Heartache and bracket upsets abound in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 35.
After being rejected by Kousei, Shion is emotionally devastated. Yukina asks why Kousei would word his rejection so harshly, while Jin correctly (and inappropriately) brings up Kousei’s mom as the reason he doesn’t like to deal with girls. At the same time, seeing Shion confess to Kousei has put Akira into a funk, which impacts his singing as a part of Tsuyama’s group in the school music competition (once again, Akira got roped into participating with them as well). Combined with a lack of practice and a focus on girls over music, the “Tsuyama All Stars” are defeated by a group of otaku singing an iDOLM@STER song.
Dropping out in Round 1, all of their girlfriends instantly reject them as losers, and Tsuyama is on the verge of kicking Akira’s ass. However, Kurotaki Mai steps in to defend Akira by pointing out that Tsuyama and company’s song choice betrayed them, as they clearly lacked the conviction they showed when singing a Spitz cover at the previous competition against the Chorus Appreciation Society. The Tsuyama crew then realize the “error” of their ways and go back to worshipping Mimi-sensei. But Mai also criticizes Akira, and relays something that Jin taught her: the low notes are the foundation of harmonizing, and as possessors of deep voices, they’re vital to the success of their respective groups’ performances.
But right when everyone expects the Light Music Club to win their round, they’re actually beaten by a mysterious masked group calling themselves “Basso Masters.” Who are they, and why are there 52 of them?!
With all the romantic drama coming out over the past few chapters, it’s no surprise that a look into Mai’s inner thoughts would reveal that she has feelings for Akira as well. Sure, all the blushing and gratefulness since her introduction into Hashikko Ensemble was a pretty strong hint, but after giving Akira advice, she thinks to herself, “Liking someone who likes someone else…It happens all the time.” In a different context, it might come across as more ambiguous, but then it’s followed up by Himari seeing everything and reacting with a thought of her own: “…Ugh. Looks like she’s gonna be a real pain.” Himari is clearly seeing something there, though I’m still not sure how Himari herself feels. Being Akira’s childhood friend, is there something more? The love web somehow gets more defined and more convoluted as the story continues.
Meanwhile, Akira’s mom is there in person and seeing this tangled web of emotions in action, thrilled at her darling son experiencing the ups and downs of youth. As with the last chapter, I love how supportive she is, and when I think about something like Genshiken, the sheer parental presence in Hashikko Ensemble sticks out all the more.
It’s ironic that Tsuyama’s crew, the ones who made it look like music was the key to dating success and the most visible symbol that the school had changed, were mercilessly tossed aside by their girlfriends and are now back to square one. It’s a humorously tragic moment, simple in its brutality, but also speaking to the dangers of romance through prestige. Both the guys and the girls involved likely got into it for shallow reasons, though in what ways they were shallow changed. I could see Tsuyama and the others jumping at the very first opportunity to have some cute girlfriends, while the girls merely liked the cool cache brought to them by dating these guys. When Mai is telling them off, she mentions that their song choice was clearly made in order to please their girlfriends, who know nothing about music and shouldn’t have been such a significant factor.
It’s implied that their devotion to Mimi-sensei was on a whole other level, and that whatever they were feeling for their girls just wasn’t quite the same. I feel sorry for Mimi-sensei for having to deal with them again, and it’s not exactly a happy ending, but i am amused by how confused she is in the aftermath.
Jin Is Never Smooth
Some chapters ago, I wrote about how I think he’s supposed to be a non-neurotypical person, which came through in his inability to understand the more emotional and subjective aspects of music. Now, he seems incapable of reading the room, and loudly blurts out something that hits at Kousei’s greatest sore spot: his neglectful and abusive mother. I can’t quite recall if Jin has all the details about Kousei’s life, but just about anyone else would have known to keep quiet about it. Although nowhere near as terrible, Jin doesn’t have the best relationship with his own mom, and I wonder how much his social awkwardness (whether or not it’s due to a psychological or physiological condition) contributes to that tension.
Tsuyama All Stars: “Pretender” by Official Hige Dandism
Team “Promise” (a bunch of otaku): “Yakusoku” (Promise) from The iDOLM@STER
Half Monks: “Guts Daze!!” by Ulfuls
Electrical First-Years Acapella Group: “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” by Yoko Takahashi (electronic version using Vocaloid software)
Light Music Club: “Ai Uta” (Love Ballad) by GReeeeN
Basso Masters: “Daichi Kinshou” (Hymn of the Earth) from the cantata “Tsuchi no Uta” (Song of the Land)
I appreciate that the competition has a nice mix of genres and sources—including pop, rock, anime, and classical—from across the decades. The performances themselves also showcase different ways to make music, and I would love to see the electronic version of “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” if this ever got made into an anime.
You can find the above songs, along with previous references, in my Hashikko Ensemble Youtube playlist.
A group of 52 singers showing up incognito is sure to cause a stir, but it also makes me wonder if they’re actually another school in disguise—maybe Nishigafuchi. The combination of their song choice and their sheer numbers makes me think they’re not from around these parts.
The competitive escalates in an unexpected way in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 34.
After the Rugby Club’s surprisingly strong rendition of a Radwimps tune in the high school’s cultural festival singing competition, the Chorus Appreciation Society fires back with a performance of their own. They win handily, showing the fruits of their training camp. However, even though the Rugby Club captain accepts the results, he has one last request as a third-year soon to graduate: he wants to challenge Jin to an arm wrestling competition!
