Genshiken is my favorite manga of all time, and now that it’s going to be ending it seems like the right time to explore it (though, I started writing this before the announcement.) Today let’s explore the use of pacing and time in Genshiken.
Genshiken follows Sasahara, a new freshman at Shiiou university, who joins the circle know as “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture” or “Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyukai” in Japanese. Hence why it’s called the Genshiken for short. Upon joining the club, he meets the upperclassmen, as well as two fellow freshmen, Kousaka and Kasukabe. Kousaka is a fellow otaku who is also a bishonen. Kasukabe is not an otaku, and wants to make Kousaka quit his otakuly ways. The first section of the manga follows Sasahara trying to be more open about being an otaku, and Kasukabe warming up to the fact that her new boyfriend is one.
The first interesting thing to come from the way Genshiken is paced is that if you were to have been reading it in the magazine, it’d have been progressing in almost real time. The manga covers all four years of college during it’s 55 chapter run, which makes each chapter the only chapter in that month for the most part. The only real times where it really slows down is when they are preparing to sell their doujinshi at Comiket (called Comifes in the manga) and a final arc about helping Ogiue. So while for readers now, Sasahara and Kasukabe might change in only a couple of days, it would take years to see the difference when you followed the manga. This all changes with the sequel though.
A couple of years after Genshiken ended, the author, Shimoku Kio, brought it back as Genshiken: Second Season. The sequel continues right where the previous left off, kind of. Seeing as the year should have been 2006 if it continued straight after, the references would have to be dated, so instead they stop referencing any years, and the time in Second Season is just the present. This is made even more interesting by the change of pacing in Second Season. The pacing slowed down a lot, the manga has been running 15 more chapters than the first, and they just concluded the first year of college. The difference between a 12 chapter first year and a 70 chapter on is pretty big, but the reason is clear, Second Season has a lot more story telling in it than the first.
Where the first Genshiken was mostly about otaku hanging out and then doing a bit of romance and drama by the end, Second Season has a lot more plot development right from the get go, mostly in the form of setup of what would become the colossal 20 something (depending on where you consider the start) chapter Rame harem arc.
Madarame was one of the most popular characters from the original manga, super open and proud of being an otaku, and generally one of the funniest characters. Because he was so popular, it was obvious they’d keep him in the story to some extent. Even from the beginning he’s’ the only graduate to make consistent appearances, but It’s uncertain if the harem was the intent from the start. The seeds are buried early, with him letting Hato (arguably the lead of most of Second Season) use his apartment as a changing room, having him do otaku stuff with Sue, banter with Keiko, having Angela come onto him. It slowly took over the manga though, and led them on a trip to a shrine that took over a years worth of chapters. It finally ended a couple of chapters ago, and things seem to be starting to go back to normal.
While the Rame harem arc got annoying at times, I find it interesting as it’s something the original Genshiken would never be able to do, as it couldn’t do the slowly paced character development based story that the Rame harem arc intended to tell. Even with the pace of a sloth, there still are good aspects to it. Hato’s development regarding his identity and sexuality, which isn’t even definitely done, couldn’t have been done as well in the original. Aspects like this are what made the Rame harem at least somewhat enjoyable as a reader.
The references also change with time in Genshiken in interesting ways. As well as the context of them. In the first series, the references change with the times a bit, since time passes at about the same speed in the manga and reality, but this gets a bit weird when Second Season starts. Since Second Season stops referencing the date, it amounts to it always taking place in present date, so at the start of Second Season, you can see them cosplaying Madoka, but later they cosplay Bodacious Space Pirates. They mention Girl Und Panzer, then a bit later a combo of Free! and Haikyuu primieres. This makes it interesting reading it after it’s been published, as it goes through many years in what is supposed to only be one. One of my favorite little bits of humor that comes from this is from chapter 59 where Sue makes a reference to Tsukihi’s line from Nisemonogatari episode 8. What makes this interesting is that Madarame responds by saying that’s “too obscure” as even though the Monogatari franchise was already quite popular, the Nisemonogatari anime hadn’t come out yet, so references to it might not be as wide spread.
A very interesting part of this is a little thing called Kujibiki Unbalance. Kujibiki Unbalance is a fictional manga that runs in the Genshiken universes version of Weekly Shonen Magazine. Kuji-Un is a romantic comedy about a competition to become part of the student council, and follows a boy named Chihiro and a bunch of girls in the competition. In the story of Genshiken the manga gets an anime adaption, which disappoints the gang, as it doesn’t hold up to the manga. In reality some OVAs were made of a few of the fictional episodes, episode 1, episode 21 (a recap episode) and episode 25, the penultimate episode. Later in 2006 a full 12 episode “reboot” of the series came out in the real world, almost reminecent of the Negima remake, made even funnier as they aired at the same time! The story of Kujibiki Unbalance also adds some nice touches to parts of the original Genshiken manga. The chapter that Madarame, Tanaka and Kugayama graduate from college features the characters mentioning that in the most recent Kuji-Un chapter that Ritsuko, the student council president is graduating as well, and that more of a new cast were entering, which adds some meta commentary to the story of the characters graduating.
There’s also a large change in art from the first series to the second. Take a look at this picture from the beginning of Genshiken:
And compare to one of the most recent chapters:
The art evolution of Kio’s work is one of the largest changes I’ve ever seen, and as I’ve read through the series about seven times, I’ve gotten to witness the change many times, and it’s always a fun experience.
These are all the many ways that Genshiken’s pacing and use of time interest me, and I don’t think that many other series will ever give me as much as Genshiken has. Now we just have to wait for the final chapters…