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?”