Watching the detectives

Is Kio Shimoku writing primarily for otaku fanboys or is he trying to branch out to a BL/yaoi loving wimmins audience too? Will fujoshis read G2 for the identification thrill, or does it detract from their primary mission of gorging on yaoi, yaoi and more (urp!) yaoi. I cannot believe that Hato x Mada is being dangled in front of the solid japanese fujoshi tribes to lure them into reading Genshiken. Perhaps isolated proto fujoshi will reach out and find support among others of their kind, encouraged by reading about the Genshiken fujoshis – as if women need help and socializing advice from a comic book. Perhaps all the lonely rotten boys will feel better about their lives and form dojin circles?

Then again, what do I know?

Aside from echoes of previous debates, this last issue is closer to current problems of plot mechanics than would first appear. If as previously discussed, the mangaka holds up 3D interaction as a panacea for otaku, then the current Genshiken ain’t helping nearly as much as it could/ should/ wants to. If he is writing for Otaku guys, then he has painted a number of his characters, and himself into a perpetual despair corner. Bad ending! This dating sim does not function! You offer me 10 years of idealised productive social, and then tell me that the odds are that I will still end up as a ronery 40yr old virgin?

“Fuck this otaku shit! Time to drink heavily, form a punk band, overcome my shyness and get laid!” (gratuitous link here)

Put another way, Madarame, Hato (and Kuichi – too late for you Kagupi) are not going to get much life-help from the gals, and Tanaka, Sass and Kousaka are in not much of a position to offer grown-up manly-man advice.

With apologies to oppressed solid communities everywhere, the guy characters in Genshiken are suffering from adult male role model deficit syndrome.

If the Genshiken fujoshi have to negotiate and avoid the oppressive female roles proscribed by Japanese society (Kogal, OL, devoted japanese housewife, self-loathing hikki fujoshi etc.), then the menfolk have a similar problem: how to navigate the shoals of unemployable graduate, salaryman who gave up his dreams, peter pan, freeter, and always always the ronery guy. And they have much fewer social resources to call upon to help them figure it all out. The only place where the Genshiken anime exceeded the manga was the brief moment when Kugayama gave Sass some “don’t make my mistake” real-world advice,

Even smutpeddlers like Ken Kurogane have his yuri bait sigh and contemplate arranged marriages (usually before a night of debauchery with another lonely gal – I smell trope!) . Genshiken is free of this but the absence of an alternative is telling.

If Genshiken’s target audience is primarily japanese male Otaku then the natural direction of the narrative must veer towards a conventional resolution, with a token nod towards keeping some of their youthful enthusiasms as hobbies and inspirations.

Some sensitivity training towards LGBT issues and crazy foreigners can be commended and encouraged as a sign of personal development and maturity, but no one’s world view or view or their core being is going to be shattered by Hato or Sue. The larger japanese formula of distrust the unknown outsider until proven safe, then give him/her/hir a comedy role on a variety show (see ten thousand articles posted on intersections) is repeated in Genshiken,

To hammer home the point, almost all of Genshiken’s current crop of angsty kids are virgins. There are no practicing gays anywhere near Genshiken. Beyond the paired off couples, there are no practicing heterosexuals in the Genshiken: KS even made a point of hammering this home in the high school romance story chapter (they should have interrogated Sas’s sister, no point in quizzing Sue – she is an alien!). So much for one of the main ideas behind a modern university education.

So what? this kind of argument got me in trouble once before, on /u when I pulled a compare and contrast between Aoi Hana  and Sasameke Koto.

To clarify matters, this is not about the playset, but a (for want of a better word) quantum level of plot mechanics and engineering within a manga storyline.

To continue the example, while Genshiken presents a comedic view of an idealised otaku / fujoshi club, it’s relationship plot mechanics, including the Ogiue/ Sass romance, barely venture beyond the playful comedic hesitancy of the romance(s) of Sasameke Koto, With its cartoon super strong girl, childhood lesbian-if-I-ever -find-a-cute-girl-to ruv-me friend and their supportive shoujo-ai oriented group of friends; the entire long slog was over a first kiss fer gawd sakes!

The glaring exception to the chaste environment was the one martian lesbian couple, an 18- year old business genius super competent and confident rich girl and her chauffeur’s daughter lover, who had a fairytale matter -of-fact relationship fueled by cartoon uber-wealth-power mojo, 3 matter-antimatter reactors and a fleet of low obital ion cannon. Yup, martians. (Perhaps I exaggerate a bit – oh! I forget to mention the army of ninja bodyguards?)

Even then, that one couple was as “conventional” as Ogiue and Sasahara, Ohno and Tanaka and Saki and Kousaka.

Contrast that kind of story to the pain-drenched plot mechanics of Aoi Hana: our lead character is gay, she was seduced and abandoned by a woman cousin when she was 13. She has had real lesbian secks much too young; but for better or for worse realises that it works for her. Later she is toyed with by a snotty rich girl who is on the rebound from a relationship with a male teacher, and then takes up with a caring woman teacher only to see her new love develop a horrible disease, break off the affair and move away somewhere to die. (Holy well-o-loneliness Batman!!!) Now this girl is trying to have a “normal” teen girl romance with a sweet young thing that she has known since childhood, whom she now realizes she likes, and who likes her, Naturally she is paralyzed by the thought of dragging someone innocent into the world of hurt and confusion that she has experienced.

This is a level of storytelling that is different and out-of-place in a story like Genshiken, In retrospect, putting Koto or Genshiken up against Aoi Hana is unfair: just hit the wiki link provided for Takako Shimura and see why.

