‘Genshiken,’ ‘Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions’

Anime Review: ‘Genshiken’ (complete series)

“Genshiken” belongs to a genre largely unnoticed by most casual anime fans who only see what’s on TV: the slice-of-life show. But that’s OK in this case, since the more dedicated to fan activities people are, the more they’ll get all the humor and relate to the lifestyle of the otaku in “Genshiken.” The anime revolves around the members of The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture (which, in Japanese, can be shortened to Genshiken), a college club that incorporates various fandoms – anime, manga, video games, modeling, cosplaying – into a single club. Being a slice-of-life show, there is no real larger plot, although the stories do show a progression of the characters and the club. Otherwise, “Genshiken” provides an embarrassingly accurate portrayal of the lives of people who are really into their hobbies.

Non-otaku viewers are given a surrogate in the form of Saki Kasukabe, the girlfriend of Makoto Kohsaka, one of the Genshiken Club’s newest members. While she doesn’t like any of the club’s interests, Kasukabe starts attending club meetings and activities to be near Kohsaka and gradually finds herself getting more involved with the club. The level of dedication the club members show their varying interests is what makes many scenes funny, and a lot of viewers will find some scenarios all too familiar from their own lives. “Genshiken” stays pretty realistic, and it has a dramatic side as well, with an overall theme of not being afraid to pursue what you love and accepting yourself, and those you love, for who they are.

The box set has all 12 episodes of the anime plus three episodes of “Kubijiki Unbalance,” the made-up anime the Genshiken club obsesses over (which is now being made into an actual show).

“Genshiken” offers a unique insight into the fringe world of hardcore fandom, showing both a critical look as well as a loving portrayal of the obsessive fan. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what an otaku is, there’s no better way to describe it than by observing the members of Genshiken.

4/5 Stars

‘Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions’

On the perpetually frozen planet of E.D.N. III, human settlers clash with native creatures called Akrid, who survive the cold with an internal source of thermal energy that humans can harvest for their own. Akrid come in all shapes and sizes, including the near-Godzilla-sized monster called Green Eye, which players face off against in the impressive introductory stage of the game. While knocking buildings down and smashing its attackers, Green Eye kills the father of Wayne, the main character of the game. Wayne gets knocked out and ends up with a small group fighting both Akrid and human Snow Pirates, as he tries to find Green Eye and uncover a sinister plot his father was involved in.

Gameplay is third-person, and combat revolves around using a variety of weapons and armored mechs, while making sure to pick up thermal energy left by defeated opponents, because it’s the only way to recharge the energy meter that’s constantly counting down. Included in Wayne’s standard equipment is a grappling arm that recalls Capcom’s classic “Bionic Commando,” which provides a unique way of navigating the more platformer-like elements. Shoulder buttons give a quick 90-degree turn, proving invaluable for covering your back when surrounded by swarms of enemies. There’s optional auto-targeting to help out with the third-person perspective, but it sometimes gets in the way of hitting what you think you’re aiming at when things are too close together.

The graphic are impressive, with generous smoke and snow effects, and often dozens of Akrid can be seen moving about in the distance as players fight hives of enemies. Cutscenes are high-quality, and the voice acting is appropriate.

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Unlike “Halo” or “Resistance,” “Lost Planet” doesn’t have aliens shooting back – that’s what the Snow Pirates are for. Instead, the Akrid are often large and tough, and the only way to beat them is to avoid getting smashed while aiming for the glowing thermal energy that reveals their weak spots. The contrast between fighting the Snow Pirates and the Akrid keeps combat interesting, along with the occasional mech battle to change things up. There’s a nice weapon variety, but most of it is pretty standard – shotgun, machine gun, sniper rifle, etc. The variety of mech types and weapons is a definite plus, and some mechs can even transform into vehicle versions. Up to 16 players can compete online with plenty of options, and the campaign mode is better than the average shooter.

While not particularly groundbreaking, “Lost Planet” is still a step above most shooters; it looks graphically next-generation and has plenty of variety in its action.

4/5 Stars