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NOTE: It seems that an inaccurate translation of the contents of this chapter have been floating around. Please look at this supplemental post after reading this review to get the right picture.
At long last, Madarame makes his choice in Chapter 122. And in the end the winner is…
…No one. Madarame chooses to abstain.
I get the strange feeling some readers might be pulling out the pitchforks, but I think it’s best to put them away. I believe the reasons behind Madarame’s decision are worth exploring, as they really show the kind of consideration Genshiken has for its characters and their connections to both the real world and that of their awkward nerd fandom.
Madarame says that there is no universal reason he’s chosen not to date any of the girls. Each circumstance is unique. When you add them all together it paints an interesting picture.
For Angela, it’s a matter of a long distance relationship, but Madarame explicitly mentions that it has to do with the idea that being with the hottest thing on Earth, but only having physical contact twice a year, would be like “torture.” Implied is the notion that Madarame is open to the idea of a relationship based on bodily desire, but that’s untenable unless Angela moves to Japan.
Physically, Madarame is ready, but emotionally he’s not. This is what puts Keiko out of contention, as the possibility that Keiko will remind him of Saki, whether because of their similarities or because Keiko might just mention her in conversation is difficult for him at this point. While Madarame is indeed attracted to Keiko, the important thing is that he needs more time to come to terms with his lost love. As Madarame mentions, he’s just been kind of passively going along with everything, and that’s probably what he needs least at this point.
Sue’s is an odd rationale, because Madarame’s “reason” for not dating her is because he likes seeing Sue’s displays of yuri affection with Ogiue. This feels like a cop-out, but I really do think there’s more to Madarame’s words than meets the eye. Given how positively Sue reacts to Madarame’s explanation, I think it shows that Madarame not only understands Sue well, but that he sees Sue herself as not being ready for a relationship. She’s still shy and sensitive, and might need more time to step out of her shell.
Madarame’s basis for rejecting Hato is the most complex of all, but it all comes down to not wanting to hurt Hato. Madarame explains that, even if he and Hato were to work out as a couple, the constant worry that Hato has had to suffer because of Madarame risks being not simply a short term thing.
In all likelihood, their relationship would be forever plagued with doubts and second-guesses as to whether Madarame likes the fantasy more than the reality, or whether Hato feels comfortable being who he is. As Madarame puts it, Hato should be with someone who just simply accepts him as he is, and lets Hato feel like his identity as a crossdressing fudanshi is a matter of course. This mindset mirrors a conversation the two once had, where Madarame mentioned that Hato’s just the way he is and it shouldn’t be a big deal.
I think some readers might also be concerned that Hato says that Madarame will be the first and last man he ever loves. Hato says a lot of things, like how he has no interest in men at all. Pretty much every character in Genshiken changes their mind, and Hato is just the best example of this.
All of this means that, of the four prospective love interests, only Hato has truly been rejected. Madarame considers both Keiko and Sue as not having any faults that aren’t rooted in Madarame’s own broken heart, and if Angela were to move to Japan, I think he might die from crushed pelvis (it’s also worth nothing that the virgin vs. whore thing doesn’t even come up, which might say something about Madarame’s maturity). Essentially, Madarame has been on the rebound this whole time, and his clouded judgment, combined with his propensity for waffling, has been a bad combination that can only be solved with time and some space.
I think it all makes sense.
Genshiken sets up two new threads in the aftermath of the Madarame harem arc. First, as Hato mentions that he likes the idea of finding someone who accepts him without much fuss, Yajima sees this as possibly her opportunity. The irony here is that Yajima didn’t accept him for the longest time, as her more conservative values as well as her poor self-image made Hato a target of mild disdain and jealousy. Things are different now, but the real question is…how different? Spotted Flower different?
Second, as if to speak directly to those readers who missed the way Genshiken was once upon a time, the next chapter preview basically says that the manga is going back to doujinshi and clubroom antics. Something tells me that this isn’t giving the whole picture though.
As for Ogiue, I feel as if Kio put in extra care when drawing her this chapter. Call it a hunch.
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The trip to Nikkou winds down with a final stay at Yajima’s family home. Yoshitake presses Madarame to make a decision about who to date, but as each potential partner makes their case (or has their case made for them), Madarame is still hesitant to pick. However, when Kuchiki suggests that it be done by lottery if Madarame doesn’t care one way or another, Madarame chooses not to leave it in fate’s hands and declares that he will make his decision…next chapter.
Is it at long last the end of the Madarame harem arc? Will he end up with anyone or perhaps no one at all? Will Genshiken actually have Madarame choose, or will it be a Naruto-esque string of chapter titles each more final than the last?
Personally speaking, the harem aspect itself, the fact that four individuals are attracted to Madarame to varying degrees, is less interesting in terms of who ends up with who, and more in terms of its opportunities for characterization. This includes characters both inside and outside of the harem.
One of Yoshitake’s recurring traits is that she always has the group dynamic in mind. Much of the reason she wants Madarame to just choose already is because she’s worried about the relationships, the friendships, that exist among the members of Genshiken. The longer Madarame takes, the more these threads get frayed, but at the same time she wants the decision to be a real one, not a spur of the moment fancy. That’s why she arranged the whole Nikkou kujibiki dating scheme in the first place.
Angela is an impossibly attractive blonde American who encourages polygamy, having the least to lose due to the distance between the US and Japan. She has an interest in Madarame, but is more about having a good time. Sue, as Ogiue puts it, is Madarame’s ideal character: a blonde loli who’s also fluent in both “Japanese” and “otaku.” However, even after her confession it’s clear she still isn’t entirely sure what she wants their relationship to be. Hato is a “girl-boy” straight out of a visual novel, but interestingly enough is still espousing the potential pitfalls of a homosexual relationship to ground Madarame in reality. They all carry some element of wish fulfillment that borders the realm of perverted imagination with some counter-balance in the fact that they’re all actually human.
