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Commencing the 14,567th “This Month’s Genshiken Was Great” Discussion.
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.
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.
Recently, it’s come to my attention that a translation of Genshiken Chapter 122, aka the “Madarame Harem Arc Conclusion” chapter, has been going around that have some serious inaccuracies as to what is being said by Madarame. This seems to have created a good deal of outrage, with people believing that Madarame and Hato are both claiming that Hato isn’t really attracted to men.
That is completely wrong, and I’m here to correct that mistake.
SPOILER WARNING, of course.
First, here’s pages 130-132 from the serialization, when Madarame is explaining his reason for not dating Hato.
Yoshitake: Rame-senpai, you didn’t deny the possibility of Hato x Mada, so what’s the problem with Hato?
Madarame: Well I wouldn’t call it a problem… Let’s see. If we were together, I get the feeling that he would think about it too much and become a wreck in the process.
Yoshitake: …Aahhh… I think I understand…
Yajima: (That’s exactly what would happen.)
Madarame: Let’s say we started dating and hit it off. Even if that happened, I feel that he would be torment himself, believing there was some other pretext for our relationship.
At some point, he would think, Madarame has to feel reluctant about dating a man, right? Hato would think too much, and suffer for it. It should be simpler than that. “Hey I’m just a fudanshi who loves to crossdress, that’s all. No more, no less.” Wouldn’t that be a much better way to live?
With the above, I think you can see that Madarame is not claiming that Hato isn’t gay or bisexual. Rather, what he’s saying is that he wants Hato to find a relationship where he can feel comfortable being himself.
Now, here’s Hato’s later reaction and conversation with Yajima, on pages 143-145.
Yajima: You look better off than I was expecting.
Hato: I’m just really feeling the fact that it’s all over and done. I said everything I wanted to say, and if that’s the case…
Besides, it was a relief to be rejected. It was just as senpai said. Between my appearance and my love of BL I’m going to run into problems eventually.
I understood that, no matter how much I might like someone, it wouldn’t work out with a guy. Even knowing that, I still fell for senpai. Even now my feelings haven’t changed. I’ll probably go on loving him forever. That’s why I think Madarame senpai will be the first and last man I ever love.
Here, Hato does not deny that he was genuinely attracted to Madarame, nor is he going for the, “I don’t love men but I love you!” What he’s saying is that he thinks his feelings for Madarame are never going away, and that no one will take his place. Is he exaggerating? Maybe? Where he is feeling conflicted is the idea that a relationship can’t work with a guy, but that seems to be for other reasons, perhaps owing to society.
I hope this cleared things up for you Genshiken fans. In the end, Hato still isn’t with Madarame, but I think it’s clear that they both think well of each other.
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NOTE: It seems that an inaccurate translation of the contents of this chapter have been floating around. Please look at this supplemental post after reading this review to get the right picture.
At long last, Madarame makes his choice in Chapter 122. And in the end the winner is…
…No one. Madarame chooses to abstain.
I get the strange feeling some readers might be pulling out the pitchforks, but I think it’s best to put them away. I believe the reasons behind Madarame’s decision are worth exploring, as they really show the kind of consideration Genshiken has for its characters and their connections to both the real world and that of their awkward nerd fandom.
Madarame says that there is no universal reason he’s chosen not to date any of the girls. Each circumstance is unique. When you add them all together it paints an interesting picture.
For Angela, it’s a matter of a long distance relationship, but Madarame explicitly mentions that it has to do with the idea that being with the hottest thing on Earth, but only having physical contact twice a year, would be like “torture.” Implied is the notion that Madarame is open to the idea of a relationship based on bodily desire, but that’s untenable unless Angela moves to Japan.
Physically, Madarame is ready, but emotionally he’s not. This is what puts Keiko out of contention, as the possibility that Keiko will remind him of Saki, whether because of their similarities or because Keiko might just mention her in conversation is difficult for him at this point. While Madarame is indeed attracted to Keiko, the important thing is that he needs more time to come to terms with his lost love. As Madarame mentions, he’s just been kind of passively going along with everything, and that’s probably what he needs least at this point.
