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I recently appeared on the Veef Show podcast, where I talked briefly about chapter reviewing Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare. However, I realized, upon trying to say the name of the series, that I didn’t know how I’m supposed to pronounce “xxxru.” It’s not like XXXHolic or Hunter x Hunter where the x is silent, because it’s supposed to be a variable verb. “You shall not ______.” In any case, for future reference, I’ll probably refer to it as its official shortened name, Kimi Nakare, when speaking from now on.
Chapter 2 of Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare picks up right where Chapter 1 left off. Nobuko is a young celebrity comedian, known more for her ability to get a laugh than her homely looks. Shuuto, a childhood friend and classmate, is a popular idol who’s in love with Nobuko. Upon hearing Shuuto’s confession, Nobuko tells him that it can’t happen and runs away, clearly flustered. As Nobuko goes home early we’re introduced to Nobuko’s mother, who’s a famous actress known for her beauty.
On a variety show where both she and Shuuto appear, Shuuto talks about how Nobuko is cute, but because Nobuko is not considered beautiful the host reacts incredulously. Nobuko takes advantage of this and takes on the role of the “ugly pursuer,” who comically keeps chasing after Shuuto, which becomes a popular gag over multiple shows. Nobuko claims that it’s because Shuuto has to remember the fact that he’s an idol (and idols can’t date), but it’s clearly a way for her to ignore her feelings. Eventually, though, Shuuto finally gets to be alone with her, and asks Nobuko about how she feels, and her face says it all.
Nobuko’s View of Herself
One of the most pleasant surprises of this chapter happens right at the beginning, with the story being primarily told from Nobuko’s side. The first chapter concentrated on Shuuto, and I had to wonder if this trend would continue, but it’s clear now that they’re basically sharing top billing in this manga.
Nobuko’s mother, and the fact that Nobuko herself has not inherited her looks, appears to be one of the main reasons that Nobuko lacks such confidence in her appearance. While her mother adores her and is shown dressing a young Nobuko up in a flashback, Nobuko is being judged not only by the fact that she looks more like her father but through comparison with her mom. Alone, Nobuko remarks that “Something must be wrong with Shuuto’s eyes,” which is basically a self-deprecating statement.
In this respect, I can’t help but feel for her. Having grown up in the world of entertainment where looks can be paramount, Nobuko is made hyper aware of how she does not fit traditional images of beauty. What should have been an unrequited love due to the contrast between her appearance and handsome Shuuto’s is made reality by Shuuto and it scares her. The sense I get from Nobuko is that she feels that this isn’t supposed to be happening, that it’s a fantasy that she wasn’t meant to be a part of.
Comedy as a Tool
The fact that Nobuko purposely takes on the role of the unattractive admirer, a kind of Steve Urkel to Shuuto’s Laura Winslow, showcases not only Nobuko’s talent for comedy, but also how Nobuko is using humor to lighten the load that her heart has inflicted upon her. At home, Nobuko says to herself, “If I can’t pull away to deal with the situation, then I’ll push,” meaning that by trivializing the idea of a relationship between the two of them, by turning it into fodder for comedy, she can cope with it. This gives great insight into how Nobuko thinks, and how flexible and adaptive she can be.The way that Shuuto once again cuts through Nobuko’s defenses, then, is why I think the last scene of this chapter is so good. Nobuko, who’s dressed like a monkey to continue her on-screen obsession with Shuuto, ends up alone with him in her dressing room. Shuuto uses the classic “kabe don” of shoujo manga fame, and Nobuko’s facade cracks, as shown previously. The fact that all of this happens while Nobuko’s still wearing that monkey suit makes the scene somehow more poignant. The monkey suit is supposed to make the idea of a romance between them nonsense, but Shuuto isn’t having any of that.
Serious and Silly Artwork
I love how so many of the moments in this manga can be both serious and silly at the same time. Okamichachi’s style captures this seeming contradiction very well, because she has a shoujo (and I think BL?)-influenced style that still leaves plenty of room for exaggerated expressions and a willingness to not have her characters look perfect. While this is less the case for Shuuto, who’s supposed to be naturally handsome, seeing him with a relatively serious expression as Nobuko makes kissy faces only enhances the sense that the two are entering this weird space where their feelings for each other are enhanced yet also diminished by being on-screen. Shuuto’s reactions show that the situations portrayed in front of the camera, even if they are weird, still land in the realm of what he really wants, and he can’t help but blush himself as a result.Last ThoughtsRight now, the cast is fairly small, and there aren’t any romances happening between the few side characters that exist. I have to wonder if this will change, as that’s pretty much the fate of all romance manga.
