Genshiken 123 marks a new era in the manga, away from the trials and tribulations of Madarame and his sudden popularity with girls and back to the club room and otaku life. However, far from a reset, things are looking to change more than ever.
A summary of this chapter’s events won’t quite do it justice, but I still want to lay out the basic framework for this month before delving into the little details:
As the members gather in the club room, Hato decides to show everyone the manuscript for his new manga, which is BL. Uncharacteristically, Yoshitake seems to be especially flustered by how “vulgar” it is, when Kuchiki makes an unwelcome appearance. Supposedly showing up just to pick up some belongings, Ogiue realizes that Kuchiki is actually just pilfering erotic doujinshi from the club room and even gets him to admit that he’d been stealing them for a while. Accusing Kuchiki of stealing the very doujinshi that Sasahara was looking for at his own graduation, it turns out that Madarame had just forgotten to return it. Kuchiki, upon seeing the doujinshi, begs to have it for a quick “bathroom break,” which causes Ogiue to call him vulgar. Sasahara (who is texting with Ogiue) allows Kuchiki to borrow it before graduating, much to Ogiue’s consternation.
Doujinshi, an Essential
While I most certainly enjoyed and was intrigued by the Madarame Harem arc of Genshiken, this chapter made me aware of a significant shift that happened during the past couple of years. The manga has spent so much time on real relationships that it’s almost easy to forget that this is a story not just about otaku but about many of the awkward aspects of life that are embraced by otaku as well. One of these is a very close connection with doujinshi, particularly of the pornographic kind, and this chapter is a reminder that the characters of Genshiken past and present have such a personal connection to doujinshi that they will think about it even as they graduate. We saw the otaku mind when confronted with romance and sexual identity, and now we’re once again privy to the otaku in their “natural habitat.”
But what a natural habitat it is! The otaku clubroom possesses a kind of public/private duality because the bond is founded in mutual interests, and one of those shared passions is for sexy 2D characters. At times, we like to talk about otaku as possessing a kind of strange nobility, whether that’s through fanciful Densha Otoko-esque stories or through the advent of stylish otaku and fujoshi, but still that 2D complex remains. It’s not something to be ashamed about, but it’s there, and it’s only appropriate that it have an incredibly baudy yet stylish cover.
It’s also amusing that it’s basically going to be Ogiue’s job to return a doujinshi about a large-breasted heroine (from Kujibiki Unbalance, of course) to her boyfriend. Sasahara and Ogiue’s relationship is built on a foundation of full otaku romance, and part of that is both a general awareness and acceptance of each others’ preferences.
Ogiue the Sexual Veteran
Speaking of Ogiue and Sasahara, the main gag of this chapter hinges on the use of the term “vulgar,” or more specifically in Japanese, namanamashii (生々しい), which means “raw.” Yoshitake, who is normally all about encouraging perversion, is suddenly taken aback by Hato’s BL manga. Ogiue, in contrast, seems unfazed. I believe that contrast is a reference to the difference in Ogiue and Yoshitake’s sexual experience. Ogiue is in a physical relationship, and as Ohno once put it, her having sex with Sasahara has made her own BL doujinshi that much more realistic. Yoshitake experiences sex only through media, and the fact that she points out being the same age as Ogiue implies a kind of jealousy.
While we don’t see the contents of Hato’s manga, I think that its “rawness” is basically a product of Hato reconciling his feelings, learning not to fight who he is, and actually being a man. Even if Hato hasn’t had a homosexual relationship, he can perhaps get closer to reality by being a guy.
New School Year!
As much as the manga seems to be returning to club antics, however, there is the definite sense that time continues to move forward, and the events of the past are still creating ripples. Hato and Yajima now have a kind of cute awkwardness towards each other, remembering their conversation at Nikkou where Yajima basically admitted her feelings and Hato mentioned having thought of being with her. Hato’s face lights up when he sees Madarame, but it’s turned into a kind of very close friendship.
