Make It Happen: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 3

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

Summary

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

Bass of the Diamond

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

The Atypical School Setting

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

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

Students and Teachers

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

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

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

Songs

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

Final Thoughts

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

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Ensemblers Assemble: Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 2

It’s the second chapter (and the first regular-sized chapter) of Shimoku’s new manga!

Summary

Kimura Jin wants members for his ensemble club, and he’s asking the quiet yet unusually deep-voiced Fujiyoshi Akira to join. Akira’s reluctant, but Jin has a proposition: if he can help Akira speak more loudly, Akira will join the club. Akira tentatively agrees.

But while Jin calls it an ensemble “club,” it’s more of an “appreciation society” at the moment—the distinction being that a group only gets club status if it has five or more members and an advisor. Jin’s first choice for advisor, Takano-sensei, refuses because she’s more of a violin specialist than a vocal one.

Jin’s also not the only one trying to get a club off the ground, as a friendly (?) rival in Hachida Shinji, who has dreams of forming a “mountain castle club.” Shinji is skeptical of Akira’s chances of speaking at a normal level, to which Jin replies that Akira’s body will understand.

As the three continue to talk/argue, they run into the Class 5 teacher, Kitano-sensei, who’s lecturing a blond delinquent-looking student named Orihara. Unbeknown to Kitano, Orihara is actually wearing noise-canceling earphones. Jin pulls out of Orihara’s ears to have a listen, prompting Orihara to start swinging at Jin, which then causes Akira to instinctively yell out. His voice is so deep and resonates so much that it astounds everyone. Jin’s first thought: Akira has “singer’s formant,” i.e. the ability to sing both loudly and clearly, which usually only comes with musical training.

Story in Motion

So now we’ve established the initial goal, and it’s the classic “getting enough club members” story—a tried and true trope that I don’t mind one bit.

If things go as typically expected, Orihara is on track to becoming a member. I have to wonder what his for might be, both character-wise and voice-wiser. Hachida Shinji is a potential member as well. Maybe they’ll pull the “combined club” trick, a la Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai with its “eastern magic and napping society.”

Shinji

As an aside, the idea of a club dedicated to studying mountain castles is tremendous, and I hope Shinji gets his wish.

I also think Kitano-sensei will be their advisor, but that might just be wishful thinking. Her brief appearance has already made me a fan. She’s adorable!

Another character I think is going to make a splash is a female classmate named Hakamada. In this chapter, Jin asks her what music she’s listening to, and something about the way she’s framed says to me that she’ll be significant somehow.

Jin is a Character

The way that Akira ends up yelling out plays perfectly into Jin’s notion that he’ll understand what to do “with his body”—as in almost by instinct. But is Jin actually the calculating type? He sure doesn’t seem that way. And yet, he’s also the one who offered Akira exactly what he wants.

Jin might look like a typical anime otaku, but he really is a music otaku through and through. He carries around a device to measure the number of Hertz in people’s voices and appears to have both a technical and intrinsic understanding of singing. What’s more, he hears an anime song and thinks “Ghibli? Disney? Eva?” as opposed to something more hardcore.

Jin’s vocal range really is absurd. It was established in the first chapter, but here he basically shows that he can cover most of the guy parts (as well as some girl parts) and only really needs Jin for the deepest registers.

By the way, Akira is actually a bass, not a baritone! I madea mistake in my description last review. Chalk that up to me having no real music knowledge.

Singer’s Formant

Speaking of being a total newbie when it comes to music, I’m still not entirely sure I understand Singer’s Formant. As far as I can tell, certain sounds don’t carry as well, so singers train to be able to project loudly and clearly over even orchestras in large spaces. Correct me if I’m wrong!

I also found this video, which might help explain things better.

Songs

If you’re wondering what that “anime” song is that Jin is asking about at the beginning, it’s. “Trancing Pulse” by Triad Primus from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls.

Final Thoughts

Actually, a lot of teachers are introduced quickly in this episode and they all seem full of personality. I’m looking forward to seeing which ones become more prominent as the manga progresses.

Until next time!

