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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.
In Genshiken II, Chapter 75, friends new and old gather together in what may be the largest conglomeration of named otaku characters so far.
It’s time for the school festival at Shiiou University, and with comics done and costumes ready, the Genshiken have set up their own room. In addition to having much of the veterans around (Madarame, Ohno, Kuchiki, Tanaka), old friends from high school come by to reunite with the new generation of Genshiken members. For Yajima, we have her friend Mimasaka, a shy girl who apparently thinks the world of Yajima. For Yoshitake, we get to see her old crew from the History Club. As for Hato, it’s unclear whether or not they’re actually his friends, but Konno and Fuji basically look like a grown-up Pinoko from Black Jack and Mina the bridge bunny from Macross Frontier with her hair trimmed (or perhaps Q-Bee from Vampire Savior with that striped shirt), respectively.
Keiko also appears, and as always doesn’t mince words. She ends up making things doubly dangerous by first asking aloud if Kohsaka and Kasukabe had arrived yet (Madarame didn’t know), and then following it up by asking if Madarame and Hato are dating, unaware of Hato’s true gender, which makes Hato end up feeling even more awkward.
All of that discomfort is nothing compared to the biggest reveal of the chapter, as the mysterious “senpai” from Hato’s past makes an appearance, and it turns out that she looks almost exactly like Hato in his default outfit, long hair and all. Genshiken‘s had some tough cliffhangers in the past, but none are probably as intense as this one.
So, I just have to say, between all the new characters introduced and all of the interesting information and dynamics they bring to the story, there is so much to talk about that I’m not sure I can get around to all of it. I’m not even going to really mention the hilarity of Sue, Yabusaki, and Asada this chapter other than to show this image.
I’m going to kind of work my way backwards and start with Hato’s senpai, Kaminaga. The fact that Hato actually based his entire feminine look on the girl he may have liked back in high school (it’s still unclear what the “trauma” was) is just so mind-blowing that I have no idea where this is going. Together with the fact that he’s a crossdressing BL fan who identifies as straight but who felt strangely down when Madarame mentioned his lack of interest (“It’s physically impossible”), it makes the enigma of Hato’s sexuality all the more complex even just as we began to have a clearer image ofhim. It seems like Kaminaga’s personality is quite different from Hato’s, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.
As a brief aside, I’ve noticed a trend with trap characters where they often have a nearly identical female equivalent. If it isn’t Hato and Kaminaga, it’s Bridget from Guilty Gear XX, Maria from Maria Holic, and Hideyoshi from Baka and Test each having twin sisters whom they could pass for. I might write a standalone post about this at some point, but I just have to wonder what the exact purpose behind this recurring concept might be.
It totally slipped my mind that Hato and the other freshmen have never met Keiko, but it obviously makes sense. After all, the only time we’ve really seen her in Genshiken II was when she had the man-to-man talk with Madarame, and her dissimilarity with her older brother makes it really easy to not immediately realize her relation to Genshiken, even if they do look alike. Keiko really hammers home the point that all of the interactions this chapter were basically simultaneous reunions and introductions.
Also of note is how Ogiue behaves around Keiko now, which is the subtle sense of fully accustomed nervousness. I like how Keiko refers to Ogiue as “Onee-chan” now, too. Did you know that the first instance of Keiko calling her “sis” came from the extras of the CD release of Genchoken, the Genshiken radio show starring the voice actors of Ogiue (Mizuhashi Kaori aka Madoka Magica‘s Tomoe Mami) and Madarame (Hiyama Nobuyuki aka Gaogaigar’s Guy Shishioh)? It’s true, and also didn’t make sense at the time because in the anime Ogiue and Sasahara weren’t dating yet (a fact which they acknowledge).
As for the other friends and acquaintances who appear in this chapter, one thing I want to point out is that, for Genshiken, the degree to which we learn about the characters’ histories is unprecedented. Think about it: other than Ogiue’s situation (which got its own entire story arc), the most we know about the characters prior to them attending college is that Ohno spent time in the US and made friends with Angela and Sue, Saki once dated some guy, Kohsaka used to have a shaved head, and Madarame was an awkward fellow. But here, we get to see how the relationships that were created back in high school work may have shaped their respective personalities and quirks.
