I also eat the straights: Male heterosexual fandoms writing LGBTQ+ media history in Japan

Edmond Ernest dit Alban

McGill University, Montreal, Canada

[0.1] Abstract— I explore the transformative works of Inmu Fandoms, heterosexual Japanese fans of gay pornography. The aim is to understand the practices and expressions of Inmu that mobilize a wide range of gay manga, movies, and even video games to generate their own cultures, religion, language, and history. Critical insight is given regarding the stakes of this queering practice on the preservation and erasure of Japanese LGBT media history. Careful attention is paid to both textual and discursive elements to question the praxis of so-called Inmu theory and history within the spectrum of Japanese Fan Studies.

[0.2] Keywords—Anime; Archives; Queer Theory

Ernest dit Alban, Edmond. 2022. "I Also Eat the Straights: Male Heterosexual Fandoms Writing LGBTQ+ Media History in Japan." In "Fandom Histories," edited by Philipp Dominik Keidl and Abby S. Waysdorf, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 37.

1. Introduction

[1.1] If you surf long enough on the Japanese internet or participate in overseas online otaku fandoms, you are sure to meet the faces of Yamakawa Jun'ichi's gay manga characters and Japanese gay porn actors. From catchphrases or dialogues to images, sequences, and even sound effects, gay pornography has become a never-ending source of memes in mostly cisgender and heterosexual online male fandoms. In the past two decades, multiple platforms including Niconico Video, 2channel, Twitter, and YouTube have become the site of a sustained appropriation of LGBTQ+ media by audiences who are not their intended target. For lack of a better term, and since this is the main vocabulary used by the community in Japan, I suggest that we call these groups Inmu (lewd dreams 淫夢) fandoms. Inmu have not only supported the circulation of now iconic images of gay pornography across the internet and at overseas fan conventions but have also invented a digital archive to tell the history of their object of fandom and community. In the past two decades, Inmu have been the most passionate archeologists of gay subcultures in Japan, and their activity has shaped the way both national and global audiences of so-called otaku cultures have accessed the history of niche media pornography. I situate Inmu fandom's relation to history through their archiving and transformation of gay pornography in current debates about fan-made history and queer theory.

[1.2] Inmu fan identity and practice illustrate the 2000s digital turn in Japan's long history of media fandoms and transformative works: the community's celebration of gay pornography rarely ventures into fanzine conventions and sticks to digital modes of communication and dissemination. This fluctuating community converges across a wide range of anonymous platforms. Inmu practices revolve around the online transformation and preservation of gay pornographic media including novels, manga, anime, films, and video games. The fandoms' distinctive characteristics are net slangs, parody videos, and extensive wiki pages detailing scenarios, dialogues, characters, and production teams. In addition to transformative and archiving practices, the fandom also participates in historical discourses celebrating self-proclaimed homo transmedia storytelling. On the one hand, Inmu fandoms found in gay pornography a media expression to invent humorous transmedia chronologies of Japan. These satirical parahistories amusingly foretell how the Inmu cult of homosexuality was predestined since the dawn of the Japanese nation. On the other hand, Inmu's passion for gay porn also supported the emergence of a low queer theory: the fandoms' netslang and catchphrases usually tackle the topic of gender expectations in heterosexist societies. In short, Inmu's relation to history is framed by a certain need to humorously address the convergence of national history with the construction of normative Japanese masculinity (figure 1).

Screen capture from a video showing a collage of gay porn memes.

Figure 1. A screen capture of gay porn memes in Niconico mashup videos. Originally posted by Asaoka Hieton on YouTube and Niconico video in May 2017, the video explains the memes and original materials featured in the official music video marking the tenth anniversary of Niconico.

[1.3] The paradox of Inmu's fetishization of male homosexuality is that it feeds alternative modes of knowledge production while also reinforcing that homosexuality is a marginalized part of society. Inmu clearly claim to act as homosexuals only online and do not engage with LGBTQ+ fandoms or liberation movements. Their identification with gay pornography reveals a taste for countercultural media often shared by other Japanese fandoms (Galbraith 2020): while the appeal of so-called otaku fandoms to different cultural hierarchies focuses on alternative pornography, science fiction, or children's culture, Inmu chose the media production of a marginalized audience to construct their disruptive historical knowledge: Inmu history and theory therefore embrace the representation of male homosexuality as a tool to express their feeling of ostracization.

[1.4] The question of Inmu's lived marginalization needs more careful research. While the community remains highly anonymous, it is possible to find out a bit more about the fandoms' most visible groups on their websites such as Dirty Dream Club ( Inmu gatherings are apparently affiliated with secondary education: more than eighty universities and high schools across the country have allegedly unwillingly hosted nonofficial Inmu clubs. Only a few of these gay porn fan groups were officially identified by wikis in 2015 via their Twitter accounts. This included famous institutions like Kanagawa University and Meiji University in the Kanto area, as well as smaller high schools in Hokkaido and Kyushu regions. Despite these useful pieces of information, it is still difficult to say how many people are involved in these local associations. From their attempts to map their nationwide community, we nevertheless learn that Inmu fandoms often spread in science and engineering departments. The dedication of this IT crowd in documenting obscure films and manga currently makes Inmu archives the most visible and developed online resources on popular LGBTQ+ media history in Japan.

