Genshiken Volume 1
I’d heard good things about this series by Kio Shimoku, but I found it disappointingly predictable. It’s a manga about being a fan of manga and anime, so its first strike is violating my self-referentiality rule. (In general, I find that comics about comics are more likely to disappoint me. They often indicate a lack of creativity and an author having a hard time coming up with fresh ideas, although for all I know, this is a well-respected and -established genre in Japan.)
Kanji is a shy geek who joins the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, a school club with the typical near-pervert members. They’re interested in manga, anime, video games, cosplay, and porn. Hanger-on Saki is an angry girl with a crush on Makoto, a cute boy who’s completely oblivious to the feelings Saki has for him. All Makoto cares about are his fanboy obsessions.
Each of the characters has a profile page, listing their favorite characters, manga, games, and so on. I don’t know near enough about the items listed to gain any insight from them. Perhaps if I did, I’d find more to enjoy here. I also found some of the pages hard to follow, with the flow moving in a direction other than the one that felt natural to me.
It seemed as though I’d seen much of this before in other manga, with this one differing only in the level of detail in its images. The backgrounds are quite detailed, giving a crowded feeling that mimics the overflowing shelves of the characters’ rooms. It’s a nice touch.
The introduction of a female fan into the group in the last chapter suggests a direction that shows promise for the next volume, but I won’t be coming back to see. I find the characters either predictable (naive young man embarrassed to buy porn) or unbelievable (Makoto’s near-pathological cluelessness). Those who enjoy this book seem to recognize themselves or their friends in it, so perhaps that explains my lack.
It’s a shame, really. I wish I enjoyed more of Del Rey’s manga titles, because they’re so handsomely presented. The books are solid, with substantial paper, good reproduction, and a great feel in the hand. The translation notes add interesting details and information on cultural differences.