The fact that Mimasaka is even more awkward than Yajima herself kind of puts Yajima’s initial reaction to the ladies of Genshiken into an even clearer perspective. Yajima no doubt did not have a fantastic high school life, but between her and Mimasaka she was the more socially capable one. With Genshiken, however, when she entered a world where the girls were pretty and talented with good personalities, it was probably like when someone with top grades goes to a top school and finds out that as far as geniuses go, they’re pretty typical. In that respect, it also brings to mind the fact that people can have different interpersonal dynamics with different groups of people, like Tenzin in The Legend of Korra, who is both an old and wizened benevolent leader as well as his mother’s son.
I like Mimasaka’s design. I feel like it really captures this sense of cuteness that can only come from being so awkward, and her lack of fashion sense is distinct from the lack of fashion sense that Ogiue had back then. Also, her first appearance this chapter makes it clear that she was the girl from Yajima’s flashback even though we only see her from behind.
Yoshitake meanwhile is clearly the product of being around a couple of extremely like-minded individuals, as Fukuda and Sawatari are quite similar to her. Just from seeing their opening greeting it’s easy to tell how much fun they had in high school, even if, again, the entirety of their lives as teenagers wasn’t particularly fantastic. At the same time, the fact that Yajima certainly isn’t the same but they get along quite well may say something about Yoshitake’s ability to make friends and break ice.
For Hato, well, we don’t really know how Konno and Fuji act around him, but they know he’s an otaku and they sure seem intent on finding him at the festival. Actually, though, I just want to talk more about their character designs. I thought that Asada would be the sole “silly” design in Genshiken, a one-of-a-kind oddity, but I’m strangely glad that isn’t the case. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy having designs this strange, but I find myself feeling just the opposite, especially when it comes to Konno’s hilariously large eyes (which I was tempted to call “peepers” just to emphasize their cartoonishness). Somehow, Kio makes them work.
What’s probably the most interesting part of all this, however, is the fact that they had these close friends in high school in the first place. Again, from what little we know of the previous Genshiken members’ lives, they didn’t appear to retain very many friends from the past. I feel like this might again speak to the generational difference, where even though all of them were nerds in the end who couldn’t find love in their teen years, they still lived in an era where being an otaku doesn’t automatically mean total social reclusion, just maybe partial.
In any case, I actually like the size of the cast now. For one thing, it provides me with more characters for the Fujoshi Files, but more importantly, the world of Genshiken expands further in a really interesting fashion.
When you ask a group of fujoshi (+1 fudanshi) for personal stories of high school romance, you get anything but. That’s Genshiken II, Chapter 73.
Chapter 73 of Genshiken II opens up right where the last chapter left off. In an effort to both have a story that can complement Hato’s drawing style and to also get out of her own creative rut, Ogiue is looking to write a shoujo manga with a high school campus festival setting. However, just as Ogiue is unable to draw on her own experience to write the story (“Actually, I didn’t even have any friends,” as she bluntly states), the only thing she gets from the freshmen are tiny pockets of sadness.
First up is Yajima, who recalls a boy who used to insult her drawings and then rub salt in the wound by actually being a better artist than her. The closest this gets to anything resembling “romance” is that the guy originally came up with a bizarre and insulting nickname for her (Hetakuso (Crappy) -> Hetappy -> Tappy) but eventually stopped using it. As Yoshitake points out, that seems more like bullying than anything else.
Second is Yoshitake, who went to an all-girls’ school and spent all her time in the history club. There, she debated history through the lens of a fujoshi. While plenty of girls in her school had boyfriends, Yoshitake certainly did not.
Last is Hato, who also claims that nothing happened with him. He’d never confessed to anyone, he was never confessed to, and talking about high school makes Hato increasingly nervous. Yajima tries to stop Yoshitake from prodding further by reminding her of what Hato said about being bullied, but this triggers the inner detective in Yoshitake. According Yoshitake, Hato’s difficulties in high school couldn’t possibly just be the result of revealing his interest in yaoi, but that romance was a factor. Before Yoshitake can pressure Hato into telling everything though, Kuchiki comes in and inadvertently rescues Hato from the interrogation through the power of his embarrassing awkwardness.
The chapter ends with Kuchiki revealing that unlike the rest of them, he actually had a girlfriend in high school (though it only lasted a day), and the shock is so great all-around that any remote chance of continuing the discussion fizzles out entirely. Ogiue declares that the high school romance idea is to be scrapped, and that she’ll be writing the cheesy overwrought stories (chuunibyou, or something an 8th grader would find deep) she usually does. Somehow, this whole fiasco may have inspired her to work again after all.
