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This month’s Genshiken provides what may be the best use of a pool/bath/hot springs chapter that I’ve ever seen.

As a bunch of the guys take Madarame away to get his hand treated, the rest of Genshiken (and company) go to a public bath to relax and air things out. Angela and Keiko make their intentions regarding Madarame clear to each other, beginning a strange rivalry of sorts between the two. Meanwhile, Hato finally admits out loud that he has feelings for Madarame, while Sue continues to contradict herself every step of the way.

I get the feeling that this chapter plays a lot with standard anime and manga tropes, especially in the fact that it manages to fit in both an extended bath scene and a festival-like environment, but does so in a way which actually leaves the guy at the center of all this drama literally at home. Obviously with a chapter that takes place almost entirely in a bath there’s bound to be an element of fanservice, but I found it also to be quite enlightening. This isn’t just referring to Hato finally coming to terms with himself, but just the way everyone involved communicates so openly. It’s as if the abundance of nudity this month is a metaphor for simply baring it all: no boundaries, no restrictions, just the truth from the heart (at least in most cases).

There’s actually a lot of information and development this time around, and it’s presented in a way that I think has become characteristic Kio Shimoku, more refined than ever as he continues to improve his storytelling ability in manga. This page above caught my eye in particular, because of how well it conveys not only the fact that Ogiue and Keiko’s have gotten a bit closer (by virtue of Ogiue being Sasahara’s girlfriend) just through the page composition and their positions within it, but also how the panel with Angela gives the impression that you’re seeing her from Ogiue and Keiko’s point of view. The height and the angle of the “camera,” as well as the panel following it give this impression. The way you can see Keiko’s confidence falter as soon as she sees Angela is also a nice touch. This is only the second time that Genshiken has done one of these bath scenes, and the last time around the relationship between Ogiue and Keiko was quite a bit more antagonistic, so it’s interesting to see them getting along in a similar setting.

Similarly, Yajima, though she doesn’t do a lot this chapter, actually says a lot. With the way the manga focuses on her at key moments, it really does give the impression that she feels something for Hato, even if it might not be strictly romantic. When I think about it, the fact that Yajima isn’t being particularly body-conscious despite being around Ohno and Angela must mean that she’s so distracted by Hato’s situation that she’s ignoring her own normal worries. I also have to point out that Kio actually drew her naked, and not in a way which is directed at appealing to a chubby lady fetish.

It’s been quite a journey with Hato, and when I look back at my own musings about him from chapter to chapter, it’s interesting to see how my own views have gone. At first, I took his self-assessment in regards to things like his self-image and his sexuality at his word, but over these few years it’s become clear that even Hato himself didn’t quite understand, though it wasn’t as simple as “Hato’s BL obsession was a sign of a closet homosexual/bisexual all along.” I think there’s enough evidence so far to say that his gender, sexuality, and fantasies don’t all perfectly correlate with each other. Last chapter, I wrote about how the “Stand” versions of the female Hato and Kaminaga are meant to be two separate aspects of his psychology, and here it’s made plainly obvious by the fact that both appear simultaneously. The way I see it, the female Hato represents Hato’s fudanshi side, or rather the image of a fujoshi in his mind who can communicate with other like-minded individuals, while the Kaminaga relies on Hato’s view of the real Kaminaga as someone who is always true to herself. This is why it’s the Kaminaga who has made it impossible for him to deny his own feelings about Madarame, whereas Hato has been easily able to brush aside the female Hato’s fantasies. Though having them float above Hato just has me thinking that the two are having a “conversation” in the men’s bath the whole time. It may also be of interest that none of Genshiken takes issue with Hato on this whole matter.

I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a Hato x Mada (or Mada x Hato) ending, and Madarame’s going to be in a position where he’s not just been rejected by someone but had to reject someone himself. Overall, if this is the case it’ll be a serious change for the otaku among otaku.

At this point in Genshiken we’re already familiar with the fact that characters like Angela and Keiko don’t prescribe to the true love romance mantra that appeals to otaku so much, but it’s still kind of refreshing nevertheless. Angela is provocative in more than one sense of the word, and the more I see of her the more I get that she’s actually quite intelligent. Angela’s insistence that Madarame needs “help” after buying “all that doujinshi” and that Keiko “wouldn’t be able to satisfy him,” ends up coming across as measured and calculated. Obviously Angela knows that Madarame is not some studly he-man with an unquenchable thirst for womanly conquest, and so the idea that Keiko wouldn’t be enough for him is clearly facetious. She’s just trying to get a rise out of Keiko, though what I find funny about all of this is that I can see a definite friendship forming between the two. They both want to win out, but at the same time their smiles and even the way they decide that Sue should be the one to go visit Madarame means that neither of them are especially bothered by the idea of losing. There are more fish in the nerd sea, and a bitter competition this is not.

Speaking of Sue, for all of the attention Hato and Madarame get, I feel like in the end it’s Sue who really steals the show this chapter. Her expressions are amazing, even more than Ogiue’s (which I enjoyed immensely).

