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 Naruto…who 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.
* 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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