So at the end of the last review, I predicted that Sue would be the one to stun everyone with a tale of teenage love, but it turned out to be Kuchiki. I don’t think I was that far off, so I’m giving myself partial credit. And who knows, maybe we’ll still learn something about her in an upcoming chapter.
I’ve written a good deal about the generation gap that exists between the old and new Genshiken but seeing Yajima and Yoshitake’s respective pasts makes me feel that as much as things have changed, they’re still quite familiar in terms of the social troubles of being an otaku. Neither of them have had anything even closely resembling a relationship, and while you can chalk up some of the bullying to the fact that Yajima isn’t exactly the prettiest girl out there, it’s interesting to see that Yoshitake had to learn something about fashion along the way. If we compare Yoshitake’s style in high school to her sister Risa’s current look, there’s a noticeable difference, even putting aside their extremely different heights, faces, and body types.
At first I thought that the guy from Yajima’s past bore some resemblance to Risa (in the guise of “Rihito”), and that her initial attraction to the latter was somehow influenced by her experience with the former, but when I look at them side-by-side, I’m not sure if they’re similar enough to warrant that comparison. Perhaps if you consider the fact that they’re both tall and have bangs parted to the side, “Rihito” ends up looking like a more handsome version of that guy. Whether or not there’s a direct connection though, altogether I think it puts Yajima’s unease in the presence of the opposite sex into perspective.
While it’s kind of difficult to interpret the behavior of Yajima’s “friend” as him being attracted to her, I think this scenario is essentially the truth behind Hato’s own hidden teenage years. In the chapter, Sue points out that just as Yajima was mentioning the guy being better at drawing than her, Hato’s face turns a shade of red that would make a certain Zaku II Commander Type look subdued. There’s not much information to go on at this point, but I get the feeling that Hato’s inability to draw well when not in women’s clothing is a product of his failed high school romance, and that telling everyone about it may be the key to resolving his art problems. Perhaps he tried to get closer to a girl he liked by showing her his BL drawings, and his talent made her feel small by comparison.
And then there’s Kuchiki, who I think probably comes from the same lineage as Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. Both are extraordinarily creepy individuals, but they have perks in their lives that make the people around them feel worse. For Kimura, it’s a lovely wife and daughter, and for Kuchiki it’s having had a girlfriend at all, as well as having a well-paying job lined up after college thanks to nepotism.
The last two things I want to talk about are kind of small, but I feel the need to point them out.
First, the above panel is actually the first time we’ve seen the high school iteration of Ogiue in an actual chapter, and the second time we’ve seen her in a Genshiken book at all (third if you count Ogiue’s disguise at ComiFest). If you’re wondering about that other time, open up Volume 6 to the first page, and look kind of carefully.
Second, there are of course a number of references strewn throughout. Ohno mentions “HTT” or “Houkago Tea Time,” the band from K-On! Upon seeing Kuchiki, Sue says, “Hyoro-kun?”, a character from Chihayafuru (translated in the Crunchyroll subs as “Retro-kun”). Finally, the next chapter preview quote this time is “Next time, the Culture Festival draws near! That’s not what happens, but look forward to it anyway!” This is actually a reference to gdgd Fairies, which I reviewed previously. Now if you listened to me and watched the show, then you would’ve gotten the joke.
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.
Chapter 71 is here, and if you’re wondering about the Hato figure that came with the latest issue of Afternoon, yes I do have it, though the Volume 11 one has yet to arrive.
When last we saw the club, everyone was getting ready for the campus festival, with the pièce de résistance being a special edition of the club newsletter Mebaetame featuring original stories by the members of Genshiken. As this chapter makes us aware from the very start however, things are not going as planned, as Ogiue is in a slump, Yoshitake and Yajima are finding teamwork to not be so simple, and Hato’s drawing style seems to change drastically depending on whether or not he’s crossdressing. As the club tries to figure out not only how they can get anything done in time for the festival but also why Hato would have such an unusual psychological block, Sue suggests that Ogiue and Hato should collaborate, with Ogiue providing the story and Hato the artwork.
This solution, still not agreed upon by the parties involved, seems to create new challenges as well. On top of the difficulties they were having already, Yoshitake and Yajima (with beers) now feel intimidated by the fact that a collaborative work between Ogiue and Hato would completely outclass them, and this frustrations even results in Yoshitake admitting that she finds Yajima’s drawings to be pretty bad where she would previously have sugarcoated it. Ogiue meanwhile is moving towards writing a shoujo-esque romance for Hato to draw, but is aware of the fact that shoujo is untested territory for herself.
