Sometimes I feel like a masked fighter of justice (that nobody cares ☚(ﾟヮﾟ☚)) and have to help the ones in need. This time I will fight for Boku no Pico (BnP) because I find the hateful comments and shaming directed towards this show problematic.
I am sure a lot of people knows about BnP but I’ll just briefly talk about it. It is a 3-OVA-long anime in shōta genre. In Wikipedia page it is categorized as ‘cross-dressing hentai’ but crossdressing is a frequently used theme in shōta, also the genre does involve sexual relations by definition, so I think shōta is more appopriate than cross-dressing hentai. The genre may need explanation since it is a rather ‘controversial’ topic and not so common as yaoi.
Shōta is the genre where sexual/romantic relationship between two adolescent boys or one boy-one adult is depicted and the affection towards the adolescent boys is called shōta-con (shortened form of shōtarō complex). Term used for adolescent girls is well-known by all, loli-con.
What is wrong with BnP according to the interwebz? There is a compilation of Instagram posts with #bokunopicoreaction. I decided to leave accounts’ name hidden, though if you were to search the hashtag in Instagram you can find the sources.
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This is just a small part of Instagram. You can find videos of people recording themselves while watching BnP for the first time under the theme of “My BnP reaction” or you can just Google it in Images section, this will give you a general idea of how the show is perceived by the audience. I could put it in one word for you; it is ‘disgusting’.
There might be a whole lot of different reasons for an audience not liking a show and if they have an appearant reason, the reaso is always stated. However, if the reason is not stated and the only argument is ‘disgusting’ or ‘perverted’, I think there is an underlying reason which is inherent and not spoken about; in my opinion the only reason people find BnP disgusting is homophobia.
It is always good to take a look at it from a different aspect; what kind of reactions would it get if Pico (the boy) were a girl? I think we don’t need to go that far back to give an answer to this question, just looking at the latest season of anime is enough. You can see high school young women in middle schooler bodies in a sexualised way. Being a lolicon is not looked down that much and even in hentai, it is okay to use young women in middle schooler body. By saying ‘it is okay’, I mean it in a way that it doesn’t come as a shock, disgusting; it may even be accepted. Because it fits the audience’s ‘normal’ category (it is normal because sex is between a young woman and a man or the sexualised body belongs to a woman), it is for their pleasure, it suddenly becomes okay and “Yeah the woman is young but…” kind of excuses arise.
BnP has three themes that may make audience ‘uncomfortable’: male/male sex, cross-dressing and Pico being underage. As I stated before, shōta is not widely known and accepted, so surprise may be understandable but still, because of the genre, male/male underage sex is to be expected. If you were to look at shōta manga, it is evident that there are much ‘heavier scenes’ and actually BnP is much milder than other manga. I might even go and say it doesn’t contain heavy ‘rape’ scenes because Pico is also willing (IMPORTANT NOTE that since he’s underage, that doesn’t count as consent because even legally they need an adult to give consent but still… kind of ‘better’. Sometimes you gotta take what you can with yaoi unfortunately.). Also cross-dressing is another common theme.
If we were to argue about this genre and especially about BnP, one can argue that it doesn’t have a plot, say that the animation is badly done and overall, having a genre as shōta reinforces the child abuse and pedophilia issues. Not having a plot has a tag called PWP (plot? what plot?) and it is not a problematic issue, it is just a preference. You may prefer a story with somewhat complex background and characters, has rather good animation quality and contains sex on the side or just fancy some hardcore, juicy smut with no story at all (or both?); overall the taste depends on peope. However, I have to oppose the notion of “no story at all and only sex = low quality”. The reason I can give for that is when romanticised, our negative thoughts about something, inclines towards the positive side. When relationship is romanticised, male sex becomes more acceptable, when the thought of being trapped in a male body as a woman romanticised, that person loving a man becomes more acceptable (because there is nothing -s-he can do about it, poor soul) but this discussion is kind of out of the boundaries of my post, so I will move on from here.
The issue about reinforcing child abuse and pedophilia is, of course, serious and unresolved matter. The discussion about “Does a manga with loli theme encourages a pedophile to act on his urges or it is only used to satisfy one’s urges?” is still ongoing. While I am personally neither qualified nor have an answer myself to argue about it, I will only use it to clear something out. If the audience is uncomfortable because the age issue, those reactions would be understandable. Yet, opposing sexualisation and sexual intercourse of the underage boys in manga and anime, requires opposing a tremendous amount of other things; loli theme itself, sexualisation of young women in anime and manga, because then they wouldn’t contradict themselves. On the other hand, if I read commentaries starting with the word ‘but…’ and excuses flowing out afterwords, only option left for their hate is homophobia; they enjoy whatever they like and shame others which do not fit in their normativity.
Personally, I have found some shōta one-shots to my liking but as a genre, it’s not my favourite. Specifically, I didn’t like BnP because its artistic style was not to my taste and some aspects of the story is too cheesy. I’ve never seen it as disgusting, though, because… well male/male sex is not disgusting, just another form of making love. However, nothing stops me from speaking in favor of it because people saying that watching it made them go blind are obviously not familiar with genre, speaking badly and shaming is always so easy if you are not the object of it. I find it really useful to analyize what I really think when I say “Mmm, I don’t know, I didn’t like it.” or “It feels like its discriminative/prejudiced.” because there is always an underlying reason to my likes and dislikes. Most of the time it is hard to accept because I’d always thought that I was open to everyone, accepting or sensitive to other’s choices but actually, deep inside, I may not. I think of this as a chance to know more about myself and my weaknesses, motivates me to cope up with them.
Writer’s note: In the end, this post turned out much more personal than I intended in the beginning. You may consider it as personal ranting (though, of course I’d rather you wouldn’t) but it doesn’t change the fact that homophobia and hateful comments shaming other people’s interests is wrong on so many levels. Commenting like “Whaaa, my eyes!” or “I pulled the best prank on my friend and recommended Boku no Pico, fufufu.” is far from being constructive, taking it one step furter, phrasing your opinion as “perversive” is wrong and hurtful to the person who may enjoy it.
As I mentioned, whether fiction provokes its consumer to take action or does shōta reinforce child abuse/pedophilia are heavy topics to discuss and are out of the boundaries of this post. However, I will just leave a link that I’ve found insightful on pedophilia. This should be all, I hope I was able to convey what I really think and would like to hear what you will contribute to the topic. Until then…