The story centers around an otaku club, the Genshiken (Society for the Study of Modern Visual Arts) at a college in Japan. It follows two main characters, Kanji Sasahara and Saki Kasukabe, both dealing with the otaku subculture. Sasahara is in the process of accepting his identity as an otaku and trying to wrestle the social stigmas attached to the title. Kasukabe, on the other hand, has a boyfriend who is an otaku, and is trying to get him out of it rather than deal with the oddities of the subculture.
The manga offers a unique view into the subculture that Westerners usually don’t get to have. Most may be surprised that the term ‘otaku’ has a completely different connotation in Japan. The series helps look into different aspects of the subculture by looking at different elements and niches within it, such as cosplay, building models based on characters, fanzines, conventions, and doujinshi. Another dimension that the manga brings forth is the social problems otaku tend to have due to being antisocial with people outside of the subculture. All of the characters in the Genshiken have some kind of social issue with people “on the outside.”
The character designs in this manga are more simple than most; there are lots of solid lines. To contrast with the simpler character design, the artist pays lots of attention to background detail and this talent is most evident when he draws the backgrounds of the geshiken’s club room in all it’s disorganized glory. Sometimes proportions are drawn strangely (like Madarame’s neck) and character designs are a bit generic (especially for the main cast), but this may be because the artist uses Japanese visual motifs associated with the socially awkward to emphasize their personalities and situations.
Age / Warnings-
One character has large breasts, a fact commonly referred to and known by (and sometimes even exploited by) other characters. Something some readers may not be comfortable with is the fact that a common and consistent topic of discussion for the club members is porn. One character smokes very often and at one point the smoke causes a large fire. The characters often tend to indulge themselves and, as a result, are big spenders. None of them are hinted at having jobs, so they’re pretty poor examples to follow.
Genshiken Omnibus, vol. 1
by Shimoku Kio
Kodansha Comics, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)