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!

 

My Japanese Genshiken Second Season Blurays Have Arrived!

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Thanks to the combined efforts of manga translator kransom, ANN Astro Toy reviewer Dave, and especially the very dangerous wah, I finally have in my hands the Japanese Genshiken Nidaime (aka Genshiken Second Season, aka Genshiken II). While it’s been a while since the show came out, I’m still quite happy to add it to my collection. Now I just need to get the English-language release from NIS America, whenever that’s coming out.

Now why would I buy Japanese blurays at exorbitant prices instead of waiting for a more reasonably priced US release? It’s because, at the end of the day, I am the Ogiue Maniax.

Above the bluray discs themselves you can see both a signboard from Kio Shimoku and an illustration collection. Both of these items are included because I had preordered all four volumes at Toranoana. This was available at multiple anime shops in Japan, and I chose Toranoana because it came with the Ogiue and Sue signboard, as well as an illustration collection with the two on the cover as well. Those of you who have shopped or have tried to shop from Toranoana are probably aware that they only ship within Japan, and it’s thanks to wah’s generosity that I was able to give them a temporary home first, while the other two helped traffic it over. Again, thanks to all of you, next meal’s on me.

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Jaoh Shingan: Genshiken II, Chapter 85

It’s back to basics in Genshiken II, Chapter 85 as  Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima revive the old Genshiken tradition of spying on club members who think they’re alone. When it looks like Hato is getting unusually close to Madarame. Right when things seem to be getting to the point of no return, in comes Keiko, who quickly deduces that Madarame’s decision to quit his job comes from a desire to regress back to his old self now that he’s been rejected by Saki. When Keiko suggests that Madarame come to her Cabaret Club to “get dirty,” Sue interferes and inadvertently makes it known that they were being watched. An embarrassed Hato runs home, only to be met by Sue as the chapter ends.

The more I write these reviews, the more I worry that my constant references to the old chapters may be unfair to the new series. Perhaps if I engage the current Genshiken on its own terms, I’ll be able to do it justice. At the same time, I do actually feel that many of the ideas being explored in Genshiken II have their roots in the original manga, and that the new characters allow for a more complex elaboration.

Back when Ogiue’s own main storyline resolved, the message was one of acceptance. So what if others find your tastes weird? You’re who you are. While such a conclusion fit perfectly for Ogiue’ character, the question of whether the border between fantasy and reality is airtight or porous wasn’t answered to any great length. Not that it needed to be, but if we accept acceptance and remove moral and value judgments from the equation, how complex can that interaction be? This, I believe, is what is happening with Hato and his interactions with Madarame. Hato can go where Ogiue never could.

Hato is clearly emotionally confused in the current story, where everything he thought he knew about himself is being thrown into question. I don’t get a sense of a fear of homophobia from his situation, but that he is having trouble establishing the distinct barrier between his male self and female guise and that it means he doesn’t understand himself anymore. The breakdown hints at the power of imagination, of how we see and define ourselves, and invokes the idea that, while sexuality isn’t a learned behavior, that learning provides additional information for reflection.

Once again, if we go back to Ogiue, she once stated that the Sasahara of her yaoi fantasy is clearly different from his real self, but she also clearly enjoys and is even turned on by Sasahara when he role plays his imaginary “Strong Seme” self. For Hato, who not only includes a form of Madarame in his yaoi fantasies but is also becoming increasingly good friends with him, he almost provides a powerful thought experiment whose solution can’t be as simple as “he’s gay,” even if he turns out to be.

Something I find particularly interesting about Madarame’s portrayal in this chapter is the focus on his neck. The current Madarame looks different from when he was in college, and this is shown most overtly in his change in hairstyle, but when viewed up-close from behind, he still looks the same as he always had. Given that in this chapter he basically admits to wanting to regress, and the fact that Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima did the old spying trick, I can’t see this callback as unintentional.

Keiko continues her role as a kind of substitute Saki in her own unique way. By that, I mean that where Saki has a natural pragmatism about her that Keiko lacks, Keiko seems to make up for it with sheer (mistake-filled) experience. I almost get the impression that her experience working at a cabaret club is actually increasing her perception skills far beyond what they already were, which even back when she was still attending college were still quite sharp (she’s the one who immediately noticed the sexual tension between Sasahara and Ogiue). I really can’t tell if Keiko is actually into Madarame or not, though the reveal that she’s been purposely mispronouncing his name as “Watanabe” the whole time says something. Even if Keiko is curious about Madarame, though, I can only see her interest being short term, even more than Angela’s.

