“The author should not pull a Rame when writing about Rame pulling a Rame.”
– Forum comment, ch 125
Warning! Spoiler lamp for chapters 125 & 126 is on.
One chapter left before the curtain comes down on the second generation of the Genshiken. I suspect that at this point, Kio Shimoku is writing with an eye to a smooth adaption for any potential second cours of an anime. Those of us who were used to more robust plotting and longer setups must look at the rushed, even forced concluding chapters with mixed feelings, once we get over the initial shock that our beloved franchise may be, if not terminated, at least on extended sabbatical.
… I’m not there any more.
The ending, especially the Saki-ex-machina and the “moe moe moe, we so seldom speak of love” dance between Madarame and Sue seems wonky; pulled out of the mangaka’s ass. There is also a profound generational divide at work in the staging; The original boys plus Saki, with Ogiue and Ohno making later appearances as bridge members between the generations. This coincidentally leaves the new generation sidelined – they had their kick at the can with the Nikko trip – while papering over a deafening silence within the izakaya working group re:, a certain other possible Madarame romantic interest. Do not mention that person. DON”T GO THERE. La la la, whistle whistle, whistle. Never happened. Nope... (oops! now that the scanlation has popped up I see one tiny aside) I hope at least that chapter 127’s Sue will bring up the delicate subject in a respectful manner.
I won’t hold my breath. I will be a miracle if the two shell-shocked romance-shy cowards can even manage to buy each other ice cream cones during a first date without triggering a cascade of calamities that lays waste to an entire ward of metropolitan Tokyo. Power outages, minor injuries, rush-hour trains stopped, Oh embarrassment!
I have hopes the Kio Shimoku will use his break time to have some fun, perhaps whomping up something ridiculous, diverting and mildly pervy again, like his earlier Pretty Ramen Tenshi Pretty Menma. A rumoured farce detective series; Pantsu Tantei Milky Maou Subaru, featuring a cross-dressing occult-powered detective banished to Saitama prefecture could be a hoot (1)
Otherwise, we are left to pick through the last days of Madarame’s university life. How the hell did he manage to find an apartment in Tokyo for appx US$300/ month? This must truly be some vile hell-hole, plus it is likely haunted by the shade of the last tenant who committed suicide in it (there are niche agencies that rent out such unfortunate apartments at a steep discount, at least for the first few years). Y30K/month? Tokyo? At least this is in keeping with Madarame’s newly assumed hangdog donzoku/ skid row demeanor. Dude is wallowing.
At the close of the Nikko fiasco, it looked like Madarame had racked up a few maturity points. He sure didn’t act as if the harem was his first, last and only chance to ever find true love. I for one thought he came out of it showing a small amount of self-confidence. He may have hesitated for a seeming eternity before he finally opened his pie hole, but once he did, his excuses were diplomatic and loaded with well-crafted face-saving double-speak. If anything, what I thought he took away from the experience was a resolve to never, never, never again let any well-meaning meddlers interfere with his love life.
The reversion to “I was a snake in my past life”, “check out my hentai doujin score”, “2D forever, 3D pig disgusting” followed by the explosive decompression brought on by Makoto Kousaka’s ruse seems to come out of nowhere; unless we must somehow take Mada’s uber-otaku 2D song and dance as inexorably tied to his original doomed crush on Saki as Fantasy-Saki-Ritsuko-Kubel-Kettenkrad. Even then, it is still a shocking and disappointing display of performed self-pity.
Worse; it gets his sorry, reluctant ass dragged into one more ‘public romantic set-up by friends’ situation. Having had both experience with long sputtering torches and setups I can safely declare that the former should be dropped and extinguished as fast as possible and the latter are best approached by all concerned parties with a modicum of discretion. Some nudging will undoubtedly be needed but fer krissakes, let’s not turn it into a fertility festival!
“Sue confessed to you!”
Plot check: So did Angela and did so much earlier, Keiko mumbled something about supporting his sorry ass and Hato… well, that’s entire kettle of fish, isn’t it?
“Your excuse to her was lame!”
Plot check: All his excuses to everyone except Hato were lame. The whole exercise was a build-up of lame-itude to the high levels required to back away gracefully from HatoMadaHato without destroying Hato’s position within a female isolationist fan social. Sue even twigged to the game and went along with it.
“Sue is interfering with Sass and Ogiue’s love-life!”
Plot check: “So tell her to go home fer krissake. Thanks for more gratuitous group pressure. Anyone else have romantic problems that I can fix by dating someone?”
