Female masculinity and fantasy spaces: transcending genders in the Takarazuka Theatre and Japanese popular culture
A young man stands in front of the ocean dreaming of the adventures he will have. A young woman in a café opens the lid of the feminine waste receptacle and sees the end of her life.
(Sho¯jo Kamen [The Young Girl’s Mask]; Kara 1970)
In a volume that concerns itself primarily with alternative images of male masculinity in Japan, this chapter looks at female masculinity as found in the Takarazuka Theatre and related genres of popular culture featuring heroines and heroes who transcend gender categories. We argue that the particular forms of female masculinity found in the contemporary Takarazuka Theatre, sho¯jo (young girl) culture, manga (comic books) and anime (animation) create spaces where both female and male fans, regardless of their sexual orientations, can temporarily transcend their everyday gender expectations and roles. These, and Takarazuka in particular, are in essence special types of asexual, agendered spaces created through the actor-fan relationship. In order to understand how this happens, we need to analyse the nature of this relationship on the stage as well as the particular details of the performance of female masculinity in the creation of these fantasy spaces.