OGIUE MANIAX

Anime & Manga Blog | 50% Anime Analysis, 50% Ogi

Valentine’s Day “Dead Eyes Extravaganza”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, that romantic holiday transformed in Japan into a way for girls to express their feelings for guys, I present an image mosaic of one of my favorite character traits: dead or empty eyes.

deadeyes-mosaicCreated using Mosaic Maker

Dead eyes, that is to say empty eyes without luster, are usually associated with characters who have been mind-controlled. However, I’m more fascinated by them when the characters who have them are in full control of themselves. Rather than being a sign of a loss of will, they’re often symbolic of something else. They can be intensity, trauma, otherworldly perspective/experience, or even a swirling madness. Just think about how all many of the characters in the image above have notably different personalities!

Do you have a favorite character in the image above? Is there a dead eyes character you’re a fan of? Let me know!

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Return to Genshiken: Volume 1 – The Old Guard

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Welcome to the very first “Return to Genshiken,” a new series of posts where I revisit the very first Genshiken manga series. For those unfamiliar with Genshiken, it’s a series about a college otaku club and their daily lives. Originally concluding in 2006 before restarting in 2010 and finishing once again in 2016. A lot has changed about the world of the otaku, so I figured it’d be worth seeing how the series looks with a decade’s worth of hindsight.

Note that, unlike my chapter reviews for the second series, Genshiken Nidaime, I’m going to be looking at this volume by volume. I’ll be using the English release of Genshiken as well, for my own convenience. Also, I will be spoiling the entirety of Genshiken, both the old and the recent manga, so be warned.

Volume 1 Summary

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Sasahara Kanji is starting as a freshman at Shiiou University, a college in the Tokyo area. He wants to join an otaku club, and after some false starts winds up in a club called the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, or “Genshiken.” While he believes himself to be nowhere near as hardcore as the other club members, he discovers that he fits in well with the laid back atmosphere.  As he learns the ropes about the otaku life, he’s also joined by other new members, including cosplayer Ohno Kanako, the usually handsome supernerd Kousaka Makoto, and Kousaka’s non-otaku girlfriend, Kasukabe Saki.

Back in Time

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I must say, reading the first volume of Genshiken really is like going through a time warp. Not only is the visual style of the manga starkly different compared to how it ends up by Volume 21, but the aesthetic of the characters the Genshiken members themselves are obsessed with is a trip down memory lane. During this period, Genshiken makes references to series like To Heart and The King of Fighters, and the world of the otaku just seems…smaller somehow.

In one chapter, Tanaka is examining a garage kit of a cute girl model, and he remarks that female characters’ faces are getting rounder and cuter as of late. Keep in mind that this was back in 2002, before the K-On!‘s and the Bakemonogatari‘s of the world came along, the time of series like Star Ocean EX. Character designs like Lina Inverse from Slayers and Deedlit from Record of Lodoss War were still holding strong.

It’s also notable that the character profiles included between chapters bother to list each person’s “favorite fighting game character.” Fighting games still exist today, but it should be noted that they began to die out around 2003 before being revived in 2009 with the launch of Street Fighter IV. I think we’re catching the tail end of the fighting game craze.

Perhaps the most major difference between Genshiken and Nidaime is that the latter mainly focused on fairly contemporary references in order to emphasize that its values were more current. In contrast, the original Genshiken, by starting at a point where years and years of otaku history preceded it, draws from the previous decades in order to establish its characters and their preferences.

Memories Refreshed

There are a lot of things that happen in Volume 1 that I pretty much forgot, and a lot of things that, having recently finished Nidaime, stand out as likely reference points for the second series.

I did not remember that Sasahara joins Genshiken because Kohsaka scares him from the Manga Society. Given how close they become later on, it’s almost surprising to go back and see just how intimidating Kohsaka appears to Sasahara. It makes sense: Sasahara is a meek fellow, and he’s suddenly confronted with this idea that guys like him might populate the Manga Society. And just in general, most of the main cast of awkward nerds—Sasahara, Tanaka, Madarame, Kugayama—get really uncomfortable when it comes to regular-looking guys.

Going forward to Nidaime, it frames how Yajima feels upon entering the club all those years later. While Sasahara felt threatened by Kohsaka alone as a kind of living contradiction, Yajima sees herself as being practically surrounded by Kohsakas. Ohno is attractive. Ogiue is very attractive. Yoshitake’s surprisingly fashionable. Hato is Hato.

