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The latest Genshiken is big, but in a rather narrow way that requires some clarification. Nothing climactic really happens, and what it sets up for the following chapter(s) is quite significant, but more than that, Chapter 74 is the most Ogiue-heavy chapter we’ve had since the manga’s revival.
This month sees Ogiue personally working to help Hato overcome his wardrobe-based artistic barrier. After a suggestion from Sue (who interrupts some rather personal fun between Ogiue and Sasahara), Ogiue decides that the best thing to do is to literally sit next to Hato and watch him draw to see what exactly goes awry in the process. Though Yoshitake wishes to watch as well, Ogiue decides that this has to be a one-on-one affair, especially because Yoshitake wears her corrupted intentions on her sleeves.
After much deliberation, which includes narrowly avoiding bringing up Hato’s shocking (?) high school love story and Ogiue admitting how impressed/jealous she is of Hato’s skills, Ogiue determines that as a man, Hato confines himself mentally so that when he does draw as a woman, his desires all come out at once and lead to yaoi. Acting as both wise upperclassman and as club leader, Ogiue instills confidence in Hato’s drawing abilities—which he believed to be fake as a result of what seems to be copying the style of a fujoshi he once knew (again, “high school love story”)—by basically saying, if you can draw like this, then you can draw manga as well.
Hato passes the test, drawing a character in a panel without having it descend into outright homoeroticism, but when his old “friend” from the student government comes barging in with another council member, the (imagined) fiery passion between the two compels Hato to draw some BL of them on the spot, essentially undoing much of the progress he and Ogiue had just made.
The chapter closes out by revealing the fact that pretty much everyone from the old guard will be around to attend the school festival this year, and that this includes both Madarame and Kasukabe (with Kohsaka). It’s a recipe for danger, or just a whole lot of mumbling and awkward glances as a result of unrequited love.
Normally I try to come up with a post title which references both the chapter itself and something nerdy, which is also how the actual Genshiken chapter titles work, but even though I don’t expect to win, this time around I can acknowledge a complete loss. Chapter 74 is “Itten Toppa Ogin-Lagann.” I can’t top that. But let’s put that aside.
Even though I said that this chapter is chock full of Ogiue content, my summary can make it seem like it was really a Hato chapter. It wasn’t. Sure, he had his own development, but here, we really get to see Ogiue as a central focus in a manner similar to the second half of the original series. In addition to the Ogiue we’re familiar with, it even ends up showing a couple of sides to her that hadn’t been revealed previously, or to put it more accurately, have developed since.
The chapter actually begins with Sasahara and Ogiue in her room, where Sasahara is shown actually praising Ogiue’s manga draft for the school festival, something we almost never have the privilege of seeing because these “editor review sessions” seem to typically lead to a lot of tension. The room and especially the couch, however, hold significant meanings for the two, and we get to see Ogiue actually tease Sasahara in that restrained “you’ll have to meet me half-way because it’s kind of embarrassing and it’s kind of fun” fashion. Specifically, Ogiue asks Sasahara if it’s okay that she might be in a room alone with another guy (Hato), to which Sasahara replies that it’s fine. Ogiue, on the other hand, was trying to bring out the “strong seme” side of Sasahara which she has a thing for, and which Sasahara picks up on almost immediately after. It’s similar to when Sasahara and Ogiue were alone in the clubroom in the last chapter of the original Genshiken and Ogiue hinted that it would be a good time for a kiss, but here their increasingly red faces combined with their comparatively comfortable (though not entirely awkward) body language show that they both know what’s really going on, and that is a very comfortable familiarity. They want each other, and even though Sue ends up interrupting before anything actually goes down, it’s still a sweet and beautiful sight to behold.
On top of Spotted Flower, this whole sequence tells me that Kio Shimoku has gotten better at portraying romantic relationships. Keep in mind that I already thought he was quite talented at it, perhaps as a result of being so good at character interaction in the first place, but there’s the keen sense of how intimate moments in a relationship really happen, in those quiet lulls where both parties can sense mutual desire.
