The Spring 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Mikagura School Suite
How would you rate episode 1 of
Mikagura School Suite ?
Eruna has a problem – she's in her last year of middle school, but she can't find a high school she wants to apply to. I mean, they all just have such unattractive uniforms, you know? Much better to become a NEET or get a job where she just watches NicoNico all day, or at least just gets to indulge in her yuri otome games. Luckily for her future, her cousin Shigure finds her one day and suggests that she attend the same high school he goes to, Mikagura Academy. His motive is clearly to get her to fall for him, but she's attracted to both the cute uniforms and the gorgeous girl in the brochure, Seisa Mikagure. One clearly rigged entrance exam and a meeting with a weird floating cat mascot character later, and Eruna is ready to begin her high school life!
Mikagura School Suite definitely wants to be a wacky comedy starring a heroine who is either a lesbian or a rabid yuri fujoushi – or both – that combines elements of Baka and Test and Gakuen Alice. There are club battles, which feel very similar to the former's gimmick while the status of what club you belong to determines the quality of your living conditions at school, which is very reminiscent of the latter. It maintains a frenetic pace as Eruna bounces and drools her way from situation to situation, but I can't honestly say that I actually laughed, or even giggled, once. While it is based on a Vocaloid album (and a light novel series), that really isn't an issue here, or even a major plot consideration in the first episode. It's more that it just feels so rehashed that it isn't particularly appealing.
That I don't find Eruna a likable character is doubtless part of the problem. Her fantasies of her game crush Yuriko are kind of funny, but her zaniness just feels forced. Her disgust at the thought of marrying her cousin is a nice touch, as is the idea that students who don't belong to a club get a sleeping bag instead of a dorm room, and there are some interesting moments throughout the episode. The club battle we see when Eruna first arrives on campus has some neat touches, such as the fellow I assume to be in the flower arranging club's battle techniques involving lotus blossoms, and the fact that the school apparently has a shinigami club. The animation is nice and the colors are bright and perky, so this looks very appealing as well. That makes it even more of a shame that is falters in terms of its plot, managing to throw too much out at once while also failing to deliver anything new on the supernatural school battle front. Plus we have that weird opening scene that looks like it came out of a different, much darker show – if Mikagura School Suite plans to go in that more ominous direction, it's definitely made that a difficult proposition with the rest of the episode.
This may be the show this season most in need of a second episode in order to really figure out where it's going. Right now it's a mass of things we've seen before and characters we barely know and who don't appear to be terribly likable. Here's hoping things improve.
There are few things more sad than an unfunny comedy. Some shows can just ride as lesser versions than what they could have been - action shows can be less good action shows, romances can be less heart-rending romances. But when a comedy isn't funny, it's just nothing - worse than nothing, it's often outright annoying, with its attempted jokes coming off as either shrill, embarrassing, or just plain boring.
So that's pretty much Mikagura School Suite's first episode.
Our protagonist here is Eruna, who spends more time daydreaming about falling in love with visual novel heroines than she does prepping for her high school entrance exams. The unfunny humor doesn't waste any time, with the episode's early conversations between Eruna and her sister falling into that classic “joke that isn't a joke” manzai routine. Eruna says something slightly ridiculous, her sister says “that's ridiculous!”, and That's The Joke. This pattern is flipped in a few scenes, when her cousin (who wants to marry her! comedy gold!) suggests she apply to Mikagura School Suite. Instead of saying “that's ridiculous!”, Eruna responds to her cousin's loud noises by simply ignoring him, but the unjoke song remains the same.
It's when Eruna actually gets to Mikagura that the show starts in earnest. Apparently Mikagura is one of those special schools full of anime protagonists, where all the clubs compete in crazy battles in order to decide their standing, dorm placement, and even the food they can eat. Eruna's main talents involve wildly overreacting whenever she sees a cute girl and saying things in a very loud voice (Juri Kimura, Shirobako's Aoi Miyamori, does her best here, but the part basically demands being annoying), and so she finds it difficult to secure a club position until she's invited to join the mysterious going-home club by the school principal's granddaughter, Seisa Mikagura.