Sue’s is an odd rationale, because Madarame’s “reason” for not dating her is because he likes seeing Sue’s displays of yuri affection with Ogiue. This feels like a cop-out, but I really do think there’s more to Madarame’s words than meets the eye. Given how positively Sue reacts to Madarame’s explanation, I think it shows that Madarame not only understands Sue well, but that he sees Sue herself as not being ready for a relationship. She’s still shy and sensitive, and might need more time to step out of her shell.
Madarame’s basis for rejecting Hato is the most complex of all, but it all comes down to not wanting to hurt Hato. Madarame explains that, even if he and Hato were to work out as a couple, the constant worry that Hato has had to suffer because of Madarame risks being not simply a short term thing.
In all likelihood, their relationship would be forever plagued with doubts and second-guesses as to whether Madarame likes the fantasy more than the reality, or whether Hato feels comfortable being who he is. As Madarame puts it, Hato should be with someone who just simply accepts him as he is, and lets Hato feel like his identity as a crossdressing fudanshi is a matter of course. This mindset mirrors a conversation the two once had, where Madarame mentioned that Hato’s just the way he is and it shouldn’t be a big deal.
I think some readers might also be concerned that Hato says that Madarame will be the first and last man he ever loves. Hato says a lot of things, like how he has no interest in men at all. Pretty much every character in Genshiken changes their mind, and Hato is just the best example of this.
All of this means that, of the four prospective love interests, only Hato has truly been rejected. Madarame considers both Keiko and Sue as not having any faults that aren’t rooted in Madarame’s own broken heart, and if Angela were to move to Japan, I think he might die from crushed pelvis (it’s also worth nothing that the virgin vs. whore thing doesn’t even come up, which might say something about Madarame’s maturity). Essentially, Madarame has been on the rebound this whole time, and his clouded judgment, combined with his propensity for waffling, has been a bad combination that can only be solved with time and some space.
I think it all makes sense.
Genshiken sets up two new threads in the aftermath of the Madarame harem arc. First, as Hato mentions that he likes the idea of finding someone who accepts him without much fuss, Yajima sees this as possibly her opportunity. The irony here is that Yajima didn’t accept him for the longest time, as her more conservative values as well as her poor self-image made Hato a target of mild disdain and jealousy. Things are different now, but the real question is…how different? Spotted Flower different?
Second, as if to speak directly to those readers who missed the way Genshiken was once upon a time, the next chapter preview basically says that the manga is going back to doujinshi and clubroom antics. Something tells me that this isn’t giving the whole picture though.
As for Ogiue, I feel as if Kio put in extra care when drawing her this chapter. Call it a hunch.
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The trip to Nikkou winds down with a final stay at Yajima’s family home. Yoshitake presses Madarame to make a decision about who to date, but as each potential partner makes their case (or has their case made for them), Madarame is still hesitant to pick. However, when Kuchiki suggests that it be done by lottery if Madarame doesn’t care one way or another, Madarame chooses not to leave it in fate’s hands and declares that he will make his decision…next chapter.
Is it at long last the end of the Madarame harem arc? Will he end up with anyone or perhaps no one at all? Will Genshiken actually have Madarame choose, or will it be a Naruto-esque string of chapter titles each more final than the last?
Personally speaking, the harem aspect itself, the fact that four individuals are attracted to Madarame to varying degrees, is less interesting in terms of who ends up with who, and more in terms of its opportunities for characterization. This includes characters both inside and outside of the harem.
One of Yoshitake’s recurring traits is that she always has the group dynamic in mind. Much of the reason she wants Madarame to just choose already is because she’s worried about the relationships, the friendships, that exist among the members of Genshiken. The longer Madarame takes, the more these threads get frayed, but at the same time she wants the decision to be a real one, not a spur of the moment fancy. That’s why she arranged the whole Nikkou kujibiki dating scheme in the first place.
Angela is an impossibly attractive blonde American who encourages polygamy, having the least to lose due to the distance between the US and Japan. She has an interest in Madarame, but is more about having a good time. Sue, as Ogiue puts it, is Madarame’s ideal character: a blonde loli who’s also fluent in both “Japanese” and “otaku.” However, even after her confession it’s clear she still isn’t entirely sure what she wants their relationship to be. Hato is a “girl-boy” straight out of a visual novel, but interestingly enough is still espousing the potential pitfalls of a homosexual relationship to ground Madarame in reality. They all carry some element of wish fulfillment that borders the realm of perverted imagination with some counter-balance in the fact that they’re all actually human.
