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Can you believe it’s finally Chapter 100? Genshiken has come a long way, and you’d expect a manga to make a pretty big deal out of something like this, but this month is actually fairly low-key in spite of it being about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that casual approach is the most appropriate way to celebrate Genshiken.

I get the feeling most people reading this will be familiar with the distinction between giri (platonic) and honmei (romantic) chocolates in Japanese Valentine’s Day, but I’m pointing out the distinction here just in case.

The women of Genshiken are buying chocolates for Valentine’s Day, though in the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie they’ve decided to buy their chocolates together, and for everyone to buy each other chocolates. Or rather, that is the plan on the surface, as it’s really an opportunity for everyone to buy chocolates for their respective crushes and make it look like an egalitarian affair. Yajima appears to chicken out at the last second and just buys a box of chocolates for everyone to share, but this too is revealed to be a ruse. Kuchiki comes in and is (somewhat justifiably) angry that no one remembered to give him chocolate, and Yajima gives the chocolates meant for Hato to Hato but only so that he can offer them to Kuchiki to quell his nerd rage. In the end, Hato (with Sue) goes over to give him some honmei chocolate, which causes Madarame to blush profusely.

The title of this chapter—”Is it the birthday of the Van Allen Radiation Belt?—is a reference to Kyuukyoku Choujin R. It’s also been the source of a lot of Sue’s quotes, and reminds me of Tamagomago’s post on the difference between Genshiken and R. As mentioned there, Genshiken used to be compared a lot to R, but their approaches to the generation gap between club members is different. I’ve pointed out the contrast between the old and new era of Genshiken, though at 45 chapters into Nidaime it’s at the point where the Ogiue-led Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture has been its own thing for almost 4 years now. Even though the connections pop up still, I’ve gotten the feeling that the manga has been trying to move away from that disparity between “young” and “old,” and more towards this incarnation of the club having its own rhythm. That sense that the “fujoshi-laden Genshiken” is unique has always been there, but in this chapter it really comes through.

Genshiken has never really done Valentine’s Day, and while at first that seems kind of unusual given how long the manga is, it makes sense that it would happen only after 1) the club went from being mostly guys to mostly girls (Valentine’s Day is a holiday in Japan where girls give chocolates) and 2) after romantic feelings are front and center in the story. The chapter purposely makes note of the fact that the way the Genshiken members go about celebrating Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite match up to the way things go in anime, but at the same time it still kind of falls into the same parameters. All of the twists and turns in the plot summary above are basically attempts by the girls to Trojan Horse honmei chocolates as giri chocolates, making for something as complex as the political machinations of some royal nobility. I do find it funny that Ohno, having spent some time in the US, gives the “I wish it were more like anime!” vibe like you’d expect out of her fellow Americans.

Always lurking in the proverbial background (and let’s face it, also the foreground) is the fact that this collection of fujoshi (+ fudanshi) for the most part have rather limited and awkward experiences with romance. Even a “veteran” such as Ogiue is still relatively new to the whole girlfriend thing; as the title page mentions, this is only her second time ever celebrating Valentine’s Day with Sasahara. Sue still uses the “Ogiue is me wife” defense mechanism and both  Yajima and Hato are smack dab in the middle of a love dodecahedron. Even though Yoshitake is not directly involved, I generally get the feeling, based on her willingness to dispense advice on even a subject as unfamiliar to her as love, that she would probably handle romance worse than Yajima. It’d be the perfect culmination of all those times Yoshitake has gotten Yajima to do embarrassing things. Of course, even better than a punchline is  Yoshitake and Yajima actually punching each other, in this casebecause of the former’s “schemes” and the latter’s “cowardice.”

A while ago, I read a review on Anime News Network for Genshiken that was mostly positive but criticized the manga for an overwhelming use of word balloons that supposedly detracted from the visuals. I disagree, not because I think there aren’t a lot of word balloons or that I believe them insignificant, but rather because they add to the experience of looking at manga, guiding the eyes from one significant element to the next while also giving the sense that the characters are chitchatting pretty constantly. Genshiken is sort of an atmospheric manga, but that aspect is minimized most of the time only to let the moments of total “silence” have that much more impact.

