I originally started this post to be sort of a look into how we perceive anime today. I know a lot of people from all angles of the chinese cartoons have different opinions about them. Many old-timers refuse to touch the new-age moe-revolution. Fresh meat know who Kugimiya Rie is, but have no idea who Hayashibara Megumi is, or what she was in. But then I started giving less of a shit about it.
But as I try to slog through Genshiken Nidaime, trying to survive fujoshi days in my otaku circle, I’m finding that even though I have played indifferent to the years-passing view of the weeaboo ecosystem, I can’t help but feel a little bit like a hipster when it comes to something that was neat-and-balanced going the completely different direction to appeal to a different crowd.
Genshiken started as a manga series about a college otaku circle that functioned exactly as most college otaku circles do. A bunch of guys, ogling doujins, playing games, watching anime, and talking about their favorite shit. We all want to be part of these clubs, even normal people, only for them it doesn’t even have to be about anime, it can be about football, movies, The Matrix. I always thought it’d be fun to be in a club of nerds, but I found that was the worst idea in more ways than one.
Genshiken’s first half focused mainly on Sasahara’s integration into a group of otaku males. Understanding that you are a nerd, that they are nerds, and that you need not do anything really special to co-exist with a group of nerds, other than not be a fake-nerd, usually gains you acceptance into such things. In fact, most of the early episodes/chapters were essentially everyone telling Sasahara that he was a nerd, and to stop being retarded about it. Once Kasukabe enters the picture though, the tune quickly changes to an “outsider’s view” of otaku lifestyles. They pretty much play off of this through most of the two seasons. Every conflict-of-interest in the series was Kasukabe trying to wrestle her otaku boyfriend away from it, and becoming depressed at the fact that she could not. It was a running gag, a well-executed running gag that drove the underlying vehicle of how Genshiken will progress as it passes from The Chairman, to Madarame, to Sasahara, to Ohno, and finally Ogiue.
I suppose this is the logical progression of things in relation to the overall anime fandom. The Chairman represented the “old timers” who founded the club and instilled with it the idea that like-minded people could congregate together to talk about anime and play games. Madarame continued that tradition without really changing anything because that was how he felt about it, and he didn’t want to upset the status quo. Sasahara started changing things slowly by getting Genshiken into Comifes, in order to help Kugayama and then Ogiue with producing doujins, as well as Ohno and Tanaka. Those changes would continue to morph under Ohno and Ogiue even though those of the original guard had graduated and moved on. But for Madarame, and Sasahara to a lesser extent, they sort of lamanted how the club changed over time, usually turning it into more of an introspection on how they’ve changed.
Genshiken was sort of my ideal world back when I watched/read it in 2004. Having graduated high school two years before and taking classes at a local community college, I didn’t have the social life most people had in high school, being a nerd. But having a core group of “nerd friends” acquired from a high school Japanese club, we sort of formed out own circle and hung out watching things and playing games. Even though they all were into anime in some fashions, I always felt I was the Madarame of the group. I was more vested into anime, manga, and games then any of my cohorts, and I took it upon myself to “lead” the circle more times than not, simply because I had a car (others didn’t early on) and coordinated everything we did. It was some of the best years, and worst years of my life. I quickly learned that there was little to be gained in these sorts of groups after a certain amount of time. It’s a welcome diversion if you’re a college student, but when you’re an adult, you don’t find time, or willingness, to trifle with other people, especially when non-nerd shit starts clogging up your circle, which is how mine fell apart. Your love of the craft doesn’t die, but you pretty much just exercise it alone in your room on the internet. Even my wife, who became a light anime fan due to my influence, isn’t a source of knowledge about it as I am, and thus makes a poor person to DISCUSS anime with. Almost no one I know is at my level. That’s why I am on Twitter so much.
Nidaime panders to fujoshi. Plain and simple. Having staffed so many years of Katsucon, it’s incredibly easy to spot these types of women, in any stage of their obsession. By default, almost every female otaku I’ve known has an interest in yaoi. I suppose it’s a counter-culture response to men liking yuri, or lesbian porn for you non-weeaboos. I’ve always thought one aspect of the homosexual debate is that on a somewhat basic level, everyone has an interest with same-sex couples, it’s just we differentiate it by then saying that we aren’t attracted to our same-sex, we’re attracted to the other sex’s same-sex attraction. So if I am a guy, I can like girl-on-girl, but not guy-on-guy, even though both would insinuate that I like homosexual activity, just not of my own sex. Japanese anime and manga don’t seem to give much of a damn about the topic, illustrators freely wield both sexes on their respective sex with little thought else, because there is an audience that will buy it no matter what.
On the ground-level, as it relates to Genshiken, now that all of the older members are gone, the members that remain are divided into a cosplayer, a yaoi-loving artist, a foreigner, and a moron. Three of the four are girls. Naturally, the one leading is a fan of yaoi comics, so when she illustrates two men on a whiteboard, her new recruits are women, and a cross-dresser. Had it been two girls on a whiteboard, she might’ve gotten men. But now that you’ve drawn those characters in, you’ve resigned to the fact that your circle is now pretty much all fujoshi. Ogiue laments about this somewhat, but doesn’t seem bothered be it. Should I be bothered by it.
I don’t know, honestly. I don’t have a real objection to fujoshi, but I am obviously not one, so it’s really difficult to get behind a series that was previously known for approaching otaku culture from the center rather than a particular extreme. Even then, I’m not sure why I am trying to get through Nidaime so badly. Maybe it’s some thinly-veiled attempt at believing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Ogiue was a character I utterly detested when she showed up in the series late, but she became a character I rather liked, despite the fact that she pretty much introduced the cancer into Genshiken herself with the Sasa x Mada shit, because even though Ohno was into guys, she valued cosplay above all else, and that helped counter-balance her with the rest of the circle. Now the whole balance has hit one side, and nothing else is helping to balance out the other side. It’d be like replacing all of the K-ON! characters with singers and still calling it the Light Music Club.
I always think of Katsuragi Keima’s outlook of “the real” versus the “game world” in Kami Nomi for these types of discussions. In the end, no matter what I say, Genshiken is a fictional cartoon in a fictional universe that can only provide me with limited entertainment and maybe a frame of mind once and awhile. The fact I bothered to write out all of this means I’m trying to tie back something from the not-real to something in the real, and that is my own fractured past. On the other hand, I am also trying to explain why I feel Genshiken somewhat represents the state of anime now, where we have moved from an era that was grounded in rich, deep worlds and characters, to flighty, haphazard shows based on flimsy premises in order to make a quick buck on Blu-Ray. Not everything made today is shit, and you have to sort of dig through each season and sit through some of the garbage to find what moves you. I think that is the end-game lesson for Genshiken, that even though it’s not 90% controlled by yaoi-girls, there exists a small chance it might pan out for the best somehow, or at the very least, Madarame might actually get his girl in the end.