In contrast, Keiko’s points out that she’s the most similar to Saki out of all of them, and this hits Madarame like a ton of bricks. While that makes Keiko in a way the most “realistic choice,” her words also carry an element of fantasy to them. She is the closest to fulfilling Madarame’s unrequited love for Saki, the most profoundly grounded woman he has ever met. The fact that Madarame reacts so intensely to Keiko’s words shows that he still holds a torch for Saki, and perhaps even suggests that his indecisiveness towards both accepting and rejecting others is a product of a desire to be wanted but also to want someone like Saki.
It’s surprising that Keiko of all people objects to Angela’s “harem ending” suggestion, stating that she’d rather not be involved at all if that’s how it’s going to end up. She wants to try a monogamous relationship, and she’d rather be single than deal with some fantasy otaku arrangement. Given that Keiko is not above seeing more than one guy at a time, I think it might say something about how Keiko sees Madarame as an opportunity for some stability, and further puts into relief the differences between her and the rest. At the same time, being an approximation of Saki isn’t actually being Saki, so in a sense Keiko becomes the most “ideal” choice of all. Of course, she certainly doesn’t see it that way, and I wonder if she in fact sees herself as what Madarame ultimately needs.
Madarame, as much as he acts like anyone would do because he’s just a dorky, desperate otaku, is suddenly against the idea when it’s suggested that he pick randomly when Kuchiki brings it up. Madarame is neither totally noble nor utterly selfish, and the realization that he cannot just keep the harem in stasis as is common in long anime and manga series ultimately forces him to try and choose on his terms rather than leave it up to luck. I think somewhere in his decision is the belief that having the choice made for him is utterly irresponsible and would lead to more harm than good, while also clarifying that he clearly does not see all of them the exact same way. In the end, actions have consequences, and I look forward to seeing how this plays out.
To end off, this month’s Ogiue moment is more of an Ogiue focus than anything in a long while. As briefly alluded to above, Ogiue gets really invested in presenting Sue as the best possible choice for Madarame, even going so far as to say that this is Madarame’s once in a lifetime chance to be with this girl of his dreams. What’s really notable about her behavior in this instance is that Ogiue has never really come across as being particularly invested in the Madarame/Sue combination even if she does believe it’s the right choice. It feels like there’s something more at stake here. Is it being able to finally get Sue to abandon the “Ogiue is my wife” joke (probably wouldn’t happen)? Does she truly believe that Madarame and Sue are best for each other? Does she want to give Sue some happiness? Whatever the case may be, I quite enjoyed seeing Ogiue’s fire.
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It’s finally Angela’s turn to spend some alone time with Madarame in Chapter 114. Looking as if she’s going to do something wildly inappropriate, especially for a shrine, but in fact it doesn’t amount to anything more than hand-holding and longing stares. However, what would normally be considered fairly chaste interactions are in fact evidence of Angela’s absolutely diabolical nature when it comes to winning a man. At the same time, Keiko and Yajima are on their own, but to describe them as oil and water is to not quite do their dynamic justice. Keiko quickly realizes that Yajima likes Hato, and wonders how she can use that information.
When I first saw Yajima start to talk about how much she disliked Hato’s crossdressing to Keiko, my only thought was, “Yajima!!! Don’t do it!!! You don’t know what you’re getting into!” Yajima is too much of an open book and Keiko is already extremely perceptive as it is, so it’s no wonder Keiko figured it out rather quickly. With this knowledge, one has to wonder if Keiko will try to pair the two together, somewhat like Yoshitake, except for her own ulterior motives as opposed to maintaining overall harmony as Yoshitake desires. Though, Keiko and Yoshitake cooperating sounds rather frightening, and I look forward to possibly seeing more.
That brings us to the main feature of Chapter 114: Angela and how she has basically done her research. In the past, she mentioned that what she wants most is for Madarame to fantasize about her on those lonely nights, because doing so will conflate lust with love in Madarame’s virgin otaku mind, and will make Angela that much more desirable to him. In her last attempt, she took an extremely aggressive approach, basically attempting to throw Madarame off the diving board when he had never stepped into the kiddie pool. This time, rather than trying to get Madarame to touch her breast, she directs his hand towards her face, and thus encourages him to stare into her eyes as she gives a warm, inviting smile. However, because of the close call last time, perhaps because of everything Madarame’s been through since they last met, and because Angela decided to wear an extremely bold and unrealistic outfit that accentuates her superior figure compared to the others (generally speaking), she is letting Madarame’s imagination do the work. Angela is essentially taking advantage of the otaku mindset to water the seeds of wild and uncontrollable urge she had originally planted in Madarame’s head way back.
Otaku, especially the typical kind of Madarame’s generation, are confronted with two images of romantic love interests in anime, manga, and games. The first is the sweet and innocent childhood friend, the pure girl who’s all about long walks and blushing profusely. The second is the highly physically attractive type who somehow doesn’t realize that she’s the center of attention when it comes to guys. A lot of times, these two characters overlap (you can even argue that Ohno starts off as this type), and Angela is actively playing both roles. She’s the sexual dream who’s also now shown her “maiden” side, and Madarame is encouraged to connect fantasy A with fantasy B. Probably any guy given this information would have a similar reaction, but because Madarame is who he is, it’s 10x more intense. In a way I feel like Angela’s actions directly confront what an otaku is, or was supposed to be.
It’s also telling that Angela immediately gives Kuchiki the cold shoulder. She isn’t “easy,” but rather just knows what she wants.
The last thing I want to talk about this chapter is, of course, Ogiue. Though she’s not the spotlight of this chapter in any way, she does have an interesting moment with Yoshitake. As Yoshitake falls into tour guide mode, she claims that it’s just her and Ogiue spending time alone together. In order to emphasize this, Yoshitake whispers sweet nothings in Ogiue’s ear, and by sweet nothings I mean history trivia that would directly appeal to Ogiue’s fujoshi side.
We’ve seen Ogiue blush in many different ways, but I don’t think it’s ever quite been like this.
The previous chapter of Genshiken ended with most of the characters pairing off in unexpected ways (none of them romantic), setting up the anticipation that there would be some intriguing interactions that go outside of the normal range that Genshiken has been using as of late. In this regard, Chapter 113 is far from being a disappointment.