The meat of the chapter though is the drawing session with Hato, and Ogiue’s thoughts and character fill that scene as well. When Hato shows the inadvertent BL that he made out of Ogiue’s characters, she has an epiphany: “Is this what it would be like if my manga had doujinshi made from it?” Though I may be reading into it too much, I feel like, in that moment, Ogiue has just begun to cross that threshold between the amateur creator and the professional, that realization that perhaps somewhere out there is a fan who’s creating work inspired by her own. Of course, as an artistic fujoshi herself, Hato’s “fanart” creates some complex feelings as well, where she’s turned on by yaoi of characters she created herself, even if they weren’t made expressly for that purpose.
That look of satisfaction on Ogiue when her advice ends up working out has a lot behind it as well. It’s really powerful, not just because it’s coming from Ogiue the older, more experienced otaku and yaoi fan which we’ve seen already in previous chapters, but the way the advice clearly comes from Ogiue’s own experiences in overcoming her own psychological blocks pertaining to drawing and being a fujoshi. Ogiue had to wrestle extensively with her personal demons in order to begin moving past them, and the words of encouragement she offers Hato are ones from the heart, and from knowing that it’s not only important to accept oneself, but that it’s more than possible to do so. I think this is one of the reasons the chapter starts off with Sasahara in the first place. It acts as a reminder of what happened with Ogiue and how far she has come with his help, and how even though the trauma doesn’t seem as dire, that process continues.
With that, I’ll end by mentioning that we even get to learn the name of Ogiue’s manga: Getsu Gankyou. It means something like “Lunar Glasses” or alternately “Lunar Insight.” Chuuni-byou indeed.
Eh, let’s throw in one more Ogiue image for good measure.
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.
Contrary to my expectations, Chapter 70 is not a School Festival Chapter, but rather the setup to one. As such, it’s more of a calm before the storm, but one where you can tell the waves are thrashing below the surface of the ocean.
In addition to the cosplay studio Genshiken has been putting out every year since Ohno joined, glorious leader Ogiue Chika has decided that the club will sell a special edition of their club magazine Mebaetame for the festivities. Gearing it towards story-based works, Ogiue intends to draw a manga while Yoshitake and Yajima decide to team up to create an illustrated story. Yoshitake’s idea is “Sengoku School Festival” or something along those lines, and nothing is holding them back aside from the fact that Yajima is not entirely confident in her own drawing skills and that Yoshitake has never written a story before.
Hato meanwhile is asked to draw something as well, Ogiue recognizing Hato’s vast potential as an artist, a level of ability that she believes might even surpass her own. However, what Ogiue does not know is that Hato has some very unusual limitations when it comes to art. When dressed as a woman, Hato is only capable of producing beautifully rendered BL. When dressed as a man, his style becomes much more… interesting.
Given that this edition of Mebaetame is meant to be sold to normal folks, having to avoid anything hardcore acts as a huge roadblock for Hato. He’s not alone though, as Ogiue herself appears to be having issues with her own work. The chapter actually begins in the middle of a conversation between Ogiue and Sasahara, who are discussing that classic art debate, creating for oneself vs. creating for an audience, as well as how one should take criticism. As Ogiue was the one who called Sasahara over to discuss it, it is clearly a conversation she was looking to have, but it is also obviously not easy for her.
There are difficulties outside of Genshiken as well, as it turns out Yabusaki and Asada have been kicked out of the Manga Society (Manken) for aiding the enemy, i.e. helping Ogiue sell her doujinshi at the last ComiFest. The ever-mysterious Katou (the one with the bangs obscuring her eyes) does not seem to be affected by this punishment, but is so busy trying to find a job as she nears graduation that she has simply not shown up. Both Yabusaki and Asada try to convince each other to join Genshiken, but it seems to not be so simple.
I find that this chapter has me anticipating the next one quite a bit. It doesn’t have quite the oomph of the previous Risa chapters, but I can feel it building up to the school festival. It’s like watching all of these various puzzle pieces start to slide into place, except you have no idea if you have all of the pieces or if they even all come from the same set. It’s exciting.
I think that the reveal with Yabusaki and Asada is a significant one that quite possibly says a lot. Why would Yabusaki and Asada be so unceremoniously dumped from the club that they’ve been a part of for so long just because they helped Ogiue out one time? The only way I can make any sense of it is that despite Yabusaki was able to foster a friendship with Ogiue, there must still be some bad blood between Ogiue and the remaining members of Manken. Most likely, they still have never forgotten the harsh and demeaning words Ogiue had for them in her less enlightened days.
