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Since the last chapter, Madarame has been mulling over Hato’s Valentine’s chocolate. Feeling a sense of happiness over receiving them yet also confused and alarmed by this very reaction, he seeks the advice of Kugayama, who is the only other guy out of the old Genshiken crew to not have a significant other and thus won’t spill the beans to the girls. As the two get increasingly drunk over some barbecue, Madarame reveals where he believes the confusion lies: to him, Hato is a man and therefore someone Madarame can relate to, whereas women are so foreign to him that he doesn’t know how to even begin dealing with their affections. Kugayama suggests going to a soapland to help him get over his fear of women, but realizing that it’s probably too big a jump for either of them they consider instead going to a cabaret club, more specifically Keiko’s.

For a chapter basically consisting of two scenes and a brief look into Yajima’s attempt to improve her figure drawing with the help of Yoshitake, there’s actually a whole lot to unpack. At this point, it’s something I expect from Genshiken even putting aside my own tendency to analyze the series in depth, but the more I thought about the simple events and topics of this chapter, the more complex the exploration of otaku sexuality and its perception in the otaku mind becomes.

Although I’ve had to re-assess the manga’s messages when it comes to attraction and sexuality a number of times, at this point one thing continues to be certain: Genshiken presents the idea that one’s “2D” and “3D” preferences neither overlap entirely nor are they truly separate. It wasn’t that Hato was in denial when he originally said his preference for BL existed purely in the realm of doujinshi and the like, but that he honestly felt that way. However, as we’ve learned, even the distinction between “2D” and “3D” is tenuous, as the characters of Genshiken ship real people (or at least imaginary approximations of real people). I would argue that BL was not Hato’s realization of homosexuality, but something which made the idea a distinct possibility in his mind that helped him to clarify his feelings for Madarame.

While I don’t think Madarame is having the same thing happen to him, I do think his actions in this chapter reflect a similar semi-disconnect between his 2D and 3D desires. Consider the fact that one of Madarame’s warning signals was that he began re-playing his otoko no ko eroge. One would expect the situation to be that ever since Madarame received the chocolates that he began to look into those games, but he in fact had them for a while. While Madarame maintained is self-identity as heterosexual, he was playing those types of games the whole time, and as implied in the chapters where he first discusses his experience with those games, it’s less about being into guys 2D or 3D and more about the use of sexual expression coded generally as “female” in otaku media that appeals to him. Hato, who similarly performs “femininity” looks to be hitting the same triggers in Madarame, and the very fact that this deliberateness in the end positions Hato to be male is also what makes Madarame feel as if he can relate to Hato better than any woman.

The female sex is something Madarame has viewed his entire life as a realm of distant fantasy, only barely entering his purview of reality when Kasukabe suggested that maybe they could’ve had something if circumstances had been different. This, I think, is why Madarame has trouble deciding what he feels in reaction to Sue and Angela (via Ohno) giving him romantic chocolates as well. Madarame has expressed interest in 2D characters similar to Sue, and there’s no doubt that he finds Angela attractive on some level, but they’re a foreign existence, both figuratively and literally. In that sense the anime girl and the real girl are equally “farfetched.” This is also what makes the Chekhov’s gun that is Keiko’s heavily photoshopped business card so powerful. Not only is it the case that Madarame’s refusal to visit the cabaret club back in Chapter 59 potentially overturned the next chapter, and not only is Keiko one of the other girls into Madarame, but Keiko herself plays a “character” at her workplace. Even firmly within the realm of “3D,” the line between fantasy and reality blurs.

Another thing I find interesting about this whole notion that Hato’s feelings are easier to respond to because Madarame can relate to them as a fellow guy is how this somewhat mirrors one of the reasonings touted for why people get into BL of shounen manga. Traditionally, female characters and love interests in battle/sports/competition manga have been on the sidelines, and most of the displays of fiery passion consist of male rivals and enemies confronting and antagonizing each other, which leads to more time and effort to devoted to those relationships than the ones between the hero and his would-be girlfriend. While this isn’t quite the same as what Madarame and Hato have, what is similar is this concept of guys being able to understand each other on some deeper level (or with girls in yuri), whether it’s intrinsic or something that’s developed over time. In the case of Madarame, it’s perhaps an inevitability given his inexperience with women. In a way, Kugayama’s solution of breaking the “mystique” of the opposite sex through the use of a “professional,” while extremely typical in various cultures (there was even a King of the Hill episode on the subject) is itself also a breakthrough for the otaku-minded, as it involves a desire to get away from the ideal of sexual purity and enter “reality,” though even that conception of the world is fueled by a fantasy. There’s a more I could say about Kugayama as well, but I’ll leave it alone for now except to say that Kugayama in some ways occupies Yajima’s position.

As for the scene with Yajima, Yoshitake, Hato, and Sue, although it’s fairly short, it is notable that Yajima is actually trying to improve her drawing despite being previously resigned to suck at it forever, and Hato’s mention that he’s been drawing manga lately is likely going to mean that he’s gotten past his previous dilemma of only being able to draw BL when dressed as a girl and a rather bizarre style when as a boy. The “disappearance” of the two voices that accompanied Hato (his other self and the other Kaminaga) were likely a prelude to this development. I suspect we’ll see more in the next chapter.

