Talk about artistic license! A conversation with the director and writers of Sengoku Collection

2012 September 22
by Jaren L

Translation of a recent interview with the director and three of the writers of Sengoku Collection, posted September 20. All material in (parentheses) is editor’s notes from the original article. This is part 1; I have no idea how many parts there will be.

TV Anime Sengoku Collection began airing this April. The warring generals from the Sengoku world (all of them ladies) star in this omnibus of one-episode stories, but…

The protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, in order to return to the Sengoku world must go on a journey to gather the secret treasures of the other generals; Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes a modern pop idol; and Uesugi Kenshin flourishes as a model. Date Masamune is tricked by the Yakuza and sent to prison. Toyotomi Hideyoshi gets lost in a rice wonderland while freeloading at a farm. Takeda Shingen isn’t lost in Japan, or even on Earth, but on a space station where she battles an aggressive artificial intelligence!

This compilation of crazy artistic license packed obsessively with historical references is Sencolle. Ekirebi! Anime Division (tentative name)‘s Tamago Mago and I have both actively pushed it.

So now, with two episode remaining until the finale (episode 26), we sat down to talk with director Keiji Gotoh and the writing team. Of the five scenario writers, we were able to gather up Go Zappa, Teru Arai and Shintaro Kanazawa. (Arbitrarily) representing Sencolle fans around the world, we asked them questions about everything from the show’s inception to our excitement about the finale.

——— Gotoh, when you were offered the position as Sengoku Collection‘s director, none of the contents or staff had been determined?

Gotoh: Correct. I did get the normal “Can you direct this for us?” call from Brains Base (the animation studio). But none of the staff or script had been decided at all. The original work is a social game. So they gave me a bunch of pictures from the cards (used in the game) and just said “use these…”, it had that sort of feel.

——— The original game has lots of characters, but essentially no plot.

Gotoh: It really doesn’t. It’s a work unlike anything I’ve done before. While that was worrying, I also wanted to give it a shot.

——— So, the basic idea of Sengoku generals coming to the modern world and living among normal people, how did that come about?

Zappa: I think that idea came from the director.

Gotoh: Yeah. So many other Sengoku Whatever works, relatively speaking, have already dramatized the Sengoku era. If we had done that, I doubt it would have stood out very much. Bringing them to the modern era, it’s a bit original, it makes it stand out more.

Zappa: The three of us joined (the staff) at the same time. By then, the setting had already been decided. Also, rather than having one story, Nobunaga being the protagonist but each episode having a different general with a different flavor, that had been decided as well.

——— What was the reasoning behind the omnibus format?

Gotoh: I think I recall that suggestion coming from the client. After I decided to have the Sengoku generals in modern times, I thought “well, so what next”, was around when that came up. Oh, and it seemed like it would be easier to do, so I went with that.

——— Oda Nobunaga as the lead part, was that decided quickly?

Gotoh: Konami gave us some data on which cards were the most popular in the game. According to that, the “Sweet Little Devil” Oda Nobunaga was the most popular card, so we made her the lead part.

——— After the basic setting was established, when it cametime to decide which characters to include or what kinds of episode to write, Zappa, Arai, Kanazawa, were you brought in for that?

Gotoh: That part was sort of just (turns to them) “write whatever you like”, you know? (laughter)

Zappa: To start, we made a list of the most popular characters from the game, along with the generals that you just think of whenever you think “Sengoku era”. Myself, I was in charge of Nobunaga. I tried to slowly build a story from the beginning to middle to end through all 26 episodes. Also, the director would say “this episode should have this kind of motif”, and we could use that. Then we’d get together and decide which character would work for that.

——— So, the shape of the whole work settled into place as you worked on it?

