When it was announced that the manga for Genshiken Second Generation (Genshiken Nidaime) would receive an anime, my excitement was tempered by a feeling that the anime would ultimately be a letdown, as it would suffer from comparisons to the original classic. NIS’s slick release of the Genshiken Second Generation DVD set, though, proves that while it’s no classic, this new series stands on its own merits.
For those unfamiliar, Genshiken traces the lives of members of the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, a college otaku club whose associates are often rejects even among otaku. Though Second Generation has appearances by all the original cast, new members are featured in this season, including Hato, a cross-dressing fudanshi; Yajima, a surly fujoshi who disapproves of Hato’s cross-dressing; Yoshitake, a relentlessly and excitable fujoshi; and Sue, an American exchange student who speaks almost entirely in dialogue from various anime series.
This season centers on Hato, who is continuously dealing with his desire and need to cross-dress, and Madarame, one of the main characters of the original series, and both his adjustment into post-college life and undetermined and evolving relationship with Hato. These two storylines are dynamic and sometimes complex, but unfortunately, they’re not always particularly interesting. Hato and this Madarame are less compelling than the trio of Kasukabe, Sasahara, and Madarame in the earlier series.
Fundamentally, there’s a problem at the core of Second Generation: the two mains in this series are not as relatable as the three (four if you consider Ogiue) in the original show. Part of the magic of Genshiken was in taking a wide variety of characters, ranging from anime-obsessed Madarame to stylish, non-otaku Kasukabe, and infusing them with real emotions and thoughts, and in that way, creating characters that the audience can empathize with and relate to. In Second Generation, there’s such a heavy focus on fujoshi/fudanshi culture that a broader appeal is lost, while Hato’s struggles often felt unrealistic, and thus less relatable.
But while the series falls short of its predecessor, its by no means a failure.
Second Generation reaches it’s climax with the school festival episodes near it’s end, and these episodes are deftly done. A number of unexpected characters converge together at the festival and force our two protagonists to meet their demons head on. The scenes are again reminders that Genshiken is at it’s best when it reveals its characters are far more than caricatures.
The show’s themes are also significant – one consistently given is that people are far more than we make them to be, or that we might think they are. Hato obviously fits into this idea, but Madarame maybe demonstrates it even more strongly as Hato continuously misunderstands him; his misunderstandings of and off-the-cuff remarks about Madarame are a weighty source of both the drama and comedy in the show.
The new voice cast mostly does an admirable job (Jun Fukuyama as Kuchiki is especially a treat), though some voices don’t capture their characters as well as their predecessors’, namely those for Ohno and Ogiue. The music for Second Generation also isn’t quite up to par, falling short of the underrated soundtrack of the original series.
NIS does it’s usual wonderful job with aesthetics, putting together a nice box package for the series. It contains an art booklet which should appeal to Genshiken fans, presenting the series and its characters in a “very otaku” manner. The BD version of the series is also worthy of attention – the show looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-Ray.
The regular readers of this blog will certainly need to consider the content of the show as they choose whether or not to watch. Yaoi plays a major role in Second Generation; it’s almost omnipresent in some form or another in every episode. In between being played for laughs, the show also seriously delves into questions about sexual orientation and cross-dressing. On the other hand, while not as thought-provoking as a series like Hourou Musuko, this show may cause you to think more deeply about issues that you would otherwise dismiss or quickly categorize without further thought.
While new seasons of all shows must deal with comparisons to the original, Genshiken Second Generation has it particularly tough as the continuation of a classic series. But on it’s own, Genshiken Second Generation is a unique, frequently funny, sometimes profound show whose climax will appeal to old-time fans and new ones alike. And if you’re already a fan, the NIS release is absolutely worth picking up.