Jin accepts, but thinks it should be a best-of-three. Sora (the guy who confessed to Kozue) immediately challenges Kousei, and Yukina (who was last year’s school-wide arm wrestling champion) jumps in to be the third participant for the Chorus Appreciation Society. The impromptu matchup ends with a 2-1 victory for the Chorus Appreciation Society, with Jin putting in an impressive but ultimately losing effort against the Rugby Club captain. Reactions differ among the crowd, ranging from hype to Yumerun’s utter disinterest.
As Yukina is celebrating the win and talking with Kousei, Shion can’t help but think that they look great together. Suddenly, she sticks her arm between them and confesses directly to Kousei: “I like you. Go out with me?” Kousei’s response: “What? No.” That rejection is also the title of the chapter.
Yukina’s Turbo Controller
I genuinely thought that Yukina’s arm wrestling prowess wouldn’t really factor into the story beyond some displays of strengths, but here we are, with a sudden arm wrestling match. It almost makes regret making an Over the Top reference already. The surprise is welcome, however, and it adds to something I really enjoy about Hashikko Ensemble: the series is somehow both extremely predictable and unpredictable at the same time, and where those cards fall seems to just make for a more enjoyable manga most of the time.
All this arm wrestling talk also makes me think of my childhood playing the Track & Field II arm wrestling minigame. Whenever any arm wrestling happens in media, I just think of the background music and the grunting faces.
As the guys are singing, Takano-sensei makes mention of how much they’ve all improved (as well as Kozue’s excellent conducting). In particular, she remarks about their successful balancing of both the lyrics-heavy nature of J-pop with getting the right musical accents. She also uses a couple terms that I think are worth noting—mostly for my sake, as someone who’s not musically inclined.
The first is legato, which is singing in a smooth and connected way; the opposite of staccato. It is not, in fact, simply a Trigun villain.
The second is syncopation, which is singing on the weak beats.
The general idea, from what I can tell, is that they’ve managed to adapt a J-pop tune into something that utilizes the musical training they’ve all been going through. I wonder if the goal is to strike a middle ground between doing appealing songs to get more members and doing something technically impressive for Jin’s mom and her high standards.
It’s poetic that Akira has these dramatic nightmares about Kousei and Shion, but to Shion, Kousei and Yukina are the picture-perfect couple. There’s a self-consciousness at work in each case, where one sees themselves as somehow not looking “right” for their love interest.
I feel like this is a fear that Kio Shimoku tends to express and explore in his works. In Gonensei (The Fifth-Year), one of the core conflicts is how the boyfriend feels a level of inadequacy because he couldn’t graduate at the same time as his girlfriend, and the two drift further apart. In Spotted Flower, the husband similarly panics when he just lays eyes on his wife interacting with her ex-boyfriend, believing that he pales in comparison, despite the fact that he and his wife just had a daughter. I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as dark and ugly in Hashikko Ensemble, but I’m interested in seeing how the love web continues to get tangled.
The chapter further contrasts how Shion and Yukina each see Kousei—the former as a strong hero and the latter as an adorable underclassman. As Yukina watches the performances, she recalls happening upon Kousei practicing his singing in private. Unbeknownst to Kousei, Yukina actually sat hidden behind a staircase, listening to him the whole time. It’s as if both girls have feelings because they’ve managed to see what’s on the inside, only it’s two different aspects of the “real Kousei.” If I had to give a preference, I like Kousei/Yukina, only because it’s more hilarious.
When the Tsun and the Dere are Indistinguishable
Right before the arm wrestling match begins, Kozue tells Sora to do his best. When he gets trounced by Kousei, she thinks, “Ah. Figures it was impossible.” While I originally thought that there was a possibility that Kozue might end up on a date with Sora reluctantly, it now looks like she might actually feel something for him after all. I don’t know if you’d call this tsundere, as I think that Kozue doesn’t have that characteristic loss of control of her own emotions, but maybe the childhood friend connection is real. Also, we haven’t seen what Sora looks like shirtless, but maybe he has the buffness she looks for in guys.
Or maybe being into musclemen is more of a fantasy fetish and not something she necessarily wants in a partner.
This month’s song is “March 9” by Remioromen, which the Chorus Appreciation Society performs against the Rugby Club.
During their performance, Akira’s mom is in the crowd. I don’t know why exactly, but seeing her cheer her son on and react like such a doting parent really sticks with me. Perhaps it’s just the way she seems so wholeheartedly excited about her Akira doing this new and different thing by getting into singing. I can sense the love in their relationship.
Fierce (?) competitors lie in wait in Chapter 34 of Hashikko Ensemble!
The school’s cultural festival has suddenly turned into a battle of the bands, and the Chorus Appreciation Society is in a 16-band bracket to see who comes out on top. Among the groups participating are a number of familiar faces: Kurotaki Mai (the deep-voiced girl who once saved Akira), Tsuyama’s crew, Mimi-sensei and a group of teachers (with Takano-sensei on piano), and even the Rugby Club that tried to recruit Kousei.
During this, Shion is visibly bothered by Yukina’s presence and closeness with Kousei, all but confirming her having romantic feelings for him. But when Kozue asks why Yukina’s into Kousei, her answer absolutely flabbergasts Shion: “Cuz he’s cute.”
Mai’s band wins, and the teachers forfeit their match because all they really wanted to do was put on a single performance. The Rugby Club is going directly against the Chorus Appreciation Society in the first round, and to everyone’s surprise, one of the players, Sora, asks Kozue to go out with him if the Rugby Club wins. She agrees but only as a form of rejection—she actively encourages the audience to reject their opponents and Sora’s convenient love story in the making. However, the Rugby Club turns out to be better singers than she anticipated, meaning it might not be such an easy win after all.
