Translation: “Otaku are Hybridized, Genshiken Nidaime is Painful”

NOTE: This is a translation of a post by noted Japanese blogger Tamagomago, concerning the subject of “otaku” in current society and its portrayal in Genshiken. You can follow him on Twitter @tamagomago and check out his, Tamagomago Gohan.

All of the image links use Tamagomago’s original Amazon referrals.

As a final note, Tamagomago has a particular writing style that involves separating sentences by line, and separating general ideas by larger spaces. In the past I’ve consolidated these things into paragraphs both for readability and because WordPress used to have a hard time with multiple line breaks. This time around, I’ve tried to leave his general style intact.

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Genshiken is a manga that I love.

I love it, and that’s precisely why it’s…

 

Painful.

 

The current Madarame Harem arc is really quite interesting.

Personally speaking, I read Volume 17 and I’m on the side that thinks, “It has to be Sasahara’s sister, right?”

That’s the sort of fun I’m having with it.

 

However…

It isn’t about “otaku” anymore.

It’s interesting as a “romantic story about a pathetic guy.”

 

This isn’t a problem with the storytelling in Genshiken.

It’s because times have changed.

The existence we call “otaku” has ceased to be.

That’s all there is to it.

———————————————————————-

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Genshiken Volume 1 came out in 2002.

That’s the same year as King Gainer, Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan!, Sister Princess RePure, Haibane Renmei, She, the Ultimate Weapon, Mahoromatic, Tokyo Mew Mew, Asagiri no Miko, Abenobashi Shopping Arcade, Azumanga Daioh, and RahXephon.

I think that it’s easy to understand the atmosphere at this time.

 

It was the dawning of a new Internet era. It was a time when 2chan had barely come into prominence.

There was no Nico Nico Douga.

 

We were just beginning to find freedom from the Eva Shock. We were already free from Miyazaki Tsutomu.

We felt guilty using the word otaku, and it was kind of embarrassing to like anime.

Anime such as Haruhi were yet to debut, and while we could make friends with people who also like anime and manga, we weren’t that open about it.

Those were the times.

 

Sasahara found in the Society for Modern Visual Culture a place where he could lay bare his otaku self. That was the first step.

Ogiue’s story was about fighting the trauma towards manga she harbored within her heart. That was the second step.

 

In both cases, the on-looker, the non-otaku, was symbolized by Saki.

———————————————————————-

Now, things have changed completely.

In fact, Genshiken Nidaime has been different from the very beginning.

In the first part of Nidaime, the series depicts the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture as a space for a group of BL-loving girls to work together.

Also, it’s the story of Hato, a crossdressing boy troubled by his worries.

Characters like Ogiue and Hato already have their pasts resolved by this part of the story.

 

In this first part of Nidaime, the state of “otaku” reaches a turning point just as the first chapter in Madarame’s story concludes.

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In this volume, we see the demise of the image of the ’00s “otaku.”

 

“Otaku” as a status, “otaku” as a community we depend on, the fun of trying to co-exist as both a member of society and as an “otaku.”

This is where it all ends.

 

When I say it’s over, I don’t mean, “there are no longer any otaku.”

Rather, the very word “otaku” has become hybridized.

 

That’s why Madarame, as an old-type otaku, has lost his place.

———————————————————————-

Madarame is actually a ’90s-type otaku.

Sasahara is a ’00s-type.

What’s different, you ask? It’s that the period between ’95 and ’96 is the dividing line before more and more people could be considered anime viewers and not otaku.

Sasahara gives the impression that “Otaku are out there, huh…”

Madarame is among the group of otaku who had to seek out others like themselves.

In an era without online networks, fans used analog means to get together and have fun.

It wasn’t a match over a network, but rather two people getting together to play.

———————————————————————-

For Madarame, he no longer needs to identify himself as “otaku.”

He certainly doesn’t look quite so sour anymore.

 

To put it boldly, everyone has become Kousaka.

Kousaka, unlike the other members of Genshiken, does not look like an otaku at first glance.

This is not something to be depressed or troubled over. Quite the opposite, it’s become totally okay to express your otaku hobbies.

———————————————————————-

I think this is a good thing.

There’s no longer that feeling of suffering and turmoil, like what Ogiue experienced.

There’s no longer that feeling that you can only ever belong to this specific group of people, like Kuga-pii.

Actually, Kugapii is in a nice place, working as a company employee.

 

There also isn’t anyone in Saki’s position.

In fact, I think that, even if Saki were perhaps in the club now, she wouldn’t have to pull everyone along like she used to.

After all, there’s no one left like Madarame, who would hem and haw. Everyone would just say, “Okay, okay,” in response to Saki and that would be the end of it.

You can think of that final kick Saki-chan gives Madarame as the demise of the “’90s otaku.”

 

Let’s talk about Sasahara’s little sister, who has dived straight into the thick of things.

The cabaret club story was interesting, wasn’t it?

That’s the feeling I’m talking about.

51JocGkSxsLTheory on the Adaptive Hybridization of Otaku subculture and Yankii Fast Food/Scenery

This book also came out recently. It’s really interesting so you should check it out.

I think the combination of otaku and subculture is easy to understand.

But they’ve also put yankii in there.

These yankii treat being a yankii nonchalantly, and even if they come into contact with otaku or subculture, it doesn’t bother them.

Here, I think you have the basis for the back and forth between the younger Sasahara and Madarame.

———————————————————————-

At this point, it’s unnecessary to identity oneself as “otaku,” nor is there a need to move and hide in secrecy. The fence between men and women has come loose.

 

Is it still necessary to depict “otaku?”

 

Works about otaku have been increasing.

However, everyone essentially looks cheerful, don’t they? They certainly don’t appear to be all that gloomy.

I think that Kirino in Oreimo has times when she looks gloomy, downright sour even (“Erotic games aren’t just popular shlock anymore, they’re deep!!)

Comparing her appearance and actions, however, she possesses the spirit of a retro otaku.

How is the “maid café” genre doing in manga? They don’t really touch Akihabara culture anymore, so there’s no way to tell.

Characters who go to Comic Market have become a part of normal manga.

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I totally love this manga.

There’s a lack of refinement in all directions. That said, there’s a cute underclassman (I won’t allow this! Take a good look!!).

There’s a lack of refinement, but take a look at their fashion. They’re plenty cheerful.

 

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This comes across more as fantasy, but Denki-Gai no Honya-san also has pure, proper otaku.

However, rather than being about otaku, I think that this work is actually more a story of “positive self-affirmation.”

It’s okay to read erotic manga! It’s okay to enjoy BL!

Along those lines, it even says, “It’s okay for you to fall in love!”

———————————————————————-

Genshiken is also similar to these manga. It’s a 2010s otaku… wait, the word otaku no longer exists. It’s changed direction to become a communication manga about a group of people who share a hobby.

The girls who appear in the story are, to put it differently, “reality.”

In terms of their fantastic elements, they would probably be ranked as:

 

Hato > Sue > Angela > Sasahara’s sister

 

The more to the right you go, the closer you get to reality.

In a way, Hato is a boy who acts out the role of the “ideal girl” (it’s not a gender identity disorder), so naturally I’m comfortable including him in this.

Angela is a little more likely to exist in Japan, even though she can be described as the girl who wants to date “OTAKU.” [Translator’s note: “OTAKU” here was originally written in English]

———————————————————————-

This Genshiken is a romance manga that’s cheerful and filled with happiness.

It’s fun.

 

It’s fun, but reading it is painful.

 

My own sense is that of Madarame’s generation, the ‘90s otaku.

 

It’s come to the point that I’ve said my farewells to that era, and I’m giving my regards to the younger generations.

 

I no longer build myself up into a kind of character.

———————————————————————-

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I have more empathy for this work.

It’s because he’s an adult otaku. More than that, I have a lot of friends who are just like this.

