The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Seton Academy: Welcome to the Pack
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Seton Academy: Welcome to the Pack ?
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How was the first episode?
The OP of Seton Academy: Join the Pack! doesn't just give you an overview of the show's basic plot and its cast of characters – it straight up explains the entire joke of the series. Jin is the only human male at a school of anthropomorphic animals; the rest of the men are just bipedal beasts in suits, while the females are inexplicably just anime girls with animal ears and tails. This means that you have a gruff, anti-social main character that hates animals who just so happens to be surrounded by a bunch of generically cute girls who all act with beastly instincts whenever a joke calls for it. There's also a human girl, Hitomi, but she somehow has even less personality than the other girls in the cast, and the rest of them are literally just defined by the goofy animal things they do. If you watch the OP, then you've more or less seen everything Seton Academy has to offer.
There were a few jokes that made me laugh, I will admit. Ranka, the pink-haired wolf girl who's main goal is to get Jin to join her “pack” of one, is more annoying than she is likable, Hina Kino, the legend who played Hinako from Asobi Asobase, and nobody does inhuman screeching quite like her. So yeah, I chuckled a little bit when she got maced with bear spray, or when she was miserably forced to march along in a horse mask with the preppy zebra girl (If I'm being honest, at least half a point of this episode's grade comes from Kino being in the cast). I also appreciated dumb bits like when the gorilla cafeteria worker became a befuddled photorealistic cutout when Jin requested that his meal of raw meat and grass be made more digestible for his human stomach. The whole universe of Seton Academy makes absolutely no sense on even a fundamental level, but the show can get some mileage out of its gags when it leans into the absurdity more.
Unfortunately, the few good jokes were buried underneath so much weird, stupid nonsense, most of which was painfully unfunny. How does Jin prove that the zebra girl is more donkey than horse, for instance? Why, he lifts her up by the ass and bares her tail and underwear to the whole school, of course. Then there is the roving gang of rapey Kodiak bears, who apparently just go around trying to kidnap and molest girls because…that's what bears do in this world, I guess? You know how dogs bark a lot, and lick people's faces when they're happy, and run on all fours? Well, Ranka does all those things, except she's really just an anime girl with fluffy ears. That isn't really a joke, but Seton Academy runs with it for what feels like hours.
If just the basic concept of “animals can be weird, but in this show they also wear sexy underwear!” isn't an automatic laugh riot for you, then you might feel the same way I do about this show, which was bored to the point of annoyance. At a full half hour, though, Seton Academy is mostly a waste of time. You'd be better off waiting for BEASTARS to be released from Netflix Jail.
Well, Seton Academy's no BEASTARS. It's no Kemono Friends, either, but the comparisons to both aren't entirely without merit in one very simple sense: like those two franchises, Seton Academy features (somewhat) anthropomorphic animals as the main cast, all living together. Or at least attending school together – the school seems to have some sort of weird Noah's Ark thing going on where there's at least one of each species in attendance, including two humans, Jin and Hitomi. Why they've all been brought together, or at least how on earth the two humans ended up attending Seton, is sort of brushed off as unimportant in this episode; there's a vague sense that the show may want to teach viewers a bit about animal behavior, but I'm frankly not sure that's going to hold up.
If I sound lukewarm about the premise, that's because this episode really doesn't do much beyond the very basics to interest the audience it wants – people who enjoy watching girls with animal ears and tails act as much like their representative animals as humans. It's a little off-putting how far the episode is willing to go towards that end, with the fact that only the girls are drawn as mostly-human while the boys are all full-on animals in school uniforms standing out the most. But Kuroe the zebra also seems to mostly exist to showcase striped fetish-wear like her knee socks and underpants (because, you know, Jin just has to pull up her skirt and root around for her tail to prove his point) and there's an awful lot of focus on Ranka the wolf acting very feral when none of the other animals do. (This is also your excessive saliva warning, in case you find that as gross as I do.) It's also a little weird that Hitomi's hairclip is in the same of the symbol for “female;” that may simply be intended to be funny, but something about it strikes me as off, possibly because of the scene where she's molested by bears. (Why do bears want to strip people in this show? Is this a thing I didn't know bears do?)
