There are two success stories to tell about the 1981 giant robot anime Six God Combination God Mars. The first is about a combining giant robot that was better as a toy than as an animated figure in motion: toy sales were strong enough to extend the series beyond its first year, but the awkward stiffness of the titular God Mars itself is something of a running gag (as seen in the YouTube comments here). The second, and I think the one that should get more attention among English-speaking anime fans, is about the tremendous influence of God Mars on Japan’s female anime fandom and doujinshi scene. In a time when pairing same-sex characters from your favorite series was not yet the full-on cottage industry it is today, God Mars was a cornerstone title alongside Captain Tsubasa.
I personally came to know about God Mars twenty years ago, although knowledge about the two aspects of the series came at different times. It was a collection of giant robot anime openings around 2001 that introduced me to the show and its impressive-looking mecha, but it was actually 2004’s Genshiken Official Data Book (of all things)that first brought to my attention God Mars’s popularity with women. Years later at Otakon 2010, voice actor Mitsuya Yuji mentioned among his most popular roles a character from God Mars named Marg. Now, I have the entire series on physical media thanks to Discotek (with 25 episodes up for free on TMS’s Youtube channel), and I’ve finally come to understand what made God Mars one of the granddaddies of fandom pairing in Japan.
Simply put, it’s Marg. Once you know about him, it becomes crystal clear why a female fandom around God Mars developed.
Marg is not the main character. That honor goes to Myoujin Takeru, a guy with psychic powers who discovers that he is actually an alien named Mars sent from the planet Gishin to destroy Earth. However, Takeru manages to defy the evil Emperor Zul and use the very weapon originally meant to eliminate Earth to instead form God Mars and beat back the Gishin Empire. Along the way, he discovers many truths about his original home world, including that he has a long lost brother—Marg—in Zul’s clutches. The dramas that emerge from their familial relationship include attempts to reunite, the pain of separation, and even the crossing of swords due to various plot contrivances.
Marg is ridiculously beautiful both inside and out. He has lush locks of long green hair, and eyes that can express the deepest kindness but also the most fervent passion. His voice is gentle yet powerful, and his forlorn communications with Takeru express a longing and desire to see Takeru—unless he’s being brainwashed into being the enemy, of course, at which point his anger is spine-tingling. Whenever Marg shows up, he becomes the most captivating figure on screen.
Given that we’re talking about shipping and coupling, it’s not entirely accurate to pin it all on Marg. The popularity of a series among female fans traditionally hinges on the relationships between characters rather than singular personalities, and Takeru himself is no slouch. Not only does he look like a more handsome version of many a 70s robot protagonist, but he is perhaps the angstiest hero ever to grace a giant robot anime. Sure, Shinji from Evangelion is traumatized and depressed, and Heero Yuy from Gundam W is dark and brooding, but they don’t angst the way Takeru does. Naturally, more often than not, that anguish has something to do with Marg. And yes, they’re brothers by blood. Whether that was an additional awakening for fans in 1981, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Even before God Mars, there were plenty of good-looking and charismatic secondary characters in mecha anime. Between directors Tomino Yoshiyuki and Nagahama Tadao, they all but cornered the market: Prince Sharkin (Reideen), Garuda (Combattler V), Prince Heinel (Voltes V), Richter (Daimos), and both Char Aznable and Garma Zabi (Gundam). The key difference between these major rivals and Marg is that the latter is so many things in one. He’s an adversary at some times, but at other times he’s basically a damsel in distress.
There is something I need to make clear: Unlike so many later anime, which could be constructed from head to toe with a female audience in mind (or at least pay regular lip service to that side of fandom), God Mars is still built on the foundation of a toy-shilling kids’ anime. It is 65 episodes long, and not every episode is exactly compelling. There’s an unsurprising inconsistency in terms of the show’s quality with respect to storytelling and animation quality. In addition to the notorious stiffness of God Mars the robot, the anime is rife with fights between characters with psychic powers that revolve around dramatic poses in still shots in lieu of actual movement—a style of action scene the book Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga mocks for its laziness. And dashing canon hopes of brotherly love, the series pairs Takeru with a female character, albeit one with a connection to Marg. In other words, back in 1981, fujoshi had to walk uphill both ways to get their BL shipping fix.
Even so, a girls’ fandom emerged out of God Mars, and plenty of evidence exists that the creators became aware of this audience eventually. The TV series keeps finding ways to bring him back in different forms. A 1982 movie recap of the first 26 or so episodes reduces the screen time of other supporting characters in favor of more Marg, and the poster advertising the film even features him prominently (see above). A later OVA released in 1988—well after God Mars’s heyday—centers around Marg entirely. A look at God Mars merchandise reveals both official and unofficial works where Marg takes up a lot of real estate.
