Burden of dreams

Ch80 sees Madarame finally (almost-) confess and Saki gets to (hopefully) help him move on/ get over it already.

Then she cries.

It is a damn powerful plot moment, but is it more; part of a larger tendency within the Genshiken story line, or even a bit of preaching to all real-life Otaku and ‘ronry boys who have carried unreasonable torches for unreasonably long times?

Damn you Shimoku-sensei! Once again our solitary vices are have real-world fallout. In the Genshiken-verse, an unacknowledged crush is a horrible burden to lay on someone, no matter how nonchalantly you deny any interest. You can protest that you are only interested in 2D until you turn blue – but the elephant in the room remains to disrupt the harmony of the group and your interactions with everyone.

“All of our desires are just things we force on others”. And a younger Ogiue ends up in her own personal hell for innocently shipping her classmate.

This is a variation on a long-standing Japan-joke; Man throws himself in front of a train in a downtown Tokyo station and the news report always ends with “over 200,000 commuters were inconvenienced”.

But the Genshiken-verse doesn’t know how to deal with the opposite of lonely, silent pining either (unless you are the superhuman Kousaka and the girl next door) – or perhaps it would have been different if Angela hadn’t been a busty blond gaijin girl. Mada just needs a slow courtship with a yamato nadeshiko fujoshi. One who does not already have a love interest. And one who can be a friend as well, and who is an heir to a manga publishing empire, and..

Ok, so we won’t hold our breath.

Saki had to carry the Madarame crush-can for a long time, and finally had to do most of the work in the clubroom scene, once she clued into what the cabal had set up. But it was her choice to give no notice of Madarame’s long and odd fascination with her, no matter how many envelopes full of cosplay pictures ended up in a guilty scatter for all to see.

“Thanks Ohno! I knew that something like this would happen!” would have nipped a lot of trouble in the bud, but would have disturbed the social harmony of the group. And even at this point, we are asked to believe that Madarame’s reality field was so warped that he conveniently forgot that everyone saw him with Ohno in secret agent drag mess up the hand-off of envelopes full of Saki cosplay pix. Madarame needed to get over his Saki (or fantasy-Saki) crush ages ago; it has gone on for some four years of Genshiken-time, and has been presented by Shimoku as one of the main symptoms of a classic form of otaku failure-to-launch. But Shimoku is smart enough to drop hints at the power of such a delusion, and how it meshes perfectly with real-life’s disappointments.

One fan’s comment on the whole mess reminds us all that Madarame would feel that a full confession to Saki could seem like a betrayal of sorts towards Kousaka, who Madarame counts as a friend. Add that to the betrayal of the grudging friendship that Mada has developed with Saki and that Saki has with Mada. In this light, the nose hair confession is a stroke of genius: Some things can barely be said in a space where chaperones are still expected when Genshikeners – at least female ones, hesitantly interact with the opposite sex.

The real problem with Mada’s hopeless crush is that he remains a prototypical unsocialized otaku guy. He may have grown a bit from his earlier weird extremes, but he still lives too much in his otaku head. Maybe he needs to get buddhist, learn meditation and practice mindfulness. Even in his present incarnation, he finds it insanely hard to talk to women. His inner dialog, misapprehensions and fears make for a horrible jumble whenever he opens his mouth. Not only is he shy with women, but his personality is an edifice of fantasy built to accommodate, validate and support that shyness and reconcile it with his pervy otaku desires. Too much moe, too many 2D lolis. Shimoku has always classed the otaku and later the fujoshi as a variant species of pr0n addict.

I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

Then they take you…

This of course is a well-worn manga trope; it makes for an endless stream of comedic errors. Once again I point out the cringingly funny female version of this: “Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!” a once-confident girl brought low by too many otome dating sim games. (Also see this.)

So we get to watch a small catharsis unfold for Madarame, and Saki has no other way to show her friendship for him but to slap a little white lie onto the gaping wound. But Saki’s attempt to boost Mada’s confidence needs to be “spun” in a positive direction fast, or the delusion will reset with full force.

Which puts Shimoku in a bit of a tight spot: continue Mada’s fantasy and milk the last few laughs out of it, or get preachy and risk the narrative flow.

