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First thing first, Genshiken anime info dump! it’s been confirmed that the Genshiken II (or Nidaime) anime will be starting this summer, with a different studio but with a lot of old staff. I do find it kind of funny that Genshiken can’t seem to get a consistent animation studio or anime character designer, and given the sheer variation of work that the character designer Taniguchi Junichirou has worked on, it’s hard to predict how they’ll look exactly. Also, Uesaka Sumire will be singing the opening. Next month is the voice cast reveal, so let the speculation begin!

Anyway.

In Chapter 87, Hato continues to try to be one of the boys, but the fact that he is unable to draw properly for the sake of Ogiue’s ComiFes doujinshi when not in drag causes him to go back to it, at least in private. At the same time, Ogiue has decided to charge into the 21st century by buying a pen tablet monitor in order to save time and manpower, but the transition isn’t as simple as she hoped for. As ComiFes is drawing near, familiar faces appear as Angela makes her return to Japan and Keiko is looking to take another stab at the event.

I literally laughed out loud when I saw the pen tablet monitor. It was clearly introduced by Kio Shimoku as a metaphor for not only Hato’s current situation, but also the Genshiken club itself and even the manga as a whole. In this regard, I think it does an excellent job of representing the dimensions of a generational divide.

By showing Ogiue struggling with her tablet despite purchasing it to alleviate her work schedule, Genshiken touches upon the idea that transition can be a difficult thing because of how much we must acknowledge and rework our assumptions. The strengths and limitations of the zoom function, referenced during Ogiue’s little rant, is the perfect example. On the one hand, it lets you get up close and put detail into even the smallest part of a drawing, but on the other hand it can be stifling if one is obsessed with detail.  Ogiue’s plight somewhat mirrors the difficulty by which the manga itself has transitioned into its new cast and their very different values, not only in terms of the content of the manga, but also for a good portion of the manga’s readerbase which seems to see the new Genshiken as “not Genshiken.”

However, I think it would be a mistake to say that the ideas implied by the tablet transition are narrowly limited to Genshiken as a topic, as I really think it goes beyond this one manga. What really adds to the tablet metaphor is the conversation between Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake where they mention the simple fact that, for some artists, digital drawing is all they’ve ever known.

Drafting, cleaning, paneling, for them, everything is done on the monitor, and it highlights this idea that, rather than this newer generation of artists being untrained in the old ways, that their “environment” is simply different and they have adapted to it in kind. Instead of the tablet being a facsimile of “real” drawing by mimicking pen on paper, for them the tablet is real drawing. That difference in mindset is so central to the changes between generations, whether it be music and art, dance, technology, or any other topic, and it shows how neither the old or new generation are “bad,” but that people are the product of their experiences.

I get the sense that, as the manga continues, Ogiue will continue to use the tablet, but that it will require her to adjust her current work habits to better fit it, or to make it more of a supplementary tool. In either case, if she does incorporate it, it means that her work may never be the same again. The impossibility of returning to the “old way” is also shown in the beginning of this chapter, when we see Madarame, Hato, and Kuchiki discussing anime much in the same way the club used to, with mentions of sakuga, seasons (cour), and the economic side. While definitely similar to the old Genshiken, something’s not quite right, especially in terms of how Yoshitake and Yajima appear a bit alienated by it because it’s not the atmosphere they’ve participated in and even helped to create. It feels a bit artifical and out of step with time, which also has implications in regards to Hato, who is trying to act like a “proper” male otaku.

If we look at the notion of the “proper” otaku (and perhaps even the whole debate over fake geeks), it’s kind of funny that people prescribe a certain set of behavior as “proper” for a group that has been traditionally stereotyped as behaving improperly by virtue of being otaku. I think Hato’s vain attempt to quit crossdressing and yaoi may be a sign of how ridiculous this can be, as if the manga is saying that it’s not as simple as getting rid of the girly stuff to bring back the “true” Genshiken, and that there has been a change in environment that the manga has been trying to address.

I may have gone a little too crazy with that analysis, but I honestly think that I haven’t completely or properly explained the intricacies of the tablet metaphor, though I’ll leave it as is for now. It’s been a while since we’ve had this much Ogiue in a chapter, so I’m pleased in that regard, and I’d been wondering when Angela would show up again a she’s a significant factor in the whole Madarame-Hato story. The fact that Keiko is planning to go to ComiFes out of her own free will may actually say everything about how much the world in and around Genshiken has changed.

(A bit of Ogiue Tohoku-ben inner dialogue teaching us that Ogiue is still not used to Kanto winters.)

Genshiken II, Chapter 86 looks to possibly be a turning point. We’ve had quite a few of those already though. Also, next month there might be more news about the upcoming anime! It’ll be a long 30 days or so.

Sue visits Hato’s place, using Janglish to ask if he likes Madarame. Hato denies, but is clearly hiding something. After a tussle pitting Hato’s judo training against Sue’s freestyle which ends in a win by submission for the American, Sue discovers Hato’s secret Mada x Hato (in drag) drawings. Hato, who is increasingly confused about his feelings for Madarame (he feels that at this rate he might actually start liking Madarame), decides to just stop crossdressing and go back to being “a normal otaku.” This clearly makes Yajima uncomfortable despite her previous objections to Hato’s crossdressing.

With this chapter, I think I finally understand one of the big overarcing themes of Genshiken II. Yes, there’s the generation gap and the otaku/fujoshi distinction, but even more fundamental to the manga is a concept I’d describe as “the complexities of personal perceptions.”

