Bossun is complaining about how annoying the tsundere character in the dating sim Switch lent him is when a real-life twin-tailed, big-busted, kneesocks-wearing uber-tsundere named Saaya enters the clubroom. Once they cut through her tsuntsuness, she tells them she wants them to help cure her. After some somewhat-fruitful role-playing, Saaya leaves for the day, but calls them back to announce she’s found an abandoned animal. It turns out
to be an owl, and they bring it back to the clubhouse until its wounds heal. Hoosuke, as Saaya names him, seems to prefer the clubroom to the rest of the world, leaving them with a new club mascot.
Uh-oh…Sket Dance has a new archetypal tsundere character…is this a ratings ploy? We kid; but the introduction of Agata Saaya is pretty inspired. The Sket-dan are a pretty no-nonsense sort, who say what they mean and mean what they say. Dumping someone into their midst who almost reflexively responds to every question with “Don’t get the wrong idea!” is going to net some solid comedy. Saaya, voiced by none other than Kana Hanazawa (she really is everywhere…) does a good job really laying the tsuntsun on thick, while also coming across as a typical high school girl who is shy around boys and verbally lashes out in defense of percieved threats.
We were about to roll our eyes at the umpteenth abandoned puppy or kitten (we can’t believe Japanese pet owners are this fickle), but…an owl? We weren’t expecting that. We also weren’t expecting high school students to be so ignorant about owls. How could they possibly not know that owls are nocturnal and eat mice? They need to sit down and tuck into some Sir David Attenborough…
Hitoyoshi Zenkichi’s overachieving childhood friend Medaka Kurokami has won the election for student council president by a 98% landslide, and just knows that she’ll drag him into her business. She starts up a suggestion box, and the first request asks her to clear the kendo dojo of the punks who hang out there. She convinces them to pick up kendo and the dojo is cleaned. The person who submitted the suggestion, one Hyuga, tries to intimidate the reformed punks, but they stand up to him, and Zenkichi punches him. Medaka proceeds to fulfill another request by improving Hyuga’s rotten personality. Zenkichi agrees to stay by her side, as always.
When we learn that Gainax is doing a new series, we’re going to take a look by default, since we know their work will rarely disappoint. This premiere validated our policy; Medaka Box is hardly flawless, but it is a bright, fresh, and confident school series that does a good job laying out what it’s about and who the players are. We’re particularly smitten with President Medaka who is brimming with charisma. Sure, she looks down on people (and indeed the rest of the universe) but at her core she’s a kind person who only wants to help…even if you don’t know you need it. Her boobs are a little on the big side, but overall the moderate levels of fanservices didn’t concern us, because it wasn’t the only note the episode played.
Aki Toyosaki voices Medaka, and after Last Exile’s cutesy-voiced Fam, it’s good to hear the throaty, assertive Aki. When she’s talking, people just have to listen. We also like Zenkichi Hiroyoshi, the male protagonist who has known her since they were two (i.e., their whole lives). He’s neither weak, nor boring or annoying. Even if he has no idea why, he’s Medaka’s rock; and he can’t help but support her in her new role as Queen of School. A pleasant setting, colorful characters, sprightly action, quick pacing, and plenty of energy and charm – there’s not much we dislike here. Good start.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)