When I was going over my own prior history with God Mars, I omitted one thing: the game Super Robot Wars D for the Gameboy Advance. God Mars is one of the titles included, and in the game, you can manage to not only recruit Marg to your side but also have him pilot an alternate God Mars from that 1988 OVA in which he’s the star. Once together, Takeru and Marg can perform combination attacks like the “Double Final God Mars.” I can’t help but wonder if there were both kinds of God Mars fans working on this game, bringing together the hopes and dreams of those whose lives were changed in some part by God Mars and its two successes.
Kio Shimoku has historically been a very private person, not even revealing his face until 2018. Shockingly, the Genshiken author had his very first audio interview, and it was by a Virtual Youtuber to boot! Luis Cammy is apparently a big fan of Kio’s work, and talked with him for a whopping 80+ minutes.
Translating the whole thing would be a whole endeavor in itself, but you’ll find all the notes I’ve taken from the interview. There’s a lot of it that’s all-new information and insight into Kio’s creative history.
Note that Kio has a remarkably deep voice. Personally, he reminds me a bit of Kugayama from Genshiken.
Also, as a final disclaimer, it’s possible I misunderstood some of the things spoken about. If anyone has corrections, feel free to leave comments!
Introduction and Miscellaneous
Luis has been a fan of his work since Gonensei (“The Fifth Year”), an early Kio manga and dark sequel to his prior work, Yonensei (“The Fourth Year”).
As part of their collaboration, Luis sang a cover of the Kujibiki Unbalance opening, and Kio provided drawings of Luis cosplaying as Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad for a music video. The video
It’s meant to resemble late 1990s to early 2000s galge/dating sim intros. Luis looks like Saki from Genshiken/Ritsuko already, so it was a challenge to differentiate her.
Kio learned about VTubers from manga author gatherings. He doesn’t watch YouTubers much, let alone VTubers.
When asked if he knew how popular his work was at the time, Kio said he didn’t really look at comments online, but felt he rode the wave of the era.
The very beginning of Genshiken was Kio wanting to draw otaku as normal people. He want to madk what he himself wanted to read.
Luis mentions that otaku and their status have changed drastically since the days of Genshiken (when otaku were picked on and persecuted), like how there are light otaku now. Kio says his daughter is in middle school right now, and to her, she doesn’t get the whole otaku-as-negative thing. A group of popular kids in her class have Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba merch. Kio responds, “Times have changed, huh?”
Luis talks about how even regular folks say they like her, and it’s like the wall between normies and otaku isn’t there. Madarame has become a popular representative of otaku (to the extent that he’s Kio’s visual stand-in for this interview).
Kio talks about how, in the very earliest planning stages, the first idea he sent to editorial was about the relationship between Madarame, Kousaka, and Saki. The love triangle was inspired by Ping-Pong Club, the nose-hair chapter in particular. That scene was thought up very early on, back when Genshiken was a mere chick. In a sense, Madarame and his romantic relationships were a part of Genshiken from the start.
Luis talks about her mahjong teacher, Saito Go (a professional player and mahjong VTuber), likes Genshiken. He especially remembers that scene with Madarame and Saki eating sushi together, and then not talking afterward on the train ride home.
Luis points out that Kio likes to use silent panels, which Kio agrees with. However, he thinks overdoing it with those types of panels isn’t good either. The nose-hair chapter ends in silence too. Luis says a lot of information can be conveyed in such panels. Kio says it can convey a sense of realism.
Luis points out that the recording was the day of Saki’s birthday!
When creating character profiles for the compiled manga volumes, Kio had to come up with birthdays. He actually used Gundam Horoscopes to think them up. [This has been mentioned in other sources before, like the Japan-only Genshiken Official Data Book.] Actually, it was sort of like a backwards horoscope, in that he picked a mobile suit that would fit Saki well, and decided the birthday based on that. Sasahara is a Ball.
Personal Questions and Family Life
Kio is into Gunpla. He got into it when he was a 6 thanks to his bigger brother. Plamo-Kyoshiro (the 1980s precursor to Gundam Build Fighters) was his “bible.” He would categorize himself as a plastic model otaku above all else. He still wants to continue it as a hobby, but he’s busy. In Plamo-Kyoshiro, the way they used cardboard boxes in the manga really sparked his imagination as a kid.
Luis asks if Kio’s daughter ever says, “Why is our home filling up with more [otaku] stuff?” Kio says that his workplace is different from his home, so it’s his workplace that gets filled up instead. Doesn’t think his daughter is an otaku, but can’t say for sure. Luis jokes about Kio’s daughter showing up on the live recording and telling him not to say so much. Kio mentions that she doesn’t know about this, so Luis responds that she could come in saying, “It sounds like you’re doing a broadcast with someone from Nijisanji.” Kio comments that she might actually know what VTubers are.
Kio’s daughter has always walked in while he’s drawing manga, so she’s been reading manga for a long time. Kio still reads current manga. Luis says that manga has become like a “communication tool” these days, like, “What? Do you know this title?” as a conversation starter.
Genshiken More In-Depth
Luis describes the first Genshiken as being about ancient otaku. She asks Kio, if there was a Genshiken Third Generation, would it have VTubers and stuff in it? What kinds of characters and what sort of content would it include?