As for the general idea of the “Madarame harem,” I think that it’s only a name. Take Sue, who both this chapter and last chapter was caught blushing in front of Madarame. The most obvious interpretation is a crush, but why did Sue stand back and watch when it looked like Hato was putting the moves on Madarame, but interfere when it looked like Keiko was about to do the same? For that matter, why did Sue interfere with Angela back when she was trying to get into Madarame’s pants? Given her appearance at Hato’s door at the end of the chapter, we’re probably going to find out more, but wish fulfillment fantasy with Madarame at the head this is not.

I am curious as to where Sue (who was super cute this chapter) is going. Is she going to get some real character development? She did start off as a kind of larger-than-life super fujoshi from another country, and to humanize her may either be an amazing decision or a terrible mistake. I have faith, though.

The last thing I want to point out is the significance of the Children’s Literature Society member we see in this chapter. In the past, that club was clearly on good terms with Genshiken given the whole spying thing, but I got the impression they were not exactly into anime and manga. The fact that this particular fujoshi chose to be part of the Children’s Literature Society in spite of the presence of not only Genshiken but also the Anime Society and the Manga Society (which has a large fujoshi contingent) has a connection with the recurring theme of  the generation gap between otaku that primarily manifests in the mainstreaming of the otaku and the rise of the fujoshi. The otaku are not limited to the clubs that are meant for them, which I think says a lot.

As for Ogiue ending the spying thing, it only makes sense given that she was already the victim of it in more ways than one.

Let’s Analyze Genshiken Chapter 56

Now that a good number of you have received my Christmas present, I think it’s time we take a closer look at this Chapter 56 of Genshiken. Warning, spoilers follow for the original Genshiken series as well as Chapter 56. You might also want to check out my review of Genshiken.

Ever since Genshiken ended back in 2006 or so, I, being rather fond of Ogiue, wanted to see what the club would be like with her as chairman. If you were lucky enough to pick up the two volumes of Kujibiki♡Unbalance, then you got a glimpse into this future. Ogiue changed hairstyles, using the straight-down style from the final chapter of the manga as her default and only switching to her signature brush head when working on manga. Sue started studying in Japan, and her Japanese has improved by leaps and bounds. Ohno is delaying graduation in order to fend off the real world for just a little longer. And now with this new special, we get to see the next generation of Genshiken members.

From left to right: Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima

While Ogiue is of course always wonderful and Sue pretty much steals the show with her penchant for references and her skillful impersonation of an American Character in Anime probably the most fascinating part of Chapter 56 is the long-awaited arrival of new blood in the circle. Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima’s biggest impact on Genshiken is that they make you realize the fact that characters like them were missing from the series all along.

“Well yeah, it’s not like Genshiken ever had a crossdresser aside from that one time with Kohsaka,” you might be saying, but we’ve also not seen a guy who’s on the other side of the doujin fence, so to speak. Yoshitake meanwhile is a super enthusiastic fujoshi unlike any we’ve seen before, even among Yabusaki’s friends or Ohno’s American pals. Yoshitake’s the kind of character who would probably fit in best at an American con. Yajima is kind of similar to Ogiue in personality, except that where Ogiue is often like a blazing inferno kept in check by a thick insulated coating, Yajima is actually just a woman of few words. She also seems to have the most “normal” stance on yaoi, asking Yoshitake to restrain her enthusiasm in public. Her weight also can’t be overlooked, as it gives her an interesting quality in that she feels a bit overwhelmed by the previous generation of gorgeous Genshiken girls.

Much like how Ogiue’s first glimpse of Sasahara as a leader colored her perceptions of him, the three new members of the Modern Culture Society are viewing Ohno entirely as that motherly figure she eventually became, and Ogiue as an authority figure. . It’s all summed up in the scene where Ohno starts to “brag” at the new members about Ogiue’s accomplishments, and it just goes to show how different things can be when the person on the bottom of the totem pole has suddenly reached the top.

And though I said that the most fascinating part about Genshiken Chapter 56 is the new members, I still want to spend some time talking about Ogiue. It is wonderful to see how she handles her leadership role, using her talents and ideas to try and grow the club which she has grown to love over time. It’s great to see her relationship with Sasahara, even if it at times becomes awkward and semi-professional. She’s the Ogiue I remember, and yet still quite different from what she was. She’s matured in her time at college and become more comfortable in her own skin, and it’s just a reminder of why I consider her the best female character, period.

