Three Can Play At That Game


In honour of ‘The Semiotics of Skin‘, and Kaiserpingvin’s original deployment of this image, I append a few observations of my own.

Let’s look at what’s held in the hands. Headphones on the right and a book on the left offer a choice of diversions to Kyou, one modern (yet antique: that’s a CD player!), one old (yet hardly out of date). Both activities – reading and listening – cut one off from the outside world, though the headphones are a far more visible signal that, in common with Garbo (who was, like Kaiserpingvin, born where the word ‘ombudsman’ was invented) one vonts to be alone. Of course, we don’t know what’s written in the book, or what music might be playing in the headphones. Two unsolvable mysteries, unless there’s something I’m missing because I haven’t played Clannad or seen its anime adaption.

I note from Wikipedia’s information about Kyou that she frequently uses books as weapons, so perhaps this isn’t just a choice of diversions but also a choice between defensive retreat into the headphones and offensive action. If, however, a book in Kyou’s hands is a threat of attack, then it is a denatured threat: it’s a very flimsy book (the flowers on its cover reinforce this impression). Similarly, such large headphones strike me as utterly impractical for someone with that hairstyle. It may be significant that Kyou isn’t looking at what she’s holding, but rather out of the picture, at you/us. Are the threat of attack and the threat of retreat meant to be only a token resistance?

14 responses to “Three Can Play At That Game

  1. Those headphones look more like a weapon to me. One is reminded of the classic bard class in role-playing games: attack via music. Perhaps, then, as the book (her usual mode of attack) is made flimsy and presumably ineffective, Kyou simply means to challenge us to a rock-off.

    But then, should she throw headphones, the effect isn’t the same as if she threw an instrument. She is, in effect, using music produced by others to achieve her desired ends. Could this be a reference to the Kyou/Ryou plot thread of Clannad, wherein Ryou becomes a similar sort of proxy assault? I submit that it could.

    What might it mean, then, if Kyou is listening to an audiobook? Attack via literature? I like that.

  2. What makes my head spin is that yes, she [i]has[/i] got milk. Megmilk, even.

    Also, until Lelangir can fix the comments (if it is indeed on his side the problem lies; might as well be me, and probably is), here goes what should go there.

    I am proud over having indirectly fathered this post. Really, lelangir, you should direct your amazing academic powers to established papers. You’d make it big.

    (On second thought, don’t, you’re needed here, on the net, serving us awesome posts with panache and brainservice.)

    Your note on the viewer just as well possibly being female awoke rumbling thoughts here I am ashamed I didn’t think of before (go patriarchal indoctrination!) – what purpose could this scene serve vis-á-vis the ladies viewing it? Considering the near-demand you pointed out for the viewer to identify with Okazaki, did they at all consider the (heterosexual) women who eventually were watching this? It seems as if they here adopt a pattern telling the viewer this is a mans (or lesbians) world, dividing culture into what’s directed at men and what’s directed at women even further. The hegemony is strong in this one. The woman’s weak and uncomfortable with sex, even if still willing. At least it’s a step up from the past.

    I must ‘fess up, though – that’s one divine zettai ryouiki. The underwear is called a bloomer, or in engrish buruma, by the way. Very odd object, seems to have been created solely for the sake of becoming a fetish.

    Are we, plotwise, at an embroglio yet with this?

  3. My comments are busted? Damnit.

  4. ahhh time for a real comment.

    and I think I fixed my comments thing: wp-spam likes to eat everything.

    Daniel: I overlooked what significance the items had – I didn’t even know that was a book. I thought it was a cookie or something (2 of them).

    I think there’s a possibility this may be from a doujin? I don’t know, I don’t know if the original authors drew this, so the objects may be pertaining to larger ‘cultural’ things rather than her character as depicted in the visual novel/game/anime – even the art/posture/facial expression don’t quite align themselves with her epitome of tsundereness – and that’s exactly why she’s looking at the viewer, instead of the objects, as you pointed out. In more pretentious definitions, she’s establishing an imagined social relation with the viewer, pulling him/her into the imagined community established by the previous microcosms she has (re)presented in.

    Kaiserpingvin: Haha, thanks for the appraisal. Although it’s interesting you mention academia vs. blogging, that has some interesting implications.

    I was thinking how viewing and reading are hegemonic in themselves. They present one, linear means of observation (however ‘postmodern’ it may be) on which the viewer/reader must ride. This is different from extracting information/experience from it, which – in my POV – would go along with the whole ‘serendipity’ thing.

  5. @ Pontifus: Perhaps the use of music produced by someone else as a method of attack is a comment on being forced to use gendered language to defend oneself?

    Or not.