After Yoshitake finally reins in her history otaku nature and ceases to be a tour guide through the shrines of Nikkou, all of the groups do their own special thing. For this reason, for this month’s review I think it’s worth talking about each notable pair on their own.
Madarame and Yoshitake
In a lot of harem manga, the characters that act as if they’re stringing the main character along through feigned expressions of affection often fall into the category of the harem as well. Because they show the possibility, they’re part of the fantasy too, even if they’re supposed to be tongue in cheek. Not so with Yoshitake. She drags Madarame away not only to spark the fire among the characters who actually are interested in Madarame, but also slyly manipulates Madarame as well by making it seem as if she’s also into him. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but the reaction on Madarame’s face seems less like surprise and more like, “Oh no, not again,” which when you think about it is a far cry from where he was originally in Genshiken.
Yajima and Kuchiki
Kuchiki wants what Madarame has but he’ll never get it because it’s hard to imagine too many girls who would like Kuchiki’s personality (then again he did have a girlfriend once upon a time). At the same time, their mildly venomous conversation has a lot of grains of truth being sifted. Kuchiki mentions the appeal of the girl-boy, which is that you have the physical attraction of a female without the seeming mystery of trying to figure out how they think and feel. This actually isn’t far off from what I’ve read about the appeal of certain, shall we say, “alternative” forms of adult entertainment in anime and manga, and it even reflects something I’ve seen before in an old Ann Landers/Dear Abby, which had to do with a wife questioning if her husband was gay. Long story short, that aspect of being able to directly understand the feelings of another, whether that’s more spiritual or more physical, is something that’s understandable when you think about it. As for Kuchiki almost figuring out Yajima’s feelings for Hato, that probably has less to do with Kuchiki being perceptive and more that Yajima is often an open book (see her first meeting with Yoshitake’s “brother”).
Hato and Keiko
It’s been established that the two don’t really get along, and this chapter I think really shows the foundation of why that’s the case. Essentially, both Hato and Keiko believe that the other is somehow manipulating Madarame. Hato believes Keiko is just stringing him along, while Keiko sees Hato’s personality as an ideal construct, pleasing but artificial. Together, they both open up to each other in an antagonistic manner, giving details as to what transpired in each of their respective close encounters with Madarame. Now they both know the approximate truth, and while it can’t be said that Madarame is a two-timer, I do think Hato and Keiko have bonded in a rather bizarre yet understandable manner. That said, I think their lowered opinion of him comes from somewhat different places; with Hato it’s because of how easily Madarame was enticed, and Keiko because it connects to the whole thing about Madarame being happy about Hato’s chocolates.
I think there’s something to be said about the way that the characters of Genshiken try to exert their wills in this chapter. Yoshitake temporarily dons the role of a fawning admirer to mess with Madarame, Keiko intentionally withholds the fact that Kugayama was at her club too to make Hato think that Madarame came of his own accord, and Hato throws the events of the previous night in Keiko’s face. Nowhere is this clearer than with the fact that Angela’s time has arrived, and she’s come prepared for bear, so to speak. As soon as she finds out she’s pairing with Madarame, out come her noble familiars, barely constrained and ready to serve their master.
I’m not sure if it’s clear from my previous posts, but I love the idea of Madarame and Angela, if only because to me it’s the most hilarious. This chapter begins to prove why that’s the case, even if she probably has the slimmest chance out of the four. Will next month be the most fanservicey chapter of Genshiken ever?
Speaking of Angela and Madarame, or rather the renewed kujibiki drawing, I do find it interesting that Yoshitake’s plan to see the temple Youmeimon, the culmination of her trip to Nikkou, is derailed by construction much in the same way that her original plan to mix the group up into new and exciting pairings also backfired in terms of its original intent. It makes me wonder if this second lottery is going to also be reflected in Yoshitake somehow encountering an even more amazing sight.
Last thing of note: as seen in the first image in this post, this chapter clearly used photo references for its color pages that lend a greater amount of realism to the backgrounds, to the extent that it feels like the chapter is actually promoting tourism for Nikkou. I don’t think that’s actually the case, but Genshiken rarely goes for that look.
Since the last chapter, Madarame has been mulling over Hato’s Valentine’s chocolate. Feeling a sense of happiness over receiving them yet also confused and alarmed by this very reaction, he seeks the advice of Kugayama, who is the only other guy out of the old Genshiken crew to not have a significant other and thus won’t spill the beans to the girls. As the two get increasingly drunk over some barbecue, Madarame reveals where he believes the confusion lies: to him, Hato is a man and therefore someone Madarame can relate to, whereas women are so foreign to him that he doesn’t know how to even begin dealing with their affections. Kugayama suggests going to a soapland to help him get over his fear of women, but realizing that it’s probably too big a jump for either of them they consider instead going to a cabaret club, more specifically Keiko’s.
For a chapter basically consisting of two scenes and a brief look into Yajima’s attempt to improve her figure drawing with the help of Yoshitake, there’s actually a whole lot to unpack. At this point, it’s something I expect from Genshiken even putting aside my own tendency to analyze the series in depth, but the more I thought about the simple events and topics of this chapter, the more complex the exploration of otaku sexuality and its perception in the otaku mind becomes.
Although I’ve had to re-assess the manga’s messages when it comes to attraction and sexuality a number of times, at this point one thing continues to be certain: Genshiken presents the idea that one’s “2D” and “3D” preferences neither overlap entirely nor are they truly separate. It wasn’t that Hato was in denial when he originally said his preference for BL existed purely in the realm of doujinshi and the like, but that he honestly felt that way. However, as we’ve learned, even the distinction between “2D” and “3D” is tenuous, as the characters of Genshiken ship real people (or at least imaginary approximations of real people). I would argue that BL was not Hato’s realization of homosexuality, but something which made the idea a distinct possibility in his mind that helped him to clarify his feelings for Madarame.