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Of all the fujoshi-themed manga I’ve encountered (and I’ve read a lot), Okachimachi Hato’s Fujoshissu! is one of my absolute favorites. So, having recently found out that Okachimachi is starting up a new manga, I was immediately thrilled. While my search for fujoshi protagonists is why I first discovered her work, it’s Okachimachi’s expressive art style and subtle, considerate explorations of her characters that turned me into a fan.
Her new work, Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare (“You Shall Not xxx”) shows signs of being just as strong from the very first chapter, which is why I’ve decided to start writing monthly chapter reviews for it. This is only the third time I’ve ever done the “episodic review” thing (both previous instances were Genshiken anime and manga), so I hope you enjoy it.
Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare is the story of a budding teenage romance between Shuuto, a male idol, and Nobuko, a female celebrity comedian. When the manga begins, we see that Shuuto first discovers Nobuko at a very young age while watching television. Nobuko is the daughter of a famous comedian as well, and to Shuuto, it’s love at first sight. He thinks she’s the cutest girl ever, and it inspires him to get into the entertainment industry as a child model.
Years later, the two are now classmates, and while Shuuto is adored by legions of female fans for his handsome appearance and cool demeanor, his real aspiration is comedy. Shuuto asks Nobuko for help, and after some important lessons (namely that Shuuto can’t be serious about comedy if he’s afraid of being laughed at), Shuuto finally succeeds in getting some laughs. Grateful to Nobuko, Shuuto finally confesses his feelings to her and even gives her a kiss, but while Nobuko is shown to secretly feel the same way as Shuuto, she backs away and tells him that he can’t do that.
There is so much to talk about in this first chapter, but I think what stands out most is Nobuko’s appearance. While Tonari no Young Jump, the website on which Kimi Nakare is published, can ostensibly be called “shounen” or “seinen,” it’s clear that Okachimachi comes from a very different background in terms of art style and approach to manga. Kimi Nakare is very much in a shoujo vein, but very rarely do shoujo manga feature a main female character as plain-looking as Nobuko. Generally speaking, they tend to be not the most beautiful but still thin and pretty in a conventional sense. In contrast, Nobuko is larger, has a rather masculine face with big bushy eyebrows, and is just noticeably less attractive than Shuuto.
Even the story draws attention to the fact that Nobuko is not supposed to be good-looking. When a young Shuuto is telling his parents that Nobuko is the cutest girl he’s ever seen, they react with puzzlement. “Cute? I would call her interesting…but cute?” Shuuto “shouldn’t” be attracted to her to such an extent, but he is.
What’s amazing about this contrast is that it doesn’t feel simply like wish fulfillment that a handsome idol like Shuuto would fall in love with Nobuko. Putting aside his love of comedy and the fact that she’s mentioned as being incredibly talented at getting laughs, Nobuko is strong, supportive, cheerful, and isn’t afraid to take someone down a peg. As the chapter progresses, it becomes evident that these qualities are what continuously draws Shuuto to her. Okachimachi never draws Nobuko in a way implied to be Shuuto’s “perspective” with the requisite that she then appears to be more beautiful than she is, but by just seeing them together, I could understand just how attractive Nobuko’s personality could be.
Suffice it to say, I already love this manga. I believe that Nobuko’s negative reaction to Shuuto’s kiss and confession comes from the fact that he’s an idol and therefore isn’t allowed to date. Whether that means they have a clandestine romance or they have to constantly resist their own feelings, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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Recently, it’s come to my attention that a translation of Genshiken Chapter 122, aka the “Madarame Harem Arc Conclusion” chapter, has been going around that have some serious inaccuracies as to what is being said by Madarame. This seems to have created a good deal of outrage, with people believing that Madarame and Hato are both claiming that Hato isn’t really attracted to men.
That is completely wrong, and I’m here to correct that mistake.
SPOILER WARNING, of course.
First, here’s pages 130-132 from the serialization, when Madarame is explaining his reason for not dating Hato.
Yoshitake: Rame-senpai, you didn’t deny the possibility of Hato x Mada, so what’s the problem with Hato?
Madarame: Well I wouldn’t call it a problem… Let’s see. If we were together, I get the feeling that he would think about it too much and become a wreck in the process.
Yoshitake: …Aahhh… I think I understand…
Yajima: (That’s exactly what would happen.)
Madarame: Let’s say we started dating and hit it off. Even if that happened, I feel that he would be torment himself, believing there was some other pretext for our relationship.
At some point, he would think, Madarame has to feel reluctant about dating a man, right? Hato would think too much, and suffer for it. It should be simpler than that. “Hey I’m just a fudanshi who loves to crossdress, that’s all. No more, no less.” Wouldn’t that be a much better way to live?
With the above, I think you can see that Madarame is not claiming that Hato isn’t gay or bisexual. Rather, what he’s saying is that he wants Hato to find a relationship where he can feel comfortable being himself.
Now, here’s Hato’s later reaction and conversation with Yajima, on pages 143-145.
Yajima: You look better off than I was expecting.
Hato: I’m just really feeling the fact that it’s all over and done. I said everything I wanted to say, and if that’s the case…
Besides, it was a relief to be rejected. It was just as senpai said. Between my appearance and my love of BL I’m going to run into problems eventually.
I understood that, no matter how much I might like someone, it wouldn’t work out with a guy. Even knowing that, I still fell for senpai. Even now my feelings haven’t changed. I’ll probably go on loving him forever. That’s why I think Madarame senpai will be the first and last man I ever love.
Here, Hato does not deny that he was genuinely attracted to Madarame, nor is he going for the, “I don’t love men but I love you!” What he’s saying is that he thinks his feelings for Madarame are never going away, and that no one will take his place. Is he exaggerating? Maybe? Where he is feeling conflicted is the idea that a relationship can’t work with a guy, but that seems to be for other reasons, perhaps owing to society.
I hope this cleared things up for you Genshiken fans. In the end, Hato still isn’t with Madarame, but I think it’s clear that they both think well of each other.
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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.
This month’s chapter of Genshiken Nidaime is about anal sex. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, my title for this post is awful.
Last chapter, after an emotional discussion between Hato and Madarame, Hato runs away. At the advice of Ogiue (who knows a thing or two about a situation like this), Madarame goes after him. As the two talk once more, Madarame explains that he does feel something for Hato (especially after that incident at the hotel), but as he goes into detail about the idea of being with a fudanshi, Hato brings up an important question. Is Madarame truly ready for what “Hato x Mada” really means? After discovering that the rest of the club was eavesdropping (a Genshiken tradition!), Madarame decides that he’ll have to “think about it,” and their date continues.
You can see my immediate reaction to this chapter in the tweet above. While Genshiken has gone many places, I never quite expected it to arrive at this point. Suffice it to say, I’m both surprised and impressed in a multitude of ways. I have to compliment Kio for being willing to take the story this far, and to do so in a way that makes sense for the characters of Genshiken. What also stands out to me about Chapter 120 is the way in which clarifies the conversation between Madarame and Hato in Chapter 119, whereby Madarame finally and much more clearly understands Hato’s concerns. In Hato’s own words, being with Hato consists of having to encounter a series of “landmines.”
Last chapter, Hato expressed the idea that Madarame doesn’t seem to understand what it means to be in a homosexual relationship. This chapter, Hato lays it out. First, Madarame mentions how he’d have to get used to the idea of being seen as a “sou-uke,” a total bottom, as is the trend among Genshiken’s BL fans. Second, Hato reminds Madarame that Hato is not like Ogiue: he’s not a fujoshi but a fudanshi, a guy. Third, he brings up the idea of Mada x Hato, and how he’s prepared for the possibility, which fazes Madarame a bit. Then, finally, he brings up “Hato x Mada.” As realization slowly dawns upon Madarame, the impact of that epiphany on Madarame is, in my opinion, a prime example of what I love about Kio’s storytelling through manga.
Madarame confesses that he hadn’t even thought about “Hato x Mada.” Right there, it becomes clear that Madarame hasn’t actually contemplated the prospect of being with Hato all the way through. Not only that, but it makes perfect sense given just how Madarame has approached the idea. In Chapter 72, Madarame mentions having played games with “girl-boy” characters, and that, because of the censorship and the effeminate appearances of the characters in those games, it’s not that different from heterosexual fare. In other words, Madarame has always seen himself in the “man’s role” so to speak, and the sticky, naked realities of having a mutually satisfying relationship with Hato was just completely outside his realm of imagination until now.
I don’t read very much BL or gay manga, but I get the feeling that these sorts of nitty-gritty details aren’t so common in stories unless they’re particularly explicit or raunchy. Not only that, but given the purpose of those stories, I believe the end result is usually what is expected. In contrast, it’s not clear where Madarame will end up. Of course, correct me if I’m wrong.
The fact that Madarame doesn’t just completely shut down and break away from Hato might say just as much in favor of Hato’s chances, as does Madarame asking the question of whether Hato x Mada would involve Hato in women’s clothes. However, I suspect that the story might actually be heading in a direction where, although the two have a kind of emotional or spiritual connection, Madarame might ultimately not want a physical one. Keiko even brings this up at the end, saying that the body itself will ultimately be the deciding factor (which she believes is in her favor, even with Angela around). In a way, this might be even more ideal for the fujoshi of Genshiken, just because it could be interpreted as a love beyond the trappings of flesh.
I have two more things to say about this chapter. First, we finally learned just what happened when Hato’s other selves, the BL fangirl floating in the sky as well as the Kaminaga version, “merged” with Hato. Obviously he didn’t really have magic ghosts with him. Rather, it was symbolic of him accepting all of his passions, that he can be into both “Mada x Hato” and “Hato x Mada.”
Second, at the beginning of the chapter when Ogiue is talking to Madarame, she mentions how Sasahara accepted everything about her. Just that one gag panel where she ends her sentence in a heart as she blushes profusely is actually one of Ogiue’s most adorable moments ever. As an Ogiue fan, it is quite satisfying.
At long last, it’s the final date! Hato gets his turn with Madarame, but while their time together starts off with some comedy, it quickly turns into a very serious conversation that brings Genshiken back to a core theme: 2D characters vs. 3D relationships.
Actually, to be more accurate, the clash between “fantasy” and “reality” emerges from the very beginning. Just calling it a “date event” betrays the entire club’s otaku orientation; among regular people it would just be a “date.” From there, Hato starts to clearly delineate the differences between a biological woman and he himself who only dresses as a woman, namely that a crossdresser tends not to want people to get too close, otherwise they might recognize the truth. Though it ends with a funny moment where Madarame and Hato try out holding hands (did you know that Madarame has cold hands?), only to pull them apart after being spotted by the rest of the group, the tension is already set.
Though the dirty looks from Sue and Keiko (and Kuchiki) are magnificent.
Throughout the chapter you see Madarame use certain words that associate Hato with the the characters in the boy-girl (otoko no ko) games Madarame plays. He uses terms like “spice,” or “forbidden,” which eventually causes Hato to directly confront Madarame about what it would take to be in a homosexual relationship. Hato outright says to Madarame, “I’m a guy!” (pairing an effeminate “watashi” with a masculine “otoko”) and essentially asks if Madarame has really thought about what that means. If he actually starts something with Hato, then in the long term it won’t be a crazy alternative, or a thrilling experiment. Dating a man, even one that dresses convincingly like a woman, won’t be like seeing it in an anime or a visual novel, where no real consequences can occur. If he chooses Angela, Sue, or Keiko, then he won’t have to deal with these hardships.
I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but I think that implicit in Hato’s words is the awareness that gays are stereotyped and discriminated against in Japanese society. Picking Hato comes with it a future of tribulations, and the question is if Madarame is really prepared to take this seriously, or if it’s just a fetish at the end of the day that can’t move beyond fantasy.
Madarame’s response in turn, “Sorry,” then signals two things. Hato’s devastated reaction indicates that he’s not so much taken aback by Madarame’s apology, but the very nature of it. That’s because the “sorry” comes across as noncommittal, another case of Madarame vacillating because he still desires for the pieces to fall into place without him having to make any hard choices. Madarame has the potential to start a real relationship with Hato or any of the others, but he’s still afraid to make a decision. It calls back to the Madarame who originally decided to let his crush on Kasukabe slide by unrequited, and was willing to let it eat away at him for the rest of his life.
What I also find fascinating about this entire situation is that it not only subverts that harem aspect of the series, but that it’s a strong reminder that the qualities that have made Madarame somehow charming to these prospective partners are also the very things that can aggravate them. He’s both his own best friend and his own worst enemy, and I believe it keeps the series from truly entering actual “harem” territory.
The question of how Madarame will engage with the reality of having a flesh and blood partner is what I think makes Ogiue’s appearance at the end so interesting. As stated in the chapter itself by Ogiue, Hato’s running away from Madarame mirrors Ogiue trying to reject Sasahara out of fear of both hurting others and being hurt. However, I also feel it’s not really the same situation.
Sasahara hesitated because he was a naive dork who couldn’t read between the lines. Even though he recognized his own feelings for her at that point, when Ogiue told him that she couldn’t date guys, Sasahara took it at face value and almost gave up as a result. Madarame, on the other hand, has to decide whether his feelings are for Hato the person or Hato the image, and whether he’s willing to take a much more difficult road in the process when he clearly has three less troubling options moving forward that he also seems to have feelings for.
Writing all of this out, it makes me realize that Madarame’s hesitation can also be interpreted as wanting to make certain that he makes the right decision. He’s been raised to believe that romance is a special thing, a world of childhood friends and deep bonds that are anything but frivolous (though at the same time sex is raunchy and powerful). It might be another angle worth exploring.
Angela believes that Madarame clearly has eyes for Hato. We’ll see if she’s right.
It’s finally time to see Sue and Madarame’s date, which apparently involves ring tosses and ultra obscure references. After Hato comes by and advises Sue to express her feelings not in anime quotes but in her own words, Sue finds an opportunity to say what she really thinks of Madarame.
This chapter is all Sue x Mada all the way, and makes a rather strong argument for why they seem to fit together. Madarame is the only one high-level enough to not only immediately get Sue’s anime and Japanese pop culture callbacks, but also to build on them. What really stands out about their time together, however, is that we finally get to learn the truth behind Sue’s peck on the cheek during the school festival.
You might recall that it was a move to get Madarame to jump out of hiding so that Hato would notice that Madarame’s looking out for him after all, and that Saki saw the whole thing. When next we saw Sue, she would blush profusely whenever looking at Madarame, while denying any feelings towards him. The reason, as Sue explains, is that she herself thought she was just teasing Madarame, but having someone like Saki witness it made her self-conscious of the fact that the only reason she can mess with Madarame is because Sue views him differently. To Sue, Madarame is special. That’s why she can call him Nekoyasha and then ride on his shoulders. That’s why she can be so comfortable around him. That’s why she can finally confess to him, and be the first of the potential four love interests to do so.
I think it makes sense. Genshiken is full of otaples at this point, and a Sue and Madarame relationship would be at the top of the food chain. Not only that, while “I’m comfortable around you” can seem like the most generic of non-reasons to fall for someone, we see how their interactions play out. To some extent, Sue’s able to behave similarly with Ogiue, and even make jokes about Ogiue being her “wife,” but there’s a certain understanding that it’s all a friendly joke. That’s how Sue was with Madarame, but now Madarame’s open-ness and existence as absolute embodiment of nerdery have transformed into a strange attractiveness. Moments when characters realize their feelings are always highlights of Genshiken, whether that’s Madarame and the Saki nose hair incident or Ogiue seeing Sasahara smile, and this one seems to shout, “kindred spirits.”
Visually, Chapter 118 is unsurprisingly the Sue Show. As a character that doesn’t talk much, her facial expressions carry a great deal of weight. Combined with her sharp yet wistful eyes and exaggerated further by her pale features, light-colored coat, and knee-length blonde hair, it’s like her nervousness and emotional tension either take over the entire page, at least whenever Sue herself isn’t being put side by side with Madarame and his darker features (mainly his hair). Nowhere is this more apparent than at the moment when Sue says, “Madarame, I like/love you.”
I almost didn’t want to include this image, just so it could be a surprise to even those who read this review before the chapter itself. However, I think it makes too striking a statement to leave out, especially when considering the fact that Sue purposely prevents Madarame from responding, as Hato hasn’t had his chance yet. Also, there is arguably an even better moment at the end of 118, and I think I’ll leave that for you, the reader, to discover.
