Genshiken: anime about anime fans, how meta

With the arrival of a certain item, it is finally complete!

Behold, all of Genshiken!

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What is Genshiken, you may ask? It’s a popular manga and anime series about a university anime/manga fan club, known as Genshiken, which is apparently short for Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture if you are Japanese. So, it’s a character study of dorks basically.

In the original series, we have such characters as the scrawny strongly-opinionated guy, the chubby quiet anxiety guy, the slightly creepy older club president guy, the cosplay-obsessed girl, the inexplicably attractive guy with his “normal” girlfriend, and that jerk from a rival club, among others who I couldn’t be bothered figuring out how to describe in a single phrase. But seriously, like almost every character in this show I can see either myself or someone I’ve met in them.

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The show basically follows their “adventures” doing things like buying stuff at Akihabara, going to Comiket, cosplaying, exhibiting at Comiket, dealing with stupid nerd drama from “rival” anime clubs, building Gunpla, etc. Later on things get more character interpersonal drama-y, by which time you’ve got attached to the characters so that kind of thing starts to appeal to you.

Genshiken Second Season (or Genshiken Second Generation as the US release of the anime has decided to call it to avoid too much confusion) is essentially a continuation of the manga done several years later, which follows the new members of the club, who are mostly fujoshi (female anime geeks with a penchant for “boys love”). Some of the now-graduated original members show up a bit as well, and character drama happens.

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You may have noticed there’s quite a few different boxes here, with somewhat confusing titles. Allow me to explain. To begin with, the Genshiken manga was adapted into a 12-episode series, by an anime studio named Palm Studio, who haven’t really done much else of note that I can see, although they did the mid-00s Tetsujin 28th remake apparently, along with a mostly forgotten series named Bartender that was a particular favourite of mine, and the film A Tree of Palme, which makes me wonder if they were named after that film or vice versa. Anyway, within Genshiken there’s a “show within a show” of sorts, Kujibiki Unbalance. As a DVD bonus they actually made three full episodes of this alleged show and included them as bonus features on the DVDs.

To follow up the success of Genshiken, the “show within a show” was expanded into an actual show, giving us 12 episodes of Kujibiki Unbalance, although within the canon of Genshiken I believe this is technically a spinoff alternate-universe type series that is generally known as Kujibiki Heart Unbalance. It doesn’t seem to resemble the bonus episodes from the DVD extras of the first series very much except in terms of characters and setting. To be honest it’s kinda generic and mediocre, but I guess that’s what you get when you base a series off something that is literally supposed to be generic. Anyway, on the DVD extras of Kujibiki Unbalance, they included three bonus OVA episodes of Genshiken, kinda the reverse of what had happened before. The Kujibiki Unbalance series and the Genshiken OVA were done by a different studio, Ajiado, who seem to have worked on a whole bunch of shows but mostly in small roles, like being one of many animation studios. One thing they did do is that old Spirit of Wonder OVA, which I’ve never seen and I have no idea if anyone even remembers. Keep count, that’s two studios so far.

Next, following on from the OVA we have a proper sequel series, Genshiken 2, which continues adapting the manga story until almost the end of the original manga run (I think some of the end bit is kinda glossed over or something, it’s been a while since I’ve compared directly though). This was produced by a different animation studio again, ARMS, who got their start doing porn and now seem to have done a fair few well-known series of the genre that I can only describe as “booby shows” (from the makers of Queen’s Blade and Ikkitousen, it’s a show about a bunch of dorks talking about anime). Oh hey and also Elfen Lied, which is another show you wouldn’t want to show your parents.

Many years later, after the manga restarts with the Genshiken Second Season arc, an anime adaptation is made of this. This is somewhat confusing in terms of titles, since calling it Second Season is kind of absurd when it’s the 4th incarnation of the anime, following on from a series called Genshiken 2. I suspect this is why the US licensor chose to call it Genshiken Second Generation instead, although personally I’d have preferred it to be called Genshiken: The Next Generation, following in the tradition of Star Trek and Degrassi (and apparently also Roots, Speed Racer, and Meerkat Manor). Anyway, this fourth season which was known as the second season was animated by Production IG, who are a super famous studio, probably best known for Ghost in the Shell but they do a LOT of stuff and in general it’s pretty good quality. Also I feel I should note that Second Generation has a new voice cast in Japanese for some reason… maybe it was money or just a function of the time lapse between the series.

