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Big Ogiue, Final Stage: Genshiken II, Chapter 127

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

Chapter Summary

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

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

And So It Goes…

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

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

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

Kuchiki is Human Too

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

It might also be that Hato can kick his ass.

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

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

Passing of the Torch

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

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

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

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

Thanks from other Manga Artists

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

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

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

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

Then Chapter 56 happened.

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

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

Reading is FUNdamental: Genshiken II, Chapter 123

Genshiken 123 marks a new era in the manga, away from the trials and tribulations of Madarame and his sudden popularity with girls and back to the club room and otaku life. However, far from a reset, things are looking to change more than ever.

Chapter Summary

A summary of this chapter’s events won’t quite do it justice, but I still want to lay out the basic framework for this month before delving into the little details:

As the members gather in the club room, Hato decides to show everyone the manuscript for his new manga, which is BL. Uncharacteristically, Yoshitake seems to be especially flustered by how “vulgar” it is, when Kuchiki makes an unwelcome appearance. Supposedly showing up just to pick up some belongings, Ogiue realizes that Kuchiki is actually just pilfering erotic doujinshi from the club room and even gets him to admit that he’d been stealing them for a while. Accusing Kuchiki of stealing the very doujinshi that Sasahara was looking for at his own graduation, it turns out that Madarame had just forgotten to return it. Kuchiki, upon seeing the doujinshi, begs to have it for a quick “bathroom break,” which causes Ogiue to call him vulgar. Sasahara (who is texting with Ogiue) allows Kuchiki to borrow it before graduating, much to Ogiue’s consternation.

Doujinshi, an Essential

While I most certainly enjoyed and was intrigued by the Madarame Harem arc of Genshiken, this chapter made me aware of a significant shift that happened during the past couple of years. The manga has spent so much time on real relationships that it’s almost easy to forget that this is a story not just about otaku but about many of the awkward aspects of life that are embraced by otaku as well. One of these is a very close connection with doujinshi, particularly of the pornographic kind, and this chapter is a reminder that the characters of Genshiken past and present have such a personal connection to doujinshi that they will think about it even as they graduate. We saw the otaku mind when confronted with romance and sexual identity, and now we’re once again privy to the otaku in their “natural habitat.”

But what a natural habitat it is! The otaku clubroom possesses a kind of public/private duality because the bond is founded in mutual interests, and one of those shared passions is for sexy 2D characters. At times, we like to talk about otaku as possessing a kind of strange nobility, whether that’s through fanciful Densha Otoko-esque stories or through the advent of stylish otaku and fujoshi, but still that 2D complex remains. It’s not something to be ashamed about, but it’s there, and it’s only appropriate that it have an incredibly baudy yet stylish cover.

It’s also amusing that it’s basically going to be Ogiue’s job to return a doujinshi about a large-breasted heroine (from Kujibiki Unbalance, of course) to her boyfriend. Sasahara and Ogiue’s relationship is built on a foundation of full otaku romance, and part of that is both a general awareness and acceptance of each others’ preferences.

Ogiue the Sexual Veteran

Speaking of Ogiue and Sasahara, the main gag of this chapter hinges on the use of the term “vulgar,” or more specifically in Japanese, namanamashii (生々しい), which means “raw.” Yoshitake, who is normally all about encouraging perversion, is suddenly taken aback by Hato’s BL manga. Ogiue, in contrast, seems unfazed. I believe that contrast is a reference to the difference in Ogiue and Yoshitake’s sexual experience. Ogiue is in a physical relationship, and as Ohno once put it, her having sex with Sasahara has made her own BL doujinshi that much more realistic. Yoshitake experiences sex only through media, and the fact that she points out being the same age as Ogiue implies a kind of jealousy.

While we don’t see the contents of Hato’s manga, I think that its “rawness” is basically a product of Hato reconciling his feelings, learning not to fight who he is, and actually being a man. Even if Hato hasn’t had a homosexual relationship, he can perhaps get closer to reality by being a guy.

New School Year!

As much as the manga seems to be returning to club antics, however, there is the definite sense that time continues to move forward, and the events of the past are still creating ripples. Hato and Yajima now have a kind of cute awkwardness towards each other, remembering their conversation at Nikkou where Yajima basically admitted her feelings and Hato mentioned having thought of being with her. Hato’s face lights up when he sees Madarame, but it’s turned into a kind of very close friendship.

And then there’s the moment I’ve been anticipating for a long time: Ogiue is finally in her senior year of college! She wants to get serialized in a manga magazine, which Yoshitake remarks is Ogiue’s version of “finding employment.” Ohno makes a joke that she’s in her “fourth year” as well, but Ogiue calls her out on it. I think this is actually Ohno’s sixth or seventh year, but I’ve lost track at this point. What would a Genshiken without even Ogiue or Ohno in its core cast be like?! For that matter, a new school year means the potential for new members!

That’s what Kio is enticing the readers with for the next chapter preview, which says, “That girl is showing up!” The most likely candidate (and I’m 99% confident about it) is Risa, Yoshitake’s younger sister. As a reminder, Risa is tall, likes to dress like a guy, and is a complete shotacon who also has a mix of respect and potential attraction towards Hato. Risa is welcome, but I’d really like to see some fresh blood as well. I understand that the cast of Genshiken is so large at this point, however, that it might not be practical.

Ogiue Expression Extravaganza

One of my traditions with these Genshiken chapter reviews is to end off with a picture of Ogiue. However, with Chapter 123, there’s probably more choice Ogiue content here than in the last 50 or so chapters combined. There are silly faces, awkward moments with Sue, and even some choice expressions of anger and disdain, which is how we Ogiue fans got to originally know her all those years ago. I’m not afraid to admit that seeing her scowl again invigorates me, and in a way I have to wonder if Kuchiki’s presence in Genshiken serves a useful purpose in this respect.

Seriously, I can’t choose just one!