Though her own emotional turmoil is played for comedic purposes in contrast to Hato’s, I do wonder what’s in store for her. Her development throughout the new series has come in fits and starts, but it’s undeniably there.It’s interesting how Sue is normally immune to embarrassment but here it overwhelms her to the point of violence and frustration, and I feel like I want to say more about her, but I don’t know where to start.

So, I think I’ll save it for the future.

Chapter 63 of Genshiken II is day 1 of Comic Festival, and some of the very best Genshiken chapters have been in that venue. This time around is no exception, and in fact it’s one of the most densely packed chapters ever in the manga. There’s a lot to go through, so let’s do a quick run-down first.

After finishing the second half of her debut professional work, Ogiue pulls an all-nighter to crank out an additional cheaper-quality doujinshi to complement her collaborative effort with Yabusaki. Unable to make it to Comic Festival before the afternoon, she sends Sue in her place, who naturally torments Yabusaki and gets along well with Asada the cat-faced girl, whose first name we discover is “Naoko” (We also get verification on pronunciation of at least the first half of Ogiue’s pen name: Ogino). As Comic Festival begins, a line begins to form at their table due to the popularity of Ogiue’s published manga, which leaves Yabusaki flustered.

I’m not sure if this is Yabusaki’s ComiFest debut or not, but it is Hato’s first time attending. This being Day 1 (the girl-oriented day), he crossplays as Yamada from Kujibiki Unbalance in order to make it less awkward for him to purchase his desired yaoi doujinshi, and in doing so continues the club tradition of Kujian cosplay. Managing to fool men and women alike, Hato ends up facing a dilemma when he’s confronted with having to hold up a large sign for the men’s bathroom, a situation he tries to avoid but is naturally inevitable. While Sue attacks from a fortified position through her signature obscure references (Kyuukyoku Choujin R), Angela brings the gaijin assault head on; when she’s not teaming up for a startlingly apt Panty & Stocking cosplay with Ohno, she’s grabbing Hato’s chest to verify his gender.

Ogiue meanwhile finally leaves her apartment, but at the same time over at Tokyo Big Sight, Nakajima, Ogiue’s old “friend” from her traumatic junior high days, visits Yabusaki’s table expecting Ogiue to be there, wherein the chapter ends on this cliffhanger.

Phew! And again, there’s still two more days of ComiFest left.

The last time Nakajima visited, it conjured up bad memories for Ogiue, who was already dealing with the inner turmoil of shame over her attraction to Sasahara and her fear of hurting him as she did her old boyfriend Makita back in junior high. Since then, Ogiue has learned to accept herself, start dating again, and has even turned her passion for drawing into a career, but when you think about it, she has still never directly confronted Nakajima. Prior to Genshiken II, we could only speculate as to whether or not this would ever happen. Now, short of meeting Makita again, this might very well be the true bookend to Ogiue’s growth over the course of the series, a way to decide her destiny, if you will. All of this has me giddy with anticipation, because while Genshiken II has been delivering so far, all of the fun and games make it easy to forget that this series also handles the dramatic incredibly well.

That’s not to say that the comedy of Genshiken needs to take a hike, as the chapter was hilarious and informative all-around. Hato’s plight is not one I can say I’ve experienced, but I can really feel for the poor guy. It’s interesting to remember that Hato drew a distinction in his mind between cosplay and crossdressing, and also to kind of compare it with Ohno’s own views on cosplaying, particularly that it’s wholly different from dressing sexily. There’s quite a bit of commonality between the two in this respect. And speaking of cosplay, I can’t help but to compare Ohno’s taste in older men to Stocking’s overall poor taste in men, as some would argue that the former is a case of the latter. I’ve also always seen Angela as being more sexually active than the other characters in Genshiken, though obviously not to the extent that Panty does. And if that weren’t enough, Ohno once remarked that her chest is bigger than Angela’s, a situation mirrored somewhat with the Anarchy sisters they’re cosplaying.

The chapter also reveals quite a bit about Sue’s development, specifically in regards to her growing language skills. When Sue first appears, she speaks purely in anime and manga quotes. When she makes her second visit to Japan, she shows that her listening comprehension has grown dramatically. By the time she began studying abroad at Shiiou University, her vocabulary had expanded to the point that she could communicate without the use of otaku references. Now, Sue takes the next step.

It’s not evident in English versions of the Genshiken manga (or at all in any of the anime), but one of the features of Sue’s Japanese is that it’s written primarily in katakana to represent her foreign accent. In this chapter though, some of that katakana has begun turning into hiragana, the script used primarily for non-loan words, indicating that her Japanese is reaching an even greater point of fluency. Personally speaking, I made my greatest strides in my Japanese language skills while studying in Japan, and to see the same happening with Sue brings a smile to my face.

And you wouldn’t believe how glad I am that Kio’s finally told us how to pronounce at least some of Ogiue’s pen name. I’ve even made the appropriate correction to her Fujoshi File.

In any case, I’m probably more stoked for the next chapter of Genshiken II than I’ve ever been. Comic Festival, it always delivers.

