Review of Anime Series: 'Genshiken'
Genshiken is a twenty-four episode Japanese anime series that is split into two seasons with twelve episodes each. However, there is a three episode OVA between the two seasons.
The first season is directed by Takashi Ikehata and produced by Palm Studio and Genco, with its original run starting from October 10, 2004 until December 26, 2004.
The OVA is directed by Tsutomo Mizushima and produced by Ajia-do Animation Works and Genco, with its original run starting from December 22, 2006 until April 25, 2007.
The second season known as Genshiken 2 is directed by Kinji Yoshimoto and produced by ARMS, Ajia-do Animation Works and Genco, with its original run starting from October 10, 2007 until December 26, 2007.
As of July 2013, there is a third series called Genshiken Second Season that is currently ongoing for up to 12 episodes.
Like many other anime series, Genshinken is adapted from a Japanese manga. The manga is authored by Kio Shioku with its run starting from 2002 until 2006, with nine volumes total. The series interestingly presents a slice-of-life story with comedy. Slice-of-life means that there is no set storyline. Genshiken tends to depict the lives of a group of people.
The series interestingly revolves around the lives of college students that are members of the Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyukai which is translated into "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture."
In short, the group is an otaku club and the members are fascinated with the culture.
Genshiken is a perfect example of how Japanese anime is not just for children. A story like Genshiken perfectly shows the contrast between American comics and Japanese manga. In the case of most American comics, they target the younger demographic. In the case of Japanese manga, they target all demographics. Genshiken does a good job of targeting the demographic of middle school to college students while allowing outsiders to get a glimpse of otaku culture. For outsiders, Genshiken could affect how they would perceive otakus.
There's a plot but no main story, Genshiken is one of those many anime titles that is a “slice of life” which no set story with each episode being a story on its own. This is an anime for those that really love anime and/or Japanese pop culture; also, this is an anime title for anybody who loves Arc System Works' popular fighting game franchise Guilty Gear.
Ever since 2004-2005, Japanese anime has slowly emerged from being underground to apart of the international mainstream community. Because of this, it's considered to be really cool to love Japanese anime. If you are in your late 20s to early 30s, you were probably a fan of Japanese anime when it was in between being underground and slowly being mainstream during that time.
While otaku culture has been apart of contemporary Japanese culture, it was still underground in other parts of the world such as North America because the culture of anime and video games still being underground. Now, you see Japanese anime on the Independent Film Channel, Cartoon Network, SyFy Channel, Spike TV, and many others. There are even mainstream channels dedicated to Japanese anime such as FUNimation TV and Anime Network. There's even online streaming for Japanese anime via networks such as Crunchyroll, FUNimation, Hulu, and Neon Alley. With Japanese anime conventions, otaku culture has really penetrated the mainstream.
Schools, especially colleges, have been quite the hub for otakus to gather together. Genshiken, in general, focuses on the world of otaku culture. The general plot of the anime focuses on a small group of college students who make up a club which shares the titular name as the series. Genshiken is short for “Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyukai” which means “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.”
The most important part of the story is showing that otaku come in different shapes, sizes, forms, personalities, and interests. No two otaku are exactly the same.
Think of Genshiken like the old sitcom series Seinfeld, which is a show without a set story. Genshiken is like Seinfeld, but it focuses on otaku culture with no set linear story at all. Even though there's no set story, Genshiken does well for a plot-driven anime series. The characters help drive the plot in their diverse interests in Japan's subculture of anime, manga, and games. It also shows the difference of interests between the members of Genshiken.
While focusing on the world of otaku culture, Genshiken does a good job of keeping the series grounded in reality.
Thus it makes Genshiken more appealing to outsiders that may be curious about otaku culture. If you can look at Genshiken objectively, you can see that it is a pretty intellectual story about one facet of Japanese pop culture. Furthermore, Genshiken shows that otaku are everyday people like you and me; the main difference is that they have an extreme love for anime and video games. It's no different than being passionate about football, basketball, extreme sports, music, books, movies, academic subjects, food, martial arts, or dance.
What makes the story more appealing are the differences in personalities of the characters. That helps make the story more grounded in reality and thus making Genshiken more believable. If you consider yourself an otaku of anime and video games, this is a highly recommended series to watch. For those that plan on having a school club dedicated to manga and/or anime, this is also a highly recommended series to check out.
Genshiken does a good job of having a story that otakus can relate to while not confusing outsiders at the same time.
Ultimately, the story paints the members of Genshiken as any other school group. Over time, the members don't remain just members.
They form bonds that strengthen over time. It's no different than being on the football team, basketball team, Wrestling team, Boxing team, cheerleading squad, debate team, French club, Japanese cultural club, ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), martial arts club, dance club, vocal ensemble, band, soccer team, baseball team, etc.