The foremost example is Hato. He is getting to the point where he likely feels something for Madarame. I want to point out, however, the fact that Hato had no problems showing his “Hato x Mada” art to Sue, declaring that it was just the realm of fiction, but for some reason he also felt it necessary to keep his “Mada x Hato” hidden. I think the distinction between the two pairings is extremely important because it indicates a denial of clear-cut narratives about sexuality in describing otaku.

“What’s fiction is fiction, and what’s real is real” is a clear and concise argument. So is “what you’re attracted to in fiction can influence your real life preferences (and vice versa).” The former argument is used by Hato, while the latter was suggested by Kaminaga. With Hato and his feeling towards Madarame, however, it might actually be the case that his yaoi delusions are separate from his real feelings, but he began developing feelings for Madarame anyway due to their growing friendship, and that this manifests as Hato x Mada vs. Mada x Hato. I wonder if this is the case just because Mada x Hato for some reason apparently has to involve Hato crossdressing, as if to say the idea does not “make sense” to him otherwise.

In anime and manga about (or including) fujoshi, often there is significant time spent explaining how important the orders of pairings are important. “It’s like saying ‘curry on rice.’ No one says ‘rice on curry!’ says a character from the 4-koma series Doroko. This is generally played for laughs while trying to introduce to the reader the “mysterious” mind of the fujoshi, to allow the reader to say, “Oh fujoshi, you’re so lovably wacky.” I think that with Genshiken, Kio is trying to discuss that mindset a little more seriously.

I predict Ogiue is going to start playing a bigger role in this, just because Hato looks like he’s trying to run away from his current situation at all costs. Ogiue is more than familiar with this situation, is aware of how much trying to deny oneself can generate a festering wound of self-loathing, and just how complicated the real/fiction distinction can get. I think, or perhaps I simply hope, that Ogiue will manage to be Hato’s mentor, like how Ohno was there for her. Also, Hato says he’s “going back” to being a normal otaku, but was he ever a normal otaku? He discovered yaoi in junior high, so it’s been with him for a long time, which makes me think that Hato is trying to simply act like how a “normal otaku” is supposed to without truly direct experience, somewhat like how Ogiue sometimes tried to approximate a “non-otaku.”

If the Hato example is a little too crazy, I think Yajima in this chapter also provides an interesting case of personal perception. Clearly the reason why Yajima blushes at the end is because she still associates male Hato with the time she accidentally saw him naked, in addition to just the fact that he’s a guy. She doesn’t react this way so much to Hato in her female guise, which means that the wig and dress is enough to “trick” Yajima psychologically so that the first thing she thinks about is Hato’s clean-shaven personal area. What Yajima thinks of Hato is of course its own puzzle having at its origin her own self-image and her lack of experience interacting with men.

I don’t know if Sue counts towards this as well, but I do find it interesting that Sue’s embarrassment over kissing Madarame has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the fact that Kasukabe saw her doing it. On some level, I feel like I can really understand that distinction. Somewhat like that famous scene in His and Her Circumstances when Miyazawa accidentally runs into Arima while out of her “perfect student” guise,” there are people you feel like you can be a fool around and people you don’t. I also continue to think that it’s kind of brave of Kio to give Sue a larger role, as semi-fluent foreigner is not the easiest thing to pull off without reverting to very basic stereotypes. Sue is many things, but “basic” isn’t one of them.

By the way, there’s something I find really impressive about Sue and Hato’s fight scene, particularly the panel where Hato drags her and sweeps the leg. It captures that one moment so incredibly well, while allowing it to transition into the next set of panels. It actually makes me want to see Kio draw an action series.

To end, I want to ask a simple question: Sue x Hato, what are your thoughts? If this were a more popular series, I’m sure that neck-licking thing would have people talking.

It’s back to basics in Genshiken II, Chapter 85 as  Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima revive the old Genshiken tradition of spying on club members who think they’re alone. When it looks like Hato is getting unusually close to Madarame. Right when things seem to be getting to the point of no return, in comes Keiko, who quickly deduces that Madarame’s decision to quit his job comes from a desire to regress back to his old self now that he’s been rejected by Saki. When Keiko suggests that Madarame come to her Cabaret Club to “get dirty,” Sue interferes and inadvertently makes it known that they were being watched. An embarrassed Hato runs home, only to be met by Sue as the chapter ends.

The more I write these reviews, the more I worry that my constant references to the old chapters may be unfair to the new series. Perhaps if I engage the current Genshiken on its own terms, I’ll be able to do it justice. At the same time, I do actually feel that many of the ideas being explored in Genshiken II have their roots in the original manga, and that the new characters allow for a more complex elaboration.

Back when Ogiue’s own main storyline resolved, the message was one of acceptance. So what if others find your tastes weird? You’re who you are. While such a conclusion fit perfectly for Ogiue’ character, the question of whether the border between fantasy and reality is airtight or porous wasn’t answered to any great length. Not that it needed to be, but if we accept acceptance and remove moral and value judgments from the equation, how complex can that interaction be? This, I believe, is what is happening with Hato and his interactions with Madarame. Hato can go where Ogiue never could.

Hato is clearly emotionally confused in the current story, where everything he thought he knew about himself is being thrown into question. I don’t get a sense of a fear of homophobia from his situation, but that he is having trouble establishing the distinct barrier between his male self and female guise and that it means he doesn’t understand himself anymore. The breakdown hints at the power of imagination, of how we see and define ourselves, and invokes the idea that, while sexuality isn’t a learned behavior, that learning provides additional information for reflection.