As for Madarame’s blushing, I’m not going to say that Hato x Mada is impossible (unlikely, yes), but I think it’d be wise not to read too much into Madarame’s reaction. Once again, we’re talking about a character who is the quintessential super otaku. Even if he finds himself surprisingly popular at the moment, and not so long ago was told that maaaaybe he might have had a chance with the girl of his dreams if circumstances had been different, this is the first romantic Valentine’s Day chocolate he’s ever received from anyone, guy or girl. It can be a lot for a guy. Then again, Nidaime relative to Madarame has partly been about how that classic otaku type is not static, but is rather subject to change due to the influences around him.

If there is anything marking this chapter as a milestone, it might be Ogiue’s behavior. Ogiue was originally a very intense and blunt person with a lot of personal emotional pain inside of her. Here in Chapter 100, Ogiue is rather sharp-tongued, but in a way that really contrasts with her old self. Whether it’s telling Ohno that she can’t play the “recently returned to Japan from abroad” card, or pointing out that Ohno took another year to graduate, there’s a strange kind of serenity to Ogiue’s verbal jabs. Ogiue’s always been a character with a lot of interesting and complicated facets, but subtlety in her words was never really one of them. Maybe it comes from becoming a professional manga creator, or maybe it’s just part of her growth in general. The fact that she’s the spotlight for the title page in spite of not being the focus of the chapter shows her overall importance to Genshiken. Though she’s no longer really in the spotlight, Ogiue continues to be the best character.

By the way, Genshiken Volume 16 is on sale June 23rd. I hope they don’t mess with me again and have a special edition and exclusive editions at Japanese stores!

Manga Box is a nice digital manga app for just checking out some strange and obscure titles. A lot of the titles on it are not especially experimental, and probably won’t be the next Attack on Titan, but often these works are short and fun. One of my favorite titles on Manga Box is Girl and Car on the Beat, and as the early issues of Manga Box gradually go away, I think it’d be a shame if more people didn’t read it. In fact most of the chapters are unavailable currently, and I regret not posting about this sooner.

girlandcar

Girl and Car on the Beat is about an old police car with the personality of a worn-out veteran and a rookie female officer who loves its rugged old appearance, and the humor in the series comes from the girl’s ridiculous enthusiasm for mundane aspects of police life juxtaposed with the police car’s “experience.” Though the car can’t “talk” the way K.I.T.T. would in Knight Rider, there’s still a strange and charming interaction between the two, especially because the girl is pretty much the only one left who has any respect for it. Each chapter is short, and at just 12 chapters total Girl and Car on the Beat is a quick read overall. It won’t blow any minds, and it’s not quite as hilarious as Rookie Female Police Officer Kiruko-san, but reading it is a nice way to spend an afternoon or a lunch break, and I think one of the better titles on Manga Box overall.

I can’t say I’m entirely surprised that a Genshken hug pillow would exist some day. Kio Shimoku once drew a fake Ogiue hug pillow, and it’s not even that farfetched for the pillow to be Sue of all characters. When I think about it, though, isn’t Sue pretty much the polar opposite of the typical “hug pillow” character? She’s not just an awkward otaku, she’s an awkward otaku who actively makes others feel awkward, as opposed to some ideally flawed character. Or has the popularity of Tomoko from Watamote changed the dynamic and now this sort of girl is “in?”

I’m honestly curious as to who’s going to end up buying this. I get the feeling it’ll require a very specific and special type of fan.

news_large_genshiken2-suomote news_large_genshiken2-suura

Name: Takaide (高出)
Alias:
Mikoten Trio (みこてんトリオ, Manken Three (漫研三人組)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Fudanshism: Fudanshi Shugi na Seikatsu

Information:
Takaide is a teenage student at Kentei Academy, who along with her closest friends Azumi and Nakajima comprise the Mikoto x Tentel pairing faction of the school’s manga club. This puts her in friendly contention with the Ten x Miko fans. Like her friends, she also pairs manga club president Matsumoto Atsumu with his best friend Kiyokawa Atsumu, in that order. Takaide is friends or at least acquaintances with Matsumoto Setsuna.