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“I Go High, You Go Low”: Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 1

Genshiken author Kio Shimoku has debuted a brand-new manga series this month, and it’s a bit of a departure from the otaku-centric tribulations of daily life that he’s known for. Fan that i am, I’ve decided to start doing monthly reviews for it, much like my previous Genshiken Nidaime posts.

Summary

Fujiyoshi Akira and Kimura Jin are new students at Hashimoto Technical High School. Akira sports an unusually deep voice that cracks when he tries to raise it, so he generally avoids speaking if he can help it. Jin is anything but quiet. Notorious throughout the school for his undaunting enthusiasm and his loud, boisterous tunes between classes, Jin wants to recruit fellow students to form a vocal ensemble.

When Jin notices Akira’s exceptional baritone, he sees Akira’s voice as the perfect complement to his own alto-soprano range, and becomes dead-set on having Akira join, all while unaware that Akira was actually a singer himself in middle school before his voice changed. While Akira is reluctant, he ends up having second thoughts for one major reason—Jin thinks he knows how to fix Akira’s voice.

A Dynamic Duo

Although Hashikko Ensemble has only just begun, the concept of a pair that’s greater than the sum of its parts has me intrigued. It’s not exactly new territory, with titles like Haikyu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball among the more famous, but I am curious to see how this turns out in a non-sports, non-shounen narrative.

Making Akira’s voice extremely deep is a simple yet unorthodox character choice. While I’m no expert on singing manga, my experience is that main characters in such series tend to stand out because they can sing extra high (such as in the manga Shounen Note) or powerfully. It’s also uncommon, despite the commonness of teenage settings in manga, for the voice-cracking that comes part and parcel with puberty to actually come up in series.

One aspect of Akira that isn’t entirely clear is whether his reticence over his voice is because of the attention he receives from the other students (who inevitably remark how “manly” it sounds), because it’s a painful reminder of when he could sing, or some combination of the two. Whatever the reason, it helps to give Akira a strong sense of character and presence, despite his fairly generic appearance and demeanor.

In contrast, Jin stands out tremendously. Because of the way he looks, comparisons with Onoda Sakamichi from Yowamushi Pedal feel inevitable, but two differ in two important ways: Jin seems immune to embarrassment, and he’s a “music otaku” rather than an “anime otaku.” There’s something about a guy who so overwhelmingly looks like a dork while being utterly fearless in the face of his peers that instantly appeals to me. It’s what I aspired to be in my teenage years, so I find Jin quite admirable. As for what being a music otaku means, Jin has a scientific understanding of sound and voices, speaking of vocal cord vibrations and decibels, which is why he believes he can help Akira.

“Ensemble” Cast

While the main focus of this opening chapter is Akira and Jin, there are plenty of side characters with potential to enrich the story. As with Kio’s other series, realistic portrayals of human relationships look to be one of Hashikko Ensemble’s strengths, and I look forward to seeing how the cast at large develops. From the first chapter, the stand-out character has to be Hanzan, the wisecracking son of a Buddhist temple who actually wore a wig to school on day one just so he could reveal his bald head during class introductions.

One factoid about their high school is that boys outnumber girls by about 11 to 1. I have to wonder if this will play a major role in the story, or if it’s just for realistic flavor. I wouldn’t mind seeing some female characters join the cast (there’s already one who shows up briefly), but would also be fine if it remains guy-centric.

Songs

Originally, I was going to list every song that shows up in this chapter, only to realize that Jin sings so much that the number of tunes encroaches into the double digits, and I’ll leave it to someone who’s more of a music buff in general. Here’s a sample:

Hashimoto Technical High School Anthem

“My Grandfather’s Clock” (Japanese version). English lyrics by Henry Clay Work, originally performed by Johnny Cash.

“Te no Hira o Taiyou ni” (Sun in the Palm of My Hand). A children’s song originally featured on the weekly television program Minna no Uta in 1962.

“Kanade” by Sukima Switch.

“HEIWA no Kane” (Bell of Peace) by Okinawa Yukihiro.

“Country Road” (Japanese version) by John Denver. This is the version from Whisper of the Heart.

“Country Road” is particularly significant to the story, as it’s the point where Akira is finally drawn in by Jin’s singing—particularly Jin’s ability to handle traditionally women’s roles.

