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Old 02-27-2016, 10:12 PM
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Part Two: Blackboards in Porn



:trex: - Since the last episode, I got to thinking, and I realized something. Those ghosts didn't know Yuna could hear them when they started talking!

:trex: - They were doing a haunted version of Mystery Science Theater!

:drom: - Do you think that's how they cope with death? Joking that the people they encounter might be about to join them? It's a bit morbid but who's going to hear them?

:utah: - This sort of humor is pretty common among people who deal with death all the time! Doctors definitely use that sort of humor to cope with the misery of being surrounded by dying people.

:trex: - Oooh, good point! But because doctors have, like, human flesh and vocal folds, people can hear them! So they need to be careful about when and where they make those jokes.

:utah: - Yeah, there is a malpractice precedent for doctors who insult their patients. One in Virginia got awarded $500,000 in a lawsuit.

:trex: - It definitely pays to be careful about your jokes!

Thank you for joining us for another episode of Advice for Doctors

When we last left off, Yuna had run off the roof in fright and slammed the door behind her, returning to her classroom.

(BGM is Shirojo again)



Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Oh, Yuna, Welcome back~
Quote:
Ano Fuji called out to me as I entered the classroom and headed back to my seat.

She's a friend I made after starting school here and, not counting Hina, one of the few I can be myself with.

Ano always greets me when I return to class. She's friendly but not so friendly that she pesters me about eating alone.

She has some bad habits, but I find them a little endearing, actually.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
You took your time today, huh? Were you napping?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Y-yeah, I might have...
Quote:
Yeah, that's right. I must have dozed off and had a weird dream.
:trex: - Well, either that or there was something in that candy besides lotus root!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Whoa, Yuna, you're, like, sweating buckets! Were you rushing to get back? There's still a bit of time, you know.

Wait, what's wrong? You're white as a sheet, Yuna.
:utah: - "It's because I stay inside and keep to myself most the time!"



Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Huh?
Quote:
"White as a sheet"? Am I? Noticeably?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Did... something happen on the roof?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Huh? Oh, no...
Quote:
What should I tell her? Should I tell her I had a weird dream?

"I dozed off and dreamed that I met some ghosts"... but she might be creeped out if I said that.

I might prefer if both of us could be creeped out together, though. No, Ano might just laught it off. She's carefree like that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
I just... had a bit of a weird...
Quote:
But before I could say "dream", the bell signaling the beginning of afternoon class rang. The bell? Already? When did this happen?
:trex: - I'm pretty sure time-dilation candy is buyable in Colorado and parts of California. Just saying.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
No, it's nothing. Hurry back to your seat, Ano.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
O-okay... Yuna, go to the nurse's office if you start feeling bad, okay?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
I'm fine.
Quote:
With an unconvincing chuckle, I waved Ano off and she sat back at her seat.
:drom: - I'm surprised that Yuna doesn't want to spend more time with Fuji. Even if she is a little goofy, she does seem to be genuinely concerned for Yuna.

:utah: - Plus, if I gave someone some bitter candy, I'd probably want to stay around to see the reaction when they put it in their mouth!

:trex: - Yeah, I'm a little surprised that she didn't ask about the candy when Yuna came back down, even if it's just in a "Was there something wrong with the one I gave you?" sort of thing.

:utah: - Lotus root has a history of being used as a medicine. While I don't know a lot about it, it's apparently got a history of being used to keep blood pressure low, so I might be a little worried that Yuna's got some circulation issues or similar that the candy just made worse enough to make her sick.

:trex: - Despite the fact that so-called naturopathic medicines are often ineffective as treatments for specific ailments, they can still interact with medications in ways that are difficult to predict or can be harmful to a patient, so it's important to get information on any sort of supplements they might be taking, even if they seem harmless.

Thank you for joining us for another episode of Advice for Doctors

:drom: - Even so, if you got that lotus root candy from the link in the previous update, you probably wouldn't get sick like that from it, unless you already have abnormally low blood pressure. Don't freak out about this sort of thing.

Fade out/in. Same music.



Quote:
Our first afternoon class began.

Somehow I'd composed myself, possibly thanks to Ano's encouragement, and was able to focus on class a little.

The teacher's words weren't getting through to me, but I was at least able to copy down the notes on the blackboard.

My mind wandered as my hand took notes...

The only conclusion is that it was a dream

It's not as though I could say with absolute certainty that ghosts don't exist, but I couldn't possibly have seen some myself.
:trex: - The Truth Is Out There!

Quote:
That's why it must have been a dream. I must have dozed off. I was just confused when I woke up and took off running. I'm glad I didn't tell Ano. If I'd gone on like that, Iprobably wouldn't have been able to pretent it was just a dream. No, it was just a dream, so I wouldn't have had to pretend anything...

Oh, whatever. I should concentrate on class.

