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.
Genshiken is a manga that I love.
I love it, and that’s precisely why it’s…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
I had a realization that this is like what happened to rock music.
If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.