Final Thoughts

This series definitely has potential, and I don’t mean that just because I’m a Kio Shinoku fan. It’s somehow both low-key and energetic at the same time, reflecting the different personalities of its two central characters.

There’s another manga that also runs in Monthly Afternoon titled Mou, Shimasen kara: Afternoon Gekiryuu-hen, which features interviews with other Afternoon manga creators. This month’s is Kio Shimoku, and in it he mentions being especially invested in Hashikko Ensemble because he doesn’t want to be a one-hit wonder after Genshiken. I hope Kio finds new success with this manga.

As for the rest of that interview, it’ll be the focus of my next blog post. SEE YOU NEXT POST.

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Idol Activities: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 7

  Because Kimi Nakare went a couple of months without a new chapter, I kind of lost track of it. Turns out a new one came out in February! Apologies for the lateness, but I’m hoping to see this series get back into the swing of things.

As an aside, because the title of this manga has “xxxru” in it, I seem to get quite a few hits from people searching for Russian adult videos. My apologies to you visitors as well; you’re not going to see any of that here.

Summary

Hayato’s serious about his confession to Nobuko—he even says he’ll quit being an idol if it’s to be with her! The class reacts in shock, while Nobuko runs away again to the nurse’s office. However, the nurse understands right away that love is at the heart of the matter, and the reason Nobuko hesitates is because she has feelings for him as well.

As previously announced, WARP has their final handshake event, and their most loyal fans show up. Surprisingly, despite the revelation that Jirou has a girlfriend (now fiancee), he hasn’t received any backlash. This is attributed to the fact that Jirou’s fans are mostly older, more mature women.

As for Shingo, he meets a girl holding a memorial photo of her older sister, the hospitalized girl who inspired him to keep working as an idol. Shingo finds out that the older sister had told the story of their encounter many times, but assumed that Shingo, busy celebrity that he is, wouldn’t have remembered. In the end, Shingo asks the other members of WARP if they can keep the group together after all.

The Paparazzi Rant

At one point in this chapter, a newly introduced character goes on a tirade about the evils of tabloids and how they turn fans against the idols. “It’s not the fault of the idols for having relationships, it’s the fault of the tabloids for reporting this information in the first place!” The reason this stands out is that it feels to me like this character is a mouthpiece for the author, but I can’t say one or way or another. Moreover, I’m not sure how much I should delve into breaking down this statement. On the one hand, it sounds a lot like “it’s okay if the idols do whatever, as long as the fans don’t know,” which seems ignorant. On the other hand, my ideal picture of idol fandom is akin to pro wrestling, where the fans know that the stars are putting on an act. Taken this way, it’s more a criticism of tabloids trying to arm the pitchforks of the fans, that the tabloids are less about journalism and more about exploitation.

Shingo’s Girl

I mentioned in the last review that each chapter always feels like it’s going to be the last, and this one was no exception. We only learned about that hospitalized girl a chapter ago in a flashback, and now she’s dead! That definitely felt like a climactic moment, but to have it come into play in the very next story makes Kimi Nakare feel like it’s barreling towards its conclusion yet again.

Still, I was moved by the interaction between Shingo and the younger sister. Okachimachi’s art does an excellent job of showing Shingo’s conflicted emotions.

“Nobuko-chan, Suteki Desuwa”

Another heart-tugging moment comes at the beginning, after Hayato’s open confession. Natsumi, seeing Nobuko’s paralyzed state in the face of that big ol’ “I love you!”, tries to help Nobuko calm down, despite being in love with Hayato as well. I get a strong Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura vibe from Natsumi, and it makes me feel for her every time she tries to nudge the two of them closer together. Fortunately for her, Hayato and Nobuko aren’t nearly as dense as Shaoran and Sakura, but that prioritization of her friends over herself makes me hope that she can find happiness in her own right.

Last Thoughts

By declaring his love in front of their classmates, I wonder if Hayato is setting up Nobuko to get bullied. I feel like Nobuko being less beautiful probably marked her as a “safe entity” in the eyes of any Hayato fans in school, a defense that has been further bolstered by Nobuko’s onscreen comical behavior with Hayato as his goofy, obsessed pursuer. Now that it’s the open, however, is Nobuko in trouble? Is Kimi Nakare even that kind of manga? I’d like to find out.

