Trying to revive a series a few years after it previously ended can be a difficult task and one that is often not well received by fans of the original. Genshiken first began as a manga series that ran from 2002 to 2006 before receiving two anime adaptations, the last of which was in 2007. Now three years after the end of the original manga, the series was revived as Genshiken Second Generation and now an anime adaptation of that revival has made its way to North America. The question is, is Genshiken Second Generation a worthy revival for fans to jump back into after all these years?
Time has passed since the end of the last season and almost all of the past members of Genshiken have graduated and found jobs, leaving Chika Ogiue as the club’s new president. For those who are unaware, Genshiken is a college club where hardcore otaku have congregated for the past few seasons. Susanna Hopkins, also known as Sue, has managed to transfer into the college and is now a full time member of Genshiken alongside the simple-minded Kuchiki who is still in the club and previous president Kanoko Ohno who remains to help Ogiue out.
With the club lacking most of its members, Ogiue is eager to recruit some new freshmen to join up and with the three new characters that join, the core concept of Genshiken shifts from what previous fans have seen to a more fujoshi oriented one as the three new members are adamant fans of Boys Love comics, especially the beautiful looking girl Hato. To the group’s surprise, while all three new members are welcomed to the club, they realize that Hato is in fact a guy who cross-dresses as a woman and has become so skilled at it that he is able to sound exactly like a girl.
This becomes something of a core element throughout the series as Hato plays a central role in almost every storyline in Genshiken Second Generation. The fact that he is a cross-dressing male that happens to be a lover of boys love becomes something of a sticking point for one of the new members of the club who initially tries to stop Hato from following through with cross-dressing despite the fact that he appears to have a very good reason for doing so other than the thrill of it.
This concept is explored later on as we learn more about Hato’s past and the trauma he suffered while at his previous school. In fact, Hato’s gender is handled very maturely in Genshiken Second Generation. Instead of simply being a tool for fan-service or a poorly handled running joke, the interactions Hato has with his fellow clubmates and the friendship he forms with Madarame explores various facets of what it means to be friends even if they may be a bit different.
Speaking of Madarame, despite graduating and having a job, he still spends quite a bit of time hanging around the Genshiken club room and because of this he plays a large role in Genshiken Second Generation, though this time he is far more mature acting than in the past. What begins as a way for Hato to change into his girl outfit easy due to the closeness of Madarame’s house eventually becomes a significant focus that, as mentioned before, explores Hato and Madarame’s relationship as friends but also makes him one of the central characters to the story.
Those who are familiar with the original series will know that Madarame has always held onto feelings for Kasukabe and even into adulthood these feelings continue to hold sway over him and one of the best moments in this series is, thanks in part to Hato, he is able to find a way to come to terms with his feelings and make them known. This is especially true as it is clearly evident up to that point that more than a few of the girls in the series are keeping an eye on him.
Now while Hato and Madarame play central roles to the storyline, this means that the majority of the characters outside of Ogiue, who brings with her a few storylines of her own including her work as an artist that draws the group together, are given very little focus. Other than the initial issues with Hato, the relatively anti-social newcomer is barely given any actual focus while the third new club member is there simply to be comedic.
This unfortunately becomes something of a running issue throughout the series as very little time is spent developing or even giving much characterization to the cast members. While the new characters are generally relegated to the background the same can be said for returning characters as well who mostly spend their time either appearing for one or two events or simply attending an event such as Comiket unless they play a role in the development of Madarame.
Perhaps this lack of focus is something of a blessing since, despite the relatively poor introduction two of the newcomers are given, the drama and development that comes from Hato and Madarame is more than enough to keep Genshiken Second Generation interesting between all of the laughs that the series provides. As mentioned, the club is something of an otaku safe zone and the series is more than willing to provide a realistic look at the life of otaku who love to cosplay, draw fan art of their favorite series, and attend events with one another all while providing plenty of laughs.
The comedy of the series remains relatively high though this time around the majority of the humor comes from Boys Love/fujoshi and the various misunderstandings made as well as the humorous troubles that a cross-dresser might end up dealing with, such as having to use the bathroom in a public area. This works well enough as the cast’s general reactions and own tendencies tend to be provide plenty of other types of humor, such as Sue’s awkward nature and tendency to blurt out anime lines to help flesh things out.
It has been quite some time since the original few seasons of the Genshiken anime began airing and even then each iteration was handled by a different studio. This time around Production I.G. has stepped in to animate Genshiken Second Generation and they have done a surprisingly good job with the series. The designs of the characters are more realistic than average and there are plenty of humorous faces to go around due to Sue’s actions and it is nice to note that there are plenty of cosplay outfits to go around, so it is always interesting to see what the cast might dress up as next and how well you know your different anime.
The same can be said in regards to the backgrounds, various merchandise on sale, and the figures seen throughout the series as there are plenty of times that series such as Squid Girl, Maria Holic, Madoka Magica, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, and many more are referenced visually through posters, merchandise, and the outfits the cast wears.
Now one thing returning fans of the original series should note is that almost all, if not all, of the characters in Genshiken Second Generation have been given a completely different voice actor than before. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue for many however as the new voice actors have stepped up to fit their roles nicely, in fact Madarame’s new voice actor sounds far more fitting than his previous one. It is also worth noting that the various English dialogue spoken by foreign characters, or translated, is handled fairly well for a series with Japanese speakers.
The soundtrack is unfortunately rather forgettable in this release as most of the background tracks are as standard as they come, though the Poni Puni song is rather catchy. The opening theme “Genshi, Joshi wa, Taiyou Datta,” by Sumire Uesaka is upbeat and set to an enjoyable animation while the ending “Aoku Yurete Iru” by the female voice cast serves as a suitable closing theme.
With NIS America’s release of Genshiken Second Generation they have given the series their new trademark Premium Edition treatment. This means that the release comes with a chipboard art box that contains both full-size blu-ray cases as well as a hardcover art book. The actual discs come with the standard clean opening themes and multiple versions of the same ending theme, but they also come with sixteen minutes of “Genshiken Discussion Topics” bonus material featuring the cast talking about various topics that also namedrop plenty of other popular series such as History’s Strongest Disciple and more.
As for the physical bonuses, the chipboard art case is now sized to fit easily on a shelf while sporting some nice looking artwork on both the front and the back and a drawing of Hato in his female outfit on the spine. The first Blu-ray case comes with reversible cover art which is a nice touch while the art book is dubbed the “Ultimate Fan Book.” The art book is surprisingly detailed as it features more than the standard episode guide and character details, it also includes various fantasies that Hato has had about him being paired with the other male characters, a few English translated 4-koma strips, a message from the director of the series, an interview with the voice actors who handled Hato’s male and female forms, and an interview with the director.
Genshiken Second Generation has it rather rough as old fans will want to compare it to the original while newcomers will miss out on the character interactions between returning characters and the character development Madrame makes in this release. Despite this limitation and the way most of the cast is relegated to comedic roles, the series turns out to be highly entertaining as it tackles some usually exploitable mature material in a mature way while also providing plenty of laughs as the characters interact with one another while giving both old and new fans something to enjoy in a series that handles the otaku lifestyle unlike any other.
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