While I thought Madarame’s lamentations over all the sex talk in Chapter 125 was more of a general callback to how the club used to be, I find that it’s actually specifically in reference to the guys overhearing conversations from others about how much sex they have that can be found in Volume 1. If you just read Volumes 1 and 21 back-to-back, it is a stark contrast that the characters would go from freezing up and sweating nervously when some fellow talks about doing three girls in one day, to Sasahara and Tanaka both mentioning how they wish they had more sex with their girlfriends. Similarly, the way Madarame freezes when he sees Kohsaka and Saki kiss for the first time is possibly the long setup to the fact that he’s too passive to even get something started with Sue even after they start going out.

Another moment i had forgotten the exact details for was the very first Kujibiki Unbalance discussion we ever see. First, I had no idea that Kujibiki Unbalance is supposed to be a shounen manga, given its makeup. Second, the characters talk about the fact that the school in Kujibiki Unbalance is supposed to be a mix of various real schools—a self-aware nod to how Shiiou University is itself an amalgam of real schools.

Saki the “Time Bomb”

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In this volume, the manga refers to Saki as a “time bomb” whose effects influence Genshiken in unforeseen ways. Looking back, this statement is more profound than I think even the author Kio could’ve imagined. She fundamentally changes a great deal about the club over time. It’s because of her that the members of Genshiken grow and evolve themselves as people, beyond the otaku stereotypes to varying degrees.

Outside of the possible exception of Sasahara, whose sister Keiko is very much the “gyaru” type, Saki is Genshiken’s biggest exposure to the “normal” world before the members start graduating. Because of her, Ohno goes from shy wallflower to mother figure for younger otaku. Madarame changes himself as he discovers his feelings for her. Ogiue learns to open up as well. She is a force for change in the club, and one might even argue that she’s the real protagonist of Genshiken, at least initially.

I also noticed that the presence of the real world outside of Saki is much more prevalent in Volume 1. The aforementioned bro talk situations happen. Saki herself gets hit on by guys looking for a quick fling. As the series continues, that realm fades from view until Saki is the primary example of it. And even then, Saki herself changes as she gets acclimated to being friends with otaku.

Comic Festival

I recall that, prior to my discovering Genshiken, my main exposure to the idea of “Comic Market” came from two anime: Comic Party and Nurse-Witch Komugi-chan. Suffice it to say, that’s kind of a strange combination. While Comic Party had a couple of Kuchiki-esque creepers, it was mostly portrayed as a fairly tame event. With Genshiken, however, seeing the final barrier of Sasahara’s shame come undone gives the full doujinshi-purchasing experience. In a way, doujin events are where you confront your true self, and see what values lie within. What are your real priorities? What fundamentally tickles your fancy? It’s a time for reflection.

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Before Kuchiki, There Was Haraguchi

I think there’s a common feeling throughout Genshiken fandom that Kuchiki is an unnecessary element. Who wants to read about a guy with the absolute worst social skills, whose behavior is grating and downright pathetic? However, in Volume 1 Kuchiki has yet to appear. Instead, within early Genshiken exists the character of Haraguchi, and in many ways he provides an interesting contrast with Kuchiki.

Haraguchi is portrayed as an opportunist who likes to lord it over others. A member of all three otaku circles (Anime Society, Manga Society, Genshiken), it’s implied that each group barely tolerates him. Haraguchi works by making connections and ingratiating himself to those who “matter,” and he’s viewed as a leech who mooches off the success and passion of others. Haraguchi is that guy who gives orders without ever actually contributing, and the result is that no one in the universe likes him.

A similar dislike of Kuchiki is certainly prevalent, but for as much as can be said about Kuchiki’s flaws, being a manipulative person isn’t one of them. He’s obnoxious, lacks self control, has a tendency to give TMI, and perpetually irritating, but he’s also absolutely honest and upfront about who he is and what he enjoys. I think it’s ultimately why he’s allowed to stay with the club. Kuchiki is a man of innumerable faults, but he’s not a scumlord like Haraguchi.

Art in Progress

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As I looked for the best image to include in this post, something hit me: the panel layout in Volume 1 is much less refined and elegant than what it would become. While there’s a nice sense of variation in terms of panel size, the composition isn’t as strong, the borders are rather rigid, and the pages don’t flow nearly as well. I’ve looked ahead a couple of volumes and it mostly seems the same, so I wonder if there’s a point at which it truly changes.

