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As suggested in the last chapter, Madarame and Kugayama visit Keiko’s cabaret (i.e. hostess) club. Though Keiko at first turns up the charm typically expected of a hostess, she quickly reverts to her familiar, sharp-tongued self upon finding about Madarame’s recent inner conflict over receiving Valentine’s chocolate from Hato. When it comes time for Keiko to switch out with another girl, however, Madarame asks if Keiko can stay because in spite of being a girl Madarame feels like he can talk comfortably with her. Many hours later, Madarame wakes up from a drunk stupor only to find out that it’s 3am in the morning. Madarame goes to find a 24-hour internet cafe to crash at, but Keiko suggests he come over to her place.

The Almost-Romantic Misadventures of Madarame (If They Ever Begin At All) is such a strange place to be at when you think about how Genshiken began and Madarame’s original role as alpha otaku. Obviously the awkwardness around women was there from the start and has persisted to even this most recent chapter, but now Genshiken is actively presenting Madarame pairings for people to ship and feeding solid arguments for each. In the case of Keiko, we see Madarame able to actively argue and interact with Keiko in a way that looks natural. Not only that, the fact that Keiko herself quickly reverts to her true self instead of continuing her performance as a hostess means that this attitude is reciprocal. Perhaps if this were a different manga, Keiko would say something like, “I can’t help but be myself around you!”

I bring this up not to board the Keiko x Mada train, but in order to preface something I’ve felt about the past two chapters. I find that, perhaps more than ever, the manga gives the impression of a sense of “progress.” In other words,  while obviously many characters have changed in major ways throughout the series (Ogiue most of all), the smaller developments in Madarame feel potent because of how relatively small they are. To some extent, this has to do with the fact that these chapters have concerned characters from the older generation like Madarame and Kugayama, but what’s even more significant is that, even though these conversations feel comfortable, there’s a new context around them in the form of Madarame’s girl troubles that also tinges it with just a bit of exciting unfamiliarity.

Having never been to a host or hostess club, anything I know about them comes from media (anime, written articles, etc.), so I was a bit surprised to find out about all of the little things they do to get your money. While I’ve heard that people spend lots of money on their hostesses, what I didn’t know was that they actively switch every 15 minutes or so and that the only way to keep talking to your preferred girl is to spend money on them in the form of drinks. It reminds me a lot of how contemporary free-to-play games work, giving the customer a small taste and using the allure of continued immersive entertainment to lighten their wallets.

In that sense, the cabaret club is not that different from cute girl-oriented games such as Love Live! School Idol Festival or Kantai Collection, especially when it comes to all of the tricks the girls use to keep a guy enticed. School Idol Festival presents little “stories” where the girls talk about their favorite things, and there’s always the implication of an ambiguous romantic attraction to you the player (“Maybe next time, I can wear other outfits for you!”). Similarly, in this chapter, Keiko demonstrates a number of tricks of the trade. Showing a bit of cleavage is an obvious one, as is presenting a cutesy and demure persona through her attitude and posture, but it didn’t even occur to me until she dropped the act and crossed her legs that her original way of sitting with legs pressed together is clearly suggestive. This doesn’t mean that bare, uncrossed legs are always about sending signals, but in the context of a cabaret club and its employee it’s pretty clear what the true motive is.

I believe that Keiko’s familiarity with the use of a persona to attract men, perhaps not only due to her current profession but possibly also due to the circles she’s run with in the past, is what makes her so skeptical of Hato. Seeing Hato act so girly while knowing that he’s really a man (and sees himself as a man), most likely Keiko thinks that Hato must have some kind of ulterior motive or is not presenting his true self. After all, she fakes her personality for work every day, and knows what will get a guy to pay more attention (and money).

Of course, as established previously, Keiko does have some degree of attraction towards Madarame, and so this changes the dynamic of their hostess-customer relationship in this chapter. However, I find that her approach to getting Madarame, while comparable to her hostess strategies, is still significantly different and perhaps even closer to Angela’s approach. When originally trying to get with Madarame, Angela told Ohno (in the between-chapter extras) that she had intentionally emphasized her dynamite body around him so that her image would linger in his mind (Angela specifically says that he wanted Madarame to masturbate to his memory of her). Although Keiko doesn’t utilize the same sledgehammer method as Angela, it’s also clear that Keiko knows exactly what her words imply when she invites Madarame over to her place at 3am in the morning, and that this has instantly planted a seed into Madarame’s imagination. Keiko the hostess nudges and winks, Keiko the person presses the issue.

