[AniFemTalk] Creator confirmation of fan interpretations

Last week many Yuri!!! On ICE fans rejoiced as a MAPPA producer and later the YOI PR team made a hardline confirmation that Yuri and Victor’s relationship is romantic in nature. This is a pretty rare case, though, and it raises important questions about the involvement of creators in audience interpretations – particularly when those interpretations are by marginalized fans regarding their own representation.

  • Do you tend to read anime/manga creator interview translations, or avoid them?
  • How do you feel about Death of the Author in general?
  • When have you most wished a creator would step in and comment on their own work?
  • When have you most wished a creator hadn’t stepped in and commented on their own work?
  • Do your general views about authorial commentary change when looking at authors who directly contradict a progressive reading of their work?

 

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  • Moni

    If the manga or anime is progressive in its story telling or characters I’ll check out the interviews otherwise I avoid them (Ai Yazawa’s NANA vs. Wake up girls). I kind of wish feminist fans asked the mangaka of Heroine Shikakku what the hell she was thinking with the ending. It was a pretty anti-shoujo trope manga for the most part and spent near entire series showing the male lead as an entitled douche-bro and she ends up with him anyway.

    • That is sadly one of the things leading me away from the Otome genre and some Shoujo as well. Really I avoid any anime that has pretty girls unless it proves to be feminist-friendly because I just am sick of seeing sexualized girls in anime, and sadly I noticed even with Otome genre which is “made for girls” they’ll often sexualize the girl even more than the guys, like have her wear super short miniskirts, show up her skirt, show her flustered expressions instead of the guy’s, have super high-pitched voice that hurts my head, and always in super girly poses which are more to please guys that wouldn’t watch it anyway. -_- It’s male-gaze, I tell you.

      Especially with 18+ rated shoujo/Otome… those are like famous for being rape fantasies. The whole abused heroine thing REALLY bothers me, so I’ve always been a lot more into yaoi and BL (boys love). Somehow it doesn’t feel so bad when it’s two guys being possessive over each other, as long as it’s not too much, like I avoid the ones with rape tags. But it’s really a fantasy, like, a world where I don’t have to deal with the problems of feminism. So it’s more of a temporary escape than an actual solution to the problems in the world. >.<

      YOI is really good with keeping the female characters realistic and dignified, but still loveable, so I definitely recommend it to anyone, even if someone isn't into male/male romance, because my fiance even really loved it when he's not into BL at all. It's not like typical yaoi, it's not even labeled as yaoi. Kind of like how the No. 6 anime shows some questionably canon(?) intimacy between the two male characters, but doesn't label it as yaoi.

      • Black Emolga

        “The whole abused heroine thing REALLY bothers me, so I’ve always been a lot more into yaoi and BL (boys love).”

        I periodically here people say things like this and I always find it questionable. If you don’t like rape and abuse in Shoujo/Otome games. Why treat a genre that’s even more overloaded with rape, abuse and frequently, even more misogyny as a moral substitute? Even if just cherry-picking the “good ones”. I’m not saying everyone should like Shoujo and no one should like Yaoi. Just the claim that works of fiction with women in them are somehow more deserving of suspicion than those that focus primarily on men and side line female characters seems suspect to me.

        • I avoid the BL/Yaoi which have abuse/rape tags, so I just read the ones with consent of which there are many.

          I am not saying Otome/Shoujo is bad as a whole necessarily, but I don’t like some of it because it’s not only the abuse, but the thing that is even more common… I don’t like the forced girliness in it, because I can’t really relate to them very well. I haven’t been able to relate to that since I was 14.
          I actually relate more with yaoi because the guys are not girly (usually) unlike me, and it doesn’t have so many pet peeves of mine.

          So because Yaoi does not have to worry about making a female character that is not girly (for example, like Kino from Kino’s Journey or Hotaru from Aoharu x Kikanjuu who are more androgynous), I like a LOT more yaoi than I do of shoujo/otome which not many have such androgynous female characters I can relate to. The few that I do find, of course I love, but those are so few that I can’t just follow shoujo/otome enough to call myself a fan of the genre. They’re like rare gems.

