chuo-curve

A geek voyage to Japan typically involves trips to the various otaku mecca strewn across the country. From shopping areas such as Akihabara and Den Den Town to sites found in anime such as Lucky Star and Inari Kon Kon Koi Iroha, otaku pilgrimages are a special way to appreciate Japanese pop culture (and support them financially through tourism in the process). For me, there was one place that I needed to pay my respects to on a trip to Japan: the university campus upon which Genshiken is based.

Before proceeding, I have to thank this site for the information on how to get to the university, as well as showing important spots in the first place. The photos they took are also much better than mine, so if you want really good reference material that’s the place to go.

chuo-animeclub

While the actual Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture is based on a club at Tsukuba University in Ibaraki, the actual campus of the fictional Shiiou University is based on Chuo University’s Tama Campus. This is made immediately obvious by the Chuo University sign adorning one of the campus’s buildings.

chuo-outside

The real main event is the club area, where the Genshiken club itself would be located if it were real. The building is constructed in an interesting oval shape with an open court in the center, which gives it a distinct appearance. The windows of the two sides of the club building face each other, which is how the members of Genshiken set up their doujin traps to break down willpower in their new members, and how they first noticed Ogiue jumping out of the Manga Society window.

chuo-hallway

Upon entering the club building, it is immediately noticeable how well-worn it is as an environment for students. Remnants of flyers new and old adorn the walls, and produce a strong sense of history. Given my club experience back in undergraduate, I wish we had a place like this to share in the club experience. Though the building was fairly empty at the time, there were definitely signs of life. The first thing I heard was the wails of a death metal vocalist in training, which I assumed came from a Heavy Metal Research Society or something similar.

chuo-posters chuo-mangasociety

chuo-folkdanceclub

chuo-mangacreationclub

chuo-senkisociety

Looking at the flyers themselves showed just how spread out otaku interests could be. From what I could tell, the many clubs included a Animation Research Society, an Anime and Manga Research Society, a Manga Research Society, a Manga Creation Research Society, a Voice Actor Appreciation Society, an Idol Appreciation Society, and an Idol Games Research Society. Many clubs also utilize cute manga characters such as the Folk Dance Research Society and the War Chronicle Research Society. Signs advertising different circles for different doujin events could also be found throughout the building.

chuo-genshikendoor

I eventually arrived at the door where I believe Genshiken’s club room would be located. Though I anticipated some kind of signage to indicate this fact, there was nothing of the sort. The only things that could be found were scraps of paper taped to the wall, with no clear marker as to what club might currently be using the room.

Though I think this shows that Genshiken is nowhere near as big as, say, Love Live! or Lucky Star, and I do wish that it was known enough that some kind of signage would be present to point fans of the best manga series to its source material, it is perhaps for the best. The club building at Chuo University’s Tama Campus still has the feeling of truly being used and handed down by generations of students, which is now an even more solidified theme of Genshiken with Nidaime currently being published.

On a final note, back in 2005 when I originally visited Japan, I went to the Tama Zoo. located near the Tama Campus. Not long after I left Japan, Sasahara and Ogiue had their first date at a zoo. I strongly believe that the Tama Zoo is where they went, though I of course at the time could not know that it would become a pilgrimage site for Genshiken fans; I couldn’t predict the future, after all! However, I am taking the liberty to consider this a retroactive visit to an important Genshiken locale, partly because it makes me feel better.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

flyingwitch-poster

When it comes to stories about witches, it’s quite common (and perhaps even expected) to have magic be prominent. Whether it’s American sitcom classic Bewitched, Archie’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic, or an anime and manga like Witch Craft Works, the influence of spells and sorcery is, if not grandiose, at the very least quite large. The anime Flying Witch is a much mellower series in comparison. As a show where just the lightest of touch of the supernatural appears, it makes for a most delightful series.