That's what we get in the first episode, give or take a random overreaction gag here and there. The premise doesn't promise anything beyond a genre template for gags and eventual fantasy drama, and though it's nice to see an openly gay protagonist whose sexuality isn't the butt of gross jokes, the show's actual jokes aren't funny - they mainly just consist of Eruna making silly faces and wild overreactions, plus the manzai snoozers I mentioned. The aesthetics aren't much better, with the show featuring uneven animation, over-designed characters, and the quality of backgrounds you'd expect in a low-grade anime comedy. Nothing to see here.
Review: Eruna is a very energetic but also rather undisciplined third-year middle school student who plays games and fantasizes about other girls rather than doing what she should, like deciding on what high school she should attend or focusing on entrance exams. She finally makes a choice when her male cousin shows her a brochure for his school, Mikagura Private Academy, and she sees in it a girl that she takes as an angel, one who also happens to be the granddaughter of the school's president. On the day of the entrance exam her entrance test is suspiciously easy, and her passing largely comes down to the fact that she can see a winged, flying cat (and hence is implied to have special powers). She soon learns that everything at school – dorm assignment, food quality, and so forth - is about what club you're in and how your club does in (super-powered) battles with other clubs. And if you aren't in a club, well, you're sleeping in a sleeping bag in the hall. After failing to join the Calligraphy Club, Eruna sets her sights on the Going-Home Club, the club that her idol, Seisa Mikagura, is in, even though it is an exclusive one. To her surprise, she gets personally invited to join by Seisa, though she must now participate in the next club battle as her club's representative.
The light novels which the series adapts were apparently inspired by vocaloid songs, which actually doesn't explain anything about the series but is still an interesting fact. It is a work of high energy and goofy behavior, one which is apparently going to try give us a new twist on the “status determined by battling classes/clubs” motif. Hard to say what that twist might actually be, though, as the only “power” that Eruna has demonstrated so far is an incredibly vivid imagination, one which seems to equate “romantic liaison” with “going to the nurse's office,” no matter how apocalyptic the scenario that she is dreaming up. She is quite specifically lustfully fixated on girls, too, which essentially makes the series a cross between Maria Holic and Baka and Test so far.
The main barrier to enjoying the series so far is that it is trying to use loads of energy on Eruna's part to compensate for the fact that too little of it makes too little sense so far. (Surprisingly, it does this fairly effectively.) The tone of the opening scene, where a school girl is apparently hunted down and killed by her own senpai, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the episode for no apparent good reason, and why does a girl like Seisa, who is otherwise portrayed as supremely elegant, walk around with a distinct difference in her stockings on each leg? Mysteries, mysteries.
More so than most series this season, this one needs another episode before a proper initial evaluation can be done.
As "anime inspired by Vocaloid albums" go, Mikagura School Suite is more comprehensible than MekakuCity Actors, but not as well animated and honestly not as entertaining, either. That said, comprehensibility is worth a lot when you're basing a story off a collection of vague story-songs. (Yes, it's technically based off a light novel based off Vocaloid songs, but Mekaku City Actors was technically based off a manga based off Vocaloid songs, so assumptions are still your enemy on this one.) So what is it about?
Eruna is a hyperactive school-skipping lesbian otaku who has decided she doesn't need to go to high school because she doesn't want to grow up never ever never. She changes her mind when her cousin suggests Mikagura Academy, using an ad with a beautiful bombshell front-and-center, which prompts her to stammer out "how do I apply?" between droolings. It turns out that Mikagura Academy is a magic school for the magic-talented, and the entrance exam is just being able to see one of the headmasters, a talking flying cat-monster. She passes, and enters a world of samurai magic, priestess magic, lotus blossom magic, and all other manner of magical studies that have yet to be explained to us, with gaudy students in ridiculous getups all around her. At first, she can hardly decide which hot girl to start stalking first, but then receives a club invitation from the hottie in the brochure, oh my stars! Again, somehow this makes more sense than the plot to Mekaku City Actors.