          I have to say the same for anime as a whole, actually…
          I can’t really call myself a “true” anime fan because I hate the vast majority of anime.
          That’s my personal identification within the anime community, but you can have your own standards if you want to call yourself a fan of something or not. I think nothing is wrong with someone saying they’re either a fan or not a fan of something in general, even if they do like some things in it.
          Like I don’t like movies in general, but I like a few movies… but I wouldn’t call myself a movie fan either because I don’t feel that fond of movies in general.

      • Moni

        Dear lord yeah with the otome point. It’s like they’re written by men guessing what women and girls like. It’s fine to indulge in fantasy every now and then (I certainly do), but when those problematic fantasies are so pervasive that even material geared towards younger audiences has those same issues it’s becomes a problem that deserves to be called to attention.

      • Moni

        The reason I think the rape fantasies are a thing is because girls (both in the west and east) are socially taught that it’s unacceptable to have desires and to act on them therefore the only outlets they can get are those rape fantasies. BL on the other hand is a “workaround” of sorts, allowing the protagonist to have more agency and vocalize their sexualities. Though BL manga have their own cans of worms which aren’t limited to dubious consent, not being written by nor for gay people and not addressing real predjudice against lgbtq in Japan. However, I’m starting to notice a trend with some new BL are being written by men (judging by their names) and some of the conflict comes from societal pressures, fear of rejection from the love interest due to them being straight and fears of coming out to their family and friends.

        • Black Emolga

          “BL on the other hand is a “workaround” of sorts, allowing the protagonist to have more agency and vocalize their sexualities.”

          Except it doesn’t. Rape fantasy is common in both BL and Shoujo/Josei the only difference is BL replaces the girl with a man. That’s not giving the protagonist more sexual agency or a voice for their desires. If anything it just reinforces the idea that women lack sexual agency by ensuring that the only characters that ever have it are men.

          What’s more Shoujo/Josei has far more series featuring female characters with sexual agency than BL has ukes that aren’t totally devoid of agency. Not only is it common for uke’s to be raped but they often don’t even enjoy the consensual sex they do have. It’s like the writers don’t even know that gay men are capable of enjoying penetrative anal sex.

          • Moni

            I agree wholeheartedly, hence the “of sorts” of my comment. BL still has problems galore but luckily some newer josei I’ve run into seem to be moving away from this representation of relationships but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Dawnstorm

    Death of the author… Well, let me say, I do think that there’s such a thing as a “wrong” interpretation of a text (and as I said in the premier thread, I’m currently wondering whether I made an interpretation mistake [by missing things] in Centaur no Nayami). But I don’t think author interviews are any sort of ultimate authority on whether or not an interpretation is definitely wrong or – even harder – right. Authors can be mistaken about what they’ve written. A text is always bigger than the intention of its authors. But at the same time an author interview can give you hints as to what to look for in a text; i.e. an author’s interview can show you what you’ve missed.

    I’m happy to hear the PR team confirm the romantic nature of the relationship, but it’s sort of in a separate world from how I see the show. I don’t feel it’s much of a confirmation; all that’s important is on film. However, standing by and affirming that particular interpretation is a lovely gesture, and we could use more of those.

    I’ve never once wished an author would step in, and by the same token I can’t remember ever wishing the author hadn’t stepped in. I’m fairly good at rolling my eyes at something like the Samurai Flamenco this-is-not-a-real-proposal announcement and completely disregarding it. However I can’t rule out that something like that will one day “hit a nerve”. Should that happen, it wouldn’t be case of me re-evaluating the show/text; it would be more of a case of “guilt by association” – i.e. I wouldn’t be able to watch the show without thinking of that pronouncement. Hasn’t happened so far, but could. It’s more dangerous if I hear of such a pronouncement before I read/watch a text/show; such a pronouncement can kill all my interest.

