Well, it all comes down to this – the final decision of who Madarame is going to date. I will be spoiling who that person is below the cut, so head’s up.
The final volume of Genshiken is one which definitely takes its sweet time getting to the answer to that question, and which, to a degree, isn’t too interested in the story that could be told after that is answered. Everything in this volume is based around this point – from Madarame initially refusing to give a straight answer, to a steadily building amount of pressure leading to him finally making up his mind.
That said, this volume does do a pretty good job from the get-go narrowing it down to two – and doing so in a way that sets up pretty clearly who Madarame is going to actually pick. Angela is out because she’s never in Japan. Keiko is out because, really, her “interest” in Madarame is as much about “beating” Saki (for a guy she was never interested in) than it is about actually having feelings for Madarame. That leaves Sue and Hato.
Madarame’s reasoning for not picking Hato also makes sense – Madarame, as we saw in the hotel room sequence, is okay with Hato’s gender identity. However, Madarame points out that Hato isn’t comfortable with themselves yet. I’d say his suggestion is unfortunate and wrong (as a fudanshi who likes to dress up) – but that also fits with the manga thus far. Hato has always been a case of Shimoku Kio trying to write a gender-fluid character sympathetically. It’s just he doesn’t have a sensitivity reader – someone who is actually trans or gender-fluid to read the work in advance and provide feedback on how to tweak the character to avoid harmful stereotypes that the author might have overlooked.
That said, from my admittedly cis-het-perspective, Hato feels like a character type that is not meant to be harmful, nor is their characterization meant to their detriment. Hato ends the series with a different romantic interest (admittedly a woman instead of a man – somewhat reinforcing heteronormative gender identities), but they’re also not abandoning that part of themselves either, and admittedly genderfluid doesn’t mean you have to have a partner of the same biological sex as you.
And the reasons for not picking Sue… are utter bullshit and are called very shortly after, ultimately leading to Madarame picking Sue. And, you know what, that pick works. Sue is a person who almost literally speaks Otaku – while her knowledge of Japanese has improved, Madarame’s confession and her response are basically just a conversation in Anime quotes. Considering part of the series from the first chapter has been about being comfortable in your hobbies, I kind of feel like a character like Sue is probably one of the few who could operate exactly at Madarame’s level.
In all, this manga has been a long journey, but a very satisfying one, and I’m very glad it made it through the long haul. Kio’s latest manga has yet to get a legal US release, but in the event it gets licensed, I’ll definitely give it a read.