I realize that the plot is pretty easy to follow when condensed into a paragraph like that, but I mostly found this episode discombobulating. The shift from normal world to magical high school where the style and rules of the magical universe are neither cohesive nor explained is shockingly abrupt. Up to that point, it's a wildly erratic comedy of basically one joke: Eruna needs to get laid. The poor thing has horomones and pheromones shooting out her pores, and for some reason, the world around her seems not to have noticed. In fairness, it's not a bad joke. Eruna's behavior is spot-on accurate to your average lesbian or bi-curious extrovert fangirl for whom spring has sprung suddenly and with a vengeance, and her adulation of the girls around her sits securely on the side of fun and dorky, instead of becoming gross and harassing. (For reference on my standards here: Milly's characterization in Code Geass is gross and harassing, while Rena's characterization in Higurashi is fun and dorky. Drooling over hotties is all fun and games until personal boundaries are crossed, and Eruna's desperation never crosses boundaries.) If I was around her, I'd probably ignore it too, praying with all my heart that someone beds her soon and releases that aggravating tension for the sake of all our sanity.
For the most part, this show is just a huge question mark to me. It's a comedy, but it begins with a stark and dramatic scene. It's fantasy, but there are no stakes or story yet apart from "damn our heroine is horny." There's tons of colorful, wacky, and creative characters designs about, but the show itself is flatly lit, only competently animated, and honestly just not very interesting to look at. There's a whole lot going on here, but none of it really stuck with me, so until a few more episodes have aired, I don't think I have a verdict apart from "Hhhhuh. Weird." There's promise here, but it could also go off the rails insanely fast. We'll see, I guess!
Eruna is a hyperactive otaku who gets lost in her own fantasies, keeping her nose buried in dating sims, forever chasing the cute girls for secret rendezvous in the nurse's office where no one can see them smooch. She can't decide which high school she wants to go to – Eruna's dream job is staying home watching NicoNico all day – so when her gray-haired anime cousin (who is, naturally, madly in love with her) shows her the recruitment brochure for Mikagura Academy, featuring a slender black-haired beauty with a come-hither look, Eruna can't wait to sign up.
After passing the academy's “entrance exam” – administered by a talking cat with a speech affectation – she gets a tour of the grounds. Mikagura is basically Hogwarts for anime characters; everyone has to join a club, and those clubs all engage in a meritocratic system where the clubs that win the most battles get the best perks the school has to offer. Eruna asks where that hot girl from the brochure is, and it turns out she's Seisa, the academy principal's granddaughter, rarely seen, part of the school's exclusive going-home club. A run-in between a nervous greenhorn art student and dangerous, handsome tough guy in the quad brings Seisa out of hiding, who breaks it up, and immediately notices a drooling, hyperventilating Eruna on the sidelines – and, because of course she does, she immediately asks her to join the going-home club. One catch: there's a club battle next week, and Eruna has to represent.
Mikagura School Suite is based on a series of light novels that are themselves based on a series of vocaloid songs, and I don't think I've ever seen this particular blend of anime tropes all in one place before: this is a brightly-colored, energetic gay fangirl harem comedy. Eruna is an exploding ball of hormones and excitement and wants to have a different kind of relationship with every girl she runs across. With the little cutie from the calligraphy club, it's “friends who are so close people misunderstand”. With the elegant maid who welcomes her to the academy, it's instant marriage. It's pretty clear her desire for Seina is pure lust, manifested in ragged breathing and drooling. It's all pretty harmless – Eruna reminds me of the kind of hyperactive fangirl who runs around conventions yelling at cute things and hugging people without permission – and the show's sense of comic timing is pretty fine-tuned. I laughed out loud a few times at her antics, even though in real life I'd probably find her intensely annoying.
The “magic kids in magic school” premise is pretty tired – okay, really tired – but it's got a great color palette, energetic animation and a unique lead character that might wear a bit thin after a few episodes, but I liked what I saw and it did make me laugh. “Gay fangirl harem comedy” is a new one. Let's see if it's worth watching past the first episode.
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