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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 97 of Genshiken II has quite a few significant developments, but they appear almost when you least expect them.

Yoshitake and Yajima decide to check out Hato’s new apartment, which is closer to the university. As they relax together, Yoshitake persists in trying to get Yajima to make a move on Hato or at least do something. The conversation goes to the topic of Madarame (who’s been looking for a new job), who then turns out to have a cold, prompting a visit.

While Hato uses his spare key to check up on Madarame and returns it, Yoshitake finally gets Yajima to admit that she has some feelings for Hato. As they discuss the fact that there’s actually an open apartment in Madarame’s building, Sue pulls up in a moving truck revealing that she will be living next to Hato (edit: not Madarame like I previously thought) from now on.

I find this chapter fairly difficult to process because it progresses so deceptively. What appears to start out as a Hato-centric chapter slowly reveals itself to be actually more of a Yajima and Yoshitake story, while the idle chit chat of the beginning eventually transforms into probably the most serious conversation about sexual orientation seen thus far in Genshiken. This unusual pacing makes it so that when Yajima finally quietly and grudgingly admits that she has some feelings for Hato (“…I don’t not like him”), it’s so subtle yet upfront that at least for me personally it feels like there’s a delayed response, like I’ve been hit by Kenshiro and am just waiting for my head to explode once it fully processes all of the implications.

Yajima’s moment plays out in the page below, and just the juxtaposition between her face and Yoshitake’s delightfully beaming face over getting her friend to finally come out with what Yoshitake herself has known all along is probably the highlight of the chapter. I know that manga sometimes gets ragged on for focusing too much on faces and not trying to draw more anatomically realistic characters or backgrounds, and then that the common response is to whip out something with really nice rendered art like Berserk. However, I think it’s important to appreciate skillfull use of faces in terms of creating a strong sense of flow and composition, even when it’s just two panels.

There’s also this sense of a narrative passing of the baton as while Hato has come to accept his feelings for Madarame, now it’s Yajima’s turn for conflict and confusion. In Yajima’s case it has nothing to do with her own sexual orientation. Instead, as far as I can interpret things, it has a lot to do with her own poor self-image mixed with some guilt over how she’s treated Hato and the realization that Hato feels something for Madarame. More than her appearance or her fondness for Shounen Jump analogues, it’s moments like these, where Yajima diminishes the value of her own romantic affections in favor of what’s already where, that makes Yajima feel really and truly like an awkward otaku.

As an aside, as much as I like Kinnikuman myself, I’m always a little surprised to see it referenced so readily in anime and manga, a reminder of how popular and beloved it really is. In this case, it’s Yajima using the Hell’s Guillotine, a signature move of the villain Akuma Shogun when she retaliates against Yoshitake’s antics.

When Yoshitake discusses sexuality, she mentions the idea that the fujoshi fantasy world of BL pairings is far different from the reality of a homosexual relationship and that there are (social) challenges awaiting anyone who accepts being part of a sexual minority. Not only is this rather poignant and serious, but together with the fact that she considers the likely reality that someone is going to get hurt in this no matter what, this chapter really highlights the fact that Yoshitake really thinks a lot of her friends. That said, she also kind of brushes aside her high school friends in a comment to Yajima and Hato, thought I take that as her having different types of friendships with different people. Even her friendships with Yajima and Hato individually aren’t quite the same.

As for Sue, the comedy potential for her living next to Hato  is obvious, but it casts an interesting context in retrospect on Sue’s appearance in Chapter 95. While Sue being surrounded by mountains of merchandise epitomizes her as a mighty otaku, it also gives off this stark image of loneliness and isolation, which might explain in part the decision to move.

The last thing I want to do is go back to the faces, because this chapter has some of the best I’ve ever seen in Genshiken. You can already see in the Yajima-Yoshitake image above. The series has always been pretty good with the expressions, especially with the old Ogiue’s intense glares and Yoshitake’s general aloofness, but I feel like they’re on a whole other level here.

Seeing this Ogiue face below fills me with a strange kind of glee. In it, she’s basically refusing to get anywhere near a beauty salon. It’s interesting but also completely in character for her to be especially uncomfortable going to that sort of place even though she’s become much more fashionable over time.

Volume 15 of the Genshiken II manga came out in Japan recently, and with it a limited edition featuring an OVA (or OAD as they call it) where they animate a couple of chapters from the original Genshiken. Covering Sue’s stay over at Ogiue’s apartment and the group’s new year’s shrine visit, it’s a part of the story that should be completely familiar territory to Genshiken fans, and watching it has made me want to both consider its role or purpose as the first Nidaime OAD and think a little about the story itself.