So that’s the next generation of Genshiken. To top it off, let’s go through the references Sue and others make, or at least the ones I was able to figure out. The tricky thing about Sue now is that because her Japanese has gotten better, sometimes she doesn’t make references and instead just speaks actual Japanese, and so everything she says you have to first figure out if she’s taking a line from something or just her own head.

Sue: “Oh no! What an awful room! It’s like a rabbit pen in here!

This is from Kinnikuman Lady, a genderbent parody of the original Kinnikuman. Sue is dressed like Terryman’s female counterpart Terrygirl. Keep in mind that Sue actually says, “Oh no!” in English here.

Sue: Ogiue Chika is mah wife!”

Again from Kinnikuman Lady. In the Japanese version, Sue is imitating the Terryman-style of Janglish by saying “Me no yome” instead of “My” or “Ore no.”

Ohno: “I really wanted to be Robin, though.”

Kinnikuman Lady once again, as well as her cosplay.

Kuchiki: “Ramen Angel P (etc.).”

Ramen Angel Pretty Menma is a made-up visual novel/ero game in Genshiken. Sasahara really likes the series.

Sue: “My harsh remarks are made by transmuting…”

A line by Senjougahara Hitagi from Bakemonogatari.

Yuki x Shige

I’m not sure if this is just a made up series or not, but I suspect it’s Sengoku Basara-related.

Sue: “My name is Ogiue and I hate otaku!”

This and the followup is of course from Ogiue’s infamous introduction.

Sue: “Rararame.

Again from Bakemonogatari, but this time Sue is referencing the character Hachikuji Mayoi. The entire gag following this is an extended Hachikuji reference.

Snapple Pricking Gheam

A parody of the Zan Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei OP “Apple Picking Beam.” In Japanese, the original song is “Ringo Mogire Beam” while Genshiken wrote it as “Bingo Mobire Geam.” According to the Genshiken timeline this show shouldn’t actually exist yet, but we’ll let it slide.

Sue: “Yahhh! Your house is haunted!”

This is a line from My Neighbor Totoro.

That’s all. To Genshiken. May it get another anime adaptation to finish its story. May Kio Shimoku feel the desire to revisit these characters again. May Angela and Sue get their own most excellent American spin-off.

Actually, one last question to you all: should Hato be considered for the fujoshi files?

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!

Genshiken Chapter 56: Spring Has Come Again, Translated

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UPDATE: I made a few errors in my translation that I didn’t catch, but the translation is about 98% accurate. A version 2 will be on its way, and this post will be updated in kind.

The Fujoshi Files 12: Susanna Hopkins

Name: Hopkins, Susanna (スザンナ・ホプキンズ)
Aliases: Susie (スジー), Sue (スー)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture

Information:
Susanna Hopkins, typically known as Sue, is an anime fan from Boston, Massachusetts who was influenced at a very young age by Japanese friend Ohno Kanako. Since then, she has become a consummate fangirl whose blunt personality and striking physical features, namely her long blond hair and piercing gaze, are capable of throwing off even the most hardcore of otaku. After her first visit to Japan along with her friend Angela Burton, Sue formed a close bond with Ohno’s fellow clubmate at the Society of Modern Visual Culture at Shiiou University, Ogiue Chika, though that relationship can occasionally be an antagonistic one.

Sue is well-versed in anime and manga both popular and obscure from nearly every decade, and her tendency to use anime phrases in everyday speech is backed by an incredible memory that facilitates her language-learning capabilities. Sue’s actual age is an enigma, but the fact that she eventually starts studying abroad at Shiiou University implies that she is either over 18 or a genius, with neither choice being out of the question.

Fujoshi Level:
Susanna Hopkins is not unlike many other female American anime fans, but Sue takes it to another level entirely, something that extends to her fujocity as well. Her knowledge of anime and manga is equivalent to that of an old-time otaku veteran, and her apparent lack of shame allows her to confront anyone and everyone while loudly expressing her interest in boy-on-boy action. Sue is a fujoshi dynamo, and woe to those who stand in her way.

Incredible America: Genshiken and the Accidentally Accurate Portrayal of Americans

In Volume 1 of Genshiken, Ohno’s character profile states that her favorite game is Samurai Spirits. “Well that makes perfect sense,” you might think, seeing as how Ohno lived in America for many years, and how that very game was released in the US under the name Samurai Sho-down, but a later comment in the Genshiken Official Book reveals something interesting. It turns out that Kio Shimoku had no idea whether or not Samurai Spirits was ever released in America, and most likely picked it for Ohno due to the game having multiple old/burly types such as Earthquake.