Actually, when looking just at the differences between chapters in Volume 1, the art style already begins moving towards the more familiar Genshiken style. As the series begins, the character designs are more similar to Kio’s previous works, and by the end of the volume they’re definitely getting softer. The difference between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is significant enough that I suspect they were drawn months apart. That’s what happened with Nidaime, where the pilot chapter still had the feel of Jigopuri.

Final Aside

I thought the portrayal of underage drinking was a Nidaime thing. Apparently not! It happens wit Kasukabe and Kohsaka right from the start.

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America the Moeful: Genshiken Volume 21

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Chapter 127 may have been the end of Genshiken’s serialization, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over yet! As fine patrons of the Society for Modern Visual Culture know, the volume releases always come with extras. So, I’m going to give my thoughts on some highlights.

First and foremost, it is absolutely necessary to talk about the cover, which features Sue in a somewhat bizarre cosplay of Ritsuko from Kujibiki Unbalance. It certainly doesn’t look like any prior incarnation of Ritsuko from Genshiken, and that’s because…it isn’t.

spottedflower-sexycosplay

The cosplay actually comes from the thinly veiled alternate universe Kio Shimoku manga Spotted Flower. For those unfamiliar with it. The premise basically asks, what if a person very similar to Madarame married someone just like Kasukabe? In it, the unnamed wife, pregnant and sexually frustrated, winds up seducing get husband in that very same outfit.

In other words, Sue (who has become Madarame’s girlfriend) is cosplaying a cosplay worn by a parallel universe Madarame’s wife as a way to get some nerd boott, who is in turn a reference to Kasukabe and her Ritsuko cosplay from Genshiken, which is the defining moment when Madarame fell in love with her.

Talk about peak meta. And we haven’t even opened the book!

Inside, you have the standard comic strips between chapters. I won’t go through all of them, but I do want to draw attention to my favorites. genshiken21-ninjaslayer2First is one where Yoshitake mythbusts every idea that Sue has about ninjas. In reaction, Sue makes a Ninja Slayer reference: “Kill all ninjas! Yeeart! Guwah!”

Here we have Sue, an American otaku, referencing a book series that was supposedly created by Americans who love Japanese culture, which was then translated into Japanese, buy is actually a satirical look by Japanese creators at the American obsession with ninjas. Did I say we hit peak meta before? I might have been mistaken.

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The second is after Madarame and Sue start dating. Hato gives some helpful advice, just in case: “Sue lives next to me, and the walls are thin, so keep that in mind.”

This leads to the final post-chapter content, which caps off Genshiken Nidaime. In the last series, it revolved around a discussion of whether Kasukabe is moe. This time, it has to do with how pathetic Madarame and Kuchiki are in different ways.

At his graduation after-party, Kuchiki brags that he has taken Madarame’s first kiss. Ohno exclaims that surely Sue’s more than made up for that deficit, but this is far from the truth. Not a kiss (let alone anything else) has happened, and the members of Genshiken contemplate just how much of a wimp Madarame is. Kuchiki gets upset over the fact that he never got a girlfriend in college, and has the gall to ask Ohno once again if he can touch her boob, just once. Ohno, unfortunately, is very drunk (as tends to be the case with her at parties), and she actually agrees, going so far as to comply when he asks if she can remove her bra partway underneath her sweater. However, Kuchiki makes his attempt, Yajima gut checks Kuchiki. Sadly for Yajima, all this does is awaken a new fetish in Kuchiki. Everyone is happy that he’s graduating and going away.

I kind of wish that the last moments of Genshiken didn’t have Kuchiki at the center, but it isn’t all bad. In particular, I like the notion that Madarame still hasn’t quite gotten over his awkwardness with girls. In fact, the very idea of him having a girlfriend has probably short-circuited his brain. And if anything, it makes me very aware of just how dramatically Sasahara and Ogiue’s relationship escalated once it hit the threshold. The two of them literally starting having sex with each other once they got on the same page, which is probably not the image we ever had of otaku.

The last things I want to talk about are the extras I received with Volume 21.

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I ordered from the Japanese comic store Comic Zin, and with it came a 4-page bonus illustration featuring artists associated with the Genshiken universe. It has Koume Keito (artist of the Kujibiki Unbalance manga), Yagumo Kengou (artist of the Kujibiki Unbalance light novel), as well as Kio himself. It also features a message from Tamaru Hiroshi, creator of Rabuyan, a manga about a Madarame-esque loser.

