Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Best Student Council
DVD 5 - Special Talents - Crazy Times
To the shock of everyone, it turns out that pugilistic puppet Pucchan actually has friends. Lance is an old friend of Rino's right-hand man, and naturally is also a puppet. He knows more about Rino than she herself does, and is checking up on his puppet buddy and his young charge while in Japan. Not everything is as it seems, but then again that's a given when dealing with living puppets. Later Rino's friend Ayumu is scouted to be an idol, a move that has the effect of dredging up her past. A baby girl is abandoned in front of the council's dorm, and Rein elects to take care of the adorable little tyke. It seems she has some abandonment issues of her own, and naturally Rino can't stand by without poking her big nose into the whole mess. And finally, when a dispute over a trading card game erupts, there's no choice but to settle things with a card game battle royale.
Even as it approaches its conclusion, Best Student Council sticks to its guns, serving up a fresh batch of episodic fluff. Perhaps fresh isn't the best word for it; as always these episodes are centered around stock plots stale enough to make week-old bagels look moist and tasty. A visit by an old friend with an ulterior motive for his trip and a head-full of clues about the past. An abandoned baby who stirs up hidden emotions in the Best Student Council. A friend who gets propositioned by a talent agency and debuts as an idol singer. There's even a dueling-cards episode (Yu-Gi-Oh-riffic!). The creators keep their fluff and eat it too by working tendrils of the inevitable climax into each episode. The Lance episode lays Rino's past and potential on the table, answering a boatload of lingering questions and even dropping heavy clues as to the true nature and identity of Pucchan. Ayu's episode reveals her past, one which will surprise only the exceptionally dull-witted (or disinterested). Besides the usual (only periodically successful) character-building, the baby episode also hints at the exact nature of Rino's qualification for the student council. Naturally no volume of BSC would be complete without at least one throwaway episode, for which we have the instantly forgettable card-game episode.
Aside from the insertion of crucial plot-points into the cliches, the show's saving grace is its sense of humor. Much of it is so gentle as to be nonexistent, but enough jokes work to keep the show's head above the sea of entertainment failures. There're puppet rumbles, references to the disastrous school play ("Space Creature from Outer Space ALIEN"), a puppet ladies' man (the knowing leer on Lance's face is particularly hilarious), a kunoichi who abandons her clan because of their totally lame costumes, and countless little character jokes. The plotting may have all the substance and flavor of last year's cotton candy, but when a puppet pistol-whips a miscreant with a felt pistol, you can almost excuse it.
BSC has an odd habit of presenting very silly drama with a straightfaced solemnity that leaves one in limbo somewhere between a good-natured laugh, a cynical sneer, and an actual emotional response. It doesn't help that each episode reaches its dramatic climax with an "everyone should be happy" speech by Rino telegraphed with scientific accuracy by the sad little piano tune that accompanies it. That no shot at the emotions ever more than half-succeeds is disappointing, but it doesn't really effect the all-important light entertainment factor. And one can't help but admire the guts (or reckless idiocy) it takes to anchor the volume's most shameless appeal to the emotions on a pair of freaking puppets.
Other than being brightly colored and having rather unconventionally good-looking characters, there isn't anything special about BSC's production, either good or bad. Animation is stock anime, with a focus on art, and lots of pans, speed-lines, and energy-enhancing effects. Characters sometimes move across and through settings in noticeably unconvincing ways, and action scenes are very basic in their staging, though there are some appropriately fluid, though brief, movements during the ninja fighting. Backgrounds communicate the settings without convincingly creating a world, though given the series' plot and its character's coloration, that isn't entirely inappropriate.
Like the series itself, the music remains by-and-large light, unobtrusive and often forgettable. There're lots of goofy compositions and overtly humorous tunes, but none of them are particularly memorable. The faster action themes are used in parody more often than in earnest, while the series' melancholy piano has officially been flogged to death, and now borders on self-parody when used. The ending and opening themes remain unchanged.
ADV's dub remains quite faithful to the original, both in writing and—generally—in the casting. The necessity of voicing so many of this volume's pivotal revelations keeps Pucchan from straying too far, and the cast gets most of the humor dead on. There is however, and always has been to some extent, a stiffness to much of the cast's delivery—perhaps due to the presence of so many extremely mannered characters. Many scenes, even more so than usual, in this volume just barely work in the Japanese (the end of the Lance episode comes most strongly to mind), and the additional stiffness of the English cast gives them exactly enough of a push to send them into oblivion.
Aside from the same old clean opening and ending there is only one extra in this volume. It's a promo for the PS2 game version of Best Student Council. To all appearances the game is a standard dating sim of some sort, and from what little is shown, is set to make the anime look like a comparative masterpiece.
After sticking with the series to this point, only the most optimistic souls will be expecting anything from this volume that it doesn't deliver. Which is to say that it gives us yet another hour and a half of mildly entertaining inconsequential fluff. There are plenty of questions answered this volume. Like: Why on Earth did they make Rino part of the Best Student Council? Why does Kanade care so much about her? And just what the hell is Pucchan? But the answers are woven into another quatrain of brainlessly amusing episodes. Anyone expecting anything more should (and probably already has) move on to greener pastures.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Explains some of Rino's inexplicable circumstances; the hilarious Lance/Pucchan episode.
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