Wherein the previously promised post, “Love and only love” gets put off for an examination of the latest chapter of Genshiken, even if I have to work from Bulgarian (?) scan scripts…
.If Hato should have learned one thing from Madarame, it is: don’t keep the secret envelope taped behind the bookshelf/ desk. That being said, Hato just got more intimate attention and skinship from a girl than he has ever had in his whole life. If that don’t have some effect, at least in terms of appreciation for what a determined fujoshi girl can do to make a young crossdresser’s body go weak and heart sing, then Hato’s next clothing spree should be for monk’s cloth. The shock of the envelope reveal is going to pass a lot sooner than the memory of what he felt on his neck.
No turning that smooch/lick on the neck into “fantasy is fantasy”.
Will Hato now go all Kuchiki whenever he sees Sue and demand a rematch?
“Subdue me! Subdue me!”
Will he start drawing fake yuri wrestling ecchi scenes?
How will he draw? If the volume extras are to be taken as canonical, he needs at least a bra and pantsu to be able to draw in fujoshi-mode. Perhaps a sports bra and gym shorts will now suffice.
And what of Sue? Nurturing the impression that a cross-dressing, yaoi reading, pr0n drawing Hato could possibly be drawn to a 3D Madarame, especially after seeing him fixate on Mada’s neck was a reasonable reconciliation of fantasy and reality, and one that would also brush away any nagging stirrings of interest she felt developing towards Madarame, if any was developing. What a shock to now be responsible for:
1) finding Hato’s embarrassing secret;
2) committing the politically incorrect sin of trying to impose a sexuality on a friend who had been previously bullied in such a manner (she might have been trying to signal that she was supportive of Hato “coming out” – Oooops!);
3) killing his crossdressing hobby;
4) ruining any chance for him to discover his innermost desire to jump Madarame and finally
5) causing a small fierce flame bearing her name to be lit in the heart of Hato-kun!
No wonder Sue is hiding over at Ogiue’s apartment.
The reverse pairing issue had been telegraphed by Ogiue’s previous request for a guest illustration in her next doujin, and Hato had made a point of indicating that he was not too fixated on his favourite pairing orders; something that the casual literature on fujoshi culture tends to emphasise as a trope of the tribe, along with the attendant “pairing fight”. But drawing his analogue as an ero game otokonoko and as uke to a sou-uke is about as transgressively abject as Genshiken-version fujoshidom could get without hauling out whips and chains.
Other correspondents have pointed out that Hato and his puppet-master both have too much invested for him to make a completely clean break with his cross-dressing and quasi-fujoshi habits. Perhaps we will finally get a whiff of Dr. Mizoguchi and have Hato blurt out “yeah, but women draw it“. Shimoku-sensei is going to have a lot of fun elaborating on how he undergoes a process of radical disenchantment. Since the Genshiken-as-social is coming up on being a ten-year project for its creator, I would expect that the failures and successes of the emergence of Hato V2 will mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the club.
One of those strengths is Madarame’s acceptance. It needs to be shown as a strength and not an opening/ holes/ vulnerability (Shimoku-sensei has telegraphed this a few times) and he needs to pass it on.
Another strength is the Genshiken’s newly revived record of cooperative productivity, at least while under female stewardship. I have gone on too much previously on how both Ogiue’s and Hato’s high school groups were bad socials (they bullied and produced nothing as a group – the University manga club is not too useful either) The Genshiken’s productivity can also be measured in terms of its members’ personal growth: Ogiue with Sass and then with Hato, Sue, Yajima, Rika and the rest of the irregulars created some respectable publication output but the process also helped “create” Ogiue and to a certain extent Sasahara. Ohno and Tanaka have gained as much from Genshiken-enabled cosplay as they have put in. Madarame’s failure to launch could be taken as a sign of the weakness of the club in helping a hardcore male otaku, or it could have saved his life. Who knows how worse he would have been without it?
Lots of us western Genshiken fans have been clamoring for more Sue back story (Moar Sue super-powers! Where is her cloaked Gernsbeck M9A ???) but Madarame is equally enigmatic. We know Ogiue’s and Hato’s past traumas, some hints about Yajima and Rika a bit about Ohno, less about Tanaka a tiny hint about Kuchiki, but nothing at all yet about Madarame (or the Prez and Kugayama for that matter, but they have left the stage).
What did Madarame do with himself before university? What is his background, and how does he (or his parents) pay for a degree at a reasonably prestigious university? How did he become an otaku? Why did he give up on 3D women? Can he socialize with guys beyond the confines of a safe, male-otaku enclave like the Genshiken? What women fluster him into his uber-geek-creep mode and to what extent is he now comfortable with the Genshiken fujoshi tribe?
The earlier incarnation of Madarame could be manic in his enthusiasms and prideful in his knowledge of his favorite bits of fannishness. His embarrassment in the face of women when the libidinous,”creepy” side of his hobbies spilled out would cause him to retreat into even more stereotypically creepy otaku behaviour: a form of pre-emptive self-sabotage that always ended with him declaring that he is only interested in his fantasy world anyway, and therefore harmless. There was a point to his geek-out routine as a reply to the gesture by Kousaka and the gang: it was consciously self-ironic. The brief return of the “old Madarame”; the first time as tragedy, the second time as playful farce.
