I never actually got around to reviewing the original Genshiken, but I did like it immensely. A slice-of-life comedy about a college club for hardcore broad-spectrum geeks, it’s about as intensely self-aware as an entirely straightforward, no tricks, no breaking the 4th wall, almost completely realistic series can be. Likable-yet-real characters, every in-joke and reference you could possibly imagine, most of which are entirely intentional since the characters aren’t just like you, they are you. Sometimes a series like that is about insiders but really targeted at outsiders, but Genshiken I’m pretty sure is intended entirely for the people who get it.
Show me one geek who didn’t at least try to name the ringtones in the first episode before the character did (I beat him on two). And you also no doubt tried to figure out which character’s category you best fit into (I’m probably closest to a Sasahara-type, with friends ranging from Kugayama to full-on Kasukabe).
It is also the master of the awkward pause. Heck, that series had an entire episode consisting, without break, of Madarame’s crazed internal monologue while sitting in a room in awkward silence with Saki while she reads a comic. Few are the series that will try something that extreme, and fewer still that can not only make it work, but make it hilarious. The little scenes during the ending credits that referred back to earlier bits were also a kind of genius. Frankly, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching for that episode alone.
So now, Genshiken 2. Having read some of the manga in the era past the “satisfying but open stopping point” end of the first series, I’ve been looking forward to this since I listened to some radio shows done as a promo for it a while back. And really, if any series can pull off a sequel, it’s Genshiken.
Well, finally got to watching it, and a few episodes in the first thing that caught me was that it started up right where the first left off—with the club getting ready to publish a doujinshi for the upcoming comic festival. The second thing was that it completely bypasses the introduction of violently closet otaku girl Ogiue (her addition to the cast apparently happened during the OAVs, which I didn’t even realize existed until a few minutes ago).
Any other series I would have faulted for a major character introduction in an OAV, but this series knows you, and so it has no trouble whatsoever making assumptions about the level of commitment of the viewers. It feels comfortable with itself, and didn’t seem to have missed so much as a beat despite nearly three years passing between the end of the first series and the start of this one.
And, really, thus far it is 100% more of the same in the general sense, which is to say 100% good stuff. More of the same, yet it feels fresh and full of new and fun character interactions and socially awkward situations. As of episode four there’s been an impressive amount of low-key, awkwardly funny “drama” ranging from doujinshi production to table-manning to romance.
It also appears to understand that it’s milked Saki and Kousaka’s relationship sufficiently, so the focus has moved to Sasahara (who, despite appearing to be the main character in the first episode of the original, turned out to have a remarkably small part). Ogiue hasn’t done much yet, but there’s plenty of time, and the other addition, violently unpleasant geek Kuchiki is hanging around in the background annoying everyone appropriately without hogging the spotlight enough to get annoying to the viewer. Also, the old President, possibly the creepiest character ever, is still graduated and off being creepy somewhere else. Thank God.
Oh, the intro and outro. The intro is 100% pure awesome: An overdramatic and ridiculously epic Gundam pastiche with the main characters’ heads pasted onto every jumpsuited, crazy-helmeted body. The endings, disappointingly, are all the same shot of the club room, without the slightly-animated awesome that was the self-referential in-jokes of the first season. However… the occasional extra bits after the credits are now on every episode, and have been lengthened and upgraded to a level of wonderful possibly better than the original series. Again, the series of course knows you’re going to sit through the entire credits… and if you’re not, well, you weren’t enough of a geek to deserve the great bonus jokes.
Bottom line, if it can keep it up for another eight episodes, this Genshiken 2 will top the original, and that’s saying something. I even have some degree of confidence that it will manage.
Final, random note: The mind-breaking meta-ness of this series continues to amaze and hurt me. The first had the anime-within-an-anime Kujibiki Unbalance, which of course had three entire episodes produced—the first, twenty-first, and next-to-last. Three entirely straight episodes of a series that was never made, including the dramatic next-to-last episode filled with numerous straight-faced references back to past episodes that don’t exist and “big moment” character development nobody cares about because we only saw three random episodes! That hurt me, and of course I watched all three. That they actually did make a Kujibiki Unbalance later (with a different plot, no less) hurts even more—how does that kind of fiction-imitates-fiction-imitating-life-watching-fiction thing even happen? And who would actually watch it?
Well, now we’ve got characters in one series producing fanporn of a nonexistant-except-now-it-exists series. And, every time they get all cosplayed up, Genshiken is, in a manner of speaking, making fanporn of itself [note: see later post on episode 5]. So here’s what I wonder: What goes through the mind of a person who sits down to draw fanporn of Genshiken (which most certainly does exist—see Rule 34)? You are, if you follow the loop, essentially drawing fanporn of yourself.
Maybe there actually isn’t any, because everyone who tried to make some was consumed by an existential singularity. I refuse to ask Google the answer, because I already know what it will be, and I will then not want my eyes anymore. An episode of Dokuro-chan was enough of that symptom for one day.
I’m done now.