Once again, if we go back to Ogiue, she once stated that the Sasahara of her yaoi fantasy is clearly different from his real self, but she also clearly enjoys and is even turned on by Sasahara when he role plays his imaginary “Strong Seme” self. For Hato, who not only includes a form of Madarame in his yaoi fantasies but is also becoming increasingly good friends with him, he almost provides a powerful thought experiment whose solution can’t be as simple as “he’s gay,” even if he turns out to be.

Something I find particularly interesting about Madarame’s portrayal in this chapter is the focus on his neck. The current Madarame looks different from when he was in college, and this is shown most overtly in his change in hairstyle, but when viewed up-close from behind, he still looks the same as he always had. Given that in this chapter he basically admits to wanting to regress, and the fact that Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima did the old spying trick, I can’t see this callback as unintentional.

Keiko continues her role as a kind of substitute Saki in her own unique way. By that, I mean that where Saki has a natural pragmatism about her that Keiko lacks, Keiko seems to make up for it with sheer (mistake-filled) experience. I almost get the impression that her experience working at a cabaret club is actually increasing her perception skills far beyond what they already were, which even back when she was still attending college were still quite sharp (she’s the one who immediately noticed the sexual tension between Sasahara and Ogiue). I really can’t tell if Keiko is actually into Madarame or not, though the reveal that she’s been purposely mispronouncing his name as “Watanabe” the whole time says something. Even if Keiko is curious about Madarame, though, I can only see her interest being short term, even more than Angela’s.

As for the general idea of the “Madarame harem,” I think that it’s only a name. Take Sue, who both this chapter and last chapter was caught blushing in front of Madarame. The most obvious interpretation is a crush, but why did Sue stand back and watch when it looked like Hato was putting the moves on Madarame, but interfere when it looked like Keiko was about to do the same? For that matter, why did Sue interfere with Angela back when she was trying to get into Madarame’s pants? Given her appearance at Hato’s door at the end of the chapter, we’re probably going to find out more, but wish fulfillment fantasy with Madarame at the head this is not.

I am curious as to where Sue (who was super cute this chapter) is going. Is she going to get some real character development? She did start off as a kind of larger-than-life super fujoshi from another country, and to humanize her may either be an amazing decision or a terrible mistake. I have faith, though.

The last thing I want to point out is the significance of the Children’s Literature Society member we see in this chapter. In the past, that club was clearly on good terms with Genshiken given the whole spying thing, but I got the impression they were not exactly into anime and manga. The fact that this particular fujoshi chose to be part of the Children’s Literature Society in spite of the presence of not only Genshiken but also the Anime Society and the Manga Society (which has a large fujoshi contingent) has a connection with the recurring theme of  the generation gap between otaku that primarily manifests in the mainstreaming of the otaku and the rise of the fujoshi. The otaku are not limited to the clubs that are meant for them, which I think says a lot.

As for Ogiue ending the spying thing, it only makes sense given that she was already the victim of it in more ways than one.

Before we jump into the chapter, I have to make sure you’ve heard the news.

ATTENTION:

NEW GENSHIKEN ANIME!!

YOUR EYES DO NOT DECEIVE YOU

You’d think after the Madarame/Saki climax from a few chapters ago that Genshiken would let up for a while, but Chapter 84 is an intense one.  In the previous chapter, Madarame revealed that he was going to quit his job near the school (implying he would be unable to visit the college as often as he used to), despite Saki’s advice not to do so. As Madarame appears to feel increasingly alienated from the current club’s atmosphere (and Yoshitake tries to convert him to the church of BL), Hato is having trouble of his own as his emotions become a mystery to even himself. As Ogiue asks him to contribute to a “Tiger & Bonny” doujinshi, Hato begins to wonder about his relationship with Madarame, and the seeds of doubt Kaminaga placed in him about his heterosexuality begin to sprout.

Meanwhile, Sue of all people seems to have feelings for Madarame as well, though her character might mean it’s stranger (or simpler) than that.

I do not think that the change in demographic in Genshiken is the root cause per se for Madarame’s decision. Rather, my suspicion, based on my own experience, is that Madarame’s connection to the actual Genshiken as an on-campus club is starting to weaken. I had a similar group of nerd friends back in high school, and for the first three years after I graduated I would visit the school often to maintain that experience. Eventually, however, everyone who I even had a loose connection to graduated, and I lost any compelling reasons to continue. I’m still friends with a lot of the people I knew from that time, but our friendship has in a certain sense transcended the physical location, and I could see Madarame feeling like the clubroom itself is no longer that important.

That said, I’ve noticed, based on some of the response to the new Genshiken anime, that there are fair amount of readers both Japanese and non-Japanese who feel a bit alienated or even betrayed by Genshiken II, and I think Madarame is meant to embody that feeling to some extent, being the character who most embodies that classic otaku personality. Perhaps the deal with Madarame’s character is that he’s caught in a state of limbo, where he’s not yet fully integrated into adult living but at the same time his old haven away from reality, Genshiken, is starting to fade away.

The more that Genshiken focuses on Hato, the more I realize that he is probably the most psychologically complicated character in the entire manga (though I get the feeling that there’s something up with Nakajima that might be even more complex). Ogiue is one thing, as her story cuts to the bone, but Hato’s situation is such that you can’t even explain it as simply “he’s realizing he’s gay.” There’s a good chance that’s what’s happening, but based on the specifics of the chapter and of his history, doubting his own sexual orientation doesn’t seem to be the only thing going on.

