One of the things that lasts in my mind from my time with my college anime club was what I would call a “demographic” change in my junior year. Prior to that, I was sort of guided by my seniors at the club in terms of what would be good to show at CJAS, and I feel like that helped me gain a deeper appreciation for the medium. From the way shows were scheduled and the focus on specific club-related events (such as a showing of a Hayao Miyazaki movie at least once every year, and a manga club that tended to have random manga from random places/club members), I felt like myself and other members of the club got an education on the breadth of content that was provided, from mindless entertainment to poignant, thoughtful works to esoteric mind screws. Part of this was likely due to the fact that we were mostly constrained to works only legally acquired on VHS/DVD/Laser Disc/etc, and so the club worked with what it had (it’s interesting to see how streaming anime changes the game in that mindset as well), but this went down well with the general club members. But this philosophy was something that I continued to promote as I continued on during college, and it’s something that I try to let help influence what I watch the day when I had the time to.
But in that junior year, the incoming class of freshmen had what I’d call a sharply divided focus on how they approached anime and fan culture than what I had. While the general format of club activities stayed the same, in choosing shows, their focus was more about shows that entertained, or shows that made people happy. If they didn’t get that, some people would find some other way to get their anime, as this was when fansubs became easily obtainable. And this new group expressed themselves and their fandom more openly, with more participation in some other aspects of culture (from gunpla to cosplay), as well as how they watched anime in some ways. Until it was complained about, shout-outs and MST3K-ing while watching the shows would have likely been prevalent throughout the rest of my time there as an example. The club adjusted to some things while keeping many “traditions” the same. But while it wasn’t a sea change, but the time I graduated college, it definitely felt like my “era” had passed in a way, brief as it was (hence my ‘too old for this’ statements at Otakon periodically w). It’s familiar, and yet unfamiliar in many ways, and I think that’s one of the things that’s struck me about Genshiken Niidaime as I’ve read the manga, and now as I’m watching the show.
It’s not like this hasn’t been covered before, but I notice that same feeling plays out both inside the story itself as well as how we relate to it. Like the title notes, it’s definitely a ‘second generation’ indeed with the now Ogiue-helmed club, with the younger members interests and apparent comfort in their identity as an otaku from the start, compared to Sasahara and Ogiue coming to terms with that in the first generation. There are still the struggles with people being more comfortable with themselves as Hato (deliciously to me, I might add) leads the pack with neuroses in the second season, and Madarame coming to terms with life and love. But things are decidedly different as people have graduated and have had varying attempts to move on with life. And the fact that the original main crew is not always there, as well as the shift towards more fujoshi focus can be disorienting after building a nice comfort level from the initial work.
In the grand scheme of things, this change makes sense though. Throughout the series as we saw Madarame, then Sasahara and Ohno grow through leadership of Genshiken, a lot of time went through the series, and progress was felt in a lot of ways. Ending the initial series as things were with the main group graduating seemed like a nice coda from where everyone was at the beginning. As the “original” members moved on to life after university, focusing on them afterwards sort of loses it’s luster; while I wouldn’t mind seeing a “what happens to otaku after school and needing to work for themselves” sort of show, it seems like it would be hard to pull off. But change means something different, and the different tone of the series can be unsettling in ways. While I enjoy watching and reading Niidaime, it’s harder to “enjoy” the work, as I can’t really relate to the main cast of characters now like I could before. The series becomes more detached and less “real” to me with the less common ground. As a result, a series where I felt like I could hang out with Sasahara, Madarame and crew and get a drink with them now feels more like watching the ‘crazy hijinks’ that Yoshitake, Susie, Hato and Yajima do, even though the events the club goes through (Comiket, e.g.) and the cameo appearances from former members and friends tend to be the same.
That the main interests of the club members have changed also speaks to a new “era” of fandom that becomes more open. Or at least, anime fans being more open about their interests than in the past. Yoshitake quickly asking if it was alright for her fujoshi interests to be free to talk about in the club is light year’s away from what seemed like pulling teeth to get out Ohno’s interested in bald old men. And it’s refreshing that it’s okay for her to freely ask that question without fearing rejection, and also refreshing to see that the old guard in Ohno and Ogiue (who also had a hard time being true to herself initially) are fully accepting of it, which shows how far they’ve come. But for people like Yoshitake and Susie to be already comfortable in their skin when they become the main focus sort of poses a “where do we go from here” situation, since they’ve already realized what took most of the main characters time to settle out. To me, it’s also why some of the more powerful sections in this generation which will be shown (I think) later in this season still deal with left over issues from Madarame and Ogiue’s pasts, for example (still waiting on if they ever will show Ogiue’s past and progression as a person in this season, as it’s pretty powerful stuff). In that sense, it’s been very easy for me to latch on to Hato given his struggles with his identity that are still going on.
Genshiken’s still a pretty entertaining show to watch, but it doesn’t hook me as it used to. For now, it’s still good enough for me as I fondly remember where I’ve been with this show, and hope it takes me to some more interesting places in the future.