The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide School Girl Strikers
How would you rate episode 1 of
Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel ?
What is this?
Tsubame is an ordinary high school girl with an extraordinary past that she can't remember. Still, she doesn't have time to angst over her amnesia right now, because she's got a mission to accomplish alongside her four best friends. As the newest team of Strikers in the Fifth Force, an organization of superpowered girls who can sense energy in the fifth dimension, it's their job to transform into combat mode and keep the bizarre 5th-dimensional aliens known as the Ob'li in check, so that the balance between our world and the fifth dimension will be maintained. Of course, the girls must also strike a balance between saving the world and keeping up with their schoolwork at Goryoukan Academy, a prestigious school that seeks out and recruits potential Striker candidates. Does Tsubame's "Altair Torte" quintet have what it takes to prove their worth against so many other talented teams of Strikers? School Girl Strikers is based on a mobile game and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 12:30 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
I didn't know going into it that this series was based on a mobile game, but I wasn't at all surprised to learn it. The flow of the story in the first episode very definitely has the feel of an app-based game, and that very definitely isn't meant as compliment.
To be sure, Schoolgirl Strikers is a nice-looking series. All of the character designs are pleasant and inviting, all of the central girls look sharp in their battle outfits, and what fan service the first episode has is kept low-key, subtle, and generally tasteful. The stylistic themes of the apparel worn by each of the Fifth Force teams in battle mode is possibly the episode's most interesting aspect, as each team has its own visual theme and they are wildly diverse. Tsubame's team all has a mildly sexy look with somewhat of a magical girl style, while a second team show is all bikini-clad military-themed babes and a third team has a French maid theme. Animation quality is pretty good, too. About the only things which don't impress visually are the designs of the O'bli (which look like reject villains from a kids' series) and the mascot-like mini-computer whiz character.
Looking nice and offering mild fan service is about all that's good about the series so far, though. The writing tries very hard to have all of the girls act normal and natural in their interactions with each other, to the point that some parts of the episode drag because of it. The problem is that almost none of this actually sounds natural. A forced, artificial sense pervades the interactions, as if they are all very carefully calculated for impact rather than flow, and the stock personality types and character affectations feel equally calculated to capture some kind of moe appeal even though the design style doesn't overtly go in that direction. It's like the series is try to be moe without actually looking moe. Compare the character banter here to a series like Yuki Yuna Is a Hero and you will see how vast the gulf is between what this series does and what a series that's truly good at it actually does. The team of relative newcomers who are working on their competence is also an all-too-familiar story approach, and what's with almost off-handed throwing in that Tsubame is an amnesiac, and why does that prevent her from attending school with the others?
The first episode looks too good to merit a lower grade than what I'm giving it, but it's going to have to provide something more interesting than team costume themes and vague mumbo-jumbo about multiple dimensions in order to warrant further viewing.
I feel like I've been here before. Didn't we get more or less the same show a season or two ago with Ange Vierge? Do any of these shows actually succeed in drawing new players to the games they're promoting? It seems like an unlikely prospect, since Schoolgirl Strikers is the kind of adaptation that doesn't have any hook for people who aren't familiar with the source material. It goes through the motions of introducing characters and setting up a conflict, but it doesn't go so far as to give the average viewer a reason to care about what's happening.
Apart from one girl's hobby of inventing urban legends for their shiny new school, the characters are largely devoid of any interesting personality traits. There's the cool one, the quiet one, the designated little sister, the one with amnesia, and on it goes. They all seem to have more or less the same “let's do our best together” relationship with one another, so I don't see any compelling personal drama on the horizon.
The dimension-hopping monsters that the girls fight are generic blobs in a literal and figurative sense, which somehow seems appropriate. The animation itself is fairly decent, though it's let down by a general lack of visual flair. There's also no real sense of danger in the action scenes, which takes much of the potential for excitement out of the equation. It's a bit like watching someone else grind levels in a smartphone game, which again somehow seems appropriate.
The Roomba-bot mascot character is kind of amusing for a moment, but otherwise there's not much going on in Schoolgirl Strikers. If you've played the game, it might be fun to see some of the characters do their thing, but I don't see anyone else caring enough to watch a whole season of this. A boring action series is one that you don't really need to watch.
Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel is charming, if not very original. Like other magical girl shows that have come before it, it features secret squadrons of monster fighting girls who can use fantastical weapons, parallel dimensions that allow battles to be waged without tearing up whole cities, and ridiculous outfits, which range from skimpier-than-usual magical girl duds, to maids, to weird camo beach babe getups. Considering it was adapted from a smart phone game, it's surprisingly enjoyable, especially as a brain-off kind of escape.
The thing that sold me was Yumi, whose lively personality does a lot to punch up the series. Her exaggerated excitement over the teacher finding the sword she planted made me chuckle out loud, and I found myself drawn to her goofy nature. Even the gag of Yumi trying to fabricate mysteries for the new school (interdimensional monster fighters aside, apparently) put a smile on my face. She's a good balance of wacky and class clown, and I hope she'll remain the anchor of the series, especially since the other characters aren't nearly as memorable.