Gotoh: Sort of. If I had to specify, yes, we just wrote one episode and then the next. It sounds bad if you say we did it without any planning, though. The series composition wasn’t very firm, either. Though since Nobunaga is the main character, Zappa wrote many of the key episodes. Other than that, we just looked at the list of characters we chose and thought “we haven’t put this one in, we should probably put them in pretty soon” or so. That was why Takeda Shingen’s appearance was so late.

——— She’s a major general, but she wasn’t in the show until episode 21.

Arai: Zappa wrote Kenshin in episode 3, so we thought she could be in that episode, but it didn’t happen. (laughter)

Zappa: Ahh~.

Arai: She came up in episode 20 as well, so at that point we had to put her in.

Zappa: She’s kind of the highlight of the second half (laughter). Who wrote what character, it was just sort of who raised their hand and volunteered, right?

Kanazawa: I asked to write Tsukahara Bokuden (episode 5). I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who picked something that way.

Arai: Ieyasu (episode 2) being an idol was a request (from the client), I think…

Kanazawa: That was because her card in the game said “idol”, wasn’t it?

Zappa: Oh, you’re right. That was one rule, they wanted us to stick to the flavor text on the cards. In Ieyasu’s case, the card said “Sengoku idol”, so we expanded that into being a modern idol.

——— So you were able to use the setting of the game to help. Personally I had no knowledge at all about the game when I started watching Sengoku Collection. The first episode is Oda Nobunaga and some guy in a “boy meets girl” thing, the second is Tokugawa Ieyasu’s idol debut. The third is Uesugi Kenshin and Naoe Kanetsugu being all lovey-dovey, the fourth has Date Masamune in a prison movie. The fifth has some suspicious guy making an example out of Tsukahara Bokuden to complain about the danger of the Sengoku generals and swords. Each episode is so interesting, but also so varied, that it really draws you in.

Zappa: It sort of felt like a rule that we shouldn’t repeat what another writer had already done.

Arai: Definitely.

——— So you all gathered regularly for scenario meetings?

Gotoh: Yes. Along with the producers, we met once a week.

——— Was it ever like “Aw, you took that one!” or anything?

Arai: But never like “Oh, you ended up with that genre!”.

Kanazawa: Yeah, not really.

Zappa: Mmmm.

——— You each got to write the material you wanted to write?

Arai: We all have different tastes, so it wasn’t too painful.

Zappa: No, you guys just wrote whatever the hell you wanted. (laughter)

——— Zappa, you had to consider putting it all together as well, right?

Kanazawa: We were all working under pressure, too! (laughter)

Arai: Yeah. We weren’t completely oblivious. (laughter)

Zappa: Oh, is that so? (laughter)

Arai: The only one I was really free with was episode 4 (Date Masamune) with the prison movie style. After that, everyone else burst forward so fast that I had to rush just to keep up.

——— But was episode 4 everyone’s cue to burst?

Kanazawa: It did become like, “Oh, we can go that far?”

——— So, now I’d like to turn to the writers, and talk to each of you about the episodes you were specifically in charge of. Particularly difficult episodes, or ones that surprised you when you saw the finished product, talk about the process with those.

Zappa: I think the episode that most felt like my own work was 13 (Sugitani Zenjubo). Even if it’s not an episode where anything really exciting happens. I just wrote it normally, and thought it was kind of a fun episode, but ended up giving it one last push in the portrayal of the characters. And it turned out great. That and episode 19.

——— That’s Akechi Mitsuhide’s episode, right? It continues into episode 20, and it points toward the climax, it’s an important episode.

Zappa: Within a framework with no real connecting strand (like Sencolle‘s), it felt like I had found a way to run one strand through it despite some absurd constraints. The script itself was a pain to write, but the way it came out is interesting to watch. The explanation isn’t too hard to follow, either. Plus, as dense as it was as a script, they packed even more into the final episode.

——— As both a story and an episode it’s very dense, but then unrelated to anything you have things like that black cat slipping off the side of the house…

Zappa: Yeah, that. Like they didn’t need to go that far.

