I've always enjoyed reading Genshiken from its inception. Currently, I'm reading the sequel, Genshiken Niidaime and I've watched as the years have turned and the club has changed as the "old guard" graduated and moved on (or tried feebly to move on) and a new "generation" of students has taken over the club and dominated it. This post is primarily in response to a number of posts made on Hearts of Furious Fancies regarding Genshiken Nidaime in specific but for the uninitiated reader, I will give a bit more of an introduction to my thoughts, which I'm airing out here to help me organize them a bit. After all, that's what this blog is really for--its my own personal soapbox from which I can think aloud and help organize my own throughts and ideas as well as keep myself somewhat sharp in an environment that can easily result in myself growing duller.
Genshiken is a Japanese manga about an university otaku club--basically geeks and dorks who are on the fringes of Japanese society. The otaku boom/Akihabara boom last decade and the success of such stories as Densha Otoko brought a degree of sympathy for otaku and their corollaries (such as the hikkikomori, cf. Welcome to the NHK, for example). The boom did not result in the superlative mainstreaming of this fringe element the way that the success of "fringe-demographic" films, such as the Avengers and related Marvel films, the Star Trek reboots, the Game of Thrones HBO series, The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit films, etc., mainstreamed American "geekdom." The otaku was, is, and will always be on the fringe of Japanese society and the otaku hobbies must always be buried and hidden with shame from the steely gaze of Japanese culture, a culture which perceives strength in uniformity in ways American society does not.
The author and artist, Kio Shimoku, created Genshiken around 2002 and it ran in Afternoon until 2006--right smack dab in the middle of the otaku boom. Through the manga, he explored the dynamics of otaku interrelations, friendship, and even romance. His characters are all rather flawed and very much human. The original run ended with the characters graduating from college and (hopefully) getting jobs at the end of their final year of college. Genshiken Nidaime takes place after the old characters have graduated and the new circle is predominately female. Whereas the first iteration of the comic had to deal with females invading a male-dominated space and disrupting the safety and security of that space with their femininity, their sexuality, and their own tastes in the erotic (which brought interesting levels of tension to the comic), the new generation is centered on a club that is now a female space, is female-safe and female-friendly, and the only male that actually fits into the group comfortably and contribute constructively only does so when dressed and acting as though he were a female.
There is a great deal of detail that I am leaving on the cutting room floor and this blogpost isn't entirely for the uninitiated. I'm going to be throwing names out there so it may be useful to the reader to at least have read the wikipedia entries and maybe Genshiken Nidaime itself, if not the original Genshiken in order to be up to speed.
With this caveat and preamble, I'm going to dive into a sort of dialogue with Hearts of Furious Fancies spurred by this post on one of the main male characters' romantic attraction to heroic females. Other posts have also given me a great deal of food for thought and after a few discussions with friends who understand Japanese culture far better than I, I've just gotta put my ideas down in print to see where things go. So, let's jump right in with both feet, shall we?
Continued in the Part One.