Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Gamers!, Classroom of the Elite, & Hell Girl: The Fourth Twilight

I can only recommend one show in this trio to viewers: Gamers! Regardless, I somehow always have more to say about the shows that bothered me than the ones I loved. Why is that?

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

Gamers!

If you are thinking of watching this show based on the title, then you’ll want to know that this isn’t so much a story about gaming as it is about gamers and their relationships with one another. We honestly don’t get much of an in-depth discussion on the state of the industry until the very last episode. All of the weeks preceding the last circle on the many romantic misunderstanding our characters have with one another. Coupling romance and comedy, Gamers! successfully plays up confusion for laughs.

The story starts off with generic club scouting; Karen, a popular and beautiful girl, aims to convince our protagonist, Keita, to join the school’s Game Club. Keita prefers a more laid back approach to the hobby, and quickly turns her down. This exchange kicks off the attitude for the rest of the anime, one of rejection and misunderstanding. Somehow during their course of Karen and Keita’s exchanges, she falls for him. As other friends enter the scene, they join the circle of miscommunication. I typically find excessive misreading infuriating—when arguments can be solved by simply sitting down and talking with one another, a story’s insistence on stretching the conflict comes across as poorly written and paced. Strangely, that problem doesn’t feel present in this situation. As our characters make the wrong assumptions and slide deeper into a vortex of imagined scenarios, you as the viewer can’t help but laugh at how wrong they all are. Everything is burning, but in a surface-only display that doesn’t actually trash anything.

I think I’m able to forgive this show its humor due to how lovable I find all of the characters. Most of them are so head over heels for their style of gaming that you can’t fault them their social ineptitude. There are the ones whose romantic experience stem solely from dating sims, and those who are stuck following their loved ones into their nerdy hobbies despite not actually sharing the same interests. There are the two who are a match made in heaven, but can’t reconcile over their opposing fan factions. In the end, they all work well together as a bunch of good-hearted kids with games as their glue.

Rating: 1 dango

Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

One of two shows this season featuring school environments meant to jettison their students into Japan’s ruling class upon graduation, Classroom of the Elite takes a familiar route that separates groups by ability between classrooms A to D. As expected, our main characters populate the lowest-ranking D class, where students with the school’s lowest expectations—based on their entrance exams and other unmentioned factors—are dropped with little hope of their ascension into higher rankings. On a superficial level, I do find the idea interesting. The audience has a clear view of the conflict and supposed direction of the story. A society so strictly maintained will of course have dissenting factions and rebellions. Considering the school setting, I also expected to see some serious underdog maneuvering against the higher classes. But the surface is really as far as we waded.

The biggest problem for me is the protagonist, Ayanokouji Kiyotaka. Ayanokouji fills the everyman role we, the audience, should step into. Our roleplaying becomes impossible right from the start with his robotic personality and unknown motives. We know he aims to push his class to the top. He could have made it on his own, but we find out he threw his own test results to enter the lowest level. His journey is one totally unlike the rest of the students at his school. Ayanokouji maintains a deadpan voice and facial expression for every single episode, only reacting to immediate bodily harm.

It becomes apparently early on that he can do anything. He notices what others do not and acts when others cannot. He’s like a teenage secret agent who gives nothing away and earns the trust of his classmates regardless. His 100% competence given in dead delivery grates on the nerves. Unfortunately, other members of class D and up aren’t much better. Many of them either completely embody their stereotypes or are written to laughable levels of villainy.

Despite the cast, their plight in the school system is still intriguing. One of my favorite arcs featured Class D’s model delinquent, Sudo, and his supposed attack on students from class C. All of the odds are against him, but with some clever maneuvering by Ayanokouji and a key witness, they’re able to come out on top.

The show’s closing conflict of surviving on an island with limited supplies and a bonus reminiscent of capture-the-flag also showed a lot of promise. This storyline covers the last five episodes of the show, and as satisfying as it is to see class D pull one over the other classes at the end, there’s no finality with how the anime just ends after the test. We still don’t know Ayanokouji’s motivations other than the show’s attempt to sound philosophical by comparing his actions to those of Icarus. It’s as if we’re hitting the midway point of a series instead of the end.

Rating: 0 dango

Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi

 

As the fourth season in the franchise, Yoi no Togi still leaves me with a burning question: why was it made? Why after three seasons and what fans consider a good ending did they continue with a series that provides nothing new of note? Not only were there only six episodes of new “Fourth Twilight” content, but the remaining six “Reminiscent” were pulled from the previous seasons. The only differences I could see in the reruns were the strange introductions splicing together Hell Girl’s companions as paper puppets alongside live action objects.

I have my fond memories of Hell Girl’s first season to thank for sticking it out this season. What I liked so much about it were the painfully human experiences and emotions that logically led to the solution provided by Hell Girl, Enma Ai. For the most part, I recall sympathizing with the characters’ plights and understanding the price they paid in exchange for vengeance.

Those clear motivations and resonating feelings simply were not there this season. While both the first and fourth seasons include people who are equally terrible to those they want to punish, Fourth Twilight treads too far by bringing in “villains” whose actions often make no sense. For example, there’s a comedy duo who reconcile their differences at the end, only for Nanako to send Haru immediately to hell. Nanako vows to join her partner as if the two are headed to heaven instead of the fiery pits. If they made peace with one another, what was the point of Hell Girl in the end? If the action is meant to bring Haru’s depression about her lack of drive to an end, how is an eternity of suffering helpful?