Gotoh: All that extra stuff, all of it, that was the storyboarder and episode director (Shingo) Kaneko. I didn’t do anything. I actually reeled him in a bit.

——— A bit ago you mentioned episode 13. The character Ageha, who grows close to the main character Sugitani Zenjubo and Oda Nobunaga, was really something. What was it like developing this original character from the modern world?

Zappa: Well, Ageha was mostly developed from my own tastes (laughter). From a composition standpoint, Zenjubo and Ageha’s relationship is sort of connected to Nobunaga and Mitsuhide’s relationship in some ways. Also, I thought it would be fun to pit Nobunaga’s constant “me first!” attitude against an opposing force.

——— Nobunaga gets forced into buying her food, right?

Zappa: Plus, Sencolle and its characters are a derivative work. It sounds like we can do whatever we like, but there is a limit to how much we can play with the characters. On the other hand, you have a lot more freedom with an anime-original character. Running into a unique character gives the Sengoku generals something to play off of, too.

——— Arai, Kanazawa, did you have any worries about how to deal with the Sengoku generals, too?

Zappa: Oh, these guys don’t care about that. (laughter)

Arai: If I remember right, I tried to do a lot of unreasonable stuff.

Kanazawa: At first I didn’t know how much wiggle room we had, so they got mad at me. In the second half I’ve toned it down some.

Zappa: You haven’t toned down at all! (laughter)

(By: Daisuke Marumoto)


(Continued in Part 2)


First Impressions: Mysterious Girlfriend X

2012 April 13
by Jaren L

An exquisite corpse by 8C, Scamp, processr, SeHNNG, lvlln, emperorj, bitmap, Kylaran, bobbierob, R1CK_D0M, ghostlightningvucubcaquix and uncreativecat

How far can curiosity take us? What does a single, absent-minded moment weigh? The decisions we wear can alter our lives in ways we can’t imagine. Bringing us to locales we never fathomed, consequences we never considered, love we never expected. Just a single moment, just a puddle of spit, and your life, too, could change, just like that. Tempted?

Well, maybe not quite. But for Akira Tsubaki, your average high school student who’s a bit of a sci-fi movie nerd, it’s not surprising that he decides to go for it. The mystery that Mikoto Urabe has to offer provides us a number of options to consider. Is she the source of the substance dependency? Or is it all in Tsubaki’s virgin psyche? Let us rule out the latter because, well as boys we’ve all been there… virgins and we didn’t turn into saliva junkies after our first kiss.

So in a sense, Mysterious Girlfriend X takes place in an idealized world. The elevation of not just sexual but emotional attraction to a unique physical response seems to speak to the uncertainty which can accompany a first love. This plays into the work’s larger themes regarding the ritualization of the taboo into the mundane. What society sees as strange behavior is realized in a sort of microculture containing just a few people, but is it valid to dismiss a culture merely out of an argument of numbers? As ritual becomes culture it becomes what society expects from normal humans.

Dutch anthropologist Johan Huizinga once wrote that our modern institutions are born out of a ritualization of basic human behavior. The centrality of drool in NazoKano deconstructs romance as standardized ritual, and, by association the standard notions of stereotyped romantic relationships in media in general are a target for critique. The general media perception is that anything beyond normal must come from characters who defy social norms. No normal person could be in that kind of twisted relationship. Here, we have a normal teenage boy entering into the most important relationship of his life in the most abnormal of beginnings. Urabe’s declaration of sexual intent jars the audience in its straightforward ripeness, as does Tsubaki’s ripping of his old crush’s photograph.

Both actions teem with an eccentric dramatic flair – and yet, seem natural in their own strange right. They over-brim with the budding sincerity of young love, the kind look that shone through Urabe’s eyes as the safety scissors stab-… No just kidding that didn’t really happen. But that does bring up largest mystery in my mind right now: what is with those scissors? Past the lol erodrool aspect the first ep of nazokano is actually pretty normal, and yet stands out from its genre peers with its bizarre and rather gut-turning use of metaphor.