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Third Time’s the Charm?: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 6

kiminakare6-hayatoshingo Whenever I read a chapter of Kimi Nakare, it always feels like the next chapter might be the end of the story. Chapter 6 not only follows this, but the vibe is stronger than ever.

Summary

In spite of whatever hopes might be lingering, WARP’s days as an idol group are numbered. As a final farewell to their fans, their manager has arranged one last massive meet ‘n’ great with the fans.

Not long after, Hayato and fellow WARP member Shingo are having a bath time discussion about their futures. While Hayato believes himself to be ill-suited to the idol path, especially because his initial motivation was just so he could meet Nobuko, Shingo responds that Hayato’s attitude (and idiotic qualities) are what make him a natural idol.

In a flashback to Shingo’s high school days, we see a conflicted Shingo unsure of whether the idol path is for him, not least of which is because his hospitalized father is very much against it. Shingo ends up bumping into a girl at the hospital who turns out to be a fan of idols. Accidentally revealing that he’s an idol from the same agency as her favorite, Shingo listens to her story of how idols helped her to keep living in spite of her illness, which strengthens Shingo’s determination to continue his idol career no matter the odds.

The next day, Hayato is discussing the upcoming meet ‘n’ great with Nobuko and Natsumi. When Nobuko promises that she’ll defend him from all of the fangirls, Hayato confesses his feelings for her once more—this time in front of the whole class!

Urgency

kiminakare6-3rdconfession

As I briefly mentioned in the introduction, Kimi Nakare often feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace in terms of typical romance manga developments. It’s one thing to have a confession in Chapter 1, but it’s another to have three confessions in six chapters. Not only that, but each of them raise the stakes more and more, because now it’s not even a secret among close friends anymore. While I could see the class not taking it seriously, especially because Nobuko has made a running gag out of her on-screen obsession with Hayato, I think they’re going to realize what’s going on sooner or later.

The sense of urgency isn’t limited to just the main romance, either. Just the fact that a scandal has already dissolved Hayato’s idol group and put him on a slightly different path is the kind of development that would usually occur late into a manga’s life. In some ways, it feels like early Kimi ni Todoke, where every time you think the story would move one way, it would swerve in the other direction, and usually for the better. Can Kimi Nakare keep up this pace? It’s something I welcome, and while I hope the series does well, I also hope that it wouldn’t fall into the trap of becoming increasingly meandering if it reaches major success.

The Side Cast is Growing on Me

kiminakare6-hospital

In my review of Chapter 5, I mentioned that the side characters aren’t nearly as interesting as Hayato and Nobuko. While I still stand by that statement, I think the other characters are starting to come into their own. I actually previously had trouble keeping track of all the guys in WARP, but now I have a firmer grasp of Shingo as a character. We’ve yet to see more characters on Nobuko’s side of the story, so I’m curious as to what might be in store there.

The Irony of the Natural Idol

After reading Shingo’s comments to Hayato about he’s a natural-born idol, it made me think about how idols are presented to the world, and in turn how idols are presented in Kimi Nakare. Idols, male or female, often project an image of both innocence and sensuality, and this quality is central to the story of this manga. There’s the scandal with WARP member Jirou and his having a girlfriend, but there’s also the idea that the idol business has a dark side. In the real world, idols are often controlled day-in and day-out by their agencies, and it’s what leads to the criticism that idols are just a way to make money off of gullible fans. For me, I think that it can be healthy as long as there’s a tacit understanding that it’s a shared fantasy, something akin to pro wrestling.

If Hayato is a natural idol, it means that he achieves that innocent sensuality without effort, through both appearance and attitude, and it’s exactly that kind of demeanor that you’d expect to get subsumed by the idol engine. To be in the right spot, he has to be just strong enough to never stop being himself, but also just “dumb” enough to stay naive. It’s a precarious position that is preserved in part by his love for Nobuko. That, of course, is also the other irony, that what makes him a natural idol is also what is liable to get him kicked out of the business.

