director student council president Kurokami Medaka reporting!
|That guy who created the LNs for which the Bake & Nisemonogatari animes are based off of also does the story for a Weekly Jump manga. You should’ve seen the look on my face. It wasn’t too animated, but I was surprised. Anyways, I come in to the anime having just recently started the manga, but I make sure not to give too much away in my end thoughts. Take it away lvlln.|
|So just as the latest anime adaptation of a Nisio Isin work wraps up, we begin another, this time produced by an even better known and more accomplished studio, the immortal Gainax. I’ve heard bits and pieces about Medaka Box through the grapevines, and the general reaction seems to be… well, mixed, which doesn’t surprise me much given the quality of the author’s novels. Still, the man is a master at certain aspects of storytelling, and this is still Gainax, so let’s see if this anime adaptation can continue the Nisio anime adaptations’ winning streak.|
The opening ceremonies are just the start of the unbelievable wealth on display at this school.
The show starts with our title character, Kurokami Medaka, introducing herself to her fellow Hanokiwa high school students at the opening ceremony, as the student council president who won with 98% of the votes. She introduces her suggestion box – which will undoubtedly come to be known as the “Medaka Box” – and encourages everyone to submit any problems they might have into it. We’re quickly introduced to her childhood friend Hitoyoshi Zenkichi, who’s not shy sharing to his friend Shiranui Hansode about his skepticism of Medaka’s big dreams. But he finds himself dragged to her office anyway.
The first suggestion Medaka finds is to clean out the high school’s neglected kendo dojo of the delinquents who have set up base there. Medaka enthusiastically goes there with Zenkichi trailing along, to find the delinquents not very willing to leave. But Medaka, after demonstrating her martial arts prowess and promising to reform them into righteous kendo students, hands their asses to them.
Ah yes, the unfortunate irony of looking down on others by not looking down on them.
Zenkichi is skeptical as ever that these delinquents could be reformed, but he’s shocked to discover that all of them have indeed returned to the now pristine kendo dojo in order to learn from Medaka. They train as expected, but once Medaka leaves, in comes a stranger, Hyuga, the one who actually submitted the initial request to clean out the dojo. He’s pissed off because he only wanted the dojo all to himself to train and doesn’t like that Medaka kept (and reformed) the delinquents. And as an actual top-class kendo practitioner, he’s about to take out his frustration on the delinquents, when Zenkichi intervenes and surprisingly easily beats the crap out of him.
The beaten up Hyuga is going home with his tail between his legs when Medaka approaches him, with the 2nd request in her hand – Hansode asked that she fix Hyuga’s personality. So she does, and the next day he and the delinquents are using the kendo dojo together, maybe not as friends, but as fellow members of the new kendo club.
Medaka has some flowery dreams. I can’t deny that there’s beauty to them.
Back at the student council room, Medaka and Zenkichi reflect on their accomplishments. Medaka plants 2 flowers for the 2 requests she successfully fulfilled and says that she plans on planting a new one for each. This has an effect on Zenkichi and moves him to join the student council.
I notice that Medaka has a way of sneaking up on people…
All of these Weekly Jump series that become anime are hard to give a concrete assessment of after their first episode. Whether you live by the one-and-done, the three-episode rule or something that fits you best, these shounen-type series need time to develop. However, I wonder if Medaka Box should be given such a long leash. The first episode really only establishes that Medaka is the school’s president/goddess and doesn’t offer up much that’s worth checking out beyond episode 1. Overall I thought the production was alright with a moment of two of QUALITY. Gainax did really good with Medaka’s character design (plenty of fanservice) and also Shiranui and they did make Hakoniwa Academy look really nice. The soundtrack was nice as I enjoyed this episode through headphones, though the OP theme is skippable ordinary j-pop. I liked those songs 10 years ago, not today.
I really like Kurokami Medaka, which is somewhat perplexing to me given my taste in female anime characters (from a personality perspective). She’s an anime babe no doubt about that, but I generally cannot stand the “Miss Perfect” characters and that’s what Medaka is in spades. “Perfect” characters can be a real chore to watch, and from what I’ve read of the manga so far, she’s still always in the “right”. I think it’s in her caring of her other student council members that I like most about her and I do kind of like the superhuman stuff she’s been pulling (which Hitoyoshi seems to have an understanding of as will be noticeable a few episodes down the road). She does have some very minor qualities that set her back just a bit, but she’s strong enough to power through her own shortcomings. I couldn’t fully enjoy Aki Toyosaki’s portrayal of the character; the voice just sounded a bit too soft and cutesy. It’s the trouble of reading before watching when you start to think of how a character sounds. That issue is probably on me.