But Ogiue has indeed changed, and we can see this throughout the manga. In addition to Yabusaki, just seeing how far the friendship between Ogiue and Sue has come is heartwarming. Sue is no longer the mysterious gaijin that must be handled with a hazmat suit but something of a genuine confidant. Ogiue’s brief recollection of Nakajima in this chapter shows that she still hasn’t forgotten those tougher days, but she’s a new person.
At this point I want to mention something that my very soul beckons me to say: I’ve missed Sasa x Ogi scenes. Even though this one is quite brief, it still showcases some of the powerful electricity that courses through their relationship. The tension between their status as a couple and their respective professions as editor and artist makes for what is evidently a tricky balancing act. Though it’s shown that this is not the easiest feat for them to accomplish, it is still amazing that they manage to do so in the first place, especially when other couples owe their success to never reading each others’ work ever.
Also, they’re cute. Super cute. Seeing them happy makes me happy too.
This chapter may have turned out to be more Ogiue-centric than I realized, but maybe I’m just a tad biased.
So, I think I I’ll end this one the only way that this chapter can approve of: Cosplay. This may be the best cosplay Kuchiki has ever done.
PS: Next chapter is going to feature color images, Genshiken on the front cover of Afternoon, and one of two Hato figures (the other one being packaged with a limited edition of Genshiken Volume 11.
In my last chapter review, I predicted an Ogiue-centric chapter while also pointing out how Hato hasn’t gotten a chapter focused on himself yet but rather seemed to get a bit of focus and characterization every chapter. Contrary to my expectations however, this latest chapter, despite taking place mainly in Ogiue’s apartment, is actually centered around Hato. Specifically, it reveals the truth as to why he cross-dresses, peeling away some of the enigma that is Hato Kenjirou.
Ogiue has a professional manga debut coming up and in order to meet her deadline she’s recruited Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato. Yajima, who we know likes to draw, finds herself paling in comparison to Hato not just in looks but also in artistic talent. It also turns out that Hato has been gaining a reputation outside of the club as a mysterious brown-haired knockout who only seems to show up in the afternoon, and given the potential trouble that would-be suitors of Hato could bring, Yajima has to ask Hato once more: why the dresses?
Hato explains that he had kept his fondness for yaoi a secret all through high school,
because if and when he revealed his status as a fudanshi, the “rotten boy” opposite the “fujoshi,” he surely would’ve been was persecuted by his peers. So upon entering college, he began cross-dressing mainly so that he could enter a club much like Genshiken and finally be able to talk with people who share his interests.
“Persecution.” The word lingers in Yajima’s head, and it makes her feel absolutely terrible for confronting Hato. While she can’t relate to Hato in terms of choice of attire, as an otaku it’s very likely that she knows the pain of being ridiculed or tormented by one’s peers all too well. Yajima decides to not press the issue at first, but then realizes that Hato’s response was only half an answer. Everyone there now knows why Hato started to cross-dress, but given that everyone in Genshiken knows his secret and his okay with the fact that he’s a fudanshi, it’s no longer necessary. So why does Hato continue to cross-dress?
He enjoys it.
He knows he looks good in it, and it helps to fuel his own fantasies, not necessarily in the sense that the cross-dressing itself is the kink, but that donning women’s clothing can give him the right frame of mind. Through it, Hato can see the possibilities, including pairing himself with Madarame, which also puts the last scene of the previous chapter in a whole new light: were Hato’s signals real or imagined by Madarame?
One significant reveal for me in this chapter is the fact that Hato self-identifies as a man. In planning future entries for the Fujoshi Files, Hato presented a bit of a problem, namely, how much of gender is biological and how much of it is social? Gender studies is not my specialty, and even among the Genshiken characters, you could see that different characters take different approaches: Yajima talks of Hato as if he were a man, while Ohno mainly refers to Hato in the feminine. As you can see as well, I’ve mainly gone with male pronouns when referring to Hato, but I ultimately decided that it would be based on his own personal preference.
So Hato’s crossdressing isn’t entirely the product of a tormented gender identity conflict, but it’s important to avoid thinking that Hato’s crossdressing is somehow less legitimate or even wrong just because it’s a little self-indulgent. Hato has a perfectly good reason to crossdress, and the way in which Genshiken presents his situation, with both serious and more lighthearted aspects, does not and should not lessen either side. Nor should Hato and Genshiken in turn make gender portrayals that are focused more in one direction (such as Wandering Son) necessarily less poignant or entertaining.
