With a bunch of new Shounen Jump titles debuting as of late, I’ve written a new post over at Apartment 507 about the high turnover rate of Jump manga. Check it out!
With a bunch of new Shounen Jump titles debuting as of late, I’ve written a new post over at Apartment 507 about the high turnover rate of Jump manga. Check it out!
Though certainly not to everyone’s liking, hands-on acne removal is a very popular subject on YouTube (click if you dare, but it’s potentially NSFW). Often referred to in comments as one example of the “the weird part of YouTube,” it’s somewhat curious that it hasn’t emerged as some kind of sub-genre of manga or anime. In fact, the only title I can think of where pimple popping is a primary focus or narrative device is the manga I’m going to be reviewing today: Chiyo no Kuchibiru (or Chiyo’s Lips) by Iwami Kiyoko.
As this subject can be disgusting to a lot of people, I’m going to put this behind a cut-off just for the sake of your lunches. For those who don’t mind (or even enjoy this sort of thing), read on:
In 2013, I came across a shoujo manga called 3D Kanojo by Nanami Mao, Although I had some initial misgivings based on the title alone (it means “3D girlfriend”), the series ended up becoming one of my favorite manga. It recently finished just last year, so I’d like to give my overall thoughts about this excellent work.
The idea of a socially awkward young man winning the affections of the beautiful girl has long been a popular trope. America has seen Revenge of the Nerds, Beauty and the Geek, and the hyper-popular The Big Bang Theory. Japan has been home to Densha Otoko, and numerous manga and anime premised around this idea such as The World God Only Knows and Love Hina. Within these works are three recurring ideas: the nerd as underdog, the nerd as the nice guy vs. the jerks, and the notion that nerds carry hidden charms buried deep inside shells of social awkwardness.
One difference between the stereotypical image of the American “geek” and the Japanese “otaku” is that while the geek guy worships at the altar of characters who are live actors (e.g. Princess Leia), otaku go for the “2D girls” of anime, manga, and games. Reality, where actual “3D girls” reside, is thought to be a frightening realm that can eat otaku alive. So, with a title like 3D Kanojo, I had wondered if this might be one of those wish fulfillment fantasies where an otaku boy gets the girl just by being nice without any real substance, while the girl ends up as some kind of virginal ideal, a typical “2D girl come to life” scenario. Fortunately, within one chapter 3D Kanojo defies those assumptions, and shows itself to be a robust, considerate, and even progressive approach to this idea.
When the series begins, Hikari Tsutsui is an otaku who is unable to handle social interaction outside of talking to his only friend, a fellow hardcore fan. His ideal girl is a magical girl from an anime. One day at school, he sees one of his classmates, the beautiful Igarashi Iroha, being accosted by a guy angry at Igarashi for cheating on him. When the guy tries to hit her, Tsutsui jumps in to defend Iagarashi.. only to get his ass kicked because he’s a wimp with no physical ability.
At first glance, this is ground already traveled by stories like Densha Otoko and Back to the Future—a chivalrous act by a geek shows the strength of his heart, and makes the girl fall in love with him. However, with 3D Kanojo, the relationship even at the early stages possesses a lot more depth. Many times, the girls in these stories only appear to be very sexually active but are actually secretly virgins, giving them a sense of idealized purity. Not so with Iroha, who freely admits that she was two-timing the guys she was with. Rather than shunning her for being a “slut,” Tsutsui accepts her for who she is, especially once the two of them spend more time together and are able to open up to each other more readily. What’s important isn’t that she’s had others in the past, but how they feel about each other now. And as the series continues, it becomes clear that their love for each other burns red-hot.
It isn’t all roses, of course. Romantic rivals show up for both character, such as an otaku girl and a handsome guy (it’s a shoujo manga, after all). Igarashi’s sexual experience isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s intimidating for a guy who, up to that point, didn’t even talk to girls other than his own mother. Tsutsui’s constantly questioning whether or not he’s good enough for her, but it’s important to note that she’s doing the same just as often. In spite of how different they are on the surface and even in many elements of their personalities, there’s a mutual longing for understanding.