Takaide watches Omakase Tentel every week with Azumi and Nakajima in the hopes of seeing Miko x Ten win out over Ten x Miko. In addition to drawing and publishing Miko x Ten doujinshi, Takaide is also into construction tool personification yaoi, an interest she shares with Setsuna.

Fujoshi Level:
On a trip in Osaka, Takaide laments the fact that Miko x Ten is much more popular there, and wishes that she would be able to live there someday.

Name: Azumi (あずみ)
Alias:
Nakajii (なかじー), Mikoten Trio (みこてんトリオ, Manken Three (漫研三人組)
Relationship Status:
Dating
Origin:
Fudanshism: Fudanshi Shugi na Seikatsu

Information:
Nakajima is a teenage student at Kentei Academy, and of the three primary members of the Miko x Ten faction of her manga club, or the group which supports the pairing of Omakase Tentel mascot characters Mikoto x Tentel, the opposite of Ten x Miko. Liker her best friends Azumi and Takaide, she also pairs the manga club president Matsumoto Atsumu with his best friend Kiyokawa Atsumu, in that order. Nakajima is also friends with amateur voice actor Ookubo, who eventually becomes her boyfriend.

Along with Azumi and Takaide, Nakajima watches Omakase Tentel every week to see if Miko x Ten will prevail over Ten x Miko. She also draws and publishes Miko x Ten doujinshi with her two friends.

Fujoshi Level:
Nakajima’s devotion to Miko x Ten is about the clearest indicator of how rotten she is.

After being absent for many chapters, Yoshitake Risa makes her return. Having given up a potentially successful career in basketball to take the entrance exam for Shiiou University, she and her older sister Rika have a heart to heart talk the night before, which quickly turns extremely otaku. At the same time, Yajima, Hato, and Sue have their own conversation about the younger Yoshitake, based around the fact that part of her inspiration for trying to get into their university is Hato and his crossdressing. Despite waking up late, a freak snowstorm delays the test, and Risa manages to make it there on time and pass the test.

The title of this chapter, “Little Sister Entrance Exam II,” is a reference to when Sasahara’s sister Keiko tried to get into Shiiou University herself. She failed, though Risa appears to be a good deal sharper academically, which changes the result.

This month’s Genshiken, despite having a clear general focus on Risa and her test, is still surprisingly complex to the extent that I’m not sure if I can cover everything, though to be honest I rarely every do despite my attempts. There are three areas which I think are especially interesting, though, so I’ll focus on those. The first would be Risa’s relationship with Hato, or more specifically her image of him. An unabashed shotacon, Hato’s naked body is what made Risa realize that her interests could be fulfilled in the adult world. However, the fact that she sees Hato as a kind of real life version of her ideal male fantasy (she asks him to wear legs-exposing short pants if she passes, which over the course of the chapter degenerates into some kind of reverse-gender take on zettai ryouiki), clashes in an intriguing way with the developments we’ve seen Hato go through all this time. He’s gone through a period where he refused to wear women’s clothing, and then come back around as he’s accepted his own feelings for Madarame, and here Risa is projecting her own interests onto him. What was already a complicated situation continues to grow, and that’s not even mentioning Risa’s own gender-bending actions.

The second area would be the start of Hato’s “harem.” Recently, the focus of Genshiken has been the number of people interested in Madarame, which the series has been using to explore the idea of the harem manga by way of the otaku sensibilities of the Genshiken characters. In this chapter, we not only see once again that Yajima has feelings for Hato, but that there might also be something with Sue, and Risa expresses her own interests in Hato (even if they’re mixed up with her otaku fantasies). Then there’s also Konno the googly-eyed goddess, who doesn’t appear in this chapter. Suddenly the series isn’t about one man’s “harem” (even though the term is kind of bad for describing when two or more people like you), but two intersecting ones. Granted, Yajima’s fear of Sue seems fairly unfounded, and I think it’s meant to show more her concern over potentially being outclassed, as well as her realization that it’s getting harder for her to deny her own feelings for Hato when she references her and Risa as “rivals.” I also find it notable that Risa is the only one to state some sort of interest in Hato to him, instead of only confessing to friends.