First editions of Volume 21 also get a version of the “Thank You Messages” compilation that came with the final chapter in Monthly Afternoon. It also features brand new color art for its cover, featuring most of the now-gigantic cast of Genshiken. I love the drawing of Ogiue on here; she honestly looks so cool.

So that’s that. I’ll see you (hopefully) in January, as I start my look back on the first Genshiken. But before that, I still have another post to make, about Kasukabe Saki. Keep an eye out!

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The Limits of the Fujoshi Files

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In 2008, I had an idea: archive every fujoshi character I could possibly find. At the time, it seemed like an achievable task. Fujoshi characters were around but fairly rare, especially compared to the “girl otaku” that tended to share the same interests as the guys. However, a lot can change in eight years, and over this period the position of the “fujoshi character” has changed tremendously, leading me to think about all of the limitations imposed on the Fujoshi Files as they currently exist.

First, while the 2007-2009 period featured a kind of “fujoshi boom” as the term came into prominence, if you look at the fujoshi character today she’s basically been kneaded into anime and manga as a whole. The archetype doesn’t exist in its own universe, and she’ll appear in works more disconnected from the realm of hardcore fandoms. I mean, a yuri school detective comedy? A weird political satire light novel?

Where once the Izumi Konata-style female otaku was taken as the standard, now the de facto girl fan in anime and manga is the fujoshi. They’re basically everywhere, and it can be hard to keep up with all of them, which is why I’ve slowed down the pace a bit. Perhaps this means I should be doing more for the Fujoshi Files than ever before (and believe me, I’m still on the look-out), but I also want to make sure that the blog remains diverse thematically, as I think that’s one of its strengths. In other words, I don’t have the time to tackle every single work with fujoshi characters, but I wish I did.

Of course, if you find any fujoshi not currently on the list, by all means please leave a comment.

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Second, the number of fudanshi (rotten boy) characters steadily increases. Back when Genshiken Nidaime first came out, I was faced with a decision: do I include Hato in the Fujoshi Files? Ultimately, my decision was to not give him an entry because he identifies as male, and the list is for female characters. Then I found out about the series Fudanshism. A brand new series, Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsufeatured prominently in the summer season. Now the fudanshi is in the position the fujoshi once was, and to ignore them seems something of an issue.

Third, these Fujoshi File profiles I’ve written are very basic, and tend to be in-universe, but there are are often interesting aspects to these characters, like how they’re utilized in terms of narrative, elements of their designs, etc. Not including these factors leaves the Fujoshi Files without any real analytical teeth, though I’m not sure if that should change.

So I’m left with a few questions.

Should the Fujoshi Files branch off into a “Fudanshi Files?”

Should the Fujoshi Files go from being a series of small blog posts here to an entire Wikia?

Has the Fujoshi Files served its purpose already, in that it’s already over 150 characters strong?

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Big Ogiue, Final Stage: Genshiken II, Chapter 127

Commencing the 14,567th “This Month’s Genshiken Was Great” Discussion.

Chapter Summary

It’s time for Kuchiki’s graduation, and the members of Genshiken have gathered to celebrate . They haven’t really put much effort into wishing Kuchiki well, but their half-hearted gifts (flowers and a signboard with messages from everyone) move him to tears. Kuchiki, meanwhile, reminisces about his time in Genshiken, and how one of his greatest memories is seeing the Madarame Harem crumble in person, only to find out the news that Madarame and Sue are dating, which ruins his schadenfreude.

With graduation comes time for a new president, and Ogiue chooses Yajima. In spite of her misgivings, Yajima is eventually convinced to do it, especially thanks to support from Hato. The chapter transitions to a new spring, and Hato visits the club room, eager to spend time with his friends.

And So It Goes…

If anything stands out in this chapter, it’s the artwork. While I’ve felt the quality of Kio’s drawings have been fantastic these past few chapters, I can really feel that this finale wasn’t rushed at least in terms of the TLC put into it. Ogiue is beautiful. Hato is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful

The conclusion to Nidaime pretty much came about Chapter 126, so this one feels much more like an epilogue. In many ways, it mirrors the original ending of Genshiken: a graduation, a transition in power in the club, some delightful nerd moments, and then a positive look into the future for the club. In fact, both series all but conclude after the establishment of a romantic relationship, with a lot of “falling action” following.

