From the moment I began this blog, I’ve established the fact that I am a huge fan of Genshiken. After reading the inaugural chapter of the all-new Genshiken II however, I realized that this is the first time that I’m actually reading fresh material alongside all my fellow Genshiken enthusiasts. Sure, there was the second TV series, but that was mostly existing material, so in a sense this new “limited series” acts as a kind of return to basics for Ogiue Maniax, a starting point for me to share my thoughts so to speak.

So to celebrate this small revival and to welcome back this blog’s namesake to the world of serialization, I am going to give my thoughts and impressions on this first chapter. As more chapters come out there’s a possibility that you’ll be seeing Ogiue Maniax’s first ever instance of episodic chapter blogging, but I’m not making any guarantees.

New Genshiken feels different. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t. The cast is mostly different and is now populated primarily by women, replacing the “awkward men’s club” vibe that kicked off the original series. At first this seemed a little jarring, but Ohno’s off-handed mention of the soul patch guy, aka the Genshiken member that never was, reminded me that prior to the arrival of Yajima, Yoshitake, and Hato the membership barely ever increased. Ogiue and Kuchiki arrived together, while the following year Sasahara’s sister Keiko entered, and in the case of Kuchiki and Keiko both of them were already introduced previously. Sue is Sue. If anything, with such a large cast change I’d be surprised if the series didn’t feel a little different.

The focal point of Chapter 57 is the cross-dressing Hato Kenjirou (who might be a reference to Hayate the Combat Butler author Hata Kenjirou), or rather, everyone’s opinions of Hato. I think Hato’s inclusion set off alarms in a lot of readers’ heads more than anything else, creating a bit of fear that the series would lose its heart and pander too much to otaku at the expense of what made Genshiken good in the first place. As the chapter went on, I could feel that fear growing in myself, but I think it was actually all just set-up for a really pointed reminder that Kio Shimoku did not forget what made Genshiken tick in the first place.

While I clearly favor Ogiue, I think the real star of the chapter was Yajima. Throughout most of the chapter the club feels almost uncontrollable when it comes to the topic of Hato and cross-dressing in general despite Ogiue’s best efforts, sort of like the impression you might get at an anime con seeing a bunch of young attendees with no supervision. Then Yajima comes out and says that she’s kind of uncomfortable with Hato’s cross-dressing. By presenting this point of contention, Yajima manages to bring the club (and the manga itself) back down to Earth and keeps the club environment from getting completely out of hand.

This sort of conflict is actually a pretty persistent theme in Genshiken, whether it’s in the earlier days with Kasukabe’s mean-spirited attacks on the club, or later on with Ogiue and her own inner demons. In a way, Yajima’s somewhat direct personality and her unfamiliarity with the beast that is the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture makes her the “Saki” of the new bunch, even if she can’t match Kasukabe in looks. Whereas Saki was a normal person experiencing the world of otaku for the first time, Yajima, who is already an otaku, has to deal with an anime club unlike any she’s ever experienced. That’s not to say that the other characters are unrealistic, though. Hato is developing well, and even the way in which Ohno, Sue, Yoshitake, and Kuchiki get carried away is not that unusual. It’s simply that Yajima, as well as Ogiue, act to rein them in a little, creating a new and different character dynamic.

On the topic of Ogiue, I found it quite interesting that, aside from a small bit of pictorial exposition by Sue, Ogiue goes through the entire chapter without her signature paintbrush style. Even the one-shot had Ogiue tie her hair up, something that was established in previous material as a habit of hers when drawing. Though I’m sure it’ll return in at least one future chapter, it still feels like a break of sorts with the previous series. In terms of her character, it’s interesting seeing Ogiue as Genshiken chairman. After all, back when the original series ended it was one of my greatest wishes to see the continued appearance of Ogiue as head, and in this situation I find myself to be quite fortunate.

Ogiue isn’t a natural leader. In fact, none of the previous chairmen were, with the possible exception of the mysterious First Chairman. However, all of them were able to develop their own natural strengths into leader-like qualities, whether it was Madarame’s strong self-image as an otaku, Sasahara’s subtle confidence and understanding, or Ohno’s gentle guidance, and Ogiue looks to be doing the same. Though not always consistent, Ogiue can have quite a forceful personality, especially when she puts her foot down about something, and I think that this aspect of her personality, combined with the fact that those new members are all freshmen, will result in her being more and more comfortable with her position of authority as time passes.

So that’s the start Genshiken II, and I look forward to more. Of course.