The fact that Kujibiki Unbalance even exists is already hilarious to me. The anime was created as a piece of in-universe fiction for Genshiken, a show about a club of college students who are passionate about all things otaku-related.
It was an anime within an anime, and they put a lot of effort into making that look believable. Though the actual audience only saw fragments of what was presented as a full-length TV anime, Kujibiki Unbalance seemed like it could be real. And days before the finale of Genshiken‘s first season, it became just that. Palm Studio made a 3-episode OVA compiling the Kujibiki footage throughout Genshiken and filled up the gaps with all-new content.
The result is a strange anime that’s really more of a novelty, or perhaps a demo of sorts. The 3 episodes are disparate slices of the intended story with large gaps in-between, leading to references to past events that happened in episodes that don’t actually exist. It’s fun for Genshiken fans only, because anybody else going into this is going to be really confused. Even as a fan, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. It was a “fake” anime that had the potential to be real, but they still didn’t dare to fully commit to it, resulting in a product that is objectively unfinished.
Still the OVA has its merits. The artstyle and character-design are very bold, favoring bright colors and large accessories; I was vaguely reminded of Soul Eater and its spin-off throughout my time watching it. The story, cut down as it is, does also still work and particularly episode 2 does a great job of showing off the anime’s strange setting.
But the story didn’t end there. In fact, it got a whole lot stranger.
The Kujibiki Unbalance of the Genshiken universe was a mediocre anime that gets frequently criticized by the characters and their peers. This may well be the reason for why it was kept as an incomplete OVA, because who, in their right mind, would make a full-length anime that is deliberately bad, just as a tie-in for another anime that was itself already a niche product. But Kujibiki Unbalance was reimagined and we ended up getting a 12-episode TV adaptation of that reimagining as well.
2006’s Kujibiki Unbalance predated Genshiken‘s own second season. It takes some story elements and characters from the OVA, but reshuffles and redesigns them into an all-new story. Instead of a tournament arc between different teams, it focuses on just one group of unlucky sods that are picked by lottery to become the next student council or face expulsion from their prestigious academy.
I am not entirely averse to the idea, but the execution I find lacking. The elements from the original that this new anime “reimagines” were actually the most interesting parts of the old version. Meanwhile, actual problems like the annoying side-characters, stilted dialogue, and unclear setting are kept largely the same or even amplified.
Case in point: the TV series removes Asagiri and Tachibana from the main cast, replacing them with the obnoxiously loud duo of Renko and Yamada. This leaves only male protagonist Chihiro and love interest Akiyama from the original OVA, but Akiyama has been redesigned to such an extent that she is basically unrecognizable. She and other colorful characters from the OVA have been slimmed down, had their detailed hairstyles replaced, and had their accessories removed entirely. Since she has also been rewritten to be a generic childhood friend character, I didn’t even realize it was the same character.
While it’s “nice” to have an anime with a complete story as opposed to the random fragments of story offered by the OVA, I found myself unable to get into this reimagined version. Even if it has a reason to exist within the context of Genshiken, it’s not the series that we got to see and that takes a lot of the novelty factor out of it. What you’re left with is a zany high school anime, of which dozens of alternatives existed in and around 2006. By rigorously rewriting and redesigning the characters, Kujibiki only made itself less able to stand out and compete in that field.
Ultimately, I can’t earnestly recommend either version. The TV series was too boring for me to even finish and the OVA is a bit of a waste of time, even if you are a Genshiken fan.