The big difference in feeling is that one involves the graduation of Sasahara and Kasukabe, two very vital characters central to the Genshiken narrative, while the other involves… Kuchiki. While he’s been with the club for a very long time, even the characters themselves treat him as an afterthought. They’ll treat him with just as much respect as they think he deserves. As Kuchiki points out, they didn’t even bother dressing up for his graduation (and if you recall, their graduation trip was more of a “Kuchiki is going away” celebration excursion).

Kuchiki is Human Too

The big exception here is Hato, who in general tries to look good when he crossdresses, but I wonder if he has a soft spot for Kuchiki. It wouldn’t be anything remotely resembling romance, and might lean more towards pity than anything else, but he seems to treat Kuchiki with noticeably more restraint and tact than the others. This might just be in virtue of the fact that he’s also a guy, so even if Kuchiki pictures Hato as part of his potential “harem,” it doesn’t faze him as much. Kuchiki also inadvertently instigated a number of Madarame/Hato moments.

It might also be that Hato can kick his ass.

In a way, it feels weird that the series would end on Kuchiki’s big day. I think that many readers of the series wouldn’t even mind if he fell off a cliff. At the same time, he hardly ever got any real attention, and had nary a sense of character growth. Now, at the finish line, we see a rare moment of Kuchiki being genuinely happy. I’d like to think that, somewhere deep down, he realizes what a terrible person he can be, and the fact that the other members put up with him is something he can appreciate. Granted, that’s only one heartfelt moment in an otherwise incredibly awkward display of how not to behave as a human being. It doesn’t help him that he loudly declares in the middle of campus that he spent the prior day masturbating furiously to his favorite doujinshi.

I do find it kind of interesting that, when Kuchiki mentions that his desire is to create his own harem, he doesn’t exactly include Yajima and Yoshitake in it. It makes me wonder if there’s something to the two of them that puts him off.

Passing of the Torch

With graduation comes a new president, and this transition always provides plenty of delightful reflection and insight in terms of the characters. Seeing prior presidents fidget and their newly chosen successors doubt themselves is the kind of tradition I can support. After all, it once provided one of the best moments in Genshiken: Sasahara and Ogiue’s racy near-kiss. No such thing happens this time, but there’s still plenty to chew on.

In the past, new presidents were chosen because they either seemed likely to carry on the spirit of the club or because the alternative (Kuchiki) would have been far worse. Ogiue picking Yajima makes sense in this regard, because she always appears to be the most stable and grounded member out of all the new generation. What’s more, Yajima’s careful personality and the way she doubts herself often is indeed quite Genshiken-like, and the way that she feels caught in the transition between generations of otaku makes her able to understand a range of potential newbies. I also do love the fact that Yoshitake agrees that she would probably abuse any power given to her, and the role of advisor/confidant is about as perfect as it gets for a lover of history.

I also only just realized after reading this final chapter that Ogiue likely abolished the doujinshi honeypot trap tradition, where current members spy on new recruits from outside and then bust in on them while they’re in the middle of revealing their tastes. Being a victim of it herself and also not being a fan of embarrassment, I could see why the secrets behind this would not be passed on to the next generation, especially one with Yoshitake in it.

Speaking of movements between generations, it’s notable that Madarame does not show up in spite of his prominence in Nidaime. Granted, none of the former members show up at all, so I imagine that the goal was to focus on the current iteration of Genshiken for the final chapter.

Thanks from other Manga Artists

Accompanying this final chapter in Monthly Afternoon are a series of congratulatory images from 30 other Afternoon manga artists, including Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Gundam: The Origin), Samura Hiroaki (Blade of the Immortal), and Suenobu Keiko (Limit). Fun for all, and I really hope it’s included with the packaged volume release. Samura clearly drew Madarame with the wife from Spotted Flower, so I think we know where his ship sails.

Final Thoughts (This is actually as long as a regular Chapter Review!)

I discovered Genshiken many years ago, back in my college days. I can’t quite remember if I discovered the manga or the anime first anymore, but I remembered how real it all felt: these characters reflected to a scary degree the thoughts, behaviors, and mannerisms of me and my fellow nerds. It was an enjoyable series to be sure, but then a study abroad semester to Japan would elevate the series to the apex of my love for anime and manga, for it was there that I discovered Ogiue. With her came a number of realizations, such as my extreme(ly strange) fondness for “dead eyes” characters, but also an overwhelmingly powerful emotional connection with her fear that her passion would hurt others. By the time I came back to the United States, Genshiken was actually gearing up for its first ending, but it and Ogiue would remain with me.

