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The previous chapter of Genshiken ended with most of the characters pairing off in unexpected ways (none of them romantic), setting up the anticipation that there would be some intriguing interactions that go outside of the normal range that Genshiken has been using as of late. In this regard, Chapter 113 is far from being a disappointment.
After Yoshitake finally reins in her history otaku nature and ceases to be a tour guide through the shrines of Nikkou, all of the groups do their own special thing. For this reason, for this month’s review I think it’s worth talking about each notable pair on their own.
Madarame and Yoshitake
In a lot of harem manga, the characters that act as if they’re stringing the main character along through feigned expressions of affection often fall into the category of the harem as well. Because they show the possibility, they’re part of the fantasy too, even if they’re supposed to be tongue in cheek. Not so with Yoshitake. She drags Madarame away not only to spark the fire among the characters who actually are interested in Madarame, but also slyly manipulates Madarame as well by making it seem as if she’s also into him. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but the reaction on Madarame’s face seems less like surprise and more like, “Oh no, not again,” which when you think about it is a far cry from where he was originally in Genshiken.
Yajima and Kuchiki
Kuchiki wants what Madarame has but he’ll never get it because it’s hard to imagine too many girls who would like Kuchiki’s personality (then again he did have a girlfriend once upon a time). At the same time, their mildly venomous conversation has a lot of grains of truth being sifted. Kuchiki mentions the appeal of the girl-boy, which is that you have the physical attraction of a female without the seeming mystery of trying to figure out how they think and feel. This actually isn’t far off from what I’ve read about the appeal of certain, shall we say, “alternative” forms of adult entertainment in anime and manga, and it even reflects something I’ve seen before in an old Ann Landers/Dear Abby, which had to do with a wife questioning if her husband was gay. Long story short, that aspect of being able to directly understand the feelings of another, whether that’s more spiritual or more physical, is something that’s understandable when you think about it. As for Kuchiki almost figuring out Yajima’s feelings for Hato, that probably has less to do with Kuchiki being perceptive and more that Yajima is often an open book (see her first meeting with Yoshitake’s “brother”).
Hato and Keiko
It’s been established that the two don’t really get along, and this chapter I think really shows the foundation of why that’s the case. Essentially, both Hato and Keiko believe that the other is somehow manipulating Madarame. Hato believes Keiko is just stringing him along, while Keiko sees Hato’s personality as an ideal construct, pleasing but artificial. Together, they both open up to each other in an antagonistic manner, giving details as to what transpired in each of their respective close encounters with Madarame. Now they both know the approximate truth, and while it can’t be said that Madarame is a two-timer, I do think Hato and Keiko have bonded in a rather bizarre yet understandable manner. That said, I think their lowered opinion of him comes from somewhat different places; with Hato it’s because of how easily Madarame was enticed, and Keiko because it connects to the whole thing about Madarame being happy about Hato’s chocolates.
I think there’s something to be said about the way that the characters of Genshiken try to exert their wills in this chapter. Yoshitake temporarily dons the role of a fawning admirer to mess with Madarame, Keiko intentionally withholds the fact that Kugayama was at her club too to make Hato think that Madarame came of his own accord, and Hato throws the events of the previous night in Keiko’s face. Nowhere is this clearer than with the fact that Angela’s time has arrived, and she’s come prepared for bear, so to speak. As soon as she finds out she’s pairing with Madarame, out come her noble familiars, barely constrained and ready to serve their master.
I’m not sure if it’s clear from my previous posts, but I love the idea of Madarame and Angela, if only because to me it’s the most hilarious. This chapter begins to prove why that’s the case, even if she probably has the slimmest chance out of the four. Will next month be the most fanservicey chapter of Genshiken ever?
Speaking of Angela and Madarame, or rather the renewed kujibiki drawing, I do find it interesting that Yoshitake’s plan to see the temple Youmeimon, the culmination of her trip to Nikkou, is derailed by construction much in the same way that her original plan to mix the group up into new and exciting pairings also backfired in terms of its original intent. It makes me wonder if this second lottery is going to also be reflected in Yoshitake somehow encountering an even more amazing sight.
Last thing of note: as seen in the first image in this post, this chapter clearly used photo references for its color pages that lend a greater amount of realism to the backgrounds, to the extent that it feels like the chapter is actually promoting tourism for Nikkou. I don’t think that’s actually the case, but Genshiken rarely goes for that look.
Since the last chapter, Madarame has been mulling over Hato’s Valentine’s chocolate. Feeling a sense of happiness over receiving them yet also confused and alarmed by this very reaction, he seeks the advice of Kugayama, who is the only other guy out of the old Genshiken crew to not have a significant other and thus won’t spill the beans to the girls. As the two get increasingly drunk over some barbecue, Madarame reveals where he believes the confusion lies: to him, Hato is a man and therefore someone Madarame can relate to, whereas women are so foreign to him that he doesn’t know how to even begin dealing with their affections. Kugayama suggests going to a soapland to help him get over his fear of women, but realizing that it’s probably too big a jump for either of them they consider instead going to a cabaret club, more specifically Keiko’s.
For a chapter basically consisting of two scenes and a brief look into Yajima’s attempt to improve her figure drawing with the help of Yoshitake, there’s actually a whole lot to unpack. At this point, it’s something I expect from Genshiken even putting aside my own tendency to analyze the series in depth, but the more I thought about the simple events and topics of this chapter, the more complex the exploration of otaku sexuality and its perception in the otaku mind becomes.