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orz: Genshiken II, Chapter 111

Chapter 111 of Genshiken II more or less features Madarame on top of Hato for the entire duration. Is it a sign of Madarame’s feelings gradually changing, an extended comedy scene, a heart to heart pep talk, nerds nerding it up, or something more?

I find it very appropriate how the conversation between Madarame and Hato goes, with respect to the mix of anime/manga analysis, sexual confusion, genuine desire to help, and how all of this connects to the basic premise of Genshiken as the story of a club of awkward otaku. Almost as soon as Madarame accidentally falls onto him (see last chapter), Hato starts to talk about Madarame as a “lucky pervert” (lucky sukebe), the trope often found in anime and manga (especially harem series) where guys and girls will accidentally fall on each other in compromising positions. Like gusts of winds blowing skirts up, it’s generally regarded as something that only conveniently happens in fiction. By mentioning it, Hato attempts to deflate situation and, as we can later see, to avoid having his imagination go wild. “It finally happens, but it’s when I’m a guy. How unfortunate for you.” While “This isn’t manga!” has itself become a trope of Japanese comics, here I think it’s used to different effect as a way to highlight Hato and Madarame’s characters.

I believe the fact that Hato is a guy during this situation is an important factor, and not simply for the possibility that Madarame might be feeling something for Hato even without his female guise. Rather, it’s because Hato is a guy that Madarame can speak comfortably to him in this situation and even encourage Hato to not be so down on himself. Madarame basically says to Hato to stop mentioning “reality” as if it’s the final destination, the end of hope, the cruel master that rules over him, and uses his own feelings about Hato giving him chocolates as the example of how Hato’s actions have meaning, pperhaps playing into the idea that reality is a social construct and that people can attempt to change reality through the same channels. At the same time, he engages in a dialogue with Hato that follows a similar flow to the typical Madarame/Genshiken discussion over anime, manga, moe, and other otaku topics. In a way, because Madarame has a tendency to freeze up when confronted with the opposite sex, even though it’s clear that he is attracted to them, all of this could only have happened when Hato was a guy.

As mentioned above, Hato tries to use otaku talk to deflect, but Madarame actively engages with it to bring the situation back to “reality.” I think it’s because, while Madarame certainly doesn’t confuse fantasy for reality, he long ago embraced his 2-D complex and his love of anime for all of its worth, seemingly at the expense of his connection to the real world. Of course, the current arc with its emphasis on potential romance for Madarame is partly about how much this has changed, and the more I think about it, the more I find it interesting just how these two characters, as well as every other character in Genshiken, approaches that anime/fantasy vs. reality question in different and fascinating ways. It’s actually one of the topics that’s been with Genshiken throughout, and perhaps it should be the subject of a future post. It’s been a long time since I wrote about Genshiken outside of these chapter reviews, after all.

I think at this point it’d more than make sense for Madarame x Hato to happen, but at the same time I find that the other girls have their own interesting interactions with Madarame as well, so it’s not like this one outshines the others. In that sense, perhaps Genshiken provides more of a “harem” feel than most actual harem series, because often times those will have one girl clearly stand out among the rest as the “main heroine.” For Genshiken, all of the possible Madarame romances have potential, and all operate under different dynamics. Connected to this somewhat, when Madarame brings up the topic of BL, which Hato tries to mentally resist, he says that this situation isn’t right for Madarame, who’s supposed to be an “uke.” While admitting that he doesn’t really know anything about BL in the first place, Madarame replies that Hato is the only person out of the “harem” where Madarame would probably be the aggressive one, even if alcohol were to be involved.

Upon reflecting on Madarame’s words, I find that he’s actually right. Only Hato would end up in this situation because Angela, Keiko, and Sue are very strong-willed. With any of the three girls, with the possible exception of Sue, it’s hard to imagine them even in that position, and if Angela and Keiko were it’d probably be of their own devices, an intentional seemingly passive action to appeal to Madarame’s otaku senses/fear of women.

In any case, I feel like this is a point of no return for Madarame and Hato, not least because they were “interrupted” by Kuchiki, rather than breaking apart of their own volition. Whether or not it ends in love, pain, or just mutual yet awkward friendship, they’ve arrived somewhere new.

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Hatoful: Genshiken II, Chapter 110

After successfully getting a drunk and passed out Kuchiki back to the hotel, Madarame invites Hato to drink and talk. With the help of some liquid courage, Hato pours out his thoughts on crossdressing, his exact feelings for Madarame, and the line between fantasy and reality. After their long and revealing conversation, Madarame gets up, but inadvertently does the harem protagonist thing and ends up in a compromising position with Hato due to a combination of Madarame’s poor physical strength, alcohol, and a rogue shoe.

Chapter 110 is, in a word, heavy. Or thoughtful (insert Japanese pun here). Most of the pages and panels consist of Hato just gradually letting it all out, talking through his issues while trying to resolve them (though perhaps making them worse?), and it really leaves an impression. Though we’ve known for quite a while now how Hato feels about Madarame, to also see a fuller elaboration of Hato’s complex personality and circumstances that has been wrapped around those feelings makes me think that this is one of the most important chapters in Genshiken.

Hato mentions a lot of things, including why he has avoided coming over to Madarame’s after Valentine’s Day (the situation was too much like a BL narrative for him to be comfortable), but what it all comes down to in terms of Hato’s inner conflict is the idea that “reality can never be BL.” It’s a subject that gets talked about a fair deal in both fan and academic circles, because of how BL’s portrayal of homosexual relationships is highly romanticized; some have even called it problematically unrealistic as a form of storytelling that generally appeals more to women than to actual gay men. Are Hato’s feelings too mixed up in his fundashi ways for him to separate his fondness for yaoi from an actual relationship with Madarame, and is that even what he wants to do?

In the case of Ogiue back in the first series, we saw that the answer was “yes and no.” Though she drew doujinshi of Sasahara and Madarame, she said that the fictional Sasahara was more of a character than anything else. At the same time, Sasahara has slowly incorporated bits of his own BL parody’s personality, namely a position as a “strong seme” that thrills and plays into Ogue’s own fantasies. What I find interesting with Hato here is that he’s not so much worrying about treating Madarame like a 2D character but wondering how much he can maintain his own position and life between fantasy and reality.

