Saturday, December 3, 2011


Genshiken (in Japanese it's short for "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture") is a Manga (and anime adaptation) written by Kio Shimoku. It is the story of a college sci-fi/fantasy/anime/manga/videogames/nerd club in Japan.
More accurately, it's a slice-of-life manga/anime about an otaku club at a Univeristy in Japan. The main protagonist is Kanji Sasahara, who starts out his first year at college wondering if he should join the manga club or the anime club. He loves both, but is still so shy about admitting his otaku-hood that he can't bring himself to join either. Then he discovers Genshiken, the really hardcore otaku club. As they say, hilarity ensues as Sasahara discovers who he truely is through the exploration of his hobbies.

Genshiken has quite a few other main characters who are all very memorable, including Kousaka, a "normal"-looking guy in the same grade as Sasahara, but who is really the most hardcore otaku of them all, and his girlfriend, Kasukabe, who really is normal, and has trouble accepting Kousaka for what he is. But the rest of the cast are equally unique, memorable, and alive. Really, "alive" is the best way I can describe Genshiken. It feels so true to life. You look at the characters, how they act and how they change, and you connect with them because you understand them and what makes them tick. At least, you do if you're a nerd like me. More than once, I've seen myself or a version of me that could have existed, had I made different choices in my life, in Genshiken. It's one of the very few series I've ever read/seen that I actually felt a real human connection with the characters and felt honest emotion from and for. In my not-so-humble opinion, Genshiken is what every work of art should strive to be, and so few even come close to achieving. It is, bar-none, my favorite graphic novel ever, and a strong contender for my favorite anime ever. The first season, at least. I'm not so wild about the second season. Possibly because the first season does a very good job following the manga fairly literally. It adds a few things here and there, left a couple things out, but only rarely changes anything. The second season... adds a LOT, and almost all of it is 100% unnecessary.
I do have to label this one with a content warning, too, though. You should know that when I say this is true-to-life, I mean it. And... well... in Japan, they're... a bit more open about pornography, despite stricter regulations. And that pornography, especially certain adult-oriented fan doujinshi, has a rather prominent role in Genshiken. That is not to say that Genshiken is itself pornographic. But the characters do talk about pornography a lot, and some of the images it shows get rather borderline. There's enough so that I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to just anyone.

Bottom line: If you feel that you could watch/read Genshiken and not be offended, then seek this series out (it's best in manga format), because this series is simply A-Freaking-Mazing. If, however, you feel that this series might make you uncomfortable due to its content, I respect that, and would suggest you stick to Freaks and Geeks, since they are similar in many respects.

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