Kio concurs that they’re ancient otaku. His thinking was, “If I try to draw something totally new, it’ll quickly date itself. But if I make them feel older, than it’ll age better.” He doesn’t consider himself to be on the cutting edge. Genshiken came from whatt he personally wanted to draw. As it continued, it progressed into fujoshi stuff.
As for VTubers, once they become old, maybe then they’d show up in Genshiken. Kio says that plenty of current manga have VTubers in them already.
Luis asks if Kio is happy to have ended Second Generation when he did, and Kio says yes. “It felt like, ‘That’s about where it should stop.’” He explains how the sequel started out as a one-shot, but he’s not good at doing extra stories and the like, so he kept on working on it. Kodansha editorial (the publisher of Genshiken) said he should do enough to fill one volume. It was originally supposed to be a short serialization.
Kio began with the thought of “How would Ogiue and the others continue the club?” and of course, it would end up with a bunch of fujoshi. But would it be all girls? What about guys? Hence, Hato.
Kio really went back and forth about whether or not to include a character like Hato. When he was drawing the manuscript, he kept having the feeling of “Is this really okay?” Coming up with the idea of Hato purposely using a more feminine voice is when he finally thought he could make it work. Fujoshi and otoko no ko (boys who dress convincingly as girls) are the main aspects of Second Generation. Kio didn’t want to put Hato through so much hardship, but as the story progressed, he felt that’s what should happen—though he did worry over it.
The original Genshiken was supposed to be in real time, and things moved quickly. But it stopped being that way during the Ogiue story at Karuizawa. At the time, Ogiue was a “problem child” when it came to drawing the manga, as he didn’t know if he could resolve her backstory. It’d be difficult to do that and still maintain the “real-time” thing, and he would’ve selfishly wanted to end the series in the Spring if it had stuck to being in real time. But it took multiple months to get through the Ogiue story.
The series was supposed to end at Volume 8, but then there were plans for the second special official doujinshi [the first one was included with Volume 6]. Because of that, they decided to continue the series up to Volume 9. The original Genshiken features Ogiue’s turmoil, and Second Generation features Hato’s turmoil.
Luis comments how there are the Ogiue fans, and then there are Hato fans. Kio responds, “The Ogiue fans really are somethingl…” and then trails off. [Ogiue Maniax note: I feel attacked.]
There are things that were hard to put into Genshiken, like sexual stuff. That’s where Spotted Flowercomes from. From here, the two jokingly pussyfoot around Spotted Flower’s similarities to Genshiken.
Luis talks about how Spotted Flower is a different world (tongue-in-cheek), but it has kind of a crossover feel. Kio responds that they’re ostensibly different characters. Luis replies that the series is like a “what-if” universe (if-sekai in Japanese).
Kio says it’s not supposed to be them, but through it, he can do what he couldn’t in Genshiken.
Luis says, “What-If Madarame has a ‘Why youuuu!’ feeling.” Kio laments the husband as well.
Spotted Flower was supposed to be just a few short pages for Rakuen: Le Paradis magazine. The resemblance to other characters was originally not planned, but is actually something he noticed after the fact. He didn’t explain the meaning of the title to them when he submitted it [madara means “spot” and saki means “bloom”], so they probably didn’t realize at first. So he figured, “Why not keep going?” and it developed along the way.
“And now there are four volumes,” says Luis..
Kio’s feelings: “It’s not a book that comes out often, but if it interests you, I’m grateful.”
It was one thing when it was just the husband and wife, but then he added the Hato-like character, and the Kousaka-like character, and so on. He still can’t really say for sure that it’s them.
Hashikko Ensemble and Kio’s Overall Career
Luis finds the Hashikko Ensemblemain character Akira cute. Kio says that he began with the idea that Akira would have that gap between his very deep voice and his shy personality.
Volume 5 of Hashikko Ensemble should be coming in September.
Kio says he’s been in the manga business for 25 years. Luis thinks all his works are great, in terms of information provided, emotion, and atmosphere all being wrapped up in them. “It’s no small stuff.” To Kio, he sees all the things she mentioned as his shortcomings Luis comments that she enjoys seeing Kio reflect on his work.
Kio is the type to regret not saying this or doing that. Luis remarks that this is a live broadcast—is Kio okay?
Kio doesn’t recognize his own voice when recording. Luis said she never thought of her voice as anything special but the fans would say it’s cute. Luis compares Akira’s voice to Kio’s. Kio never had any experience with singing or choruses, but figured, why not give Akira a deep voice like himself?
He thinks people who can come up with characters purely from imagination are amazing.
Hashikko Ensemble a story of the passion of youth, but Kio didn’t originally plan it that way. Like Genshiken, he wanted the story to be something ridiculous and fun, and landed on “chorus club high schoolers.”
