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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