The Appearing and Disappearing Wave of Generational Change in the Meaning of “Fun” in Genshiken II Volume 1/Genshiken Volume 10

Translator’s Introduction: This is a translation of a post by a well-known Japanese anime and manga blogger known as Tamagomago concerning his feelings towards the recent Genshiken revival. As there are certain terms that are very Japanese, as well as information that might not be that well-known to English speakers, I’ve included translation notes at the bottom of this post.

The images used are necessary for the post, but because the originals were in Japanese, I’ve taken the liberty of replacing them with existing English translations. The images are also larger than the ones used in the original post, as the English text would be impossible to read if the images were the same size as the original’s (not as much of a problem with Japanese and its use of kanji).

This is actually also the second otaku and fujoshi-related post from Tamagomago that I’ve translated. The first can be found here, with my response to it available here.


Genshiken II [Nidaime] Volume 1, aka Genshiken Volume 10 is out.

How I should I put it…

Genshiken Volume 1 came out in 2002.

Has it really been almost 10 years…?

Back when Genshiken was coming out, it was often compared to Kyuukyoku Choujin R.[1]

As individual works they’re completely different, and there’s no use comparing them directly (for starters, R has the Light-Image [Photography] Club, high schoolers, and no particular otaku interests among its members, while Genshiken has the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, college students, and is based around a group of otaku). But when you look at the  different age groups among the members and how there’s something of a generation gap in terms of how they enjoy their hobbies, the above comparison is easier to understand than one might expect. It’s about seeing how they spend their free time having fun.

This was actually discussed so often that I lost count. It’s a part of the history of the 00s.

However, to the younger otaku readers, the world of R was like a heavy burden on them, and the reason is that the senpai [upperclassmen] have an overwhelming presence.

I love Tosaka-senpai and the rest of them, but if you were to say to me, “They’re bothersome senpai,” I certainly wouldn’t be able to deny it.

Not only that, but by comparison, Genshiken‘s Madarame-senpai casts a light shadow, following a philosophy of living peacefully at any cost. When you look at that, it’s really quite cute, but you can also really feel that the senpai-kouhai [upperclassman-lowerclassman] relationship is rather thin.

That’s the first generation gap.

And now this is the second.

The number of people who have admired Genshiken and turned into otaku because of it has increased.

I bet there are people who just read that sentence and thought, “Wait, what?”

They’d say, “‘Become’ an ‘otaku?’ That’s not something you just decide on and then it happens, wouldn’t you say?”

That’s right, but during the 00s, the meaning of the word “otaku” suddenly became unclear. It no longer meant that you were some kind of “outlaw,” and it no longer had a negative connotation in people’s minds. That said, it obviously also depends on who you’re talking to.

The decisive blow came in the doujinshi that Shinofusa Rokurou drew for the special edition of Genshiken Volume 9 (the final volume).[2]

This is pretty much it. I think there’s a lot of people recently who haven’t read or seen Genshiken (since it’s out of print), but you won’t regret reading it. Same with Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru.[3]

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu[4] once said, “To a guy like me who hates otaku, Genshiken is a manga full of love for otaku that’s designed to exterminate otaku.” Those are some really mixed feelings, wouldn’t you say? But I pretty much understand him.

There are now more and more people who aren’t “beautiful despite being otaku” but instead people who are “beautiful while being otaku.” It has nothing to do with physical appearance, nor is it just the end result of ressentiment; rather, what’s changed is that being otaku now means you’re enjoying a “fun hobby.” Genshiken is a work that’s drawn while relatively consciously of this.

It’s not my intention to formulate a theory about why the generations are different after all of this. No matter what I say, what’s most important is to ask oneself, “What do I personally think?” However, I feel that, at the very least, the number of people who can stand in the light and declare, “I’m an otaku!” have risen.

For someone like me who lived in the era of the closet otaku and thought, “I can’t say that I’m an otaku,” this is quite a strange feeling.

Though I’d say what we have now is the healthier scenario.

This divide can be seen in how Genshiken has been drawn. Madarame’s year consists of otaku who are relatively private and who try to conceal their hobbies, unwilling to come out to others about it.

Ohno meanwhile concealed her hobbies as well, but was the type of person who wanted to be able to share them with like-minded individuals.

Kohsaka and Sue just freely and openly show how much of an otaku they are and how much they enjoy it, while Sasahara is the type of person who saw the truth after entering college.

I used to think that Kohsaka’s existence was something of a fantasy, but I realized that people like him actually exist.

Volume 9 came out in 2006. It’s been almost five years.

Now we have Volume 10.

And in it, the characters feel significantly different from how the characters used to be.

If times have changed, then the characters in Genshiken have changed as well, in terms of where they come from and what their points of view may be.

