Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Chio's School Road
High school student Chio Miyamo has a bad habit of staying up all night playing violent video games, and sometimes those actions have consequences, like thinking she can walk to school over rooftops, confronting the leader of a biker gang, climbing a wall between two tall buildings, or getting sucked into the bizarre shenanigans of passing classmates. Walking to school has never been so weird.
While there are a lot of comedies about high school students, not all of them remember what it was actually like to be a high school student, and many fall into the trap of having the kids just act like miniature adults. Not so Chio's School Road – like The Daily Lives of High School Boys, Chio's School Road has its characters acting like the not-fully-developed people that they are, exaggerating Chio's antics in a way that's both believable and believably stupid. Who hasn't wanted to try something out that you saw in a video game or read about in a book? Sure, jumping off the roof with an umbrella didn't make the heroine of Mischievous Meg fly, but that certainly didn't stop other kids (who aren't me, of course) from trying. That's the general ambiance of this show, and it mostly works, making this a largely entertaining romp with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
Canny readers will have noted the qualifiers in the above paragraph, however, and it is true that this show does miss the mark on a few occasions. Two specific characters and their plotlines bear the majority of this burden, with upperclassman Kushitori being the unfortunate standout in terms of jokes that are more uncomfortable than funny. Kushitori's subplot, which recurs about three times during the show's twelve-episode run, is nominally based around the Asian sport of kabaddi, a contact sport that is primarily played in India and Nepal. It's interesting in its own right, but in this particular series, the game is used as an excuse to make the obsessed Kushitori into the “predatory lesbian” stereotype, and it is credited with making her realize that it's not so much the sport she loves as groping other girls' butts. Not only is this a strike against the game itself, it also doesn't do women who happen to play sports and be lesbians any favors, and the idea that “unwanted touching is funny if they're both girls” gag has more than worn out its welcome. This is the same basic underlying issue with the character of Chiharu, an elementary school student who attacks people by sharply poking others in the anus with her middle fingers held gun-style. While this is a long-standing childhood game in many East Asian countries (whatever you may think about that), the way it's used here is clearly intended to inflict pain while being presented as cute because, again, they're all girls. This may not be as much of an issue for some viewers as the kabaddi bit, but it still manages to suck the humor right out of the show, which is a problem.
Fortunately, most of the rest of the series works very well. In part this is because of Chio as a character. Not only is she a champion overthinker with a burning desire to alternately not stand out and be liked by popular track star Yuki (at one point leading her to take off her underwear to prove she, too, loves to be nude), but there's also a major disconnect between who she is both in and out of her head. In her own mind, Chio is a badass able to take down thugs, rob banks, and perform amazing feats of parkour. In reality, she's an awkward teenage girl with a kind of crummy best friend and the tendency to do things like dangle off a bridge in a failed prank attempt. She's a believably stupid teenager doing the sort of dumb things real people do, and that makes the show a lot of fun as she digs herself into holes only to power-jump right back out of them. Perhaps no ongoing plotline shows this as much as her relationship with Andou, the biker gang thug she goes up against in the first episode and inadvertently convinces to give up the thug life in favor of getting a real job. Andou very quickly develops a major crush on her, which Chio is completely unaware of, leading to a series of misunderstandings that send everyone but Chio into a tizzy.
She reserves her tizzies for other moments, mostly related to how she imagines she looks to the outside world. Her agonizing over whether or not to buy a BL game magazine is one particularly good moment (as is her attendant summary of why she prefers ARPGs and FPSs to JRPGs), but it's the way that her efforts backfire on her that truly makes the show. Whether it's walking out of a love hotel's parking garage in blissful ignorance or Googling “how to rob a bank in Japan,” Chio's selective obliviousness is a large part of the show's charm. This is helped by excellent vocal performances in both languages, although her English VA, Mikaela Krantz, does a particularly excellent job with the variations in tone and voice that make the character. All of this helps to downplay some of the artistic issues to be found within the series, such as the difficulties drawing the female body in little clothing, or the fact that this is a pretty bare-bones release without any extras to speak of.
With its format of twelve episodes made up of two-to-three smaller episodelets, this is the sort of series you can either binge or dole out in five-or-ten-minute chunks as the mood takes you. With those few exceptions mentioned above, this is a good amount of fun with a lot of laughs, so if that's what you're in the mood for, you could do much worse than joining Chio on her walk to school.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Mostly very funny, Chio and her friends are believably silly. Strong vocal casts.
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