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"Genshiken": The Cry Of Many Should Be "Doujinshi Or Bust!"

Clubs are a big part of college life. Well, I guess that’s true in Japan. I haven’t done much clubbing in college, because the gaming group scares the living crap out of me. But Sasahara’s new to college and wants to join a club. The anime club and manga club seem too specialized for his interest, but Genshiken, the society for the study of modern visual arts, seems right up his alley. Will he be able to survive hanging out with a pretty boy fighting-game champion, an insane military master, a sewing machine, a stuttering slob, and a cosplay chick?

I picked up the first volume of the Genshiken manga on a whim; it looked interesting. Guys hanging out and doing stuff I do. No craziness akin to Excel Saga, no magic or superhuman abilities–something grounded in reality. The first volume of manga was pretty enjoyable, but the first DVD seems too much grounded in reality: it gets boring at times.

The series is all about the adventures of a gaming/manga/anime club. If you’ve never been interested in any of those things, tune out. Heck, why are you reading this anyway? You’re at the wrong website. Go to ESPN.com or something. Ever go to a convention? These guys do. Ever hang out and go shopping with buds? The guys go to Akihabara. Ever feel weird about looking at porn? Okay, well, yeah, not me personally, but… Ever put on a cosplay show for an event at college? No? Well, I guess Japan does it.

Think it sounds a little boring? One of the guys is, well, a pretty boy (I guess–they keep calling him that) who actually keeps attracting a girl from his childhood. Without any effort on his part, they’re instantly a couple. Trouble is, the babe completely hates anime and is freaked out by all the gaming he does, the hentai he keeps out, and so on.

I hate this guy. He gets a girl without even trying.

Members of the club are fans of the show and comic Kujibiki Unbalance. Never heard of it? It doesn’t exist. Okay, it does–sort of. This disc includes the first episode of Kujibiki Unbalance. If you watch the background of the episodes, youll see most of it (even the fictional show’s intro is seen in it’s entirety in the first episode). Apparently nothing more than Negima mixed with Iron Chef, the show is interesting only in showing what the characters in Genshiken are watching. Damn, they have a boring taste in shows.

Still think it sounds a little boring? Truthfully, it is. The show is very slow moving, and it feels even slower for not having much of a soundtrack. They probably could have combined two of the episodes into one, or added much more filler or side plots into each episode. You can see hints of excellence during certain scenes, such as a chase at the end of Episode 4 that reminded me of Love Hina and had me laughing. The show should definitely be filled with more of those moments.

I don’t have too much experience with Media Works, but this is a pretty acceptable release. Included on the disc is a series of commercials for Genshiken, the “Character Show 2004″ (nothing but two Kujibiki Unbalance VAs talking at a con), the duo Under 17 (singers of the Kujibiki Unbalance theme) playing live, and textless opening and closing. To pair with the bonus Kujibiki Unbalance episode, a commercial for that series and textless opening and closing round out the real fake/fake real show. The actual DVD case lacks a series-specific insert, but the case gets major points for mocking the Gundam model set boxes. Also available is a series box to hold all three volumes, showing four of the characters in the club headquarters. It’s nice to see all the little touches, like the Super Famicom and Sega Dreamcast and all.

While the series is decidedly slow, the story and animation are solid. They definitely treat the subject matter with respect and had fun with it. If you can stand the slow pace, go grab this at a bargain.

Episodes included on this disc:
Episode 1: “The Study Of Modern Visual Culture”
Episode 2: “Comparative Classification Of Consumption And Diversion Among Modern Youth”
Episode 3: “The Issue Of Regional Cultural Advancement And Its Merits”
Episode 4: “The Sublimated Process Of Mental Blocks Regarding The Dissimilation Between Dress And Costume”
Bonus! Kujibiki Unbalance Episode 1: “Unbalanced Encounter”

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