One might also say that his masturbation scene in Chapter 4 represents that combination of innocence and sensuality perfectly. Here is this handsome yet goofy guy who just can’t hold back his very real passion for the girl of his dreams. Her being not beautiful by conventional standards only adds to that rather special moment of characterization.

Last Thoughts

Idols are all well and good, but I want to see more of Nobuko!

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Big Ogiue, Final Stage: Genshiken II, Chapter 127

Commencing the 14,567th “This Month’s Genshiken Was Great” Discussion.

Chapter Summary

It’s time for Kuchiki’s graduation, and the members of Genshiken have gathered to celebrate . They haven’t really put much effort into wishing Kuchiki well, but their half-hearted gifts (flowers and a signboard with messages from everyone) move him to tears. Kuchiki, meanwhile, reminisces about his time in Genshiken, and how one of his greatest memories is seeing the Madarame Harem crumble in person, only to find out the news that Madarame and Sue are dating, which ruins his schadenfreude.

With graduation comes time for a new president, and Ogiue chooses Yajima. In spite of her misgivings, Yajima is eventually convinced to do it, especially thanks to support from Hato. The chapter transitions to a new spring, and Hato visits the club room, eager to spend time with his friends.

And So It Goes…

If anything stands out in this chapter, it’s the artwork. While I’ve felt the quality of Kio’s drawings have been fantastic these past few chapters, I can really feel that this finale wasn’t rushed at least in terms of the TLC put into it. Ogiue is beautiful. Hato is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful

The conclusion to Nidaime pretty much came about Chapter 126, so this one feels much more like an epilogue. In many ways, it mirrors the original ending of Genshiken: a graduation, a transition in power in the club, some delightful nerd moments, and then a positive look into the future for the club. In fact, both series all but conclude after the establishment of a romantic relationship, with a lot of “falling action” following.

The big difference in feeling is that one involves the graduation of Sasahara and Kasukabe, two very vital characters central to the Genshiken narrative, while the other involves… Kuchiki. While he’s been with the club for a very long time, even the characters themselves treat him as an afterthought. They’ll treat him with just as much respect as they think he deserves. As Kuchiki points out, they didn’t even bother dressing up for his graduation (and if you recall, their graduation trip was more of a “Kuchiki is going away” celebration excursion).

Kuchiki is Human Too

The big exception here is Hato, who in general tries to look good when he crossdresses, but I wonder if he has a soft spot for Kuchiki. It wouldn’t be anything remotely resembling romance, and might lean more towards pity than anything else, but he seems to treat Kuchiki with noticeably more restraint and tact than the others. This might just be in virtue of the fact that he’s also a guy, so even if Kuchiki pictures Hato as part of his potential “harem,” it doesn’t faze him as much. Kuchiki also inadvertently instigated a number of Madarame/Hato moments.

It might also be that Hato can kick his ass.

In a way, it feels weird that the series would end on Kuchiki’s big day. I think that many readers of the series wouldn’t even mind if he fell off a cliff. At the same time, he hardly ever got any real attention, and had nary a sense of character growth. Now, at the finish line, we see a rare moment of Kuchiki being genuinely happy. I’d like to think that, somewhere deep down, he realizes what a terrible person he can be, and the fact that the other members put up with him is something he can appreciate. Granted, that’s only one heartfelt moment in an otherwise incredibly awkward display of how not to behave as a human being. It doesn’t help him that he loudly declares in the middle of campus that he spent the prior day masturbating furiously to his favorite doujinshi.

I do find it kind of interesting that, when Kuchiki mentions that his desire is to create his own harem, he doesn’t exactly include Yajima and Yoshitake in it. It makes me wonder if there’s something to the two of them that puts him off.

Passing of the Torch

With graduation comes a new president, and this transition always provides plenty of delightful reflection and insight in terms of the characters. Seeing prior presidents fidget and their newly chosen successors doubt themselves is the kind of tradition I can support. After all, it once provided one of the best moments in Genshiken: Sasahara and Ogiue’s racy near-kiss. No such thing happens this time, but there’s still plenty to chew on.