I looked back at the blackboard.

And at that moment... I heard...
(The BGM cuts out here)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ???
Found you.
Quote:
...A faint voice just next to my ear.
Sadly, no, this doesn't use that weird voice-acting ear microphone. It's just a normal voice clip with no weirdness going on. Would have been delightfully creepy if it were, but there aren't a whole lot of other places in the game where that sort of recording would make sense.

BGM: ClashingXSwords



Quote:
Red letters had appeared on the blackboard.
:utah: - Oh no! It's the ghost of lonelygirl15!

:drom: - This week on "Cute Or Horrifying?" we examine Nyaruko-chan, ketchup-based calligraphy, and dwarf kittens!

:trex: - But first: How to talk to your kid about why their pet guinea pig is comitting infanticide!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Eek!
Quote:
The teacher hadn't written them.

I mean, they weren't her neat handwriting. They were round, girlish letters, and not in chalk white but a vibrant red...

...dripping from the edges like wet paint.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
... ...
It's difficult to convey the sound of panic breathing, but that's what the voice clip here sounds like.

Quote:
I heard a clattering sound in my head. Oh, that's my teeth... And while the noise shook me...


Each bit of writing on the blackboard is voiced, by the way.

:trex: - Bunny Suicides: The After Years?

Quote:
The words were re-written, with no eraser in sight. They faded gradually and new words rose to take their place.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Eek!
Quote:
I finally screamed and jolted hard enough for my seat to make noise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Huh, who was that? Toomi-san? What is it?
Quote:
The teacher who'd been writing on the blackboard turned around and started at me. I was already halfway out of my seat.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Did I get something wrong?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Ah... Sensei, that...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Hm? What is it?
Quote:
The teacher turned back to the blackboard. She tilted her head and looked at the area I was pointing at. She was looking, wasn't she? Couldn't she...

Hadn't anyone else noticed?!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Nothing's wrong, is it?
Quote:
The teacher... everyone around me... no one had noticed. Even though the words loomed on the blackboard. Bright red words, as if they'd been written in blood.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Ah... ah...
Quote:
That was when I realized. I was the only one who could see them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Do you have a question about something?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Ah... er... erm...
Quote:
I desperately turned the cogs in my mind. I had no idea what to do anymore.

On the other hand, the fact that only I could see the words was just a tiny bit comforting. It meant that I was the only one who was crazy here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Um... I'm sorry... A-A bug or something flew by in front of my face... It just scared me...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teacher
Huh? O-Oh is that what happened? I undesrtand that you were surprised, but please try to keep your voice down, alright?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Yes... I'm sorry.
Quote:
I sunk back into my chair as the room filled with quiet giggles. Normally my face would be turning crimson with embarrassment, but I was too preoccupied to care.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Hey, Yuna, you okay?
Quote:
Ano turned around from her seat diagonally in front of me. She hadn't laughed at my sudden outburst. Instead her face and voice contained genuine concern.
:trex: - Given what Fuji heard from Yuna earlier, I wouldn't be surprised if she suspected that Yuna was suffering a migraine or something similar. Some of what we heard from could be consistent with a minor zinc deficiency, which could be fixable with changes to her diet. They might also be stress-triggered, or the result of sinusitis!

Thank you for joining us for another episode of Advice for Doctors

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Uh, y-yeah. A-Ahaha, what a stupid thing to do...
Quote:
I tried feebly to laugh it off again. Insisiting there were words on the blackboard that only I could see would only make people laugh at me or think I was crazy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Are you feeling okay? Want to go to the nurse's office? I'll come with.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
I'm fine, I'm fine. I was just a little surprised.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
If you say so...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Really, I'm fine. Thank you.
Quote:
I was a little relieved when Ano turned back around. I looked back to the blackboard as well, hoping that what I'd seen had just been a hallucination.

But...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
.........
:drom: - Maybe it's Pac-Man fever?

:trex: - She's goin' outta her mind!

:utah: - Note: Pac-Man fever is not a genuine diagnosis and merely the name of a song from 1982 album by Buckner and Garcia. Do not take this joke as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

Quote:
It wasn't. And now new words had appeared on the board. I wasn't as alarmed as I'd been the first time, and though it was still creepy, the letters were a bit too cute to really be scary.

Do they have to drip like that, though...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
(...What exactly are they planning to do...?)
Fade out to the classroom background from before. Shirojo is playing as BGM again.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Haahh...
Quote:
When the bell signaling the end of sixth period rang, I sighed and put my head in my hands, my elbows resting on my desk.

It was a wretched final two periods after lunch. The mysterious blood writing continued popping up endlessly the whole time.

On the blackboard. And, in the end, it even showed up in my notebook too.

The only reason I wasn't already collapsed on the desk was because the writing was now painted across the pages.