In contrast, Keiko’s points out that she’s the most similar to Saki out of all of them, and this hits Madarame like a ton of bricks. While that makes Keiko in a way the most “realistic choice,” her words also carry an element of fantasy to them. She is the closest to fulfilling Madarame’s unrequited love for Saki, the most profoundly grounded woman he has ever met. The fact that Madarame reacts so intensely to Keiko’s words shows that he still holds a torch for Saki, and perhaps even suggests that his indecisiveness towards both accepting and rejecting others is a product of a desire to be wanted but also to want someone like Saki.
It’s surprising that Keiko of all people objects to Angela’s “harem ending” suggestion, stating that she’d rather not be involved at all if that’s how it’s going to end up. She wants to try a monogamous relationship, and she’d rather be single than deal with some fantasy otaku arrangement. Given that Keiko is not above seeing more than one guy at a time, I think it might say something about how Keiko sees Madarame as an opportunity for some stability, and further puts into relief the differences between her and the rest. At the same time, being an approximation of Saki isn’t actually being Saki, so in a sense Keiko becomes the most “ideal” choice of all. Of course, she certainly doesn’t see it that way, and I wonder if she in fact sees herself as what Madarame ultimately needs.
Madarame, as much as he acts like anyone would do because he’s just a dorky, desperate otaku, is suddenly against the idea when it’s suggested that he pick randomly when Kuchiki brings it up. Madarame is neither totally noble nor utterly selfish, and the realization that he cannot just keep the harem in stasis as is common in long anime and manga series ultimately forces him to try and choose on his terms rather than leave it up to luck. I think somewhere in his decision is the belief that having the choice made for him is utterly irresponsible and would lead to more harm than good, while also clarifying that he clearly does not see all of them the exact same way. In the end, actions have consequences, and I look forward to seeing how this plays out.
To end off, this month’s Ogiue moment is more of an Ogiue focus than anything in a long while. As briefly alluded to above, Ogiue gets really invested in presenting Sue as the best possible choice for Madarame, even going so far as to say that this is Madarame’s once in a lifetime chance to be with this girl of his dreams. What’s really notable about her behavior in this instance is that Ogiue has never really come across as being particularly invested in the Madarame/Sue combination even if she does believe it’s the right choice. It feels like there’s something more at stake here. Is it being able to finally get Sue to abandon the “Ogiue is my wife” joke (probably wouldn’t happen)? Does she truly believe that Madarame and Sue are best for each other? Does she want to give Sue some happiness? Whatever the case may be, I quite enjoyed seeing Ogiue’s fire.
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This month’s chapter of Genshiken Nidaime is about anal sex. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, my title for this post is awful.
Last chapter, after an emotional discussion between Hato and Madarame, Hato runs away. At the advice of Ogiue (who knows a thing or two about a situation like this), Madarame goes after him. As the two talk once more, Madarame explains that he does feel something for Hato (especially after that incident at the hotel), but as he goes into detail about the idea of being with a fudanshi, Hato brings up an important question. Is Madarame truly ready for what “Hato x Mada” really means? After discovering that the rest of the club was eavesdropping (a Genshiken tradition!), Madarame decides that he’ll have to “think about it,” and their date continues.
You can see my immediate reaction to this chapter in the tweet above. While Genshiken has gone many places, I never quite expected it to arrive at this point. Suffice it to say, I’m both surprised and impressed in a multitude of ways. I have to compliment Kio for being willing to take the story this far, and to do so in a way that makes sense for the characters of Genshiken. What also stands out to me about Chapter 120 is the way in which clarifies the conversation between Madarame and Hato in Chapter 119, whereby Madarame finally and much more clearly understands Hato’s concerns. In Hato’s own words, being with Hato consists of having to encounter a series of “landmines.”
