Harem Heat: Genshiken II, Chapter 98

Sue’s moved in next to Hato and the awkwardness is palpable. The rest of the Genshiken girls pick their horses in the Madarame race: Yoshitake believes in Keiko x Mada, Yajima is for Hato x Mada, Ogiue supports Sue x Mada, and Ohno picks Angela x Mada. Meanwhile, Sue and Hato visit Madarame to take care of him while he’s still recovering from his illness. There, the harem-like scenario prompts Hato to make his intentions clear and obvious.

I find the discussion between the girls about who they think would work best with Madarame fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, you can tell that each girl’s pick has different degrees of idealism and pragmatism. Yajima and Ohno are kind of longshots because of gender and distance respectively, while Ogiue for example thinks Sue and Madarame are a good match and Yoshitake’s preference for Keiko, as she’s explained before, has to do with trying to keep all her friends. Second, I find that it calls back to one of the basic questions of Nidaime, which is what would this club be like if it were mostly girls? Here, we can see how the act of pairing common to female otaku extends beyond simply the realm of BL and into the possibility of heterosexual relationships as well. It’s also interesting seeing them blur that fantasy/reality line, especially with Yajima who digs Hato but is a sucker for the Hato x Mada pairing.

The main topic of the chapter, however, is the rivalry between Hato and Sue. Hato’s begun to make some serious moves, like learning how to cook better so that he doesn’t disappoint Madarame, dropping as many lines as he possibly can to make his feelings all but crystal clear (“I’d like to cook for you again, Madarame, but without Sue around”), and outright mentioning the “harem” atmosphere. Yet, Hato finds that he doesn’t mind being a part of this harem, something which I can only attribute to the very staticness that is at the core of harem manga as a genre. In this state, Hato gets to express his feelings without there being any commitment one way or another, allowing him to participate without the consequences of having “winners and losers.” In other words, Hato probably thinks this is the closest he’ll ever get to really being with Madarame.

If there’s one thing about this chapter that really stands out visually, it’s the intensity of the blushing. Sue, Hato, and Madarame seem to have this reciprocal relationship where when one person’s face turns red, the other’s goes one step further, like they’re having an arms race using their cheeks. The blushing possesses an almost three-dimensional quality, like it fills the very room I’m sitting in, and I can’t tell whether or not I should be blushing as well. I think the key to this is how Kio successfully communicates the escalating sense of embarrassment that the characters, especially Hato, experience in this chapter.

Seeing Sue go wide-eyed over Hato’s soup, for a brief moment, I thought Sue might actually start to fall in love with him instead. Of course, that’s not what happens,  and instead you get this sort of grudging respect from Sue for Hato. As stated in the chapter, Sue mainly only eats convenience store bentou (I think the reference she makes in this episode is actually to Ben-To!), and while those things tend to be quite tasty (seriously, they’re really good), it doesn’t match up to the level of a proper home-cooked meal. As Sue becomes increasingly prominent in the manga, I wonder if she’ll begin to express self-doubts similar to Yajima’s to go with her perpetual shyness around Madarame.

Probably the most interesting topic in this chapter for me is the way Madarame feels that he simply cannot rely on harem anime and manga to navigate this situation. His reason is not simply that it’s unrealistic, but that the tendency for harems in shows to keep everyone at arms’ length so that everybody can be happy and the protagonist can have fun without any real repercussions doesn’t work when it comes to real people. Even indecisiveness has its consequences, and as we’ve seen already, it’s a topic where Madarame is surprisingly thoughtful.

Next chapter is the return of Yoshitake’s basketball-playing little sister of questionable tastes, Risa. I’m actually pretty excited, as I’ve been hoping for Kio to do more with her, especially because she had a few plot threads left from last time. There’s no telling if any of them will get resolved, but I’m just curious how she might factor into this whole complex relationship web, given that she also may or may not be interested in Hato.

One last thing: I can’t believe how good Ogiue looks in this chapter. I feel like Kio over the course of Nidaime has been working with somewhat unfamiliar territory when it comes to Ogiue’s character design. It’s substantially different from her old look, and I feel like he’s been gradually getting more comfortable with expressing Ogiue’s character as she currentlyexists in a way which properly captures where she’s been in the past and how she’s overcome all of that. In a way, she almost gives off a Kasukabe vibe, but in a way which is unmistakably Ogiue. The hoodie/dress shirt combination doesn’t hurt, either.

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12 thoughts on “Harem Heat: Genshiken II, Chapter 98

  1. Thanks for this! I get an idea when I look slowly through a Raw scan but his helped affirm what I was guessing to be going on. I really want HatoxMada. Although Hato is a guy, it could work! Hell, if it came to it, gender-changes are easily possible nowadays.