Adapted by J.C. Staff from the manga by Ishizuka Chihiro, Flying Witch follows the daily life of Kowata Makoto, a teenage witch who moves in with her cousin Kuramoto Kei’s family as part of her coming of age. Residing in Aomori Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan, the people there still have a fairly strong connection to nature, and just going back and forth from school is enough to take in the greenery. For the most part, magic doesn’t make much of an impact, but when it shows up it’s just enough to make their world feel a little bit more unusual, and a little bit more wonderful.

Though the show consistently succeeds at its sparse but effective interaction between the human and witch cultures, the most memorable example has to be in the very first episode. Makoto is walking home from school with her new friend, Nao, when she sees an unusual plant. For anyone who’s familiar with stories about witches and wizards this is a red flag. Sure enough when she gives it a hard tug a mandrake pops out and gives its shrill cry.

flyingwitch-mandrake

As Makoto cradles the demon plant, she cheerfully explains to an aghast Nao that it’s a good thing that they found a young Mandrake because an adult one can literally send people to the hospital or worse. The anime doesn’t stop being this fairly laid-back series, but the result is that the tiniest bit of magic feels that much more amazing.

What also helps Flying Witch is that all of its characters, guys and girls, are extremely charming. Makoto’s older sister Akane is a more experienced witch whose penchant for mischief contrasts delightfully with her younger sibling. The Kuramoto family is entertaining all around, whether it’s the dad’s thick Tohoku accent being indecipherable for Makoto or Kei trying to get his little sister Chinatsu to try more vegetables.

The fanservice in this show also has a deft touch akin to its use of magic, to the point that it might not even be right to call it fanservice. Just to be clear, generally speaking the female characters in this series are all extremely attractive, but Flying Witch never goes out of its way to show them off. When it focuses on Makoto or anyone else, the anime just lets the audience see how nice they look without lingering or leering.

flyingwitch-scenery

Another notable aspect of Flying Witch is its focus on Aomori, because it at times feels like a promotion for the prefecture. In fact, it makes me wonder if this is one of the reasons it was adapted from manga to anime. The Tohoku region has in recent years been known more for the Fukushima disaster, and a lot of effort has been put into reviving the region in terms of agriculture, tourism, and more. A series like Flying Witch might be just the thing to really get people to visit Aomori and Tohoku again.

Overall, because of how delightfully mellow yet powerful the show’s humor and characters are, Flying Witch has become one of my favorite anime of the year. When I get the opportunity, I’m definitely going to pick it up, possibly in multiple formats. If you want to check it out, you can find the entire anime on Crunchyroll, and Vertical Comics is releasing the manga in 2017.

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berserk-new-visual

Just some thoughts on how much has changed since Berserk first debuted.

Don’t forget, the Ogiue Maniax Love Live! Contest ends this Saturday!

With that out of the way, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled monthly blog update.

As always, much thanks to my Patreon sponsors:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sasahara Keiko fans:

Kristopher Hostead

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

A special thanks to Diogo in particular for giving me an amazing present: Volume 1 of the Brazilian edition of Genshiken!

genshiken-brazilian

A new season of anime is on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to checking out as much as I can. I’m most looking forward to Love Live! Sunshine!!, which started airing just this past weekend. Unfortunately, I tend to watch many more shows than I have time to write about, so often some of my favorite series don’t end up getting blog posts dedicated to them. I’m considering doing something about that, but it’s always a small struggle between writing about the anime and manga that no one’s looking at to get them more exposure and talking about the things I like that people already have some familiarity with so that there’s an easier connection to be made.

I think that, due to a lack of time, my posts have started getting a bit shorter again. I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to larger and shorter entries, but it also means that Ogiue Maniax might feel more like the scratchpad for my thoughts that it originally was in the first place. What do you readers think of this, and is there any kind of preferred ratio for you?

June’s post of the month has to be the review of Genshiken Chapter 125. I know, I know, Genshiken is a highlight every month, but I think this is a real case of the manga zagging when you thought it would zig, and it more than anything else reminds me of how wonderful a series Genshiken is.