Instead, the two chapters hinge on the notion that Madarame has suddenly regressed to performing male-hysteria immaturity.
“SIRE… He was a coward” -Dickson
By otaku-ing out in a reprise of his old fugue-state antics, Madarame is pushing his relationship with his friends from affective towards the transactional, which is a dangerous place for any friendship, let alone a Japanese group-bond. Of all the male club alumni at the bar, Makoto Kousaka is perhaps the most understanding. Being an alien god-presence, Kou had always given the impression that he fully accepts Mada’s weaknesses, even as he pulls a rabbit or two out of his hat and applies mild therapeutic shocks to counter the worst symptoms (2). The “Saki is pregnant” trick is less of a ruse and more of an elegant diagnostic procedure. Once the boil is lanced, Saki lays into Madarame.
Saki Kasukabe and Rika Yoshitake clearly have different opinions of Madarame. At the very least, Saki is positioned as harboring a small amount of residual, annoyed concern for him. The pained look on her face speaks pages, if not volumes. More interesting is that Saki advocates for Sue Hopkins. Beyond the hindrance that clingy Sue poses to Ogiue and Sasahara’s love-life and the annoyance of a still-sputtering Mada crush torch, why would Saki even care? Why not advocate for Keiko or Angela Burton?
Somewhere along the way, Sue has gained more in-group “concern status” than either Angela or Keiko (Hato being a complete we wont mention this again issue). Sue steeled herself and confessed to Mada and even if she never explicitly shared this with the rest of the group, she certainly made enough of a show of being bent out of shape by her feelings to let everyone know where her heart lay. For these reasons if not others, Saki feels the need to go through the effort of straightening out Madarame’s head. Chapter 126 will expand on this theme as operation ‘send Sue off on a date with Mada’ becomes a first generation women’s wing effort. Ohno and Ogiue practically have to tie Sue’s corpse to a horse to get her into the field of battle.
Meanwhile Hato-as-chan stands off to the sidelines with Yajima Merei and Rika Yoshitake. Their hands wave back and forth.
There is one (meta-)reason why Sue must be best girl. If indeed the Genshiken leans heavily on a gloss of theoretical writings surrounding the otaku in Japan, then Sue Hopkins is the closest of all the Genshiken women to Dr. Saito Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl (3). Mysterious (incomprehensible) outlander loli. “What is this thing called love?” emotionally deficient/ crippled. She is also a full-bore otaku AND a fujoshi AND a cosplay enthusiast. Sue likes her pr0nish manga hawt and is not too concerned about the bodies, sexualities and gender expressions deployed in them, making her a fully libidinized fan – a factor no doubt in why she is so flustered when it comes to actual 3D romance. She has secret ninja/ muay thai fighting skills! All she needs is a cloaked M9E/006 Gernsback stashed in a vacant lot near the Club building to finish off her ridiculously Tamaki-esque specs.
Everybody’s (perfect) fujoshi girlfriend. What’s next? Her family is filthy rich, owns a distillery and are pressuring her to get married?
Those who enthusiastically supported a romance between Hato Kenjiro and Madarame Harunobu may be disappointed, but in a sense, have it EASY. Their disappointment is concisely defined and the treachery that caused it was expected. Whether queer-baiting or slash-fan-baiting (4), the HatoMadaHato ship was deftly sank because that’s what cis-het privileged authors who write for fanboy audiences DO. At least Hato wasn’t found dead in a fridge. Such an outlook provides a comfortable understanding of a narrative.
Fujoshi and outlander slashy shippers are used to disappointments. If anything, these spur them to compensatory creative action. If the BBC won’t give a larger and far more vocal and productive JohnLock faction their due, why should Kio Shimoku go out on a limb? In a sense, the refusal of the canon to acknowledge the possibility of “their special feelings” redoubles the “special” of these; which is also why such pairings so often venture into problematic “I’m not gay, it’s only you” territories. Without this entire universe is against the pairing magic pixy dust, the auteur is stuck with class, race or other mundane romantic impediments. It would take a heckuva lot more setup to make Hato and Mada the children of competing merchant and/ or yakuza houses/ factions.
Avoid wandering monks with nifty ideas.
Hato might even get a virtual lesbian consolation prize relationship with possibly the only character in any manga or anime ever written that could put up with hir antics. That this also runs in congruence with a further gloss on a stream of theory writings on Japanese fujoshi practice is a bonus. One more time: Hato as Kage-Mizoguchi, a fanciful yet still functional shadow of the warrior herself.
