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It’s winter break. After the old guard of Genshiken (+ Kuchiki) discuss Madarame’s sudden romantic prospects from their old school otaku perspective, Madarame finds himself being visited by Yoshitake and Yajima. Of the four potential partners (Hato, Keiko, Angela, Sue), Yoshitake recommends Keiko for Madarame due to her similarities with Saki. The chapter ends with the image of Hato visiting home, where he meets his brother Yuuichirou and Kaminaga, who are pretty much married now if not already so.
A lot of previous chapters have been some sort of closure, whether that’s with Madarame and Saki, or Hato’s feelings, but this one feels like a transition. Between the mention of Yoshitake’s sister Risa taking college entrance exams and Ogiue and Hato visiting back home on top of everything Madarame is going through, it gives me an impression of a change coming almost on the level of Ogiue’s appearance and the shift in focus over to her. Given how many chapters Genshiken II has run already this kind of makes sense, as Ogiue appeared at a similar point.
I’m really impressed with how the manga portrays Madarame handling suddenly being the center of romantic attention, because I find that his concerns and his thought process make complete sense for his character. When given time to dwell on the idea, he imagines a simultaneous arrival of all four at his doorstep, like a scene straight out of Infinite Stratos, because anime and manga are his primary “harem” imagery even more than just straight up pornography. When Madarame hesitates in choosing, his explanation is that it is such an unfathomable situation because he expected attracting even one member of the opposite sex to be a miracle, and given his self-image his words rings with the familiarity of truth. At the same time, I don’t think he’s being entirely honest because if he was really okay with any girl, he would have had some wild times with Angela (who’s gone back to America) already.
In Madarame’s situation I think we can see both the exploration of the otaku or geek mind when it comes to romance, as well as an investigation of the harem genre. Madarame’s attitude towards women is initially a kind of passive desperation, a case of “anyone will do” because just that prospect of romance is so out of reach based on his self-image. When given a choice, however, his mind has to adjust because desperation is no longer the driving force because now he has to take the others into account, as well as what he really wants. Obviously he doesn’t really want a harem ending or just sex based on his actions (or more accurately inaction), and I think he’s realizing that there’s more to consider about a love life than just whoever says “yes” first.
If you’re having trouble relating to Madarame, imagine that it’s about being unemployed (which Madarame is!) rather than about romance. In a situation where someone is unemployed for ages, there’s an increasing desperation for finding a new job, to the point that eventually anything will do. Then, one day a bunch of job offers appear and they’re all actually good jobs. Instead of it being about getting paid, there are now a bunch of new variables to consider. Which job pays the best? Which job seems the most enjoyble? Which one is best for long-term planning? Which one is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? If not unemployment, then college also works. Which is the best school? Which is the most affordable or convenient? Which has the subject you want to study the most? There’s a lot more to think about, and of course it’s literally impossible to choose all of them.
All of this puts the typical harem or pseudo-harem anime complaints into a different light. You might hear people say, “Why is the harem lead such a wuss? If I were him, I’d have a go with everyone.” Although many harem leads are generic and neutral characters and that lends itself to that ambiguity, I think generally harem series deep down operate under a moralistic frame which some see as over-valuing virginity or passivity, but which I find to be about not being able to fully escape a sense of empathy (this is why fans tend to have a “favorite pairing”). In order to maintain the fantasy in harem series this aspect typically isn’t terribly prominent, but with the greater realism of Genshiken it comes more to the forefront.
The rest of the chapter reinforces this feeling as well. When the guys are huddled in Madarame’s apartment reading doujinshi, Kugayama brings up the idea that even most otaku who are all into the 2-D girls and such aren’t actually against being with real women, which references an older conversation back in the earliest days of Genshiken when Saki asked about this same topic. Being between all otaku men who are aware of this, however, the conversation becomes more about that otaku image in flux. The battle lines drawn a few chapters ago between virgins and non-virgins comes up again here, as Tanaka with his steady relationship and Madarame with his new circumstances seem to flutter beyond the horizon where otaku are not supposed to reach and yet clearly have. Genshiken has become about how the concept of otaku is in flux, but we rarely get to see it from the older generation’s perspective, so I appreciate this.
