When last we left the chaotic otaku gathering that is Comic Festival, Ogiue’s past and present were set to collide as Yabusaki and Sue came face to face with Nakajima, Ogiue’s old junior high classmate and the one in some sense responsible for Ogiue’s difficult life since then. While we don’t get the Ogiue-Nakajima confrontation that I expected, Chapter 64 still has a lot to chew on, and it does a lot for all of the characters involved, including Nakajima.
Nakajima (first name Yuuko) introduces herself to Yabusaki and Sue as an old friend of Ogiue’s, made all the more obvious by her Tohoku dialect. Not knowing what to make of each other, they decide to feel each other out, with Nakajima words subtly disparaging Ogiue or expressing mock-wonder at how Ogiue currently is, and Yabusaki not trying to overstep her bounds and say any crass remarks back (Sue is cryptic as always). During the conversation, Nakajima confirms that Ogiue is currently dating someone (Sasahara), and feigns concern in order to tell Yabusaki and Sue about Ogiue’s attempted suicide and how it stemmed from her interest in the boy Makita.
Before Sue can bite Nakajima’s head off, Yabusaki explains to Nakajima that this new information isn’t going to change her opinion of Ogiue at all, and that it’s not surprising that a girl who had a perpetual chip on her shoulder towards her fellow fujoshi and would try to win arguments by leaping out of windows would have some serious problems in the past. She still likes Ogiue as she is. Sue backs her up, giving probably her first heartfelt speech in Genshiken history, though she Sues it up by mentioning the Sasahara x Madarame material that Ogiue had drawn, and that Sasahara had accepted it. Even then, this actually has the effect of making it clear that Ogiue is no longer tied down by her past. At this point, Nakajima chooses to leave, and she barely misses the arrival of Ogiue, or rather, chooses to ignore it. Apparently Nakajima wanted to tell Ogiue about something concerning Makita that would put her at ease, but seems a little bitter that Ogiue managed to carve such a good life out for herself.
Ogiue meanwhile has a 39 degree C (102 F) fever, and is so out of it that she can’t even consciously hide her Tohoku accent. Being in no condition to be outside, Yabusaki dispatches Sue to take her home, where they watch after her until Sasahara can take over. When Yabusaki and Sue (with Nyaako) leave, Ogiue bursts into tears, overwhelmed by the fact that her friends have been so good to her. Sasahara provides gentle support, but also informs her that she can’t attend the rest of ComiFest because of her current condition.
While Chapter 63 was just filled with all sorts of goings-on, this chapter which concentrated mainly on Yabusaki and Sue vs. Nakajima was no less dense, with information both overt and somewhat subtle and examples of really fascinating character psychology from all sides. I think that Ogiue to some extent is still afraid of her past catching up to her, and it warms my heart to see her friends defend her so vigorously and from the heart. It’s actually unclear just how much if anything Ogiue overheard, or if she was even aware in her fever-induced haze that Nakajima was standing there, but either way Ogiue’s tears showed just how much she (correctly) values her friends. It’s not quite the close on Ogiue’s chapter that I had predicted would happen, but it’s still a resolution of sorts, and I’m happy with that.
Sue makes an Excel Saga reference this chapter (“Hail Ilpalazzo!”) While she’s sometimes hard to believe as an American anime fan, this is probably the closest she’s gotten to feeling like the real deal outside of her initial “Anta Baka?” She also seems to be a very good judge of character, as she immediately notices some bad vibes coming off of Nakajima, kind of like Shizuo from Durarara!.
This chapter is also the first time we got to see Ogiue’s original debut scene in the manga from the perspective of Yabusaki and the other girls in the Manga Society. If it wasn’t obvious that the glimmer in Ogiue’s eyes was the result of her coming to terms with her inner demons and beginning her relationship with Sasahara (and not, for example, a stylistic change), this makes it crystal clear by showing Ogiue from Volume 4 with her eyes colored the flat black that used to characterize her.
Things start to get interesting when we read the lack of glimmer as signs of some kind of long-standing inner turmoil, as Nakajima’s eyes resemble Ogiue’s in that manner at certain key moments, particularly when mentioning anything troubling from Ogiue’s past, after which they revert back to normal. We actually don’t know much of anything about Nakajima, and this makes me wonder about her life since her years in junior high with Ogiue. Being a fujoshi (you don’t attend the first day of ComiFest just to torment an old friend), Nakajima may have had to hide that aspect of her life as well, and has been jealous of Ogiue all along, whether it was Ogiue’s ability to get a boyfriend back in junior high, or now with her life as a professional manga artist, where she has a strong group of friends and a supportive boyfriend. Suffice it to say, I think there may be some kind of trauma in Nakajima’s own life that she has yet to resolve for herself. She doesn’t seem like an entirely bad person, as shown by her interaction with her friend Shigeta (first name Mina), who was with her last year when she spotted Ogiue at ComiFest. Shigeta seems more level-headed, but there’s not much to go on, so I’ll reserve any judgment on her.
Trauma is just one possibility. Nakajima’s eyes during those moments could also be a reference to that creepy stare she and her posse laid on Ogiue back then.
What did Nakajima want to tell Ogiue about concerning Makita? It can’t be anything bad, as the reason Nakajima decides not to tell her is that she doesn’t want to make Ogiue’s life any better than it already is. If I had to fathom a guess, I would say that Makita actually did not transfer away because he found himself reading a comic where he was getting it from behind by his best friend, but for some unrelated reason. Does this mean that Makita actually will make an appearance again at some point in the comic? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I am open to the possibility.
The chapter ends on Madarame, who is feeling not as excited about ComiFest as he thinks he should be. Is it a possible sign that he’s growing old, the beginning of the end for Madarame as otaku? That might be the case in a certain sense, as Angela seems to have him in her sights.
How do you feel about Americans, Madarame, particularly one who like both girls and boys?