Half Court Press: Genshiken II, Chapter 99

After being absent for many chapters, Yoshitake Risa makes her return. Having given up a potentially successful career in basketball to take the entrance exam for Shiiou University, she and her older sister Rika have a heart to heart talk the night before, which quickly turns extremely otaku. At the same time, Yajima, Hato, and Sue have their own conversation about the younger Yoshitake, based around the fact that part of her inspiration for trying to get into their university is Hato and his crossdressing. Despite waking up late, a freak snowstorm delays the test, and Risa manages to make it there on time and pass the test.

The title of this chapter, “Little Sister Entrance Exam II,” is a reference to when Sasahara’s sister Keiko tried to get into Shiiou University herself. She failed, though Risa appears to be a good deal sharper academically, which changes the result.

This month’s Genshiken, despite having a clear general focus on Risa and her test, is still surprisingly complex to the extent that I’m not sure if I can cover everything, though to be honest I rarely every do despite my attempts. There are three areas which I think are especially interesting, though, so I’ll focus on those. The first would be Risa’s relationship with Hato, or more specifically her image of him. An unabashed shotacon, Hato’s naked body is what made Risa realize that her interests could be fulfilled in the adult world. However, the fact that she sees Hato as a kind of real life version of her ideal male fantasy (she asks him to wear legs-exposing short pants if she passes, which over the course of the chapter degenerates into some kind of reverse-gender take on zettai ryouiki), clashes in an intriguing way with the developments we’ve seen Hato go through all this time. He’s gone through a period where he refused to wear women’s clothing, and then come back around as he’s accepted his own feelings for Madarame, and here Risa is projecting her own interests onto him. What was already a complicated situation continues to grow, and that’s not even mentioning Risa’s own gender-bending actions.

The second area would be the start of Hato’s “harem.” Recently, the focus of Genshiken has been the number of people interested in Madarame, which the series has been using to explore the idea of the harem manga by way of the otaku sensibilities of the Genshiken characters. In this chapter, we not only see once again that Yajima has feelings for Hato, but that there might also be something with Sue, and Risa expresses her own interests in Hato (even if they’re mixed up with her otaku fantasies). Then there’s also Konno the googly-eyed goddess, who doesn’t appear in this chapter. Suddenly the series isn’t about one man’s “harem” (even though the term is kind of bad for describing when two or more people like you), but two intersecting ones. Granted, Yajima’s fear of Sue seems fairly unfounded, and I think it’s meant to show more her concern over potentially being outclassed, as well as her realization that it’s getting harder for her to deny her own feelings for Hato when she references her and Risa as “rivals.” I also find it notable that Risa is the only one to state some sort of interest in Hato to him, instead of only confessing to friends.

The third area is of course the subject of the entrance exam itself. Rika’s advice to her little sister is this mix of big sister attitude and fellow understanding as an otaku. In particular, Risa struggles with whether it was okay to walk away from basketball on a whim, to which Rika essentially responds that being an otaku means living by your passions even if it means making seeming unreasonable choices. The idea is that otaku aren’t as able to stifle their interests in the hopes of integrating with the rest of the world, and Risa already has done a relatively bang-up job what with her successful high school life. Something about this really strikes a chord with me, probably because I know others who’d probably give the same advice, and it’s something I’d encourage as well. On the other hand, this advice can also be abused such that one might refuse to better oneself, but that’s the kind of risk that exists with this sort of philosophy.

One last note: Sue’s snow shenanigans at Madarame’s place make me think of her as a kindred spirit to Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. Now that’s some crossover fanart I’d be interested in.

Advertisements

Genshiken Second Season Episode 6: Yoshitake Siblings and Other Stuff

First, here are the equivalent chapters from the manga if you want to see my thoughts on the narrative itself, as well as some image analysis: 67 68 69

When the cast list for Nidaime first came out, I found the abscene of Risa/Rihito rather conspicuous. Despite my worries that they would skip over her appearance in the anime in order to get to some of the big events later in the series, Risa did show up after all. Interestingly, this appears to her voice actor’s first anime work. If you look at Sakurai Shou’s profile, she seems to only have experience in narration and at her school’s drama club. I’m actually kind of impressed because I kept thinking she was another more established voice actor, like Park Romi.

There are a couple of things from the manga which don’t quite make it into the anime. The first one is that in the manga the reveal that Yoshitake is actually 20 (the legal drinking age in Japan) also becomes the reason she was able to buy all that alcohol the last time around. Without the scene in Episode 2 involving alcohol, this connection is lost. Similarly, when they all go over to Yoshitake’s place to drink, the manga points out that her younger sister is drinking juice instead.

The other cut seems to have to do more with time constraints and keeping the narrative flow intact from the beginning to the end of the episode. In the manga, the partying goes on until the next day, which has them all together in the morning. Rather than Hato changing at Yoshitake’s place, they all go back to Hato’s apartment first, where they find out that the reason he lives so far away is so he can have a walk-in closet for all of his women’s clothing. Again, it doesn’t appear to be for censorship reasons, just timing and pacing. One side effect of this is that when you compare the manga to the anime the characters are wearing different clothing and hairstyles.

In my original analysis of Risa, I didn’t really go into the fact that she’s the first character in Genshiken whose primary interest is shotacon. While other characters have shown the possibility (Ogiue herself is into Roy x Ed from not-Fullmetal Alchemist and who knows about Kuchiki), it feels like a whole other can of worms with the younger Yoshitake compared to the usual fujoshi pairing talk. Even the series itself acknowledges this difference, as you can see how the other characters, although accepting of her tastes, awkwardly react to some of Risa’s statements (she’s mostly into 2D). At the same time, Risa’s also another example of a person who doesn’t quite fit the typical mold of the otaku or fujoshi, being more of an athlete with “unique” interests and for whom competition takes priority over hobbies. She’s neither full-on geek nor simply a “normal.”