Also, Ogiue does not appear in this chapter but is at least mentioned twice, once when Madarame believes Sasahara would definitely tell her if Madarame were to divulge his secret struggle, and once when Yoshitake states that it was Ogiue’s suggestion for Yajima to do some rough sketches.

 

Name: Narumi, Nakuru (鳴海ナクル)
Alias:
Narunaru
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Mayo Chiki

Information:
The cat-eared high school student at Roran Academy with an extreme fondness for glasses, Narumi will go as far as to dive out windows to save a pair. She, like many of the girl at her school, is a big fan of fellow student and butler Konoe Subaru, and is even the president of the “Subaru-sama Warm Watch Group,” one of two major Subaru fan factions in her school. The Warm Watch Group is constantly at odds with their rival group, S4 (Shooting Star Subaru Sama), though neither is aware that Subaru is actually a girl.

Narumi and the rest of the Warm Watch Group are mostly fujoshi, and thus support the friendship between Subaru and “his” male friend, Sakamachi Kinjirou. Narumi herself goes as far as to write BL novels starring thinly-veiled analogues of the two which are so lengthy that they require someone with superhuman strength to staple the pages together, and then acts out the scripts. Owing to the popularity of her doujinshi, she has a loyal fan club of her own.

Fujoshi Level:
Narumi once turned down a boy who had confessed to her, for the reason that she has dedicated her entire high school life to creating BL.

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After years of wanting to go but never finding the opportunity to do so, I decided to finally visit the Stripmuseum in Groningen. “Stripmuseum” means “Comics Museum, so don’t get any funny ideas. Then again, I feel like there’s a greater acknowledgement of nudity in Dutch comics compared to especially American comics, and so maybe the joke isn’t too out of place.

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The museum is fairly small but it’s easy to spend a few hours there. The first exhibit that greets visitors is the work of Don Lawrence, a British artist who drew the fantasy comic Storm before passing away. Apparently it has always targeted a primarily Dutch audience, to the extent that the later artists who continued the work have all been Dutch. Another early introduction is artist Don Kriek, creator of Gutsman, not to be confused with a certain Robot Master.

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There are a lot of comics samples to look at, going from the earlier days of Dutch comics, such as Tom Poes to ones that have been around for ages such as Suske en Wiske, Agent 327, and Franka, as well as more recent works like Dirkjan and Sigmund. It also touched on properties that may not be “Dutch” or even “Dutch-language” necessarily but have left a mark such as Tintin and Donald Duck. As I can’t really read Dutch, I’m sure that my experience was somewhat limited (though remedied to an extent by an English-language pamphlet), and I can only imagine that people who are literate in the language could spend an even longer time there.

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One thing I found interesting was that there was a small section dedicated to “Dutch manga.” Given some of the arguments and disagreements that people get into in terms of what “is” or “isn’t” manga, it’s kind of fascinating to see the Stripmuseum just outright state that, yes, there can be such a thing as Dutch manga, and that it operates under a somewhat different visual grammar. Though my experience with Dutch comics history is pretty shallow at this point (most of the museum information was new to me), I wonder if this ability to accept native-produced material as “manga” is but the newest step in a long line of appropriation, and I mean that in the best way possible. Not only is there the example of Donald Duck (where the magazine named after him is the longest-running Dutch comics magazine ever), but Dutch artists even took the American comics character Perry Winkle, renamed him “Sjors,” and paired him with a kid from Africa, essentially turning it into an entirely different work.

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I also thought it was notable that Sjors & Sjimmie has been drawn by a number of artists over the years, especially because Sjimmie’s design started off as quite racist but was changed significantly over time. Another interesting fact I learned is that Mark Retera, the artist of Dirkjan, was inspired by Gary Larson of The Far Side. Seeing as The Far Side is one of my favorite comics ever, I feel like I should give Dirkjan a shot.

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If you’re ever in the Netherlands, give it a shot, though I must warn that the train ride can be pretty long if you’re traveling from one end of the country to the other. It was also my first time in Groningen and that city is beautiful. Maybe I should stop by there again just to take a look. It reminds me a bit of Los Angeles mixed with Amsterdam.

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Name: Tanaka, Mitsuki (田中美月)
Alias: Hokuto (北斗)
Relationship Status: Dating
Origin: Cyber Yaoi Girl

Information:
Tanaka Mitsuki is a college student who discovered yaoi in her final year of high school. Especially fond of the series Ai no Doronuma, Mitsuki discovers along with her internet connection a thriving Aidoro community. Mitsuki thus spends most of her time chatting with her fellow fans online, and eventually even meeting them offline as friends.

