Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Kaimei High School's Sket Club is a club dedicated to helping students with troubles big and small. Mostly small. Bossun is the club's leader, a happy-go-lucky guy with a yen to do the right thing and an excellent deductive brain that only works when he's wearing goggles. Himeko is the muscle, a mean girl in a fight (if she has a hockey stick) and an avid fan of really nasty candy. Switch is the information officer, a freak of nature who speaks using a voice synthesizer and rarely has anything nice to say. Together they can solve any problem, and will no matter how insignificant, though chances are they'll make a huge mess before clearing it up.
Sket Dance wants to be a comedy with a heart. It has the comedy down pat. Not so much the heart. The show is so obviously having a blast, however, that it's pretty easy to forgive it for its descents into schmaltz.
Sket Dance is a strictly episodic show. Its troubleshooting premise basically requires it. Each episode, or in some cases half-episode, features a new character with a new problem for the Sket Club to solve. The advantage of this kind of structure is that it allows for a wide range stories about a wide range of characters. There's an unexpectedly tricky mystery centered on a, shall we say, "main character-ish" guy. A pure love story is based around the rift between a beautiful, sickly girl and her all-too-healthy (and large, aggressive and unkempt) childhood friend. A delusional manga fan spearheads a gleeful skewering of out-of-style shojo romances. The list goes on. True, it's ultimately less a smorgasbord of varied plots than a smorgasbord of varied parodies (the disruptive influence of Himeko, Bossun and Switch alone is enough to ensure that nothing stays serious for long), but there is a wide and highly amusing variety of characters, and the constant switching of genres means no parody is allowed to outstay its welcome.
The disadvantage, of course, is that there's no chance to form a compelling serial arc. You won't find any addictive cliffhangers here. You'll never chew through your available fingernails wondering what's coming next or agonize over the fate of a character. Instead the series relies on the good time you had last episode to bring you back for the next. Not a bad strategy in truth. Bossun and his crew have such a great time living their high-school dream that it's damned hard not to get swept up in it. Perhaps Sket Dance's greatest achievement is making the Sket Club seem like the best club ever. This is the club that everyone wishes they had in high-school: a group of friends to spend your spare time getting into and out of dumb adventures with. And Bossun and his crew are the members we wish we had: a trio of troublemakers who never take anything too seriously and yet have their hearts eternally in the right place. They're a joy just to hang with, and make returning each episode easy.
Though some episodes it's easier than others. The series' strength lies in its infectious energy and the effortless comedic chemistry of its eternally bickering lead trio. Unfortunately it gets a little greedy at times and tries to supplement that with uplifting drama. Sometimes the series gets the balance right, tempering madcap hijinks with a touch of emotional weight, and even some of its weepier moments work thanks to our attachment to the cast, but too often its feel-good payoffs are so excessive and so embarrassingly obvious that they're as likely to leave you rolling your eyes as feeling good. Worse yet, sometimes they prompt the series to drop its humor. Not a smart move. As fun and likeable as Bossun and his friends are, they aren't substantial enough to support a series unleavened by humor. At such times, the series seriously risks collapsing into a heap of suds. Luckily it's never long before a gag about the world's homeliest cheerleader or the world's most vomitous lollipops comes along and lifts it back up.
And barring that, there's always the pretty pictures. The show has rock-solid production values. Not the kind that blow your eyes out of your head and open the serotonin spigot in your brain, but the nice, attractive and effective kind. The show in general is clean and colorful, and while dependent on the usual shortcut tool-kit the animation rarely looks cheap or unconvincing. Manabe Nakatake's character designs aren't flashy, but are fun to look at and easy to distinguish. They do a particularly fine job of communicating the wild personalities of the excellent supporting cast. Himeko for her part is utterly adorable, while Bossun is suitably cute and Switch suitably amusing. As insurance against stagnation, the series continually introduces new and often strange or self-referential stylistic inventions. Switch often uses emoticons—large, incredibly elaborate emoticons—to communicate; one character lives in a black-and-white manga world and brings it with her into other people's worlds; and various sound effects are actually drawn into the anime and animated.
Shuhei Naruse's score covers the same genre ground as Sket Dance's parodies: overwrought pastiches of horror music, action music, and—while not intended to be parodic—introspective emotional music are the norm. It's reasonably funny, though often overbearing, especially when smothering things like comedic chases in hyperactive guitar, and not a whole lot of anything else. The opening is an unremarkable bit of pop-rock spiced up by impeccably orchestrated visuals while The Pillows supply a perfectly awesome slice of laid-back slacker rock for the ending theme.
There are many things you shouldn't expect out of Sket Dance. Excitement. Feeling. Anything beyond a rudimentary level of intelligence. But you can trust it to deliver a good time. And in this case at least, that's enough.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Episodic comedy that is unflaggingly fun and unfailingly easy on the brain; great secondary cast.
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