So why bring this up?

If any of the Genshiken characters was to be written as being actively gay or strongly leaning that way, we would have heard it, with fireworks, flashing 50-foot high neon signs and a parade with marching bands and elephants ALREADY. The author would have to do it, thems the internal consistency rules.

If, and its a big IF, a (long-overdue) gay character shows up at the door of the Genshiken, they will have to already have a long-term partner and be in all respects a model boy or girl couple. In the Genshiken world, sexually active folks pair off and become responsible mentors/ sempai.

Shimoku has set up the Genshiken-verse as a place where otaku characters look at something like sex, but for the most part fear and avoid contact with it because it is dangerous, it offers nothing but disappointment, and it hurts like heck.

In times gone by, a young confused celibate person (or character) would be expected to be “innocent” – in the sense that they had very little or no knowledge of the grotty details of sex and of the day-to-day complications of intimacy, This characteristic made them desirable to all manner of predators, including authors.

Today’s variant suffers from too much information – a great deal of it spurious, and is actively avoiding the entire 37-car pile-up in favor of watching the carnage from the sidelines. Why else do they spend so much time reading distaff pr0n? What point but distance for yaoi, yuri and loli enthusiasts? It is a rare occurrence when such can summon their courage and jump the fire.

Can the Genshiken offer more than acceptance to such characters?
Does it have to offer anything to work as a satisfying story?

Back to the idea of the Genshiken as a productive social that offers friendship and acceptance and a chance for some happiness and perhaps personal growth through common projects:

Hato’s high school social persecuted him, and Kaminaga upon finding that her “fun” has created a creepy double of herself, was not exactly in an understanding mood. Condescension and objectification is all that she offered her brother-in-law-to-be. And why should she offer otherwise? Aside from internal character consistency, every good BL tale has to have the evil intruding woman character to hiss at.

Some of the other members of the posse felt uncomfortable, or even guilty, but make no mistake, his old high school art club was a BAD SOCIAL as much as Ogiue’s high school “friends” were. Final telling point: neither bad social created anything in a common effort.

It therefore falls to Genshiken, as the good social to pick up the pieces or fail.

Ogiue has already tried to help with Hato’s drawing block… Hato has proved to himself that he can draw beyond imitating Kaminaga’s style, in collaboration, and without drawing hard pr0n (although the pressure that built up popped when the student council boys showed up at the club room). Ogiue takes her sempai/ chairman responsibilities seriously – her quick move to slip into the reunion scene with Hato and Kaminaga et al. shows that she remembers how caustic “old high school friends” can be. Hato picked up the vibe though and overcompensated to smooth things out – this probably accelerated the descent of all present into full metal pairing mode; an attempt at changing the subject that goes awry.

But it has become clearer to any who care to put 2 + 2 together that Hato was holding out during the high school crush confession scene. What to do with the realisation?

Sue helped Hato a bit too, with her “you do this, you do that” gambit, but pushing folks at other folks is pretty much the limits of her powers of intervention.

Sue is Ariel from the Tempest.. A hard-core american japanophile who has the resources to be a foreign student at a prestigious Japanese university; her friendship with Ohno has led her to a nest of fujoshi and otaku, and she is just soaking it all in. But too much involvement will break the spell.

In retrospect, any disapproval toward Angela’s advances towards Madarame probably stemmed not from trying to preserve a Hato x Mada script, but a deeply held sense of the limits of a participant observer position; her place.

Sue might be geeeked on Ogiue as a perfect specimen of an Otaku/fujoshi/ dojin-artist who has made the leap towards publication and a riajuu romantic life, but I think Shimoku is having too much fun with the readers by pandering to a Sue x Ogi subtext.

Kuchiki is Caliban to Sue’s Ariel. He wont get any chance to do anything, as he has no position but boke from which to do it from, even though he is becoming quite a cosplay (and cross-play) enthusiast. Until he starts making the damn costumes he wont get any respect points.

Not much help can be expected from the other new/current members: They are still coming to terms with Hato and their own place within the Genshiken. Feeling uncomfortable with him or protective of him is not enough. Even dropping pedo-bear girl on Hato wont solve anything – even if she cross-plays as Tuxedo Mask. (DAMN! put the playset away for a few moments!!) Maybe its time to pull a moeteki spell on Hato – that would confuse things for another 10 chapters. (Awwww.. c’mon, Risa would make a great Tuxedo Mask to a Hato-moon, kawaaaaaaiiiiii!)

The trouble is that gag solutions seem to be the only ones that lend themselves to solving crisises in the current Genshiken. The last time the story line got serious was with Sas and Ogi’s courtship, and the motivation behind all the sturm und drang was as odd as Ogiues hobby.

It is not in the nature of the Genshiken characters to seriously pry into personal matters. They might do so playfully, as in the school romance story moment, but part of the Genshiken acceptance code seems to be don’t ask don’t tell. For example, what do we really know about Madarame from before his time with the Genshiken?

As senior-most of the Genshiken tribe, Madarame is the patron saint of the doctrine of acceptance within the Genshiken, and he is now doomed for it. Worse, the plot is in danger of grinding to a halt if this passive happy acceptance dreck continues on too long.

Sometimes you need some raw emotion, like this:

from Houkago Play, the scanlators re-arrange to read l->r

Bonus weirdness: Rocketnews is a pain, but sometimes they find  something:
no hotlink for them because of the sensational dumbed-down tone, but the details are of note. OK I’ll give ’em the hotlink, whatthehey…

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