A School Tournament?!
It’s not surprising to see tournaments happen in Hashikko Ensemble. After all, if they’re going to eventually be in bigger events, the Chorus Appreciation Society is going to have to see some long competitions. However, this is quite different from the more refined environment and structure of the M-Con, the inter-school event they had previously they participated in as an exhibition.
I really like this direction, particularly that the series has suddenly become more about music in an interesting way by having music fever take over the school and generate all this excitement and energy. Also, while it’s indeed looking to be a tournament arc after all, “winning” seems less important than having all the characters reach their personal goals. Looming overhead is the powerful shadow of Jin’s mom (despite the fact that she hasn’t even shown up yet), and in a sense, she’s the real boss fight.
The increasing presence of romance in Hashikko Ensemble is all but undeniable. It’s not even that Shion’s interest in Kousei is clear as day now, but also the strange love polygon that now exists between her, Akira, Kousei, Yukina, and maybe even Mai. What’s more, there’s also the lovey dovey couple team (Yukio feat. Mayomyon) metaphorically tossing hearts into the air, and a public confession to Kozue from the kid who tried to warn his classmates about her judo skills?! And the latter’s going to be the most pressing plot point leading into Chapter 34?!
It’s not nearly as messy a relationship web as good ol’ Spotted Flower, but it sure is getting increasingly complicated.
Knowing this manga, I could see Kio swerving the readers by having the Chorus Appreciation Society lose in Round 1, and having Kozue reluctantly start dating Sora. There’s maybe one path of hope for the rugby player, which is that a person can earn Kozue’s respect through skill and power. In this chapter, she basically gushes over Yukina’s high proficiency in a huge array of industrial skills (including gas and arc welding, crane operating, etc.), so if the poor guy can show similar prowess (in singing or otherwise), maybe he can impress her. That said, it’s probably more realistic to see Kozue be into Yukina.
I was thrilled to see Mai show up again in this chapter—doubly so to see her singing. All signs have pointed to her becoming a more important character as the series went on, and while it’s still uncertain that she’s going to join the Chorus Appreciation Society, I’m still rooting for it. There’s also the matter of her previous interactions with Akira, and while he has Shion on the brain currently, I could see a future where these two get together instead.
I think Hashikko Ensemble has been emphasizing how different potential relationships can potentially end up being in terms of interpersonal dynamics. Chapter 33 highlights this by the ways that Shion and Yukina each view Kousei; the former sees him as brave, cool, and strong, while the latter looks at him like a cute underclassman. When picturing those two possible couples, they’re just so fundamentally different. But this is also the case imagining Akira with Shion versus Akira with Mai, which has a similar dynamic of two very different individuals on the one hand, and two very similar people on the other.
This time, I’ve included each of the groups participating in the tournament this chapter, followed by what song they perform.
Nighttime Festival Club 2.1:“Itoshii no Ellie” (“Beloved Ellie”) by Southern All Stars
Noi Majo (Kurotaki Mai’s quartet):“Hakujitsu” (“White Day”) by King Gnu
Yukio feat. Mayomyon: “Shibuya at 5 o’clock” by Suzuki Masuyuki and Kikuchi Momoko (You might recognize Suzuki as the singer of the opening to Kaguya-sama: Love Is War)
Teachers’ Angel (Mimi-sensei + other faculty): “Boku no Koto” (“About Me”) by Mrs. Green Apple
Rugby Club A Capella Group: “Zenzenzense” (“Past Past Past Life”) by RADWIMPS (as heard in Your Name)
Back in the pre-pandemic times, I used to go karaoke somewhat often. One of the most common songs among one of the groups was actually “Zenzenzense.” This chapter makes me want to learn all these other songs and bring them out someday. May there be a future where we can karaoke to our hearts’ content.
A new story arc begins in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 32!
Summer is over, and the students at Hashimoto Tech are back to school. While things seem mostly the same, there are some differences. For the Chorus Appreciation Society, they can now use the music room to practice. Tsuyama’s crew, the Mimi-sensei-obsessed guys who had previously competed against the Chorus Society, now all have girlfriends. And for some reason, there seems to just be a lot more singing at school overall. It turns out that the latter two things are related: Tsuyama and co.’s performance in front of the school is the reason they got girls, and now all the boys think a capella is the key to popularity.
Back with the main characters, Jin is naturally beyond excited about more singers at school, Mimi-sensei is having a bit of a crisis over losing her place as conductor to Hasegawa Kozue, and Shinji wonders why the girls aren’t coming to them. Right then, a tough-looking girl shows up next to Kousei, and when he tries to shoo her away (assuming that she doesn’t care about music), she puts his hand in a death grip and overpowers him. Kozue identifies her as Kawamura Yukina, a third-year construction major and the school’s reigning arm wrestling champion—a title she won by beating both guys and girls.
The chapter ends with students remarking about how many damn a capella clubs are springing up. It all looks to be headed in one direction: a singing tournament!
I love this chapter.
I thought I knew where this manga was going, with Jin trying to prove his mom wrong and Akira fretting over Shion. However, the way the school has changed feels like a subtle yet still seismic shift, as if they’re entering a new environment where the rules are different. What’s more, this all stems from their singing! This series is delightfully hard to predict at the best times.
