Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 12

By Shimoku Kio. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Stephen Paul.

The last time I gave Genshiken a full review, I noted that the author seemed to be aiming for a new demographic with the new cast being mostly women, and their own interests tending towards BL. Well, we’ve had several volumes since then, and I’d say in the end the demographic didn’t QUITE change. Genshiken is still, at heart, a series for male otaku by a male otaku. But I think the Second Season may have helped broaden their horizons a bit, showing the readers what life is like outside their comfort zone, particularly with the awkward, touching but ultimately “just friends” relationship between Madarame and Hato. That said, I suspect that readers over here in North America may have wished that he’d pushed the envelope a bit more – the final half of this sequel was all about Madarame in a harem situation, something that aggravated as many people as it entertained. Still, at least it avoided the dreaded “nothing changes” stasis, mostly thanks to Saki, who makes one last appearance to kick Madarame’s ass into gear.

The cover art may give you an idea of who the Final Girl is, but honestly it was easy to figure out with Madarame’s rejection of all four, which had three sensible, well-thought out replies and one lame dodge, something Saki immediately points out. (Amusingly, everyone else there noticed it as well, but weren’t saying anything – Madarame can be appallingly stubborn, and only Saki can kick back against that.) And despite confessing to each other in otaku terms – or perhaps because of it – Madarame and Sue do actually make a very good couple, though actual coupling may still be a long way off. It’s also nice to see Madarame distancing himself from the Genshiken, moving away and trying once again to find a real job. The Genshiken has always been filled with weirdos, but Madarame vs. Saki had been the plot for so long that it was nice to see it return for one final appearance.

And then there’s graduation. I could talk about Kuchiki here, but don’t want to, despite the fact that the end of the book is mostly about him. Instead, let’s talk about Hato, who Madarame rejects here with a very well-thought out reason – he doesn’t think Hato is comfortable enough in his own skin to date a guy, and thinks that he should concentrate on being a “fudanshi” who likes to cross dress. The series has been dancing back and forth on Hato’s gender identity and sexual preferences, and again, I don’t think that the author goes as far as the audience wanted him to take it. That said, the journey we’ve seen in the last 12 volumes has been fantastic in many places, and Hato is absolutely the most interesting character in the sequel, with Yajima a close second. (Fans of Hato may be interested in checking out Spotted Flower, an unlicensed “alternate universe” Genshiken manga, though I warn fans of Genshiken proper that they may not like it.)

Like a lot of otaku-driven anime and manga, Genshiken went on too long, added some unnecessary subplots, and features far too much of characters that everyone hates – both in universe and out. But the journey had some wonderful moments, and in the end I think was worth it, even if it ended up more breaking down than reaching its goal. I wish the cast well.

Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 5

By Shimoku Kio. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

I’ve reviewed the last couple of volumes of this sequel to Genshiken in Bookshelf Briefs, and have remarked several times that it almost feels like they’re trying to aim for a new demographic with all of the new cast being of a more BL tilt, and the graduation of most of the previous players. That said, there are still characters dropping in and out throughout, and Madarame has been a constant, if smaller presence. Well, that changes here. The new volume starts with a definitive ending to the most talked about plotline of the old series, and helps to set up a new one that will also star Madarame, who has never been the viewpoint character but has always been the face of Genshiken, so to speak.


The old plotline is, of course, Madarame’s crush on Saki, and the fact that she’s been sort of aware but ignoring it. Last volume she admitted this, and the rest of the club set things up so that they could be alone and he could confess. No one – not even Madarame – seriously expects anything but a rejection. After all, Saki has been dating Kousaka since the series began, and while the majority of fans aren’t really thrilled with that, their love for each other has never been in question. (In fact, the scenes with Kousaka here are some of his best, as I finally begin to understand a character I’ve always had trouble with. As for the “confession” itself, it was very Genshiken, being both hilarious and heartwarming, and the aftermath slips to purely being the latter.