Even though he doesn’t have much of a presence in this chapter (or well, ever), there are these little things the chapter presents about Kugayama that I find interesting. After Madarame wakes up, Keiko informs him that Kugayama paid for everything, and that it looks like he makes more than a decent wage. While we’ve seen Kugayama employed for a long time now, this gives me the impression that he’s become a true otaku salaryman, in the sense that while he may not have much time anymore he’s able to devote his earnings to continuing his fandom. Additionally, while Kugayama is secretly praying that Madarame won’t buy an expensive drink for Keiko with the expectation that he’ll be treating Madarame to it, Madarame himself doesn’t even consider the notion that he’s doing this on Kugayama’s own dime (or 10-yen coin ha ha ha ha please don’t kill me). There’s just something there that makes me really feel their friendship even though we don’t see it too often anymore.

The last thing I want to mention is that the next chapter preview reference this time is actually from Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, the bizarre anime where Captain America and friends are kind of like Pokemon. Kio frequently makes both obscure and recent references, but this one actually caught me by surprise more than any other.

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.

 

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.

Have you been enjoying the new Genshiken anime? I call the manga of NidaimeGenshiken II” because that’s how I started, while I call the anime “Genshiken Second Season” because that’s how it’s widely advertised in English. While it makes things easier in terms of separating my anime and manga posts, I do feel a bit contradictory or incongruous in doing so. Anyway, here’s Chapter 91, which is a turning point, the latest of many.

After Yajima talks to Hato in an effort to tell him that he can’t simply dump Madarame onto Angela so he can get back to reading BL, Ohno calls to ask Hato to complete the Bodacious Space Pirates cosplay as the main character. Eager to rid himself of the fujoshi that is his mental alter ego, Hato agrees, but by doing so actually appears to reaffirm his feelings on Madarame. Hato apologizes to Angela, but Angela has other ideas, simultaneously confessing the mutual feelings of her, Hato, and Sue. Madarame, like a deer caught in headlights, tries to run but accidentally slips and fractures his wrist (again) when he sees Keiko.

I quite like how Kio Shimoku writes and draws Angela, as for all of her simplistic character traits she still comes across as a fully developed person. Angela makes various comments about basically having a foursome, but I don’t think we’re supposed to interpret that as her wanting that sort of relationship. Instead, I think the fact that her words intentionally sound like they’re coming straight of an eroge is what’s important. Previous chapters have established that Angela is extremely savvy and strategic when it comes to putting the moves on Madarame, such as Angela hoping that if she’s aggressive enough the timid and virginal Madarame will use her as masturbation material, and I have no doubt in my mind that she’s trying to appeal to that basic otaku side of Madarame, to give him the temptation to fuse fantasy and reality in his mind. There’s also the fact that Ohno stops interpreting out of embarrassment, so Angela has to be as braindead obvious with her words as possible.

Of course, the other component of all this is that Angela is blasting through the ambiguity in a way which normally Sue would, but this is not Sue’s area of comfort at all. It’s funny how the more social and perceptive characters in Genshiken have generally been the ones to point out budding feelings and similar developments where the dorks of the group have been oblivious, like when Keiko nonchalantly asked if Sasahara and Ogiue are dating before they started doing so. Even though Keiko makes only a brief appearance at the end, I think she provides a good amount of interesting material to analyze as well.

When I think about it, Keiko and Angela appear to be approaching Madarame in the same way, by trying to actively appeal to his otaku sensibilities. The way I see it, the key difference is that Angela is an otaku herself while Keiko is not. Angela is using her knowledge of anime, manga, and video games, her experience interacting with fellow otaku, and even how her own mind works, to feed into Madarame’s fantastic desires. Keiko, on the other hand, is giving herself a more natural appearance, maybe even one closer to Kasukabe’s, in an effort to appear less a part of the Shibuya world which most otaku reject. The fact that Angela has a dynamite body may or may not play a factor in this battle.