Not that metaphors aren’t a staple of anime romcoms, the most obvious case being the nosebleed symbolising the rushing of blood to somewhere else. But the gushing of saliva to represent ‘extreme happiness’ is perhaps too obvious a metaphor for sexual excitement, but it’s not like the show is going for subtlety anyway. It reminds me of FLCL and KareKano which beat us over the head with their metaphors and ended up better thanks to it.

I suppose the old school aesthetic dovetails nicely with the occasionally seedy mood of the show, but said mood is often nullified by the extraneous amounts of sexual innuendos mainly perpetrated by the female lead. Most risque of all these situations has got to be, of course, Akira’s constant drinking of Mikoto’s drool is being played off as some kind of glorious, heart-fluttering moment in Akira’s life, reinforced by the recurrence of the subtle-like-a-badger-to-the-face flower and nectar imagery. Mysterious Girlfriend X’s grasp of subtlety is tenuous at best, and the drool-licking is a little icky, but its first episode is excellent.

Conflicting otokonoko ideals in Holic+Holic

2012 February 27
by Jaren L

Among the group of artists who embody the current otokonoko trend, udk is perhaps one of the better-known names. Beginning with a series of Narutaru doujinshi in 2008, udk’s clean, bold art style has remained popular, at least among the western otokonoko fandom. Particularly, in 2009 udk released three doujinshi parodying the anime Maria Holic—a thematically-paired duology and an unrelated full-color story—titled, collectively, Holic+Holic. This post concerns the presentation of the otokonoko ideal in the first two books, Side M and Side S.

As is implied by the titles, Side M‘s content focuses on the series’ titular character Mariya as a submissive, masochistic archetype, while in Side S he is depicted as more proactive and sadistic. The contents of Side M involve Mariya being kidnapped, raped and blackmailed by a group of men, while in Side S Mariya kidnaps and rapes a man. This is reflected even on the books’ covers—Mariya’s expression is meek and embarrassed on the former, playful and lewd on the latter. More subtly, the background of Side M‘s cover is pink, and Side S‘s light blue. Alluding, perhaps, to the Western color symbolism of genders, i.e. representing femininity and masculinity respectively.

In fact, this appears to be the fundamental clarification between the two. The books, while thematically related, do not appear to take place in the same continuity; rather, each presents a complementary interpretation of the otokonoko’s gender role in a sexual context. In Side M, Mariya’s character conforms to the classic feminine role in eromanga as outlined in Josou Part 4, i.e. passive, stripped of autonomy, and the primary character who is depicted feeling pleasure—in essence, Side M‘s Mariya is a surrogate female as outlined in our framework so far. By contrast, in Side S, Mariya’s character is proactive, autonomous, and in fact is the primary force by which other characters are stripped of autonomy. This appears to present an “alternate history” of sorts in which the otokonoko in eromanga is not a repurposing of the male form into a novel sort of feminine victim, but rather a repurposing of the feminine form into a novel presentation of the male tyrant.

The reading of the otokonoko in Side M is, clearly, the more popular: other examples of otokonoko characters who exert power over male sexual partners exist, but they are far rarer than depictions of the passive otokonoko. In fact, the third title in the Holic+Holic series depicts Mariya as a maid, i.e. in an explicitly servile position. This, I think, is rooted in the same patriarchal gender politics which makes active-male/passive-female relationships the norm in heterosexual eromanga, and in heteronormative pornography at large. Despite, in male/otokonoko relationships, the fact that the two are ostensibly both male-bodied, the otokonoko representing a fluid and partially feminine gender identity distances it from any claim to patriarchal power the shape of their genitals might have offered.