Last chapter, Hato expressed the idea that Madarame doesn’t seem to understand what it means to be in a homosexual relationship. This chapter, Hato lays it out. First, Madarame mentions how he’d have to get used to the idea of being seen as a “sou-uke,” a total bottom, as is the trend among Genshiken’s BL fans. Second, Hato reminds Madarame that Hato is not like Ogiue: he’s not a fujoshi but a fudanshi, a guy. Third, he brings up the idea of Mada x Hato, and how he’s prepared for the possibility, which fazes Madarame a bit. Then, finally, he brings up “Hato x Mada.” As realization slowly dawns upon Madarame, the impact of that epiphany on Madarame is, in my opinion, a prime example of what I love about Kio’s storytelling through manga.
Madarame confesses that he hadn’t even thought about “Hato x Mada.” Right there, it becomes clear that Madarame hasn’t actually contemplated the prospect of being with Hato all the way through. Not only that, but it makes perfect sense given just how Madarame has approached the idea. In Chapter 72, Madarame mentions having played games with “girl-boy” characters, and that, because of the censorship and the effeminate appearances of the characters in those games, it’s not that different from heterosexual fare. In other words, Madarame has always seen himself in the “man’s role” so to speak, and the sticky, naked realities of having a mutually satisfying relationship with Hato was just completely outside his realm of imagination until now.
I don’t read very much BL or gay manga, but I get the feeling that these sorts of nitty-gritty details aren’t so common in stories unless they’re particularly explicit or raunchy. Not only that, but given the purpose of those stories, I believe the end result is usually what is expected. In contrast, it’s not clear where Madarame will end up. Of course, correct me if I’m wrong.
The fact that Madarame doesn’t just completely shut down and break away from Hato might say just as much in favor of Hato’s chances, as does Madarame asking the question of whether Hato x Mada would involve Hato in women’s clothes. However, I suspect that the story might actually be heading in a direction where, although the two have a kind of emotional or spiritual connection, Madarame might ultimately not want a physical one. Keiko even brings this up at the end, saying that the body itself will ultimately be the deciding factor (which she believes is in her favor, even with Angela around). In a way, this might be even more ideal for the fujoshi of Genshiken, just because it could be interpreted as a love beyond the trappings of flesh.
I have two more things to say about this chapter. First, we finally learned just what happened when Hato’s other selves, the BL fangirl floating in the sky as well as the Kaminaga version, “merged” with Hato. Obviously he didn’t really have magic ghosts with him. Rather, it was symbolic of him accepting all of his passions, that he can be into both “Mada x Hato” and “Hato x Mada.”
Second, at the beginning of the chapter when Ogiue is talking to Madarame, she mentions how Sasahara accepted everything about her. Just that one gag panel where she ends her sentence in a heart as she blushes profusely is actually one of Ogiue’s most adorable moments ever. As an Ogiue fan, it is quite satisfying.
A few months back, I mentioned the fact that Hatozine, a fanzine dedicated to the Genshiken character Hato Kenjirou, was accepting submissions. Now it’s been released, and I think it’s worth taking a look at to see the myriad expressions of interest for a character as dynamic and intriguing as Hato. Also it’s free!
Hatozine features fanfiction, fanart, comics, and even some essays, including one by yours truly. What I think is especially awesome about Hatozine is that it has work from both fans of Hato/Madarame and Hato/Yajima.
Check it out if you’re a Genshiken fan, a Hato fan, or even just fascinated by an otaku character with a very complex gender and sexuality identity. If you’re not interested in those things, it might just be an interesting window into the minds and feelings of those that are.
As Hato becomes aware of Yajima’s feelings for him, a heartfelt discussion between the two ensues, where they share their doubts and beliefs about what it means to live with oneself. Though ostensibly a prelude to the last “date” of their trip to Nikkou, the moment between Hato and Yajima might well end up being one of the highlights of Genshiken Nidaime.
Over and over, I think one of the questions asked of Nidaime has been, why a harem arc? Why go for the most stereotypical anime trope that potentially damages Genshiken as this realistic depiction of otaku and fujoshi? Given how Genshiken has turned out in its exploration of Madarame’s awkward love life, one answer has been that it’s commenting on the disconnect between the fantasy of the anime harem and the reality of interpersonal relationships. This has been supported by the characters themselves sometimes even saying as such. However, there’s a second possible answer that’s arguably much simpler, and perhaps even extends out from the original series, which is a desire to portray greater diversity in the otaku population, and that includes a greater number of girls and women.