In the chapter, Hato tries to shoo away the suggestions of his imaginary counterpart, only to have the female Hato replaced by Kaminaga, who echoes the real Kaminaga’s statement that the crossdressing likely facilitates the potential homosexuality of Hato. In that scene are a lot of things to take into consideration, starting with the fact that the Stand (i.e. Hato’s inner thoughts?) transforms specifically into Kaminaga. Based on previous chapters, it’s still not clear what his feelings towards her are. Does he want her? Does he want to be her? Does he perhaps desire both? Even the fact that the transition from Stand Hato to Kaminaga is a little hard to spot at first if you just skim through the chapter is indicative of the fact that Stand Hato continues to resemble Kaminaga, despite the fact that Hato has undergone an image change by semi-permanently switching to the shorter wig, as if to show that she specifically continues to influence him. It’s a weighty past and a convoluted present for Hato.

As for Sue, the easiest connection to make in regards to her blushing is the kiss she placed on Madarame’s cheek at the school festival as a sort of prank. Putting aside the notion of “Madarame: mack daddy of American fujoshi,” I’m starting to realize that Sue pretty much functions in Genshiken the same way the penguins do in Mawaru Penguindrum, bringing into the very foreground some of the “hidden” elements of the characters’ relationships at the time. I also think it’s quite appropriate for her to quote Dio Brando, and to have it be not one from the more popular Part 3 Stardust Crusaders story but from the original Phantom Blood.

There’s not much Ogiue this chapter, but there’s probably going to be another chapter at least partly focused around her soon, given the impending Comic Festival, though I imagine it won’t be until at least another three or four chapters.

The newest issue of Monthly Afternoon has revealed that a new Genshiken anime is in the works. This calls for a celebration:

I’ll be honest: even with the serialization of Genshiken II (aka Nidaime aka Second Season), I never expected it to get another anime adaptation. I wished for it, of course, given that the anime never even resolved Ogiue’s arc, but I thought its time had passed, and the reception to the manga sequel has been mixed, with a number of fans both inside and outside of Japan feeling alienated by the new setting.

Of course, this development begs quite a few questions. First and foremost, will the new anime actually cover the remaining parts of the original Genshiken, or is it actually just an adaptation of the second series? Would it be half and half? Would they speed through the remaining parts of the first series in order to get to the new characters? How many episode will it be? For that matter, will it even be a TV series?

Second, who is going to animate this new version? The first Genshiken anime was by the now-defunct studio Palm, while the OVAs and Genshiken 2 were done by Studio ARMS. Responsible for Queen’s Blade and currently Maoyu: Maou Yuusha, ARMS brought a bit of a perverted slant to Genshiken, and given the presence of not only Hato but also a very aggressive Angela I could imagine them going hog wild, for better or worse. I don’t exactly have a dream studio I’d like to see work on it, but the resulting product could definitely be a tad unexpected depending on who gets it.

Third, what about voice actors? We have all of these new characters, with Hato especially presenting a challenge. Do you go the route of having one of the “masculine” female voice actors vary her voice, or do you find one of rare male voice actors who can successfully do a female voice? I would actually suggest Ishida Akira as Hato, if he weren’t already playing Kuchiki. As for the other characters, maybe they’ll go for a curveball, like Kugimiya Rie as Yajima. In any case, it’ll be good to hear Mizuhashi Kaori’s Ogiue again. Over the course of the anime, Mizuhashi’s conveyance of Ogiue’s blunt and awkward personality improved tremendously, and I’m wondering how it might have changed in the 4-5 years since she last played this blog’s favorite fujoshi.

There’s plenty to think about and anticipate, and I’m sure I’ll do even more when the next bit of info is out, so I’ll just conclude with the following words.

BANZAI!

OGIUE BANZAI!

OGIUE-KAICHOU BANZAI!!!

“Just once in my life I’d like to grow a penis!”

-Yoshitake Rika

Yes, it’s that kind of Genshiken chapter.

Yajima’s birthday has just passed, and noticing that Yajima has never engaged in a truly candid discussion with fellow girls, Yoshitake tries to get the straight-laced Yajima to open up moe. When the two discover a strange object in the club room, Yoshitake immediately assumes it to be an enema plug, and as the two let their imaginations run wild, the two narrow down the most likely owner of the plug to be Hato. As Hato and Yoshitake give their belated presents to Yajima, it becomes increasingly difficult to ask him about the enema. However, it turns out that Hato knows nothing about it, that it’s actually Ohno’s, and that it’s simply a small accessory from one of her cosplay outfits.

That Yoshitake and Yajima believed the owner of the “enema” had to be a guy is very telling of the ways in which yaoi has influenced their imaginations. Rather than simply limiting it to fujoshi psychology, though, I feel like the characters this chapter are showing more delusions run rampant, as if BL was more a key to a forbidden kingdom of the mind. It’s interesting how this contrasts with the predominantly male Genshiken of old in that awkward expression of sexuality has been a part of Genshiken since the very first chapter, and was something of a constant throughout the series, but it usually took the form of professing doujinshi or character preferences. It was certainly never to the level that the guys would wonder aloud about genitalia, and in hindsight it lent a good deal of realism to the series, both in the fact that they all had their own quirks and kinks, and that they were embarrassed about it and kept things understated.

When I think about it, the female characters have always been the ones to discuss sex and relationships more directly. Whether that’s Kasukabe describing her “friend’s” doggy-style with her boyfriend, Kasukabe asking Ohno if she and Tanaka had done it in cosplay, or even Ohno and Ogiue’s tough heart-to-heart discussions, the girls have done a lot less tiptoeing around the subject of sex. It’s even clear from this chapter that Yajima is pretty open with Mimasaka as well, relatively speaking, even telling her all about seeing Hato naked.