So what we have here is what seems to be a surprisingly decently researched aspect of the American video game/anime fandom from the 90s but instead is just a lucky coincidence. Of course, Ohno and her preferences aren’t the most “American” aspect of Genshiken. That title naturally belongs to her friends Angela and Sue. And when you look at Angela and Sue across their incarnations (anime, manga, drama cd), you get the feeling that Kio Shimoku and the staff of the anime ended up portraying American fangirls with surprising accuracy, but based on the Ohno-Samurai Spirits Revelation there is the very real possibility that this too was also one huge coincidence.

Much of the portrayal of Angela and Sue can boil down to “HAHA AMERICANS ARE SO MUCH MORE DIRECT THAN JAPANESE,” but there is a grain of truth to that, and I think the result is that this “fictional” portrayal is about as realistic as the portrayals of the actual Genshiken members. Sue may possess a knowledge of anime far beyond your typical female otaku, but keep in mind that her otakudom was fostered by a Japanese fujoshi, so it might not be surprising for her to reference, say, Saint Seiya. Sue’s got a fairly abrasive personality, a general lack of manners, and you often cannot tell if she’s being awkward or devilish. Her frequent and loud reciting of anime quotes in lieu of real Japanese is definitely a trait you can find in fangirls (though she eventually becomes comfortable enough with the language to actually start speaking it fluently, albeit with an accent).

Then there’s Angela, who loudly declares to Sasahara that she may in fact be bisexual, which Sasahara despite his limited English ability seems to get the jist of. It might be somewhat stereotypical to brand Angela as very open when it comes to sex and sexual relationships, i.e. very AMERICAN, but it’s not like this is unprecedented even if you ignore anime cons and the fact that they are places where sex occurs in less than small amounts. Not that I’m saying she’s a slut or anything, merely that she is possibly about as sexually experienced as Saki, maybe more. I can also totally see Angela attending an anime club in America and being the center of attention among male members, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. As an aside, I sometimes wish there would be a Genshiken AMERICA spinoff starring Angela and Sue and seeing the interactions between characters in that respect. Maybe this could be a fanfic or a fancomic, I don’t know.

Sue is either young-looking for her age or actually young (her age is never given, only loosely implied), and we already know that the anime fans are getting younger and younger, so this makes plenty of sense. Angela meanwhile has a dynamite figure which some might say isn’t terribly realistic for a nerd girl, but I speak from experience (no not that kind of experience) when I say that this is not an impossibility. There are geek girls who look that good. You might see them cosplaying.

Though I think what stands out to me most about Sue and Angela and their American-ness is a scene in the Drama CD “Road to Ikebukuro,” where together they recite the famous line that so many female anime fans in the US have tied to their very histories: “In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!” Granted, it’s said in Japanese, but I know that plenty of Sailor Moon fans are familiar with the Japanese catch phrases. And Sailor Moon was popular in Japan too (Love Hina creator Akamatsu Ken mentions it as the inspiration for him getting into doujinshi), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sailor Moon is arguably one of the most significant shows in American fandom history.

And again, all of this could just be happy coincidence! Kio Shimoku could have simply said, “I have no idea what American anime fans are really like so I’ll just make them however.” Which is to say, Kio Shimoku is a frightening man.

Don’t Think I Forgot About the 4th of July Either

You can help me celebrate the fact that THIS IS USA, as opposed to JAPAN.

Today, on this Independence Day, I order you to  act like an American Anime Character.

-Remember to replace simple Japanese pronouns and random words with AMERICAN ones.
-Blond hair isn’t necessary, but it can often help.
-If you have trouble gaining acceptance, claim that you are in fact Half-Japanese.
-TALK AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE.

If you’re still not up to the task, I instead ask that you observe Americans in the wild.

Sue must be someone’s dream girl

Not mine, of course, but I can’t help but be impressed by the breadth of her anime knowledge.

Having listened to the second Genshiken 2 Drama CD (third overall) and hearing things like the aforementioned Jagi reference, as well as a hearty Shinobu from Dancougar impression (“YATTE YARUZE!”), I feel like we all should aspire to her level of creepy knowledge.

Not that the knowledge is creepy, but that it can be presented creepily.

GEN-SHEE-KEN TWO Volume TWO

So I got my copy of Genshiken 2 Volume 2, and it comes with the long-awaited Drama CD, “Road to Ikebukuro.”

And a lot of it is in English.

Oh boy.

PS: Sue makes a Jagi reference. KUYASHII NO? KUYASHII NO?