When we last left off on Genshiken, we had eliminated about two possible candidates from Madarame’s Harem, as well as establishing a possible romantic interest between Hato and Mirei Yajima. Two candidates in the Harem remain, Sue and Hato.
So, the meat of this volume is basically Sue and Hato hashing things out with Madarame and generally figuring out where they stand. That said, this is also not the volume where Madarame chooses, so don’t expect that going in.
Instead, the pacing for this volume just slows down as the members of the Genshiken take in the scenery and Madarame and Sue just walk and talk. If this were an animated episode of the show, these would be two episodes that most of the rest of the cast would barely be in.
That said, I wouldn’t exactly consider that to be a problem. One of the strengths of Shimoko Kio’s art has been in environments – like the way that the Genshiken Club room has a level of detail that makes it seem like a very lived-in place. Here, it’s Kio putting that level of detail into an actual place and using that level of detail to strengthen the story.
A great example of this a sequence in front of a temple gate. In the art, Kio uses characters moving in the background, and first Madarame and Hato, and then Madarame alone’s position in the panel to really emphasize just how in over his head he feels, and how much bigger this whole “Harem” thing has gotten than he ever anticipated.
As it is, Genshiken has always used these big dialog scenes as their closest equivalent to action scenes, and as the narrative and emotional climaxes of arcs. We’re not quite at that point yet, but of the rising action in these past few volumes, these talks between Madarame x Hato and Madarame x Sue have probably some of the highest emotional weight of the manga.
As someone who has been on this ride for quite a long time, Volume 11 definitely does a great job of putting the final pieces into place for the manga’s conclusion, and I will admit that I did not wait until after finishing writing this review before starting Vol. 12 – so I’m really looking forward to finishing that volume and giving my final thoughts on the series.