by Shimoku Kio; adapted by Stephen Paul
published by Kodansha Comics; $10.99 US
It took me a couple of tries to get into the original Genshiken series, which concluded with a ninth volume in 2007. So although I wasn’t won over by the first book of this sequel series, I halfway expect that I’ll enjoy Genshiken: Second Season more in future volumes.
My biggest problem was that I didn’t remember enough about the first series. (Those who began reading or re-reading with the recent omnibus re-release won’t have that issue.) Many previous characters appear here, and I didn’t remember who they were or where we’d left off with them. I would have really appreciated a cast sheet with pictures, names, and short descriptions, or more re-introduction within the story.
The Genshiken otaku club is now composed of President Ogiue, a manga artist; a costume creator; and the only guy, Kuchiki. (Have we seen him before? I’m not sure. He seems the typical geeky fan, only without redeeming qualities.) Much of this volume involves them trying to find new members to keep the club running and how those newbies get to know each other. The first is Sue, a foreign exchange student who speaks in anime quotes, a gag that’s probably much funnier to readers who recognize her citations. They’re explained in the back, but many of them aren’t familiar to me. I’m not nearly as hardcore or clued-in as the characters — and target readers — are.
The new club members are types familiar to devoted manga readers but for me, they didn’t add much beyond stereotypes. There’s a yaoi fangirl, a no-nonsense independent artist, and a boy (Hato) who cross-dresses because it’s easier to like yaoi if you’re female. Much of the book revolves around his behavior, meaning that even though the club is visually almost all female, the only guy gets the majority of story focus. Between the chapters are a few four-panel strips that I thought were aggressively pointless in their lack of punchlines.
The concept of the original series is such that a continuation is easy to do. Just, as is done here, introduce a new group of students. But I don’t have much connection to these characters, and I’m not shown much reason to develop one, especially since I find the pop culture allusions off-putting instead of amusing. They push me away, making me feel left out, instead of creating shared references. Then comes the last chapter, where Hato (in boy clothes) has a conversation with another character while the nude ghostly figure of his female persona hovers overhead. Creepy!
Genshiken: Second Season Book 1 is due out in early September. It can be ordered from comic shops with the Diamond code JUN12 1185. (The publisher provided an advance proof copy for review.)