“Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite” Concludes on a Body-Positive Note

Whether she’s a high school student discovering love or a college student striking it out on her own, the gluttonous Mogusa Minori is among my all-time favorite manga characters. Earlier this year, the story of a girl whose fondness for food transcends human limits had concluded in the fifth and final volume of Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite. I’m not going to retread a lot of ground because my previous review still holds up, but I do want to elaborate upon the final message of the series and its overall positivity.

The main premise of Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite is that Mogusa, whose appetite is virtually endless, is trying to transition into a more normal eating schedule. Where once she could be found snacking throughout the entire day, now she wants to limit herself to “only” three meals—albeit, every individual meal is itself more like three meals to the average person. Part of the comedy of this series is that, inevitably, Mogusa succumbs to her hunger pangs and has a rapturous encounter with whatever food’s in front of her. In the final volume of Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite, however, this begins to increasingly weigh on her mind.

Seeing everyone, including her boyfriend Koguchi Torao, working hard to achieve their dreams and win their personal battles makes Mogusa very self-conscious about the fact that her own challenge—eating somewhat like a “normal” person—seems so frivolous compared to others’. But a trip back home and some advice from her mom helps Mogusa to see differently. She has matured, and in fact her gluttony has been of great benefit to her. She’s made great friends, met a wonderful boy who’s grown into a splendid man, and given her a wealth of experiences. Mogusa ultimately decides to embrace her food lust and aim to become a gourmet writer, sharing her passion for cuisines great and small with the world.

This conclusion resonates with me greatly, and not merely because I love to eat everything as well. When it comes to food shaming and body shaming, we live in a culture where outward physical appearance and behavior are often prioritized over one’s psychological well-being. The guilt Mogusa feels over eating is not uncommon, even if it’s exaggerated in her instance. Every so often, I see someone mention that a guy or a girl are disgustingly fat and that they need to get in shape, not taking into account the inner emotions of the person they’re speaking about. Some people are better off exercising and experiencing dramatic weight gain/loss because it can lead them to greater personal satisfaction and overall happiness. For others, however, the constant pressure to match a certain beauty standard means that being more physically fit can lead to mental turmoil. There’s no universal solution, even if at least some exercise is undoubtedly beneficial in e end.

This lesson isn’t limited to food. For as long as I’ve been a part of online communities, I’ve seen people twist themselves trying to hide what they deemed to be shameful hobbies or activities. They get so desperate in their desire to not be judged by their peers that it eats them up inside (Mogusa-san pun not intended), and I’ve tried to live my own life in defiance of that. Even if there might be problems that arise from one’s own interests, it shouldn’t be repressed to the point that it crushes people from within.

While Mogusa has an impossibly petite body given how much she eats, and she’s perpetually “anime-girl cute,” even she has to fight an image in her mind that she fails to live up to. In her case, it’s the yamato nadeshiko-style ideal Japanese woman archetype. She constantly imagines Koguchi, who’s living in the old Japanese capital of Kyoto, breaking up with Mogusa because she’s not traditionally beautiful enough. This also ties into how one of Mogusa’s greatest shames is the thunderous roar of her belly when she’s hungry. In Japan, many women find a growling stomach to be embarrassing, and Mogusa’s is capable of waking up sleeping animals. To see her overcome all that and be in a happier place fills me with joy.

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Back from the Future: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2018

I’m back after an exciting honeymoon in Tokyo. It was a grand ol’ time full of food and nerdery, and also spending way too much money on otaku goods. For example, I actually bought all of Heartcatch Precure! on DVD—albeit at a huge discount. (I promise I didn’t just do Precure-related things, honest.)

I’m happy to answer (most) questions about staying in Japan to the best of my ability, so send ’em in!

But before that, I’d like to thank my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi.

A big thank you too…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I still had some posts go up even while I was away, so here are my favorite posts from May:

Darling in the Franxx and Choice in a Sexual Dystopia

Some people think the show is greatness itself, while others think it’s hyper trash. Here are some of my thoughts.