Ogiue Maniax originally began well after the Genshiken manga had ended. At the time, I felt I had so much more to say about Genshiken and Ogiue, so I kept writing about it. I followed the second TV series. I gave testimony as to how I became such a fan of the series. I started the Fujoshi Files. Gradually, this site became much more than a Genshiken blog, though it wasn’t quite ever entirely one in the first place. I was content with the overall direction of Ogiue Maniax, and my own fandom.

Then Chapter 56 happened.

One of my long held desires was to see how Genshiken would be like under the leadership of President Ogiue, and this one-shot (at the time, no one knew it would become the precursor to a new series) provided just that. Two things stick out in my memory about Chapter 56. First would be the art style. Back then, Kio had been coming off of doing Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, and it showed in how much softer and cuter the character designs were. Second would be the mostly female cast. If you look at the original end of the first Genshiken, it clearly shows a very different kind of club with male members, a natural extension of what Genshiken was like back then. This was a retcon of sorts, but it set the stage for a more thorough exploration of the changing landscape of otakudom. Where once the female fan was seen as this rare gem in terms of characters, Chapter 56 went above and beyond to show that things were different, and the presence of female characters as otaku and fujoshi would not only be normalized but dominant.

When the announcement that Genshiken would be getting a full-on sequel hit, I was ecstatic. It provided me with a feeling of renewal, but also an opportunity. Chapter reviewing Genshiken on Ogiue Maniax hadn’t been possible, and I thought it wouldn’t ever be. But now, if ever there was a series for me to analyze every month, it had to be this one.

At the time, I could look back and go, “Wow, it’s been seven years since I discovered Genshiken, isn’t that wild?” Seven has now become 12. I began as a college student who saw himself in Genshiken, and now I’m in a dramatically different place, with a well-respected (if obscure) anime blog, a degree from studying manga that required me to move to another continent, and many good friends whom I met not only through my love of anime and manga, but also because the fact that Ogiue confronted and conquered her own fears encouraged me to do the same. Both I and the world around me have changed, and the fact that Genshiken has also shifted to reflect this made it a constant source of fascination for me.

It was truly unusual for this series to spend so much time exploring the Madarame harem, but I think that it became the focus inadvertently because it overlapped so much with Hato’s own development. You had these two tracks of characterization, one from the old guard and one from the new, and the result was that it pushed the classic otaku question of 2-D vs. 3-D into new and unfamiliar territory. In the end, any of the pairings would have worked for me, and while relationship drama was probably the last thing people expected out Genshiken, the series defied even those newly created expectations at every turn.

While it would have been all right for Genshiken Nidaime to have been more of the same as its predecessor, I’m happy to see how different it became. It confronted a new world of and around otaku, it tied up one of the vital loose ends with Madarame’s unrequited love, and explored topics concerning gender, sexuality, and self-image that went even beyond Ogiue’s plight in the first series.

What’s Next?

Now that Genshiken is over, that means the end of Ogiue Maniax’s monthly chapter reviews. That doesn’t mean it’s quite the end, though, as the supplements included in the collected volumes usually provide more insight and a true epilogue. And who knows? Maybe there’ll be more someday. I wonder where I’ll be in life at that point.

I’ve also been considering going back and reviewing the first series.

And please create that series I want where Angela is the main character.

So with that, I bid you adieu. OG(iue) 4 life.

Kio saying thanks and lamenting that he never got to do another beach chapter.

Push vs. Pull: Thoughts on the Attraction of Characters

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I’m generally not a fan of yandere characters, but I feel that I can understand why some people love them.

In a lot of my favorite characters there is a kind of intensity that emanates from them. Whether it’s Ogiue from Genshiken‘s withering stare, or Urabe Mikoto’s eccentric behavior in Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s like their very beings pierce my soul and linger there for a while.

From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump towards tsundere, and then eventually yandere as well. In other words, yandere characters exist on a spectrum where powerful emotions (sexual or otherwise) are valued, and their feelings are so overwhelming that it warps their minds. “Deep love” they call it.

This intensity has gotten me to think more broadly, past the typical labels, such as yandere, genki girl, Kansai native, etc. What I’m beginning to form is a theory of character attraction that takes a lot of these categories and places them into two distinctions: “push characters” and “pull characters.”