Even though the writing was splashed across it, I could still copy things down from the blackboard. And when I timidly pressed a finger to the letters, it came away clean.

So it wasn't as though I would get blood all over my face if I laid my head down, but I wasn't exactly eager to do it.

So I just covered my face to avoid looking at anything.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Yuna, you okay?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Oh, Ano. Yeah, I'm okay, I'm fine.
Quote:
And I was fine. I had gotten used to it. I'd been surprised again when the writing had also appeared on my notebook, but I had gotten used to that, too. Though it was still creepy.

After two periods I was almost able to laugh at it. I'd found myself about to write "buzz off!" in my notebook in response.

Am I actually pretty bold?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Wanna head straight home now that school's over? It kinda seems like it would be for the best today.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Mm...
Quote:
I wanted nothing more than that, really, but they'd been summoning me continuously for hours. If I just ignored them and went home, who knows what would happen to me.

They'd said they would curse me, though I wasn't sure exactly what that meant.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
Sorry, I've got something I have to do today.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Really...? Sure you don't want to go home and rest...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toomi Yuna
I thought I might have been a little sick during lunch, but it turned out to be nothing. I'm okay, really. Thank you.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ano Fuji
Sure you're sure? If you say so, then.
Quote:
Ano knows I don't like people hanging around me too much at school, and yet she was still that concerned for me.

I felt bad for worrying her so much about something she couldn't see.
This next bit is in red text, (presumably part of the ghostly blood writing in her notebook):

Quote:
Originally Posted by CURSE_TXT
Hurry up and come back when homeroom ends, ok? if you go home, i'll curse you?
If the character at the end isn't showing up, it's supposed to be a star.

Quote:
The message was written clearly on the pages of my notebook. Yes, yes, I understand.
:drom: - I think now's a good time to link this lovely piece from Jenn Frank, which I think we have to deal with evetually when discussing enjoying a sex game about high-school girls. There's a lot in here but I want to get at some of the bits discussing the horror genre in here, particularly because this last segment is playing up the horror angle a bit, even if the game is working toward a more humorous and sentimental tone overall. There's also a related piece by Gita Jackson that works into what I want to get at here.

:drom: - If you don't want to get into it, the basic argument I want to expand on from those articles is this: one of the reasons the horror genre is successful is that it discusses themes are that explicitly feminist, or at least feminist-adjacent. Serving as a way to voice fears that our society instills in women -- or as a way to discuss a cultural fear of the power of women as well. Even if horror regularly engages with ideas that are creepy and gross, it's (ideally, at least) done in a way that recognizes and doesn't minimize harm in our society.

:drom: - This makes a little more sense if you've already played through the demo, but it's not too hard to get at my argument just from where we've been going with themes. And so, could there be any sort of feminist messages hiding in the horror themes of this part of the game? They're subtle, but I think they're there.

:drom: - Again, this argument is going to make a bit more sense once we get into the next sections of the game. If you haven't played the demo yet, I'm going to make another strong suggestion that you do so. It's free, it's easy to get running, and it's still several hours worth of game.

:drom: - So Yuna is a loner, maybe even socially anxious. That's our starting point, and one of the parts of her characterization that's been elaborated on pretty consistently so far. Even so, she obviously has characters who care about her like Fuji, and there was mention of a Hina in the previous update whom Yuna is taking care of in some capacity. So it's not as though she's, strictly speaking, alone, but there's some trust issues here that keep her from relying on her friends for support.

:drom: - What if one of the reasons Yuna's worried about relying on her friends is that she's worried they might only see her as a romantic/sexual object?

:trex: - I know when you're oozing with as much sex appeal as I am, that it's a very real fear! Heh, heh. Yeah.

:utah: - Please, T-Rex. Let's be at least a little serious about this.

:drom: - And this isn't an unprecedented fear. The modern day right-wing hate movement is built around this sort of phenomenon: finding women who are just popular enough to have an audience but not popular enough to actually be able to leverage that into some form of protection. A drive to make them acceptable targets under the assumption that this fame is somehow equatable with success or stability, which is untrue -- the dark side of the democratizing forces of the internet.

:drom: - There's a feedback loop that happens. Women become popular online, and start attracting a crowd of people who wish do nothing but spew hate at them. These haters become part of the engagement driving the targets' popularity, engendering more hate. There are few to no ways to escape this phenomenon but to leave the internet, which is terrible for women for whom it's necessary to do their jobs or find work in the first place.

:drom: - And it's certainly even worse when the reason that this hatred happens is "because you're pretty". This is a problem that's been scourging cons for well over a decade and maybe only recently is starting to actually be addressed in a halfway-competent manner. Especially because so much of what gets considered "pretty" is stuff that people have limited control over, and gets very directly channeled into memes about the sexual ownership of women. Consider PUA culture: ladder theory is very much that same sort of idea, in that it argues that the platonic interest of men towards women is a sham, predicated on the expectation that eventually that relationship will turn romantic/sexual. That is, that men are only friends with women to get into their pants.

