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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stepping Over Hato-Kun's Legs

A Few Thoughts on Genshiken Season 2's First Volume
Club president Chika Ogiue now has to manage a fresh-faced trio of yaoi fans (one of whom dabbles in cross-dressing), a surly American transfer student with a penchant for obscure anime quotes, and her own rising career as a professional manga artist. Can she actually find time to draw her own vanity project for Comic-Fest? (Source: Kodansha Comics)
Spoiler alert: Spoilers for the Genshiken series so far can be found in the post below. Read with caution!
Hello, my name is Sarah and I have an emotionally complex relationship with Shimoku Kio's series Genshiken. Genshiken is that one series I can always go back to when I want to rekindle my love for anime and manga culture or want to be inspired to do my own creative creations or simply wish to be entertained by nerdy folk who are a lot more funny and pleasing than myself. If it weren't for knowing Genshiken, I might have never joined my college's anime club with the same name.
It is a series I've been following for years and was heartbroken to finish - so the fact that there is a second season? Oh, hell yes.

I started reading Genshiken when I was in high school and finished it during my 'wilderness' years between graduating high school and finally entering college. Now that I've been attending community college for three years, reading Genshiken's second season is different than reading the first season on so many levels. I can totally understand what the Genshiken members are going through, in a way. But this year, our fearless Genshiken squad has new members and all new issues.

For one thing, I like that Genshiken is being dominated by women - and most of them the fujoshi variety. The previous Genshiken crew was a lot of guys and it was reflected in the club's interests. Now it's all cosplay and yaoi and doujinshi laying about the club room, with Kuchiki enjoying his all female harem. Well, all female and Hato-kun, who is arguably the most interesting of the newest Genshiken members.
Hato-kun is an interesting kink in the usual club antics. He's a rare sight in manga - a fundanshi (male fujoshi) and a cross-dressing one at that. Hato also makes it clear that he's not gay, he just likes yaoi; he even tells them how he encountered his first BL manga, which is a whole other story. Hato-kun happily crashes through readers' preconceived notions of yaoi fans, although he probably does that just by being a guy, a demographic that isn't always seen in manga outside of BL manga itself.
Hato-kun also puts a hell of a lot of work into his appearance, making one hell of a gorgeous woman. We learn, however, that no one need to worry too much about Hato's precious chastity; the guy is trained in the art of judo and can throw a whole Kuchiki by himself. Although he does need to be told to not use the bathrooms on campus for his personal daily transformations. Thank goodness Madarame let himself be volunteered to assist Hato in his fashion endeavours.
It's Hato's reasoning for dressing up like a gorgeous young lady that makes one's heart ache: his love of BL manga made him the target of bullying in high school - and it sounds like even his fellow 'rotten' students wouldn't support him. Thus, the make-up and the hair plucking and the skirts - because apparently, its more acceptable to love yaoi and be female than love yaoi and be male.
Speaking of OUCH MY HEART, Madarame is one of the old Genshiken members that has found himself back in the spotlight, his apartment now the official changing area for Hato-kun and his outfits. Can we say 'Hato x Mada'? And yes, wonder why Madarame can never be seme, even in other people's fantasies? Also, Madarame is still very much in love with Saki and it would be pathetic if he weren't so bloody sincere about it. Of course, me and Madarame have always been nerds of a feather, so I find it hard to hate him. 
(Wait, am I moe for Mada? Oh dear . . .)

Also, the Hato x Mada is so very strong in this volume. Even Hato's inner fujoshi is setting up imaginary scenarios for the BL couple, with Madarame either on top or on bottom. Only in Hato's mind does Madarame get to be seme? Poor guy. I wonder if the series is setting ourselves up for a surprise yaoi pairing or is just being a wicked tease.
Everything about this book is delightful. Being a fujoshi, of course, Hato-kun's narrative attracted me the most. I also adored Ogiue and Yajima and Susie and everyone else in Genshiken's new year. And I very much loved that Genshiken was once again sucked into someone's manga, this time a professional effort by Ogiue, and that apparently it doesn't take much formal training to be a manga-ka assistant. I'm only one book into Genshiken's second hurrah, but if this is anything to go by, I'm sold. The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture is back and I'm in love yet again.