While I cannot attribute any proof of intent to creator Kio Shimoku’s goals with the second Genshiken manga, there are a few factors that have me considering this. First, there’s the higher female to male ratio. Second, there’s Hato himself, who is, suffice it to say, rather complex when it comes to ideas of gender, sex, and sexuality. Third, there is the greater emphasis on the idea of body image in Nidaime. I think this is perhaps where the “harem,” one of the most upfront formulas for having a heavy amount of female characters in a series, becomes integrated into this idea of diverse representation.
In this chapter, the discussion between Hato and Yajima essentially falls on what it means to “look” or “behave” like a woman. Yajima tells Hato that his crossdressing affects her deeply because it reminds her that she is not beautiful, that she’s overweight and lacking in anything that would attract men. Hato responds that he’s jealous of Yajima because he has to constantly put on this ideal act of being a woman in order to keep from getting found out, whereas Yajima naturally exudes femininity even when she does not fit societal standards.
Moreover, Hato remarks that he totally believes a relationship between him and Yajima would be possible, and fondly imagines the idea of being able to share a love of BL with a fujoshi girlfriend, while also specifically mentioning that not just any fujoshi would do (Yoshitake’s personality he considers possibly incompatible). The very things that make Yajima hate the way she looks, the tension of being a woman but not “acting the part,” are what Hato finds appealing about Yajima. And yet, Hato resists starting a relationship because he came to Genshiken to make friends, fujoshi friends, and doesn’t want to taint that desire and pervert it into a pursuit of a relationship.
There’s a lot to unpack there! We have a clear indication that Hato is bisexual, or somewhere deep in that middle area of the Kinsey scale. We have Yajima, who’s not even part of the Madarame harem, sharing these everyday questions that can haunt the mind and subtly cripple one’s self esteem. Basically, there are these two embodiments of so much inner and outer pressure, and they are opening up to each other in a way that, while it technically fails the Bechdel Test in multiple ways (one of them is sexually a man after all, let alone Madarame being a major topic of conversation), it speaks to something deeper about how people view themselves relative to societal standards. For example, why is there sometimes the assumption that an attractive woman can fall in love with an unattractive man for his inner qualities, but that an unattractive woman has no chance with a beautiful man?
On top of all of this, Yajima shows something that I think is truly impressive: she isn’t fully comfortable with homosexuality still, despite being a fujoshi. At one point, Yajima thinks to herself that she should tell Hato, who has said that a relationship with Yajima isn’t out of the question, that he should make the “right” choice and go with a girl. In her mind, she sees that as the proper way things should go. However, and this is key, she holds back because she realizes how much Hato has gone through when it comes to his relationship with Madarame and the soul searching that he’s had to do. Here is a character who is in her own way affected by the standards society puts on women, yet is vulnerable to assumptions of what is normal and what is not as seen in how she opposes Hato’s crossdressing for so long, and over time is learning and changing her mind at a pace that is her own. In the end, Yajima encourages Hato to try his best in his pursuit of Madarame, and it means so much given what Yajima is thinking and what kind of person she is. It’s a real struggle that is rarely talked about.
Diversity and representation are two of the biggest topics when it comes to current American comics and cartoons. Japan’s history in this regard is different, with things such as shoujo, BL, yuri interacting with a traditional and contemporary sexist society. In Genshiken Nidaime there’s something powerful, almost as if there isn’t an overtly political motivation to improve representation of other sexes, genders, and sexualities, but a simpler desire to show more of the world in all of its complexities using the tools of manga. I’ve had a feeling along these lines the entire time I’ve been reading Nidaime, but this is perhaps the chapter where it stands out more than any other up to this point.
(Obligatory Ogiue sighting)
The truth comes out in more ways than one in this chapter of Genshiken. Not only does it turn out that this entire trip was an elaborate way to help Madarame towards finally making a decision about his love life (much to Kuchiki’s chagrin; it was supposed to be his graduation trip after all), but now Yajima knows that Hato is aware of her feelings for him. Within all of this is… the potential for yuri?!
