Kio Shimoku’s Kagerowic Diary and Its Influence on Genshiken and Spotted Flower

A special edition of Kio Shimoku’s Kagerowic Diary (aka Kagerou Nikki) just came out last month, which prompted me to read an ebook of it I purchased ages ago. Having now finished it, I find myself reevaluating certain aspects of Kio’s more recent titles in Genshiken and Spotted Flower.

Kagerowic Diary is split into two parts. Part I concerns a female college student named Suzuki Touko (above) who seemingly has it all figured out but hides the fact that she’s a virgin from her friends. Part II follows a different woman in college, Tachihara Hatsuho (below), and the complicated web of sex, emotion, and deceit she finds herself in. To Genshiken fans, it can feel both comfortably familiar yet also exotic due to the strong emphasis on physical relationships.

Touko’s story shines new light on Genshiken, specifically the final volume of the first series. In the epilogue, the characters begin a discussion of how Saki, the sole non-otaku of the bunch and by far the most mature character, could be viewed through a moe lens. After some deliberation, Madarame says that she would have to be a virgin (Saki very clearly is not). When I previously read this scene, I thought the purpose was merely to show how Madarame’s mind works and to embarrass Saki. Now, I realize it’s actually a reference to Touko and Kagerowic Diary.

Hatsuho’s story, on the other hand, makes me feel that Spotted Flower and its adultery subplot are not as out-of-left-field as fans assumed. While it’s a far cry from Genshiken, the tangled web of love and lust in Spotted Flower is not unlike the plot of Part II in Kagerowic Diary, where Hatsuho sleeping with a male friend of pity and then discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her too (and probably has been for a while) It’s charged, it’s messy, it’s complicated. In other words, Spotted Flower is sort of a return to the old days for Kio, when writing realistic characters meant more than just realistic portrayals of awkward nerds.

In addition to Kagerowic Diary, there’s a special edition of Kio’s Yonensei (“4th-year Student”) out too. I intend to read through it and see how that other early work of his compares to his more famous material.

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Kon Kon Otakon Iroha: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2018

It’s August, and another opportunity to express appreciation for my supporters on Patreon and Ko-fi. I try to live up to your contributions!

Thank you to…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

August means one of my favorite times of the year: Otakon season! Hopefully my wait-listed panel will magically get in, but in the meantime I’ll be on Patz’s Mecha Fight Club panel on Saturday at 9am in Panel room 7. Come by to hear me and others nerd it up about giant robots.

There is a more serious matter when it comes to Otakon, however, and that’s the fact that a white nationalist rally is going to be held the same weekend in Washington, DC. My fellow con attendees, please remain safe, and pity these idiots for putting so much energy into anger and hate.

Speaking of dealing with racists, I’ve recently begun revising my informal policy when it comes to blog comments. It’s not like I receive tons of comments these days, but I’ve come to realize that the concept of “let the ideas do the talking” only really works if the goal of everyone talking is to actually learn something. The alt-right/white nationalist agenda tries to feign actual debate but just wants a podium to posture and look strong. So if I see anyone arguing in bad faith, I’m basically deleting their comments. Simple as that.

But if you want to argue in good faith, here are my favorite posts from July.

Darling in the Franxx: Thoughts on a Divisive Anime

A show that people seemed to either love or hate, I give my own thoughts on a show where viewers can’t even agree what it’s about.

The Important Lesson Nadesico Teaches Us About Entertainment

One of my old favorites has an important message in these current times, about the strengths and pitfalls of pop culture entertainment.

Precure: The Crossroads of Voice Acting

A look at how a 15-year-old franchise brings veteran and newbie seiyuu alike.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 6 sheds new light on Akira, and is in certain respects the most interesting chapter yet. If you didn’t know Kio Shimoku has a new manga, now’s the time to read up on it!

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The Newest Nekomusume is the Obvious Character Evolution

What began in 2007 continues in 2018.

Closing

Otakon! Whoooooo!

