Reviewby Theron Martin,
Best Student Council
DVD 1 - New Home & New Friends
The recent loss of her mother put 8th grader Rino Rando in dire financial straits, but thanks to her mysterious pen pal Mr. Poppit she is able to attend the all-girl Miyagami Academy along with her constant companion, the hand puppet Puuchan. At Miyagami Academy the highly-respected Maximum Authority-Wielding Best Student Council (Best Student Council for short) wields nearly supreme power, and to earn a spot on it is to gain great privileges and prestige – and, most importantly to Rino, free housing, since she has lost all her belongings and original dorm building in a fire. Despite her clumsiness and cluelessness, an odd series of circumstances leads her to quickly be chosen not only as class representative but Best Student Council Secretary, to the surprise and/or dismay of nearly everyone, especially Assault Squad rookie Kaori. Many are further dismayed at how close she soon becomes to President Kanade Jinguji, who seems to have private reasons for favoring the girl. That favoritism also causes trouble, and it's up to the Best Student Council (and the puppet Puuchan) to defend their own.
An optimistic view on Best Student Council might describe it as “a fun blending of parody and pure comedy, with just a tinge of more serious content.” A more cynical view would describe it as “relentlessly stupid and cliché-ridden.” Both are accurate. While it is consistently stupid in its recycling of bad clichés from two decades' worth of high school comedies, it does have its clever moments and rarely tries to be anything other than what it is: a preposterously silly take on school life at an all-girls academy.
Some of the complaints about clichés and stereotyping come from the recycling of scenes used in innumerable other school comedies, such as the cooking contest with a twist, but the cast is responsible for most of them. Rino is a typical example of a bright and cheery but also clueless and unintentionally competent heroine, one with a childlike demeanor but moderately endearing presence; think of her as a spiritual cousin to Sailor Moon's Usagi. Nearly all of the supporting cast members are one-dimensional stereotypes, varying from stale (the Assault Squad member who's helpless without her glasses) to surprisingly likable (sensible Vice President and Assault Squad leader Nanaho Kinjo, flighty Covert Squad operative Seina Katsura). The freshest character, and the one who most defines the series, is the hand puppet Puuchan, who only talks when on someone's hand but seems to have a mind of his own. He knows things that Rino doesn't, has far greater intelligence and common sense, and is quite active in his defense of Rino. The incredulous way most of the cast regards Puuchan, and Rino's own occasional dismay at Puuchan's behavior, consistently amuses. Whether or not Puuchan is actually a separate entity or just Rino's alter ego is never made clear, although notably Rino's lips never move while Puuchan is speaking but the same cannot be said of another character who speaks through a hand puppet at one point. Whatever his circumstances are, the first volume is enjoyable heavily because of him.
The series does have a few other good gags going for it, though. That a student council for a middle school/high school academy would have an Assault Squad, Covert Squad, Vehicle Squad, and other such subdivisions is amusing in of itself, but nowhere near as funny as some of the clubs which exist within the academy. (A Paparazzi Club???) The first few episodes also manage other laugh or sputter-worthy moments, such as Rino's random comments about fearing running into a pyromaniac actually coming to pass or the whole episode based on rumors spreading around the campus about who's doing “payapaya” with who, and how it's never more than implied what exactly that means. A minor serious subtext does filter in, as it eventually becomes apparent that President Jinguji has specific motives for getting so close to Rino, but so far the humor is the driving force.
The artistry is bright, cheery, and appealing, especially in its character (and puppet) designs, and does a good job of giving each girl her own distinctive look without being outlandish. It also avoids giving its girls unreasonable figures or resorting to other cheap fan service tricks one would normally expect from such a series. In fact, it's so clean that it carries only a TV-PG rating, which makes its cover art somewhat misleading. Puuchan's design is also suitably cute, nearly stealing the show artistically, too. Background art is a little more uneven, giving great detail when needed and looking rougher when not. Various visual gimmicks reminiscent of manga pepper the production, often taking on a cheesy feel, but they aren't a major distraction and aren't any weaker than the so-so animation. It may not be a top-rate title visually, but it is a likeable one.
The playful musical score gets lots of exercise serving as a nice complement to both the comedy and the occasional serious moment. A fun, cheery opener does a great job of setting the tone for the series, while each episode closes out with a more typical but still pleasing closing theme.
ADV has developed a reputation for occasionally getting gimmicky with its dubs, and the gimmick this time is that every single male role in the first volume (which, with one exception, are all bit parts) is voiced by John Swasey. Kira Vincent-Davis is a remarkably good fit as Rino Rando, though her take on Puuchan sounds a little too much like her rendition of Hermes in Kino's Journey. (The seiyuu for Rino also voices Puuchan in the Japanese dub, though in a voice closer to her normal one.) ADV drags out all its other regulars to fill out the cast, and most of them are at least acceptable fits for their roles. The script, while not especially tight, at least retains the feel of the original. It isn't a stellar dub, but should be plenty good enough to satisfy any dub fan.
What would a series like this be without Puuchan stickers? A whole sheet of them is included in the case, while on-disk Extras include typical entries like clean opener and closer. A character art gallery is also present, although it features characters in outfits which have not yet appeared in the series. Notably, ADV has not reengineered this one for 5.1 surround sound, and the Next Volume previews that have been a staple of their releases for the past couple of years are absent. And as noted above, the front cover art is more suggestive of fan service than the content actually contains.
Best Student Council invites comparisons to Negima, which comes out favorably for the former. Its artistry is better, its writing less insipid, and despite the whole “payapaya” thing it lacks the pervy feel of the latter. Its humor is sometimes recycled to the point of blandness, but it has enough funny and entertaining moments to carry the title as a whole.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Bright, cheery, and appealing artistry, some clever gags.
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