The ending of Genshiken, my favorite manga explained.
Note: Chapter 56 is out there! Email me if you need it.
I wondered what it meant at first, and I even looked it up online hoping for an answer. At the very last page of chapter 55, Ogiue is observing “I don’t think Kasukabe senpai realizes just how sensitive she is to conversations like this…”
I just came up with an interpretation that ends the whole series on a great note, summing up the whole message all along: that despite their differences these guys have mutually accepted (and respect) each other.
The very last page:
The top frame starts after Kousaka tells Kasukabe that she has no “moe”. She’s shocked (a “gaan..” reaction, not real shock) and responds with a smiling “hmph”. The expression shows she’s not pissed.
The little sister is having fun watching this chaos (just like this interaction has happened before) but, this time it’s a little different: Ohno responds that it’s not fair not all that seriously, but I think the point here is to show she has respect for Kasukabe. The usual would be to do a “tsukkomi” and pitch into the mayhem for kicks.
Ogiue then pitches in, saying “you know.. I’ve always noticed..” (getting ready for the last line in the damn series!)
The next frame has no text and no eyes to emphasize the group atmosphere. Kasukabe is yelling something (smiling) at the 3 on the right, who are all smiling.
The last frame is Kasukabe who looks back at the reader, still smiling, saying “huh?”
I wondered what this meant. They built up to the Kasukabe point so I wondered and wondered. This time, I get it.
The girls are commenting on how Kasukabe is actually sensitive to “conversations like these” — those being the otaku ish conversations. The series starts with Kasukabe being hostile to the otakus, wanting nothing to do with them (only trying to drag her boyfriend out of otakudom), being embarrassed about associating with them, etc.
The series ends with her actually being a part of the group. It’s mutual friendship / respect. The moe comment was about that: she wouldn’t have cared at all about a comment like that at the beginning of the series. She might have even punched one of the characters for it : ).
I think that’s why she’s with the 3 characters she least converses with/ have the most Otaku specific personalities for the final scene. For example Kanji is purposely left out because I think as the main character, he would take away from the power of this scene if he was in the last page, since his presence kinda justifies any conversation.
“sensitive to conversations like these…” : you can’t be sensitive to conversations like the moe comment if you don’t give a crap about moe, or the people who you’re talking to.
The most important frame is the 2nd to last frame (there’s a lot to interpret in it): the 3 girls have the “drop” implying they are observing something very obvious. The 5 in the back are in their own world. Kasukabe is all heated up about the “usual” conversation. She totally gets along.
That is the meaning behind Ogiue’s comment about her being sensitive to “conversations like these”, followed by a full width shot of Kasukabe smiling.
The first time I read this, I thought the author was going for a “life goes on” kinda ending with no resolution on purpose. Turns out there is indeed a resolution, and a great one at that! The message of the whole series is finalized here.
I wish it wasn’t over : ( I am clearly trying to pretend its not. I do have chapter 56 left to read, and I’m stashing it next to my crack. I will re-read the first 55 to get to 56 :3
To quote a memorable comment:
“I have to say, I’m taking the end of Genshiken surprisingly badly. I feel like a heroin addict who’s just been told that I’ve taken the last hit on the planet.”