Further thoughts on re-reading Genshiken: Madarame’s fetishes, Ogiue’s hangups, and never the twain shall meet

Ogiue’s appearance marks a shift in Genshiken from loosely organized slice of otaku life to something a little more like a recognizable romance plot — but, I emphasize, only a little more like a recognizable romance plot, as Genshiken has that fantastic way of maintaining absolute subtlety, subverting every trope in the book, and hitting a little too close to home all at once. Genshiken has a generally interesting structure, in fact, involving the buildup of overlapping styles, and I can only adequately represent it with one of those enigmatic graphics I so enjoy.

These are, at any rate, the major divisions I make when I read Genshiken. The Madarame/Kasukabe subplot is significant enough to drive the story on some occasions, and sustained enough to warrant mentioning; the Comiket/doujin arc is a leveling-up moment for both the Genshiken and Sasahara (both of whom, lo and behold, actually do something, and continue to do things thereafter); and, for me, the most significant shift occurs when Ogiue brings her quirks to the clubroom table.

In a way, Ogiue is the most “character-like” of all the characters; she’s easily identifiable as both tsundere and a potential love interest with a tragic past. Of course, her co-characters peg her character traits, too, and her “tragic past” involves a yaoi doujin, so the spirit of Genshiken remains intact throughout. But the way things play out for Ogiue isn’t unheard-of — she softens up to the other club members over time (she’s one of those classic-type tsundere characters, I guess), and she learns to live with her past with the help of friends and a love interest.

Here’s something I find interesting, though: why doesn’t Madarame go for Ogiue?

He has every reason to, doesn’t he? Given his lolicon tendencies and his preference for tsundere, Ogiue is precisely the kind of manga character he likes (literally!). When she’s finally talked into cosplay, she even dresses as Madarame’s favorite Kujibiki Unbalance character, who, in terms of broad traits, isn’t all that unlike her.

Wouldn’t Ogiue provide Madarame with a distraction from the girl he loves but can’t have? She might even be able to relate — she liked a guy, once, and suddenly found that he was beyond her reach. The circumstances were different, I know, but that doesn’t mean the two situations don’t contain some seed of commonality that might serve to bring Madarame and Ogiue together. One has to wonder — but, in the end, I can think of a few reasons why things don’t play out like that.

Firstly, maybe Madarame’s just that into Kasukabe. Maybe he’s holding out hope not because he particularly wants to, but because he can’t help it. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? And, anyway, Madarame’s the type to let his circumstances carry him where they will; I suppose this is why the fujoshi girls have him pegged as a sou-uke, a “total receiver” of…well, you know. For anything to develop, the girl in question would probably have to make the first move, and Ogiue certainly wouldn’t go that far.

Secondly, maybe this is a simple case of 2D preferences not making the leap to the 3D world. I, like Madarame, have a thing for flat-chested (albeit not underage) tsundere characters (plus glasses, plus nekomimi, plus forehead…goddammit Shimoku-sensei, get out of my head!), but I don’t require those qualities in my real-life love interests. Hell, it’s not as if “tsundere” is something that applies well to reality; people are, after all, a little too crazy for neat classification, as the social sciences continue to discover. I seriously doubt that Madarame evaluates Ogiue (not to mention Kasukabe) based on his 2D preferences, their actually being manga characters notwithstanding.

And, thirdly, the possibility of an Ogiue/Madarame end may be precluded rather early in Ogiue’s tenure as Genshiken member, as she may fall for Sasahara earlier than is readily obvious. This time through Genshiken, I noticed myself picking up on more of Shimoku’s brilliantly-situated hints, and while I might’ve initially wondered about the abruptness of the Ogiue/Sasahara setup, I have no such complaint now. It’s possible that Ogiue has developed a healthy thing for Sasahara as early as the explosive doujin production crisis control meeting, which occurs only a few chapters after her appearance…

…and it seems likely that her feelings begin to take shape before the end of the doujin arc, given her reaction to Sasahara when she sneaks into the following winter Comiket (or Comic Fest, or whatever they call it).

It’s the resultant carelessness (with a little help from Ouno’s accoutrements) that gives her away, in the end. And I especially love this scene. I mean, check out Ogiue’s expression here; you have to wonder if this is the moment at which she realizes her feelings. It’s panels like that one that completely and utterly justify all the sacrifices made on the altar of fandom.

But I digress. While it may seem somewhat logical that Madarame should at least develop a passing crush on Ogiue, even if he isn’t prepared to date her properly, logic often doesn’t factor into the decisions we make regarding the people around us. The gut acts first, you may recall. And Genshiken is nothing if not authentic — so authentic, in fact, that it can be as difficult to read as it is enjoyable. But, lest I spiral off into another, more personal digression, I’ll end here.

(Because I failed to namedrop him anywhere else: SDS is, of course, the undisputed king of Ogi fandom in the English-speaking world. He has written about her at length on his blog, aptly titled Ogiue Maniax. But of course you know about SDS already if you even know about someone like me.)

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  1. I actually never thought the Ogi-Sasa relationship was that sudden, but then I think I picked up some of the hints the first time through. It actually felt as though they were taking a bit of a long time. There’s a strain of the ridiculous in Ogiue, as her “trauma” is pretty silly. I understand it being a big deal in high school, but college is kind of when you get over those things. The delicious part of Genshiken is that it *is* the college experience of getting over things, that’s one of the primary themes of the series.

    However, I think there’s another reason Madarame isn’t interested in Kasukabe. She’s not very interesting to him at all. It’s not just that she’s a 3D version of what he likes in 2D, it’s also that she’s a pain, quiet, and not really that interesting — remember, this is Madarame, the loud, crazy guy. He likely wants and needs someone who can keep up with him, and his developing feelings for Kasukabe come as she gets better at keeping up with him and the rest of the club.