[1.5] For these reasons, aside from its positive repercussions on the preservation of parts of LGBTQ+ Japanese media history, the Inmu phenomenon questions the capacity of fandoms not just to write their own history from poached media but to write those of marginalized communities. The parodic history of Inmu archives unfortunately celebrates highly fetishized discourses, transforming historical narratives into debates about the uselessness of homosexuals in a heteronormative society. Future conversations about Japanese fandoms may ask how to adapt the platforms, knowledge, and documents produced by Inmu into LGBTQ+ history and archives.

2. Uhho ii otoko (Ouh a Hunk!): A short genealogy of gay porn's online fandoms since 2002

[2.1] The Inmu fandom was born in Japanese online comment cultures, a phenomenon usually discussed as part of Asian online platforms (Li 2017). Historically speaking, the origins of inmumin (Inmu residents) on Niconico video, a streaming platform often called the Japanese YouTube, follow the online diffusion of gay artist Yamakawa Jun'ichi's manga. Between 2002 and 2003, Yamakawa's work was uploaded on the Ayashii wārudo anonymous board (weird world board) and 4chan's ancestor, 2channel (Redmond 2021). The erotic and grotesque style of Yamakawa Jun'ichi (Yamajun) broke the internet for what was at first small communities of manga and anime fans discovering gay pornography. Netslangs rapidly emerged from Yamajun's success in online otaku male subcultures. The Yamajun-language (yamajungo) started to spread across Japanese social media and its comment-heavy platforms (Steinberg 2017). At first, the fandom discovered Yamakawa's Kusomiso Tekinniku (1987) and extracted memorable quotes including "Uhho ii otoko (ouh a hunk!), "Yaranaika" (wanna do it with me?), "ore ha nonkei datte kamawanaide kucchimau ningen nandaze" (I'm the type of person who does not mind eating the straights too you know?). Intrigued by the few pages scanned by an anonymous user, the emerging fandom started gathering more of Yamajun's oeuvre, in the process transforming memorable dialogues and images into viral yet obscure jokes that absorbed many more new fans in the exploration of the world of gay pornography.

[2.2] The term Inmu came later during a second wave of appropriation of gay media by online otaku male fandoms, this time aimed at gay porn movies produced by the gay studios Acceed and COAT. The community settled as their interest moved from the appreciation of fictional characters to gay porn actors. One core change supporting the affirmation of heterosexual fandoms of gay porn as Inmu is the arrival of YouTube and Niconico video after 2006. From the online traces still visible on Niocnicopedia (, the encyclopedia made by Niconico users to document their own culture, the growing dispersion of Yamajun and gay porn memes stirred recurring controversies among online manga and anime fandoms. Other online communities usually feel invaded by comments and jokes referring to gay pornography as well as the intrusion of images depicting male homosexuality randomly appearing on mashup videos. As an example, Yaranaika memes mobilized the art of Yamajun to introduce gay innuendo into the usually heteronormative representations of manga, anime, and video game subcultures: manipulations include transforming the face of manga characters into Yamajun's style or rewriting famous anime openings into trashy songs about gay sex (and more recently Disney's Frozen "Let it Gay"). In a similar fashion, some gay porn memes use the footage of pornographic movies to disguise it as part of the random images appearing in mashup or compilation videos. Inmu aesthetic was further reinforced by the presence of hypermasculine muscular bodies subcultures, gachimuchi, and their original close relation to wrestling (gay pornography) and Shinjuku gay slangs in the mid-2000s (figure 2).

A cosplay character dressed in a blue jumpsuit.

Figure 2. A cosplay of a Yamajun character during an event in Osaka in 2018. The original picture is part of a news report on Niconico Original (an online newspaper).

[2.3] With the success of neta (joke) videos based on the gay porn movie Babylon Series 34: Manatsu no Yoru no Inmu The Imp (Midsummer lewd dream: The Imp, 2001 COAT), the very straight fandom of Japanese gay porn, self-proclaimed Inmumin in the late 2000s occupied a niche yet steady place on the Niconico platform. Inmu's position remains uneasy within Japanese online fandoms who often find the hobby of celebrating gay porn not to their taste. As such, Inmu are still often under attack from other user communities (note 1). The scholarship on online Japanese fandoms has documented the fights between online otaku communities, or the tag wars: during the early stages of Niconico video, fans, like creators, could tag videos, changing how algorithms and searches would display content on the streaming platform (Eto 2013). Fights between neta fandoms is still frequent, and while the tags and commenting features of the platform do not require as much fan participation to regulate algorithms in 2021, Inmu fandoms still have to delimit their own interest, history, and identity. From this perspective, the Inmu community has created the largest resource available to archive, classify, and explain the references to gay manga and gay porn, with an emphasis on COAT's Babylon series. Inmu wiki pages retell the history of gay porn in Japan and also repertory words and dialogues in dictionaries linked to video archives and to pictures of retrieved paraphernalia like the bromide photos taken during filming of movies and distributed to consumers who bought the VHS back in the early 2000s (figure 3).

A VHS tape.

Figure 3. A picture of an old COAT VHS of the Babylon series. Inmu online archives often feature photos uploaded by anonymous users. This includes promotional material, VHS and DVDs, as well as newspaper articles.