In the end, what I find interesting about all of the members of Madarame’s “harem” is that they connect to him in different ways. Angela’s attraction is physical, and while that might seem shallow she’s the one who brings to the forefront the idea of Madarame as a sexual being. Keiko is somewhere between physical and psychological, and her strategies reflect this. Hato has the closeness of being a guy, the intrinsic understanding of how Madarame might be thinking of a situation. Sue is as awkward as Madarame in many ways, one of their many similarities.
Next up is Hato, and this, perhaps, is where the show really begins.
As Hato becomes aware of Yajima’s feelings for him, a heartfelt discussion between the two ensues, where they share their doubts and beliefs about what it means to live with oneself. Though ostensibly a prelude to the last “date” of their trip to Nikkou, the moment between Hato and Yajima might well end up being one of the highlights of Genshiken Nidaime.
Over and over, I think one of the questions asked of Nidaime has been, why a harem arc? Why go for the most stereotypical anime trope that potentially damages Genshiken as this realistic depiction of otaku and fujoshi? Given how Genshiken has turned out in its exploration of Madarame’s awkward love life, one answer has been that it’s commenting on the disconnect between the fantasy of the anime harem and the reality of interpersonal relationships. This has been supported by the characters themselves sometimes even saying as such. However, there’s a second possible answer that’s arguably much simpler, and perhaps even extends out from the original series, which is a desire to portray greater diversity in the otaku population, and that includes a greater number of girls and women.
While I cannot attribute any proof of intent to creator Kio Shimoku’s goals with the second Genshiken manga, there are a few factors that have me considering this. First, there’s the higher female to male ratio. Second, there’s Hato himself, who is, suffice it to say, rather complex when it comes to ideas of gender, sex, and sexuality. Third, there is the greater emphasis on the idea of body image in Nidaime. I think this is perhaps where the “harem,” one of the most upfront formulas for having a heavy amount of female characters in a series, becomes integrated into this idea of diverse representation.
In this chapter, the discussion between Hato and Yajima essentially falls on what it means to “look” or “behave” like a woman. Yajima tells Hato that his crossdressing affects her deeply because it reminds her that she is not beautiful, that she’s overweight and lacking in anything that would attract men. Hato responds that he’s jealous of Yajima because he has to constantly put on this ideal act of being a woman in order to keep from getting found out, whereas Yajima naturally exudes femininity even when she does not fit societal standards.
Moreover, Hato remarks that he totally believes a relationship between him and Yajima would be possible, and fondly imagines the idea of being able to share a love of BL with a fujoshi girlfriend, while also specifically mentioning that not just any fujoshi would do (Yoshitake’s personality he considers possibly incompatible). The very things that make Yajima hate the way she looks, the tension of being a woman but not “acting the part,” are what Hato finds appealing about Yajima. And yet, Hato resists starting a relationship because he came to Genshiken to make friends, fujoshi friends, and doesn’t want to taint that desire and pervert it into a pursuit of a relationship.
There’s a lot to unpack there! We have a clear indication that Hato is bisexual, or somewhere deep in that middle area of the Kinsey scale. We have Yajima, who’s not even part of the Madarame harem, sharing these everyday questions that can haunt the mind and subtly cripple one’s self esteem. Basically, there are these two embodiments of so much inner and outer pressure, and they are opening up to each other in a way that, while it technically fails the Bechdel Test in multiple ways (one of them is sexually a man after all, let alone Madarame being a major topic of conversation), it speaks to something deeper about how people view themselves relative to societal standards. For example, why is there sometimes the assumption that an attractive woman can fall in love with an unattractive man for his inner qualities, but that an unattractive woman has no chance with a beautiful man?
On top of all of this, Yajima shows something that I think is truly impressive: she isn’t fully comfortable with homosexuality still, despite being a fujoshi. At one point, Yajima thinks to herself that she should tell Hato, who has said that a relationship with Yajima isn’t out of the question, that he should make the “right” choice and go with a girl. In her mind, she sees that as the proper way things should go. However, and this is key, she holds back because she realizes how much Hato has gone through when it comes to his relationship with Madarame and the soul searching that he’s had to do. Here is a character who is in her own way affected by the standards society puts on women, yet is vulnerable to assumptions of what is normal and what is not as seen in how she opposes Hato’s crossdressing for so long, and over time is learning and changing her mind at a pace that is her own. In the end, Yajima encourages Hato to try his best in his pursuit of Madarame, and it means so much given what Yajima is thinking and what kind of person she is. It’s a real struggle that is rarely talked about.