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Push characters are like many of the ones stated above. It is as if the characters’ attitudes, visual look, and other qualities invade your space. They pierce and break down the barriers in your heart. Kurosaki Rendou, creator of Houkago Play and other racy titles, specializes in this type of character for both guys and girls. Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball is also what I’d call a “push character.” They can perhaps be called aggressive characters as well, but I don’t think that it fits entirely neatly. Rather, in shounen terms, it’s more like they’re the “strong fists” of Rock Lee from Naruto or Raoh from Fist of the North Star.

teppei-smile

Pull characters, then, are more like the “gentle fists” of Hyuuga Hinata (Naruto) or Toki (Fist of the North Star). Rather than striking actively, their auras are passive and receptive. It is as if they have a gravity or magnetism that draws you to them. Softer, kinder characters would fall into this category, such as Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, or Teppei from Kuroko’s Basketball. It’s as if their warmth envelops your being.

Now there are a few aspects I’m thinking through as I bring out this half-formed way of considering characters. The first is that, many characters probably don’t fall into one category or the other. Sort of like a Myer-Briggs personality test, the “lesser” quality still exists. For example, I’d consider Koizumi Hanayo from Love Live! to be a “pull character” because of her typically shy personality, but the excitement of her two main loves—rice and idols—is enough to transform her into a “push character.”

hanayo-glare

Second, perhaps this distinction is actually entirely subjective, and one person’s “push character” is another person’s “pull character.” Does this render the terms meaningless, or is it more like moe where a broader understanding exists but the minutiae can get incredibly personal?

Lastly, to what extent do these terms match up with the idea of “seme” and “uke” characters in BL. Would “push characters” be those who tend to be seme, while “pull characters” are more commonly uke? If that’s the case, could this be a way to translate those terms to other types of relationships, such as heterosexual, yuri, or whatever other combinations can exist?

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Pent-Up Penultimate Supernovas: Genshiken II, Chapter 126

In case you haven’t heard, Genshiken Nidaime ends next month (!!!). Nevertheless, we haven’t reached the finish line quite yet.

Chapter Summary

After a bit of haranguing, Kasukabe and Ogiue finally manage to get Madarame and Sue on the phone together. At that moment, Madarame confesses his feelings for Sue in the one language she truly understands: internet memes and anime references. Deftly avoiding his statements, Sue finally gives pause when Madarame says the magic words—”I think you’re ridiculously moe.” Madarame explains that, while moe, love, and sexual attraction aren’t necessarily the same thing, he wants to believe in moe as an important facet of being an otaku, and Sue is basically the manifestation of his 2D interests in 3D. Finally, Sue agrees, and the two officially become a couple.

That same day, Madarame reveals that he’s finalized the deal on his new apartment, and is moving away, further from the university than he’s ever been. With a new home, and a new girlfriend, Madarame finally moves on from the past but without abandoning his otaku pride.

A Bit of Hindsight

Is this the true nail in the coffin for the canonicity of Spotted Flower? Maybe, maybe not.

I’m pretty shocked that Genshiken is coming to a close once more. Given this sudden news, it makes me think a bit differently about these past few chapters. While I’ve seen complaints that the Madarame harem story took too long to reach its conclusion, I was okay with that length while under the assumption that we’d get to see a lot more. Now, however, we won’t even get to witness the younger Yoshitake sister’s college debut. We won’t get to see how Madarame and Sue’s relationship grows. We won’t get excited as new members of Genshiken are made. Because of this, a part of me now wishes that the harem arc would’ve finished sooner so that we’d have room for more stories. I know manga publishing doesn’t necessarily work that way, but a guy can dream, right?

The Case for Susanna Hopkins

Moving onto Chapter 126, this one hits with the force of a battering ram. Where once we thought Madarame’s romantic life would fall back into stasis for the time being, here it is, pried wide open by the power of Kasukabe Saki. Seeing as the series is ending so soon, Kasukabe’s actions might be construed as a kind of deus ex machina. However, can a character be simultaneously a deus ex machina and a realistic character at the same time that all of her actions are perfectly in-character? In Genshiken, it seems, anything is possible.