Although I’ve had to re-assess the manga’s messages when it comes to attraction and sexuality a number of times, at this point one thing continues to be certain: Genshiken presents the idea that one’s “2D” and “3D” preferences neither overlap entirely nor are they truly separate. It wasn’t that Hato was in denial when he originally said his preference for BL existed purely in the realm of doujinshi and the like, but that he honestly felt that way. However, as we’ve learned, even the distinction between “2D” and “3D” is tenuous, as the characters of Genshiken ship real people (or at least imaginary approximations of real people). I would argue that BL was not Hato’s realization of homosexuality, but something which made the idea a distinct possibility in his mind that helped him to clarify his feelings for Madarame.
While I don’t think Madarame is having the same thing happen to him, I do think his actions in this chapter reflect a similar semi-disconnect between his 2D and 3D desires. Consider the fact that one of Madarame’s warning signals was that he began re-playing his otoko no ko eroge. One would expect the situation to be that ever since Madarame received the chocolates that he began to look into those games, but he in fact had them for a while. While Madarame maintained is self-identity as heterosexual, he was playing those types of games the whole time, and as implied in the chapters where he first discusses his experience with those games, it’s less about being into guys 2D or 3D and more about the use of sexual expression coded generally as “female” in otaku media that appeals to him. Hato, who similarly performs “femininity” looks to be hitting the same triggers in Madarame, and the very fact that this deliberateness in the end positions Hato to be male is also what makes Madarame feel as if he can relate to Hato better than any woman.
The female sex is something Madarame has viewed his entire life as a realm of distant fantasy, only barely entering his purview of reality when Kasukabe suggested that maybe they could’ve had something if circumstances had been different. This, I think, is why Madarame has trouble deciding what he feels in reaction to Sue and Angela (via Ohno) giving him romantic chocolates as well. Madarame has expressed interest in 2D characters similar to Sue, and there’s no doubt that he finds Angela attractive on some level, but they’re a foreign existence, both figuratively and literally. In that sense the anime girl and the real girl are equally “farfetched.” This is also what makes the Chekhov’s gun that is Keiko’s heavily photoshopped business card so powerful. Not only is it the case that Madarame’s refusal to visit the cabaret club back in Chapter 59 potentially overturned the next chapter, and not only is Keiko one of the other girls into Madarame, but Keiko herself plays a “character” at her workplace. Even firmly within the realm of “3D,” the line between fantasy and reality blurs.
Another thing I find interesting about this whole notion that Hato’s feelings are easier to respond to because Madarame can relate to them as a fellow guy is how this somewhat mirrors one of the reasonings touted for why people get into BL of shounen manga. Traditionally, female characters and love interests in battle/sports/competition manga have been on the sidelines, and most of the displays of fiery passion consist of male rivals and enemies confronting and antagonizing each other, which leads to more time and effort to devoted to those relationships than the ones between the hero and his would-be girlfriend. While this isn’t quite the same as what Madarame and Hato have, what is similar is this concept of guys being able to understand each other on some deeper level (or with girls in yuri), whether it’s intrinsic or something that’s developed over time. In the case of Madarame, it’s perhaps an inevitability given his inexperience with women. In a way, Kugayama’s solution of breaking the “mystique” of the opposite sex through the use of a “professional,” while extremely typical in various cultures (there was even a King of the Hill episode on the subject) is itself also a breakthrough for the otaku-minded, as it involves a desire to get away from the ideal of sexual purity and enter “reality,” though even that conception of the world is fueled by a fantasy. There’s a more I could say about Kugayama as well, but I’ll leave it alone for now except to say that Kugayama in some ways occupies Yajima’s position.
As for the scene with Yajima, Yoshitake, Hato, and Sue, although it’s fairly short, it is notable that Yajima is actually trying to improve her drawing despite being previously resigned to suck at it forever, and Hato’s mention that he’s been drawing manga lately is likely going to mean that he’s gotten past his previous dilemma of only being able to draw BL when dressed as a girl and a rather bizarre style when as a boy. The “disappearance” of the two voices that accompanied Hato (his other self and the other Kaminaga) were likely a prelude to this development. I suspect we’ll see more in the next chapter.
Also, Ogiue does not appear in this chapter but is at least mentioned twice, once when Madarame believes Sasahara would definitely tell her if Madarame were to divulge his secret struggle, and once when Yoshitake states that it was Ogiue’s suggestion for Yajima to do some rough sketches.
Have you been enjoying the new Genshiken anime? I call the manga of Nidaime “Genshiken II” because that’s how I started, while I call the anime “Genshiken Second Season” because that’s how it’s widely advertised in English. While it makes things easier in terms of separating my anime and manga posts, I do feel a bit contradictory or incongruous in doing so. Anyway, here’s Chapter 91, which is a turning point, the latest of many.
After Yajima talks to Hato in an effort to tell him that he can’t simply dump Madarame onto Angela so he can get back to reading BL, Ohno calls to ask Hato to complete the Bodacious Space Pirates cosplay as the main character. Eager to rid himself of the fujoshi that is his mental alter ego, Hato agrees, but by doing so actually appears to reaffirm his feelings on Madarame. Hato apologizes to Angela, but Angela has other ideas, simultaneously confessing the mutual feelings of her, Hato, and Sue. Madarame, like a deer caught in headlights, tries to run but accidentally slips and fractures his wrist (again) when he sees Keiko.