[2.4] In short, through the years, Inmu fandoms' favorite activities have included (1) poaching gay pornographic media and transforming it into hysterical parodies; (2) commenting on (not always) related videos to affirm or spread their reach; and (3) surprisingly preserving the media objects of Japanese gay pornography. As such, Inmu practice stays close to that of other online Asian fan cultures involving commenting and parody (Li 2017), with the crucial nuance that their language, media, and cultural capital comes from underprivileged sexual minorities. As proof of their love of absurdity and ironic distance, the Niconicopedia page made by the fandom describes the community as "nice homos" who "get along all together and have fun watching homo videos" (note 2). These pages also feature preventive comments about trolling by asking nonfans to be respectful or leave. Inmu fandoms have therefore used all the spectrum of Niconico-related platforms to build their own culture and defend it from exterior attacks, including those of LGBTQ+ activists of the mid-2010s LGBT boom who are chased away by anonymous discourses on freedom of speech, political correctness, and "how people don't understand their fandom" (note 3).

[2.5] The choice of calling themselves homos since the late 2000s betrays a certain distance from the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community since the appellation "gay" was preferred after the 1990s gay boom (McLelland 2000). My hypothesis is that Inmu fandom repurposed the word "homo" because of its usage in Yamajun's manga from the 1980s. In other words, Inmu fandoms represent the strange resurgence of a queer media past mishmashed by online cultures with little critical reflexivity on the history of LGBTQ+ rights in Japan. Problematic claims from anonymous users of the community continue as some argue that transforming gay porn makes (straight people) more familiar with LGBTQ+ persons or that their actions are not homophobic since they make fun of the sounds and images (of gay sex) and not of homosexuals themselves. This idea of formal parody embedded in meme cultures and online fandoms is on a slippery slope between the naive celebration of gay media and its reduction to decontextualized images. Inmu thereby stands between the preservation of forgotten LGBTQ+ media cultures in Japan and the erasure of their historical context.

3. Framework: Situating queer in Japanese fan history and fan studies

[3.1] LGBTQ+ archival projects are rare in Japan, despite the new hope sustained by the Pride House, an institution supported by the 2020 Olympics to reunite multiple local and regional LGBTQ+ NPOs and build an official Japanese LGBTQ+ archive. Meanwhile, the online visible preservation of LGBTQ+ subcultural magazines, pornographic manga, and films has been undertaken since the early 2000s by online heterosexual male fandoms. Far from being a generous offer to support LGBTQ+ media and perpetuate its history, this archive highlights what Derrida called le mal d'archive (1995). By creating the most detailed archive of Japanese gay porn online, Inmu have positioned themselves as the archivists if not the gatekeepers of LGBTQ+ subcultural history. As self-proclaimed experts, they also claim the right to curate this hilarious history. If the Inmu corpus obviously represents only a small part of queer media in Japan, this situation interrogates at best the place of otaku fans in the reconstruction of popular LGBTQ+ subcultural histories in Japan and, at worst, what happens when the preservation of these marginalized legacies happens outside of marginalized communities. This issue unfortunately transcends Japan's borders as Inmu content follows the global online dissemination of otaku cultures: it was not rare for Niconico mashup videos featuring Inmu's twist on gay pornography to appear in European and North American conventions in the 2000s and 2010s. We should wonder how racialized discourses about Asian masculinity have been added to the mix of homophobia when crossing borders. The role played by 4chan users and even anime YouTubers in the democratization of Inmu's archive as a trendy source of memes may need a separate investigation.

[3.2] In Japan, the Inmu's gay mal d'archive made by heterosexual cisgender males for themselves is not just a reminder of the erasure of LGBTQ+ media history, a history often rejected by the preestablished archives of heteronormative power structures. It is unfortunately also symptomatic of a few recurring issues in the field of Japanese fan studies. The rather late visibility of gender perspectives transcending the reimagination of masculinity has been criticized and rectified by numerous female acafans including Azuma (2015), Fujimoto (1998), Hori (2009), Ishida (2008), and Mori (2010), as well as others. Despite the current transnational and intersectional movement of slash studies (Boy's Love) featuring comparisons of female and gay manga, in most cases otaku studies have not transcended the early stages of the infamous 1990s Yaoi ronsō controversy (Welker 2019). The Yaoi ronsō started in the feminist minicomic CHOISIR in 1992 when gay activist Satō Masaki called out slashers for their objectification of male homosexuality (Lunsing 2006). Fan productions and scholarship alike have discussed the evolutions of so-called yaoi or Boy's Love fandoms to gay media: exchanges between female and gay artists and audiences, who even share fanzine events and publishers, have became quite frequent since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, Inmu fandoms have separated themselves physically and intellectually from these common discussions and events.