I understand this type, someone who’s no longer doing the otaku thing at full force, but still trudges along that path.

———————————————————————-

Perhaps Genshiken has at least made me into an “old boy,” who goes about saying, “Ah, youth!”

But that’s not quite right, is it?

There’s no gloom. There’s no anguish.

If it had become a completely different, unrelated world, I could say, “Wow! Look how this manga shines! How wonderful!” but that would only be a halfhearted, depressed reaction.

To grow up along with Genshiken wouldn’t in itself make me feel so awful.

“All of you, please move on.”

“You don’t belong here anymore.”

If you look at it that way, it’s painful.

———————————————————————-

However… it’s interesting so I keep reading.

It doesn’t matter that this is Genshiken. Manga is manga.

Yajima, Sue, Hato, all of them are cute. In particular, Yajima has gotten increasingly cute.

Ah, youngins!

 

Actually, on a personal level I find this girl to be the most amazing one of all.

“This alone makes Genshiken Volume 17 worth it.”

-Gogo Tamagomago of the Dead

 

Yoshitake is the character I like best in all of Nidaime.

It’s just, here’s a character that really positive, acting as the axis that influences both the suffering Hato and Yajima, all while Yoshitake herself doesn’t move one bit.

This face is the first time we get to see what’s underneath.

Ah.

She’s always cheerful, but doesn’t it seem like there’s something underneath the surface?

No matter what, I can’t take my eyes off of Yoshitake.

 

Speaking of which, someone (a woman) once said, “Yoshitake’s fashion is really female otaku-esque.”

Somehow, I can understand that at least a little.

Though, it’s more like, Yoshitake is the very image of the female otaku during the time when Nidaime first began.

———————————————————————-

I took a long time to write this.

 

Right now, I’m not an “otaku” nor am I part of a “subculture.”

I realize I’m now an adult who doesn’t “belong” to anything like that.

I think it’s a joyful thing. I can like what I like and then write about it.

 

And yet, why is it so painful?

Why do I feel such sadness when I read Genshiken?

 

It’s probably because the first part of Genshiken is a story of youth coming from the idea of “deviation,” but between Hato’s change of heart and Madarame’s situation being reset, there’s no need to be deviant.

It’s a sentiment I don’t understand, and it’s just not something I have in common with them.

Please give me the courage to continue along in this deviant subculture – Tamagomago Gohan

Even as I become an adult, I don’t feel like one – Tamagomago Gohan

Even re-reading the above articles, I really don’t understand after all.

Even though I understand that I’ve become an adult and moved on.

 

The depression that comes from Genshiken continues to grow.

It’s simply that I’ve reached a bothersome age.

 

Is it just that I’m still trying to find myself?

———————————————————————-

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Actually, I feel like this title can give me a hint.

It’s a manga I absolutely cannot ignore.

That’s because, when I read it I feel relieved.

I feel like there’s a hint here.

———————————————————————-

Ah, could it be? Is it because they don’t really talk about their favorite things in Genshiken Volume 17?

They do for a little bit, but their words feel somehow unnatural.

However, I understand that these are “otaku.” They’re otaku who don’t depend on being anything.

———————————————————————-

And yet, I love Genshiken.

 

The End.

———————————————————————-

Notes:

I had a realization that this is like what happened to rock music.

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The Dynamo of Nidaime, Yoshitake is Really a Charming Girl

Translator’s Introduction: This is another post by Japanese blogger Tamagomago about the new Genshiken series that is currently running in Japan. This time, the focus is on the new character Yoshitake Rika.

The original post was actually written back in June, which means that the contents of the post do not take into account any events that have occurred past Chapter 65. Just the same however, the most recent chapter, 68, focuses heavily on Yoshitake, so before you read the latest chapter I hope you take the time to read Tamagomago’s article first.

Like the last translation, I have used translated images in place of the originals because the text contained in them is mostly relevant to the points being made, and the images are larger because of the difficulty in reading shrunken-down English text.

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The Dynamo of Nidaime, Yoshitake is Really a Charming Girl

My article “The Appearing and Disappearing Wave of Generational Change in the Meaning of ‘Fun’ in Genshiken II Volume 1/Genshiken Volume 10” has been translated into English.

Thank you! I am very fortunate to have this.

Now then, my initial feelings while reading Genshiken Volume 10 (Genshiken Nidaime Volume 1) were about the sense of distance Madarame and Yajimacchi have towards “how otaku have fun,” as can be seen in the article above.

Is it all right for me to like this stuff? How much is it okay for me to open up? As I get older, will the nature of my passion change? And so on. If the first part of Genshiken starts with “coming into contact with otaku culture,” then the current Genshiken is about the extremely wide age gap between the employed otaku, like Madarame, and the freshmen, Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato.

Don’t make light of that, five years makes for quite a difference these days.

With that said, this time I’m interested in Yoshitake.

This is from Volume 10.

The three newcomers are characters who are extraordinarily bold and rich, but Yoshitake is something else. By the time she’s reached Genshiken, she openly refers to herself as fujoshi, will say “oink”[1] without batting an eye, and wholeheartedly pursues the things she enjoys. She’s a hyper, out-of-control, super express girl.

As you can see, her way of not hiding anything and showing her true otaku disposition to others is really a lot of fun to watch.

So, I talked to a friend of mine who really loves Yoshitake and we had a discussion regarding the topic of, “Just what kind of role is she going to play?” Then I jotted down the resulting notes.

The Glue that Holds Everyone Together, Yoshitake

Last month’s cover is magnificent.

Look at this!

This image makes it clear that the one who connects the individualistic wills of Hato and Yajima is actually Yoshitake. This confirms it.

No matter how you look at it, with the all-too-conspicuous foreigner otaku Sue and the girl-boy Hato, Genshiken right now has an unusually thick, bold flavor. Yoshitake is also worthy of being considered a bold character, but is something like the average between the others.

While Yajima is more plain, her complexes and irritations are expressed to such a painstaking degree that she instead stands out as a character with whom it’s easy to empathize. That she doesn’t put any effort into fashion also makes her stand out.

Yoshitake is fashionable.

You can’t really say she’s “extremely fashionable,” but I think you can at least say she’s “fairly fashionable.” Even dressing casually, she wears clothing that matches her own figure and style to a certain extent, and she has a new outfit on every time she appears.

Red and bottom-rimmed, even her glasses are fashionable. There’s a big difference between hers and Yajima/Madarame’s; the two of them would just say “All that matters is that they work.”

But while she is fashionable, she isn’t really on what you’d call the cutting edge of fashion, and her attire reflects this quite splendidly. Her subtle, child-like clothing choices are also rather charming. You could say that she’s like a Mori Girl[2], but that doesn’t quite feel right. How can I put it? It’s like she’s still comes off as otaku… but she’s also fashionable… Argh! Whatever, I’ll leave this to someone who actually knows about fashion.

(PS: After consulting a friend, we determined that her style is probably Daily Casual. You can see it at Konshuu no Osusume|tiptop blog.)

Most of all, while I don’t know how to distinguish her style of dress (let’s name it “Yoshitake-style!”), she seems to recognize herself as a so-called “loli-faced character.”

When it comes to the extreme difference between those in Genshiken who care a lot about their attire (e.g. Ohno and Hato, people for whom their clothing is a part of their personalities) and those who couldn’t care less (like Ogiue, who doesn’t care about a lot of things), the middle point between them holds some value.

So then, is Yoshitake’s personality also average among Japanese people? Actually, it’s more like she stands out, but only just a bit.

First of all, her seeming inability to “read the mood” is beyond top class.

But then, I suppose she’s a character who actually just fakes her inability to read the mood, and that she’s instead using her top-notch social sense to liven things up.

It’s complicated, isn’t it? She’s especially similar to characters like Mugi-chan from K-On! and Erika from Heartcatch Precure.