It’s typical of an action or sports series to up the stakes or expand its scope, and this feels similar yet noticeably different in terms of fallout. Genshiken didn’t really do story arcs in the traditional sense, and I find Hashikko Ensemble to be somewhere in the middle in a good way.
I do feel for Mimi-sensei, but what I’ll probably remember more about her in this chapter is her hilarious interaction with Shion. No longer conductor, she tries to let Shion be comforted by her, but Shion responds by asking, “Are pecs boobs?”
Later, Mimi wonders if this like a child being weaned from their mother’s breast.
The ridiculousness of Shion’s question followed by the wordplay from Mimi is top-notch.
Yukina is a Badass
Yukina is technically not a new character, but might as well be. It’s not 100% certain if Yukina is a delinquent, but she certainly has that energy.
I really want her to join the group.
While she’s not the only physically strong girl around (Hasegawa is a skilled judo player), Yukina adds a certain level of cool. Not only would she be the oldest among the students, but her connection to Kousei—whatever it may be—seems intriguing. At the very least, we haven’t seen anyone treat him so lightly
Is there an element of romance between the two? The characters are certainly entertaining the possibility. Akira thinks Shion might have a crush on Kousei, so he immediately tries to see how Shion reacts to Yukina, but it’s not entirely clear. I can practically feel Akira’s incredible self-consciousness, though I still think he’s somehow mistaken.
In this chapter, they practice “March 9” by Remioromen, which is Shinji’s pick for the Festival.
They also sing the official school song, though there’s no audio resource for that.
When Shinji asks why they’re not getting any girls, Kanon responds that 1) the Society already has girls and 2) a capella is cooler. It makes me think about how I’ve been translating gasshou as “chorus,” but “glee” could work just as well. And one particular TV show aside, it’s true that glee clubs are not exactly considered exciting. I do wonder if I should have been translating it as glee all along, but I can live with my choice.
After months of focusing on the same song, the musical possibilities explode.
Still at their summer training camp (of sorts), the Chorus Appreciation Society decides that they will do four songs for the school culture festival. The only catch is that they’re having trouble narrowing down a final list, even after listening to a wide variety of options.
Ultimately, the group decides that the songs will be chosen by three of the singers plus Hasegawa choose, with Orihara abstaining. To everyone’s surprise, despite his previous objections, Jin actually chooses a song with piano. What’s even more surprising, then, is that Akira doesn’t. While the gentle and harmonious tunes of Akira’s pick resonate with the whole group, Shion is clearly upset and calls Akira a traitor for the second time, despite having forgotten about the first incident.
Songs They Didn’t Choose
Normally, I leave the song list to the end of the review as a bit of extra fun. However, since there’s so many this time and they’re such a central part of this chapter, I thought it best to list them all from the beginning, to split the list up, and to make it the main focus of this review.
Part of the fun is also in looking up what all of these sound like to get a better understanding of why they were or weren’t picked. There’s also the inevitable hurdle of manga being a non-audio media, and I think Kio still hasn’t figured out a way to make the visualization of each song feel different, so it can make the reading experience feel a bit incomplete.
Shinji purposely picks a song that everyone is familiar with, given that the established goal is to attract new members and become a full-fledged club. It has a soft pop rock feel, and I think it speaks to the fact that Shinji has gotten into singing but is still all about exploring castles. Even though I personally didn’t know this song, it just comes across as the most conventional choice.
Last chapter, I predicted that Hasegawa would go for a Ghibli song, but she hit me with the curviest of curve balls, instead opting for the main theme of the film Macross: Do You Remember Love? Incidentally, it’s the only song besides “Daitokai” that I’ve actually heard before. Hasegawa has already shown her otaku side numerous times, but this really clinches her geek status, especially with her infodump about the historical significance of Macross as the first idol anime and the importance of Iijima Mari. I would love to see this animated, just so I could hear a men’s chorus version of this iconic anime song.
While Jin’s song is not a capella like originally intended, it’s still technically difficult and speaks to his desire to show his mom that she’s wrong about him. Even my amateurish ears can tell this song is tough, given its pace. In addition to how “Etupirka” really seems to carry Jin’s will, one of my favorite moments in this chapter is seeing Shion get serious about figuring out how to play it.
Akira explains that he picked this song because the melody, lyrics, and harmony are all soft and gentle but also supportive. It makes sense, seeing as he also picked “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” for the M-Con. It’s certainly a shock that he would not pick a song that includes a piano given how hard he fought for it and his feelings for Shion, but to me, it feels like the song itself was strong enough to him that it actually overrode his prior convictions. There’s a certain strength to Akira, even if it’s not always obvious. Either that, or he did it because he’s still feeling awkward when it comes to Shion.
Fun fact: For this chapter, the team behind Hashikko Ensemble actually got help from the composer Kitagawa Noboru!
First, I really want to see this series become an anime now.
Emotions run hard and Hasegawa gets to the heart of the matter in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 30.
Before we get into the review, I have a couple things to share, for those that missed previous blog posts:
The final episode of the anime Wave, Listen to Me! features “Miagete Goran, Yoru no Hoshi o,” the song that the Hashikko characters have been singing and practicing up to this point. I talk about it here.
Also, I took extensive notes from a recent interview with Kio Shimoku by Virtual Youtuber Luis Cammy. It’s long, but I recommend you all check it out! There’s a whole lot of insight into Kio’s life and career, and it’s his first ever audio interview! If you ever wondered where Akira’s ultra-deep voice comes from, it’s a reflection of the author himself.
