The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Comic Girls ?
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How was the first episode?
Comic Girls started off on the right foot for me for two key reasons. First off, if we're going to have a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show, then making it about drawing manga is a direction I can get behind. The second point in Comic Girls' favor is that visually the show looks darned impressive; director Yoshinobu Tokumoto and the staff at Nexus are going out of their way to make this a creatively directed, vibrantly colored, and excellently paced experience. The character designs for all our main characters are cute and full of personality, and I like how the show occasionally uses dynamic panels reminiscent of a manga page to accentuate the action of the scene and keep things visually fresh.
While the visuals and the aesthetic of Comic Girls' shine, the writing is unfortunately less consistent. Kaoruko, Koyume, Tsubasa, and Ruki are all fun, cute characters who wear their quirks on their sleeves, and they share an undeniably fun (and potentially even romantic?) chemistry with one another that will doubtless make for endless shenanigans this season. To see these young artists refine their craft while becoming best friends is such a winning formula that it's almost criminal, but I'm hardly one to complain there. Of all the cast, I think my favorite would have to be Tsubasa; I've always found gently meta jokes about over-the-top genre characters funny, and the unabashed enthusiasm that she tackles her shonen work with won me over immediately.
My issues with Comic Girls' script lies primarily in the tone and tenor of the comedy, which is dialed up to 11 at all times and goes from enjoyable to grating quickly in some instances. I found the girls individual artistic shortcomings funny on their own (the bit involving Ruki's unintentionally lewd subconscious had me laughing out loud), and Kaoruko and Kotume's quickly established friendship is adorable, if a little over-the-top at times. Still, the plentiful boob and molestation jokes surrounding Ruki were immediately stale, and some of the girls' conversations defaulted too quickly to “Louder and Whinier = Funnier” for my taste. Many of the gags in this episode land, but when the comedy was off, it subdued the charm and snappy pacing necessary to make a series like Comic Girls' work.
In the end, I can't disparage Comic Girls too much for its faults, which are minor in the grand scheme of what it does right. This is an eminently fun and heartwarming comedy. If it can hit more often than it misses in the future, this is bound to be one of the go-to slice-of-life shows this spring.
If you were worried that this season might slip by without a cutesy slice of life show, Comic Girls is here to calm those fears. This first episode hits on all the usual hallmarks of the genre: quirky girls with pastel-colored hair, a common activity to unify the cast, and plenty of goofy comedic antics. If that's not your cup of tea, then this probably won't do much to win you over. It is, however, pretty darn good at delivering its particular brand of sugary sweetness.
A strong (or at least likable) cast is essential in this particular niche, and Comic Girls strikes a nice balance with its four leads. Panicky protagonist Kaoruko leans the hardest into her given archetype, ultimately walking a fine line between adorable and annoying. Her tendency to turn into a whimpering, self-deprecating mess at the drop of a hat seems like it could get old after a while, but for now it's pretty amusing. She shares a nice “overwhelmed rookie author” bond with her new roommate Koyume, whose artistic troubles prove to be more interesting than her bottomless supply of unchecked energy. Ruki exhibits an entertaining contrast between her personality and the subject matter in her series, and Tsubasa brings a welcome touch of self-awareness to her tendency to act way too in-character while drawing. There's a solid group dynamic between the four of them in this episode, especially once they get past the initial introductions and start drawing.
The humor here is a hit-or-miss affair, featuring genuinely funny highlights alongside a couple of overused routines. Kaoruko's ideas about life at the dorm are quite funny and benefit from clever visual presentation. Her shared descent into panic and despair with Koyume is also executed well, as are her desperate attempts at covering up the mistakes she makes on Tsubasa's manuscript. My favorite moment in the episode comes courtesy of Tsubasa and her blunt admission that it's way too hard to draw in her shonen hero costume. On the other hand, this series could stand to steer a little further away from outright fanservice; Kaoruko and Koyume trying to guess how Ruki gets ideas for her erotic manga is kind of fun, but the ensuing boob jokes are weak.
As long as its missteps don't become recurring bad habits, Comic Girls looks like it'll be a worthwhile genre title. It benefits from good execution on its slice of life elements, and the humor balances out to a net positive at the moment. If you're looking for actual insights into the manga industry, it's less of a sure bet. While this episode does get into the creative side of the process, most of the technical trivia is at a pretty basic level. As long as you're on board with its style and tone, this series is worth a try.
Comic Girls is hardly the first series to tackle the premise of “cute girls draw manga,” so the big question for this one is whether or not it can do anything to distinguish itself from its competitors. Based on the first episode, the answer to that question may not matter. If you're into Cute Girls Do Cute Things series then you'll probably like this one. If you're not then you might still find it to be mildly funny but probably won't appreciate it on the whole.
That's because all the entire entertainment value of the first episode comes down to the idiosyncrasies of the individual characters and how they bounce off each other. Kaoruko is one big ball of anxiety, which results in her getting flustered over everything and being relentlessly pessimistic. That can get quite annoying after a while, although it does also feed into some of the episode's funniest scenes: “Kaos Theater” imaginings about what dorm life will be like. Tsubasa, the tomboyish shonen artist, is much more palatable with her chunibyou bent; what writer hasn't imagined themselves as one of their heroes/heroines at some point? I continue to have a problem with artists producing manga that they probably wouldn't be allowed to buy themselves due to age restrictions, but that does lead to another of the episode's funniest moments, where Ruki imagines a pixelated image of Kaoruko in a bunny suit having an erotic moment. (It's much cleaner in execution than it sounds.) The other one, Koyume, is pretty much the standard Genki Girl but with the added amusing twist that she's utterly incapable of drawing attractive boys because she has no interest in them.
