Hatoful: Genshiken II, Chapter 110

After successfully getting a drunk and passed out Kuchiki back to the hotel, Madarame invites Hato to drink and talk. With the help of some liquid courage, Hato pours out his thoughts on crossdressing, his exact feelings for Madarame, and the line between fantasy and reality. After their long and revealing conversation, Madarame gets up, but inadvertently does the harem protagonist thing and ends up in a compromising position with Hato due to a combination of Madarame’s poor physical strength, alcohol, and a rogue shoe.

Chapter 110 is, in a word, heavy. Or thoughtful (insert Japanese pun here). Most of the pages and panels consist of Hato just gradually letting it all out, talking through his issues while trying to resolve them (though perhaps making them worse?), and it really leaves an impression. Though we’ve known for quite a while now how Hato feels about Madarame, to also see a fuller elaboration of Hato’s complex personality and circumstances that has been wrapped around those feelings makes me think that this is one of the most important chapters in Genshiken.

Hato mentions a lot of things, including why he has avoided coming over to Madarame’s after Valentine’s Day (the situation was too much like a BL narrative for him to be comfortable), but what it all comes down to in terms of Hato’s inner conflict is the idea that “reality can never be BL.” It’s a subject that gets talked about a fair deal in both fan and academic circles, because of how BL’s portrayal of homosexual relationships is highly romanticized; some have even called it problematically unrealistic as a form of storytelling that generally appeals more to women than to actual gay men. Are Hato’s feelings too mixed up in his fundashi ways for him to separate his fondness for yaoi from an actual relationship with Madarame, and is that even what he wants to do?

In the case of Ogiue back in the first series, we saw that the answer was “yes and no.” Though she drew doujinshi of Sasahara and Madarame, she said that the fictional Sasahara was more of a character than anything else. At the same time, Sasahara has slowly incorporated bits of his own BL parody’s personality, namely a position as a “strong seme” that thrills and plays into Ogue’s own fantasies. What I find interesting with Hato here is that he’s not so much worrying about treating Madarame like a 2D character but wondering how much he can maintain his own position and life between fantasy and reality.

This can be seen in Hato’s explanation that he’s tried to maintain the “Madarame harem” as much as possible, because his actions essentially push reality as close to the fantasy of the harem series (and Hato’s chances with Madarame) that it can go without breaking the “illusion.” Years ago, I wrote a post (and never wrote a part 2. Whoops!) about how many protagonists in harem series are purposefully passive and indecisive because it means that, not only does every girl (or guy if it’s a reverse harem) get the chance, but the main character through their passivity is essentially free of any true error. It’s a kind of stasis or holding pattern, and in a previous chapter Madarame even comments internally how this is actually untenable in reality (even indecision has its consequences). Hato essentially tries the same thing, but by not being the “center” of the harem, it has something of a different intention and effect.

From Hato’s perspective, Madarame is essentially straight (even if he does play games about extremely effeminate crossdressing boys who get pregnant), so Hato has the least chance of winning Madarame compared to Angela, Sue, and Keiko. Once, Madarame even said back in Chapter 79 that it was “biologically impossible.” Hato believed that the closest he could come to being with Madarame was in this “harem” format. It occupies roughly the same school of thought as “I’m happy if the person I love is happy” (Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura) and “I can substitute my love for another girl with that girl’s twin brother who looks almost exactly alike” (Kana in Aki Sora). It’s likely why Keiko dislikes him so much. As we see in this chapter, though, Hato believes it’s time to move on, and that Madarame should choose one of the girls who are pursuing him.

There’s actually an extra fold in all of this concerning Hato. Even as he realizes that he’s gay or perhaps bisexual and can identify himself that way when dressed as a man, he still wants to continue to crossdress for reasons somewhat unrelated to his sexuality. It helps him to draw as he wants to. It makes him comfortable when talking to friends and making new ones. All along, he’s mentioned that BL and real guys are two different things, and that the crossdressing doesn’t reflect his sexual preferences. It still carries that meaning, but more in that Hato the man who has feelings for Madarame is not 100% the same as Hato the “woman” that loves to discuss BL. Or is that really the case? It seems like Hato himself doesn’t entirely know, though one possibility is laid out in Spotted Flower where the equivalent of Hato is either in the process of transitioning physically into a woman, or has done so already. As that’s supposed to vaguely be an alternate what-if scenario, it’s not clear if this Hato is the same way deep down, but his own view of himself as male or female seems likely.