The lines that Madarame uses this chapter are as follows: “The moon is pretty,” which is an indirect way of saying, “I love you”; “About Sue, Madarame- !”, which is the romance manga standard for many interrupted confessions, and finally, “Sue makes me pig out! Oink oink oink!” All of these are varying forms of otaku communication, and it shows what about Madarame and Sue makes sense as a couple. Madarame is an otaku, through and through, and Sue is the only one truly capable of matching him in terms of power level. That’s not to say that none of the other potential partners would not have made sense, and I think this is in the manga’s favor. We’re left with one of four possibilities, and when looking at the outcome, a particular set of messages is conveyed.

Liberty, Equality, and Moe

I think it’s very telling that Madarame’s explanation about his attraction to her revolves around the idea of “moe,” and how he contrasts it with erotic attraction. While he doesn’t position them in a dichotomy—moe can lead to sexual attraction and vice versa, as was the case with his feelings towards Kasukabe—Madarame’s decision to go with the “moe” one is an embracing of his continued desire to be an otaku. Madarame feels like he needs to grow up. Times are changing, but that doesn’t mean that Madarame has to “graduate” from being exactly the kind of otaku he is, which is an old-school geek with old-school geek tastes.

In other words, Sue lets Madarame be himself in a way the others wouldn’t, even if they would have made nice couples anyway. Sue not only possesses all of the features that Madarame loves in anime characters, being a “blonde loli with a rude attitude,” but she’s also his equal where it counts for Madarame: as a fan of anime and manga. Because of this, Madarame is moving on with one aspect of his life by separating himself from Shiiou University as the anchor he could not (or did not want to) escape, but he is still projecting his core being as he moves ahead. Where once Madarame was an otaku tied to the past, now he is an otaku looking ahead to the future. Also, Sue still attends the university so he’ll probably be around sometimes anyway.

Madarame’s decision to go where the moe is doesn’t have all that much in common with the other couples in Genshiken. Ogiue projects her BL version of Sasahara onto the real person, but this acts more as a kind of intimate bonding (and implied foreplay). and she increasingly shows how much she loves the actual Sasahara. Ohno and Tanaka came together over their shared hobbies, but it’s in the space of passion and community. Kohsaka and Kaminaga both have non-otaku partners who are fairly different from each other. And even though it doesn’t really count, Kugayama wants to get to know his beloved Cabaret Club girl Rino better. To put it differently, Genshiken presents many possible avenues of romance for otaku. There is no one size fits all, whether the significant other is an otaku or not, and so Madarame’s choice to embrace moe (and Sue in the process), is the path he, as an individual, takes, and his way of navigating the nebulous border between 2D and 3D.

I know the Madarame/Hato dynamic and the end of that possibility leaves a bitter taste in many fans’ mouths, but I do want to point out something very noteworthy in this chapter. When Madarame is comparing his prospective partners in terms of moe, he mentions that everyone but Sue would better be categorized as “sexy.” When asked about whether that includes Hato, Madarame says, “Hato too.” In other words, Madarame feels sexual attraction towards Hato (though whether it’s Hato the boy or Hato the boy dressed as a girl isn’t clear), and his decision for going with Sue is something that almost transcends the flesh. Madarame being very quite possibly bisexual is something I don’t think anyone expected from Genshiken originally, and it’s kind of amazing to say at all now that it’s come to this.

Sue’s Meta Powers

Before I bring this review home, I want to talk more about Sue as an entity of fiction. Though it isn’t ever explicitly stated who the most popular character in Genshiken Nidaime is, many signs point to either Hato or Sue. It’s Sue who was made into a DLC costume for the game Akiba’s Trip, who was made into a hug pillow, and who is increasingly prominent on the store-exclusive bonuses for buying new volumes of the manga in Japanese. Could this popularity have been a factor in deciding the final couple?

Another aspect of Sue that bears mentioning is the fact that she’s able to make not just anime and manga references, but references to Genshiken itself. Sue’s way of saying, “Yes, I will go out with you Madarame!” in this chapter comes from twisting a quote from Zenigata from Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro: “He stole something quite precious: your heart.” Except, Sue replaces “your heart” with “my panties.” One might think she’s just being weird, but this is actually the very line that Ogiue thinks when Sue flies back to the US in the first series while still wearing the underwear she borrowed from Ogiue. As one might remember from early on in Nidaime‘s life, Sue was somehow even able to reference Ogiue’s self-introduction (in spite of her not even being there at the time!). Sue actually might just be some kind of metatextual alien.

In Closing

One more chapter, and next month is Kuchiki’s graduation. In the meantime, enjoy these Ogiue moments. Though it’s a Sue-centric chapter, it was actually rife with Ogiue goodness.

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