Falling Falling Let’s Enjoy: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2022

The summer of 2022 is starting to wind down, and it feels somehow different from even recent years. Maybe it’s that Japan hit a milestone with Comic Market 100 this past month. Maybe it’s the prospect of COVID-19 Omicron-centric booster shots potentially making me feel safer and more comfortable with traveling—including to Japan itself at some point. Or maybe it’s the passage of the largest climate bill in US history, as well as the announcement of a massive student loan forgiveness plan, that gives the vague sense that humanity can do something.

I hope this is a positive turning point, and that we’ll all be in a better position to do the things we love and plan for the future we want to see.

Thank you to my September 2022 Patreon subscribers, notably the following:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from August:

Shattering the Old Baltimore Ceiling: Otakon 2022

A huge chunk of the blog this month has been dedicated to Otakon. You can find my thoughts on it, as well as links to interviews, here.

S-M-R-T! I mean, S-M-A-R-T: “Fist of the North Star Side Story: The Genius Amiba’s Otherworld Conqueror Legend”

An amazing premise for an isekai parody starring a second-rate villain from Fist of the North Star.

Mother of Mercilessness: Everything Everywhere All at Once

The rare portrayal of an Asian mom as action protagonist touches on so many aspects of the Asian diaspora.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku talks on Twitter about how he’s bad at doing panty shots.

And here’s a look at the Spotted Flower version of Angela Burton.

Apartment 507

An early review of Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2, focusing on the concept of the senpai.

Closing

As the seasons change and cooler weather (hopefully) arrives, I also want to think about revisiting some old projects. I keep meaning to do more Gattai Girls, but a lack of time and to some extent motivation has hampered that. I also wonder about continuing the Fujoshi FIles after many years of inactivity, but have to consider the possibility that it’s not my place to discuss how “rotten” fujoshi characters are. I’m not that BL and saw the characters with fascination, and am still wondering if I should let those closer to the fandom take over this sort of endeavor. I’m still entertaining the notion of a fan wiki, but who knows where it’ll end up.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights August 2022

There was a hodgepodge of topics this month from Kio Shimoku’s tweets.

Kio has always had a problem with the air conditioner in his work area, where 28°C (82.4°F) is too hot, but 27°C (80.6°F) is too cold. This year, though, he has an AC that can be set to a perfect 27.5°C.

Kio wishes a happy birthday to Aoki Ume, author of Hidamari Sketch. (Seeing two of my favorite authors interact makes me happy).

At an Oedo Choraliers concert.

Kio reminisces about the Zukkoke Sannin-gumi, a juvenile novel series. Because Kio turns 48 this year, he read the sequel series Zukkoke Chuunen Sannin-gumi (when the child heroes from the original are now middle-aged) and thought it was the best. He thanks the author, Nasu Masamoto.

Someone mentions buying all of the Zukkoke Chuunen Sannin-gumi, to which Kio replies, “Amazing.”

Kio is two volumes away from finishing Zukkoke Chuunen Sannin-gumi and loving it. A fan of the soccer team Sanfrecce Hiroshima replies that the Hiroshima-born author actually had a collaboration with that time, and that a lot of the matches during that period ended up being very zukkoke (unusual, foolish).

Mourning the death of Kobayashi Kiyoshi, the original voice of Jigen Daisuke in Lupin III, who played him up until last year.

Kio promoting some new digital chapters of Spotted Flower, specifically starring Not-Angela! A fan replies with an emoji for panties, and Kio finishes the statement with “Please”—another reference to Genshiken and Spotted Flower.

Mourning another apparent death. This time, it’s illustrator Suzuki Masahisa, who passed away back in June.

Kio bought a new printer with a scanner function, and has moved his old massive scanner capable of handling A3-sized (manuscript) paper off his desk. He mostly works digitally now so it’s not always practical, but that old one comes in handy with things like scanning in paper drawings to use as extra materials for manga volumes.