[3.3] This dissociation of otaku popular media from social reality is not just a core practice of some problematic otaku male fandoms like Inmu; it is partly present in the theories and approaches sustained by Otakuology since the 1990s, a movement that was later spearheaded by Azuma Hiroki's (2009) philosophy of postmodern simulacra. In short, Otakuology proposes a compelling mix of media and fan studies describing the possibility to imagine and concretize new realities through the combined power of anime fiction with a various range of technologies. In Azuma's case, this ideal is concretized in the database model including digital archives and transformative works. Azuma theorized how otaku's database-like consumption of digital media enabled fans to poach, classify, and reuse elements from their favorite shows. If otaku fiction has thereby been discussed as a modular technoculture by many scholars including Lamarre (2009), in practice, otaku discourses have focused on male cultures as the default object of Japanese fan studies. Azuma is no exception as he willingly dismissed female fandoms and centered his analysis only on his own networks. While core to otaku theory, the idea that anyone can break free from social norms through fiction and visual technologies has assumed diversity, not engaged with it. The heteronormative power structures in the community, its theory, and its fabric of fan history have not really been put on the table for discussion. For these reasons, we see many discourses about queering practices, queer characters, the queering of texts and nonbiological gender, human, or heteronormative representations in the field with no mention of LGBTQ+ authors or fans and their media practices.

[3.4] Can we continue these discourses about postmodern technocultures and their queering potential when facing the fictionalization of LGBTQ+ histories and experiences within the spectrum of otaku cultures? To what extent have scholars also contributed to the perpetuation of (heterosexual and cisgender) male-centered otaku theoretical and historical frameworks? If I followed here the usual discourses of the field, I should praise Inmu practices as creative and transformative works queering the flows of usually heteronormative images on Niconico video and Japanese social media. Inmu may dream to be situationist filmmakers subverting the original context of a cinematic production. They may also be often subjugated to the current precarious everyday life many young men are facing in Japan (Kinsella 2020b). The general discourse in the community is that poaching gay porn is a form of resistance against patriarchal society.

[3.5] The history told by Inmu poachers is however not in direct opposition with such normative social norms but rather borrows from underprivileged communities' representations to express their own feeling of marginalization. As the works of Ōtsuka (2016) and Galbraith (2020) have recently articulated the history of otaku theory within a more critical sociocultural context, I agree that male otaku fandom's struggles for a different imagination should be recognized and studied. That said, from the cloistered nature of Inmu fandom's relation to LGBTQ+ media, its historical decontextualization from LGBTQ+ lives, and its fierce (when not toxic) defense of its activity even toward LGBTQ+ people, Inmu practices participate in the perpetuation of homophobia and the seclusion of sexual minorities to the margins of society. Inmu's queering is reducing homosexuality to fiction, to a literal joke, content and form-wise. Inmu erase the past context, expression, and experiences of LGBTQ+ authors and audiences. Gender and sexual identities are emptied of any reality to represent an allegory against heteronormative norms, a nonsensical imagery that reinforces patriarchal discourses about sexual deviance. Inmu's borderline case eventually asks us to revisit the positionality of queering discourses in fan studies.

[3.6] This trope of defining queering as nonsensical humor "enclosed in itself" and dressed against patriarchy can be seen in academic inquiries: boyd (2016) articulated the nonsensical aesthetic of Kill La Kill as a queering aimed at male fandoms. Research on cross-dressing subcultures has also presented how communities close to otaku fandoms mobilize queerness as a strategy to subvert gender and social expectations, while openly creating distance from LGBTQ+ communities. However, the danger of reducing queering to a nonsensical step outside of the (re)production of social expectations in fan studies lies in the current slippery slope separating the very real exploration of new queer possibilities not reduced to the western idea of the LGBT and the current erasure of LGBTQ+ history in otaku fandom(s). It is our duty as scholars not to conflate the growing media visibility of homoerotic fiction and LGBTQ+ activism since the 2000s with our poor knowledge of precarious fan histories.

[3.7] Here, crossing both problematic and useful sides of Inmu in their exploration of queer media history, my wish is to foster discussions on how otaku history is written rather than on confrontational and sterile arguments. Nuanced work around fandoms, pop cultures, and queering has been strangely mostly done outside of Otakuology, notably in ethnographies of cross-dressing communities that coincidently developed at the same time as the Inmu fandom and the gay manga boom of the 2000s (Fanasca 2019). Exploring this large spectrum of queering transformative cultures in Japan, Inmu included, that have converged and diverged since the 2000s is not just crucial for understanding queer theory and practice outside of westernized agendas and political identities: it also supports a revisit of the history, theory, and field of fan studies. My method to present Inmu's preservation of gay media will therefore provoke a critical intersection with the queer archives produced by the fandom with (when possible) external sources giving female and queer scholars' parallel insight on LGBTQ+ media histories and fandoms. Nowadays, LGBTQ+ audiences tend to disavow the media objects celebrated by Inmu's now iconic visual culture. Future research and community work may try to reconcile these broken parts of Japanese LGBTQ+ media history by workshopping the hidden histories behind the memes.

4. "I also eat the straights": From queer manga history to unproductive homo fandoms

[4.1] Yamakawa Jun'ichi, Yamajun, is a controversial figure of the early gay manga scene in 1980s Tokyo. Hired by Itō Bungaku in 1983, one of gay magazine Barazoku's editors, Yamajun has left few traces of his personal life. His work was not appreciated by the gay editors at Barazoku and was progressively evicted from the magazine (Itō 2010). Soon, Yamajun disappeared from Barazoku's pages and Itō's life after 1988. The other company printing his work then went bankrupt. The remains of his oeuvre left at Itō 's house in Shimokitazawa could have been lost without the intervention of Inmu fandoms. Yamajun's manga made a grand return in the early 2000s as anonymous users scanned one of his more scatological pieces, Kusomiso Tekinikku (piss and shit technique, 1987) and posted it online on image boards (note 4). The sustained attention given by male users of 2channel to Yamajun pushed the recollection of his oeuvre while discussions emerged on him as an author, the funny content of gay magazines, and how to define gay manga (note 5). The newly born fandom went on a quest in public libraries and old bookstores to find Barazoku back numbers. Itō closely followed this trend and supported a new edition of Yamajun's works (including never published chapters) at Fukkan publishing, a company specializing in books out of print. As such, what we know of Yamajun's oeuvre comes out of Inmu archival work combined with Itō 's romanticized testimonies.