Obviously there just wasn’t enough support out there in the Japanese (we’ll assume that outlander fan interest rates only passing consideration and even then, it too was mighty thin) fan-verse to bend the narrative any further towards a queer, still ill-considered-in-Japan HatoMadaHato ending than was already ventured.
And noooooooo… Spotted Flower did not already seal off such possibilities; Alt-Hato’s bitter chiding could have referred to all manner of alt-Mada cowardice. Furthermore, from Saki’s pained looks in chapters 125 and 126, I find Spotted Flower as eventual canon destination of the story-line even harder to imagine than before.
This will serve the fandom right for not writing/ drawing metric shit-tonnes of HatoMadaHato doujinshi and fic. Enjoy your frustrated hanging ending. What the fuck else did you want? An engraved wedding invitation? Don’t like it? La la la. Waiting, waiting… A long-running, supposedly beloved series about fans consuming and creating fannish doujinshi and fanfiction on themes of rotten-girl pairing fantasies. Quick look at Comiket catalogs… Hmmmm pretty damn thin.
Perhaps if the Genshiken women wore model boats on their heads…
Hato interruptus and what of Sue?
Chapter 126 raws and summaries offer tantalising hints towards how the forced, accelerated pace of the set Mada and Sue up endgame play out; again more suitable to the last two episodes of an anime rather than a long-running manga. There are hints of Sue emotional distress, news of which has undoubtedly circulated through the Genshiken first generation social, all while somehow never reaching the ears of second generation members.
“Sue has been spending too much time with Ogiue” might well be the understatement of the last 3 chapters. Memo to Kio: A bit more emphasis on flustered hiding/ avoidance by Sue from Mada when he showed up at the clubroom in chapter 123 might be advisable for the tank release. Some fans have noted a complete lack of interaction between the two at that time, even as Hato-as-chan immediately lit up like a beacon in the night.
Perhaps chapter 126 and 126 are better considered from the 90 degree perspective shift suggested by the previous chapters 124 and 125. By re-assembling the first generation cast, a contrast between gendered fannish socials is drawn. Saki appears both in her role as riajuu girlfriend and fierce authority on all things REAL LIFE within the first Genshiken’s cohort. She remains a true, full member of the club and her position within it is far more complex than Ohno’s or Ogiue’s. Being The Judgement is a lot of work.
There is scant anthropological fieldwork available with regards to friendship and allegiance within Japanese women’s socials. What does exist points out that men’s socials, at least work-socials are always considered in the light of strictly hierarchical social status rankings among the members. Both male and female friend-socials must dance with and against existing formal rules of rank and ascription. The use of familiar nicknames, for example occupies a middle-ground between the strong intimacy and/or absolute lack of respect that comes from using a person’s first name without honorifics in social company. Some researchers have also noted that high-status women’s socials go out of their way to avoid any “false-sisterhood” pretenses, as the obligations of family weigh far too heavy on Japanese women for these to be well-considered. (5)
As well, the greatest social freedom and therefore the greatest potential for affective rather than positional or transactive friendship exist within an age-cohort, free of the hierarchical demands of sempai-kouhai respect and obligation rules. Pairing Madarame off with Sue is a within-cohort solution; Sue Hopkins made her debut appearance and interacted significantly with Madarame during the first Genshiken, especially during the New Year’s Eve temple excursion. Who else has enjoyed so much Mada-skinship?
If in-group cohort dynamics are given a stronger emphasis, we can add one more reason for why the Nikko gambit was doomed to failure. Solving their sempai’s idiotic harem problem was never the responsibility of the Second Generation. It could only be an exercise in “saving” one of their own from a problematic entanglement with a dubious sempai.
If these closing chapters of Genshiken Nidaime leave me with a vague sense of discomfort, it is not because the good ship HatoMadaHato was sunk, or that Madarame reverted to a low/no status spineless, real-life avoiding NEET-ish figure of pity and yet despite (or even because of) all this has won a second chance with the enigmatic loli of his dreams (if he can only get his head together and dream of her). It is that too many elements of the plot and characterization feel, at least to me, as if they were bent out of shape getting here. The progress of the story feels far less “completed” than the ending of the first generation felt. Then again, Nidaime was in many ways a far more ambitious story than the first generation of the Genshiken. Just add rotten and everything gets complicated.
