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Libek ([personal profile] rainfall) wrote2018-07-27 11:42 pm
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Banana Fish "BL" Interview: "Premium Talk #4"

between Akemi Yoshida, Noriaki Fushimi, and Shion Miura

What It Is: Part of an official interview with Akemi Yoshida, author of Banana Fish, was scanned and shared on Twitter. (Source) The other two people who are part of the interview are worth googling, but suffice it to say that Shion Miura is a Japanese author and fan of BL (she's released a collection of essays called "Not Just A Hobby" about BL/geicomi/mxm fiction) and Noriaki Fushimi is an openly gay author and a media critic (he's written multiple books on the subject of gay sex and relationships in Japan, as well as interviews on the topic with other LGBTQ+ folks).

(If anyone has access to scans of the rest of the interview, I would love to translate the entire thing.)

[IMAGE: Partially cut-off by the scan, the leads from YASHA, another of Yoshida's manga, are talking to each other. Caption: "A meeting between Sei and Rin."]

Is Banana Fish BL?

FUSHIMI: Speaking of foresight, it's really epitomized in Umimachi Diary1, with the way that women's soccer was... oh, right, it's called Nadeshiko Japan now, isn't it.


FUSHIMI: It seems like you wanted to draw attention to women's soccer because it wasn't being fully appreciated by the rest of us as a society.

YOSHIDA: No, I just like soccer.

FUSHIMI: You mean you're a sports fan?

YOSHIDA: Compared to whom? (lol) Are you a sports fan?

FUSHIMI: No way!

YOSHIDA: But you couldn't have written Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru2 without liking sports, right, Miura-san?

MIURA: I mean, I like watching sports, but when it comes to participating, absolutely not...

[IMAGE: Ash and Eiji embrace. Ash seems less than fully comfortable. Caption: "What sort of relationship do Ash and Eiji have?! / 'Banana Fish'"]

FUSHIMI: And when you're watching sports, Miura-san, do you ever get a sense of 'moe'3?

MIURA: No, of course not.

FUSHIMI: Are you sure you're watching properly?

YOSHIDA: "Properly"?! (lol)

MIURA: No, sorry, it's true that I do sometimes catch myself wondering which players have the most intimate relationships... (lol)

FUSHIMI: Is that, like, how you would put it, a BL-type-ish feeling?

MIURA: Uh-uh. I mean, there's some of that too, but that's not all that it is.

FUSHIMI: When you first read Banana Fish, though, didn't you think some of the scenes were BL-ish?

MIURA: No, I definitely do not think of Banana Fish as BL.

FUSHIMI: And you still feel that way?

MIURA: I do. Certainly, I've very much enjoyed seeing intimate relationships between men for as long as I can remember. But I don't think the dynamic between Ash and Ei-chan is what you'd call a Boys' Love relationship. In fact, I think it would be really missing the point of the story to view it that way.

FUSHIMI: Oh, really!

MIURA: And for Ash's part, haven't sexual acts been something that's only ruined his life so far?

YOSHIDA: You could say that, yes.4

MIURA: I think this is a story about people who have been hurt by sexual love and how they can be saved by non-sexual love. And when you think of it like that, the story would be completely different if Ash and Ei-chan were to finally DO IT5.

YOSHIDA: Yes, and that's why I never considered making the relationship between the two of them a romantic one.

FUSHIMI: So you didn't intentionally add 'moe' elements6.

YOSHIDA: You know, the whole reason I became a manga artist was because of a movie called Midnight Cowboy. It depicts this poignant relationship between two men who will utterly drown without one another, but who still do not become romantically involved. I was still in high school when I saw that movie! (lol) In Ikebukuro, there's this theater that mainly screens old movies where a lot of molesters show up... and that was my first experience with that.

MIURA: Wait, a lot of molesters?!

YOSHIDA: When I went to see the movie that first time, I was with my boyfriend, so I was fine. The movie was such a shock to my senses, it left a deep impression on me, so I went to see it several more times after that. And every time, molesters. (lol)

MIURA: That's so terrible!

YOSHIDA: Even though there were many people around!

MIURA: Right?!

YOSHIDA: It was so embarrassing. Every time I'd feel it, I would think, "You bastard!"