[4.2] For these reasons, and although it was not their original intention, Inmu fandoms retrieved major materials that allow us to discuss the place of Yamajun in the spectrum of homosexuality's representation in Japanese media. While Itō allegedly mentioned a potential suicide, speculations within the Inmu community that Yamajun was either a woman or had started another career in Lady Comics in the 2000s under the pseudonym of Tsuji Asami somehow echo with undergoing discussions in the field of Boy's Love manga (Itō 2010; Mori 2010). This includes Mori Naoko's (2010) pioneering work on the diffusion of female erotic techniques, using a subjective compositing of pages to give sexualized characters agency over their bodies and sexuality. These speculations also converge with the work of Baudinette (2017) on the exchanges between female and gay audiences in Asia. Authors have indeed often moved from one pornographic genre to another. Yamajun's art demonstrates the potential to open a discussion on an inclusive queer manga history. Yamajun's manga represents the intersection between gekiga and girl's manga styles: his techniques include a wide range of stylistic elements absorbed from both graphic pornography like gravure and stylish inner introspections typical to shōnen aï (boys' love) movements (Ernest dit Alban 2020).

[4.3] Inmu's intervention mapped a part of gay manga history that would probably have disappeared with the unfortunate misadventures of Yamajun's career. The rejection by the canons of gay magazines of Yamajun's format also informs us about identity politics during the 1990s revaluation of homosexual masculinities. Despite these useful additions to rarely discussed media and social histories, Inmu's mobilization of Yamajun's art still presents drastic problems; this includes the deprecation of homosexual agency, the erasure of LGBTQ+ media histories, and the instrumentalization of homosexual representations for reflections about procreation and social norms. Yamajun's work has been surprisingly preserved by cisgender and heterosexual males, Itō included, and reflects as such not intrinsically but in its reception of a certain form of representation of homosexuality that is, because of its gekiga erotic and grotesque nonsense, a perfect fit for certain expectations of how to discuss homosexuality's relation to (re)productivity (figure 4).

A screenshot showing an illustration of a male face.

Figure 4. An anonymous screenshot of the Yamajun calculator app released in 2011 by kinoko club for Android.

[4.4] In a fashion similar to shōnen aï manga, Yamajun's art subjectifies gay characters by exploring the intimate, psychological, and social struggles of homosexuals in sex scenes (Ishida [2008] and Mari [2001]). As such, inner monologues and subjective compositing represent a core part of his contribution to criticize the reproductive nature of heteronormative societies: queer lives can have a visible sexual agency. If Yamajun's satirical message was received by Inmu fandoms, their appropriation of his oeuvre betrays their scant interest in Yamajun's intimate art; their gaze is only retained by the shocking and graphic description of gay sex. Inmu readings stay on the corporal level of Yamajun's expression and atrociously participate in the erasure of the subjective and psychological parts of his works. In Inmu memes, the convergence of body and mind typical of queer techniques of manga compositing is gone, dissected out of pages, and reduced to viral moving images representing the ghostly trace left of the provocative and witty agency demonstrated by Yamajun's characters. While this prospect could be extended to any meme image in general, in the case of gay pornography and Inmu this rework of the media itself also translates into an erasure of the already obscure history of LGBTQ+ popular cultures. Only the Inmu practice and perspective on gay media is intact in the meme.

[4.5] As such, Inmu's Yamajun references usually focus on the most erotic and grotesque oeuvres with a certain campy humor, leaving aside the full spectrum of his work discussing the AIDS crisis, the isolation of homosexual sociality, anxieties toward compulsory heterosexuality, or (imagined) police raids. Among others, Inmu audiences fell in love with the "gun in the butt" reference in Otokogari (Chasing Men, 1983) not for its commentary on the double lives lived by homosexuals and the danger of AIDS but as a graphic butt-joke. Yamajun's reconciliation of homosexuality as an unapologetically sexual subjectivity is read as unproductive, self-centered, and therefore framed as a fictional space outside of societal norms. Inmu performativity, if we really need to drag Judith Butler (1999) into this mix, learned from gay pornography a provocative language to "play a homo" online and disrupt heteronormative representations. By "play a homo," I refer to the Inmu trend of using homogaki (homo brats) as self-identification, as well as a wide range of linguistic performances; this includes using references to gay porn as catchphrases to delimit who is a part of the community as well as transforming sounds (from homosexual sexual intercourse) as the basis for netslangs.