  • iblessall

    I’ve personally always felt that if creators don’t write it into the work itself explicitly, it’s open to interpretation. Coming back to a work from outside it and make statements on how it should be interpreted feel like the author intruding upon the experiences of the audience. If you as a creator don’t convey a message that is important to you for people to understand, important enough that you would make an external statement on it, then you didn’t do your job in what you created. And now that I’ve made that sweeping statement, I probably have to go back a bit to nuance it.

    I think this sort of thing matters less when it comes to worldbuilding and other such things. If George Lucas makes a statement about the way the Star Destroyer is built, it might make some people upset, but in the end I think it’s a fairly trivial manner. When it comes to things like representation, though, I think things become more difficult. The stakes are higher, the fandoms more reactionary, and more people will be looking for any sort of cudgel (especially a “canon” one) to use to beat down non-compliant interpretations and opinions. I know that every time J.K. Rowling (who is perhaps the queen of external statements on her world) makes a statement about the canon of Harry Potter from her Twitter or whatever (or through a PR team…? bleeeehhhhhh), it really annoys me. I guess, in the end, I just don’t think that’s the way art should be done.

    But then again I completely have bought into Shoji Kawamori’s ridiculous explanation of the Macross canon, so maybe I’m a hypocrite (that’s different though coz it’s just sci-fi goofiness).

  • Liz Welch

    Like others, I generally prefer to read/view the work as an entity of itself. I don’t seek out author interpretations. I mean, the author’s statement could be interesting but doesn’t necessarily make the reader/viewer’s experience invalid. For example, with YOI, which I totally saw as a romance, if the makers had said ‘nah, they’re just a coach and athlete’ I would have been surprised, and thought ‘well, the makers kinda failed in their objective then’ but if I watched a re-run of the show I would still think ‘yep, it’s a love story’.

  • Inksquid43

    Hmm if literary criticism allows for multiple valid interpretations, then the author interpretation, provided it’s backed up by clues from the text, beomes as valid as any other similarly-backed-up interpretation?
    To put it another way, if your interpretation follows from the evidence in the text and (more importantly) matters to YOU, then that should be enough?

  • For me, the film is the talking. I rarely search for interviews, unless it’s about world building or if there’s some word about the backstory for a character that really picks my curiosity (and wasn’t explored in the film because it wasn’t really relevant to the plot). Or maybe, if I watched something really complex, I might wonder what was the author intent. I mean, I did read a lot of commentary about 2001: Space Odyssey.
    But for the rest I prefer the authors to leave it alone, especially If it’s about representation. I personally dislike when interviews are given more weight than the actual work –I believe that If your work didn’t convey your message, then you didn’t do your job.
    I understand the feelings of wanting to respect the creators wishes, but then again, I’m all for dead of the author If I feel their work contradicts their statements. Even if I might find author’s commentary interesting in some instances, I don’t feel like that should determine how I read their work.
    With that being said, and maybe being a little hypocrite, I can understand how important this gesture is for fans and I appreciate it. But I feel like this is a special case. LGBT represented with respect and care in anime is still rare and it’s something that really matters. When you can see yourself represented on TV, you feel your existence is validated. With a long history on queerbaiting, is understandable that some fans might feel insecure, so that extra confirmation from part of the staff is a really nice reassurance. Yet even if there wasn’t any word from them, I still believe YOI does all the talking very nicely.

  • alecksis

    I don’t tend to seek out creator interviews or avoid them. If I hear about them, cool! If not, cool!

    I almost always resort to “if it was important enough that it needed to be considered 100% canon, the author would have written it into canon in no uncertain terms.” I mostly use this to argue about JK Rowling (she of the “Dumbledore is gay,” “Draco Malfoy is irredeemable,” “Hermione and Ron should not have ended up together,” “Hermione COULD have been black I NEVER SAID SHE WASN’T” though there is little to no textual evidence to claim these are canon.)