I also have more reports from my trip to Japan, including my visit to two different Love Live! events, and a look at Comic Store Wonderland in Osaka, which is home to a ton of amazing autographs from famous manga artists. The Hanayo bag I bought at the doujin event is quite possibly my favorite piece of merchandise from Japan. Taketayo~

Another highlight is my review of the new Cardcaptor Sakura manga. CLAMP is back! I mean, they’ve never left, but I just lost interest after years and years of Tsubasa and XXXHolic. This new CCS really feels like a return to form, and I’ve already got plans to get each issue of Nakayoshi as it comes out in Japan.

Lastly, I wrote a post about Mystic Archives of Dantalian, as requested by Patreon sponsor Johnny Trovato, where I explore the show’s intersection with the idea of chuunibyou.

As always, if you’re interested in having me write about something, you can make a pledge through Patreon.  And if you’ve ever wondered why that tier is so high, it’s actually because I really want Ogiue Maniax to still be a space where I share and explore my thoughts, and so having the blog just be about fulfilling requests isn’t what I really want. However, because I’m also always eager to broaden my horizons, I invite the opportunity to make me watch or read or talk about something I might not have thought of otherwise.

I hope you all have a great July. I’ll be spending the month getting panels ready for Otakon in August. If any of you are going, I look forward to possibly seeing you.

girlsundpanzerderfilm-anglerfish

Girls und Panzer is quite upfront about what’s in it: you have the cute girls, and you have the tanks. In spite of its seemingly vapid approach, however, the TV anime is actually quite robust, and I rate it very highly. But a television anime is different from a film, and a major question about the film sequel, Girls und Panzer der Film, is whether it can succeed similarly in spite of the new format. In this respect, I find Girls und Panzer der Film to be a very strong work, but one which is not as adept at drawing in skeptical or uninitiated viewers as its TV prequel.

Synopsis

Taking place right after the original TV series, Girls und Panzer der Film follows tactician Nishizumi Miho after she has led the ragtag rookies of Ooarai Academy to being the champions of competitive tank sports. Having defeating her former school in the grand finals, their efforts were supposed to save the school from being shut down, but because of a legal loophole their work isn’t done yet. With the help of old friends and foes alike, Miho and Ooarai Academy continue to fight for their school.

Television vs. Film

When it comes to the TV anime, I don’t believe it is absolutely necessary to be a fan of both cute girls and tanks. The show sports strong narrative and characterization as well as celebration of military hardware (as well as war simulation as competitive sport), such that a lukewarm reception of one aspect could be saved by the other. Because the series was more structured and more adept at its dramatic progression, it ends up being more enjoyable than other shows of its ilk.  It’s only when either one or both elements together create wariness in a viewer (dislike of moe designs, fear of the show’s potential role as military propaganda) that the anime doesn’t really work.

Girls und Panzer der Film makes no concessions. The film immediately starts with a tank battle and ends with a tank battle. In contrast to many anime, films, etc. where we see either multiple small battles without any real sense of connection between them, or the focus is on a single duel, the last fight is a continuous 50-minute campaign. It showcases elaborate strategies on both sides, lovingly introduces new tanks to the story, and brings together characters in battle that had previously never joined forces. This film is made for people who love Girls und Panzer, and while it happens to have a solid and enjoyable story overall, newcomers are clearly not its target audience.

Slim but Effective Character Narratives

girlsundpanzerderfilm-nishizumis

The battles themselves are fantastic. It’s rare that a single battle will go for nearly an hour, especially one where you have a strong sense of where all the pieces are positioned and how they influence each other. However, I have to re-emphasize that the concluding battle is so long that you have to enjoy tank combat at least a little bit. Either that, or you have to be so invested in the characters that seeing them develop and grow gives you great joy, even if it’s amidst the explosion of tank shells.

