Chapter 80 of Genshiken II is a big deal, so much so that I have to ask if you want to read further.

Very well then.

In this chapter, Madarame finally confesses to Saki, and is rejected. Life moves on.

There are some other details, like how Kohsaka sets Ohno and Ogiue’s fujoshi hearts aflame with a simple comment, but I think that’s a pretty accurate way of summarizing it. Like so many before it though, the meat is in the details, the hows and whys of that confession, its aftermath, and everything that has led up to it. Chapter 80 is probably the most reflective Genshiken chapter to date, going through the history of how Madarame fell in love with Kasukabe, and as someone whose reviews are very much about reflecting on past events in Genshiken, it gives me a lot to consider, particularly in how this, the longest plot thread in Genshiken, has finally come to a close.

I’ll be honest, the whole Mada x Saki thing has never been a terribly big deal for me. I’m certainly no shipper of the pair, and my concerns in the first story ended up being primarily elsewhere (see title of this blog), so the impact of this confession and its outcome is less of a catharsis (or painful conclusion) for me than I suspect many of the people invested in the pairing. That said, I’m still moved by this chapter because it has a lot of what has made Genshiken great all along, the natural dialogue, the tremendous but charming awkwardness, the ability to address concerns near and dear to nerds everywhere, but it has also improved through the changes the characters have undergone themselves and a more deft and gentler approach to the whole thing. Much like the difference between Madarame trying to point out the nosehair and Madarame making moves towards a confession (of sorts), the story has matured as well.

Seeing the brief history of Madarame’s love, from the nose-hair incident through the Ritsuko cosplay and on through today, it makes me realize just how long Madarame has held that flame. While I’ve seen longer unrequited loves before, both in fiction and in reality, four years is still a lot. And yet, if Madarame had continued to withhold his feelings, four years would have been a drop in the bucket compared to 10 years, let alone maybe 20 or 30. That’s the kind of pressure Madarame has faced as a character, and while it’s not the same turmoil that Ogiue or Hato have experienced, it is in certain ways just as powerful, possibly moreso for those of us who can relate to him.

In the flashbacks are the younger Madarame, with young Madarame hair, and I find that, even if he has for the most part remain unchanged in terms of overall physique (or lack thereof), the combed hair of the current Madarame stands out all the more. It’s been like this for quite a while, ever since Madarame graduated in fact, but I think that the mere effort affording combing his own hair says a lot, if only because his old hairstyle, while certainly dorkish, I imagine wouldn’t be that out of the question for a salaryman. And yet, here we have effort on the part of Madarame to look better, or perhaps even more adult.

This, I think, is what Saki in previous chapters had been reacting to, not so much the hair itself but the way that Madarame just gives off a decidedly different vibe compared to his former self. Seeing how Madarame turned out all right and also considering the way their friendship has grown, I think Saki is supposed to be regarded with full honesty when she says that a relationship with him might have been a possible future had Kohsaka never been there. It’s not a platitude for a wounded heart, nor is it even just a sly reference to Spotted Flower, but a sign of actual respect between real friends: an honest answer to an honest question.

That said, the notion that you could’ve been with the girl of your dreams had circumstances been different or if you had done something sooner stings. I’ve not experienced such a thing myself, but I don’t think you need firsthand knowledge to understand how that could be a source of mind-numbing pain, which we can see encapsulated in the one panel, with a silent Madarame, face flushed, just shaking. What if he had done something sooner, when their relationship wasn’t quite as strong? Would he have been able to overcome their childhood friendship or his perception of what a childhood friendship means? And when you think about it, wasn’t it Madarame who first prompted Kohsaka to confess to Saki and kiss her on the spot? What could have been! What could have been.

But considering those situations in a vacuum makes them seem more ideal than they actually are. After all, if Kohsaka had never started dating Saki, would she have even stuck around Genshiken? Would Madarame have even had the opportunity to fall in love with her? Even putting that aside, would the younger Madarame even had the fortitude to actually confess, to overcome that fear that you might lose everything good you have already, or did it take all this growing up to even get him near that capacity? Given that his confession still wasn’t entirely direct (“You had a nose-hair sticking out!”), I’d argue that time was a vital component to some extent.

Another aspect of Kasukabe’s honesty would be her tears. The way she explains it, she suspected Madarame to be into her well before Madarame even thought so (to be precise, at the cat-ears incident), and she regrets her decision to not address it sooner despite being aware of the possibility specifically because it’s caused him so much anguish. It’s a cold move, and her tears reflect just how much she considers him to be her friend.

It also might make a re-reading of Genshiken different, knowing that this was kind of on Kasukabe’s mind through all the aches and pains of burgeoning adulthood. I haven’t done so myself, but I’m sure it’d be a fun and interesting activity.

To end this review, I’d like to talk about a comment I received last month about the previous chapter. In it, the commenter expressed confusion as to why everyone seems to be encouraging Madarame to confess his feelings when everyone, from Madarame himself to Kohsaka the boyfriend to all of their friends, also realizes that it’s a foregone conclusion. One interpretation he came up with is that it would be a cruel prank on a poor guy who has nobly sacrificed his emotions for the sake of the greater good, which I had to respond to in order to explain that the confession and expected rejection aren’t part of some nasty prank or a way of ruining a friendship, but rather as a way of releasing a man from his inner burden, and to show how much stronger real friendship can be. With this chapter, we get to see that come to fruition. It’s a new stage for Madarame, or as the chapter title states, it’s a good “final episode” (don’t misinterpret that as saying that this is actually the final chapte, though). When it comes to Madarame and Genshiken, life is dramatic, but it’s also many other things too.

As the next chapter preview reference implies with its Smile Precure! nod, it’s a time for happiness. Ultra happiness (or not).