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.

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