Using all of her power to maintain “fun” and to connect everyone together, I think that’s what Yoshitake is all about.

Yoshitake’s Recent Appearances Have Been All Fun and Games

This month’s cover image connects with last month’s cover. It’s quite nice, wouldn’t you say?

This month’s Afternoon features a Doujinshi Event, and the comic drawn is essentially “All of the Genshiken members cosplaying.”

Homu Homu Ohno, Mami-san Angela (not-Genshiken), Sayaka Yajimacchi, and then Kyouko Yoshitake and Kyubey Sue.

Hato was probably supposed to be Madoka. Ogiue got sick last month and had to bow out. Kucchii is a salesboy.

For everyone in the club to cosplay together like this is in itself rare, but if Ohno doesn’t exercise her influence at an event, then it can’t possibly happen in the first place.

So then, what I want you to see is this.

From beginning to end, Yoshitake makes only a brief appearance (because the main focus is on Ohno and Angela), but you can see that she’s smiling the entire time that she’s cosplaying.

The sweat is probably because it’s hot.

Indeed, this girl really enjoys herself.

Yajima has a body image complex and so must have not wanted to cosplay.

And yet, there she is. It’s a bit surprising.

I mean, if she really were against it she would have rejected it, right?  But then she says, “I only agreed to this embarrassment because I thought we were all in this together.” Actually, this “Madoka Cosplay” became a topic of conversation on the internet. Not only that, Yajima winds up cosplaying the most scantily-clad character, Sayaka.

…This is one of the things that makes Yajima cute.

Let’s put that aside.

The reason Ogiue and Saki-chan have already cosplayed is that Ohno pushed and pushed and got turned down, and finally got them to dress up, but with Yajima, she does so surprisingly without making any fuss.

Huh?

The first thing I felt was that perhaps the bar is lower for this generation when it comes to “cosplay.”

It’s not anything special, but by comparison is instead recognized as just one way among many to play around.

But even so, Yajima should dislike cosplaying.

That’s where Yoshitake comes in.

“But then where would that leave my character? Nom Nom.”

Yoshitake is always, always with Yajima. Here, her good qualities come to the surface.

It’s likely that not just Ohno but Yoshitake also encouraged Yajima to cosplay.

I don’t have a particular reason for using thinking in the following way, but if you can say that the two of them are good friends, and that they’re always together, then it’s quite simple.

Moreover, they must be aware of the pairing of Kyou-Saya.

Let’s take another look.

Hato, worrying (?) about Madarame, splits off this time to be a salesboy. Yajima of course feels something along the lines of, “Why that jerk, running away from this,” which brings about her complex, but Yoshitake pacifies Yajima when she’s in that state.

First, she says that as a pairing cosplay, she would be in trouble without Sayaka.

Next, she suggests that Yajima should find this good for Hato-chan, when one considers how Hato is acting.

That’s right. Let’s look things over.

  • Yoshitake, from the bottom of her heart, has fun cosplaying with everyone else. That she also prepared Pocky for it is really nice. Could it be that the title image for Chapter 59 was foreshadowing?!
  • Yoshitake understands Yajima’s objections, and knowing them is thus able to follow and respond. She doesn’t just ignore it.
  • Yoshitake really understands Hato’s complicated feelings, and cheers him on. She of course does the same for Madarame.

Yoshitake is amazing.

That girl, she’s capable of going along with everyone, and she has a lot of fun while doing so.

Whereas the others up until now have dressed poorly, possessed complexes, experienced trauma, and tried to escape from the world, she’s a little different.

I can feel strongly her desire to have as much fun as she can while considering everyone’s feelings.

At this point, the notions I want to entertain in regards to Yoshitake are, “Just what are her shortcomings,” and “Does she have any problems at all?”

However, to think that her cheerful behavior comes from some kind of inner suffering is perhaps an outdated way of thinking about it? At least, that’s how I’m feeling.

When I asked a friend who likes Yoshitake, “What do you like about her?” he said, “I like Yoshitake because she enjoys the things she likes.”

Ah, I get it. I really do. It has almost nothing to do with her “being an otaku.”

If Yoshitake’s hobby was film, then she’d be a film maniac. If she liked soccer, then she’d be playing soccer.

It just so happens that she likes anime, manga, and BL. That’s why she has fun as an otaku.

Whichever she chooses, she’ll definitely be showing a smile on her face.

She’s not just having fun without any care in the world.

…No wait, that might be an incorrect way to phrase it. She’s definitely carefree, but it’s not like she doesn’t think about anything while she’s having fun.

After thinking about how she should have fun, whether it’s all right to be enjoying herself, and whether she’s being a bother to other people, she consciously tries to have the most fun that she possibly can.

This is the scene in Volume 10 where she enters the club. Right from the beginning, she accurately confirms whether or not liking BL is OK there.

It’s very interesting that she states so plainly, “If it’s NG [no good] then I’ll stop [coming].” In other words, in confirming whether or not the things she likes are okay in there, it shows that she came there looking for a place where she could pursue enjoyment.

She wasn’t relying on escaping or anything, she was being active.

Another friend was saying to me that what she really meant was “If it’s NG then I’ll stop [talking about BL].” If that’s the case, then that’s also amazing.[3]

I might even say that if “BL being NG” means that she would find another way, then that would be the ultimate form of being able to pursue fun.

Therefore.

She’s able to make close friends, and my friend thinks that she has like the greatest smile. That’s why he loves her.

“Yoshitake, has fun doing the things she likes.” Indeed, that’s also why I like her so much.

To have fun doing the things she likes with such firmness, and to even be able to say that she likes it, is truly what makes her so charming.

Yoshitake and Yajima

In the work itself, things are often drawn from Yajima’s point of view, while Yoshitake’s feelings aren’t drawn all that much.

That’s why Yajima can be seen as incredibly cute, but still I’d like to see Yoshitake a bit more.

Yajima’s spirit is filled to the brim with mud.

However, it’s completely different from what’s inside Madarame, Kugapii, Ohno-san, and especially Ogiue, who is an extreme case. She doesn’t have an inferiority complex over being an otaku. She professes her interest in BL, too.

She’s unable to outright talk about her figure. It’s an incredibly vague complex to have, as a human, as a woman, and perhaps more.

That said, it’s clear that it hasn’t turned into hatred.

Currently, she’s enjoying Genshiken. No, it’s more like, she’s able to enjoy herself there.

Here is where I think Yoshitake has an enormous presence.

It’s possible that even if Yoshitake weren’t around, Yajima would have still gone into Genshiken. She possibly would have helped out with Ogiue’s manga as well. She would have probably had fun doing so.

However, that Yajima is able to be in the prime of her youth (it IS the prime of her youth, right?!) is partially because she’s being guided by the raging engine of Yoshitake.

Well, Yoshitake is more like a runaway train going off the tracks, but they’re still really good friends.

They come together through their hobbies, and it really seems like they have fun doing so.

Looking at this makes me happy.

With that in mind, there’s another scene of them with a hint of sorts. This panel is where I picked up on the closeness of their friendship.

Yoshitake is a girl who engages in physical intimacy in the truest sense of the term. She doesn’t go quite as far as Sue, but she clings to Yajima especially.

Yoshitake really cares for Yajima as a friend. This is another instance of “the fun of Yoshitake.”

Yajima also likes Yoshitake. She pretty much reflects on the idea that “Oh well, it seems like I made some fujoshi friends.” Here, “friend” undoubtedly means Yoshitake. It also includes Hato to some extent, but in the end she’s still consciously aware of his status as a “boy.”

“Fun” with respect to Yoshitake appears under a large variety of conditions, but in this case I think one big point is that it’s obtained through being with Yajima.

Hato-kun is of course a friend, but it’s Yajima who receives Yoshitake’s physical intimacy the most. The upperclassmen are another group entirely.

I think the balance she achieves between her “ability to read the mood” and her “desire to pursue fun” shows how wonderful she is.