It feels like an ending, as Kio himself lampshades, but there’s still a lot of things to resolve. For one, as Saki notes, Madarame is busy obliviously gathering a harem of his own. Keiko gets a lot more face time here, and we see more of why she’s interested in someone with all the baggage that Madarame has – baggage that gets worse when he decides to quit his job, saying himself he wants to see how far he can fall. As for Hato, his crush on Madarame, if it is one, is still wrapped up in his own identity, which is in flux. This is painful for him, and it’s almost reminiscent of Wandering Son at times, except Hato is far less accepting of his own desires. Having Hato and Madarame intersect like this is a perfect plot – they’re the two most interesting characters of all of Genshiken.

Other than that, it seemed appropriate to devote a chapter to Ohno and Tanaka, who are almost the forgotten couple of the manga (partly die to Tanaka mostly being together about thin gs – even here he’s the adult.) This is also quite cute, and has a nice heartwarming scene that could be construed as a proposal – that’s certainly how the club takes it. And while there isn’t much Sue, the cliffhanger makes me think we may get more of her next time. Genshiken hasn’t forgotten about its old fans, but still has plenty for new readers. If you enjoyed the series before, this volume will not disappoint you.

Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 1

By Shimoku Kio. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof provided by the publisher, and does not reflect a review of a finished product.

It’s not all that much of a surprise that the Genshiken series has returned for more adventures of everyone’s favorite otaku club. The original series also slowly evolved over its nine volumes, seeing the club shed members and switch club presidents, even though the basic cast stayed the same. But now almost all that cast has graduated, so this sequel also has the challenge of introducing a whole bunch of new people and hoping that the reader will appreciate them in the same way they did when Ogiue joined.

Speaking of Ogiue, as the series starts she’s the new club president, not that there’s much of a club. It only has three people, partly as it seemingly duplicates other club’s interests, but mostly as it still has Kukichi. I have to say that while I appreciate his value as a comic foil, Kukichi’s utter creeptasticness still rubs me the wrong way, even in this new series. Luckily, as in the original series, he is used sparingly. This is partly because Kio-san also has another comic relief character to balance things out, Suzanna. Who is also creeptastic, particularly in her inability to speak in anything but old anime phrases, but at least doesn’t make me want to wash afterwards.

As for the new folks, there are two characters who get the bulk of the screen time, and I suspect they will start to force out Ogiue and Ohno just as those two slowly took over from Sasahara and company. Yajima is a poor artist but wants to be better at it, and seems to be filling the ‘we need at least one normal person in the club’ function that used to be Kasukabe’s, though Yajima at least is also an otaku. More interesting is Kenjiro Hata (I thought this might be a Hayate the Combat Butler joke, but it seems to be a coincidence), a character who I can’t really discuss without spoiling the first volume. It’s Hata I expect most Japanese fans will be glomming onto, though I’m not sure about Western fans.

For those wondering if this will resolve anything from the prior series, such as Madarame’s unrequited love… well, Madarame does show up throughout, despite having graduated, and he still seems to be hung up on Kasukabe. Whether that goes anywhere I suspect depends on how fast the new group of characters catches on. I am reminded of the K-On! series, which tried to have its came and eat it too by introducing some new girls for Asuka’s high school band while also following the four others to college. In the end, neither one caught on with readers. Genshiken has been doing this from the start, but we now have a bit more of a tonal shift. As the cast has gotten more and more female, the otaku obsessions have grown more and more BL. The series still runs in Afternoon, a magazine for young men, but I do suspect that the sequel over here may find a larger crossover BL-audience than the original did. (Though the original also had its female fans, of course.)

In the end, I enjoyed getting back to this series. It’s like visiting an old hangout and seeing what’s changed. Thankfully, there’s little melancholic ‘good old days’ here: things are the same as ever, just with a new cast. I look forward to seeing their awkward fits and starts of growing up. Which is, of course, the real plot of Genshiken: Awkwardness Is Magic.