I should be clear about that last point. Thus far in Genshiken outside of Hato and Madarame and the magical fictional world of BL, same sex relationships haven’t really been a factor. The closest thing we’ve seen is Sue being very attached to Ogiue in a way that makes it unclear whether she’s using otaku and manga references to assert her friendship with Ogiue in an odd way (Ogiue wa ME no yome!) or if there’s something more. Sure, there are yuri fans who ship certain pairings (Ogiue and her old middle school classmate/friend/bully Nakajima for example) but here even I who normally forego donning a pair of yuri goggles saw a few things that caught my attention. One was of course intentional by Kio, when Ohno comes onto Ogiue to make Kuchiki jealous (it’s complicated), but then you have a moment like this:
Actually, it almost feels like a “yaoi” moment using female characters. Has anyone done a study of how interactions are portrayed in yaoi vs. yuri? There’s also significantly more Ogiue in this chapter compared to the previous ones, but more on that later.
What I find especially fascinating about this whole Nikkou trip as a way to move Madarame forward is just the idea that he (and perhaps anyone) should not be able to let his relationships stagnate. As Evangelion has taught us, staying in the same place unable to move forward can be a crippling experience that appears comforting when it is seen as avoiding pain. While it could be seen as them pushing Madarame unnecessarily, his passive personality likely means that nothing would ever happen, and it would hurt everyone on all sides if it persists. Of course, there’s still a chance that Madarame will probably still come out of it indecisive because that’s just how he is, but the very fact that Genshiken is having its characters try to constantly prevent the “series of misunderstandings” that can occur when too many secrets are kept gives me the sense that everyone wants the best for each other.
Probably the biggest surprise of this chapter is everyone’s accepting attitudes towards Sue potentially ending up with Madarame, including the other girls interested in him. I mentioned in the previous chapter review that Yoshitake’s comments about Nikkou being a fake-out meant to draw attention away from Tokugawa’s real grave might be meta-commentary on the statuses of the others gunning for Madarame, and it looks like it’s panned out. Hato and Keiko have gotten so much attention, and Keiko even commented on how Sue is unlikely because of her personality, but here Keiko is in Chapter 116 saying that she won’t interfere with Sue like she does the others because that’s the one other person she’s okay with.
Given the cunning with which Keiko has competed, does this mean that she sees something special between Sue and Madarame that doesn’t exist with the other potential partners, including herself? Perhaps the fact that no one wants to interfere with Sue x Mada is because they understand both of their personalities, and that Sue in particular has her own battle to fight regarding her own feelings. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone other than Sue appears to be using wits and charm to pull Madarame towards them (or at least Keiko believes Hato to be doing this), and that if Sue turns out to be the one, that she’s “won” in more than one sense of the word. Again, suddenly Sue looks increasingly likely when she had previously been dismissed, turning everything upside down.
Kuchiki, in his jealousy, argues a version of a point that I’ve mentioned before, that Madarame has shown how his 2D and 3D tastes don’t necessarily line up. While he has mentioned that Sue is exactly the kind of person that matches his favorite anime archetype, there’s also no denying his lost love for Kasukabe. At the same time, Genshiken Nidaime plays significantly with the blurring of real and fictional interests, or rather the reveal that the difference between them is possibly fairly porous even if the two aren’t the same. However, there’s another possibility, which is that Madarame and Sue’s connection goes well beyond looks, and that, other than possibly Hato, Sue is the only one who match him blow for blow when it comes to otaku power levels, creating a truly ultimate “otaple.”
As I mentioned above, Ogiue has gotten more attention in this chapter than every other one in this “Nikkou Arc,” though not enough to make her a particularly important character for this story. However, it does give us many glorious Ogiue faces.
A lot could be said about Hato and Yajima, but it seems like they’re saving the big guns for next chapter, alongside Sue & Madarame’s Excellent Adventures. Until then…!
Hato Kenjirou is one of the central characters of Genshiken whose struggles with gender and sexuality and overall cheerful yet reserved personality have earned him many fans. Some folks have decided to create a fanzine all about Hato, and while he’s not everyone’s favorite character (see name of blog), I think it’s really awesome and I encourage all Hato fans and perhaps even fans of Genshiken to either send something in or at least take a look when the finished product arrives.