From here on in, I’m going to write a bit about the respective perspectives of the new character Yajima as well as Madarame.

The Impression of a Gap in the New Generation of Genshiken

I think this panel in Nidaime probably makes the contrast easiest to understand.

…Whoa… They’re like… so young!

The three new club members are gathered alongside the old members in Ogiue’s room (i.e. the place where Ogiue produces her manga). Madarame and Sasahara are obviously among the “old boys.”

If you look at the ratio of men to women, you’ll notice that the girls outnumber the guys (though there is a certain exception), and that none of them are particularly concerned with avoiding the others. If you didn’t tell me that this is an otaku circle, I never would have guessed.

Obviously you can say that it’s because this is manga, but still, everyone there looks like they’re having fun.

Among them is one character in particular, sitting on the sofa with a sour look on her face: Yajima.

Among the freshmen, there’s a male crossdresser… or should I say, a “boy-girl.”[5]

What Yajima has to say about all of this is unbelievably cute.

“I’m… quite opposed [very resistant] to it.”

Yajima’s feelings on the matter are, in a certain sense, the bridge between the various conceptions of what it means to “enjoy oneself” within Genshiken. She’s caught in the middle, and it depresses her.

If you look at the previous generation, there was the episode where Madarame was opposed to “stylish fashion” and thought it made no sense. Though he ended up having a change of heart, the way Madarame and Yajima distance themselves is similar.

The term “ota” itself is actually rarely used in Genshiken.

In this volume, the only person other than Yajima to use the term is Ogiue, and it’s the negative meaning of “ota.” Yajima’s line in the above image, “Since we’re all otaku, it doesn’t matter,” pretty much says it all.

On the other hand, you have another new character, Yoshitake (the bespectacled girl in the middle of the sofa), who in contrast to Yajima exclaims, “Female otaku and fujoshi are different!” while using the term positively.

Yoshitake has determined her own status. She considers herself a “fujoshi” and doesn’t hide it. Although Ohno herself had a first step where she realized that it’s better to come out about it, with Yoshitake there wasn’t even a first step to be taken at all.

So as one might expect, neither Yajima nor Ogiue are particularly concerned with fashion. They’re fine with just wearing jeans. Then again, if I compare Ogiue now to how she was in the beginning when she was wearing hoodies, her fashion sense has become more refined. That necktie looks really cute on her! Those jeans though, I don’t really get them.

The “boy-girl” Hato is incredibly stylish. Yoshitake, who also has a relatively varied wardrobe, comes across as a girl with diverse artistic and literary interests. Even Yabusaki from the Manga Society wears a bit of makeup.

Yajima senses this gap and is extremely bothered by it.

Yajima herself originally joins the club because she thought, “I’d sure like to do something fun,” and went with it. She has an inferiority complex, but that also has to do with her otaku hobbies. She’s never been crushed by a traumatic event, nor does she carry any heavy burden.

Unlike Ogiue and Ohno, she never undergoes an intense initiation process.

Even so, she acts strongly on her feeling that there’s a drastic and irreconcilable conflict between what she feels to be an “otaku” and what she sees.

She wonders about how far one should go for the sake of having “fun,” and her heart is perplexed.

In particular, she wonders about the very existence of Hato as a boy-girl.

The Boy-Girl.

Hato as a boy-girl is quite a unique character… or rather, he would be, but recently there have been a surprising increase in people like him. He’s not a “complete fantasy,” which I find interesting.

That said, he’s certainly still unusual.

There is a definite difference between a “boy-girl” and a “male crossdresser.”

To begin with, “male crossdressers” are those who wear women’s clothing even if it doesn’t fit them, or perhaps people who still retain some of their masculinity when donning women’s clothing. However, “boy-girls” are those who, to the best of their ability, completely transform themselves into “girls,” or something close to it. They’ll shave their body hair, and even take great efforts to adapt their voices to be feminine. Recently, you even have terms like “the dual-voiced”[6] to refer to them.

And, this is the most important thing, they consider themselves to be men inside.

At first they seem like they want to become girls, but it’s not like they have any particular romantic interest in men or anything. Instead, they are passionate in their desire to become beautiful.

Their fashion is the result of serious effort.

This is the first reason that Yajima just can’t accept it. “Why are you like that?” she says.

That line feels like it has a lot behind it.

Hato is a man through and through.

As a man, his desire of “I want to become the absolute cutest” gave birth to the female Hato.

Yajima, who is bothered by the thought of “I’m an ota, so I’m awful,” is contrasted with the “this is our hobby and that’s that” attitude of Hato, a boy-girl, and Yoshitake, a berserker girl, both of whom possess not a single regret or doubt about it.