Although the chapter is mainly about Madarame, it’s also a Yoshitake chapter in that she’s very prominent in the latter half of the chapter. Yoshitake’s nerdish vibrance is on full display here, whether that’s obscure history references, her now-familiar knowing glances at Yajima, or the fact that at the end of the day she’s still that girl who ignored the opposite sex in favor of debating history from a fujoshi perspective with her friends in high school. Her reaction towards Madarame’s decision and assuming he really wants a harem is maybe the highlight of the chapter as her head tilts all the way back in shock. This chapter also made me realize how differently Kio uses Yoshitake’s glasses compared to, say, Madarame, as their variable transparency helps to give Yoshitake that sense of energy and slyness.
I sometimes see people complain that Genshiken spends too much time on Hato and not enough on Yoshitake and Yajima. While I think it’s a valid criticism for the most part, I find that one of the reasons this is an issue is because even though the other two don’t get as much focus they’re still portrayed extremely well in their moments and interactions. For example, one of the most significant parts of Yoshitake’s advice is strongly hinted at in this chapter, which is that she’s watching out for her friends in suggesting Keiko as the right choice for Madarame, as she doesn’t want to hurt Yajima. Moments like these make you want to learn more about them, because if they were boring or uninteresting no one would care. Nobody ever asks about Kuchiki’s backstory, after all.
As for Yoshitake’s recommendation, I know there have always been fans of Madarame and Keiko, even going back to the days when the original Genshiken series hadn’t even finished and there was no real inkling towards this pairing. I gave my thoughts on this pairing previously, but Yoshitake’s logic that Keiko is the most like Saki in that she’s able to talk candidly is pretty interesting, especially because from what little we’ve seen of Keiko’s love life (in that she has one at all), her communication with her boyfriend at the time was pretty poor in comparison to how she talks with “Watanabe.” Madarame’s mental mix-up of Keiko and Saki aso makes me think that it may not only be a matter of personality but that she also resembles Saki in the way Keiko carries herself. If that’s the case, I wonder if this is simply down to “similarity” or if Keiko is supposed to be someone who’s actually emulating Saki. Kio’s mention of his other ongoing series in the side bar then makes me wonder if indeed Keiko x Mada is the Real Spotted Flowers.
As for Hato, he strikes an impressive figure at the end of the chapter as he works to shovel the snow off of his family home’s rooftop. There’s something about him exuding such a “masculine” aura that feels unfamiliar due to the fact that most of the time the manga shows him as crossdressing. Hato’s interactions with his brother and Kaminaga will be the focus of the next chapter. We see that Kaminaga’s changed her hairstyle, and I wonder if it has anything to do with finding out that Hato basically has a wig matching hers.
In all honesty though, what I really want to see is the other visit home mentioned this chapter, which is that Sue has accompanied Ogiue back to (I assume) her hometown in Yamagata. Not only is there something potentially wonderful about Sue interacting with Ogiue’s family, but we’ve never actually seen Ogiue’s relatives at all. The best we’ve gotten is that Ogiue once mentioned having a little brother, but it was part of a hasty explanation after being outed as a fujoshi, so we don’t even know if this little brother actually exists.
I hope we find out.
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.
I might be calling this an episodic review in the tags, but that’s kind of a misnomer. Instead, I’d like to talk about Genshiken Second Season episode 2, or rather, what’s missing from it.
The manga equivalents of this episode would be Chapters 58, 59, and 60, but if you look at Chapter 59 you’ll notice a rather important Madarame story being cut from it. Now, this might be them cutting it out entirely, or it might be a pacing issue or something where they’d prefer to explore the new characters before putting the spotlight on the old guard again. That’s why, for now, we’ll leave it aside and assume it might actually appear in the anime at a later date, and focus on another curious cut. For those who are sticking to the anime, be warned that Chapter 59 is potentially pretty spoilery for you.
In Episode 2, Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato all go over to Yajima’s place to create their profiles for the club magazine, Mebaetame. Prior to this, they go to buy some drinks, during which Yoshitake talks about her fantastic metabolism. What the anime did not include, however, is the fact that Yoshitake was trying to buy alcohol to liven up the party. The scene was originally a way to show how Yoshitake is as free-spirited as Yajima is straight-laced (her objection is mainly that they’re below drinking age), especially when Yoshitake ends up getting the beers anyway. Curiously, whereas in the manga they pass out due to drunkenness, in the anime, they simply got tired.