Mitsuki is in a relationship with a fellow student named Koshimura, though she is afraid to tell him about being a fujoshi, and he assumes her desire of privacy is out of shyness, rather than out of wanting to hide her BL collection. While Koshimura does not know the truth, however, his friend Tamagaki does, which makes interaction between Mitsuki and Tamagaki both comfortable and awkward. Mitsuki typically tries to deny that she’s an otaku, going out of her way to exclaim, “My, I’m such a normal girl!” whenever she does anything contrary to fujoshi stereotypes.

Fujoshi Level:
Generally a strong fujoshi, Mitsuki blows most of her budget on yaoi books and internet through which to keep up with her fellow fujoshi.

When it comes to characters in fiction, it’s fairly common for me to find characters that resonate with me. Much rarer, however, is to find a character that is more of a kindred spirit, someone who fundamentally connects with who I am. This is the experience I have when reading the manga Mogusa-san, the romantic story of a girl who loves to eat all the time.

One of my passions in life is food. When I travel, I mainly think in terms of things I can possibly eat. That is not to say that I am a “foodie,” as the term usually implies someone who is in constant pursuit of the next superbly executed dish. Rather, whereas a typical foodie would not touch Chef Boyardee after having freshly made authentic Italian pasta, I can eat both. I can switch freely between Époisses and Kraft American Singles and not feel that my culinary experience has been ruined. Nor do I consider myself someone with no sense of taste whatsoever, or someone who can’t appreciate finer qualities in food. Trying new dishes, revisiting old ones, complex flavors, simple tastes, approaching different cultures through their cuisine, I simply love the experiences that come with eating. So, when Mogusa-san (whose name is based on mogumogu, the onomatopoeia for munching) shows a similar fondness for eating, I feel this sense of deep understanding with the character. Heck, I even made her my Twitter banner.

Food manga is a fairly ubiquitous genre, and is usually based around the intense experience of eating something so delicious that it can only be described in metaphor. Yakitate!! Japan, The Drops of God, Oishinbou, Gokudou Meshi, all of these series are about the pleasures of specific dishes and how they were made with love and care. Mogusa-san is a different experience, as it’s more about the feelings derived from the act of eating itself. It’s not just that Mogusa is always hungry or has a large appetite (common features in manga characters) which makes this manga a joy to read, but that the sheer bliss on her face—the wide-eyed sense of wonder, the small but genuine smile, the soft blush that fills the panels—is delightfully overpowering, while also more or less describing how I feel whenever I eat. On a certain level, I find this to be something missing from most food manga.

Mogusa-san feels no need for hyperbole at least when it comes to describing taste, but where its sense of exaggeration does lie is in how Mogusa manages to accomplish the task of eating nearly 24/7. While Mogusa is embarrassed about her love of food (because every girl around her is more about dieting), it certainly doesn’t stop her because Mogusa has mastered the art of stealth eating. She keeps packages of eel jerky in her wallet, appearing at a glance to be no different from any other flat object. In the image below, Mogusa is supposedly eating only two of these Take no Ko chocolate snacks, but in fact switches between them constantly to make it seem as if she’s only been eating one the whole time. In this way, the techniques used by other food manga to describe the taste of dishes transfers over to Mogusa’s sneaky tactics.

I’ve been told that through the act of eating I make food look delicious, and this is also what I get from looking at Mogusa. As much as I love to eat, I also am fond of watching other people enjoy food as well and i n this respect, I also end up connecting to the boy who befriends Mogusa, Koguchi Torao. It’s rather satisfying to me to see someone’s face light up when they eat something that truly blows their mind. In fact, part of the experience of traveling for me is seeing others’ faces light up as they taste something new and exciting, or something familiar and comforting. The art does a good job of showing not only Mogusa’s sense of happiness while eating, but also the fact that Koguchi appears to fall in love with her every time she decides to chow down on something, which, again, is all the time.

Mogusa-san began on the web-only Shueisha platform Tonari no Young Jump, but has since begun serialization in the real Weekly Young Jump magazine due to its popularity. While the first volume has already been published, you can still read a few chapters online in Japanese, and while the language barrier is an issue I think this manga is one where that matters a little less. It’s a manga that I feel profoundly drawn to, and if you love eating the same way I do (or maybe just really like Sasha from Attack on Titan), there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way.

 

 

 

Name: Shiina, Mafuyu (椎名 真冬)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Seitokai no Ichizon

Information:
Shiina Mafuyu is a shy and demure girl who often has her face buried in a video game. So addicted to video games is Mafuyu that she will bring multiple home consoles and portable systems with her on long trips. Though open to diverse genres, Mafuyu mainly plays visual novels, for which she creates internet guides.

Along with her older sister Minatsu, Mafuyu is a member of the Hekiyou Academy student council, voted in by her fellow students. There, Mafuyu participates in the idle discussions which characterize the student council, and has a tendency to pair the only male council member, Sugisaki Ken, with another male student named Nakameguro. She is also somewhat antagonistic towards Ken’s younger sister as the two have “overlapping characters.”

Fujoshi Level:
Mafuyu describes herself as “half-games, half-Boys Love.” She believes being able to fantasize about a pen and a pencil together is a fundamental skill.

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.

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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.

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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.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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