Going further in-depth with the plot, Genshiken shows that you cannot automatically group people together. It points out that you can be into video games but not into anime and vice-versa, being into manga but not anime and vice-versa, being into anime but not into hentai (animated porn), being into one type of anime but not other types.
If you could compare this to politics, you couldn't place all conservatives or liberals into strictly two groups. This is because they will have their differences, no matter how big or small, on various issues such as: abortion, overseas wars, the country's deficit, social security, education, religion, same-sex marriage, etc.
Most of the main characters, in their own right, are otakus. If the characters weren't otaku, it wouldn't make any sense as it would defeat the purpose of Genshiken. Through the characters, viewers will understand that otakus are considered to be one group of people; BUT, they show that otakus have very different and diverse classifications. At the same time, you have people who can be classified as fans of anime/manga but not classified as otakus.
For example, as an analogy, you can have a group of people who are into martial arts. You will have a group of people into Kung-Fu, a second group of people into Karate, a third group of people in Boxing, a fourth group of people into Wrestling, and a fifth group of people into Mixed Martial Arts. With each group, you have subgroups. In the case of those into Karate, you will have smaller groups with interests and focuses on specific styles of Karate.
You have the following members of the Genshiken: Kanji Sasahara, Makoto Kousaka, Saki Kasukabe, Harunobu Madarame, Souichiro Tanaka, Mitsunori Kugayama, Kanako Ohno, Chika Ogiue, and Manabu Kuchiki. They do a pretty good and believable job of representing different facets of otaku culture.
Sasahara represents a person coming into terms with the reality of discovering that he is an otaku; furthermore, he comes to an understanding that it is nothing to really be ashamed of. As a newcomer to being an otaku, he brings the necessary balance. He represents being a rookie otaku. Sasahara is a character that most people can relate to.
Kousaka represents a complex case; by the looks, one wouldn't think he's an otaku. In reality, Kousaka is in fact an otaku. He represents the perverted groups of otakus while representing one demographic of the video game community. Kousaka is considered perverted due to his love of eroge games (pornographic visual novels). But, he represents one aspect of the video game community due to loving fighting games. On one hand, Kousaka would give the idea that all otakus are into animated porn; but, on the other hand, he represents many people who have their love of fighting games.
Kasukabe helps ground the series in reality; as the girlfriend of Kousaka, Kasukabe is only in the club to be closer to him. At the start, it is revealed that she is not an otaku. Not only is she not a fan, she detests the otaku lifestyle. She represents the outsider seeing through the “looking glass” and going down the “rabbit hole.” Kasukabe comes out as the outsider who doesn't understand and just attacks whatever she doesn't understand.
Madarame represents taking otaku culture to the extreme. There is always one group of otaku that will be miserly on basic living expenses to use their cash on various anime and gaming merchandise.
Ogiue represents the growing demographic of yaoi (boys' love) fiction. She represents the demographic of females, let alone female otaku, who are into two guys falling in love with each other. She's the polar opposite of guys that fantasize about two females getting it on with each other.
Kuchiki represents the anime otaku demographic whose love can be too extreme and passionate for most anime fans.
These characters come together through their love of the otaku lifestyle. In this case, consider Genshiken like the Friends sitcom in which all the characters are otaku to a small to large extent. They are characters most people, who are into anime and games, can somewhat relate to. I found the characters to be satisfying. As a person whose a fan of anime and games, I know I could relate to some of them but at the same time feel repulsed and/or uncomfortable with the others. It shows how grounded in reality the characters are. While it focuses on otaku culture, the characters are everyday people with their own real-life issues as well.
To keep an anime series grounded in reality, it's important to have the appropriate visuals. Compared to anime series like Fairy Tail, Psycho Pass, or Ghost In The Shell, the visuals of Genshiken help keep things realistic. You have people, especially the characters of Genshiken, wearing everyday clothes. Also, you have otaku in all shapes and sizes. You have skinny characters, average-size characters, overweight characters, etc. The visual style of Genshiken shows that everything is grounded in reality and at the same time trying to not come off as some fan-service with attractive guys or some Bishojo anime with beautiful effeminate-looking characters.
In terms of character designs, it gives an honest look that otakus do not look freaks. Also, it shows that otaku clubs are not filled with ugly people nor are they filled with really attractive people. The visuals do a good job of combating the misplaced perceptions of anime fans and otakus. At the same time, the visuals can get really "animated" to show off certain emotions which is necessary since this is a series about the otaku lifestyle.
Genshiken does a pretty good job of examining the otaku lifestyle and culture while maintaining that it's separate from the general anime/manga and video game community at the same time. The series is down-to-earth within reason pertaining to the otaku lifestyle. You can relate to the characters in some way or form.
Overall, this is a very decent story in regards to seeing a bigger picture of the otaku lifestyle. If you consider yourself an otaku or are curious about the lifestyle, Genshiken is a series you should check out.