Project Z Revived! “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 1” Novel Review

My review of the latest Gaogaigar light novel, which is actually the long-awaited sequel to Gaogaigar Final!

“Flukes”: Competitive Rigor vs. Sustainability in Esports

How important is grabbing an audience vs. absolute competitive integrity in esports?

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 4 continues the kooky sense of almost-camaraderie.

Patreon-Sponsored

Gamblers’ Paradise: “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby”

My feelings on the new horse girl-themed anime and the expected franchise surrounding it.

Closing

As you might expect, I plan to have a ton of blog posts concerning my trip to Japan. It won’t be a full on travelogue, but I plan to have reviews of doujin events, reviews of series I picked up, and more. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even bleed into July!

That Distant Roar: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 4

As I continue to read this manga, I continue to find it hard to predict. That’s all part of the fun, though. There’s also much to be admired about the characters, especially Jin—even if he’s a bit lacking in social tact.

By the way, I was lucky enough to be in Japan when this new issue of Monthly Afternoon came out! That’s why the images are photos this month, instead of digital screenshots.

Summary

Jin’s found the perfect place for Akira to practice projecting his voice, and it’s an open stairwell at school with plenty of foot traffic. Acoustically, the location is ideal, and Jin does his best to break down how singing works. But Akira’s easily embarrassed, so they only get so far.

Jin’s still got his eye on the prize, though, and needs at least three more members to make the Ensemble Club a reality. To that end, he has his sights on two classmates: Hanyama (that jokester son of a Buddhist priest), and the burly, delinquent-looking Orihara. Meanwhile, Orihara himself is getting into fights after getting accosted by a classmate. During this incident, Orihara’s heard uttering something cryptic: “I can’t hear it, but I can.”

Jin might be intrigued by Orihara’s statement, but it seems the rugby club also has their eyes set on him. Can the nascent Ensemble Club get to Orihara before they can?

What’s in a Name?

Up to this point, I didn’t quite realize why the series is called Hashikko Ensemble. Turns out it was pretty much staring at me in the face the whole time! Much like how Genshiken is short for Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuukai (“The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”), the full title of this manga is Hashikko Ensemble: Hashimoto Kougyou Koukou Gasshuubu, or “Hashimoto Technical High School Ensemble Club.” So that clears up one mystery!

Another interesting tidbit I noticed is that the kanji for “Hashimoto” (端本) can also be pronounced as hahen, which means “incomplete.” Given how the characters are currently without a full club, I wonder if this is intentional.

Arts and Sciences

While I mentioned the technical high school setting of Hashikko Ensemble as an interesting backdrop for this manga’s narrative, it’s with this chapter that the juxtaposition of arts (music) and science (technical engineering) comes into the forefront. I think this is what makes Jin such a fascinating character. He takes a scientific approach to art, but his passion is anything but robotic.

Jin gives two different explanations for how voices work: a human one, and a technical one. The first one is “breath, vibration, and resonance.” The second one is “compression, oscillation, reverberation.” Akira seems to find something of an answer, but it’s not clear what did the trick.

A few years ago, I took some classes to help with speaking in public, and one of the lessons I learned was making “SHHH” sounds like I’m trying to shoot something down with my breath. In this chapter, Jin advises something similar to Akira as a way to train projecting his voice. I knew already that Kio does research for this series—it’s evident in the content—but it’s nice on a personal level seeing it line up with my own life experiences.

Orihara’s Secret

Orihara’s line has me curious too, but I’m just as curious as to why Jin responded to it so positively. Just what is it that Jin sees in him?

With only a layman’s understanding of sound and music, I can only guess at what the answer is. Perhaps Orihara has excellent hearing, and can detect sounds that most cannot. The beginning of the chapter features a lesson on how lower sounds remain longer, so maybe Orihara can hear those really low tones—the kind that Akira can produce.

What About the Girls?