We also learn a little bit more about another character whose life rarely gets explored, as we discover that Kuchiki is that guy in more ways than one. He’s not only the guy so lacking in social skills that they became actively antagonistic, but that he’s also able to coast by in life because of nepotism. I wonder what his parents think of him?
I think that Genshiken II has been getting better and better at establishing the New Class as characters in their own right, and I don’t really mind seeing the club veterans step aside so that they can take center stage. It takes a theme already present in the original manga, that of people entering the club and leaving when they graduate to make room for new blood, and realizes it in a much bigger way. It makes me wonder how they would fare if this was the first Genshiken series ever, and we only knew the previous characters somewhat in passing.
Next chapter looks to be again about Hato, but I’ve been deceived in the past, so I’ll hold off making any big predictions until then. Sue didn’t talk too much in this chapter, so I wonder if Kio’s saving her up for something big. The last thing I want to talk about though is Ogiue (of course), and the way that Kio Shimoku has been inserting some some nostalgic references to Ogiue past. Ogiue’s inner thoughts entertain the proposal of Hato x Mada in Ogiue’s native Tohoku dialect, and when Ohno tries to start a cosplay party at Ogiue’s place we’re greeted with a familiar sight. Perhaps we could call this “Ogiue Abridged?”
It’s a big day for the newest members of the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, as the three rookies spend their very first chapter almost entirely independent of Ogiue and the others. Can Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato carry the story without backup from the Genshiken veterans? Do they have what it takes to garner their own fans? And is Sue a fan of Hellsing? All these questions and more (or not) will be answered in Genshiken II, Chapter 58.
Ogiue, Genshiken chairman that she is, decides to foster camaraderie among the club members and revive an old tradition by having everyone write/draw their own profiles for Genshiken’s defunct club magazine, “Mebaetame.” If you’re not sure what that is, try to remember the little blurbs they had in between chapters of Genshiken where they talked about their favorite Kujibiki Unbalance characters and what-not; that’s “Mebaetame.” If you’ll recall, Ogiue never actually participated in the magazine, and perhaps we’ll finally learn just how to pronounce her pen name, Ogino/Okino Meisetsu/Nayuki/Nariyuki.
Yoshitake thinks this is a good opportunity for some healthy bonding, and invites herself and Hato over to Yajima’s place to work on their profiles together while having some beers. Yajima (kind of) agrees, but is uneasy about alcohol. Hato doesn’t seem to mind either way. Here is where we see our first bit of additional insight on the new members: Yoshitake, cheerful and bubbly, has no qualms about knocking a few back (which creates anticipation for the inevitable drinking session/contest with Ohno) and breaking some rules, whereas surly and practical Yajima, citing age restriction as the primary reason to not purchase alcohol, turns out to be more naive than expected. In fact Yajima’s naivete and confidence (or lack thereof) seem to be a major topic for this chapter.
Lacking faith in her own artistic skills (“I said that I draw, not that I can draw!), Yajima, whose first name we find out is “Mirei,” is arguably the most “typical” of all of the girls in Genshiken at this point, especially in terms of looks. When she compares herself to members past and present, including a curvaceous cosplayer, a fashionable “normal” girl, and an impossibly attractive male cross-dresser, you can see how it impacts her self-image. Even Ogiue is likely included among the “beautiful,” as Yajima has only ever seen her as Ogiue Chika, Well-Dressed Professional Manga Artist with Boyfriend, and wasn’t around for the Ogiue who wore clothes two sizes too big, or her gradual and awkward transition to her current state. You can see Yajima thinking, “Wait, otaku aren’t supposed to be this way! If even my fellow nerds are this attractive, where does that leave me?” It’s all the more troubling for her when she remembers that Hato indeed has a Y-chromosome, and that a guy is passed out in her apartment from drinking too much. Being the innocent straight-arrow of an otaku that she is, when she accidentally/intentionally confirms Hato’s gender via skirt lift, it’s clear that it’s far outside of Yajima’s comfort zone.
