Contrary to my expectations, Chapter 70 is not a School Festival Chapter, but rather the setup to one. As such, it’s more of a calm before the storm, but one where you can tell the waves are thrashing below the surface of the ocean.
In addition to the cosplay studio Genshiken has been putting out every year since Ohno joined, glorious leader Ogiue Chika has decided that the club will sell a special edition of their club magazine Mebaetame for the festivities. Gearing it towards story-based works, Ogiue intends to draw a manga while Yoshitake and Yajima decide to team up to create an illustrated story. Yoshitake’s idea is “Sengoku School Festival” or something along those lines, and nothing is holding them back aside from the fact that Yajima is not entirely confident in her own drawing skills and that Yoshitake has never written a story before.
Hato meanwhile is asked to draw something as well, Ogiue recognizing Hato’s vast potential as an artist, a level of ability that she believes might even surpass her own. However, what Ogiue does not know is that Hato has some very unusual limitations when it comes to art. When dressed as a woman, Hato is only capable of producing beautifully rendered BL. When dressed as a man, his style becomes much more… interesting.
Given that this edition of Mebaetame is meant to be sold to normal folks, having to avoid anything hardcore acts as a huge roadblock for Hato. He’s not alone though, as Ogiue herself appears to be having issues with her own work. The chapter actually begins in the middle of a conversation between Ogiue and Sasahara, who are discussing that classic art debate, creating for oneself vs. creating for an audience, as well as how one should take criticism. As Ogiue was the one who called Sasahara over to discuss it, it is clearly a conversation she was looking to have, but it is also obviously not easy for her.
There are difficulties outside of Genshiken as well, as it turns out Yabusaki and Asada have been kicked out of the Manga Society (Manken) for aiding the enemy, i.e. helping Ogiue sell her doujinshi at the last ComiFest. The ever-mysterious Katou (the one with the bangs obscuring her eyes) does not seem to be affected by this punishment, but is so busy trying to find a job as she nears graduation that she has simply not shown up. Both Yabusaki and Asada try to convince each other to join Genshiken, but it seems to not be so simple.
I find that this chapter has me anticipating the next one quite a bit. It doesn’t have quite the oomph of the previous Risa chapters, but I can feel it building up to the school festival. It’s like watching all of these various puzzle pieces start to slide into place, except you have no idea if you have all of the pieces or if they even all come from the same set. It’s exciting.
I think that the reveal with Yabusaki and Asada is a significant one that quite possibly says a lot. Why would Yabusaki and Asada be so unceremoniously dumped from the club that they’ve been a part of for so long just because they helped Ogiue out one time? The only way I can make any sense of it is that despite Yabusaki was able to foster a friendship with Ogiue, there must still be some bad blood between Ogiue and the remaining members of Manken. Most likely, they still have never forgotten the harsh and demeaning words Ogiue had for them in her less enlightened days.
But Ogiue has indeed changed, and we can see this throughout the manga. In addition to Yabusaki, just seeing how far the friendship between Ogiue and Sue has come is heartwarming. Sue is no longer the mysterious gaijin that must be handled with a hazmat suit but something of a genuine confidant. Ogiue’s brief recollection of Nakajima in this chapter shows that she still hasn’t forgotten those tougher days, but she’s a new person.
At this point I want to mention something that my very soul beckons me to say: I’ve missed Sasa x Ogi scenes. Even though this one is quite brief, it still showcases some of the powerful electricity that courses through their relationship. The tension between their status as a couple and their respective professions as editor and artist makes for what is evidently a tricky balancing act. Though it’s shown that this is not the easiest feat for them to accomplish, it is still amazing that they manage to do so in the first place, especially when other couples owe their success to never reading each others’ work ever.
Also, they’re cute. Super cute. Seeing them happy makes me happy too.
This chapter may have turned out to be more Ogiue-centric than I realized, but maybe I’m just a tad biased.
So, I think I I’ll end this one the only way that this chapter can approve of: Cosplay. This may be the best cosplay Kuchiki has ever done.
PS: Next chapter is going to feature color images, Genshiken on the front cover of Afternoon, and one of two Hato figures (the other one being packaged with a limited edition of Genshiken Volume 11.