No wait, Hato had an incident that became the trigger for him. However, it’s quite different from Ogiue and the scars she received upon her awakening to BL. While Ogiue had to struggle with her own traumas, Hato easily sublimated himself into his current state.

I suggest actually reading the chapter with this episode in it, but I also think that there is a large gap between what Yajima and Yoshitake thought about it. Yoshitake really understands why Hato wears women’s clothing, whereas Yajima doesn’t get it at all (she thought it was the result of some trauma).

“If it’s fun, it’s fun; that makes it okay, doesn’t it?” That’s the attitude they take, and it allows them to face front and charge ahead.

This is the new world of the kids of the second Genshiken, and it’s become a world that they don’t hide from.

If I could elaborate, Yoshitake and Hato are about thinking “Does it matter if you’re an otaku or not? Whichever is fine.” I might even go so far as to say that they feel otaku-ness to be “just another personal attribute,” about the same as wearing glasses.

It’s because she’s Yoshitake: stylish, wears glasses, and incredibly cheerful. Geez.

Better yet, Yoshitake is like a bullet shell of positivity, a fine mood maker. She seems like she could even say something like “I oink”[7] without a problem.

…I wrote above that I wouldn’t be making any theories concerning generation, but in spite of that “Nidaime” [Second Generation] is still in the title. This is a work which shows how one pursues or enjoys their “otaku hobbies” has changed on an individual level, and it must be intentional on the part of the author.

At this current point in time, I think that there is a line—Madarame-Ogiue-Yajima-Hato—where each of them produces  a feeling of disparity relative to one another. Both the men and the women have disparate levels of recognition which don’t really link up that well with each other, and this work shows the “interesting” results of when they gather in the same place.

No Escape, Ever

So, let’s talk about Madarame.

This time around, I’d been reading the story completely from Yajima’s point of view, but I must say, the cutest person there was Madarame.

It can’t be helped; Madarame’s “boyish” mannerisms are just so cute. I can’t be the only one who thinks this way!

For some reason I want to hug Madarame, even though he’d hate me for it!

The reason that he’s so dear to me is that deep inside, Madarame overwhelmingly feels that it’s “impossible” to act as a “man.”

Now, the girls’ camp has increased in number such that the club atmosphere feels completely different. By comparison, it’s no longer a world where a girl like Saki acts as a counter to the club itself by virtue of “being a girl.”

That’s where Madarame came from, and where he is now.

What is this? It makes me feel unbearably lonesome.

…For Madarame, this is a place that he loves because he loves being able to spend time with his fellow otaku.

And then, he fell in love with a girl named Kasukabe Saki, but he kept it to himself the whole time.


Aw man!

Madarame, you’re way too cute! Seriously, you’re like a little boy!

By comparison, someone else has grown along another direction entirely. Certainly, he treasures the connections that were born from here, and he has always valued them, but that was something else, and now he walks an entirely different path.

Personally, I think that Kugapii is incredibly “real.” Despite being reasonably skilled at drawing, he pursued it halfheartedly at best. He then maintained that halfhearted approach all the way to graduation without producing anything outstanding, and now he has a normal, steady job. This character is also dear to me. He’s a really good guy. He works hard and with earnest. Despite his setbacks, he acts exactly as an adult ought to. He prioritizes his work and doesn’t slack off.

In a way, he’s quite the realist.

Madarame, on the other hand, is really a romantic.

This is the scene where Sasahara’s sister told him about how, even though no one’s ever actually mentioned it out loud, Saki definitely had known that Madarame has feelings for her.

(If you look at Volume 9, there’s a part where Sasahara’s sister, Ohno, and Ogiue are all aware of how obvious this is.)

Whether Saki really knew about all of this was not made clear, but even at the end of Volume 9, her behavior was received as that of “someone who evidently knew what was going on but wouldn’t actually say anything about it.”

This is to a large extent how a boy would “perceive” a woman (“I just don’t understand girls!”), but that’s Madarame through and through.

Madarame is lost in a way that might be referred to as stagnation. He’s also becoming a full-on working adult.

But what Sasahara’s sister says is absolutely correct.

For example:

For argument’s sake, let’s say that Madarame gets a girlfriend. He gives the impression that he still wouldn’t throw away those photos of Saki in his possession. This is just my imagination, but Madarame seems like he’d take those photos to the grave.

He would keep those memories safely tucked away. Actually, he’s already doing that.

Madarame: a man who really seems like he would drag a situation out as much as possible.

Along with everything going on with Yajima, I think that, from here, how Madarame will turn out is to be a point of heavy focus in the comic.

If I dare say, I want to believe in this quote from Ohno.

“Not only that, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had!”

In conclusion:

Madarame is cute.