When you think about it, this OAD didn’t have to be the new year’s shrine visit, but it is in many ways the most appropriate given Nidaime. Ogiue’s trauma and the trip to Karuizawa would have been too long and arguably too heavy for this. The graduation in the last chapter of the original Genshiken would have been nice but is of course more of a finale than anything else. The no-dialogue chapter would have been an interesting part to adapt, but that would negate the entire new set of voice actors they’ve brought in. With the new year’s shrine visit, however, you get various threads which lead directly into Nidaime, particularly what’s been covered by the anime. Ogiue shows her softer side, which plays into her role in the second series. Sue expresses her desire to study in Japan, thus setting the stage for her increased prominence. The forlorn romance of Madarame is in full swing here, expressed almost painfully in its silence. Though Genshiken is in a sense full of turning points, this is a pretty major one in hindsight.

In terms of adaptation from manga to anime, I find it interesting that the characters were made to look like in the original series. It seems like a no-brainer but they had to do things like switch to older hairstyles and even styles of dress in order to capture the visual sense of how different the club was back then. In fact the entire mellowness of the OAD really stands out, and I imagine for anyone who watches it after having only experienced Nidaime, they would notice first and foremost the relative lack of bombastic energy. Even the references are from a different period of otakudom (“Sit, Nekoyasha!”).

One minor but noticeable change has to do with the fact that Ogiue has her default Series 1 hairstyle in the OAD, which is subtly different from the hair she wore to the shrine in the manga. There, instead of having the horizontal “antennae” on the sides of her head, Ogiue has more pronounced tufts of hair over her ears, and most likely creating another set of character design sheet just for this one-off Ogiue hair would have been too difficult or time-consuming. What’s important is that this specific hairstyle was not a fluke or a shift in judgment in the manga, as Kio Shimoku specifically drew Ogiue with that hair on the the limited edition cover of Genshiken Volume 15. Given her dress-up for Sasahara’s graduation a few chapters later, I feel like the purpose of this hairstyle was to show Ogiue trying to pretty herself up a bit (which in turn extends from a longer trend of her getting more fashionable after talking to Kasukabe).

If there’s one thing I really took away from  watching this, however, it would be a case of self-reflection, so I hope you’ll forgive me as I indulge in some introspection.

When Ogiue is drying Sue’s hair, she talks about how she’d like to be more like Sue, who isn’t afraid to be an otaku and to just be herself, which Ogiue has been trying to learn. This process Ogiue undergoes in the series is part of why she’s my favorite character, and it’s something I’ve tried to live by as well, to my benefite even, but as I get older I increasingly feel this pressure to not display my otaku-ness so openly. It’s not something I try to hide, but I realize that it’s important to know that sometimes other people won’t quite understand, and explaining who you are and why you love the things you do requires a certain sociability and deftness with words which often escape me. On some level, I worry that the essential advice of “be yourself” is something I’ve begun to creep away from even though it’s been so important to me.

Also, because I’ve managed to become more social and more comfortable over the years, I think what I basically am afraid of is becoming the very person I swore I never would, that person who passes judgment on others for being weird or socially awkward, not because I want to but because I might have lost touch with that feeling. That said, if I’m actively concerned about this, then that’s maybe for the best because it means I haven’t forgotten that idealism even if it doesn’t work out, well, ideally.

As Yoshitake and Yajima discuss the Madarame “harem,” Hato shows that he is more accepting of all the complex facets which make up who he is. Given the issue of romance in the air, however, Yoshitake worries that it could end up breaking Genshiken apart.

One of the manga volume extras has Tanaka and Kugayama discussing the idea that romantic feelings can often destroy otaku groups, and to see that “aside” brought to the forefront in the main manga is interesting, to say the least. It’s an aspect of “nerd friendship” that has been left unexplored in Genshiken so far, for better or worse. Madarame had his thing with Saki, of course, but that was defined more by Madarame’s silence, and now that their particular subplot finished with everything out in the open, the potential drama of the current situation acts as perhaps an extension of that. It’s like every time I look at Genshiken another new arc or period is starting.

Of course, the fact that when Tanaka and Kugayama talked about otaku groups falling apart they had in mind the lone girl whom all of the male otaku fawn after, which is completely flipped with Madarame here. I think I wouldn’t be a fan of too big a swing into “club drama” in the venomous sense, as I think it might get way too far from the core of Genshiken (I’d hate to see friendships fall apart), but given where the series has been and my sense of how Kio Shimoku has advanced the story of the new generation so far, I strongly doubt that’s where it’s headed. Even if it does, I think the man has enough skill to execute it well and make it an opportunity for contemplation nevertheless.