Luis loves stories about the passion of youth (seishun), like Yowamushi Pedal and Big Windup. Kio replies that he’s never drawn manga in that vein—like Chihayafuru—but thought, “If I put all I had into it, could I draw one?” The characters in Genshiken are all pretty mellow. He wasn’t that good at drawing the kind of youthfulness that appears in Hashikko Ensemble, at first.
Luis makes the argument that the original Genshiken is a “passion of youth” story, because it’about figuring out what club to join and what to do? Like, Kugayama’s waffling on whether or not to draw, or Ogiue’s decision to go, “I guess I’m gonna draw.”
The kinds of “passion of youth” stories Kio enjoys are a little strange—not so much “hot-blooded stuff.” Luis describes Madarame as a hot-blooded otaku. As for being a passion of youth story, what about that story with Saki mentioning Madarame looks good in his new glasses?
Originally, Genshiken was supposed to be a club that doesn’t put anything out. One of the things that made Ogiue tricky is that she wanted to draw herself, so Kio had no choice but to make a story about her trying to get into Comic Festival [the Genshiken in-universe equivalent of Comic Market].
Luis says Genshiken is what made her want to attend Comic Market as part of a circle. She asks Kio if he ever participated as an artist. Kio says yes!
Kio released a doujinshi at Comic Market in 2003 (Luis points out that 2004 was the year of the first Genshiken anime, which Kio totally forgot about).
Kio did not use the name “Kio Shimoku” for Comic Market. He sold 200 books, which impresses Luis. For reference, Luis says that 100 is considered a lot, and she herself sold 50 copies of her own doujinshi at a Comitia [a major doujin event primarily dedicated to original, non-fan works].
The doujinshi was indeed pornographic, and an original work. It bears resemblance to Kujibiki Unbalance and Genshiken.
Luis talks about how big sister loves Kujibiki Unbalance, to the extent that she put out a pornographic doujinshi starring Ritsuko. Luis helped her a lot with it, including stapling it together.
“Putting out a Kujibiki Unbalance-esque doujinshi yourself is like actually being in Genshiken,” says Luis.
Kio also participated at Comic Market a second time—in 2010. It was a doujinshi based on a “certain space opera that uses Episodes,” flipping around the genders of the character roles involved. The inspiration was that with some wordplay, the title resembled the phrase “Sister Wars.” He drew what was supposed to just be a manuscript based on Episode 1, but it ended up being 350 pages. Kio wanted to draw up to six.
“Please complete it!” Luis says.
“But I wouldn’t be able to sell it!” Kio replies.
[Ogiue Maniax note: One of Ogiue’s characteristics is prolific output, just like Kio here.]
Luis asks if there’s anything he’s watched lately, old anime or new anime. Kio doesn’t have anything, and Luis says his free time to just sit down and watch without moving must have decreased. Kio agrees.
Kio wants to absorb more shows, but just doesn’t have the time.
Questions from Kio for Nijisanji
As future reference for manga, Kio asks if VTubers wear sensors to track movement. Luis responds that it uses 3D tracking. She quickly “corrects” that the animated figure you see is the real her.
Luis says that Kio’s participation in Comic Market makes his manga feel more real.
The two talk more about the Kujibiki Unbalance music video they collaborated on. Kio says it’s like a doujin-style fan work. Luis talks about how she has Genshiken and Kujibiki Unbalance merch. Luis has the Kujibiki Unbalance Ritsuko school swimsuit clear file drawn by the light novel artist, Yagumo Kengou. Kio mentions that the image was a request from him [Ogiue Maniax note: Not 100% sure about this last sentence].
Kio mentions that he gets some harsh comments, but others will say “That’s the kind of author he was all along!” But he doesn’t want to remember himself from the Gonensei era.
What an Interview!
There’s a lot to unpack in this interview. I hope to follow up with an analysis.
Also, I can’t believe there’s a Virtual Youtuber who’s into Genshiken, Kio Shimoku, and mahjong! It’s like someone designed a VTuber especially for me.
On my recent trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit not one but two doujin events at the same venue: the Splatoon-themed Splaket 11 and the Pop Team Epic-themed Popket Rebroadcast. Both were held at Ota City Industrial Plaza PiO, which is the same venue as the Love Live! event I attended two years prior.
Splaket wasn’t overwhelmingly large by any means, but it did get plenty of foot traffic. I actually saw a few parents bringing their young, Splatoon-loving kids there. I like to imagine they were otaku parents introducing their kids, but Splatoon is big enough a series that I’m not sure that’s guaranteed.
What stood out to me most, however, were the ways artists and creators of these doujin works transformed the Splatoon concept to fit their needs. It’s like the world established by the games is just detailed enough to girl the imagination and just open enough to let that same imagination fill in the blanks. I saw detailed weapons catalogs, fashion guides, BL, yuri, straight romance, Callie and Marie, Marina and Pearl, and everything in between. It made me feel what an astounding success Splatoon is in terms of visual aesthetic and design.