:drom: - So I think if there's a real nod to horror in this game, it's in terms of something like that. That the people you might think care about you are only engaged with you under the expectation of eventual sex. That when sexual favors are taken off the table, your whole social support network is in danger of collapsing -- and that even then, it's as much of a liability as it is a positive good.

:drom: - There's a feminist idea of women not tearing each other down but trying to support each other. And while I don't think it's an idea that always holds up in practice (because, again, being a woman in public is difficult to begin with -- and, yes, fighting against sexism carries social stigma even for men), sometimes it has to be taken for granted in order for things to get done. When camaraderie can't be counted on, how does anyone draw boundaries? How does someone say "no" to being bossed around? Can you trust people to help you with your problems, or are you just giving people a list of exploitable weaknesses?

To jump off of what Dromeceiomimus is saying a bit, I want to point out that back before this game came out, I was engaged in a few communities that were the spawn points of the modern day American anime nerd reactionary culture. While one of the reasons I've been interested in this game is "hey I like me some porn", which was what got me into those cultures in the first place, I left when the sorts of frustrating parts of these communities refused to fix themselves and grew more xenophobic and misogynist. These experiences paint a very strong picture of sexual openness being used as a cudgel, and positivity misused as a means to erode boundaries.

:utah: - And that's why your joke isn't all that funny, T-Rex. It's playing into a specific bravado that makes it impossible to set and enforce these sorts of boundaries, because it doesn't view them as worthy of being respected.

:utah: - Ultimately, "yes" is meaningless when you're not given room to say "no".

Now, this is a game from 2012, which makes it feel especially prescient. Depression Quest, another target of this sexualized hate movement, didn't even come out until 2013 (and dealt with similar concerns of social support network stability), and of course it was around August 2014 that these hate groups got a name that's stuck.

I don't know how much the writing on the wall in this game is informed by the shape of the culture at that time. But it was around 2010 or 2011 that I broke with it. I can't speak to how strongly these norms inform the Japanese doujin culture -- that is, how much of anime nerd subculture's reactionary bent is spillover from attitudes taken from Japan and how much of it is just a specific Western cultural arrogance that makes its own misogyny a point of pride (see also: one of any thousand paternalistic articles decrying the existence of the burkah written by old white "intellectuals" as inherently bad for women). A year after this game came out, a game in which you fight skirmishes by commanding anthropomorphized versions of axis battleships, which is so obviously problematic that I don't think it's worth elaborating on.

:utah: - Sure. The word "moe" has had some drift in its meaning between what it originally described in Japan and what it came to mean in the US, but that sort of moe anthropomorphism leans into the objectification of women hard. A game like Hatred also wears its social regressiveness like a badge of honor, but the form that it takes is much easier to dismiss as unpleasant and needlessly offensive, and to take what it has to say as two raised middle fingers pointing at everyone and yet no one in particular. But it's much harder to say no when that regressiveness wears a cute and pleasant face -- and even harder when it's backed by a culture ready to shut you out in calling for a more critical approach.

:utah: - It probably looks like we're reading too much into this scene -- and maybe we are! But it's better than just leaving this stuff unsaid so that people never bother to think about it in the first place.

Like I think there's a bunch of stuff here we're discussing that, just in the demo, is being discssed in the work as text, and not just subtext. (Hell, even "Not subtext. TEXT." is arguably a major point of the work...)

:trex: - Sorry, I got quiet. I somehow wound up watching the creator of Hatoful Boyfriend have a conversation on Twitter in real time over a very similar subject. It's interesting to see these lines of discussion, ah, dovetail with each other.

:utah: - For the love of god, T-Rex if you're jumping back in just to make bird puns...

:trex: - Consider this my argument that there are Japanese visual novel writers who are aware of these cultural issues! We were just asking about it, weren't we?

:drom: - I mean, I'll give you credit on this much -- this is a very dry and sobering read. I'd like to be here making Audre Lorde jokes, but we've got to get to a point where we can do that first. And that means heavy lifting.

:utah: - To think, we're getting into all of this just to explain why it might make sense that Yuna wouldn't want a friend with obvious concern for her to accompany her, so that she isn't going back up to the roof alone. The potential that a friendship is conditional is scary!

:drom: - And it's difficult to tackle these issues without taking creative risks and skirting into dangerous territory!

:trex: - Hehe. Skirt territory.

:drom: - ... good GOD.

Since this is actually the end of the scene, it makes for a reasonable stopping point. We've had a lot to say and should probably break before taking on anything more.

:trex: - We'll be back soon though! We still haven't even gotten to the good part!
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