In Volume 1 of Genshiken, Ohno’s character profile states that her favorite game is Samurai Spirits. “Well that makes perfect sense,” you might think, seeing as how Ohno lived in America for many years, and how that very game was released in the US under the name Samurai Sho-down, but a later comment in the Genshiken Official Book reveals something interesting. It turns out that Kio Shimoku had no idea whether or not Samurai Spirits was ever released in America, and most likely picked it for Ohno due to the game having multiple old/burly types such as Earthquake.

So what we have here is what seems to be a surprisingly decently researched aspect of the American video game/anime fandom from the 90s but instead is just a lucky coincidence. Of course, Ohno and her preferences aren’t the most “American” aspect of Genshiken. That title naturally belongs to her friends Angela and Sue. And when you look at Angela and Sue across their incarnations (anime, manga, drama cd), you get the feeling that Kio Shimoku and the staff of the anime ended up portraying American fangirls with surprising accuracy, but based on the Ohno-Samurai Spirits Revelation there is the very real possibility that this too was also one huge coincidence.

Much of the portrayal of Angela and Sue can boil down to “HAHA AMERICANS ARE SO MUCH MORE DIRECT THAN JAPANESE,” but there is a grain of truth to that, and I think the result is that this “fictional” portrayal is about as realistic as the portrayals of the actual Genshiken members. Sue may possess a knowledge of anime far beyond your typical female otaku, but keep in mind that her otakudom was fostered by a Japanese fujoshi, so it might not be surprising for her to reference, say, Saint Seiya. Sue’s got a fairly abrasive personality, a general lack of manners, and you often cannot tell if she’s being awkward or devilish. Her frequent and loud reciting of anime quotes in lieu of real Japanese is definitely a trait you can find in fangirls (though she eventually becomes comfortable enough with the language to actually start speaking it fluently, albeit with an accent).

Then there’s Angela, who loudly declares to Sasahara that she may in fact be bisexual, which Sasahara despite his limited English ability seems to get the jist of. It might be somewhat stereotypical to brand Angela as very open when it comes to sex and sexual relationships, i.e. very AMERICAN, but it’s not like this is unprecedented even if you ignore anime cons and the fact that they are places where sex occurs in less than small amounts. Not that I’m saying she’s a slut or anything, merely that she is possibly about as sexually experienced as Saki, maybe more. I can also totally see Angela attending an anime club in America and being the center of attention among male members, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. As an aside, I sometimes wish there would be a Genshiken AMERICA spinoff starring Angela and Sue and seeing the interactions between characters in that respect. Maybe this could be a fanfic or a fancomic, I don’t know.

Sue is either young-looking for her age or actually young (her age is never given, only loosely implied), and we already know that the anime fans are getting younger and younger, so this makes plenty of sense. Angela meanwhile has a dynamite figure which some might say isn’t terribly realistic for a nerd girl, but I speak from experience (no not that kind of experience) when I say that this is not an impossibility. There are geek girls who look that good. You might see them cosplaying.

Though I think what stands out to me most about Sue and Angela and their American-ness is a scene in the Drama CD “Road to Ikebukuro,” where together they recite the famous line that so many female anime fans in the US have tied to their very histories: “In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!” Granted, it’s said in Japanese, but I know that plenty of Sailor Moon fans are familiar with the Japanese catch phrases. And Sailor Moon was popular in Japan too (Love Hina creator Akamatsu Ken mentions it as the inspiration for him getting into doujinshi), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sailor Moon is arguably one of the most significant shows in American fandom history.

And again, all of this could just be happy coincidence! Kio Shimoku could have simply said, “I have no idea what American anime fans are really like so I’ll just make them however.” Which is to say, Kio Shimoku is a frightening man.

Genshiken 2 10 came and went, and then came back around, and holy crap is it a crazy episode.

I’ve made it a point not to do episode reviews in the normal sense, but I think I need to discuss this one a little more. Genshiken 2 Episode 10 spoilers, obviously.

First thing’s first: Ogiue was incredibly, incredibly cute. And hot. As always. But moreso. Her blushing in this episode is a sight to behold.

Now then.

Angela’s English still sounds a bit awkward, but not in the way you’d normally expect a Japanese person’s English to be awkward. Kaida (her voice actor) does a really good job, but I suspect they didn’t have much of an English voice director to help them through it. Another odd thing is that I always considered Angela to be the one Genshiken character where the doujinshi based on her could most conceivably happen to her character, and it looks like Studio ARMS agrees with me, because wow is she flirtatious.

Sue is incredible too but in a completely different way. I think she’s going to garner a lot of fans after this.

And if those two weren’t enough, we actually get a THIRD character introduction! Hailing from Shiiou University’s Manken, it’s the one with no name, who Naruco Hanaharu calls “Cat-Mouth Girl.” And she finally has a name!

Say hello to ASADA, otherwise known as “Nyaako.” Her name is mentioned in the ending credits, if you’re wondering where I got it from.

I know some people who will be quite pleased with this episode.

And next episode has Ogiue in a public bath.

Mmm.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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