These paradoxes peppered the rest of the new episodes. By the time the reruns began at week seven, I was pissed. If you are a Hell Girl fan and have seen the first three seasons, there is no reason at all to see the fourth. If you are not a fan, then that’s probably because you don’t like depressing shows that have a distinctly negative outlook on human nature. Either way, no signs point to Fourth Twilight.

Rating: 0 dango

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11 thoughts on “Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Gamers!, Classroom of the Elite, & Hell Girl: The Fourth Twilight

  1. Having now finished Elite Class, I got a different impression of Ayanokoji. His goal throughout the story was really to avoid any notoriety. He didn’t want to move up to Class A, he wanted to stay in Class D, being completely unremarkable and not standing out. They don’t go too much into why he’s like that, but we know that he’s remarkable yet is trying to hide that. At the end of the series, the only reason he is putting any effort to moving Class D up is because the teacher threatened to expel him if he didn’t move up out of her class.

    I found it an ok show, although it’s not particularly notable. I did like that even with a mercenary attitude, it didn’t take an “anything goes” attitude, and get more brutal or murdery.

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    • I would really like to know why the teacher was so bent on pushing Ayanokouji out of her class, if it’s to motivate him to get everyone else in the class out, or if she just wants him to move up. It is nice that the show didn’t go too far in violence between the classes. We did get some punches and that attempted rape, but thankfully the show didn’t feel the need to go there. I think including them would have diluted the aim of the school and Class D’s aspirations.

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      • I think she wants him out of her class because she doesn’t want the hassle of dealing with someone who might be a loose cannon. I think his background from whatever secret testing facility (speculation) is probably what makes her wary, but also that he might be a tool for her to use.

        One thing that I didn’t like was that 3 out of 4 story arcs revolved around Sudo’s actions or stupidity. That got a little tiring, wondering at what point you think “geez, how can we get rid of this guy.” Ultimately, they even decided that there was probably some worse punishment from getting rid of him (maybe why they had that arc in there) so they helped him out.

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        • Sudo definitely turned into a convenient tool for the show, overused and quickly uninteresting. I was fine with his first conflict, but subsequent ones just seemed contrived.

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  2. There really aren’t that many shows that will get someone watching by themselves to laugh out loud. Gamers! was one of them, especially early on. It did so well setting up these stupendous car+truck+train+plane+ship wrecks, that the audience can see coming for half an hour, but all of the characters are making happen. And instead of just dealing with them, it milked them so well, like the 5-POV summary of Keita’s confession to Karen. So you’re watching this show where everyone is misunderstanding everything everyone else does, and the show’s using the ability to get into the other character’s heads so well so that the audience is just cringing the whole time at what they know is going to happen to these characters, but can’t look away.

    Another thing it did so well was make it so that none of the characters was really idealized. It knocked everyone down a little bit, and introduced a lot of humanizing elements in. Things like when Keita and Karen were at the pool, and she’s making up rules for their water fight, and he’s thinking to himself “she can be kind of a pain, can’t she…” He’s almost completely smitten with her, and she’s totally smitten with him, and yet he can still see that there are things that bug you about someone.

    That they were able to wrap the cour up with an engaging discussion about the nature of popular gaming was an interesting change in tone, although it had that feel like “this is the bonus episode that we’re putting at the end of the series to guard against schedule problems”. I’d certainly like more of the characters, because they were able to transcend the gags in the show and really make you interested in the individuals.

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    • You described much better than I could the charm and craft of the comedy in Gamers! That 5-person POV build up had me somehow dreading and anticipating the encounter at the same time, and as painfully awkward as I found all of their reactions to the actual event, I couldn’t peel my eyes away. I want to have my husband watch the show sooner rather than later before we get blasted away by all the new autumn shows!

      Talking about imperfect characters, Karen and Uehara suffered some of my favorite knock downs. They’re good looking and popular, and still go through the same insecurities and confusions as their more socially backward friends. I especially love how Uerhara has an issue with accidentally voicing aloud his thoughts.

      I do wish that final episode had maybe aired earlier in the season, maybe as a break between gags or arcs. Not sure if it would have felt any less out of place.

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      • I think that the last episode kind of was between arcs, but it had to be almost later than it was (Imagine that there’s another couple of story arcs, then the trip). It had to come after it was fairly well set that both KarenxKeita and AgurixTasaku were solid relationships, because the whole setup of the trip and the discussion like that relies on there being some stability in those partnerships, but still some tension between Chiaki, Aguri, and Karen as far as interest in Keita. So it’s kind of like they had to move this one-off story up to fill episode 13 (and also to provide that safety buffer in case there were production problems during the season), and that was the only thing they could do that was that self-contained.

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      • Talking about knocking down the characters, I liked that it didn’t really feel like it was doing it gratuitously. It’s the kind of thing where a writer who’s looking to defend gaming culture could really take it out on the “riajuu” members of the cast, even though all of them were really still part of the show’s “preferred” demographic. It was nice that their problems were authentic and relatable, not “what nerds think pretty people’s problems are.”

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