Having more room on his desk means being able to use a dual-monitor setup, so he can look at references while drawing. He does this most often with women’s clothing.

A fan expresses how much they love “An-san” (Not-Angela), to which Kio replies that all three extra digital chapters this month revolve around her.

Promoting the third of the extra Spotted Flower chapters.

b, the huge Kimura Jin fan, asks Kio if he wants to promote a special campaign that lets you read the first two volumes of Hashikko Ensemble until August 31, and Kio does just that.

Kio has gotten around to gathering the film recordings and books he needs to put into manga what he couldn’t before. When asked what he’s drawing and if it can be shared on Twitter, Kio replies that it might be possible but it’s better to play it safe.

Kio talks about how exciting it would be go to the live talk event for Hirakata Ikorusun, author of Special, and ask about what happens in the final volume. (Hirakata debuted in Rakuen, the magazine Spotted Flower runs in).

Kio admonishes himself for still not being good at drawing panty shots after 28 years as a manga artist, and also for still putting in panty shots after 28 years.

Apparently, it’s not exactly for “work” (or is it?).

“Angela” Arrives in Spotted Flower and Is Powerful Indeed

I made a mistake when it comes to Spotted Flower.

In a story where the characters are like older, alternate-universe doppelgangers of the cast of Genshiken, not everything fits together perfectly. Characters look a little different in ways that can’t always be explained by changes in age, size, or fashion. So I long figured that the blonde living with Ogino-sensei (Not-Ogiue) was actually an amalgam of Ohno’s two American friends, Sue Hopkins and Angela Burton. After all, this character may have had much of Sue’s demeanor, but her figure and proportions were a lot more like the buxom Angela’s. Turns out, however, that there is a Not-Angela, and she’s more powerful than I could’ve imagined.

Not-Angela’s big change is that she’s somehow gone from being all-in on “boys’ love” to being obsessed with “girls’ love,” as she calls it). According to Not-Sue, she likes any story where you can see the sense of love showing, though the fact that Not-Angela has her stuff adorned with yuri buttons makes it seem like that’s not the whole story.

The Genshiken Angela was implied to be very sexually experienced compared with most, if not all of the other characters—not surprising, given most were socially awkward dorks. Spotted Flower is a different beast, as it’s a story where sex and promiscuity are present in spades. Yet, even here, the aura Not-Angela gives off is still a level above the others, even if not much is actually shown. That said, a very exposed Not-Angela both gets a gratuitous shower scene and also tries to have a threesome with Not-Sue and Not-Ogiue the first night she’s there, so it might just be a matter of time.

Her relationships with the cast seem more or less similar to her Genshiken counterpart’s, including having a thing for Not-Madarame and a long friendship with Not-Ohno. Curiously, Not-Sue seems to have even more of a love-hate relationship with Not-Angela, though no real hints have been given as to what could have changed, or if it’s tied to the fact that both original versions had a thing for Madarame in Genshiken. It’s not a complete about-face from what their Genshiken versions had, but it just seems much more aggressive. Also, she seems to dislike Not-Sasahara, claiming that he’s the type to ask for a threesome, which cuts a little deep with a tinge of irony, given recent developments.

Not-Angela’s last appearance involves her flying back to the US, but not before teasing Not-Madarame by mentioning the striped panties she’s wearing—a personal weakness of his, and one that his wife, Not-Kasukabe, is all too aware of. This suggests that Not-Angela found out about this detail at some point and is taking advantage of it, but given the adultery that Not-Madarame engaged in not long ago when his wife just had their daughter, it feels tinged with a kind of uncomfortableness only Spotted Flower can bring.

I wonder if we’ll end up seeing a meeting between Not-Angela and Not-Kohsaka at some point. They’re probably the most eager to get in people’s pants out of everyone, though I don’t see anything happening between the two. 