An examination of what Nidaime did exquisitely and where it came up short must wait until the dust surrounding chapter 127 settles For now the uneasy feeling persists.
(1) Pity I just made up the rumor myself, I swear, this one has box-office! Exiled to Saitama and assigned to the Inter-Prefectural Underwear Theft Task Force (aka the fuckup and loser dump for the Tokyo Met Police), our young crossdressing detective soon gains magical girl powers and… This fanservice turdling writes itself. First installment of a diabolical plot to pitch hideous new manga ideas and rumors of adoption of such at/by Shimoku-sensei until he returns to his appointed life-task? Never got my full-page floral background chara portrait either. Entitled Fan problems? You ain’t seen nuthin yet! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!
(2) And while we are at it, how did Kou pull off his jousou-game cosplay event for Madarame half a year earlier at the cultural festival? It would have required pre-planning, transport and coordination. Since there was no way he could have known that Madarame would finally be pushed to confess his lingering feelings to Saki, for what purpose was the operation originally devised?
(3) The Beautiful Fighting Girl, per Dr Saito Tamaki (Sento bishojo no seishinbunseki (戦闘美少女の精神分析), Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl (2000) – English translation: Beautiful Fighting Girl. Trans. J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press.2011 ).
It is a conceit of my essays in this blog, in analysing the Genshiken, that Kio Shimoku drew heavily on the main notions played with in the popular discourse surrounding Japanese (and later outlander) academic discourse surrounding Otaku, Fujoshi and “Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture. Don’t believe me? Fine. The first few chapters of the original Genshiken, the character quotes from Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi’s Japanese writings, mirrored in her English academic writing (“Male-Male Romance by and for Women in Japan: A History and the Subgenres of Yaoi Fictions”. U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal. 25: 49–75. AND “Reading and Living Yaoi: Male-Male Fantasy Narratives as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan.” PhD diss., University of Rochester 2008. [http://hdl.handle.net/1802/6281] AND Mizoguchi, Akiko (September 2010). “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond”. In Berndt, Jaqueline. Comics Worlds and the World of Comics: Towards Scholarship on a Global Scale. Kyoto, Japan: International Manga Research Center, Kyoto Seika University. pp. 145–170. [http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf] ) on fujoshi experience (from a lesbian perspective) The arguments over Otaku as failed men that stretch back to 1980-1990 articles in Manga Burrikko, (“Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith [www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men]), Perhaps a further Galbraith citation when the translated text of the moe moe moe Mada Sue phone conversation emerges (Oh, it did! See: Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan [http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html] or [http://www.academia.edu/3665389/Moe_Exploring_Virtual_Potential_in_Post-Millennial_Japan], Also my own previous grind on the subject: [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/fujoshi-moe-nogatari/]), the libidinization of fannish praxis, Tamaki himself praising the first Genshiken in a 2006 follow-up to his work (“Otaku Sexuality” in Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi ed., Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2007)), oh heck, as if I haven’t beat this one to death already! Just assume that Kio Shimoku does his research. He really does. He is also skilled enough as an author not to let it get in the way of his story.
(4) Recent IRL controversies highlight the need to keep a clear distinction between queer baiting and slash/ yuri/ etc fan baiting. The former is what irresponsibly malicious straight Daily Beast (and or Gawker?) reporters do to closeted gay Olympic athletes, (The Daily Beast later sheepishly removed the story) the latter is what rabid fans weaponize into “queer baiting” to drub creators with, when their ships are sank or even not given the wind desired for their sails. Go ahead and drive a Steven Universe cartoonist off Twitter. Congrats on your fan-power, Not. Looks like a reprise of the nasty “requires hate” antics that poisoned numerous sci-fi fan writing communities throughout the last decade and a half. Does “dreaming in queer” bring out more extremes of quasi-activist advocacy than real-life sexualities? Sure you can crit an auteur if a set-up comes to an abrupt whatttthappppenned? end but I think we all should be careful of imputing premeditation and/or escalating accusations of prejudice and malice to hyperbolic levels.
(5) See for example: ‘License to drink’: White-collar female workers and Japan’s urban night space, Swee-Lin Ho, National University of Singapore, Singapore in: Ethnography 2015, Vol. 16(1) pps 25–50
http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/ho%20license%20to%20drink%20egy2015.pdf and: Tokyo at 10: establishing difference through the friendship networks of women executives in Japan, Ho Swee Lin, The Catholic University of Korea, in: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 18, 83-102, 2012