She never feels like she’s thinking, “I have to look out for Yajima’s sake!” Rather, she truly thinks Yajima is fun.

She also doesn’t act conceitedly, as if to say “I make this place better.” However, if she thinks “this place makes me happier because I have more fun here,” then she will indeed make that place better.

Ahh.

Once again, I’m fully aware of how amazing it is that Yoshitake “has fun doing the things she likes.”

She’s never gloomy. Though, there’s a chance she will be at some point, but currently it has never happened.

A friend of mine said, “Isn’t she a symbolic example of a ‘positive otaku?'” To that I said, “Ah, you’re right.”

It’s not that “something happened so I became an otaku” or that “something happened so I became her friend.”

It’s that “being an otaku is fun so I have fun being an otaku” and “I just like my friends, simple as that.”

So, it’s really fun seeing Yoshitake be that way.

In my eyes, Yoshitake’s excitement is also one of her good points. Isn’t it super cute?

But I think what it might really be is that I’d like to become Yoshitake.

If I were as positive, as capable of finding fun in the things I enjoy, and as able to express my fondness for the things I like, how happy would I be?

Presently, Yoshitake is in a total supporting role. She hasn’t had a chapter featuring her, and her inner thoughts haven’t been revealed.

I think that could be because she says everything she thinks anyway.

I think she’s probably a girl who’s pure in the best sense of the word.

The only problem is probably “What’s to come.”

Yoshitake, perfectly fine with drinking alcohol despite being underage.

I won’t deny the possibility that something problematic could occur given her too-pure immaturity.

I won’t deny it, but… currently no one’s been hurt, and on the contrary Yoshitake’s the catalyst for cheering others up.

I think it could be nice to have her remain in a supporting role, to have her be something like the one who raises the spirits of the other club members.

At any rate, this month Madarame is in the heroine position. That’s dangerous.

Just how cute can he possibly be…!

Madarame-tan, you’re not a loser underdog, you’re a winner overdog![4]

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Translator’s Notes:

[1] Like the last article, “oink” refers to “buhireru” (ブヒれる), an onomatopoeic verb to describe oinking like a pig, implying that one is a disgusting anime fan

[2] A Mori Girl, or “Forest Girl” is a style of Japanese fashion where the goal is to look like a girl who lives in the forest, generally tending towards light, natural colors and simple-looking clothing. More information can be found here.

[3] The confusion over the whether Yoshitake meant that she’d stop coming to Genshiken (i.e. quit) or stop talking about BL (i.e. stop) comes from the fact that the words for “quit” and “stop” in Japanese are the same, yameru (やめる). Normally the easiest way to differentiate them is through their kanji (辞める=quit; 止める=stop), but the original Japanese text leaves it ambiguous. As it is my translation of that image that you see above, I interpreted it as the latter.

[4] The phrase here is “make inu” (負け犬), a phrase which literally means “loser dog” but is generally translated as just “loser.” Tamagomago contrasts it with “kachi inu” (勝ち犬), or “winner dog,” which is to say that he’s not a loser, but he’s not just a winner either. As translating kachi inu to just “winner” would have removed this subtlety, I went with the interpretation of “winner overdog” if only because overdog vs. underdog is about as ridiculous as kachi inu vs. make inu.

Time and Genshiken

When I originally read Tamagomago’s post on the Genshiken generation gap, I realized something: time has moved differently for the characters of Genshiken compared to the real world.

The gap between Genshiken and Genshiken II has changed how I relate to Genshiken. Genshiken II starts off only a few months after the end of the first series, but in the real world, nearly five years had passed. One result of this is that the references used in the new series are a little anachronistic (a Zan Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei reference when the show shouldn’t have been out at that point, for example), but the one I find to be more personally important is that I went from being around Sasahara’s age to actually being closer to Madarame’s. I am no longer the college senior who could read about Sasahara’s graduation around the same time as my own. Had the manga progressed steadily from Volume 9, had there not been the long wait to herald in Genshiken II, I wonder if I would’ve also been reading the manga a little differently?

One criticism of the new Genshiken that I see from not just English-speaking fans but also Japanese ones is that it’s been difficult to relate to the new, primarily female cast. The feeling I often get from that response is that the readers who are of the opinion that Genshiken has changed for the worse feel that this world of college-aged otaku is not the one they had originally left. I even talked about it when the new series was beginning, remarking that Genshiken has always been about change, and that it should be possible to relate to these new characters, even if they do come from a different generation otaku. I realize now though that it’s not so much a matter of these readers not being able to relate to characters unlike themselves, but more that they feel the philosophy of Genshiken has changed, that the core essence is something different and perhaps frightening.

Obviously, the experience of shifting age groups as the result of the gap between Genshiken series is not something everyone can experience, especially if they’re not reading the comic as it comes out. Even if that weren’t the case, given time I would’ve reached Madarame’s age anyway. And even if others are around the same age as me, it’s not like people experience the passage of time in the exact same or even similar ways. More importantly, it’s not like my own personal experiences over the past five years are particularly better than others’. Even so, when I think about it a little more, it seems like one of the themes that comes out of Genshiken for the readers as well as the characters is the influence of personal history and how self-perception of time changes accordingly.

Ogiue originally defined herself by the trauma of her time in junior high. It dominated her life before she was eventually able to move on with the help of her friends. Madarame clings to the recent past by leaving his situation with Kasukabe comfortably ambiguous. Kugayama put his half-hearted ambitions aside and decided to just be normal. The first chairman, well, I’m not sure if he existed within time.

For the fans who feel alienated by Genshiken II, their personal definition of what it means to be otaku, and by extension, what it means to be part of a group otaku, has not changed in the five year Genshiken gap. I emphasize once again that there’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact it’s also pretty much where Yajima is at in terms of her own otaku-existential conflict. As for me, I know fully well how much I’ve related to Genshiken and continue to do so, but I also know that a lot has happened in my life since I finished the original series. I’ve defined myself many times on this blog according to how Genshiken has changed my life, but in the face of this new iteration, I find that it doesn’t change me so much as change alongside me.

The Appearing and Disappearing Wave of Generational Change in the Meaning of “Fun” in Genshiken II Volume 1/Genshiken Volume 10

Translator’s Introduction: This is a translation of a post by a well-known Japanese anime and manga blogger known as Tamagomago concerning his feelings towards the recent Genshiken revival. As there are certain terms that are very Japanese, as well as information that might not be that well-known to English speakers, I’ve included translation notes at the bottom of this post.

The images used are necessary for the post, but because the originals were in Japanese, I’ve taken the liberty of replacing them with existing English translations. The images are also larger than the ones used in the original post, as the English text would be impossible to read if the images were the same size as the original’s (not as much of a problem with Japanese and its use of kanji).

This is actually also the second otaku and fujoshi-related post from Tamagomago that I’ve translated. The first can be found here, with my response to it available here.

———————-

Genshiken II [Nidaime] Volume 1, aka Genshiken Volume 10 is out.


How I should I put it…

Genshiken Volume 1 came out in 2002.

Has it really been almost 10 years…?


Back when Genshiken was coming out, it was often compared to Kyuukyoku Choujin R.[1]

As individual works they’re completely different, and there’s no use comparing them directly (for starters, R has the Light-Image [Photography] Club, high schoolers, and no particular otaku interests among its members, while Genshiken has the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, college students, and is based around a group of otaku). But when you look at the  different age groups among the members and how there’s something of a generation gap in terms of how they enjoy their hobbies, the above comparison is easier to understand than one might expect. It’s about seeing how they spend their free time having fun.

This was actually discussed so often that I lost count. It’s a part of the history of the 00s.

However, to the younger otaku readers, the world of R was like a heavy burden on them, and the reason is that the senpai [upperclassmen] have an overwhelming presence.