Here’s what I’m wondering: Was this cut due to time constraints, or was it cut in order to avoid showing underage drinking?
I don’t know enough about Japanese television censorship or censorship laws to determine if this is the true cause, but I do know I’ve seen plenty of manga to anime adaptations play it safe in roughly similar ways. The Bokurano anime, for example, turned a rape and exploitation storyline from the manga into something much less extreme. Genshiken does not even begin to approach that territory, but maybe for this show it’s still something they’d like to avoid.
Another thing, though not exactly a cut, is a loss of context. The moment when Ogiue slams the door on Ohno is a visual reference to the time Ogiue invited Sasahara over alone. That part of Genshiken isn’t animated, so the connection is lost.
The opening is kind of interesting. It has quite a bit of information about what’s going to happen (including the appearance of a certain saucer-eyed character and her friend), but what I find most interesting about it is that it makes it very clear that Hato is the focus of the new series, something which wasn’t always immediately obvious in the manga. Also, Sue as Koujiro Frau from Robotics;Notes is about as perfect as it gets. That’s something that wasn’t in the manga but fits Sue’s character so amazingly well that I wish it had been. There is precedent for anime stuff to make it into the original manga, though, so hope is not lost.
As Yoshitake pressures Yajima into potentially revealing that she has feelings for Hato, Kuchiki sees a distraught Hato committing the worst crime of ComiFes: not enjoying himself. In a rare moment of clarity and benevolence (albeit still horribly awkward), Kuchiki teaches Hato that worrying what other people think about you goes against the otaku way. Hato, who suspects that his interest in Madarame may be a matter of him being interested in Madarame in particular and not guys in general, suggests that he hook up with Angela (who is of course likely eager to do so).
This month’s Genshiken II, titled “Festival Evol,” is a reference to the anime Aquarion Evol, which is appropriate in a number of ways. First, Aquarion Evol is the next generation of characters after the original Genesis of Aquarion, which is similar to Nidaime. Second, in the final episode of Aquarion Evol (SPOILERS), the titular robot turns into “Aquarion LOVE,” which is of course one of the themes of Chapter 89. You could maybe read something into the separation between boys and girls in that series too, but that might be going too far. The next chapter preview quote is also from another robot anime, Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, so it’s a good month for mecha references.
I find this chapter to somehow be incredibly straightforward but also quite complicated in terms of its developments, so I’m not entirely sure how to approach it. I guess the first thing I’ll say is that, I do know from personal experience that sometimes you think you like someone more than you actually do. I’ve had cases where I was interested in girls, and when they got significant others, my feelings were not jealousy or regret or forlorn heartbreak, but simply satisfaction and relief. In those cases, “what could have been” doesn’t really enter the equation, a personal realization that my own feelings weren’t that strong after all. Is this the case with Hato and his feelings towards Madarame? Something tells me “no,” if only because it only seems to be deflecting or delaying the problems surrounding him. I’m not sure if the BL genre’s classic “I don’t like men, I just like you!” line really works in “reality,” nor the reality Genshiken wishes to depict.
More generally, not understanding one’s own feelings is a recurring element of the otaku subculture, especially when it comes to human interaction. Not to fall into the stereotype of otaku and fujoshi having no social skills or sex, but it’s clear from previous chapters that their experiences with romance have been limited or marred with awkwardness. It only makes sense that not only Hato but Yajima seems to be either consciously or unconsciously denying something, even if it doesn’t necessarily go as far as sexual attraction. I find it both interesting and relevant to this chapter that both Hato and Yajima are the types to restrain themselves to a certain degree even when among their comrades.
The highlight of this chapter may be the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Kuchiki successfully do something admirable. He’s tried in the past before, like when trying to stop the cosplay thief at the club recruitment fair, but that led to such disaster that it’s one of the first things mentioned in Genshiken II. While Kuchiki is obnoxious and doesn’t understand social problems, he does bring up the relevant point that Hato’s interests in and of themselves do not cause trouble for anyone, nor should they. It makes me think about the other classic annoying character of Genshiken who hasn’t appeared in forever, Haraguchi, and how different the two are. Unlike Haraguchi, Kuchiki is selfish and rude but too honest to be manipulative.