While I don’t think Madarame is having the same thing happen to him, I do think his actions in this chapter reflect a similar semi-disconnect between his 2D and 3D desires. Consider the fact that one of Madarame’s warning signals was that he began re-playing his otoko no ko eroge. One would expect the situation to be that ever since Madarame received the chocolates that he began to look into those games, but he in fact had them for a while. While Madarame maintained is self-identity as heterosexual, he was playing those types of games the whole time, and as implied in the chapters where he first discusses his experience with those games, it’s less about being into guys 2D or 3D and more about the use of sexual expression coded generally as “female” in otaku media that appeals to him. Hato, who similarly performs “femininity” looks to be hitting the same triggers in Madarame, and the very fact that this deliberateness in the end positions Hato to be male is also what makes Madarame feel as if he can relate to Hato better than any woman.
The female sex is something Madarame has viewed his entire life as a realm of distant fantasy, only barely entering his purview of reality when Kasukabe suggested that maybe they could’ve had something if circumstances had been different. This, I think, is why Madarame has trouble deciding what he feels in reaction to Sue and Angela (via Ohno) giving him romantic chocolates as well. Madarame has expressed interest in 2D characters similar to Sue, and there’s no doubt that he finds Angela attractive on some level, but they’re a foreign existence, both figuratively and literally. In that sense the anime girl and the real girl are equally “farfetched.” This is also what makes the Chekhov’s gun that is Keiko’s heavily photoshopped business card so powerful. Not only is it the case that Madarame’s refusal to visit the cabaret club back in Chapter 59 potentially overturned the next chapter, and not only is Keiko one of the other girls into Madarame, but Keiko herself plays a “character” at her workplace. Even firmly within the realm of “3D,” the line between fantasy and reality blurs.
Another thing I find interesting about this whole notion that Hato’s feelings are easier to respond to because Madarame can relate to them as a fellow guy is how this somewhat mirrors one of the reasonings touted for why people get into BL of shounen manga. Traditionally, female characters and love interests in battle/sports/competition manga have been on the sidelines, and most of the displays of fiery passion consist of male rivals and enemies confronting and antagonizing each other, which leads to more time and effort to devoted to those relationships than the ones between the hero and his would-be girlfriend. While this isn’t quite the same as what Madarame and Hato have, what is similar is this concept of guys being able to understand each other on some deeper level (or with girls in yuri), whether it’s intrinsic or something that’s developed over time. In the case of Madarame, it’s perhaps an inevitability given his inexperience with women. In a way, Kugayama’s solution of breaking the “mystique” of the opposite sex through the use of a “professional,” while extremely typical in various cultures (there was even a King of the Hill episode on the subject) is itself also a breakthrough for the otaku-minded, as it involves a desire to get away from the ideal of sexual purity and enter “reality,” though even that conception of the world is fueled by a fantasy. There’s a more I could say about Kugayama as well, but I’ll leave it alone for now except to say that Kugayama in some ways occupies Yajima’s position.
As for the scene with Yajima, Yoshitake, Hato, and Sue, although it’s fairly short, it is notable that Yajima is actually trying to improve her drawing despite being previously resigned to suck at it forever, and Hato’s mention that he’s been drawing manga lately is likely going to mean that he’s gotten past his previous dilemma of only being able to draw BL when dressed as a girl and a rather bizarre style when as a boy. The “disappearance” of the two voices that accompanied Hato (his other self and the other Kaminaga) were likely a prelude to this development. I suspect we’ll see more in the next chapter.
Also, Ogiue does not appear in this chapter but is at least mentioned twice, once when Madarame believes Sasahara would definitely tell her if Madarame were to divulge his secret struggle, and once when Yoshitake states that it was Ogiue’s suggestion for Yajima to do some rough sketches.
Have you been enjoying the new Genshiken anime? I call the manga of Nidaime “Genshiken II” because that’s how I started, while I call the anime “Genshiken Second Season” because that’s how it’s widely advertised in English. While it makes things easier in terms of separating my anime and manga posts, I do feel a bit contradictory or incongruous in doing so. Anyway, here’s Chapter 91, which is a turning point, the latest of many.
After Yajima talks to Hato in an effort to tell him that he can’t simply dump Madarame onto Angela so he can get back to reading BL, Ohno calls to ask Hato to complete the Bodacious Space Pirates cosplay as the main character. Eager to rid himself of the fujoshi that is his mental alter ego, Hato agrees, but by doing so actually appears to reaffirm his feelings on Madarame. Hato apologizes to Angela, but Angela has other ideas, simultaneously confessing the mutual feelings of her, Hato, and Sue. Madarame, like a deer caught in headlights, tries to run but accidentally slips and fractures his wrist (again) when he sees Keiko.
I quite like how Kio Shimoku writes and draws Angela, as for all of her simplistic character traits she still comes across as a fully developed person. Angela makes various comments about basically having a foursome, but I don’t think we’re supposed to interpret that as her wanting that sort of relationship. Instead, I think the fact that her words intentionally sound like they’re coming straight of an eroge is what’s important. Previous chapters have established that Angela is extremely savvy and strategic when it comes to putting the moves on Madarame, such as Angela hoping that if she’s aggressive enough the timid and virginal Madarame will use her as masturbation material, and I have no doubt in my mind that she’s trying to appeal to that basic otaku side of Madarame, to give him the temptation to fuse fantasy and reality in his mind. There’s also the fact that Ohno stops interpreting out of embarrassment, so Angela has to be as braindead obvious with her words as possible.
Of course, the other component of all this is that Angela is blasting through the ambiguity in a way which normally Sue would, but this is not Sue’s area of comfort at all. It’s funny how the more social and perceptive characters in Genshiken have generally been the ones to point out budding feelings and similar developments where the dorks of the group have been oblivious, like when Keiko nonchalantly asked if Sasahara and Ogiue are dating before they started doing so. Even though Keiko makes only a brief appearance at the end, I think she provides a good amount of interesting material to analyze as well.
When I think about it, Keiko and Angela appear to be approaching Madarame in the same way, by trying to actively appeal to his otaku sensibilities. The way I see it, the key difference is that Angela is an otaku herself while Keiko is not. Angela is using her knowledge of anime, manga, and video games, her experience interacting with fellow otaku, and even how her own mind works, to feed into Madarame’s fantastic desires. Keiko, on the other hand, is giving herself a more natural appearance, maybe even one closer to Kasukabe’s, in an effort to appear less a part of the Shibuya world which most otaku reject. The fact that Angela has a dynamite body may or may not play a factor in this battle.