So yeah, four different series, two of which claim to be the second series, neither of which are technically actually the second incarnation of the anime, and all done by different studios. It should be noted that each studio does have quite a distinct animation and character design style, leaving this as quite an inconsistent looking series. But oh well we love it nonetheless.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough about the history of this show’s production, let’s look at some photos.

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The release of the first series that I’ve got is the original release from Media Blasters, many moons ago when they actually functioned as a company. This was in the old “volume 1 + a box for the rest” format, which I think nowadays only Madman does (in the cases where Aniplex forces them to release singles). But back in the golden anime bubble years of 2005 it was quite a common release format. I think the boxart used here was one of the boxes for the Japanese release, hence why it’s got this nice wraparound effect and actually looks like it was designed to fit a DVD box.

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With the disc cases themselves, we see the first instances of what seems to be a common theme across different releases of Genshiken, namely parody boxart. Volume 1 is presumably supposed to look like a Gunpla box (according to the logo it’s NG, or Nerd-Grade). Volume 2 is supposed to be a manga cover I think… the side banner on the left is presumably a riff on Tokyopop’s common design feature of their logo running in a similar banner down the side of their releases. I guess Volume 3 is either supposed to be a porn video or a gossip magazine, I’m not quite sure what they’re going for. Interestingly, early previews of box art for both the first and third volume had gone with a style clearly riffing on the cover art for Newtype Magazine, which back then had a USA version going by the creative name of Newtype USA. We’ll see that style return… I wonder if at the time ADV (who published Newtype USA) had raised a fuss or something.

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For some reason only volume 2 gets an insert. It’s got translation notes, to let you know important things like how keikaku means plan (it does not actually say this, death note wasn’t even out back then).

Let’s move on to Kujibiki HAATO Unbalance, as the Genshiken characters refer to it as.

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This is once again the original release from Media Blasters, with the whole “volume 1 + box” thing. As befits a much more generic show, we have much more boring box art. They’re not shy about plugging that Genshiken OVA though.

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So yeah, it’s a show about cute girls in high school, notable only because it contains OVAs featuring characters from a much better show who really like this one. I gotta wonder if this would have sold at all if it wasn’t for the Genshiken OVAs.

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I think later rereleases of the Genshiken TV series came with an extra disc just including the OVAs from this. Because nobody wanted to own it.

After that unpleasant interlude, we move on to the Media Blasters release of Genshiken 2.

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Once again we have a cool wraparound artbox thingy. Although as I recall, this release didn’t quite follow the Volume 1 + box format… I think the box was only available as a separate item after the series was fully released (for some reason), and I had to buy it separately. It came with a rather odd T-Shirt, that I have no idea where it is and am too lazy to find. This somewhat odd release pattern may have been a sign of the times, since by 2009, cracks had started to show in the anime bubble. Is cracks appearing in bubbles a mixed metaphor?

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Here we see the artwork style that Media Blasters apparently had wanted to use back with the first season but didn’t. The front covers are quite good imitations of the Newtype magazine covers. I think by 2009 Newtype USA had disappeared (remember what I was saying about cracks in the bubble) so maybe Media Blasters were able to get away with it. Only annoying thing is that on the third volume the artwork is kinda low resolution and pixelated, which I guess may have been an issue Media Blasters were having at the time, since I have another release from them around the same time that has the same issue.

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No inserts at all this time around. I think a few years later Media Blasters put out a complete collection of what was then the entirety of Genshiken… no idea what it looked like but I think it had all of the first series, the OVA, and Genshiken 2. But not Kujibiki Heart Unbalance. More like Kujibiki Hurt Unbalance amirite lol.

Like sands through an hourglass, so too are the days of the anime industry. Many years later, in a very different market type environment, in this age of simulcast streaming and premium collectors Blu-Ray editions that actually attempt to justify their cost, a time when I don’t even know if Media Blasters still releases anything, a company named NIS America licensed and then released Genshiken Second Season, which they sensibly retitled Genshiken Second Generation.

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Look, it’s got almost entirely different characters on the box. Although interestingly, despite the new US licensor and the fact that this is blu-rays rather than DVDs, the box still kinda looks OK next to its predecessors.