The third area is of course the subject of the entrance exam itself. Rika’s advice to her little sister is this mix of big sister attitude and fellow understanding as an otaku. In particular, Risa struggles with whether it was okay to walk away from basketball on a whim, to which Rika essentially responds that being an otaku means living by your passions even if it means making seeming unreasonable choices. The idea is that otaku aren’t as able to stifle their interests in the hopes of integrating with the rest of the world, and Risa already has done a relatively bang-up job what with her successful high school life. Something about this really strikes a chord with me, probably because I know others who’d probably give the same advice, and it’s something I’d encourage as well. On the other hand, this advice can also be abused such that one might refuse to better oneself, but that’s the kind of risk that exists with this sort of philosophy.

One last note: Sue’s snow shenanigans at Madarame’s place make me think of her as a kindred spirit to Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. Now that’s some crossover fanart I’d be interested in.

They both have HUMAN ABS.

Name: Azumi (あずみ)
Alias:
Azumin (あずみん), Mikoten Trio (みこてんトリオ, Manken Three (漫研三人組)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Fudanshism: Fudanshi Shugi na Seikatsu

Information:
Azumi is a teenager attending Kentei Academy and a member of the school’s manga club. She is the de facto leader of the Miko x Ten faction in the club, or the group which prefers the pairing of Omakase Tentel mascot characters Mikoto x Tentel, the opposite of Ten x Miko. Similarly, she pairs the manga club president Matsumoto Atsumu with his best friend Kiyokawa Atsumu in specifically that order, the opposite of fellow fujoshi Konishi Nozomi.

Azumi and her best friends Nakajima and Takaide typically gather every week to watch the newest episode of Omakase Tentel, looking for Miko x Ten moments that they can use, as well as watching to see if Miko x Ten prevails over Ten x Miko that episode. Azumi also draws.

Fujoshi Level:
Little is known about Azumi’s fujocity, other than that she actively pursues Miko x Ten along with her friends.

Over yonder, beyond the horizon, is the Saki individuals tournament arc. It’s been referred to frequently throughout the series, and though at this point the manga is a long, long way from reaching it, it does give me the joy of speculating who might face whom as they go through the brackets (or round robin system, not sure which they’re using). One I’ve already mentioned before is Amae Koromo vs. Oohoshi Awai because of how their strengths lie at opposite ends of the game, but there are plenty of others.

Minor manga spoilers, by the way. Remember though, these are not actual matches but just ones (in no particular order) that I’d like to see.

1) Kataoka “Tacos” Yuuki vs. Usuzumi “Hell’s Gate” Hatsumi

I think this one is pretty obvious. Imagine Yuuki as dealer in the East round (meaning she’s double East) versus Hatsumi in the North position. To whom do the East tiles go?

2) Oohoshi “Double Riichi” Awai vs. Anetai “Undertaker” Toyone

Awai’s insane Double Riichi vs. Toyone’s Pursuit Riichi. Who overpowers who?

3) Matano “Fisherman” Seiko vs. Inoue “Strategic Pon” Jun

Both have a tendency to call for tiles but for very different reasons (winning vs. control). Seeing them in the same match would likely make for a very aggressive game.

4) Funakubo “Osaka Data Girl” Hiroko vs. Sawamura “Nagano Data Girl” Tomoki

Two characters who specialize in gathering information on their opponents. Who is the better strategist?

5) Aislinn “New Zealander” Wishart vs. Hao “Chinese-Style” Huiyu

Aislinn is capable of envisioning the perfect scenario in her mind and having it play out to her advantage. Mako ruined her day by disrupting the discard patterns that Aislinn had set out, but then Huiyu tends to prefer closed, quiet hands. At the same time, Huiyu’s Chinese-influenced play style is highly unorthodox and could disrupt Aislinn possibly without any effort on Huiyu’s part.

Sue’s moved in next to Hato and the awkwardness is palpable. The rest of the Genshiken girls pick their horses in the Madarame race: Yoshitake believes in Keiko x Mada, Yajima is for Hato x Mada, Ogiue supports Sue x Mada, and Ohno picks Angela x Mada. Meanwhile, Sue and Hato visit Madarame to take care of him while he’s still recovering from his illness. There, the harem-like scenario prompts Hato to make his intentions clear and obvious.