    That said… I’ve never understood how anyone could argue YOI wasn’t canonically queer. TBF, I haven’t watched the last three episodes (I’m saving them, I don’t want it to be done yet.) But it is pretty obviously portraying a very romantic relationship between two men. There are like a million hetero romances that don’t explicitly state “WE ARE STRAIGHT AND IN A STRAIGHT RELATIONSHIP” so I hate that queer relationships are forced to that standard in order to be considered canon. (I have no idea how many yuri manga and queer lit in general that I’ve read lately that state “I am a girl and I like another girl” and it makes me cringe every time.)

    In the case of JKR, though her authorial intent tends toward progressive, I don’t like to give anyone brownie points for good intentions without textual evidence. I always feel like she’s trying to control readers’ interpretations of her books to something better than she actually wrote in the first place. But then, I have seen an example of a YA author going to her publisher to ask that future printings of her book include the word “asexual.” Though she heavily implied her character was ace in the original text, she felt that it was important, after much feedback from aroace readers, to also include the on-page representation in no uncertain terms. I thought that was really interesting and affirming– I don’t think anyone was confused about how to interpret that particular character, but because it was so straightforward the author went the extra mile to make sure future printings did right by the community she was trying to represent.

  • Roan Scott

    I’m a little baffled that it needed to be confirmed that their relationship was romantic in nature as that was blatantly obvious. I think it’s honestly gross when creators come in later and say “oh yeah they were definitely gay!” when it wasn’t remotely explicit that they were in the show and they are just capitalising on queer fans reading into the tiny snippets of vague queerness. Queer baiting, in the year of our lord 2017, is lazy and bullshit and I have no time for it.

    I realise, like with Legend of Korra, that in some instances the network (I shake my fist at Nickelodeon) have pretty specific rules about what you can and can’t display in a show. Also in that case I was actually extremely happy that the creators did confirm that there was a queer relationship, and then it got to continue into the comic books (yay!). So sometimes it can be validating for queer people who did read that a character/s was/were queer to have that confirmed. Sometimes.

    BUT. JK Rowling needs to shut her stupid mouth.

  • Frog-kun

    So, um, what do you think of this? https://toraonice.tumblr.com/post/163220072425/hi-did-you-happen-to-come-across-any-videos-from

    Was the romantic relationship really confirmed through that article and those con interviews or what? I’d really love it to be true, but it seems like there’s lots of misinterpretations and mistranslations floating around…

    • Champ Buch

      I have some sympathy for Tora in that T has faced some unfair and ugly wank regarding whether they really attended a particular official event in Japan. However, I have found that T tends to downplay romantic connotations in their translations sometimes to the point where it distorts the meaning (the example of パートナー (“partners”) is the clearest example of that because it was clear the speaker was trying to highlight the progression of the leads’ relationship from unequal (coach/skater) to equal (partners). Over the months I’ve gotten the impression that T is the type of fan so afraid to get their hopes up regarding queer romance that they will be overly negative, which can lead to clashes with fans not understanding that this attitude can often be a protective gesture rather than a sign of hostility to queer relationships. Indeed, T is not at all alone in making errors, and especially early/on the fly translations I’ve seen usually need some correction or additional context. In addition, I’ve seen T and a couple of their opponents call each other biased, which makes me want to tear out my hair, because we all are biased. Anyone claiming uncomplicated objectivity sets off my Inner Ethnographer, who knows that we are all biased and the at we need to accept that to be wiser and more honest interpreters of culture and society (and words).

      Currently the most consistently careful, level-headed, and non-wanky fan translator I’ve come across is lookiamnotcreative on Tumblr. Unfortunately life is not been at all kind to L in 2017, so their posting and translation project are on hold atm, but it’s worth it going through her archives up to the past month. But, with the small cautions I’ve added above T’s event reports and interview translations are definitely very much worth looking over as well. There are others out there as well, and it often pays to read around or wait for additional commentary.

