In Genshiken II, Chapter 75, friends new and old gather together in what may be the largest conglomeration of named otaku characters so far.

It’s time for the school festival at Shiiou University, and with comics done and costumes ready, the Genshiken have set up their own room. In addition to having much of the veterans around (Madarame, Ohno, Kuchiki, Tanaka), old friends from high school come by to reunite with the new generation of Genshiken members. For Yajima, we have her friend Mimasaka, a shy girl who apparently thinks the world of Yajima. For Yoshitake, we get to see her old crew from the History Club. As for Hato, it’s unclear whether or not they’re actually his friends, but Konno and Fuji basically look like a grown-up Pinoko from Black Jack and Mina the bridge bunny from Macross Frontier with her hair trimmed (or perhaps Q-Bee from Vampire Savior with that striped shirt), respectively.

Keiko also appears, and as always doesn’t mince words. She ends up making things doubly dangerous by first asking aloud if Kohsaka and Kasukabe had arrived yet (Madarame didn’t know), and then following it up by asking if Madarame and Hato are dating, unaware of Hato’s true gender, which makes Hato end up feeling even more awkward.

All of that discomfort is nothing compared to the biggest reveal of the chapter, as the mysterious “senpai” from Hato’s past makes an appearance, and it turns out that she looks almost exactly like Hato in his default outfit, long hair and all. Genshiken‘s had some tough cliffhangers in the past, but none are probably as intense as this one.

So, I just have to say, between all the new characters introduced and all of the interesting information and dynamics they bring to the story, there is so much to talk about that I’m not sure I can get around to all of it. I’m not even going to really mention the hilarity of Sue, Yabusaki, and Asada this chapter other than to show this image.

I’m going to kind of work my way backwards and start with Hato’s senpai, Kaminaga. The fact that Hato actually based his entire feminine look on the girl he may have liked back in high school (it’s still unclear what the “trauma” was) is just so mind-blowing that I have no idea where this is going. Together with the fact that he’s a crossdressing BL fan who identifies as straight but who felt strangely down when Madarame mentioned his lack of interest (“It’s physically impossible”), it makes the enigma of Hato’s sexuality all the more complex even just as we began to have a clearer image ofhim. It seems like Kaminaga’s personality is quite different from Hato’s, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.

As a brief aside, I’ve noticed a trend with trap characters where they often have a nearly identical female equivalent. If it isn’t Hato and Kaminaga, it’s Bridget from Guilty Gear XX, Maria from Maria Holic, and Hideyoshi from Baka and Test each having twin sisters whom they could pass for. I might write a standalone post about this at some point, but I just have to wonder what the exact purpose behind this recurring concept might be.

It totally slipped my mind that Hato and the other freshmen have never met Keiko, but it obviously makes sense. After all, the only time we’ve really seen her in Genshiken II was when she had the man-to-man talk with Madarame, and her dissimilarity with her older brother makes it really easy to not immediately realize her relation to Genshiken, even if they do look alike. Keiko really hammers home the point that all of the interactions this chapter were basically simultaneous reunions and introductions.

Also of note is how Ogiue behaves around Keiko now, which is the subtle sense of fully accustomed nervousness. I like how Keiko refers to Ogiue as “Onee-chan” now, too. Did you know that the first instance of Keiko calling her “sis” came from the extras of the CD release of Genchoken, the Genshiken radio show starring the voice actors of Ogiue (Mizuhashi Kaori aka Madoka Magica‘s Tomoe Mami) and Madarame (Hiyama Nobuyuki aka Gaogaigar’s Guy Shishioh)? It’s true, and also didn’t make sense at the time because in the anime Ogiue and Sasahara weren’t dating yet (a fact which they acknowledge).

As for the other friends and acquaintances who appear in this chapter, one thing I want to point out is that, for Genshiken, the degree to which we learn about the characters’ histories is unprecedented. Think about it: other than Ogiue’s situation (which got its own entire story arc), the most we know about the characters prior to them attending college is that Ohno spent time in the US and made friends with Angela and Sue, Saki once dated some guy, Kohsaka used to have a shaved head, and Madarame was an awkward fellow. But here, we get to see how the relationships that were created back in high school work may have shaped their respective personalities and quirks.

The fact that Mimasaka is even more awkward than Yajima herself kind of puts Yajima’s initial reaction to the ladies of Genshiken into an even clearer perspective. Yajima no doubt did not have a fantastic high school life, but between her and Mimasaka she was the more socially capable one. With Genshiken, however, when she entered a world where the girls were pretty and talented with good personalities, it was probably like when someone with top grades goes to a top school and finds out that as far as geniuses go, they’re pretty typical. In that respect, it also brings to mind the fact that people can have different interpersonal dynamics with different groups of people, like Tenzin in The Legend of Korra, who is both an old and wizened benevolent leader as well as his mother’s son.

I like Mimasaka’s design. I feel like it really captures this sense of cuteness that can only come from being so awkward, and her lack of fashion sense is distinct from the lack of fashion sense that Ogiue had back then. Also, her first appearance this chapter makes it clear that she was the girl from Yajima’s flashback even though we only see her from behind.

Yoshitake meanwhile is clearly the product of being around a couple of extremely like-minded individuals, as Fukuda and Sawatari are quite similar to her. Just from seeing their opening greeting it’s easy to tell how much fun they had in high school, even if, again, the entirety of their lives as teenagers wasn’t particularly fantastic. At the same time, the fact that Yajima certainly isn’t the same but they get along quite well may say something about Yoshitake’s ability to make friends and break ice.

For Hato, well, we don’t really know how Konno and Fuji act around him, but they know he’s an otaku and they sure seem intent on finding him at the festival. Actually, though, I just want to talk more about their character designs. I thought that Asada would be the sole “silly” design in Genshiken, a one-of-a-kind oddity, but I’m strangely glad that isn’t the case. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy having designs this strange, but I find myself feeling just the opposite, especially when it comes to Konno’s hilariously large eyes (which I was tempted to call “peepers” just to emphasize their cartoonishness). Somehow, Kio makes them work.

What’s probably the most interesting part of all this, however, is the fact that they had these close friends in high school in the first place. Again, from what little we know of the previous Genshiken members’ lives, they didn’t appear to retain very many friends from the past. I feel like this might again speak to the generational difference, where even though all of them were nerds in the end who couldn’t find love in their teen years, they still lived in an era where being an otaku doesn’t automatically mean total social reclusion, just maybe partial.

In any case, I actually like the size of the cast now. For one thing, it provides me with more characters for the Fujoshi Files, but more importantly, the world of Genshiken expands further in a really interesting fashion.

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