As for the possibility of Angela being Madarame’s first time, I actually really want it to happen now. I don’t particularly care if Madarame and Angela become a “thing,” and of course there’s the long-distance component in all that, but there’s something about Angela just getting the job done that I find potentially hilarious. Genshiken has never been big on valuing female virginity, going all the way back to Saki discussing her sex life with the club members, or the fact that Ogiue is at this point very much not one, but somehow Madarame the virgin is the bigger deal. Losing it in a brief fling where both parties are aware of the lack of classic romance as well as the time limitations would be appropriate and a subtle defiance of the “nerd guy gets the hot girl!” trope, without necessarily being sad, even if Madarame is portrayed as somewhat of a romantic at heart.
This month’s Genshiken also came with an extra comic by another artist, about one of the Genshiken Nidaime anime voice dubbing sessions. As previously discussed, the new anime has an entirely new voice cast, and it’s a lot about the director (who has worked on the previous Genshiken anime) instructing them on the nuances of the characters. Naturally, they don’t reference the previous actors, as that would compromise the legitimacy of the current cast. Probably the most interesting tidbit is at the end, when it turns out that a lot of the female voice actors are themselves fans of Genshiken, and were all asking Kio Shimoku for his autograph. Kio is reportedly a very private individual, which actually just makes me think of him as Madarame, secretly attractive.
The new Genshiken has its first trailer, a 30-second clip. It’s just a voiceover with Yoshitake, Yajima, and Hato, as well as a small bit of Ogiue, but there are some things I observed in the trailer.
The main thing I noticed is that the new Ogiue voice, Yamamoto Nozomi, sounds similar to the previous actor Mizuhashi Kaori, though not Mizuhashi’s performance of Ogiue. Mizuhashi is quite varied (Ogiue doesn’t resemble Miyako in Hidamari Sketch), and Yamamoto’s performance sounds a bit closer to some of Mizuhashi’s other roles, such as Rosetta in Kaleidostar or Mami in Madoka Magica. So it’s sort of a match, but sort of not.
The other notable thing, I think, is that they didn’t give Yajima a “fat” voice. A lot of times, heavyset characters in anime have a deeper, rounder voice to emphasize their weight, but Yajima’s voice sounds more normal. It doesn’t quite have the coarseness I was expecting, but it’s still good to see it not fall into that old stereotype.
Genshiken Nidaime starts July 6th. I still haven’t decided if I’ll episode-blog it or not, especially because that eats up a whole bunch of my post slots (even if it would make for easy content). The other issue of course is that I’ve already done chapter reviews of the source material, and I worry that it’d be quite redundant. That said, maybe I can use it as a way to revisit those previous chapters.
What do you think? Are the chapter reviews already more than enough?
The official Genshiken II anime site has updated with a bunch of information, including a full voice actor list, and character lineart images for all of the core Nidaime cast.
At this point it’s no longer a suprise, but the entire cast list has changed from previous versions. My thoughts can be found below the cast list.
Ogiue Chika: Yamamoto Nozomi (Bouhatei Tetora, Joshiraku), formerly Mizuhashi Kaori (Miyako, Hidamari Sketch)
Yoshitake Rika: Uesaka Sumire (Nonna, Girls und Panzer)
Yajima Mirei: Uchiyama Yumi (Sagimori Arata, Saki: Episode of Side A)
Hato Kenjirou: Kakuma Ai (Mariya Hikari, Campione!) and Yamamoto Kazutomi (Kio Asuno, Gundam AGE)
Ohno Kanako: Yukana (Tsukishiro Honoka/Cure White (Futari wa Pretty Cure), formerly Kawasumi Ayako (Saber, Fate/Stay Night)
Kuchiki Manabu: Fukuyama Jun (Lelouch Lamperouge, Code Geass), formerly Ishida Akira (Athrun Zala, Gundam SEED)
Susanna Hopkins: Oozora Naomi, formerly Gotou Yuuko (Asahina Mikuru, Suzumiya Haruhi)
Madarame Harunobu: Okitsu Kazuyuki (Jonathan Joestar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2o12)), formerly Hiyama Nobuyuki (Guy Shishioh, King of Braves Gaogaigar)
Sasahara Kanji: Kobashi Tatsuya (Jack Roland, Strait Jacket), formerly Ohyama Takanori
Kohsaka Makoto: Oohara Momoko (Young Heiwajima Shizuo, Durarara!!), formerly Saiga Mitsuki (Rossiu, Toppa Gurren Lagann)
Kasukabe Saki: Satou Rina (Misaka “Railgun” Mikoto, A Certain Scientific Railgun), formerly Yukino Satsuki (Chidori Kaname, Full Metal Panic!)
