On the official help site of Twitter in Japan, there is a section titled “Parody, Commentary, and Fan Accounts Policy” (Twitter n.d.). Twitter permits users to have parody accounts as long as they are clearly marked as such. Twitter users in Japan who own alternative accounts for their character bots (kyarakutā botto) refer to this statement by Twitter to justify the existence of their creations. Character bots are automated programs that post—that is, tweet—characters’ lines from popular manga, anime, games, and so on. They post regularly, and in the past few years they have become difficult to ignore, especially in fan communities.
The programmers of the bots are fans, many without specialized knowledge of programming (note 1), and the bot’s followers are also fans. Although everyone knows who programmed the bot, in the participatory culture of fans online, it seems to belong to everyone and no one. When followers converse with the bot, the interaction is visible to other fans, which contributes to an active, open, and shared form of bot play (botto asobi).
Fujoshi are not confused about what is real. They are aware of who programmed a specific character bot, just as they are aware of who the original creator (gensakusha) of the character is. As is typical of manga/anime fandom, fujoshi keep their distance from the original creator because fans are involved in secondary or derivative production (niji sōsaku) of the creator’s character, which might involve a yaoi scenario that the creator might find offensive. Nonintervention by the creator is taken as a sign of tacit approval for fan activities, including bot play.
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Transformative Works and Cultures has published its twelfth issue, entirely devoted to boys’ love fandom around the globe (full press release). There are some excellent articles on Hetalia, the politics of BL in Germany, character bots on Twitter, BL in China, dojinshi, the origins of the word fujoshi, criticism from Japanese LGBT activists on BL, and more. We’ll be posting some short bits of analysis and good quotes from the articles in the upcoming weeks. Enjoy!
Transnational boys’ love fan studies, by Kazumi Nagaike and Katsuhiko Suganuma
Reflection on Chinese boys’ love fans: An insider’s view, by Erika Junhui Yi
The possibilities of research on fujoshi in Japan, by Midori Suzuki