Genshiken Nidaime: the winds of change

NB: Please note that this post is about the anime, not the manga…I will not be mentioning any plot developments that go beyond what the anime covered...
NB: Please note that this post is about the anime, not the manga…I will not be mentioning any plot developments that go beyond what the anime covered…

Back when it first came out, the original Genshiken hooked me almost straight off the bat. That was probably because the first season was of this show about otaku culture was focused almost solely on parts of it that I had little knowledge of, like Comiket and the cosplay culture. Let’s just say it was a learning opportunity, and one that continued with the OVA and the second season too, where I was introduced to some of the intricacies of fujoshi culture and a glimpse of what aspiring manga artists do. Whilst over the top at times, those characters all had traits I recognised in people I knew at the time, people I met at the few conventions I attended, and people I have come to know since then. After that, I didn’t think there would be other parts of the ACG subculture that I hadn’t really heard of, and besides, the Genshiken manga had ended, so surely we’d covered all important bases, right?

So...who's the crossdresser?
So…who’s the trap?

Now that most of the old hands have graduated—though they still hang around, especially around the Comiket season—girls have come to dominate the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, changing it in ways that its founders probably never would have imagined. And, as in previous seasons, I learned a few more things about the subculture and the industry that supports and drives it. This time, though, I was introduced to a part of the subculture that I never really believed might exist. It’s not that I haven’t come across fudanshi — I have known at least one (though not in real life). What I was really surprised about, however, was that Hato was not gay (his first crush was a senior at his school), and yet came to love BL… I’ll admit that I was a little disconcerted by him — I guess I had a few preconceptions. But now that I’m reflecting on the series again, the fact that he has to dress up as a girl so as not to feel out of place celebrating something he likes is also disconcerting in some ways, for it hints at the institutions—our values, beliefs and preconceptions about how people should be—that so strongly shape our societies and even our subcultures. But Genshiken is grounded in the real world, and the characters find themselves having to face issues that would never turn out the way their favourite plot lines and fantasies would. Although I loved the Sue’s Monogatari references, the biggest draw about this series is its realistic depiction of otaku in the world that we live in (specifically, Japan).

Genshiken03 Genshiken04
No, Rararame-san, it’s not quite too obscure yet!

However, I also feel like this was also the season where Genshiken lost some of its charm for me. One of the reasons is quite idiosyncratic (though normal for otaku, going by how people discussed it)—the fact that they changed the cast really got to me in the first episode. It’s not like I noticed most of the changes, admittedly…but one very obvious one was enough to have me cringing a little. Whilst I like a lot of the roles that particular seiyuu has done, I’m not particularly fond of that voice he used here… But the other reason may be that I’m far more interested in works with some kind of political message. This is reflected in the parts of the subculture that I now enjoy: although I still want to go to Comiket, what really draws me in are events where the creators and the cast talk about their work. Fun seiyuu events do amuse me, and I’ve love to attend a Macross concert, but what I really like is a good Q&A that tells me more about a series I love. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to commentaries and interviews, and sharing what I find in them. But I think that this kind of appreciation is not something that can really be conveyed through another series, even one as good as Genshiken. Because rather than watching character analyse a series in their universe, I’m far more interested in analysing and celebrating one in my own.

Genshiken06 Genshiken07
Do they finally clear up the elephant in the room…?

This doesn’t mean that Genshiken doesn’t have something that I can appreciate besides the references that gives a kick to every fan that recognises them. As a tale of otaku in the real world, it has no peer. It’s just that I may have to try and get myself into a different mind frame before I embark on the manga.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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