Yoshitake, however, takes that prospect to an all-new extreme, and I don’t know if that’s because she’s a social fujoshi of a younger generation, or if it’s just because she’s weird. Either way, the manga portrays Yoshitake as a character who at least wants to be unafraid of taboos, and the fact that she almost manages to ask Hato directly about the “enema plug” shows her as a person who can overwhelm whatever fear of awkwardness might still linger within her. Also, as this chapter and previous ones have shown, get a little alcohol in her and all bets are off. The quote at the beginning of this review is followed by Yoshitake declaring that anyone interested in BL has to wonder about having a penis, a line which certainly blows Ohno’s famous “There’s no such thing as a girl who hates homos!” straight out of the water.

One thing I like about Genshiken is the way in which details are not forgotten and can come up again in later parts of the story. One example is Yoshitake’s hair, which had more of a wavy look in the earlier chapters and then became much straighter down the line, which was explained previously as Yoshitake perming her hair to look good at the start of the school year but being unable to keep up with it. In this chapter, the detail which caught my eye was Hato’s present to Yajima, a basket of skincare products. Back when the first years originally all hung out in Yajima’s apartment, the manga showed how Yajima had a complex about her poor skin condition when compared to Hato’s meticulously kept complexion. It’s unclear whether Hato’s realization of this came from some implied off-panel moment or if she picked up on it way back, but the gesture is clear that she wants to help Yajima look better and feel better. Speaking of, in the image above of Mimasaka you can really see how she is perhaps held back by her own lack of fashion sense, similar to Ogiue in the old days.

The previous chapters with their heavy focus on Madarame and Kasukabe casted a fairly large shadow on the newer characters, but I think this chapter shows how well the new characters can hold up on their own side of things. They’re different from the old crew in many ways but there’s still a sense of relatability to them, and they’re interesting characters in their own right. Next chapter though looks to be focused on Ohno, who actually has never gotten a whole ton of coverage in the manga. I wonder if it’ll have anything to do with her tendency to put off getting a job and entering the “real world.”

After the intensity and emotion of the last chapter, this month’s winds down with a post-confession Madarame. In order to try and cheer him up, the old Genshiken girls (+ Hato and Kohsaka) cosplay for him, and for a brief moment the old impassioned expository Madarame makes a triumphant return. As Tanaka and Kugayama leave with Madarame for some male bonding, Saki encourages Madarame to not let go entirely of his past with Genshiken. There also seems to be some bad blood between Keiko and Hato, though the reasons are unclear.

As is the case with recent previous chapters, this one also referenced an old anime, in this case the title of Akuma-kun‘s final episode. Appropriate, because whether you want to call it the denouement of dramatic structure or the ketsu of kishoutenketsu, Chapter 81 feels like a wrap-up of the crazy developments that have happened over the past few months with Madarame, at least when it comes to his feelings for Kasukabe. As such, this chapter feels a lot less overt with its significance and its presentation of information compared to last time, but there are still plenty of moments which radiate with potential. As always, this isn’t an end (well obviously because the manga isn’t finished but you know what I mean), but a continuation.

There’s one scene in particular this chapter that I’ve read over and over because I’m not sure how to interpret it. As the girls (and guys) cosplay for Madarame from the gender-bender game that Kohsaka worked on, Kasukabe herself joins in as well. Before we see Saki in un-drag though, we see her having a conversation with Kohsaka about her character, who’s supposed to be “boyish,” to which Saki retorts that it’s actually a boy. Then, we see two characters off-panel speaking to each other (their words are visible but they aren’t), who I’m pretty sure are Kohsaka and Kasukabe. One of them asks if they accidentally “let it slip” and the other says that it’s not about that. I believe we’re supposed to read it as Kohsaka having hid the details of his game from Saki and her response being that the content of his game is besides the point. However, because of the way she says “it’s a boy,” and the follow-up conversation about a secret being out, and the fact that we see Saki go from what others have charitably referred to as “maternity clothes” to an outfit with a corset such that we can never get a clear idea of her figure, and the fact that even with the corset she looks bigger than she used to (notably in the chest area), I feel as if this chapter is lending credence to the theory that Saki is indeed pregnant.

I might just very well be overanalyzing, and things like Saki’s slightly larger figure and larger breasts might just be either a stylistic change by Kio or a sign that she’s growing older, but it just has me wondering. If my speculation turns out to be unfounded, I’m of course fine with that.

This chapter we get to see the “old” Madarame make a return as he muses on the very concept of “trap” characters and how there are different things to consider when translating them to 3D, a rant which Saki quickly reminds everyone is reminiscent of the Madarame she first met and despised. Is this scene a sign of Madarame getting his otaku groove back? Is it the case that the last few years have been a continuous trial and now that it’s over with he can go back to being himself, or is it that Madarame is trying to force it? Is it a regression to a past identity, or is it a progression, a nerd phoenix rising from the ashes of rejection and anxiety? I’d like to believe that the old Madarame is a new Madarame, and I’m definitely looking forward to where his character will go from here.

As a side note, if you’ve ever wondered what I meant by density of information looking unusual in manga, just look at the page above where Madarame is ranting. If you’re used to manga at all, just the whole page seems to stray from how Genshiken usually flows, though that’s what also gives this page its impact.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about Madarame’s character is that Madarame seems to get paired with more characters than anyone else both inside Genshiken itself and among fans both English-speaking and Japanese. There’s of course the whole ordeal with Kasukabe, but there’s also Ogiue’s Sasa x Mada fantasies, Angela putting the moves on him hard, the ambiguity of Hato’s friendship, Kohsaka feigning (?) interest this very chapter, and then on top of that I’ve seen fanart and such going all the way back to 2005 that put him with Keiko and Sue, well before they interacted with him like they do now. It might just be that, as Hirano Kouta of Hellsing fame puts it, that “Madarame is the most moe character in Genshiken,” but I just find it interesting that so many, fictional or otherwise, seem to want Madarame to be happy (or at least less pathetic). It’s probably a testament to his enduring character and the fact that he is above all others the quintessential nerd/otaku.

