This chapter of Genshiken calls back to one of the earliest moments in Nidaime. Is the story getting back on track, or was it never derailed in the first place?
Under the pretense of celebrating both Risa’s acceptance to Shiiou University and surviving an eventful year, Yoshitake gets together with Yajima and Hato for a night of drinking and laughter. In actuality, now that Madarame’s harem has been resolved, Yoshitake aims to bring Yajima and Hato closer together.
However, Yoshitake’s plan to position Yajima as a hero of sorts backfires. While Yoshitake recalls the time Yajima prevented her from lifting up Hato’s skirt, Yajima (under the influence of alcohol) confesses that she was on the verge of doing the same, and that she saw Hato’s goods.
Wanting to prevent any more awkwardness, Yajima tells the others to go home, especially because Hato’s short skirt is a recipe for disaster. Hato offers a suggestion, but it turns out to be arguably worse: Earlier in the day, Risa had given Hato a pair of short pants to wear in order to feed her fantasies, which causes elder sister Rika to worry about Risa’s future.
There are a number of things I’d like to elaborate on in regards to this chapter, but the first is a nod and wink by author Kio Shimoku to the animated Genshiken Nidaime, aka Genshiken Second Season aka Genshiken Second Generation.
In Chapter 124, Yoshitake, Yajima, and Hato bring up how minors aren’t allowed to drink in anime adaptations even when it happens in the original manga. Yoshitake then remarks that they will keep drinking because nothing’s stopping them from doing so. This is actually a reference to episode 2 of the anime, where scenes of Yajima and Hato drinking from Chapter 58 were cut.
This isn’t the first time that the Genshiken manga has referenced the anime. The idea that Angela wants to sleep with Madarame comes from the second series, Genshiken 2. Moreover, in a particular 4-panel extra, the manga alludes to the fact that the final episode of the Nidaime anime has a bath scene that didn’t exist in the comic.
Tracks Laid Out
Chapter 124 calls back to one of the original tensions of the new Genshiken, which is the awkwardness between Hato, the club’s very first fudanshi and very first otoko no ko, and Yajima, who for a long time disliked Hato because his very presence made her feel inadequate. Things have changed significantly since then, namely because of Yajima’s gradual acceptance of Hato and the realization of her own feelings for him, but there’s this sense that perhaps this is where the narrative of Nidaime was supposed to go all along. In this sense, it reminds me of the manga Coppelion, where it ended up taking years to reach Shibuya despite the fact that it was mentioned as an early goal.
The Madarame Harem story took up a huge portion of Genshiken Nidaime, and this means it can be seen as both a major narrative of the manga thus far, and as an excessively long detour. In a way, however, both are true. The story of Nidaime is in many ways the story of Hato, and I have to wonder if Hato and Yajima could have developed to the extent it has without all of those tribulations, and without Hato’s affections for Madarame prompting realization in Yajima herself?
The answer is likely neither a full yes or no, mainly because Kio tends to write stories without planning how they’ll turn out. He’s more of a “let the characters move the story forward” kind of author. If you’re more of a beliver that the “author is dead” this doesn’t matter too much, but it can’t be ignored that where the story seems to be heading now is built partly upon the foundation of the Madarame Harem arc, and I think it’ll continue to exert an influence even as the manga goes back to being a little more like how it started.
Death to Misunderstandings
Yajima’s confessions, and the way they finally bring to an end some of the unspoken tensions between the characters, kind of reminds me of the beginning of Kimi ni Todoke. In that series, many potential misunderstandings between characters common to shoujo romance series are squashed before they can fester and it made that particular work refreshing. While Genshiken is nowhere close to this, given that this particular resolution took a few years, it has a similar feeling of release.
Actually, when it comes to Genshiken, I find the resolution of romance tends to be very cathartic. Sasahara and Ogiue consummate their relationship after an intense sharing of secrets. Saki’s rejection of Madarame features a wave of emotion hitting the both of them. Hato’s comment that Madarame will be the first and last man he ever loves comes with a tinge of melancholy that still somehow feels like a huge weight has been lifted.
Yajima’s Secret to Success
While Yajima is discussing why a relationship with Hato isn’t popular at the moment (his feelings lie elsewhere), she mentions that she knows the way to instantly get Hato’s attention. The hint is that she saw it in an instant upon arriving at Hato’s place, which leads me to believe that it has to do with not just comics, but 4-panel gag manga.
If you look at the rough comics pages Hato has left around, they’re all arranged in two sets of 4-panel vertical columns, similar to works like Azumanga Daioh and Hidamari Sketch. Yajima, who turns out to possess a hidden talent for comedic manga, and who basically won the “duel” last time they both drew their own works, could leverage that to her advantage. The reason why she refuses to act on it is likely because of the swirl of emotions and relationships that have entangled the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. Yajima prefers to make things simpler, not more complicated.
Hato and Risa and Clothing
Hato at one point remarks that having his penis seen while dressed as a girl is somehow more embarrassing than being seen stark naked as a boy (which also happened). While a “cute Hato” moment if ever there was one, this particular reveal speaks to a side of Hato’s psychology that has been somewhat unexplored even if it makes total sense.
Hato-as-girl is still very much a performance even if that performance is ingrained in his being. He has taken great efforts to look like a girl without drawing too much attention, has practiced raising the pitch of his voice to sound more feminine, and is just overall very convincing as a woman. This means that perhaps the penis has different meanings when he’s presenting as a man vs. a woman. As a guy, he was embarrassed because he was showing his privates, but as a girl it’s like his secret was revealed.
This is where Risa’s minor obsession with Hato becomes interesting. While most of the fascination with Hato has come from his appearance as a woman, Risa is different because her interest in Hato comes from him being a man, or rather a man with a boyish appearance. Madarame and Kuchiki see Hato’s female appearance in relation to the crossdressing eroge and doujinshi they’ve experienced, and Risa perhaps draws a similar connection between her own interests and super smooth Hato in short shorts. Like Yoshitake, I too am concerned with the potentially dangerous path Risa might be heading down, but I also am intrigued by a new love triangle of Yajima, Hato, and Risa. The question remaining is, can Risa’s view of Hato be considered romantic in the first place?
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