This chapter shows once and for all that the projections have been manifestations of various conflicts in Hato. With the other Hato it’s about how he has tried to maintain this dual mental identity such that his “male” self and his “female” self are two separate entities when in fact they are, as the other Hato put it, the same person. When it comes to the Kaminaga stand, however, given what we know now it’s clear that she represents Hato’s repressed feelings for Madarame. As I’ve stated many times before, I find it interesting that these are two separate aspects. Seeing Hato accept and “absorb” them is probably the highlight of the chapter, as it show perhaps more than any other scene with Hato in the entire of the manga a kind of resolution, or should I say resolve? There’s something powerful about seeing those semi-subconscious facets of Hato disappear from the page, almost like the last time we see Madoka in the original Madoka Magica TV series. I find it also significant that Hato now wants to find an apartment closer to the school so that he doesn’t have to change at Madarame’s place. The idea is obviously that Hato’s own feelings for him make that scenario incredibly uncomfortable for Hato.

A first for Genshiken is that we get to see Sue by herself this chapter. Usually she’s with Ohno, or Ogiue, or Angela, but here Genshiken presents the lone Susanna Hopkins, and though there’s nothing surprising about her lifestyle (or the fact that her dorm is a mess!), there’s an almost melancholy feel to seeing Sue without others to bounce off of, for her actions to collide with the sensibilities of others. If it weren’t for the stuff with Hato mentioned above, I would say Sue in her dorm room would have been the most powerful image in this chapter. Also, though it’s hard to tell I think Sue lives in an on-campus dorm specifically devoted to foreign students. My clues are the bits of unreadable English (or other roman alphabet text) on a couple of plaques and the fact that the two other dorm residents portrayed are speaking something unintelligible for Sue.

I also feel the need to talk a bit about Yoshitake, if only because, as much as the old Genshiken characters were into some pretty hardcore stuff, they never spoke so openly and candidly about topics like sex. Of course, Yoshitake’s exclamations come from a place of otaku fantasy and not personal experience, so it’s not that different, but she’s a far cry from everyone else outside of maybe Angela who’s more forward and is more sexually active than Yoshitake is. I think Yoshitake’s decision to title the whiteboard list of Madarame’s faults as “Rame-senpai no koko ga ramee,” which makes it sound like a line from a porn manga, says it all. As an aside, Yoshitake makes a reference to Kamijou Touma (I’ll break that illusion apart”), which I’m sure will please at least a few.

Sadly we did not get to see Ogiue in her hometown, which I was really hoping for. That said, though this may just be my own wishful thinking, I believe that Ogiue could play an important role in all of this because she understands the emotional and relationship damage that can happen when people refuse to communicate with each other, which I think is the biggest “threat” when it comes to a club like Genshiken falling apart.

Hato is back home in order to try and sort out his feelings. Kaminaga and Hato’s brother Yuuichirou are there too, and though Kaminaga (who now insists of being called “sister”) does her best to give advice to Hato about Madarame, her fujoshi brain interferes with her words and intent quite a bit. Eventually, thanks to a meeting with Konno and Fuji, Hato realizes that his feelings for Madarame mean he doesn’t want to leave Genshiken, and resolves to head back to Tokyo.

Chapter 94 is the first time in Genshiken that we’ve actually seen a character’s hometown life elaborated upon to this extent. Sure, there have been flashbacks, like Ogiue in junior high or Madarame discovering doujinshi for the first time, but ask yourself this: how many of the characters’ parents have we seen? The answer is just Hato’s.

Hato’s thought process shows that part of his turmoil is his desire to try and justify his own feelings, to try and compartmentalize everything internal into a consistent emotional map. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of latent homophobia, and if I had to venture a guess it might have more to do with trying to defy his past reputation when gossip spread about him reading yaoi and his classmates constantly made reference to how gay he is. It reminds me of a documentary I watched recently where a girl raised by two gay men talked about how she spent most of her life strongly insisting she was 100% heterosexual as a way of fighting back against the people who assumed that gay men would inevitably raise gay children, but eventually realized she was bisexual. Of course, I don’t know if Hato’s situation is quite the same, but I sense similarities. Kaminaga’s advice to essentially not sweat the small stuff, albeit filtered through her fujoshi self, is perhaps the moral of this chapter.

