4-girl, slice-of-life anime, otherwise known as moe-blob anime, have been a bit of a turn-off for me lately, since it seems to be the cool genre to do these days…or I may just be noticing a popular type that has been around for far longer than I’ve been watching anime. The criteria: the girls (usually 4 different archetypes), a school setting, a random club or common group activity outside of class, and tons of everyday cuteness. K-ON!, A-Channel, and Yuru Yuri all follow this formula, and as such, fail to distinguish themselves from the rest of their fellow cute peers doing cute things. The few that deviate–Kamichu!, Nichijou, ARIA, and Sora no Woto–actually provide something for me to appreciate, be it a unique premise, setting, and/or characters. Hyakko falls into this latter crowd, as it leans more towards slapstick comedy than the typical school life. I found its attempts at humor largely successful, though occasionally anticipated.
On their first day of high school, shy Ayumi Nonomura and taciturn Tatsuki Iizuka become lost in the immense campus of Kamizono Academy. An irresistible force of nature named Torako Kageyama, accompanied by her best friend Suzume Saotome, appears in front of them. Led, sometimes pushed, by Torako, the girls and their classmates work through problems of school, home and adolescence. (MAL)
Part of what helped this humor was the brevity of the jokes–they were just long enough for the punchline to be made and for a suitable reaction time, but quickly moved on to the next skit before the joke became too old. Episode 3, “The Tiger at the Front Gate,” shows this perfectly. Torako had recently discovered that she was voted the Disciplinary Officer and was asked to screen students entering the entrance for proper school attire. Each confrontation is a joke in itself, as the students breaking the rules are clear representations of character molds, like the delinquent, Ganguro (tan skin and bleached hair), and tsundere. What makes the confrontations even more comical is the fact that Torako’s superior and Class Committee Chairman, Andou Nene, hypocritically also wears clothing outside of the regulated uniform.
An aspect of this show that surprised me with its non-irritability was the amount of sexual humor and fan service present. It didn’t abound to the point of me calling Hyakko a sexual anime, but it was noticeably present. I’m usually one of the first people turned off by buxom breasts and panty shots, but the ecchi of Hyakko actually complemented the characters associated with the situation. Student photographers, Kobayashi Koma and Kyougoku Yanagi, run their own independent photo shop featuring the requested male and female beauties of Kamizono Academy. Though the jokes paired with their antics are admittedly predictable, they still bust me up with how blatant they both could be in getting the desired frames, as in the case of flipping sweet Ayumi’s skirt for the much coveted panty shot.
Hyakko is filled with a large cast, mostly female, and due to the high number, hardly any of them are represented with much depth of character. Each one did, though, have some unique trait that prevented him or her from being a completely flat individual. One of my favorite characters by far would have to definitely be Saotome Suzume. Since I obviously did a blog post on gluttonous characters, Suzume is a character I would immediately notice and like. On the outside, she’s Torako’s best friend, a.k.a. sidekick. She’s silent, for the most part, and extremely loyal to their friendship. However, her universe-inhaling capabilities and aversion to no food makes her an ideal representative of the glutton archetype. There’s something strangely charming about her in the latter half of Episode 9 in the skit titled, “Suzume, I guess I’ll Give this To You.” In it, she roams the school from teacher to student seeking “treats,” like some chubby puppy. (*off topic* Talking about chubby puppies, I recently caught mine counter surfing and inhaling an entire plate of homemade cinnamon buns…) No amount of food is too much for Suzume and her ever-tiny frame!
This anime scores extra points for well-placed laughs and interesting characters, but loses some due to an expected level of SoL conventionality and so-so animation and graphics. This is definitely a show I would recommend to fans of the school SoL genre and slapstick comedy lovers alike, since it strikes a fairly safe balance between the two. If you give this anime a chance and allow Torako to take you along for that first jump, you’ll hopefully find some memorable laughs, like I did.