This can be seen in Hato’s explanation that he’s tried to maintain the “Madarame harem” as much as possible, because his actions essentially push reality as close to the fantasy of the harem series (and Hato’s chances with Madarame) that it can go without breaking the “illusion.” Years ago, I wrote a post (and never wrote a part 2. Whoops!) about how many protagonists in harem series are purposefully passive and indecisive because it means that, not only does every girl (or guy if it’s a reverse harem) get the chance, but the main character through their passivity is essentially free of any true error. It’s a kind of stasis or holding pattern, and in a previous chapter Madarame even comments internally how this is actually untenable in reality (even indecision has its consequences). Hato essentially tries the same thing, but by not being the “center” of the harem, it has something of a different intention and effect.

From Hato’s perspective, Madarame is essentially straight (even if he does play games about extremely effeminate crossdressing boys who get pregnant), so Hato has the least chance of winning Madarame compared to Angela, Sue, and Keiko. Once, Madarame even said back in Chapter 79 that it was “biologically impossible.” Hato believed that the closest he could come to being with Madarame was in this “harem” format. It occupies roughly the same school of thought as “I’m happy if the person I love is happy” (Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura) and “I can substitute my love for another girl with that girl’s twin brother who looks almost exactly alike” (Kana in Aki Sora). It’s likely why Keiko dislikes him so much. As we see in this chapter, though, Hato believes it’s time to move on, and that Madarame should choose one of the girls who are pursuing him.

There’s actually an extra fold in all of this concerning Hato. Even as he realizes that he’s gay or perhaps bisexual and can identify himself that way when dressed as a man, he still wants to continue to crossdress for reasons somewhat unrelated to his sexuality. It helps him to draw as he wants to. It makes him comfortable when talking to friends and making new ones. All along, he’s mentioned that BL and real guys are two different things, and that the crossdressing doesn’t reflect his sexual preferences. It still carries that meaning, but more in that Hato the man who has feelings for Madarame is not 100% the same as Hato the “woman” that loves to discuss BL. Or is that really the case? It seems like Hato himself doesn’t entirely know, though one possibility is laid out in Spotted Flower where the equivalent of Hato is either in the process of transitioning physically into a woman, or has done so already. As that’s supposed to vaguely be an alternate what-if scenario, it’s not clear if this Hato is the same way deep down, but his own view of himself as male or female seems likely.

I think it’s worth mentioning briefly that, within Genshiken itself, we see another character who tries to toe the line between fantasy and reality in Kuchiki, who loves the idea of the girl-boyas, though he’s shown to desire a world more like his anime fantasies than his reality, just as much if not more than Hato.

Of course, all of this has been focusing on one half of the equation for this chapter. What about Madarame? How does he really feel? Though he’s firmly maintained and argued for his heterosexuality, we’ve seen moments where he’s been legitimately confused. Not only does Madarame think about Hato’s words as an example of him being rejected again, but we also see a lot of blushing in this chapter. While I believe it’s purposely ambiguous as to whether his and Hato’s flushed faces are more from the alcohol or their own feelings, it increasingly sets up the possibility that, contrary to Hato’s beliefs, he really does have a chance.

A few questions come out of this. First, has Hato’s active and passive blurring of fantasy and reality (including the fact that he still has his makeup on) “worked” to make Madarame realize that he’s not 100% into the opposite sex after all? Second, would Kio Shimoku actually go through with having the character most representative of the classic otaku in Genshiken be to even somewhat gay? Third, would this cause those afraid of the subject of homosexuality who have identified with Madarame to reject his character, or would perhaps this bring in people who have felt similar to Madarame but don’t necessarily prescribe to heteronormative values?

As the chapter ends and Madarame is accidentally sprawled on top of Hato, I find myself truly unsure of what’s going to happen. I mean, most likely it will be “nothing,” just like it was “nothing” when it came to Sue and Keiko (Angela still has yet to truly make her move). However, whereas in the past I would say that Madarame most likely won’t have any realizations when it comes to Hato, now I’m not so certain. My prototypical otaku character can’t possibly be this challenging.

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Maury Povich Nidaime: Genshiken II, Chapter 108

In Chapter 108 of Genshiken II, Yajima’s mom plays “Are you a Man or a Woman,” Yajima tries to get closer to Hato, and the club meets Yajima’s dad. As Kuchiki has a surprisingly heartfelt moment.

I think Genshiken in general has a knack for conversations that feel natural while reflecting the awkwardness of its characters, and nowhere is this more evident than in the scene between Hato and Yajima this chapter. As Hato and Yajima are going to pick up Madarame and Kuchiki from the nearby hotel (motel?), Yajima begins to talk to him about his comic. It’s the one subject where she believes that they’re on roughly even ground and that they can both relate to in a way that the others (sans Ogiue) cannot, so she’s going to use it for all that it’s worth. It’s a moment that really says, “Yes, this is what Yajima is about.” What makes this scene really work for showcasing Yajima’s feelings, though, is the artwork itself, where Yajima is trying her best to work through her own awkwardness and continue conversation.

Obviously that scene references the previous chapters where Yajima and Hato have been working on their manga, but there are actually quite a few callbacks to events much further back in Genshiken as well. The first one worth mentioning is Yajima’s mom trying to guess which of the girls is in fact a boy. You might recall that this happened in Chapter 56, the very first chapter of Nidaime, when Madarame predictably couldn’t figure it out and Saki was able to with one look. Looking back, it’s kind of amazing how that was Madarame and Hato’s first meeting, and now it’s gotten to this crazy stage. Also, the logic Yajima’s mom uses to single out Keiko is clear, even if she’s off the mark: all of that effort put into her makeup and appearance has to be for something, right?

