First Impressions – Genshiken Nidaime

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Genshiken is back, though seemingly largely unnoticed.

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.

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  1. c

    Interesting observation about changing viewer tastes, but I have to wonder about your conclusion. It's easy enough to lump this into the "female otaku surrogate" like, say, Konoha from Lucky Star, but I'm wondering if the fujoshi distinction might be important. As far as I know, male otaku are no more comfortable with female otaku talking about male/male slash pairings and yaoi porn than they were half a decade ago. I mean, maybe I missed something since I don't exactly watch all these girl-ensemble things, but aren't they usually kept fairly innocent or harmless? Or even given "male" tastes and perspectives to be more relatable?

    Also, I hadn't really considered this before, but what about female otaku? Why can't it be pandering to them, for them to "watch themselves" like male otaku did for the original series? It's kind of strange that you instinctively viewed it from the perspective of a male audience, isn't it?

  2. Well, I am male, for starters ;-). But I think what I view it through is the perspective of the changing realities of the anime market. If you look at this season's schedule, how many shows are there with exclusively female casts? This is the wave that's been sweeping anime for the last few years and it's really cresting this season.

    I don't disagree that some of the viewers of Nidaime might be fujoshi. But even if that's true to some extent, the larger point – that a show like the original Genshiken would never be made now because otaku simply wouldn't watch it – still seems compelling to me. YMMV.

  3. i

    I for one like Genshiken. It was my foremost experience with an anime about Otaku and back then I could related with ease to the characters. And in my evolution as an Otaku I have joined what is essentially a Fujoshi circle much like how Genshiken has changed.

    From RL experience I can say that Genshiken Nidaime has split gender audience, with Fujoshi watching it as it relates to their life and Otaku watching it because of the girls.

    I never thought it was smart or anything but I do feel that it is honest in a way Oreimo could never be.

  4. K

    Do you have to have seen Genshiken to watch this?
    I want to follow this, but I don't want to start it if I have to go through the other Genshiken series first.

  5. S

    I would say that you can pick it up even if you haven't see the first series, just as long as you don't expect the anime to hold your hand and provide you with every detail of what happened before.

    If you want to take a look at the first series before, I would recommend reading the manga. It's faster than watching the anime, and some of the last volumes weren't adapted.

  6. J

    Maybe the original would have to be a noitaminA series now.

  7. Z

    I wonder if they'll still do plamo being fujoshi and all? I admit that was one of the things I liked most about season 1.

  8. H

    I'd also disagree that this show is aimed just at male otaku these days (haven't seen either of the anime series but have read all the original manga and a decent chunk of Nidaime), I've seen other female fans sympathize with the characters and like them for the same reason they liked the female otaku of Princess Jellyfish and I feel like if this was aimed just at guys that the girls would be, well, more cutesy. Of course, this is based on reading beyond what material the first episode has covered but I still think that the manga shifted from being aimed just at guys to trying to appeal to guys and girls since I've gotten the impression that the actual "otaku" demographic has also changed since the manga started (or at least the girls became more vocal/more noticed than they were a decade ago).

  9. Again, my main point isn't that fujoshi wouldn't enjoy Nidaime, but that male otaku wouldn't watch the original Genshiken and thus, it would never have been produced in anime form today.

  10. Z

    Male otaku have long since abandoned being able to laugh at themselves. Moe is serious business now.

  11. i

    I think it was Jeremy Clarkson who said that people that can't laugh at themselves aren't people you'd want to have for dinner.

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