Genshiken: Second Season Volume 8
I had hopes, from the beginning of this sequel series, that Genshiken: Second Season would be, like the first, a comedy set amongst nerds. I liked the portrayals of geek hobbies and fan pursuits of college students, with all the concerns and struggles they faced.
Now, with volume 8, I have to admit that this has firmly turned into a harem series. Which makes little sense to me, since a whole bunch of characters are fixed on club alum Madarame, who has nothing much to recommend him. He’s nervous, cowardly, unemployed, and only says what he feels when drinking. I know male readers of this series will love the concept that a guy can be such a nothing and still have multiple attractive women fighting over him, but I find it unbelievable and off-putting.
The harem consists of Sue, a brash but quiet American exchange student; Hato, a cross-dressing boy who’s gotten a lot of focus in previous volumes; and Kyoko, a hostess at a paid-to-keep-guys-company cabaret club. The first chapter tackles the concept directly, with the first two women realizing that’s the situation and playing with it in various ways.
There’s also a Valentine’s chapter, where everyone worries about buying chocolate for the guys they have crushes on. My favorite section of the book was the two-chapter sequence where Madarame and another alum get drunk together, talk about their feelings, and go to the hostess club. That actually concludes in a third chapter, where Kyoko throws herself at Madarame, who’s freaked out by the situation, but I didn’t care for that ending, since it’s so male-focused.
Concentrating so much on these characters makes it hard for me to continue enjoying the series, since most of them are exaggerated and thus unsympathetic. I also found some of the fetish talk, in relation to their friends and acquaintances, so explicit as to be off-putting. The cast is drawn attractively, but it’s been so long since I read a volume of the series that I could only recall the really distinctive ones (which is an argument for the exaggeration I’m complaining about, I suppose).
I understand the direction the series has taken, given its audience, but I’m disappointed that there are so many fewer hooks for me into it now, and more bits that actively push me away.