When you ask a group of fujoshi (+1 fudanshi) for personal stories of high school romance, you get anything but. That’s Genshiken II, Chapter 73.
Chapter 73 of Genshiken II opens up right where the last chapter left off. In an effort to both have a story that can complement Hato’s drawing style and to also get out of her own creative rut, Ogiue is looking to write a shoujo manga with a high school campus festival setting. However, just as Ogiue is unable to draw on her own experience to write the story (“Actually, I didn’t even have any friends,” as she bluntly states), the only thing she gets from the freshmen are tiny pockets of sadness.
First up is Yajima, who recalls a boy who used to insult her drawings and then rub salt in the wound by actually being a better artist than her. The closest this gets to anything resembling “romance” is that the guy originally came up with a bizarre and insulting nickname for her (Hetakuso (Crappy) -> Hetappy -> Tappy) but eventually stopped using it. As Yoshitake points out, that seems more like bullying than anything else.
Second is Yoshitake, who went to an all-girls’ school and spent all her time in the history club. There, she debated history through the lens of a fujoshi. While plenty of girls in her school had boyfriends, Yoshitake certainly did not.
Last is Hato, who also claims that nothing happened with him. He’d never confessed to anyone, he was never confessed to, and talking about high school makes Hato increasingly nervous. Yajima tries to stop Yoshitake from prodding further by reminding her of what Hato said about being bullied, but this triggers the inner detective in Yoshitake. According Yoshitake, Hato’s difficulties in high school couldn’t possibly just be the result of revealing his interest in yaoi, but that romance was a factor. Before Yoshitake can pressure Hato into telling everything though, Kuchiki comes in and inadvertently rescues Hato from the interrogation through the power of his embarrassing awkwardness.
The chapter ends with Kuchiki revealing that unlike the rest of them, he actually had a girlfriend in high school (though it only lasted a day), and the shock is so great all-around that any remote chance of continuing the discussion fizzles out entirely. Ogiue declares that the high school romance idea is to be scrapped, and that she’ll be writing the cheesy overwrought stories (chuunibyou, or something an 8th grader would find deep) she usually does. Somehow, this whole fiasco may have inspired her to work again after all.
So at the end of the last review, I predicted that Sue would be the one to stun everyone with a tale of teenage love, but it turned out to be Kuchiki. I don’t think I was that far off, so I’m giving myself partial credit. And who knows, maybe we’ll still learn something about her in an upcoming chapter.
I’ve written a good deal about the generation gap that exists between the old and new Genshiken but seeing Yajima and Yoshitake’s respective pasts makes me feel that as much as things have changed, they’re still quite familiar in terms of the social troubles of being an otaku. Neither of them have had anything even closely resembling a relationship, and while you can chalk up some of the bullying to the fact that Yajima isn’t exactly the prettiest girl out there, it’s interesting to see that Yoshitake had to learn something about fashion along the way. If we compare Yoshitake’s style in high school to her sister Risa’s current look, there’s a noticeable difference, even putting aside their extremely different heights, faces, and body types.
At first I thought that the guy from Yajima’s past bore some resemblance to Risa (in the guise of “Rihito”), and that her initial attraction to the latter was somehow influenced by her experience with the former, but when I look at them side-by-side, I’m not sure if they’re similar enough to warrant that comparison. Perhaps if you consider the fact that they’re both tall and have bangs parted to the side, “Rihito” ends up looking like a more handsome version of that guy. Whether or not there’s a direct connection though, altogether I think it puts Yajima’s unease in the presence of the opposite sex into perspective.
While it’s kind of difficult to interpret the behavior of Yajima’s “friend” as him being attracted to her, I think this scenario is essentially the truth behind Hato’s own hidden teenage years. In the chapter, Sue points out that just as Yajima was mentioning the guy being better at drawing than her, Hato’s face turns a shade of red that would make a certain Zaku II Commander Type look subdued. There’s not much information to go on at this point, but I get the feeling that Hato’s inability to draw well when not in women’s clothing is a product of his failed high school romance, and that telling everyone about it may be the key to resolving his art problems. Perhaps he tried to get closer to a girl he liked by showing her his BL drawings, and his talent made her feel small by comparison.
And then there’s Kuchiki, who I think probably comes from the same lineage as Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. Both are extraordinarily creepy individuals, but they have perks in their lives that make the people around them feel worse. For Kimura, it’s a lovely wife and daughter, and for Kuchiki it’s having had a girlfriend at all, as well as having a well-paying job lined up after college thanks to nepotism.
The last two things I want to talk about are kind of small, but I feel the need to point them out.
First, the above panel is actually the first time we’ve seen the high school iteration of Ogiue in an actual chapter, and the second time we’ve seen her in a Genshiken book at all (third if you count Ogiue’s disguise at ComiFest). If you’re wondering about that other time, open up Volume 6 to the first page, and look kind of carefully.
Second, there are of course a number of references strewn throughout. Ohno mentions “HTT” or “Houkago Tea Time,” the band from K-On! Upon seeing Kuchiki, Sue says, “Hyoro-kun?”, a character from Chihayafuru (translated in the Crunchyroll subs as “Retro-kun”). Finally, the next chapter preview quote this time is “Next time, the Culture Festival draws near! That’s not what happens, but look forward to it anyway!” This is actually a reference to gdgd Fairies, which I reviewed previously. Now if you listened to me and watched the show, then you would’ve gotten the joke.