Kaminaga has grown on me more with this chapter. Her new hairstyle (did she dye it or un-dye it?) gives her a real “classical Japanese beauty” look reinforced by panels like the one above, which then clashes heavily with her ever-”rotten” personality. It’s an interesting contrast, and when I think more about it, the fact that Kaminaga is the way she is but has married (or is about to marry? it’s not entirely clear) a super normal guy in Yuuichirou speaks to something a bit different from the other relationships in Genshiken, even Kohsaka and Kasukabe’s. I think it’s because Yuuichirou and Kasukabe are different kinds of “normal.” One is a straight and narrow type, the other is socially successful, and it speaks to how “normal” is a kind of spectrum in itself.

Being Konno is suffering. Her own feelings for Hato turn this into a kind of love triangle, but Hato doesn’t even realize she likes him, and the fact that her advice of “if it’s causing you so much suffering, why not leave the club?” actually helps Hato realize that, yes, he does like Madarame after all. Not too long ago I wrote that a common form of moe we see is a normal life filled with a series of tiny tragedies, and I think that describes Konno’s situation quite well. I can only imagine how Konno would slide further into despair if she knew the person Hato likes is a guy. After all, when Konno originally learned about Hato’s crossdressing, she assumed that her responsibility as the root of all the gossip that had spread about Hato in high school had actually turned him gay, in turn sabotaging her own chances at romance. Of course, this isn’t resolved yet and Hato x Konno might actually become a thing in the end.

The best moment of the chapter in my opinion comes at the very end. We find Kaminaga drunkenly watching Yuuichirou and his old judo club buddies grapple each other under the influence of alcohol, clearly enjoying the fantasies inspired by reality. It’s unclear to what extent the redness of her face is due to alcohol versus perversion. Juxtaposed on the page next to a reference to a Whisper of the Heart reference (for Hato) and a Samurai Troopers reference (for Kaminaga’s own entertainment), it encapsulates her character pretty much perfectly, the manga panel equivalent of a bumper sticker saying “801 Fujoshi 4 Life.”

For any enterprising business folk, that one’s for free.

Speaking of business, Kio’s comments this month are about how Sue is a DLC skin for Akihabara’s Trip, a game where you search through Akiba and find witches by stripping them. Questionable qualities of the game aside, Sue is somehow incredibly appropriate for this, and would probably make the proper Those Who Hunt Elves and Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! references to boot.

When it comes to the adaptation process of Genshiken Second Season as an anime, most of the time the changes ranged from minor to medium at best. Here at the very end though, we’re presented with an actual 100% original anime episode to wrap things up. As such, for the first time I’m going to be applying the level of detailed analysis I usually reserve only for the Genshiken manga to the anime.

In the previous episode, Madarame revealed that he had decided to quit his job, and Hato has ended up blaming himself for this turn of events. Seeing that Hato has been avoiding Genshiken for weeks, the club invites Hato and Madarame to a hot springs so that they can relax and Hato can move forward, much in the way that Ogiue was able to have her own breakthrough. Hato, originally planning to stop crossdressing due to the perceived troubles it’s caused, gets some advice from Madarame: basically, just do whatever you want until you don’t want to, stop, then start up again if you feel like it. It’s no big deal. Hato decides to continue his ways.

On some level I think that this final episode is an attempt to finally get the Karuizawa arc (the point in the manga Ogiue finally learns to accept herself) into the anime. At this point, Ogiue is no longer really the focus of Genshiken, so it wouldn’t fit quite right to have them just devote around three or four episodes flashing back to the pre-Nidaime days, but it’s also such a significant part of Genshiken‘s story that its absence has been felt rather strongly both among fans and just in that something was missing from the anime the whole time. After all, for those who’ve stuck strictly to the anime adaptations, Ogiue somehow went from a frustrated and antagonistic individual to a somewhat gentle but still easily flustered mentor, and there was no explanation, at least until now. Even if it’s just a few brief glimpses, I’m glad to see part of Ogiue’s breakthrough animated.

With Ogiue’s desire to help Hato the same way that she was helped back then, not only do I see Episode 13 as a place for the Karuizawa storyline to make a “cameo appearance,” but I consider it to be a spiritual successor of sorts as well. In particular, Madarame’s advice to Hato resembles Sasahara’s words to Ogiue, that you can’t help what you like, only tailored to a less traumatic and dramatic situation. There’s no realization of love here, only the comfort of acceptance., andMadarame’s reached his own turning point in life, so he can look back and reflect for Hato. In addition, the discussions of collaborating on the next “Mebaetame” clearly point to the idea that Genshiken the club is a family of sorts, and a place for people to change through interacting with people both like-minded and otherwise.

