Reviewby Theron Martin,
BD+DVD - The Complete Series
Kimito Kagurazaka is an ordinary high school boy living out an ordinary life, which is why he gets kidnapped to serve a very unordinary purpose. He is to be a “sample commoner” (shomin can translate as “the masses”) at Seikain, a secretive and ultra-elite private school where the daughters of nobility are sheltered to preserve their innocence. The problem is that their isolation leaves them woefully unprepared for the real world, so Kimito is meant to provide them with an opportunity to interact with normal people and their “commoner” ways and technology. To do so, Kimito also has to pretend to be a muscle-loving homosexual, otherwise his sadistic personal maid Kujo will emasculate him. Kimito finds himself becoming the center of attention at this school fast, as the girls are fascinated enough by his insights into “commoner ways” that a few form a Commoner's Club centered on him. Unfortunately, his attempts at seeming disinterested in the girls aren't very convincing to the club members who all start developing attraction toward him.
Contending with dumb premises goes hand-in-hand with being an anime fan, but the concept behind this light novel adaptation from 2015 (whose title has mercifully been shortened from I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner) goes beyond that; it not only takes the cake in stupidity, it gets the ice cream on the side too. The premise alone is a big entry barrier to appreciating this series, and the cringe-worthy execution (especially early on) only aggravates that problem. Because of that, I can't recommend this series to anyone who isn't a deeply devoted fan of harem romcoms, and I'd hesitate to recommend it even to that crowd.
The main problem with the series is its ridiculous concept. While the idea of such a repressively isolationist school might have worked if the story were set several decades ago, seclusion of the nobility happening on this scale in an age recent enough for smartphones to exist is too preposterous to expect a reasonable suspension of disbelief. (For a more credible example of a somewhat similar take on the concept, see Kurenai.) It's just inconceivable that a whole school could be composed of girls from uber-wealthy backgrounds who are so sheltered that they haven't heard of a cell phone or fast food restaurants. Yeah, I know that's supposed to be the big joke, and the series tries to wring humor out of the girls being flabbergasted by things like “commoners” not having their own personal maids, but these attempts elicit winces or groans rather than actual laughs much too often. At many points, the series' fumbling attempts to be clever are painful to watch.
Of course, this is all just a way to justify the creation of an ideal harem situation, and this is hardly the first anime series to involve a single guy at an all-girls school. While it might have made more sense to use a girl as the “shomin sample,” choosing a guy supposedly also gives the girls a chance to interact with boys, which is the thin but at least somewhat credible justification for surrounding Kimito with so many girls. Of course, making him the outlier in every possible way creates a convenient excuse for a bevy of girls to be interested in someone so ordinary. Kimito's steps to winning the girls over without ever showing that he's in love with them are strictly par for the course for harem content, as is his harem's composition; you have the proper girl, the vivacious girl, the combat-minded girl, and the “I'm really a high schooler even though I look like a kindergarten student” lolita who doubles as the genius girl. Add to that the mischievous female friend from Kimito's old school who's both a voice actress and responsible for the school leadership thinking he's gay. The one difference from the norm is that the one of the other girls has the creepy lolicon fetish instead of Kimito, who treats her as a kid sister.
For all of its nerve-grating content and failed attempts at humor, the series isn't entirely worthless. It does have some genuinely funny moments, with some of the best jokes involving Kimito playing on the gullibility of the girls over commoner ways. In the later stages of the series, the character dynamics also start to coalesce into something worthwhile, particularly the way that the relationship between Aika (vivacious girl) and Reiko (proper girl) develops. Some suggestions are dropped that Kujo's disdain for Kimito might only be masking her real feelings, but the hints of a bigger story there never lead to anything. There's also the occasional parody or homage, the most prominent of which is multiple references to Yuruyuri.
The artistic effort by SILVER LINK is adequate. There's nothing at all flashy in the animation, but at least it doesn't overwhelm viewers with shortcuts. Kimito's design is so ordinary that he could probably be mistaken for a half-dozen other harem leads if shown out of context, which the series might be able to get away with by feeding his appearance back into the need for him to be deliberately common. The girls are definitely more distinctive with a fair variety of builds and body types, though the four main girls do correspond to the expected personality types for their hair colors. Background art emphasizes elaborate Western-style luxury but otherwise isn't exceptional. Though the series is not heavily focused on fanservice, it finds occasional opportunities for panty flashes and undefined nudity. The soundtrack for the series is innocuous, for the most part. The only aspect that stands out is the peppy J-pop opener “Ichizu Recipe,” which has just enough fun energy to be catchy. J-rock closer “Twilight ni Kienaide” by Yumi Hana (the voice of Kimito's voice actress friend) also has its merits, but it's not as catchy.
Funimation did a simuldub for this series during its original broadcast, notable for being the ADR directorial debut of Aaron Dismuke. Major roles fell entirely to newer or lesser-known actors in Funimation's talent pool, with bigger names only appearing in minor roles. (Colleen Clinkenbeard voices Reiko's mother, for instance.) The English dub's quality is a promising sign of Aaron's ability as a voice director and the depth of Funimation's talent pool. Every once in a while, Mikaela Krantz slips a little on maintaining the distinctively aristocratic tone used for Reiko, but the character sounds exactly right most of the time, with no other slip-ups or odd casting choices of note. Kudos in particular go to Mallorie Rodak's rendition of Kujo, whose caustic delivery style is a delight.
The release is a very standard one for Funimation, with both Blu-Ray and DVD versions included in a single case that comes in a slipcover. Extras include an English audio commentary for episode 5, clean opener and closer, and a collection of six bonus shorts that aren't dubbed and don't add anything special.
All in all, Shomin Sample isn't a total disaster, but it isn't good either. If your tastes run toward harem series, then there are vastly better options out there.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Character dynamics eventually gel, occasional funny moments, solid English dub
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