Chapter 97 of Genshiken II has quite a few significant developments, but they appear almost when you least expect them.
Yoshitake and Yajima decide to check out Hato’s new apartment, which is closer to the university. As they relax together, Yoshitake persists in trying to get Yajima to make a move on Hato or at least do something. The conversation goes to the topic of Madarame (who’s been looking for a new job), who then turns out to have a cold, prompting a visit.
While Hato uses his spare key to check up on Madarame and returns it, Yoshitake finally gets Yajima to admit that she has some feelings for Hato. As they discuss the fact that there’s actually an open apartment in Madarame’s building, Sue pulls up in a moving truck revealing that she will be living next to Hato (edit: not Madarame like I previously thought) from now on.
I find this chapter fairly difficult to process because it progresses so deceptively. What appears to start out as a Hato-centric chapter slowly reveals itself to be actually more of a Yajima and Yoshitake story, while the idle chit chat of the beginning eventually transforms into probably the most serious conversation about sexual orientation seen thus far in Genshiken. This unusual pacing makes it so that when Yajima finally quietly and grudgingly admits that she has some feelings for Hato (“…I don’t not like him”), it’s so subtle yet upfront that at least for me personally it feels like there’s a delayed response, like I’ve been hit by Kenshiro and am just waiting for my head to explode once it fully processes all of the implications.
Yajima’s moment plays out in the page below, and just the juxtaposition between her face and Yoshitake’s delightfully beaming face over getting her friend to finally come out with what Yoshitake herself has known all along is probably the highlight of the chapter. I know that manga sometimes gets ragged on for focusing too much on faces and not trying to draw more anatomically realistic characters or backgrounds, and then that the common response is to whip out something with really nice rendered art like Berserk. However, I think it’s important to appreciate skillfull use of faces in terms of creating a strong sense of flow and composition, even when it’s just two panels.
There’s also this sense of a narrative passing of the baton as while Hato has come to accept his feelings for Madarame, now it’s Yajima’s turn for conflict and confusion. In Yajima’s case it has nothing to do with her own sexual orientation. Instead, as far as I can interpret things, it has a lot to do with her own poor self-image mixed with some guilt over how she’s treated Hato and the realization that Hato feels something for Madarame. More than her appearance or her fondness for Shounen Jump analogues, it’s moments like these, where Yajima diminishes the value of her own romantic affections in favor of what’s already where, that makes Yajima feel really and truly like an awkward otaku.
As an aside, as much as I like Kinnikuman myself, I’m always a little surprised to see it referenced so readily in anime and manga, a reminder of how popular and beloved it really is. In this case, it’s Yajima using the Hell’s Guillotine, a signature move of the villain Akuma Shogun when she retaliates against Yoshitake’s antics.
When Yoshitake discusses sexuality, she mentions the idea that the fujoshi fantasy world of BL pairings is far different from the reality of a homosexual relationship and that there are (social) challenges awaiting anyone who accepts being part of a sexual minority. Not only is this rather poignant and serious, but together with the fact that she considers the likely reality that someone is going to get hurt in this no matter what, this chapter really highlights the fact that Yoshitake really thinks a lot of her friends. That said, she also kind of brushes aside her high school friends in a comment to Yajima and Hato, thought I take that as her having different types of friendships with different people. Even her friendships with Yajima and Hato individually aren’t quite the same.
As for Sue, the comedy potential for her living next to Hato is obvious, but it casts an interesting context in retrospect on Sue’s appearance in Chapter 95. While Sue being surrounded by mountains of merchandise epitomizes her as a mighty otaku, it also gives off this stark image of loneliness and isolation, which might explain in part the decision to move.
The last thing I want to do is go back to the faces, because this chapter has some of the best I’ve ever seen in Genshiken. You can already see in the Yajima-Yoshitake image above. The series has always been pretty good with the expressions, especially with the old Ogiue’s intense glares and Yoshitake’s general aloofness, but I feel like they’re on a whole other level here.
Seeing this Ogiue face below fills me with a strange kind of glee. In it, she’s basically refusing to get anywhere near a beauty salon. It’s interesting but also completely in character for her to be especially uncomfortable going to that sort of place even though she’s become much more fashionable over time.
Kio Shimoku is trolling us… Am I missing something, or are Hato and Sue now in Mada’s apartment block? I have ripped up my Sue x Mada shipping club membership card; It’s Sue after Hato now fer sure! Only tough Sue-lurv can resolve the 3, 4, 5 faces of Hato-ness and keep them from meltdown. All makes perfect sense now, yup….
Hmm… i though it was Sue coincidentally moving into _Hato’s_ new apartment building (and right next door, at that), with neither of them moving into Madarame’s?
Oh it is, my mistake. They were talking about how there’s a vacancy about Madarame’s and then Sue moves into a vacancy next to Hato. A swerve!
Hato needs to read “Bitter Syrup” which is a collection of oneshots by various artists, each one taking cross-dressing
as its theme (or having cross-dressing ensue at some point).
Also seen as Syrup[Bitter] and it is bitter. This is not about traps
so often as about the traps of a particular lifestyle.
