Genshiken 2 Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The gang is back and with Sasahara in charge, it’s time to create their own dojinshi.

What They Say
The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, otherwise known as Genshiken, is now under the charge of a more confident Sasahara. Things have changed in between semesters (for all the details, check out the bonus Genshiken OVAs included on the Kujibiki Unbalance TV series), and the otaku club now has a new otaku-hating member named Ogiue. Sasahara's initial goal of starting a dojin circle and selling those fan-made magazines at the next Comic Festival becomes a reality, but reality is a cruel master. Who apparently cross plays. Afterward, the club is abuzz with talk about Tanaka and Ohno's relationship, which takes a hesitant step forward. 

The Review!
Audio:
Genshiken 2 has done well for Media Blasters so it’s no surprise that this is the rare title that gets a dub. The bilingual presentation is pretty basic though with a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 192kbps. The series is essentially dialogue based without much else outside of a few moments where it expands a bit, such as at the comic market or one of the imaginary moments. There’s some good placement in some areas when everyone is seated around the table, but generally it’s a straightforward stereo mix with a full sounding design. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Genshiken has a very detailed look to it with all sorts of things in the background, which does balance out its fairly static moments throughout. So much of it is dialogue and moments of the gang talking around the table that it isn’t a hugely active work. But it looks really good here with varied colors, lots of warmth and a solid feeling throughout. Genshiken is one of those shows that has a quality look throughout it and it shines through just right here.

Packaging:
Genshiken’s covers are love and this one is no exception as it has a magazine feel to it with its layout and the variety of cute text moments across it that fit ever so well. The actual artwork is really appealing as well as you have most of the core cast around the table in conversation, smiles and happiness. It’s detailed, eye-catching and perfectly designed, definitely one of the better ones from Media Blasters as of late and that’s saying a lot. The back cover is very well done with several really nice shots used to showcase the animation laid out over a grayscale background of the club room. The summary deals with the overall idea of what it means to be in Genshiken and there’s a very clean prominent list of the discs extras. Add in the production credits and an accurate technical grid and it’s all good. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
Media Blasters often has me conflicted with their menus since they do some offbeat stuff and actually put in some effort with their design. It doesn’t always pay off and sometimes it’s just awkward. This show uses the cover art t good effect here witheveryone spaced out a bit more in the room and they use word bubbles for the navigation pieces. The problem is that you don’t see the word bubbles unless you move the cursor around so each character can “talk.” And it’s not a smooth move around either because it goes up and down on the screen. You may even miss that there’s a trailers section depending on how you move across. This is even worse on a computer since you use the mouse to move around often. Submenus do load quickly though and I have to give them credit for being creative. As is usual, the disc did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal as we get the clean versions of the first opening and closing sequences as well as a just under two minute promotional video that got people going for the debut of the season.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Three years after the original series and a year after the brief OVA series, Genshiken returns with another twelve episode series. With the first season proving to be so popular and the manga ending after nine volumes, it’s easy enough to jump in and try to finish it out. This season starts off with a familiar enough setting but with changes that we saw at the end of the previous series where Sasahara is now in charge of the club and Madarame is something of a secondary member in all of it. What’s really amazing is that the show felt so instantly familiar and comfortable that getting back into it was one of the easiest things I’ve done in a long time.

Over the first four episodes, there are three primary storylines going on here with two of them overlapping. The core storyline for the volume revolves around the club deciding that they’re going to work on a Kujibiki dojinshi for the upcoming comic market. With their acceptance in hand, the group decides what they want to work on and set about getting it in motion. There’s some fun as Kugayama and Sasahara go over what the main idea will be but also in how Ogiue gets involved by providing some really slick looking bonus pages to help flesh out the overall book. The actual comic market event is really fun to watch as well as selling the book and the experience of being on the other side of the table is so very different for everyone involved. Sasahara really comes into his own over the course of this but it’s also great to see Ohno really shine towards the end of it but also the hilarious moments with Kohsaka as he finds a way to sell the books.

The second main story idea takes place throughout the first as Kugayama and Sasahara work on the actual dojinshi. Ogiue’s contributions are certainly worthwhile and she gets quite a good bit of praise for it, even with being told she’s coming out of the closet, but the main focus is on these two. For Sasahara, it’s a leadership issue where he is very lenient in his approach to dealing with the whole thing with Kugayama. He leaves it open for him to decide on which character to focus on and the story itself. Kugayama is so lazy and unmotivated with it that he puts it off over and over until the project gets close to not happening at all because Kugayama simply loses interest, or at least that’s his claim. Neither of them approaches it right and it puts the whole project at risk, which involves a fair bit of time, money and effort. It’s a fascinating thing to watch as it’s a restrained breakdown in relations between two club members who have known each other for awhile. Sasahara ends up going over the edge which is striking enough on its own.

As much fun as these two story ideas are, the one that had me the happiest revolved around Ohno and Tanaka. The two have gotten along quite well since their interests were similar, and a cosplayer having a very skilled costume maker on hand that knows her is a huge plus. But things are getting difficult for the two of them as each of them wants to take things further than they have but neither is able to because of their pasts and personalities. What’s so amusing is that it’s Kuchiki who brings up the question – in the middle of a club meeting no less – as to whether Ohno and Tanaka are an item or not. It puts it out there and ends up being deflected, but the conversation and potential starts which has Ohno talking with others about what she can do. What makes it so good is that it feels honest and sincere in what they’re all feeling and how it’s approached. It turns into a situation where you do wonder why it hasn’t progressed and really root for them to figure it out in a way that a slice of life show like this can do. It’s my favorite facet of the series so far I think.

In Summary:
Genshiken is love. The original series was one of my all time favorites and the OVAs were the only reason I suffered through Kujibiki Unbalance. This season gets underway just right and hits a lot of things in quick succession but with the pacing and style that’s a signature piece of Genshiken. Everyone is familiar but growing and changing as the move into different parts of their lives. The comic market experience is fun to watch even if you’ve seen it done in other series before. It has the right tone and atmosphere. But it’s the characters and their interactions that make the show what it is and it’s like returning to visit an old friend that you’re instantly comfortable with. The next volumes can’t come fast enough and it makes me want to hunt up my Del Rey manga volumes to read before then.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Promotional Video

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Genshiken: Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture