I’d been trying to write a review for the popular anime K-on! for two whole weeks, and to be honest it really wasn’t happening. I just couldn’t find much to say about an anime that has no real overarching story. So in an effort to delude myself into thinking my time hasn’t been wasted, I’ve invented (I think) the First Great Slice of Life Meta-Review. If I can’t think of enough to write about one anime, surely three series should fill out a normal review space, right? Well, I’m going to assume that’s the case, and since there is currently no one present to object to this decision, here we go!
Director: Naoko Yamada
Writer (Original Manga): Kakifly
Animation Studio: Kyoto Animation
Version Watched: Subbed
Like some of the Visual Novels I’ve played in the past (Kira Kira, Deardrops), K-On!’s 39 episodes, 2 OVAs and movie are very much band-themed. The series follows 4 (and then later 5) teenage girls who are all members of their school’s Light Music Club (or Keion >.>) as they progress through high school.
While certainly not a literary epic, K-on! is a nice, relaxing comedy anime that will probably make you smile on multiple occasions. Apart from being good for the odd laugh, K-on! is made special by the inclusion of original music tracks performed by the girls’ band, Afterschool Tea Time (a very apt name, as you’ll soon discover if you watch the series). The songs are actually really good for the most part, made better by the fact that you know and can identify with the characters singing them.
Each of the characters has a distinct personality and well-defined relationship with the other girls, but if you’re hoping for any sort of character development, K-on! is the wrong place to look. While each of them had their own sort of charm, and there weren’t any I disliked, I can’t say I ever felt attached to any of the characters, and therefore the series itself.
What could have made it better? Drama. I understand that the series isn’t trying to take its viewers to any emotional highs or lows, but without any real crises or conflicts things kind of stagnate. I never felt any drive to watch K-on! because nothing significant ever occurred, it just so happened that I needed something to watch during my lunch break, and K-on! just happened to be on my hard drive. I don’t regret watching it, as some of the episodes are genuinely funny, but neither do I see myself going back for a second viewing.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable
Ouran High School Host Club
Director: Takuya Igarashi
Writer (Original Manga): Bisco Hatori
Animation Studio: Bones
Version Watched: Dubbed
Clubs in Japanese High Schools are fascinating, if only in how they are portrayed in fictional media, but the idea of a Host Club might be one that you haven’t yet encountered. Ouran High School focusses on a club that’s sole purpose is to entertain the female students of their school (and perhaps make a little cash along the way, but that’s beside the point). It’s an interesting concept considering that Ouran is a Shōjo anime, meaning that it is targeted predominantly at a female audience and also meaning that it is lacking the fan service one might expect from another anime with a similar plot.
While I fully admit that Ouran High School wasn’t really my sort of anime (it’s aimed at the opposite sex, yes, but there’s more to it than that), I need you readers to understand that my own personal preference isn’t the only reason it won’t be making it to my top 20 or 30 anime (a not-so-cleverly concealed clue that I didn’t particularly like it). The romance, if it could be called that, was shallow overall and therefore not worth watching for, the story was practically non-existent right up until the last two episodes (there are 26 episodes in total), and the comedy (which is all that’s really left to it) is also fairly average.
Ouran is first and foremost a comedy, as many slice of life series are, but the genuinely funny content is few and far between. While it was entertaining as a whole, things moved rather slowly and to begin with I wasn’t even sure whether I was going to continue watching. As time went on, however, I started to become attached to the characters (who are done really quite well overall) and watching till the end became more and more likely (note that that was a very dubious compliment, if it could be considered one at all). Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here; Ouran High School Host Club was not bad, it was just made up of a lot of very average components, and in this case the product is simply the sum of its parts.
Score: 6/10 – Average
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu
Director: Shin Ōnuma
Writer (Original Light Novel): Kenji Inoue
Animation Studio: Silver Link
Version Watched: Subbed
In a number of my reviews I talk about a series’ concept as opposed to its story, and most of the time that’s because the series doesn’t live up to its concept’s potential. Baka to Test is one such series but, to be honest, I enjoyed it so much that I’m willing to let it slide just this once. Imagine a school where your test scores determine which school facilities will be available to you – Class A gets laptops and mini-fridges while Class F gets cardboard boxes and cushions without any stuffing – then add on to that the ability to summon miniature versions of yourself to fight for you and challenge the other classes for their place. It sounds interesting, right? Well, Baka to Test ignores any story it could have had using that concept (it wouldn’t be a Slice of Life series otherwise, right?) and instead tries to run as a comedy, which I’d say it does pretty darn well.
Baka to Test keeps you coming back with a mix of surprisingly successful recurring gags and characters that you actually care about, which is rare for a comedy. There’s a little bit of romance (and people who are oblivious to it) thrown in there but it’s the genuine laugh-out-loud humour that makes the series worth watching. It’s not perfect though; I won’t pretend that Baka to Test’s 2 seasons, 26 episodes and 2 OVAs are funny from start to finish and I can easily see some viewers getting bored of seeing what are essentially the same jokes over and over again. To be honest I thought I was going to be one of those people but I finished it and enjoyed nearly every moment, though I’m not sure whether that says something about me or the show itself.
The “summoned beings” the students use have their strength based on their summoner’s previous test score, so you would be forgiven for thinking that every battle’s outcome is more or less predetermined. In fact, that’s pretty much how it works for the first half of the series. However, using some dodgy reasoning and dubious logic the show manages to work skill into the mix for the second half, though admittedly it doesn’t make much difference. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t go into Baka to Test expecting the series to make use of its central concept in any meaningful way. If all you’re looking for a good laugh while you relax, though, then Baka to Test will deliver many times over.
Score: 7.5/10 – Enjoyable