Whoa! Bitter indeed! That first story!
Lawl. I enjoy reading your analysis of Genshiken updates, time to time. This chapter appears almost uneventful, but that´s deceiving. Kio Shimoku, indeed, is a subtle storyteller, capable of nuances about the mundane, but at the same time, handles with humor every wacky moment. He never threats with contempt his own characthers. The downside is that whenever he updates I am left wanting more and more. Gee.
The characterization of Yajima´s character is interesting. She´s one of those real “normal” girls you can see everyday, specially those who don´t fit the “cute” or “kawaii” image on the mainstream media. She has troubles, and self-image problems (many overweight people do, others don´t). But at the same time, she shows bouts of conviction and insight. I look forward to her growth, whether she decides to go actively after Hato or not. Who knows, perhaps there will be surprise on her.
Kio Shimoku is such a tease. First Yoshitake makes her speech on how two guys can’t get together unless they are gay, and thus Mada x Hato is impossible, and I was almost convinced… and then Hato-chan goes into Madarame’s place, finds him asleep, and proves once again that she is the best girlfriend a man can wish for.
No girl could possibly be this cute — not to mention tender, thoughtful, loving and caring. I’m for Mada x Hato more than ever. If Madarame rejects him on the grounds that he has a chinchin, he is not a man.
A bit OT, but does anyone think THIS might one day feature our fave?
I always thought Yajima had a bit more to her character when she was first introduced, given she was the Sashara-analogue. So happy she’s getting a bit more focus.
In my opinion, Yajima was (and still is) the Madarame analogue: having a crush on the cute and stylish bishounen just like Madarame had a crush on the beautiful, sexy, stylish Saki. And, of course, it’s sad for Yajima because it will never work. Except maybe in a parallel-world spinoff, Spotted Flower style.
She also did, at first sight, fall for Yoshitake “Rihito”.
Hmmm… On the other hand Hato-kun is not especially cute or stylish, like Sasahara was; Hato as male is rather plain, or perhaps he’s in camo mode. It’s Hato-chan who is the cute, stylish persona.
Argh! Of course, where I wrote Sasahara I meant Kousaka. Also ‘sexy’ instead of ‘cute’. I shouldn’t have replied so hastily and at such a late hour…
I can’t really read Japanese. Luckily, this chapter has been translated to Italian and to English, and I have read both versions.
Now I’m a little confused.
The big scene where Yoshitake and Yajima talk about how Mada x Hato is impossible and things won’t go well for Hato — cuz Madarame is not gay and will reject him — is presented in two completely different ways.
The Italian translation makes it sound like Yoshitake is speculating about what will happen with Hato — that is, he will be heartbroken, etc. — and then has this idea: hey, maybe Yajima can catch him on the rebound? And Yajima says “…I don’t am not okay with that…” or something equally convoluted that actually means that, yes, she likes the idea. (At the same time admitting to Yoshitake that she does like Hato, finally being honest about her feelings.)
The English translation, on the other hand, makes it sound like Yoshitake is trying to understand Yajima’s puzzling behavior: why is she pushing Hato into Madarame’s arms, if it’s obvious it won’t work? And then Yoshitake has a revelation: oh god it’s all part of Yajima’s plan to get Hato!! After Madarame breaks his heart, Yajima will be there to comfort Hato and will take the chance to win him for herself!! And Yajima admits that yes, that was her plan all along.
The second version makes Yajima sound kinda machiavellian… I wonder which one is the correct one? Someone who understands Japanese please tell me!
The way I read the scene is that Yajima has no greater plan to catch Hato on the rebound or through some complex scheme. Rather, Yajima’s contradictory behavior is because she isn’t allowing herself to admit TO HERSELF that she’s actually interested in Hato, and Yoshitake is trying to coax the confession out of her and ultimately succeeds.
I think the issue lies in the fact that Yoshitake asks if Yajima is aiming for Hato, and people are reading this as her aiming for a scenario where Hato falls into her arms, but I think it’s more about how Hato, being the kind of guy who would get hurt in such a situation, is also the very same Hato Yajima has feelings for. At least, that’s how I read it.
Now that I think about it, Yajima is kind of doing to Hato what Hato was trying to do to Madarame: push him off onto someone else so that she can preserve her existing situation and act as if her feelings never really existed at all.
There’s a bit of ambiguity since Yoshitake phrases it as a hypothetical situation that Yajima could potentially aim for Hato on the rebound, and Yajima uses a double negative to neither firmly affirm nor firmly deny the possibility. She reluctantly admits that such a situation is possible but Yoshitake takes it as a kind of confirmation since it’s the closest Yajima has come to admitting that she might chase after Hato (not just that she’s interested, but that she might actually act on that interest, by the verb choice). Yoshitake’s manner of speech as she leads up to the ‘revelation’ might be read as a bit coy though I think she considers Yajima’s behavior less in the ‘Machiavellian’ vein so much as consistent with the chapter’s theme of various characters acting more ‘womanly.’ It’s sometimes hard to tell how serious Yoshitake is, though…
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