  • Dan/LoserCandy

    I mean, I’ve watched the show and they _are_ shown to be romantic within the context of the show. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t seen it yet, but they go as far as sharing some very overt and very public gestures of affection and possessiveness (more so Yuuri, since Victor has only shown to get jealous in the stage dramas… while drunk off his ass and under a misunderstanding. He’s more of the ‘show off my s.o.’ variety, as the show keeps throwing in our faces tbh). Heck, I’d say the gestures in both episode 9 and episode 10 were extremely clear in their intent, both in text, context and subtext.

    The problem the fandom has over the ‘legitimacy’ of their relationship is more because they never use clearly defined labels for each other like ‘lover’ or ‘boyfriend’ (which the director and creator of the show has been confirmed to dislike and ‘find stifling’), and the power of no homo is strong. But honestly? Flip the gender of one of them, and nobody would be doubting their supposed relationship with all the ‘typical couple’ stuff they do (*coughspointsatacertainothercouplewhomirrorsthematapointofthestorycoughs*). Nobody IN UNIVERSE doubts their relationship, anyways, which is increasingly more obvious as the show goes on. But yeah, while they’re not shown onscreen exactly making out on the ice 24/7 in full detail that… really doesn’t make them ‘just friends’, not with the ton of PDA and emotional intimacy and romantic subtext and suggestive GESTURES they throw around at each other.

    But yeah, no. You might be disappointed if you expect full on blown sex scenes or heavy focus on the romance subplot, but this IS a story about love. One intrinsically tied in with the ice, and Yuuri’s feelings for it/his career and his feelings for his idol (who first becomes Victor the Coach and then Victor the Person I Want To Hold Onto, not that….his childhood fixation on the guy wasn’t Kinda Gay tbh), along with his discovery of and act of embracing his own sexuality. Yes. Sexuality. Eros. By Yuuri’s own terms and with the constant support of Victor as he literally sets out to seduce him on the ice.
    Yep.
    (What exactly was straight about this show again???)
    It’s a love story, in a lot of different senses. It’s a story about love, and letting your loved ones in, and growing stronger together because of your love. It’s not marketed as BL or yaoi bc it STRIVES to be a story about two people falling in love without labels getting in the way (nevermind…that kubo confirmed the yoi world is homophobia-free….and canon more than supports her words) and imo it does a pretty good job at it (also: subversion of some pretty annoying yaoi tropes, among others). The fandom *kept* imploding weekly for a reason, after all, and it was because we finally felt like we were being given what we thought we’d never have, and this feeling DID NOT STOP. Even the ending of the show was much more hopeful and bright than queer fans had been given before in the other (few) shows that featured mlm couples.

    The no homoing… came after the show mostly (although it existed from the start tbh), especially from extremely vocal minorities and, uh, translators who honest to god went out of their way to no homo any interviews who mentioned their relationship (semi recently, one translated a loan word that literally meant partners as ‘buddies’. Buddies. Because partners was ‘too romantic’ apparently, nevermind that ‘buddies’ does NOT keep the same subtext of being equals as ‘partners’ does (aND THEY WERE LITERALLY USING PARTNERS)). Even Le Monde admitted it was gay, which is what the tweet referred to. So yeah, their less than platonic relationship is VERY obvious, never waved off and has about 0% fetishization hanging on it (butts, on the other hand… boy, the director LOVES butts, and skaters butts, and it’s not subtle At All. Just watch out for Chris, he’s called Ass Man for a reason lmao THAT’S what people usually mean when they talk about fetishes on YoI, at least if they’ve watched the show.), but people will believe the wildest of shit if they put their mind on it *sighs*

    But yeah, to finish this off (sorry for going off in a mini rant like this dfgskjdld) Stammi Vicino, the song Victor skates to in the first episode? Gay. Literally gay. It’s an italian aria about loneliness and longing and the person who ‘has also been abandoned’ and becomes the singer’s love interest is very much male-coded. As in, they make use of the word abandonatto instead of abandonatta (and italian is an extremely gendered language). So yeah, take that as you will, but this show literally never gave a flying fuck, straight out from episode 1 and much like Sayo Yamamoto seems to generally not give a fuck either from her ‘no, this WILL be gay or so help me’ attitude while shopping yoi in the early phases (also, an easily missed detail: in ep1, when people swoon and get heart eyes by Victor’s Sexy Wink, half the characters being affected are male. Seriously. You can even hear the guys gasping along with the girls’ screaming. No. Fucks. Given. It’s treated as something normal, and nobody ever points it out or any of the other 2349829592345757 gay moments in the show.)

    ((Also, for context about this ‘creator confirmation’ post: a fan asked Otsuka if Sayo had started out with the intention of Yuuri and Victor’s relationship being romantic and Otsuka, the CEO of mappa and (one of the?? can’t remember) head producer of Yuri on Ice confirmed that Sayo had indeed always striven to convey a romantic relationship on top of everything else they already are to each other. So yeah, it was blunt and wonderful, but tbh it had been ‘confirmed’ before by friends of Sayo during interviews, which people kept brushing off. Kinda hard to brush it off or scream ‘well ‘ai’ ALSO means platonic love!’ when the head producer himself uses ‘renai’ aka literally ‘romantic love’ to describe their relationship (some still did no homo it though, amazingly enough)
    But yeah it feels like something big for people because of the fandom drama around no homo-ing everything in their relationship. Oh, Kubo literally says they’re soulmates? Platonic soulmates. Renai? someone went as far as saying it was a ‘platonic romance’ like………….what……………..
    (Again, few people, very loud people. And the fact that fans have been let down and queerbaited before doesn’t…..really help…………. even if in this case it IS actually canonically gay, and very much so. So, so very much. So yeah! Hope you do get around watching the show sooner or later, because it’s pretty good and enjoyable if it clicks with you and the characters are relatable and the skating sequences are lovely. The show also heavily features Yuuri’s anxiety and has his own mind as the antagonist of the show which is…really cool tbh…….)

  • Champ Buch

    I do urge you watch it at some point. IMO YOI doesn’t really require additional confirmation, despite the hardcore heteronormative fans lurking on a few anime forums (like the one I saw arguing unironically that the kiss was, I kid you not, a Socialist greeting because one of the leads is Russian) trying to argue they were close friends. I’ve seen plenty of canon m/f couples with less confirmation than the leads of YOI. Still, considering how common queerbaiting is in Western media (Sherlock a classic recent example that I had the misery to experience) and fanservice aimed at heterosexual people is in anime, I don’t condemn any of my fellow queer fans who have been burnt so often that they want to hear it directly from the creative team. I do suspect you’ll find it’s painfully clear they’re in a romantic relationship by the end of the series after a classic incidental slow-burn romance. YOI isn’t a show that is into lots of spoon feeding, often featuring elements like mirrors and trope subversion (after seeing YOI I’m convinced SY could do a master class on both) to comment on and enrich the leads’ evolving relationship. Nevertheless, Sayo Yamamoto also mentioned in the Go Yuri Go official fanbook that she faced institutional censorship regarding the kiss scene, so any small ambiguity there may be a product of that pressure. Finally, did I mention the romance is a slow-burn? We have at least one film sequel to look forward to and the series did so well no one will be surprised if there’s another season as well. So even if the couple aren’t yet married (exactly the same as the engaged m/f couple used as their mirror in the final arc), the creators have left the leads some room to further grow as skaters and as a couple.

  • Champ Buch

    Just one addition because I recall this happening but only now coincidentally found this moving reaction post because I was looking for something else: http://lookiamnotcreative.tumblr.com/post/154196765657/prufrockings-my-favourite-part-of-this-episode

  • Bridget

    I never even considered that their relationship was anything other than romantic? Idk, according to a bunch of people from the culture I had read from, or came across as very much a relationship, and when I watched it I had had the same interpretation.

    They are sweet and in love and the potential for that wholesome love gives me such life.