I first heard about Genshiken about two years ago with folks calling it a down-to-earth take on Gainax's 1991 "mockumentary" on the otaku culture called Otaku no Video
. I guess that description fits well about the series since Otaku no Video was much more over-the-top in its comedic parody of the many facets of the otaku culture during the time. Here in Genshiken though, the actions of the group are like any normal group of friends participating in this club. Each of them have their interests and personality quirks that stand out much like a normal person would and many of them are well-adjusted to one another, even having their discomforts when dealing with those unfamiliar with their way of life. Big case for the series, Saki. Hanging around with the club proves to be a test of tolerance for her as she learns to develop patience with its members' obsessive interests throughout the series, especially with her boyfriend Kousaka's large interest in video games. Over time, she learns to accept the members of the group as friends, even if she doesn't necessarily get much of what they discuss, read and watch. The series does well at nailing its slice-of-life aspect with the normal, everyday interactions of the members of Genshiken.
The series looks into enough areas of the otaku fandom that are popular around this time. Beyond anime and manga, the series also looks into conventions, model kits, cosplay, doujinshi, video games and merchandise. The members of Genshiken are big fans of a series called Kujibiki Unbalanced which they obsess and discuss about enough throughout the series which was an original creation made by Genshiken's series creator (and later spun-off into its own series). Beyond this, the members of the club also make mentions to a number of well-known anime titles, video games and influential anime makers which further adds to the nodding made to the otaku subculture. Because of these references and the fact this show is geared towards the otaku crowd, Genshiken won't be for those who don't regularly follow the latest trends of the otaku lifestyle.
There were a couple issues that I did have with the series. The first being the lack of a clear ending as events from the final episode give away that there will be more to come, which would occur with the show's second season
. The other issue was that I found much of the show's attempts at humor being hit-or-miss. I found myself accepting many of the show's comedic gags just being a part of the show's slice-of-life premise yet I couldn't really find myself laughing at many of the things that took place within the series.
Beyond these flaws, Genshiken made for a solid watch for me. The slice-of-life approach created a decent down-to-earth feel at exploring the interactions with members of the club and the various aspects of the otaku fandom that they strongly care for. I didn't really enjoy it enough where I would be tempted to see the show's later OAV and second season. But for anyone wanting an anime that offers a down-to-earth look at the life of an otaku, Genshiken would be your best bet at getting such an offering.