That’s not to say the film meanders needlessly, or that it doesn’t know how to tell a story. Girls und Panzer der Film, despite its enormous cast of fan favorites, keeps its narrative nice and focused. Perhaps nothing is more surprising than the fact that fan favorite Akiyama Yukari does not take over the film, but that’s because it isn’t really about her. While considered a possible weakness of the original TV series, the light characterization of Girls und Panzer (where characters are defined either in groups or from a few simple and easy-to-grasp qualities) works in its favor because one can easily grasp many of the girls’ motivations in only a few minutes, which works well for a movie format. Seeing Miho reunite on good terms with her sister Maho (the commander of the team she defeated in the championships) was a joy. Even my favorite character, Anzio’s squad captain Anchovy, makes an appearance, and shines in her own special way.

Girls und Militarism

The elephant in the room (though not really because I already mentioned it), is to what extent Girls und Panzer der Film promotes militarism. While it’s easy to write Girls und Panzer off, either as a series that is clearly designed to get Japanese men to enlist in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces or as simple fluff that shouldn’t be overthought, I don’t think it’s so simple.

When it comes to the question of whether Girls und Panzer glorifies war and militarism, the answer is yes and no. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but let me explain. On a surface level, the appeal in this respect is obvious. Get people to fall in love with the girls, associate them with tanks, and you might see some otaku driving them once they hit enlistment age, and while the anime isn’t quite that simple, that initial impression carries a lot of power. That being said, if you watch the series, tank combat is presented as a sport akin to archery or soccer, and it presents a world where tanks are no longer weapons that take millions of lives but rather tools for friendly competition. Is this whitewashing history, or is it presenting a kind of utopian alternative? I think cases can be made for both, which is why it’s more complicated than what is evident at first glance.

So where does Girls und Panzer der Film fit into all of this? I argue that, even as it celebrates tanks and tank combat, the film makes a rather prominent criticism of patriotism. In the movie, a new school is introduced call Chi-Ha-Tan, where the girls try to make up for their lack of skill with sheer fiery gusto. However, they’re also constantly sabotaging themselves because of the members’ desire to preserve their “honor.” When comrades are taken out, they believe that the best solution is to charge the enemy and fall in glorious combat. They despise turning their backs to the enemy, because they need to make up for everything. Unlike Saunders Academy (the American school), who believe in overwhelming force as a strategy, they have no actual strategy, and are instead merely victims of their own zealousness.

In other words, the science of senshadou (way of the tank) reigns, and foolhardy aggression (the kind of thing encouraged in Japanese citizens during World War II) is a mistake.

Conclusion

Girls und Panzer der Film deftly balances its two extreme components through efficient storytelling, compelling action, and overall cleverness. It’s not as newbie-friendly as the TV series, both in the sense that it’s a direct sequel and because the tank combat is much more important, but it also doesn’t let the desire for fanservice (both technological and girly) get too much in the way of a solid narrative. It even adds an interesting new angle on the image of itself as a work that promotes militarism. Girls und Panzer der Film does a lot in two hours, and leaves a lot to contemplate, even if the movie might seem pretty light on thoughtful content otherwise.

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Name: Mahoron (まほろん)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Happy Fujoshi: Fujoshi no After 5

Information:
In addition to being a fan of the “Randy x Gerdt” pairing from an unnamed series, Mahoron is a doujinshi fiction writer who focuses on her favorite pairing. She looks up to Yuzu, who she considers to be the best the genre has to offer, giving her a copy of her book at their karaoke event.

Fujoshi Level:
Mahoron listens to conversations between guys on the train and imagines them as lines for Randy and Gerdt.

kinghanayo

To end off my Love Live! Character Spotlight series, I’ve written an article about my favorite school idol, Koizumi Hanayo.

May the rice be with you.

Defensive styles get a bad rap in many arenas of competition. Whether it’s Floyd Mayweather in boxing, Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros. Melee, or turtle play in Starcraft, a strong focus on defense can draw the ire of both players and spectators. Whether or not the defense is the product of immense skill seems to matter little except for the most hardcore or well-informed. Defense is viewed as passive, and passive is viewed as lacking in “hype.”