In the past, new presidents were chosen because they either seemed likely to carry on the spirit of the club or because the alternative (Kuchiki) would have been far worse. Ogiue picking Yajima makes sense in this regard, because she always appears to be the most stable and grounded member out of all the new generation. What’s more, Yajima’s careful personality and the way she doubts herself often is indeed quite Genshiken-like, and the way that she feels caught in the transition between generations of otaku makes her able to understand a range of potential newbies. I also do love the fact that Yoshitake agrees that she would probably abuse any power given to her, and the role of advisor/confidant is about as perfect as it gets for a lover of history.

I also only just realized after reading this final chapter that Ogiue likely abolished the doujinshi honeypot trap tradition, where current members spy on new recruits from outside and then bust in on them while they’re in the middle of revealing their tastes. Being a victim of it herself and also not being a fan of embarrassment, I could see why the secrets behind this would not be passed on to the next generation, especially one with Yoshitake in it.

Speaking of movements between generations, it’s notable that Madarame does not show up in spite of his prominence in Nidaime. Granted, none of the former members show up at all, so I imagine that the goal was to focus on the current iteration of Genshiken for the final chapter.

Thanks from other Manga Artists

Accompanying this final chapter in Monthly Afternoon are a series of congratulatory images from 30 other Afternoon manga artists, including Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Gundam: The Origin), Samura Hiroaki (Blade of the Immortal), and Suenobu Keiko (Limit). Fun for all, and I really hope it’s included with the packaged volume release. Samura clearly drew Madarame with the wife from Spotted Flower, so I think we know where his ship sails.

Final Thoughts (This is actually as long as a regular Chapter Review!)

I discovered Genshiken many years ago, back in my college days. I can’t quite remember if I discovered the manga or the anime first anymore, but I remembered how real it all felt: these characters reflected to a scary degree the thoughts, behaviors, and mannerisms of me and my fellow nerds. It was an enjoyable series to be sure, but then a study abroad semester to Japan would elevate the series to the apex of my love for anime and manga, for it was there that I discovered Ogiue. With her came a number of realizations, such as my extreme(ly strange) fondness for “dead eyes” characters, but also an overwhelmingly powerful emotional connection with her fear that her passion would hurt others. By the time I came back to the United States, Genshiken was actually gearing up for its first ending, but it and Ogiue would remain with me.

Ogiue Maniax originally began well after the Genshiken manga had ended. At the time, I felt I had so much more to say about Genshiken and Ogiue, so I kept writing about it. I followed the second TV series. I gave testimony as to how I became such a fan of the series. I started the Fujoshi Files. Gradually, this site became much more than a Genshiken blog, though it wasn’t quite ever entirely one in the first place. I was content with the overall direction of Ogiue Maniax, and my own fandom.

Then Chapter 56 happened.

One of my long held desires was to see how Genshiken would be like under the leadership of President Ogiue, and this one-shot (at the time, no one knew it would become the precursor to a new series) provided just that. Two things stick out in my memory about Chapter 56. First would be the art style. Back then, Kio had been coming off of doing Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, and it showed in how much softer and cuter the character designs were. Second would be the mostly female cast. If you look at the original end of the first Genshiken, it clearly shows a very different kind of club with male members, a natural extension of what Genshiken was like back then. This was a retcon of sorts, but it set the stage for a more thorough exploration of the changing landscape of otakudom. Where once the female fan was seen as this rare gem in terms of characters, Chapter 56 went above and beyond to show that things were different, and the presence of female characters as otaku and fujoshi would not only be normalized but dominant.

When the announcement that Genshiken would be getting a full-on sequel hit, I was ecstatic. It provided me with a feeling of renewal, but also an opportunity. Chapter reviewing Genshiken on Ogiue Maniax hadn’t been possible, and I thought it wouldn’t ever be. But now, if ever there was a series for me to analyze every month, it had to be this one.

At the time, I could look back and go, “Wow, it’s been seven years since I discovered Genshiken, isn’t that wild?” Seven has now become 12. I began as a college student who saw himself in Genshiken, and now I’m in a dramatically different place, with a well-respected (if obscure) anime blog, a degree from studying manga that required me to move to another continent, and many good friends whom I met not only through my love of anime and manga, but also because the fact that Ogiue confronted and conquered her own fears encouraged me to do the same. Both I and the world around me have changed, and the fact that Genshiken has also shifted to reflect this made it a constant source of fascination for me.