I love Tosaka-senpai and the rest of them, but if you were to say to me, “They’re bothersome senpai,” I certainly wouldn’t be able to deny it.

Not only that, but by comparison, Genshiken‘s Madarame-senpai casts a light shadow, following a philosophy of living peacefully at any cost. When you look at that, it’s really quite cute, but you can also really feel that the senpai-kouhai [upperclassman-lowerclassman] relationship is rather thin.

That’s the first generation gap.


And now this is the second.

The number of people who have admired Genshiken and turned into otaku because of it has increased.

I bet there are people who just read that sentence and thought, “Wait, what?”

They’d say, “‘Become’ an ‘otaku?’ That’s not something you just decide on and then it happens, wouldn’t you say?”

That’s right, but during the 00s, the meaning of the word “otaku” suddenly became unclear. It no longer meant that you were some kind of “outlaw,” and it no longer had a negative connotation in people’s minds. That said, it obviously also depends on who you’re talking to.

The decisive blow came in the doujinshi that Shinofusa Rokurou drew for the special edition of Genshiken Volume 9 (the final volume).[2]

This is pretty much it. I think there’s a lot of people recently who haven’t read or seen Genshiken (since it’s out of print), but you won’t regret reading it. Same with Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru.[3]

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu[4] once said, “To a guy like me who hates otaku, Genshiken is a manga full of love for otaku that’s designed to exterminate otaku.” Those are some really mixed feelings, wouldn’t you say? But I pretty much understand him.

There are now more and more people who aren’t “beautiful despite being otaku” but instead people who are “beautiful while being otaku.” It has nothing to do with physical appearance, nor is it just the end result of ressentiment; rather, what’s changed is that being otaku now means you’re enjoying a “fun hobby.” Genshiken is a work that’s drawn while relatively consciously of this.

It’s not my intention to formulate a theory about why the generations are different after all of this. No matter what I say, what’s most important is to ask oneself, “What do I personally think?” However, I feel that, at the very least, the number of people who can stand in the light and declare, “I’m an otaku!” have risen.

For someone like me who lived in the era of the closet otaku and thought, “I can’t say that I’m an otaku,” this is quite a strange feeling.

Though I’d say what we have now is the healthier scenario.

This divide can be seen in how Genshiken has been drawn. Madarame’s year consists of otaku who are relatively private and who try to conceal their hobbies, unwilling to come out to others about it.

Ohno meanwhile concealed her hobbies as well, but was the type of person who wanted to be able to share them with like-minded individuals.

Kohsaka and Sue just freely and openly show how much of an otaku they are and how much they enjoy it, while Sasahara is the type of person who saw the truth after entering college.

I used to think that Kohsaka’s existence was something of a fantasy, but I realized that people like him actually exist.


Volume 9 came out in 2006. It’s been almost five years.

Now we have Volume 10.

And in it, the characters feel significantly different from how the characters used to be.

If times have changed, then the characters in Genshiken have changed as well, in terms of where they come from and what their points of view may be.

From here on in, I’m going to write a bit about the respective perspectives of the new character Yajima as well as Madarame.


The Impression of a Gap in the New Generation of Genshiken

I think this panel in Nidaime probably makes the contrast easiest to understand.

…Whoa… They’re like… so young!

The three new club members are gathered alongside the old members in Ogiue’s room (i.e. the place where Ogiue produces her manga). Madarame and Sasahara are obviously among the “old boys.”

If you look at the ratio of men to women, you’ll notice that the girls outnumber the guys (though there is a certain exception), and that none of them are particularly concerned with avoiding the others. If you didn’t tell me that this is an otaku circle, I never would have guessed.

Obviously you can say that it’s because this is manga, but still, everyone there looks like they’re having fun.

Among them is one character in particular, sitting on the sofa with a sour look on her face: Yajima.

Among the freshmen, there’s a male crossdresser… or should I say, a “boy-girl.”[5]


What Yajima has to say about all of this is unbelievably cute.

“I’m… quite opposed [very resistant] to it.”


Yajima’s feelings on the matter are, in a certain sense, the bridge between the various conceptions of what it means to “enjoy oneself” within Genshiken. She’s caught in the middle, and it depresses her.

If you look at the previous generation, there was the episode where Madarame was opposed to “stylish fashion” and thought it made no sense. Though he ended up having a change of heart, the way Madarame and Yajima distance themselves is similar.

The term “ota” itself is actually rarely used in Genshiken.

In this volume, the only person other than Yajima to use the term is Ogiue, and it’s the negative meaning of “ota.” Yajima’s line in the above image, “Since we’re all otaku, it doesn’t matter,” pretty much says it all.

On the other hand, you have another new character, Yoshitake (the bespectacled girl in the middle of the sofa), who in contrast to Yajima exclaims, “Female otaku and fujoshi are different!” while using the term positively.

Yoshitake has determined her own status. She considers herself a “fujoshi” and doesn’t hide it. Although Ohno herself had a first step where she realized that it’s better to come out about it, with Yoshitake there wasn’t even a first step to be taken at all.


So as one might expect, neither Yajima nor Ogiue are particularly concerned with fashion. They’re fine with just wearing jeans. Then again, if I compare Ogiue now to how she was in the beginning when she was wearing hoodies, her fashion sense has become more refined. That necktie looks really cute on her! Those jeans though, I don’t really get them.

The “boy-girl” Hato is incredibly stylish. Yoshitake, who also has a relatively varied wardrobe, comes across as a girl with diverse artistic and literary interests. Even Yabusaki from the Manga Society wears a bit of makeup.

Yajima senses this gap and is extremely bothered by it.


Yajima herself originally joins the club because she thought, “I’d sure like to do something fun,” and went with it. She has an inferiority complex, but that also has to do with her otaku hobbies. She’s never been crushed by a traumatic event, nor does she carry any heavy burden.

Unlike Ogiue and Ohno, she never undergoes an intense initiation process.

Even so, she acts strongly on her feeling that there’s a drastic and irreconcilable conflict between what she feels to be an “otaku” and what she sees.

She wonders about how far one should go for the sake of having “fun,” and her heart is perplexed.

In particular, she wonders about the very existence of Hato as a boy-girl.


The Boy-Girl.

Hato as a boy-girl is quite a unique character… or rather, he would be, but recently there have been a surprising increase in people like him. He’s not a “complete fantasy,” which I find interesting.

That said, he’s certainly still unusual.

There is a definite difference between a “boy-girl” and a “male crossdresser.”

To begin with, “male crossdressers” are those who wear women’s clothing even if it doesn’t fit them, or perhaps people who still retain some of their masculinity when donning women’s clothing. However, “boy-girls” are those who, to the best of their ability, completely transform themselves into “girls,” or something close to it. They’ll shave their body hair, and even take great efforts to adapt their voices to be feminine. Recently, you even have terms like “the dual-voiced”[6] to refer to them.

And, this is the most important thing, they consider themselves to be men inside.

At first they seem like they want to become girls, but it’s not like they have any particular romantic interest in men or anything. Instead, they are passionate in their desire to become beautiful.

Their fashion is the result of serious effort.

This is the first reason that Yajima just can’t accept it. “Why are you like that?” she says.

That line feels like it has a lot behind it.

Hato is a man through and through.

As a man, his desire of “I want to become the absolute cutest” gave birth to the female Hato.

Yajima, who is bothered by the thought of “I’m an ota, so I’m awful,” is contrasted with the “this is our hobby and that’s that” attitude of Hato, a boy-girl, and Yoshitake, a berserker girl, both of whom possess not a single regret or doubt about it.

No wait, Hato had an incident that became the trigger for him. However, it’s quite different from Ogiue and the scars she received upon her awakening to BL. While Ogiue had to struggle with her own traumas, Hato easily sublimated himself into his current state.