I think it’s worth mentioning briefly that, within Genshiken itself, we see another character who tries to toe the line between fantasy and reality in Kuchiki, who loves the idea of the girl-boyas, though he’s shown to desire a world more like his anime fantasies than his reality, just as much if not more than Hato.

Of course, all of this has been focusing on one half of the equation for this chapter. What about Madarame? How does he really feel? Though he’s firmly maintained and argued for his heterosexuality, we’ve seen moments where he’s been legitimately confused. Not only does Madarame think about Hato’s words as an example of him being rejected again, but we also see a lot of blushing in this chapter. While I believe it’s purposely ambiguous as to whether his and Hato’s flushed faces are more from the alcohol or their own feelings, it increasingly sets up the possibility that, contrary to Hato’s beliefs, he really does have a chance.

A few questions come out of this. First, has Hato’s active and passive blurring of fantasy and reality (including the fact that he still has his makeup on) “worked” to make Madarame realize that he’s not 100% into the opposite sex after all? Second, would Kio Shimoku actually go through with having the character most representative of the classic otaku in Genshiken be to even somewhat gay? Third, would this cause those afraid of the subject of homosexuality who have identified with Madarame to reject his character, or would perhaps this bring in people who have felt similar to Madarame but don’t necessarily prescribe to heteronormative values?

As the chapter ends and Madarame is accidentally sprawled on top of Hato, I find myself truly unsure of what’s going to happen. I mean, most likely it will be “nothing,” just like it was “nothing” when it came to Sue and Keiko (Angela still has yet to truly make her move). However, whereas in the past I would say that Madarame most likely won’t have any realizations when it comes to Hato, now I’m not so certain. My prototypical otaku character can’t possibly be this challenging.

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12 thoughts on “Hatoful: Genshiken II, Chapter 110

  1. Ah, this writeup was so interesting and thoughtful! Thank you!

    A couple things I’ve been thinking about since this chapter came out last week:

    — Chapter 110 feels SO different from the other “harem member one-on-one” chapters that have come before. Both the Sue and Keiko chapters were playful and comedic, the former an overtly silly bit of role-play and the latter a sort of sexually-charged farce. And both Sue and Keiko were interacting with Madarame via their particular armor of artifice — holding him emotionally at arm’s length, for their own (understandable) reasons. By contrast, Hato’s chapter is intense and serious and much more frank than I ever would have expected. As you say, it’s very hard to even guess at Kio’s intentions.

    — I keep wondering about Kio’s larger plan for this arc. There’s all sorts of ways that one could characterize the original Genshiken run, but I usually think of it as an exploration of how various tropes in anime and manga interact with people’s actual lives — as you said, the interaction between Ogiue’s fantasies about her boyfriend and his real-life behavior is pretty typical. And the largest barrier to their relationship was Ogiue’s shame about her fantasies and her fear of what would happen if she were honest about them.

    So what’s the arc of this series? Previously, I’d just assumed that the fujoushi aspects were part of the initial setup, and that Kio’s interests ultimately lay in exploring how a “harem” situation might play out in reality. But after the last few chapters — and Kio’s recent interview over at ANN — I’m less sure about that. I’m honestly starting to wonder if Kio’s goal for Genshiken II is to find a way to have an extremely common BL trope — “I’m not gay, I just love YOU!” — play out in the more realistic setting he’s built. What if the harem plot, and the sex-comedy chapters that have resulted, were designed to keep his usual seinen audience on board while he did this other completely unexpected thing? (?????)

    I’ve resisted saying such things for a long time, for fear of being dismissed as a fangirl with her “shipping goggles” on, but I’m actually very serious. I have a lot faith in Kio’s storytelling chops — in his ability to be precise and intentional with the details he includes and the tone of his work — and I’m running out of explanations for what else he could be doing. If it weren’t for the context — Genshiken as a seinen manga in a very straight-dude-oriented magazine — I’d put money on a Hato/Mada ending being inevitable at this point. But ah! That context! Is awfully important!