It’s not surprising that many people share this belief. The impact of aggressive play carries a kind of emotionally visceral thrill that the mental excitement of defensive play can’t quite fulfill, and participants (both in the game and in the audience) are frequently looking for entertainment and gratification. There’s nothing wrong with this mindset, and it’s a bit presumptuous to decry people for liking what they like (as tempting as it is to do so), but I have to wonder if anything can ever be done about this mindset such that a significant number can enjoy or appreciate defensive play.

Esports historian, writer, and commentator Duncan “Thorin” Shields has argued that people’s uses of the terms “aggression” and “passivity” are too simplistic, and that this limits their ability to discuss play styles in games. In fighting game terms, this would be the false idea that aggression can only come in the form of rushdown, constant in-your-face attacking, when there are a whole range of possibilities. I think Thorin makes an excellent point, but that still requires people to take that extra step. They have to search out information, to think more deeply about the games they play and watch, and this is perhaps more than what can be expected of an audience (though perhaps that onus should be placed on players who are critical of defensive styles).

Not that I think people like Thorin should stop what they’re doing, or that it’s pointless. They provide a valuable piece of the puzzle towards increasing people’s appreciation of competitive play, but perhaps there should be an additional step in between, something that can reach people even when their minds are not fully geared towards learning.

One possibility comes in the form of commentators often found at these events. Perhaps there needs to be a more active push by commentators in general to emphasize the positives of defensive play, and to encourage that more mental (rather than emotional) look at games and sports. One potential problem with this is that it doesn’t apply when commentators aren’t around, and that it still might not convince people’s hearts where it arguably matters most.

Is it a hopeless cause to get people who thrive on “hype” to not sneer at “overly” defensive play? Is there a future where this can happen?

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

In this month’s chapter of Genshiken Nidaime, the old boys are back.

Chapter Summary

Madarame, Tanaka, and Kugayama meet up for drinks. While they start talking about how things have changed now that Madarame’s finally not going back to the old university, the conversation eventually shifts to girls. As Madarame realizes how the boys of Genshiken have at some point started talking about girls instead of anime, he swears to bring himself back to his original mega otaku self. However, just as he successfully tempts the rest of the guys to pull out some 18+ doujinshi, Kohsaka shows up with Saki, who seems unfazed by Madarame’s attempts to creep her out. Not long after, they reveal to the guys that Saki is pregnant.

This causes Madarame to flip and exclaim that he should’ve just picked someone and ended his virginity, but then Saki reveals that it was all a lie orchestrated by her and Kohsaka to get Madarame to confront his true feelings. She then tells Madarame straight up that he should go out with Sue on account of his reasoning for rejecting her being total BS, and even gets Sasahara to call Ogiue and get Sue on the phone. Saki says to Madarame that, if Sue’s not interested anymore then it’s fine, but otherwise…

Straight Shooter Saki

Ah, Kasukabe Saki. While Keiko kind of fulfills her role as the no-nonsense outsider, she doesn’t quite capture Kasukabe’s ability to just cut straight to the point. Quite a few of the readers on this blog have commented that Madarame’s reasoning for rejecting Sue was incredibly weak, and I find it interesting that Kio Shimoku would purposely set that up as a sticking point. While I do still think that Madarame’s reasoning wasn’t solely to run away from the situation, it was pretty flimsy on the surface.

It’s also revealed that Saki set her ploy up because Kohsaka and her suspected that Madarame’s real reason for not choosing a girl was that he was still pining after he deep down inside. While I think this was pretty clear, especially given his reason for rejecting Keiko (she reminds Madarame too much of Kasukabe), this really shows just how much that’s actually the case. Somewhere in all of this is the idea that the other girls are maybe too otaku to get to the heart of the matter. Ogiue might be blunt and Yoshitake might be a schemer, but their anime and manga-oriented minds inadverently allowed the harem to flourish, and thus allowed Madarame to remain wishy-washy about the whole thing. Saki really is amazing.

