(This post will contain spoilers for the latest chapter of Genshiken 2.)
I know, I know, we really hardly talk at all about anime/manga on this blog anymore. What can I say? I still do a lot of it, probably more of it than I ever did, really... but these days I get paid for that work. Not a lot, mind, but it's not like there's anybody out there who's going to pay me for my mahjong and toku posts.
But I wanted to talk about something that's not out there legitimately yet, something really recent. Genshiken 2 is out from Kodansha Comics as we speak. You should definitely buy it. The dialogue is natural, and they didn't screw up with the otaku stuff like in the Del Rey version. No excuses.
Now that said, I can't bear to wait a second to find out what's going on in my otaku soap opera-- and make no mistake, Genshiken is now and has been a very low-key otapera-- so I look up the latest chapters the very moment they're translated. Not gonna lie.
So what's up this month? A pivotal event, really. The biggest hanging plot thread of the first series-- the supernaturally pathetic uber-otaku Madarame's lingering crush on the fashionable, fiesty, not-otaku, not-moe Saki Kusakabe-- has finally been dealt with.
Genshiken is basically a new series now: aside from Madarame, the previous members are rarely seen because they've moved on to new lives. Most of the Genshiken guys turned their passions into their careers. Madarame's working, he's certainly more mature, but his general condition is another matter. Though he's changed, he's a guy who really can't leave the Genshiken behind. Obviously a lot of that has to do with his feelings for Saki. He's suffering in limbo because he can't bear to put himself out there, to do something that's going to hurt.
The confession had to be forced, of course: Madarame had to be tricked into a room where Saki waited, and then she had to drop obvious "let's please get this out of the way" hints one after the other. Ultimately, Madarame was just barely figure out that the gang was trying to get him to say what everybody knew he had to say... and he still didn't really have it in him to say it. The confession itself was a punchline. But, despite that, the air was cleared between these characters. Madarame confessed, and was rejected, and everybody involved can now move on with their lives.
I love how they handled this. I wouldn't be making a post about this if I wasn't really happy with the resolution: I mean, you can read Carl's blog for your Genshiken sum-ups. I like both of these characters a lot, though, and I'm happy with the ending this part of the story got.
The interesting thing about their relationship at this point is that, yeah, this scene is a rejection, but it's a rejection between close friends. There is a lot of warmth and affection that displays how complicated these characters are and how far they've come. (Though it was on hiatus for years, Genshiken started running ten years ago!)
Saki gives the first impression that she's just mean. She wouldn't be caught dead in this social circle, she's only there on account of her boyfriend, et cetera. But it becomes clear very early in the comic that she enjoys the company of the group and she legitimately cares about them. She still can't be caught dead with them, but she's fond of this circle of friends.
And Saki and everybody around her knows that Madarame is the sort to be hung up on this shit forever. Really, for a thousand years at least. She wants to avoid hurting this guy... but nothing's going to happen between them. Definitely. But that doesn't mean she hates Madarame. And that kind of situation-- certainly you've seen it yourself at some point-- takes a toll on the crusher and the one crushed upon, you know? As much as you can read Madarame's feelings on his beet-red face, you see Saki anxious, expectant. At the end Saki gets sniffly because she's so relieved that she didn't traumatize this guy with her rejection. People complaining about the "friend zone" is horse shit. It's not like that. Anyway!
(Even Kohsaka, Saki's boyfriend, is on the same wavelength about this: Kohsaka says, knowing Saki and Madarame are having this conversation, "I love Madarame too." This is probably the only profound character moment Kohsaka has ever gotten.)
So we see these two characters in a room-- as they were many years ago-- very awkwardly and gently try and establish this. I was touched. I'd really like to see this section animated, just because I want to hear Hiyama play this scene.
If you wanted to see the Saki and Madarame thing go the other way, the author was curious as well. Read Shimoku's Spotted Flower, in which he casts two characters who are very clearly the same people as Saki and Madarame as a newlywed couple in a few short stories. "There might have been a future like that."