Title: Genshiken aka The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture
Company: Palm Studio/Media Factory
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 22 Oct 2004 – 20 Feb 2005
Synopsis: When Sasahara starts his new career as a university student, he also has to decide for a club to attend. A long-time fan of anime and manga, he ponders joining the respective university clubs but fears that others will believe him to be an otaku if he does so. That’s when he finds out about the “Society for the Study of the Modern Visual Culture”, abbreviated Genshiken, who are apparently dedicated to all the things he loves. But upon joining, he quickly finds out that Genshiken is the place where the real otakus meet…
Realism: Great depicition of otaku life and culture.
Comedy: Hilarious situation comedy.
Character: Development: nonexistent.
Side plots: Boring to some extent.
Outside Japan, “otaku” has become synonymous with “anime fan”. In Japan, it means “jerk who has no life outside his hobbies”. Taking this into account, one would expect Genshiken, a comedy about a bunch of hard-core otakus, to make fun of them and their super-dedication to their hobbies. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
Genshiken tries to show what otaku life is really about and in particular what otakus see in their hobbies. From watching and discussing anime to collecting rare doujinshi manga to assembling plastic model robots, almost all aspects of Japanese otaku culture are shown during the twelve-episode series, and surprisingly, they are shown with a very affectionate view. Most situations are shown from the view of a character who absolutely hates otakus, the stylish Kasukabe, but even she learns to respect what they do when she decides to take a closer look at their hobbies.
Of course, having a character so totally different paired up with the others is a failsafe recipe for great humor. Genshiken definitely doesn’t fail to deliver here; all episodes have hilarious moments in which Kasukabe’s ignorance and disdain for the club members lead to unexpected developments. There is also plenty of humor that comes from her verbal fights with Madarame, the club’s most perverted member. And the fact that she’s in love with a gaming otaku who often prefers his hobbies to his girlfriend also plenty of entertainment.
Unfortunately, aside from Kasukabe and Madarame, most of the other characters have no personality at all. Sasahara, for instance, never has another minute of character development after the pilot episode, and the other club members are only defined by what they like. There is the cosplaying shy girl Ohno, cosplay tailor Tanaka, Kasukabe’s gamer friend and a large guy who adds absolutely nothing to the plot at all and of which we only hear that he can draw manga. In a series devoted to showing the lives of otakus, I would have expected them to have at least a personality beyond their hobbies.
Also, while most of the episodes were entertaining as a whole, three or four were just lacking in fun. A side plot where the club members visit a manga convention has exactly one good moment, and another where they all go to beach totally misses all opportunities to entertain. And when Sasahara’s sister is introduced later, nothing at all is made of her character except for the fact that she’s trying to hit on Kasukabe’s boyfriend. In a long series of 26 episodes, this wouldn’t have been too bad, but if one fourth of a comedy series is just not funny, something is wrong.
Genshiken is probably one of the best looks at otaku life ever since the famous Otaku no Video and has many funny moments, but all too often, the humor is missing, and the cookie-cutter characters only rarely make up for it. It can be enjoyable to watch if you can relate to the otaku club and their culture, but if you can’t, leave this series alone.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Taleweaver