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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).
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 Nidaime “Genshiken 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?
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.
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
Genshiken II, Chapter 86 looks to possibly be a turning point. We’ve had quite a few of those already though. Also, next month there might be more news about the upcoming anime! It’ll be a long 30 days or so.
Sue visits Hato’s place, using Janglish to ask if he likes Madarame. Hato denies, but is clearly hiding something. After a tussle pitting Hato’s judo training against Sue’s freestyle which ends in a win by submission for the American, Sue discovers Hato’s secret Mada x Hato (in drag) drawings. Hato, who is increasingly confused about his feelings for Madarame (he feels that at this rate he might actually start liking Madarame), decides to just stop crossdressing and go back to being “a normal otaku.” This clearly makes Yajima uncomfortable despite her previous objections to Hato’s crossdressing.
With this chapter, I think I finally understand one of the big overarcing themes of Genshiken II. Yes, there’s the generation gap and the otaku/fujoshi distinction, but even more fundamental to the manga is a concept I’d describe as “the complexities of personal perceptions.”
The foremost example is Hato. He is getting to the point where he likely feels something for Madarame. I want to point out, however, the fact that Hato had no problems showing his “Hato x Mada” art to Sue, declaring that it was just the realm of fiction, but for some reason he also felt it necessary to keep his “Mada x Hato” hidden. I think the distinction between the two pairings is extremely important because it indicates a denial of clear-cut narratives about sexuality in describing otaku.
“What’s fiction is fiction, and what’s real is real” is a clear and concise argument. So is “what you’re attracted to in fiction can influence your real life preferences (and vice versa).” The former argument is used by Hato, while the latter was suggested by Kaminaga. With Hato and his feeling towards Madarame, however, it might actually be the case that his yaoi delusions are separate from his real feelings, but he began developing feelings for Madarame anyway due to their growing friendship, and that this manifests as Hato x Mada vs. Mada x Hato. I wonder if this is the case just because Mada x Hato for some reason apparently has to involve Hato crossdressing, as if to say the idea does not “make sense” to him otherwise.
In anime and manga about (or including) fujoshi, often there is significant time spent explaining how important the orders of pairings are important. “It’s like saying ‘curry on rice.’ No one says ‘rice on curry!’ says a character from the 4-koma series Doroko. This is generally played for laughs while trying to introduce to the reader the “mysterious” mind of the fujoshi, to allow the reader to say, “Oh fujoshi, you’re so lovably wacky.” I think that with Genshiken, Kio is trying to discuss that mindset a little more seriously.
I predict Ogiue is going to start playing a bigger role in this, just because Hato looks like he’s trying to run away from his current situation at all costs. Ogiue is more than familiar with this situation, is aware of how much trying to deny oneself can generate a festering wound of self-loathing, and just how complicated the real/fiction distinction can get. I think, or perhaps I simply hope, that Ogiue will manage to be Hato’s mentor, like how Ohno was there for her. Also, Hato says he’s “going back” to being a normal otaku, but was he ever a normal otaku? He discovered yaoi in junior high, so it’s been with him for a long time, which makes me think that Hato is trying to simply act like how a “normal otaku” is supposed to without truly direct experience, somewhat like how Ogiue sometimes tried to approximate a “non-otaku.”
If the Hato example is a little too crazy, I think Yajima in this chapter also provides an interesting case of personal perception. Clearly the reason why Yajima blushes at the end is because she still associates male Hato with the time she accidentally saw him naked, in addition to just the fact that he’s a guy. She doesn’t react this way so much to Hato in her female guise, which means that the wig and dress is enough to “trick” Yajima psychologically so that the first thing she thinks about is Hato’s clean-shaven personal area. What Yajima thinks of Hato is of course its own puzzle having at its origin her own self-image and her lack of experience interacting with men.
I don’t know if Sue counts towards this as well, but I do find it interesting that Sue’s embarrassment over kissing Madarame has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the fact that Kasukabe saw her doing it. On some level, I feel like I can really understand that distinction. Somewhat like that famous scene in His and Her Circumstances when Miyazawa accidentally runs into Arima while out of her “perfect student” guise,” there are people you feel like you can be a fool around and people you don’t. I also continue to think that it’s kind of brave of Kio to give Sue a larger role, as semi-fluent foreigner is not the easiest thing to pull off without reverting to very basic stereotypes. Sue is many things, but “basic” isn’t one of them.