The first thing I saw upon reaching Popket was the event catalog—a standard of doujim events. However, when I tried to pay for it, it turned out that the ¥333 price tag meant exactly that amount. It’s based on a Pop Team Epic joke about how animators make only ¥3,330,000 (approximately $33,000 USD) in spite of the grueling labor required. if you wanted them to keep the change, they wouldn’t let you! It was free to enter, but if you wanted that extra item, you had to come prepared.
Given that Pop Team Epic actually had a fair amount of mainstream penetration in Japan, I was expecting a fairly large event, but it was actually significantly smaller than Splaket. I’m not sure why this was the case, but I wonder if it was a combination of factors, like scheduling and Pop Team Epic being a difficult series to parody for the purposes of doujinshi.
The goals of fan works are many, but two are taking the original property to new and curious places, and trying to faithfully extend it such that the characters remain familiar as they’re adventures continue. But Pop Team Epic defies nearly all expectations. How do you parody a work that practically parodies itself? How do you tell jokes on its level? It’s not easy.
What I saw from Popket was less parodying Pop Team Epic and more using it to parody other series. Rather than trying to put Popuko and Pipimu in new situations, the doujin creators mimicked the drawing style of the original artist, bkub, to spoof other works. It reminds me of that artist who keeps drawing parody doujinshi of various series in which all the characters look and act like they came from Fist of the North Star.
It was an afternoon well spent, and a good chance to connect with Japanese fans. As always, I wish there was more of a doujin culture in the US and elsewhere.
On a recent trip to Japan, I attended a doujin event dedicated to retro games. It was an opportunity on my part to not only attend my first ever Japanese event dedicated solely to video games, but to see just what “retro” meant for a Japanese audience.
Held in the city of Kawaguchi, “Game Legend 28” saw a fairly packed attendance. I’m awful at estimating crowd sizes, but I’d say there was close to 200 people in attendance. The vendors there offered a diverse range of goods, even more than events I’d attended in the past, and it was primarily due to the subject matter. While the standard comics and essays were there in droves, one could also find CDs of video game music covered by amateur bands, entire archives of instruction manuals, people’s personally developed games, and even super-miniaturized (and playable!) versions of arcade and console titles. The last item seemed to be a trend, as more than one table offered them.
When it comes to trends one might not see at a US convention, I noticed that there was a great amount of love given to the PC-Engine (released in the US as the Turbo Grafx 16), and that certain popular Japanese meme characters such as Spelunker still held strong. I also met a woman who wore a Segata Sanshiro t-shirt and sold a photo journal of her time attending a Sonic fan event in Korea. Another dedicated herself to F-Zero, showing not only doujinshi but tiny F-Zero machine replicas as well.
It’s common to presume that doujinshi means “porn,” but I actually saw very few tables dedicated to 18+ material. Even then, one was selling a comic featuring a popular heroine from Tokimeki Memorial. In other words, even the smut was frequently retro.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Game Legend 28, and even bought a few things, including a Sega Smash Bros. parody doujinshi starring Alex Kidd. But the event also inadvertently curried favor with me when a small live brass band played a song from one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever. Following performances of the boss theme from R-Type and the ending theme to Chrono Trigger, they went straight into “Back to the Fire,” the Hydra stage music from Thunder Force III.
At that point, Game Legend 28 could do no wrong in my mind.
August is full of fun and surprises. For one thing, I have two panels at Otakon 2016: “Greater Uglier Manga” and “Such Dog, Much Anime, Wow.” The schedule isn’t available yet, but when it is I’ll be making a post.
Another bit of news is that Ogiue Maniax has, for the first time ever, been quoted on the back of a manga! The title in question is Sweetness & Lightning:
I consider this quite the milestone, and I’d like to thank my readers, but especially my Patreon sponsors in particular for supporting me:
Sasahara Keiko fans:
Yoshitake Rika fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
I’d also like to congratulate Johnny for winning my Love Live! contest.
Perhaps the biggest news of all for the blog is that Genshiken is ending! I’ve written my review for the penultimate chapter, and I already have emotions welling up inside of me in anticipation for the final conclusion. You’ll be certain that I’ll have a lot to say at the end.
If nothing crazy happens (like a third Genshiken being announced soon after), I’m considering doing a series of nine posts to review the original series volume by volume. What do you think?
It’s kind of a hectic month looking ahead, so I haven’t had time to think of any new projects for the blog. For now, I’m still watching and reading through quite a back catalog, with the intention of clearing up some time to finally review Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross for Gattai Girls. Luckily, it’s now on Amazon, free for Prime users and 99 cents per episode for non-Primes. So, I have no excuses left!
Once again, I’ll be at Otakon, so if anyone wants to come up and say hi at a panel, feel free to do so! I’m actually a tad shy in real life, and it can come across as surliness, but don’t let that scare you.
A special thanks to Diogo in particular for giving me an amazing present: Volume 1 of the Brazilian edition of Genshiken!