I suggest actually reading the chapter with this episode in it, but I also think that there is a large gap between what Yajima and Yoshitake thought about it. Yoshitake really understands why Hato wears women’s clothing, whereas Yajima doesn’t get it at all (she thought it was the result of some trauma).

“If it’s fun, it’s fun; that makes it okay, doesn’t it?” That’s the attitude they take, and it allows them to face front and charge ahead.

This is the new world of the kids of the second Genshiken, and it’s become a world that they don’t hide from.

If I could elaborate, Yoshitake and Hato are about thinking “Does it matter if you’re an otaku or not? Whichever is fine.” I might even go so far as to say that they feel otaku-ness to be “just another personal attribute,” about the same as wearing glasses.

It’s because she’s Yoshitake: stylish, wears glasses, and incredibly cheerful. Geez.

Better yet, Yoshitake is like a bullet shell of positivity, a fine mood maker. She seems like she could even say something like “I oink”[7] without a problem.

…I wrote above that I wouldn’t be making any theories concerning generation, but in spite of that “Nidaime” [Second Generation] is still in the title. This is a work which shows how one pursues or enjoys their “otaku hobbies” has changed on an individual level, and it must be intentional on the part of the author.

At this current point in time, I think that there is a line—Madarame-Ogiue-Yajima-Hato—where each of them produces  a feeling of disparity relative to one another. Both the men and the women have disparate levels of recognition which don’t really link up that well with each other, and this work shows the “interesting” results of when they gather in the same place.


No Escape, Ever

So, let’s talk about Madarame.

This time around, I’d been reading the story completely from Yajima’s point of view, but I must say, the cutest person there was Madarame.

It can’t be helped; Madarame’s “boyish” mannerisms are just so cute. I can’t be the only one who thinks this way!

For some reason I want to hug Madarame, even though he’d hate me for it!

The reason that he’s so dear to me is that deep inside, Madarame overwhelmingly feels that it’s “impossible” to act as a “man.”

Now, the girls’ camp has increased in number such that the club atmosphere feels completely different. By comparison, it’s no longer a world where a girl like Saki acts as a counter to the club itself by virtue of “being a girl.”

That’s where Madarame came from, and where he is now.

What is this? It makes me feel unbearably lonesome.

…For Madarame, this is a place that he loves because he loves being able to spend time with his fellow otaku.

And then, he fell in love with a girl named Kasukabe Saki, but he kept it to himself the whole time.


……

Aw man!

Madarame, you’re way too cute! Seriously, you’re like a little boy!

By comparison, someone else has grown along another direction entirely. Certainly, he treasures the connections that were born from here, and he has always valued them, but that was something else, and now he walks an entirely different path.

Personally, I think that Kugapii is incredibly “real.” Despite being reasonably skilled at drawing, he pursued it halfheartedly at best. He then maintained that halfhearted approach all the way to graduation without producing anything outstanding, and now he has a normal, steady job. This character is also dear to me. He’s a really good guy. He works hard and with earnest. Despite his setbacks, he acts exactly as an adult ought to. He prioritizes his work and doesn’t slack off.

In a way, he’s quite the realist.


Madarame, on the other hand, is really a romantic.

This is the scene where Sasahara’s sister told him about how, even though no one’s ever actually mentioned it out loud, Saki definitely had known that Madarame has feelings for her.

(If you look at Volume 9, there’s a part where Sasahara’s sister, Ohno, and Ogiue are all aware of how obvious this is.)

Whether Saki really knew about all of this was not made clear, but even at the end of Volume 9, her behavior was received as that of “someone who evidently knew what was going on but wouldn’t actually say anything about it.”

This is to a large extent how a boy would “perceive” a woman (“I just don’t understand girls!”), but that’s Madarame through and through.

Madarame is lost in a way that might be referred to as stagnation. He’s also becoming a full-on working adult.

But what Sasahara’s sister says is absolutely correct.

For example:

For argument’s sake, let’s say that Madarame gets a girlfriend. He gives the impression that he still wouldn’t throw away those photos of Saki in his possession. This is just my imagination, but Madarame seems like he’d take those photos to the grave.

He would keep those memories safely tucked away. Actually, he’s already doing that.

Madarame: a man who really seems like he would drag a situation out as much as possible.

Along with everything going on with Yajima, I think that, from here, how Madarame will turn out is to be a point of heavy focus in the comic.

If I dare say, I want to believe in this quote from Ohno.

“Not only that, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had!”


In conclusion:

Madarame is cute.

Was Nidaime made so that we could feel moe over how Madarame behaves like such a little boy…?

Well, he also probably feels a vague twinge of loneliness because of the new blood.

This is unrelated, but I guess Madarame is part of the Azunyan faction (from p.183).

———————-

Translation Notes:

[1] Kyuukyoku Choujin R is a manga by Yuuki Masami, which ran in Shounen Sunday from 1985-1987. Its main character is a teenage robot named R. Tanaka Ichirou.

[2] Like Volume 6, there was a special edition Genshiken Volume 9 which came with a bonus doujinshi, though unlike Volume 6 it was not part of the Del Rey release.

[3] Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru is a manga by Shinofusa Rokurou. Running in Monthly Afternoon (the same magazine as Genshiken) since 2008, it is about a girl afflicted by a bipolar disorder named after its discoverer, Dr. Josef Tsundere.

[4] Character designer for Mobile Suit Gundam and many other anime. Currently draws Gundam: The Origin.

[5] The term that “boy-girl” is a translation of the Japanese term “otoko no ko,” (男の娘) which is a play off of the word for boy, “otoko no ko,” (男の子) but which substitutes the Japanese character for “child” for the one for “girl.” Normally in such an instance I would leave the word untranslated, but ecause the wordplay is in the kanji, it would be impossible to distinguish “otoko no ko” from “otoko no ko.” Another possible translation for it is “trap,” though the inherent implications of “trapping” others is why I avoided using that term.

[6] “The dual-voiced” is a translation of “ryouseirui” (両声類), referring to people who can speak in both a lower, masculine voice and a higher, feminine voice.

[7] “Buhireru” (ブヒれる) literally a verb to describe oinking like a pig, implying that one is a disgusting anime fan7

My Response to Tamagomago’s “Otaku Girl Moe”

Yesterday I posted my translation of Japanese blogger Tamagomago‘s post about the moefication of the “Otaku Girl.” This is my own follow-up to it, and how I feel about the various themes and ideas put forth by Tamagomago.

While I think the threat of otaku confusing reality with fantasy is not that likely for the most part, I do see how “Otaku Girl Moe” is different from most other types of moe, with the possible exception of “Imouto Moe, ” though that mistake can be quickly dispeled by interacting with real little sisters. Otaku Girls actually exist in the real world and are in a sense closely related to Otaku Guys, so the line between fantasy and reality can blur quite a bit. It’s sort of like how most people probably wouldn’t realize that a model’s photo was airbrushed, or that the situations that occur in porn have very little chance of actually happening, but because we associate those things with “reality,” e.g. photos are realistic, we as people can be susceptible to their illusion.

Basically, while I don’t think there’s an immediate danger involving confusing the Otaku Girls in Anime with Otaku Girls in real life, there is a sort of precedent.

I of course also agree with the notion that as strong a character and as realistic as Ogiue is, she’s still just a character in a story. Though I can still hope…!

Another interesting point Tamagomago talks about is what I translated as the “exceedingly shaky” foundation upon which otaku build their preferences for women. I mentioned an earlier example of confusing fantasy with reality, but this one is particularly interesting as it’s almost an inverted example from the one above.

What we have is a situation where an otaku will take a realistic goal, i.e. finding a girl that can relate to them, and using their doubts and fears to transform it into an impossible dream. In other words, they’ve taken what is real and confused it for fantasy, something not talked about quite as often in these conversations about moe we have on this internet.