By the way, there’s something I find really impressive about Sue and Hato’s fight scene, particularly the panel where Hato drags her and sweeps the leg. It captures that one moment so incredibly well, while allowing it to transition into the next set of panels. It actually makes me want to see Kio draw an action series.
To end, I want to ask a simple question: Sue x Hato, what are your thoughts? If this were a more popular series, I’m sure that neck-licking thing would have people talking.
It’s back to basics in Genshiken II, Chapter 85 as Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima revive the old Genshiken tradition of spying on club members who think they’re alone. When it looks like Hato is getting unusually close to Madarame. Right when things seem to be getting to the point of no return, in comes Keiko, who quickly deduces that Madarame’s decision to quit his job comes from a desire to regress back to his old self now that he’s been rejected by Saki. When Keiko suggests that Madarame come to her Cabaret Club to “get dirty,” Sue interferes and inadvertently makes it known that they were being watched. An embarrassed Hato runs home, only to be met by Sue as the chapter ends.
The more I write these reviews, the more I worry that my constant references to the old chapters may be unfair to the new series. Perhaps if I engage the current Genshiken on its own terms, I’ll be able to do it justice. At the same time, I do actually feel that many of the ideas being explored in Genshiken II have their roots in the original manga, and that the new characters allow for a more complex elaboration.
Back when Ogiue’s own main storyline resolved, the message was one of acceptance. So what if others find your tastes weird? You’re who you are. While such a conclusion fit perfectly for Ogiue’ character, the question of whether the border between fantasy and reality is airtight or porous wasn’t answered to any great length. Not that it needed to be, but if we accept acceptance and remove moral and value judgments from the equation, how complex can that interaction be? This, I believe, is what is happening with Hato and his interactions with Madarame. Hato can go where Ogiue never could.
Hato is clearly emotionally confused in the current story, where everything he thought he knew about himself is being thrown into question. I don’t get a sense of a fear of homophobia from his situation, but that he is having trouble establishing the distinct barrier between his male self and female guise and that it means he doesn’t understand himself anymore. The breakdown hints at the power of imagination, of how we see and define ourselves, and invokes the idea that, while sexuality isn’t a learned behavior, that learning provides additional information for reflection.
Once again, if we go back to Ogiue, she once stated that the Sasahara of her yaoi fantasy is clearly different from his real self, but she also clearly enjoys and is even turned on by Sasahara when he role plays his imaginary “Strong Seme” self. For Hato, who not only includes a form of Madarame in his yaoi fantasies but is also becoming increasingly good friends with him, he almost provides a powerful thought experiment whose solution can’t be as simple as “he’s gay,” even if he turns out to be.
Something I find particularly interesting about Madarame’s portrayal in this chapter is the focus on his neck. The current Madarame looks different from when he was in college, and this is shown most overtly in his change in hairstyle, but when viewed up-close from behind, he still looks the same as he always had. Given that in this chapter he basically admits to wanting to regress, and the fact that Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima did the old spying trick, I can’t see this callback as unintentional.
Keiko continues her role as a kind of substitute Saki in her own unique way. By that, I mean that where Saki has a natural pragmatism about her that Keiko lacks, Keiko seems to make up for it with sheer (mistake-filled) experience. I almost get the impression that her experience working at a cabaret club is actually increasing her perception skills far beyond what they already were, which even back when she was still attending college were still quite sharp (she’s the one who immediately noticed the sexual tension between Sasahara and Ogiue). I really can’t tell if Keiko is actually into Madarame or not, though the reveal that she’s been purposely mispronouncing his name as “Watanabe” the whole time says something. Even if Keiko is curious about Madarame, though, I can only see her interest being short term, even more than Angela’s.
As for the general idea of the “Madarame harem,” I think that it’s only a name. Take Sue, who both this chapter and last chapter was caught blushing in front of Madarame. The most obvious interpretation is a crush, but why did Sue stand back and watch when it looked like Hato was putting the moves on Madarame, but interfere when it looked like Keiko was about to do the same? For that matter, why did Sue interfere with Angela back when she was trying to get into Madarame’s pants? Given her appearance at Hato’s door at the end of the chapter, we’re probably going to find out more, but wish fulfillment fantasy with Madarame at the head this is not.
