Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 15th 2006
DVD 3: Cosplay Confessions
The life and times of collegiate otaku continue as Genshiken club chairman Madarame finds himself in an uncomfortable situation when he and Saki are alone in the club room for an extended period. A trip to the beach by the gang and a later trip to Comic Fest also attract Sasahara's teenage sister Keiko, who has her heart set on Kohsaka but finds a potent rival in Saki. A later accident for which Saki was principally responsible gets all of Genshiken in hot water, which leads Saki to reluctantly agree to do cosplay for a school festival as an act of atonement. As time passes and the Genshiken members deal with the fall-out of the accident, another changing of the guard arises – and the new club chairman has some bold ideas about the direction in which the club should go!
While Genshiken's trials go on, so does their favorite show Kujibiki Unbalance. As the series reaches its penultimate episode, Chihiro's team seems to be falling apart as pressures resulting from earlier (not shown to us) episodes fray the team's cohesion despite their successes so far. Can they pull together to complete the sacred Kujibiki contest by participating in the final round?
Unquestionably the most anticipated event in the whole series arrives in the second half of episode 11, when Saki finally cosplays. The event doesn't disappoint. Exactly who she cosplays as is probably no mystery to anyone who's been paying attention so far, as it's strongly hinted at in the opener, but the biggest payoff is the impression she makes and how people react to what she does. It's one of those perfect, almost spiritual moments which can make viewers fully appreciate their own otakudom.
And that's really what the series is: a view into the heart and soul of the otaku. In this volume the primary lenses used are the passionate, socially inept insider (represented by Madarame) and his polar opposite, the equally dispassionate outsider (represented by Saki). Other cast members do still have significant parts; Ohno gets to show off the depth of her devotion to cosplay in this volume, for instance, and Sasahara reveals some surprising ambition. Saki and Madarame get the lion's share of the screen time, though, which is only just given that they are the most interesting and fully-realized characters in the series.
Although many self-proclaimed otaku doubtless see themselves and/or people they know in Genshiken's characters, it's the situations it sets up which are the greatest appeal of the series, and the last volume carries on that tradition. The look into the rooms of many of the members is telling, Madarame's problem with an oddity of Saki's appearance is a riot, and the discovery of how far the Genshiken club dates back, and what exactly that implies about the club's founder, is a hoot. Although not a laugh-a-minute fest like, say, Excel Saga, the humor comes through plenty often enough to satisfy most anyone.
The included 25th episode of Kujibiki Unbalance (or “Kujiun” as it's called by the Genshiken members) is less successful. It's a typical example of a “can the heroes reunite for one final battle after circumstances drive them apart” story, although there's a bit more going on than just that. The series has skipped ahead a dozen episodes since the last volume and doesn't reference anything which takes place in the intervening time, so we are never privy to what, exactly, drove the team members apart. The episode also ends with something of a cliffhanger, one that is unlikely to ever be resolved, although one also gets the sense that this episode shows the most important part of that series.
Genshiken's artistic merits remain strong, with well-detailed backgrounds supporting distinctive, credible character designs (the overly-made-up Keiko especially stands out by sporting the kind of trampy look not ordinarily seen in anime) and respectable animation. Those looking for fan service will not find much even in the beach episode, although Saki's cosplay costume is a delight. By comparison Kujiun's artwork is much simpler and done in the most stereotypical anime style imaginable. As with earlier volumes, the closer's artistry is updated each episode to reflect events which took place in the episode.
The biggest flaw to be found in the first two volumes of Genshiken was its English voice acting, a problem which it has not outgrown in its final volume. The English script sometimes strays a little too much from the original, while the performances aren't as smooth or polished as those of the original seiyuu. Curiously, the voice acting is much better in this volume's installment of Kujiun, which had up until this point shared the same problems seen in the main series. The jazzy underlying musical themes of the main series are also at their best in this volume.
Genshiken also maintains its consistency in its DVD production, which follows the same pattern as the previous two volumes: Kujiun, which is listed as an extra on the Genshiken menu, has its own menu screen which makes Genshiken look like its featured extra. Other extras are more limited this time around, consisting only of company trailers, clean closers, and a Q-and-A session featuring two of the seiyuu, which was taped at an early 2005 convention in Japan.
Although Genshiken finishes with a sense of anticipation, it also conveys the feeling that the story of the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture has completed a full cycle. More is to come late in 2006 when a second season is slated to begin airing in Japan. Until then, “Cosplay Confessions” offers another excellent chance to revel in the life and times of the otaku.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Saki's cosplay experience is a special highlight.
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