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After the intensity and emotion of the last chapter, this month’s winds down with a post-confession Madarame. In order to try and cheer him up, the old Genshiken girls (+ Hato and Kohsaka) cosplay for him, and for a brief moment the old impassioned expository Madarame makes a triumphant return. As Tanaka and Kugayama leave with Madarame for some male bonding, Saki encourages Madarame to not let go entirely of his past with Genshiken. There also seems to be some bad blood between Keiko and Hato, though the reasons are unclear.
As is the case with recent previous chapters, this one also referenced an old anime, in this case the title of Akuma-kun‘s final episode. Appropriate, because whether you want to call it the denouement of dramatic structure or the ketsu of kishoutenketsu, Chapter 81 feels like a wrap-up of the crazy developments that have happened over the past few months with Madarame, at least when it comes to his feelings for Kasukabe. As such, this chapter feels a lot less overt with its significance and its presentation of information compared to last time, but there are still plenty of moments which radiate with potential. As always, this isn’t an end (well obviously because the manga isn’t finished but you know what I mean), but a continuation.
There’s one scene in particular this chapter that I’ve read over and over because I’m not sure how to interpret it. As the girls (and guys) cosplay for Madarame from the gender-bender game that Kohsaka worked on, Kasukabe herself joins in as well. Before we see Saki in un-drag though, we see her having a conversation with Kohsaka about her character, who’s supposed to be “boyish,” to which Saki retorts that it’s actually a boy. Then, we see two characters off-panel speaking to each other (their words are visible but they aren’t), who I’m pretty sure are Kohsaka and Kasukabe. One of them asks if they accidentally “let it slip” and the other says that it’s not about that. I believe we’re supposed to read it as Kohsaka having hid the details of his game from Saki and her response being that the content of his game is besides the point. However, because of the way she says “it’s a boy,” and the follow-up conversation about a secret being out, and the fact that we see Saki go from what others have charitably referred to as “maternity clothes” to an outfit with a corset such that we can never get a clear idea of her figure, and the fact that even with the corset she looks bigger than she used to (notably in the chest area), I feel as if this chapter is lending credence to the theory that Saki is indeed pregnant.
I might just very well be overanalyzing, and things like Saki’s slightly larger figure and larger breasts might just be either a stylistic change by Kio or a sign that she’s growing older, but it just has me wondering. If my speculation turns out to be unfounded, I’m of course fine with that.
This chapter we get to see the “old” Madarame make a return as he muses on the very concept of “trap” characters and how there are different things to consider when translating them to 3D, a rant which Saki quickly reminds everyone is reminiscent of the Madarame she first met and despised. Is this scene a sign of Madarame getting his otaku groove back? Is it the case that the last few years have been a continuous trial and now that it’s over with he can go back to being himself, or is it that Madarame is trying to force it? Is it a regression to a past identity, or is it a progression, a nerd phoenix rising from the ashes of rejection and anxiety? I’d like to believe that the old Madarame is a new Madarame, and I’m definitely looking forward to where his character will go from here.
As a side note, if you’ve ever wondered what I meant by density of information looking unusual in manga, just look at the page above where Madarame is ranting. If you’re used to manga at all, just the whole page seems to stray from how Genshiken usually flows, though that’s what also gives this page its impact.
An interesting thing I’ve noticed about Madarame’s character is that Madarame seems to get paired with more characters than anyone else both inside Genshiken itself and among fans both English-speaking and Japanese. There’s of course the whole ordeal with Kasukabe, but there’s also Ogiue’s Sasa x Mada fantasies, Angela putting the moves on him hard, the ambiguity of Hato’s friendship, Kohsaka feigning (?) interest this very chapter, and then on top of that I’ve seen fanart and such going all the way back to 2005 that put him with Keiko and Sue, well before they interacted with him like they do now. It might just be that, as Hirano Kouta of Hellsing fame puts it, that “Madarame is the most moe character in Genshiken,” but I just find it interesting that so many, fictional or otherwise, seem to want Madarame to be happy (or at least less pathetic). It’s probably a testament to his enduring character and the fact that he is above all others the quintessential nerd/otaku.