Seeing as it’s a chapter taking place in Yajima’s apartment, it’s no surprise that she’s getting the most development of the three, though we still learn a few details about the other two. In addition to Yoshitake’s excited, yet nonchalant attitude towards life and its vices, we learn that she has an appetite on the level of Kobayashi Takeru and equates “profile” with “personal essay.” And with Hato, we now know that he 1) is an Economics Major 2) has quite good taste in anime, and 3) is pretty damn hardcore with the BL. Among his favorite titles are Hetalila, Doarara!!!, Winter Wars, Fuyume’s Book of Friends, and Sweets Basket. He also likes a series called Femto, which I’d like to believe is some Berserk spinoff all about Griffith but might actually be a reference to Boku no Pico.
So overall, I think that Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato held their own, though next chapter seems to be focusing on Madarame, which is also welcome. Until then, I’m going to try and popularize the phrase “Dai Ogiue.”
From the moment I began this blog, I’ve established the fact that I am a huge fan of Genshiken. After reading the inaugural chapter of the all-new Genshiken II however, I realized that this is the first time that I’m actually reading fresh material alongside all my fellow Genshiken enthusiasts. Sure, there was the second TV series, but that was mostly existing material, so in a sense this new “limited series” acts as a kind of return to basics for Ogiue Maniax, a starting point for me to share my thoughts so to speak.
So to celebrate this small revival and to welcome back this blog’s namesake to the world of serialization, I am going to give my thoughts and impressions on this first chapter. As more chapters come out there’s a possibility that you’ll be seeing Ogiue Maniax’s first ever instance of episodic chapter blogging, but I’m not making any guarantees.
New Genshiken feels different. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t. The cast is mostly different and is now populated primarily by women, replacing the “awkward men’s club” vibe that kicked off the original series. At first this seemed a little jarring, but Ohno’s off-handed mention of the soul patch guy, aka the Genshiken member that never was, reminded me that prior to the arrival of Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato the membership barely ever increased. Ogiue and Kuchiki arrived together, while the following year Sasahara’s sister Keiko entered, and in the case of Kuchiki and Keiko both of them were already introduced previously. Sue is Sue. If anything, with such a large cast change I’d be surprised if the series didn’t feel a little different.
The focal point of Chapter 57 is the cross-dressing Hato Kenjirou (who might be a reference to Hayate the Combat Butler author Hata Kenjirou), or rather, everyone’s opinions of Hato. I think Hato’s inclusion set off alarms in a lot of readers’ heads more than anything else, creating a bit of fear that the series would lose its heart and pander too much to otaku at the expense of what made Genshiken good in the first place. As the chapter went on, I could feel that fear growing in myself, but I think it was actually all just set-up for a really pointed reminder that Kio Shimoku did not forget what made Genshiken tick in the first place.
While I clearly favor Ogiue, I think the real star of the chapter was Yajima. Throughout most of the chapter the club feels almost uncontrollable when it comes to the topic of Hato and cross-dressing in general despite Ogiue’s best efforts, sort of like the impression you might get at an anime con seeing a bunch of young attendees with no supervision. Then Yajima comes out and says that she’s kind of uncomfortable with Hato’s cross-dressing. By presenting this point of contention, Yajima manages to bring the club (and the manga itself) back down to Earth and keeps the club environment from getting completely out of hand.
This sort of conflict is actually a pretty persistent theme in Genshiken, whether it’s in the earlier days with Kasukabe’s mean-spirited attacks on the club, or later on with Ogiue and her own inner demons. In a way, Yajima’s somewhat direct personality and her unfamiliarity with the beast that is the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture makes her the “Saki” of the new bunch, even if she can’t match Kasukabe in looks. Whereas Saki was a normal person experiencing the world of otaku for the first time, Yajima, who is already an otaku, has to deal with an anime club unlike any she’s ever experienced. That’s not to say that the other characters are unrealistic, though. Hato is developing well, and even the way in which Ohno, Sue, Yoshitake, and Kuchiki get carried away is not that unusual. It’s simply that Yajima, as well as Ogiue, act to rein them in a little, creating a new and different character dynamic.
