As issue 110 was just released of Genshiken Nidaime and Kio Shimoku's latest interview with Anime News Network, I've got to say, a lot of what I've said here may not, at all, be relevant anymore. I still feel very similarly to how I did back in August of 2014 but a lot of reveals since them have introduced and changed many of the facts.
Therefore, much of what is written here may not really be relevant or applicable. End of note.
So, I reread all of Genshiken and Genshiken Nidaime in July and August. It seriously made me reconsider a number of assessments I had made in my previous series (Intro, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) on Genshiken Nidaime's gender dynamics, although, on the whole, recent developments during the summer, including Kio Shimoku's recent publications in Afternoon (especially issues 101, 102, and the as-yet untranslated 103) have seemed to validate a number of my assessments. Coupled with the two most recent issues of Spotted Flower (issue 12 and issue 12.5), I am going to depart from my usual style of "impartial" analysis and actually do a bit of "shipping."
I've no serious investment in whether Madarame and Saki get together. Although I like the characters, I recognize them as fictional and I won't get upset if events don't play out as I'm predicting here. The reason I'm writing this post, however, is to demonstrate the contextual and literary rationale for my "shipping," essentially arguing that Kio Shimoku has been spending about half of Genshiken Nidaime building toward the situations found within Spotted Flower via analysis of the plot thus far as well as analysis of the characters themselves.
I'm only going to discuss my reassessments in brief, so let's get them out of the way first.
I will admit I mischaracterized Yoshitake's character as a literary Satan/Devil/Loki character. While she is somewhat chaotic, most of this is due to her enthusiasm and happy-go-lucky personality. She's not really experienced heartache, nor seen heartache in her friends. She accepts that she's somewhat pathetic (re: Ogiue's question regarding everyone's romantic histories) but it doesn't seem to bother her at all.
The problem with Yoshitake is that she doesn't realize she's playing with fire by trying to set up Yajima with Hato. Broken hearts are difficult to mend and while Yoshitake realizes that the circumstances surrounding Hato's infatuation with Madarame may lead to a breakup of the Genshiken as a whole, she doesn't seem to realize that her meddling could hurt Yajima as well.
Yoshitake's motivations are alright. She wants Yajima to be happy and in that regard, she's a great friend. Yajima doesn't have any confidence in herself and her feelings for Hato, albeit known to Yoshitake, are suppressed and denied by Yajima for fear of failure and rejection. What Yoshitake doesn't seem to realize is that there's no doubt that Hato would reject any romantic advances from Yajima. Or perhaps Yoshitake does realize this? If Yoshitake does, is she trying to maneuver Yajima so that she, too, gets rejected like Madarame was rejected by Saki in order for Yajima to get over it?
I don't think Yajima will recover from a rejection like Madarame did.
After re-reading Genshiken, it became quite clear what sort of personality Sue has. Sue finds Madarame attractive and is drawn to him but she constantly rejects and refuses her feelings in order to maintain a persona. The fact is, Sue is almost always playing a character in front of everyone. When she speaks Japanese from her heart and not by reciting quotes we get a glimpse into her personality--a caring, observant, sensitive person. Unfortunately, she keeps this part of herself submerged unless the situation requires her to speak up and help the group to remain solid and harmonious.
Sue's defense of Ogiue at the Comiket is a fantastic example of this. Sue's encouraging of Ogiue to not allow Hato to feel isolated after he "outed" Madarame as a fantasy uke is another example. Sue's conscientious and despite her "funny gaijin" caricature, she's genuinely compassionate and perceptive.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Madarame, or perhaps just men in general, Sue's got some major issues and unless Kio Shimoku shifts focus in the upcoming Fall's issues, we're not likely to get a real look into her psyche to see what her deal is. She's chosen a persona that's possessive of Ogiue and a self-proclaimed rival of Sasahara. Granted, this rivalry isn't serious--it's all part of her act. It's not who she really is. Interestingly enough, everyone else seems to know this.
Like Madarame's shell of otaku-ness, Sue's persona is a big defense mechanism meant to protect her heart. She easily bonds with the women around her and becomes protective of them. The men, however, really don't get much interaction with her (with the exceptions of Hato and Kuchiki, who are, well, exceptional) beyond "Die, Sasahara!" and "Die, Tanaka!" It's unclear whether she feels fearful and threatened by men or simply perceives them as rivals and antagonists. Her feelings for Madarame are likely due to his growth toward passivity and unobtrusiveness. He's not threatening to her because, as he expresses at the end of Issue #103, "Girls are scary!" When it comes to Madarame, Sue can feel safe and in control. Unfortunately, she is also scared of revealing her true feelings. She's made her mask so important to her that she's resistant to actually expressing her actual self.