Two female characters are featured in this chapter. Interestingly, both are in the same woodworking class as Orihara, and have scenes that involve him either directly or indirectly.

Kurata was introduced in the previous chapter, using more strength than necessary to saw through some wood, and we see in Chapter 4 that this is a persistent characteristic. She’s like a bull in a china shop, lacking in grace and trying to make up for it with energy and power. She’s shown right before Orihara, who’s much more in control even with his enormous strength, making a comparison between what Orihara does right and Kurata does wrong all the more noticeable.

The other girl is Hasegawa, who nonchalantly asks Orihara how she can complete the woodworking assignment in class more smoothly. As the other characters note, her lack of fear is impressive. I have to wonder if either of them will join the Ensemble Club, especially given their proximity to the main cast at this point.

Songs

No songs again this month, only a lot of shouting, “AH!”

[Insert Akira Tozawa chants here]

Final Thoughts

Kurata’s only appeared twice, but I’m already enjoying her character. There’s something about a spaz who gets way too pumped that speaks to me. Both her and Orihara bring a lot of facial expressions that weren’t common in Genshiken, so it’s nice to see Kio’s expressive range in his artwork.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls

Looking at oneself in the mirror can garner different experiences. For some, it’s a chance to reaffirm their self-confidence. For others, it’s an opportunity to make sure one is presentable to the outside world. But for many, staring at one’s reflection can be the hardest thing in the world, as it means confronting one’s fears and doubts, deeply buried in the psyche and surfacing through the eyes. To this effect, Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish) acts as a magical mirror. Its narrative, about 30-something women dealing with Japanese societal expectations, can be both compassionate and unforgiving in the same breath. It highlights the successes and failures of love while asking, “Which ones are which?”

Tokyo Tarareba Girls is about three female friends who moved to Tokyo as college students ready to take on the world, only to one day find themselves 33 and still single. Where once they were were seen as youthful and energetic, they can’t but help feel old. In a collective panic over their waning chances for finding love, they make a pledge to get married by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The core characters—TV writer Rinko, stylist Kaori, and restaurant chef Koyuki—are all beautifully complex and flawed characters. Their regrets are many, particularly when it comes to men they once rejected, only to see them turn into hunks over the years. They fear sitting on the sidelines, but they also fear messing up everything good in their lives, unsure of whether their actions should reflect youthful indiscretion or the wisdom of maturity. And throughout all this, the manga keeps asking the readers to interpret those decisions through the lens of their own experiences. There’s rarely a preaching of right or wrong, except for maybe the idea that women shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking they “need” to get married.

While single, 30-something women are the target audience for Tokyo Tarareba Girls, I believe that anyone who’s had to deal with pressure about when certain things “should” happen in life can connect with this story. You were “supposed” to lose your virginity by this point. You were “supposed” to have a career by this age. You were “supposed” to grow out of your childish hobbies at this age. What Tokyo Tarareba Girls does is encourage readers to consider those statements more thoroughly, think about how or why those expectations exist. And like the mirror it is, each person can come away from Tokyo Tarareba Girls with different ideas of both the manga and life in general.

19:00 News: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2018

I’ll be heading to Tokyo this month to enjoy myself, nerd it out, and eat everything in sight. My last trip was in 2016, so let’s see how things have changed!

Thanks once again to my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi. Thanks to the following!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Because I’ll be spending a couple weeks in Japan, my post schedule is going to be slightly sparser than usual. Ideally, I’ll be coming back with plenty of material to write about, so hopefully it’ll all even out.

Here are my favorite posts from April:

Approaching “Isle of Dogs” as an Asian-American Anime Fan

My thoughts surrounding the controversy over Wes Anderson’s film.

Love Live! and the Four Tendencies

A fun thought exercise as to how the “four tendencies” concept by Gretchen Rubin map onto the girls of μ’s.

Sakuga is to Anime as Workrate is to Pro Wrestling

A comparison between two hardcore topics fun two hardcore fanbases.

