"I now call the fourth 'Is Kousaka Really An Otaku?' meeting to order."
Genshiken, short forGendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuukai (or The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture), is the story of the members of this ostensibly-useless club. Formed in the past as a sort of bridge between the manga, anime, and gaming clubs, most members of those three are at best indifferent to the continued existence of the Genshiken. The new extracurricular activities board has decided to close all clubs who don't hold any meaningful activities, the Genshiken is among them, and it's up to its members to do something that prevents the club from getting closed.From obsessing over a favorite anime to buying and reading doujinshi, from playing one's first Dating Sim to attending a convention (the anime's "ComiFes" is a direct play on the real-life "ComiKet", which is held twice yearly), and many other things along the way, Genshiken puts the otaku culture under the microscope for all to see.Comparisons to Otaku no Video are nearly inevitable, though Genshiken is much more down-to-earth. (No creating a giant one-off Macross that can actually take off, for instance.)Genshiken also had a companion anime (in the manga, it was a companion manga, naturally) called Kujibiki Unbalance. It was the series that the members of the Genshiken obsessed over, and was the Bonus Episode for the series' disc release (one episode per disc). It turned out to be so popular that it is now being produced as a separate series in its own right.A three episode OVA series was released with the Kujibiki Unbalance DVDs, much the same way as the three OVAs of the first Kujiun were released with Genshiken Season 1. A second full season was released in the fall of 2007 and covers some of the remaining plot from the manga, while simultaneously introducing original material, though this meant the entire manga couldn't be animated within the season.In November 2010, the series is back up again as Genshiken Nidaime (Genshiken: Second Season in the North American release) starting with Chapter 56, which was released as a bonus together with the Japanese Genshiken 2 box-set that covered the start of a new Genshiken headed by Oguie and continuing in Kodansha's Monthly Afternoon magazine. Originally Nidaime was intended as a limited-run continuation that was only to last a volume or two, but it has since been picked up for regular serialization and the volume collections are published as volume 10+ of the original series, instead of as a new title.A new anime began airing in July 2013, adapting the Nidaime material. It is unknown what, if anything, will be done with the material from volumes 8 and 9 of the manga.There is also a novel entitled Genshiken: Return of the Otaku.
Animal-Eared Headband: Ohno tries thoughout the manga to get Saki to wear a cat-eared one. Also, Madarame once put one on her, and she responded by chasing him through the halls with a broom.
Anime Accent Absence: While not a foreign character, Ohno spent about 8 years living in the US prior to the start of the series, and shouldn't be nearly as fluent in Japanese as she's portrayed. On the other hand, her English is grammatically correct, but her accent (in the anime) is absurdly thick for having spent her formative years abroad. Of course, this is due to the limits of the actress playing her.
Not necessarily: though Ohno lived in the US from age 10 to 18, it was because she had moved with her parents, so presumably they spoke Japanese at home. And Angela mentions that Ohno used to spend quite a bit of time with other Japanese people in the vicinity.
Annoying Younger Sibling: Keiko Sasahara to her brother Kanji. In contrast to Kanji the closet-otaku, she's a fashion-obsessed gyaru with an ever-changing list of boyfriends. She is immediately attracted to prettyboy Kousaka, spending the rest of the series trying to steal him away from Kasukabe, and joining the Genshiken in the process.
Can be seen as a subversion of the idealized "little sister" trope among Japanese otaku, as Keiko is anything but (and Kanji is quick to emphasize this).
Art Evolution: The characters start out drawn fairly realistically, but grow more stylized and cartoonish as the series goes on. By the time the ninth volume rolls around, you wonder if this is how the characters in the first volume would have depicted themselves in a doujinshi.
The first season of the anime negates this somewhat, as it adapts the early chapters to a roughly mid-series art style. For the full effect, you have to read the manga.
Blackmail: The first club president does this to Kasukabe to make her join Genshiken.
Also used by Kasukabe against the club council president to prevent her from closing Genshiken forever.
Bland-Name Product: Comifes, plus pretty much every anime or manga series mentioned—apart from Kujibiki Unbalance, which is more a pastiche of otaku-marketed Moe. Also, "Starbooks" Coffee, and "Kujifilm", which is also a pun on Kujibiki Unbalance. And the university itself, which is Chuo University in real life but "Shio University" here. Also, don't forget "Pooky".