The Fujoshi Files 179: Rulutieh

Name: Rulutieh (ルルティエ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Utawaterumono: The False Faces

Information:
Rulutieh is the youngest princess of the vassal state of Kujuuri. Accompanied by her trusty companion, an adorable yet powerful giant bird named Kokopo, she winds up traveling with the amnesiac Haku and his guardian Kuon to the capital of Yamato. Though typically shy and softspoken, her passion can be roused by the thoughts of two men showing passion for each other. Rulutieh’s father is Oozen, one of the Eight Pillar Generals.

Fujoshi Level:
In the capital of Yamato, Rulutieh comes across a shop selling original editions of male-male romance art books. The uncharacteristic aggression she expresses at finding such rare treasures is enough to scare her friend and fellow princess Atui.

Sex, Sex, and More Sex: The Romance of Shima Kousaku and Oomachi Kumiko

Ask any Japanese businessman who Shima Kousaku is, and chances are likely they’ll tell you. The protagonist of the long-running Shima Kousaku manga series, he’s a businessman extraordinaire, having risen up the ranks from feisty young employee to veteran CEO—the “Goku” of salaryman manga both for his power and notoriety. One of his other characteristics is his James Bond-esque talent at bedding women, and his escapades have led him to having lovers (and illegitimate children) all over the world, which also led him and his wife having a divorce.

However, in 2014, after decades of dalliances, 65-year-old Shima Kousaku remarried. The wife: Shima Kumiko (née Oomachi), an on-again, off-again companion who’s about as sexually experienced with the guys as Shima is with the ladies, if not more. While Shima Kousaku is a pretty politically conservative manga overall, it is fascinating to me that his greatest partner is as far from “virginal ideal” as possible. In fact, if there was some sort of contraption to test her sexual “purity,” it would explode into a thousand pieces.

After their marriage, the publisher, Kodansha, released a two-volume Kumiko-only collection titled The Selection of Oomachi Kumiko, which helps provide an overview of their relationship, and it’s an interesting one indeed. There’s also a two-chapter spin-off called JK [High School Girl] Oomachi Kumiko, which showcases her early misadventures and her talent for manipulation.

Kousaku first meets Kumiko in his early days as a section chief at his company. While they’re both talking business at first, Kumiko is quick to present him a gift: hotel keys to her room. There, they make mad, passionate love, and then go their separate ways (as is usual for Kousaku). But then he learns that he’s hardly her only partner in the short term. Kumiko, it turns out, is a sex fiend. Having witnessed her mom have a threesome with two men when Kumiko was 14, her life changed forever into a constant pursuit of carnal pleasure. The only thing is, she tries to keep her true self on the down low, and her boss (who she’s also sleeping with) is realizing something’s amiss. It’s because Shima rocked her world so hard, she couldn’t control her voice that night. Of course.

Eventually, Shima Kousaku is able to solve the problem of her boss, and he only sees Kumiko once in as while, between other lovers. But every time they meet, the sparks fly all over again, and the sex is bigger and better than all else. And it’s of course implied that for every woman Shima has slept with between their lulls, Kumiko’s probably outdone him. This happens repeatedly until both are significantly older and decide to tie the knot. A part of this decision is that Kumiko reveals that she has cancer, which makes Shima realize how much he cares for her (she later gets surgery with his help to remove the tumor).

So in summary, the main romance of Shima Kousaku is as follows: Shima is a businessman who sleeps with women all around the world. He meets Kumiko, who sleeps with men all around the world. They keep doing this (and each other) for around twenty years until deciding, finally, that they like sex with each other best. “Childhood friend” Kumiko is not.

While ultimately Kumiko is rooted in a hyper-sexual, socks-rocking sexpot character type, what I find notable is that she’s still considered Shima Kousaku’s ideal partner even as she ages. By the time she becomes his bride she’s 45 years old, and a series like this whose bread and butter is male power fantasy could easily have the now-elderly Kousaku end up with a young thing in her 20s. The Selection of Oomachi Kumiko books call her Shima’s “everlasting sweetheart” and “eternal companion,” and it kind of works out, as theirs is a world where purity and sanctity take a backseat.

“You Just Kind of Talk-Singed”: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is much more subdued than the previous one, but the things we get to learn are just as potent. This time, it’s an Akira-focused story!