Submissions are open for HatoZine, and are due on October 15, 2015. Make sure to check out the submission guidelines too.
As for myself, I indeed plan on writing something. Or have I already written something and just haven’t sent it in yet???
And of course, thanks to Alison Wilgus for telling me about HatoZine.
It’s Keiko’s turn for with Madarame, and she uses the opportunity as only Keiko can. At the same time, she shows both some chinks in her armor and her resilience in spite of that. The chapter also ends with a reference to Overman King Gainer, which is never a bad thing.
One thing I’ve neglected when it comes to these recent Nikkou chapters of Genshiken is the potential meaning behind Yoshitake’s historical expositions. One purpose is to show that Yoshitake is indeed a history otaku, and visiting such a culturally significant place as Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb would set her off, yet I can’t help but feel that there’s a sense of metacommentary behind it. According to Yoshitake, Ieyasu purposely lied about the true location of his grave in order to mislead his enemies, and similarly it’s possible that Kio Shimoku has been placing one Madarame love interest in front of the others as a kind of red herring. The question is, then, which of the four is actually in the “lead?”
The answer is probably Keiko or Hato at this point, and you could make cases for either. In Chapter 115, Keiko outright states her case. Keiko: The Realistic Choice. It’s not the most inspiring campaign slogan, so to speak, but as I’ve mentioned in the past that is part of the Keiko x Mada pairing’s charm, that they already seem like a married couple, that opposites attract, etc. In certain ways, like a tangent graph, the more Keiko x Mada is a thing, the more it approaches (but never quite reaches) Spotted Flower. It’s realistic in a very specific sense of the word, where it reflects a popular image of how monogamous love and relationships are “behind the scenes.”
As for Hato, Yoshitake makes a comment that Hato has gotten closer to Madarame as a guy than he ever has in his female guise. Whether Yoshitake realizes it or not, she’s directly addressing one of Keiko’s criticisms of Hato, that he’s putting on an act, a performance, to get attention. Is this gender performativity, and is Keiko any less guilty of it?
If Hato is the front-runner, however, then this chapter is possibly the undermining of that, and again it has to do with Keiko. At the end of the chapter, Speaking of that, Keiko defies the standard manga progression, where secrets are unspoken and affect the dynamics of the love polygon, by just telling Hato about Yajima’s feelings for him. Cutting to the chase in that way is very characteristic of Keiko. You’d think it’d perhaps also be Saki-esque, but I feel like while Saki was devious, it’s a different kind of planning and awareness when Keiko is involved. Keiko is “realistic,” and part of her “reality” is that she both shatters illusions while creating others, and is very aware of everything that goes into presenting herself to Madarame. The main thing that throws her off is that Madarame is indecisive beyond her imagination, to the point that she at first interprets his waffling as rejection. There is a great deal of miscommunication because Keiko just perceives the world differently compared to the primarily otaku cast.
Keiko’s reaction to her “rejection” is fascinating in its own way. You can tell just from how shocked she is that Madarame might not be interested in her just how much confidence she had about winning. It actually didn’t occur to her that she wouldn’t be able to do just the right things to get Madarame to fall into her arms. It’s indicative of how she thinks that she feels that Angela is the biggest threat to her but is thankfully stymied by a long distance, and sees Sue as being too reticent for anything to happen, not realizing that this might be part of her appeal. Keiko aims for physical desire, and aims her personality in that direction.
So what does it mean that Hato is aware of Yajima now? It could go in a lot of different directions, but I could see it going for a while where Yajima doesn’t know that Hato knows about her crush. Yajima is fairly observant, but nowhere near on the level of Keiko or Saki, and Keiko is likely going to try and push them together. In other manga, Keiko might be viewed as the scheming villain, but I wonder if Hato and Yajima would be so bad after all. For one thing, characters like Yajima, especially in terms of physical appearance, are kind of a rarity in manga and anime, and to have them together might make for an interesting statement.
As for the red herrings, perhaps neither Keiko nor Hato are as likely choices as they seem.