I quite like how Kio Shimoku writes and draws Angela, as for all of her simplistic character traits she still comes across as a fully developed person. Angela makes various comments about basically having a foursome, but I don’t think we’re supposed to interpret that as her wanting that sort of relationship. Instead, I think the fact that her words intentionally sound like they’re coming straight of an eroge is what’s important. Previous chapters have established that Angela is extremely savvy and strategic when it comes to putting the moves on Madarame, such as Angela hoping that if she’s aggressive enough the timid and virginal Madarame will use her as masturbation material, and I have no doubt in my mind that she’s trying to appeal to that basic otaku side of Madarame, to give him the temptation to fuse fantasy and reality in his mind. There’s also the fact that Ohno stops interpreting out of embarrassment, so Angela has to be as braindead obvious with her words as possible.
Of course, the other component of all this is that Angela is blasting through the ambiguity in a way which normally Sue would, but this is not Sue’s area of comfort at all. It’s funny how the more social and perceptive characters in Genshiken have generally been the ones to point out budding feelings and similar developments where the dorks of the group have been oblivious, like when Keiko nonchalantly asked if Sasahara and Ogiue are dating before they started doing so. Even though Keiko makes only a brief appearance at the end, I think she provides a good amount of interesting material to analyze as well.
When I think about it, Keiko and Angela appear to be approaching Madarame in the same way, by trying to actively appeal to his otaku sensibilities. The way I see it, the key difference is that Angela is an otaku herself while Keiko is not. Angela is using her knowledge of anime, manga, and video games, her experience interacting with fellow otaku, and even how her own mind works, to feed into Madarame’s fantastic desires. Keiko, on the other hand, is giving herself a more natural appearance, maybe even one closer to Kasukabe’s, in an effort to appear less a part of the Shibuya world which most otaku reject. The fact that Angela has a dynamite body may or may not play a factor in this battle.
Hato’s feelings meanwhile are practically overwhelming him at this point, and the clarity that this chapter brings also serves to complicate things further. As silly as this may sound, I find significance in the fact that the “other Hato” has a different breast size compared to the “other Kaminaga” who has been appearing in Hato’s consciousness lately, as it basically means they’re two aspects of his mind. Both are representative of something inside him, but the other Hato, with her larger chest, speaks towards Hato’s ideal of the generic woman he’s aiming to visually emulate. As mentioned before in a 4koma, when Hato crossdresses he tries to have as many “female” signifiers in his appearance, and breasts are one of them. The other Kaminaga, on the other hand, has small breasts like the actual person, which I interpret as Hato tying that persona closer to the real Kaminaga, or more specifically her words, and her ability to cut to the heart of the matter. The fact that Kaminaga is literally the person he was originally trying to emulate has to mean something as well.
Aside from a panel or two, there wasn’t really an Ogiue content this chapter, but I do find an off-hand remark by Kuchiki to be interesting. Kohsaka and Sasahara mention to Hato that there’s nothing quite like the wrath of not so much a scorned woman but a humiliated one, which causes Kuchiki to refer to them as the “非DT,” or “not virgins,” to which Madarame and Kugayama react nervously. While Kohsaka is generally seen as the attractive guy, there’s something hilarious about having Sasahara considered even remotely close to being a stud.
This time, to finish, I’d actually like to talk a bit about the art, which I typically don’t get into much during these reviews. The same page where Kuchiki calls the two of them “not virgins” is rather nice, I think, because of the way the panel of Kohsaka up top anchors that small moment in time, as well as Kohsaka’s words (“I don’t think you can take thing back at this point”). This isn’t just because it’s a large panel, but the lack of a background contrasts with the busier panels before and after, which in turn makes that panel act as both a breather as well as a moment of impact. On top of that, it rests well at the top of the page and makes for a balanced composition. I think in general Kio is good at using these large empty panels, and if you look through previou chapters I’m sure you’ll find more examples.
In this month’s Genshiken the guys and girls are separated on the line to Comic Festival, but in both cases the topic is the same: Madarame, and the women (and man) who might love him. There’s also some cosplay, as the girls dress up as the cast from Bodacious Space Pirates.
Yajima as Luca, Yoshitake as Coorie
The real-life Comic Market upon which Genshiken‘s Comic Festival is based is traditionally seen as a space existing in a dimension separate from the realm of romance and general extroverted interaction. It’s a distinction acknowledged even by Genshiken itself (Madarame’s famous exclamation that having a tan at ComiFes is “embarrassing), but it’s also a series where relations are fostered (Sasahara and Ogiue). Even though the series does have a tendency to place those conventionally incongruous elements together, the juxtaposition between people discussing potential love interests while waiting hours to buy doujinshi is nevertheless still quite strong.
The boys’ discussion revolves around the four whom Kasukabe believes have something for Madarame, namely Angela, Sue, Keiko, and Hato. Although Kasukabe is the definitely the most socially perceptive character in the series she’s also not perfect (she thought Madarame fell in love with her well before he actually did), so it isn’t necessarily presented as the gospel truth aside from the extremely obvious Angela. Given her strong observational skills, however, it’d still be fun to discuss each of them in detail, not to pick the “best” one but to do some semi-intense character analysis.
Before we get into it, though, I do want to say that it isn’t that unusual for Madarame to be a target of affection, and I don’t mean that in a “deep down he’s a good guy” sort of way. Not only is Madarame kind and intelligent, but he’s made major strides of the years to improve his sociability. That, and some girls are into the scrawny nerd type.