Hato too is wondering about whether or not having Ogiue’s script as a guide would provide enough structure for him to not go offtrack while drawing, when he comes across the fact that Madarame bought the game being sold by Kohsaka’s company at Comic Festival. Touting a girl-boy as a significant feature, Hato begins to think about Kohsaka putting the moves on Madarame with the game as pretext, and finds that his “Stand” is going too far. He also realizes an odd fact about himself: “Stand” Hato seems more hardcore and extreme than Hato when crossdressing. Madarame comes home earlier than expected, which results in Madarame walking around for a while to let Hato finish changing. Once Hato is done, he (in women’s clothing) mentions to Madarame that they haven’t met in a while, and that he wants to apologize for all of the trouble he’s caused recently, like the whole incident with Kuchiki. Madarame, reminding himself that despite appearances Hato is definitely a guy, invites Hato back into his place to chat.
I think Chapter 71, possibly more than any other chapter, makes me aware of how different the new Genshiken (both club and title) is from the old one, at least compared to where it began. This in turn has me thinking about some of the comments I’ve read and heard from both friends and relative strangers about how unapproachable or how unrelatable the characters and stories are for them now. So, my intent is to think through how the sense of unfamiliarity plays out in Genshiken II, particularly because I find the changes to be especially pronounced with this chapter.
The first and least, shall we say, controversial point of difference is the fact that a good portion of the club seems to show a kind of creative energy, even if they might not have the talent to match up with it. While they are all having difficulties making their works, all of these are problems which occur after they’ve begun their creative processes. This is a stark contrast to the old club where the primary issue with putting out any sort of material was that it was difficult to get them moving in the first place. I think the best comparison might be Yajima now to Kugayama back when he drew that first Kujibiki Unbalance doujinshi. Both of them are lacking in confidence and don’t believe they have what it takes to be real manga-ka, but where Kugayama delayed things as much as he could, we’re made aware of the fact that Yajima has continued to include drawings in her entries for the club newsletter even though she thinks her own work isn’t good. The fact that Yajima appears to be less skilled as an artist compared to Kugayama anyway seems to suggest that it’s mostly a subtle matter of mentality separating the two, and by extension the mindset of the current club versus the old one.
The second point of difference is that the mostly female cast produces conversations concerning concepts like body image and, more generally, that the characters talk about their feelings regularly. I think this comes across even when the topic at hand is something otaku-related, like how Yoshitake and Yajima are frustrated trying to work on their story. A few harsh words are spoken, but the whole thing ends up coming across as therapeutic for them in a way; even if nothing is solved (and perhaps they might even have made things worse), it seems to be oddly helpful. Not to blindly promote stereotypes about the types of conversations that occur among men and among women, but it’s hard to see this being a regular thing for the old guard of primarily male characters. Moreover, the interactions between Yajima and the rest are framed by their otaku/fujoshi mindsets, as well as the fact that they come from a different “subcultural” generation compared to Madarame and the rest. Not that there isn’t some overlap between the two groups or differences within, but overall I think it’s that the characters, now mostly female, have a tendency to talk about things that they might not be willing to if the club were dominated by men like it used to be, just as there were once certain topics conveyed as being uncomfortable if Saki or Ohno were around.
Hato is a kind of X-Factor in all of this, his crossdressing ostensibly making him one of the “girls,” but the actual physical truth makes things much trickier, particularly for Yajima, who now has that very same physical truth burned into both the shallow and deep recesses of her mind. Hato is the gateway, albeit a “troublesome” one in that he can seem familiar yet alien at the same time.
That leads to me to the third point of difference: Nidaime continuously challenges ideas of gender and sexuality in ways that the original Genshiken only began to touch on, with Hato being the most prominent example. With Ogiue, the “controversy” was about the degree to which being really hardcore into yaoi might affect actual intimate relationships, but that was still a girl being attracted to men, whether or not they were fictional/into other guys. With Hato however, the fact that he is into yaoi but finds himself attracted to women in real life makes for a trickier dynamic, especially when he starts to fantasize over fictional portrayals of real people like Madarame. While Ogiue did the same thing (and even said to Sasahara that she has no feelings for Madarame himself), Hato’s gender makes it feel like the idea is really being pushed to its limits, and every time they add another layer to it as they did in this chapter, it becomes that much more complex.
