I ran the idea of Genshiken as commercial failure past Jeff, and he agreed with me -- but not for the reasons I thought. His position was that, even if people enjoyed watching it, it just doesn't have the kind of appeal that allows them to sell toys, and therefore make money.
I paused and thought about that for a bit. Although it's true, and fits with everything else I think, I don't really like the implications of that position. For one, it suggests that realistic series can't make money. (Jeff replies: have they ever?)
And I suppose that might in fact be the case. It's not as if we watch anime for that sort of humdrum realism anyway. To be sure, we demand internal consistency and precise metaphors, but tawdry surface reality's always been considered rightly passe. So I imagine, anyway.
Of course, I don't like my position -- namely, that the otaku have no taste for realism, and therefore won't watch the show, leaving the entire question of merchandise moot -- any better. I just can't say. What about Welcome to the NHK
? It was brutal, but accurate. (There's another example of something I probably can't watch again, though I do want to read the novel and manga.)
Come to think of it, though, I probably would buy a Misaki keychain or similar. *sigh* It all comes back to merchandise. None of the Genshiken characters have that sense of wonder and mystery that would impel me to buy a figure. Of course, they never did, and it's a vital part of the anime that they don't, but the stakes are different now.