Hato’s feelings meanwhile are practically overwhelming him at this point, and the clarity that this chapter brings also serves to complicate things further. As silly as this may sound, I find significance in the fact that the “other Hato” has a different breast size compared to the “other Kaminaga” who has been appearing in Hato’s consciousness lately, as it basically means they’re two aspects of his mind. Both are representative of something inside him, but the other Hato, with her larger chest, speaks towards Hato’s ideal of the generic woman he’s aiming to visually emulate. As mentioned before in a 4koma, when Hato crossdresses he tries to have as many “female” signifiers in his appearance, and breasts are one of them. The other Kaminaga, on the other hand, has small breasts like the actual person, which I interpret as Hato tying that persona closer to the real Kaminaga, or more specifically her words, and her ability to cut to the heart of the matter. The fact that Kaminaga is literally the person he was originally trying to emulate has to mean something as well.

Aside from a panel or two, there wasn’t really an Ogiue content this chapter, but I do find an off-hand remark by Kuchiki to be interesting. Kohsaka and Sasahara mention to Hato that there’s nothing quite like the wrath of not so much a scorned woman but a humiliated one, which causes Kuchiki to refer to them as the “非DT,” or “not virgins,” to which Madarame and Kugayama react nervously. While Kohsaka is generally seen as the attractive guy, there’s something hilarious about having Sasahara considered even remotely close to being a stud.

This time, to finish, I’d actually like to talk a bit about the art, which I typically don’t get into much during these reviews. The same page where Kuchiki calls the two of them “not virgins” is rather nice, I think, because of the way the panel of Kohsaka up top anchors that small moment in time, as well as Kohsaka’s words (“I don’t think you can take thing back at this point”). This isn’t just because it’s a large panel, but the lack of a background contrasts with the busier panels before and after, which in turn makes that panel act as both a breather as well as a moment of impact. On top of that, it rests well at the top of the page and makes for a balanced composition. I think in general Kio is good at using these large empty panels, and if you look through previou chapters I’m sure you’ll find more examples.

In this month’s Genshiken the guys and girls are separated on the line to Comic Festival, but in both cases the topic is the same: Madarame, and the women (and man) who might love him. There’s also some cosplay, as the girls dress up as the cast from Bodacious Space Pirates.

Yajima as Luca, Yoshitake as Coorie

The real-life Comic Market upon which Genshiken‘s Comic Festival is based is traditionally seen as a space existing in a dimension separate from the realm of romance and general extroverted interaction. It’s a distinction acknowledged even by Genshiken itself (Madarame’s famous exclamation that having a tan at ComiFes is “embarrassing), but it’s also a series where relations are fostered (Sasahara and Ogiue). Even though the series does have a tendency to place those conventionally incongruous elements together, the juxtaposition between people discussing potential love interests while waiting hours to buy doujinshi is nevertheless still quite strong.

The boys’ discussion revolves around the four whom Kasukabe believes have something for Madarame, namely Angela, Sue, Keiko, and Hato. Although Kasukabe is the definitely the most socially perceptive character in the series she’s also not perfect (she thought Madarame fell in love with her well before he actually did), so it isn’t necessarily presented as the gospel truth aside from the extremely obvious Angela. Given her strong observational skills, however, it’d still be fun to discuss each of them in detail, not to pick the “best” one but to do some semi-intense character analysis.

Before we get into it, though, I do want to say that it isn’t that unusual for Madarame to be  a target of affection, and I don’t mean that in a “deep down he’s a good guy” sort of way. Not only is Madarame kind and intelligent, but he’s made major strides of the years to improve his sociability. That, and some girls are into the scrawny nerd type.

Angela,dressed as Misa Grandwood, Ohno in the background as Chiaki Kurihara

If you’ll recall, Angela’s interest in Madarame is actually a retcon from the second TV series (Genshiken 2, not be confused with Genshiken Second Season even though it’s totally easy to do so). The aggressive Angela enjoys Madarame’s passive demeanor, and what’s especially important about her perspective is that she isn’t thinking of this in a very romantic sort of way. While she wouldn’t mind seeing him long-term, she’s also definitely okay with a down and dirty one night stand. One thing I find interesting about Angela is that in her you have the portrayal of a woman who’s using every asset at her disposal to (literally) charm the pants off a guy. Even putting aside the aggression, if you look again at Chapter 66, you’ll notice that at the end of the day Angela switches from the outfit she was wearing in the morning to one with a short skirt and exposed cleavage.

