Medaka Box is, I’m told, the story of a boisterous student council president who decides that it’s her duty to improve the school. Her name is Medaka, and I guess her plan for improving the school involves boxing? I remember they tried that in The Wire, with mixed success. Anyway I’ve heard good things about the manga, but the translation was too bad for me to want to read it, so I’m able to watch Episode 1 of Medaka Box without any foreknowledge.
…thirty minutes pass…
I did briefly smirk a couple times, mostly when Medaka was imitating someone else's pose.
It turns out her plan for improving the school involves kendo. Or does it? Her plan is to improve the school by following the suggestions submitted to the suggestion box. If those suggestions involve kendo (as they turn out to, contingently), then she will improve the school via kendo-based methods. But does that actually affect the nature of her plan? She had no way of knowing anybody would care about kendo, after all.
I can believe people when they say the manga for this is good, but I didn’t really enjoy the episode. It’s clear that there is something of value underlying all this, but the animation studio is completely dropping the ball. The character designs are ugly, especially the male lead, but even the female lead who is supposed to be beautiful and good at everything just looks sort of generic and eyelashy (pictured above). The animation quality is not great either, it kind of looks like a show from 2004. Maybe 2006, I guess, because if it was before then it wouldn’t be in widescreen, but 2006 is still six years ago. Plus, there’s the fanservice issue (pictured below). The female lead has an exceptionally short skirt, an exceptionally voluminous bosom, and an exceptional willingness to strip with other people around. Her character design is bland and generic, I’m not as interested in watching the camera slowly pan across her body as the show thinks I should be. Now, I didn’t read the original manga, so probably some of the fanservice is just the studio being faithful to the original work. But it’s the studio’s job to improve the original work, where improvements can be made! The first season of Minami-ke, for example, is one of the all time great anime series, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good if the studio hadn’t cut out 90% of the manga’s fanservicy nonsense.
I do like aspects of the plot and characters. Medaka reminds me of Suzumiya Haruhi if she were less selfish and more proactive. Medaka wants an interesting school life, but she doesn’t wait for her Kyon-analogue to say, hey, start a club, she goes out and wins the Student Council election. Then she doesn’t have to worry about getting the Student Council’s approval for her club, because she is the Student Council. But she’s similar in the way she drags her Kyon-analogue around, and the way she undresses without worrying about other seeing her (pictured below). The premise of the show sort of reminds me of SKET Dance, because it’s all about helping people and fulfilling their requests and making the school a better place hooray! That’s a heartwarming theme, and it’s even more heartwarming in this case because Medaka is a more heroic character than the SKET-dan. She’s devoted to helping all the students, even those that might look like delinquents or sociopaths. She sees the good in everyone, and I feel like even if there were someone she didn’t see the good in, she’d still try to help them. That Christlike attitude of not caring about a person’s sins, of trying to help them anyway because they’re still an important human being, is what separates the true heroes from the vain glory-seekers, in my opinion.
So I wish this show had been taken on by a better studio, or that the manga had been taken on by a competent scanslation group, although I know the latter is virtually an oxymoron. I probably won’t end up following this show, and that’s a shame.
Bonus Image Corner:
She's no Nagato Yuki, nor even Onihime.
Character designs by Clamp?
This image was included for the purpose of illustrating several points in the text above. No prurient motives were involved.