Angela,dressed as Misa Grandwood, Ohno in the background as Chiaki Kurihara
If you’ll recall, Angela’s interest in Madarame is actually a retcon from the second TV series (Genshiken 2, not be confused with Genshiken Second Season even though it’s totally easy to do so). The aggressive Angela enjoys Madarame’s passive demeanor, and what’s especially important about her perspective is that she isn’t thinking of this in a very romantic sort of way. While she wouldn’t mind seeing him long-term, she’s also definitely okay with a down and dirty one night stand. One thing I find interesting about Angela is that in her you have the portrayal of a woman who’s using every asset at her disposal to (literally) charm the pants off a guy. Even putting aside the aggression, if you look again at Chapter 66, you’ll notice that at the end of the day Angela switches from the outfit she was wearing in the morning to one with a short skirt and exposed cleavage.
Angela’s original appearance in the manga involves her, a non-Japanese speaking foreigner with a perfect body being very social, a form of kryptonite to the poor otaku Madarame. Personally speaking, there’s something hilarious about a rigid guy being with a sexually charged bombshell in that it’s fun to watch the layers of restraint and fear either melt away or intensify. For Madarame it’s more the latter, a response I find to be realistic for a nerd, though the fact that the unrequited love for Kasukabe is now a done deal changes the game. Her attitude frequently makes me wonder about what life is like for her most of the year, especially because she’s such a fearsome individual, able to notice Madarame’s pining for Kasukabe after just one or two brief ComiFes visits.
Sue as Gruier Serenity
While I’ve seen some Angelas in the American anime fandom, I’ve seen many more Sues, and I still find her to be surprisingly close to the kind of fans I tend to encounter at US anime conventions (although Yoshitake is actually pretty close too). Sue appears shortly after Angela in the original series delivering Asuka’s signature insult (“Anta baka?”), and it’s been interesting seeing her develop, from a non-sequitur gag machine with a penchant for making things awkward for those around her, to a fully fleshed-out character fluent in Japanese though still capable of intentionally generating the same awkwardness.
Sue’s feelings for Madarame aren’t as clear-cut as Angela’s, but Sue also frequently interacts with Madarame while appearing to enjoy it immensely. If she does like Madarame to that extent, it explains a lot of her actions with respect to him, like her remark that Madarame should “find a new love.” I also have to wonder how an actual relationship between the two would look. Sue is perhaps the only girl that can go toe-to-toe with Madarame when it comes to sheer obsession with anime and manga to the point of building up a seemingly endless wealth of quotes. There’s also something about their combined awkwardness that makes me imagine some of the interactions from Nichijou.
The thing I find funniest about Keiko is that years ago, when the original manga was still running in Japan, before there were these specific moments in Nidaime between the two to fuel the fire, there were already fans of the Madarame x Keiko pairing. If I had to reason why the combination has its supporters, it could be that in a way this would be the most “realistic” (read: cynical) couple, that image of the otaku whose average-looking girlfriend doesn’t quite understand his hobby and is a little too frivolous with cash. Perhaps the best reason is that Madarame was rejected by Kasukabe while Keiko’s affections for Kohsaka never went anywhere, comfort in mutual sorrow. Still, the reaction from Madarame and Sasahara is understandable (and also hilarious), as Sasahara basically pleads with Kohsaka and Hato to strike the very idea from the world. Watching the two guys basically not even consider her a factor is one of the best parts of the chapter.
The extras in Volumes 13 and 14 of Genshiken paint an interesting picture of Keiko. In Volume 14, Hato notices that Keiko has actually changed her makeup style to a more natural-looking one. One of Keiko’s visual characteristics since her debut in the manga has been her heavy makeup, and to forego it in favor of a lighter look implies that she’s aiming for a guy who might find that heavily dolled up look intimidating. On the other hand, a Volume 13 extra also shows that she has some interest in Hato, asking him if he’d be willing to have sex with a girl while still in drag. That 4-panel comic actually changed my perception of Keiko, and I wonder if her position in all of this is more complex than first expected.
Then there’s Hato, whose interactions with Madarame I’ve analyzed many times over and which you’ll find in numerous previous chapter reviews. Two things are clear: Hato is really complicated, and he pays a lot of attention to both Madarame and the people around Madarame. After all, he’s the one who noticed that Keiko changed her makeup. He’s also clearly very confused about what he does and doesn’t want, and you can see it in the way he went from needing to crossdress no matter what, to absolutely refusing to do so and trying to play the part of Average Joe Otaku. It sort of reminds me of when nerds who know nothing about sports (which includes myself to an extent!) try to discuss basketball or something: awkward, unfamiliar, clearly an act.
His past with Kaminaga makes it even more difficult to discern his intentions, as it isn’t clear whether he wanted her or wanted to be with her (or perhaps even both). However, if we assume that Hato does have feelings for Madarame, he then presents an interesting position in that he would see himself as a man who likes to crossdress and look at yaoi, but not someone who identifies as a woman and would therefore see a relationship with a man as heterosexual. If Genshiken then actually had him get together with Madarame, it would bring the entire manga to a whole other place.
The chapter ends with Yajima getting ready to say something to Hato, and amidst this strange situation their relationship is also something which has changed over time. Where once Yajima had been uncomfortable with Hato in drag, now she’s the opposite, mirroring Hato’s own feelings. I’m actually quite looking forward to how this develops next month. The “next chapter” reference, by the way, is Jewelpet Happiness.
