Wednesday, 2 October 2013

げんしけん二代目/ Genshiken Nidaime / Genshiken the Second / Genshiken Second Generation

What a long way Genshiken has come since I started watching it eight years ago. I doubt many of the fans it picked up back in those early days would have expected the 2013 season to be quite like this – a very long way away from the video game tournaments, pornographic doujinshi and figure-collecting of the male-dominated first season and heavily into fujoshi and trap culture for the third. Of course, since Ogiue came on the scene, the comedy involving BL/yaoi was in place, but the Genshiken itself with the addition of a whole slew of rotten women became very female-centric.

This is a good example of why sometimes even as a manga reader it’s a good idea to watch the anime adaptation, especially if there’s a good couple of years between reading the chapter and watching it played out on the TV. The second generation – introduced in chapters several months apart at first – didn’t really resonate with me at all in the manga, as I said in my review of the first seasons. Yoshitake I found lacking in character, Mirei grumpy and uninteresting and Hato, who soon becomes the focus as a real-life trap character – and fudanshi to boot – I found quite sweet but too defined by that one facet, with little indication of the actual personality beneath.

Well, the anime restarting brought those characters to life again, really – and sent me back to catch up with the manga, where I was soon finding Yoshitake absolutely hilarious with her mischievous plans and perversion, Mirei very relatable with her constant bewilderment and brilliant tsukomi moments, and Hato…well, Hato by turns tragic and deeply enviable, most likeable as a boy but still the same character when dressed up as a girl, and with many laughs arising from his admittedly complex and painful situation. 

Then of course there was the wider cast – Sue being mad as ever with her random quotes (kudos to the manga translators for getting all the references), Madarame now all grown up and having to face reality – at least somewhat – Ohno trying to shut out reality and getting herself into a deeper mess and Ogiue now not only a professional mangaka but the voice of reason. They’ve grown up, and it’s lovely. And I’m even looking forward to the third generation, with Yoshitake’s reverse-trap shota-loving sister looking to bring a whole lot more laughs.

Going over to Production I.G. for this new season – presumably the relatively cheap leftovers from whoever is doing the Titans anime – the animation remains functional but is very pretty and the odd character designs really shine through, no longer seeming occasionally disjointed, even when there are characters with dots or fried eggs for eyes. 

The new characters are utterly perfectly cast, and I love that not only do the references from the manga make it (Madoka cosplays!), I.G. add a few of their own, including the rather self-deprecating scene of Kuchiki doing the deviant Titan’s run that I pointed out in my review of Shingeki no Kyojin was so absurd…but has certainly made a big impact. I was sceptical in general about the last episode, which was an anime original hot springs trip – kinda understandable they didn’t want the next sequential chapter, being an extended gag about a misunderstanding over a buttplug – but that scene was well worth it, and they deepened Hato’s dilemma quite neatly without shutting the door on what happens next in the manga.

Nidaime is really Hato’s anime, and since I’m a sucker for traps and reverse traps, that was always going to appeal to me. There’s a deft mixture of the melancholy of Hourou Musuko and the hilarious misunderstandings of Minami-ke in the treatment of gender-bending, and as the series points out with a visual novel, traps remain a big trend in Japanese culture just now. It’s respectable that Genshiken tries to cover that, as well as the ambivalence over sexuality that comes with it, and Hato is so gentle and awkward that I really rooted for him. 

I do wonder how much of the anime audience, especially in the West, is on the same page, though, as after all this is a long way from Genshiken’s roots, and from most other comedies around it.

If Genshiken has closed itself off to some, though, it is their loss, for it remains a brilliant drama and one of the funniest shows currently airing. It is also genuinely very funny, and as soon as I finished it all I wanted to do was catch up on the manga again. I know I can’t recommend it to everyone, but honestly, I rather wish that I could. 


  1. Excellent post. The anime has made me appreciate the manga a lot more too (especially Rika and Yajima). I was kind of cold to it before, but now I can honestly say I'm a big fan of the new series.

    You described everything I like about Hato too. He's at first entertaining and attractive because of the trap shenanigans, but also conflicted and tragic with the sexuality crisis (which reminds me of Horou Musoko), and also has a gentle and awkward personality as well which is endearing. I relate to him, root for him, and well, he's damn cute as hell too. Of course, if one doesn't like Hato, then they'll likely not like Nidaime at all because so much of it revolves around him, so that's a shame, but I understand it.

    The scenes concerning Madarame's (and Ohno's) crisis of facing reality also really hit home hard. In a generally "light" drama like Genshiken, those honest moments are just so genuine, I'd be surprised if someone wasn't affected by them. Episode 11 was a real tear jerker.

    Despite being probably a D-team IG work with low projected sales, I found it had decent to great production quality. Everything looked really clean and nice, and there were actually a lot of smoothly animated subtle facial and body expressions (Episode 11 is the most apparent one).

    Although the anime-original finale makes it unlikely for there to be a continuation, I'll be eagerly waiting for more of the manga (the recent chapters have been so damn good).

  2. Thanks for a great comment! It sounds like we're on the same page about pretty much everything. It's great that it had a bit of emotional complexity, but then, Genshiken has always been very good at that.

    I think we're still likely to get more even with the anime-original last episode. It didn't exactly sort the various tensions out...and the newer manga chapters are just too juicy to never see done in animated form! (Though the public baths chapter may need to be changed in light of this one.)

  3. Yeah, Madarame's Harem arc needs to be animated, it's too good and juicy to not do it. And I love what happens with Hato too (I need to see that neck scene animated), although they already did a little of a "hato stops crossdressing" thing with this finale.

    Hopefully another season does happen, they did such an amazing job adapting Nidaime so far. Although it'll be a long time before they get enough material for a potential next season, so I'm not waiting on it.

  4. Yeah, they got uncomfortably close to catching up. But I'd love to see the whole ruckus Angie causes on the big screen. Until then, there's always just reading the manga. :)