Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Gainax
Brief Overview: First-year student Kurokami Medaka is elected president of the student council, and immediately institutes a suggestion box. She makes it her goal to solve the problem of any student who puts a request in the box, no matter how far-fetched or difficult.
Episode 1 Summary: Kurokami Medaka is elected to the student council as a first-year student, winning ninety-eight percent of the vote. To fulfill one of her campaign pledges, she opens up a suggestion box to the student body. Any student at any time can submit a request, and Medaka will complete it to the best of her ability, with the help of her childhood friend (and slave), Zenkichi.
Her first order of business is to help scare away some ruffians from the old, derelict kendo dojo on campus. As it turns out, Medaka makes it her goal to turn the delinquents' lives around by forming them into a new kendo club. This irritates the student who submitted the request, another first-year who wanted to have the dojo all to himself. As with everyone else, soon the disagreeable student finds himself falling in love with the impossibly perfect Kurokami Medaka.
Thoughts: Some may wonder why I didn't just kick this review to the dumpster with the other "dregs" of the season. Heck, even I wonder why I didn't just toss off a few words and forget about this show for the rest of eternity like I would have preferred. Amusingly, I actually got several requests for my thoughts on this one, so here we are.
Medaka Box is the depressing result of the unholy union between a well-regarded author phoning in his work, and an ailing, once-famous animation studio that can no longer animate itself out of a paper bag. It's also one of the most hyped anime series of the season, though that hype inevitably contains the disclaimer that what we see now in these early episodes is not what we're to expect in later ones. I don't think I'll manage to stick around long enough to find out what the big "plot twist" is. Thanks be to Wikipedia.
I've become especially cynical about the anime fandom hype machine. Several times recently, I've been burned by naively anticipating new anime series based on highly-regarded manga, only to discover that they're highly-regarded because of their supposed "adult" (read: full of violence and nudity) storylines. As someone with well-established opinions about anime I shouldn't feel obligated to listen to the rabble, but I find myself getting caught up in whirlwinds of anticipation time and time again. Not this time.
I could probably waste several pages listing all the problems that I have with this episode. Instead, I'll talk about the major ones, the first of which is the main character. Though Medaka's unrealistic anatomy makes me weary and the built-in "boob window" her uniform features is laughable, I think perhaps what I find most bothersome is the way that she's portrayed as a character. Don't get me wrong, I am all for female characters who take charge of the world around them and have goals they aim to fulfill, but Medaka is nothing but a caricature of the female overachiever, another mo� stereotype created calculatingly to appeal to a specific audience. She's defined by how much the other students adore her, and yet the basis of their adoration is told rather than shown. She's blessed with goddess-like abilities of deduction and athleticism, but the completeness of her domination in every subject and skill just makes her feel less like a fleshed-out character and more like someone's special fantasy. There's really nothing about her personality that reads as "actual high-school girl," and though that may be the point of the series, it's not appealing to me in the least.
The relationship between Medaka and Zenkichi, which I assume is central to the series, is borderline abusive at times. I'm not a huge fan of the "bossy girl, browbeaten boy" trope, which is perhaps one of the big reasons why I didn't connect well with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (see also: rampant breast molestation). Zenkichi does the majority of Medaka's dirty work, yet somehow keeps coming back for more. There's one scene early-on that really bothered me; the two are talking in the student council office, and while Zenkichi is looking away, Medaka removes her clothing so that when Zenkichi turns around, she's only clad in underwear. Female-on-male sexual harassment is still sexual harassment, fyi. Barf.
Follow-Up Episodes: Unsurprisingly, the next few episodes of the show are very similar to the first. Except in very specific circumstances, I find that half an average-length episode is not enough time to present a satisfying story, yet most of these early episodes contain two overly-simplistic stories that almost inevitably end up getting resolved due to Medaka's superhuman ability to be good at anything and everything. A lack of conflict and a lack of danger equals a lack of interest on my part.
I only briefly mentioned Gainax's involvement in the series earlier. Though the fact that the famous animation studio was responsible for animating this series was one of its initial selling points to a lot of fans, today's Gainax is not the Gainax of yester-year and their animation effort here is mediocre. There was a time where even anime that were otherwise unremarkable could be given a shot-in-the-arm of style from this studio, but with so many of its power-players having left to form Studio Trigger, what's left is about on par with what one might expect from an average, unremarkable animation company. But guess what? They never skimp on animating Medaka's chest! In one scene in particular, her breasts take up most of the foreground and bounce like yo-yos with every tiny movement of her body. Anyone who tries to convince me that this show is something other than a fanservice series that happens to have the tiniest bit of plot will have to do a pretty darned good job of explaining that kind of material.
I honestly have no desire to see this show through to the expected "plot twist." I had enough trouble trying to muddle through four episodes so that I could write this review, and there is truly no story revelation whatsoever that could convince me that more slogging would be worth the time and effort.
- While I don't hate this show, I'm drawing a blank on anything to put here that wouldn't require some lengthy disclaimer or qualification.
- Medaka is such a "perfect" character that she's uninteresting to watch and unapproachable.
- The character dynamic between Medaka and Zenkichi makes me uncomfortable.
- The animation is lackluster, except for the boobs.
Recommended? I can only imagine that manga-readers who already know of whatever revelatory plot device is to come would be able to tolerate the absolutely boring and mediocre stories to be found in the early episodes of the show. For those of us who lack patience, dislike stories that go nowhere or simply feel put-off by the portrayal of the various characters, this show is definitely skippable.