The shorthand title for new anime series gendai shikaku bunka kenkyuukai, which roughly translated means Modern Visual Culture Research Society, based on the manga with the same name by Shimoku Kio. The manga is being published in Japan in Kodansha´s monthly anthology Afternoon, and will be published in the US by Del Ray starting April 2005 (no european license has been announced yet). It is, in essence a declaration of love to the otaku lifestyle, portraying it with humor and wit in a way that even a non-otaku might understand, but without making fun of the characters. For those of us embracing the otaku lifestyle, it contains a load of references and little hidden jokes. I think this might be the best series of the season.
It revolves around the members of a university club (unlike the rest of the world, university students in Japan are expected to join some kind of extracurricuar club) and their otaku activities. This club was orginally formed to link up the interests in console games, anime and manga, all of which have their own clubs whose members sort of look at the genshiken club with disdain. The members are typical otaku and everyone with just a little experience in the anime fandom know every one of them by heart.
Mixed into the series is an anime series that the characters are watching, discussing and obsess about, Kujibiki Unbalance. As a gimmick, the Genshiken DVD-boxes will have 3 complete episodes of this made-up series included, so it will be similar to what Gekiganger was to Martian Successor Nadesico. The first episode of Genshiken opens with the first minutes and the opening of "K.U." before revealing it`s all just a TV-show the main character is watching. Complete genius!
Everything the series shows is 100% true, the stores and fairs they visit actually exist and look the way shown there, just the names have been changed. Well, maybe not 100% true, for example the queues to enter the Comiket (here Comfes) are much longer in reality... It sure brings back memories.
All kinds of otakuism are portrayed and discussed at length, but not with an eye at ridiculing them, but rather lovingly demonstrating the characters and their interests and thus making them real.
The main characters:
- Sasahara Kanji - He is the Otaku noob. Just having entered the university and club, he has no real experience beyond having heard about most things a "real otaku" does. So the other characters thoroughly initiate him into the world of the otaku.
- Kousaka Makoto - Straight-guy otaku and silent type. Looking at him, one would not guess he was an otaku. But he is one through and through, going to fairs and release parties. He is totally oblivious to Saki-chans seduction attempts (or is he?).
- Kasukabe Saki - Childhood sweetheart (in itself a staple of romantic anime/dating sims/etc) of Kousaka. She would really like to make a move on him, but is put off by his otakuness, which she doesn´t get at all, and his seeming inability to understand she is trying to seduce him at all. After they get together, she still has her problems with his interests and priorities.
- Madarabe Harunobu - De facto leader of the club. Total otaku not ashamamed to show the whole world what he is. He usually explains otakuism and theories, such as 2D-Complex (the eroticism of cartoons). He won`t let something like a broken hand stop him from visiting a comic fair.
- Tanaka Souichiro - Cosplay fanatic. He makes costumes and photographs the (female) cosplayers on fairs, chats and knows most of them by name. He also makes the costumes for Kanako and is the resident specialist on plastic models.
- Kugayama Mitsunori - The big and silent type. He is naturally shy, speaks silently and has a slight stutter.
- Ouno Kanako - The cosplayer of the group (opposed to being a cosplay fanatic, like Tanaka). She, while usually shy, likes to dress up and pose as different characters, which makes her feel as if she was floating two centimeters above the ground.
- Sasahara Keiko - Sister of Kanji. A Kogal und very materialistic.
- Soudai-Kaichou - The mysterious president of the club, about whom nothing much is known. He doesn`t participate much in club activities anymore. Episode 5 reveals a rather sinister side to this character, or does it?
The episodes released so far:
- Study of the Modern Visually-Oriented Culture
Introductory episode, in which we meet the main characters.
- Comparative Classification of the Modern Youth Through Consumption and Entertainment
Visiting Akihabara (i.e. otaku paradise)
- Problems and Merits of Local Culture Promotion
Visiting the Comiket doujinshi fair.
- The Sublimating Effects of the Dissimilation Brought on Through Makeup and Costume on Mental Obstacles
All you ever wanted to know about Cosplaying. Watch the guys trying to get Saki to wear a costume.
- The Boundary between Acceptance and Rejection Observed through Autonomous Behavior
The Genshiken Club is threatened with closure and it is up to Kasukabe-san to prevent that from happening. Kasukabe, Go!
(Kasukabe ? Waittaminnit!)
- Maintaining Relationships with Others Through a Subculture
Kasukabe and her problems of dealing with an otaku boyfriend
- The Characteristics of Decision Making regarding Interpersonal Relations
A new semester brings two new member candidates to the club, but this interferes with Kasukabes` plans...
- A Comparative Study of the Process of Assembling a Mass-Produced Unit
Assembling model kits and and handling them.
- The Existance and Nonexistance of Explanatory Duties under special isolated Circumstances.
Kasukabe and Madarame are alone in the Clubroom, Kasukabe reading a manga, and Madarame trying to start up a conversation.
- Leisure Time Expenditures on Fetishism considered as an Economic Result
If you are interested in Otaku culture, please also check out Otaku no Video, an OVA which is loosely based on and produced by Gainax, and the series Comic Party.