Return to Genshiken

Volume 8, the climax! Only one volume left…

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 3 isn’t super big on the music, but it’s fun.

Patreon-Sponsored

More Like “We-Katsu!”: Aikatsu Friends!

Initial thoughts on the newest Aikatsu! anime.

Closing

I’ll be visiting Tsukiji, the famous fish market in Tokyo, which happens to be shutting down this year in October for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I’m genuinely glad I get to see it once before it’s moved to a new location.

I plan to eat all the sea urchIn…

Make It Happen: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 3

Small steps lead to lots of self-resolution in Chapter 3 of Hashikko Ensemble.

Summary

Jin has discovered that Akira has a natural Singer’s Formant, and wants more than ever to sing with him despite the fact that Singer’s Formant isn’t terribly practical in an ensemble because it can drown out voices out. What’s more, Akira can’t seem to replicate it! So Jin tries to find a way to trigger it, including putting himself in harm’s way and finding a room where Akira will feel comfortable. Neither go as planned, but one important development through all this is that Akira genuinely wants to sing now!

Bass of the Diamond

The fact that Singer’s Formant is considered impractical in a vocal ensemble is all the more intriguing because of Jin himself. Since Chapter 1, it’s been established that he’s a loud singer—a point further reinforced in this chapter. When Jin starts singing along with the school rugby team and actually overpowers all of them simultaneously, it shows his lungs are a cut above the rest. Could it be that while Singer’s Formant typically overshadows other singers in groups, that Jin can “keep up” with and possibly complement it? Is this like a baseball manga with an ultimate pitcher and an ultimate catcher (no BL puns outright intended)?

The Atypical School Setting

Manga set in high schools are a dime a dozen, but the background emphasis of their school as a technical and engineering school feels refreshing. It hasn’t played a major role yet, but it’s just different enough from the vaguely define manga norm and just prominent enough that it makes me curious about the school as a whole. Seeing boys and girls joking around but also trying their hands at different areas like woodworking gives a certain sense of realism that can sometimes feel lost in the idealized school settings of other manga.

In Genshiken, we don’t even really know what characters’ majors are. Here, we’re clearly seeing the kind of education they’re getting, even if it’s not the focus of the story.

Students and Teachers

In this chapter, as Jin continues to try and find a club adviser, we find out that one of the teachers is into classical music… because of Sound! Euphonium. There’s something charming about seeing not just teens or students being affected by anime but full-fledged adults as well.

Hanmoto (the buddhist priest’s son) talks about how he would fend off Orimura (the guy who almost punched Jin for taking his earphones), in order to get a hug from “Mimi-sensei.” That seems to be Kitano-sensei from last chapter—maybe Mimi is her first name? I’m either case, it appears that Kitano-sensei has a reputation; her physical endowment is not lost among the boys.

I also keep wondering if guys like Hanmoto will actually join, or if they’ll remain side characters.

Songs

No new songs this month! There’s only the Hashimoto Technical High School’s official song.

Final Thoughts

There’s a scene where Jin sees an old classmate who’s joined the rugby club despite being downright scrawny. Akira’s thoughts in response—if he can do it, maybe I can too!—highlights that Akira is actually surprisingly positive. It’s as if he’s previously fooled himself into thinking he easily gives up, but there’s a fire inside.

Breakthrough: Return to Genshiken – Volume 8

We’ve reached the climax of Genshiken series 1, and the moment that all Ogiue fans cheered for. How does one of the most famous otaku confessions in manga history still hold up?

What is Return to Genshiken?

Genshiken is an influential manga about otaku, as well as my favorite manga ever and the inspiration for this blog, but it’s been many years since I’ve read the series. I intend to re-read Genshiken with the benefit of hindsight and see how much, if at all, my thoughts on the manga have changed.

Note that, unlike my chapter reviews for the second series, Genshiken Nidaime, I’m going to be looking at this volume by volume, using both English and Japanese versions! I’ll also be spoiling the entirety of Genshiken, both the first series and the sequel, so be warned.

