In previous articles, I mentioned that as we get older, it becomes harder to enjoy what’s currently popular with anime/manga. Issues of relatability are constant, and we just have to accept that we can’t identify with high school protagonists forever. But fear not my currently aging friend, because I have a manga for you; Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.
Genshiken is a slice of life for the older manga reading audience. Taking place in a college university, Genshiken follows Kanji Sasahara, a closeted otaku who wants to use his college experience as a chance for him to become better engaged with paraphernalia often ascribed to weeb culture; anime, manga, hentai games, you name it. And it is through this desire does he end up at the Genshiken or The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. The title is about as elaborate as the club gets because Sasahara quickly discovers that the members of the Genshiken really don’t do much beyond shooting the shit about the media they are passionate about. And it is utterly engaging.
The characters of Genshiken are rich with personality, each identifying with a different aspect of Otaku culture. Some are into cosplay, others, figurines, and each one is more than just a trope. Sasahara is shy and not very outspoken but can lead if the occasion presents itself, fellow freshman Kosuka is the biggest otaku in the series, but his good looks and complete and utter lack of shame bring him to new heights. Madarama, Ohno, Tanaka, you name it, each one is just complex as the one before.
But beyond their quirks, the series is really just a a fun hangout time with very few unbelievable obstacles. Early on in the series, Kosuka’s girlfriend Saki, acts as an open enemy of the Genshiken, vowing to do all that she can to destroy it for the simple reason that she thinks it will stop Kosuka from being an otaku. It wouldn’t obviously. But there is a charm to this delusion early on that would have grown tired if Saki didn’t have one of the best character arcs of any manga character I’ve seen. Honestly, this article could have been titled, How Genshiken Mastered the Art of Subtle Character Progression. But long names like that don’t get likes!
But it’s true. Over the course of nine volumes, Saki seamlessly goes from an avid hater of the Genshiken and its members to one of their closest friends. It’s such a drastic change if you go from volume 9 (the last volume) back to the beginning. But while reading it, it feels real. It’s like you’re watching an actual adult mature, learn from her mistakes, and become a more whole, healthy person. And that’s just one of the characters’ journeys! The series is full of them, each tackling the idea that in order to truly be happy in life, you have to accept who you are.
It’s a beautiful concept that has a place with many adults. Just because you’ve passed high school doesn’t mean you’ve figured anything out. There’s still a lot to discover and accept, and Genshiken is the perfect manga to portray that. And hey, it’s pretty short. Only 9 volumes not including the sequel series (which I have not read) that makes up a complete, satisfying narrative. There is also an Anime, which is good, but it does not capture the full detail and character breakdown that the manga encompasses. Although, there are some extra scenes worth watching, so give that a look when you’re done with the manga.