The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Shomin Sample ?
Shomin Sample (or 'Commoner Sample') is this season's first and only real straight harem series. There's no supernatural elements here like the upcoming The Testament of Sister New Devil Burst, nor is the setting a magical battle high school. This show's schtick of a single guy that transfers to former all-girl school is much older, and as far as plot narratives go, seems quickly on its way out. It almost feels a little sad given how rife anime was with this plot five to ten years ago, but that's how trends go.
Average guy Kimito is literally kidnapped from his equally average high school by a group of gyrating, muscular men. Imagine my disappointment when he doesn't find himself in a super-elite yaoi school, but is instead asked to pull a Three's Company and pretend to be uninterested in women so he can inoculate the sheltered (read: pure) student population of the ultra-secret, high society girls' academy. These girls aren't merely guarded from associating with common people, they're also kept away from modern technology like cellphones and subways: pretty much anything that would make them worldly, useful members of society.
Kimito quickly acclimates to the expectations of his new environment and starts befriending the gullible Aika. Aika has isolated herself from the rest of her well-meaning classmates because she's too honest. (This will sound ridiculous to western viewers.) Aika isn't too honest in that she's a jerk who mouths off too much, in fact it only seems like she has problems tempering her excited reactions to a “mature” level, so she thinks everyone will dislike her. I think it's more of a conflict between honne and tatemae, which is a prominent part of Japanese conversation and social interactions. Aika doesn't filter her true expressions and feelings as expected.
The end of the first episode has all the set-up for this to become a harem club show where the “club” doesn't really do anything, ala Oreshura. Aika dreams up her plan to become a commoner expert, since commoner lifestyle is super trendy right now, and starts a club. The premise itself is pretty ridiculous, largely a vehicle for introducing a cast of girls that exemplify the “want to protect” aspect of moe. Would wealthy members of society really send their daughters off to an isolated school that hinders their abilities to function in the real world? I guess if they're all destined for arranged marriages where they sit at home all day, but otherwise it's doubtful.
That aside, Shomin Sample is pretty harmless. I was definitely expecting more accidental sexual situations for a show with this premise, but it's more interested in being silly than accidental boob grabs. Of course, there's at least one bath scene in the next episode, and the show's camera spends a lot of time lingering on girl's crotches or angling just so a character's boobs sit in front of the screen. It's not aggressively offensive, but it's still eye-rolling.
Shomin Sample is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Anime harems need to work hard to stand out in today's crowded market, particularly with light novel magical school shows stealing so much of their adolescent escapism thunder. Simply being self-aware is no longer enough - we're already well past the event horizon of postmodern narrative-critical pop culture, and at this point basically every new harem or power fantasy exists in a world that's already well aware of harem and power fantasy tropes. Shomin Sample addresses this saturated market by doubling, tripling, and quadrupling down on one particular trope: the socially removed ojou-sama archetype.
In Shomin Sample, Kimito Kagurazaka is the titular Shomin Sample, a boy stolen away from his everyday school life to act as the sample commoner for a school entirely populated by aristocratic, ultra-proper ojou-samas (and, of course, their maids). To help these ojou-samas become accustomed to both commoners and men, Kimito will attend classes with them, where they will marvel at his commoner ways. Of course, any average man might come across as threatening, and so Kimito learns he was chosen because, according to his childhood friend, he's both gay and obsessed with muscles.
That description pretty much covers what we get in this first episode: jokes about ojou-samas and outright homophobia. On the ojou-sama side, some of the gags here are actually pretty funny. The fact that the ojou-samas have no understanding of cellphones or videogames doesn't really make any sense, but their overly proper methods of dealing with human interactions and ways they all sort of make vague ojou-sama noises all the time are pretty funny. On the homophobia side, yeah, that just is what it is. This show treats homosexuality as a ridiculous joke literally from its opening song forward, featuring a bunch of muscle-bound men who gyrate at Kimito and later on having Kimito protest that he's not gay, "he's normal." There's an unfortunately common trend of homosexuality being treated as a joke in various ways in lowbrow anime, but Shomin Sample doubles down on the homophobia to make it a core refrain of the humor. It's an unwelcome streak of hatefulness in a show that certainly doesn't have much else going for it.
Aside from the ojous and the gay jokes, there's not much else to say about Shomin Sample. The visuals are pretty bottom-of-the-barrel, with just a couple funny reaction images offering anything nice to look at. There isn't too much nudity-focused fanservice in this first episode, but the show has a clear obsession with thighs - more often than not, panning shots of the ojous aim at their knees, not their faces. If you're looking for that kind of fanservice and don't mind the homophobia, Shomin Sample is a serviceable enough version of what it is. Otherwise, steer clear.
Review: Shomin Sample is the mercifully-shortened title that Funimation is using for a light novel adaptation whose full name translates as I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner. (The “shomin” apparently means “commoner,” you see.) As stupid and ridiculous as that title may sound, the first episode may be even stupider and more ridiculous than that in execution. Really, this may be the year's dumbest concept, and for anime, that's saying something.
Of course, a stupid concept does not necessarily mean that something isn't entertaining, and the first episode does at least have a bit of worthy comedy and a couple of characters which show some promise. However, they get crushed under the silly nature of the premise. That premise is that the ultra-elite and also ultra-secretive Seikain Girls’ School exists to cater to daughters of the elite, who live such sheltered lives at the school that they have difficulty handling the real world when they graduate. (The sequence which shows what befalls some of the girls is one of the episode's funniest moments.) In fact, they don't even know what a smart phone is when introduced to one, and do not even seem to have a concept of mobile phones or handheld games. That eventually leads to absolutely jaw-dropping lines like “commoners must have a much more developed civilization” or one girl pausing to write a thank-you note with an old-fashioned pen and put it in a gift box with treats just to hand said phone back to the protagonist after examining it in class. Yeah, it's that bad.
The protagonist, Kimito Kagurazaka, is kidnapped out of his school and brought to Seikain to serve as a “commoner sample,” with idea being that he can help the girls get used commoners while still in school. He was chosen because he is decidedly average about everything, because he's a nice guy, and because one of his female friends has passed him off as not only being gay but also even being into musclebound guys – in other words, the most diametric opposite in sexual preference that one could be compared to a high school girl. This isn't true – he's actually later shown to have a women's thighs fetish – but he insists that it is since the other options are to be stranded in a location not on any map or castrated. In the course of events he associates with three very different young women: a petite maid who has a nasty disposition under her unfailingly polite and proper behavior (and who, of course, becomes his personal maid), a blond who literally faints upon interacting with Kimito, and an energetic redhead who forms a Commoner's Club with Kimito because she believes that she will become more popular if she quicks learns all about commoners (since they are popular on campus right now.)
That earnestness on the part of the redhead, and the maid's underlying attitude, almost give the series a glimmer of hope, and that is why I am not giving the first episode the lowest possible rating. Conceptually speaking, there is all kinds of room for gags here, but too much of the content is just cringe-worthy, and the artistry is uninspired enough, that it cannot serve as a balancing factor, and parts of it are at least borderline offensive. Surprisingly, the first episode has no fan service beyond occasionally seeming to emphasize some girls’ breasts in camera angle choices, but based on the Next Episode preview, that will not continue to hold true.
There is a possibility that the series could hold up as dumb fun, but expect anything more out of it and you will probably be disappointed.
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