Life continues for the members of Genshiken, now with Sasahara at its helm, and for a slightly mellowed-out Kasukabe. An annoying prospective member joins the club full time; meanwhile, the others find themselves dealing with a reject from the university's main manga club, a self-hating female otaku named Chika Ogiue whose act is non-too-convincing...
The Genshiken OAV is a bit of an oddity. Though produced two years after the release of the original anime, it has increasingly been treated as a sort of coda to that series. Due in part to the difficulty of obtaining a standalone DVD for OAVs, meanwhile, these three episodes are now included in most DVD releases of the first season and listed as episodes 13-15. Mainly, these episodes stand out due to three factors: a new OP and a radically different animation style, Saki Kasukabe's altered role, and, most notably, the focus on two new main characters. Those last two aspects do in fact, make this OAV slightly easier to enjoy than its predecessor, but it's still largely a followup or stopgap than much of a series in its own right.
As said, this OAV has a significantly different art style from its predecessor, and this change is something of a mixed bag: the color scheme is far more appealing, but the overall character design has a more cartoonish and distorted appearance, which sometimes lends itself to the characters going off-model. Still, I had gotten used to this after a bit of time had passed, and the performers of the first season's OP, manzo, return for a nice new theme, "Seishun to shite" (this series retains the original, rather forgettably poppy ED). A more significant change, probably, is the personality of Saki Kasukabe, who for virtually all of the first season functions as an outsider point-of-view and something of a cantankerous foil for the club members. In this season, she's mellowed out somewhat, and it's an improvement, to say the least. Genshiken's act of having her constantly lose her temper at the club was starting to get old, and here, she's more of a wry observer, her relationship with the club being significantly less adversarial, even to the point at which she and Harunobu Madarame have some substantial and, dare I say, pleasant conversations by themselves.
Part of this, I think, stems from the focus on the new character, Chika Ogiue (who very briefly appears in the credits of the first season's final episode). One of my biggest frustrations with Genshiken was its constantly drawing a contrast between a so-called "proper" female character, Kasukabe, who found anime and its fans to be odd and largely annoying, and a female otaku, Kanko Ohno, whom the former character subsequently judged as being strange and abnormal. In this season, we have far less of Kasukabe rolling her eyes at Ohno; instead, there's more of a conflict between two female otaku, specifically, between one who's honest about her interests and passions and one who's dishonest at her own expense. It's more amusing to me because Kasukabe's criticism of Ohno often struck me as condescending and born out of an imbalance of power, and in contrast, Ohno and Ogiue's butting heads is more that of equals, giving Ohno a bit more of an active role in the story. It's also an improvement because I'm a bit more sympathetic to Ogiue's being surly and defensive, given that so-called fujoshi get a lot more flack for being otaku than their male counterparts; heck, the fact that fujoshi literally means "rotten woman" speaks for itself, regardless of how the term has been reclaimed. Thus, while Ogiue isn't exactly a likable character, she makes for better comedy and drama than does Kasukabe verbally abusing the club members. Sadly, this season's other addition to the regular cast, Manabu Kuchiki (who briefly appeared in the first season), is little more than a tired caricature of gay men as effeminate loudmouths, and is best ignored.
These aspects aside, this OAV is basically the same show as Genshiken, with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Sasahara is still as useless as ever, Kasukabe and Kohsaka's relationship continues to go absolutely nowhere, and the comedy is still amusing if not laugh-out-loud funny, especially for anime fans. Its improvements over the first season more consist of what it promises than what it does, given that the series is over within 90 minutes and without any real closure having been gained. Specifically, it points towards the eventual direction of the franchise (in Nidaime) as being less male-oriented, and being a series in which less of the humor is based on "the real world versus the otakus." Thus, it's certainly worth a watch.
I toyed with the idea of handing it a fourth star, but it's really more the current formula being tinkered with than a re-imagining. Still, people who liked the original more than I did can probably give it a higher rating. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: Teenagers and up, for basically the same reasons as the first season: mild drunkenness, references to pornography, slapstick violence, etc. I do have to note, though, that the character of Kukichi consists of little besides a tired and rather offensive stereotype of gay men, so keep that in mind.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Genshiken OAV © 2006 Kio Shimouku/KODANSHA/GENSHIKEN Partnership
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