A new season of anime is on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to checking out as much as I can. I’m most looking forward to Love Live! Sunshine!!, which started airing just this past weekend. Unfortunately, I tend to watch many more shows than I have time to write about, so often some of my favorite series don’t end up getting blog posts dedicated to them. I’m considering doing something about that, but it’s always a small struggle between writing about the anime and manga that no one’s looking at to get them more exposure and talking about the things I like that people already have some familiarity with so that there’s an easier connection to be made.
I think that, due to a lack of time, my posts have started getting a bit shorter again. I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to larger and shorter entries, but it also means that Ogiue Maniax might feel more like the scratchpad for my thoughts that it originally was in the first place. What do you readers think of this, and is there any kind of preferred ratio for you?
June’s post of the month has to be the review of Genshiken Chapter 125. I know, I know, Genshiken is a highlight every month, but I think this is a real case of the manga zagging when you thought it would zig, and it more than anything else reminds me of how wonderful a series Genshiken is.
I also have more reports from my trip to Japan, including my visit to two different Love Live! events, and a look at Comic Store Wonderland in Osaka, which is home to a ton of amazing autographs from famous manga artists. The Hanayo bag I bought at the doujin event is quite possibly my favorite piece of merchandise from Japan. Taketayo~
Another highlight is my review of the newCardcaptor Sakura manga. CLAMP is back! I mean, they’ve never left, but I just lost interest after years and years of Tsubasa and XXXHolic. This new CCS really feels like a return to form, and I’ve already got plans to get each issue of Nakayoshi as it comes out in Japan.
As always, if you’re interested in having me write about something, you can make a pledge through Patreon. And if you’ve ever wondered why that tier is so high, it’s actually because I really want Ogiue Maniax to still be a space where I share and explore my thoughts, and so having the blog just be about fulfilling requests isn’t what I really want. However, because I’m also always eager to broaden my horizons, I invite the opportunity to make me watch or read or talk about something I might not have thought of otherwise.
I hope you all have a great July. I’ll be spending the month getting panels ready for Otakon in August. If any of you are going, I look forward to possibly seeing you.
In my most recent trip to Japan, I attended two different Love Live! events in one day. The first was “Bokura no Love Live! 12,” a doujin event. The second was “Love Live! Sukufesu Kanshasai 2016″ (School Idol Festival Thanksgiving 2016) in Ikebukuro, an official event held in celebration of the School Idol Festival game. The contrast between an event that revels in fan expression and one that presents everything in an official capacity is interesting to me, because I think it shows both the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to fandom.
Though I had the opportunity to take a look at both, a question occurred to me as I was traveling from one to the other: if I could only go to one, which one would I choose? I took this from the perspective of a Koizumi Hanayo fan. At the doujin event, I could buy Hanayo-dedicated fan comics from people I knew were fans of Hanayo as much as I am (if not more!). I found a bunch of amazing comics and parody works, and I even got a couple of amazing tote bags that might be my favorite purchases of my entire Japan trip. There’s sort of an interesting magic to buying things in person that get lose with just ordering online, and it’s enhanced when you know the person behind the table put their heart and soul into it. Overall, it was one of the best highlights of my trip to Japan.
However, doujinshi are, of course, not official portrayals of the characters. This is in many ways the advantage of fanart, fanfiction, etc., but what’s also clear is that the fan material feeds off of the official presentation. Much for the art at “Bokura no Love Live! 12” was clearly inspired by the images found in magazines, the mobile game, and everywhere else. There is a kind of power to official merchandise because it presents the characters at their best, but it’s also limiting because they can’t stray too far off from what is deemed “okay.”
For example, the shirts being sold at “Thanksgiving 2016” were all prints of existing art that could be found in lots of places, while the merchandise sold at “Bokura no Love Live! 12” felt a little more unique because they weren’t officially sanctioned images slapped onto clothing. That’s not to say official Love Live! merchandise has to look blunt and straightforward (I actually also got a swank Love Live! polo shirt just the day before these events), but they seem to lean in that direction.
Another instance of the difference between events has to do with yuri and pairings. Love Live! encourages yuri to a certain degree, but has to keep it implicit because it’s supposed to appeal to all sorts of people (and indeed I saw everything from little girls to businessmen at Thanksgiving 2016). A doujin event, on the other hand, can go as explicit as possible in more ways than one, and can even merge the innocent with the racy and have them all exist in one place. Characters can be drawn to fit the whims of the artists to a greater degree with the doujinshi, but they necessarily must feed off the source material at least to a certain extent. Nico/Maki doujinshi can go the distance, but the dynamic between them is rendered through the anime, the game, and other canon resources.
Official events also have resources on their side. One of the highlights of “Sukufesu Kanshasai 2016” was a live School Idol Festival game where nine different people played simultaneously, each one commanding one of the buttons by stepping on them. The cards being used where all nine of the μ’s girls, but with special outfits for the event, and they were surrounded in a mall by throngs of fans dancing and singing along. A doujin event really couldn’t pull that off to the same capacity, nor could they be the place to get official Love Live! Final μ’s Concert shirts, which were a popular item at both events that granted legitimacy to the wearer’s fandom.