I Asked Kio Shimoku About Star Wars

The cover to Star Wars: Tribute to Star Wars. A blank border surrounds a drawing of Darth Vader with stormtroopers behind him. The title logo is in front as a gold plate with the corners beveled and the Star Wars logo cut out. The art is by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu.
(Cover by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu)

I purchased the artbook Star Wars: Tribute to Star Wars for one reason: Among the many manga artists who contributed their talents to this collection is Kio Shimoku, author of Genshiken. I expected some nice art (of course), but the real shocker comes from his comments.

Some years ago, I suddenly thought I'd like to retell Star Wars, and I created 350 pages of thumbnails of Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace just for me. So, I'm pretty attached to those characters. (I especially like the duo of Nute Gunray and Rune Haako.) I've wanted to do Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones and beyond for a long time, but...I'm busy, so I keep having to put it off. Someday I'll do it, though (just for me, of course)!

As seen above, Kio states that he once drew 350 pages of thumbnails for a Star Wars doujinshi…and that he’s a fan of Nute Gunray and Rune Haako. If you’re not that into Star Wars, you might be asking, “WHO???” And if you are a fan, you might be asking, “WHY???”

Nute Gunray is the viceroy of the Trade Federation, and Rune Haako is his right-hand man. In other words, they’re the bad guys at the beginning of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. So that answers the “who,” but as for the “why,” I actually had to ask the man himself on Twitter. Here’s his response: 

He even followed up by finding his original thumbnail with the characters and confirming something I suspected: The doujinshi he’s referring to is a genderswap doujinshi, titled Sister Wars. Kio had previously talked about it in his interview with VTuber Luis Cammy.

I don’t own the doujinshi—though I wish I did. That being said, there may be a few copies floating around on auction sites and such. I haven’t yet tried to get my hands on it, but maybe I should make the attempt…

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights May 2022

Kio Shimoku provides a few more insights into the Hashikko Ensemble creative process this month.

Kio realizes that Menturm and Mentholatum are different products.

Kio posts a Hashikko Ensemble drawing used for a Monthly Afternoon cover. A fan mentions that they originally thought Himawari would become part of the core cast, to which Kio apologizes but in a way that makes him sound like an elderly man.

Kio clarifies that Hanyama would be Second Tenor, and was supposed to join as a tone-deaf member, but it never happened. (In the manga, it’s mentioned that Hanyama isn’t tone deaf, but rather is the son of a monk and therefore used to singing Buddhist chants, where the notes are slightly off from Western music.)

The drawing with Hanyama should be the last of the color illustrations, though Kio thinks there might be one more.

It took too many chapters to get Kousei into the Chorus Appreciation Society, which resulted in Shinji becoming the Second Tenor of the group. While that wasn’t the original plan, Shinji’s use as a tsukkomi character came in handy quite a bit.

Right when Kio starts to relax, a new manuscript is due. (It’s likely a new chapter of Spotted Flower.)

A drawing of Kozue feeling something in the stomach, with Kio saying that he thought stomach warmer season was over, but it looks like he still needs it.

A rough from the new chapter of Spotted Flower.

Kio suddenly needed to handle a bunch of administrative work, which exhausted his mental capacity to keep working on manga. 

Lately, Kio has been revising his roughs into line art for color images rather than using the pen tool to do so. For some reason, the latter approach isn’t quite hitting the mark for him, even though that’s how Kio does B&W art.

It looks like Kio got drunk while watching a DVD of the “Hajimete no Africa” specials from the variety show How do you like Wednesday?

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights April 2022

Kio’s tweets this month feature lots of his preliminary sketches for Hashikko Ensemble! It’s worth a look if you want to see how the characters began.

All the drawings used for the cover of Hashikko Ensemble, Volume 8!

Kio comments on the passing of Fujiko Fujio (A), remembering a Ninja Hattori-kun story he loved where Hattori moved next door and turned the house into a ninja mansion.

The pet tortoise at an active time.

