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.

Pent-Up Penultimate Supernovas: Genshiken II, Chapter 126

In case you haven’t heard, Genshiken Nidaime ends next month (!!!). Nevertheless, we haven’t reached the finish line quite yet.

Chapter Summary

After a bit of haranguing, Kasukabe and Ogiue finally manage to get Madarame and Sue on the phone together. At that moment, Madarame confesses his feelings for Sue in the one language she truly understands: internet memes and anime references. Deftly avoiding his statements, Sue finally gives pause when Madarame says the magic words—”I think you’re ridiculously moe.” Madarame explains that, while moe, love, and sexual attraction aren’t necessarily the same thing, he wants to believe in moe as an important facet of being an otaku, and Sue is basically the manifestation of his 2D interests in 3D. Finally, Sue agrees, and the two officially become a couple.

That same day, Madarame reveals that he’s finalized the deal on his new apartment, and is moving away, further from the university than he’s ever been. With a new home, and a new girlfriend, Madarame finally moves on from the past but without abandoning his otaku pride.

A Bit of Hindsight

Is this the true nail in the coffin for the canonicity of Spotted Flower? Maybe, maybe not.

I’m pretty shocked that Genshiken is coming to a close once more. Given this sudden news, it makes me think a bit differently about these past few chapters. While I’ve seen complaints that the Madarame harem story took too long to reach its conclusion, I was okay with that length while under the assumption that we’d get to see a lot more. Now, however, we won’t even get to witness the younger Yoshitake sister’s college debut. We won’t get to see how Madarame and Sue’s relationship grows. We won’t get excited as new members of Genshiken are made. Because of this, a part of me now wishes that the harem arc would’ve finished sooner so that we’d have room for more stories. I know manga publishing doesn’t necessarily work that way, but a guy can dream, right?

The Case for Susanna Hopkins

Moving onto Chapter 126, this one hits with the force of a battering ram. Where once we thought Madarame’s romantic life would fall back into stasis for the time being, here it is, pried wide open by the power of Kasukabe Saki. Seeing as the series is ending so soon, Kasukabe’s actions might be construed as a kind of deus ex machina. However, can a character be simultaneously a deus ex machina and a realistic character at the same time that all of her actions are perfectly in-character? In Genshiken, it seems, anything is possible.

The lines that Madarame uses this chapter are as follows: “The moon is pretty,” which is an indirect way of saying, “I love you”; “About Sue, Madarame- !”, which is the romance manga standard for many interrupted confessions, and finally, “Sue makes me pig out! Oink oink oink!” All of these are varying forms of otaku communication, and it shows what about Madarame and Sue makes sense as a couple. Madarame is an otaku, through and through, and Sue is the only one truly capable of matching him in terms of power level. That’s not to say that none of the other potential partners would not have made sense, and I think this is in the manga’s favor. We’re left with one of four possibilities, and when looking at the outcome, a particular set of messages is conveyed.

Liberty, Equality, and Moe

I think it’s very telling that Madarame’s explanation about his attraction to her revolves around the idea of “moe,” and how he contrasts it with erotic attraction. While he doesn’t position them in a dichotomy—moe can lead to sexual attraction and vice versa, as was the case with his feelings towards Kasukabe—Madarame’s decision to go with the “moe” one is an embracing of his continued desire to be an otaku. Madarame feels like he needs to grow up. Times are changing, but that doesn’t mean that Madarame has to “graduate” from being exactly the kind of otaku he is, which is an old-school geek with old-school geek tastes.

In other words, Sue lets Madarame be himself in a way the others wouldn’t, even if they would have made nice couples anyway. Sue not only possesses all of the features that Madarame loves in anime characters, being a “blonde loli with a rude attitude,” but she’s also his equal where it counts for Madarame: as a fan of anime and manga. Because of this, Madarame is moving on with one aspect of his life by separating himself from Shiiou University as the anchor he could not (or did not want to) escape, but he is still projecting his core being as he moves ahead. Where once Madarame was an otaku tied to the past, now he is an otaku looking ahead to the future. Also, Sue still attends the university so he’ll probably be around sometimes anyway.