Volume 8 Summary

The Genshiken members are on a trip to the resort town of Karuizawa, when a drunken girls’ night in causes Ogiue to reveal her past to the other girls. It turns out that Ogiue had a boyfriend named Makita in middle school, but after she  drew a BL doujinshi starring him and his best friend, and Makita transferred to another school presumably after seeing it. This is the source of Ogiue’s hatred of herself and her fujoshi side.

Sasahara is left to take care of Ogiue during her hangover, and ends up confessing to her, only to be rejected, because Ogiue “can’t date men.” At the prompting of Kasukabe and Ohno, Sasahara goes after her, where she reveals that she’s been drawing doujinshi of him and Madarame this whole time, and is suffering from immense guilt over being unable to stop herself. Sasahara, instead of recoiling in fear and horror, shows understanding and support, which convinces Ogiue to invite him over to her place after the vacation with the goal of putting everything on the line. After having him read the doujinshi starring himself and seeing him accept it, the two finally get together and consummate their relationship.

After a cute but awkward early stage, the two are fairly comfortable together. However, Ogiue runs into a couple of other hurdles. First, she’s rejected from Comic Festival, which tanks her confidence. Second, the Manga Society she unleashed havoc on back when she was much, much angrier. Visited by some old members, namely a Kansai girl named Yabusaki who also draws, it turns out that Yabusaki’s been garnering jealous eyes in the Manga Society herself, and that Yabusaki’s friends see a friendship with Ogiue as a way to benefit both parties. The two begin to get along…sort of?

Ogiue’s Past Revealed

As Ogiue gives her drunken rant (by way of flashback), one takeaway is just how serious her trauma is over her time with Makita—it’s enough to consistently give her nightmares. I once got the chance to submit a question to Kio Shimoku as to why her eyes changed over the course of the series, and he mentioned that her character originally necessitated those eyes. I wonder if it signifies her no longer being victim to her own bad dreams.

Nakajima is a fascinating character. It’s clear to me that she was jealous of either Ogiue or Makita, but the extent of her involvement in actually bullying Ogiue remains ambiguous. I think this shows more Ogiue’s mind in turmoil than any absolute truths, that she lost trust in Nakajima, but also faith in the assumption that Ogiue herself was a good person. Based on the character’s appearances in Nidaime, it’s obvious Nakajima wants to mend bridges with Ogiue, but her own personality gets in the way. Maybe both Ogiue and Nakajima are cursed with standoffish personalities.

As for Makita himself, I find it significant that he never really shows up, not even in Nidaime, even though Nakajima makes a couple of appearances. I think this is to show that there’s a part of Ogiue’s past she’ll never be able to directly confront, and that she’s ultimately okay with this. Then again, I figured that was the case with Madarame’s unrequited love for Saki and that eventually got resolved, so maybe if Genshiken had more volumes it would’ve happened eventually. Another point about Makita is how he contrasts with Sasahara. Makita was (assumedly) so bothered by the doujin that he transferred school. Sasahara took it head-on. Again, while he doesn’t seem like he should be a seme character, one can see how Ogiue would interpret him as such.

The Confession, Part 1

I consider Sasahara’s confession to Ogiue and the subsequent fallout to be the most magical part of Genshiken, and not simply because of the fact that it’s the big romantic climax. There’s just so much in terms of the characters’ personalities, histories, and quirks intertwining over an extended period. The confession essentially comes in parts, starting with a stock “I like you, and I want to protect you” line straight out of some dating sim. Sasahara’s willingness to back off at what he takes as a rejection is a flaw of his, but also one of the qualities Ogiue admires in him. Then, when Ogiue blurts out that she been drawing a hardcore comic of him with Sasahara, she’s trying to drive him away with all her might, afraid that getting closer would hurt them both.

I remember the degree to which Ogiue took Sasa x Mada was a pretty big surprise back when I first read it. Now, it’s been so long and been such a part of Ogiue’s character as to feel natural.