One last vitally important thing to discuss: Ogiue’s cosplay is amazing. Somehow the series keeps finding great characters for her to dress up as, and even if the look doesn’t match entirely her intense expression makes it entertaining nonetheless. Ogiue cosplay is something special.
Ogiue as Quartz Christie
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.
Genshiken II, Chapter 88 is Winter ComiFes! As always, the Comic Festival chapters are among the best or most interesting in Genshiken.
It’s Day 1 of ComiFes and Angela Burton the Athletic Bostonian has come back to Japan. Though she’s decided to tone it down she still ends up stirring the pot, especially by noticing that something funny’s going on with Madarame and Sue. During the event, as the others move about, Ogiue and Yabusaki sell the doujinshi they’ve been working on. They even manage to completely exhaust their 1000-book supply, which is a first for them. Hato, who is abstaining from BL, tries to act like a normal otaku and even perv out like a normal otaku, but it just doesn’t work for him, and he ends up not enjoying what is normally a highlight of his life. The chapter ends at the start of Day 2. Yajima plans to buy a yaoi doujinshi for Hato, which may be hinting at some more romantic feelings.
This chapter of Genshiken had the same energy as the old ComiFes chapters, and especially compared to the last one doesn’t have quite so much overt drama. Not that it doesn’t have any drama, of course, but it’s a little more low-key, and you can really feel the hustle and bustle of a event as huge and as crazy as not-Comiket (because it’s a fictional world, remember). At least, that’s how it is for Day 1. Who knows what Days 2 and 3 will bring?
I couldn’t recognize either cosplay this time around, but thankfully there’s at least one blogger who knows his stuff: The first cosplay (pictured above) is from a new series called Shuushokunan Zombie Tori Girl (“Employment Scarcity Zombie-Catching Girl”), and the other is from Hi Score Girl, which if I recall, won some kind of award recently? In any case, I want to check out both manga now. The image of a blue collar worker using a combination fishing pole and net is quite striking.
Just in general, I thought the fashion in this chapter was really nice. Clothing-wise, the two characters who stand out to me the most this chapter are Yoshitake and Angela, for different reasons. For Yoshitake, it’s because of the way she’s able to at times look like the coolest girl around and at other times like the biggest dork in history (or “history dork in history”), when probably both are true. For Angela, I feel like Kio expresses her character through her clothing especially well. Even when trying to hold herself back (another “be yourself, or not” moment?), she still exudes a confidence in herself, her body, and her actions that’s hard to find in even someone like Saki. I’d like to point out that she’s wearing shorts in the middle of winter, when Comic Market is known for sometimes for being blisteringly cold.
I actually like Angela more and more every time she shows up, possibly because of the way that she shakes up the current situation of the club no matter what it might be. Her attitude towards just about everything is a far cry from everyone else, best exemplified when she suspects there being a thing between Madarame and Sue. Angela has some romantic and physical interest in Madarame, and to see her react not with jealousy or anger but with the same excitement she displays when talking about her favorite character types really cuts through the more conventional sense of relationships you see elsewhere.
Ogiue gets a good amount of focus this time around because of the fact that she’s selling her collaborative doujinshi with Yabusaki. If you’re not sure why the two of them are freaking out from the get-go, it’s because they’ve been put in a spot that’s usually reserved for the most popular and highest-selling doujinshi circles. Their table is against the wall, and at a doujin event, the groups whose products will create the most traffic are put against the wall in order to reduce traffic congestion. Ogiue says it’s mainly because the title they chose to parody this time is extremely popular, and that it wasn’t all under their own power, but I think selling out of 1000 copies is amazing no matter the circumstances.
While I of coursed loved seeing Ogiue back when she was struggling with herself, it also brings me joy to see Ogiue this happy. Though she’s hardly what you’d call totally uninhibited now, it’s clear how much more relaxed and comfortable she is now, especially when her nervousness this time around has more to do with feeling like a little fish in a big pond, and not anger at herself. The pinnacle of this can be seen in the very last panel of the chapter, where she’s in the classic doujinshi-buying frenzy. The panel even references the line that something is opening up at the top of her head, the thing that happened to Sasahara at his first ComiFes. The last time we saw Ogiue do this, she was disguised and frustrated about having to disguise herself, but now Ogiue isn’t holding herself back, or trying to disguise herself, or anything. It’s Ogiue, who has allowed herself to be herself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ogiue with such a look of confidence and authority before.
Even her interactions with Yabusaki show this, and it’s possible to see how far their friendship has come from what was once a decidedly antagonistic relationship. Speaking of Yabusaki, or rather Asada, it’s interesting to see how a once-extremely minor character has been developed to the point that you can really get a sense of her friendship with Yabusaki, and how the two get along with each other. What once appeared to be Yabusaki as boisterous leader and Asada as quiet tag-along is actually more complex.
By the way, I think it’s telling that Nakajima did not show up, despite Ogiue being so much easier to find this time around.
“Being yourself,” as cliche as it sounds, seems to be the theme of this chapter, especially when taking into account Hato’s own situation. On this first day of ComiFes, the day with generally the most female-oriented and yaoi content, Hato decides that he will not buy any BL. The line towards the end of the chapter says it all, though. On Day 2, Hato has a revelation: “Everyone seems to be enjoying ComiFes, but I haven’t been enjoying it at all.”
