Nozomi YamamotoKenji NomuraNaomi OzoraKazuyuki Okitsu
Genshiken
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2004
Director: Takashi Ikehata, Kinji Yoshimoto, Tsutomu Mizushima
Writer: Michiko Yokote
Actor: Ai Kakuma, Akira Ishida, Ayako Kawasumi, Hiroki Yasumoto, Ikumi Hayama, Jun Fukuyama, Kaori Mizuhashi, Kaori Shimizu, Kazutomi Yamamoto, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Kenji Nomura, Konomi Tada, Madoka Yonezawa, Mamiko Noto, Misa Kobayashi, Mitsuki Saiga, Momoko Ohara, Naomi Ozora, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Nozomi Yamamoto, Rina Sato, Satsuki Yukino, Sumire Uesaka, Takanori Ohyama, Takayuki Kondo, Tatsuya Kobashi, Tomokazu Seki, Yuji Ueda, Yukana, Yumi Uchiyama
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 3 seasons and 40 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=4168
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 15 May 2024
Genshiken
It's about otaku. I thought it was great. I randomly watched Genshiken: Second Generation (i.e. its last season) and liked that enough to go back and watch/rewatch everything from the beginning. Here's the list:
2004 = Season 1, twelve episodes
2006-07 = three OVA episodes
2007 = Season 2, twelve episodes
2013 = Second Generation, thirteen episodes
It's talking about otaku things, obviously... but it covers a full decade, so it became a snapshot of a moving target. When it started, "otaku" was a negative word and one of the cast (Saki Kasukabe) might physically attack people who call her one. She's only here because she fancies the handsome but dozy Makoto Kousaka, who's such an otaku that he'll even play pornographic computer games in front of her. She becomes his girlfriend, but that means hanging out with his otaku friends in their Genshiken university society. (She gets used to them and even starts looking after them, but she thinks they're bozos.)
Ten years later, though, being an otaku was more mainstream and the show becomes more interested in sexual identity and being yourself. This improves it. The cross-dressing, BL-loving Hato Kenjirou is the show's most interesting character, protesting that he's not gay while being haunted by his own naked female alter-ego, who's invisible to everyone else and flies around commenting on what he's doing.
The show's plot is its characters. Will Kasukabe soften? Will any of them ever find romance? Answer: yes, but they're so socially inept and/or lacking in confidence that it's a miracle whenever it happens. That's even true of Kasukabe-Kousaka, or at least the surprising fact that they stay together. She's aggressively normal, while he'd try the patience of a saint and his friends are almost as bad. Ouno's idea of wooing makes her order the boy she likes to play a porn game in front of her for ten hours. Yes, he thinks that's weird too. They create dounjinshi manga to sell at comics festivals, but this is usually slanted at a minority audience (i.e. pornographic, of one variety or another) and there will be friction among the creators. A Genshiken member probably won't be a people person, after all. For example, the boys are capable of holding porn game conversations about breast size while a girl's sitting right beside them.
It's funny, of course. You'd have thought you were going insane if it weren't. (A particularly good one is the first OVA, with the different girls' attitudes to BL and which sub-genres they masturbate to. I laughed aloud at the about-to-explode facial expressions of Prude Who Admitted It At The End.)
The show also explores the boundaries between being an otaku consumer of manga, anime, etc. and working in those industries. Some of our heroes would like to do the latter, but it wouldn't be a bed of roses. For instance, publishing companies might put you in charge of clamping down on doujinshi that violate copyright. (Which is thousands of them, including your own.)
There are otaku discussions. Sometimes their subjects are real, e.g. the Guilty Gear video game series (since the anime was co-produced by Sega Sammy Holdings) while there are name-changed references to Gundam, Code Geass, Fullmetal Alchemist, Slam Dunk, InuYasha, etc. However, the show also invents a fictional anime (Kujibiki Unbalance) and an adult visual novel (Ramen Angel Pretty Menma) for safety's sake over copyrights. Bizarrely, one of those became a real anime series (both OVAs and TV) and I'll review it tomorrow.
This is an engaging show. The characters are relatable, even with (no, because of) their issues, and it's the kind of thing you could start watching almost anywhere and immediately get into. Definitely worth a look.