    And at one point don’t they have the conversation about whether or not they’d want otaku girlfriends? I think it might be after Ohno and Tanaka hook up…

    • I think you’re confused. Kasukabe IS the one Madarame likes. This is speculation about whether he would have liked Ogiue.

    • Pontifus

       /  24 May 2010

      After talking about this on Skype, I don’t have much to add. But do you mean that conversation where Kousaka tells Kasukabe that she has no moe? I’m not sure how much they talk about whether they want otaku girlfriends or not, but they do spend a lot of time pointing out that 2D and 3D are wholly separate concerns.

  2. >>Secondly, maybe this is a simple case of 2D preferences not making the leap to the 3D world.

    This, and it’s actually stated pretty clearly by all of the guys several times, but in a way that is understandably vague. You often hear them say ‘those things are completely different.’ Because the emotions that one feels towards 2D and 3D don’t match up. The Genshiken boys have a really hard time putting the difference into words because, well, they are otaku! But luckily, that’s why I’m around – I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly what that ‘difference’ is, and I haven’t posted on it fully, but I have this: http://fuzakenna.com/2010/03/26/harunobu-madarame-once-said-i-do-not-have-a-single-piece-of-regular-porn-and-he-was-not-joking/ which isn’t really al of my ideas but it’s working towards it.

    My interest in 3D is somewhat limited – I would only want to date girls my age or older, and I like petite girls. But my 2D interest is, hehe… virtually unlimited. I am a hardcore lolicon, and into stuff like guro and other crazy shit. None of that carries over to 3D. They aren’t even the same kind of thing in my mind-totally separate entities of preference. the only major similarity in preference if a love for short, small girls, but, well, what can I say. It’s probably because my mom is 5 feet tall. Every man has an Oedipus complex, right?

    Also, remember that in games, Sasahara is almost strictly into older women with large breasts. I can’t remember if it’s actually in the manga or in one of the doujins that I’ve read – my memory is mixed up about it, but there’s a part in one of them where Ogiue asks if Sasahara is able to really find her attractive because she has such tiny boobs (I could swear she asked in the manga too, but i know there’s at least one doujin wherein this question is followed by assurance-sex) in any case, Sasahara tells her the same thing – those are completely different things. So yeah.

    • Pontifus

       /  24 May 2010

      Haha, I guess I’m kind of particular about both 2D and 3D, but certainly in different ways. I came into Genshiken this time with a much better understanding of the degree of separation between the two, so I suppose that helped. I’m also interested in trying to figure out how the two relate — I remember that post of yours, but I haven’t found an opportunity to approach it yet.

      I suppose Sasahara’s preferences would be the other side of things, the side I didn’t really talk about here. Somehow I really enjoy Sasahara as a character, but I don’t find him as fun to talk about as some of the crazier types, i.e. Madarame and Ogiue.

  3. Lupus

     /  24 May 2010

    The right panel in that second image is incredibly misleading. I initially thought she had a thing for Kohsaka, as the frame is centred on him. On reflection, It might just be more of her fujoshi tendency floating up to the surface, as she unconciously does not allow herself to look directly at Sasahara.

    • Pontifus

       /  24 May 2010

      It’s a very ambiguous panel, yeah. As Cuchlann mentioned to me the other day, it may not be a matter of romance; it may simply be Ogiue’s realization that she’s found a group for herself. But then I’m willing to grant it several meanings at once.

      • The way I always saw this scene, I thought of it as representative Ogiue’s conflicting desires to become both more of an otaku and less of one. I mean, here is Ogiue hiding in plain sight, trying to disguise herself by wearing her pre-college clothes, but also playing with fire by standing around them.

        It’s established early on that Ogiue wishes to make friends with other otaku, but her self-hating personality gets in the way, and she projects her own neuroses onto others. This is why she participated in the manga society despite getting into constant fights and arguments with the female members. In this situation at “Comifest,” that hope flares up again as despite wanting to not be seen, she deep down wishes to be found out by them, to be a part of them, so she moves closer and closer.

        When she sees everyone laughing and enjoying doujinshi, she gets that look as shown in that panel. Her eyes can be seen through her coke bottle glasses, and in the briefest of moments, she has moved in the direction of letting people find out she is an otaku. She wants what they have, that friendship and simple self-acceptance.

        Oh, and as for Ogiue’s developing feelings for Sasahara, I think it very much has to do with what you said, Pontifus, in that while our initial impression of Sasahara is that neophyte otaku, Ogiue from the very beginning of her time with Genshiken sees Sasahara as surprisingly firm and actually kind of mature and masculine. I wrote a post about it pre-Ogiue Maniax, actually. Maybe I should update it and release it anew.

      • Pontifus

         /  26 May 2010

        Ooh, the idea of playing with fire is very interesting. Her getting so close to the Genshiken in her old clothes almost seems like a plea to be discovered; it’s as if she wants her “old” and “new” lives brought together into a coherent, or at least less disjointed and troubling, whole — forcibly, if need be. And that’s something the Genshiken can do for her, and does.

        I like that panel so much because, despite its simplicity, it gives rise to the diversity of interpretations present in this post and comments thread.

        Yeah, I’d be interested to see that old post of yours. The reader’s (likely) take on Sasahara vs. Ogiue’s opinion of him is something I haven’t thought about too much, but it seems relevant.

  1. Cosplay Parallelism in Genshiken and the world of 2.5D « OGIUE MANIAX
  2. My Genshiken

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