Translation: “Otaku are Hybridized, Genshiken Nidaime is Painful”

NOTE: This is a translation of a post by noted Japanese blogger Tamagomago, concerning the subject of “otaku” in current society and its portrayal in Genshiken. You can follow him on Twitter @tamagomago and check out his, Tamagomago Gohan.

All of the image links use Tamagomago’s original Amazon referrals.

As a final note, Tamagomago has a particular writing style that involves separating sentences by line, and separating general ideas by larger spaces. In the past I’ve consolidated these things into paragraphs both for readability and because WordPress used to have a hard time with multiple line breaks. This time around, I’ve tried to leave his general style intact.

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Genshiken is a manga that I love.

I love it, and that’s precisely why it’s…

 

Painful.

 

The current Madarame Harem arc is really quite interesting.

Personally speaking, I read Volume 17 and I’m on the side that thinks, “It has to be Sasahara’s sister, right?”

That’s the sort of fun I’m having with it.

 

However…

It isn’t about “otaku” anymore.

It’s interesting as a “romantic story about a pathetic guy.”

 

This isn’t a problem with the storytelling in Genshiken.

It’s because times have changed.

The existence we call “otaku” has ceased to be.

That’s all there is to it.

———————————————————————-

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Genshiken Volume 1 came out in 2002.

That’s the same year as King Gainer, Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan!, Sister Princess RePure, Haibane Renmei, She, the Ultimate Weapon, Mahoromatic, Tokyo Mew Mew, Asagiri no Miko, Abenobashi Shopping Arcade, Azumanga Daioh, and RahXephon.

I think that it’s easy to understand the atmosphere at this time.

 

It was the dawning of a new Internet era. It was a time when 2chan had barely come into prominence.

There was no Nico Nico Douga.

 

We were just beginning to find freedom from the Eva Shock. We were already free from Miyazaki Tsutomu.

We felt guilty using the word otaku, and it was kind of embarrassing to like anime.

Anime such as Haruhi were yet to debut, and while we could make friends with people who also like anime and manga, we weren’t that open about it.

Those were the times.

 

Sasahara found in the Society for Modern Visual Culture a place where he could lay bare his otaku self. That was the first step.

Ogiue’s story was about fighting the trauma towards manga she harbored within her heart. That was the second step.

 

In both cases, the on-looker, the non-otaku, was symbolized by Saki.

———————————————————————-

Now, things have changed completely.

In fact, Genshiken Nidaime has been different from the very beginning.

In the first part of Nidaime, the series depicts the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture as a space for a group of BL-loving girls to work together.

Also, it’s the story of Hato, a crossdressing boy troubled by his worries.

Characters like Ogiue and Hato already have their pasts resolved by this part of the story.

 

In this first part of Nidaime, the state of “otaku” reaches a turning point just as the first chapter in Madarame’s story concludes.

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In this volume, we see the demise of the image of the ’00s “otaku.”

 

“Otaku” as a status, “otaku” as a community we depend on, the fun of trying to co-exist as both a member of society and as an “otaku.”

This is where it all ends.

 

When I say it’s over, I don’t mean, “there are no longer any otaku.”

Rather, the very word “otaku” has become hybridized.

 

That’s why Madarame, as an old-type otaku, has lost his place.

———————————————————————-

Madarame is actually a ’90s-type otaku.

Sasahara is a ’00s-type.

What’s different, you ask? It’s that the period between ’95 and ’96 is the dividing line before more and more people could be considered anime viewers and not otaku.

Sasahara gives the impression that “Otaku are out there, huh…”

Madarame is among the group of otaku who had to seek out others like themselves.

In an era without online networks, fans used analog means to get together and have fun.

It wasn’t a match over a network, but rather two people getting together to play.

———————————————————————-

For Madarame, he no longer needs to identify himself as “otaku.”

He certainly doesn’t look quite so sour anymore.

 

To put it boldly, everyone has become Kousaka.

Kousaka, unlike the other members of Genshiken, does not look like an otaku at first glance.

This is not something to be depressed or troubled over. Quite the opposite, it’s become totally okay to express your otaku hobbies.

———————————————————————-

I think this is a good thing.

There’s no longer that feeling of suffering and turmoil, like what Ogiue experienced.

There’s no longer that feeling that you can only ever belong to this specific group of people, like Kuga-pii.

Actually, Kugapii is in a nice place, working as a company employee.

 

There also isn’t anyone in Saki’s position.

In fact, I think that, even if Saki were perhaps in the club now, she wouldn’t have to pull everyone along like she used to.

After all, there’s no one left like Madarame, who would hem and haw. Everyone would just say, “Okay, okay,” in response to Saki and that would be the end of it.