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Within the box we see two discs, containing the 13 episodes of Second Generation, and a 64-page hardback book. NIS America has continued the tradition of parody coverart, so the first disc looks like a PSP game and the second disc looks like the box for a figure of some sort. And yeah, the cover art for the first disc is once again something embarrassing that I am posting on this blog that is sometimes read by my parents. Oh well.

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Also, this time we have inside covers, as well as an excellent commitment to the theme on the part of the Blu-ray disc art. It is kinda odd that Disc 1 basically gets a reversible cover but Disc 2 doesn’t, instead giving us the whole “yeah this is totally a figure you guys” gag.

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The booklet has episode descriptions and miscellaneous stuff. I haven’t properly read it all through yet, but it seems pretty cool.

So, what’s my opinion of these releases?

Well, to be honest, the Media Blasters ones have never quite sat right with me. I guess with regards to the actual discs I feel like there’s a certain lack of quality… the picture quality isn’t up to much, and (as this was in the days where all anime companies felt the need to replace credits with english equivalents) there’s this kinda embarrassing recurring thing where they managed to mistime things in the first series and have a credit appear over the top of the title reveal in the opening. There’s a dub, but it never quite sounded right to me. And then with the messing around of whether Genshiken 2 was gonna get a nice box or not (they’d originally suggested it’d get one with Volume 1, and then Volume 3, but it ended up being a separately sold item)… I dunno. Maybe it’s just me and my own biases.

I’ve only been able to briefly check out the NIS America release of Genshiken Second Generation, but it seems nice so far. Hardback books are certainly nice, and the picture quality and subtitles seem good. There’s no dub, though, although that’s not a great loss in my book. Not sure if the show is popular enough to support one these days. I guess if there’s any major issues I’ll find them out eventually but so far I’m feeling pretty good.

In any case, show owns and you should check it out. No idea if it’s still possible to get the old Media Blasters releases… I think they’re about due for a rerelease or a license rescue or something, there was a blu-ray release in Japan so maybe someone should pick that up. But it’s a great show so try and track it down. Second Generation should be easy to find since it’s a new release and was simulcast on Crunchyroll.

Also, I’ve got quite a lot of the manga as well

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Let’s just ignore that Genshiken Second Season the Manga is still running and I’m behind on it.

When it comes to the incompleteness of my collection, there’s also a Kujibiki Heart Unbalance manga (ugh) and I think there was a recent Genshiken Second Generation ONA that will probably never ever be officially released in English, sigh.

In conclusion, Hato is best character!

  3 comments for “Genshiken: anime about anime fans, how meta

  1. Bee
    2015-02-27 at 2:46 pm

    You’ve written with a lot of passion for anime. Well done! Keep up the good work!

    Bee

  2. hana-chan from finland
    2015-05-29 at 6:54 pm

    Hi! I’d really need help because I can’t decide whether buy genshiken volumes 1-9 of old edition, or the same series in three omnibus. They seem to say there’s special extras after story in omnibuses. Is there extras in the 9 volumes (I could imagine the extras were the same in that case). Also, do you know if omnibuses have colored pages or something else different compared to old edition?

    This is a hard decision to make x3 Old edition would be cheaper, and easier to handle, but new omnibuses would look so cool next to second season… and if there’s something new added in omnibuses, I’d lose it if I found out afterwards TTvTT

    Anyway, thank you if you’ve time to answer!

    • Michael
      2015-05-29 at 7:07 pm

      I’ve only got the original 9 volumes, so I’m not sure what the omnibus is like. The very first volume of the original edition has a few colour pages at the start but I don’t think any of the later volumes do… and this might only be in early editions. A quick google suggested that it’s the same translation. I guess in terms of extras the originals have a few gag 4komas after each chapter as well as translation notes at the back, I can only assume the omnibus releases are the same as I can’t find anything saying there’s anything extra beyond that.

      Only issue is the original edition is out of print, so if you can find all 9 volumes then you’re safe but I’m not sure what the availability is like. The omnibus is a recent reissue so is probably easier to find in shops.

      So yeah I guess assuming both editions are easily attainable for you it’s a choice between having easier to handle books or covers that match the second season. Of course the originals do have more cover art if you’re a fan of cover art like I am haha.

      And I guess as a caveat I should point out that (since your name implies that you’re from Finland) this is the US English release I’m talking about, and if there’s a Finnish version then this is something I have no knowledge of haha.

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