Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Anime Survivor: Spring '12 - Week 5.2

Yes, Spring 2012 may be one of the marquis anime seasons we've had in a while, but I still think back to how sour last season felt in the mouths of so many people. Fate/Zero had taken a depressing season off to recharge for its second half, while Bleach and Gintama' both hit a wall and departed from the list, leaving nothing but a deep freeze.

Of course, I was rather giddy once the Winter 2012 season started. Hey, it's Nisemonogatari! Nishio Isin is back with more of that stapler-wielding "tsundere" and all those creepy pedophile jokes affixed to the main character! It was incredibly funny then, but somehow sliding the donut-loving loli-vamp and the all-heat-no-flame "Fire Sisters" into the cast failed miserably. Oh, well. At least we got the most unintentionally comic episode of all time in the notorious "toothbrush" ensemble.

So many probably have that spite towards NisiOisiN still fresh in their gums like that last bit of spinach you can't quite get out. That's why the eighth show to get canned from our Anime Survivor cast is...

Like you didn't know already?

Selling Point: There's already quite a bit of back story to Medaka Box before the show even hit the airwaves. While the manga has been running in Shonen Jump for the past few years, its first few chapters apparently didn't do so hot. While the art from Akira Akatsuki mixed with Isin's wordy drama-babble fit for some interesting stories, from what I understand the underground fans didn't really care for the plot. No problem. Make the show more of a schoolyard rumble, and instant hit!

But let's rewind the clock before we go into episodes we have yet to see. Medaka Box covers the story of Hakoniwa (translated as "Sandbox") Academy's new student-body president Medaka Kurokami, a first-year student elected by an unexplainable landslide. Of course, one look at the student...ahem...body, and the answer may be obvious. Not only does the haughty Medaka have a killer figure that she tends to flaunt more than the dress code allows, but her talents are extensive and exceptional, ranging from the likes of simple running to calligraphy.

Of course, as the student-body president, one needs a capable cabinet. Medaka quickly pulls in her childhood friend Zenkichi to handle the work, but answering the requests coming from the suggestion box isn't so easy. Clubs demand budgeting for the school year and help with various arduous tasks (much like in Sket Dance), so even though Zenkichi is the hardest guy to get along with, he begrudgingly does his job, and that job usually involves explaining Medaka's freakish talents or using his own strength to batter sense into others.

The cabinet slowly fills with other surprising talents. The judo champ Koki has a soft spot for Medaka and a razor's edge towards Zenkichi, but becomes the secretary. Swimming savant Mogana has such an unwavering yen for money that Medaka hires her as the treasurer. While all this is going on, we get snide play-by-play by the show's comic relief, Shiranui, a small tyke of a student with an endless appetite and an infectious laugh.

Defense: I'll be honest by saying I'm a bit surprised that Studio Gainax was tabbed for the animation to Medaka Box, but it makes perfect sense in the end. After all, Gainax did take care of the animation for marshmallow-fluff shows like He is My Master and Mahoromatic, so it's totally sensible to have the director for those two shows, Shouji Saeki, to take the lead here.

With Saeki at the helm, I really enjoy some of the more competitive moments of the show once it gets going. While we won't see some of the crazier characters until later in the show, I like the direction of this eight-episode arc (even though the rug will be pulled out to cater to the previously-mentioned change in perspective). Truly, there isn't much to the whole concept of student presidents being more godlike than servant, but for now the interactions between characters is fun.

That synergy is also what I appreciate, especially the interaction between Zenkichi and Shiranui. The cast constantly wonders what these two have that makes them so friendly to each other, but the draw is irresistible. Zenkichi's hard-nosed approach to life and his refusal to be simply another Rito from To-Love-Ru is refreshing, while Emiri Kato's portrayal of Shiranui is precious. I mean, precious like a puppy that digs in the yard and ruins your shoes, but flashes a look that makes you D'aaaaaawwwwww all over the place.

Final Decision: Ultimately, the final straw that had me agreeing with the voters was Medaka herself. The picture alone says more than enough about Ms. President being a poor construct of a character. While the inside joke is nice (Medaka Box is the opposite, in a way, of meyasu-bako, or "suggestion box"), Medaka herself isn't that likable.

Personality-wise, it's hard to put a finger on her. Unbelievably smart one moment, but dumb when it comes to common sense, she shouldn't be the Supergirl that she appears to be. If anything, she is the epitome of the "girl-who-excels-at-everything" trope, failing to show any weaknesses unless they are a product of her immense success. Of course, her unparalleled goddess-like status probably also makes her unbearable to look at--almost every episode involves her in a stage of undress or a close-up of her bust.

I suppose, much like how the most popular kid at school got the most enemies, I ended up...hating Medaka's perfection. I started to find myself siding with the kendo-club bully, the track-and-field saboteur, and the swimming club hoarders instead of Medaka's gang of heroes. Of course, my perception would likely change the next season when we finally see flaws in her character, but we only have a full season for this contest to begin with.

In the end, a show with a lead character I didn't like didn't end up standing a chance. Maybe I'll pick Medaka Box up when the show jumps the shark in Season Two, but for now the shark is winning.

Next Week: We're halfway there! Two more shows get tossed from the island! Which will they be? VOTE NOW!

No comments:

Post a Comment