Hanamusa, Explained

There is a nonzero chance if you follow me on tumblr, you’ve seen the term ‘Hanamusa’ attached to something I shared. It’s probably also some super cute art of Delia Ketchum and Jessie Teamrocket, and you may wonder what is going on and also, why is there so much good art of this.

Hanamusa as a term derives from the Japanese names of the characters – Hanako and Musashi. If you’re into shipping name structures, Hana-Musa implies that Hanako is the seme and Musashi the uke, but I don’t think that holds for all use cases of the type of terminology. It’s a ship. It’s an AU ship, as in an ‘alternate universe’ ship, where the two characters are presented in a context outside of the normal context of the anime presentation of them.

The Hanamusa ship as I understand it is set at some point after Jessie and James stop chasing Ash around, and Jessie settles down into a relationship with Delia. There’s tension about her history with Ash and the confusion about finding Your Personal Villain dating your mom, but mostly it’s about showing a sweet domestic life between two characters you know very well in a format I kind of see as like, Comedy-Sabot Romantic 4koma. Like, Hanamusa content is funny (and it is VERY funny) but it doesn’t need to be funny, because the main thing it’s about is showing these two characters and their relationship as they do cute things together.

It’s why people watch shows like K-On basically.

As for where this idea comes from, it seems to have its genesis with the work of one Kiana Mai, who developed this ship some time ago. Kiana Mai is also an extremely skilled artist, and one of those skills seems to be focus, creating these extremely clean-line excellently structured scene vignettes with no unnecessary content in them but also no need to rocket along. It’s amazing, engaging work that uses every part of the small format amazingly well. Which makes sense because one of the things Kiana Mai does is storyboarding work for Disney animated TV shows, a task at which I am sure she no doubt excels.

What I think is the most interesting aspect of Hanamusa, to me specifically, is that it manages to combine three things I don’t actually care about, in a way that doesn’t interfere with something I have unexpectedly strong opinions on. I do not watch Pokemon, and I have not shed a tear for Team Rocket and Ash Ketchum wandering into the sunset. That is a show that is not for or about my interests and that is okay. Indeed, imagining that it should be about what interests me is baffling. I think if I stopped watching a show twenty years ago, I have lost all right to act like I’m entitled to expect it remain the way it was all the way back then.

But I do have opinions on Jessie and James’ character voice. Not their voice acting – I mean, I know for a fact they’ve had to change over time and no voice actor should be obligated to kick it in the same role for what could be their entire career. I mean the way they talk about things and the words they use and kind of emphasis they put on words when they talk. About the way they voice their ideas, or the way they express who they are in the way they talk to one another, that stuff. It’s about affordances and persona, about the kind of people you project being by what words you choose to use and the affect when using them.

It’s why when, if a picture of a character is underneath it, you can read some dril posts as being ‘appropriately’ voiced by a character, even if it’s describing a candle situation that Francis Crozier did not have opinions on.

Jessie has a voice.

Jessie, in my head, is someone capable of moments of tenderness and friendship that is normally overwhelmed by an incredible confidence in ability she does not have and mere reality will never be given permission to infringe on it. Jessie is unassailably unstoppably sure of herself, thoughtlessly stupid in a way that doesn’t mean she is stupid, but which exists in a context of someone who has relentlessly pursued excellence in her job which is also the equivalent of being a late night 7/11 manager. She is the Girlboss that is Gaslighting herself into thinking she has something to Gatekeep.

Delia Ketchum by comparison is a very nice piece of wallpaper. Every appearance of her in my mind is someone Very Nice who is Very Patient and Very Supportive and has managed to keep literally all emotionally challenging conversations from happening around Ash, which can be perhaps easier when you remember that he, too, is an idiot. I don’t know how Delia Ketchum talks, but I do know that there are ways that Delia Ketchum does not talk.

This is interesting! It’s interesting because it presents a character where I am very sure I know what she does do when she does it, and a character about whom I can only be sure wouldn’t do some things. It creates a character space, and it creates expectations of affect and performance within that space. Ash and other characters show up as well, but because they get to interact with this already-defined space, you get treated to this really lovely kind of resonance. Would Ash call Jessie ‘dad’? Maybe, to bug her. He was good at being a twerp. Wasn’t he? I mean I remember it that way, he seems to work out that way, but… how would I know?

I know more of this AU where Jessie is studying to be a Pokemon Doctor and Ash wears glasses than I do of the source material any more. And if you’re wondering ‘hey, do Jessie and Delia ever meet in the source material?’ Like, yeah, for a few seconds. What, the point is creating something new.

If you want to check out Hanamusa stuff and read the comics, I recommend going and clicking on the hashtag on tumblr.