Kio recommends that B the Jin fan go see Oedo Coraliers, a chorus/gee club Kio previously worked with.

The artist Shigisawa Kaya is feeling conflicted about waiting for things to calm down but that never being the case. Kio comments that he’s finally gotten around to checking things off his bucket list, but it’s after 28 years as a manga artist.

Kio has always felt that preparing salads is a pain even though it’s good to eat more vegetables, but then realizes that he basically makes salads for his tortoise every day.

Kio went to the library for the first time in a long while. The drawing of Kozue talks about the feeling of getting an author’s new work, only to realize that it’s already five volumes long and also finished. He then recalls borrowing tons of books from the library as a kid and reading through all of them before going back for more, but looking back wonders how in the world he managed to make the time to do that.

Kio comments that it’s the season for haramaki (stomach bands), and jokingly states that this year’s Fanta vintage is good.

A drawing for Afternoon that didn’t end up in any of the collected volumes of Hashikko Ensemble.

Kio began sharing some preliminary character design drawings for Hashikko Ensemble. Akira is described as having a contrast between his timid personality and his newly acquired bass voice. 

Jin’s initial background had him singing since he was five years old, and that he can even sing soprano. 

Kousei the baritone was always intended to have a heavy backstory. 

Shion was a more serious character, though had the quality of being made to learn piano by her mother, as well as having poor grades.

It’s interesting that some of the character designs changed significantly. Also, a few of these drawings were actually used in the teaser for Kio’s “new manga” back before the series began.

The student work uniforms.

Mimi-sensei, mostly unchanged. A capable person despite how she might appear, though lacking in experience.

Probably the biggest departure of all: A male character named Koizumi Yuusuke who would eventually morph into Akira’s neighbor and childhood friend, Himari. Described as an idiot who thinks he’s smart.

Kio mentions that people might ask “That’s it?!” when seeing how few planning drawings he does, but that’s just how he works. He mentions that he did have to design all the students in Class 1-5 afterwards, and that’s where Kanon, Kozue, and Shinji came from.

Kio elaborates on the point above that he tries to get a solid idea of how the characters will be in the roughs, and by the time he’s inking, he more or less knows how they’ll be. Someone asks if this was the same process he used for Genshiken characters, and he says yes. Kio also says that he feels the drawings feel the best in that rough stage and he wants to keep that feel, but that the designs inevitably change over the course of serialization.

An even earlier Shion sketch. Apparently “not owning a smartphone” was in there from the start.

A Chinese-speaking individual thanks Kio for all his work, to which Kio thanks them. Also, the person is clearly an Ogiue fan, and therefore a superior human being.

The rough versions of those early Hashikko Ensemble designs. Kio is asked how he came up with the names for Akira and Jin, to which he replies, “Intuition.”

To come up with various students and teachers, Kio gathered image references online and then started doing sketches based on them.

More sketches to better solidify the designs.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights March 2022

This month was the release of the 8th and final volume o f Hashikko Ensemble!

Kio saw the anime film Goodbye, Don Glees! and enjoyed it. He’s particularly fond of the last scene, which he likens to a large mosaic.

The man can’t find his copic markers, but eventually does.

Kio made his first trip to Akihabara, but took a different route this time. The last visit, he went to Melon Books, ZIN, K Books, etc. This time, it was Yodobashi, Volks, Yellow Submarine.

When asked if his interests are going from books to 3-dimensional things, Kio says that his interest in ero is growing weaker, while his desire to build gunpla is growing stronger.

Another reply shows Kio that the old Genshiken capsule figures still exist, to which he expresses surprise. He’s also amazed at how the swimsuit figures of Saki and Ohno managed to happen. The original replier says he likes this Ohno figure, but likes the bouncing boobs Ohno bust that came with an issue of Monthly Afternoon.

(Ogiue Manaix note: I have this one too, but I never managed to get the Ogiue counterpart because it was Japanese mail-order only…)

Countdown to the release of Hashikko Ensemble, Volume 8—the finale!