Poor Keiko. Poor Yajima. Speaking of Yajima, she really does look like the halfway point between her parents.

Speaking of Yajima’s mom, I do find it interesting that the chapter goes out of its way to point out her similarities to Yoshitake in terms of personality. I think we’re supposed to interpret that comparison in two ways, the first being that she has a kind of subtly aggressive personality as she questions everyone’s gender (including her own daughter’s!), and the second being that she gives off a warm, inviting personality. One could even argue that Yajima, who takes after her father in terms of temperament, would get along with someone who’s just like her mother. That’s probably a stretch, though.

The second callback comes from the bath scenes. Recalling the Karuizawa trip, it’s quite telling that Keiko treated the disparity in chest size between her and Ohno back then not as an attack on her confidence, but in the case of Angela she sees the American character’s body as more of a threat. No doubt this is done to show that Keiko views Angela as the most dangerous rival of all for Madarame, reinforcing also her initial view of Angela upon finding out that Angela has a thing for Madarame. I’ve talked about this before, but the friendly antagonism that exists between Keiko and Angela is something you don’t see in a lot of manga, let alone manga about a group of otaku. Both clearly have a lot of sexual experience, both are aware of this fact, and thus both see each other in a different light compared to the rest.

To a lesser extent, Ogiue and Sue’s bath scene also references Karuizawa, but it’s not as significant. It’s mostly just an opportunity to make a joke at Ogiue’s expense, though in this case it’s her own self-deprecation. Actually, when I think about it, most of the time when the subject of Ogiue’s chest comes up, it’s usually her putting words into another person’s mouth. “Now you’re going to say… I’m a small-chested tsundere!” exclaims Ogiue “Joseph Joestar” Chika, as Sasahara or Sue or whoever denies her accusation.

The last reference to the past is the most obvious, as Kuchiki is told to recount how he became a member of Genshiken in the first place. Between his initial club visit, his running away upon seeing the lovey-dovey interactions between Kousaka and Saki, his re-joining the club and causing trouble from the get-go, the scene for the most part reinforces Kuchiki’s role in the story as that annoying guy in the club you just can’t get rid of. However, Kio takes the time to put a bit of a twist on all of that when he has Kuchiki reminds everyone of Genshiken’s origins as a home for misfit otaku (the rejects of the rejects).

In this regard, I  find that his apology to Ogiue actually says a lot. As he’s giving his speech before the toast, Ogiue jokingly reminds him that in their first meeting he laid her hands on him and that she’d never forget that, and Kuchiki gets down on his knees (“dogeza”), and immediately says sorry. Within this one moment, we can see that, as much as Kuchiki is generally a completely tactless and grating individual, that he cherishes Genshiken as more than just a place where he can fantasize about being a harem lead. Rather, it’s his home, a place that accepted him when nowhere else would, and to lose that connection is to lose a sense of belonging.

A few days ago I posted a translation of Japanese blogger Tamagomago’s latest article on Genshiken, where he asserts that the distinction between otaku and non-otaku, at least as it was in the mid-1990s to early-2000s, no longer really matters or indeed exists in the same capacity. Kuchiki clearly comes from before this time (as does Madarame of course), and I think given how Nidaime has gone it’s easy to forget just how awkward the club used to be. Kuchiki is a refreshing reminder of its origins, of a time that has arguably passed ages ago, and how places like Genshiken can be important for the awkward. On a personal level, as I’ve gotten older myself I’m no longer quite the nervous teenager I once was, and though vestiges of it still exist within me (and I’m still an awkward individual to be sure), it can be easy to forget just how intense it can be to worry that you don’t belong.

In a way, I wonder if Genshiken and its titular club at this point embody not simply the idea of a group of otaku, but the idea of a space to grow.

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You Must Be Tripping: Genshiken II, Chapter 106

As Hato and Yajima struggle to make more manga, Kuchiki announces that he’s finally finished his senior thesis and wants to have a club trip in celebration. Though Kuchiki would prefer to travel abroad, the other members can’t afford to do so and they ultimately decide on going to Nikkou, and to stay at Yajima’s parents’ house, which is close to Nikkou. However, the club soon finds out that not only is Madarame coming along but so are some of the girls interested in him—Angela and Keiko. Moreover, Yajima somewhere deep inside sees this as an opportunity to get closer to Hato.

I feel a bit sorry for Kuchiki at this point. Think about it: Genshiken is the closest thing he has to friends, and all of them barely tolerate his existence. They have good reason for treating him that way, of course, but even what’s supposed to be a farewell vacation in celebration of Kuchiki finishing his senior thesis is secretly a “finally Kuchiki will be out of our hairs for good” adventure. On some level, I respect Kio for keeping Kuchiki around all this time, even if he’s rarely present. I feel that with a character this grating, most manga would have jettisoned him for the sake of popularity, but there Kuchiki was, being “that guy” after Haraguchi graduated long ago. It’s as if there’s a need to remind people that being a dork isn’t always endearing, but that the issue comes less from just being socially awkward and more from lacking consideration for others in your words and actions. The only question is, if this manga continues, will someone new and equally irritating eventually take his place?

As for the real meat of the story this month (sorry Kuchiki but you’re a side note even in this chapter), it looks like the feelings of jealousy (?) expressed by Hato towards Yajima and her superior manga-making skills are blossoming into something more. Though, to be accurate, it’s more like Yajima is trying to passively seize this opportunity to get closer to Hato in a way she never could, as an equal (or perhaps even a superior). It wasn’t so long ago that Yoshitake was barely able to get Yajima to admit that she has feelings for Hato, and to see her begin to sort of, kind of make a move is nothing if not impressive. I think the idea being expressed through their interaction is that, for Yajima, being able to see Hato as imperfect boosts her own confidence and thus her ability to see Hato as a “possibility” in her life. This comes across clearly when Yajima gives Hato advice on his manga, saying that it’s only half-done. Yajima has never acted like that around anyone, let alone Hato, the closest being when she acts as the “big sister” (or maybe something more?) to Mimasaka, or when she’s looking to strangle Yoshitake. There’s also something very real about the creator’s blocks that Hato and Yajima are experiencing, as Hato is struggling to get his story out in a cohesive sense while Yajima’s brilliance came from a lot of pent up emotion and a situation that is just difficult to replicate.

