Genshiken 2: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture
Writer / Artist: Kio Shimoku
By Kellen Scrivens
15 November 2006 — In the first volume of Genshiken all of the characters and rules of the series were clearly established — this is the real world where real people and anime exist — while the second volumes expands upon all that we know; more characters are introduced throughout the book, and mini-storylines become the focus in order to accomplish this.
Taking center stage, however, is the blooming relationship between Saki and Kousaka. The various twists, turns and bumps help to (re)define Saki as a character. From the outset it was believed that though they were friends as children, Saki only became attracted to Kousaka years later, after he became hot. In fact, she didn't notice it was him at first. However, we quickly start to see much more than a physical attraction. Saki tells an ex to leave her alone, so as not to complicate things with Kousaka. In order to hide a secret (one involving her, Kousaka and the manga club meeting room) she joins Genshiken. And she learns to play a video game so that she can battle Kousaka.
Kousaka, as usual, is nearly oblivious to all of Saki's hard work; while he understands that she learned to play Puyopuyo just for him, he slaughters her in exactly 32 seconds... causing her to crawl underneath a blanket and say, "I'm cosplaying as a puyopuyo, does it do anything for you?" He thinks, "How do I tell her... she's just a single puyo?"
The chapter entitled "Sadomasochism" provides the most telling of these incidents. Narrated by Saki, she not so fondly recalls an incident an otaku-dating "friend" went through. During their first sexual encounter, the otaku boyfriend insisted upon doggy style. No big deal, right? Once you factor in the fact that his eyes were glued to the TV, showing anime of course, you come to understand the problem. Though the otaku claimed he only turned the TV on to drown out the noise (paper thin walls and all), it's quite clear what he was really more interested in. Oh, during said story, Saki continually referred to her "friend" as herself.
On top of all these hardships, Saki must battle Keiko, a total fashion obsessed girly girl, for Kousaka's heart. This time, however, Kousaka's obliviousness actually helped Saki, as most of Keiko's advances went unnoticed.
One of the funniest moments comes when the gang heads to the Winter ComicFest. In addition to their rampant money spending and swag hunting is the little story of Madarame; on his way to the convention center Madarame slips and falls, breaking his wrist. Undeterred by the rampant swelling (which he uses as an excuse to pretend he's Tetsuo from Akira), he heads into the convention center anyway... and let's just say it doesn't end too well for him.
Also of note is that a new school year has begun, and with it several new otaku look to join Genshiken. To keep others from signing up, Saki wishes death upon the club and devises the ultimate plan to ensure no one else is able to enlist: all potential members must best gaming prodigy Kousaka in a fighting game. From there Genshiken is put on the "To Be Dissolved Due to Inactivity" list, but, despite her previous death wish, Saki stands up for the club... because she doesn't want the club to end unless she is the direct cause. (Think of it as the feud between The Joker and Batman. Joker has willingly saved Batman from certain death because he wasn't the one doing the killing. No one else is worthy of ending the Knight.) To save the club, Saki and Onho go on a two-woman crusade — the male members are too lazy to help. Their saving grace comes in the form of Genshiken's enigmatic president... he who blackmails the Student Union's Vice-Chairman into reactivating Genshiken. Upon saving the club, the nameless leader steps down, but not before electing Madarame as the new president.
Included as a bonus is a short series featuring the characters of Kujibiki Unbalance, an in-universe anime. Alone the story amounts to nothing. As a part of this greater world, however, it helps readers understand where the Genshiken characters are coming from and what their tastes are. There's also a collection of "Greatest Moments" from the then-fake series, all of which are sued as filler in between chapters.
Really the second volume of Genshiken is not a very large step-up from the first; very little of importance happens in terms of story development and character progression — outside of Kousaka and Saki's relationship, that is. That said, it is ridiculously funny and is much more newb-friendly than its predecessor.
Grade: 4 out of 5