Genshiken (Season 1, OVAs, Season 2)

Very Good

Normally, I’m pretty hesitant about anime involving Otaku because they tend to over-utilize the “shock value” with baser humor and subject matter.  However, Genshiken is a pretty entertaining comedy about Otakudom.  Perhaps it resonated with me because I have realized only recently that I am a pretty big generalist Otaku (into video gaming, anime, painting miniatures, building Gundams, and cosplay).  Only recently realized this?  Yes.  To paraphrase the anime, becoming an Otaku isn’t something you set out to do, you just find yourself there.

EDIT: Here’s where it gets confusing.  The second season of Genshiken is called Genshiken 2. It comes right after the 3 OVA episodes.  Crunchyroll has Genshiken Nidaime listed as “Genshiken Second Season,” but that’s actually season 3 – it comes Immediately after Genshiken 2.   One other thing to mention – Genshiken 2 goes a lot more into and includes much more ecchi content.  In addition to standard ecchi, it also goes into BL (boys love), without being too graphic.  That said, you’ll need a solid tolerance of ecchi for Genshiken 2.  Those are also parts of Otakudom, so it makes sense that they’d cover that material, which was only touched on in Genshiken (season 1.)  The review was written after watching Genshiken 1 and the OVAs, but I don’t really have too much to add after watching Genshiken 2.

Purpose: Very Good.  All in good fun, it’s a slice of life comedy about Otaku.  What’s notable about this anime is its treatment of both “old,” firmly entrenched Otaku and people new to the… lifestyle.  They also included the perspective of the outsider, thrown into the melee.  This anime also breaks a bit from the slice of life genre.  Normally, slice of life is about crazy characters reacting to new situations.  Normally, time doesn’t really progress in a meaningful manner and the characters don’t usually develop.  Genshiken is different.  It managed to keep its entertaining value throughout and also make structural changes throughout.

Characters: Very Good.  The characters were all distinctive, both in aspects of their hobby and their personalities.  The characters had a surprising amount of depth, given the genre.  One aspect of the characters that really stood out was the attention to body language.  Often, the body language did a great job of showing the viewer what was going on and added a great deal of emphasis to what was going on.  Character interactions were both varied and unique.  They tended to react to situations in a really human manner, based on their personalities.  Several scenes come to mind where there was a great deal of believable awkwardness as well as touching moments, which punctuated the comedy.  As a final note, they did a really interesting job developing two couples – the Otaku couple and the Otaku/normal person couple.  There were great lessons to learn from those relationships.

World: Good.  Pretty normal.  The world was interesting because it was at first limited to the clubroom, but slowly expanded.  It broadened for both settings and subject matter.  For settings, it occasionally varied between “normal” and “Otaku,” which provided interesting situations for our characters to react to.  For subject matter, many of the major Otaku areas were given some light – manga, anime, cosplay, figure-building, etc.  Part of the world included the characters dealing with the world – an interesting situation in itself.

Plot: Good.  It’s a slice of life/comedy anime about Otaku.  It’s not as if the entire world is at stake here.  As before, it was both surprising and interesting that there was progression in an anime of this type.  In addition to actually creating a character development trajectory, the plot was varied enough to have interesting situations arise.

Storytelling:  Very Good. Storytelling is always harder to spot in slice of life and comedy anime.  In this case, it’s how they set up the comedy and other situations.  What is most interesting about the storytelling wasn’t necessarily what information they provided, so much as what they didn’t.  There was just enough Otaku in there to be familiar to veterans, but not so much as to be seriously off-putting to someone not as familiar.  In addition, they usually managed to keep a nice balance of handling certain Otaku subjects without getting vulgar.  The best phrase that comes to mind is that they toed the line, although they weren’t trying to see what they could get away with.  This anime seemed to want to talk about these subjects, rather than trying to shock the viewer.

The main point of the storytelling here was the comedy.  This anime was consistently funny.  The kind of humor, based on the situations, was varied as well.  It wasn’t like a lot of anime in this genre, where characters have a “reaction catchphrase” – something happens and they react in one particular way.  Part of what was so funny was that the characters were reacting in a realistic, believable manner.  Though the anime was mainly comedy, I was really surprised that they managed to have several scenes with a strong impact to them.

Pace: Very Good.  The strongest point of the pace is, again, what it doesn’t do.  They had an excellent sense of when to develop an issue and when to leave it be.  This could very easily have gotten bogged down with too much of an exploration into Otaku minutiae.  Added to this was the fact that many other anime in this genre struggle with the pacing of pure comedy.  They managed to keep everything together very well.

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