One of the main factors in the trip to Nikkou is Madarame and the Girls Who Love Him, which is not only a cruel joke against Kuchiki but also evidence that, despite some traumatic experiences with them, Keiko and Sue’s stories aren’t over yet (Sue isn’t mentioned but I’m sure she’ll be a part of the trip somehow). On top of that, it’s now Angela’s turn to have her chapter, and the fact that the setting is a trendy tourism spot makes me wonder if it’ll be Angela’s flirtation cranked up to 11 (especially if she catches wind of what Keiko attempted), or if she’ll go for a more subdued approach in her (mostly accurate) assessment of how to nab an otaku boyfriend.

As a final, Ogiue-related note, Ohno’s comment on the Karuizawa trip being the start of Sasahara and Ogiue’s romance made me realize that, probably much like Ogiue herself, I had always associated that whole thing with trauma and pain. You can even see Ogiue’s reaction to this when Kuchiki mentions Karuizawa and she’s the only one with a sweatdrop. However, Ohno has a point, and it really is the turning point for Ogiue, her sense of self, and her happiness. Karuizawa is when she managed to finally let it all out, whether in a long and sad drunken rant to the other girls, or to Sasahara as they were walking. It’s kind of amazing that the meaning of such a significant moment in Genshiken, for Ogiue, and by extension for this blog Ogiue Maniax, could still continue to change.


Humicane from Rotten Boy: Genshiken II, Chapter 89

As Yoshitake pressures Yajima into potentially revealing that she has feelings for Hato, Kuchiki sees a distraught Hato committing the worst crime of ComiFes: not enjoying himself. In a rare moment of clarity and benevolence (albeit still horribly awkward), Kuchiki teaches Hato that worrying what other people think about you goes against the otaku way. Hato, who suspects that his interest in Madarame may be a matter of him being interested in Madarame in particular and not guys in general, suggests that he hook up with Angela (who is of course likely eager to do so).

This month’s Genshiken II, titled “Festival Evol,” is a reference to the anime Aquarion Evol, which is appropriate in a number of ways. First, Aquarion Evol is the next generation of characters after the original Genesis of Aquarion, which is similar to Nidaime. Second, in the final episode of Aquarion Evol (SPOILERS), the titular robot turns into “Aquarion LOVE,” which is of course one of the themes of Chapter 89. You could maybe read something into the separation between boys and girls in that series too, but that might be going too far. The next chapter preview quote is also from another robot anime, Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, so it’s a good month for mecha references.

I find this chapter to somehow be incredibly straightforward but also quite complicated in terms of its developments, so I’m not entirely sure how to approach it. I guess the first thing I’ll say is that, I do know from personal experience that sometimes you think you like someone more than you actually do. I’ve had cases where I was interested in girls, and when they got significant others, my feelings were not jealousy or regret or forlorn heartbreak, but simply satisfaction and relief. In those cases, “what could have been” doesn’t really enter the equation, a personal realization that my own feelings weren’t that strong after all. Is this the case with Hato and his feelings towards Madarame? Something tells me “no,” if only because it only seems to be deflecting or delaying the problems surrounding him. I’m not sure if the BL genre’s classic “I don’t like men, I just like you!” line really works in “reality,” nor the reality Genshiken wishes to depict.

More generally, not understanding one’s own feelings is a recurring element of the otaku subculture, especially when it comes to human interaction. Not to fall into the stereotype of otaku and fujoshi having no social skills or sex, but it’s clear from previous chapters that their experiences with romance have been limited or marred with awkwardness. It only makes sense that not only Hato but Yajima seems to be either consciously or unconsciously denying something, even if it doesn’t necessarily go as far as sexual attraction. I find it both interesting and relevant to this chapter that both Hato and Yajima are the types to restrain themselves to a certain degree even when among their comrades.

The highlight of this chapter may be the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Kuchiki successfully do something admirable. He’s tried in the past before, like when trying to stop the cosplay thief at the club recruitment fair, but that led to such disaster that it’s one of the first things mentioned in Genshiken II. While Kuchiki is obnoxious and doesn’t understand social problems, he does bring up the relevant point that Hato’s interests in and of themselves do not cause trouble for anyone, nor should they. It makes me think about the other classic annoying character of Genshiken who hasn’t appeared in forever, Haraguchi, and how different the two are. Unlike Haraguchi, Kuchiki is selfish and rude but too honest to be manipulative.

As for the possibility of Angela being Madarame’s first time, I actually really want it to happen now. I don’t particularly care if Madarame and Angela become a “thing,” and of course there’s the long-distance component in all that, but there’s something about Angela just getting the job done that I find potentially hilarious. Genshiken has never been big on valuing female virginity, going all the way back to Saki discussing her sex life with the club members, or the fact that Ogiue is at this point very much not one, but somehow Madarame the virgin is the bigger deal. Losing it in a brief fling where both parties are aware of the lack of classic romance as well as the time limitations would be appropriate and a subtle defiance of the “nerd guy gets the hot girl!” trope, without necessarily being sad, even if Madarame is portrayed as somewhat of a romantic at heart.

This month’s Genshiken also came with an extra comic by another artist, about one of the Genshiken Nidaime anime voice dubbing sessions. As previously discussed, the new anime has an entirely new voice cast, and it’s a lot about the director (who has worked on the previous Genshiken anime) instructing them on the nuances of the characters. Naturally, they don’t reference the previous actors, as that would compromise the legitimacy of the current cast. Probably the most interesting tidbit is at the end, when it turns out that a lot of the female voice actors are themselves fans of Genshiken, and were all asking Kio Shimoku for his autograph. Kio is reportedly a very private individual, which actually just makes me think of him as Madarame, secretly attractive.