Tanaka Souichirou: Takayuki Kondou (Saruwatari Gou, Godannar), formerly Seki Tomokazu (Domon Kasshu, G Gundam)
Kugayama Mitsunori: Yasumoto Hiroki (Chad, Bleach), formerly Nomura Kenji (Santana, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2o12))
Angela Burton: Kobayashi Misa, formerly Kaida Yuki (Fuji Shuusuke, The Prince of Tennis)
Sasahara Keiko: Hayama Ikumi (Nunotaba Shinobu, A Certain Scientific Railgun S), formerly Shimizu Kaori (Nijou Noriko, Maria-sama ga Miteru!)
Yabusaki Kumiko: Yonezawa Madoka (Hirasawa Ui, K-ON!), Takagi Reiko (Kaolla Su, Love Hina)
Asada Naoko: Tada Konomi (Sakaguchi Karina, Girls und Panzer), formerly Saitou Momoko (Touyoko “Stealth Momo” Momoko, Saki)
Kaminaga: Noto Mamiko (Toudou Shimako, Maria-sama ga Miteru!)
They’ve also update the staff list, but most of the main people working on the show are already Genshiken veterans, such as the director Mizushima Tsutomu, and series composer Yokote Michiko, who even worked on the Drama CDs. The fact that it’s being done by Production I.G. is hopefully a good sign, though I have to wonder why in the world this series is going to have 3DCGI. Maybe for the ComiFes episodes?
As someone else pointed out to me, just by having Kaminaga in the cast you can tell roughly how much of the manga the anime will cover. The fact that it goes that far is pretty exciting (for those who haven’t read the manga, she’s a pretty big deal).
Notably missing from the voice cast though is Yoshitake Rihito. You’d need someone with a pretty masculine voice. Paku Romi perhaps?
What I think is especially interesting about the voice cast is that for a lot of the old characters they seem to have found people who are less experienced but have played somewhat similar roles in the past. For Tanaka and Madarame, you go from two veterans of screaming-and-shouting to two who are still capable. For Kuchiki, you go from one smooth and hammy (in a good way) voice in Athrun Zala to another one in Lelouch. About the strangest one might be Ui from K-ON! as the loud-mouthed Osakan, Yabusaki.
In fact, I think the voice I might miss the most is Kugayama’s, as his favorite actor sounded so much like an awkward overweight dork that it really set the tone for the rest of the anime. Not that he appears much in Nidaime though.
I also found out that Yamamoto Nozomi, the new Ogiue, is from the Tohoku region of Japan, so she should be able to do Ogiue’s inner voice no problem. Ogiue’s new character design is looking quite good. It’s really close to her current design in the manga, and while she doesn’t have that seething anger and frustration she used to have, she still shows all of the passion which has always defined her. I do want to point out that she has the glimmer in her eyes from after she started dating Sasahara. By the way, I hope they at least address that significant piece of character for Ogiue that is the Karuizawa trip somehow.
(No, seriously, it’s such a big part of her character that to skip it would be like to skip Darth Vader betraying Palpatine at the end).
Speaking of the character designs, Yoshitake in particular is fantastic, and I get the feeling that seeing her in motion is going to garner her a lot more fans.
The last thing I want to talk about is Angela Burton, who is an utter challenge for any anime to cast because of the fact that she doesn’t know Japanese and has to be shown using Ohno as an interpreter, i.e. English skills are required. Kaida Yuki (whose performance in the third Drama CD was stronger than in the anime), studied abroad in the U.S. While she hasn’t done much by way of anime, I did find out that Kobayashi Misa lists English conversation as one of her skills on her official profile, You can hear a bit of her English on her profile as well, if you click the last “3″ in that small voice sample section, under “その他.” She’s decent. It also turns out she’s also a professional mahjong player, and in fact the only video of her on Youtube I could find is on the channel of a prominent mahjong player, where she’s giving her opinion on a tournament.