Angela’s original appearance in the manga involves her, a non-Japanese speaking foreigner with a perfect body being very social, a form of kryptonite to the poor otaku Madarame. Personally speaking, there’s something hilarious about a rigid guy being with a sexually charged bombshell in that it’s fun to watch the layers of restraint and fear either melt away or intensify. For Madarame it’s more the latter, a response I find to be realistic for a nerd, though the fact that the unrequited love for Kasukabe is now a done deal changes the game. Her attitude frequently makes me wonder about what life is like for her most of the year, especially because she’s such a fearsome individual, able to notice Madarame’s pining for Kasukabe after just one or two brief ComiFes visits.

Sue as Gruier Serenity

While I’ve seen some Angelas in the American anime fandom, I’ve seen many more Sues, and I still find her to be surprisingly close to the kind of fans I tend to encounter at US anime conventions (although Yoshitake is actually pretty close too). Sue appears shortly after Angela in the original series delivering Asuka’s signature insult (“Anta baka?”), and it’s been interesting seeing her develop, from a non-sequitur gag machine with a penchant for making things awkward for those around her, to a fully fleshed-out character fluent in Japanese though still capable of intentionally generating the same awkwardness.

Sue’s feelings for Madarame aren’t as clear-cut as Angela’s, but Sue also frequently interacts with Madarame while appearing to enjoy it immensely. If she does like Madarame to that extent, it explains a lot of her actions with respect to him, like her remark that Madarame should “find a new love.” I also have to wonder how an actual relationship between the two would look. Sue is perhaps the only girl that can go toe-to-toe with Madarame when it comes to sheer obsession with anime and manga to the point of building up a seemingly endless wealth of quotes. There’s also something about their combined awkwardness that makes me imagine some of the interactions from Nichijou.

The thing I find funniest about Keiko is that years ago, when the original manga was still running in Japan, before there were these specific moments in Nidaime between the two to fuel the fire, there were already fans of the Madarame x Keiko pairing. If I had to reason why the combination has its supporters, it could be that in a way this would be the most “realistic” (read: cynical) couple, that image of the otaku whose average-looking girlfriend doesn’t quite understand his hobby and is a little too frivolous with cash. Perhaps the best reason is that Madarame was rejected by Kasukabe while Keiko’s affections for Kohsaka never went anywhere, comfort in mutual sorrow. Still, the reaction from Madarame and Sasahara is understandable (and also hilarious), as Sasahara basically pleads with Kohsaka and Hato to strike the very idea from the world. Watching the two guys basically not even consider her a factor is one of the best parts of the chapter.

The extras in Volumes 13 and 14 of Genshiken paint an interesting picture of Keiko. In Volume 14, Hato notices that Keiko has actually changed her makeup style to a more natural-looking one. One of Keiko’s visual characteristics since her debut in the manga has been her heavy makeup, and to forego it in favor of a lighter look implies that she’s aiming for a guy who might find that heavily dolled up look intimidating. On the other hand, a Volume 13 extra also shows that she has some interest in Hato, asking him if he’d be willing to have sex with a girl while still in drag. That 4-panel comic actually changed my perception of Keiko, and I wonder if her position in all of this is more complex than first expected.

Then there’s Hato, whose interactions with Madarame I’ve analyzed many times over and which you’ll find in numerous previous chapter reviews. Two things are clear: Hato is really complicated, and he pays a lot of attention to both Madarame and the people around Madarame. After all, he’s the one who noticed that Keiko changed her makeup. He’s also clearly very confused about what he does and doesn’t want, and you can see it in the way he went from needing to crossdress no matter what, to absolutely refusing to do so and trying to play the part of Average Joe Otaku. It sort of reminds me of when nerds who know nothing about sports (which includes myself to an extent!) try to discuss basketball or something: awkward, unfamiliar, clearly an act.

His past with Kaminaga makes it even more difficult to discern his intentions, as it isn’t clear whether he wanted her or wanted to be with her (or perhaps even both). However, if we assume that Hato does have feelings for Madarame, he then presents an interesting position in that he would see himself as a man who likes to crossdress and look at yaoi, but not someone who identifies as a woman and would therefore see a relationship with a man as heterosexual. If Genshiken then actually had him get together with Madarame, it would bring the entire manga to a whole other place.

The chapter ends with Yajima getting ready to say something to Hato, and amidst this strange situation their relationship is also something which has changed over time. Where once Yajima had been uncomfortable with Hato in drag, now she’s the opposite, mirroring Hato’s own feelings. I’m actually quite looking forward to how this develops next month. The “next chapter” reference, by the way, is Jewelpet Happiness.