Hato’s feelings meanwhile are practically overwhelming him at this point, and the clarity that this chapter brings also serves to complicate things further. As silly as this may sound, I find significance in the fact that the “other Hato” has a different breast size compared to the “other Kaminaga” who has been appearing in Hato’s consciousness lately, as it basically means they’re two aspects of his mind. Both are representative of something inside him, but the other Hato, with her larger chest, speaks towards Hato’s ideal of the generic woman he’s aiming to visually emulate. As mentioned before in a 4koma, when Hato crossdresses he tries to have as many “female” signifiers in his appearance, and breasts are one of them. The other Kaminaga, on the other hand, has small breasts like the actual person, which I interpret as Hato tying that persona closer to the real Kaminaga, or more specifically her words, and her ability to cut to the heart of the matter. The fact that Kaminaga is literally the person he was originally trying to emulate has to mean something as well.
Aside from a panel or two, there wasn’t really an Ogiue content this chapter, but I do find an off-hand remark by Kuchiki to be interesting. Kohsaka and Sasahara mention to Hato that there’s nothing quite like the wrath of not so much a scorned woman but a humiliated one, which causes Kuchiki to refer to them as the “非DT,” or “not virgins,” to which Madarame and Kugayama react nervously. While Kohsaka is generally seen as the attractive guy, there’s something hilarious about having Sasahara considered even remotely close to being a stud.
This time, to finish, I’d actually like to talk a bit about the art, which I typically don’t get into much during these reviews. The same page where Kuchiki calls the two of them “not virgins” is rather nice, I think, because of the way the panel of Kohsaka up top anchors that small moment in time, as well as Kohsaka’s words (“I don’t think you can take thing back at this point”). This isn’t just because it’s a large panel, but the lack of a background contrasts with the busier panels before and after, which in turn makes that panel act as both a breather as well as a moment of impact. On top of that, it rests well at the top of the page and makes for a balanced composition. I think in general Kio is good at using these large empty panels, and if you look through previou chapters I’m sure you’ll find more examples.
In this month’s Genshiken the guys and girls are separated on the line to Comic Festival, but in both cases the topic is the same: Madarame, and the women (and man) who might love him. There’s also some cosplay, as the girls dress up as the cast from Bodacious Space Pirates.
Yajima as Luca, Yoshitake as Coorie
The real-life Comic Market upon which Genshiken‘s Comic Festival is based is traditionally seen as a space existing in a dimension separate from the realm of romance and general extroverted interaction. It’s a distinction acknowledged even by Genshiken itself (Madarame’s famous exclamation that having a tan at ComiFes is “embarrassing), but it’s also a series where relations are fostered (Sasahara and Ogiue). Even though the series does have a tendency to place those conventionally incongruous elements together, the juxtaposition between people discussing potential love interests while waiting hours to buy doujinshi is nevertheless still quite strong.
The boys’ discussion revolves around the four whom Kasukabe believes have something for Madarame, namely Angela, Sue, Keiko, and Hato. Although Kasukabe is the definitely the most socially perceptive character in the series she’s also not perfect (she thought Madarame fell in love with her well before he actually did), so it isn’t necessarily presented as the gospel truth aside from the extremely obvious Angela. Given her strong observational skills, however, it’d still be fun to discuss each of them in detail, not to pick the “best” one but to do some semi-intense character analysis.
Before we get into it, though, I do want to say that it isn’t that unusual for Madarame to be a target of affection, and I don’t mean that in a “deep down he’s a good guy” sort of way. Not only is Madarame kind and intelligent, but he’s made major strides of the years to improve his sociability. That, and some girls are into the scrawny nerd type.
Angela,dressed as Misa Grandwood, Ohno in the background as Chiaki Kurihara
If you’ll recall, Angela’s interest in Madarame is actually a retcon from the second TV series (Genshiken 2, not be confused with Genshiken Second Season even though it’s totally easy to do so). The aggressive Angela enjoys Madarame’s passive demeanor, and what’s especially important about her perspective is that she isn’t thinking of this in a very romantic sort of way. While she wouldn’t mind seeing him long-term, she’s also definitely okay with a down and dirty one night stand. One thing I find interesting about Angela is that in her you have the portrayal of a woman who’s using every asset at her disposal to (literally) charm the pants off a guy. Even putting aside the aggression, if you look again at Chapter 66, you’ll notice that at the end of the day Angela switches from the outfit she was wearing in the morning to one with a short skirt and exposed cleavage.
Angela’s original appearance in the manga involves her, a non-Japanese speaking foreigner with a perfect body being very social, a form of kryptonite to the poor otaku Madarame. Personally speaking, there’s something hilarious about a rigid guy being with a sexually charged bombshell in that it’s fun to watch the layers of restraint and fear either melt away or intensify. For Madarame it’s more the latter, a response I find to be realistic for a nerd, though the fact that the unrequited love for Kasukabe is now a done deal changes the game. Her attitude frequently makes me wonder about what life is like for her most of the year, especially because she’s such a fearsome individual, able to notice Madarame’s pining for Kasukabe after just one or two brief ComiFes visits.
Sue as Gruier Serenity
While I’ve seen some Angelas in the American anime fandom, I’ve seen many more Sues, and I still find her to be surprisingly close to the kind of fans I tend to encounter at US anime conventions (although Yoshitake is actually pretty close too). Sue appears shortly after Angela in the original series delivering Asuka’s signature insult (“Anta baka?”), and it’s been interesting seeing her develop, from a non-sequitur gag machine with a penchant for making things awkward for those around her, to a fully fleshed-out character fluent in Japanese though still capable of intentionally generating the same awkwardness.
