In this month’s Genshiken II, Madarame and Hato have an awkward but heartfelt man-to-man talk and Ogiue springs possibly the worst question could ask a room of otaku.
The chapter opens up right where we left off with Madarame and Hato, with Hato asking to come inside Madarame’s apartment so that they can have a talk. Hato’s main goal is to apologize, as he believes his actions have led to Madarame not coming to the clubroom anymore. Situated right on his desk however is a copy of the game Kohsaka’s company was selling at ComiFest, inevitably drawing the discussion towards it. As they discuss its rather unique contents (though all the characters you romance are actually traps, you can also get them pregnant and marry them), they also begin touching upon the doubts and dilemmas that are currently bothering them. In the end, Madarame’s nonchalant attitude towards Hato being unable to draw anything but BL (his advice is essentially, “do what you want”) actually helps Hato resolve to work on the planned manga with Ogiue for the school festival.
At the club, both Ogiue and Hato independently decide to do something different and decidedly not BL, going with Sue’s proposed plan of Ogiue on script, Hato on art, with no crossover. Ogiue, looking to do a high school shoujo love story, asks the members of Genshiken if they have any stories of romance in their own high school experiences to share (also making the best face ever in the process). The chapter ends with a collection of dumbfounded stares, which shows that when it comes to teenage romance, no one in there can call themselves experienced.
During Madarame and Hato’s conversation, Madarame wonders aloud if it might be time for him to stop being so attached to his old college life. Hato thinks that he’s the cause for Madarame wanting to leave the club for good, but I think it’s clear that he’s probably one of the less significant factors, if really one at all. Madarame’s lingering feelings for Saki bleed through during their discussion of Kohsaka’s game, and it’s evident from his tone that the decision to move on is more tied to a rather more complex set of feelings. On the one hand, moving on means letting go of Kasukabe and deciding that it’s over. On the other hand, it can also mean that it’s time to “grow up” and stop being the otaku he was during college. Too many strong emotions are bundled together to not make this anything less than a growing concern for Madarame.
The fact that Madarame played a game centered around traps is both surprising and not. We already knew that his tastes could be pretty off-the-wall, and in terms of what’s out there, girl-boys aren’t anything special by comparison. However, this does further emphasize the idea that what one finds attractive in actual people may not be what they enjoy in their fictional characters, like with Madarame and Saki.
What is bizarre though is the whole thing about one of the characters being based on Kohsaka. Madarame mentions in the chapter that, not only is the character also named Kohsaka Makoto (with different kanji), not only does he look like Kohsaka, but his dialogue also closely resembles Kohsaka’s way of speaking. Now imagine you’re playing a visual novel, and you know for a fact that the character in front of you is based on a person you’ve known for years. It’s actually a step beyond finding out a friend of yours does porn now, and it’s one of the stranger kinds of familiarity that I can imagine.
Hato in this chapter is also revealing more about himself, particularly that his fantasies aren’t necessarily restricted to “just” BL. It may be about 95% of what’s going on there, but he begins to entertain the thought of Kasukabe turning to Madarame, though it ends up being aborted part-way through because of something that the old members of Genshiken determined back at the last graduation party in Volume 9: Saki isn’t moe, or more specifically, Saki’s personality and demeanor are such that it’s hard to turn her into a character type (“chara”) without significant changes. As Hato starts to try and think of something, he immediately remembers his first meeting with her, where she instantly saw through his disguise and called him a crossdresser.
Kasukabe’s too sharp, too real, which again emphasizes the contrast between Madarame as otaku and Madarame as a man of unrequited love. Have I ever said that Genshiken‘s really good at characters? Like fifty times? Okay, just so you know.
Going over to the Ogiue side of the chapter (which still involves Hato anyway, so I guess we could more call this a Hato chapter?), let’s talk about that face. Perhaps more than anything else I’ve seen, this expression is a sign that Ogiue’s changed deep inside, because I could not possibly imagine her making that face even up to the point where Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima join the club. Even with her current problems, it just seems like a great weight has not only been lifted off her shoulders, but it’s also been tossed far away and mined for ore.
It’s also good to see that Ogiue and Hato have resolved to work together for the school festival, and that in doing so they’ve also resolved to work through their respective mental blocks. The fact that they’ve decided to go with a high school shoujo story is an interesting challenge, not only because it means new and unfamiliar territory, but because they’re otaku trying to write what is (probably) going to be a typical teenage romance. This is obviously where Ogiue’s last question in the chapter is coming from; as someone whose only pre-college romance ended in the worst trauma of her life, she can’t use her own experiences to fuel the story.
I think this chapter leaves with us wondering just who among the people in the club actually dated in high school? While Yoshitake might be the most obvious one given her personality, I’m basing my prediction on those last two panels of the clubroom.
Of all the people in there, only one is not shown to be reacting incredulously to Ogiue’s question.
That’s right. I get the feeling that we’re going to find out about the romantic life of Susanna Hopkins.