This month’s Genshiken II focuses on club alumnus Madarame. If you’re the kind of person who likes to pair anime characters up, then this chapter has a lot for you to chew on. Romance! Sort of.

Madarame has always been a fan-favorite, due in part to the fact that he seems the “Truest Nerd 4 Life” and thus the one closest to us. This is especially evident in his unrequited love for Kasukabe; sinking back into the recesses for fear of not ruining your friendship is the hallmark of the nerd with heartache, that “noble nerd” mindset with which many deceive themselves. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely felt that before, even if it wasn’t directed at any girl in particular.  So when Sasahara’s sister Keiko confronts Madarame about his feelings towards Saki in the tactless way that only Keiko can (as opposed to the tactless way only Sue can), Madarame gets taken for a psychological ride and we’re taken along with them.

Keiko, who has herself shown affections for the other half of the Kohsaka-Kasukabe Combination, makes it very clear that not only is she well aware of Madarame’s crush on Kasukabe, but that just about everyone else is too, possibly even including Saki herself. Of course, this comes as a complete shock to Madarame, who failed to realize that in his concerted efforts to minimize his longing gazes at Saki actually made his feelings completely obvious. Though this has very much to do with the fact that Madarame is such a huge dork, believing you’re subtle when you’re really not is a problem many guys have, and I can really empathize with him. Madarame has a track record of doing this, too. I mean, let’s not forget the “nose hair” incident.

By the way, I’m unsure of how popular it is among English-speaking fandom, but I know there’s a decent amount of Japanese Genshiken fans who are way into Madarame x Keiko (or Keiko x Madarame). I wonder if Kio Shimoku is aware of that?

Madarame and Keiko’s conversation never quite resolves. Sue walks in at an (in-) opportune moment, suggesting that not only do Sasahara and Keiko have more in common than expected, but that perhaps Sue is actually a cosmic being who takes strength from the meta-fabric of Genshiken itself, particularly in channeling Ogiue references. I hope that Sue gets her own dedicated chapter at some point in this run. Shifting character focus from chapter to chapter seems to be the direction of Genshiken II, so I think there’s a fair chance of it happening. Maybe Angela will make a brief return.

In any case, despite Sue’s interruption, Keiko leaves Madarame with a profound message: the only reason he can continue to spin in place is because he’s never had his heart broken. And again, if we look at Genshiken history, right there on-panel in the beach chapter was Keiko confronting an old boyfriend. Whether that bad outcome was the result of “heartbreak” or not is unclear, as is whether Keiko has truly given up on Kohsaka, but the comparison between then and now shows the kind of maturity that Keiko’s developed since we first saw her trying to wrangle money from her brother, incomplete as that maturity may be.

So while the chapter was Madarame-centric, Keiko also got a lot of development, or at least we see that she’s developed some since her last appearance.

Book-ending the chapter is Madarame’s interactions with Hato, who has been using Madarame’s apartment to change in and out of his feminine clothing. The impossibly attractive Hato is messing up Madarame’s wiring a bit, and even he can’t tell whether his friendliness with Hato is more of the male companionship he clearly misses from his club days or if it’s something else entirely (or possibly both). Again, for you shippers out there, I’m sure this chapter pleases Caesar. Interestingly, Hato himself seems to be getting the most consistent amounts of page time. I wonder if it just has to do with the fact that he is the biggest mystery of Genshiken.

Ogiue meanwhile is poised to make her published manga debut, and I am continually fascinated by her relationship with Sasahara, notably in the way they butt heads due to their respective professions of artist and editor, and how it ultimately results in better work. Ogiue’s experience with Sashara-as-editor, which we’ve seen ever since the last volume of Genshiken, is itself likely influenced by Kio Shimoku’s own time at Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon, and seems to confirm Peepo Choo artist Felipe Smith’s own account of creating manga for sister Kodansha publication Morning Two. I’m also curious as to whether or not Sue stays over at Ogiue’s place often and interferes with Sasahara and Ogiue’s alone time, as the chapter seems to imply.

But the real story is that Ogiue’s manga schedule is conflicting with her Comic Festival schedule, and that seems to be the focus for the next chapter.  As you might expect, I’m looking forward to it quite a bit.