Also I’m rethinking whether I should call their club the ensemble club or the chorus club. The latter is easier to understand, so I might just go with that.

Summary

Akira, Jin, and Shinji go over to Akira’s place to celebrate him finally joining the club on a technicality. As the three shoot the breeze, Akira talks about his vast collection of children’s books (and general love of books), his lack of TV and other forms of media, as well as the fact that his widowed mom being the reason he enrolled in Hashimoto Technical High School. For his part, Jin explains his motivations, namely his love of chorus groups and his desire to do everything in his power to make singing buddies (of which Akira is the first).

When Jin decides to try another song with Akira, he makes a discovery: Akira can sing much more clearly if he’s reading the lyrics, as if the comfort he feels from books transfers over. Soon after, however, a new face shows up at Akira’s door: a disheveled lady of unknown identity.

Technicality

The requirement for Akira to join the chorus club was that he had to sing. Jin decides that Akira qualifies after reciting part of a song, but Shinji objects: Akira didn’t really “sing”—he just talked! Jin, however, replies that plenty of pop songs have spoken portions. If it’s part of a song, it’s singing!

There’s something very appealing about this technicality, in that it reminds me of discussions I’ve heard and read over the years as to whether something like rap counts as “music.” There’s a always a certain type who will dismiss things that don’t fit their definition of “song,” and to see Jin gave a wider criteria gives me hope that Hashikko Ensemble won’t be unnecessarily critical of certain genres or styles.

Akira’s Spotlight

This chapter reveals a lot about this soft-spoken fellow, fleshing out his background in simple but profound ways. That flashback of him singing in previous chapters finally has context, as we learn that he was part of a class vs. class competition in middle school, and regrets not being able to sing better. We learn about his family circumstances—including his mom being a nurse—and even his hobby too. I’m actually surprised that I didn’t even notice that the manga hadn’t revealed anything about his interests until know, and chalk it up to the characters being inherently interesting and charismatic. It feels a lot like Akira’s potential lies in taking the internal peace he can create while reading, and bringing it out into the world.

Non-Nuclear Families

When Akira mentions his family circumstances, the other two also mention that they also have “non-standard” families. Shinji’s parents are divorced, and he lives with his mom. Jin lives with his dad. While his parents aren’t divorced, they do have separate homes, and he seems to have some issues with his mom.

The fact that the main trio of Hashikko Ensemble all have families different from the typical “mom, dad, two kids” setup feels special. It’s one thing if only one of the characters is in one of these situations, but the fact that all three are “different” makes it seem like anything but. Their families have some influence on them, like how Akira wants to start working to support his mom, but no one comes across as the odd one out.

Songs

“Kanade” by Sukima Switch makes another appearance! It’s the song Akira’s class sang in middle school.

“Believe,” written and composed by Sugimoto Ryuuichi. It was used as the theme song for the NHK nature show Ikimono Chikyuu Kikou.

Final Thoughts

During a flashback, Akira is shown lending his earphones to Orihara. However, because they’re not noise-canceling, Akira accidentally hears some of the music. He doesn’t know what it is, but he definitely recognizes it. What could this song be, when Akira barely listens to music as is?

And who’s the girl at Akira’s door? I assume it’s either his mother or his sister, but it’s hard to tell from her appearance. She looks a bit on the young side, but she might just be youthful for her age.

The Newest Nekomusume is the Obvious Character Evolution

The 2018 anime Gegege no Kitaro, the latest in a long line of adaptations of the classic occult manga by the same name, features a certain character who stands out from the rest. Tall, leggy, and full of attitude, Nekomusume (“Catchick” in the Crunchyroll translation) is the biggest departure from Mizuki Shigeru’s original designs out of everyone in this new series. While this might have once been considered uncharacteristic of Gegege no Kitaro, it’s an unsurprising development based on what started 11 years ago.

In 2007, the image of Gegege no Kitaro was changed forever—by moe. Nekomusume, once as strange and bizarre as every other creature in the series, was suddenly…cute. And not just prettied up a little, either. Nekomusume went from being ostensibly a catgirl (the literal meaning of her name) to being practically exemplar for the character archetype.