As for the fake pregnancy, before Saki revealed the truth my immediate reaction was that this basically would have marked off Spotted Flower as a possibility. Now, it’s back to being in this nebulous space of pseudo-canon/alternate universe, and it’s a very intentional move by Kio to mess with his readership. Maybe, somehow, we’re all Madarame. What this also means, based on all of the talk of girls and sex (or in some cases lack thereof), is that the thematic gap between Genshiken and Spotted Flower is ever-shrinking.

By the way, the named of the chapter is “High-Slope Flower,” which is a parody of Spotted Flower, only with a reference to Kohsaka instead of Madarame; the saka in Kohsaka means “hill.”

Kio you troll.

Sex Talk

Though it’s one of the main jokes of the chapter, it really is crazy that the boys of Genshiken have been having varying degrees of success with the ladies, not least of which is Madarame’s recent harem adventures.

It’s unclear if Rino the Cabaret girl is actually interested in Kugayama or is basically doing her job and manipulating her client for more pay (remember, Cabaret Clubs are all about talking with girls as opposed to being a sex service), but it’s very likely that the latter is a factor. Kugayama himself acknowledges this, but just the fact that he is making some kind of vague move towards fulfilling his desire for real-life women, and that he’s gone from visiting Cabaret ladies to just one in particular, is itself a kind of change or progression.

One of the more notable aspects of this chapter is that Tanaka and Sasahara reveal quite a few details about their sex lives. Tanaka mentions that he “only” gets to have sex with Ohno about once a week, while Sasahara says that his rate is about once a month, much to Madarame’s consternation. Tanaka even mentions to Kugayama about how asking for a girl’s three sizes in order to get a cosplay outfit made for her (Kugayama’s current plan for a gift to Rino) can turn into dirty talk.

References to the characters having sex is nothing new to Genshiken. Way back, Saki talked about her and Kohsaka doing it doggy-style. Ogiue started drawing more realistic penises in her doujinshi after she began her relationship with Sasahara. I think this situation might feel different because it’s the guys, the ones who are supposed to be the “losers,” doing it, and so the dissonance in Madarame is understandable. I also believe that this dissonance was a huge factor when it came to Madarame’s decision to abstain from choosing a partner. This candidness contrasts with the younger characters that comprise the main cast now as well, because they are for the most part are still very shy about this sort of thing.

It’s easy to tell that the conversations are causing Madarame’s imagination to go wild, and that too is understandable.

They Just Keep Pulling Me Back In!

If Madarame does indeed end up with Sue after all, does it matter that it happens after the harem arc concluded rather than it being a direct result of Madarame’s decision? After all, choosing a partner would have, by definition, ended the arc anyway.

This is all speculation at this point, but I do think there is a difference between having Sue the winner of a competition versus her and Madarame potentially building something up together on their own. I think the harem itself put a lot of pressure on Madarame that a simpler one-to-one relationship wouldn’t carry, even if it doesn’t work out.

As for Sue essentially being Madarame’s 2D complex ideal given flesh and how this might mean that Madarame loses the last vestiges of his realistic otaku self, there are two points to take into consideration. First, guys can have many different ideals to the point that arguably any of the other partners could be considered an “ideal,” but the way the story has portrayed them shows a lot of interesting facets to their characters. Sue still seems a bit otherworldly, but this might be the start to opening her up more. Second, Sue really is the only one at Madarame’s otaku power level.

No Ogiue Image This Month

They do mention her, though.

Sasahara: Basically, Sue’s at Ogiue’s apartment, which means I can’t visit. Do something about it, please.
Madarame: Wha? What do ya mean? Wait… You just want to have sex with her!
Sasahara: ……That’s right! What’s wrong with that?!

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

 

 

Name: Mayu (マユ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Happy Fujoshi: Fujoshi no After 5

Information:
Mayu is an office worker and who devotes most of her time and money to her fujoshi hobbies. She is particularly into the Randy x Gerdt pairing from an unnamed anime, and is invited to a karaoke party after a doujin event.

Fujoshi Level:
Mayu has a very busy life juggling both her work and her otaku life, but keeps herself motivated by thinking about Randy x Gerdt, even at work.

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