Kio mentions that the Hashikko Ensemble characters feel like they could keep going. (I agree.)

Kio was exhausted, so he ended up just drinking beer and falling asleep.

Kio’s pet tortoise isn’t going to have the garden space it used to, so Kio is trying to set up a habitat for it on his balcony. 

The Kimura Jin super fan known as “b” talks about how pure and innocent Jin looks, and asks Kio if Jin is saying “ni” (two) in the countdown image above. Kio gives an affirmative.

A close-up of the back cover from Volume 8.

I had to ask if there’d be any limited store exclusives for Volume 8. Kio answered “no,” which helps me a lot because it determines how I order the book.


Kio thanks b for giving him courage.

Technically not Kio tweets, but manga artist Shigisawa Kaya drew some Hashikko Ensemble fanart! In the first image, they mention loving Kozue’s fat fingers.

More drinking.

Artist Ikuhana Niro mentions wanting to get a new back and shoulders sometimes, and Kio agrees with the sentiment.

The artificial rendition of “Kanade” by Sukima Switch, as performed by the main characters of Hashikko Ensemble, goes away April 25th, 2022! Make sure to listen.

Kio wonders who the heck “Nagayama Koharu-chan” is. (Note: It’s actually a weird troll account by the author of Chainsaw Man where he pretends to be a third grader into Chainsaw Man).

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights February 2022

This month was pretty light when it came to Kio Shimoku tweeting.

Kio stumbles on a new technique while doing art for the final volume of Hashikko Ensemble.

B the Hashikko superfan asks if it’s due the cover, and Kio says it’s for the back cover because the front is going to be crowded.

B also mentions going to a choir concert thanks to Hashikko Ensemble, to which Kio expresses excitement that there was such an event.

Kio and Ikuhana Niro swap stories about buying alcohol on Ikuhana’s birthday.

Gathering the components for the release of Hashikko Ensemble Volume 8.

He slacked off on working out for three months, but got back into it recently. The post-workout aches from being away for so long are pretty bad.

Kio is about to private his Hashikko Ensemble YouTube video soon! Listen while you still can!

Another Five Star Stories model kit.

The pet tortoise returns! Kio apologizes for only having lettuce.

Next month is after the release of the latest chapter of Spotted Flower, and when the final volume of Hashikko Ensemble goes on sale. I expect a lot more tweets in March.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights January 2022

This month’s tweet highlights for Kio Shimoku are a little different: I’m doing them in chronological order rather than grouping them by subject. Tell me what you think!

January is also the month that Hashikko Ensemble ended. Check out my review!

Kio decides to drink and bathe at the same time, then watch some DVDs. He can’t drink the next day, so he hopes he can indulge in the moment.

Various model kits he built.

Kio talks about what a big personal step it was for him to start a Twitter, and that he’s gradually learning how to use it. He thought he had to do it at some point, and thinks it was good timing in more than one sense.

A compilation thread of all the various drawings he posted on Twitter over the past year.

Kio compliments a follower’s Kurotaki Mai fanart.

Kio wishes everyone a Happy New Year.

The man loves Dennou Coil, (like everyone of great taste).

Kio draws Kousei as a tiger man to celebrate the Year of the Tiger. B, the “I love Jin” superfan  for the Hashikko Ensemble character asks if Kousei’s always been that buff (while also stating how Kousei’s cat-like qualities make the image work), to which Kio says he added a bit of fantasy to the drawing.

(Just as a warning, that Jin fan’s Twitter account is very NSFW. Their love of the character is serious business—as the Ogiue Maniax, I should know.)

Kio mentions finishing the manuscript for the final chapter of Hashikko Ensemble. When the Jin fan asks if the series got canceled, Kio says “more or less.” Elaborating a bit, he says he got the call to start wrapping it up in summer of 2020, but was given the opportunity to go past the School Festival arc and end on eight volumes total. For reference, the original Genshiken was nine.