Shion is lost somewhere in the woods, but Orihara manages to be the one to bring her back to safety. The image of him carrying Shion on his back haunts Akira to such a degree that he dreams of the two in a loving embrace. This awkwardness persists through breakfast the next morning.
Later, Hasegawa tries to get all four of the Chorus Appreciation Society’s singers to resolve the question of whether to do an a capella performance for the school festival (Jin’s stance) or to involve Shion on piano (Akira’s stance). In order to coax Jin’s true motives out, Hasegawa brings out a live video chat of Yumerun, Jin’s condescending childhood friend). Her casual conveyance of the dismissive words of Jin’s mother causes Jin to reveal the truth: he wants to do something musically impressive to show his mom up, knowing that she’ll be watching.
However, just as it seems consensus has been reached and a capella is the way to go, Hasegawa turns around and declares everyone to be idiots. She explains that Jin is so caught up in trying to prove his mother wrong, he’s forgotten their actual goal: to attract new potential members in order to graduate from appreciation society to full-fledged club. With everyone now on the same page and their eyes on the prize, Hasegawa is poised to reveal the popular, catchy, possibly anime-related song they’ll be doing next.
It’s Ghibli, Isn’t It?
In Chapter 14, Hasegawa goes ballistic when she discovers that multiple members don’t know Studio Ghibli and its famous music. GIven that their goal is to try and do something that’ll have wide appeal to students at a technical high school who likely don’t know much about music, this seems to be the natural choice.
The question, then, is what song (or songs) has Hasegawa decided on? I have my own favorites (“Carrying You” from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, “Hikoukigumo” from The Wind Rises, “Always with Me” from Spirited Away), but what’s tricky is that most of the Ghibli songs are performed by women. One hint might be Orihara’s interest in harmonizing, but given my limited musical knowledge, I don’t think I’d know what a “good song for harmonizing” would even be.
Hasegawa is the Saki of Hashikko Ensemble
By cutting through all the reticence, the veiled reasonings, and the personal hang-ups, Hasegawa fulfills a role akin to Kasukabe Saki in Genshiken. She’s direct, keeps her eye on the prize, and seems more insightful when it comes to human relationships compared to the others. Granted, she doesn’t seem to have the social grace of Kasukabe. In that sense, Hasegawa reminds me of something akin to Hikigaya from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, as I Expected (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)—good at finding solutions but willing to play dirty in the process. I wonder if her contacting Yumerun is just for this, or if she’s actually formed a friendship with the strange girl.
Jin himself comments on Hasegawa’s effectiveness, telling her that he’s glad she’s on board as their conductor. Jin also uses Hasegawa’s first name—Kozue—for the first time, which she herself points out is quite the milestone. Jin calls people by their first name extremely easily (including Orihara!), so it’s interesting in the first place that he had previously avoided doing so with Hasegawa.
Love Triangle Man
Everything seems to be pointing towards both Akira and Orihara liking Shion on a romantic level. A part of me still suspects that Orihara’s and maybe even Shion’s reactions are being misread by Akira, but it could really be that obvious. Whatever the truth may be, the important thing is how self-conscious Akira is about the whole situation, and that it’s likely going to get worse. Akira’s overactive imagination even comes into play a second time (the first was with Shion and Shunsuke). There’s a chance Hasegawa (or maybe Kanon?) will find some way to untangle this mess, but I think it’s going to get crazier and crazier.
I still want to hear from Akira at some point what he likes so much about Shion. I know people shouldn’t necessarily have to articulate their feelings, but I’m genuinely curious.
No songs this month.
I’m looking a few chapters ahead and thinking if any new faces will join the appreciation society after the upcoming school performance. I’ve still got my eye on Kurotaki Mai, the deep-voiced girl who helped Akira, and the possibility of a girls’ vocal group starting up. If Yumerun somehow ends up at Hashimoto Tech, that would be wild.
Kio Shimoku has historically been a very private person, not even revealing his face until 2018. Shockingly, the Genshiken author had his very first audio interview, and it was by a Virtual Youtuber to boot! Luis Cammy is apparently a big fan of Kio’s work, and talked with him for a whopping 80+ minutes.
Translating the whole thing would be a whole endeavor in itself, but you’ll find all the notes I’ve taken from the interview. There’s a lot of it that’s all-new information and insight into Kio’s creative history.
Note that Kio has a remarkably deep voice. Personally, he reminds me a bit of Kugayama from Genshiken.
Also, as a final disclaimer, it’s possible I misunderstood some of the things spoken about. If anyone has corrections, feel free to leave comments!
Introduction and Miscellaneous
Luis has been a fan of his work since Gonensei (“The Fifth Year”), an early Kio manga and dark sequel to his prior work, Yonensei (“The Fourth Year”).
As part of their collaboration, Luis sang a cover of the Kujibiki Unbalance opening, and Kio provided drawings of Luis cosplaying as Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad for a music video. The video
Is meant to resemble late 1990s to early 2000s galge/dating sim intros. Luis looks like Saki from Genshiken/Ritsuko already, so it was a challenge to differentiate her.
Kio learned about VTubers from manga author gatherings. He doesn’t watch YouTubers much, let alone VTubers.
When asked if he knew how popular his work was at the time, Kio said he didn’t really look at comments online, but felt he rode the wave of the era.
The very beginning of Genshiken was Kio wanting to draw otaku as normal people. He want to madk what he himself wanted to read.
