Thursday, 21 June 2012

Anime REVIEW: Medaka Box

The second of my Spring anime viewings is a show that I probably wouldn't have had any interest in had I not seen the animation studio name attached to it. Medaka Box is a 12-episode series based on the manga of the same name written by Nisio Isin (the Monogatari series), and animated by none other than Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann).

Before we begin, have some Medaka fanservice.

In her first year at Hakoniwa Academy, Medaka Kurokami is elected Student Council President after winning a staggering 98% of the vote. Her first initiative is create a suggestion box, in which her fellow students can make suggestions/requests that the council will attempt to fix 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With her childhood friend Zenkichi Hitoyoshi behind her, Medaka is determined to fix any problem - including finding lost dogs, cleaning up club rooms and "rehabilitating" students. As the series progresses, she also takes judo club prince Kouki Akune and swimming team ace Mogana Kikaijimi into the fold.

As the popularity of the "Medaka Box" grows, more and more students seek assistance from the council. But eventually Medaka faces off against the school's enforcer squad and their 10-year-old leader, child prodigy Myouri Unzen.

Kouki, Mogana and Zenkichi: Medaka's band of merry men

Medaka Box may seem like your run-of-mill highschool drama, but its over the top style is presented in a way that Gainax knows best. Medaka is seemingly superhuman, excelling at almost everything (apart from working with animals), and always seeing the best in everyone. Students often contemplate whether she's man or monster, and this is quite clearly the main theme of the series. She also not adverse to providing fanservice, which is equally done in true Gainax style - whether it be bikinis or her penchant for changing in front of her councilmen.

Enforcing through pain

Her eventual antagonists are equally outlandishly powered, turning into the series into more of a high-school rumble genre show by its climax. The genre shift does give Medaka Box a much needed kick up the rear, but at the same time doesn't feel particularly original and might fail to grip you unless you've taken a particular liking to the characters beforehand.

Gainax have even managed to sneak their own homages in here and there. The first episode sees Medaka tackling the problem of delinquents in the judo hall - only their leader Moji looks and sounds (so far as getting voice actor Katsuyuki Konishi in) like another familiar Gainax face. Maybe Team Gurren's fearless leader didn't die in a blaze of glory after all.

Believe in the Medaka who believes in you?

What really let's Medaka Box down is the time it devotes to its characters. Granted at only 12 episodes there isn't a lot of time for detailed character development among the cast, but the focus is far too squared on Medaka. Her ability to "save the day" and keep calm under any situation become less and less interesting as time passes, and the character is at her most interesting when she either fails or finally loses her temper.The final episode of the series, which doesn't feature her at all and instead sees the council trying to carry on school life normally in her absence, comes as a much needed breath of fresh air. The comedy also stumbles just as much as it triumphs, meaning you don't quite know what you'll get episode to episode. Hansode Shiranui, a hyperactive girl who never seems to stop eating, provides the main bulk of the show's comedy, but its a shame we don't really learn very much about her in the meantime.

While Medaka Box isn't a brilliant show, it has a whole lot of heart and is a lot of fun. It was the perfect property for Gainax to handle and they do so with the flare they show their own in-house properties, meaning that while you may not get a rewarding experience watching - you'll certainly get a memorable one. With a second season confirmed, the adventures of Hakoniwa Academy's Student Council aren't quite finished just yet.

1 comment:

Tom Badguy said...

I see there be much fan service in this one.