Madarame’s decision to go where the moe is doesn’t have all that much in common with the other couples in Genshiken. Ogiue projects her BL version of Sasahara onto the real person, but this acts more as a kind of intimate bonding (and implied foreplay). and she increasingly shows how much she loves the actual Sasahara. Ohno and Tanaka came together over their shared hobbies, but it’s in the space of passion and community. Kohsaka and Kaminaga both have non-otaku partners who are fairly different from each other. And even though it doesn’t really count, Kugayama wants to get to know his beloved Cabaret Club girl Rino better. To put it differently, Genshiken presents many possible avenues of romance for otaku. There is no one size fits all, whether the significant other is an otaku or not, and so Madarame’s choice to embrace moe (and Sue in the process), is the path he, as an individual, takes, and his way of navigating the nebulous border between 2D and 3D.

I know the Madarame/Hato dynamic and the end of that possibility leaves a bitter taste in many fans’ mouths, but I do want to point out something very noteworthy in this chapter. When Madarame is comparing his prospective partners in terms of moe, he mentions that everyone but Sue would better be categorized as “sexy.” When asked about whether that includes Hato, Madarame says, “Hato too.” In other words, Madarame feels sexual attraction towards Hato (though whether it’s Hato the boy or Hato the boy dressed as a girl isn’t clear), and his decision for going with Sue is something that almost transcends the flesh. Madarame being very quite possibly bisexual is something I don’t think anyone expected from Genshiken originally, and it’s kind of amazing to say at all now that it’s come to this.

Sue’s Meta Powers

Before I bring this review home, I want to talk more about Sue as an entity of fiction. Though it isn’t ever explicitly stated who the most popular character in Genshiken Nidaime is, many signs point to either Hato or Sue. It’s Sue who was made into a DLC costume for the game Akiba’s Trip, who was made into a hug pillow, and who is increasingly prominent on the store-exclusive bonuses for buying new volumes of the manga in Japanese. Could this popularity have been a factor in deciding the final couple?

Another aspect of Sue that bears mentioning is the fact that she’s able to make not just anime and manga references, but references to Genshiken itself. Sue’s way of saying, “Yes, I will go out with you Madarame!” in this chapter comes from twisting a quote from Zenigata from Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro: “He stole something quite precious: your heart.” Except, Sue replaces “your heart” with “my panties.” One might think she’s just being weird, but this is actually the very line that Ogiue thinks when Sue flies back to the US in the first series while still wearing the underwear she borrowed from Ogiue. As one might remember from early on in Nidaime‘s life, Sue was somehow even able to reference Ogiue’s self-introduction (in spite of her not even being there at the time!). Sue actually might just be some kind of metatextual alien.

In Closing

One more chapter, and next month is Kuchiki’s graduation. In the meantime, enjoy these Ogiue moments. Though it’s a Sue-centric chapter, it was actually rife with Ogiue goodness.

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And Time Moves: Genshiken II, Chapter 122

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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Nayami Heat: Genshiken II, Chapter 121

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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Kiss Kiss Fall in Love: Genshiken II, Chapter 118

It’s finally time to see Sue and Madarame’s date, which apparently involves ring tosses and ultra obscure references. After Hato comes by and advises Sue to express her feelings not in anime quotes but in her own words, Sue finds an opportunity to say what she really thinks of Madarame.

This chapter is all Sue x Mada all the way, and makes a rather strong argument for why they seem to fit together. Madarame is the only one high-level enough to not only immediately get Sue’s anime and Japanese pop culture callbacks, but also to build on them. What really stands out about their time together, however, is that we finally get to learn the truth behind Sue’s peck on the cheek during the school festival.