Blind Without 'Em: Ogiue, when she trades her contact lenses for her old glasses in order not to be recognized at the convention.
Butt Monkey: Manabu Kuchiki; he rather enjoys it, and usually earns it.
Call Back: After a botched hazing at Ogiue's expense, it's revealed on video that she attended a doujinshi event, she makes the same expression Sasahara made when he was hazed after he got caught looking at the club's porn magazines.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: In the fanbook there are some short dialogues between the Genshiken members, and Kuchiki brings up that he downloads all of his software from the internet, which makes Sasahara think "He's such a jerk."
Sasahara does work in the media industry (as an editor), though, so his point of view isn't exactly unfounded.
Fortunately, she at least changes a little for the better at the end of the manga.
Demoted to Extra: In the anime, Keiko, Kanji's sister, has fewer appearances after her initial introductions than in the manga, with some of her later roles being filled by Kuchiki.
Double Standard: Kasukabe regularly punches strangers for doing as much as asking her if she's an otaku, but when Kuchiki donks Ogiue lightly on the head for repeatedly insulting him, she screams at him for "assaulting a woman", and promptly decks him.
Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: When Angela takes off her top, Ohno punches her boyfriend Tanaka hard enough to knock him out just to prevent him from seeing Angela's flesh. This is Played for Laughs. There is also Saki's violence towards Sasahara (but only once, and she later apologizes), Kucchi (who brings it on himself), and Madarame (who actually likes getting hit by Saki and deliberately tries to provoke her into hitting him at least twice).
Doujinshi: Featured very prominently in the series: Sasahara spends the first few chapters getting used to buying erotic doujinshis, they never miss a single Comifes to return with entire trainloads of them, in the first few chapters of the second season they actually create one for the Comifes, and Ogiue later draws another one for the next Comifes.
Driven to Suicide: Ogiue threw herself off the roof of her old school after her "friends" betrayed her and traumatized her crush; her doing so after the Manga Club incident indicates she hasn't worked it out of her system. In later instances it's Played for Laughs, though.
Evolving End Credits: Each episode has subtle differences on the "Genshiken members sitting in the clubroom watching TV" end sequence, putting in or taking out characters and changing how they look. For example, episode 4 (which ended with Kasukabe going on a rampage after Madarame stuck a pair of cat ears on her) has everyone slumped over the table looking worn out, with Ohno standing nearby still dressed as Jam Kuradoberi.
Everyone Can See It: Keiko puts it bluntly that she's very sure everyone knew about Madarame's feelings for Kasukabe, probably even Kasukabe herself.
Expospeak Gag: The episode titles of the anime's first season, which describe aspects of otaku-culture in the academic argot of a graduate thesis. For instance, the episode titled "The Fetishism of Leisure Time Expenditures Considered by their Economic Result" is about the younger Sasahara deciding to "become an otaku" (fetishizing the idea of "otaku" itself) because she thinks doing so will have the result of getting Kousaka to notice her, not because she actually enjoys said "leisure time expenditures".
Fake-Out Opening: The first episode of the anime actually starts out as the intro, OP and first few seconds afterwards of Kujibiki Unbalance, before revealing that it's actually Sasahara watching the show. It goes on just long enough to make the viewer wonder if they're watching the wrong show by mistake.
Faux Fluency: Ohno's "English" dialogue in the anime. One can imagine Ayako Kawasumi reading off a card written entirely in Katakana, with Yuko Goto and Yuki Kaida (competent and fluent in English, respectively) standing beside her and shaking their heads.
Glamour Failure: Figuratively speaking. Hato's upperclassman, when she finally appears in the flesh, has very noticeable sacks under her eyes and generally looks a lot thinner and "imperfect" than she always does in his imagination. He is very startled when his "inner female" (that looks like an idealized version of the girl) suddenly transforms for a moment into the "real" one, giving her a far more sinister look.
Gentle Giant: Kugayama; tall, huge, fat, and so shy he even finds it hard to talk to a cashier.
Hot Springs Episode: While the bath is more of a semi-outdoor furo — much to the characters' disappointment — they nonetheless self-consciously treat it as a hot springs episode, complete with lampshading, when Ohno prompts Kasukabe on the lines she's supposed to say as the two share the bath.