Overall, I find that when taking the notion of a sequel as more of the same, more of what you loved, more of what you’re familiar with, Genshiken II doesn’t quite feel like that. However, when taking a sequel to mean a progression from what has occurred before it and a development of ideas began in the original, Genshiken II fulfills that definition much more thoroughly. When I look at it and the work that has come between the two Genshiken (notably Jigopuri), I get the feeling that Kio Shimoku as at a point in his life somewhat removed from the typical otaku, especially male otaku, and that this is the result. Maybe this would have been better to talk about in its own separate post instead of as part of a chapter review, but I do think it was relevant here.
By the way, this post is probably going to push Ogiue Maniax’s lifetime hits to over 1 million. When you think about it, there’s no topic more appropriate for this than Genshiken.
Last month, we were promised a chapter with Yoshitake in the spotlight and Chapter 68 delivers in spades. We learn a lot about Yoshitake’s personality, her family, and even her deepest, darkest secret!!! Suffice it to say, a lot happens, so there’s more to talk about than usual, so you’ll have to forgive me if the following synopsis is wordier than usual.
When a couple of guys enter the Genshiken club room in an effort to hit on Hato, and the only senior member available is a spineless coward (Kuchiki), all seems lost until a tall and striking figure appears and shoos them away. The man turns out to be Yoshitake (Rika)’s brother, Rihito, and we learn the following about him: he is one year older than Yoshitake, attends a different university, and is an otaku (also apparently a shotacon). Yajima is completely smitten by this knight in shining armor, which Yoshitake picks up on immediately and uses to tease poor Yajima in subtle ways.
It turns out though that the guy who’d been hitting on Hato (and who had been asking about “the girl with the long brown hair” back in Chapter 60) is a member of the student government named Harima. Harima’s boss, a serious-looking man in glasses named Mikami, is concerned with the fact that this brown-haired girl no one knows has been seen around Genshiken since the start of the semester. There are strict rules against non-students attending, and Hato, though he is of course a student at Shiiou University, is fearful of having his secret revealed. Harima interjects and convinces Mikami to let him handle it.
Harima tries to clear up the misunderstanding about himself with Hato, except that it wasn’t really a misunderstanding and he actually was trying to hit on Hato after all. The awkward situation is only exacerbated when Kuchiki runs in for the “rescue” and is immediately choked out (again) by Hato. Harima is scared off, and Kuchiki falls unconscious with a smile on his face, though in the process inadvertently places his hand on Rihito’s chest. This in turn generates a decidedly feminine response in Rihito, who reflexively recoils away with a yelp, revealing an elaborate charade.
Yoshitake Rihito turns out to be Yoshitake Risa, Yoshitake’s younger sister who attends an all-girls’ high school and is a member of the school’s basketball club (but still actually a shotacon). Risa is a senior and was checking out Shiiou University as a prospective college, when Yoshitake decided to use the fact that Risa is often mistaken for a boy anyway to pull a prank on the others in Genshiken. However, Risa inadvertently reveals that her older sister is older than she seems. Yoshitake, though a freshman in college, is in reality 20 years old due to a combination of having failed the entrance exams the first time around and having an April birthday (the Japanese school year starts in April), and is the reason she was able to buy all of that alcohol back in Chapter 58 without any hiccups (20 is the legal drinking age in Japan). The chapter ends with the first years + Risa drinking over a discussion of the pairing between Mikami and Harima.
With all of the new character introductions and particular displays of characterization contained within Chapter 68, there is a lot to think about, more than even I’m going to talk about, but let’s begin anyway.
As has been pointed out by Japanese blogger Tamagomago, Yoshitake is very socially savvy, and nowhere has it been more obvious than in this chapter. Probably the best example of this is the fact that she is able to immediately pick up on Yajima’s attraction towards “Rihito” because of how Yajima keeps looking away from the
older younger Yoshitake sibling. One might say that it’s as classically obvious a signal as possible, but stuff like this can be surprisingly difficult for nerds to pick up on. While Yoshitake isn’t quite on the level of Kasukabe or possibly even Keiko in terms of perceptiveness, she is still far greater than the average otaku. Sasahara may be considered the “normal” otaku to an extent, but I can’t help wondering if Yoshitake deserves that title more, though its meaning changes when applied to her. On the topic of siblings, this is the first familial relationship we’ve seen since Sasahara and Keiko, and in looking at the interaction between Yoshitake and Risa with a bit of hindsight, Yoshitake really does act like the older sister. This is shown in the way she hits Risa, and how Risa appears to be completely used to it.