Sue’s feelings for Madarame aren’t as clear-cut as Angela’s, but Sue also frequently interacts with Madarame while appearing to enjoy it immensely. If she does like Madarame to that extent, it explains a lot of her actions with respect to him, like her remark that Madarame should “find a new love.” I also have to wonder how an actual relationship between the two would look. Sue is perhaps the only girl that can go toe-to-toe with Madarame when it comes to sheer obsession with anime and manga to the point of building up a seemingly endless wealth of quotes. There’s also something about their combined awkwardness that makes me imagine some of the interactions from Nichijou.
The thing I find funniest about Keiko is that years ago, when the original manga was still running in Japan, before there were these specific moments in Nidaime between the two to fuel the fire, there were already fans of the Madarame x Keiko pairing. If I had to reason why the combination has its supporters, it could be that in a way this would be the most “realistic” (read: cynical) couple, that image of the otaku whose average-looking girlfriend doesn’t quite understand his hobby and is a little too frivolous with cash. Perhaps the best reason is that Madarame was rejected by Kasukabe while Keiko’s affections for Kohsaka never went anywhere, comfort in mutual sorrow. Still, the reaction from Madarame and Sasahara is understandable (and also hilarious), as Sasahara basically pleads with Kohsaka and Hato to strike the very idea from the world. Watching the two guys basically not even consider her a factor is one of the best parts of the chapter.
The extras in Volumes 13 and 14 of Genshiken paint an interesting picture of Keiko. In Volume 14, Hato notices that Keiko has actually changed her makeup style to a more natural-looking one. One of Keiko’s visual characteristics since her debut in the manga has been her heavy makeup, and to forego it in favor of a lighter look implies that she’s aiming for a guy who might find that heavily dolled up look intimidating. On the other hand, a Volume 13 extra also shows that she has some interest in Hato, asking him if he’d be willing to have sex with a girl while still in drag. That 4-panel comic actually changed my perception of Keiko, and I wonder if her position in all of this is more complex than first expected.
Then there’s Hato, whose interactions with Madarame I’ve analyzed many times over and which you’ll find in numerous previous chapter reviews. Two things are clear: Hato is really complicated, and he pays a lot of attention to both Madarame and the people around Madarame. After all, he’s the one who noticed that Keiko changed her makeup. He’s also clearly very confused about what he does and doesn’t want, and you can see it in the way he went from needing to crossdress no matter what, to absolutely refusing to do so and trying to play the part of Average Joe Otaku. It sort of reminds me of when nerds who know nothing about sports (which includes myself to an extent!) try to discuss basketball or something: awkward, unfamiliar, clearly an act.
His past with Kaminaga makes it even more difficult to discern his intentions, as it isn’t clear whether he wanted her or wanted to be with her (or perhaps even both). However, if we assume that Hato does have feelings for Madarame, he then presents an interesting position in that he would see himself as a man who likes to crossdress and look at yaoi, but not someone who identifies as a woman and would therefore see a relationship with a man as heterosexual. If Genshiken then actually had him get together with Madarame, it would bring the entire manga to a whole other place.
The chapter ends with Yajima getting ready to say something to Hato, and amidst this strange situation their relationship is also something which has changed over time. Where once Yajima had been uncomfortable with Hato in drag, now she’s the opposite, mirroring Hato’s own feelings. I’m actually quite looking forward to how this develops next month. The “next chapter” reference, by the way, is Jewelpet Happiness.
One last vitally important thing to discuss: Ogiue’s cosplay is amazing. Somehow the series keeps finding great characters for her to dress up as, and even if the look doesn’t match entirely her intense expression makes it entertaining nonetheless. Ogiue cosplay is something special.
Ogiue as Quartz Christie
As Yoshitake pressures Yajima into potentially revealing that she has feelings for Hato, Kuchiki sees a distraught Hato committing the worst crime of ComiFes: not enjoying himself. In a rare moment of clarity and benevolence (albeit still horribly awkward), Kuchiki teaches Hato that worrying what other people think about you goes against the otaku way. Hato, who suspects that his interest in Madarame may be a matter of him being interested in Madarame in particular and not guys in general, suggests that he hook up with Angela (who is of course likely eager to do so).
This month’s Genshiken II, titled “Festival Evol,” is a reference to the anime Aquarion Evol, which is appropriate in a number of ways. First, Aquarion Evol is the next generation of characters after the original Genesis of Aquarion, which is similar to Nidaime. Second, in the final episode of Aquarion Evol (SPOILERS), the titular robot turns into “Aquarion LOVE,” which is of course one of the themes of Chapter 89. You could maybe read something into the separation between boys and girls in that series too, but that might be going too far. The next chapter preview quote is also from another robot anime, Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, so it’s a good month for mecha references.
I find this chapter to somehow be incredibly straightforward but also quite complicated in terms of its developments, so I’m not entirely sure how to approach it. I guess the first thing I’ll say is that, I do know from personal experience that sometimes you think you like someone more than you actually do. I’ve had cases where I was interested in girls, and when they got significant others, my feelings were not jealousy or regret or forlorn heartbreak, but simply satisfaction and relief. In those cases, “what could have been” doesn’t really enter the equation, a personal realization that my own feelings weren’t that strong after all. Is this the case with Hato and his feelings towards Madarame? Something tells me “no,” if only because it only seems to be deflecting or delaying the problems surrounding him. I’m not sure if the BL genre’s classic “I don’t like men, I just like you!” line really works in “reality,” nor the reality Genshiken wishes to depict.
More generally, not understanding one’s own feelings is a recurring element of the otaku subculture, especially when it comes to human interaction. Not to fall into the stereotype of otaku and fujoshi having no social skills or sex, but it’s clear from previous chapters that their experiences with romance have been limited or marred with awkwardness. It only makes sense that not only Hato but Yajima seems to be either consciously or unconsciously denying something, even if it doesn’t necessarily go as far as sexual attraction. I find it both interesting and relevant to this chapter that both Hato and Yajima are the types to restrain themselves to a certain degree even when among their comrades.
The highlight of this chapter may be the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Kuchiki successfully do something admirable. He’s tried in the past before, like when trying to stop the cosplay thief at the club recruitment fair, but that led to such disaster that it’s one of the first things mentioned in Genshiken II. While Kuchiki is obnoxious and doesn’t understand social problems, he does bring up the relevant point that Hato’s interests in and of themselves do not cause trouble for anyone, nor should they. It makes me think about the other classic annoying character of Genshiken who hasn’t appeared in forever, Haraguchi, and how different the two are. Unlike Haraguchi, Kuchiki is selfish and rude but too honest to be manipulative.
As for the possibility of Angela being Madarame’s first time, I actually really want it to happen now. I don’t particularly care if Madarame and Angela become a “thing,” and of course there’s the long-distance component in all that, but there’s something about Angela just getting the job done that I find potentially hilarious. Genshiken has never been big on valuing female virginity, going all the way back to Saki discussing her sex life with the club members, or the fact that Ogiue is at this point very much not one, but somehow Madarame the virgin is the bigger deal. Losing it in a brief fling where both parties are aware of the lack of classic romance as well as the time limitations would be appropriate and a subtle defiance of the “nerd guy gets the hot girl!” trope, without necessarily being sad, even if Madarame is portrayed as somewhat of a romantic at heart.
This month’s Genshiken also came with an extra comic by another artist, about one of the Genshiken Nidaime anime voice dubbing sessions. As previously discussed, the new anime has an entirely new voice cast, and it’s a lot about the director (who has worked on the previous Genshiken anime) instructing them on the nuances of the characters. Naturally, they don’t reference the previous actors, as that would compromise the legitimacy of the current cast. Probably the most interesting tidbit is at the end, when it turns out that a lot of the female voice actors are themselves fans of Genshiken, and were all asking Kio Shimoku for his autograph. Kio is reportedly a very private individual, which actually just makes me think of him as Madarame, secretly attractive.
Genshiken II, Chapter 88 is Winter ComiFes! As always, the Comic Festival chapters are among the best or most interesting in Genshiken.
It’s Day 1 of ComiFes and Angela Burton the Athletic Bostonian has come back to Japan. Though she’s decided to tone it down she still ends up stirring the pot, especially by noticing that something funny’s going on with Madarame and Sue. During the event, as the others move about, Ogiue and Yabusaki sell the doujinshi they’ve been working on. They even manage to completely exhaust their 1000-book supply, which is a first for them. Hato, who is abstaining from BL, tries to act like a normal otaku and even perv out like a normal otaku, but it just doesn’t work for him, and he ends up not enjoying what is normally a highlight of his life. The chapter ends at the start of Day 2. Yajima plans to buy a yaoi doujinshi for Hato, which may be hinting at some more romantic feelings.
This chapter of Genshiken had the same energy as the old ComiFes chapters, and especially compared to the last one doesn’t have quite so much overt drama. Not that it doesn’t have any drama, of course, but it’s a little more low-key, and you can really feel the hustle and bustle of a event as huge and as crazy as not-Comiket (because it’s a fictional world, remember). At least, that’s how it is for Day 1. Who knows what Days 2 and 3 will bring?
I couldn’t recognize either cosplay this time around, but thankfully there’s at least one blogger who knows his stuff: The first cosplay (pictured above) is from a new series called Shuushokunan Zombie Tori Girl (“Employment Scarcity Zombie-Catching Girl”), and the other is from Hi Score Girl, which if I recall, won some kind of award recently? In any case, I want to check out both manga now. The image of a blue collar worker using a combination fishing pole and net is quite striking.
Just in general, I thought the fashion in this chapter was really nice. Clothing-wise, the two characters who stand out to me the most this chapter are Yoshitake and Angela, for different reasons. For Yoshitake, it’s because of the way she’s able to at times look like the coolest girl around and at other times like the biggest dork in history (or “history dork in history”), when probably both are true. For Angela, I feel like Kio expresses her character through her clothing especially well. Even when trying to hold herself back (another “be yourself, or not” moment?), she still exudes a confidence in herself, her body, and her actions that’s hard to find in even someone like Saki. I’d like to point out that she’s wearing shorts in the middle of winter, when Comic Market is known for sometimes for being blisteringly cold.
I actually like Angela more and more every time she shows up, possibly because of the way that she shakes up the current situation of the club no matter what it might be. Her attitude towards just about everything is a far cry from everyone else, best exemplified when she suspects there being a thing between Madarame and Sue. Angela has some romantic and physical interest in Madarame, and to see her react not with jealousy or anger but with the same excitement she displays when talking about her favorite character types really cuts through the more conventional sense of relationships you see elsewhere.
Ogiue gets a good amount of focus this time around because of the fact that she’s selling her collaborative doujinshi with Yabusaki. If you’re not sure why the two of them are freaking out from the get-go, it’s because they’ve been put in a spot that’s usually reserved for the most popular and highest-selling doujinshi circles. Their table is against the wall, and at a doujin event, the groups whose products will create the most traffic are put against the wall in order to reduce traffic congestion. Ogiue says it’s mainly because the title they chose to parody this time is extremely popular, and that it wasn’t all under their own power, but I think selling out of 1000 copies is amazing no matter the circumstances.
While I of coursed loved seeing Ogiue back when she was struggling with herself, it also brings me joy to see Ogiue this happy. Though she’s hardly what you’d call totally uninhibited now, it’s clear how much more relaxed and comfortable she is now, especially when her nervousness this time around has more to do with feeling like a little fish in a big pond, and not anger at herself. The pinnacle of this can be seen in the very last panel of the chapter, where she’s in the classic doujinshi-buying frenzy. The panel even references the line that something is opening up at the top of her head, the thing that happened to Sasahara at his first ComiFes. The last time we saw Ogiue do this, she was disguised and frustrated about having to disguise herself, but now Ogiue isn’t holding herself back, or trying to disguise herself, or anything. It’s Ogiue, who has allowed herself to be herself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ogiue with such a look of confidence and authority before.
Even her interactions with Yabusaki show this, and it’s possible to see how far their friendship has come from what was once a decidedly antagonistic relationship. Speaking of Yabusaki, or rather Asada, it’s interesting to see how a once-extremely minor character has been developed to the point that you can really get a sense of her friendship with Yabusaki, and how the two get along with each other. What once appeared to be Yabusaki as boisterous leader and Asada as quiet tag-along is actually more complex.