Unbuilt model kits, including Girls und Panzer.

And Five Star Stories kits, of course. He actually got the first one as a gift from a reader!

Feeling some nostalgia from when he got this at Wonder Festival. A fan shows a similar arm from a model kit of theirs, and Kio replies that he was never able to get that one (the Mighty Beta).

Kio found an old L-Gaim Mk.II model kit he built 25 years ago. He loves the look of the mecha, and finds that it has a real “Showa” feel to it.

Kio got a new scarf, and decided to draw what it looks like with Madarame as the model. He saw it being called an ascot scarf, but found that it didn’t match his Google searches. “New York scarf” seems to fit the bill better.

In light of the death of famed baseball manga artist Mizushima Shinji (Dokaben), Kio reminisces about growing up with Mizushima’s manga. In his home, there would always be assorted volumes of Dokaben around, and he would read them voraciously. In his estimation, a lot of baseball know-how for kids his generation came from reading Mizushima manga, and he especially enjoyed the series Dai Koshien. Kio offers a prayer at the end.

Also, at some point, the Dai Koshien character Kyuudou looks like a Scope Dog from VOTOMS (I don’t understand the context to this).

Kio wanted to reference an old chapter of Spotted Flower for his manuscript, and opened his old file, only to remember that he did it in the program Comic Studio. He’s switched over to Clip Studio Paint now, and seeing Comic Studio start up took him by surprise. He also notes that Asaka-sensei had a different hairstyle in this earlier chapter.

B the Jin fan has a question for Kio, asking how Kio managed to get a music note generator version of Sukima Switch’s “Kanade” because it doesn’t seem to be for sale. Kio responds that he uses a program called Score Maker Zero by KAWAI, which can also sing using a synthesized voice. Kio can’t read sheet music, so it’s very helpful for him.

Kio says that he generated these notes for “Kanade” himself, and asks if B lives nearby. B thanks him and doesn’t say anything about location, but he does mention going to the high school that Hashimoto Technical High School is based on. Kio is impressed.

As Kio was rearranging his desk in his room, his pet tortoise awoke (after barely moving during these winter months), and then stepped out of its box, ate some food, went outside, and then peed and pooped.

Kio made a Hashikko Ensemble Youtube channel, and uploaded a video of his tone generator version of “Kanade” by Sukima Switch for two male voices. It’s supposed to evoke the image of Akira and Jin singing together.

Kio made a Hashikko Ensemble Youtube channel, and uploaded a video of his tone generator version of “Kanade” by Sukima Switch for two male voices. It’s supposed to evoke the image of Akira and Jin singing together.


Some old NEO-GEO games from his college days that he found in a cardboard box. They include a bunch of Fatal Fury games, Samurai Sho-down, and even Far East of Eden.

Settling the Score: Hashikko Ensemble, Final Chapter

Akira and Jin are singing as the lyrics to "Kanade" by Sukima Switch appear as if they're reverberating from the harmony. Mai looks on in awe.

48 chapters later, friends compete for the first time in this conclusion to Hashikko Ensemble.

Summary

It’s shortly after the start of the new school year at Hashimoto Tech, and all the clubs are presenting to recruit first-years. While the freshmen predictably look a little too rough-and-tumble to sing chorus/glee-style, Jin declares his confidence that they’ll find new members.

The chapter jumps back one month in time to White Day, where the last chapter left off. Akira and Jin both sing “Kanade” by Sukima Switch, but unlike the previous two times they’ve done this song together, this time they’re in a one-on-one “exhibition match.” For those familiar with Jin, especially Yumerun, it’s highly uncharacteristic to see Jin singing against someone rather than with them. At the end, with no clear victor, Jin proudly announces that he’s going to apply for music college just like Akira. Smiling, Jin calls Akira his rival, to which Akira happily agrees. 

