Genshiken Vol. 6-7 (Del Rey)

genshikenheaderIf you love anime and manga, certainly you'd love to read a comic about people who love anime and manga, right? Not so fast.  

208 pgs. ea. B&W; $10.95 ea.

(W / A: Kio Shimoku)


The cover to Genshiken Vol. 6 by Kio Shimoku. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Like most social subcultures, otaku love to hear about themselves. With their like-minded friends, they revel in jokes about doujinshi, yaoi, and cosplay, and gossip endlessly about their favorite anime characters, seiyuu, and manga series. In our post-modern society, it was pretty much inevitable that, eventually, we'd begin to see manga and anime about people who love manga and anime. Kio Shimoku's Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture is one of the more popular takes on this sub-genre. It's been made into an anime series, and it's inspired artistically inclined fans to create doujinshi. But after reading volumes 6 and 7 of the series, it's genuinely hard to see why.


Focused around the misadventures of a motley collegiate anime/manga club, Genshiken suffers from unmemorable characters, and a lack of real plot momentum. Face it-as much as an otaku might enjoy hanging out with his friends, there isn't much action or intrigue going on in your average anime club. Here, we have Ohno, a busty cosplay fanatic; Ogiue, a shy aspiring manga artist; Kousaka, the video game addict; and a series of other, more indistinguishable characters that you'll find yourself referring to as "the one with glasses," or "the sweaty one." Entire chapters revolve around these characters sitting in their clubroom, talking about manga, upcoming comic conventions, and other relatively conflict-free topics. Interactions between the characters seem forced and superfluous, and even the surprise arrival of two vacationing American otaku doesn't shake things up very much, or reveal anything interesting about the main cast.


The cover to Genshiken Vol. 6 by Kio Shimoku. Click thumbnail for a larger image.There's a mildly interesting subplot involving Ogiue's latest doujinshi, a hardcore yaoi book starring Madarame and Sasahara, two male members of the club. Ohno suspects that Ogiue has a crush on one of the guys, and seems determined to reveal the true nature of the doujinshi Ogiue's planning to sell at the latest comic convention, but the results are anticlimactic at best, with no real insight into either Ogiue's emotions, or Ohno's motivations.


If Genshiken has a saving grace, it's the artwork. The panels flow well on the page, despite the monster-sized cast that must fit within them, and Shimoku is particularly adept at rendering the characters' range of emotions, even if it's difficult to understand what they're all getting so worked up about. And in a particularly interesting feature, readers are treated to step-by-step documentation of one otaku's attempt to create a plastic anime model, which he then presents at the club's graduation party. But, overall, Genshiken lacks the comedy and social commentary you'd expect from a book about otaku culture. You'd probably be better off attending your local anime club, instead of reading about one. | J. Bowers

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