akihito, asami, feilong

Series: Finder no Hyôteki [Target in the Finder] by Yamano Ayane (2001-ongoing)

This ridiculous serving of Japanese chinoiserie is Hong Kong mob boss Fei Long. Yes, aside from sporting long tresses from a period drama or fantasy adventure, he walks around in outfits no one has ever seen except in Chinese costume dramas (?). Exotic character design (not character depth) is Yamano-sensei’s vice, but she has the skills to pull it off to its full affective possibilities (think Marlon Brando in Sayonara). The moe (turn on) facilitated by her gorgeous artwork is almost always predicated on bondage, enslavement, and entrapment—i.e. huge power differentials that problematically seek (or find, in any case) forgiveness in the uke’s pleasure (masochism) and his feisty, resilient nature. So goes this twisted plot point: oh my god that was messed up I can’t believe I got off on that but I’ll never admit that to you you evil scum of society seme and don’t think I’ll let you get to me next time! <– famous last words, usually interpreted by the seme as an invitation to try

As much as I hate giving in to Yamano-sensei’s uncritical fan servicing (she, like many BL artists, is a serious fan-girl herself, so she knows which buttons to press), I fall for said feisty uke every time I see him (right). Takaba Akihito, a photo-journalist, is from the start the uke who refuses to be had and, because this doesn’t mean that others won’t have him, the uke who refuses to be broken. The perhaps over-intentioned urge to label him as badass is understandable. He (like many a shonen hero) is fearless, energetic, compassionate, and tenacious, but, to a fault. The price for naiveté in his case is usually some form of rape or sexual servitude, but he never seems to suffer any prolonged trauma as a result. His character, and all its attendant problematics, is a reminder that yaoi often speaks from a position of powerlessness (whether as reality or as kink), one which sometimes responds to the absence of a real safe space or bodily self-determination by displacing it with the fantasy of an indomitable, if compromised, spirit and agency.

This spirit and agency is also part and parcel of an entire industry of “never give up” or “pure despite being corrupted” characters that star in popular series ranging from Fruits Basket to Narutowho tend to fascinate (and usually succeed in gaining patronage from) the equally numbered powerful, sadistically minded, yet irresistibly designed stalker-lover types that populate our contemporary media-scape; in this case, Asami Ryuichi (left). ………………………………………

Asami is consistently voted sexiest seme on American hosted fan forums as well as East Asian BL ranking lists, a fact which speaks, at least in part, to the strong ongoing allure of the straight, masculine image and its ultimate realization in the possession of amazing power and privilege. Asami’s sexual advances towards Fei and his sexual consumption of Akihito say less about his sexual orientation or even preference than to the simple fact that he is untouchable. In the world of Viewfinder, Asami is so powerfully connected and positioned, he can do as he pleases.

Asami first meets Akihito through the latter’s viewfinder. Akihito is hoping to get a scoop on an arms deal but, instead, catches the unwanted attention of the underground businessman, who tracks him down for the film as well as an impromptu SnM punishment (read: rape) session. The initial intrigue develops into the semblance of true affections as Asami repeatedly reaches out to save Akihito (and ravage him). Aki, meanwhile, in classic Stockholm syndrome fashion, puzzles over but ultimately finds himself hopelessly drawn to the older man.

Asami and Fei’s engagement begins years before the start of the series. At the time, Fei was as yet just the pretty-faced illegitimate son of a crime boss, frustrated with his subservient position within the organization. While employed as a lethal weapon, he nonetheless endures unwanted sexual advances from his older brother (which he clearly takes as an insult to his manhood) and seems unable to gain the acknowledgment from his father he so desires. After a failed mission to stop Asami from muddying the organization’s political ties, he becomes drawn to the older man, who not only shows unexpected kindness towards him, but also encourages him to have the confidence to make his own way. He intends to, with Asami’s help, but through a series of unfortunately timed events and misalliances, Fei comes to believe that Asami has betrayed him. After serving out a prison sentence, Fei takes over his father’s position and, years later, goes to Japan (with a new badass look) bent on destroying Asami.

A brief survey of the situation leads Fei to decide this can be most effectively accomplished by raping and abducting (and then raping) Akihito, at which point it becomes clear the plot is largely structured to ensnare Akihito in every possible one-on-one rape fantasy known to fan girl. If it hasn’t already been called so, I henceforth dub this the prison harem structure (see ↓).

In some ways, one can read Fei as a foil to both Akihito and Asami. Unlike Akihito, Fei gives in to his attraction towards Asami and is broken by his experiences of betrayal and violation. Unlike Asami, Fei is not a figure of absolute masculine authority and privilege. In a manga full of surface level characters—characters with personality, but no depth, dispositions, but no history—he is someone who has a past, a complex psychology, and who struggles to negotiate his social/sexual positionality.

Fei’s relationship with Asami is bound up with his feelings towards his own father. While resenting his father for overlooking his true worth, it is not until encountering Asami that he begins to let go of trying to gain his father’s approval. The manga suggests that this is because he has transferred his obsession to Asami. At the same time , the fact that he allows Asami access to his body despite having previously so violently rejected his brother’s advances shows that there is more at stake with Asami. It’s true that he wants to be loved by Asami in place of his father, but it seems he also wants to be desired and possessed by him.