While I thought highly of the series very early on, there is a particular chapter that solidified my opinion that 3D Kanojo is a great series. Most of the time, the story is told from Tsutsui’s perspective, but in one chapter it’s Igarashi’s head we’re in. Through her, we see her relationship history. As an extremely attractive girl, she’s had numerous suitors, but the apparent issue is that all of them only paid attention to her appearance. In this way, her looks became a curse. At one point, she had even tried to open up to a boyfriend, only for the guy to treat it as basically, “There, there. Okay, now that I’ve comforted you, are you gonna put out?”
Here, it becomes plainly obvious what Igarashi saw in Tsutui. He isn’t just generally “nice” and “considerate,” he connects and empathizes with her on the level both of them desire. While occupy different strata of the high school hierarchy, both of them are familiar with being unfairly judged by their looks, and their ability to see what is truly inside each other is what draws them closer and closer.
Ultimately, even as the series goes through some fairly well-worn shoujo manga plot developments, the sheer robustness of this core relationship, as well as a solid cast of supporting characters, keeps the series from feeling old-hat. I felt a genuine desire to cheer on Tsutsui and Igarashi, not because they were “supposed” to be together as the main couple, but that everything they had been through together showed why they should be as one.
The last thing I’d like to mention is that 3D Kanojo technically isn’t the real title. That’s how it’s written out, but due to quirks in how the Japanese written language is used, it’s actually supposed to be pronounced “Real Girl.” In retrospect, the two titles fit this series perfectly. While Igarashi comes across at first as the mysterious girlfriend of the “3D realm,” her “realness,” both in the sense of her lived human experience and her candor, are what foster her romance with Tsutsui.
Surprising even to me, it turns out Dragon Ball Super is actually really good. I’ve written a small post detailing how Dragon Ball Super has improved upon its predecessors. Take a look!
February might be Valentine’s Day Month, but how much I’ll actually discuss romance on the blog remains a mystery even to me!
Whatever the situation, I know that if I were in Japan, I’d be giving giri choco to my Patreon sponsors.
Yoshitake Rika fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
Given that this will be the tenth year of Ogiue Maniax, I decided last November to do a Genshiken series 1 re-read. I’ve started with Volume 1, and you should expect to see them come out every other month. (I would have said bi-monthly but that phrase can also mean “twice a month,” so…) I’ve already felt like I’m stepping back into a different world, so I’m looking forward to the next article too.
Speaking of Genshiken, I also wrote a little post comparing Kasukabe Saki to Love Live‘s Nishikino Maki. The latter’s cooldere attitude reminded me of Madarame’s fantasy version of the former.
Perhaps the most important post I’ve written this month is on the subject of butts in anime. In it, I detail increasing presence of large rears in Japanese animation, and put forth my own hypothesis on why this has occurred. The seeds of this post have been germinating in my head for a very long time, even before Ogiue Maniax ever began. If you want to see more content like this, let me know. I just hope it doesn’t take me another 10 years to write one!\
I was also sad to see the end of Soredemo Machi ga Mawatteiru aka And Yet the Town Moves. It’s a very unique series in a lot of ways, and I look forward to seeing what the artist does next.
On the video game side, I’ve written a couple of posts thinking about what how players view competitive games, and what they can potentially do to both bring in a bigger audience and keep them from running away in fear.
As for this month’s Patreon-sponsored post, I looked at the subject of babies in anime and manga. My rating of babies is based on how much they make their parents suffer, I guess. If you have a subject you really, really want me to write about, it’s just a one-time $30 pledge.
If you’re wondering why I have it at that price, it’s just because I don’t necessarily want the blog to consist primarily of requests as opposed to my own ideas. That being said, I am considering maybe offering a poll with three or four topics that can be voted on with Patreon pledges. Is this an idea readers would be on board for?
Overall, I think this was a pretty solid month. I don’t have a wholly solid idea of what’s going to come next, but it might be a bit less review-heavy compared to this one.
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
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
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.
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”
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.
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.
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
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.
I thought the portrayal of underage drinking was a Nidaime thing. Apparently not! It happens wit Kasukabe and Kohsaka right from the start.
NOTE: This post is NOT SAFE FOR WORK
For as long as there has been fanservice in anime, there has been an emphasis on rear ends. Few things are more associated with anime (for better or worse) than the panty shot, and the form-fitting suits in works such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell have helped to bring posteriors to prominence. However, I believe that buttocks have not remained static over the course of anime’s history and that, over the past 10-15 years, we have reached a point where big butts are “in.” The purpose of this post is to show this gradual change in tastes while also positing some possible reasons that this change has taken place.