In any case, it makes Saki’s comment that Madarame could very well make his own harem feel both tongue-in-cheek, yet somehow serious, though in the end I interpret it more as Saki telling Madarame that he is actually attractive in his own way. That said, I have to wonder how awkward it would be to have a girl who just rejected you also tell you that it’s okay for you to keep the sexy(ish coplay) photos you have of her. That’s the kind of scenario that so many nerds ae desperate to avoid (“What if she knows that I find her sexually attractive?”), but it’s a new world I guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if Madarame ends up throwing them out anyway, though I also wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps them.
I’ve used this comparison to describe multiple characters over the series, but Keiko is something of a Saki-type for Genshiken II. Yajima is a Saki in the sense that she’s a fish out of water and has the dry wit, but Keiko serves the role of being the character with the most “real world” experience, though as Sasahara remarks it’s more the result of making numerous mistakes. Still, it gives Keiko a type of perceptiveness that’s lacking in the current members of Genshiken, and it makes the moment where she just shows Madarame how his secret never really was one quite hilarious. Given how she didn’t even appear in the second TV series (though as far as I know that was just an unfortunate scheduling conflict, and she does make an appearance in one of the drama CDs), it almost feels like the series is making up for that by giving her more presence in the current manga.
As for the dirty look Keiko gives Hato, it’s yet another ambiguous moment in this chapter whose path will lead us who knows where. If we go by the harem view mentioned before, then this could be interpreted as Keiko exhibiting jealousy, but I think it’s something else. If I had to guess, I’d say that Keiko’s impatience towards Madarame dancing around and avoiding his own feelings for fear of confrontation is also showing itself with Hato and where he might stand with Madarame.
Even though she’s clearly not the focus, I do want to talk a bit about Ogiue’s part in this chapter. When Kohsaka grabs Madarame’s arms and tells him that they could’ve had a polygamous relationship with each other and Saki, I like how you can tell who is thinking what in that moment. For most of the guys, it’s just an awkward moment, but clearly Ogiue and Hato think more of it. Ohno seems much less affected, though it might make sense given her preference for significantly older, hairier, and balder guys. Keiko’s blushing on the following page is probably the most surprising, and another moment in this chapter open for interpretation. Could Keiko be a candidate for the Fujoshi Files after all?
The chapter ends with the reappearance of Katou, who we don’t know much about other than that she has Ohno-esque preferences, and that she’s been job-hunting as of late, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her at all. At this point Asada has more development than her, and she doesn’t even have a real face! I don’t have confidence we’ll see much of her, but one can always hope.
Chapter 79 of Genshiken II is either the chapter everyone’s been waiting for, or the prelude to the chapter everyone’s been waiting for.
After denying to everyone the possibility of having anything to hide in his apartment, Madarame is made aware of the fact Hato already knows about his secret stash of Saki cosplay photos. Hato, in turn, accidentally tells Keiko about it, misinterpreting her awareness of Madarame’s crush on Kasukabe as knowledge of the photos as well. Keiko hatches a plan to finally get Madarame and Kasukabe together and to resolve that whole mess, stringing Hato along as well. Although they run into some trouble, they succeed in their goal of getting the two into the same room.
This chapter is full of something that I associate with many manga but especially Genshiken, which is this dire feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment. It’s practically what Genshiken is built on. Sasahara and doujinshi, Kasukabe and cat ears, Ogiue and the Scram Dunk event, the nose hair incident, here we have a string of moments right along those lines, and the interesting thing is always seeing what happens in the aftermath.
One of the major dangling plot threads of the original Genshiken was Madarame’s feelings for Saki, and at the time the first series finished, I had assumed that Madarame’s case would just be one of those where a guy never confesses his feelings because of fear that things can never be the same again after the fact. It’s certainly not an unheard-of scenario, particularly when it comes to awkward nerds, and I figured that it was just another instance of realism in Genshiken. In this respect, I was totally fine with this sort of non-conclusion for Madarame: it was the other side of the romance coin. Given that Genshiken did end up continuing though, I realize it would be much worse to have that hanging overhead and to have it simply never get resolved.