When I first saw “Rihito” I thought to myself, “So this must be where Yoshitake gets it from.” It seemed that Yoshitake simply had a good role model who made it look perfectly all right to be an otaku and that it didn’t have to affect your attitude or wardrobe. However, the truth turns out to be far more interesting, as the more likely scenario, given what we know now, would have Rika being the model responsible for Risa’s success in balancing a life of exciting high school basketball competition with one of rampant fujoshi-ing. Yoshitake makes being otaku look cool and normal, and it has an admirable effect on her younger sister and her generation of fandom.
Speaking of basketball, Risa makes me think of that fateful scene from Volume 5 where Ogiue tries to explain away her attendance at a Scram Dunk BL event by claiming that she has a younger brother who’s into basketball. I wonder how Ogiue would react to seeing “Rihito?” How quickly would her mind race in order to conjure up dangerous situations for Risa? Actually, Ogiue doesn’t even make an appearance this chapter, so I have to wonder if Yoshitake is going to try to pull a fast one on her (and the other absent members) in the near future.
Risa’s character design is quite interesting in that generally when you have a crossdressing female character in anime and manga, they tend to still look very feminine regardless of the clothing (Mayo Chiki), and even someone like Fujioka Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club, who can pass for a guy fairly well, is still smaller than the men around her. Risa, on the other hand, even when her secret is revealed and she stops acting “manly” (an act which I think was clearly modeled on bishounen characters in the manga she reads) doesn’t just suddenly look like a girl. Her mannerisms do change to an extent (her body language differs and she begins to use her older sister’s signature -ssu in her speech), but she’s still quite different from what you’d typically expect out of a “reverse trap.” Her height helps with this of course, being one of the tallest characters in Genshiken and dwarfing her older sister. The fact that she’s so tall also puts a bit of a spin on the fact that she’s a shotacon, though I’m not exactly sure how.
I’d also like to point out how Risa and Harima in this chapter mirror each other somewhat. Both are assumed to be one way at first (Rihito is a cool dude, Harima is a sleazebag). Then the truth comes out (Rihito is Risa, Harima is a member of the student government), but it turns out that there was a grain of truth in the lie (Risa is into shota after all, Harima was actually trying to get with Hato). One of the trademarks of Kio Shimoku is having his chapter titles (“Your Name is?” being 68′s) mean more than one thing, and this parallel showcases that aspect of his work.
As for Yoshitake’s dark secret (being 20 years old), I think many of her fans are probably breathing a sigh of relief that it didn’t turn out to be anything more serious. As it stands, Yoshitake is not cheerful to compensate for something else, she just is that way. That she was embarrassed of the fact that her behavior isn’t stereotypically befitting of a 20 year old shows that she indeed aware of how things are “supposed to be” but willfully flouts them anyway, and at the same time also shows that she’s not invincible in the way perhaps Kohsaka is. She’s concerned with what others might think about her, but not too much. It adds a nice dimension to her character that we knew was probably there, but weren’t quite sure what form it would take.
The last thing I want to talk about in the chapter is Yajima’s reaction towards “Rihito” because I think it perfectly captures the feeling of the nerd crush, complete with the fact that Yajima clearly felt that he was out of her league. In that respect, it feels different from the other attractions we’ve seen in the manga in that Ogiue’s, Sasahara’s, and Madarame’s had the awkwardness that comes with familiarity, and Kasukabe thought herself on the same level as Kohsaka. Yajima also has to contend with her own personality in that instance, so the embarrassing nature of that moment for her comes not just from body image problems but also that she has set herself up to be kind of a “cool” character. It reminds me of Yajima’s introduction to Genshiken where she tried to pass off her interest in the club as something kind of casual, and the emotional confusion this whole situation has caused for Yajima is surely going to be a fun thing to explore.
So there we have it for Yoshitake’s first-ever chapter with internal monologue. Next chapter continues the drinking party, and I hope we get to learn more about everyone, as much as we’ve learned already. The next chapter quote is taken from Mawaru Penguindrum, which is to say, watch Penguindrum for more sibling hijinks (also penguins).
Chapter 67 of Genshiken II hits short and sweet, but that’s also what makes it fun.