You might recall that it was a move to get Madarame to jump out of hiding so that Hato would notice that Madarame’s looking out for him after all, and that Saki saw the whole thing. When next we saw Sue, she would blush profusely whenever looking at Madarame, while denying any feelings towards him. The reason, as Sue explains, is that she herself thought she was just teasing Madarame, but having someone like Saki witness it made her self-conscious of the fact that the only reason she can mess with Madarame is because Sue views him differently. To Sue, Madarame is special. That’s why she can call him Nekoyasha and then ride on his shoulders. That’s why she can be so comfortable around him.  That’s why she can finally confess to him, and be the first of the potential four love interests to do so.

I think it makes sense. Genshiken is full of otaples at this point, and a Sue and Madarame relationship would be at the top of the food chain. Not only that, while “I’m comfortable around you” can seem like the most generic of non-reasons to fall for someone, we see how their interactions play out. To some extent, Sue’s able to behave similarly with Ogiue, and even make jokes about Ogiue being her “wife,” but there’s a certain understanding that it’s all a friendly joke. That’s how Sue was with Madarame, but now Madarame’s open-ness and existence as absolute embodiment of nerdery have transformed into a strange attractiveness. Moments when characters realize their feelings are always highlights of Genshiken, whether that’s Madarame and the Saki nose hair incident or Ogiue seeing Sasahara smile, and this one seems to shout, “kindred spirits.”

Visually, Chapter 118 is unsurprisingly the Sue Show. As a character that doesn’t talk much, her facial expressions carry a great deal of weight. Combined with her sharp yet wistful eyes and exaggerated further by her pale features, light-colored coat, and knee-length blonde hair, it’s like her nervousness and emotional tension either take over the entire page, at least whenever Sue herself isn’t being put side by side with Madarame and his darker features (mainly his hair). Nowhere is this more apparent than at the moment when Sue says, “Madarame, I like/love you.”

I almost didn’t want to include this image, just so it could be a surprise to even those who read this review before the chapter itself. However, I think it makes too striking a statement to leave out, especially when considering the fact that Sue purposely prevents Madarame from responding, as Hato hasn’t had his chance yet.  Also, there is arguably an even better moment at the end of 118, and I think I’ll leave that for you, the reader, to discover.

In the end, what I find interesting about all of the members of Madarame’s “harem” is that they connect to him in different ways. Angela’s attraction is physical, and while that might seem shallow she’s the one who brings to the forefront the idea of Madarame as a sexual being. Keiko is somewhere between physical and psychological, and her strategies reflect this. Hato has the closeness of being a guy, the intrinsic understanding of how Madarame might be thinking of a situation. Sue is as awkward as Madarame in many ways, one of their many similarities.

Next up is Hato, and this, perhaps, is where the show really begins.

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Sakuraaaaaai: Genshiken II, Chapter 112

After the bomb drop that was last month’s Genshiken, Chapter 112 winds things down a bit, only to then create anticipation for next month. In a way, it’s a much needed break, but the fact that it ends by mixing up the formula a bit basically makes me want to read the next chapter already.

As Yoshitake nerds out about the history of Nikkou and its connections to Japan’s past (something I don’t specialize in but would totally make an interesting post by someone other than me), they remember Hato’s return the previous night. While a lot of the girls are suspicious about what happened, especially Keiko, Hato quietly resigns for the evening, and Yoshitake turns out to be the kind of snorer you can’t ignore. Yoshitake then proposes an idea: draw straws (“kujibiki” in this case), and randomly pair off. While the hope to further some romances looms about, the gods of probability crush almost all hope of that happening.

I’ve never been a part of Hetalia fandom, but I’m aware that it’s encouraged a lot of girls (and even a few guys) to study history more extensively. In that respect, I wonder if Hetalia fans feel a significant connection to Yoshitake, even if Hato is the one who’s explicitly stated that he’s into that series. Speaking of Yoshitake, I’m always impressed by the translators who bother to work through all of her text. The way it’s hand-written, and appears as if it’s trying to economize every last bit of word balloon space, and the fact that this chapter even features a map in the middle of one onslaught of verbage makes it seem like you’re not really meant to read what she has to say.