You can think of that final kick Saki-chan gives Madarame as the demise of the “’90s otaku.”

 

Let’s talk about Sasahara’s little sister, who has dived straight into the thick of things.

The cabaret club story was interesting, wasn’t it?

That’s the feeling I’m talking about.

51JocGkSxsLTheory on the Adaptive Hybridization of Otaku subculture and Yankii Fast Food/Scenery

This book also came out recently. It’s really interesting so you should check it out.

I think the combination of otaku and subculture is easy to understand.

But they’ve also put yankii in there.

These yankii treat being a yankii nonchalantly, and even if they come into contact with otaku or subculture, it doesn’t bother them.

Here, I think you have the basis for the back and forth between the younger Sasahara and Madarame.

———————————————————————-

At this point, it’s unnecessary to identity oneself as “otaku,” nor is there a need to move and hide in secrecy. The fence between men and women has come loose.

 

Is it still necessary to depict “otaku?”

 

Works about otaku have been increasing.

However, everyone essentially looks cheerful, don’t they? They certainly don’t appear to be all that gloomy.

I think that Kirino in Oreimo has times when she looks gloomy, downright sour even (“Erotic games aren’t just popular shlock anymore, they’re deep!!)

Comparing her appearance and actions, however, she possesses the spirit of a retro otaku.

How is the “maid café” genre doing in manga? They don’t really touch Akihabara culture anymore, so there’s no way to tell.

Characters who go to Comic Market have become a part of normal manga.

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I totally love this manga.

There’s a lack of refinement in all directions. That said, there’s a cute underclassman (I won’t allow this! Take a good look!!).

There’s a lack of refinement, but take a look at their fashion. They’re plenty cheerful.

 

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This comes across more as fantasy, but Denki-Gai no Honya-san also has pure, proper otaku.

However, rather than being about otaku, I think that this work is actually more a story of “positive self-affirmation.”

It’s okay to read erotic manga! It’s okay to enjoy BL!

Along those lines, it even says, “It’s okay for you to fall in love!”

———————————————————————-

Genshiken is also similar to these manga. It’s a 2010s otaku… wait, the word otaku no longer exists. It’s changed direction to become a communication manga about a group of people who share a hobby.

The girls who appear in the story are, to put it differently, “reality.”

In terms of their fantastic elements, they would probably be ranked as:

 

Hato > Sue > Angela > Sasahara’s sister

 

The more to the right you go, the closer you get to reality.

In a way, Hato is a boy who acts out the role of the “ideal girl” (it’s not a gender identity disorder), so naturally I’m comfortable including him in this.

Angela is a little more likely to exist in Japan, even though she can be described as the girl who wants to date “OTAKU.” [Translator’s note: “OTAKU” here was originally written in English]

———————————————————————-

This Genshiken is a romance manga that’s cheerful and filled with happiness.

It’s fun.

 

It’s fun, but reading it is painful.

 

My own sense is that of Madarame’s generation, the ‘90s otaku.

 

It’s come to the point that I’ve said my farewells to that era, and I’m giving my regards to the younger generations.

 

I no longer build myself up into a kind of character.

———————————————————————-

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I have more empathy for this work.

It’s because he’s an adult otaku. More than that, I have a lot of friends who are just like this.

I understand this type, someone who’s no longer doing the otaku thing at full force, but still trudges along that path.

———————————————————————-

Perhaps Genshiken has at least made me into an “old boy,” who goes about saying, “Ah, youth!”

But that’s not quite right, is it?

There’s no gloom. There’s no anguish.

If it had become a completely different, unrelated world, I could say, “Wow! Look how this manga shines! How wonderful!” but that would only be a halfhearted, depressed reaction.

To grow up along with Genshiken wouldn’t in itself make me feel so awful.

“All of you, please move on.”

“You don’t belong here anymore.”

If you look at it that way, it’s painful.

———————————————————————-

However… it’s interesting so I keep reading.

It doesn’t matter that this is Genshiken. Manga is manga.

Yajima, Sue, Hato, all of them are cute. In particular, Yajima has gotten increasingly cute.

Ah, youngins!

 

Actually, on a personal level I find this girl to be the most amazing one of all.

“This alone makes Genshiken Volume 17 worth it.”

-Gogo Tamagomago of the Dead

 

Yoshitake is the character I like best in all of Nidaime.

It’s just, here’s a character that really positive, acting as the axis that influences both the suffering Hato and Yajima, all while Yoshitake herself doesn’t move one bit.

This face is the first time we get to see what’s underneath.

Ah.

She’s always cheerful, but doesn’t it seem like there’s something underneath the surface?

No matter what, I can’t take my eyes off of Yoshitake.

 

Speaking of which, someone (a woman) once said, “Yoshitake’s fashion is really female otaku-esque.”