The division between official and unofficial events can be rather gray because of how the two feed into each other. The output of fans, albeit more often in the form of monetary purchases, informs the official companies responsible for Love Live! just what the fans are into. The fans, as mentioned, take inspiration from the official material, and convert it, thus spreading the joy of Love Live! further.
It’s hard to choose between the two when both have so much merit, but ultimately I think I would have gone for the doujin event just so I could have that experience of walking around and buying fan-made works. It’s sort of the difference between attending fan panels and official panels at conventions. The official panels are where you can meet the creators, but many times they’re curated and micromanaged heavily, whereas doujinshi and fan panels can stray from the “company line” so to speak. This makes them, in my opinion, overall more interesting, but I’m well aware that all of the Hanayo rice memes required the source material to emphasize it in the most amusing ways.
The last thing I’d like to talk about is actually a little card found in the bag of freebies from Thanksgiving 2016 which is a drawing of some of the School Idol Festival-original girls. Unlike The iDOLM@STER, there is a clear stratification between the main girls (be they μ’s or their successors, the new group Aqours), who are considered “Rare Cards,” as opposed to the “Normal Card” girls that are basically fodder for the former. Here, even at this official event was a small token of appreciation for the lesser idols, and a part of me wishes that someone, be they official creators or doujinshi creators, would take the next step and flesh them out. The result would be different on either side, but both would provide value in their own ways.
PS: I mentioned a freebie bag for “Love Live! Sukufesu Kanshasai 2016,” and I happen to have an extra one. I’ll be holding a contest soon to determine the winner, so stay tuned!
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I’m back from Japan, and I had a blast! Look forward to a number of posts this coming month about my trip.
If you’re part of my Patreon (or even not!), feel free to message me or leave comments below. You can ask me anything about my Japan experience this time around. By the way, if you’re wondering what the biggest trend in Japan is right now, it’s Osomatsu-san.
Speaking of, here are this month’s Patreon sponsors:
Sasahara Keiko fans:
Yoshitake Rika fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
There is something important I need to discuss, which is that some changes in my life (nothing tragic) are happening that might require me to reduce the amount of posting that I do to Ogiue Maniax. I know that sounds kind of strange after declaring that I would up my post rate not so long ago, but that’s just kind of how it is.
The result is that, while I’m definitely going to try, I might not be able to keep up my twice/thrice-weekly posting schedule. I know that part of the appeal of Ogiue Maniax is its consistency and its fairly high output rate, so if any of my patrons want to adjust their pledges accordingly, I totally understand.
I’m hopeful that I can keep up my current rate or something similar, though. I mean, I’ve done it before!
As for this past month’s post highlights:
As always, there’s the requisite Genshiken chapter review. This one got longer than I initially expected, but that’s just because it turns out that there’s a lot to talk about. One notable aspect of this chapter is how it meta-references the anime version. Strangely, there’s no new chapter of Kimi Nakare out yet.
There’s also this month’s Patreon-sponsored post, where I look at the BlazBlue anime. While I was passingly familiar with BlazBlue as an anime-style fighting game, one thing I didn’t realize was how many imouto characters are in it. This in some ways sets it apart from similar games, which often deal with only or two little sisters.
The last major post is the first of many inspired by my Japan trip. Check out my report and review of Kansai Comitia 48, a doujin event dedicated to original (as in not based on existing works) doujinshi,
Outside of the blog:
Over at Apartment 507 where I’m currently writing, I’ve started a new series of reviews for Japanese-language manga apps. The first is Shogakukan’s MangaOne. Remember, these are only available on the Japanese app stores. I’ve also started a Vine account because making dumb jokes using anime is what I do, and I recently appeared on a mini-episode of the Reverse Thieves’ Speakeasy Podcast to discuss the Hulu Apocalypse.
So anyway, fire away with the Japan questions! I was only there briefly, so I can’t divulge to you its darkest secrets, but I sure can try.
Whenever the typical English-speaking anime or manga sees the word doujinshi, a particular image comes to mind. Typically, doujinshi are associated with fan-parodies of titles both popular and niche, the realm of what-ifs that run the gamut from the silly to the sexy. However, many doujinshi are original works, and Comitia is the largest group of “original-only” doujin events in Japan. I attended Kansai Comitia 48 Osaka recently on May 15, 2016, and it was a fun learning experience. Not only could I feel the creators’ passions, but I also have come to view the importance of doujin events in a different light.
While I am certainly a fan of doujinshi based on existing properties, in many ways original doujinshi are more impressive because they cannot rely on drawing in the fan bases of those works. When I think about it, my first exposure to the idea of doujinshi, the anime adaptation of Comic Party, mainly focused on original works. In that TV series, the main character learns an important lesson: making doujinshi is about what you want to do, not simply what sells. Across dozens of creators, that is exactly the spirit I saw at Kansai Comitia 48.
