Genshiken: Second Season Volume 6
Genshiken: Second Season has focused a lot on Hato, and volume 6 is no exception. It’s not surprising, since he’s an only-in-comics character that captures a lot about fandom, the focus of this manga. I do worry, though, that part of the reason I can’t keep the other members of the club straight sometimes is because we’ve spent so much time with him.
Hato’s a cross-dresser, a fanboy who took his love of yaoi (termed BL here, which is more accurate) to the extreme of dressing like a girl, since BL is considered a woman’s genre. He also draws boy/boy pinups, often featuring his real-life friends, but his art skill varies greatly depending on what he’s wearing, a weird mental quirk. After the events of the previous volume, and a bizarre opening chapter where Sue tries to force Hato to admit to feelings she thinks he had, he decides he has to give up his hobbies and not “dress in drag” any more.
Unfortunately, it’s time for Comic-Fest, which challenges Hato’s decision, since normally, he would buy a lot of BL dojinshi there. It’s a test of his resolve, particularly since other club members are purchasing for him, assuming that he’ll want their gifts later. I really appreciated the speech by a character I normally dislike about how there’s nothing wrong with liking what you like. That’s followed, though, by Hato thinking, “If I continue to love BL, it will change my sexuality…” which seems preposterous.
While this is amusingly exaggerated for comedy, I’m also a bit troubled by the contrast between this humorous approach and the growing awareness of real-life trans issues. I’m not saying author Shimoku Kio is doing anything wrong, but it’s hard for me to see the topic as playful. I’m also confused by not knowing how Japanese culture would perceive these traits, so I feel like I’m reading it “wrong” without that background. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that I’d be coming to this story at this time, with the various social changes happening. It’s not the book’s fault or the author’s fault that the real-world context has changed in the two years since this was originally published.
Genshiken: Second Season volume 6 also has a short plotline about Ogiue, semi-pro manga artist, buying herself a tablet to create art digitally in preparation for selling a zine at the show. I liked the panel where, with cheering squad behind her (since she no longer needs assistants), she’s thinking to herself how she can do so much with the computer that she doesn’t know when to quit noodling.
It’s the small moments when everyone’s at the convention, shopping and cosplaying and hanging out with their friends and gossiping about who likes whom, that really sum up this series for me. Kio does a wonderful job capturing the crowds and the individual experiences in a way that reminds me of being at similar events. That’s the only realistic element of the book, since the idea of so many characters having a crush on Madarame, a jobless alumni who never leaves, seems pretty ridiculous.
“While this is amusingly exaggerated for comedy, I’m also a bit troubled by the contrast between this humorous approach and the growing awareness of real-life trans issues.”
I don’t think Hato really has anything much to do with trans issues; he’s an “otokonoko”(男の娘), which is a popular character type right now but also a real-life thing. It’s definitely about gender, but it’s far more about cis men finding an outlet for femininity than about trans anything (unless you use the broadest possible definition of “transgender”).
Here’s a so-so article about the phenomenon, and a video article that has some interviews:
Wow, that’s fascinating. Thanks for those links.