    @ Kaiserpingvin: This may be wrong, but I read that milk is not traditionally part of Asian cuisine (hence the phrase ‘Got Rice?’), making its appearance here more interesting (or suspicious).

    @ lelangir: First thing I check when I see a picture of a woman is what she’s holding. It must be a habit from examining too many Classical sculptures.

    I doubt this is from a doujin (I’d only expect colour art on the cover of a doujin, though there are some exceptions to this), but it could be fanart or art from the original game (which obviously looked different).

    @ kaiserpingvin & lelangir: As for academia vs. blogging, I always figured that a significant dividing line is that I wouldn’t post anything I thought I could sell, or anything I didn’t want plagiarised, on a blog. And that academic writing assumes that its readers will either understand it, or will take the trouble to learn to understand it, as with the separation of the last sentence of lelangir’s fourth paragraph.

  6. Well, the book she’s holding is one that seems like it would a booklet that would come with a CD, so does that factor more into her sense of cutting herself off from the world? But then, would using books as weapons also count as a method to isolate herself from others?

    It’s hard for me to try to keep that up. :P
    Good job. :3

  7. Firstly: ‘brainservice’ is an awesome word. I like.

    Secondly: Clannad is at least partly a fanservice show (as in, is very fan aware as opposed to the ‘ecchi’-tinged connotation of the term). I have to say a woman who is not only a tsundere but is a well-read music fan too sould be considered very attractive indeed, or maybe that’s just me…

    Sadly, since I allowed Clannad to emotionally manipulate me through watching it I refuse to fall for its ploys this time. Good job on the analysis though…hell, if you sat through Kanon you might actually enjoy Clannad too! Although I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any distress that it might cause you.

  8. @ TheBigN: Hmm. I handn’t considered the possibility that it might be a CD booklet, which would break down the division between the left and right hand that I’ve created. Possibly using books as weapons is a metaphor for polemic writing? Or perhaps attack does indicate more of a willingness to engage with the outside world than retreating into headphones, even if attack is a negative engagement.

    @ concretebadger: Author complained that ‘fanservice’ was losing its meaning through overuse, so I guess alternatives had to be found.

    I’m planning on avoiding Clannad for the forseeable future, but I may give Air a try at some point. Depending on how open-minded I’m feeling.

  9. Could the left and right hand be significant as well? The CD player is a reminder of a past era, so like the conservatives who claim to protect the past. The book, on the other hand, is a tool in which many leftist ideas are spread, such as Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”. Perhaps the image is meant to be a graphical representation of choosing sides in politics. To develope that thought further, it might also be a reminder of the upcoming election in the US — the citizens are forced, like the girl depicted, to choose between the left and the right. But since it is a woman, is a feminism message included? Could this be related to Obama and Hilary?

    Oh man I need more training in art analysis :D

  10. Can’t we just say “that’s hot” and save the image for future…uh, use?

    Although dissecting why this is a hot Kyou picture is somehow more erotically potent than the picture itself and I

  11. @ Will of the wisp: Nice idea. If so, Kyou is presumably representing the electorate. Though I’m not sure the electorate are normally thought of as they appear in this picture: scantily-clad, receptive, willing to engage with whoever they’re/she’s looking at. In the West, at least, the electorate is normally characterised as cynical and apathetic. So perhaps Kyou here is an idealised electorate, as the political class would like them to be.

    @ OGT: Well, we could say that. But there wouldn’t be a blog entry in it, and I wouldn’t be the blogger I am if I did. Whether or not it’s hot is not necessarily relevant to its meaning.

  12. There would too be a blog entry in it. Not a particularly thought-provoking entry, but certainly a stimulating entry.

    (I feel like Groucho Marx now)

  13. I don’t get the whole Kyou popularity thing. It seems like a bandwagon more then anything. I’m more partial to Kotomi, but nobody pays attention to her. More for me I guess.

    Anyway, the idea the picture gives me is one of multiple appeal. Cute girl (I guess….) in undergarments who likes music, reading and a healthy drink. It’s a way to make her seem variably interesting to the target otaku audience. A lot of market research goes into creating an image for these fictional girls as would be done for a real life celebrity who agencies want to sell to the public.

    It also could just be metareferential to the genre itself. I mean Visual Novels are mostly about reading the text, listening to the music and looking at the girl onscreen while probably having something to drink.

  14. @ OGT: Ecchi blogs. Well, there’s a niche for everything.

    @ Kaioshin Sama: Text, sound and an accompanying drink as notable features of the visual novel reader/watcher? I quite like that idea. And I’m sure you’re right that some careful thought goes into mixing the right combination of traits for a visual novel character.

    I think Kyou’s appeal was cemented by that equipment shed scene, but I could be wrong.


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