While Kio Shimoku could still pull a fast one and have Madarame say nothing and solve nothing, it looks like Madarame is finally going to have to say what’s been on his mind for years now. What’s clear, despite the hopes of Mada x Saki fans out there, is that Madarame has a less than 1% chance of success because Kohsaka and her are so comfortable together. You can see this even in the interaction between them towards the end of the chapter, when Kasukabe sees Kohsaka in his crossplay, and their conversation flows in such a way that obviously she finds that to be completely bizarre but accepts it and even congratulates him on his victory at the fighting game tournament. For those of you lamenting, just remember that Spotted Flower exists.
The funniest moment for me in this chapter has to be the panel where mostly oblivious Kohsaka slowly realizes what’s going on. Something about the way he says, “Ah- …Ahhh. Ahhh…..” before asking Sasahara to leave with him had me cracking up. We don’t see very much of Kohsaka anymore, and I feel like this one scene (and remember that he’s cosplaying as the trap character based on himself at the same time) encapsulates his character almost perfectly. It’s also obvious that Kohsaka has known about Madarame’s crush on his girlfriend for a long time, though it may have taken Saki herself to explain it to him.
The second funniest moment, then, is definitely Sue’s “GETS” pose, shown here. If you’re not aware of the reference, just watch this. Sue’s graduated from referencing just anime and internet memes to bad Japanese pop culture in general.
And if we’re talking references, I find it interesting that the next chapter preview for the past two chapters have referenced older series (Getter Robo Go and Wedding Peach), when the trend has been newer shows. I wonder if this has to do with the focus on Madarame, older anime for an older character.
Going back to people’s awareness of Madarame’s feelings, I realize from this chapter just how much Hato has drawn his own conclusions in regards to Madarame’s whole situation. After all, the reason he even knew about Madarame’s interest in Saki is because he accidentally discovered those cosplay photos. When I think about it, it’s interesting that he’s never spoken with anyone else about this, not the new members of Genshiken nor the old ones, not because it doesn’t make sense (why would he share what he believes to be Madarame’s deepest, darkest secret), but because his understanding of the whole situation has been mainly his own (mostly accurate) inference. It’s just that his fear of betraying Madarame is what generates those moments of rambling outbursts, whether it’s at Comic Festival in front of Angela or this chapter in front of the crew.
I don’t know if I could call her a “counterpart,” but I like the Keiko-Hato dynamic quite a bit, I realize. Hato’s attempts to pave things over and the consequences of that interact interestingly with Keiko’s frustration at Madarame’s inaction. It’s also in a character like Keiko that I think Genshiken shows its strengths, because she’s not a main character by any stretch of the imagination, but has her development all the same. When you look at where she came from (shallow “gal” type) and where she is now, while she hasn’t changed significantly it’s still a different place from where she was. You might not call her “mature,” but at least she’s more mature.
Also, I’m under the impression that Ohno was aware of the photos (or something like them) all along. Back when Ohno finally got Saki to take some cosplay photos with her (it was the chapter with absolutely zero word bubbles in it), she brought some photos in secret to share with Madarame. Not only does this mean she knew about his feelings, but that he was on some level willing to have photos of Saki. All Ohno does this chapter is sweat nervously, but I have to interpret that as someone who has some idea of the very thing Madarame is trying to deny.
There was one Ogiue moment in this chapter, involving her in a discussion with Saki having to do with how the club has changed (answer: more fujoshi). Really, though, the main point of that conversation was to highlight the fact that Madarame comes around less often now, and to note how Kasukabe reacts to this fact. The way I see it, her surprise at the fact links to the general idea of Madarame “growing up” in general, though I am extremely curious as to whether or not they’ll end up talking about this in addition to the main topic in the next chapter.