Last time we met what can be best described as the Luigi to Yoshitake’s Mario, Yoshitake Risa. No, seriously, think about it. She’s younger, taller, and jumps higher.
Anyway, unlike the previous little sister in Genshiken who didn’t really get a dedicated spotlight until many volumes later, we get to learn a lot more about Risa just one chapter after her introduction. She’s quite an intriguing character, so I’m all for it.
(Did you know Yoshitake has the power to snore in English?)
As the freshman drinking party concludes at Yoshitake’s place with everyone crashing for the night, we get to learn quite a bit about young Risa. She awakened to her nature as a shotacon because of a particular child star, though she prefers the timelessness of 2-D over the aging process which inevitably affects the inhabitants of the real world. Also, though she loves playing basketball (enough to attend games instead of going to doujin events), she is tired of everyone assuming that she’s going to pick a college based on her hoops prowess. Yoshitake Rika, always the loving older sister, not only buys all of Risa’s doujinshi for her, but brought her to Shiiou University to help her think things through.
When all’s said and done, Risa has one last request. Knowing that Hato began crossdressing so that he could make friends with fujoshi, Risa is curious as to just how “challenging” that process is, how far Hato has gone for the sake of meeting like-minded people. Yoshitake, who can also be a “helpful” older sister, manages to twist the situation such that it ends with a visit to Hato’s place.
There, Yoshitake wants to use the time Hato spends showering to find out all of his secrets, but Yajima stands in her way. Despite assistance from the younger sibling , Yajima manages to stop Yoshitake, though in the process they inadvertently open the door to the bathroom and both Yajima and Risa get to see that Hato is indeed a man, albeit an incredibly smooth one. Risa, with Hato’s image possibly burned into her brain, now finds a reason to take the exam for Shiiou University, much like the other Genshiken little sister.
Before I get into my thoughts on the chapter itself, I want everyone to look at this image of Risa’s body.
Risa’s figure can be described as that of a tall, slender but athletic woman with small curves. It makes sense, given the amount of time she puts into sports. It is also an incredibly uncommon body type for a female character in a manga with men as its primary audience. Sure, there are girls with small chests in shounen/seinen, and there are also plenty of athletes, but rarely are they like Risa’s. Even in most comics targeted towards girls of all ages, a body type like this is not drawn with as much focus on anatomy.
Ohno, Kasukabe, and Ogiue’s bodies were already quite different, and Yajima is of course overweight, but Yoshitake Risa’s realistically athletic figure, which doesn’t really try to adhere to typical notions of feminine appeal nor masculine portrayals of heavy musculature, makes me fully aware of just how varied the body types of the female characters are in Genshiken. It’s actually quite impressive, and I think shows that Kio Shimoku, more than ever, is trying to draw female characters for men in a way that fosters understanding of women as people.
The way this chapter is, it actually feels like a hang-out between girls (plus Hato). It’s kind of like that scene at the retreat back in Volume 7, only without the painful recollection of traumatic events from the past. Instead, they were able to create new traumatic events (again, Hato). Again, it’s not out of the blue, and when I look back on Genshiken it’s clear that it’s always been different in portraying female characters, but Chapter 69 somehow feels like a particularly strong example of this approach.
I continue to enjoy the sibling relationship between Rika and Risa for reasons touched upon in the chapter summary above. Yoshitake comes across as a person who genuinely loves and looks out for her younger sister, and it’s clear that her happy-going personality has had a positive effect on Risa’s development through the years. That Risa is comfortable with calling her older sister for advice is in itself a strong sign of their bond, as is the fact that Risa feels compelled to go along with her sister’s hair-brained schemes (crossdressing, bearhugging Yajima). Again, I have to contrast it with the Sasaharas, who eventually reached something along those lines, but only through a long and arduous process.
As for Yajima, I find that she is in this strange position where Hato’s crossdressing has taken on the opposite effect of what it used to be for Yajima. Initially, Hato’s female guise made Yajima rather uncomfortable, as it challenged certain deep-rooted feelings and beliefs in her. As they have become friendlier however, the crossdressing almost acts like a barrier preventing Yajima from thinking of him as a man, which Yajima consistently views as a kind of “other,” like so many nerds out there. This is why you see Yajima try to prevent Risa from convincing Hato to change into his male version. Poor Yajima.
Speaking of Hato, the chapter also provided some insight into his life. For one thing, we learn that the reason Hato lives so far away is that he had to find an apartment with a walk-in closet to store both his dresses and his massive amount of doujinshi. Now that’s the kind of dedication that Risa can understand.
Next chapter is the school festival, and while not quite as exciting as a ComiFest chapter, it’s still something I look forward to from Genshiken. We’ll also get to see Ogiue again. And if that’s not enough, Volume 11 is on its way in
February December with a special edition and an exclusive Hato figure. I’ll probably end up owning one myself, if only because I try to get every single special edition of Genshiken that I can.
I do not intend to ever break that streak.