It was truly unusual for this series to spend so much time exploring the Madarame harem, but I think that it became the focus inadvertently because it overlapped so much with Hato’s own development. You had these two tracks of characterization, one from the old guard and one from the new, and the result was that it pushed the classic otaku question of 2-D vs. 3-D into new and unfamiliar territory. In the end, any of the pairings would have worked for me, and while relationship drama was probably the last thing people expected out Genshiken, the series defied even those newly created expectations at every turn.

While it would have been all right for Genshiken Nidaime to have been more of the same as its predecessor, I’m happy to see how different it became. It confronted a new world of and around otaku, it tied up one of the vital loose ends with Madarame’s unrequited love, and explored topics concerning gender, sexuality, and self-image that went even beyond Ogiue’s plight in the first series.

What’s Next?

Now that Genshiken is over, that means the end of Ogiue Maniax’s monthly chapter reviews. That doesn’t mean it’s quite the end, though, as the supplements included in the collected volumes usually provide more insight and a true epilogue. And who knows? Maybe there’ll be more someday. I wonder where I’ll be in life at that point.

I’ve also been considering going back and reviewing the first series.

And please create that series I want where Angela is the main character.

So with that, I bid you adieu. OG(iue) 4 life.

Kio saying thanks and lamenting that he never got to do another beach chapter.

Minus World: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 5

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It’s the aftermath of a love scandal in Kimi Nakare Chapter 5. How will Hayato and the rest of his band mates deal with it?

Summary

Jirou, one of Hayato’s fellow members in the idol group WARP, was discovered with a girl. In this chapter, we learn that it isn’t just any girl, but the love of Jirou’s life. Resolving to choose love over his career, Jirou decides to quit WARP and marry his longtime girlfriend.

Hayato in the meantime finds that his school has now become a target for paparazzi, specifically so that they can catch him in the act. Ironically, Nobuko’s “ugly but passionate admirer” gimmick works out in their favor, as she’s able to chase off a gossip mongerer.

However, despite Hayato’s protests and even his own threat of quitting the band to chase love himself, it turns out not to be necessary. WARP is disbanding.

Young vs. Old Idols

The topic that I found most fascinating in this chapter is the distinction between younger and older idols. At one point, Hayato points out that there are idols that have gotten married without any backlash, and their manager responds that only established idols can do that. As a group, you have to reach a point where you basically become a fan’s first love, so even as those fans grow and perhaps get married themselves, the idol will always have a special place in a woman’s heart (and the woman in the idol’s). In other words, a relatively new group like WARP hasn’t built up the cache.

Most of the time, the thought over idols is that love is forbidden because they must forever be locked away as long as they indeed hold the status of “idol.” However, this implies that idols are a kind of evolving phenomenon that can choose to either stay as they are or grow with their audience. At the same time, the path to the “married idol” is fraught with danger, and appears to be only the domain of the true veteran.

It’s still kind of weird that Japan’s most famous idol manager ended up marrying one of his idols, but I digress. I’m also perhaps being unfair; if Celine Dion could find happiness with her manager, why not?

Not Enough Hayato and Nobuko?

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While I previously mentioned being curious over the side characters, and Hayato’s scene with Nobuko protecting him from a prying photographer is rather charming, I do feel like I didn’t get enough of the two of them this chapter. I think that speaks a lot to how appealing they are as main characters, but perhaps I’m not giving the rest of the cast a fair shake. Jirou being a sweet guy is a welcome surprise, as is his decision to choose his girlfriend over his job. Not to say that it would be the right decision in every case, but I was convinced that it was what he personally should have done.

It also made me aware that there are two different love conundrums at work in this series: the career-based one, and the psychological one. Even this brief interaction lets the two sides play out beautifully.

Last Thoughts

I wonder if the loss of WARP might spur Hayato to begin a full-fledged career as a comedian, so that he can stand by Nobuko’s side. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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