MIURA: "This is just not acceptable!"

YOSHIDA: "How dare you touch me!" (lol)

The assembly hall roars with laughter.

FUSHIMA: Going back to the story, if it doesn't feel like BL to you, would you say it's about the connection between two souls?!

YOSHIDA: Well, I don't know if I'd go quite that far7, but... sort of?!

MIURA: Got it!

How Would You Define BL?

FUSHIMI: So, Miura-san, you don't read any of this [Banana Fish] as BL?

MIURA: Um, well, I think your and my definitions of BL are different, that's all. For my part, please consider only the types of manga and novels and so on that actually bear a BL label.


MIURA: Or, in other words, stories where there is always... well, no, I don't want to say always, but in 99.99% of cases, where there's a depiction of sex.


MIURA: The BL formula is about... a new world opened up by sexual love, a world where characters get to know one another, rescue one another, and grab hold of true love. I think BL asks, wouldn't it be nice if that world existed?

FUSHIMI: I can see where you'd say that.

MIURA: Banana Fish doesn't impart that sort of message at all, so it just doesn't feel like BL to me.

FUSHIMI: Right, that's definitely a bit different from how I define BL...

MIURA: In Banana Fish, I think you get a much stronger 'buddy'8 sense.

YOSHIDA: (lol) "Buddy"?

MIURA: Yes, it really evokes that 'Hollywood buddy' feeling. I mean it just abruptly gives off that feeling, don't you think?

YOSHIDA: "Buddy"... I know you don't mean body, but... what does this word mean?

MIURA: How to explain it, um... like a strong feeling of partnership.

FUSHIMI: Ohhh, partnership!

MIURA: It's like, it makes you think that this doesn't need an additional layer of sexual love.

YOSHIDA: Because it goes beyond that? Almost like a spiritual homecoming?9

MIURA: Exactly.

YOSHIDA: These two are 'buddies'.

MIURA: Thank you! (lol)

FUSHIMI: Is your 'spiritual homecoming' so Americanized, that you'd describe it as 'buddy'...?

MIURA: I wish! That would feel really appropriate right now...

1 Umimachi Diary ("Seaside Diary") was adapted into a movie called Our Little Sister in 2015
2 Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru ("Run with the Wind") is a novel by Shion Miura, which was made into a live-action movie in 2009 and an anime in 2018
3 'Moe' means a few different things, but here it's being used as manga/anime slang to refer to (fan) excitement and fascination
4 How much the phrase そうですね indicates agreement with what someone else is saying kind of depends on context and tone. It's often used as a kind of polite listening noise rather than a direct endorsement. I think Yoshida is probably confirming this interpretation, but I hope this translation preserves for you the sense that she might or might not agree with the exact phrasing Miura used, etc etc.
5 'デキちゃったら' is such an interesting way of putting this. The ちゃう conveys the full (and often unfortunate) completion of a given action. The できる part, meanwhile, further imbues the sentence with 'a possibility being fulfilled'.
6 And here it's more specifically romantic fan service.
7 In an earlier interview, Yoshida described Banana Fish as exactly that -- being about the connection between two souls. But Yoshida was much younger at the time, and I think this exchange is poking fun at her previous, somewhat melodramatic wording.
8 Using the English word 'buddy'. Miura seems to be talking about the 'buddy cop' genre here
9 There's an asterisk on the original Japanese here (「まほろ*」), and I wish I could see the full scan, but I think it's a reference to まほろば, which is why I've translated it like this.

COMMENTARY: I think part of what's really interesting here is that there's still disagreement about whether or not Banana Fish constitutes BL even from people in Japan who are very familiar with the marketing niche. Miura feels that it's not, even though it's definitely about an important relationship between men, because the world of BF doesn't portray a romantic relationship between those men as something central and transformative.

I'd also like to stress that the word they used, which I've translated as sexual love, really is love, not just sexual feelings or attraction. They aren't denigrating sexual love or saying that it's shallower than non-sexual love -- Miura just happens to feel that it's important for BF's story and Ash's character that their relationship be one of platonic love. And Fushimi still disagrees, even though he acknowledges her point. (He probably disagrees pretty strongly, considering that openly disagreeing with someone is even more disfavored in Japanese culture than in American culture.)