On the topic of Ogiue, I found it quite interesting that, aside from a small bit of pictorial exposition by Sue, Ogiue goes through the entire chapter without her signature paintbrush style. Even the one-shot had Ogiue tie her hair up, something that was established in previous material as a habit of hers when drawing. Though I’m sure it’ll return in at least one future chapter, it still feels like a break of sorts with the previous series. In terms of her character, it’s interesting seeing Ogiue as Genshiken chairman. After all, back when the original series ended it was one of my greatest wishes to see the continued appearance of Ogiue as head, and in this situation I find myself to be quite fortunate.
Ogiue isn’t a natural leader. In fact, none of the previous chairmen were, with the possible exception of the mysterious First Chairman. However, all of them were able to develop their own natural strengths into leader-like qualities, whether it was Madarame’s strong self-image as an otaku, Sasahara’s subtle confidence and understanding, or Ohno’s gentle guidance, and Ogiue looks to be doing the same. Though not always consistent, Ogiue can have quite a forceful personality, especially when she puts her foot down about something, and I think that this aspect of her personality, combined with the fact that those new members are all freshmen, will result in her being more and more comfortable with her position of authority as time passes.
So that’s the start Genshiken II, and I look forward to more. Of course.
All across the Aniblogospheriversemension, an amazing thing is happening.
Episodic bloggers are making really good posts full of interesting content, sometimes even better than anything they’ve written in the past. And they’re all posts about the soccer anime Giant Killing.
I’m not sure why this is happening. Perhaps it’s because Giant Killing is a show with a lot of meat to chew on, or maybe it’s being held up by World Cup fever. For whatever reason though, anime bloggers are producing high-quality Giant Killing posts. They’re analyzing character motives, they’re breaking down the pace of the episodes and the strategies used by each of the teams, and they’re sometimes even eschewing summarizing episodes in favor of transmitting their feel and excitement and discussing the way they themselves relate to the show.
The payoff for all of this suffering comes in being able to feel the rush of adrenalin when a play comes together. When that happens, you know the makers of the show did something right, because you believe it.
I always thought of Kuro as simply a strong hard player with no particular strengths mentally (other than screaming his guts out and be a total idiot). Hence, it is a huge surprise for me to see that he actually has the ability to read the game more effectively than anything that I expected. A high line will always have a huge danger in the offside trap, and someone who can read the game can reduce the chances of the offside trap being broken.
The 8th episode of Giant Killing sees the likely conclusion of Tatsumi’s engineering of the squad and probably finding a settled lineup. It also reveals a real method to his madness in the process. However, football is a results business, and Tatsumi will eventually have to get some results out of his vision.
We despair when an athlete retires at the height of his powers; we want to watch greatness as long as possible. But we also lament when an athlete sticks around past his expiration date. It’s a horrible double standard. I respect a guy who knows the right time to walk away, but I know it’s a difficult choice. How many of us could suddenly abandon our jobs at such a young age?
And that’s just a handful. The more you explore, the more you’ll find that Giant Killing might be the best thing to happen to episode blogging in a long time.
Oh, and this goes a long way in fighting the image that anime fans are a bunch of sports-hating nerds who look upon the athletically fit with disdain, and it’s done fairly naturally. It’s not like anyone is actively writing these posts to not seem like a geek. We’re anime fans after all.
Ogiue Maniax managed to overcome its opposition in the third round of the Aniblog Tourney, in a match so close that a mere image macro could have swung the vote either way. I thank chaostangent for a fine match, and I really enjoyed seeing people talk about how they preferred one person’s style over the other. Voting for content, that’s what I want to see.
My fourth round match is against Tenka Seiha, a popular episodic-style blog which also has a doujin game translation arm attached to it. Or maybe the blog is attached to the translation. One likely event is that the match will come down to the pseudo-dichotomy of “episodic” vs “editorial.” I hope that doesn’t happen, and again, that you read at least some of the content before you vote. I already have primers for the Ogiue Maniax style here and here. I’ve also included a couple of my favorite posts below.
- My review of Jigopuri, from the creator of Genshiken.
- My thoughts on the Christopher Handley case
- A look at the way age and nostalgia affects our perception
The Aniblog Tourney has seen many of the criticisms that other popularity-based tournaments have had. First, similar to Saimoe, vote results are considered “irrelevant” by some because the number of people voting is far less than the number of blog readers out there, let alone anime fans. Second, like the GameFAQs Character Battle, accusations of snobbery run against cries of appealing to the lowest common denominator, resulting in overwhelming indictments of the personalities of both the writers and the readers.