That said, even in female/otokonoko relationships, the otokonoko is as often the submissive character as not, so the account above seems insufficient to fully describe the dynamic. Simple female/otokonoko dynamics can generally be divided into two categories: the male is already an otokonoko, or the male is feminized into an otokonoko by the female during the story. Perhaps, in becoming feminized, the otokonoko’s feminineness is exaggerated, as the character either voluntarily opts for femininity and therefore forefeits his claims to patriarchal power over the female character in the former, or is so emasculated in his failure to resist being feminized by the female character that he cannot “convincingly” act as the autonomous character in the context of eromanga’s sexual mores.

This account is, of course, incomplete, and only addresses the broad strokes. Just as female-dominant stories exist in the heteronormative canon, there are depictions of the otokonoko which do not fit the framework above (Holic+Holic Side S, for one). Rather, I would argue that even these exceptions are demonstrative of the general rule in that they, like many “femdom” works, are often fetishized as departures from a politically-established default.

Secret Santa – The heavy-handed satire of Excel Saga

2011 December 24
by Jaren L

This post is a part of the Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project.

“I, 8C, hereby give my permission to turn the Girl Cartoons blog into an episodic anime blog!”


This episode was pretty crazy! But it was a lot of fun, too!


The episode opens with a letter from “Mitsuishi Kotono”. I don’t know who that is but her Anime News Network page says she’s been in a lot of old animes nobody cares about! But anyway, she asks for them to turn Excel Saga into a musical – LOL, pretty random.

There’s over 9000!

But then they really turn it into a musical! Excel starts singing, then Rikudo and the afro guy, THEN EVEN ILPALAZZO-SAMA! This whole scene was actually

pretty funny! And then they decide to really make it a musical episode.

This OP is always so catchy

But that was really just a false alarm because then Ilpalazzo-sama is just talking to them. Aww. Anyway Ilpalazzo-sama is still mad that the world is corrupt, so he tells Excel and Hyatt that they need to try harder.

I didn’t really understand this part. Who’s Spielberg?

Then Sara Cossette comes in! Long-time readers will know that I thought Cossette was both hilarious and really moe in episode 08, so I was excited to see her come back.

And she’s just as sexy as before! (^_^)

Ilpalazzo tells them to execute Operation H 3223223 (it’s over 9000! LOL) and says he will see them in three days. Then

OMG! A naked hottie! No Fapping guys, LOL.

there’s a scene of Misaki taking a

OMG! Loli Nipple! Really guys no Fapping okay LOL!

shower! It turns out the old guy is spying on them, though. What a pervert! Not that I can blame him though, LOL!

This show is so random!

Then we go back to Excel and her nakamas looking at a bottle of “Mystery Medicine”. Sara offers Excel and Hyatt a cake that she secretly put the medicine in.

This cake looks really good. *drools*

There’s a random trippy scene where everyone is ghosts and then it cuts to Watanabe having a flashback about Hyatt shooting him, when suddenly Hyatt walks by his window. But it’s not really Hyatt, it’s Excel inside her body!

I would choose all of them. LOL!

Excel-Hyatt beats up Watanabe and dances away singing about vomit, when suddenly she sees her reflection in a mirror, and notices she looks like Hyatt.

What are those mannequins doing? LOL

She stares in the window for a really long time, then plays rock-paper-scissors with herself, then says “naha-naha”, then stares in the window some more. I almost fell asleep! (LOL j/k)

Excel-Hyatt runs to a bathroom, where she freaks out and then strips naked in the bathroom stall.

Fweet fweoo!

Suddenly she starts puking blood everywhere and turns into a skeleton. Excel-Hyatt screams for Ilpalazzo-sama’s help…

Free Bird!

…but he’s too busy rocking out! And telling you to watch the commercial for Puni Puni Poemy which is some dumb magical girl thing or something. I dunno, Ilpalazzo-sama, it doesn’t look that great.

On the other hand, it does have a mecha…

Anyway, after the commercial we come back to Hyatt-Excel (Hyatt in Excel’s body!) jumping off of a balcony and then running around.

