Incredible America: Genshiken and the Accidentally Accurate Portrayal of Americans

In Volume 1 of Genshiken, Ohno’s character profile states that her favorite game is Samurai Spirits. “Well that makes perfect sense,” you might think, seeing as how Ohno lived in America for many years, and how that very game was released in the US under the name Samurai Sho-down, but a later comment in the Genshiken Official Book reveals something interesting. It turns out that Kio Shimoku had no idea whether or not Samurai Spirits was ever released in America, and most likely picked it for Ohno due to the game having multiple old/burly types such as Earthquake.

So what we have here is what seems to be a surprisingly decently researched aspect of the American video game/anime fandom from the 90s but instead is just a lucky coincidence. Of course, Ohno and her preferences aren’t the most “American” aspect of Genshiken. That title naturally belongs to her friends Angela and Sue. And when you look at Angela and Sue across their incarnations (anime, manga, drama cd), you get the feeling that Kio Shimoku and the staff of the anime ended up portraying American fangirls with surprising accuracy, but based on the Ohno-Samurai Spirits Revelation there is the very real possibility that this too was also one huge coincidence.

Much of the portrayal of Angela and Sue can boil down to “HAHA AMERICANS ARE SO MUCH MORE DIRECT THAN JAPANESE,” but there is a grain of truth to that, and I think the result is that this “fictional” portrayal is about as realistic as the portrayals of the actual Genshiken members. Sue may possess a knowledge of anime far beyond your typical female otaku, but keep in mind that her otakudom was fostered by a Japanese fujoshi, so it might not be surprising for her to reference, say, Saint Seiya. Sue’s got a fairly abrasive personality, a general lack of manners, and you often cannot tell if she’s being awkward or devilish. Her frequent and loud reciting of anime quotes in lieu of real Japanese is definitely a trait you can find in fangirls (though she eventually becomes comfortable enough with the language to actually start speaking it fluently, albeit with an accent).

Then there’s Angela, who loudly declares to Sasahara that she may in fact be bisexual, which Sasahara despite his limited English ability seems to get the jist of. It might be somewhat stereotypical to brand Angela as very open when it comes to sex and sexual relationships, i.e. very AMERICAN, but it’s not like this is unprecedented even if you ignore anime cons and the fact that they are places where sex occurs in less than small amounts. Not that I’m saying she’s a slut or anything, merely that she is possibly about as sexually experienced as Saki, maybe more. I can also totally see Angela attending an anime club in America and being the center of attention among male members, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. As an aside, I sometimes wish there would be a Genshiken AMERICA spinoff starring Angela and Sue and seeing the interactions between characters in that respect. Maybe this could be a fanfic or a fancomic, I don’t know.

Sue is either young-looking for her age or actually young (her age is never given, only loosely implied), and we already know that the anime fans are getting younger and younger, so this makes plenty of sense. Angela meanwhile has a dynamite figure which some might say isn’t terribly realistic for a nerd girl, but I speak from experience (no not that kind of experience) when I say that this is not an impossibility. There are geek girls who look that good. You might see them cosplaying.

Though I think what stands out to me most about Sue and Angela and their American-ness is a scene in the Drama CD “Road to Ikebukuro,” where together they recite the famous line that so many female anime fans in the US have tied to their very histories: “In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!” Granted, it’s said in Japanese, but I know that plenty of Sailor Moon fans are familiar with the Japanese catch phrases. And Sailor Moon was popular in Japan too (Love Hina creator Akamatsu Ken mentions it as the inspiration for him getting into doujinshi), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sailor Moon is arguably one of the most significant shows in American fandom history.

And again, all of this could just be happy coincidence! Kio Shimoku could have simply said, “I have no idea what American anime fans are really like so I’ll just make them however.” Which is to say, Kio Shimoku is a frightening man.

9 thoughts on “Incredible America: Genshiken and the Accidentally Accurate Portrayal of Americans

  1. I’d be all in favor of doing such a fanfic if the female goth population at my school hadn’t assured me already that American fujoshi need to burn in hell… I need to meet a true otaku girl.

    AND MARRY HER.

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  2. There was a speaker that spoke recently in an anime class in my university that talked about American fan culture, and the differences between that and the fan culture in Japan.

    This type of analysis fascinates me, really. It’s why I like your blog. :3

    What I recall from the talk was that American otaku are very proud of what they do, whether they’re fansubbers, artists, cosplayers, you name it. And of course, they have fun doing it and enjoy sharing it with others. Fansubbers don’t get any financial or physical benefit for doing what they do. As do most cosplayers and artists. (although there are a few exceptions)

    My understanding of the Japanese fan culture is very limited, but the Japanese don’t seem to share their passion with others. With the popularity of the internet and the explosion of doujin circles in the past few decades, this certainly is not as true as it was, but otakudom still seems to be more a venue for escape from reality for most Japanese. The picture I get of being a student or employee in Japan is that it’s very… in a word, “stiff.” When you want to escape from reality, there really isn’t a need to share it with others.

    I think this all sets up the differences in social interaction between American/Western otaku and Japanese otaku. (Not to mention the whole difference in how each fan culture began, but I’ve rambled enough already)

    I would definitely be interested in a Genshiken America! haha, love that idea. There is so much one can draw from Western fan culture for that: conventions, clubs, online communities…

    Speaking of which, about your previous post, the anime club thing is pretty prominent around the Los Angeles/SoCal area in universities. In the case of my club, it actually did die around the early 2000s, but was revived by our very dedicated president in the past few years.

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  3. I call american otakus Eigotakus.

    I hate Eigotakus. I blame them for the public resistance to anything in the visual arts. They are embarassing individuals who don’t have the slight bit of an idea about passion.

    Sue and Angela are just assumptions of what american eigotakus are. They are false assumptions, however, for Sue and Angela are actualy decent in comparison to their real life counter parts.

    I have looked high and low for a group of individuals with the same passion as I had with Anime/Manga and on par with the Genshiken art types, and in that journal I learned that they simply don’t exist, and for a while made me despise anything that had to do with them.

    In short, Sue and Angela are false assumptions in an already romanticized story about Otakus.

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  4. “I would definitely be interested in a Genshiken America! haha, love that idea. There is so much one can draw from Western fan culture for that: conventions, clubs, online communities…”

    Same here. Though I’d probably be a little embarrased about some of the things done: partly because I would do it, and partly because we can get a bit too overzealous about it. :P

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  5. Two things:

    A) The closest I’ve ever gotten to loosing my virginity was at an anime con.

    B) I know one girl who happens to be an anime fan. who’s pretty much like Angela. That said, she’s kinda an manipulative bitch.

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  6. Pingback: Genshiken II (Nidaime) Full Cast List and More | OGIUE MANIAX

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