When I originally read Tamagomago’s post on the Genshiken generation gap, I realized something: time has moved differently for the characters of Genshiken compared to the real world.
The gap between Genshiken and Genshiken II has changed how I relate to Genshiken. Genshiken II starts off only a few months after the end of the first series, but in the real world, nearly five years had passed. One result of this is that the references used in the new series are a little anachronistic (a Zan Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei reference when the show shouldn’t have been out at that point, for example), but the one I find to be more personally important is that I went from being around Sasahara’s age to actually being closer to Madarame’s. I am no longer the college senior who could read about Sasahara’s graduation around the same time as my own. Had the manga progressed steadily from Volume 9, had there not been the long wait to herald in Genshiken II, I wonder if I would’ve also been reading the manga a little differently?
One criticism of the new Genshiken that I see from not just English-speaking fans but also Japanese ones is that it’s been difficult to relate to the new, primarily female cast. The feeling I often get from that response is that the readers who are of the opinion that Genshiken has changed for the worse feel that this world of college-aged otaku is not the one they had originally left. I even talked about it when the new series was beginning, remarking that Genshiken has always been about change, and that it should be possible to relate to these new characters, even if they do come from a different generation otaku. I realize now though that it’s not so much a matter of these readers not being able to relate to characters unlike themselves, but more that they feel the philosophy of Genshiken has changed, that the core essence is something different and perhaps frightening.
Obviously, the experience of shifting age groups as the result of the gap between Genshiken series is not something everyone can experience, especially if they’re not reading the comic as it comes out. Even if that weren’t the case, given time I would’ve reached Madarame’s age anyway. And even if others are around the same age as me, it’s not like people experience the passage of time in the exact same or even similar ways. More importantly, it’s not like my own personal experiences over the past five years are particularly better than others’. Even so, when I think about it a little more, it seems like one of the themes that comes out of Genshiken for the readers as well as the characters is the influence of personal history and how self-perception of time changes accordingly.
Ogiue originally defined herself by the trauma of her time in junior high. It dominated her life before she was eventually able to move on with the help of her friends. Madarame clings to the recent past by leaving his situation with Kasukabe comfortably ambiguous. Kugayama put his half-hearted ambitions aside and decided to just be normal. The first chairman, well, I’m not sure if he existed within time.
For the fans who feel alienated by Genshiken II, their personal definition of what it means to be otaku, and by extension, what it means to be part of a group otaku, has not changed in the five year Genshiken gap. I emphasize once again that there’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact it’s also pretty much where Yajima is at in terms of her own otaku-existential conflict. As for me, I know fully well how much I’ve related to Genshiken and continue to do so, but I also know that a lot has happened in my life since I finished the original series. I’ve defined myself many times on this blog according to how Genshiken has changed my life, but in the face of this new iteration, I find that it doesn’t change me so much as change alongside me.