Genshiken - season one vs. season two

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Genshiken - season one vs. season two

Postby bakamatt » Mon Sep 22, 2014 1:40 pm

Some specific spoilers hidden, but many general ones revealed.



I wish I could say the "second season" of Genshiken was working for me, but mostly it isn't.

It's a matter I'm far from objective on. As I've mentioned, I had "a Genshiken" from roughly age 18 to 30, a college-based science fiction club where I had many friends and acquaintances and was exposed to many aspects of fandom. I'm still in touch with some of those people; one of them, the one who got me into D&D, died New Year's Day of this year. The world still feels a little empty.

Our club wasn't actually much like the Genshiken. It was way bigger and nerd shame was much less of a factor (though it did exist). In hindsight it was, in many respects, the best time of my life and I've been trying to one degree or another to recreate it since though I know intellectually that's never going to happen.

So it's not odd that I'm such a fan of the "first season", the period from the start of the series through the graduation of the first generation of members we meet. In their many foibles, passions, and forms of mutual validation they exemplify a lot of the best and worse of what I had.

As you might expect, my beef with the second season is the obvious shifts of cast and consequences thereof. Darn near everything has changed for the worse as far as I'm concerned.

In the first season, everyone was open to everything to one degree or another. Everyone geeked out over Kuji-un, everyone went to Comi-fest to buy doujinshi. But also, even those not into cosplay were willing to be stuffed into a costume at least occasionally; everyone sat in on Tanaka's model-building class; everyone did what they could to make the club Comi-fest book a success. Even the interpersonal problems were matters where everyone tried to treat everyone else's feelings with respect; they never, ever victimized each other. (Yes, these are somewhat of simplifications, but overall, true.)

And this was apparently the result of Madarame's tenure as president. Having no agenda of his own beyond "be fannish", and being more or less indifferent to nerd shame, he'd affirm almost anything anyone was passionate about.

No subsequent president has been without an agenda. Sasahara thought the club "should" produce a doujinshi. Ohno took the office when someone pointed out she could "turn the Genshiken into a cosplay club". And Ogiue's been plagued with distractions: her own manga ambitions, her romance with Sasahara, her (justified) fears that she's not getting the job done, and especially the chaos-bearing new generation of members.

Loony Kuchiki was the first such. If there's anything a given Japanese is unable to cope with, it's lack of impulse control, and that's about 90% of Kuchiki's idiom. He's the "Just Eat Gilligan" character - on the rare occasions he's even trying to help, if he does, it's by accident. But, since he's "one of them" and it would make him sad to kick him out, they endure his constant throwing of sand into the gears; I find it tedious and irritating.

Gaijin Angela and Suzanna are both successfully played for laughs various ways but, again, the membership mostly doesn't really want them around. The evolving
Spoiler: show
Angela-Madarame
dynamic has been sort of interesting, but does anyone really expect it to go anywhere? While
Spoiler: show
Suzanna and Ogiue
had a lovely bonding moment, immediatly after that it was right back to "Oh no, what did she just say/do?" And how can you reconcile her apparent lack of Japanese language skills with her being accepted in a Japanese college? The joke has become simply confusing.

And that brings us to the latest generation: Yoshitake, Yajima, and Hato, all with unfavorable signal-to-noise ratios.

It's ironic. Ogiue's tenure has been typified by lack of focus just when writer Shimoku has chosen to focus on one topic: gender issues. I don't specifically begrudge the concept: I see no question that Japan needs even more work with them than we do. But internal discord is just not what I go to Genshiken for; it should be the outsiders who are making trouble, not the membership itself.

So we have cross-dressing Hato. Now I have no doubt that being a transvestite in Japan is a harsh fate and he well could have seen the Genshiken as a refuge - but he showed up with intent to deceive until he was outed by Kuchiki. (A scene I can't figure out - did Kuchiki see something, or was he just being his usual erratic self?) And for a while it looks he's going to bolt, until Ohno seems to come to his defense. (While Ogiue dithers, knowing what she thinks is the ethical thing to do but not doing it.) But is Ohno really sympathetic, or does she just see him as a new and interesting resource - it's not at all clear.

Hato is terribly conflicted, except when he's not - where the hell did that
Spoiler: show
lascivious "Hato X Mada would be really tasty"
scene come from? It was downright weird, unless you can regard it as as an episode of resentment and frustation finally bubbling over. And while the
Spoiler: show
Hato-Madarame
dynamic is also somewhat interesting (when did Madarame get to be such a player?), it's also erratic and unconvincing -
Spoiler: show
if Angela X Madarame is doomed, Hato X Madarame is doubly so.


Just as Hato is embracing his feminine nature, stocky Yajima though she'd rejected hers until she realized she was jealous of Hato. Aside from trying to keep Kuchiki in check, when has any Genshiken member ever simply condemned another's vulnearbilities? And yet she's not only completly at odds with Hato cross-dressing, she's quite comfortable demanding he quit doing it.

Then we get a third (!) gender-conflicted characer,
Spoiler: show
Yoshitake's sibling.
What are the odds?

Nor does Yoshitake work for me. She's a cute-as-a-button megane genki girl who's also extremely comfortable prying into the other members' private matters and just not concerned if they object. Which with this crew, obviously, represents a gold mine.

Confronted by this volatile and erratic group, Ogiue's response as president is generally paralysis. And whatever compassion Ohno ever had seems to have run thin too - when it looks like Ogiue's pet project, a club doujinshi for the cultural festival, is going to fall through, her response is a enthusiastic "Guess we'll have to cosplay after all!" No rallying round, not even any sympathy or regret.

It's not that the don't try to help each other sometimes, but it often seems to be in the spirit of hoping to stir up trouble as much as to be supportive.
Spoiler: show
Madarame and Saki
are steered into a situation where they do some air-clearing and are probably better off for it, but the result is less than romantic; I found it a bit anti-climactic, in any sense of the word.

There are some wonderfully funny moments in the tradition of the first season, but few and far between. If I want to have a story about a club that spends more time tearing each other down than building each other up, I've got Haganai. As I say, that's not what I go to Genshiken for. If the second season had been the first, I'd have never gotten past about the second volume.

Besides venting, I'm curious what anyone else's take on the situation is.
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Re: Genshiken - season one vs. season two

Postby Kokon Tozai » Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:14 am

All you say is true I won't disagree. A year (or so?) ago mainly ZR74 & I exchanged a few posts here about that series so I've said most what I want to already. But the confrontational scene between Madarame & Kasukabe is the golden punch line that evened the score overall. I liked the clever explanation at the end of the 1st eps explaining Season 2 vs Generation 2 confusion.

One of the biggest strengths of this series concept is that it could, if the creators wanted, go on forever. New school years, new members. A show where no one has to be killed off to be replaced. Always a new buzz in anime to anchor the next season. So I'm more tolerant perhaps because I see in that possibility the chance, as in real life, people that you like maybe quite a bit or not so much. Good & bad club years. You said your Genshiken years were at age 18>30. That's 12 years & enough for 3 generations of Genshikens. I imagine there were good & bad years in your own time frame experience.

So it would be great if there was a Genshiken Generation3. Even I don't think there is anything in the works. It would be a chance to return to a series that spoke so vibrantly in the first.
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Re: Genshiken - season one vs. season two

Postby ZeroRyoko1974 » Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:37 am

NIS is releasing Genshiken 2nd generation at a pretty decent price. http://store.nisamerica.com/genshiken-s ... um-edition
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