Review by: Kiki Van de Kamp
Publisher: Media Blasters (Anime Works)
MSRP: $34.99 US
Running Time: 375 minutes
Rating: 13 and Older
Release Date: Available Now
This is definitely a club well worth joining.
If you ever picked up a manga and know every single series that particular manga-ka has released, you just might be an otaku. If you know exactly when your favorite anime hits its awesome plot twist or know your favorite scene line-for-line, yep, you definitely are an otaku. That’s perfectly fine because so are we so it is refreshing to find an anime series that presents the otaku lifestyle to life in an affectionate and comical manner as we can see from Genshiken DX, Series One & OVA.
Covering the first season of the series, Genshiken DX is something of a unique series that is also connected to another series called Kujibiki Unbalance but not in the way you might expect (I’ll get into that in a bit). Genshiken takes place in Suioh University somewhere in Tokyo where a young freshman named Sasahara is looking to join a club true to his love for manga and anime among other related things. Not quite happy with the Manga Club or the Anime Club, he comes across a peculiar club called The Study of Modern Visual Culture … or, as it is better known, Genshiken. As it turns out, the members of this club know their thing and share his love for everything from the anime, Kujibiki Unbalance, to male-oriented doujinshi.
While the series begins with Sasahara, the series focuses its attention on two other new members of Genshiken that actually make this series even more true to life. You see, Kosaka is a true otaku in every sense of the word despite being really attractive and his old childhood friend who is interested in him, a sexy girl by the name of Saki, hates all things the otaku like. Very early in the series, Kosaka and Saki become a couple and it is through them that we witness a relationship between one who doesn’t want to put aside his favorite otaku activities and the other who wants him to forget all that stuff to share more time together.
Part of the fun of watching the series is watching Saki’s frustration with dating a cute guy that much rather play his favorite video game than sleep with her or head out to Akihabara than have lunch with her. Saki takes out her anger on the club’s members who she comically hurts. However, despite her hatred for all things otaku, Saki slowly becomes use to being in the club room and comes to accept many of the things she didn’t like in the first place. She even heads to their annual Comic Fest where she watches the boys go into full shopping mode.
Through Sasahara’s eyes we also see that the true otaku is a socially awkward and lonely soul whose love for manga, anime and hentai games alienate him from everyone doesn’t like these things. That is why he comes to enjoy his time with the club members and comes to become a more social and active person. The first season also introduces us to the cosplay-loving cute named Kanako Ohno who tries hard to convince Saki to cosplay with her. Of course, Saki refuses each time.
Then again, it is Saki who becomes the club’s biggest supporter and defender. When the club is threatened to be cancelled by the Student Council President, it is Saki who comes to the rescue. She also manages to be a destructive force that nearly destroys the club but she always makes up for it whether its going to Comic Fest to buy items for the boys or – to her embarrassment – pose for pictures in Kujibiki Unbalance cosplay.
In the final episodes, we are introduces to a number of returning characters such as Sasahara’s materialistic kid sister who falls in love with Kosaka … to Saki’s annoyance. Then there’s Ogiue, a new girl that joins who says she hates otaku but seems to be secretly enamored with everything from games to boy’s love manga titles.
The series never takes itself too seriously but it also never just goes for the slapstick comedy relief either, which makes the series remarkably fun to watch. The laughs come from the awkwardness of the otaku cast that also includes Ohno and Ogiue. As a fellow otaku, it’s also great to see a series that touches on the real and the familiar. Even the club members are all enthralled by a real anime series like Kujibiki Unbalance, which plays in the background. Thankfully, this collection includes the episodes featured in Genshiken and I’ll be happy to include then in this review.
Included in the collection are three episodes of Kujibiki Unbalance and one of them is the first episode that introduces us to Chihiro Enomoto who attends his first day at Rikkyouin High. We are offered a glimpse of his past that include a beautiful girl with flowing blonde hair who cries and tells him that if she would stop being such a crybaby would he consider marrying her?
However, years have past and he is now in high school when he sees a girl with flowing blonde hair being introduced as the Student Council President. Chihiro, as well as the other students, are then placed in teams and his happens to be specializing in cooking. His fellow teammates are all cute girls, one of which is team leader and an admirer of wild mushrooms.
The reason they are all placed on teams is to compete against other teams in various challenges that will test them. In the second episode on the set, Episode 21, we are given a recap of all the challenges Chihiro and his teammates have gone through and the events are downright brutal but in a fun way. This leads to Episode 25, that introduces a danger as the team is ready for their final challenge.
If you haven’t seen this series, I suggest you give it a try if but to complete your Genshiken viewing experience.
The Series One & OVA Collection of Genshiken DX will easily pull you into its appealing story and subject matter in ways that seem more real than other anime series like it. It’s an entertaining look at the otaku life as it celebrates it in a way that make each episode stand out. Trust me when I say that it will have you enjoying every second of it and have you look forward to the second season.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Suioh University’s semester is underway and a young man named Sasahara is looking to join a club true to his love for manga and anime when he comes across a club that might be exactly what he was looking for in the first place. Joined by a fellow freshman and the non-otaku that likes him, Genshiken becomes home to true otaku and their problems.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
Thankfully, Media Blasters/Anime Works does a great job making sure the episodes look great on DVD so this is definitely the best way to enjoy the series. The animation in Genshiken is gorgeous while the animation in Kujibiki Unbalance is simply just Ok.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting is solid for both the original Japanese voices as well as the English dub and that’s a very good thing since the dialogue is ripe with various gaming, manga and anime references scattered throughout. The score is also handled beautifully and the opening and closing theme songs work well for this series.
Packed with a number of extras that include trailers, promotional clips and – of course – the 3-episode OVA Collection disc, this package also includes a performance by Under 17 when they played the Kujibiki Unbalance theme song at the 2004 Tokyo Character Show as well as footage from the same show with Akemi Kanda (who voices Tokino Akiyama) and Saeko Chiba (who voices Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad).
On the second disc, there are interviews with some of the cast and the director, Takashi Ikehata. Also includes are Kujibiki Unbalance episodes such as the first episodes, Episode 21 and Episode 25 as well. It’s everything a Genshiken fan can ask for in a collection.
An endearing and utterly fascinating long look at the otaku culture and what it is to be one, the Genshiken DX TV Series One is a collection that deserves a look even if you aren’t a big anime fan. The reason is simple: it is a series that offers the most genuine and enjoyable insight into the otaku mind that you might just find yourself becoming one yourself. On top of that, the story, characters and sense of humor make this a real Must Have.
Review copy provided by Media Blasters (Anime Works)