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why Risa hasn’t appeared in the Fujoshi Files, it’s because there’s no evidence she’s into guy-on-guy action or pairings.

In the episode, Risa talks about how she’d rather guys be completely smooth down there, but when confronted with the real deal it’s clearly not what she was expecting. It brings to mind Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! where he recalls an editor of a BL magazine mentioning to a reader that fantasy and reality don’t match up and that she should stick to the imagination if that’s what she wants.

I do wish we’d see more of Risa.

The next episode preview has some cosplay, but I’ll leave that breakdown for next time.

Smooth Criminal: Genshiken II, Chapter 69

Last time we met what can be best described as the Luigi to Yoshitake’s Mario, Yoshitake Risa. No, seriously, think about it. She’s younger, taller, and jumps higher.

Anyway, unlike the previous little sister in Genshiken who didn’t really get a dedicated spotlight until many volumes later, we get to learn a lot more about Risa just one chapter after her introduction. She’s quite an intriguing character, so I’m all for it.

(Did you know Yoshitake has the power to snore in English?)

As the freshman drinking party concludes at Yoshitake’s place with everyone crashing for the night, we get to learn quite a bit about young Risa. She awakened to her nature as a shotacon because of a particular child star, though she prefers the timelessness of 2-D over the aging process which inevitably affects the inhabitants of the real world. Also, though she loves playing basketball (enough to attend games instead of going to doujin events), she is tired of everyone assuming that she’s going to pick a college based on her hoops prowess. Yoshitake Rika, always the loving older sister, not only buys all of Risa’s doujinshi for her, but brought her to Shiiou University to help her think things through.

When all’s said and done, Risa has one last request. Knowing that Hato began crossdressing so that he could make friends with fujoshi, Risa is curious as to just how “challenging” that process is, how far Hato has gone for the sake of meeting like-minded people. Yoshitake, who can also be a “helpful” older sister, manages to twist the situation such that it ends with a visit to Hato’s place.

There, Yoshitake wants to use the time Hato spends showering to find out all of his secrets, but Yajima stands in her way. Despite assistance from the younger sibling , Yajima manages to stop Yoshitake, though in the process they inadvertently open the door to the bathroom and both Yajima and Risa get to see that Hato is indeed a man, albeit an incredibly smooth one. Risa, with Hato’s image possibly burned into her brain, now finds a reason to take the exam for Shiiou University, much like the other Genshiken little sister.

Before I get into my thoughts on the chapter itself, I want everyone to look at this image of Risa’s body.

Risa’s figure can be described as that of a tall, slender but athletic woman with small curves. It makes sense, given the amount of time she puts into sports. It is also an incredibly uncommon body type for a female character in a manga with men as its primary audience. Sure, there are girls with small chests in shounen/seinen, and there are also plenty of athletes, but rarely are they like Risa’s. Even in most comics targeted towards girls of all ages, a body type like this is not drawn with as much focus on anatomy.

Ohno, Kasukabe, and Ogiue’s bodies were already quite different, and Yajima is of course overweight, but Yoshitake Risa’s realistically athletic figure, which doesn’t really try to adhere to typical notions of feminine appeal nor masculine portrayals of heavy musculature, makes me fully aware of just how varied the body types of the female characters are in Genshiken. It’s actually quite impressive, and I think shows that Kio Shimoku, more than ever, is trying to draw female characters for men in a way that fosters understanding of women as people.

The way this chapter is, it actually feels like a hang-out between girls (plus Hato). It’s kind of like that scene at the retreat back in Volume 7, only without the painful recollection of traumatic events from the past. Instead, they were able to create new traumatic events (again, Hato). Again, it’s not out of the blue, and when I look back on Genshiken it’s clear that it’s always been different in portraying female characters, but Chapter 69 somehow feels like a particularly strong example of this approach.

I continue to enjoy the sibling relationship between Rika and Risa for reasons touched upon in the chapter summary above. Yoshitake comes across as a person who genuinely loves and looks out for her younger sister, and it’s clear that her happy-going personality has had a positive effect on Risa’s development through the years. That Risa is comfortable with calling her older sister for advice is in itself a strong sign of their bond, as is the fact that Risa feels compelled to go along with her sister’s hair-brained schemes (crossdressing, bearhugging Yajima). Again, I have to contrast it with the Sasaharas, who eventually reached something along those lines, but only through a long and arduous process.

As for Yajima, I find that she is in this strange position where Hato’s crossdressing has taken on the opposite effect of what it used to be for Yajima. Initially, Hato’s female guise made Yajima rather uncomfortable, as it challenged certain deep-rooted feelings and beliefs in her. As they have become friendlier however, the crossdressing almost acts like a barrier preventing Yajima from thinking of him as a man, which Yajima consistently views as a kind of “other,” like so many nerds out there. This is why you see Yajima try to prevent Risa from convincing Hato to change into his male version. Poor Yajima.

Speaking of Hato, the chapter also provided some insight into his life. For one thing, we learn that the reason Hato lives so far away is that he had to find an apartment with a walk-in closet to store both his dresses and his massive amount of doujinshi. Now that’s the kind of dedication that Risa can understand.

Next chapter is the school festival, and while not quite as exciting as a ComiFest chapter, it’s still something I look forward to from Genshiken. We’ll also get to see Ogiue again. And if that’s not enough, Volume 11 is on its way in February December with a special edition and an exclusive Hato figure. I’ll probably end up owning one myself, if only because I try to get every single special edition of Genshiken that I can.

I do not intend to ever break that streak.

Cross Counter: Genshiken II, Chapter 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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