Then, Jin reciprocates Kozue’s romantic Valentine’s chocolate with a White Day chocolate of his own, and says he likes her too. Kozue is happy, but notices Yumerun staring daggers into her, leading to a bit of off-panel comedic fury. 

The story then shifts forward again to the recruitment, and the group is going to be next on stage. Shion is nervous because all of her work to pass her classes has made her extremely competent at all that vocational work, but made her forget how to play. Kousei just says that she has to play decently, and it’ll be fine. The other members notice that they’ve gotten a bit closer, while Mai wishes she had the courage to give Akira chocolate.

As the announcer calls for them, Akira and the others come out to the audience as the official, full-fledged Chorus Club. The freshmen notice that there are an unusual number of delinquents in it—as well as girls—before the club starts their song.

The entire Chorus Club walks out after being officially announced, and freshmen in the audience notice both the heavy presence of delinquents among their members, as well as the girls present.

Concluded or Canceled?

Having Hashikko Ensemble all end here feels both well-timed and abrupt, and the actual answer is that it’s a little bit of both. On Twitter, Kio Shimoku said that he was told to begin wrapping up at the start of the Culture Festival arc, and he was able to get enough time to finish that arc and wrap things up, ending the series at Volume 8. It’s not quite the same, but it reminds me a bit of what happened to the original Mobile Suit Gundam: It was slated to be a 52-episode series, only to be canceled early and revised to be a 39-episode show, but the staff managed to convince the higher-ups to at least make it 43.

That, in turn, makes me think of that old Genshiken anime episode preview where the characters talk about how so many great series got canceled early—like Gungal (Gundam) and Dizner (Layzner). Madarame turns it around and says that maybe it’s the opposite, and a series is only truly great if it gets canceled.

I feel that Hashikko Ensemble is a story that had plenty more room to grow, and I would have enjoyed seeing them at least get to the end of high school, if not further beyond that. Still, there was at least enough room to resolve things well enough, and the main thrust of the relationship between Akira and Jin ends at an interesting and uplifting point.

Unrequited or Unseen?

Jin gives chocolate to Kozue and declares that he likes her back. Kozue blushes but turns to Yumerun, who looks like a ghost out for revenge.

Of the many romantic threads in the series, It’s funny that Jin x Kozue was the only one that resulted in a definitive couple. Hashikko Ensemble largely didn’t dwell on their relationship, and a lot of their interactions didn’t even indirectly hint at the subject. This can be chalked up to their personalities—Kozue is not prone to flights of fancy, and oblivious Jin probably didn’t even think about romantic love at any point in his life until Kozue’s confession. Giving the least prominent romance closure but not the others feels like a troll of sorts, but one I welcome for it’s unexpectedness.

And even then, others are somewhat open-ended. Kousei and Shion appear to be closer, and that development is likely a direct response to Shion proving that she can successfully perform the physical labor tasks involved in passing her classes—and by extension someday live the kind of life Kousei envisions for himself. Mai regrets not confessing to Akira, but it’s not like there was any sort of rejection. In the world of the story, they’ve still got at least another couple of years. If this were a series that had people writing fanfiction about it, this would probably be a prime topic.

Learning to Be Selflessly Selfish

Jin tells Akira in front of everyone that he's going to take the test for music college, and that he now considers the two of them rivals.

It feels appropriate that things would essentially boil back down to Akira and Jin. What’s fascinating is the journey they both took to get here.

The lesson Jin learns in the end is one that runs almost opposite of what is typical in anime and manga. Stories are often about someone discovering the power of teamwork, but what Jin needs in order to grow is the capacity to individually compete and outperform. His match against Akira isn’t about trying to win, but to see if he can actually use his singing as a tool to raise himself rather than support another. To go from “teammates” to “rivals” is, again, sort of counter to the standard narrative of manga about high school clubs. 