[4.6] The online preservation of Yamajun therefore serves transformative social commentary celebrating a joyful and subversive attack against heteronormativity and the expectation to be a productive member of society. Inmu's archive here rejoins with Ōtsuka's (2014) recent commentary of otaku's platforms economies: otaku online cultures serve both discourses about a bottom-up revolution supported by user-generated content (UCG) and the appropriation of amateur art by companies like Niconico (Ōtsuka 2014). As part of the Kadokawa-Dwango platform empire, the archiving of gay pornography has become a popular source of UGC within this exploitative economy. Yamajun's manga became literally a calculator app in 2011, the uhho ii dentaku, and was used by Inmu fans to produce mathematical memes with the pages of Kusomiso Tekunikku. As such, homo brats have classified the legacy and social usage of Yamajun's oeuvre as a sort of gift you'd give as a bad joke to your coworkers, if we are to believe in what Amazon Japan's reviews of his work are telling us.

[4.7] Indeed, the archive of Yamajun's faces and dialogues became a script to play queer online in tweets or comments and participate in humorous philosophical debates about the historical construction of heterosexuality in modern societies. Inmu tweeter accounts usually mobilize sentences from Yamajun and the Babylon series to openly criticize education institutions: template responses include comments about having homo sex in response to failing exams, pretending to cruise for boys on campus grounds, and transforming university mascots into homo characters. It might not be a coincidence that the first yamajungo (slang created from Yamakawa's manga) pair was Yaranaika (do you want to do it with me?) and dōseiai wa ikanzo! Hiseisanteki (Homosexuality is wrong, it is unproductive!). Though this might not be a direct comment on homosexuality but rather a navel-gazing mise en abyme of Inmus' own unproductive activity as straight fandoms consuming gay porn, Inmu end up framing queerness the same way that otaku studies did: as fiction or at best as a tool in otaku's struggle against the cultural capital of neoliberal systems. Worse, this unproductive joke (probably unwillingly) echoes the discourse of Japanese conservatives toward the impact of LGBTQ+ populations on the nation's birthrate and the sterilization of transgender individuals.

[4.8] In sum, Inmu's archiving of gay media is a self-enclosed act to build their own history and resolve their anxiety toward the expectations of modern heteronormative societies. Usual Inmu debates center on the joke that unproductive sex created a lot of online content and a new history of Japan. To quote just a few comments: "Well I mean it is unproductive in terms of sustaining birthrates"; "Heterosexuality too is not necessarily about reproduction" (note 6). As such, Inmu are a sinister echo to Azuma's (2009) theory: otaku are animals or nonhuman (bourgeois and capitalist) modes of existence that exist outside of modern history. High and low male otaku theory has become the place to imagine a nonagent position outside of heteronormativity. As such, while images of gay pornography are used in otaku fandoms’ provocative discourses against normalized modes of agency, these same images are deprived of their original history, expression, and representation of a quest for a recognized sexual agency. The fandoms' production of historical knowledge neither celebrates a queer past that has existed nor acknowledges the present struggle of marginalized communities as a serious matter. Not just content with their simulacra of queer history, Inmu have shaped the way Yamajun's manga is marketed, sold, and celebrated on its own, cut from the rest of LGBTQ+ media history as a self-sustained world of fiction. In Inmu's history, there is no queer futurity, no possible normalization of homosexuality, only the sterile reproduction of gay porn images that mimic the struggles of homosexual existence in a masquerade supposedly tearing down the patriarchy from within. Starting with Yamakawa's art, Inmu invaded a media history that struggled to put out on paper a visible gay agency and tore it apart for their own theoretical needs.

5. "GO is GOD": From sports fandoms to homo Japanese history

[5.1] A second major example of Inmu archival practice is their hijacking of COAT's Babylon series, starting with Babylon 34: Manatsu no Yoru no Inmu The Imp (Midsummer lewd dream: The Imp, 2001). While Yamajun's manga was uploaded on Ayashi wârudo and 2chan boards in 2002 and 2003, Japanese baseball fandoms had their own fateful meeting with gay media. It was revealed by tabloids in November 2002 that rising star athlete Tadano K was featured in a gay porno (Babylon 34); COAT's pornographic movies started to raise the growing curiosity of sports fandom. Memes using the image of Tadano (renamed TDN by Inmu fans for this occasion) and his lines from the film started to emerge on boards. Guidelines for meme production were created in 2005 and added to the torments of the young athlete who was never professionally hired in Japan and fled to the United States (note 7). From that point, Inmu residents emerged on the recently opened Niconico video platform (2006). Inmu fans' exploration of gay porn movies continued in the late 2000s: Inmu were passionate about finding any detail about the Babylon series and rapidly extended their reach to other creators including legendary actor Jeff Stryker; from actors, to eventual staff members, places of production and shooting, or paraphernalia, Inmu archived all the material they could find about Japanese porn video companies. Inmu's celebration of gay pornography is mostly divided into two types of activities: hakkutsu (archeology) and neta (jokes). Inmu might even have participated in the most recent evolution of Japanese fandoms: the spiritual quest for a deeper Japanese history formulated by recent national fan tourism (Okamoto 2013). In recent years, popular cultures have become a medium for otaku fandoms to create their sanctuaries, locations of fan activities where communities reclaim a place in public space and actively manifest a national identity (note 8). While many fandoms find in parahistorical fictions a link to their past, Inmu fans' sacred places are the locations featured in gay porn films (figure 5).

A page of Japanese characters and movie stills.

Figure 5. A photo posted on an online archive by an anonymous user of a promotional flyer detailing the synopsis of an upcoming film series, Power Grip by COAT (1991).