Diversity and representation are two of the biggest topics when it comes to current American comics and cartoons. Japan’s history in this regard is different, with things such as shoujo, BL, yuri interacting with a traditional and contemporary sexist society. In Genshiken Nidaime there’s something powerful, almost as if there isn’t an overtly political motivation to improve representation of other sexes, genders, and sexualities, but a simpler desire to show more of the world in all of its complexities using the tools of manga. I’ve had a feeling along these lines the entire time I’ve been reading Nidaime, but this is perhaps the chapter where it stands out more than any other up to this point.
(Obligatory Ogiue sighting)
The truth comes out in more ways than one in this chapter of Genshiken. Not only does it turn out that this entire trip was an elaborate way to help Madarame towards finally making a decision about his love life (much to Kuchiki’s chagrin; it was supposed to be his graduation trip after all), but now Yajima knows that Hato is aware of her feelings for him. Within all of this is… the potential for yuri?!
I should be clear about that last point. Thus far in Genshiken outside of Hato and Madarame and the magical fictional world of BL, same sex relationships haven’t really been a factor. The closest thing we’ve seen is Sue being very attached to Ogiue in a way that makes it unclear whether she’s using otaku and manga references to assert her friendship with Ogiue in an odd way (Ogiue wa ME no yome!) or if there’s something more. Sure, there are yuri fans who ship certain pairings (Ogiue and her old middle school classmate/friend/bully Nakajima for example) but here even I who normally forego donning a pair of yuri goggles saw a few things that caught my attention. One was of course intentional by Kio, when Ohno comes onto Ogiue to make Kuchiki jealous (it’s complicated), but then you have a moment like this:
Actually, it almost feels like a “yaoi” moment using female characters. Has anyone done a study of how interactions are portrayed in yaoi vs. yuri? There’s also significantly more Ogiue in this chapter compared to the previous ones, but more on that later.
What I find especially fascinating about this whole Nikkou trip as a way to move Madarame forward is just the idea that he (and perhaps anyone) should not be able to let his relationships stagnate. As Evangelion has taught us, staying in the same place unable to move forward can be a crippling experience that appears comforting when it is seen as avoiding pain. While it could be seen as them pushing Madarame unnecessarily, his passive personality likely means that nothing would ever happen, and it would hurt everyone on all sides if it persists. Of course, there’s still a chance that Madarame will probably still come out of it indecisive because that’s just how he is, but the very fact that Genshiken is having its characters try to constantly prevent the “series of misunderstandings” that can occur when too many secrets are kept gives me the sense that everyone wants the best for each other.
Probably the biggest surprise of this chapter is everyone’s accepting attitudes towards Sue potentially ending up with Madarame, including the other girls interested in him. I mentioned in the previous chapter review that Yoshitake’s comments about Nikkou being a fake-out meant to draw attention away from Tokugawa’s real grave might be meta-commentary on the statuses of the others gunning for Madarame, and it looks like it’s panned out. Hato and Keiko have gotten so much attention, and Keiko even commented on how Sue is unlikely because of her personality, but here Keiko is in Chapter 116 saying that she won’t interfere with Sue like she does the others because that’s the one other person she’s okay with.
Given the cunning with which Keiko has competed, does this mean that she sees something special between Sue and Madarame that doesn’t exist with the other potential partners, including herself? Perhaps the fact that no one wants to interfere with Sue x Mada is because they understand both of their personalities, and that Sue in particular has her own battle to fight regarding her own feelings. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone other than Sue appears to be using wits and charm to pull Madarame towards them (or at least Keiko believes Hato to be doing this), and that if Sue turns out to be the one, that she’s “won” in more than one sense of the word. Again, suddenly Sue looks increasingly likely when she had previously been dismissed, turning everything upside down.
Kuchiki, in his jealousy, argues a version of a point that I’ve mentioned before, that Madarame has shown how his 2D and 3D tastes don’t necessarily line up. While he has mentioned that Sue is exactly the kind of person that matches his favorite anime archetype, there’s also no denying his lost love for Kasukabe. At the same time, Genshiken Nidaime plays significantly with the blurring of real and fictional interests, or rather the reveal that the difference between them is possibly fairly porous even if the two aren’t the same. However, there’s another possibility, which is that Madarame and Sue’s connection goes well beyond looks, and that, other than possibly Hato, Sue is the only one who match him blow for blow when it comes to otaku power levels, creating a truly ultimate “otaple.”
