I remember this series being fairly popular back in the day (it even spun off its own fictional anime, Kujibiki Unbalance), but it placed similarly low in both the LiA and RC preview polls and no one seems to be talking about it all that much. Six years is a long time between sequels, though I think there are some other factors involved. For me, Genshiken is one of those series (like Moyashimon, for example) that I always thought I was supposed to like more than I did. I like anime that comment smartly on the otaku experience – Oreimo S1 did this quite well, though Princess Jellyfish is probably the best IMHO – and I applaud series set at college or in the workplace. But it just never clicked for me – it was fine, but I never felt it was all that smart or funny.
Since I’m not a big fan of the franchise I checked various forums to see how the Nidaime premiere played with the fanbase. The general reaction seems to be positive, with the caveat that most everyone is predictably irritated with the wholesale casting changes. Since the original cast is barely present it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me but I freely admit I have no emotional connection here – the only thing I’ll say is that Fukuyama Jun is doing my least favorite of his voices, his chuunibyou one – it’s like nails on a blackboard for me. Apart from that the new cast seems fine, and so does the episode. Mizushima Tsutomu is more than competent directing comedy, and no Production I.G. series, even a character comedy, is going to be subpar visually. Pacing was fine, designs were fine – for me as a lukewarm viewer, it was on a par as far as enjoyability with the first two seasons.
That said, what I find really interesting about Genshiken Nidaime is what it says about the way the anime industry has evolved. In 2006-7, Genshiken could be a quite popular series by focusing on the experience of being an otaku, unsuccessful with girls and looked down on by more socially accepted classes. The implication is that otaku were interested in reading/watching a series about people like them. As other supplementary evidence overwhelmingly indicates, that’s no longer the case – male otaku aren’t really interested in looking at male characters at all, much less ones like them – and if they are, they even have to be bland losers or traps.
So the Genshiken of today is fascinating in that the on-screen evolution reflects the off-screen evolution. The circle is now almost exclusively a fujoshi club (only the uber-buttmonkey Kuchiki remains of the original guys) and the only new male member is the best-looking girl in the cast. Ogiue-san worries about this on-screen, which I think is a pretty self-referential moment. This is the Genshiken otaku are interested in watching in 2013 – a show with an almost exclusively female cast and a trap to salivate over. The reality is, in fact, that if Genshiken had started out in the 2010s even if the manga had been published (it might – manga remains a far more diverse medium than anime) I don’t think there’s any way it would ever have been as popular, or adapted into an anime. None of that makes me inclined to say I’m going to like this one significantly more than the earlier versions to the point where I’ll blog it, but it does make Genshiken Nidaime interesting to watch from a social standpoint.