[5.2] These sacred spaces are nevertheless not affiliated with any official part of national history, a suitable situation to reinvent Japanese history from scratch. Inmu fandoms have used their gay porn archive to generate their own religion and furthermore rewrote Japanese history as the prophetic preparation for gay porn's arrival (note 9). This purposely delusional transformative practice reflects an attack against the hierarchies of knowledge production itself: Inmu mobilize a media that is too niche and fetishized to represent a legitimate cultural capital. Choosing gay porn, an unworthy media, as a source of knowledge could represent a rebellious act. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that many identified Inmu fans are young men in IT training. Inmu hyperfetishized an already fetish niche media to achieve a radical absurd philosophy of history that subverts the place they occupy in school and society. The end of Japanese history, framed as homosexual, can finally stop reproducing heteronormative and patriarchal structures and, in theory, invent new masculinities. This phenomenon echoes what Ōtsuka (2016) called the "serious joke" of otaku revolutions, or Azuma's (2009) simulacra. Male otaku fandoms are often analyzed from their humorous, if not ironic, position using popular cultures as a space purposely emptied of an apparent sociopolitical meaning. Scholars have also mentioned how, through fictionality, otaku strive to understand metastructures, create parallel spaces of sociability, and construct alternative knowledge (Okada 1996; Galbraith 2020). Tadano as well as male prostitutes featured in Japanese gay porn movies became allegorical figures to laugh at while also embodying real struggles against the (hetero)normative structures of Japanese society.

[5.3] As part of this creation of a radical knowledge production, Inmu's archiving and remixing of gay porn movies amplifies certain visual and audio elements to imagine a fictional history of Japan told through transmedia storytelling. Also known as world theory, Japan's transmedia storytelling was framed by Ōtsuka (1989) as the repetition of a "world" (here the imagined universe behind gay porn movies) and "variants" (episodes taking place in this world). Since it emerged out of role-playing games, the particularity of Japanese transmedia storytelling is its use of voices (spoken or written) to expend universes (Yamanaka 2013). Inmu's fascination for the noises and lines of gay porn movies has angled their archival process around the archeology (hakkutsu) of memeable sentences. For these reasons, Inmu history represents a strange cross between sports and gay porn fandoms: the very first term that allegedly started the Inmu journey was "ah" (アッー) a noise made by Tadano in his infamous appearance in Babylon 34 The Imp. The fandom's recreation of homo history from the dawn of times to Tadano emerged out of tabloids and their media coverage of the sex scandal. While searching for the actual movie, the community also adopted another hobby in the discovery of other Japanese athletes' participation in gay filmmaking. Sports fans jumped on the occasion to laugh at their poor acting performance and spread the news in montage videos. In short, Inmu's research has amassed in a few years the most important database on Japanese gay porn ever created. What was at first a sort of fan page for COAT was extended to gay porn magazines from Barazoku, the gay, badi, Adonis Boy, Sabu, and Samson. While the ethics of this research were allegedly questioned, Inmu have mapped the appearances of each actor, with potential age and personal information.

[5.4] For these reasons, Inmu's passion for archiving and writing national history illustrates the theoretical and practical application of academic and fan discourses about otaku databases. Since the late 2000s, this database of memorable quotes is mobilized in a new Niconico religion: Go is God. Go is one of the stage names of a young ganguro sex worker who appeared in many COAT movies featuring tanned young men. His charisma, poor acting, and recognizable tanned face allegedly made him a star in gay boards, a celebrity that was mobilized by Inmu in an attempt to transform their hobby from a genre (type of content) to a religion (a central type of content constitutive of platforms like Niconico). This process of legitimization of their place in online fandoms is accompanied by thousands of mashup videos using gay porn as a basis for original content and parodies (Etō 2013). The video content varies from scatological humor mimicking the scenario of the original porn movie to invading other content (manga, anime, video games) with impromptu images of censored gay porn. Most of these works use limited animation techniques to animate parts of famous actor's bodies. The flatness of the image and generic animation style contributes to Inmu's universalisation of gay porn: the original context is flattened by animating gay porn in the same way other images usually move in otaku online media (figure 6). As such, Inmu video aesthetically and technically appropriates gay production into the mainstream codes of online meme content. Again, the original media history behind the object of fandom is erased in the process.

A screenshot showing a collage of images, mostly of male faces.

Figure 6. A screenshot from a short animated movie made from collage images of gay porn. The video was posted in November 2021 by the presumed author, Guesta.

[5.5] But what images lose in historical value, they gain in transmedia mobility. As self-proclaimed keepers and celebrators of gay porn, Inmu have indeed gone one step further by imagining a whole transmedia history hidden behind all gay pornography. These fan fictions originally invent a complete cosmogony affiliating Japanese history with the underground fight of homos against the system oppressing them. Inmu have no need to envy Disney's MCU; their world explains how actors created bonds between movies as well as backstories for actors and characters. This masquerade provoked the emergence of the "Go is God" meme, a term inspired by the way online audiences say that something is amazing (xx is great, xx wa kami). Inmu took their inspiration from the Bible to find the delicate words to phrase their ironic creation: "In the beginning, there was a dream. Lewd deams (Inmu) were with God. God was Go. Inmu was with GO. All Inmu were created by GO. There was nothing that came out of Inmu that was not made by GO. There was life in Inmu. Inmu is the light that enlightens humankind" (note 10). But as characters (Majime-kun, Yajûsempai), words, and images were religiously recycled from gay porn by the fandom, Inmu expanded their presence on the Japanese internet. Buzzwords became ideological weapons in their quest for a nonsensical self-made history of Japanese masculinity, religion, and culture: kusa (草) a trendy alternative to www, the Japanese "lol," has been appropriated by the fandom to mark their territory online. Meanwhile, other terms like "ah" (アッー) have now transcended the realm of Inmu cultures and penetrated more mainstream online jargon.