Fei is neither seme nor uke. This is not because Asami never “consummates” their relationship, but because Fei comes to reject himself altogether as a sexual being. The calculated cruelty of his rapes of Akihito attest to this. The undercurrent of growing fascination and affection for the younger man chips at this front. It may be just as accurate to say, therefore, that Fei is both seme and uke: a jilted uke who swears off love and a reluctant seme who falls victim to his prey.

Fei wears multiple layers of sexual appeal, performing power in his black suit (so glossy here it almost looks like a dominatrix get-up) and oozing sensuality in his suggestively half-open garments out of an Orientalist fantasy.

Fei is the androgynous crime boss. His ambiguous position and the possible trajectories of desire they arouse make him the stuff of yaoi pairings:  a seductive and compelling mirror for captive readers.

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* all images belong to Yamane Ayano; the scans from vol.2 are cropped, sized, and displayed with generous permission from Nakama Scanlations

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9 thoughts on “akihito, asami, feilong

  1. Wow, that is what I have been wanting to read about our beloved Viewfinder for so long. Systematic discussion, intriguing insights, more things for me to consider; thank you!

    Although I did not come upon this idea until reading your piece, I concede that it is quite likely that Fei has “rejected himself altogether as a sexual being” however I am not sure how “the calculated cruelty of his rapes of Akihito attest to this”. I would love it if you could explain that part of your argument in more detail.

    thanks again

    • When I wrote that sentence linking Fei’s rape of Akihito to the idea of him rejecting himself as a sexual being, I think I was thinking mainly that it seems to be an expression of how, by the time he encounters Akihito, Fei seems to only be able to think of sex as a weapon…something one uses to threaten, hurt, or hold down by force.

      I called it “calculated” because in the way he wields this “weapon,” there is none of the kind of disturbing feelings of attraction or desire to stir feelings towards his own person that so characterizes the non-consensual sexual encounter between Asami and Akihito, for instance. For him, Akihito could have been anyone.

      In the context of this essay, I found it intriguing that Fei’s sexual damage seems to be psychologized in terms of personal history in a way that the other characters’ are not.

      Since sex acts or sexually charged spaces seem only to ever spell out trauma for Fei (i.e. with his brother, Asami), it is not surprising to me that the one person he seems to show genuine and selfless affection towards–Tao–and the one he would eventually harbor affectionate sentiments for–Akihito–are both figures who for all intents and purposes only ever exist to him as sexually non-threatening beings.

      Hmm…maybe I went off on another limb there at the end…make sense?

      • aaah sou desu ka… wakarimasu…
        Let me just say (once again) that everything you wrote was fantastic. I read it all again and it still gave me shivers. I feel like this has added to my enjoyment of reading Viewfinder.
        As for the prison harem thing… so true!
        I was wondering how Yoh fits into your ideas about Fei…
        sensei, arigatou gozaimasu
        *goes off to read viewfinder again*

      • wahhh. sensei to yobarete shimaimashita! haha. i’m the one who has to go off to read viewfinder again. your questions are challenging me to to do so. i guess because Yoh is not really in a position to proposition Fei, he is not in Fei’s radar of potential person to care for for most of his arc. i think Yoh does manage to move him with his loyalty at the end, though…so even though Fei loses out on both Akihito and Asami, he gains a kind of little “family” in the process or something. lol. i guess that’s classic neutralization of the villain tactic for you. “he’s not really evil, he’s just lonely from having fallen into a hopeless love.” (i was recently chuckling about this with the Sailormoon R movie)

  2. I really like what you wrote about Feilong. It makes sense. Especially:
    “Since sex acts or sexually charged spaces seem only to ever spell out trauma for Fei (i.e. with his brother, Asami), it is not surprising to me that the one person he seems to show genuine and selfless affection towards–Tao–and the one he would eventually harbor affectionate sentiments for–Akihito–are both figures who for all intents and purposes only ever exist to him as sexually non-threatening beings.”

    If I read his past more closely I really think sometimes that Yan didn’t just molest him but also went further… so he and Asami really made a mess of how Feilong sees sex itself. Not to mention prison which could also play a role in this. Hopefully someone will teach him again that it’s not just a tool to subdue somebody or use it as a weapon. 🙂

    • Yes, I don’t know if Feilong makes a return (I haven’t kept up) but that would be nice. I think a lot of fanfic contains this wish for him to find happiness and healing.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      • Then I hope you will be happy because he will get his own story in a novel 🙂 With Yamane Sensei’s illustrations… So if you are still interested in him read that if you can:) The Prologue will be out in August I think, and there will be a mini manga too. In September the novel itself will come. I can’t wait for it! ^^

  3. Wow, I don’t even know how I got here (not a yaoi fan or reader) but I went ahead and read your post, and DAMN- you can write. That’s probably one of the most intelligent discussions and analysis’s I’ve ever read regarding a yaoi manga- not because most yaoi fans are incoherent beyond “omg yaoiiiiiii” but because it was actually a really good post.

    Since someone I know already fangirled about this one I wasn’t too lost as I read your post, and I just wanted to tell you it was really good (though judging from my friends’ fangirling your post was probably better than the manga itself- no offense to the manga readers).

    • Oh, wow. Thanks so much for reading and approving of my writing…and leaving such a generous comment about my post. Sorry I suck about managing my comments in a timely manner! I wrote this post because I was feeling super conflicted about my own inability to tear my eyes from this series when I first started reading BL manga…I’m glad that the result was somehow enough to appeal to a non-fan. 🙂

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