As is often the case with Genshiken, this chapter is primarily about setup, a brief pause after the weightiness of Hato’s heart to heart talk with Madarame. While of course the decision to break these characters off into specific pairs was probably not random (unless Kio actively chose to replicate what Yoshitake does in the manga itself), I think it’s both telling of Yoshitake’s desire to be the grease that moves the wheels forward, and that both the author and the characters haven’t forgotten about good ol’ Kujibiki Unbalance.

While it’s doubtful that anyone who’s still reading Nidaime doesn’t know what that is, it’s kind of fascinating that the series which so dominated the conversations of the old generation have all but vanished with these youngins. I wonder if Kio misses that a bit. Not only is the chapter title, “Kujibiki Unbalance 1” a reference to it, but at one point Yoshitake says, “Kami-sama no iu toori,” or “Do as God says,” which is a line from the Kujibiki Unbalance anime opening.

When Yoshitake revealed the kujibiki, I was hoping for the wildest and nonsensical pairings to happen, and in the end my wishes were fulfilled where it counts. While it wasn’t 100% off-the-wall (Ogiue + Sue and Angela + Ohno are obvious ones), seeing things like Hato + Keiko and Madarame + Yoshitake has a certain odd thrill, either because there’s so much tension or because there’s none at all. It’s almost like when characters have to change seats after a semester, and it becomes an opportunity to really see sides of them that we the manga readers haven’t before, or when you’re watching a fighting game tournament and two characters who rarely fight each other are in the grand finals. You’re not sure if you like it more, but the novelty alone keeps you glued.

If we’re allowed to speculate (and seeing as this is my blog I’m going to say it’s okay), I think that the main focus of the next chapter will probably be Hato and Keiko, which will involve Hato trying to pussyfoot around the subject of Madarame and Keiko going straight for the proverbial jugular. Keiko, while not the sharpest tool in the shed in certain respects, is still very perceptive, and even if that’s not enough she’s the type to really egg someone on and force them to admit something. From there, I predict Keiko will really try to force Hato to confront why exactly he crossdresses, and might even explain directly what she finds to be so disingenuous about Hato’s personality and behavior.

Also, on the topic of Keiko, is she purposely wearing a coat that’s similar to Madarame’s? It’s not the kind of clothing I typically associate with her, and as stated previously, she’s intentionally toned down her makeup to appeal more to Madarame’s sensibilities.

And if I were more into yuri, I’d probably make a bigger deal out of both Ogiue and Sue pairing off for the trip, and the fact that they slept in the same sheets at Yajima’s home. I’ll leave that to the other intrepid fans.

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Slaughter of Twenty Faces: Genshiken II, Chapter 105

This month, we have our first ever Madarame and Sue-exclusive chapter. Sue tries to jettison her feelings for Madarame as only Sue can, by handcuffing him to a chair and putting funny masks on him until her perception of Madarame changes and encouraging him to date Hato. At the same time, Madarame, still reeling from his nearly physical encounter with Keiko, is trying to comprehend women’s behavior, which might as well be an ancient and inscrutable language to him. In the end, a poor of choice of words on Madarame’s part, a comment on breast size, may have resolved Sue’s problem for her.

Back in 2010, I wrote a small post on how interesting it is that Sasahara and Madarame essentially “traded preferences” when it came to their real-life vs. anime love interests. Namely, despite Madarame being into the character Renko (who is closer in personality and looks to Ogiue), he was head over heels in love with Kasukabe, who was closer to Sasahara’s favorite character Ritsuko. In Chapter 105, Madarame mentions the fact that, in a harem series, Sue’s type, a young-looking westerner with slender limbs and small proportions, is his favorite kind of character, and I think it’s quite notable that Madarame is only now realizing this himself. The explanation Madarame gives in this chapter is that Keiko and her attempted sexual advance on him has messed with his view of the world and how he approaches the subject of women, and it makes total sense, seeing as how the worlds of 2D and 3D have begun to blur in his head.

