Mark Sachs (ksleet) wrote,
Mark Sachs

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We're just gonna splice in the last twenty minutes of Char's Counterattack here and call it a day.

I mentioned yesterday that I was not going to talk about Genshiken because the time was not yet right. Well, it's right now, 'cos I finished this drawing today. Record speed, too!

Genshiken: The Society For The Study Of Modern Visual Culture is a manga by Kio Shimoku, two volumes of which are out in English so far. The "Genshiken" of the title is a club at a Japanese college for fans of anime, manga, video games and so forth. Genshiken differs from many takes on Japanese otaku culture, however, in its lack of what for lack of a better term would be called wish-fulfillment. To put it honestly, the club members are slackers who weren't go-getter enough to join the manga or anime clubs, and the whole enterprise is no more than an excuse to hang out in a room provided at university expense, play video games, and collect dojinshi.

The manga is coy about it, but eventually the truth becomes clear: the main character of Genshiken isn't one of the otaku at all. She is Saki Kasukabe, the girl in the front of the picture above. Popular, good-looking, strictly normal, she regards the club members as a bunch of hopeless nerds and freaks, and under normal circumstances would never be seen within fifty feet of them. Unfortunately for her, the handsome boy she has a crush on -- Kousaka, at far right -- is possibly the biggest otaku of them all. Against her will she finds herself pulled into the orbit of the Genshiken (starting when, due to their encyclopedic knowledge of love simulation games, the club members are able to diagnose and solve her romantic difficulties with Kousaka with almost scary efficiency) and this culture clash is the engine that truly drives the manga.

There's a lot to like about Genshiken. The art is lovely: the backgrounds are richly detailed, the characters' faces and body language are incredibly expressive. The writing is excellent too: especially in Episode 2, where Saki's relationship with the club frequently devolves into all-out war, the dialogue and plots are laugh-out-loud hilarious. But probably the greatest appeal of this manga (although maybe a turnoff to some people, as I've discovered from browsing around for other reactions to the series) is the shocking sense of recognition many who spent time in an anime club in college will get. The Genshiken characters are exaggerated for comic effect, true, but I know these people. I spent large portions of my life with them. It's weird and unsettling and nostalgic all at once, and it seals the deal.
Tags: art, nerd
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