Luis mentions that otaku and their status have changed drastically since the days of Genshiken (when otaku were picked on and persecuted), like how there are light otaku now. Kio says his daughter is in middle school right now, and to her, she doesn’t get the whole otaku-as-negative thing. A group of popular kids in her class have Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba merch. Kio responds, “Times have changed, huh?”
Luis talks about how even regular folks say they like her, and it’s like the wall between normies and otaku isn’t there. Madarame has become a popular representative of otaku (to the extent that he’s Kio’s visual stand-in for this interview).
Kio talks about how, in the very earliest planning stages, the first idea he sent to editorial was about the relationship between Madarame, Kousaka, and Saki. The love triangle was inspired by Ping-Pong Club, the nose-hair chapter in particular. That scene was thought up very early on, back when Genshiken was a mere chick. In a sense, Madarame and his romantic relationships were a part of Genshiken from the start.
Luis talks about her mahjong teacher, Saito Go (a professional player and mahjong VTuber), likes Genshiken. He especially remembers that scene with Madarame and Saki eating sushi together, and then not talking afterward on the train ride home.
Luis points out that Kio likes to use silent panels, which Kio agrees with. However, he thinks it’s overdoing it with those types of panels isn’t good either. The nose-hair chapter ends in silence too. Luis says a lot of information can be conveyed in such panels. Kio says it can convey a sense of realism.
Luis points out that the recording was the day of Saki’s birthday!
When creating character profiles for the compiled manga volumes, Kio had to come up with birthdays. He actually used Gundam Horoscopes to think them up. [This has been mentioned in other sources before, like the Japan-only Genshiken Official Data Book.] Actually, it was sort of like a backwards horoscope, in that he picked a mobile suit that would fit Saki well, and decided the birthday based on that. Sasahara is a Ball.
Personal Questions and Family Life
Kio is into Gunpla. He got into it when he was a 6 thanks to his bigger brother. Plamo-Kyoshiro (the 1980s precursor to Gundam Build Fighters) was his “bible.” He would categorize himself as a plastic model otaku above all else. He still wants to continue it as a hobby, but he’s busy. In Plamo-Kyoshiro, the way they used cardboard boxes in the manga really sparked his imagination as a kid.
Luis asks if Kio’s daughter ever says, “Why is our home filling up with more [otaku] stuff?” Kio says that his workplace is different from his home, so it’s his workplace that gets filled up instead. Doesn’t think his daughter is an otaku, but can’t say for sure. Luis jokes about Kio’s daughter showing up on the live recording and telling him not to say so much. Kio mentions that she doesn’t know about this, so Luis responds that she could come in saying, “It sounds like you’re doing a broadcast with someone from Nijisanji.” Kio comments that she might actually know what VTubers are.
Kio’s daughter has always walked in while he’s drawing manga, so she’s been reading manga for a long time. Kio still reads current manga. Luis says that manga has become like a “communication tool” these days, like, “What? Do you know this title?” as a conversation starter.
Genshiken More In-Depth
Luis describes the first Genshiken as being about ancient otaku. She asks Kio, if there was a Genshiken Third Generation, would it have VTubers and stuff in it? What kinds of characters and what sort of content would it include?
Kio concurs that they’re ancient otaku. His thinking was, “If I try to draw something totally new, it’ll quickly date itself. But if I make them feel older, than it’ll age better.” He doesn’t consider himself to be on the cutting edge. Genshiken came from whatt he personally wanted to draw. As it continued, it progressed into fujoshi stuff.
As for VTubers, once they become old, maybe then they’d show up in Genshiken. Kio says that plenty of current manga have VTubers in them already.
Luis asks if Kio is happy to have ended Second Generation when he did, and Kio says yes. “It felt like, ‘That’s about where it should stop.’” He explains how the sequel started out as a one-shot, but he’s not good at doing extra stories and the like, so he kept on working on it. Kodansha editorial (the publisher of Genshiken) said he should do enough to fill one volume. It was originally supposed to be a short serialization.
Kio began with the thought of “How would Ogiue and the others continue the club?” and of course, it would end up with a bunch of fujoshi. But would it be all girls? What about guys? Hence, Hato.
Kio really went back and forth about whether or not to include a character like Hato. When he was drawing the manuscript, he kept having the feeling of “Is this really okay?” Coming up with the idea of Hato purposely using a more feminine voice is when he finally thought he could make it work. Fujoshi and otoko no ko (boys who dress convincingly as girls) are the main aspects of Second Generation. Kio didn’t want to put Hato through so much hardship, but as the story progressed, he felt that’s what should happen—though he did worry over it.
The original Genshiken was supposed to be in real time, and things moved quickly. But it stopped being that way during the Ogiue story at Karuizawa. At the time, Ogiue was a “problem child” when it came to drawing the manga, as he didn’t know if he could resolve her backstory. It’d be difficult to do that and still maintain the “real-time” thing, and he would’ve selfishly wanted to end the series in the Spring if it had stuck to being in real time. But it took multiple months to get through the Ogiue story.
The series was supposed to end at Volume 8, but then there were plans for the second special official doujinshi [the first one was included with Volume 6]. Because of that, they decided to continue the series up to Volume 9. The original Genshiken features Ogiue’s turmoil, and Second Generation features Hato’s turmoil.
Luis comments how there are the Ogiue fans, and then there are Hato fans. Kio responds, “The Ogiue fans really are somethingl…” and then trails off. [Ogiue Maniax note: I feel attacked.]
There are things that were hard to put into Genshiken, like sexual stuff. That’s where Spotted Flowercomes from. From here, the two jokingly pussyfoot around Spotted Flower’s similarities to Genshiken.
