“Otaku Inside Me” – Genshiken (manga) – 9/10 Pumpkin Pies


All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. ~T. E. Lawrence

Mangaka: Kio Shimoku

Genre: Comedy/Romance/Parody/Slice-of-Life

Review Status:
Complete (9 Volumes/9 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US

Art: It looks quite nice and professional. The characters are easily recognizable, they look good, the panels are clean and easy to follow… no complaints from this quarter!

Summary: It’s the spring of freshman year, and Kanji Sasahara is in a quandary. Should he fulfill his long-cherished dream of joining an otaku club? Saki Kasukabe also faces a dilemma. Can she ever turn her boyfriend, anime fanboy Kousaka, into a normal guy? Kanji triumphs where Saki fails, when both Kanji and Kousaka sign up for Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.

Undeterred, Saki chases Kousaka through the various activities of the club, from costume-playing and comic conventions to video gaming and collecting anime figures–learning more than she ever wanted to about the humorous world of the Japanese fan . . . (Del Rey)

Review: Genshiken is a manga that both makes fun of otaku culture, at the same time it celebrates it. It’s as far from Lucky Star as you can get in tone and approach to it all, which will be great for some and not for others. The way it’s done enriches and deepens the story without making it cheesy or melodramatic- something that’s hard to do.

On the surface, this is about a bunch of guys that love anything ecchi and perverted, raiding the local comicfests for stuff that they can whack off to, while anime and manga references happen a few times a chapter (some I can pick up on, others are a little more obscure). What kept me reading was that as it went on, it got deeper, more complicated, and wonderfully realistic. A girlfriend joins to keep an eye on her brother, and the quirks and frustrations in her relationship with her boyfriend become great fodder for jokes and a great story that fits in with the rest of the club’s. More girls join, with diverse interests, from the cosplay fantatic, to the manga club reject, to the girl who’s just there to see if she can win the boyfriend.

This creates interesting dynamics in the club and between individual members. Relationships develop naturally, involving unrequited love and stubborn confessors. They find ways to work with each other to get projects and events done- something that requires work on their ends and sometimes isn’t the best. While they grow into working with each other, they also grow up. Members move on, get jobs, and disappear from the manga except for occasional mentions while others take their place. Each new ‘generation’ of Genshiken members brings something to the table, and the evolution from porn club to doujin-making club to cosplay club is both interesting and doesn’t seem forced. The club was a mishmash of things otaku to begin with, and so each evolution brings a new side of it to light.

The otaku side is never forgotten. There are comic-fests, the issues behind publishing a doujin, what it takes to cosplay… It’s hard to think of something that isn’t touched on. Something that was nice to see what how Americans were brought into the culture- Alice, a friend of one of the members from the States, is as much otaku as the rest of them, and is endearing and hilarious. Because of her interest, the issues of coming over and being an otaku are touched on. If that doesn’t say something about how many things are mentioned, then I don’t know what does.

Overall, this was a great slice-of-life that touched my otaku funny bone.

Recommended
: 18+. This deals a lot with the sexual side of okatudom, with sexual doujins pretty much all the guys buy, along with porn games, hentai, and one guy is discovered to have a collection of real-life porn. The girls also get in on the action with yaoi titles for themselves, and one of them makes a yaoi doujin based off of two members of Genshiken. None of this is ever shown on the page- or in the extremely rare times it is, it is heavily censored so you can’t tell what’s in the picture. Sex is mentioned often, never graphically, but there are discussions of how many times, whether someone’s done it, and whether there is role playing. There is nudity when the girls go to the hot springs. They are clearly naked, but the page is so censored it’s Barbie-doll nudity, and non-sexual except for a joke made to get laughs.

There is very little language, perhaps two or three mentions of the d-word. There are a two or so instances of comedic violence.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Genshiken 2 (manga)
Genshiken (anime)
Lucky Star (anime or manga)
Welcome to the NHK (anime or manga)
Otaku no Video (anime)
Bakuman (anime or manga)
Kuragehime (anime or manga)

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