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.