Jul 1, 2014

Anime Reviews: Servant x Service, GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Dai Mahō-Tōge

Comedy’s the name of the game today, boys and girls, in yet another triple batch of mini-reviews.

Servant x Servant title/logoServant x Service is basically Working!! if it was set in a government welfare office instead of a family restaurant. In fact, it’s not really surprising there are a lot of obvious similarities in style, humor, and so on, because both are based on manga by the same author. I was quite positive in my review of Working!! so it should come as little surprise that the author’s same formula basically works just as well here. But I can’t help drawing the comparisons because the ever present specter of the “spiritual predecessor” looms over SxS at every turn for me. So while it ends up being an enjoyable (if short) series I cannot help but feel like they should have just done a third season of Working!! instead. Because for all of the strengths and pluses of SxS, all of them end up being the same strengths of Working!! except not quite as good.

SxS follows roughly three new hires as they join a social welfare office of the government which ends up being a weirder place than they thought possible. Hasebe is a compulsive slacker, Miyoshi is a timid worrywart with an amusingly sharp perception (and, unintentionally, tongue!), and the last is the clear standout who we’ll just call Lucy. In fact, as we quickly learn, the primary motivator for Lucy joining was to get revenge on the government employee who approved her birth certificate so many years ago, leaving her with a baker’s dozen first names because her parents couldn’t decide on one. As a result, her nametag subsequently reads “Lucy (abbreviated)”.

The three new hires and primary characters stand side by side looking uneasy.

The weakest area here is definitely in the characters. Make no mistake, Lucy is definitely a standout and a huge reason the show is still solidly good as she is instantly likable and expressive all while being fantastically voiced and animated. It also doesn’t hurt that we’re following twenty-somethings post-college or so in the workplace instead of yet another high school setting. There are a handful of others besides and none of them are particularly bad, but the similarly sized cast of Working!! just seems to develop much better with stronger dynamics, broader and more interesting personalities, and so on.

If I seem awfully critical it’s merely because I saw its better cousin of a show first and adored it. SxS is fun, it’s got good comedy, and it has a surprisingly effective romance sub-plot that really kicks into gear in the last third or so. I kinda feel guilty because I really don’t have anything bad to say about it specifically only that it wasn’t quite as good as another similar show, which I admit seems a bit unfair of me. So if you like good comedies, especially ones a bit fresher in setting and such, with a splash of good romance (eventually), then look no further. Despite my grumblings it’s no surprise to me this show got an overwhelmingly positive reception (anecdotally, of course; just me skimming through the comments on CR at the end of episodes).

GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class title/logoGA Geijutsuka Art Design Class works despite itself at every turn and was a delightful little series overall. Its animation is adequate at best, it’s a very simplistic slice-of-life show full of standard archetype characters, and it’s an adaptation of a yonkoma. But it manages to find ways to do fun artistic things despite the mediocre budget, weave together some fun and amusing character dynamics, and blend its erratic four-panel narrative roots into full episodes held together by cohesive themes and events. No small task, that’s for sure, and I applaud it for making such a tasty dish despite starting with suspect ingredients.

The five main characters sit around a table going through dinner ingredients

It follows the antics of five girls at an art-focused high school as they learn about art and things. It sounds way too simplistic but the direction and writing makes it work. The girls, while nothing original, work well together and the writing is unoriginal but well executed. They are a fun group to follow around for twenty-ish minutes. Additionally, each episode tends to focus on different art concepts and manages to fit bits of actual real art education of the topics into the narrative without feeling like a lecture. (I went to college with a bunch of art majors so a lot of it wasn’t new to me but it meant I recognized they were actually fitting in real lessons.) The entire package ends up being pleasantly amusing with a solid cast and even a bit of learning along the way.

Noda grabs a resistant Yamaguchi's arm as Nozaki looks on from behind

The charm is certainly on the characters, the mild silliness, back-and-forth dialog, and daily life. It never aspires to drama or intrigue or anything resembling excitement, so look to this one for something easy to kick back to during your lunch break (like I did).

Dai Mahou Touge title/logoDai Mahō-Tōge (released here as Magical Witch Punie-chan) is a show that feels like it almost should have been released a decade before it was. A mid-2000s era title, it has the wacky parody-filled nonsense of a lot of silly things I remember seeing so long ago. It does have a bit more modern polish style-wise, which is the primary indication it’s not actually from the nineties after all.

The story is… well. There’s only four OVAs (each split into two 12-minute-ish episodes) and so not much time to get a full story going. It does a fair bit of world-building but gets distracted constantly with random comedy vignettes or other amusing tangents. By the end, it doesn’t feel like an end so much as a “Well, hope you had fun, our time’s up folks!”

Punie walks to school as her mascot Paya-tan attempts to knife her in the face while riding on her head as Tetsuko shrieks in surprise behind her

Okay, but seriously, it stars Punie, a girl from a magical kingdom, as she visits earth. She does the typically sugary Sailor Moon-esque transformation only spouting lines like “Kill Them All” in a cutesy voice as she dances around burning buildings. She has the power to control vegetables and excels at wrestling submission moves. There’s the rival tough girl and a timid girl playing the straight-man what-have-I-got-myself-into role and even a cutesy magical girl mascot pet with a split personality trying to kill its master. I’m only scratching the surface here, though. Did I mention the Initial D parody complete with authentic primitive CG? I swear this was made in the mid-2000s, though, honest!

In the end, it’s a fun and bizarre enough ride but the disjointed nature makes it a bumpy one. Ultimately forgettable? Yeah, pretty much, except for one scene that will forever be on my favorites list

As of this writing, you can watch Servant x Service and GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class for free on Crunchyroll. For Dai Mahō-Tōge, well… you’re on your own.

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