I am curious as to where Sue (who was super cute this chapter) is going. Is she going to get some real character development? She did start off as a kind of larger-than-life super fujoshi from another country, and to humanize her may either be an amazing decision or a terrible mistake. I have faith, though.
The last thing I want to point out is the significance of the Children’s Literature Society member we see in this chapter. In the past, that club was clearly on good terms with Genshiken given the whole spying thing, but I got the impression they were not exactly into anime and manga. The fact that this particular fujoshi chose to be part of the Children’s Literature Society in spite of the presence of not only Genshiken but also the Anime Society and the Manga Society (which has a large fujoshi contingent) has a connection with the recurring theme of the generation gap between otaku that primarily manifests in the mainstreaming of the otaku and the rise of the fujoshi. The otaku are not limited to the clubs that are meant for them, which I think says a lot.
As for Ogiue ending the spying thing, it only makes sense given that she was already the victim of it in more ways than one.
Before we jump into the chapter, I have to make sure you’ve heard the news.
You’d think after the Madarame/Saki climax from a few chapters ago that Genshiken would let up for a while, but Chapter 84 is an intense one. In the previous chapter, Madarame revealed that he was going to quit his job near the school (implying he would be unable to visit the college as often as he used to), despite Saki’s advice not to do so. As Madarame appears to feel increasingly alienated from the current club’s atmosphere (and Yoshitake tries to convert him to the church of BL), Hato is having trouble of his own as his emotions become a mystery to even himself. As Ogiue asks him to contribute to a “Tiger & Bonny” doujinshi, Hato begins to wonder about his relationship with Madarame, and the seeds of doubt Kaminaga placed in him about his heterosexuality begin to sprout.
Meanwhile, Sue of all people seems to have feelings for Madarame as well, though her character might mean it’s stranger (or simpler) than that.
I do not think that the change in demographic in Genshiken is the root cause per se for Madarame’s decision. Rather, my suspicion, based on my own experience, is that Madarame’s connection to the actual Genshiken as an on-campus club is starting to weaken. I had a similar group of nerd friends back in high school, and for the first three years after I graduated I would visit the school often to maintain that experience. Eventually, however, everyone who I even had a loose connection to graduated, and I lost any compelling reasons to continue. I’m still friends with a lot of the people I knew from that time, but our friendship has in a certain sense transcended the physical location, and I could see Madarame feeling like the clubroom itself is no longer that important.
That said, I’ve noticed, based on some of the response to the new Genshiken anime, that there are fair amount of readers both Japanese and non-Japanese who feel a bit alienated or even betrayed by Genshiken II, and I think Madarame is meant to embody that feeling to some extent, being the character who most embodies that classic otaku personality. Perhaps the deal with Madarame’s character is that he’s caught in a state of limbo, where he’s not yet fully integrated into adult living but at the same time his old haven away from reality, Genshiken, is starting to fade away.
The more that Genshiken focuses on Hato, the more I realize that he is probably the most psychologically complicated character in the entire manga (though I get the feeling that there’s something up with Nakajima that might be even more complex). Ogiue is one thing, as her story cuts to the bone, but Hato’s situation is such that you can’t even explain it as simply “he’s realizing he’s gay.” There’s a good chance that’s what’s happening, but based on the specifics of the chapter and of his history, doubting his own sexual orientation doesn’t seem to be the only thing going on.
In the chapter, Hato tries to shoo away the suggestions of his imaginary counterpart, only to have the female Hato replaced by Kaminaga, who echoes the real Kaminaga’s statement that the crossdressing likely facilitates the potential homosexuality of Hato. In that scene are a lot of things to take into consideration, starting with the fact that the Stand (i.e. Hato’s inner thoughts?) transforms specifically into Kaminaga. Based on previous chapters, it’s still not clear what his feelings towards her are. Does he want her? Does he want to be her? Does he perhaps desire both? Even the fact that the transition from Stand Hato to Kaminaga is a little hard to spot at first if you just skim through the chapter is indicative of the fact that Stand Hato continues to resemble Kaminaga, despite the fact that Hato has undergone an image change by semi-permanently switching to the shorter wig, as if to show that she specifically continues to influence him. It’s a weighty past and a convoluted present for Hato.