In forcing himself to do the “right thing,” Hato suffers. ComiFes is supposed to be the space where otaku can let their otakudom loose, but he’s restrainined himself. Hato’s attempt to be a “normal” otaku brings up an important question: if you’re not having fun as an otaku, why are you trying to be one in the first place? Whether we’re using the older definition of otaku as a pathetic person lost in the delusion of his hobbies, or the more charitable one that emerged later on to just refer to someone passionate about his fandom, “otaku” is not something that’s supposed to cause you anguish because you can’t fulfill the proper behavior in being one. If anything, it’s traditionally the opposite such as with Ogiue.
Anyway, with everything happening, I am certainly looking forward to next month. Last time, I asked about the possibility of Sue x Hato. What about Hato x Yajima? I’m not one to pair couples typically, but there’s something about having the guy better looking than the girl which can create interesting stories and dynamics, particularly in terms of the issue of confidence.
First thing first, Genshiken anime info dump! it’s been confirmed that the Genshiken II (or Nidaime) anime will be starting this summer, with a different studio but with a lot of old staff. I do find it kind of funny that Genshiken can’t seem to get a consistent animation studio or anime character designer, and given the sheer variation of work that the character designer Taniguchi Junichirou has worked on, it’s hard to predict how they’ll look exactly. Also, Uesaka Sumire will be singing the opening. Next month is the voice cast reveal, so let the speculation begin!
In Chapter 87, Hato continues to try to be one of the boys, but the fact that he is unable to draw properly for the sake of Ogiue’s ComiFes doujinshi when not in drag causes him to go back to it, at least in private. At the same time, Ogiue has decided to charge into the 21st century by buying a pen tablet monitor in order to save time and manpower, but the transition isn’t as simple as she hoped for. As ComiFes is drawing near, familiar faces appear as Angela makes her return to Japan and Keiko is looking to take another stab at the event.
I literally laughed out loud when I saw the pen tablet monitor. It was clearly introduced by Kio Shimoku as a metaphor for not only Hato’s current situation, but also the Genshiken club itself and even the manga as a whole. In this regard, I think it does an excellent job of representing the dimensions of a generational divide.
By showing Ogiue struggling with her tablet despite purchasing it to alleviate her work schedule, Genshiken touches upon the idea that transition can be a difficult thing because of how much we must acknowledge and rework our assumptions. The strengths and limitations of the zoom function, referenced during Ogiue’s little rant, is the perfect example. On the one hand, it lets you get up close and put detail into even the smallest part of a drawing, but on the other hand it can be stifling if one is obsessed with detail. Ogiue’s plight somewhat mirrors the difficulty by which the manga itself has transitioned into its new cast and their very different values, not only in terms of the content of the manga, but also for a good portion of the manga’s readerbase which seems to see the new Genshiken as “not Genshiken.”
However, I think it would be a mistake to say that the ideas implied by the tablet transition are narrowly limited to Genshiken as a topic, as I really think it goes beyond this one manga. What really adds to the tablet metaphor is the conversation between Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake where they mention the simple fact that, for some artists, digital drawing is all they’ve ever known.
Drafting, cleaning, paneling, for them, everything is done on the monitor, and it highlights this idea that, rather than this newer generation of artists being untrained in the old ways, that their “environment” is simply different and they have adapted to it in kind. Instead of the tablet being a facsimile of “real” drawing by mimicking pen on paper, for them the tablet is real drawing. That difference in mindset is so central to the changes between generations, whether it be music and art, dance, technology, or any other topic, and it shows how neither the old or new generation are “bad,” but that people are the product of their experiences.
I get the sense that, as the manga continues, Ogiue will continue to use the tablet, but that it will require her to adjust her current work habits to better fit it, or to make it more of a supplementary tool. In either case, if she does incorporate it, it means that her work may never be the same again. The impossibility of returning to the “old way” is also shown in the beginning of this chapter, when we see Madarame, Hato, and Kuchiki discussing anime much in the same way the club used to, with mentions of sakuga, seasons (cour), and the economic side. While definitely similar to the old Genshiken, something’s not quite right, especially in terms of how Yoshitake and Yajima appear a bit alienated by it because it’s not the atmosphere they’ve participated in and even helped to create. It feels a bit artifical and out of step with time, which also has implications in regards to Hato, who is trying to act like a “proper” male otaku.
If we look at the notion of the “proper” otaku (and perhaps even the whole debate over fake geeks), it’s kind of funny that people prescribe a certain set of behavior as “proper” for a group that has been traditionally stereotyped as behaving improperly by virtue of being otaku. I think Hato’s vain attempt to quit crossdressing and yaoi may be a sign of how ridiculous this can be, as if the manga is saying that it’s not as simple as getting rid of the girly stuff to bring back the “true” Genshiken, and that there has been a change in environment that the manga has been trying to address.
I may have gone a little too crazy with that analysis, but I honestly think that I haven’t completely or properly explained the intricacies of the tablet metaphor, though I’ll leave it as is for now. It’s been a while since we’ve had this much Ogiue in a chapter, so I’m pleased in that regard, and I’d been wondering when Angela would show up again a she’s a significant factor in the whole Madarame-Hato story. The fact that Keiko is planning to go to ComiFes out of her own free will may actually say everything about how much the world in and around Genshiken has changed.
(A bit of Ogiue Tohoku-ben inner dialogue teaching us that Ogiue is still not used to Kanto winters.)
While I’m naturally excited about the new Genshiken anime that’s been announced recently, there’s one thing I wish could happen but most likely never will: a spinoff about Ohno’s American friend Angela Burton. I feel like it would be fun to see some of the quirks of American anime fandom accurately and painfully conveyed.