And then back to Excel-Hyatt!

Excel-Hyatt goes to a hospital to get better, the doctor shoots her with a bunch of syringes and then with electricity and she’s all better! Cossette is on the phone with Ilpalazzo-sama telling him about all that happened.

But Ilpalazzo-sama is too busy rocking out again!

Then it goes back to Watanabe thinking about Hyatt, and he imagines her wearing a Hadaka Epuron (That’s Japanese for “naked apron.” Like wearing an apron and nothing else! Only in Japan LOL) when suddenly Hyatt-Excel shows up.

LOL, Watanabe!

Watanabe suddenly asks Hyatt-Excel out, and she says okay, and then they go to a hotel. Cossette was secretly watching them, and suddenly the scientist guy pops up and then they go to the hotel too.

Ew Menchi, that’s gross! LOL

Suddenly Excel-Hyatt shows up and decides to follow Watanabe and Hyatt-Excel inside. She started bleeding again so she crawls inside and throws up on the hotel woman.


Then Watanabe is waiting for Hyatt-Excel to get out of the bath, and can’t wait so he sneaks in on her. Then Cossette walks out of the shower to science guy and opens up her towel.

OMG Loli Nipple…?

Scientist guy is mad that she has boobs (Your loss dude! LOL) so he walks out but she grabs on to his leg. Then Excel-Hyatt wiggles under the door to Watanabe and Hyatt’s room where Watanabe is humping on Hyatt-Excel! But when they notice Excel-Hyatt Watanabe starts talking to himself and Hyatt-Excel starts making sexy poses for Excel-Hyatt.

LOL Fan Service!

Then Excel-Hyatt and Hyatt-Excel bump their heads together but that doesn’t work so they do a fusion move. Then they turn into a weird robot Power Ranger thing but they don’t know how to split back apart. Then Nabeshin’s car turns into a plane and he fights some things and flies to the hotel and shoots at some ugly people and uses his arm cannon on the That Guy clones and breaks through the wall to the room with Excel and Hyatt. Then the hotel blows up.

I agree, Nabeshin! LOL

Then Pedro and his wife and son are walking around in Japan when they run into Excel, Hyatt and Cossette. Then Hyatt starts throwing up blood and it drowns the whole earth. Gross LOL! Then Ilpalazzo-sama does a thumbs-up sign.

Then Nabeshin is getting married, but the preacher is Rikudo! And he’s mad about how weird the ending is, so he and Nabeshin kick in mid-air.


And that’s Excel Saga 26!

OMG! Why wasn’t this the normal ED! LOL


There’s over 9000!

This show was really wacky but also really funny. The first cour was a little boring but overall it was really funny!

Today’s experiment…… uh, yeah, failed.

Josou, a discussion – Part 5: Boku no Pico as progenitor of the otokonoko

2011 November 23

One of the earlier milestones in the otokonoko trend”  was likely the infamous erotic anime series Boku no Pico. The series, though reasonably successful in Japan, is one of a very small handful of erotic anime in the shota genre, and possibly even the first work which clearly invokes the genre (excluding a few prior entries such as Enzai which are not often considered part of the genre). It has also garnered a certain notoriety among western fans, having acquired a reputation as shock material despite the series’ (relatively, for the medium) tame actual content.

Granted, much of this is only true in hindsight, as the series was originally presented and marketed as a yaoi title – as evidenced by the advertising of the first title in 2007 at Boy’sParty, the division for female-aimed androphilic works at the DreamParty convention. And, indeed, 2006′s eponymous Boku no Pico is structurally very much reminiscent of works in the yaoi genre: for example, the principal characters Mokkun and Pico play into the classic seme and uke roles, and there are no prominent female characters. Moreover, though Pico is depicted as extremely feminine, the final act of the work involves Pico attempting to assert his male-ness in light of Mokkun viewing him as essentially female.