I could see this arrangement potential if the writing emphasizes how the girls help each other overcome their weaknesses; Tsubasa becoming the male character model for Koyume seems like a natural fit, for instance. How much this delves into yuri content might also be interesting to see, as Koyume is already showing signs of leaning that way, and the balance of cuteness to fanservice will also be important; Koyume shows off some cleavage in later scenes and does engage in copping a feel at one point, but the overall tone doesn't emphasize sex appeal. Character designs are suitably cute without going overboard, and exterior background art is particularly sharp and detailed.
In short, this isn't the next Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, but it should have sufficient appeal for the right audience.
Comic Girls falls squarely into the classic “cute girls plus activity” genre, with its particular flavor being “cute girls who are also aspiring or professional manga artists.” These titular girls all live at a dedicated dorm for artists like them, and this first episode mostly just gets through introducing us to insecure heroine Kaos, her boisterous new roommate Koyume, and their next door neighbors Rukki and Tsubasa. All that's pretty standard for the genre, but of course, execution is everything. So let's run down a list of slice of life necessities, and find out where Comic Girls stands.
First off: is it funny? Comic Girls gets full marks here, with its mixture of snappy timing, great expression work, and surprisingly barbed dialogue keeping things engaging from start to finish. Standout ideas like the heroine's “Kaos Theater” particularly impress, but sequences like Kaos simply lugging her baggage up a hill also demonstrate that Comic Girls fundamentally understands how to pace and convey jokes visually. The show can occasionally fall into the common genre issue of leaning too heavily on overreactions to mundane situations, but on the whole I'd say its comedy chops place it near the top of the genre.
Second up: is it comfy? Comic Girls gets a solid check here as well, although this particular show hews more towards boisterous club shenanigans than peaceful atmosphere. The show is aided mightily by the fact that its cast already seem very unique and fleshed out; they all come across like very different people, and they've already established a charming rapport. It's definitely fun spending time with this crew.
Third question: is it well-executed? Comic Girls sails over that hurdle as well, offering warm and colorful backgrounds, very consistent animation, and a variety of compelling style shifts for both character reactions and the manga they themselves are working on. Characters banter naturally, and the whole episode is paced very well. Comic Girls is a high-tier production in pretty much all regards.
And finally: does it use its gimmick in a meaningful way? Comic Girls nails that one too, filling this first episode with great gags directly playing off its stars' involvement in the manga industry. The show finds natural visual comedy in revealing the stylistic weaknesses of its new leads, and I got very welcome Nichijou vibes from the last act's disastrous inking drama. Manga doesn't feel like an afterthought here - the fact that these girls are comic artists feels genuinely central to their lives.
All told, Comic Girls nailed basically everything it attempted, and offered an altogether excellent slice of life platform. Pretty much my only complaints were the aforementioned overreaction gags, as well as one specific boob joke - aside from that, this was basically a perfect premiere. Nice going, Comic Girls.
Hikaru Akao hasn't had many anime roles yet, but she may have found her niche as Kaoruko in Comic Girls – she panics incredibly well and her squeaking is second only to my dog's chew toy. That actually is a compliment, because it really fits the character and keeps her from being yet another clumsy girl type: Kaoruko's mind is always in such a tizzy that she can barely keep herself focused, and that's just what Akao makes her sound like. Even without the voices, I feel like Comic Girls' first episode does a good job of grounding its four fairly stock cute girl characters, which makes it appealing even if you got cute girled out last season.
The basic premise, that both Kaoruko and Koyume need to work on specific issues with their manga and so have moved into a publisher-run dormitory for female mangaka, works because all four of our heroines are still in high school. While that might seem like an excessive amount of schoolgirl mangaka, all four are working in different genres: Tsubasa writes shounen adventure pieces, Kaoruko does 4-koma, Koyume's in shoujo romance, and Ruki writes much racier fare. Only Tsubasa is happy with where she is as a manga artist, which is an interesting detail – Ruki's successful, but she wants to write children's stories with cute animals, not raunchy tales of big boobs. The way she was sort of forced into it by an editor, who thought her art style better suited for more adult fare, is reminiscent of authors' stories of working with series book publishers in the US – Mildred Wirt, one of the original Nancy Drew ghostwriters, complained about similar (albeit less adult!) issues with the Stratemeyer Syndicate. That grounds Ruki's story in something plausible while still allowing for plenty of jokes made about a high school girl writing pseudo-porn, although the gags about Ruki's own bust size could have been toned down or left out.
The other two girls, meanwhile, have their own specific issues as well, again contributing to the idea that there is no one “mangaka problem.” Koyume's inability to draw guys is both funny in the context of her genre and again familiar if you have a strong drawing preference. Kaoruko, on the other hand, is suffering from having grown up in a rural community. She's so awkward and anxious that she doesn't have (m)any friends, and people don't believe that the high school girls she writes are real enough…even though they're based on her own genuine high school girl experience. Unlike Koyume, Kaoruko needs to learn how to interact with people and to stop caving in to her own self-doubt, and it says a lot about her potential that her editor is trying to solve the problem rather than just cutting her lose.
Comic Girls makes a few missteps in this episode in its efforts to use broad humor – grabbing another girl's breasts isn't funny and neither is the thoughtlessness of the dorm mother – but it has a lot of potential as a cute girls drawing manga show. The girls are all set to learn from each other, and if the humor stays more good-natured, this could be a nice follow up to the many cute girl shows of last season.
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