Of course, the part that generated the most conversation was where Tamagomago said that the act of calling someone moe is “violent” because it strips them of their individuality. Perhaps it was my translation not being completely clear, but the point that Tamagomago was trying to get across was that real people are not anime characters. It’s kind of an obvious thing to say, but within the context of moe you’re using a term associated with fiction and fictional characters and attaching it to real human beings with real depth and personalities. Let’s forget the word moe for a second, and instead imagine that I was talking about one of my female friends and I said, “Her character development is excellent!” It’s still a compliment, but it’s kind of bizarre to use that kind of language with an actual girl.

One more note, I don’t really think calling girls fujoshi is that bad, especially as it’s taken on this specific meaning of “yaoi fangirl.” Words in languages are malleable things as much as some would like to disgree, and the word “otaku” is a perfect example of this as its negative properties have fluctuated over the years. It’s like, I know that the word decimate originally meant “reduce by 10%.” Do I care? Not at all.

So in conclusion, I can’t wait for Hirano Kouta to knock down Tamagomago’s door for daring to say that there’s no such thing as Otaku Guy Moe.

It’s Okay to Propagate the Idea that “Otaku Girls” are Moe, But…: The Aggression and Difficulty Inherent in Moe

Translator’s Introduction: This is a translation of a post by Tamagomago aka Makaroni-san for his blog, Tamagomagogohan. It’s a post talking about his feelings in regards to the moe-fication of female otaku by their male counterparts. Because it’s written in a somewhat casual style, I’ve altered the language in small parts to be a little less stiff. The paragraph formatting is different from the original, as I’ve tried to make it more friendly for English readers. Also, Tamagomago has a tendency to put key phrases into quotes, a property I’ve kept, though admittedly something gets lost in the translation.

There’s also the occasional meme or internet humor used by Tamagomago, and whenever that happens I’ve tried to find an English equivalent. Translation notes are at the bottom of this post.

In any case, please enjoy Tamagomago’s essay.

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It’s Okay to Propagate the Idea that “Otaku Girls” are Moe, But…: The Aggression and Difficulty Inherent in Moe

I previously participated in the magazine Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuu 3 (The Study of Modern Visual Culture Volume 3) with an interesting project titled “This is the Kind of Otaku Girlfriend I Want!”

Let me introduce it briefly.

In short, it’s a feature which in order to promote the concept of “Otaku Girl Moe” says things like, “Girls who are otaku are cute, aren’t they?” For instance, something like this.


“A girlfriend who will make a manga out of my embarrassing fantasies.”

…Does not exist! That’s what I think, but I’ve got to admit that when a situation like that is turned into a drawing, the result is dangerously cute. While there are a variety of complications inherent, there is definitely a strong emotion involved when a guy thinks, “Wow, she’s willing to go this far just for me?!”

But there’s no such thing. At all.


A girlfriend delivering a fervent speech about Sega.

Now this is possible. In fact, I’d like to have conversations this nice.
This is what I would call a good girlfriend. There’s no such thing as a bad person who likes Sega.

These sorts of anything-goes fantasies are the kinds of feelings I’m utilizing when drawing the “Portrait of an Otaku Girlfriend.” It’s not an artistic design, but rather one completely steeped in the kind of subculture that surrounds Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuu, and I do feel it’s the right decision to make.

I consider it to be the right decision because its topic is difficult to really take “seriously” as it were. It would probably receive snickering comments along the lines of, “Whoa, I get it! It’s definitely a fantasy… but that’s okay, isn’t it?” That sort of thing.

That said, in truth I do like the “Otaku Girl” character.

I’m an otaku myself, and so I have no trouble speaking about this stuff, but that’s not what’s most important here. Instead, having someone who’s capable of completely immersing themselves in something, that is the real appeal of Otaku Girl characters.

Lucky Star‘s Konata, Kagami, and Hiyori. Doroko (Thundering High)’s Rin and Chouko. Rakkyou no Kawa (Shallot’s Skin)‘s Maki, Tsukiko, and Ms. Shiogama. Every character in Comic Party. And others still.

Seeing that Otaku Girl characters do actually exist, it then might be possible to have Otaku Girl characters that are “moe,” and can thus be looked upon with adoration. But with this “Otaku Girl Moe” concept you have a mountain of problems piled high up, acting as an obstacle. The “Otaku Girl Moe” genre is one where you just can’t quite get a proper foothold.

The reason is that there’s actually a kind of violent aspect connected with moe.

Hold on, I’m about to do some serious thinking.

From the Very Beginning, Some Went Down the Wrong Path

How female otaku became a topic of conversation is itself a conversation from long ago with no clear origin. However, one particularly important point at which the discourse changed was with the arrival of Genshiken.

With the introduction of Ohno and Ogiue, the topic of conversation became “Girls Who Like ‘BL.'”


The blunt and honest Ogiue is very cute.

The reason why we have someone like Ogiue, who has such a disagreeable and problematic personality, is of course to create in the story a character with whom the reader can easily relate and empathize. The core of Ogiue is that she’s a girl who with honesty and seriousness approaches life with everything she has.

Then there’s Ohno, who claims, “There’s no such thing as a girl who hates homos!”

Oh, of course it’s useless to actually accept them as real. THAT’S THE JOKE.

In one sense, I feel that the idea that “Female otaku go through life giving all they’ve got despite their suffering” has really picked up, and it’s something that’s being drawn quite often now as a result. Genshiken is a splendid work. But we must never forget that, in the end, we’re talking about “manga” here.

No matter how realistic it gets, it’s still a fantasy.

I don’t really think there’s many people who will tell me, “Hey that goes without saying,” but I want to point out that it does not, in fact. As proof, three years ago there was a misunderstanding by the media, and from then onwards a strange and unusual searchlight was placed on the “fujoshi.”

A character who really likes BL is fine when that character is in a 4-panel gag strip. However, when that becomes a sought-after quality in real life, well there’s a big problem. To start with, when actual girls are called fujoshi, I believe they are being done quite a disservice. When you get down to it, doesn’t it sound like a masochistic joke? Even if there were people who called themselves “disgusting otaku,” to be called a disgusting otaku by people I don’t know would elicit the same negative reaction from me.

Certainly, within the context of a manga, Girl Otaku are lovely. But to have written articles for the purpose of riding this wave, with statements such as “Right now, fujoshi are in!” and “How to get fujoshi to fall for you!” and then to have those statements be given in all seriousness, to actually see these things written for people, why it made me dizzy.

C’mon now, it’s just their hobby, you know? Just treat it as a hobby, and then leave it alone.

And then there’s the problem where female otaku in general are now being bunched in with those whom we would call “fujoshi,” and men’s magazines are marginalizing female otaku as a whole. That’s the worst part of it to me.

Then again, men’s magazines already give tips on how to hit on women. Considering the condescending nature of these magazines towards women, you really can’t expect much else.

For the sake of completely removing themselves from the path of sensibility, some have come to accept a great and terrible and very 2D idea: “Otaku girls sure are cute!” Well that’s obvious. But when it comes to actual girls, those same guys will just be all, “Hey, leave me alone, okay?”

It is never a good idea to confuse the two-dimensional world with reality. Ever.

If this strange fad had never caught on, if these guys and girls could simply realize the charm of being people who live for their hobbies and interests and then use it to attract others, that would have been just fine. However, it seems we’ve gone and removed ourselves from that path.

The Foundation of “Moe” is Violent

To see someone actually say, “This is so moe,” and actually mean it is quite mystifying. That’s because declaring something to be “moe” is an extremely violent act in the first place.

In cases where someone is moe for a two-dimensional tsundere character, it’s really just a matter of holding a commanding view of the character, or, perhaps, it’s a matter of cherry-picking what’s convenient. There are no alternatives. If that girl character suddenly strays from the supposedly correct path and gets closer to another guy, it’s often the case that some people will just abandon her. It’s not impossible at all. Because when it comes to “moe,” all you’re looking at is just one aspect of a girl. It’s not impossible, that is, because it isn’t “love.”