As far as the magical girl stuff itself goes, it's perhaps just north of mediocre. The fights aren't anything spectacular, although the monsters we've seen so far are kind of adorable. And I had to laugh when they introduced the beach babe squad, Coconut Vega, which is definitely a stripper name. And as for the premise itself… well, originality isn't its strong suit, but it has the potential to develop into something more interesting. Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel is on the generic side, but with a reasonably decent cast of characters and some serviceable action scenes, there could be worse ways to spend your time.
Schoolgirl Strikers feels a little bit like a garbage salad: someone reached into the fridge and just threw everything that looks like it could be used to make a salad into a bowl, tossed it a little, and called it done. You've got your teams of lithe young high school girls in fetish outfits who are the only ones who can combat a mysterious threat, the O'bli, who all look like giant rubber moles, the vaguely sinister organization that trains them, and a super fancy high school. You've got transformation scenes, fanservice, and big guns. You've got an amnesiac with a mysterious past. Heck, there's even a cat that sits on the equivalent of the keyboard for that touch of realism. The whole set up feels like it's designed to sell figures and possibly novelty roombas, given that Moshune, the floating mascot character, turns into one when she's not hovering around.
By themselves, the elements of the show might have worked. Thrown together, it's something of a mess, which is perhaps best shown by the fact that each separate team within the 5th Force has its own special outfit, each less suitable to fight monsters in than the last. The girls we're following, the five-person Altair Torte unit, all wear vaguely magical girl-esque dresses. The top team, Vega Coconuts, is in bikinis with a little bit of camouflage paint on their upper thighs. While this does fit the “barbarian chick” trope in fiction (the less she wears, the safer she is), it still is a bit awkward and just screams that the show is trying to please everyone.
Of course, once the plot gets going, things could change. At this point we don't know anything about what special qualities a girl needs to become a Striker, which means that everyone could have hidden depths and/or gifts. Tsubame, the girl with amnesia, will probably turn out to be somehow related to the O'bli, and if that proves true, depending on how it is handled, it could be an interesting plot point. I can't say that I'm willing to stick around to find out, however – in trying too hard to appeal to everyone, Schoolgirl Strikers risks losing its audience all together.
Alright, here's the important news: Schoolgirl Strikers stars a tiny robot girl who can transform into a roomba vacuum. Her name is Moshune, she says “moshu” at the end of all of her sentences, and she is precious.
That ends the important news. The less important news is that nothing else about Schoolgirl Strikers is particularly interesting. Positing a special school known as Goryoukan Academy, where girls who can see the fifth dimension are trained to fight the nebulous “O'bli,” everything this show's actual narrative is extremely by the books.
The first half of this episode is mostly spent introducing Yuumi Sajima and her friends at school. This segment is composed of peaceful but mostly dull slice of life material, with Yuumi and her friends embarking on a very underwhelming ghost hunt. While Yuumi has a bit of personality, her friends all map to obvious archetypes (there's a younger sister type, an older sister type, and the one who says everything in a monotone), and the show doesn't have nearly enough visual flair to create a naturally inviting atmosphere. As a fan of well-constructed slice of life, this first segment had me bored pretty much throughout.
Things don't really get more interesting when the scifi stuff is introduced. Yuumi's secret life is just as generic as her normal one - groups of girls in bodysuits swing big weapons at faceless blob-monsters, and are directed by Moshune and Yuuma's teacher. Even the fifth dimension itself is boring; it's basically just the real world, except with a grey filter that makes everything look less appealing. The show's direction, art design, and animation are all strictly functional, and the storytelling is a piecemeal collection of cliches, so there really isn't anything to recommend here. While Schoolgirl Strikers isn't outrageously bad in any respect, it's also not good at anything, and its particular genre has been done better many times before.
Well, that sure was "Smartphone Game Anime.mp4" if I've ever seen one. (And I've seen way more than one. I'm pretty sure I've seen more of these now than any person should reasonably be expected to sit through in one lifetime.) School Girl Strikers is a show on as much autopilot as you might assume given its premise, with "as you know" dialogue explaining the freemium-game-sounding lore, lame comedy spouted from flat avatars to fill time, and some decently animated action that will probably melt into nonsense given a couple more episodes.
The production values here are nothing to sing about, but they are the most notable part of the otherwise forgettable experience. It seems like very little effort was put into drawing the viewer into this fantasy scenario. Scenes jump around between worldbuilding and bland character interactions with little motivation and no momentum, characters exposit lifelessly over CGI backgrounds, and the episode basically just stops when it seems like it's out of minutes, with no tension or hook to keep us coming back next week. Even the show's implied fanservice is so benign that I can't really see it as a draw; the girls are all wearing skimpy outfits, and the ED theme kicks off with the episode's only boob-bounce closeup, but the show's storyboarding and direction are so shruggy and hands-off that the characters are left with basically negative sex appeal despite their seemingly alluring wardrobe.
In a medium that gets inundated with disposable commercials every season, this stuff continues to be the very commercial-iest. Yawn, groan, easy skip.
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