This isn't all bad – Ranka's ending theme is amusing, and she has great feral canine body language, especially during the entire lunch scene. I also really love that the teachers, the only adults we've seen, are dinosaurs, and I kind of wish Terano-sensei had eaten that bear when he came to break up the fight. But none of these are quite enough to help me overlook the more unpleasant parts of the episode, parts of which seem to use abusing the female characters for humor. There are better animal-themed shows to rewatch.
There is a subgenre within anime that I tend to affectionately describe as “loud noises comedy.” Within this genre, concepts like novel jokes or setups and punchlines are abandoned; instead, humor is conveyed through the intensity with which characters yell things at each other, or the abrasiveness of the accompanying sound effects. How this increase in volume is supposed to convert to humor, I will never know; but they keep coming out, and so I'm forced to assume they have some kind of appeal.
Seton Academy is the latest entry in the loud noises comedy subgenre, and like the vast majority of its peers, it is not funny at all. It's certainly loud, though, and spends a great deal of time depicting vaguely anthropomorphic creatures (the boys are actually animals, the girls are cute girls with fuzzy ears) acting in vaguely animal-like ways in the context of high school. There are jokes about the horse girl acting like a horse, and jokes about the dog girl acting like a dog, but these jokes never subvert your expectations in such a way as to provoke laughter or mirth - they are the most obvious gags you could imagine, conveyed with no visual flourish whatsoever, executed at the highest possible volume.
This episode introduces three characters you have absolutely seen before: generic male protagonist, feisty love interest, and demure, more traditional love interest who will eventually support the other two in getting together, while still providing some occasional jolts of love triangle tension. Generic male protagonist initially doesn't like feisty love interest, but they eventually come together when a trio of bears threaten to rape the other girl (because what children's comedy would be complete without attempted bear rape). It's predictable dramatic beats and limp gags from start to finish.
Seton Academy possesses no art design merits and even less animation, and everything about its storytelling and comedy is trite and play-by-numbers (down to the obvious history shared by generic male and feisty love interest). I see no reason whatsoever to recommend this show, and can only hope the season won't be subjecting me to too many more productions like this.
We seem to be in the midst of a pocket of animals-as-humans series, with this being the third one in the last two seasons. Of those, Seton Academy is the least of the lot so far. It is clearly trying to be a silly little tale with a small amount of heart, and while it does at least succeed in having a minimal amount of entertainment value, it doesn't do anything well enough to be worth watching.
Almost from the start it triggered one of my pet peeves about fare like this: utter lack of worldbuilding consistency. I'm not expecting anything elaborate or involved out of a series like this, but it doesn't even try to establish a set of rules for the setting and stick to them. Some of the animals at the school have full animal heads or even entire animal bodies (usually the boys), while others just have ears, tails, and maybe one other trait, such as a distinctive nose (usually the girls). This makes sense under meta logic – hard to have sexy animal girls unless their bodies are mostly human – but not otherwise. Some animal girls also showcase the traits of their signature animals much more than others; Ranka is occasionally shown walking around on all fours, for instance, but none of the other animal girls do. Why Jin and Hitomi are the only humans at a school for animals is also left a complete mystery even though that seems like a very salient point, especially in light of Jin's stated hatred for animals. Every other series I can think of where the protagonist is so thoroughly the Odd Man Out at his school either spends a significant chunk of the opening episode setting up the circumstances or else has either a narrator or the character himself explain how this situation came about.
The basic story beat here is a familiar one, and one of the few parts that sorta works: Ranka, for whatever reason, is a loner at this school (and maybe in general?) and is desperate for a pack to belong to, enough so that she's even willing to subordinate herself in a degrading way for her race. Though Jin hates animals and is clearly attracted to Hitomi, he's not callous enough to ignore this, so the beginnings of a makeshift pack – as opposed to a makeshift family – have been initiated. Hopefully future episode will look more into why she ended up this way.
The technical merits of the first episode did not impress at all beyond maybe the somewhat catchy closing theme. While the series doesn't look fan service-intensive based on the first episode, it's definitely going to have some, and there are little educational bits about various animals sprinkled throughout. The assistant principal being a T-Rex is also somewhat amusing. Still, the series is going to have to do better than this to maintain an audience, I suspect.
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