Japanese Title: Genshiken
Author: Kio Shimoku
Genre: Covers a Wide Range of Genres (Drama/Romance/Comedy/Otaku)
Licensed: Yes (Del Rey)
Release Date: April 26, 2005 (US) June 2002 – June 2006 (Japan)
Genshiken is based on a group of college students who are members of something of a misfit anime/manga/video game club; the club is called The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture and for short is known as Genshiken. Their club is unrecognized and often snubbed by both the manga and anime clubs. The Genshiken club has a relaxed atmosphere and explores all aspects of being an otaku…so basically they’re a group of people that gather to simply enjoy each others’ company and discuss their hobbies. Throughout the story we see the club go from focusing on releasing their own doujinshi to being something of a cosplay club. With each new president the club seems to almost take on a new identity of otakuness.
The series, being focused on the otaku lifestyle, contains numerous references to other manga, anime, and video games and other aspects of otaku culture. You’ll find yourself excitedly attempting to recognize the pseudonyms given to popular anime. For example “Gungal” (Gundam), “Haragen” (Full Metal Alchemist), “Scram Dunk” (Slam Dunk), “Neko Yasha” (Inuyasha) and I SWEAR when I was reading the manga there was a Cardcaptor Sakura poster that was a parody of the exact poster I had hanging up in my room 5 years ago! I however, did not pick up on all of the subtle pseudonyms and was quite disappointed that I couldn’t. Think of identifying them all as an Otaku challenge!
It should be noted that Genshiken also has an anime within an anime…what do I mean by that? An anime series was made up for the characters to focus their attention on (think of it as a stereotypical anime series of the moment that all fans are watching) it’s titled Kujibiki Unbalance the characters eagerly watch and discuss the anime and even use it to base the doujinshi and cosplay on.
Genshiken follows the individual stories of all its members fairly well and gives a realistic feeling that I have never felt in an anime or manga before, both the way the characters are drawn and the way the act make them seem as though they really could exist. It seems obvious to me that this author is channeling all his own personal otaku experiences straight into this story!
When the story starts its primary focus is Kanji Sasahara who is a shy freshman who is somewhat unsure and bashful about his hobbies (I know I went through that stage myself so I immediately related to this character). Sasahara awkwardly attempts to approach the manga club/anime club tables only to suddenly feel embarrassed and scamper away. At last he comes to the door of Genshiken and appears as though he may walk away once more but is caught by the newest freshmen member of Genshiken, Makoto Kousaka, and is invited in. Throughout the story Sasahara learns to accept and indulge in his hobbies, I feel like a lot of fans can relate to accepting loving something that main stream entertainment considers odd.
Another character of focus is the beautiful and stylish Saki Kasukabe who falls in love with Makoto Kousaka who is remarkably attractive and is perhaps the biggest otaku of all the Genshiken members. Saki and Kousaka really make the story great, Saki’s reactions to all that is otaku is the source of a lot of humor. Kousaka is always cheerful and will talk about his passion for adult rated (pornographic) dating simulation games unabashedly with the sweet smile of an innocent child on his face. You sympathize with Saki’s struggle against Kousaka’s love of anime and video games, although she is a very confident woman she can never quite shake the fear that anime and video games have the deepest place in Kousaka’s heart that she can never reach.
Chika Ogiue is an open otaku-hater who feels deep shame and self-loathing toward her own interests and hobbies. She hates all otakus, and hates herself the most of all. At first I felt great dislike for this over dramatic ridiculous character, how could such a character be in this manga with my other beloved characters? But as the manga progresses you feel yourself wishing to know about her and before you know it you love her too.
My favorite character is by far Madarame he is as unembarrassed as Kousaka of his love of all things otaku! Here is a quote that gives you an idea of how ridiculously absurd he is:
He relishes in the fact that he is an outcast of normal society. He is THE FUNNIEST character in the plot! He only knows how to view the world in terms of the situations he has seen in anime.
Genshiken manga is one of my all time favorite manga titles, I HIGHLY recommend it. It has made me laugh out loud and I was delighted to see my own silly anime loving quirks over emphasized in these characters. It also gave me a better understanding of the otaku culture in Japan. I really care about these characters a lot.
Since I have watched the anime I’ll comment in it as well, I’d say (at least) try renting the first season of the anime, it’s only 12 episodes long and is well worth the time. What about the second season of Genshiken? It strayed from the manga quite a bit compared to the first season and seemed to focus too much on the relationships between the characters. It also ended prematurely (before the point where the manga ended), I was actually angry at it when it ended where it did.
So which do you buy the manga or the anime? To me this is one of the few series where you could go either way and be just as entertained and happy. The anime is truly loyal to the manga (for the first season) and the voice actors capture the characters very well. The voice for Madarame helped make how crazy and ridiculous he is truly come out! However if I were to choose I would pick the manga. Simply because although the anime’s voice actors make a lot of the jokes more funny, the manga gives you a lot more story. Another factor is that the second season of the anime is a lot weaker than the first. Also in the manga you can take the time to pause and really appreciate all the detail that the author puts into his images. For example see the image above when Sasahara first walks into Kousaka’s room.