In any case, it makes Saki’s comment that Madarame could very well make his own harem feel both tongue-in-cheek, yet somehow serious, though in the end I interpret it more as Saki telling Madarame that he is actually attractive in his own way. That said, I have to wonder how awkward it would be to have a girl who just rejected you also tell you that it’s okay for you to keep the sexy(ish coplay) photos you have of her. That’s the kind of scenario that so many nerds ae desperate to avoid (“What if she knows that I find her sexually attractive?”), but it’s a new world I guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if Madarame ends up throwing them out anyway, though I also wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps them.

I’ve used this comparison to describe multiple characters over the series, but Keiko is something of a Saki-type for Genshiken II. Yajima is a Saki in the sense that she’s a fish out of water and has the dry wit, but Keiko serves the role of being the character with the most “real world” experience, though as Sasahara remarks it’s more the result of making numerous mistakes. Still, it gives Keiko a type of perceptiveness that’s lacking in the current members of Genshiken, and it makes the moment where she just shows Madarame how his secret never really was one quite hilarious. Given how she didn’t even appear in the second TV series (though as far as I know that was just an unfortunate scheduling conflict, and she does make an appearance in one of the drama CDs), it almost feels like the series is making up for that by giving her more presence in the current manga.

As for the dirty look Keiko gives Hato, it’s yet another ambiguous moment in this chapter whose path will lead us who knows where. If we go by the harem view mentioned before, then this could be interpreted as Keiko exhibiting jealousy, but I think it’s something else. If I had to guess, I’d say that Keiko’s impatience towards Madarame dancing around and avoiding his own feelings for fear of confrontation is also showing itself with Hato and where he might stand with Madarame.

Even though she’s clearly not the focus, I do want to talk a bit about Ogiue’s part in this chapter. When Kohsaka grabs Madarame’s arms and tells him that they could’ve had a polygamous relationship with each other and Saki, I like how you can tell who is thinking what in that moment. For most of the guys, it’s just an awkward moment, but clearly Ogiue and Hato think more of it. Ohno seems much less affected, though it might make sense given her preference for significantly older, hairier, and balder guys. Keiko’s blushing on the following page is probably the most surprising, and another moment in this chapter open for interpretation. Could Keiko be a candidate for the Fujoshi Files after all?

The chapter ends with the reappearance of Katou, who we don’t know much about other than that she has Ohno-esque preferences, and that she’s been job-hunting as of late, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her at all. At this point Asada has more development than her, and she doesn’t even have a real face! I don’t have confidence we’ll see much of her, but one can always hope.

Chapter 79 of Genshiken II is either the chapter everyone’s been waiting for, or the prelude to the chapter everyone’s been waiting for.

After denying to everyone the possibility of having anything to hide in his apartment, Madarame is made aware of the fact Hato already knows about his secret stash of Saki cosplay photos. Hato, in turn, accidentally tells Keiko about it, misinterpreting her awareness of Madarame’s crush on Kasukabe as knowledge of the photos as well. Keiko hatches a plan to finally get Madarame and Kasukabe together and to resolve that whole mess, stringing Hato along as well. Although they run into some trouble, they succeed in their goal of getting the two into the same room.

This chapter is full of something that I associate with many manga but especially Genshiken, which is this dire feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment. It’s practically what Genshiken is built on. Sasahara and doujinshi, Kasukabe and cat ears, Ogiue and the Scram Dunk event, the nose hair incident, here we have a string of moments right along those lines, and the interesting thing is always seeing what happens in the aftermath.

One of the major dangling plot threads of the original Genshiken was Madarame’s feelings for Saki, and at the time the first series finished, I had assumed that Madarame’s case would just be one of those where a guy never confesses his feelings because of fear that things can never be the same again after the fact. It’s certainly not an unheard-of scenario, particularly when it comes to awkward nerds, and I figured that it was just another instance of realism in Genshiken. In this respect, I was totally fine with this sort of non-conclusion for Madarame: it was the other side of the romance coin. Given that Genshiken did end up continuing though, I realize it would be much worse to have that hanging overhead and to have it simply never get resolved.

While Kio Shimoku could still pull a fast one and have Madarame say nothing and solve nothing, it looks like Madarame is finally going to have to say what’s been on his mind for years now. What’s clear, despite the hopes of Mada x Saki fans out there, is that Madarame has a less than 1% chance of success because Kohsaka and her are so comfortable together. You can see this even in the interaction between them towards the end of the chapter, when Kasukabe sees Kohsaka in his crossplay, and their conversation flows in such a way that obviously she finds that to be completely bizarre but accepts it and even congratulates him on his victory at the fighting game tournament. For those of you lamenting, just remember that Spotted Flower exists.

The funniest moment for me in this chapter has to be the panel where mostly oblivious Kohsaka slowly realizes what’s going on. Something about the way he says, “Ah- …Ahhh. Ahhh…..” before asking Sasahara to leave with him had me cracking up. We don’t see very much of Kohsaka anymore, and I feel like this one scene (and remember that he’s cosplaying as the trap character based on himself at the same time) encapsulates his character almost perfectly. It’s also obvious that Kohsaka has known about Madarame’s crush on his girlfriend for a long time, though it may have taken Saki herself to explain it to him.