One big element of American fandom that for the most part doesn’t exist in Japan would be the convention scene, with its fan panels, industry Q&A, and AMV competitions, providing a unique venue and experience compared to the chapters about Genshiken‘s Comic Market analogue, Comic Festival, but also giving it a similar treatment concerning scale and impact. The huge otaku that she is, it would be no surprise to see Angela attending multiple conventions as a cosplayer, especially Anime Boston given that she’s from the area.
The Angela spinoff I’m picturing would have the same strong sense of characterization as Genshiken proper, giving the same sort of loving but at times harsh portrayal to the personalities that tend to crop up in college anime clubs in the US. I also see Angela herself making for an interesting main character, despite the fact that she has a fairly minor role in Genshiken because of her forward personality and her undeniable love of anime and manga.
One potentially serious topic could actually be the whole “fake geek girl” thing, as I can imagine Angela being subject to it fairly often. Angela is not only portrayed as extremely attractive to the point of being able to make guys nervous, but also as someone with relatively liberal views on relationships and sex (she doesn’t think one-night stands are that big of a deal) that might cause people who didn’t know her better to accuse her of not being “real.”
Incidentally, in reading Japanese comments about the new anime, it’s clear that the concept of the “fake geek girl” exists in Japan as well. There, it’s tied to the whole Densha Otoko boom and the “mainstreaming” of Akihabara, which at least a few commenters claim the Genshiken manga is reflecting.
I’ve been waiting for a month to use that title.
The final day of Comic Festival is nearing its end, and Madarame is in deep trouble, at least from Hato’s perspective. First, Madarame and Hato encounter Kohsaka, whose picture-perfect crossplay (to promote his company’s new 18+ game) blows away both of them. Hato remarking with amazement that Kohsaka, unlike himself, doesn’t even need makeup to complete the gender illusion, wonders why things aren’t more uncomfortable between Madarame, who likes Saki, and Kohsaka, her boyfriend. Hato comes to the conclusion that Madarame’s just isn’t able to compete for Saki’s affections. Madarame and Hato comfort each other over their respective areas of inferiority relative to Kohsaka, though Hato points out that he’s much better at undergoing the cross-gender transformation by using his feminine voice.
Angela strikes, laying on the flirt as thick as humanly possible, with Madarame naturally not being sure what to do. Hato jumps in for the rescue, pointing out that Angela is flying back the next day, so obviously there’s no way anything could happen between them, but Angela doesn’t quite agree.
Knowing that the actual reason Madarame can’t even begin to think of Angela is because Saki is still in his heart but not wanting Madarame to know that he is aware of Madarame’s unrequited love, Hato changes his thought midstream to try and find a safer reason. In doing so, he blurts out that Madarame is such an uke that there’s no way he should be with a girl, though unbeknownst to Hato, Angela is a big fan of Madarame as “sou-uke,” and instantly bonds with him. Wanting to point out however that real life and fiction are different, physically different, Angela tries to give Madarame his Very First Boob Grab, but is deflected by Sue, who then admonishes Angela’s rash action with a roundhouse kick.
At the end of the day, Angela still has her eyes set out on the 72-year-old Pit Viper, Madarame and Hato grow in their friendship, and Madarame comes to the shocking realization that he is in fact perceived as the catcher in yaoi imaginings.
Angela’s forwardness and acknowledgement of previous experience with one night stands sets her far apart from the nerds of Genshiken and at first it might come across as too far out there from how Genshiken has been in the past, but given what has happened in the manga before, it doesn’t seem so inappropriate. If you think about it, the awkward expression of sexuality has been a big part of Genshiken from day 1, whether it’s Saki having to come to terms with Kohsaka’s 2-D complex, the Sasahara x Madarame doujinshi that underscores Sasahara and Ogiue’s relationship, or even the fact that every ComiFest ever has been about buying comics not to “read” but to “use,” and the understanding that everyone else you know is doing the same. In this regard, the most awkward moment of all might just be seeing Angela’s “sex on the first date is okay” viewpoint collide with Madarame’s otaku chivalry, the same noble attitude that at first kept Madarame from taking a seat on the train in place of Saki back in Chapter 32.
That said, it is still a bit of a shock to just see Angela just blast down that implied wall of silence that surrounds the topic of sex, a wall that normally is talked around or through tiny holes, but is rarely trampled over so easily. It’s a kind of bluntness similar to Sue, and I have to wonder if this is a shared American trait for the purpose of the story. On the other hand, Angela and Sue’s aggressive attitudes aren’t quite the same, and while we see Sue expressing her fondness for yaoi or making references all the time, I can’t really ever see her coming on to a guy as nonchalantly as Angela does. It makes me want to see their friendship in action outside of the context of a visit to Japan.
While that might be considered an inter-otaku cultural gap between Japan and America (and even only somewhat so), the inter-otaku generation gap is also clearly present in this chapter with Madarame and Hato. At first when Hato sees Madarame talking to Kohsaka. “Why isn’t Madarame seeing him as a rival?” Hato wonders, but just the fact that Hato is asking that question shows a different mindset from the older members of Genshiken. Going after a girl who’s already in a relationship when, on top of that, you’re friends with the both of them? That stuff is for fiction, man. How differently might this manga have turned out had Madarame gone for it from the start, or if Ogiue and Ohno already had boyfriends prior to meeting Sasahara and Tanaka? Would those two have even bothered? But that’s just not how Genshiken is, because that’s not how the characters are. After all, I’m sure that people besides Tanaka entertained the thought of having a relationship with Ohno after she joined, but once it was established that she had a thing with Tanaka, that ship sailed. It’s not a matter of monogamy or anything like that, but simply that someone like Hato (or Yoshitake) carry an extroverted attitude and awareness of interpersonal relationships romantic, sexual, or otherwise, that only the non-otaku Saki and Keiko could see as clearly.