However, when it comes to two-dimensional characters, I think this is fine. Those who are capable of loving a character to the very end are wonderful and all, but there are those characters who can only be loved so much. That too is nature’s providence.

They are containers to hold and store the desires of aggressive humans.

But what happens when you take that idea and apply it to reality?

“This person is different from what I expected!”

“This person’s changed compared to what I thought they were!”

The only outcome then, is denial of the other.

These are individuals we’re dealing with here. You’re free to say, “I fell for you,” or, “I love you,” but don’t ever say to someone, “I’m moe for you.” It’s a violent act in which you try to deny them their individuality.*¹

The reason tsundere and maids have been so successful is that they are two-dimensional characters clearly separate from the real world. And sure, there are actually things like tsundere cafes based on these memes, but no one in reality would actually want or desire a tsundere. Even if you unexpectedly fall in love with someone who gives off a tsundere vibe, given enough time that fictional character-type image you created of her will go away.

But of course “female otaku” are not uncommon. Nevertheless, unlike “Shrine Maiden Moe,” “Nurse Moe,” and other similar types of moe, female otaku are to some degree in possession of a “guilty conscience,” a conscience which causes these girls to exclaim, “Leave us alone!” Particularly, those who like BL live their lives burdened with hardships, as they’re confronted with tons of people saying either, “Moe!” or “Give me a break!” in response to them.

“Female Otaku Moe” is a Fantasy

Based on what I’ve read and considered, the true identities of these two-dimensional “Otaku Girls who get the guys feeling moe,” so to speak, are “girls who act like guys.” Of course, I think the easiest example to understand is Lucky Star’s Konata. While she has some feminine qualities, her nature and her desire to collect are extremely similar to that of male otaku.

She immerses herself in her hobbies, and while she’s a little rough around the edges she gives it her all. Occasionally her eccentricities show. Rather, she doesn’t really bother to try and be more “feminine.”


Even if this girl was a boy, she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable at all.

‘s why she’s cute.

If we were to turn this around, it’s like otaku are saying, “A girl whose tastes are like mine, a girl who I can speak to honestly without pretense, isn’t that just a dream?” and so the manner in which they’ve developed their taste in girls is exceedingly, and I mean EXCEEDINGLY shaky.

If I were to rephrase the above paragraph, I would say that I think of it as a matter of wanting someone who understands you and enjoys being with you.

Whenever someone says, “Girl otaku characters are cute,” I want you to understand that by no means are they saying that they harbor an excessive amount of sexual desire for real actual female otaku, or that they want to sleep with those female otaku.

For the guys, this is considered “fantasy” and is viewed as a line that will not be crossed. Thought of in that manner, girls then are just a source for “memes.”

If that’s the case, this seems like a good time to talk just a little more about the moe that I myself haven’t been able to exclaim, the “Girls who are otaku are cute!” moe.

It would be strange of me to say, “Don’t moe them!” so I think it would be nice if we could find some kind of balance or harmony.

On one final note, people who with all earnestness engage in otaku activities are in a sense guys and girls filled with enthusiasm, which gives them a certain charm, no doubt. …Right?

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Addendum.

There have been a lot of otaku marriages recently. How nice…

But these aren’t people saying, “I married someone because they’re an otaku,” so much as, “I married an otaku I fell in love with,” and nothing beyond that. These are normal marriages, no more and no less.

Hmm. In comparing “Female Otaku Moe” to other types of moe, there’s too great a sense of reality with the former, and because of that it’s also become a rather harsh subject to approach. Nevertheless, if we accept the logic that “a girl who’s engrossed in something is cute,” it’s inevitable then that we would see girls who are “into” the “otaku culture” so close to us as being cute, and that the level of demand stemming from this preference would rise greatly. However, there’s pretty much no such thing as “Otaku Boy Moe.” At all.


Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuukai 3 (Sansai Mook Vol. 3)
(The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture 3)

Sansai Books


Rakkyou no Kawa—Moero! Morinomiya Koukou Manga Kenkyuubu (6) (Gum Comics)

(Shallot’s Skin!—Get Moe! Morinomiya High School Manga Club Volume 6)
By Abekawa Kineko
Wani Books


Kyoumeiseyo! Shiritsu Todoroki Koukou Toshoiinkai 3 (ID Comics and Zero-Sum Comics)
(Resound! The Thundering Private High School’s Book Committee! Volume 3)
By D. Kissan
Ichijinsha


Mousou Shoujo Otakukei (5) (Action Comics)

(Fujoshi Rumi Volume 5)
By Konjou Natsumi
Futabasha

If there’s any title that has a relative balance of the realistic and the cute, it would be Mousou Shoujo Otakukei. It doesn’t bother to hide its sharp edge and instead thrusts at you using bitter words like “disgusting.” It’s not just a series which remains closed to outsiders while shouting, “LONG LIVE OTAKU!” But as we all know, lively girls are adorable.

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*¹ Idols, maid cafe maids, and others involved in constructed roleplays excepted.

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Translator’s Notes:

Moe: This is a very difficult word to translate, not because the word can have multiple meanings but because the meaning can change drastically depending on who you’re talking to. It means something along the lines of “passion” or “infatuation,” particularly for fictional characters, and often for characters who are somehow weak or deeply flawed.

Otaku Girl, Girl Otaku, Female Otaku, etc.: Tamagomago uses a variety of phrases to say the same basic concept of an otaku who is a girl, and so I’ve tried to vary it accordingly, but it’s still not 1:1 because I didn’t want to use crazy phrases like “Otaku Lass.”

BL: Stands for Boys’ Love, refers to the genre of guy-on-guy action targeted primarily at female readers. I know most of you know this, but I’m being safe.

Fujoshi: A slang phrase used to refer to girls who are obsessed with Boys’ Love. A pun on the Japanese word for a lady, the kanji used with this Fujoshi (腐女子) literally means “rotten girl.” A frequent topic on this blog.

Disgusting Otaku: In Japanese, “キモオタ” and pronounced kimo ota, an abbreviation of kimoi otaku.

THAT’S THE JOKE: The actual phrase used here in the Japanese is “ネタをネタだと(略” which is an incomplete way of referring to someone who doesn’t realize a joke is a joke or that a meme is a meme. I used the popular quote from Simpsons character Rainier Wolfcastle’s movie, McBain: Let’s Get Silly.

Genshiken: A manga by Kio Shimoku about the lives of otaku in college. Published by Kodansha in Japan and Del Rey in the US and made into an anime by Palm Studio and Studio ARMS. If you aren’t familiar with Genshiken, I suggest you read it, seeing as this entire blog is devoted to one of its characters.

Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuu: Despite being similar to what “Genshiken” stands for, this is not the above-mentioned manga but rather an otaku-oriented magazine, or more specifically, a mook.

Mook: Magazine + Book. Used to refer to publications which focus on a single topic, thick but bound together like a magazine. The Gundam series tends to get a lot of mooks.

Lucky Star: A 4-panel manga by Yoshimizu Kagami about an unabashed otaku named Konata and her three friends in high school. Published by Kadokawa Shoten, it was turned into a very popular anime by Kyoto Animation.

Doroko: Short for Kyoumeiseyo! Shiritsu Todoroki Koukou Tosho Iinkai, a 4-koma high school comedy which occasionally switches to a more normal panel format, kind of like Azumanga Daioh.

Rakkyou no Kawa: Short for Rakkyou no Kawa-Moero! Morinomiya Koukou Manga Kenkyuubu. A manga about a “former” otaku in high school.

Comic Party: Originally an erotic game by Leaf/Aqua Plus about doujinshi artists, it has been converted into a variety of media.

Mousou Shoujo Otakukei: Released in America as Fujoshi Rumi. The manga is about a high school girl who loves BL and yaoi. Published by Futabasha in Japan and by Media Blasters in the US.