And then there’s the moment I’ve been anticipating for a long time: Ogiue is finally in her senior year of college! She wants to get serialized in a manga magazine, which Yoshitake remarks is Ogiue’s version of “finding employment.” Ohno makes a joke that she’s in her “fourth year” as well, but Ogiue calls her out on it. I think this is actually Ohno’s sixth or seventh year, but I’ve lost track at this point. What would a Genshiken without even Ogiue or Ohno in its core cast be like?! For that matter, a new school year means the potential for new members!
That’s what Kio is enticing the readers with for the next chapter preview, which says, “That girl is showing up!” The most likely candidate (and I’m 99% confident about it) is Risa, Yoshitake’s younger sister. As a reminder, Risa is tall, likes to dress like a guy, and is a complete shotacon who also has a mix of respect and potential attraction towards Hato. Risa is welcome, but I’d really like to see some fresh blood as well. I understand that the cast of Genshiken is so large at this point, however, that it might not be practical.
Ogiue Expression Extravaganza
One of my traditions with these Genshiken chapter reviews is to end off with a picture of Ogiue. However, with Chapter 123, there’s probably more choice Ogiue content here than in the last 50 or so chapters combined. There are silly faces, awkward moments with Sue, and even some choice expressions of anger and disdain, which is how we Ogiue fans got to originally know her all those years ago. I’m not afraid to admit that seeing her scowl again invigorates me, and in a way I have to wonder if Kuchiki’s presence in Genshiken serves a useful purpose in this respect.
Seriously, I can’t choose just one!
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looks pretty lame and boring, why doesn’t the author quit the series already? at this point its a worse cashgrab than thos shitty shonens like bleach or one piece.
I’m excited about the future of Genshiken, since it never really forgets the past completely, and the last arc will still ripple forward as you said. That said, part of me is wondering if I try and stop reading Genshiken for a few years so I can binge a bunch of it at once. I first got into the manga and was able to read though the whole first series all at once. Then I put it down for years, and only learned about Genshiken II around chapter 95 or so, I was able to binge all the way though in a few weeks until I was all caught up. Reading it chapter by chapter has been fairly painful the last 2-3 years, and it really loses some of the magic for me when told so slowly. If I could binge the manga, the Mada ark is just a small bump to a really great night of reading. Reading chapter by chapter made me feel like the last two years were filler, even if I believe that setup for something great.
I think what you’re saying makes perfect sense, especially because the chapters only come out every month. In fact, you might just be better off waiting for the English releases by volume, so that you can experience the story in huge chunks.
Hmm, not a bad idea. I’ve only got volumes 1- genshiken first arc end right now. I need to look start into picking up everything released up to this point. I’ve been entertaining the idea of re-reading it from the beginning on paper, in hopes that would kill some time for more to release. One thing you really notice going back and reading from the start is how much better the art work has gotten over the years. It started good, but it’s so much better now.
I get a lot of enjoyment out of re-reading the previous English volumes. I enjoy the story but for me it’s all about the drawings. Turning the page is like christmas morning, as each unexpected new interpretation of a face or a pose appears.
I sometimes think I don’t talk about the artwork enough. It’s so good in its own way that, as you said, there’s so much enjoyment that comes out of just going over it.
Looks like a nice return to form after the harem arc. Looking forward to it.
Not bad. Quite Genshiken-ish, as it was at the close of the first serialization. But, I was almost too invested in the harem struggle, so there seems to linger a bit of.. dissapointment? I hope Shimoku the next time he does an arc like the previous one,he should be more precise and knit those loose ends thightly. Madarame seems to be here just out of habit, not for any real purpose… I would like for him to have another role in the story. Like, more as in cameos that show his evolution (or lack of thereof…).
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May I ask you where you read chapter 123? I can’t find it : / Did you buy the digital version?
Yes, I bought a digital version
It`s finally out…
But, but, Yoshitake is not the same age as Ogiue. She has one more than Yajimashi. So… she is one year younger than Ogiue.
I found her reluctance to see those BL quite intriguing.
And… Kio needs a new male character. Kuchiki is out, Madarame is going away… reading the chapter, i tought that Kuchi could defend his point saying: “You girls don`t read these doujinshi. You would neglect them.” Because there is a lack of a normal male otaku.