Lovely Charming: Genshiken II, Chapter 73

When you ask a group of fujoshi (+1 fudanshi) for personal stories of high school romance, you get anything but. That’s Genshiken II, Chapter 73.

Chapter 73 of Genshiken II opens up right where the last chapter left off. In an effort to both have a story that can complement Hato’s drawing style and to also get out of her own creative rut, Ogiue is looking to write a shoujo manga with a high school campus festival setting. However, just as Ogiue is unable to draw on her own experience to write the story (“Actually, I didn’t even have any friends,” as she bluntly states), the only thing she gets from the freshmen are tiny pockets of sadness.

First up is Yajima, who recalls a boy who used to insult her drawings and then rub salt in the wound by actually being a better artist than her. The closest this gets to anything resembling “romance” is that the guy originally came up with a bizarre and insulting nickname for her (Hetakuso (Crappy) -> Hetappy -> Tappy) but eventually stopped using it. As Yoshitake points out, that seems more like bullying than anything else.

Second is Yoshitake, who went to an all-girls’ school and spent all her time in the history club. There, she debated history through the lens of a fujoshi. While plenty of girls in her school had boyfriends, Yoshitake certainly did not.

Last is Hato, who also claims that nothing happened with him. He’d never confessed to anyone, he was never confessed to, and talking about high school makes Hato increasingly nervous. Yajima tries to stop Yoshitake from prodding further by reminding her of what Hato said about being bullied, but this triggers the inner detective in Yoshitake. According Yoshitake, Hato’s difficulties in high school couldn’t possibly just be the result of revealing his interest in yaoi, but that romance was a factor. Before Yoshitake can pressure Hato into telling everything though, Kuchiki comes in and inadvertently rescues Hato from the interrogation through the power of his embarrassing awkwardness.

The chapter ends with Kuchiki revealing that unlike the rest of them, he actually had a girlfriend in high school (though it only lasted a day), and the shock is so great all-around that any remote chance of continuing the discussion fizzles out entirely. Ogiue declares that the high school romance idea is to be scrapped, and that she’ll be writing the cheesy overwrought stories (chuunibyou, or something an 8th grader would find deep) she usually does. Somehow, this whole fiasco may have inspired her to work again after all.

So at the end of the last review, I predicted that Sue would be the one to stun everyone with a tale of teenage love, but it turned out to be Kuchiki. I don’t think I was that far off, so I’m giving myself partial credit. And who knows, maybe we’ll still learn something about her in an upcoming chapter.

I’ve written a good deal about the generation gap that exists between the old and new Genshiken but seeing Yajima and Yoshitake’s respective pasts makes me feel that as much as things have changed, they’re still quite familiar in terms of the social troubles of being an otaku. Neither of them have had anything even closely resembling a relationship, and while you can chalk up some of the bullying to the fact that Yajima isn’t exactly the prettiest girl out there, it’s interesting to see that Yoshitake had to learn something about fashion along the way. If we compare Yoshitake’s style in high school to her sister Risa’s current look, there’s a noticeable difference, even putting aside their extremely different heights, faces, and body types.

At first I thought that the guy from Yajima’s past bore some resemblance to Risa (in the guise of “Rihito”), and that her initial attraction to the latter was somehow influenced by her experience with the former, but when I look at them side-by-side, I’m not sure if they’re similar enough to warrant that comparison. Perhaps if you consider the fact that they’re both tall and have bangs parted to the side, “Rihito” ends up looking like a more handsome version of that guy. Whether or not there’s a direct connection though, altogether I think it puts Yajima’s unease in the presence of the opposite sex into perspective.

While it’s kind of difficult to interpret the behavior of Yajima’s “friend” as him being attracted to her, I think this scenario is essentially the truth behind Hato’s own hidden teenage years. In the chapter, Sue points out that just as Yajima was mentioning the guy being better at drawing than her, Hato’s face turns a shade of red that would make a certain Zaku II Commander Type look subdued. There’s not much information to go on at this point, but I get the feeling that Hato’s inability to draw well when not in women’s clothing is a product of his failed high school romance, and that telling everyone about it may be the key to resolving his art problems. Perhaps he tried to get closer to a girl he liked by showing her his BL drawings, and his talent made her feel small by comparison.

And then there’s Kuchiki, who I think probably comes from the same lineage as Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. Both are extraordinarily creepy individuals, but they have perks in their lives that make the people around them feel worse. For Kimura, it’s a lovely wife and daughter, and for Kuchiki it’s having had a girlfriend at all, as well as having a well-paying job lined up after college thanks to nepotism.

The last two things I want to talk about are kind of small, but I feel the need to point them out.

First, the above panel is actually the first time we’ve seen the high school iteration of Ogiue in an actual chapter, and the second time we’ve seen her in a Genshiken book at all (third if you count Ogiue’s disguise at ComiFest). If you’re wondering about that other time, open up Volume 6 to the first page, and look kind of carefully.

Second, there are of course a number of references strewn throughout. Ohno mentions “HTT” or “Houkago Tea Time,” the band from K-On! Upon seeing Kuchiki, Sue says, “Hyoro-kun?”, a character from Chihayafuru (translated in the Crunchyroll subs as “Retro-kun”). Finally, the next chapter preview quote this time is “Next time, the Culture Festival draws near! That’s not what happens, but look forward to it anyway!” This is actually a reference to gdgd Fairies, which I reviewed previously. Now if you listened to me and watched the show, then you would’ve gotten the joke.


Cross Counter: Genshiken II, Chapter 68

Last month, we were promised a chapter with Yoshitake in the spotlight and Chapter 68 delivers in spades. We learn a lot about Yoshitake’s personality, her family, and even her deepest, darkest secret!!! Suffice it to say, a lot happens, so there’s more to talk about than usual, so you’ll have to forgive me if the following synopsis is wordier than usual.