It’s also nice to see the friendship that has formed between Madarame and Hato. Could it be something more? I doubt it, given that both have said outright that they are not into same-sex relationships, at least outside of the world of BL, but I could see the idea continuing to make things a little awkward for them, especially given the number of (too much) high-power fujoshi populating the club.
There was only one small Ogiue cameo this chapter, so let’s close out with it.
It’s Comic Festival Day 3 (the guys’ day), and Madarame’s in danger! How is he going to fare against a girl who actually wants him? That’s Genshiken II, Chapter 65.
If it wasn’t obvious from the previous chapter (see the image at the bottom of the post), Ohno’s buxom Bostonian friend, has a certain agenda in mind, and that is to get some sweet, sweet scrawny Japanese nerd ass. Angela does what any remotely observant person would call “really blatant flirting,” and the only things preventing Madarame from realizing the truth are a language barrier, his own nerdish obliviousness, and lingering feelings for Saki. Hato, seeing him in trouble, sheds his female guise and offers to help Madarame and the other guys out with the doujinshi run, at the expense of not being able to participate in a round of cosplay with Ohno and the other girls (Ogiue is still out sick).
As Ohno and Friends are cosplaying the cast of Madoka Magica (sans Madoka herself, who was going to be Hato, and before she caught a fever, Ogiue), Ohno asks Angela about her actions in regard to Madarame, and Angela responds that she’s been interested for a long time now, ever since her first trip to Japan, in fact, but hasn’t made a move because of how infatuated Madarame was with Saki.
Hato, also noticing Angela’s attempts, asks Madarame about his interest towards 3-D girls. Madarame vehemently denies any affection for any dimensions beyond two, but Hato knows that he’s lying, having previously discovered Madarame’s hidden stash of Kasukabe cosplay photos. At the same time, they also visit the industry booths at ComiFest, where they run into a crossplaying Kohsaka, whose presence surely reminds Madarame of Saki, and also shows Hato what it is to be a natural at crossdressing.
The chapter ends with Angela planning her next move.
There are a lot of little things in this chapter I enjoy, such as the fact that not only is Ogiue absent from ComiFest but so is Sasahara, Sue’s, uh, “cosplay,” and the reactions on everyone’s faces as Angela continues to flirt with Madarame. Of course, the biggest part of this chapter is Angela’s aggressive interest in Madarame, which probably comes as a bit of a surprise if you haven’t seen the second Genshiken TV series. In fact, in this chapter there is a flashback to a scene where Madarame helps Angela read an anime magazine, the moment that Angela started to have a thing for him, but it only ever happened in the anime. Combined with the canonization of the cat-mouth girl’s name as Asada, it’s clear that either the makers of the Genshiken 2 anime consulted Kio Shimoku about the scenes they expanded upon, or that Kio decided to use those ideas for himself.
It still is kind of out of the blue though, considering that aside from the aforementioned anime scene, the only hints we had previously were Angela saying that she has a thing for glasses-wearing “uke,” which Madarame fits to a tee, and a splash image where Angela is wearing his glasses. And I know a question that’s bound to be on people’s minds is, “Why Madarame?” Having a gorgeous blonde all over a skinny otaku is bound to have people accusing Genshiken of catering to fantasies of regular hopeless nerds getting incredibly hot women, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. It is, however, simple in a different way.
I think it’s clear that whatever Angela’s feelings are for Madarame, it isn’t a profound love that has grown through constant interaction like with Sasahara and Ogiue, or Tanaka and Ohno. More likely, it’s probably a mix of yellow fever and Angela having a thing for guys who are easily flustered, and I even doubt that Madarame is exactly what she wants in a man. And if anything does happen, I think Angela is comfortable with either having it be a brief fling or something longer-lasting; this may be my own interpretation, but I see her as being okay with sex without any deep romantic feelings. In any case, pure virgin bride she is not, but then that’s never been an issue with Genshiken from chapter 1. Also, as Keiko pointed out to Madarame, it’s pretty obvious to everyone that he has feelings for Saki, and it should be no surprise that someone like Angela has also been aware of this fact.
What I find really interesting about Angela’s flirting is Madarame’s reaction to it, which is “complete denial that such a thing could ever happen.” To some extent, I am with Hato in thinking that Saki’s image is still burned into Madarame’s retina and that he’s having trouble moving on because of it, but I also think it’s Madarame denying the possibility that a hot American girl could ever want him. This is a very realistic response from someone who believes he has no chance with women, or that he has no likable qualities as a man, and you see it with dorks everywhere. Personally speaking, I can remember hearing that a girl really liked me in junior high, and oddly enough, like Madarame, my hands were a point of attraction. My response was to completely ignore this information, because I thought that a) no girl could possibly be attracted to me, and b) it must be a prank. Granted, I was 13 and Madarame is in his 20s, but like me, thinking that it’s some kind of cruel joke is exactly his response.
I guess the only thing left to ask myself is, am I okay with the idea of Angela x Madarame? My gut reaction is “sure,” but letting my mind into the conversation a little, my revised response is, “As long as it’s written well.” That said, there’s no guarantee of anything happening.