Things are mighty awkward in Genshiken ever since Hato loudly proclaimed his BL fantasies at Comic Festival. Madarame and even Kuchiki are avoiding him. Discussing what to do, Sue points out that the loss of Madarame is the loss of Hato’s only male friend, and that there is only one solution: have Ogiue show Hato (and the other freshmen) her old Sasahara x Madarame doujinshi, so that Hato can know that his opinion, at least in the club itself, is not so unusual.
As the three freshmen are shocked by the combination of outright eroticism in Ogiue’s doujinshi how she has depicted her own boyfriend manhandling Madarame, Hato takes “acceptance” one step further, now inspired by Ogiue’s drawings to make his own Madarame doujinshi. Just as Hato makes clear his intentions though, Madarame walks into the clubroom.
To break the awkwardness once and for all, Yajima steps up and tells Madarame that every first-year member of Genshiken saw him as an uke from their very first meeting, and that he should just treat it as the unreasonable delusions of a bunch of “rotten-minded” individuals. Kuchiki, always one to restore awkwardness to new heights however, barges in and tries to pull an anime convention move. Trying to force a kiss onto Madarame in order to please Hato, Kuchiki is neutralized by a swift palm strike from Sue and a legitimate sleeper hold from Hato’s judo skills (where according to Wikipedia it’s called a “Naked Strangle”). For the near future, Madarame is not visiting the club.
This chapter of Genshiken II initially feels a little light on content, but the more I think about it, the more I find that there is plenty of “meat” to go around, particularly in the character interactions and the bridging of gaps that occurs within them. Yajima, who has had the hardest time with Hato out of everyone, goes out of her way to make Hato feel more comfortable within the club. Though Yajima still can’t get too close to him because of the fact that Hato is indeed a man, it does feel like they have something you can call a friendship now. Then there’s Ogiue showing her doujinshi to the freshmen, which is not only the first instance of Ogiue willingly displaying it to others since Sasahara (though Sue found it on her own), but something that makes you realize the history gap between the old Genshiken and the new. To Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato, all of this information is entirely new and exciting, in every sense of the word.
Ogiue displaying her Sasa x Mada work in front of everyone says a lot about how Genshiken, and perhaps anime fan culture has changed, at least in terms of how otaku “should” behave. We’re reminded early in the chapter that Ogiue suffered immensely for being a fujoshi, that her shame and guilt brought her to the point of an attempted suicide which Ogiue herself refers to as a “Perfect Bad End.” Even with Sasahara, she went through a lot to bring herself to show it to him. With the new members though, their reaction is only one of mild surprise, more astounded by the quality of the work itself than the fact that it actually exists. Yoshitake even wonders if Ogiue would be willing to make copies. After all, one of the first things the three first-years did as a group was think up pairings for all of Genshiken guys at a club party. Times have changed, and what was once the ultimate dark secret has become just another “thing.” As if to emphasize this contrast, Ogiue wears a flannel shirt straight out of 1980s otaku subculture during the whole presentation that makes even Yajima look more fashionable.
What’s also similarly interesting is how “Madarame as uke” became the prevailing opinion among everyone. After all, one of the first things Ohno said back when she was introduced to Ogiue’s private doujinshi was that the pairing should probably have Madarame as the aggressor and Sasahara on the receiving end. Given how they presented themselves to the world up to that point–Madarame exuded a forceful persona of “proud otaku” and Sasahara was a quiet guy who went along with the flow–it seemed to be the more “sensible” pairing, but apparently Ogiue was able to see it on a deeper level, though it might just be that Ogiue came in around the time that Madarame and Sasahara began to change, Madarame from unrequited love and Sasahara from growing a spine. Just as Ogiue’s initial impression of everyone in the club was different from that of Sasahara’s, so too have Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato formed opinions through their own limited experience. Granted, the freshmen are also kind of a different breed of otaku, so there’s no telling what would have happened had they met Madarame a few years ago instead.
Meanwhile through all of this, Yoshitake shows what it’s like to be an anime nerd seemingly free of worry in regards to the opinions of others, all while actually being socially aware, unlike Kuchiki. If ever there was a character to show how the right kind of confidence and passion can counter any inherent awkwardness from a given topic, that would be Ed Chavez, but in his absence Yoshitake Rika is the next best thing. Reading this chapter, I found myself asking, so when does Yoshitake get her time in the spotlight, and as if to answer me directly, the preview blurb mentions that she is getting center stage next chapter.
I’m excited, how about you?