The second funniest moment, then, is definitely Sue’s “GETS” pose, shown here. If you’re not aware of the reference, just watch this. Sue’s graduated from referencing just anime and internet memes to bad Japanese pop culture in general.

And if we’re talking references, I find it interesting that the next chapter preview for the past two chapters have referenced older series (Getter Robo Go and Wedding Peach), when the trend has been newer shows. I wonder if this has to do with the focus on Madarame, older anime for an older character.

Going back to people’s awareness of Madarame’s feelings, I realize from this chapter just how much Hato has drawn his own conclusions in regards to Madarame’s whole situation.  After all, the reason he even knew about Madarame’s interest in Saki is because he accidentally discovered those cosplay photos. When I think about it, it’s interesting that he’s never spoken with anyone else about this, not the new members of Genshiken nor the old ones, not because it doesn’t make sense (why would he share what he believes to be Madarame’s deepest, darkest secret), but because his understanding of the whole situation has been mainly his own (mostly accurate) inference. It’s just that his fear of betraying Madarame is what generates those moments of rambling outbursts, whether it’s at Comic Festival in front of Angela or this chapter in front of the crew.

I don’t know if I could call her a “counterpart,” but I like the Keiko-Hato dynamic quite a bit, I realize. Hato’s attempts to pave things over and the consequences of that interact interestingly with Keiko’s frustration at Madarame’s inaction. It’s also in a character like Keiko that I think Genshiken shows its strengths, because she’s not a main character by any stretch of the imagination, but has her development all the same. When you look at where she came from (shallow “gal” type) and where she is now, while she hasn’t changed significantly it’s still a different place from where she was. You might not call her “mature,” but at least she’s more mature.

Also, I’m under the impression that Ohno was aware of the photos (or something like them) all along. Back when Ohno finally got Saki to take some cosplay photos with her (it was the chapter with absolutely zero word bubbles in it), she brought some photos in secret to share with Madarame. Not only does this mean she knew about his feelings, but that he was on some level willing to have photos of Saki. All Ohno does this chapter is sweat nervously, but I have to interpret that as someone who has some idea of the very thing Madarame is trying to deny.

There was one Ogiue moment in this chapter, involving her in a discussion with Saki having to do with how the club has changed (answer: more fujoshi). Really, though, the main point of that conversation was to highlight the fact that Madarame comes around less often now, and to note how Kasukabe reacts to this fact. The way I see it, her surprise at the fact links to the general idea of Madarame “growing up” in general, though I am extremely curious as to whether or not they’ll end up talking about this in addition to the main topic in the next chapter.

While Genshiken-related merchandise remains relatively sparse in the grand scheme of figure collecting, Kodansha recently collaborated with Kaiyodo to bring two Hato Kenjirou figures to loyal readers.

The first figure comes from an issue of Monthly Afternoon and features a standing Hato, while the second one comes from a limited edition Japanese release of Genshiken Volume 11.

Featured here is Standing Hato. As can be seen from the photos, the quality of the figures is trading-figure-level, so it won’t match up to a really good model, but as far as trading figures and gashapon figures go, it’s actually fairly impressive. There doesn’t seem to be any significant bleeding in the paint job, and even the details on the purse hold up to a certain amount of scrutiny.

Aside from the seams separating the pieces which make up Hato’s hair, there aren’t any really noticeable flaws, and even that is just part and parcel for the level of figure we’re getting here. The flower pattern on the dress and the details on the denim jacket also look good.

Next up is Sleeping Hato, otherwise known as Unconscious Drunken Hato.

Aside from some minor flaws, the second figure is just as solid as the first. They even did a good job on the toes, which I get the feeling would be enormously easy to mess up on a figure this small and relatively inexpensive (it came packaged with the volume for a bit extra, though I can’t remember exactly how much).

Because Sleeping Hato has to be constructed from more parts than Standing Hato, the seam in the dress between the torso and the legs is much more noticeable, though I don’t find it to be the biggest deal in the world. Again, given the typical quality of these figures, this one does a good job. You’ll note that they sculpted his hair to match the fact that he’s supposed to be lying down.

Actually, Sleeping Hato comes with one additional feature that most other figures lack: It’s a refrigerator magnet!

There’s a small magnet sticking out of Hato’s back which I’ve chosen not to photograph, but it’s pretty much what you might think it is. Are your to-do lists for grocery shopping feeling a bit lonely? Do you wish you had company for your magnet souvenirs from Japan? This crossdressing fudanshi figure successfully accompanies all fridge doodads! What’s more, 9 out of 10 people can’t tell that it’s a man!

So there we go. Both figures at this point will be pretty difficult to find, especially because they were both packaged as extras. I’m certainly not the biggest fan of Hato Kenjirou, but I have to say that both of them look good if you judge them by overall figure standards, and great if you judge them among their peers.

Kasukabe Saki visits Genshiken, bringing pangs of nostalgia to readers everywhere! As Hato puts it, “Is this what Genshiken used to be like?”

As Hato exchanges contact information with his old classmates, Kasukabe attends Shiiou University’s school festival, she catches up with her old friends, showing the degree of wit and perceptiveness she’s always been known for, the conversation turns towards the future, career paths, and even romance. Watching Saki work her magic, Hato can’t help but notice that the club somehow seems more lively when she’s around. Inevitably the topic of conversation turns towards Madarame, whom Saki caught receiving a kiss on the cheek from Sue in the previous chapter. Having heard about Madarame’s full-scale defense against the charms of Angela on top of that, Saki jokes that Madarame must be a lolicon, to which Hato comes to his defense in a rather awkward way.

