The Spring 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Shachibato! President, It's Time for Battle!
How would you rate episode 1 of
Shachibato! President, It's Time for Battle! ?
What is this?
The world of Gatepia was once a wasteland, until a goddess arrived and summoned the many mystical Gates that are now scattered all over, including the Big Gate at its center. For ages, companies of adventurers have gone into the Gates, slain the monsters called muja inside, and retrieved the kirakuri that powers their society. Minato's father was one the President of Kibou Company, but he has since departed for the Big Gate. Yutoria, Minato's childhood friend, is the secretary of Kibou Company, and is so certain that Minato would make for a perfect new President that she doesn't give him much of a choice when she recruits him for the job. Now it is this one-time NEET's duty to lead his new employees and find a way to reverse Kibou Company's ailing fortunes.
How was the first episode?
It is almost impressive to me how mobile game adaptations often spend their entire first episode offering nothing but exposition, and still tend to arrive at narratives that are identical to fifty other mobile game adaptations. Given the hefty dramatic cost of burdening the audiences with so much exposition, you would think these shows are at least spending that time establishing what makes their stories distinct, rather than what makes them the same as all the other ones. But to be honest, it's hard to believe a production like Shachibato! is trying to allure audiences with its own merits anyway; this is merely an advertisement for a mobile game from start to finish.
There's little to critique about this episode in narrative terms, because it spends its entire running time playing through what would seem to be the tutorial for its source material. Long minutes are wasted establishing a world of magical gates, mystical crystals, and multitudinous adventuring guilds, all to arrive at the same default assumption of “faux-medieval setting where characters go on video game quests for their job” shared by mobage adaptations and isekai fantasies alike. Shachibato's one embellishment on its extremely familiar premise is that guilds here are framed as modern companies, and thus the player character becomes the “president” of their company. The terminology is clumsy and worldbuilding unconvincing, but the emotional intent is clear: in this game you're not just an adventurer, you also have your boss's job.
I can understand what Shachibato is selling, and don't begrudge it for being a pure advertisement for its source material. But in terms of an anime you might actually want to watch, there's just nothing here; the characters are default templates, the storytelling is both predictable and hamstrung by endless exposition, and the production values are strictly functional. Shows like this are the waste byproduct of anime's cross-media promotional system; it's a very bad show, but hey, everybody poops.
Series focusing on adventuring companies are a dime a dozen these days, so any new offering in that realm is going to have to do something special to stand out. This title, which is painfully obviously a mobile game adaptation, does not succeed at that in the slightest. I fully expect it to be widely-ignored and quickly-forgotten.
Really, I'm hard-pressed to come up with anything positive to say about this series. It is clean and good- natured, I guess? And even that, in a way, works against it. Everyone is so laid-back that they are taking this adventure test much too casually; ironically, they are precisely treating it as if it is a game rather than business, with little to no sense of real danger. Also, does anyone besides the green-haired girl and the priest actually do anything on campaign? The accounting girl just seems to be an observer when in the dungeon, and Yutoria, the childhood friend, does even less than that. As president, Minato doesn't seem to have to do anything besides strategize a bit and use the stamp, either, but since he is the group's leader, that is at least a bit justifiable. The other two are complete dead weight. At least the notion that adventuring companies are formal businesses in this setting is a little interesting, but how does the recovery of this mineral support the local economy well enough to justify the existence of these guilds? As a world-building element, this pales in comparison to how a series like DanMachi sets it up.
The visual aren't going to win anyone over, either. The color for the series seems a bit flat, and I have to wonder at some of the costume design choices; for instance, the soldier's outfit looks sensible at first, with full pants and what looks like a heavy leather apron for armor (historically speaking, armor for light infantry often wasn't much more than this), but then there's a heart-shaped cut-out over her crotch? Yutoria's skirt is also open in front and flares out long on the sides and back. I have seen something like that done before (Aria in The Sacred Blacksmith immediately comes to mind), but the uncovered front is a weird and mildly suggestive style theme. Animation quality is also low, with the action scenes having barely any sense of movement. Further, why is a small business like theirs getting a new boss front page news? At least the series uses a somewhat interesting gimmick with his print font; it's in English, but with some of the letters turned sideways and others stylized in odd ways.