Was Nidaime made so that we could feel moe over how Madarame behaves like such a little boy…?

Well, he also probably feels a vague twinge of loneliness because of the new blood.

This is unrelated, but I guess Madarame is part of the Azunyan faction (from p.183).


Translation Notes:

[1] Kyuukyoku Choujin R is a manga by Yuuki Masami, which ran in Shounen Sunday from 1985-1987. Its main character is a teenage robot named R. Tanaka Ichirou.

[2] Like Volume 6, there was a special edition Genshiken Volume 9 which came with a bonus doujinshi, though unlike Volume 6 it was not part of the Del Rey release.

[3] Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru is a manga by Shinofusa Rokurou. Running in Monthly Afternoon (the same magazine as Genshiken) since 2008, it is about a girl afflicted by a bipolar disorder named after its discoverer, Dr. Josef Tsundere.

[4] Character designer for Mobile Suit Gundam and many other anime. Currently draws Gundam: The Origin.

[5] The term that “boy-girl” is a translation of the Japanese term “otoko no ko,” (男の娘) which is a play off of the word for boy, “otoko no ko,” (男の子) but which substitutes the Japanese character for “child” for the one for “girl.” Normally in such an instance I would leave the word untranslated, but ecause the wordplay is in the kanji, it would be impossible to distinguish “otoko no ko” from “otoko no ko.” Another possible translation for it is “trap,” though the inherent implications of “trapping” others is why I avoided using that term.

[6] “The dual-voiced” is a translation of “ryouseirui” (両声類), referring to people who can speak in both a lower, masculine voice and a higher, feminine voice.

[7] “Buhireru” (ブヒれる) literally a verb to describe oinking like a pig, implying that one is a disgusting anime fan7

20 thoughts on “The Appearing and Disappearing Wave of Generational Change in the Meaning of “Fun” in Genshiken II Volume 1/Genshiken Volume 10

  1. Awesome! It is the awesomeness of this post that makes me wish I hadn’t skimmed chapters here and there. Also because of its awesomeness, I’d like to set up a blogroll with you in it (if you don’t mind that). I’ve resolved to give Genshiken the close reading it deserves.

    Your commentary hits at a phenomenon many “hardcore” fans are at least starting to sense, but find harder to put into words (who “is” an otaku and who “isn’t?”). I sort of shy away from being called one because it seems to be such a loaded term, both for fans and for “normal” people. And it seems that there is somewhat of a commercialistic double-standard, you know, the “how much do you own” and “how much do you know” questions.

    Do you think this depiction is intentional on the part of the mangaka? I’m on the younger side, so what do I know, right? But part of this seems to be the isolation vs. group thing, sort of. When I first realized the slippery slope of 2-D, people gave me funny looks and I began to worry I was “sick” or something. I think that still sticks around on the individual level.


    • I realized that my question might seem a little silly, since that was already answered in the post. To qualify, I sort of meant to ask: do you think this is a new context the author inserted, or something we might have seen in advance as readers, reading the work straight through?


  2. I like how you pointed out the Madarame factor… and perhaps how he is the ‘bridge’ that acknowledges the gap you speculate on. I’ve always thought that Madarame was the ‘extreme’ guy that as a reader, I’d be interested in/fascinated with. Everyone else was just a little bit withdrawn or less extreme, or in Kuchikii’s case, too much without being interesting.

    This makes Madarame be the third pillar that holds the manga up (with Sasahara and Oguie being the other two — at least in my mind). It just makes sense to me that he figures just as strongly as he ever has at this point of the ‘new’ Genshiken.


    • Madarame’s story was open ended in the first Genshiken series. Everybody else’s story was neatly tied up but his. This is why Madarame has become so interesting. We want to see if Madarame can emerge from his stagnant, loney otaku lifestyle and move on, hopefully with a significant other. He’s the shounen male lead that we don’t want taking the sad, Simon route without even having the pleasure of loving someone or having someone love him.

      However, in the meantime, we still have Spotted Flower…


  3. Due to shitty scanalations and stuff I stopped reading this after the 3rd chapter or so – Now I’m kind of glad, since I can just buy the entire volume and read it proper.


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  5. >> I used to think that Kohsaka’s existence was something of a fantasy, but I realized that people like him actually exist.

    Ah the memories. I know someone like this. Made my day when I read Genshiken the first time.


  6. Nice.I need to try reading tamagomago more, though I probably couldn’t understand a lot of what he says. :P

    One of the first impressions that I had after reading the post was that it sort of reminds me how, even if the subculture is “newer” respectively, how there seems to be a divide between what it means to be an anime fan in America, and what it means to be involved in anime culture. How we watch things, and what we look for in conventions, as examples of differences.


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