What Saki needed to say was something like “…At first you were a real scary unappealing Otaku, and you often still are, because you seldom can get out of your head long enough to interact with females-as-human-beings. But if you could put aside the crap in your head that is making you double-think everything, and stop mistaking shyness and pervy embarrassment for some idiot form of noble heroism, then you make a pretty good friend. Lots of people care about you, and some girl out there – NOT ME!- might take a chance on you, and you and whoever that silly female might be deserve a shot at happiness, if you can actually snap to long enough care about her as a human being, and not as a loli fantasy, yadda yadda yadda..”

That won’t work.

In the manly guy-verse, this kind of bind is dealt with by means of repeated withering ironic ribbing from a ‘bro, delivered when the hero is in the depths of despair: “Yup! Women just melt when you stare at their tits and gibber – especially the fat ones!” “Make sure you forget to bathe for a week, cut your own hair and wear your best comfy hikki clothing when you ask her out!” “Make sure you tell her how she reminds you of your fave moe character, and then snort a lot” “Getting a girlfriend is no way as important as remaining a ronry guy who will die alone in a 6 tatami room 40 years from now surrounded by figurines and fuck pillows! 2D forever!”

Tough Love! But even advice from the losers club is a bit hard to find in the Genshiken-verse: as I have mentioned before, there aren’t a lot of normal male role models floating around the clubroom. Of all the old guys, Tanaka is the closest to a regular guy – who through passion and good luck has a shot at a great relationship and workable small business. But he won’t butt in. Sasahara has done nothing to establish any advice giving mojo (aside from dojin plotting) within the larger group: all his mentoring got tangled up with his crush on Ogiue. Kousaka remains a superhuman cipher. He wont seriously intervene. While he has a soft spot for the Genshiken crew, I doubt that he even considers their problems as problems.

A lurking larger theme in the Genshiken saga is precisely how the Otaku and later Fujoshi manage to order the progression of their lives without such senior advice and examples from rai-ju society. The Genshiken-verse has three functional couples. They share very little among from themselves, or towards their kouhai about the challenges of maintaining a quasi-normal relationship. The active mode of “help” or intervention in the current Genshiken is clumsy meddling. The members are sympathetic, but barely able to manage support – when they do chose to support they are too fast to take a narrow view shaded by their enthusiasms; support Hato, but throw Mada under the sou-uke bus, feed Mada Saki cosplay pics, drag Saki and Mada into the clubroom on impulse.

In a society that enshrines the idea of the sempai-kouhai model, but has seen it and all the other models of order and ascription fall before economic stagnation, the bubble crash and globalization, the longstanding appeal of the Genshiken-verse is how this band of misfits somehow muddle through without “normal” scripts.

Another odd thing about the Genshiken-verse: it is a habit in “meta” manga stories to have the “heroic theme” of the story-within-the-story lend strength or at least inspiration to the characters. Those of us with too much time for our enthusiasms do it in real life, so it is natural that the trope would find its way into the plots of the stuff we like. No anime fan in a long distance relationship can resist a sideways reference in real life to Hoshi no Koe (go on, I dare you…) just as no metal-head can resist blurting out a few choice lyrics when they mesh with a particularly resonant real-life moment.

For all the references towards manga, anime, games and light novels in Genshiken, it is nearly devoid of this kind of sentimentality. Any such “influence” in the Genshiken-verse is minor, played for laughs, and invariably dysfunctional. I guess Unbalance and Ramen Angel don’t quite cut it as inspirational literature, and yaoi and loli smut are in the end just smut. Witness how Sue destroys a poignant moment by waving yaoi dojins in front of Mada after letting out a rare, coherent bit of sympathetic advice (because it was Sue, and delivered intelligibly, we must assume it was a direct quote from some anime/ manga source.) Wow, gee thanks Sue!

So: no help from a larger society, no help from your peers, no help from your fictions. A small amount of clumsy friendship to ease the pain. stir occasionally and simmer.

Kousaka, showing a rare moment of human concern has no problem stating that he loves Madarame, even while wearing an ero-game trap outfit, and he has no consideration for the codes of chaperonage that the rest of the tribe find so necessary. But Kousaka is an alien superman, and he doesn’t count. The rest of the tribe in the room do not know how to handle his simple pronouncement, and so are twice shamed.

In fact the only member of the Genshiken who has consistently shown sempai-mojo is Madarame: He supported both Ogiue and Hato without judging their quirks and for his efforts he was labeled sou-uke and “full of openings”.

Perhaps it is time that Madarame finds a new apartment after all.


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