I find the discussion between the girls about who they think would work best with Madarame fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, you can tell that each girl’s pick has different degrees of idealism and pragmatism. Yajima and Ohno are kind of longshots because of gender and distance respectively, while Ogiue for example thinks Sue and Madarame are a good match and Yoshitake’s preference for Keiko, as she’s explained before, has to do with trying to keep all her friends. Second, I find that it calls back to one of the basic questions of Nidaime, which is what would this club be like if it were mostly girls? Here, we can see how the act of pairing common to female otaku extends beyond simply the realm of BL and into the possibility of heterosexual relationships as well. It’s also interesting seeing them blur that fantasy/reality line, especially with Yajima who digs Hato but is a sucker for the Hato x Mada pairing.

The main topic of the chapter, however, is the rivalry between Hato and Sue. Hato’s begun to make some serious moves, like learning how to cook better so that he doesn’t disappoint Madarame, dropping as many lines as he possibly can to make his feelings all but crystal clear (“I’d like to cook for you again, Madarame, but without Sue around”), and outright mentioning the “harem” atmosphere. Yet, Hato finds that he doesn’t mind being a part of this harem, something which I can only attribute to the very staticness that is at the core of harem manga as a genre. In this state, Hato gets to express his feelings without there being any commitment one way or another, allowing him to participate without the consequences of having “winners and losers.” In other words, Hato probably thinks this is the closest he’ll ever get to really being with Madarame.

If there’s one thing about this chapter that really stands out visually, it’s the intensity of the blushing. Sue, Hato, and Madarame seem to have this reciprocal relationship where when one person’s face turns red, the other’s goes one step further, like they’re having an arms race using their cheeks. The blushing possesses an almost three-dimensional quality, like it fills the very room I’m sitting in, and I can’t tell whether or not I should be blushing as well. I think the key to this is how Kio successfully communicates the escalating sense of embarrassment that the characters, especially Hato, experience in this chapter.

Seeing Sue go wide-eyed over Hato’s soup, for a brief moment, I thought Sue might actually start to fall in love with him instead. Of course, that’s not what happens,  and instead you get this sort of grudging respect from Sue for Hato. As stated in the chapter, Sue mainly only eats convenience store bentou (I think the reference she makes in this episode is actually to Ben-To!), and while those things tend to be quite tasty (seriously, they’re really good), it doesn’t match up to the level of a proper home-cooked meal. As Sue becomes increasingly prominent in the manga, I wonder if she’ll begin to express self-doubts similar to Yajima’s to go with her perpetual shyness around Madarame.

Probably the most interesting topic in this chapter for me is the way Madarame feels that he simply cannot rely on harem anime and manga to navigate this situation. His reason is not simply that it’s unrealistic, but that the tendency for harems in shows to keep everyone at arms’ length so that everybody can be happy and the protagonist can have fun without any real repercussions doesn’t work when it comes to real people. Even indecisiveness has its consequences, and as we’ve seen already, it’s a topic where Madarame is surprisingly thoughtful.

Next chapter is the return of Yoshitake’s basketball-playing little sister of questionable tastes, Risa. I’m actually pretty excited, as I’ve been hoping for Kio to do more with her, especially because she had a few plot threads left from last time. There’s no telling if any of them will get resolved, but I’m just curious how she might factor into this whole complex relationship web, given that she also may or may not be interested in Hato.

One last thing: I can’t believe how good Ogiue looks in this chapter. I feel like Kio over the course of Nidaime has been working with somewhat unfamiliar territory when it comes to Ogiue’s character design. It’s substantially different from her old look, and I feel like he’s been gradually getting more comfortable with expressing Ogiue’s character as she currentlyexists in a way which properly captures where she’s been in the past and how she’s overcome all of that. In a way, she almost gives off a Kasukabe vibe, but in a way which is unmistakably Ogiue. The hoodie/dress shirt combination doesn’t hurt, either.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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