Hitoyoshi will be the male lead through the series. Him filling the role of guy that has to deal with a woman leader or some kind of harem, my initial comparison was to the likes of Kyon or someone similar. He shouldn’t be compared to Kyon sense Kyon is a god-tier character and the relationship status these guys have with their female presidents are different. I prefer to set Kodaka from Haganai as a base; he was a good character with interesting interactions and thoughts, but doesn’t always have to do the heavy lifting in the series. He showed his caring of Medaka in this episode, but in the immediate future of the series, he won’t really add anything more. Shiranui has been the wildcard for me as I read the manga. She doesn’t really show it in the first episode a lot, but there is some interesting tension between her and Medaka that you should notice in later episodes. I don’t know if she has a greater role to play in the series, but it’s perhaps the aspect I’m most anxious to see play out.
I had read the first 10 chapters of the manga before this episode aired, and once it did I went and read 7 more. So far nothing has wowed me. It’s been pretty much the same beat with a couple fun moments like the upcoming Pool event. I’m still in the stage of the manga where all there is for plot is the Suggestion Box, and for the anime, this could be several weeks before things really pick up. All things considered, I still find something about the manga that I enjoy and will continue reading, hoping that the reports of things taking 50 or so chapters to really pick up will pay off in a nice way. I’m not expecting something mind-blowing, I’m just waiting for the special powers to kick in. I was initially concerned about how Madhouse was going to adapt Hunter x Hunter since they hadn’t done long-running shows for a while, but they seem to be sticking with it for the long haul and I would like to see Gainax go long-running with Medaka Box.
I’m not sure what to make of this series yet. The story so far seems to firmly place it as another Haruhi clone with the title character, and that’s not a good thing – no Haruhi clone has managed to capture the magic of that 2006 series. Still, there were times when Medaka’s compelling personality shone through, when she expressed her belief in the innate goodness of fellow man (wait a minute, didn’t we just see another anime discussing something like this recently?). The way she dealt with those delinquents and her final conversation about the flower garden she hoped to build were actually touching. She’s just so much better than everyone else and so sure that she’s not anything special that I can’t help but find her charming. I suppose that’s one thing that sets her apart from Haruhi.
The background music was very good, though the opening theme and animation were super generic and not particularly memorable. The ending theme, I couldn’t quite hear very well since they spoke over it. Speaking of speech, Kato Emiri was the standout here as the enthusiastic but somewhat mysteriously unnerving Hansode Shiranui. Aki Toyosaki as Medaka didn’t especially impress, but she wasn’t bad either. Overall, the voice work was alright, nothing too impressive.
I can’t say I’m impressed by the art or production quality so far. The visual direction was mostly by-the-book high school TV anime, though there were some parts that stood out. I particularly enjoyed the shots when Medaka was aping the boy in front of her. And the use of visual metaphors such as Medaka flying out into space or the student council room turning into a field of flowers felt like classic Gainax – I’m thinking Kare Kano here. Plenty of the Gainax jiggle as expected, but the action scenes weren’t animated nearly as well. In fact, most of them took place off-screen, and what fights that were there were extremely short. Of course, that’s something we’ve come to expect from Nisio by now, given the action in Katanagatari and the Monogatari series.
The comedy wasn’t all that great either. It feels like this series doesn’t know what it’s trying to be at this point. Knowing Nisio, surely Medaka’s eternally optimistic and hopeful philosophy will be explored further, but I’m having a hard time picturing this show getting too serious. Oh, and her name Kurokami means black god, right? Again, knowing Nisio, that’s likely to come into play somehow. Given Medaka’s rather incredible martial arts skills (and hints that Zenichi is no joke either), I figure action will play a major role as well, but, again, the action here was uninspired. I’ll give it a pass for now because Gainax is behind it, but this is the type of 1st episode that would normally get me to drop a show.
I really hope this running gag doesn’t go away anytime soon.