Somehow, I can understand that at least a little.

Though, it’s more like, Yoshitake is the very image of the female otaku during the time when Nidaime first began.

———————————————————————-

I took a long time to write this.

 

Right now, I’m not an “otaku” nor am I part of a “subculture.”

I realize I’m now an adult who doesn’t “belong” to anything like that.

I think it’s a joyful thing. I can like what I like and then write about it.

 

And yet, why is it so painful?

Why do I feel such sadness when I read Genshiken?

 

It’s probably because the first part of Genshiken is a story of youth coming from the idea of “deviation,” but between Hato’s change of heart and Madarame’s situation being reset, there’s no need to be deviant.

It’s a sentiment I don’t understand, and it’s just not something I have in common with them.

Please give me the courage to continue along in this deviant subculture – Tamagomago Gohan

Even as I become an adult, I don’t feel like one – Tamagomago Gohan

Even re-reading the above articles, I really don’t understand after all.

Even though I understand that I’ve become an adult and moved on.

 

The depression that comes from Genshiken continues to grow.

It’s simply that I’ve reached a bothersome age.

 

Is it just that I’m still trying to find myself?

———————————————————————-

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Actually, I feel like this title can give me a hint.

It’s a manga I absolutely cannot ignore.

That’s because, when I read it I feel relieved.

I feel like there’s a hint here.

———————————————————————-

Ah, could it be? Is it because they don’t really talk about their favorite things in Genshiken Volume 17?

They do for a little bit, but their words feel somehow unnatural.

However, I understand that these are “otaku.” They’re otaku who don’t depend on being anything.

———————————————————————-

And yet, I love Genshiken.

 

The End.

———————————————————————-

Notes:

I had a realization that this is like what happened to rock music.

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25 thoughts on “Translation: “Otaku are Hybridized, Genshiken Nidaime is Painful”

  1. “However… it’s interesting so I keep reading.”

    That’s me with Genshiken Nidaime. It isn’t the Genshiken that I fell in love with years ago, but it is interesting.

    I’m not a Rika fan though. I find her to be an irritating person, probably because I knew someone like her in real life.

    Anyway, thanks for translating this piece. ^_^

    Like

  2. Fascinating read, thanks so much for translating. I’m always interesting to read what japanese fans of Genshiken have to say about the series.

    I think Kio himself is very aware of the changes going on in the otaku subculture and is writing the story differently to account for it. Seeing Madarame as a representation of that “old-type” otaku who’s lost his place is really interesting. I think stories like Spotted Flower, Danna go Nani, and Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki are signs of a very happy, positive message on otakus being able to fall in love and get married and even have children, and the former two have reformed Saki-type wives that simply see their husband’s otakuness as lovable quirks.

    I wonder if, instead of “otaku brothers in arms” bromance finishes like Otaku no Video, we’ll get more romance finishes instead? I guess this all started with Densha Otoko, but I’m pretty sure he gave up his otakuness in the end as part of his “reformation into normality”.

    Anyways, like Tamagomago, I’m also looking forward to seeing what’s really going on under the hood with Yoshitake. I find it funny he called Hato cute and mentioning gender identity disorder too, but while his story does seem to be over I think there’s more left in him later (at least I hope so), but we’ll see. But for now, yes, more yosh!

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  3. Personally, I’m a fan of Yoshitake (also wonder what’s simmering under the surface, especially as she’s the only one that hasn’t really “grown” yet in the series), and think Hato’s story isn’t over yet, to be honest.

    Always really enjoy Tamagomago’s posts, as he constantly tries to find something that ties all of Genshiken together. And in the process, hits on some incisive points, like how the identity of otaku has continued to change and how the nature of the work seems to try to reflect that.

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  4. Thank you for this, second time tonight I have hit a “Life is given only in return for a full measure of time” post, but this one was brilliant. “everyone has become Kousaka” , . And as something popped up just a few hours ago, I am seeing a Rika Yoshitake in a slightly different light. There is steel inside – sometimes a switch flips and the edge shows… Great stuff! Cheers… /M

    Like

  5. The following is a response I’ve written about a month ago in regards to some of the complaints on 4chan I’ve seen about the recent Madame harem storyline:

    I’ve been reading Genshiken for a long time and I really think the comic is at it’s best and most compelling right now. I don’t understand why so many people complain about it’s current storyline because the comic has always been about “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”, which is also an analogy for the series itself and how it satires different aspects of popular otaku culture & anime themes.

    Genshiken used to be about male otakus hanging out, playing games and attending cons, but that was what the anime culture was like over 10 years ago. It has drastically changed and shifted and right now the creator is playing and flipping on it’s head the trend of “Fujoshi, Harem & Traps” which is a huge part of the mainstream anime & manga culture today.