Galbraith interviewed fujoshi who spoke of “graduating out” to meet real world responsibilities. Is there any literature on male otaku “graduation” besides Train Man vs Radio Wave Man? So far the issue is studied only in passing: when a maladjusted loner goes berserk, or when a publicity seeking geek spokesman marries his favourite video game character.
Any talk of graduating out, and it surely exists on 2chan, puts professor Saito’s reality x fantasy pronouncements under pressure. The tug between the two extremes is not specific to otaku or Japan. Western geeks had their fiawol and fijagh as early as the 1960’s. I still need to find a digest of Prof Saito’s arguments to see if his assertions ground in present-day sociology, but clearly the ability to keep reality and fantasy separate exists along a continuum for any population.
To admit cultural difference is no error: one has only to look at the differences between American and Canadian house lots and the Japanese practice of walling off their compounds to discern a certain higher regard for privacy and the separation of public and private space. But these practices have history and reasons behind them. Japan is a crowded place, neighbours are too damn close all the time and codes of behaviour are socially enforced. Middle class patterns of land use borrow from historical upper class models. Obviously people need some place to retreat to and psychic personal space will serve when physical personal space is hard to find. There is little in the way of a societal zeitgeist regarding platonic ideals required to set up a strong :public is public” x “private is private” distinction in society. After all, this is the free societal space that otaku and fujoshi inhabit. The term otaku literally means “of the house” or something like “man [or woman] of the house”. (Squire or esquire; a property owner, is a close approximation and equally archaic/ inappropriately formal in original use). The only transgression occurs when the boundaries are breached.
Saito’s hypothesis has pop-culture followers. Recall Honda Toru’s Radio-Wave Man manifesto as a response to Train Man:
“In 2005, Honda Toru published Dempa Otoko, or “The Radiowave Man”, a manifesto condemning Densha Otoko for depicting otaku as immature individuals who must “grow up” and accept social roles and responsibilities. Honda criticized the story for failing to understand the true nature of otaku, showing little more than how to participate in commercialized “love capitalism” (ren’ai shihon-shugi) by dressing nicely, buying gifts and going on dates to trendy spots; that is, how to engage in proper acts of consumption. What the franchise misses, according to Honda, is that otaku do not need to be redeemed or rehabilitated by romance with the opposite sex — or even with living creatures. Honda advocates finding love with two-dimensional characters, which offers a chance to achieve, or resuscitate, a “pre-social” masculinity.27 This love does not end in childbirth, marriage, sex or even courtship; its distinctiveness in part lies in its unconsummated fantasy potential. In this way it offers a way out of the “real,” or the “body politic centered by the reproductions of family” (Allison 2000, p. 173). Thus, for Honda, Densha otoko not only misses, but also jeopardizes one of the few truly counter-hegemonic masculinities available to young men in Japan today.“
— “Re-Narrating Social Class and Masculinity in Neoliberal Japan, An examination of the media coverage of the ‘Akihabara Incident’ of 2008” David H. Slater, Patrick W. Galbraith in Electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies, September 2011
Hato’s character seems to be constructed in such a way as to push the limits of the private x public/ fantasy x reality opposition to extremes. As such, he can be seen as a continuation of themes that started with Ogiue’s high school “sin” and Madarame’s absolutist “néant” (1) position – a position that mirror’s Honda’s.
Kio Shimoku has played this chord before, it is reasonable to assume we will hear more of it.
Hato’s journey of disenchantment and then accommodation (or crisis and dialectical synthesis) is just beginning. Or Shimoku-sensei will deploy Risa in full girl-to-boy crossdresser mode and set her after Hato-kun, so no matter how hard he tries, he still ends up in gender confusion land.
As for Madarame, he needs a new lurv interest to make a tangle work. Perhaps he will surprise the heck out of Keiko next time and call her bluff by inviting her out of a not- at-your- club rai-juu Saturday afternoon date. He must have some familiarity with Train Man (or its Genshiken- verse analogue) and he has, through Saki learned the value of better grooming and dress. In his mind, while Keiko the pest would be completely off-limits for romance or club visitation action she would make a great safe practice date. And that might get her off his case too! All he has to do is behave well so that Sasahara doesn’t get annoyed. She isn’t an otaku, her job makes her a financial predator that trades on male loneliness and longing and her previous teenage Gayaru misbehaviour and lack of University socialization paint her with lower class behaviours and ambitions. Never underestimate social class subtexts in Japanese manga or larger Japanese society. No danger that she will pop up dressed as his favourite loli 2D chara and break his heart, but it would stir the pot a bit.
About time for Genshiken love triangle/ quadrangle/ tangle, along the lines of a Shakespearean love comedy. At least no one is yet smitten with a donkey.
Then again, there is always Kuchiki.
1) lit. “the deny-er”. Used metaphorically against the classic catholic concept of the turning from god as absolute sin, see for example Carbonne14‘s Le Dortoir: In the full version, a man returns the the ruined orphanage dormitory of his youth, enters the classroom, sees the word “dieu” (god) on the chalkboard, angrily rubs it out and gets ready to blow his brains out.. See most of it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yzrUH2bBNE. And yes, you should grab a beer and watch the whole effing thing, because it is damn fine!