A few nights ago when the A3! anime was announced, out of morbid curiosity I looked up reactions to whether or not Izumi would appear. A vast majority were begging the producers/creator/whoever is in charge to let her appear because otherwise there would be no story. Personally I feel the same way about Ensemble Stars but the manga and stage play seems to think not, so as fans we never know what’ll happen.
A common reaction I saw from the Japanese fandom was condescension or a general expectation of “yumejoshi are going to riot”, to whether or not Izumi will appear. This made me wonder, why? Aren’t heroines meant to be self-inserts for the player in most cases? Why wouldn’t they want to see their heroine interact with their favourite chars?
I did some research into the notion of “yumejoshi” and present to you my findings.
An intro into major types of female otaku
The major types of female fans:
What are fujoshi?
Fujoshi (腐女子 lit. rotten girls) are female fans of boy’s love or male homosexual romances.
Both in the Japanese and English fandom (particularly), people still have some trouble differentiating between female otaku and female otaku of MxM pairings and so it ends up misused.
What are otome?
Otome (乙女 lit. maiden), they are similar to yumejoshi, they are female fans of MxF pairings of existing characters, particularly in the cases where no self-insertion occurs. This is where they differ from yumejoshi.
I think on the English speaking side, this word is used mostly as a short hand for otome games (in Japanese they use otomege).
What are yumejoshi?
Firstly, as an umbrella term, yumejoshi (夢女子 lit. dreaming girls) are girls who like shipping chars with themselves aka, they “dream” about being with certain chars. It originates from “dream novels”, fan fiction where you can change the heroine’s name to your own and experience being alongside your favourite characters and forming relationships with them.
Under this falls another two main categories:
- those who like to self-insert into an original character that acts as a stand in for themselves
- those who like to create an original character that is not meant to be themselves and watch on the sidelines
As the name states, it’s fairly self-explanatory. These people like to imagine that they themselves are part of their favourite character’s life and be their lover/friend etc. They view themselves as the main character of that story.
Non-self-inserters (or as I like to put it, overseers)
They create characters based on any arbitrary thing that doesn’t relate back to themselves (appearance-wise/speech pattern etc.) and pair or place that original character into their favourite character’s world because they think that the chemistry would be interesting/they just want to see something like that happen. It doesn’t matter the motive, but overall they are watching with omnipotence over that storyline as the author and not as a main character. Mary Sues also generally belong under this category within English fandoms.
Media that cater to yumejoshi and otome
In most cases, most media that explicitly cater to yumejoshi have heroines (or in some cases, just a “player character”) which are primed for self-inserting. These features include but are not constrained to:
- Facelessness so they can imagine the heroine’s appearance however they want
- No voice so they can immerse themselves into the role
- Little to no back story
- No character development
- No official name
Most female-targeted games for example, such as otome games (female x male main romance games, Yume100, Ikemen Sengoku etc.) and general games (Ensemble Stars, A3!, On Air! etc.), have varying combinations of these features. From my current understanding, as soon as you customise the player character (changing name from default for example), they become a “dream main character” or OC. This is the fundamental difference between yume and otome, as otome treat the player character as just a “female character” rather than a self-insert/OC (that yumejoshi do).
There is one thing I found pretty interesting, and that is fiction created for one can also be read by the other with enjoyment. For example, if a self-inserter read some fanfiction with an original character which they thought was similar to themselves, they could still self-insert fine and vice-versa. In this case, fan works for yumejoshi can be fairly broad.
Conflicts stemming from different motives
Some yumejoshi are so dedicated to the way they imagine the story to go, if there is ever any development which would contradict their view, they will feel crushed.
Such is the case when anime of such media are announced. Anime is a passive experience as opposed to gaming, and unless the anime goes the way of treating the audience members as the “player character” as in the case of the A3! and Yume100 stage plays, it means there’ll be a “canon player character” or “story development” which deviates from their own expectation. Anime rarely ever take this path and are usually met with ridicule, at least in the English anime fandom (ie. in the case of Makura Danshi).