The event site was laid out roughly according to genre, and when you look at the categories listed it becomes easy to see the variety of interests on display. There was the “Fantasy” section, which was by far the largest, but there were also things like Criticism, Travel, Shounen, Shoujo, Seinen, SF/Mecha, Animals, BL, and so on. The first doujinshi I picked up was a record of the author’s trip to Russia, while my favorite had to be a cute romance about a girl with a bentou box for a head. The handkerchief normally used to wrap a bentou box became the ribbon that accentuated her girlish charm. One table was selling guides to girls’ school uniforms throughout Japan, and the circle that was responsible for it consisted of a mix of both men and women.
What About the 18+ Stuff?
While doujinshi often brings to my pornographic works, the Adult section at Kansai Comitia 48 was rather small. This is not that unusual, because most doujinshi made are in fact not sexual. However, even there the space for doujinshi as a place to explore one’s passions is visible, and one might even argue that it’s where such sentiments are most evident. Many of the 18+ circles were focused on otoko no ko, or boys who look like girls, and one was even solely about handsome bad guys kissing young girls. There was one artist who drew heterosexual josei-style smut, which can be rather uncommon given the sheer amount of BL that exists.
I picked up one adult title at the event, but not necessarily for the reason you might expect. The artist who drew it was actually Kakimoto Kenjirou, a published manga artist in the 1990s whose series, Futarigurashi, ran in Young Jump. It appeared that he was out of the manga game for quite a while, but here he was at Kansai Comitia drawing what he wanted, and the doujinshi I bought was actually a sequel to Futarigurashi. Here was a space where even someone with manga industry experience could continue the stories they wanted to tell, and essentially make “amateur” sequels to their own “professional” works.
A Haven of Lost Drawing Styles
One aspect of Kakimoto’s doujinshi is that, while it didn’t look quite the same as it did in the 90s, he still retained a very 90s style of manga drawing. What’s more, he wasn’t alone. Throughout Kansai Comitia 48, I saw doujinshi with characters that looked like they came from bygone eras of manga and Japanese pop culture. One artist created a giant robot themed after Nagano Prefecture, Naganoizer, and was clearly inspired by 80s anime artists such as Mikimoto Haruhiko (Macross, Gunbuster, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress). Another artist’s style was closer to 70s shoujo legends such as Hagio Moto and Takemiya Keiko.
In the actual professional manga industry, failing to change one’s styles with the times comes at a risk. While popular creators such as Miuchi Suzue (Glass Mask) or the aforementioned Hagio and Takemiya still draw in the same style as they did in the 1970s, many have clearly made shifts over time that correspond with trends in manga as a whole. For better or worse, events like Comitia are where those older styles can still exist, away from the pressures of having to pick up on what’s popular. While some are able to sell doujinshi at a profit, that is the exception. Most doujin artists make doujinshi purely as passion projects.
Comparing with Artist Alleys in America
I’ve been to quite a few Artist Alleys in American anime conventions, and while you can get a good variety of styles, for the most part I tend to see many similarities in how artists approach works there. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that anime fandom has a rather high turnover rate where many grow out of it as they get older. This is not to say that American anime con artists lack variety, or that they all draw in an “anime” style, but the result is you don’t really get those 80s/90s-style holdouts.
A better comparison would be with the artist alleys at places like New York Comic Con, because you’ll often see artists who are inspired by past generations maintain those styles. For example, you’ll often see artists who love Jack Kirby and aim to maintain his style. They will pepper their drawings with Kirby dots, dynamic poses, and other signature characteristics of the King’s drawings. Similarly, at Kansai Comitia 48, you had artists who still believed in those older styles. Whether it’s because they refuse to adapt or can’t, the result is a window into a different world that is not so much experimental as Indie comics in the US tend to be, but are basically different shades of mainstream from older generations.
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It’s that time of the year again, where nerds in Japan decide that spending time with family or romancing a love interest are less important activities than attending the largest doujin event of the year. It’s Winter Comiket #77 this year (though keep in mind they have them twice a year with the other being in the summer), and if you’re like me you’re thinking, “Where can I get some Ogiue stuff?”
Though I won’t be able to attend, I have looked through the catalog. As far as I can tell there are only two doujin circles presenting anything this year Ogi-related. That might not seem like a lot, but given that Ogiue was never TOO popular a character, it’s good to see people fighting the good fight. Better yet, they’re artists I’m familiar with already.
Royal Crown will be there Tuesday, 12/29 (i.e. the first day of Comiket), at 東 フ゜−01b. That’s katakana East “Pu,” Zero One B.
Anri Works appears to have been unable to get a booth this year, but is looking to entrust someone with his doujinshi. If you’re there keep an eye out. He’s good people.
To my Japanese Ogiue comrades, I salute you.
UPDATE: ANOTHER OGIUE CIRCLE FOUND:
The group is called Kannazuki and will be there Tuesday at East Katakana Pu 2A. The name of their book is “All that’s Ogiue-san” so you know they’re good.