This is not to say that his confused behavior is Keiko’s “fault,” however, as Madarame himself sees it, but that the younger Sasahara putting the moves on Madarame has forced him out of the warm and comforting shell of his 2D complex. To Madarame, his former distinction between 2D and 3D is that 2D is where he can channel his desires both emotional and sexual, and 3D, the land of the mysterious creatures known as “actual women,” was so inaccessible to him that the best he could do was fawn over Kasukabe from a distance. When Angela was trying to get in his pants, Madarame likely saw that as so far outside reality that it might as well have been a dream within a dream. Keiko’s actions introduced the word “possible” to his real-world (meaning real women) vocabulary, and so in a way his protective layer of ignorance has been shattered in a manner different from Kasukabe rejecting him. Now, Madarame is conscious of the idea that women might be trying to send signals, but he’s basically a man who has been living in a cave all his life seeing sunlight for the first time. It is probably to his benefit that he becomes aware that women who like him can exist, but for now he’s merely blinded and clawing at open air.

Thus, Madarame tries to “read” Sue, given his limited context. “She’s on my bed! We’re by ourselves!” It’s very possible Madarame could have made a big mistake if not for Sue immobilizing him with those handcuffs, but it’s also understandable in that, when it comes to the opposite sex, he’s more or less a baby who has just learned to crawl, let alone walk. His comment to Sue that, well, Hato doesn’t have any breasts, is born from a brief moment of overconfidence (one might say even hubris) and a relative lack of interpersonal communication skills. Earlier in the chapter, Madarame notices that Sue is not completely flat-chested, and so in stating that Hato “doesn’t have any breasts, huh,” he tries to make a distinction between Hato and Sue. However, Sue has been shown to be sensitive to this subject, so it comes across as more of an insult. And even then, this sort of detail which otaku can elaborate upon extensively, the difference between an AA and an AAA cup or whatever, is not exactly going to win any points when talking to an actual girl.

As for Sue, I find that she’s trying to do what Hato himself had attempted before. Sue asks Madarame to date Hato, much in the same way that Hato was pushing Madarame towards being more assertive with his feelings for Kasukabe, and in both cases they were ways to distance themselves from their own feelings. “If he’s in a relationship, I can get over him!” For that matter, Madarame sort of did the same thing to himself with respect to Kasukabe, and even Yajima, who is not in this chapter, has been shown cheering for Hato x Mada as a way to keep her own attraction to Hato bottled up. With Sue specifically, however, it looks like this is her first ever crush, unlike the others who appear to have some unrequited feelings in the past, and so much like Madarame it is also Ms. Hopkins who is learning to crawl. However, Sue is arguably even more of an otaku than Madarame is, and in that way I can really see the perspective of Sue x Mada supporters. They even have that consistent interaction where Sue will pull out a reference and Madarame will instantly recognize it (this chapter it was Saitou Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin). While there are those who believe this swing and a miss on Madarame’s part is the death of this pairing, much like Keiko x Mada I find that it only opens things up more.

I don’t know if this actually a reference or not, but I find Sue’s “funny mask therapy” to be similar to one of the storylines in Space Brothers. At one point, the younger brother Hibito suffers from panic disorder due to a near-death encounter on the moon, which leaves him unable to wear a spacesuit. The treatment recommended to him is to wear various outfits, from football uniforms to animal mascot costumes, in order to gradually lighten the pressure his mind puts on him when in a spacesuit. Obviously, it doesn’t work the same way seeing as Sue is not the one wearing those ridiculous masks, but a similar effect is desired on her part.

The chapter ends with Hato struggling to draw manga. It might be setup for the next chapter, but what I find interesting is that Hato is having difficulty making his manga more interesting, as opposed to being unable to draw BL. Progress!