When a couple of guys enter the Genshiken club room in an effort to hit on Hato, and the only senior member available is a spineless coward (Kuchiki), all seems lost until a tall and striking figure appears and shoos them away. The man turns out to be Yoshitake (Rika)’s brother, Rihito, and we learn the following about him: he is one year older than Yoshitake, attends a different university, and is an otaku (also apparently a shotacon). Yajima is completely smitten by this knight in shining armor, which Yoshitake picks up on immediately and uses to tease poor Yajima in subtle ways.

It turns out though that the guy who’d been hitting on Hato (and who had been asking about “the girl with the long brown hair” back in Chapter 60) is a member of the student government named Harima. Harima’s boss, a serious-looking man in glasses named Mikami, is concerned with the fact that this brown-haired girl no one knows has been seen around Genshiken since the start of the semester. There are strict rules against non-students attending, and Hato, though he is of course a student at Shiiou University, is fearful of having his secret revealed. Harima interjects and convinces Mikami to let him handle it.

Harima tries to clear up the misunderstanding about himself with Hato, except that it wasn’t really a misunderstanding and he actually was trying to hit on Hato after all. The awkward situation is only exacerbated when Kuchiki runs in for the “rescue” and is immediately choked out (again) by Hato. Harima is scared off, and Kuchiki falls unconscious with a smile on his face, though in the process inadvertently places his hand on Rihito’s chest. This in turn generates a decidedly feminine response in Rihito, who reflexively recoils away with a yelp, revealing an elaborate charade.

Yoshitake Rihito turns out to be Yoshitake Risa, Yoshitake’s younger sister who attends an all-girls’ high school and is a member of the school’s basketball club (but still actually a shotacon). Risa is a senior and was checking out Shiiou University as a prospective college, when Yoshitake decided to use the fact that Risa is often mistaken for a boy anyway to pull a prank on the others in Genshiken. However, Risa inadvertently reveals that her older sister is older than she seems. Yoshitake, though a freshman in college, is in reality 20 years old due to a combination of having failed the entrance exams the first time around and having an April birthday (the Japanese school year starts in April), and is the reason she was able to buy all of that alcohol back in Chapter 58 without any hiccups (20 is the legal drinking age in Japan). The chapter ends with the first years + Risa drinking over a discussion of the pairing between Mikami and Harima.

With all of the new character introductions and particular displays of characterization contained within Chapter 68, there is a lot to think about, more than even I’m going to talk about, but let’s begin anyway.

As has been pointed out by Japanese blogger Tamagomago, Yoshitake is very socially savvy, and nowhere has it been more obvious than in this chapter. Probably the best example of this is the fact that she is able to immediately pick up on Yajima’s attraction towards “Rihito” because of how Yajima keeps looking away from the older younger Yoshitake sibling. One might say that it’s as classically obvious a signal as possible, but stuff like this can be surprisingly difficult for nerds to pick up on. While Yoshitake isn’t quite on the level of Kasukabe or possibly even Keiko in terms of perceptiveness, she is still far greater than the average otaku. Sasahara may be considered the “normal” otaku to an extent, but I can’t help wondering if Yoshitake deserves that title more, though its meaning changes when applied to her. On the topic of siblings, this is the first familial relationship we’ve seen since Sasahara and Keiko, and in looking at the interaction between Yoshitake and Risa with a bit of hindsight, Yoshitake really does act like the older sister. This is shown in the way she hits Risa, and how Risa appears to be completely used to it.

When I first saw “Rihito” I thought to myself, “So this must be where Yoshitake gets it from.” It seemed that Yoshitake simply had a good role model who made it look perfectly all right to be an otaku and that it didn’t have to affect your attitude or wardrobe. However, the truth turns out to be far more interesting, as the more likely scenario, given what we know now, would have Rika being the model responsible for Risa’s success in balancing a life of exciting high school basketball competition with one of rampant otakudom. Yoshitake makes being otaku look cool and normal, and it has an admirable effect on her younger sister and her generation of fandom.

Speaking of basketball, Risa makes me think of that fateful scene from Volume 5 where Ogiue tries to explain away her attendance at a Scram Dunk BL event by claiming that she has a younger brother who’s into basketball. I wonder how Ogiue would react to seeing “Rihito?” How quickly would her mind race in order to conjure up dangerous situations for Risa? Actually, Ogiue doesn’t even make an appearance this chapter, so I have to wonder if Yoshitake is going to try to pull a fast one on her (and the other absent members) in the near future.

Risa’s character design is quite interesting in that generally when you have a crossdressing female character in anime and manga, they tend to still look very feminine regardless of the clothing (Mayo Chiki), and even someone like Fujioka Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club, who can pass for a guy fairly well, is still smaller than the men around her. Risa, on the other hand, even when her secret is revealed and she stops acting “manly” (an act which I think was clearly modeled on bishounen characters in the manga she reads) doesn’t just suddenly look like a girl. Her mannerisms do change to an extent (her body language differs and she begins to use her older sister’s signature -ssu in her speech), but she’s still quite different from what you’d typically expect out of a crossdressing female character. Her height helps with this of course, being one of the tallest characters in Genshiken and dwarfing her older sister. The fact that she’s so tall also puts a bit of a spin on the fact that she’s a shotacon, though I’m not exactly sure how.

I’d also like to point out how Risa and Harima in this chapter mirror each other somewhat. Both are assumed to be one way at first (Rihito is a cool dude, Harima is a sleazebag). Then the truth comes out (Rihito is Risa, Harima is a member of the student government), but it turns out that there was a grain of truth in the lie (Risa is into shota after all, Harima was actually trying to get with Hato). One of the trademarks of Kio Shimoku is having his chapter titles (“Your Name is?” being 68’s) mean more than one thing, and this parallel showcases that aspect of his work.