    So given all of that, my best guess as to a non-BL ending for all of this would be for Hato to realize, in the heat of the moment, that he’s not actually romantically interested in Madarame after all. Which….would be kind of weird and anticlimactic, but as I said, I’m not sure what else to guess! This chapter would have been Madarame’s chance to make clear that he’s not on board for any version of a relationship with Hato, and all Kio really did was further blur Madarame’s feelings and intentions. I suppose that maybe it could be Madarame who has a “NOPE NOPE NOPE SORRY GROSS” reaction, but that would be more….I don’t know, mean spirited? Than what I’ve come to expect from this series.

    EH! I DON’T KNOW!

    Apologies for rambling in your comments section. The puzzle of Kio’s intentions is so interesting to me, and there aren’t many folks out there who’re up for having this conversation (in English, anyway. ;)

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    • You pretty much nailed what’s been going through my head for ever with Hato and Nidaime. I know many don’t like him, but for me it’s the gift that just keeps on giving, mysteries and questions and endless possibilities. And like, could he really do a Mada x Hato end!? Could he, would he, can he!? Just what is going to happen? Goddamnit Kio…

      If you want more endless ramblings about it, I like to read some of these for fun: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/tag/hato/

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  2. Madrame could blush for any kind of reasons; one of the his discovering that one of his close friends is in love of thim. Another is that Madarame always blush when someone makes a move in him since he don’t feel confortable. And another reason of course is discovering that he is atracted to Hato (after all, Hato really loks a girl and could fool any guy).

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  3. Thanks for this most fine consideration of this chapter!. I’m cheating again, reading all the good stuff before I try to grind away at Shimoku-sensei’s latest trick. All I can do now is pry at one teeny tiny crack in Hato’s presentation: for a coming clean “confession”, doesn’t it drip just a bit too much of, as you mentioned, of “I only want my sempai to be happy”?

    Hato smells to me like he is still in a fugue state. His “forget me” routine is a fricking aria with tiny violins. Cue “Un bel di vedremo” from Butterfly. Madarame is far more grounded, even if it comes off to the goggles brigade as “open” and “full of holes”. Put another way, if Keiko heard this, she would be even more furious, but she wouldn’t be able to exactly explain why. Mada could easily point out how over the top the whole thing was, at least if he doesn’t get overwhelmed by the massive unreality of the whole Hato un-confession.

    On another note, did you catch that side note from the mangaka? What is he doing creeping around in the steamy Josei brothel that is Rakuen Le Paradis ???
    This I gotta see!

    Thanks again for the great coverage!

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  4. Hato is still trying. This chapter has all kinds of uncertainity in the air… To me, a plausible ending (or closure) for this arc, would be Hato realizing that his own feelings are of platonical nature, on regards to Madarame. I don´t think he wants Madarame in this all purely physical fashion, in the carnal expresion that is sex. Kio Shimoku never has shown us that sideview from Hato, which it could exist… or not.

    Besides that, I think you´ve got great insight on what is happening in this chapter. And Madarame, still giving the nod… I fear that Spotted Flower was, indeed, the future.

    P.D. And yes, Madarame blushes too easily, too often… perhaps that explains his charming nature to the ladies?

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    • Hm, but don’t you think those mada x hato sketches were pretty carnal?

      Spotted Flower still makes me laugh, especially Kio’s alleged obliviousness to his fans suspicions that it’s a sequel…the idea of an epilogue being written alongside a series is pretty interesting.

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      • Oops, that one thing… hmm, what if it is like BL? Romanticized representation of boyish sex between males… Much like in yaoi for female readers, it is an idealization. I don´t think he has the means to trascend that barrier (right now), though… He kinds of longs for a “safe zone”. The 3D world, with all those consecuences and realities, scare him. A lot. “What if I try sex with Mada and I , and I end with those illusions of mine destroyed, with the “real” breaking into this soul of mine? What I would do afterwards?”. Experiencing sex, comitting to a relationship, he would need to ditch some of the things he has hold on to. Simply because it wouldn´t “work” anymore as is it now.

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  5. Pingback: An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet | HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES

  6. Pingback: orz: Genshiken II, Chapter 111 | OGIUE MANIAX

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