Halrloprillalar (prillalar) wrote,

Anime fanfiction and Momoshiro Takeshi

A few people asked me about the characterization of Momoshiro in Journeys End and it's complex enough to warrant a separate post. It involves some general thoughts on writing fanfic for media from a different culture, so you might find it interesting even if you haven't read the story. (If you plan to read the story, do that first, though, since this completely spoils it.)

When I write fanfiction for Prince of Tennis (Bleach, Naruto, Whistle!, Samurai Champloo, or any other show that's set in Japan, historical or modern) I am a western writer (specifically Canadian) writing in English for a primarily western (probably mostly American) audience, but about Japanese culture. There will always be readers who know less about it than I do and readers who know more. This makes writing a rather special challenge.

I find that the theory I use when writing sex scenes applies here as well: give the reader enough authenticity that they can suspend their disbelief about the rest. Enough accurate detail to ease the tension about the sex that's always great or the middle school kids who all play tennis so amazingly well.

I do try to get things right, but there's only so much research I can do. If I were writing a novel about Japanese schoolboys in love, I would of course do shedloads of research. But for fanfic, there's Google. I google things like "homosexuality in Japan" and "wedding rings in Japan" and "Japanese middle schools". I don't believe everything I read implicitly, but it's a good starting place for me.

And even if I did do all that research about Japanese schoolboys in love, would it really apply to fanfic? Japanese culture seems very difficult to understand; since my audience is Western, I think being too true to life would make the stories less accessible to them. (Okay, that sounds really pretentious, but I don't mean it like that.)

Not to mention I'm writing about anime/manga, not real life. Just like western TV, things are idealized, simplified, fictionalized. If I were writing an X-Files casefile story, I might do a lot of research about the FBI. But the real FBI doesn't operate the same way as the TXF FBI does, so I'd have to make choices about how I was going to incorporate my research into the story. It's the same with TV relationships and culture. It's almost a caricature of reality, sometimes. But since I'm writing within that caricature, I have to watch that I'm not too realistic or it will seem false for the source material. That's true for any fanfic, not just anime.

So all these things get dumped in and shaken up and the story gets written. I try to be true to Japanese culture in so far as I can, which is probably not very far. (And I hope if I make egregious factual errors someone will correct me.) And that probably works the best for my audience.

Okay, now on to Momoshiro. Please note that I am not trying to excuse him or to tell you what you should think about him. I just wanted to explain what was in my mind when I wrote the story.

In the story (spoilers begin now), Momoshiro and Kaidoh are both in their early twenties. They haven't met since high school and even then, they were in different schools. In junior high, they "fought a lot and fooled around a little". Momo has just moved back into the area and comes to find Kaidoh. They talk a little and end up in a hotel, boffing like bunnies. It's only afterward that Kaidoh finds out Momo is married. Momo says it's fine, it's okay, but Kaidoh, who has started to fall in love, poor thing, throws him out. Le sigh.

The main question seems to be: Would Momoshiro cheat on his wife?

I was interested to see people's reaction to his behaviour. It was pretty strong! Some people questioned that he would act that way, others became quite angry with him.

I think that the North American reaction to infidelity is rather more hysterical than other societies's. Which is not to say that other cultures don't consider it wrong, but here it seems like one of the very worst things you could do. (I think a lot of that is due to the influence of Christianity in the west, actually. The conflation of religion and morality makes for a major guilt trip. Not trying to diss anyone's religious beliefs here.)

Despite that, there's a lot of infidelity around. It's impossible to get accurate statistics, since it depends on people's own admission, but I've seen numbers (and I'm sure these numbers were all for the US) of anywhere from 20% to 80% of relationships compromised by infidelity. Now that DNA testing is more common, they're finding a higher incidence than previously supposed of children whose father is not who they thought. (Ah, the age-old tension over paternity!)

I don't think that most of those people deliberately set out to cheat or that they think cheating is acceptable. But love and sex really fuck with your brain. It's not hard to slip up. To lust, to fall in love. And once in that situation, it's not hard to rationalize it to yourself. To make excuses, to think it's all right.

My googling indicated to me that there was less moral outrage attached to infidelity in Japan than in NA. Still wrong, of course, but not at the same level. So I tried to work from that viewpoint.

(I also read that there is an increasing trend of straight women knowingly marrying gay men, so they can both have a family, but I don't think that's what's going on with Momo. He likes women and I bet he's a good husband for the most part.)

So, Momoshiro. I don't think he arrived there intending to seduce Kaidoh. (He would probably have had condoms on hand if so.) Maybe he knew about his feelings for Kaidoh, maybe he didn't. But I doubt he cold-bloodedly planned it.

As I trickily skipped over some bits, we don't know whose idea the hotel room was or how they came to that point. But it implies a lot of chemistry between them and that can be hard to resist. And I tried to show that with Kaidoh too: he knows, from a responsible safe-sex point of view, he shouldn't be fellating Momoshiro, but he does anyhow because he just can't help himself. And at the end of the story, even though he burns the phone number, he can still remember it. He's still tempted. (I doubt he'll succumb, though.)

We don't know what Momo's particular situation is. (And I confess, I didn't work it all out in detail beforehand.) He might have been pressured into this marriage, it might have been all his idea, we don't know. I doubt his wife will really be as understanding as he seems to think she will (or maybe he means it will work out fine to keep things from her), but who knows? Maybe she is.

I don't think Momoshiro would respond to an opinion poll and say that marital infidelity is acceptable behaviour. But he's a passionate and impulsive guy. I don't think it's out of character for him give in to his feelings, even though he knows it's wrong.

After writing out all of this, I think that part of the problem is that Momoshiro does seem too deliberate at the end of the story, even though I didn't intend for him to be. His insistence that everything will be fine is probably the part that rings false for most people and I think if I were to write this again, I would soften that or add some physical reaction to show more inner turmoil on his part. Maybe I'll edit it a bit before I post it to my website.

I do think that it's natural for him to be defensive with Kaidoh, so his stance there might also be a reaction to Kaidoh's horror at Momo's behaviour. We none of us like to admit we're wrong. We'd rather explain how what we've done is all right.

That's the background I was working from when I wrote the story. What do you think? Does it make any more sense to you now? Should I have done anything differently? Crit is always welcome; I'm not sensitive.

And you can still watch Momo get sporked.
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