to the Male That Was.

And then there's the other approach, which is that the character has always been Female, and how this would make the story inherently different from the canon Male version. Expand it, and now everyone is genderswapped; how does this change things? Alter the initial conditions, and watch how the experiment progresses.

To take the MoHS example, we have Haruhi Suzumiya, loud and brash. Now convert her to one Haruki Suzumiya (the Japanese fandom appears to prefer the name "Haruhiko", as in "Haru-hiko" rather than "Haruhi-ko"), and consider what reactions to this person would be like. Would he be seen as a delinquent? Would he be called a "loudmouthed nutjob" to his face? In fact, how different would he be, when he gets going, from the stereotypical loud-and-brash shounen protagonist made of GUTS and COURAGE?

What of Mikuru Asahina, now converted into a shy wide-eyed boy named Mitsuru Asahina? Opinions appear divided about whether he's still supposed to wear the bunnygirl outfit, even after the change. Is he to crossdress (the costumes forced on him by Haruki, of course)? Would he be wearing a maid outfit, or a butler outfit? Would The Adventures of Asahina Mitsuru Episode 00 be focused on the travails of a time-travelling combat butler?

Such considerations can occupy us happily for weeks. The genderswapped versions of the girls into bishounen appears to have a surprisingly high acceptance rate among the male portion of the fandom, and the guys-into-girls of Itsuki and Kyon have garnered approval from the female portion. Apparently the appeal of Altered Interactions is enough to overpower the mere lure of fanservice.

I will have to admit that when writing out the first-person narrative of Kyonko, I have drawn heavily on my experiences in female-dominated fandom communities. After Fandom Wank and Television Without Pity, neither of which I have participated in but both of which I have delved deeply into, I have no illusions on women being any more "gentle" than men. I have ramped up the snark and sarcasm level, and may Haruhi have mercy on my ficwriting soul.

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