Chapter 71 is here, and if you’re wondering about the Hato figure that came with the latest issue of Afternoon, yes I do have it, though the Volume 11 one has yet to arrive.
When last we saw the club, everyone was getting ready for the campus festival, with the pièce de résistance being a special edition of the club newsletter Mebaetame featuring original stories by the members of Genshiken. As this chapter makes us aware from the very start however, things are not going as planned, as Ogiue is in a slump, Yoshitake and Yajima are finding teamwork to not be so simple, and Hato’s drawing style seems to change drastically depending on whether or not he’s crossdressing. As the club tries to figure out not only how they can get anything done in time for the festival but also why Hato would have such an unusual psychological block, Sue suggests that Ogiue and Hato should collaborate, with Ogiue providing the story and Hato the artwork.
This solution, still not agreed upon by the parties involved, seems to create new challenges as well. On top of the difficulties they were having already, Yoshitake and Yajima (with beers) now feel intimidated by the fact that a collaborative work between Ogiue and Hato would completely outclass them, and this frustrations even results in Yoshitake admitting that she finds Yajima’s drawings to be pretty bad where she would previously have sugarcoated it. Ogiue meanwhile is moving towards writing a shoujo-esque romance for Hato to draw, but is aware of the fact that shoujo is untested territory for herself.
Hato too is wondering about whether or not having Ogiue’s script as a guide would provide enough structure for him to not go offtrack while drawing, when he comes across the fact that Madarame bought the game being sold by Kohsaka’s company at Comic Festival. Touting a girl-boy as a significant feature, Hato begins to think about Kohsaka putting the moves on Madarame with the game as pretext, and finds that his “Stand” is going too far. He also realizes an odd fact about himself: “Stand” Hato seems more hardcore and extreme than Hato when crossdressing. Madarame comes home earlier than expected, which results in Madarame walking around for a while to let Hato finish changing. Once Hato is done, he (in women’s clothing) mentions to Madarame that they haven’t met in a while, and that he wants to apologize for all of the trouble he’s caused recently, like the whole incident with Kuchiki. Madarame, reminding himself that despite appearances Hato is definitely a guy, invites Hato back into his place to chat.
I think Chapter 71, possibly more than any other chapter, makes me aware of how different the new Genshiken (both club and title) is from the old one, at least compared to where it began. This in turn has me thinking about some of the comments I’ve read and heard from both friends and relative strangers about how unapproachable or how unrelatable the characters and stories are for them now. So, my intent is to think through how the sense of unfamiliarity plays out in Genshiken II, particularly because I find the changes to be especially pronounced with this chapter.
The first and least, shall we say, controversial point of difference is the fact that a good portion of the club seems to show a kind of creative energy, even if they might not have the talent to match up with it. While they are all having difficulties making their works, all of these are problems which occur after they’ve begun their creative processes. This is a stark contrast to the old club where the primary issue with putting out any sort of material was that it was difficult to get them moving in the first place. I think the best comparison might be Yajima now to Kugayama back when he drew that first Kujibiki Unbalance doujinshi. Both of them are lacking in confidence and don’t believe they have what it takes to be real manga-ka, but where Kugayama delayed things as much as he could, we’re made aware of the fact that Yajima has continued to include drawings in her entries for the club newsletter even though she thinks her own work isn’t good. The fact that Yajima appears to be less skilled as an artist compared to Kugayama anyway seems to suggest that it’s mostly a subtle matter of mentality separating the two, and by extension the mindset of the current club versus the old one.
The second point of difference is that the mostly female cast produces conversations concerning concepts like body image and, more generally, that the characters talk about their feelings regularly. I think this comes across even when the topic at hand is something otaku-related, like how Yoshitake and Yajima are frustrated trying to work on their story. A few harsh words are spoken, but the whole thing ends up coming across as therapeutic for them in a way; even if nothing is solved (and perhaps they might even have made things worse), it seems to be oddly helpful. Not to blindly promote stereotypes about the types of conversations that occur among men and among women, but it’s hard to see this being a regular thing for the old guard of primarily male characters. Moreover, the interactions between Yajima and the rest are framed by their otaku/fujoshi mindsets, as well as the fact that they come from a different “subcultural” generation compared to Madarame and the rest. Not that there isn’t some overlap between the two groups or differences within, but overall I think it’s that the characters, now mostly female, have a tendency to talk about things that they might not be willing to if the club were dominated by men like it used to be, just as there were once certain topics conveyed as being uncomfortable if Saki or Ohno were around.
Hato is a kind of X-Factor in all of this, his crossdressing ostensibly making him one of the “girls,” but the actual physical truth makes things much trickier, particularly for Yajima, who now has that very same physical truth burned into both the shallow and deep recesses of her mind. Hato is the gateway, albeit a “troublesome” one in that he can seem familiar yet alien at the same time.
That leads to me to the third point of difference: Nidaime continuously challenges ideas of gender and sexuality in ways that the original Genshiken only began to touch on, with Hato being the most prominent example. With Ogiue, the “controversy” was about the degree to which being really hardcore into yaoi might affect actual intimate relationships, but that was still a girl being attracted to men, whether or not they were fictional/into other guys. With Hato however, the fact that he is into yaoi but finds himself attracted to women in real life makes for a trickier dynamic, especially when he starts to fantasize over fictional portrayals of real people like Madarame. While Ogiue did the same thing (and even said to Sasahara that she has no feelings for Madarame himself), Hato’s gender makes it feel like the idea is really being pushed to its limits, and every time they add another layer to it as they did in this chapter, it becomes that much more complex.
Overall, I find that when taking the notion of a sequel as more of the same, more of what you loved, more of what you’re familiar with, Genshiken II doesn’t quite feel like that. However, when taking a sequel to mean a progression from what has occurred before it and a development of ideas began in the original, Genshiken II fulfills that definition much more thoroughly. When I look at it and the work that has come between the two Genshiken (notably Jigopuri), I get the feeling that Kio Shimoku as at a point in his life somewhat removed from the typical otaku, especially male otaku, and that this is the result. Maybe this would have been better to talk about in its own separate post instead of as part of a chapter review, but I do think it was relevant here.
By the way, this post is probably going to push Ogiue Maniax’s lifetime hits to over 1 million. When you think about it, there’s no topic more appropriate for this than Genshiken.