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  2. Pingback: I could take care of that for me | HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES

  3. I think that the best pair is still Madarame and Sue for the tastes and personalities. But in real life, it would be probably Keiko to win. She knows how to get a guy, she as a lot more of experience.

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  4. Though its a little unlikely with the way things are going, i still think Keiko’s going to win, since she fits the best with Mada in my eyes and that keeps Yajima’s chances with Hato alive. The most interesting part will definitely be Mada rejecting the other candidates, since it draws parallels to relationship with Saki, except now it’s his turn to do the rejecting.

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    • That should indeed be interesting. Madarame’s own (limited) life experience tells him that it’s not necessary all bad to be left without closure for years, but unlike his situation with Saki the ‘winner’ of the harem (if there is one) isn’t a forgone conclusion and at least one of the people he’d be locking in limbo is in a somewhat more precarious situation emotionally (Hato.)

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  5. “i still think Keiko’s going to win, since she fits the best with Mada”

    Keiko is the is the best fit because Keiko is the closest to what Mada actually wants – as far as can be ascertained. Note, what Mada actually wants and what Mada thinks he wants aren’t really the same thing – we humans are often not particularly good at making this distinction. To a certain extent, all the other routes are fantasies.

    Angela can be written off fairly easily; the sheer logistics of it make a real relationship impossible, and Mada has already shown that he isn’t interested casual sex. The opportunity was there and he firmly rejected it; I don’t see this changing.

    Hato is the perfect girl, or would be if she was a girl. But she’s not. And I don’t see any way past that. To clarify, Hato is the the perfect girl in the ‘onnagata’ sense, not the “perfect for Mada” sense. We don’t even get to the point of conceptualizing what an actually relationship between these two people would be like, because we’re stuck on the level of performance. Any interest shown so far by Mada has been entirely superficial – if he were to fall in love with Hato it would be with the performance, not the person underneath. In fact, its not even clear that Hato knows what he wants out of this – as long as it stays at the level of performance, no one has to make any hard decisions – which is kind of the whole point.

    As for Sue – in theory, she should be an otaku’s wet dream. Blonde, loli, anime/manga obsessed, delightfully awkward and quirky. Sort of like having your own Konata. In theory, this could work out great – shared interests FTW. Sure, realistically there’d be cultural hurdles, and dealing with poor communication issues, etc… but these are not insurmountable by any means. And most tempting, it wouldn’t force Madarame to grow up. Otaku for life, only with a partner in crime. So why doesn’t this work? It would be a great option if that is what Mada actually wanted. But I don’t see any sign of that. Rame has shown little to no romantic inclination toward Sue, so at this point the attraction is the Peter Pan fantasy – not having to grow up, make compromises, and become a real person.

    Keiko works, because Keiko is the best approximation of what Mada – despite of himself – has been shown to want. She’s made of the same sort of stuff that Saki is. She isn’t Saki, of course, and she has her own (significant) flaws, but ultimately she’s real in a way the other choices are not. The central obstacle is that Madarame would have to give up a portion of his Otaku identity to take this route. The real world can be a scary place… but its a sacrifice that needs to be made if he’s ever to get what he’s really looking for. This involves A) a realization, and B) a tough decision. I don’t think he’s ready just quite yet, but I have a suspicion that the reality of this harem thing is going to help shatter a few illusions and get him moving in the right direction.

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    • Does Madarame know what he wants? He’s still stuck in the “i so t want to stop being an otaku who has to make hard choices” phase.

      He’s pretty certain that Angela’s out – he mentally nixed that option ages ago, even when she was very blatantly throwing herself at him. Sue is also out, because he sorta likes her… but as you’ve pointed out, he doesn’t seem to like her romantically. Anything would have to start on Sue’s side, and she’s almost as in deep denial of real life relationships as Madarame (ergo the Ogiue is me waifu) actions in previous chapters. Sue sorta likes him in a romantic sense, but she doesn’t seem inclined to change the status quo.

      Hato also somewhat likes Madarame romantically, and Madarame keeps blushing around Hato, due to Hato triggering the “cute girl” response. Hato acts very girlish, and has in the last two chapters done or in a way that seems designed to get Madarame’s attention – certainly Yoshitake picked up on that. His main issue is whether he’d want to go beyond the level of relationship one would see in a non-H manga: he doesn’t seem sure of it himself, and feels it probably wouldn’t work past what you could show in screen on TV. Madarame himself also resists the idea, so that’s basically a wash. They could okay at a relationship, but both of them don’t seem willing to push too hard.