As for Yoshitake’s dark secret (being 20 years old), I think many of her fans are probably breathing a sigh of relief that it didn’t turn out to be anything more serious. As it stands, Yoshitake is not cheerful to compensate for something else, she just is that way. That she was embarrassed of the fact that her behavior isn’t stereotypically befitting of a 20 year old shows that she indeed aware of how things are “supposed to be” but willfully flouts them anyway, and at the same time also shows that she’s not invincible in the way perhaps Kohsaka is. She’s concerned with what others might think about her, but not too much. It adds a nice dimension to her character that we knew was probably there, but weren’t quite sure what form it would take.

The last thing I want to talk about in the chapter is Yajima’s reaction towards “Rihito” because I think it perfectly captures the feeling of the nerd crush, complete with the fact that Yajima clearly felt that he was out of her league. In that respect, it feels different from the other attractions we’ve seen in the manga in that Ogiue’s, Sasahara’s, and Madarame’s had the awkwardness that comes with familiarity, and Kasukabe thought herself on the same level as Kohsaka. Yajima also has to contend with her own personality in that instance, so the embarrassing nature of that moment for her comes not just from body image problems but also that she has set herself up to be kind of a “cool” character. It reminds me of Yajima’s introduction to Genshiken where she tried to pass off her interest in the club as something kind of casual, and the emotional confusion this whole situation has caused for Yajima is surely going to be a fun thing to explore.

So there we have it for Yoshitake’s first-ever chapter with internal monologue. Next chapter continues the drinking party, and I hope we get to learn more about everyone, as much as we’ve learned already. The next chapter quote is taken from Mawaru Penguindrum, which is to say, watch Penguindrum for more sibling hijinks (also penguins).

Wig Party: Genshiken II, Chapter 60

In my last chapter review, I predicted an Ogiue-centric chapter while also pointing out how Hato hasn’t gotten a chapter focused on himself yet but rather seemed to get a bit of focus and characterization every chapter.  Contrary to my expectations however, this latest chapter, despite taking place mainly in Ogiue’s apartment, is actually centered around Hato. Specifically, it reveals the truth as to why he cross-dresses, peeling away some of the enigma that is Hato Kenjirou.

Ogiue has a professional manga debut coming up and in order to meet her deadline she’s recruited Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato. Yajima, who we know likes to draw, finds herself paling in comparison to Hato not just in looks but also in artistic talent. It also turns out that Hato has been gaining a reputation outside of the club as a mysterious brown-haired knockout who only seems to show up in the afternoon, and given the potential trouble that would-be suitors of Hato could bring, Yajima has to ask Hato once more: why the dresses?

Hato explains that he had kept his fondness for yaoi a secret all through high school, because if and when he revealed his status as a fudanshi, the “rotten boy” opposite the “fujoshi,” he surely would’ve been was persecuted by his peers. So upon entering college, he began cross-dressing mainly so that he could enter a club much like Genshiken and finally be able to talk with people who share his interests.

“Persecution.” The word lingers in Yajima’s head, and it makes her feel absolutely terrible for confronting Hato. While she can’t relate to Hato in terms of choice of attire, as an otaku it’s very likely that she knows the pain of being ridiculed or tormented by one’s peers all too well. Yajima decides to not press the issue at first, but then realizes that Hato’s response was only half an answer. Everyone there now knows why Hato started to cross-dress, but given that everyone in Genshiken knows his secret and his okay with the fact that he’s a fudanshi, it’s no longer necessary. So why does Hato continue to cross-dress?

He enjoys it.

He knows he looks good in it, and it helps to fuel his own fantasies, not necessarily in the sense that the cross-dressing itself is the kink, but that donning women’s clothing can give him the right frame of mind. Through it, Hato can see the possibilities, including pairing himself with Madarame, which also puts the last scene of the previous chapter in a whole new light: were Hato’s signals real or imagined by Madarame?

One significant reveal for me in this chapter is the fact that Hato self-identifies as a man. In planning future entries for the Fujoshi Files, Hato presented a bit of a problem, namely, how much of gender is biological and how much of it is social? Gender studies is not my specialty, and even among the Genshiken characters, you could see that different characters take different approaches: Yajima talks of Hato as if he were a man, while Ohno mainly refers to Hato in the feminine. As you can see as well, I’ve mainly gone with male pronouns when referring to Hato, but I ultimately decided that it would be based on his own personal preference.

So Hato’s crossdressing isn’t entirely the product of a tormented gender identity conflict, but it’s important to avoid thinking that Hato’s crossdressing is somehow less legitimate or even wrong just because it’s a little self-indulgent. Hato has a perfectly good reason to crossdress, and the way in which Genshiken presents his situation, with both serious and more lighthearted aspects, does not and should not lessen either side. Nor should Hato and Genshiken in turn make gender portrayals that are focused more in one direction (such as Wandering Son) necessarily less poignant or entertaining.

We also learn a little bit more about another character whose life rarely gets explored, as we discover that Kuchiki is that guy in more ways than one. He’s not only the guy so lacking in social skills that they became actively antagonistic, but that he’s also able to coast by in life because of nepotism. I wonder what his parents think of him?

I think that Genshiken II has been getting better and better at establishing the New Class as characters in their own right, and I don’t really mind seeing the club veterans step aside so that they can take center stage. It takes a theme already present in the original manga, that of people entering the club and leaving when they graduate to make room for new blood, and realizes it in a much bigger way. It makes me wonder how they would fare if this was the first Genshiken series ever, and we only knew the previous characters somewhat in passing.

Next chapter looks to be again about Hato, but I’ve been deceived in the past, so I’ll hold off making any big predictions until then. Sue didn’t talk too much in this chapter, so I wonder if Kio’s saving her up for something big. The last thing I want to talk about though is Ogiue (of course), and the way that Kio Shimoku has been inserting some some nostalgic references to Ogiue past. Ogiue’s inner thoughts entertain the proposal of Hato x Mada in Ogiue’s native Tohoku dialect, and when Ohno tries to start a cosplay party at Ogiue’s place we’re greeted with a familiar sight. Perhaps we could call this “Ogiue Abridged?”

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