Huge Schoolgirl: Sort of. Although a university student, Ohno is unusually tall and busty and at the same time shy about her physique. Except when cosplaying.
Katou, who seems to be friends with Ohno, fits as well, with the other members of the manga club barely reaching her shoulder. She's more of the willowy type.
Which may reference the first President's research project, having used the Genshiken club as research subjects without their knowledge. Once he's gone (to write his doctoral thesis), the episode titles become much more mundane.
Ignore the Fanservice: Kasukabe starts hitting on Kousaka in the most blatant way possible... and he just goes out to line up for a videogame release.
Ironic Echo: Sue goes meta and quotes Genshiken itself in chapter 56, when Ogiue is fretting over the club's eclectic group of new recruits. Predictably, Ogiue panics when her infamous self-introduction is presented out-of-context to the new members, as she screams for Sue to shut up before she gets to the part about yaoi fangirls.
If It's You, It's Okay: Its still a little unclear whether Hato is a homosexual or just Madarame-sexual. He strongly denies being a homosexual and yet admits to being in love with Madarame, though since switching one's sexuality just for one person is pretty much impossible in real life, he's likely bisexual.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Yabusaki. She terrorized Ogiue when they were in the manga club but Katou later reveals that it was just a front. Later on she helps Sasahara to understand Ogiue, at least from her perspective.
Left Hanging: The second season of the anime doesn't cover the final arc of the manga, leaving about two and a half volumes' worth of material un-animated. Though there is a new series, it's an adaption of Nidaime.
It's even lampshaded, as the preview for the last episode has Madarame stating proudly "INCOMPLETE ANIME ARE THE BEST EVER!"
Love Confession: Madarame tries to confess his feelings for Saki in chapter 53, but is unable to and just ends up "thanking" her for putting up with the club for four years. He finally confesses in chapter 80 of Nidaime, and is turned down.
Manipulative Bastard: Although many circles admit that Haraguchi is very capable of making a plan to sell 3000 copies of doujin at the price of 1000 yen in a single day without any of them doing any work, they all know none of them would see a sen of it.
Necktie Leash: Just the thing to set Ogiue's fujoshi imagination alight...
Nerd Glasses: Madarame's regular glasses. Also Ogiue's old glasses. Good thing she changed for contact lenses.
No Dialogue Episode: Chapter 54 covers the rest of the current school year (several days) without any dialogue and still manages to focus on Madarame's lingering crush on Kasukabe. The only sound heard is Madarame laughing, and we knowwhy.
Noodle Implements: Yoshitake is badgering Yajima, saying they can ask Hato all the things they couldn't ask before they knew him. Suitably primed, Yajima finds a strangely suggestive piece of plastic left in the clubroom and both their imaginations run rampant.
Noodle Incident: Exactly what Ogiue said to the girls of the Manga Club before she joined the Genshiken is never revealed, but it was bad enough to split it up into warring factions.
Also summoned when they discuss the difference between a scene from the Kujibiki Unbalance manga and its anime counterpart: while the manga has the girl just saying "If I stop being a crybaby...", the anime also has her saying "... will you be my bride?". The club agrees the manga did better by leaving it unexplained.
Out of Focus: Since Nidaime, some of the former Genshiken members have pretty much disappeared from the radar, save occasional appearances. Not too surprising for Kasukabe and Kousaka, a bit more for Sasahara since he's Ogiue's boyfriend. Actually, even Ogiue seems more and more absent in the latst chapters, the story being increasingly focused on Hato.
Which was explicitly the point of Nidaime, to show what was happening with the new Genshiken membership. However, a drifting focus has been built into the series from the start as leadership has changed hands and the group has added and lost members. Kasukabe and her struggles with understanding otaku took much of the early focus; it drifted more onto Sasahara for his tenure as president; Ogiue grabbed the focus once her backstory started to come out, and now it's drifted towards the new group with Hato. Meanwhile, the other characters have moved in and out, retaining a secondary focus and sometimes losing it. It's remarkably alike to the feeling of watching a real college club evolve over several years as membership changes and the social circles rebalance.
Phenotype Stereotype: Ohno's two American friends (and fellow Otaku) Angela and Sue are both pale and blonde, the former being blue-eyed and the latter green-eyed.