[5.6] We are facing the literal transformation of the sounds of gay porn into a playful demonstration of popular culture's power, if not propaganda. Inmu's travesty of an inclusive culture also recently clashed with Japan's so-called LGBT boom of the mid-2010s. Despite the neoliberal agenda behind this sudden liberation movement, Inmu's reaction to LGBTQ+ activists' discontent was as radical as their queer theory (note 11). Because they refuse to perceive their privilege, Inmu are in an infinite paradox: they reduce gay porn to a funny protest against patriarchal history but also forcibly impose their own history and reading of LGBTQ+ media over LGBTQ+ populations, adding to this intolerable mix of oppression the trolling comment that political mobilization and legal agency is overrated compared to their superior intellectualization of gay porn. What is the responsibility of fandoms in certain systems of oppression? Is Go's religion really supporting the fight of marginalized communities against power structures like Inmu claim? In a sense, this movement may have helped some populations to become less uneasy with male homosexuality because they were able to objectify it in their own expressional terms while suppressing the voices of the homosexuals represented within the appropriated media.

[5.7] This leaves us with the question of how to recycle Inmu into more productive terms. Future research could use their archives to explore the history and persons behind the Japanese gay porn video industry. While breaking down the unproductivity of Inmu may sound offensive to the community, this could represent one approach toward an actual inclusive history, discussing this time the multiple aspects and reception of Japanese gay porn.

6. Conclusion

[6.1] This article explored the controversial media archive emerging from Inmu fandom's complex manipulation of gay pornography. While their involvement in media preservation resembles typical behaviors seen in other fandoms including media archiving, transmedia storytelling, or transformative works, Inmu also represent a potential appropriation of LGBTQ+ media and a rewriting of its subcultural history. Since the 2000s, Inmu have used gay representations to create their own take on queerness, separating in the process gay pornography from its original use (and original fandoms) to reinvent and reclaim its history as their own. Instead of participating in common discussions about the power dynamics of gender and sexual norms, Inmu have celebrated their own unproductivity and enclosed their practice within the fictional space of parody. For these reasons, Inmu cultivates a distance from homosexuality, using it as an allegorical attack against societal norms.

[6.2] Indeed, it is at times difficult to say whether Inmu represents a simple homophobic fandom or another recent iteration of queer explorations, like cross-dressers, who tend to dissociate themselves from older LGBTQ+ movements while using liminal spaces of subcultures and fandoms to affirm their existence (Kinsella 2020a). The issue with focusing on the novelty of queer practices is that we often lose sight of history; Inmu gave themselves the role to (re)write the history of, if not LGBTQ+, gay popular media. We are in a desperate need of intersectional histories of Japanese fandoms, not narrow inquiries on allegedly separate groups. The lack of discussion of LGBTQ+ fandoms in Japan betrays the convergence of the academic interest in otaku as male fandoms, as well as the systematic rewriting of fan histories by male otaku communities. If we, even naively, believe that Inmu are making otaku audiences closer to the gays, we should probably at least integrate gay fandoms into otaku history, especially since gay artists often share similar spaces in convention with more visible male fandoms. Future works need to articulate these different fan queer approaches to understand their potential convergence in wider national, regional, and global contexts.

[6.3] Eventually, the capacity of fandoms to write their own history (as well as those of others) needs to be addressed but also recorded. I have no intention of separating the history of gay pornography in Japan from Inmu. It is however important to put various histories of fandoms into relation. With the current high visibility of the LGBT boom after 2015, there is a tendency in public opinion and academic research to take Japanese LGBTQ+ communities for granted and search for the next big queer thing to discuss. While discovering nonwestern queer futurity is a crucial step for a decolonized queer theory, in the case of otaku fandoms, leaving Japanese LGBTQ+ identities and fandoms aside means, at this point, that we also leave aside a minor history that otaku history has assumed, if not partly erased. With the exception of ôshima's (2019) study of gay porn magazine's impact on activism, what we know of the fandoms of LGBTQ+ media and otaku is what Inmu, or at best ally Fujôshi communities have said of it (Ōshima 2019). In the current struggle for legal rights faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Japan, we need to carefully nuance historical discourses about old and new queer phenomenon.

7. Notes

1. For an an example of this type of hate thread, see

2. An example can be found at the following site The quoted words are my own translation.

3. See as an example the following save of a Twitter thread:

4. The video can be found at the following site:

5. See the preserved discussion here:

6. See some examples of typical comments here:

7. For example, see the following web page:

8. A list of the sanctuaries can be found here:

9. Some examples are available here:

10. These words are my translation; the original source is here:

11. See some sample exchanges here:

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