Unless something serious happens, like when the entire female contingent of the Genshiken cajoled and maneuvered Sasahara and Ogiue into coming to terms with their pasts and feelings toward one another, Sue is very much unlikely to ever confront herself enough to make any real, honest advances toward Madarame.
Hato's come to terms with himself and his hobbies. Whereas I saw Hato as tremendously confused back in the Spring, I now recognize Hato as a character who has come to accept who he is and what he loves. The problem with this is that he has become infatuated with Madarame.
Porn addiction is a serious problem and all of the female club members in Genshiken Nidaime struggle with it to one degree or another. Make no mistake, porn addiction has been linked to a number of romantic and erotic psychoses developed by those experiencing it, male or female. For most of the female members of Genshiken, their "addiction" is pretty mild-to-nonexistent. In Hato's case, however, it has driven him to an alternate (and in Japan, deviant) lifestyle. While the rest of the members struggle with it by characterizing it as a 2-D vs 3-D dichotomy, Hato has jumped down the rabbit hole and is deliberately trying to live out a 2-D fantasy in real life.
Keiko's blasting of Hato's character in Issue #102 has been questioned by some (such as Muda-kun at Hearts of Furious Fancies) as potentially bigoted and homophobic. I argue that it's not. Keiko is no saint and is a petty and narcissistic person (as evidenced by the big reveal in Issue #103, which, if people recall a few moments in the original Genshiken, isn't so surprising after all). Keiko's criticism of Hato, however, is entirely correct. If we are what we do, then Hato's a deceiver.
I don't dislike Hato and I don't think Hato is a Bad Person. I do think Hato is doing something very unethical and immoral, however. I explained it to Muda-kun thusly:
Hato deliberately put himself in situations where he would fall in love with Madarame. His Hato x Mada fantasy is something he's desperately trying to bring into reality but the truth is, Madarame will end up in his own version of The Crying Game and everyone is going to be hurt in the end. Indeed, Madarame could end up going full-blown hikikomori from this entire affair. I know it's a fictional manga, but Shimoku isn't one to go after unrealistic plot resolutions and Madarame going gay for Hato is about as unrealistic as Madarame piloting a Gundam, not to mention damage if not totally destroy many of the premises from which Shimoku is working.
If Angela [and Keiko are] bad idea[s] for Madarame, and [they're] cis-gendered heterosexual female bombsell[s], then Hato is potentially disastrous... . Hato is quite confused but he's less confused than he was before. What he used to be confused about was his orientation. Now he's accepted it alongside his love of BL and his enjoyment of being a trans-gendered future-female. These things aren't a problem--the problem is Hato can't draw the line between fantasy and reality anymore. Although the fujoshi in the club have tried to help Hato out often it has come with side-effects that muddied the waters and made things inadvertantly worse (ex. when Ogiue, at Sue's urging, showed Hato her Sasa x Mada drawings, which simply threw gas on the fire). What Hato is doing to Madarame is just as bad as a straight guy doing the same thing to a lesbian woman... .
Everything she's said about Hato doing "shitty things" has been in regards to seducing Madarame, especially during a time when Madarame is weakened. Since summer Comiket, he's been humiliated (in part thanks to Hato, in part, thanks to Angela), he's had his heart broken by Saki, been put in an awkward position because of it, had Angela show up again and humiliate him, broken his wrist, been told he's got the weight of a harem to navigate, and on top of all this, Hato is in full-on yamato nadeshiko mode with aims to seduce Mada. Mada's not attracted to Hato, here, he's desperately attracted to the yamato nadeshiko Hato is dressing as and Mada's having a hard time keeping in mind Hato-chan's [not actually a girl].Let's consider the last sentence of the second paragraph here. "What Hato is doing to Madarame is just as bad as a straight guy doing the same thing to a lesbian woman." I can't imagine any homosexual women approving or even remaining tacitly indifferent to a storyline in which a lesbian woman is "seduced" back to being heterosexual. It's extremely offensive and the readers would be outraged not just at the writer but at the male seducing character as well.
