I guess this is what happens when you don’t pay attention to things. 😛
I just found out about Season 2 of Genshiken from the fine folks at Heisei Democracy, and it’s a nice surprise for me. As one of the people disappointed by the decision to have Kujibiki Unbalance anime and some OVAs instead of a full second season, I feel redemption has occurred now. Genshiken has been one of my favorite anime and manga series out there, and in my opinion one of the more down to earth series that has been made in the last couple of years. For those who aren’t in the know, this is a humorous look at and introduction to otakudom that in my case, strikes a bit close to home.
One of Genshiken’s strengths has been its realism. We start off looking at the namesake Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture itself. It’s a niche club at a university in Japan that basically watched Kujian at the start of the show, and it wasn’t a pretty popular club. My college anime club had many more members than this, but growing pains were still evident. It’s hard to recruit members for a club that basically watches anime, especially with how freely people are able to access titles now with the right means in addition to the perceptions that people can still have for the medium. It’s also hard trying to retain members you have, and keeping up the belief that what you’re doing has meaning other than hanging out and watching anime.
I like that it also pulled no punches when talking about the culture itself, especially the seedier side. There’s nothing that society would see honorable in playing games where the goal is to screw characters. People don’t just watch anime for the entertainment, and as Madarame’s famous impassioned speech proclaimed, titillation is as much a goal of anime as anything else. Which is why Sassahara feels uncomfortable initially buying doujinshi and games while “in his element”, and why we initially see people such as Kousaka and Madarame as abnormal for freely admitting what they do with those materials (though Kousaka is somewhat abnormal to begin with :P). And even when not using anime for indecent means, just being a fan still is seen as odd (most likely for how other fans, so it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Shows like Comic Party (which romanticizes one side of the story) and Doujin Work (which lampoons from the other side, though the anime needs more Hiroyuki influence – I might get to that later) don’t tell the story. It’s a hard knock life for us otaku, yo, and Genshiken keeps it real in that regard. :3
The realism bleeds into another strong point of the show, the characters. We can easily see these people in real life, and in my case, it keeps me straight, since I see their fandom as closer to the more hardcore end of anime fan culture, and I’m still not ready to embrace that wild side. I took the position of Saki when I started watching; I wondered why these people would blatantly express their pride for things like getting off on anime or really liking a show. One would think that those sort of things would be better swept under the rug or not exist at all, which explains why many anime fans seem embarrassed critical of fans like “Narutards” or fans that blatantly express their anime-related fetishes like that. At that time I thought some members of Genshiken were awesome (Madarame, Kousaka, Ohno), but not necessarily people that I’d want to hang out with.
Then while reading/watching and getting to know the characters more, I realized a point which I think Saki realizes after a while of interacting with them. In essence, we’re dealing with a group of oddball, goofballs and crazyballs that through the things they do, stick together through thick and thin. And as we go through the series, we realize that the support that they give each other gives member confidence to do things like face the torment of one’s past, find a job, or recover from constant smackdowns in Guilty Gear. True friendship is hard to come by nowadays it seems, but the Genshiken crew, connected to anime culture in different ways and in different levels, have managed to achieve it.
One reason why I stayed at my anime club was in the interaction with people that have come to be my strongest friends from my time at college. Liking anime was just a starting point, but it was in that common ground that I got to know more about others who shared the same interest in different ways, and it was why I tried my best to make new members realize this too. As expressed in other anime than Genshiken (great example Manabi Straight, good example Girls High if you can look past the cheese), strong connections made tend to last a while. Anime is an easy way to interact with others, and Genshiken uses it to great effect, fostering those strong relationships between the characters themselves, as well as a connection between the manga/anime and the readers/watchers. Hopefully that thought can be applied to real life otaku relations, because everything is easier when you have a shared interest to start with.
So would I mind hanging out with characters like Madarame, Kousaka and Ogiue? Not at all. Kuchiki? You have to suffer some fools I guess. :3