Genshiken II, Chapter 88 is Winter ComiFes! As always, the Comic Festival chapters are among the best or most interesting in Genshiken.

It’s Day 1 of ComiFes and Angela Burton the Athletic Bostonian has come back to Japan. Though she’s decided to tone it down she still ends up stirring the pot, especially by noticing that something funny’s going on with Madarame and Sue. During the event, as the others move about, Ogiue and Yabusaki sell the doujinshi they’ve been working on. They even manage to completely exhaust their 1000-book supply, which is a first for them. Hato, who is abstaining from BL, tries to act like a normal otaku and even perv out like a normal otaku, but it just doesn’t work for him, and he ends up not enjoying what is normally a highlight of his life. The chapter ends at the start of Day 2. Yajima plans to buy a yaoi doujinshi for Hato, which may be hinting at some more romantic feelings.

This chapter of Genshiken had the same energy as the old ComiFes chapters, and especially compared to the last one doesn’t have quite so much overt drama. Not that it doesn’t have any drama, of course, but it’s a little more low-key, and you can really feel the hustle and bustle of a event as huge and as crazy as not-Comiket (because it’s a fictional world, remember). At least, that’s how it is for Day 1. Who knows what Days 2 and 3 will bring?

I couldn’t recognize either cosplay this time around, but thankfully there’s at least one blogger who knows his stuff: The first cosplay (pictured above) is from a new series called Shuushokunan Zombie Tori Girl (“Employment Scarcity Zombie-Catching Girl”), and the other is from Hi Score Girl, which if I recall, won some kind of award recently? In any case, I want to check out both manga now. The image of a blue collar worker using a combination fishing pole and net is quite striking.

Just in general, I thought the fashion in this chapter was really nice. Clothing-wise, the two characters who stand out to me the most this chapter are Yoshitake and Angela, for different reasons. For Yoshitake, it’s because of the way she’s able to at times look like the coolest girl around and at other times like the biggest dork in history (or “history dork in history”), when probably both are true. For Angela, I feel like Kio expresses her character through her clothing especially well. Even when trying to hold herself back (another “be yourself, or not” moment?), she still exudes a confidence in herself, her body, and her actions that’s hard to find in even someone like Saki. I’d like to point out that she’s wearing shorts in the middle of winter, when Comic Market is known for sometimes for being blisteringly cold.

I actually like Angela more and more every time she shows up, possibly because of the way that she shakes up the current situation of the club no matter what it might be. Her attitude towards just about everything is a far cry from everyone else, best exemplified when she suspects there being a thing between Madarame and Sue. Angela has some romantic and physical interest in Madarame, and to see her react not with jealousy or anger but with the same excitement she displays when talking about her favorite character types really cuts through the more conventional sense of relationships you see elsewhere.

Ogiue gets a good amount of focus this time around because of the fact that she’s selling her collaborative doujinshi with Yabusaki. If you’re not sure why the two of them are freaking out from the get-go, it’s because they’ve been put in a spot that’s usually reserved for the most popular and highest-selling doujinshi circles. Their table is against the wall, and at a doujin event, the groups whose products will create the most traffic are put against the wall in order to reduce traffic congestion. Ogiue says it’s mainly because the title they chose to parody this time is extremely popular, and that it wasn’t all under their own power, but I think selling out of 1000 copies is amazing no matter the circumstances.

While I of coursed loved seeing Ogiue back when she was struggling with herself, it also brings me joy to see Ogiue this happy. Though she’s hardly what you’d call totally uninhibited now, it’s clear how much more relaxed and comfortable she is now, especially when her nervousness this time around has more to do with feeling like a little fish in a big pond, and not anger at herself. The pinnacle of this can be seen in the very last panel of the chapter, where she’s in the classic doujinshi-buying frenzy. The panel even references the line that something is opening up at the top of her head, the thing that happened to Sasahara at his first ComiFes. The last time we saw Ogiue do this, she was disguised and frustrated about having to disguise herself, but now Ogiue isn’t holding herself back, or trying to disguise herself, or anything. It’s Ogiue, who has allowed herself to be herself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ogiue with such a look of confidence and authority before.

Even her interactions with Yabusaki show this, and it’s possible to see how far their friendship has come from what was once a decidedly antagonistic relationship. Speaking of Yabusaki, or rather Asada, it’s interesting to see how a once-extremely minor character has been developed to the point that you can really get a sense of her friendship with Yabusaki, and how the two get along with each other. What once appeared to be Yabusaki as boisterous leader and Asada as quiet tag-along is actually more complex.

By the way, I think it’s telling that Nakajima did not show up, despite Ogiue being so much easier to find this time around.

“Being yourself,” as cliche as it sounds, seems to be the theme of this chapter, especially when taking into account Hato’s own situation. On this first day of ComiFes, the day with generally the most female-oriented and yaoi content, Hato decides that he will not buy any BL. The line towards the end of the chapter says it all, though. On Day 2, Hato has a revelation: “Everyone seems to be enjoying ComiFes, but I haven’t been enjoying it at all.”

In forcing himself to do the “right thing,” Hato suffers. ComiFes is supposed to be the space where otaku can let their otakudom loose, but he’s restrainined himself. Hato’s attempt to be a “normal” otaku brings up an important question: if you’re not having fun as an otaku, why are you trying to be one in the first place? Whether we’re using the older definition of otaku as a pathetic person lost in the delusion of his hobbies, or the more charitable one that emerged later on to just refer to someone passionate about his fandom, “otaku” is not something that’s supposed to cause you anguish because you can’t fulfill the proper behavior in being one. If anything, it’s traditionally the opposite such as with Ogiue.

Anyway, with everything happening, I am certainly looking forward to next month. Last time, I asked about the possibility of Sue x Hato. What about Hato x Yajima? I’m not one to pair couples typically, but there’s something about having the guy better looking than the girl which can create interesting stories and dynamics, particularly in terms of the issue of confidence.

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