The fanartists noticed. Oh, did they ever. Seemingly overnight, she was one of the most popular subjects around. Some artists, previously known for their sheer variety of subject matter, suddenly had a noticeable Nekomusume bias. And as was inevitable, a good amount of it was varying degrees of lewd. This was the general direction of Nekomusume in the online fandom, right through to 2018.

While going back to the designs of iterations past would’ve been a respectable decision, the current Nekomusume takes the opposite route, pushing the sex appeal up by five notches. Whereas the 2007 version could be considered cuteness made hot by the fans, this current character is built to be hot from the ground up, and in a more contemporary way as well. She’s a combination of snobbery, ferocity, and tsundere attitude—just one of many elements in an anime that asks, “How does the Showa-era franchise stay relevant in modern times?”

Nekomusume, despite towering over Kitaro and being clearly designed to appeal to a contemporary audience, actually doesn’t feel too blatantly pandering or forced. It’s an overall strength of the series, actually, that an updated series doesn’t come across like an old man in a cane asking, “What’s the haps, fellow kids?” The show also lets her face turn grossly demonic when she fights, so she’s not perfectly beautiful all the time. And if people are gonna look at Nekomusume though perv glasses, at least this one is designed with more adult proportions.

That does make me wonder if any of the diehard fans of the 2007 Nekomusume rejected this version. Which will ultimately be the most enduring design? I look forward to seeing the results in another 11 years.

Deep in the Tiger’s Den is a Het Pairing: Sasuke × Sakura’s Doujinshi Popularity

When I traveled to Japan this past May, one of my activities was to visit various doujin shops such as Toranoana. I like to see what’s popular, to get a general image of trends among hardcore fans. Which titles are popular? Which characters? Which pairings? And unlike doujin events, where many artists release their own works more for passion than profit, Toranoana is about what sells.

In Akihabara, this means going to multiple Toranoana stores, each of which specialize in a certain demographic. One in particular is devoted to girls (though nothing prevents guys from entering and shopping there), and as expected it’s primarily filled with BL.

However, one major exception was actually Naruto. In a relatively small yet dedicated section, surrounded by guy-guy pairings in most every other title, heterosexual romance took to the majority of the Naruto shelf. Of those couples, Sakura × Sasuke was by far the most popular.

I’m not against Sasuke × Sakura by any means, but I have to wonder why does it hold such a special place among hardcore female anime and manga fans. Why is it to the point that other het pairings are outshone, and the normally dominant BL pairings fade into the distance in this one ninja-themed microcosm?

One thing I discovered while searching for reasons is that Sasuke × Sakura is perhaps the most popular straight romantic pairing in English-speaking Naruto fandom, and visibly popular among Japanese fans. Given that context, it might just be the case that its sheer prominence is able to overcome even the fujoshi hegemony of the girls’ doujin scene.

Perhaps one factor is that Sakura is an easy target for female readers to project themselves onto. She’s also closer to the two most important characters in the manga than anyone else. However, given that fujoshi popularity is usually based on the strength of the pairing itself than the individual characters, it makes me skeptical about Sasuke × Sakura being an exception, even if it is a heterosexual ship.

From what I’ve read, a common reason fans support Sakura is her sense of loyalty towards Sasuke. She’s willing to support him through thick and thin, and even oppose him when she feels he needs it. The scene where Sakura tries to stop Sasuke from leaving to join Orochimaru appears to have been a flashpoint for supporters and haters of Sasuke × Sakura, because the former saw Sasuke’s “thank you” and knocking Saa away as him reluctantly pushing away those he cares about, while the latter saw it as an example of Sasuke showing flat, platonic fondness at best. Given the actual outcome of the series—Sakura and Sasuke married and had a child—the fans clearly won out, with Sasuke’s behavior best described as “reliably angsty.” Even as husband and wife, Sasuke’s #1 gesture to show affection is to tap Sakura on the forehead, and then disappear for months or years on end, undergoing secret missions to protect his family Andy his village.

Sasuke × Sakura reigns strong as a premiere het pairing, and I’m not bothered one bit. If any fans would like to help me understand the SasuSaku mind further, feel free to comment!