      Keiko… she’s the wild card. She likes Madarame, but seemingly in a tsundere way. She could go the distance, if she felt he was being serious about it. It Madarame doesn’t think if her that way, for the most part, at this time. Sure, he mistook her for Saki once, but he’s had Saki on the brain for ages and he could’ve mistaken anyonefor her at that point, if I read that chapter correctly. But he’s not likely to push for a relationship, which is the same problem he’d have with Sue – he’s comfortable in his current situation. Unlike Sue, Keiko might push for things the way Saki did when chasing Kousaka. Whether she will or not is another story.

      One thing to note is that Saki had to chase Kousaka rather far, and push very hard, in order to get him – he was similarly unmotivated to start things, as much as he might have liked her – Kousaka certainly never showed all that much of his inner thoughts before Madarame basically said “kiss her already” to him. Saki always had to lead in that relationship, and still had to lead somewhat after that… the way Keiko or anyone will have to lead and push Madarame.

      Angela, barring a sudden move to Japan, doesn’t have the time to push, and maybe not the motivation or persistence. Hato has not the desire to push hard – he wants Madarame to make the first move if there one to be made. Sue won’t do it, as she’s the most like Madarame with regards to being in denial of RL relationships (remember her riajju rant?). Keiko might do it… If she wants to. She’s the only game in town at this point, short of Saki dumping Kousaka,and she’s invested too much to let go of that relationship easy.

      Every other pairing in the Genshiken has some basis on shared interests (Tanaka likes making things and taking photos of cosplayers, Ohno wants to cosplay and be seen; Ogiue wanted to be accepted and to draw manga, and Sasahara liked it enough that he’s ended up stumbling into an editor job that has him working with creators like Ogiue). Only Saki/Kousaka was ever based on a mutual “like” that had nothing to do with shared interests. Keiko/Mada would also fit into this category, unlike Sue or Hato. Whether Keiko is interested enough to go throughh the crap Saki did is another question.

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      • “Does Madarame know what he wants? He’s still stuck in the “i so t want to stop being an otaku who has to make hard choices” phase.”

        No, I don’t think he does. He sort of gave up on himself around when he gave up on Saki. The only thing he’s interested in at this point is maintaining the status quo; unfortunately, the status quo now is “harem” – and therefore impossible to maintain, no matter how superficially desirable it might seem to a dedicated Otaku. Mada knows this on an intellectual level, but experiencing it is another thing entirely, as he is just finding out. What Mada really needs is a swift kick in the ass to get him moving in the right direction (he’s currently stagnant); luckily for him, I think his friends will be there to provide it for him (because he certainly won’t do it himself). Expect the harem situation to blow up in a spectacular way. Once its all over, hopefully Mada will have a better grasp on what he wants and what he’s ready for…

        “Whether Keiko is interested enough to go through the crap Saki did is another question.”

        When this all started Keiko was clearly just toying with him, but I have a feeling she’s the sort of girl who doesn’t take kindly to competition, (even when she didn’t realize she was competing in the first place); 所で、Angela-san is pretty awesome. While I’m sure she’d prefer to be with Rame if that were a legitimate option, she’s been working damn hard to fix him up regardless. That’s ofuro scene with Keiko? That was some serious nudging. She knows exactly what she’s doing. I expect her inevitable return to serve as a catalyst. Practically speaking, I doubt that Keiko would put any serious weight on Sue or Hato as rivals. But Angela…

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        • I don’t know if the kick will work; he’s gone back into his shell whenever facing something unpleasant to challenging. That’s why he took that job by the school when he graduated, or ran whenever things got tough. He COULD get dragged out of his rut, but it’ll involve a lot of effort. I don’t know if Keiko wants to put it in, unless there’s something prodding her (like a serious challenger). She’s not quite sure she wants anything serious, but that puts her above Angela (who definitely isn’t on this for a serious romance), Hato (who isn’t sure he could go all the way for real), or Sue (who’s in denial as much as Madarame himself).

          I expect Sue will cause the explosion between herself and Hato somehow: in panic mode, she doesn’t plan too well, and often screws up the image she’s trying to present.

          I still say Keiko isn’t ready to put up with as much as Saki did at the start of her chase of Kousaka. Saki had the childhood cup rush plus the “damn, he’s HOT” thing to egg her on at the beginning, then the “I’ll drag him back to the real world” bit because of her ego, then finally the “I seriously like him, otaku and all” realization. Keiko sees Madarame as a fixer-upper, and would probably only pursue him seriously if she felt pressure to. But if she puts her mind to it, I expect Keiko to get him by making Madarame realize that growing up doesn’t mean losing the otaku identity he fixates on as being all-defining.

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  6. Wow.. great discussion, but I now understand what Madarame wants (hint – he didn’t fixate on Saki during the cat ears episode) and who he will get. He has a weakness for heroines.

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