Luis talks about how Spotted Flower is a different world (tongue-in-cheek), but it has kind of a crossover feel. Kio responds that they’re ostensibly different characters. Luis replies that the series is like a “what-if” universe (if-sekai in Japanese).
Kio says it’s not supposed to be them, but through it, he can do what he couldn’t in Genshiken.
Luis says, “What-If Madarame has a ‘Why youuuu!’ feeling.” Kio laments the husband as well.
Spotted Flower was supposed to be just a few short pages for Rakuen: Le Paradis magazine. The resemblance to other characters was originally not planned, but is actually something he noticed after the fact. He didn’t explain the meaning of the title to them when he submitted it [madara means “spot” and saki means “bloom”], so they probably didn’t realize at first. So he figured, “Why not keep going?” and it developed along the way.
“And now there are four volumes,” says Luis..
Kio’s feelings: “It’s not a book that comes out often, but if it interests you, I’m grateful.”
It was one thing when it was just the husband and wife, but then he added the Hato-like character, and the Kousaka-like character, and so on. He still can’t really say for sure that it’s them.
Hashikko Ensemble and Kio’s Overall Career
Luis finds the Hashikko Ensemblemain character Akira cute. Kio says that he began with the idea that Akira would have that gap between his very deep voice and his shy personality.
Volume 5 of Hashikko Ensemble should be coming in September.
Kio says he’s been in the manga business for 25 years. Luis thinks all his works are great, in terms of information provided, emotion, and atmosphere all being wrapped up in them. “It’s no small stuff.” To Kio, he sees all the things she mentioned as his shortcomings Luis comments that she enjoys seeing Kio reflect on his work.
Kio is the type to regret not saying this or doing that. Luis remarks that this is a live broadcast—is Kio okay?
Kio doesn’t recognize his own voice when recording. Luis said she never thought of her voice as anything special but the fans would say it’s cute. Luis compares Akira’s voice to Kio’s. Kio never had any experience with singing or choruses, but figured, why not give Akira a deep voice like himself?
He thinks people who can come up with characters purely from imagination are amazing.
Hashikko Ensemble a story of the passion of youth, but Kio didn’t originally plan it that way. Like Genshiken, he wanted the story to be something ridiculous and fun, and landed on “chorus club high schoolers.”
Luis loves stories about the passion of youth (seishun), like Yowamushi Pedal and Big Windup. Kio replies that he’s never drawn manga in that vein—like Chihayafuru—but thought, “If I put all I had into it, could I draw one?” The characters in Genshiken are all pretty mellow. He wasn’t that good at drawing the kind of youthfulness that appears in Hashikko Ensemble, at first.
Luis makes the argument that the original Genshiken is a “passion of youth” story, because it’about figuring out what club to join and what to do? Like, Kugayama’s waffling on whether or not to draw, or Ogiue’s decision to go, “I guess I’m gonna draw.”
The kinds of “passion of youth” stories Kio enjoys are a little strange—not so much “hot-blooded stuff.” Luis describes Madarame as a hot-blooded otaku. As for being a passion of youth story, what about that story with Saki mentioning Madarame looks good in his new glasses?
Originally, Genshiken was supposed to be a club that doesn’t put anything out. One of the things that made Ogiue tricky is that she wanted to draw herself, so Kio had no choice but to make a story about her trying to get into Comic Festival [the Genshiken in-universe equivalent of Comic Market].
Luis says Genshiken is what made her want to attend Comic Market as part of a circle. She asks Kio if he ever participated as an artist. Kio says yes!
Kio released a doujinshi at Comic Market in 2003 (Luis points out that 2004 was the year of the first Genshiken anime, which Kio totally forgot about).
Kio did not use the name “Kio Shimoku” for Comic Market. He sold 200 books, which impresses Luis. For reference, Luis says that 100 is considered a lot, and she herself sold 50 copies of her own doujinshi at a Comitia [a major doujin event primarily dedicated to original, non-fan works].
The doujinshi was indeed pornographic, and an original work. It bears resemblance to Kujibiki Unbalance and Genshiken.
Luis talks about how big sister loves Kujibiki Unbalance, to the extent that she put out a pornographic doujinshi starring Ritsuko. Luis helped her a lot with it, including stapling it together.
“Putting out a Kujibiki Unbalance-esque doujinshi yourself is like actually being in Genshiken,” says Luis.
Kio also participated at Comic Market a second time—in 2010. It was a doujinshi based on a “certain space opera that uses Episodes,” flipping around the genders of the character roles involved. The inspiration was that with some wordplay, the title resembled the phrase “Sister Wars.” He drew what was supposed to just be a manuscript based on Episode 1, but it ended up being 350 pages. Kio wanted to draw up to six.
“Please complete it!” Luis says.
“But I wouldn’t be able to sell it!” Kio replies.
[Ogiue Maniax note: One of Ogiue’s characteristics is prolific output, just like Kio here.]
Luis asks if there’s anything he’s watched lately, old anime or new anime. Kio doesn’t have anything, and Luis says his free time to just sit down and watch without moving must have decreased. Kio agrees.
Kio wants to absorb more shows, but just doesn’t have the time.
Questions from Kio for Nijisanji
As future reference for manga, Kio asks if VTubers wear sensors to track movement. Luis responds that it uses 3D tracking. She quickly “corrects” that the animated figure you see is the real her.
Luis says that Kio’s participation in Comic Market makes his manga feel more real.
