Genshiken 2 Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Graduation is upon us and it’s time for some to move on, but not before we engage in some serious boys love.

What They Say
Who knows what darkness lurks in the hearts of women? Yes, that's right: Yaoi fantasies! The adventures of seme Sasahara and uke Madarame reach their peak as Ogiue walks in on hot tie-pulling action! Meanwhile, Winter Comic Fest is on the horizon, and Ogiue is determined to make Yaoi day without tipping off the rest of Genshiken about her dark secret. But some forces are too powerful to be contained, and boy on boy dojinshi is one of them!

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 to good effect here Madarame and Sasahara in BL mode 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 second opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are few series that you can watch over time and really feel like that you truly and seriously love it. There are shows you adore, shows you gush over, shows that make you feel all good inside. But there are precious few that you truly love and feel so comfortable in watching that it makes you feel like you’re watching something special. As we move through the middle arc of this season of the series, Genshiken 2 exudes just about everything here as it plays with its characters and engages in basic situations that you’d find in many such clubs and groups.

The central focus of this part of the series is that changes are still continuing for the members of the group. The original series opened with a change as it admitted Sasahara to the mix and we started to view the club through his eyes. As time went on though, it became much more of a full on ensemble piece rather than a window through Sasahara’s eyes and the show has made out much better because of that. Everyone has their moments throughout but it’s also easy to shuffle off some of them for an episode or two with nothing feeling like it’s missing from the mix. Graduation is simply the next step for things here as Tanaka is ready to move out into the world and get a job.

That causes its own conflicts because it means it’s not only time for a new club president but also because Ohno is going to be left behind as Sasahara, Tanaka and the others are truly moving on. What’s worse for Ohno is that because she studied overseas for awhile, her credits didn’t translate in properly and she has two more years before she can graduate. She already has issues with Tanaka not staying with her, which is completely foolish as Tanaka is so completely smitten with her that it’s hard to imagine him truly looking at someone else in a relationship manner, so her confidence level and nerves are pretty messed up at this point. Add in that she’s suggested as the one to take over the Genshiken and it’s a big growing up moment for her in a lot of ways.

As is always the case with Genshiken, there’s a good bit of humor mixed into the serious moments as well, and the graduation side has Ohno trying to deal with Kuchiki being one of the few members left during a membership drive. The real fun in this volume comes very early on though with Ogiue. She’s been an unusual character from the start, one that fits in perfectly but is also the kind that you almost never see joining a group like this. Ogiue’s fantasies take up a huge part of the first episode as she essentially dreams up a storyline involving a Mada x Sasa boys-love world in which others appear as well, including a very hunky Tanaka and an amusing Kasukabe and Kohsaka. Her dreams certainly might make some boys-love haters cringe for an entire episode, but they animate it so beautifully and it has the right kind of nod and wink to it that it’s hilarious yet you want an entire real episode devoted to it.

Ogiue’s being pushed to do some real manga for herself and the experience at the last Comic Fest has given her the taste she needed to almost really want it. So now she’s starting to explore that idea yet she doesn’t want to do it because of what it means. Having her fantasies put out there to the public doesn’t appeal to her, though Kasukabe is starting to change her mind on that a little bit along with some helpful tweaking from Ohno. Ogiue’s still really ambivalent about it all and she can’t even bring herself to go to the latest Comic Fest with everyone and instead sneaks in there to buy all her boys-love material. Naturally, she runs across everyone while in disguise and learns a lot about how the others think of her, which adds to her embarrassment and confusion. Ogiue really is an unusual character that’s growing a lot as time goes on and episodes like these help immensely.

In Summary:
Genshiken continues to be nothing but fun as the cast of characters grow and change as their lives and loves march forward. These four episodes bring more changes to the cast as they deal with what’s going on but they provide for a good amount of fun as well. It’s not often bust a gut kind of laughs, but the kind of laughs that leave you smiling for hours afterward when you think about it. Ogiue and Ohno make up the primary cast for these episodes with everyone else having their moments. The show is truly stolen by the copious amounts of Madarame and Sasahara make out sessions however and that is truly priceless.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

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: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C-
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