By the way, I think it’s telling that Nakajima did not show up, despite Ogiue being so much easier to find this time around.
“Being yourself,” as cliche as it sounds, seems to be the theme of this chapter, especially when taking into account Hato’s own situation. On this first day of ComiFes, the day with generally the most female-oriented and yaoi content, Hato decides that he will not buy any BL. The line towards the end of the chapter says it all, though. On Day 2, Hato has a revelation: “Everyone seems to be enjoying ComiFes, but I haven’t been enjoying it at all.”
In forcing himself to do the “right thing,” Hato suffers. ComiFes is supposed to be the space where otaku can let their otakudom loose, but he’s restrainined himself. Hato’s attempt to be a “normal” otaku brings up an important question: if you’re not having fun as an otaku, why are you trying to be one in the first place? Whether we’re using the older definition of otaku as a pathetic person lost in the delusion of his hobbies, or the more charitable one that emerged later on to just refer to someone passionate about his fandom, “otaku” is not something that’s supposed to cause you anguish because you can’t fulfill the proper behavior in being one. If anything, it’s traditionally the opposite such as with Ogiue.
Anyway, with everything happening, I am certainly looking forward to next month. Last time, I asked about the possibility of Sue x Hato. What about Hato x Yajima? I’m not one to pair couples typically, but there’s something about having the guy better looking than the girl which can create interesting stories and dynamics, particularly in terms of the issue of confidence.
First thing first, Genshiken anime info dump! it’s been confirmed that the Genshiken II (or Nidaime) anime will be starting this summer, with a different studio but with a lot of old staff. I do find it kind of funny that Genshiken can’t seem to get a consistent animation studio or anime character designer, and given the sheer variation of work that the character designer Taniguchi Junichirou has worked on, it’s hard to predict how they’ll look exactly. Also, Uesaka Sumire will be singing the opening. Next month is the voice cast reveal, so let the speculation begin!
In Chapter 87, Hato continues to try to be one of the boys, but the fact that he is unable to draw properly for the sake of Ogiue’s ComiFes doujinshi when not in drag causes him to go back to it, at least in private. At the same time, Ogiue has decided to charge into the 21st century by buying a pen tablet monitor in order to save time and manpower, but the transition isn’t as simple as she hoped for. As ComiFes is drawing near, familiar faces appear as Angela makes her return to Japan and Keiko is looking to take another stab at the event.
I literally laughed out loud when I saw the pen tablet monitor. It was clearly introduced by Kio Shimoku as a metaphor for not only Hato’s current situation, but also the Genshiken club itself and even the manga as a whole. In this regard, I think it does an excellent job of representing the dimensions of a generational divide.
By showing Ogiue struggling with her tablet despite purchasing it to alleviate her work schedule, Genshiken touches upon the idea that transition can be a difficult thing because of how much we must acknowledge and rework our assumptions. The strengths and limitations of the zoom function, referenced during Ogiue’s little rant, is the perfect example. On the one hand, it lets you get up close and put detail into even the smallest part of a drawing, but on the other hand it can be stifling if one is obsessed with detail. Ogiue’s plight somewhat mirrors the difficulty by which the manga itself has transitioned into its new cast and their very different values, not only in terms of the content of the manga, but also for a good portion of the manga’s readerbase which seems to see the new Genshiken as “not Genshiken.”
However, I think it would be a mistake to say that the ideas implied by the tablet transition are narrowly limited to Genshiken as a topic, as I really think it goes beyond this one manga. What really adds to the tablet metaphor is the conversation between Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake where they mention the simple fact that, for some artists, digital drawing is all they’ve ever known.
Drafting, cleaning, paneling, for them, everything is done on the monitor, and it highlights this idea that, rather than this newer generation of artists being untrained in the old ways, that their “environment” is simply different and they have adapted to it in kind. Instead of the tablet being a facsimile of “real” drawing by mimicking pen on paper, for them the tablet is real drawing. That difference in mindset is so central to the changes between generations, whether it be music and art, dance, technology, or any other topic, and it shows how neither the old or new generation are “bad,” but that people are the product of their experiences.
I get the sense that, as the manga continues, Ogiue will continue to use the tablet, but that it will require her to adjust her current work habits to better fit it, or to make it more of a supplementary tool. In either case, if she does incorporate it, it means that her work may never be the same again. The impossibility of returning to the “old way” is also shown in the beginning of this chapter, when we see Madarame, Hato, and Kuchiki discussing anime much in the same way the club used to, with mentions of sakuga, seasons (cour), and the economic side. While definitely similar to the old Genshiken, something’s not quite right, especially in terms of how Yoshitake and Yajima appear a bit alienated by it because it’s not the atmosphere they’ve participated in and even helped to create. It feels a bit artifical and out of step with time, which also has implications in regards to Hato, who is trying to act like a “proper” male otaku.
If we look at the notion of the “proper” otaku (and perhaps even the whole debate over fake geeks), it’s kind of funny that people prescribe a certain set of behavior as “proper” for a group that has been traditionally stereotyped as behaving improperly by virtue of being otaku. I think Hato’s vain attempt to quit crossdressing and yaoi may be a sign of how ridiculous this can be, as if the manga is saying that it’s not as simple as getting rid of the girly stuff to bring back the “true” Genshiken, and that there has been a change in environment that the manga has been trying to address.
I may have gone a little too crazy with that analysis, but I honestly think that I haven’t completely or properly explained the intricacies of the tablet metaphor, though I’ll leave it as is for now. It’s been a while since we’ve had this much Ogiue in a chapter, so I’m pleased in that regard, and I’d been wondering when Angela would show up again a she’s a significant factor in the whole Madarame-Hato story. The fact that Keiko is planning to go to ComiFes out of her own free will may actually say everything about how much the world in and around Genshiken has changed.
(A bit of Ogiue Tohoku-ben inner dialogue teaching us that Ogiue is still not used to Kanto winters.)