It doesn't help that Hato is taking advantage of the fact that Madarame's years of sexual isolation and frustration have programmed a weakness to yamato nadeshiko archetypes. Hato is deliberately accentuating and exemplifying the tropes and characteristics regarding the yamato nadeshiko just as much as he was accentuating and exemplifying BL tropes and characteristics when he was changing at Madarame's apartment. The only difference is that Hato is no longer engaged in any internal debate. He's completely committed to his cause.
If Spotted Flower Issues #12 and #12.5 are any indication, Hato is headed for severe disappointment. This is a big turnaround for Kio Shimoku with regards to how things had resolved throughout Genshiken. Nevertheless, given how badly some things turn out for the depressingly stupid and narcissistic characters in Yonensei and Gonensei I am wondering if Shimoku is going to bring forth bitter fruit for any of the Genshiken Nidaime characters' decisions.
The Case for Spotted Flower
Spotted Flower is a point of contention for many readers of Genshiken Nidaime. Is it canon? Are the characters actually the same as the ones in Genshiken and Genshiken Nidaime? Is it an alternate universe? Are the similarities between all the major (and unnamed) characters in Spotted Flower only to tease the audience or is Kio Shimoku changing certain aspects of appearance and omitting names only because of copyright laws (Spotted Flower is serialized in a jousei manga anthology magazine and not Afternoon).
There is the teaser at the end of Genshiken Nidaime #80 after Saki has let Madarame down. Are we to consider this a plug for an unrelated comic, an unofficial and non-canon glimpse at a would-be future, or a look at the actual future for the characters? It is my contention that, given all of the facts in Spotted Flower and Genshiken/Genshiken Nidaime that Spotted Flower actually is the future of the Genshiken but Kio Shimoku filed off all the numbers in order to avoid any legal issues that may arise from serializing Spotted Flower in a different magazine.
The biggest hurdle to demonstrate that Spotted Flower is in fact the future of Saki and Madarame is Saki's assertion that, if it were a different universe and Saki wasn't dating Kousaka, that there might be something between the two of them.
This, however, is just how she feels at the time. If it weren't for Kousaka, Saki never would have even met Madarame, never would have come to care about and respect him (or any other members of the Genshiken, for that matter), and never learned to be tolerant of and even accepting of his otaku-ness. This is blatantly alluded to in the first few issues of Spotted Flower, where the wife reveals she had dated the husband's friend from his college circle and that the relationship taught her not to feel revulsion for otaku hobbies and interests. Thus, in Spotted Flower, it is already established that the wife once dated the husband's friend but the relationship ended, allowing the wife and husband to get together.
The following excerpt from the comic (found here originally) after Saki turns Madarame down is extremely revealing.
Saki's been a champion. She doesn't demand Kousaka change for her and, indeed, she's grown and changed a great deal. She's gone from being the Genshiken's primary antagonist to a hero that's rescued the club numerous times. Saki may dearly love Kousaka but their relationship is not healthy, no matter how many Kousaka x Saki shippers try to demonstrate otherwise. The few moments of their relationship that are illuminated for the audience in Genshiken Nidaime don't give any evidence that Kousaka has grown or changed at all. His order of priorities puts Saki pretty low in comparison to his hobbies. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship or studied even rudimentary psychology knows that Saki is in an unhealthy situation.
This is why I see her relationship with Kousaka as temporary. After Saki started to change and became a true friend to the other members of Genshiken, I went from snickering at her relationship woes because she was a terrible, shallow, self-centered person to hoping she'd break up with him because she deserves better. A break-up with Kousaka is almost inevitable.
Genshiken was about a lot of things but one of them is Saki's personal growth. Similarly, Genshiken Nidaime is about a lot of things but it is also about Madarame's growth and maturity as well. I think Kio Shimoku is setting up a situation in which, when Saki and Kousaka break up, Madarame will be healthy enough and able enough to participate in a relationship with Saki.
Kio Shimoku is doing one of two things with Spotted Flower. Either he's giving the audience a glimpse of the Genshiken characters' futures, specifically Saki and Madarame, or he is trolling his Genshiken audience. There really isn't much of a chance for any other interpretation or possibility. It is entirely possible that the next few months of Genshiken Nidaime will feature events that drastically redirect the course of the plot (especially since Winter Comiket is coming and that means Angela's return, as well as the new school year and possible new club members in Spring). Kio Shimoku progressed through four years of character growth and plot events in 55 issues (Genshiken), but the past 48 issues haven't even spanned the course of a single year! A lot of fans are hoping that Shimoku wraps up the Madarame harem storyline soon, which has been going on for about 23 issues so far (that's nearly two years' of issues).