Yoshitake’s presence in this episode is notable, as I think that as much as the show put Hato into the spotlight, Yoshitake (or should I say her voice actor Uesaka Sumire) has still ended up being a mascot of sorts for Nidaime. She’s that nerd you put out there to show how fashionable nerds can be, and I think just having a couple of scenes primarily of her geeking out over history from a fujoshi perspective is a part of the character’s position.

This is the first time that a Genshiken anime has seen fit to wrap things up with original content, though it makes sense because previously they had sort-of-okay stopping points and this time around if they had continued to just follow the manga, there would be no proper wrap-up for the series. The only thing viewers would get is more questions and perhaps the worst case of “READ THE MANGA” ever. Thankfully this isn’t the case, and even if I’m aware of the fact that there’s so much more material out there, this is a respectable bookend. Also, in what I’m sure is an intentional move, both the final episode of the anime and the latest chapter of the manga involve public baths, but the two are actually completely different in terms of narrative development and content outside of a more general theme of honestly expressing oneself, and so a comparison between them isn’t that useful.

This episode is also apparently a place for the people who made it to go wild with the references. A lot of the legwork was already done by the blogger Orezui, so I have to give ‘em thanks.

1) “She’s not here! There’s no Hato-kun here!” is apparently a Patlabor: The Movie reference.

2) “Let’s go to the roof. I haven’t felt this angry in a long time,” is a line from the manga Salaryman Chintarou.

3) “But I can’t go [out] with a guy” is a direct reference to a line from Ogiue during the Karuizawa arc, also parodying the fact that Sue did something similar in Episode 1.

4) Sue’s obsession with taking pictures of everything related to the city of Tachikawa mirrors Yui and Mio’s initial reaction to London in the K-On! movie.

5) Kuchiki’s creepy run comes from Attack on Titan (that video above is highly recommended).

sue-chunli

6) Sue’s followup attacks are taken directly from Super Turbo-era Chun-Li from Street Fighter II. Specifically, the moves shown are Kikouken -> Jumping fierce -> Close standing fierce -> Senretsukyaku -> Tenshoukyaku.

7) Sue makes a Tomoko from Watamote face.

Obviously I know that this isn’t truly the end of Genshiken, and I hope those who’ve watched it are interested in following the manga to find out what happens next. In retrospect, the anime’s had its fair share of ups and downs, though mostly from the perspective of someone who notices subtle differences in tone and narrative timing, and I think that there’s something about the way Kio Shimoku frames each of his chapters and laces it with bits of characterization that I think gets increasingly lost as he continues to improve these already strong aspects of his work. At the same time, I think the anime generally captures what the new Genshiken is about, which includes an otaku generation gap, the complexities of gender and sexuality within the otaku framework, as well as the on-going process of change, development, and at least a bit of maturity that is college life. So if you’re still interested, stick around.

Besides, we still have that limited edition anime packaged with Volume 15 of the manga.

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.

NIS America announced last month that they have the rights to the Genshiken Second Season anime, and knowing their history of putting out deluxe box sets that are a little pricier but come with all sorts of doodads (an art book being the main one), anyone who’s a Genshiken fan would be satisfied with their Bluray release (though we don’t know what’s there yet).

The question is, would you be satisfied enough?

bd1_animate bd1_gamers bd1_toranoana

For the Japanese release of Genshiken Second Season, there is a special deal: If you preorder all 4 Bluray volumes before September 1st from one of three specific stores, you will get a 12-page illustration booklet AND a color print by Kio Shimoku. Order from Animate for Double Hato, Gamers for Yoshitake and Yajima, and finally Toranoana for Ogiue and Sue.

(To be a Hato you’ve gotta be strong, humble never braggin’.)

This is in addition to existing extras, which at least for Volume 1 include a 16-page illustration booklet and an animated extra entitled “The First Meeting to Discuss How a Girl This Cute Can’t Possibly Be a Girl,” as well as a “Post-Clubroom Rambling Discussion.” Whether that’s another animated feature or voice-only, I don’t know.

The only thing is, if you opt into one of these deals, you’re looking at roughly 30,000 yen for 13 episodes. Also keep in mind that a lot of these stores don’t ship internationally so you’ll have to find a way around that, which can cost you even more. You can get them cheaper through Amazon JP but then of course you wouldn’t get the extra extras.

I’ve pre-ordered the Blurays because I am an idiot. As you may have guessed, I went for the Toranoana version. I did not decide to get all three sets of Blurays because even I’m not that insane.

Honestly, unless you’re me, you’re probably better off sticking with the NIS America release as I’m pretty confident it’ll look good. The Japanese Blurays are a realm beyond, for those looking to collect every bit of Ogiue merchandise they can (there’s not a lot, you know).

Actually I’m going to buy the NIS America release as well.

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

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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