As I mentioned above, Ogiue has gotten more attention in this chapter than every other one in this “Nikkou Arc,” though not enough to make her a particularly important character for this story. However, it does give us many glorious Ogiue faces.
A lot could be said about Hato and Yajima, but it seems like they’re saving the big guns for next chapter, alongside Sue & Madarame’s Excellent Adventures. Until then…!
It’s Keiko’s turn for with Madarame, and she uses the opportunity as only Keiko can. At the same time, she shows both some chinks in her armor and her resilience in spite of that. The chapter also ends with a reference to Overman King Gainer, which is never a bad thing.
One thing I’ve neglected when it comes to these recent Nikkou chapters of Genshiken is the potential meaning behind Yoshitake’s historical expositions. One purpose is to show that Yoshitake is indeed a history otaku, and visiting such a culturally significant place as Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb would set her off, yet I can’t help but feel that there’s a sense of metacommentary behind it. According to Yoshitake, Ieyasu purposely lied about the true location of his grave in order to mislead his enemies, and similarly it’s possible that Kio Shimoku has been placing one Madarame love interest in front of the others as a kind of red herring. The question is, then, which of the four is actually in the “lead?”
The answer is probably Keiko or Hato at this point, and you could make cases for either. In Chapter 115, Keiko outright states her case. Keiko: The Realistic Choice. It’s not the most inspiring campaign slogan, so to speak, but as I’ve mentioned in the past that is part of the Keiko x Mada pairing’s charm, that they already seem like a married couple, that opposites attract, etc. In certain ways, like a tangent graph, the more Keiko x Mada is a thing, the more it approaches (but never quite reaches) Spotted Flower. It’s realistic in a very specific sense of the word, where it reflects a popular image of how monogamous love and relationships are “behind the scenes.”
As for Hato, Yoshitake makes a comment that Hato has gotten closer to Madarame as a guy than he ever has in his female guise. Whether Yoshitake realizes it or not, she’s directly addressing one of Keiko’s criticisms of Hato, that he’s putting on an act, a performance, to get attention. Is this gender performativity, and is Keiko any less guilty of it?
If Hato is the front-runner, however, then this chapter is possibly the undermining of that, and again it has to do with Keiko. At the end of the chapter, Speaking of that, Keiko defies the standard manga progression, where secrets are unspoken and affect the dynamics of the love polygon, by just telling Hato about Yajima’s feelings for him. Cutting to the chase in that way is very characteristic of Keiko. You’d think it’d perhaps also be Saki-esque, but I feel like while Saki was devious, it’s a different kind of planning and awareness when Keiko is involved. Keiko is “realistic,” and part of her “reality” is that she both shatters illusions while creating others, and is very aware of everything that goes into presenting herself to Madarame. The main thing that throws her off is that Madarame is indecisive beyond her imagination, to the point that she at first interprets his waffling as rejection. There is a great deal of miscommunication because Keiko just perceives the world differently compared to the primarily otaku cast.
Keiko’s reaction to her “rejection” is fascinating in its own way. You can tell just from how shocked she is that Madarame might not be interested in her just how much confidence she had about winning. It actually didn’t occur to her that she wouldn’t be able to do just the right things to get Madarame to fall into her arms. It’s indicative of how she thinks that she feels that Angela is the biggest threat to her but is thankfully stymied by a long distance, and sees Sue as being too reticent for anything to happen, not realizing that this might be part of her appeal. Keiko aims for physical desire, and aims her personality in that direction.
So what does it mean that Hato is aware of Yajima now? It could go in a lot of different directions, but I could see it going for a while where Yajima doesn’t know that Hato knows about her crush. Yajima is fairly observant, but nowhere near on the level of Keiko or Saki, and Keiko is likely going to try and push them together. In other manga, Keiko might be viewed as the scheming villain, but I wonder if Hato and Yajima would be so bad after all. For one thing, characters like Yajima, especially in terms of physical appearance, are kind of a rarity in manga and anime, and to have them together might make for an interesting statement.
As for the red herrings, perhaps neither Keiko nor Hato are as likely choices as they seem.