Ohno is worried about her job prospects, when Tanaka mentions that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to provide for Ohno. Misinterpreting his words as a criticism of her for not being able to support herself, however, Ohno decides that a career selling cosplay photo CDs might be in her future. During the photoshoot, Tanaka manages to clear up the confusion, and in the process even implicitly proposes to Ohno when he says that he wants to create costumes for her for the rest of his life. Ohno, who had downed a whole bottle of liquid courage in preparation for the photoshoot, decides to maybe stay another year in school (unfortunately).
Meanwhile, Madarame’s quit his job.
Chapter 83 feels very significant to me, a culmination of multiple threads but in a way different to the climax of the Saki-Madarame storyline. There’s the big plot development with Tanaka’s tacit proposal to Ohno, of course, but Ohno’s plight of employment (whether she brings it upon herself or not) has been around since before Genshiken II even began (and after Genshiken finished, technically, because it was first brought up in the Kujibiki Unbalance manga extras). Here, it finally takes center stage and we also get to see where Ohno and Tanaka have gone since they began dating so many years ago.
This chapter is definitely full of fanservice, particularly in how we get to see Ohno completely topless in private with Tanaka, but rather than just pointless titillation, I find that whole scene and its portrayal of (albeit obscured) nudity to speak of both the increasing maturity of not only the relationship portrayed but also of the Genshiken manga itself. The scene is portrayed with a strong sense of comfort and familiarity between Ohno and Tanaka, the kind where two people are just close enough with each other to bare it all without having it be an event. And while the nudity isn’t quite to the level of Spotted Flower, it still gives a sense that this is an adult’s world, at least emotionally and physically. Though not “canon,” for those who’ve seen the Genshiken 2 anime this chapter is a stark contrast from that episode portraying how Ohno and Tanaka got together in the first place, where Tanaka felt overwhelmed by his own inadequacies and awkwardness.
Even Tanaka’s “proposal” shows the level their relationship is at, as he naturally talks about a future with her moments before realizing what he had said (but still sticking to it). I also actually really love the change Tanaka made to his own words. As he realizes just how much Ohno has impacted his life, as he realizes that he was able to pursue his dream of working in fashion because Ohno was the perfect model and companion for him, he goes from having an attitude of sacrifice to holding onto his dreams no matter what. When he says he’ll find whatever means he can to keep making costumes for her, he includes Ohno in those dreams as a vital component, and I find the whole thing rather beautiful.
Seeing this sharp focus on the employment situation of so many characters, focused on Ohno and Tanaka but also giving us glimpses of Ogiue, Madarame, and even Kuchiki’s lives beyond the university, I feel that Genshiken more than ever has this real sense of life moving forward, even if people aren’t ready for it. Certainly it’s not an old or unfamiliar idea in the manga, with Sasahara especially getting some serious page time as he struggled to find a path for himself, but with Chapter 83 and Genshiken II in general I find that there are not only significant differences in the challenge each character faces in terms of work, but that with the new characters in Genshiken II you can really see a spread of values from people just entering college to people looking at marriage and the future, and how the former can turn into the latter but still seem just as strange. Genshiken has always been a seinen manga, but here I think it really starts to reach at an older seinen audience, beyond just the folks for whom college is a fairly fresh memory.