However, the first title’s popularity in the yaoi community was small and short-lived. Particularly, Pico’s character design is far more feminine than the popular standard for yaoi works, even in the final act when Pico’s hair has been cut short. In fact, though he’s ostensibly biologically male, Pico is essentially drawn as a female – in some sense, a prototypical otokonoko. Moreover, the producers of the series, Natural High, are better known for their work in non-animated, male-oriented heterosexual pornography. What I mean to propose is that the creators of Boku no Pico, though attempting to create a work for the yaoi market, came up with one whose mores and structure better resemble those erotic works aimed at heterosexual males despite its nominally homosexual content – i.e. a Josou-style work.

This is evidenced in many ways in the second Pico title, Pico to Chico, released less than a year later in 2007. Though in some sense a “sequel” to the original 2006 title, it evidenced a number of significant stylistic departures therefrom. First, though Boku no Pico ended with Mokkun and Pico having reconciled, Mokkun is not present in any of the following works at all. Pico has returned to his original, more feminine image, and does not so much as mention Mokkun. The principal cast of Pico to Chico marks an even clearer deviation: the cast is now the first work’s otokonoko, Pico, a slightly more boyish but still clearly feminine otokonoko named Chico, and Chico’s unnamed maid, a fully-grown woman. That is, Natural High have replaced a two-character cast intended to fit the standard seme/uke pair with a cast of three characters who are each intended to appeal through their femininity.

Moreover, though there are some scenes of nudity before it, the first sex scene proper in Pico to Chico is in fact of the maid masturbating in her room. This evokes a radically-different pornographic lineage from Boku no Pico‘s initial scene, which plays off of Mokkun’s acceptance of Pico being biologically male. Though the maid is only present in two of the three sex scenes, both times alone and both times shown as secondary to whatever acts Pico and Chico are occupied with, she is still the narrative’s first presentation of sexuality – metaphorically, I hope to demonstrate, indicating Natural High’s awareness of their newer, heterosexual male audience, in signaling that the work’s sexual content is based on a gynephilic rather than androphilic underlying sexuality.

This is, in fact, present at the textual level as well: both Pico and Chico can be demonstrated to have developed an understanding of sexuality primarily from a feminine point of view. During the scene in question, in which Pico and Chico observe the maid, Chico  indicates that he secretly watches her masturbating regularly, though it is apparent he does not understand what she is doing. Pico, for his part, had his first sexual experience with Mokkun in the 2006 title, and in that work it was also clear at a textual level that Mokkun treated Pico as a girl. Despite Pico’s resistance to this in Boku no Pico, in Pico to Chico he appears to have embraced this sexuality. In each of the ensuing scenes in Pico to Chico, neither of the principal characters clearly inhabits either the seme or uke role, and the power dynamic in their relationship is actually fairly fluid.

Pico to Chico sold somewhat better than Boku no Pico on DVD, and since 2007 Natural High have clearly moved their emphasis in marketing and character merchandise from a female to a male audience – cf. a contest at the aforementioned Boy’sParty which included a prize of a female-fitted T-shirt, compared with a later male sex aid product associated with Pico to Chico. And, in the final installment in the Pico series, 2008′s Pico x Coco x Chico, all three principal characters are otokonokos – though, otherwise, Pico x Coco x Chico is fairly thematically uninteresting.

Still, this creative/marketing evolutionary arc aligns strikingly with the timeline of Josou considered in Part 3: Pico, a full professional erotic OVA, is released in 2006, and the more gynephile-friendly sequel follows in 2007; shortly after, the terms “Josou Shounen” and “otokonoko” are coined in Japanese; and in 2010, Natural High return to animation with another otokonoko-centric erotic anime, Shounen Maid Curo-kun. In tracing the history of the Pico series, one can see how Natural High’s first animated work, in struggling to find a profitable niche in gynephilic depictions of the male form in a queer narrative context, likely helped to pave the way for that niche’s existence.