As for Sue, the easiest connection to make in regards to her blushing is the kiss she placed on Madarame’s cheek at the school festival as a sort of prank. Putting aside the notion of “Madarame: mack daddy of American fujoshi,” I’m starting to realize that Sue pretty much functions in Genshiken the same way the penguins do in Mawaru Penguindrum, bringing into the very foreground some of the “hidden” elements of the characters’ relationships at the time. I also think it’s quite appropriate for her to quote Dio Brando, and to have it be not one from the more popular Part 3 Stardust Crusaders story but from the original Phantom Blood.
There’s not much Ogiue this chapter, but there’s probably going to be another chapter at least partly focused around her soon, given the impending Comic Festival, though I imagine it won’t be until at least another three or four chapters.
The latest volume of Genshiken came out towards the end of 2011, and I was fortunate enough to get a copy by intentionally pre-ordering it twice (they say we make our own luck). As with every other Genshiken, there are a bunch of extra little things like 4-koma to give us more insight into the world of the characters. While not as packed with new information as Volume 10, there are still plenty of things to discover.
For reference, Volume 11 covers the following chapters, which I have reviewed before.
Sue’s Ogiue collection: The first new thing is the inside cover, behind the dust jacket. Here we see Sue surrounded by Ogiue merchandise. While the PVC figure with its changeable clothing is real, I can tell you with the utmost confidence that the vast majority of the stuff in this room are “what-ifs” at best. You’ll note the Ogiue dolls hanging above, one for each of her “eras,” not counting junior high flashbacks or ComiFest disguises. Interestingly, the picture of Ogiue’s Lilith-esque demon cosplay on that wall scroll is the first time we ever get to see why exactly Ogiue was so intent on hiding her chest when Sasahara came into the room. Lilith-esque indeed.
Women and body hair: A 4-koma where Yoshitake talks about the fact that she has rather long arm-hair makes me realize just how much body hair is a thing in Genshiken, and how much this has to do with the mostly female cast. I think it’s no surprise that it wasn’t really an issue when the club was mostly men, but now we have Yajima talking about how she only shaves her pits when she has to, and Hato accidentally showing his ”smoothness.” While it’s not like you can see tufts of hair on their arms or mustaches, the fact that Genshiken has bothered to make this into an on-going topic shows that it’s not afraid to go some places. Then again, this is from the man who screen-toned veins onto breasts for Jigopuri.
Speaking of breasts: A good number of the 4-koma in Volume 11 are concerned with bust sizes, owing to the fact that Hato wore a large chest for his Yamada from Kujian cosplay. Of these, the ones that I think are most interesting are the one where Yajima points out that you can’t exactly say she’s “busty” when her figure resembles a sumo wrestler’s (her own self-disparaging words), and the one where Nakajima mentions that she’s smaller than Ogiue (which she begrudges). Upon reading Nakajima’s 4-koma, I realized that I did not notice this at all in any of her appearances, which is to say that Kio has drawn and characterized Nakajima well as someone who knows how to dress.
Hato’s ultimate cosplay: Hato dresses up as Charles from Infinite Stratos. In other words, a man cosplays as a woman disguising herself as a man.
Ogiue’s Sasa x Mada doujin is a big hit: The freshmen like Ogiue’s doujinshi so much that they all end up making copies of it. The fact that there are people in the club with whom she can really share it is a big step from where she was back when she drew it, and again I have to perhaps point to how different the new generation of club members has turned out to be. That said, it’s clear from just this one panel that it’s equal parts comforting and disconcerting for her.
Heroic Spirit Hopkins: I know a certain Hisui of the Reverse Thieves is going to get a kick out of this one. In the end-of-volume extra, the members of Genshiken discuss the endless enigma that is Sue, trying to figure out the source of her power, both physical and mental. In the end, Sue clarifies for everyone when she says, “I ask of you, are you my master?”
Totally off-topic but: There’s an insert in the volume for Kodansha’s line of light novels, and one of them is a continuation of the Ojamajo Doremi series with the characters now 16 years old! Aptly titled Ojamajo Doremi 16, it features artwork by the original character designer, Umakoshi Yoshihiko, who also did the designs for Heartcatch Precure! and whose art book you should purchase, because it’s totally awesome. As I haven’t finished the Doremi series, I won’t check it out just yet.
The Hato figure: While I own it (as well as the version from the latest issue of Afternoon), I don’t have it on me, so I can’t show it to everyone. Give me a few months.