As the premiere Ogiue-themed blogger, I’ve had quite a few people asking me about my feelings on the all-new manga sequel to Genshiken, or as I like to call it, the “best surprise ever.” I have a lot of thoughts to lay down, so put on your hats and let’s go for a ride.
I recently picked up the second and final volume of Genshiken author Kio Shimoku’s child-raising manga Jigopuri (the first volume of which I reviewed), where I kind of expected to see the one-chapter continuation of Genshiken that fans generally refer to as “Chapter 56.” After all, the Kujibiki Unbalance manga featured additional Genshiken chapters, so I figured this was no different. As it turns out however, there was no Chapter 56 at the end of Jigopuri Volume 2, which left me kind of curious as to where the continued adventures of Chairman Ogiue would end up. Upon hearing the news of Genshiken II (alternately “Genshiken Nidaime” or “Genshiken the Second” to differentiate it from the second anime TV series, Genshiken 2), I realized that Chapter 56 would probably simply end up as the first chapter of the new series; all Kio has to do is change the chapter number from 56 to 1. It’s not the first time the chapter numbers have been modified in Genshiken, either. Volume 8 of Genshiken featured chapters which weren’t published for the initial run in Afternoon, and so the numbers were changed accordingly.
Whether or not Genshiken II is a response to Jigopuri‘s lack of success (as far as seinen manga goes, infants are a particularly unorthodox subject, and the way Kio handled it even less so) or an attempt to regain popularity, I think it’s clear that Kio doesn’t simply want to rehash the original formula even if it is a sequel. Just at the outset, there are two major differences between the new Genshiken club and the old. First, whereas the club back in Volume 1 of Genshiken was populated primarily by guys, five years of time have transformed it into one filled with mostly women, which is something probably no one expected from the club for years and years since its original founding. Second, Ogiue is at the helm, but her importance in this role isn’t simply that she’s their new fearless leader. She’s carrying the increased momentum set by Sasahara when he first became chairman and decided that the club should participate at the doujinshi event Comic Festival, and is taking it further by leading the charge with her own artistic skills and experience. These two aspects alone will provide plenty of differentiation from the previous series, and even if it is a bit of a cash grab, I think Kio will likely try to make it more than just that.
But then I hear people asking, “What if it’s too different?” In the original 2channel thread which revealed the news to the internet, a number of commenters voiced such concerns, talking about the different gender balance of characters, how the series appears to have become populated with moe harem character types, and simply that they could no longer relate to the series with its relative lack of “typical” otaku. While I don’t agree with everything said, I can definitely see where they’re coming from. When you compare Chapter 1 with Chapter 56, it can feel like night and day even when you ignore the drastic art difference. It almost makes you feel like saying, “What happened to Genshiken?”
The answer is, chapters 2 through 55 “happened.”
While the themes of growth and change are much more prominent in the second half of the series, Genshiken has always featured them to some extent, right when Sasahara decides to check out the clubroom. Along the way, each new club member influenced the old ones and vice versa, with the final result being characters who are different from when they started, more confident about themselves and a little less worried about distinctions betwen otaku and non-otaku. So yes, the Modern Culture Society is no longer filled with anime fans who can’t talk with girls to save their lives, but it didn’t happen out of the blue, it isn’t unrealistic, and Genshiken isn’t a series with static characterization.
The more negative responses about Genshiken II seem to imply that success is less realitic than failure, that pain more of a truth than pleasure. While I simply cannot agree with that, it kind of puts things into perspective. Perhaps some of the fans feel that as the characters and the story of Genshiken progressed, they ended up outgrowing the fans themselves to the point that the series no longer felt like it spoke to them. But even then, I think that fans can still relate to the new cast of characters, regardless of gender differences, and it can feel just as close to home, if not closer. After all, I relate to Ogiue, and this is where it’s taken me.
Of course, I recognize that at least three of these characters are entirely new, so they don’t have the same emotional attachment as the previous club members, but I say give them a chance. At the very least, I received a good impression from Yajima, Hato, and Yoshitake in Chapter 56, and remember that the old characters were once unfamiliar too.
If I were responsible for Kio Shimoku creating a new Genshiken spinoff, it would have to be Angela Burton’s American Anime Club.
As for the “harem” complaint, I think that’s just an exaggerated complaint about the mostly female cast.