So yep, can't see anything here to base a recommendation on for anyone who wasn't already a player of the source game.
I suppose that the greatest strike against Shachibato! President, It's Time for Battle! is that it has so little ambition to be anything other than a textbook video game adaptation. There are small things to be grateful for – no exhaustive level tallies, for example, and the fact that at least a cursory attempt at explanation of the world exists. (Although thinking about it, level records have become the purview of isekai rather than game adaptations, which is kind of interesting.) But beyond those two things, the story is so boilerplate and frankly dull that there's just not much to recommend it; I can't even quite imagine it being all that appealing to fans of the game because so little happens.
That what does take place seems like a tutorial to the game and a small side quest certainly isn't helping things. Our ostensible protagonist, Minato, is being pressured to join the adventure company that his missing father ran in the land of Gatepia by his childhood friend Yutoria for…reasons? Mostly it seems that she just doesn't want to do it herself and thinks that Minato doesn't have anything better to do. So she strongarms him into taking a test to prove his worth (even though he's ambivalent about this at best) that, as it turns out, involves him finding an altar with a letter on it, which basically just screams game tutorial. Along the way he decides to help a kid with a tail pick a flower, because he's a nice guy. Even with Minato tumbling off a cliff the whole thing isn't all that exciting, and that part of the solution to his problems is to throw slimes at a wolfman's butt (to, uh, cover its tail so it can't sense enemies, you know) certainly doesn't help.
The somewhat confusing nature of the character designs is another strike against the episode. For whatever reason, men seem to dress in business casual while women wear outfits that do their best to highlight their crotches, whether that's an inexplicable lack of pants (Yutoria), a strategic triangular patch (Guide), or a heart-shaped cutout on their tops (Akari). There may be a decent story lurking in here somewhere, because the company certainly does seem to have rivals and the apparently evil being lurking in priest Makoto's backpack seem set on making Minato's job difficult for reasons, but this episode felt like far longer than twenty-five minutes and certainly isn't making me want to come back for more.
Shachibato! President, It's Time for Battle! is the kind of show where the needlessly long winded title is the most memorable thing about it, and everything else in its premiere is bound to slip right out of one's mind shortly after watching it. If you read the above summary for the series, then you have the gist of what to expect from the entire first episode: The world of Gatepia has a lot of magic Gates, fittingly enough, and if you go through them you can find treasure and stuff. Minato, our hero, is asked by his friend to be the president of Kibou Company and lead its adventurers. He doesn't really want to, but he ends up doing it anyway. We meet the other members of the team — Makoto, Akari, and Guide — and the team does their first mission to test Minato's skills. They fight a muja called a volf, Minato is inducted, everyone cheers. Roll credits.
In other words, Shachibato is an anime based on a mobile game that basically consists of watching what I imagine are the game's first cutscene, its tutorial, and the introductory mission all play out as straightforwardly as possible. Everything about the show is aggressively inoffensive and unambitious, to the point where you actively have to work at distinguishing its individual parts. There's no effort to adapt or disguise the gamified elements of the world and story, and the thrust of the plot is “Minato needs to be explained how the game of Shachibato! Is played, and then he plays it”. The effect cannot be too dissimilar from what I imagine it would be like to stand over the shoulder of someone playing the game on their phone and silently watching them. The three women and one teenage boy who work at Kibou all have virtually identical faces and voices, and their personalities can be summed up by the roles they play in the party: Makoto is the healer who is nice, Guide is the scout and assistant who is nice, Yutoria is the secretary who is nice, and Akari is the soldier who is more aggressive than the others (but it secretly nice). This scenario may appeal to some viewers, but I am certainly not one of them.
The episode makes a modest effort to instill some intrigue into the story, but they barely feel like hooks at all. Makoto has a monster stuffed in his satchel that is a secret for some reason, Guide has a connection to the Adventurer Agency that is also secret for some reason, and Kibou Company is totally broke by Minato's second day on the job. Is this show trying to set up a truly engaging story, or did it just need more material to fill out time before the end credits? Either way, this is one series I'm more than happy to skip this season.
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