When the story deviates from the yumejoshi’s personal expectation, there will be some who riot. This is probably one of the main reasons behind Ensemble Stars (manga, stage play) and Touken Ranbu Hanamaru (anime) opting to remove/sideline their player char from adaptations.
Cheating?! On ME?!
Another reason is as in real relationships, most people would not like it if their partner cheated on them. The same go for yumejoshi. If they view that a certain char is “meant” to be either themselves/a character they designed, and then the official work shows another version they deem unworthy, they will feel “cheated on”. Of course this is most likely a vocal minority of yumejoshi but like most things, give a bad reputation to the label yumejoshi.
Before anyone else goes on to agree with the bad reputation, I’d like to provide a counter-narrative.
This is not unrelated to the idea of OTPs and NOTPs in the English fandom. Just as some yumejoshi are unwilling to accept anything aside from CharA x themselves, some fujoshi are also unwilling to accept anything aside from CharA x CharB. And some otome shipper is also unwilling to accept anything aside from CharA x heroine. Like I’ve mentioned before, people like are this are probably uncommon.
Yumejoshi vs. Fujoshi?
In the Japanese fandom, there’s a general misunderstanding that yumejoshi and fujoshi are always at odds because of the inherent difference in stance. Fujoshi (腐女子 lit. rotten girls) are female fans of boy’s love or male homosexual romances.
As yumejoshi like to see themselves or someone they designed with CharA, fujoshi are fans of seeing CharA get together his best friend/enemy Mr. CharB. And because of this, I’ve seen cases where each one talks down to the other, which is obviously discourteous but also disgusting.
More likely than not, nowadays fandoms are full of people who believe they are both yumejoshi and fujoshi, meaning they have no reason to go hating on each part of themselves.
The loser in both cases
When you put strictly yumejoshi and fujoshi together, there’s probably a subset that have one thing they will agree on: the existing heroine is in the way.
Fans from both groups can and will go out of their way to remove or belittle the existence of the canon player character. And this is likely due to deep-seated misogyny.
So like, I hope people stop arguing that either is better when both can be just as bad.
The player character/heroine as an independent character in the story
As someone who does not self-insert and is not interested in creating another character to break canon, I wondered what this would fall under. Aside from a tiny mention on one article I was reading about yumejoshi, there was no mention of any non-original/non-self-inserting yumejoshi. Which made me wonder what it even meant.
I touched on this earlier but to reiterate, the view that an otome game heroine or normal game heroine (eg. Anzu; Enstars, Izumi; A3!, Hikari; On Air!) was just another character in the game is not specifically a yumejoshi trait, and apparently makes you neither a yumejoshi or fujoshi but…….otome.
In Japanese fan media, some ships with the player characters are labelled as “yume” purely because these characters have not been developed to the same extent as the other cast members (eg. in the case of Touken Ranbu’s saniwa) and their purpose is mainly for self inserting regardless of whether you do it or not.
Mix and match
Personally I think most people do not have a single interest so most fans are likely to be a mixture of all types.
While the vast majority of yumejoshi media exists as MxF, MxM media exists also. But fundamentally it is still self-insert/oc x charA. Yumejoshi that enjoy these are essentially a hybrid yumefujoshi.
Girls that enjoy FxF romances are called himejoshi (姫女子 lit. princess girls), originating from the girl’s love magazine Yuri Hime. FxF romances with yume elements are then called himeyume stories. There seems to be far fewer himejoshi than the others mentioned though.
Summary and conclusion
Ultimately there are going to be fans anywhere that we would agree or disagree with, even if you are both under the same label of yumejoshi and in the end the label is also just a label and no one is necessarily going to care. The only common thread amongst yumejoshi appear to be the idea of creating a ship that they can control, either through self inserting or original characters.
I hope this was interesting and educational in a super nerdy way because I’m always curious about things that are stupidly inconsequential and then have nowhere to throw up all this information to.
Thanks to Emong for pointing out the otome side.