    I find it extremely entertaining that he is presenting a harem situation with a satirical approach and shows just how ridiculous the concept can be when it happens in a somewhat realistic sense to an otaku. But Kio is so skilled at it that at the same time very good character driven drama and comedy are also what makes it really one of the best comic out there.

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    • Very well put. If Genshiken had continued in the same vein, wouldn’t it have gotten pretty boring? As the Japanese blogger said in better words, anime and manga are no longer sub, but pop culture. As such, otaku as a word is fast becoming obsolete. Hato is a wonderful character, and I think Genshiken Nidaime is ground breaking stuff.

      Like

      • While I don’t know how the numbers are for Genshiken Nidaime in Japan, just the fact that it’s continued for this long I think shows that it at least resonates with a part of the culture that’s witness to these changes, or perhaps are the “new generation” themselves and see themselves in these characters.

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  6. Good translation. I liked the input from a japanese reader, and to an extent, critic of this media. Genshiken Nidaime at first had me baffled, and then I realized that it was interesting in itself, but not necessarily the same Genshiken I was expecting. But it is so good, you don´t feel completely cut off from the old cast. Time also flows in the Genshiken universe, and not in the usual concept we mention usually, but in the personal and social aspect. The long time readers like Tamagomago Gohan, can notice this ever in so slighty way, but also mix in their own experience.Few manga have this approach done in such a subtle manner. In Genshiken´s time there only has been very few years passed. I don´t think they´re exactly in year 2015…

    P.D. Otaku aren´t hybridized… I think, on the contrary, they are becoming a mainstream culture, akin to “pop culture”, in which the marginalization of said preferences doesn´t make sense. In a way, this the thriumph of the commercial explosion (or exploitation?) of animé/ manga since the nineties, and his pinnacle, also. It is quite simple, really. Like being a cinephile, or an audiophile, “otaku-ism” had shed his self-loathing cap, and become one with this new mediatized society, so ever profusely connected in a glazing virtual world. They´re plenty valid now. And the mentioned dissapointment of “old otakus”, I think it is a very fickle thing. In reality, they´re glad and, quite possibly well-adjusted to these changes in the fray. In fact,it is quite possible that those “thirty-somethings or above” people have pushed this very change in these years, more so than the new generations.

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    • I don’t know about Japan, but in the west otaku used to have a common goal – spreading the good word about anime/manga. This changed when the perception became “everyone knows about anime/manga already.” This is when the fandom retired the western old-type.

      I find it interesting that aggregate sites like YouTube and NND became prominent at the exact same time and populated by people that later became the new breeds of otaku. It was the same for the west and Japan.

      Anyway, I sympathize with the guy. My experience has been younger fans aren’t interested in anime as much as they’re interested in communication. They treat the hobby as a search tool for finding the people they like and when they achieve that the tool isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m aware this experience largely depends on where you live and practice your hobby.

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      • Actually I think what you describe about younger fans happen plenty to older fans too, as in it has nothing to do with age but more so to your attachment to the subculture/scene. Naturally someone who’s “quit” so to speak isn’t going to be around as an older fan, at least not in that sense.

        The way I approach what was described in this translated post is kind of the thing I liked best from Whisper of the Heart, in that it captures a slice of something very well from a specific time and place. In Genshiken’s case it’s very much the Sasahara and Madarame concepts, and how Madarame continues into the current series. It has that distinct ’90s otaku flavor, and Sasahara is indeed very much a 00s sort of thing. Of course the two comparisons are vastly different, but I feel what Shimizu did was capture not just characters, but also the overall attitude and feeling people had about those eras.

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  8. On Yoshitake, I tend to see her as representing the ideal modern otaku girl(friend) (represented by Ohno in the original series): someone cute, social, bright and fun while still also being dorky and nerdy enough to be approachable (basically, the otaku version of Manic Pixie Dream Girl). And Yajima of course is the opposite of that (represented by Ogiue (IMHO) in the original), the pessimistic ‘real’ otaku girl.

    Of course, there’s more to Yajima, Ohno and Ogiue than that, so I hope we’ll finally see Yoshitake get some development and depth too.

    Like

    • While I’m sure you’d agree that it’s more complex than how you describe it, your idea brings up an interesting point. If indeed Yoshitake and Ohno represent ideal otaku girlfriends, then it would mean that the ideal itself has changed over time. Ohno, especially as she first appeared, is quite different from Yoshitake, though later Ohno shares some similarities.

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  9. Sure, it’s just my (very simplified) way of reading the characters.

    I do think that the ideal has changed, just like how being otaku has changed and become more acceptable. I think this applies to their body types as well and how the otaku tastes have changed over the years.

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