The first issue revolves around a simple question: What would it take to get the people who read anime blogs to vote in a tournament about anime blogs?
If it were a contest of favorite anime characters or series, then I think people would be more willing to participate. The act of discussing anime is one step removed from actually experiencing it, and to be reading the thoughts of someone who is watching anime creates even further distance. And the more you go along this path, the less likely people are going to care. In order for more blog readers to vote, the competition has to be somehow relevant to them; they have to want to be involved.
That leads to the second issue, that of elitism vs mob mentality. Here, there seems to be trouble relating to the other side, perhaps even a strong desire to not want to relate to the other side. I want to bridge that gap, and I will do so with an extended metaphor.
Imagine you’re at a restaurant eating a cheeseburger. Every bite makes you want to take another. What are your thoughts at this time? Perhaps you’re thinking that it’s simply “delicious.” How delicious? You might compare it to cheeseburgers you’ve had in the past that stick out in your memory. You might begin to wonder why you find this burger delicious, or why the people who hate cheeseburgers do so. Or maybe you’re wondering if you’d eat it over an expensive filet mignon. Why do we eat the things we do? How has the act of enjoying food affected commercialism and vice versa? What of the cattle that went into the beef? Or maybe you’re not even “thinking” at all, and you’re just savoring the flavor, the wanderings of your brain temporarily shut down so that you can fully engage the beef and the cheese which lies melted on top.
Are there any thoughts from your burger experience that you want to share with others? If so, which thoughts? What is your purpose behind making people aware of cheeseburger and cheeseburger-related topics? Do you want to recommend the place to others? If you’re going to compare it, do you compare it with other items on the menu or with other cheeseburgers? Or do you want to talk about the concept of the cheeseburger and how ubiquitous an icon it’s become?
Clearly there are some topics in my cheeseburger metaphor that when translated into anime blogging clearly lean towards the side of the “episodic” blogging, while there are others that would clearly be considered “editorial.” But there’s also this gigantic middle area where the division becomes increasingly tenuous. Some can easily exist in both types of blogs, and it all just comes down to what it is about anime that interests you, what you want to say about it, and what kind of discussion you expect from it, if any at all.
Anime can be emotional. It can be intellectual. It can be sophisticated and it can be visceral. It can be all of those things and none of them, and there’s no clear definition of which is which or how things “should” be enjoyed. Irrespective of any notions of quality in either the anime being watched or the blogs being written, people have real reasons for liking the things they do, even if it’s as simple as “killing time,” that’s still a valid reason. Similarly, someone who has gotten to the point of analyzing the cultural effects of anime and not the anime itself may risk being too far-removed from the anime itself, but it’s still a decided direction. You may not like either reason, but that doesn’t mean that the first person is a mindless sack of waste, nor is the second necessarily incapable of talking “normally.” And just as you can respect someone else’s approach to anime, someone can respect yours, even if you disagree entirely.
It’s easier to understand each other when we’re not being so aggressively defensive.
It’s the final day in my matchup at the Aniblog Tourney, and compared to when the voting began, both featured matches have had a surprising turn of events, leading to extremely close vote counts. It’s been a lot more thrilling than anyone anticipated, and this unpredictability has me asking a simple question: What do fans want in a blog?
Writing Ogiue Maniax, I’ve gained a reputation for having an intelligent, yet accessible writing style that has given me a unique voice online. I am constantly working on improving all aspects of that voice, and I work towards having my posts be fairly easy to digest while also encouraging further thinking. But the Aniblog Tourney has made me well-aware that there’s always room for improvement and change, particularly in the area of accessibility.
Looking at anime blogs, the most popular ones tend to be “episodic blogs,” or ones that review shows episode by episode, laying down summaries and opinions on a (mostly) weekly basis. Most commonly, the latest shows are the ones that get episode blogged the most, though there’s nothing stopping people from doing the same with older shows. Not only do the more well-known episode blogs get more hits, but they also garner more comments, and as the tournament has showed us, have their fair share of staunch defenders and loyal supporters. In these, the most prominent of episodic blogs, their voices and content have reached a great number of people.
So I wonder, is the fact that I write in what’s often categorized as an “editorial” style holding me back from improving my accessibility?