One last vitally important thing to discuss: Ogiue’s cosplay is amazing. Somehow the series keeps finding great characters for her to dress up as, and even if the look doesn’t match entirely her intense expression makes it entertaining nonetheless. Ogiue cosplay is something special.

Ogiue as Quartz Christie

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.)

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.

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.

This month’s Genshiken II focuses on club alumnus Madarame. If you’re the kind of person who likes to pair anime characters up, then this chapter has a lot for you to chew on. Romance! Sort of.

Madarame has always been a fan-favorite, due in part to the fact that he seems the “Truest Nerd 4 Life” and thus the one closest to us. This is especially evident in his unrequited love for Kasukabe; sinking back into the recesses for fear of not ruining your friendship is the hallmark of the nerd with heartache, that “noble nerd” mindset with which many deceive themselves. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely felt that before, even if it wasn’t directed at any girl in particular.  So when Sasahara’s sister Keiko confronts Madarame about his feelings towards Saki in the tactless way that only Keiko can (as opposed to the tactless way only Sue can), Madarame gets taken for a psychological ride and we’re taken along with them.

Keiko, who has herself shown affections for the other half of the Kohsaka-Kasukabe Combination, makes it very clear that not only is she well aware of Madarame’s crush on Kasukabe, but that just about everyone else is too, possibly even including Saki herself. Of course, this comes as a complete shock to Madarame, who failed to realize that in his concerted efforts to minimize his longing gazes at Saki actually made his feelings completely obvious. Though this has very much to do with the fact that Madarame is such a huge dork, believing you’re subtle when you’re really not is a problem many guys have, and I can really empathize with him. Madarame has a track record of doing this, too. I mean, let’s not forget the “nose hair” incident.

By the way, I’m unsure of how popular it is among English-speaking fandom, but I know there’s a decent amount of Japanese Genshiken fans who are way into Madarame x Keiko (or Keiko x Madarame). I wonder if Kio Shimoku is aware of that?

Madarame and Keiko’s conversation never quite resolves. Sue walks in at an (in-) opportune moment, suggesting that not only do Sasahara and Keiko have more in common than expected, but that perhaps Sue is actually a cosmic being who takes strength from the meta-fabric of Genshiken itself, particularly in channeling Ogiue references. I hope that Sue gets her own dedicated chapter at some point in this run. Shifting character focus from chapter to chapter seems to be the direction of Genshiken II, so I think there’s a fair chance of it happening. Maybe Angela will make a brief return.

In any case, despite Sue’s interruption, Keiko leaves Madarame with a profound message: the only reason he can continue to spin in place is because he’s never had his heart broken. And again, if we look at Genshiken history, right there on-panel in the beach chapter was Keiko confronting an old boyfriend. Whether that bad outcome was the result of “heartbreak” or not is unclear, as is whether Keiko has truly given up on Kohsaka, but the comparison between then and now shows the kind of maturity that Keiko’s developed since we first saw her trying to wrangle money from her brother, incomplete as that maturity may be.

So while the chapter was Madarame-centric, Keiko also got a lot of development, or at least we see that she’s developed some since her last appearance.

Book-ending the chapter is Madarame’s interactions with Hato, who has been using Madarame’s apartment to change in and out of his feminine clothing. The impossibly attractive Hato is messing up Madarame’s wiring a bit, and even he can’t tell whether his friendliness with Hato is more of the male companionship he clearly misses from his club days or if it’s something else entirely (or possibly both). Again, for you shippers out there, I’m sure this chapter pleases Caesar. Interestingly, Hato himself seems to be getting the most consistent amounts of page time. I wonder if it just has to do with the fact that he is the biggest mystery of Genshiken.

Ogiue meanwhile is poised to make her published manga debut, and I am continually fascinated by her relationship with Sasahara, notably in the way they butt heads due to their respective professions of artist and editor, and how it ultimately results in better work. Ogiue’s experience with Sashara-as-editor, which we’ve seen ever since the last volume of Genshiken, is itself likely influenced by Kio Shimoku’s own time at Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon, and seems to confirm Peepo Choo artist Felipe Smith’s own account of creating manga for sister Kodansha publication Morning Two. I’m also curious as to whether or not Sue stays over at Ogiue’s place often and interferes with Sasahara and Ogiue’s alone time, as the chapter seems to imply.

But the real story is that Ogiue’s manga schedule is conflicting with her Comic Festival schedule, and that seems to be the focus for the next chapter.  As you might expect, I’m looking forward to it quite a bit.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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