Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Subculture Equation

 So yes, things are still in a state of temporary flux at the moment with the search for work, and basic comforts resumes. But it isn't as if I can't have a gaggle of things to post about. And having little grab me in the way of the recent two season of anime has definitely given me room to re-examine some older favorites. Most namely on my recent rewatch list was Palm Studio/Genco's TV version of Shimoku's manga favorite, GENSHIKEN. And even now, there is such a laid back atmosphere, and attention to character nuance that is simply not as prevalent in recent shows. And for a show centering on a college anime club, it also serves as a loving tribute to diversity of lifestyle as well as the lives of those nebbish, reclusive superfans we often bemoan. And yet via Shimoku's playful characterizations of each club member, and their respective types, we are privy to a more human approach to the otaku phenomenon.

Looking at it now, I can fully appreciate that it not only rode the beginning of an almost geek-centric wave of panderhappy shows that were to come months  later, but it also takes a mirror to Japanese youth culture in ways that hadn't been as clearly examined in even Gainax's classic ode-to-loserdom "Otaku no Video".

Looking at how, over the course of only twelve initial episodes(before the OAVs, second season & Kuchibiki Unbalance series') we get a fully realized little world, filled with not only a love for anime, cosplay, models, games, & doujinshi, but also into how they interact with one another as they each seek out their paths in their respective lives. It's one thing to merely make anime-fan-centric gags ala Lucky Star. It's entirely another when characters begin to act out due to the intervention of another's ideas. So when "outsider" and girlfriend to the gang's resident gamer bishounen, Kohsaka, Saki Kasukabe strafes across the crew over their tastes & habits, it becomes a fun game of  "who is being more fanatical?" And in a story when even the opposition has some semblance of gravity, but is no less as repressed & unreasonable, it can make for some entertaining commentary.

 Even as the series plays on the expected "non-otaku do not understand" gimmick, there seems to be a sly implication that even those not claiming to be as obsessive are merely obsessives of other kinds, making it a fun look at youth identity in a media/marketing drowned culture.

Not only does this element fascinate me, but I also appreciate how it doesn't sugar-coat any lifestyle, and rather just plays it straight, making any side of the equation only as strong as the humans that graft onto them.

Another part that gets me now is how it examines the very process of new undertakings, as in to say, "Let's show how difficult it is. Illustrate why so many seem to be content with consumption  instead of production."The rigors of producing something your own, even if it is a printed parody of a published creation, are fraught with tricky procedures, organization & time, as well as personality rifts. The collaborative effort can become a Herculean task in itself, and Genshiken doesn't skimp in this area (another kick to Otaku No Video's slacks). The dream becoming real, no matter the size is an encouraging notion in almost any type of story. It's just exciting to see the most unlikely taking on such a task, even when it seems utterly hopeless. The need to break out and express freely remains bright, and offers an olive branch to our most valuable resource...ideas.

The at times insurmountable truth of the matter is, that no matter the subculture, everyone seems to want similar things, and are merely seeking them out via various avenues.

Perhaps otaku aren't so different after all.

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