I know that this sounds suspiciously similar to “Why isn’t my blog more popular?” but that isn’t really what I’m saying. Instead, it’s that anime fans appear to feel more comfortable with the episodic mode of anime blogging that has me thinking hard about the way I write. How can I reach more fans without scaring them off with meta-posts such as this? Would I be able to encourage more people to examine anime and their own fandom by adopting an episode blogging format?
Don’t get me wrong though, I like the way I write, and the basic format of Ogiue Maniax isn’t going to change any time soon. I’m not even sure if I would be able to even pull off Ogiue Maniax-style episode blogging all that well. It’s just something I wanted to contemplate. Though, if any of you are up for the challenge, be my guest. Out of what’s currently there, I think Unmei Kaihen‘s style is roughly where I’d be aiming for, as I always feel like I learn something from reading his Giant Killing posts.
Ogiue Maniax wins its first round in the Aniblog Tourney (technically the second, due to a higher seed allowing me to bypass Round 1), and I am happy to be the victor in this instance. I want to thank Caraniel of course, who was not only respectful and courteous during the week of competition but also is a good blogger in her own right.
Ogiue Maniax goes on to face Chaostangent in Round 3.
Now one thing about the Aniblog Tourney is that for those who are actively participating in it, either as voters or contestants or both, the whole endeavor has allowed people to discover new blogs, to get an idea of the range of styles available from just these 96 examples, let alone branching out to ones that haven’t been included in the tournament. But it’s very clear that there’s a lot of blog readers out there who simply are not participating in this fully and are not bothering to read the majority of the blogs available, or at least are not voting.
The first big piece of explicit evidence that the tournament is not reaching as far as it could is the matchup between Colony Drop and Canne, which got by far the most total votes in Round 1. This had very much to do with both the Pro and Anti-Colony Drop campaigns conducted when Colony Drop was poised to lose and then to win, but it’s clear that here was an audience of readers (if only for the one blog) that could have voted in or even looked at other parts of the tournament but didn’t. The second piece of evidence is the matchup between Star Crossed Anime Blog and Just as planned, where, to put it mildly, Star Crossed is dominating like Godzilla mixed with Guts from Berserk. 568 votes, just for Star Crossed! And I don’t think it’s a big leap to say that the crowd that voted so much for Colony Drop is not the same as the one that was so eager to show their support for Star Crossed Anime Blog.
I understand that not even the people who are actively participating in the Aniblog Tourney are voting in every single matchup. I’ve missed a few opportunities myself, but there’s a whole bunch out there who just vote for their favorites without looking at the other.
While Star Crossed garnered plenty of comments on its own blog in regarding the tournament, there were comparatively few on the Aniblog Tourney page itself. Then an equally titanic blog came up, but Random Curiosity’s situation has been far different. Unlike Star Crossed, Random Curiosity is not crushing its opponent and its fanbase is much more vocal (though still obviously just a small fraction of the actual readership Random Curiosity garners). And in those comments is a classic accusation among fans of competing or opposing sides, the foul cry of elitism.
Amidst the complaints that the people running the tournament (and by extension the primary audience of the tournament) are biased against popular episodic blogs, I left a response basically saying that instead of throwing out accusations of elitism or using overall popularity as a metric of superiority, that those who disagree should state just why they read the blogs they do, why they are fans of certain blogs and what keeps them coming back for more. Rather than just naysaying the other side, we can express our own opinions on why we read anime blogs at all and come to understand each other, even if it’s just agreeing to disagree.
Just to give you an idea, I’ll talk about a blog I enjoy that’s not in the tournament at all: Subatomic Brainfreeze (though actually he writes for Colony Drop so he wasn’t completely removed from it).
While I am friends with Sub and even engage in mahjong camaraderie with him on occasion, the reason I really enjoy his blog is his informative yet accessible writing style. Now I know that I am credited as having an accessible writing style as well, but Sub’s is on another level. When I read his posts, I feel like an arm is reaching out from the computer to grab my shoulder and occasionally high five me. Even his stuff on Colony Drop which makes fun of other fans still has the same basic feeling.
I know that not everyone who enjoys something is willing to comment about it, let alone write lengthy posts discussing the nature of preference itself, but I encourage everyone to think about why they enjoy the blogs they do.