To Ogiue’s surprise, Sasahara sees the good in her, and this gradually opens Ogiue’s eyes to the idea that, just maybe, she should accept and embrace herself. Ogiue’s struggle this entire time has been based on the feeling that her desires and her conscience are in direct conflict, when they need not be. She’s afraid of hurting Sasahara, but what if her actions simply don’t bother him? It’s a compatibility issue, not a fatal flaw that denies her companionship.

The Confession, Part 2

When they decide to meet at her apartment, the tension is thick with both nervousness and sexual energy. It rightly feels like they’re on the verge of something big after so long. But I think the key to it all is in Sasahara’s line: “I can feel your overwhelming love for your characters,” in reference to the BL-ized versions of himself and Madarame. Those words free Ogiue. Her drawings come from a place of passion.

Seeing Sasahara grapple with the fujoshi mindset, and Ogiue having to explain it to him, is also pretty fascinating. After reading through her doujin, he asks her if she also has feelings for Madarame, which Ogiue denies. There’s something different about the way she uses each of them for inspiration. It feels as if she takes the qualities that make her like Sasahara and exaggerates them for fiction, but for Madarame it’s that his “uke” qualities make him excellent as a character first and foremost.

That’s if we’re talking Ogiue, at least. As the sequel shows, sometimes Madarame as imagination fodder and subject of affection can come as a package. Perhaps Hato is meant to tap into that aspect of Madarame, and to show that there are simply a lot of different people in the world.

Returning to the subject of Ogiue, she tries to prompt Sasahara into being more aggressive, which Sasahara tries to live up to with awkward (yet effective?) results. It’s funny to see Sasahara from this point forward actively put on that more aggressive personality when I’m romantic situations with Ogiue, because it clearly comes from a desire to thrill and excite her. It’s very fitting for their characters.

Once their feelings are known, the two immediately go into sex, which I think is actually kind of wild. Sure, they’re horny college students who also obsess over drawn pornography, but to go from that degree of pussyfooting to just (offscreen) pants-off carnal desire makes me think of a hose previously being held back suddenly letting loose (ifykwim). From this point on, Sasahara and Ogiue are not only boyfriend and girlfriend, but this can also be seen as a major stop along the way in their respective careers as editor and artist because Sasahara essentially gave a “review meeting” about Ogiue’s Sasa x Mada doujin. It’s shown to be a pretty constant source of tension between the two, but one that’s ultimately minor in the face of their love for each other.

The Manga Society

I’m very impressed looking back at how the Manga Society girls (Yabusaki, Asada, Katou) are able to make such a strong impression after such a brief appearance. You get a sense of how they relate to each other, what the club environment was like, and the girls themselves are just plain memorable.

One thing I find funny is that, at this point, Asada Naoko didn’t have an actual name. At most she’s referred to as “Nyaako” in the Volume 9 doujinshi extra by some of the artists. Asada actually comes from the Genshiken 2 anime credits, and Naoko is from Nidaime, which retconned Nyaako into being her nickname—a play off of “Naoko.”

They also drop that tidbit about Ohno and Katou knowing each other. One thing I find interesting is this idea that true bonds can be formed through shared kinks. I don’t think that notion has gone away, but I have to wonder if making that aspect of oneself more visible to the public (“horny on main” as they say it these days) makes it so that aspect of oneself is no longer as revealing or telling of one’s true self. Basically, maybe showing one’s kinks isn’t as much of a soul-bearing activity if it’s never made private in the first place.

Final Random Thoughts

There’s a very memorable scene I had ironically almost forgotten about: on the train home from the zoo, Ogiue basically tells Sasahara that “their date isn’t over yet,” which makes Sasahara shift his bag to hide his erection. While Genshiken often deals in literal fans of drawn pornography, these moments of sensual realness stand out all the more because of it.

That zoo, by the way, is based on Tama Zoo, which is a short train ride away from Chuo University (the school that visually inspired Genshiken‘s Shiiou University). I actually went there when I studied abroad in Japan!