Genshiken : Return of the Otaku / by Iida Kazutoshi & Kio Shimoku
Based on the manga by Kio Shimoku
Translated from the Japanese by Katy Bridges, 2010.
Del Rey Manga/Kodansha Trade Paperback Edition, 2010
Originally published in Japan as Genshiken : Hairu Ranto no Yabo~Return of the Otaku, 2008
Stars: ★ / 5
The deafening whack-whack-whack of a helicopter above campus is the first indication that the balmy tranquility of the Genshiken Club is about to be disturbed. The chopper brings handsome Ranto Hairu: transfer student, scion of a powerful Japanese conglomerate, and newly named chairman of the on-campus club organization committee.
Hairu has strong ideas about the kind of clubs that deserve to survive (earnest, industrious) and the kind that don’t (arty, frivolous), and he’s a big fan of brute force. For Madarame, Kousaka, Ohno, and the others, the idea of losing their cherished club is the ultimate nightmare—but it’s only the first of many.
Fortunately, the Genshiken boys and girls have a few tricks of their own, including a certain swordfighter summoned from ancient times who could prove very handy
Unfortunately, the summary is probably the best writing you’ll get with this title. I certainly didn’t have high expectations of this work, but I thought I’d end up laying the blame primarily on the translator. That the story and writing themselves couldn’t be that bad. I’ve heard so often how the translations of these early light novels were horrible… but, there’s more to it than this!
Actually, I don’t think the translator is at fault at all. I won’t believe that they are this poor of a writer. Mostly, I am left feeling sorry for them, since they obviously had NOTHING to work with. For example:
p. 100 [Sasahara] looked around for a vending machine where he could buy something to get the taste out of his mouth. There were several vending machines on the street, but all were sold out of everything. Finally, he found a vending machine with something that wasn’t sold out…
Primarily the text reads like, “He did this. Then he did this. Then this did happen.” It’s just lists of action, with very little description or motive to carry between one sentence and the next. I could go to any page, and point out similar issues, like this one:
p.20 […] The father was an obstetrician, the mother a midwife.
The murder took place at the clinic while the mother and father were away at a medical conference.
The perpetrator was a twenty-two-year-old student who had failed his college exams. He had hope to become the obstetrician who would take over the clinic when the time came.
The murder victim was his nineteen-year-old sister, who was in her last month of pregnancy.
These breaks between sentences are the actual paragraph breaks. Most of which are begun using the same passive voice, with the same word choices. This selection at least has an excuse for its dull prose by using the heading, “Summary of the Incident.” But, this only excuses the single page. It doesn’t excuse the remaining “novel.”
Now, you may be thinking that I should give more allowance to the writing in a light novel. Light novels are known for their low standard. But, I promise, I have more objections than just the composition of prose!
Objection number two, is the story.
There are about three elements to make up this story. First, there is a mysterious video game that is possessing its players. Second, there is a demon-possessed jizo statue looking for his sister half. And Third, there is a bored student clubs president who has been tasked with cleaning up the morality of the school.
The Genshiken are in trouble from both the game, which seems to have captured some members, and the new student club president who wants to shut them down. The latter issue, about being shut down, is a tired idea. This has already been done in the manga. There were so many other places a story about the Genshiken could have gone.
The first two “magical” or “supernatural” elements are completely out of place in this story. As much as the Japanese culture is infused with spirituality, the original Genshiken manga itself, which this book is supposed to be based off of, is a story of a college club of otaku. The story is about the day-to-day concerns of interacting with each other, buying the latest merchandise, and finding someone with a working computer for playing erotic video games.
It’s not a story that works with magical elements. Unless maybe those elements are the fantasy discussed by the characters in one of their club meetings.
My third objection, has to do with the characters.
As this “novel” is, I’m assuming, purely fan-fiction the only people who should be reading it are fans. If you are coming to this novel outside of watching the anime or reading the manga, you are not going to know who is who, why they act a certain way, and why it’s important that someone said that particular “something” to that other someone.
The author did not, for a second, consider that anyone other than Genshiken otaku would be reading this. And, even as a Genshiken otaku, I found the characters completely lacking! These are weak, paper-thin characters which is in complete contrast to how they are portrayed in the manga.
There’s actually about a three page discussion between Madarame and Sasahara about the virtues of writing a novel after the manga or anime. They talk about how it gives the fan an insight into the actual minds of the characters, the inner monologue, that they normally wouldn’t get to see.
Maybe this is true. But that’s only if the inner monologue needs revealing. When Sasahara is looking for a vending machine because he wants to wash the bad taste out of his mouth, I don’t need him to think, “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth” so that I’ll understand. It’s just as easy to read it through the actions he takes in the manga. This novel does nothing more for revealing a character through thoughts than the manga could have done… and MUCH better.
And, if the manga could have done the job better, the novel has no reason for existing! It actually feels like an insult to the fans who love the work, and the author who created it.
A shining light!
I guess the best thing about this title, is that there are some original drawings by Kio Shimoku in it. But…ummm… they’re not enough (in my opinion) to buy the book, and certainly no reason to read it. Okay, that’s not much to go on.
Luckily, this title is long out of print, so less people will have access to it. I heartily don’t recommend this work, and actually may have been completely turned off from trying another light novel… at least until next year!