So basically what I’m saying is if she came to a convention, I’d probably get her to sign my mahjong set in addition to Genshiken Nidaime DVDs/Blu-Rays.
UPDATE: Small point made below.
Ever since the announcement of the new Genshiken anime, I’ve speculated about the voice cast. Courtesy of one Anonymous Spore and the official anime website, the new cast for the Genshiken Nidaime (or Genshiken II as I prefer to call it) has been revealed, and the big, big shocker is that Mizuhashi Kaori will no longer be playing Ogiue, that most grand of angry, once-traumatized hair-brushed fujoshi.
My initial reaction has been genuine surprise and confusion, as I thought she fit the role tremendously well, and seemed to be well-established as Ogiue. Her Ogiue felt genuinely conflicted about everything, and it’s my favorite role of hers (biased perhaps). She even participated in the Genchoken radio shows with Madarame’s voice actor Hiyama Nobuyuki, and drew a comic about how she landed the role as Ogiue. Even putting aside my own Ogiue fandom I’ve thought for a long time that Mizuhashi ranks among the best voice actors out there.
That said, I think it would be a bit unfair to judge Yamamoto Nozomi before I even get to hear her voice the part of my favorite character. She’s pretty new, but she’s also already played roles such as Yukimura in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, and Tetora in Joshiraku. When I think about Tetora’s voice in particular, it may actually be a bit closer to how I imagined Ogiue’s voice in my mind when I first read the manga. Actually, Gankyou’s voice would have been even closer, but that’s maybe getting too off-topic.
As for the rest of the cast, you have Uesaka Sumire (Dekomori in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!) as Yoshitake Rika in addition to performing the opening theme, Uchiyama Yumi as Yajima Mirei (Davi in Dokidoki! Precure, Arata in Saki: Episode of Side A), and a combination of Kakuma Ai and Yamamoto Kazutomi handling the female and male voices of Hato Kenjirou, respectively. If you look at their list of works, all of them are pretty new voice actors, so perhaps there was something on the production side that required the use of newer voices. I read that they may be changing the old characters as well? Or maybe there was just a good old-fashioned scheduling conflict, which even happened with the Genshiken 2 anime and Keiko’s voice actor. In the end, it’s all just speculation, unless someone more familiar with the seiyuu scene could inform me otherwise.
Based on the previous roles of the actors for Yoshitake and Yajima, I can imagine them fitting their roles well, especially if they go for more naturalistic and awkward voices. I think Yajima especially will be a challenge.
In addition, voices aside, the art and character designs look probably the nicest they’ve ever been for Genshiken anime. I guess it all remains to be seen (and heard).
UPDATE: I decided to look at Mizuhashi Kaori’s official site, which isn’t really updated anymore, and what’s really curious is the fact that where once the front page image was of Ogiue in an empty cardboard box, now Ogiue has been replaced by a different character. I’m unsure if it’s meant to be Mizuhashi specifically or if it’s meant to be another one of the characters she played, but just the fact that she used to use an Ogiue image on her front page as early as September 2012 may indicate that she was rather close to the character of Ogiue.
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.
“Just once in my life I’d like to grow a penis!”
Yes, it’s that kind of Genshiken chapter.
Yajima’s birthday has just passed, and noticing that Yajima has never engaged in a truly candid discussion with fellow girls, Yoshitake tries to get the straight-laced Yajima to open up moe. When the two discover a strange object in the club room, Yoshitake immediately assumes it to be an enema plug, and as the two let their imaginations run wild, the two narrow down the most likely owner of the plug to be Hato. As Hato and Yoshitake give their belated presents to Yajima, it becomes increasingly difficult to ask him about the enema. However, it turns out that Hato knows nothing about it, that it’s actually Ohno’s, and that it’s simply a small accessory from one of her cosplay outfits.