As Sasahara’s sister discovers the truth of Hato, Saki silently considers that Madarame is finally hitting the point at which a guy like him becomes attractive to the opposite sex. Encouraging him to try out dating, the conversation ends on the kinds of porn that Madarame watches, which apparently is “everything.” We already knew that, though.

The new crew doesn’t get much exposure this chapter, but the hints towards Yajima possibly having feelings for Hato are definitely there. This is evident from the way her old friend Mimasaka, who thinks the world of her, reacts to Hato. Even if Mimasaka is being paranoid, it seems like she knows Yajima well enough to see when something is up. I actually expect them to be the focus in the next chapter or the one after that, especially because Hato’s story is “wrapping up” in certain respects, the mysteries of his existence now being a little less mysterious.

I have to wonder if showing Kasukabe again is a little cruel to the people who really miss the old Genshiken. While I know plenty of people who are fine with the new series, I also know people who much prefer the original style, presentation, and character dynamics of the first series. Giving them a glimpse of that environment once more might be equivalent to saying, “I could have continued Genshiken like how it used to be, but I didn’t!” In this respect it really does make the new club seem like a second generation.

That said, Kasukabe has always been that extra bit of spice which pushed Genshiken into interesting directions, the sole non-otaku in the club full of hapless dorks, as opposed to the current state where awkward isn’t quite what it used to be but no one is so firmly out of that sphere as Saki was. Just the way her statement about being okay with gay relationships getting misinterpreted by the fujoshi minds of Ogiue and Ohno (Saki’s response is that she’s referring to actual gay couples she knows in real life) shows that the rift still exists, albeit a rift that has had a solid bridge of friendship and understanding erected across it for years.

I realize that one of the limits of my analyses every month is that I don’t spend a significant amount of time on Hato, who seems to be getting more and more time in the story. At the same time, personally speaking I don’t think predicting whether or not he’ll end up with someone, be that Madarame or otherwise is particularly fruitful. I think Hato’s sexuality is not meant to be clear cut, whether that’s “he’s gay but denying it” or, as so many have mentioned both within the story and outside of it, that “2D and 3D are different,” and though I don’t have quite so much of a vested interest in the turn-out, I do find the degree to which the manga tackles the ambiguity of the topic to be particularly good. Hato destroys the lines which divide.

To what degree is otaku culture, especially male otaku culture, receptive to concepts like homosexuality or even sexuality in general? I’ve viewed it, both within Japan and outside of Japan, as being somewhat similar to geek culture in general in this regard, which is to say liberal in certain ways but can be quite conservative in others, which is why, as Kio Shimoku continues to bring the topic up through Hato and his potential feeling towards Madarame every chapter, I have to step back and think, “is this okay in a seinen magazine?” Granted, it is a seinen magazine which also runs Ookiku Furikabutte! (Big Windup), but I feel like there’s definitely a risk involved, especially when the potential target of homosexual affection is the most geeky of the otaku in Genshiken. Then again, if the guy was willing to make a detailed and in some ways harshly realistic manga about raising a newborn, then I guess nothing can stop him anymore (aside from lack of sales).

Saki views Madarame now as the late bloomer who’s apparently finally showing his petals. I’ve seen other manga talk about how there are simply times in a guy’s life when he’s more attractive to the opposite sex (and in the context of harem manga this means having it all concentrated into the present), but I don’t think Genshiken is quite going for that. Rather, I think it’s a complex interplay of elements that gives us the Madarame of today. When you actually look at him, although he’s similar to the Madarame we saw back in Chapter 1, he has in fact changed quite a bit. First, he’s not nearly as “aggressively otaku,” touting the lifestyle as a badge of sad pride, and second, he’s nowhere near as uncomfortable around girls as he used to be, probably from interacting with them so much in Genshiken.

Call it whatever you want, maturity, a betrayal of moe values, but I could easily see the how tempering of his passions to still be evident but not quite so extreme, as well as his overall understanding attitude (the result of being otaku in certain ways) could combine at this current point to make a fairly attractive guy. It doesn’t hurt that he dresses better now too. Madarame is seemingly no longer held back romantically by just being too much of an otaku, but by a combination of being unable to accept the possibility that he himself might be attractive, and that he has an unrequited love which he’s afraid to lose or to move away from. That said, I have to wonder if having to constantly interact with the girl he loves while hiding the fact (or at least trying to) also ironically helped him to develop more socially.

I noticed that there’s discussion as to whether or not Kasukabe is actually pregnant, given her choice of clothing, or if that’s just some fashion faux pas on the part of Kio. I can’t decide for myself, but I will say that because he’s tackled the topic of pregnancy and childbirth in his work, it wouldn’t be that surprising. It also might be me just making silly associations, but the way she looks reminds me of that moment in His and Her Circumstances where Yukino is pregnant and her mom, not knowing the truth initially, comments that she somehow looks more mature.

Again, though, I can’t say but it would lend meaning to Saki’s remark that Ohno’s wedding must be getting close. I have no idea whether she’s just joking or not, though Most of the relationship developments in the manga for Ohno and Tanaka have been off-panel (though the anime Genshiken 2 had its own steamy interpretation of things), so I can’t count out the possibility that this is actually for real.

Last thing I’ll say is, the reference for the next chapter is of Getter Robo Go, a decidedly older series compared to what’s been used lately. Curious.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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