Review

by Carl Kimlinger, Jul 22nd 2007

Best Student Council

DVD 4 - Secret Lives of Students

Synopsis:
Best Student Council DVD 4
The Best Student Council is ready to move back into their newly-reconstructed dorm when Minamo—bless her privacy-violating heart—discovers a bombshell in vice-president Kuon's room: a picture of her with a handsome young man. The idle speculation turns deadly serious when the man's identity is discovered, and it's up to the Council to contain the fallout. Then Cyndi's mom comes to visit, but what should be a joyous reunion is clouded by one small problem: Cyndi has lied to her mother about every single aspect of her life. The Council scrambles to cover for her, but things are complicated by her mother's um, shaky grasp of Japanese. In the meantime, Miss Yukimi manages to snag herself an omiai with a perfect suitor, an event that threatens her friendship with Miss Wakana, especially when it turns out that her suitor may not be as interested in her as she thought.
Review:

Too much frivolous entertainment will make lukewarm lentil soup out of your brain, but sometimes you just want to shut down all those overworked critical faculties and unwind while they cool off. That's where Best Student Council comes in. With some minor deviations it's consistently mild fun that doesn't offend, doesn't strain, and won't fire more than three synapses at a time. This volume offers more of the same, with only a very minor difference: where last volume's mild deviations were negative (major Minamo damage) this volume's, serendipitously, are positive.

Of the episodes in this volume, the last most closely resembles the majority of the series. It passes with a pleasant sensation, but leaves only a vague recollection of why. It's an actual chore just to remember what the episode was about, much less what actually happened during it. The first two episodes, on the other hand, mine the same vein as the flashback episode last volume, incorporating information about vice-president Kuon and her involvement in the mystery of the Jinguji clan into the series' usual slight narrative. There's even a little action and a titch of tension. But the best episode is definitely the Cyndi episode, where the success of a comic conceit finally pushes an episode from amusing to outright funny. The humor comes not from Cyndi's lies, nor the Council's attempts to deal with them (though both are quite funny at times) and not even from Cyndi herself, amusing as her speech patterns get, but from Cyndi's mom. From the moment she opens her shockingly foul mouth she's an absolute blast. Though those who are offended rather than amused by anime stereotypes of Americans probably won't think so.

The thoroughly mediocre animation may break down when breaking out the action, but it's really quite appropriate for a series that is so heavily invested in being reassuringly unremarkable. Actions are generally kept to a minimum, so the cheapness of it doesn't call much attention to itself, but a few brief scuffles in episode 16 are rather embarrassing in their use of shortcuts. Character designs are still good though again unremarkable, and work best when being cute. Backgrounds are (no!) unremarkable, serving to indicate location and little else and just as often left out altogether. In fact, the closest the series gets to a stylistic trademark is its frequent use of manga conventions (screentones, written dialogue and sound effects).

In keeping with the overall theme of unremarkability, the score is a quiet, pleasant affair that never calls attention to itself. It is used frequently though not excessively, always as unobtrusive support. Some of it is surprisingly good, especially when working with the piano or aiming to pluck heartstrings. The ending and opening remain unchanged.

Acting and casting aren't really issues this far into the series; much like the content, this is more of the same, likely to satisfy those dead-set on an English experience and full of little excuses for the sub crowd to abstain. Of much more concern are some of the re-writes. Like most of ADV's work, the dub has been quite faithful (though Pucchan's dialogue has taken artistic liberties all along) and for the most part this volume follows suit, but the Cyndi episode is an exception. Instead of bad Japanese, Cyndi's mother speaks with a serious drawl and a heavy reliance on odd regional colloquialisms. Given the language issue (having a character speak bad English because she comes from America where people speak English doesn't really make sense) this was probably necessary in order to preserve at least some of the humor, but it just isn't as good a joke. And the need to dance around the running joke about her terrible Japanese results in portions of dialogue being entirely re-written.

Extras: clean opening and closing (the same ones as every disc before it) and a small collection of Japanese commercials for CD singles and drama CDs. Exciting I know, but do try to restrain yourself.

This volume improves on the last in a couple of ways, not the least of which is the relegation of Minamo to mere supporting player. It's also both funnier and more serious, there's a bit more focus on the shady side of the Best Student Council, and even a little (very little, mind you) excitement. All without ever making that fourth synapse fire.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B

+ Cyndi's mom; won't strain your brain or heart.
Won't strain your brain or heart.

Director:Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Series Composition:Yousuke Kuroda
Scenario:Yousuke Kuroda
Storyboard:
Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Yutaka Karyu
Unit Director:Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Music:Yoko Shimomura
Character Design:Tsuyoshi Kawada
Art Director:Yoshinori Hirose
Animation Director:
Tsuyoshi Kawada
Kōki Sugawara
Sound Director:Jin Aketagawa
Director of Photography:Rikiya Hirooku
Executive producer:Akihiko Nagata
Producer:
Akiyasu Akazawa
Yuji Matsukura
Kazuya Watanabe

Full encyclopedia details about
Best Student Council (TV)

Release information about
Best Student Council - Secret Lives of Students (DVD 4)

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