Genshiken Second Generation is the standalone sequel to the cult hit, adapted from Shimoku Kio’s equally popular manga series. The slice-of-life comedy explores the Otaku lifestyle through the exploits of The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture at Shiiou University. This third season is not so much a continuation of the original Genshiken, but a closely related successor. The setting remains the same, and though fans will recognize a few familiar faces, many of the former members have either graduated or left. Freshman inductees Yajima Mirei, Yoshitake Rika and Kenjiro Hato round out the new cast. This transforms the once stereotypical male space to a fujoshi-charged atmosphere. It’s a change, but a welcome one that makes the franchise as a whole a hell of a lot more representative. It’s both refreshing and unique for a series to address the fandom from a female perspective. Honestly, it’s about time considering the rise of the female consumer in the Japanese market. Fujoshi culture dominates the show, but there are side plots involving sub-interests like reki-jo and cosplay.
Second Generation features overhauled animation and new voice actors for returning characters. Longtime fans may wince at the seiyuu switch, but the cast delivers strong performances. Legacy characters sound like mature, if not slightly toned down, versions of their former selves. The new studio, Production I.G., should also be commended for the visual upgrade. Streamlined movement and refreshed character designs create an impressive picture. Detailed faces, with notable restyling of the eyes, allow for more distinction and truer expressions. Although the style isn't uncommon, it’s well executed.
"It’s both refreshing and unique for a series to address the fandom from a female perspective. Honestly, it’s about time considering the rise of the female consumer in the Japanese market."
Genshiken spins a realistic and positive take on the Otaku role. Other series treat us to no more than character or two and explore the lifestyle in isolation. As true as the Hikikomori classification of obsessive fans equating to modern-day hermits may be, it’s still a generalization. Plus, many of Genshiken’s members are plenty isolated outside of the clubroom. No, their “real world” isn't painted as a tolerant place. But these characters have found acceptance with each other through their common interests. And the theme of acceptance runs deep through Genshiken. The club exists in a sphere now free from ridicule. Outsiders rarely invade the Genshiken space.
When Hato faces resistance to her crossdressing, the members must learn to put aside their differences. She explains her experience with bullying is akin to the isolation they faced from their former peers. The show tackles complex gender identity issues in a competent and compassionate way. The inclusion of a believable transgender protagonist is revolutionary on its own. In Anime, it’s even more of a rarity. Add to that surprisingly realistic and varied reactions from her peers while coping with a constant internal struggle.
"And the theme of acceptance runs deep through Genshiken. The club exists in a sphere now free from ridicule. Outsiders rarely invade the Genshiken space."
Despite the six year break between seasons, established characters return with even more personality. Sometimes too much. Kuchiki’s exaggerated responses are excessive, even for a prankster intended to be annoying. Second Generation can sometimes be heavy handed with the slapstick. Past seasons showed Kuchiki’s mastery in fighting games. A scene or two dedicated to his actual interests would restore balance. And, no, Kuchiki's comical fascination with Hato does not qualify. Because the narrative addresses emotionally variegated problems, the humor establishes a jilted but necessary contrast.
Underdeveloped side characters lead to the greater issue of concentrating on Hato and Madarame. The original Genshiken balanced its ensemble cast. The new series must also reconcile two generations of characters. Yet, I argue against defining the accompanying members of Genshiken as background fodder. Kuchiki’s one liners aside, the glimpses into other characters perspectives are telling. And that’s why it’s upsetting when a minor character becomes a favorite. American transfer student Susanna Hopkins, better known as Sue, manages to be endearing with her spastic recitation of Anime quotes. I think she’s the funniest personality in the bunch. While the quotes are a clever way of illustrating her language barrier, I get the impression she’d be an oddball regardless.
"A little over a decade has passed since the original Genshiken anime hit the airwaves. NIS America’s expertly composed premium release of Genshiken Second Season is well worth the wait."
There’s nothing wrong with what we’re given. I just want more of it. The question remains whether delegating extra screen time to the supporting cast would allow Hato and Madarame the same level of development. The interplay between these two characters bridges many opposite ideals into an honest friendship. Mizushima directs Genshiken's thirteen episodes with an observable attention to pacing. There’s no fat to trim because the show avoids filler. An exploration of Otakudom is bound to include tropes, and dozens abound. But they’re delivered in a self-aware manner for the sake of satire, and sometimes even serious commentary.
A little over a decade has passed since the original Genshiken anime hit the airwaves. NIS America’s expertly composed premium release of Genshiken Second Season is well worth the wait. A beautiful art book accompanies the boxed two disc Blu-ray set. It’s a treat for fans of the franchise as well as a great introduction to the newer season.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: NIS America