The two talk more about the Kujibiki Unbalance music video they collaborated on. Kio says it’s like a doujin-style fan work. Luis talks about how she has Genshiken and Kujibiki Unbalance merch. Luis has the Kujibiki Unbalance Ritsuko school swimsuit clear file drawn by the light novel artist, Yagumo Kengou. Kio mentions that the image was a request from him [Ogiue Maniax note: Not 100% sure about this last sentence].
Kio mentions that he gets some harsh comments, but others will say “That’s the kind of author he was all along!” But he doesn’t want to remember himself from the Gonensei era.
What an Interview!
There’s a lot to unpack in this interview. I hope to follow up with an analysis.
Also, I can’t believe there’s a Virtual Youtuber who’s into Genshiken, Kio Shimoku, and mahjong! It’s like someone designed a VTuber especially for me.
Wave, Listen to Me! is a great manga and anime about a woman who unexpectedly becomes a radio host—a mature comedy that is about five genres away from author Samura Hiroaki’s most famous work, Blade of the Immortal. I recommend everyone check it out. For those who have recently finished the anime TV series, I’m here to point out that the song played in the finale has a special kind of relevance to the episode.
SPOILER WARNING, of course.
In episode 12, an earthquake hits Hokkaido, causing blackouts. As the characters look up at a starry night sky, a song plays: Kyu Sakamoto’s “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshi o” or “Behold the Nighttime Stars.” This song originally came out after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and it responded to the fact that the lack of light pollution made the stars more visible than normal. A common interpretation of the song’s lyrics is that the stars are also the souls of those who died in the disaster. In short, having “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshio” play was an active choice with a specific meaning to Japan.
Incidentally, I actually only learned about the song and its significance because I’ve been following Kio Shimoku’s current manga, Hashikko Ensemble. The tune has a central role in the narrative up to this point, and one of the characters goes as far as to explain everything I mentioned above. I find it a little funny that these two streams dovetailed so nicely together.
Both Wave, Listen to Me! and Hashikko Ensemble run in the magazine Monthly Afternoon, so maybe this synergy isn’t totally out of the question. Most likely, however, is that they’re both referencing the same major moment in Japanese history.
Jin reveals an important part of himself while Akira shows his kind heart in Chapter 26 of Hashikko Ensemble.
It’s the Hashimoto Chorus Appreciation Society’s turn at the M-Con competition, but before they go up, Jin has a question for Akira: how does Akira interpret the lyrics to “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” (Behold the Nighttime Stars)?
It turns out that while Jin can read up on the history of a song to understand what went into it, he can only ever understand lyrics at face value. After some hesitation, Akira explains in private to Jin that he picked the song while thinking about Kousei, who lost his little brother when they were young. To Akira, it sounds like a song of prayer—an explanation that seems to awaken something inside of Jin. Right after, Jin blabs to Kousei, causing some embarrassed tension, threats of violence, and teasing accusations of Kousei being a tsundere.
That little moment resolved, the guys start their performance, with Kousei drawing the most attention with his delinquent attitude in this more formal concert hall space. As they sing, they impress one of the judges in particular, but in the stands, Yumerun (Jin’s childhood friend) looka extremely annoyed for some reason.
Is Jin Neuroatypical?
Jin has always come across as a huge nerd who’s really into music as a kind of scientific phenomenon. However, based on what we’ve learned over the past two chapters, I’m genuinely starting to wonder if Jin might be somewhere on the autism spectrum, or is perhaps neuroatypical in some other way.
Not only have we learned that he has trouble with making his singing feel more expressive, but now he’s explained that he’s basically incapable of interpreting lyrics on his own. I’m not very familiar myself, but I’ve known people who have Asperger’s, and from what I understand, people on the autism spectrum often have difficulty grasping the emotional meaning behind how things are said, or even sarcasm and the like. Hashikko Ensemble itself hasn’t said anything explicit, but I think it would explain a lot about the character, including how he approaches social interaction.
Akira and Kousei
The fact that Akira showed such concern for Kousei further fleshes out his character. There’s something about his trying to help Kousei out, as well as his interpretation of the lyrics, that reminds me of his childhood friendship with Himari and his love of children’s picture books. Akira is a kind soul, and I increasingly like him as the central protagonist of this manga.
Part of the imagery of Yumerun grinding her teeth is that it “rhymes” with the panel of Shion doing the same out of frustration over not being able to play the accompanying piano. But beyond that, I really can’t seem to figure out why Yumerun is expressing some dismay over seeing Jin sing there. Their mutual past might be even more complicated than I first thought, and I wonder if maybe Yumerun is actually there on behalf of Jin’s mother. If not, maybe Yumerun sees chorus singing as somehow painfully common. I’m sure there’ll be more information in the coming months, but for now, this has me fascinated.
It’s just “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” by Kyu Sakamoto again this time, but given that it’s front and center in this chapter, I think it’s worth it to go into greater detail about it.
As Jin explains, the song in question was written after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 when the lack of light pollution made the starry sky visible. The stars are a metaphor for people’s souls, and the song itself functions as a song for repose of the soul. Akira’s interpretation as a song of prayer approaches it from a different angle. To him, the lyrics seem like they’re calling out to the souls of those who have been lost, but the second half makes the name of the song sound like a comforting call to those left on Earth.
If Kio Shimoku is indeed writing Jin as having some sort of neurotypical mind, it would be new ground for him. Genshiken has a lot of eccentric characters, but that series always came across as just a bunch of fanatical dorks who really like anime and manga. Jin’s obsession with music seems driven by something different.