Plotbunny: Ogiue just can't help herself when she gets an idea.
Plot Hole: A flash forward at the end of the original manga series shows 3 normal guys walking into the Genshiken room sometime in the future. However, in the first chapter of the new series, the author clearly changed his mind and made the new members 3 girls actually 2 girls and a "girl". The inconsistency was never explained.
Proud to Be a Geek: Kuchiki, who is shameless about it and to a MUCH more appropriate degree, Madarame, who is may even be MORE shameless about it.
Yoshitake too, except without most of that shamelessness.
Rapunzel Hair: Ohno has hair down to her hips. It's useful for all her cosplay. Sue has hair of similar length.
Reality Ensues: One of the arcs in Nidame concerns Hato and his confusion over his feelings for Madarame. Yoshitake tells Yajima that while 'falling for a straight friend' is the preface to many yaoi couples, it pretty much always results in heartbreak in real life.
Retcon: Angela's introduction scene with Madarame in the Anime gets referenced in Nidaime despite never appearing in the manga prior, because the author really liked it.
School Clubs Are Serious Business: The people who decide which clubs are official are cracking down on those that don't do anything, because there are so many clubs that even the Genshiken's remote space is coveted.
Scenery Censor: The second series inserts a Furo Scene where, possibly in the interests of fanservice, Sue flashes Ogiue.
Shout-Out: So, so many, often under fake names - Code Geass, for instant, is "Code Bleed" or something. Lucky Star can be briefly seen as a very popular Doujin at Comifes. And there was a hell of a lot of Guilty Gear in the first season. This gets switched to King of Fighters XI during the three special episodes in between seasons 1 and 2.
In the very first episode, Tanaka's ringtone is shown to be an 8-bit version of 'Hurry' from the Final Fantasy X OST.
Good thing the fansubs offer footnotes about the fake names in the manga and anime.
While sadly, the official translations of both, do not.
Also, the anime has the beeping clock from 24 during the third day of the 2004 Comiket/Comifest, when the Genshiken first enters as a vendor.
Obviously, all instances of Ohno and the others cosplaying count too. Like KOS-MOS and Yoko.
One episode had Sasahara and Madarame playing DS. You can't actually SEE what they are playing, but the BGM of the game is the regular battle theme from Etrian Odyssey I.
Pretty much everything Sue says is a reference to other manga/anime. One time she recited several lines of dialogue between Kagura and Chiyo from Azumanga Daioh (from the "Osaka's Half Day" special), culminating in her punching Sasahara in the stomach (at the point in the dialogue where Kagura punched Osaka, in an attempt to cure Osaka's hiccups). It's stated that he caught the reference and therefore "knew what was coming", and let it happen anyway.
When Hato's inner maiden fantasizes about Madarame, he responds with a "Shut up, 801-chan!" which is a reference to fujoshi-to-perfect-girl-evolution manga Tonari no 801-chan which itself had references to the original Genshiken. It's like a full circle of referencing.
Stock Footage: That Sol vs. Jam match? Expect to see the exact same footage a lot, even when different people are playing. Fortunately, the final episode of the first season mixes it up with different footage, as well as the OP.
Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Referenced by Katou of the rival Manga Club, who wears her hair over her face; but subverted when she brushes it away and reveals that her eyes and facial features are actually quite pretty.
Stupid Sexy Flanders: In the manga, the rest of the guys comment on how Kousaka's legs look when he crossplays. Oguie just asks "Is he really a guy?". It's hammed up even more in the anime.
Surprisingly Good English: Rather realistically, Ohno and Kasukabe speak rather correct English with one hell of a rough Japanese accent, while Angela actually sounds convincingly American even when played by a Japanese seiyuu.
Although Angela's choice of words (lack of slang and all) make it harder to swallow. She says "sensible" where she obviously means to say "sensitive". Normally such a mistake would go all but unnoticed, but she has an entire monologue about the "sensibility" of Japanese men and so repeats it enough for it to become very jarring for English speakers.
Technology Marches On: In one chapter, Madarame looks up a PC catalog and marvels at the 200 GB sizes of American hard-drives. The chapter was released in 2002, so that sort of size was high end at the time. Currently, 200 GB hard-drives pale in comparison to the now more standard 1 TB models.
