Coming after two full seasons, Genshiken: Nidaime might seem confusing or out-of-place. The characters’ voices have changed. Nearly everyone from the main series has graduated and moved on with their lives. The identity of the anime club has shifted from a male-dominated space to a fujoshi-dominated one, pushing major characters into minor (sometimes non-existent) roles. Still, Nidaime is the same old Genshiken that we’ve come to enjoy. It may have a new coat of paint, and sure, a few extra screws loose, but everything that was great about the original Genshiken remains– and more still. Change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
The story of Nidaime follows Ogiue (now club president) and the horde of freshmen who (perhaps inadvertently) find themselves pulled into the Genshiken club. Most notable of whom is Hato, a male BL fan who… well, cross-dresses as a woman. Almost too convincingly, as he seems to have no problem pulling off a female voice.
Assuming you aren’t a fan of effeminate males or BL, this will inevitably set off warning signals in your mind. Has Genshiken now turned into an anime for yaoi fangirls? Not exactly. Whereas the previous seasons focused almost entirely on the moe and yuri fandom, Nidaime merely flips that around and shows us the otaku subculture from the female perspective. Very, very rarely do we see that in anime. It quickly becomes apparent that, hey, males and females aren’t all that different when it comes to enjoying nerdy hobbies. Even if you have zero interest in understanding the BL fandom, Nidaime’s characters are still cute enough to appease both sides of the audience. Male viewers have just as much to enjoy here.
That aside, Hato’s character is written with a surprising amount of maturity. He could very easily have been a vehicle for pandering, but he is not. There is a genuine reason for why he cross-dresses in the company of female otaku. Hato’s friendship with Madarame also proves an interesting view on sexuality, as god knows how many anime would start and end his characterization at “jk lol, he actually has a penis”.
Speaking of Madarame, anyone who enjoyed him in the previous seasons (I’m sure there’s more than a few) will find much to like in Nidaime. There is no shortage of him here. Sure, while Madarame’s scenes may lack the usual craziness of his character, there is instead a much greater satisfaction in learning that he is an ordinary person like anyone else. He finally finds closure to his feelings for Kasukabe, and while Genshiken’s strong point has surely never been its drama, the scene where Madarame finally confesses to her is easily the most powerful moment in the entire series. The drama works well here because it is not overused. It knows its place.
The only real issue with the characterization is that while Hato, Madarame, and Ogiue receive plenty of focus, the rest of the cast (both new and old) are relegated to the background. Sue, Yoshitake, and Yajima are just along for the ride, occasionally adding to the conversation or having a funny moment here and there. Most importantly, what the heck’s going on with Sasahara’s new job as a manga editor? We never got to see what happened to him after the end of the second season. I suppose this is for the better, though, since splitting 13 episodes between a massive cast of characters would undoubtedly lead to nasty results. As for Coochie, well… you know what to expect from him.
Nidaime perfectly captures the otaku subculture that it is rooted in. Rather than parody it like Lucky Star or critique it like OreImo, Genshiken seeks instead to provide a realistic portrayal of the otaku lifestyle. Because the characters are adults capable of doing their own thing (unlike the billions of high school anime), we get a detailed look at cosplay, conventions, and even what it is like to sell ero-manga at Comiket. I have never had any interest in interacting with anime fans outside of the internet, but Genshiken has me thinking that it might not be such a bad idea after all. For the most part, anyway.
The visual quality is surely nothing that will blow your mind, but it is well above the average anime. The character designs look a bit more ‘modern’ now, though whether that is a downgrade or not depends entirely on personal preference. The added colour is also a nice change as I always found the previous seasons to be visually bland.
More impressive is the audio. The opening and ending songs are stellar, effectively conveying the light-hearted atmosphere of the series and continually bringing a smile each time they played. The biggest issue that people will have with Nidaime is the change in seiyuu, but after a few episodes, it ceases to be noticeable. I actually thought that Ogiue’s seiyuu was the same as before because it fit her character so well.
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