That Yoshitake and Yajima believed the owner of the “enema” had to be a guy is very telling of the ways in which yaoi has influenced their imaginations. Rather than simply limiting it to fujoshi psychology, though, I feel like the characters this chapter are showing more delusions run rampant, as if BL was more a key to a forbidden kingdom of the mind. It’s interesting how this contrasts with the predominantly male Genshiken of old in that awkward expression of sexuality has been a part of Genshiken since the very first chapter, and was something of a constant throughout the series, but it usually took the form of professing doujinshi or character preferences. It was certainly never to the level that the guys would wonder aloud about genitalia, and in hindsight it lent a good deal of realism to the series, both in the fact that they all had their own quirks and kinks, and that they were embarrassed about it and kept things understated.
When I think about it, the female characters have always been the ones to discuss sex and relationships more directly. Whether that’s Kasukabe describing her “friend’s” doggy-style with her boyfriend, Kasukabe asking Ohno if she and Tanaka had done it in cosplay, or even Ohno and Ogiue’s tough heart-to-heart discussions, the girls have done a lot less tiptoeing around the subject of sex. It’s even clear from this chapter that Yajima is pretty open with Mimasaka as well, relatively speaking, even telling her all about seeing Hato naked.
Yoshitake, however, takes that prospect to an all-new extreme, and I don’t know if that’s because she’s a social fujoshi of a younger generation, or if it’s just because she’s weird. Either way, the manga portrays Yoshitake as a character who at least wants to be unafraid of taboos, and the fact that she almost manages to ask Hato directly about the “enema plug” shows her as a person who can overwhelm whatever fear of awkwardness might still linger within her. Also, as this chapter and previous ones have shown, get a little alcohol in her and all bets are off. The quote at the beginning of this review is followed by Yoshitake declaring that anyone interested in BL has to wonder about having a penis, a line which certainly blows Ohno’s famous “There’s no such thing as a girl who hates homos!” straight out of the water.
One thing I like about Genshiken is the way in which details are not forgotten and can come up again in later parts of the story. One example is Yoshitake’s hair, which had more of a wavy look in the earlier chapters and then became much straighter down the line, which was explained previously as Yoshitake perming her hair to look good at the start of the school year but being unable to keep up with it. In this chapter, the detail which caught my eye was Hato’s present to Yajima, a basket of skincare products. Back when the first years originally all hung out in Yajima’s apartment, the manga showed how Yajima had a complex about her poor skin condition when compared to Hato’s meticulously kept complexion. It’s unclear whether Hato’s realization of this came from some implied off-panel moment or if she picked up on it way back, but the gesture is clear that she wants to help Yajima look better and feel better. Speaking of, in the image above of Mimasaka you can really see how she is perhaps held back by her own lack of fashion sense, similar to Ogiue in the old days.
The previous chapters with their heavy focus on Madarame and Kasukabe casted a fairly large shadow on the newer characters, but I think this chapter shows how well the new characters can hold up on their own side of things. They’re different from the old crew in many ways but there’s still a sense of relatability to them, and they’re interesting characters in their own right. Next chapter though looks to be focused on Ohno, who actually has never gotten a whole ton of coverage in the manga. I wonder if it’ll have anything to do with her tendency to put off getting a job and entering the “real world.”
Name: Yajima, Mirei (矢島美怜)
Alias: Yajimacchi (やじまっち）
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture II
Yajima Mirei is a student at Tokyo’s Shiiou University, where she is a member of the club Genshiken, which in its most recent incarnation is primarily populated by women. Accustomed back home in Tochigi to being the “confident one” to compensate for the shyness of her friend Mimasaka, her situation is reversed in Genshiken where the combination of beauty and talent on display, especially coming from the male crossdresser Hato Kenjirou, in contrast to her own negligence when it comes to personal fashion, gives her something of an inferiority complex.
Yajima is a fan of Jump-esque shounen titles, notably Ten Piece and Menma. She enjoys drawing but is not terribly skilled at it. She is also not quite as eager to declare her love of yaoi and strike up conversation about it like her good friend Yoshitake. Though cynical and brusque to some degree, Yajima is at times also trusting and naive, such as when she initially expressed shock at the notion of drinking alcohol despite being underage.
Because Yajima prefers to remain reserved even when discussing yaoi, there are not clear indicators of the extent of her fondness for the subject except that she is undeniably a fujoshi. Rather, it is in her inaction that her firm status is revealed. When club chairman Ogiue shows her and the others doujinshi she drew of her actual boyfriend, Yajima does not refuse a copy.