Took a Level in Badass: A mild example, but the novel features Madarame leading the charge against some people who have taken over the university club system by throwing molotov cocktails to break down a barricade. Saki and Kugayama also get in on the action, with Kugayama tearing down some of the barricade with his bare hands and bodily strength.
Tsundere: Ogiue, so adorable but so mean too. Poor Sasahara.
Lampshaded in the bonus chapter of the final volume.
As their friendship develops, Saki becomes quite a bit nicer to Madarame.
Tohoku Regional Accent: Ogiue usually speaks in formal Standard Japanese, but reverts to her native Tohoku dialect when she gets nervous or embarrassed, which only serves to throw her further into panic-mode.
Time Skip: A slight one in Chapter 56, which was created and released as a bonus together with the Japanese "Genshiken 2" box-set. The chapter told us what the characters had become, and what's going on the Genshiken club right now.
True Companions: The Genshiken members, are very close friends. Even after they have graduated from College and are no longer official members of the club, they still like to keep in touch and help each other out.
Unintentional Period Piece: The series is a snapshot of the Japanese otaku subculture as it was at the time it was first published / aired. The references are contemporary, and it notably deals with the Moe boom and (to an extent) the "mainstreaming" of otakudom around the middle of the Turn of the Millennium. The gap between the old guard and the new generation is increasingly evident in Nidaime, where the idea of "otaku" has gone from something of an internalized, somewhat shameful identity to a (relatively) unstigmatized descriptor of someone who enjoys his or her hobbies with a shameless, fiery passion.
Webcomic Time: A one-off form of it, when the series got Uncancelled after about four and a half years, but events in-series had only moved on a couple months at most. Suddenly characters move from making references to series current to early and mid 2006, to referencing series that wouldn't even have existed yet if a strict chronology was followed on with the continuation. Angela's references to the Bakemonogatari series get only the narrowest pass if she's quoting the original light novel which came out within the rough time of Nidaime thus far, but the Puella Magi Madoka Magica cosplay doesn't fit anywhere.
Showcased even more blatantly in the animated Nidaime's Comifest episode, where aside from the aforementioned Madoka Magica cosplays, one can spot Namiuchigiwa No Muromisan and Suisei no Gargantia cosplay. Later on there's even a reference to Free!.
Will They or Won't They?: Stretched out a bit in the anime with Ohno and Tanaka. In the manga, they hook up offscreen and reveal that they are already a couple when Kasukabe teases them about their relationship, catching her off-guard (she's actually the last to know). In the anime, they are much more timid about things and need Kasukabe to play matchmaker, helping them overcome their mutual fear of rejection.
This is much truer of Sasahara and Oguie's false starts at their relationship, with lots of matchmaking going on behind the scenes by Ohno, Kasukabi, and Madarame to get them together. While the anime never reached far enough along in the manga's storyline to see the Genshiken vacation where Sasahara and Oguie finally express their feelings, the anime shoehorned those emotional elements into Tanaka and Ohno's relationship. It still works, but seems a bit strange after reading the manga first.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Oddly enough, Hato the crossdresser in chapter 56. Though it makes sense: to actually pass as the opposite sex, one has to not only look it, but also speak and act in a way that epitomizes that gender, down to body-language. This hyper-femininity is presumably what Saki picks up on when she meets him.
Incidentally, all the girls who joined Genshiken under Ogiue's tenure of presidency.
Yaoi Guys: Well, sort of. Resident yaoi-fangirl-in-denial Ogiue sees one of the other club members pulling another's tie, and gets inspired to draw some very hardcore yaoi of the two of them. To make things stranger, one of them is actually her love interest. And just to top it off, he didn't mind all that much, even giving her tips on how to make the story better.
"Mind all that much"? After finishing with the Ogiue-drawn yaoi, Sasahara admits that "it got hard".
There's a reason though. Basically she drew her ideal version of the two characters as Bishōnen that don't really resemble the real Sasahara and Madarame so he didn't recognize the two characters as himself and Madarame and since he is in love with her he wanted to help her and spend time with her.
One of Hato's many explanations for crossdressing is his fantasies of an eventual Hato x Mada event.
Zombie Apocalypse: Discussed a bit by Ohno and Tanaka in the novel Genshiken: Return of the Otaku.