As Akira states in his thoughts, he’s grateful for all he’s gained thanks to Jin. He originally was woefully self-conscious about the deep voice he suddenly developed in middle school, and it was something he sought to hide and minimize. But Jin encouraged him to go out of his comfort zone and embrace the bass in his voice, and here, Akira brings not only his gratitude but everything Jin ever taught him.

Poetically, Jin himself turns out to have been forced outside his comfort zone by Akira’s rapid progress, which is how we get to their relationship in the final chapter. Rather than the student becoming the master, the two recognize each other as true equals.

Songs

As stated, the last and only song for Chapter 48 is “Kanade” by Sukima Switch. As with every time “Kanade” appears, I’ve linked the official music video above, but there’s a very special treat this time as well.

Kio actually uploaded a version of “Kanade” that’s supposed to be an approximation of how the song would sound as a duet performed by Akira and Jin! According to his tweets, Kio stated that he made it himself because it didn’t exist, and that he accomplished it with the help of a couple music programs.

One thing I never really did with all these Hashikko Ensemble reviews over the years is provide analyses of the lyrics for the various songs used in the manga. This was partly for space and time reasons, but they often add meaning to each chapter, so it has been a bit of a glaring omission. 

For this final chapter, I think it’s worth looking at “Kanade” and what the song is saying. The lyrics are largely about someone getting close to a person and guiding them, only to see them growing into an adult and changing. But even though things aren’t going to be the same, they’ll use their voice to protect the other.

How fitting for Akira and JIn, and perhaps the entirety of Hashikko Ensemble. So much of the series is about the characters finding support in one another, and watching them grow beyond what anyone expected.

Final Thoughts

The series is ending literally one month short of its fourth anniversary, and looking back, there are many questions about Hashikko Ensemble left unanswered and open to exploration. Mai, who ended up becoming my favorite character, never got enough time to fully shine, but I appreciate the fact that she ended up becoming a more prominent character towards the end. I also have to wonder if Jin’s mom was introduced during the Culture Festival because Kio knew the manga was set to finish. It feels somewhat like an appearance that resulted from things having to wrap up, and a longer series might have had her shadow (rather than her physical self) loom in the background for a greater amount of chapters. Would Jin ever learn that his mom thinks highly of his singing ability? I could see it going either way.

Hashikko Ensemble is notably different from pretty much all of Kio’s previous works in the way that there’s a concrete underlying goal for its cast. Whether it’s Genshiken or any of the series that have preceded or followed it, Kio’s stories have always been more about exploring character relationships in spaces devoid of strong ambition. Hashikko Ensemble is very much about the characters and how they connect with one another, but the theme of music and an in-story goal of forming a proper club (and a proper chorus) means that there’s a good deal of forward momentum that’s absent in Kio’s other manga—with the arguable exception of Kujibiki Unbalance. Seeing that relatively more “focused” Kio Shimoku manga makes me wonder how things would go if he took it a step further, maybe even into a more adventure-type work, or something like palace intrigue.

Akira, Jin, and the rest are so charming and authentic as characters. Their personalities contain both simplicities and complexities, and as they grow, they gain new dimensions while remaining true to their cores. It reminds me of past Kio series to be sure, but there’s a kind of enthusiasm that I think is indicative of the high school setting—a mark of youth and the potential that lies ahead. Yet, with all the adult figures in the background, there are characters even those who feel far removed from their younger days can relate to. The fact that Kio actually joined Twitter as this serialization was happening even lends an air of trying to communicate with an audience that’s both younger and older. It’s not TikTok, but maybe that’d be a step too far.

Hashikko Ensemble ends up feeling like it has the perspectives of both teens in the midst of their days and adults looking at youth in action, and that interaction has been a joy to read.

Standing with Jin after finishing singing, Akira thinks about how he went from trying to hide his voice to learning to use it thanks to Jin. Flashback panels appear all over the background.

Thank you for another great series, Kio-sensei.