Special A – 01
“Hikari / Kei”
The first episode introduces us to the heroine of the series, Hanazono Hikari, who has been trying to beat Takashima Kei in almost anything since their childhood, but has never been able to. As a childhood flashback quickly reveals, the two of them were introduced to one another by their pro wrestling loving fathers.
Fast-forward to the present where the two of them are now attending Hakusenkan, a prestigious school with a “Special A” (S.A) class for super elite students. Within this S.A class, each student is assigned a rank according to their grades; however, they all seem to excel in other areas as well (e.g. sports). S.A students wear a different uniform (white, instead of an ugly brown), attend classes in different classrooms (…in a greenhouse I guess? o_O), and take different lessons from the rest of the students.
Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that they all coming from super rich families (minus Hikari) and have an elite school status, the S.A students don’t seem to have the ego to go with it (except Kei). This is an interesting contrast to Ouran High School Host Club, where the characters unknowingly flaunted their money in poor Haruhi’s face over trivial things such as instant coffee. As Haruhi would put it, 「くそ，金持ちどもね」 (Kuso, kanemochi domo ne) “Damn rich bastards”. As enjoyable as Ouran was, it’s nice to see something different, so I’m glad Special A didn’t focus on the rich aspect of the characters.
Below is a list of the seven S.A students (in ranking order), including tidbits revealed in this episode:
1.) Takishima Kei (滝島 彗) / Fukuyama Jun (福山 潤) | Childhood (幼少期) / Shimizu Kaori (清水 香里)
- Son of the Takashima Group President (滝島グループ社長子息), most likely an investment group.
- Has a slight air of arrogance and teases Hikari by calling her 「二位さん」 (Ni-i-san) “Rank 2-san”.
- Tells Hikari, “No matter what we do, the result will always be the same.”
- Tells regular students who resent him to stop complaining and get into the S.A class and surpass him (if they can)
- Evidently has feelings for Hikari, despite his cold nature towards her in front of the other S.A students.
- Has a father that loves pro wrestling.
2.) Hanazono Hikari (華園 光) / Gotou Yuuko (後藤 邑子)
- Entered Hakusenkan to compete with Kei and not to get into the S.A class. Ended up doing the latter because Kei happened to be in the S.A class.
- Has an older brother named Atsushi (亮).
- Seems to love festivals.
- Is oblivious to Kei’s feelings for her.
- Has a father that loves pro wrestling and is a friend of Kei’s father.
3.) Yamamoto Jun (山本 純) / Yonaga Tsubasa (代永 翼)
- Son of a Music Producer and a Naturally-gifted Vocalist (音楽プロデューサーと天才ヴォーカリストの息子).
- Plays the violin… or at least tries to.
4.) Yamamoto Megumi (山本 芽) / Takagaki Ayahi (高垣 彩陽)
- Daughter of a Music Producer and a Naturally-gifted Vocalist (音楽プロデューサーと天才ヴォーカリストの令嬢).
- Jun’s twin (older) sister.
- Seems to always communicate by making signs with her sketchbook (which seems like a waste of Ayahi’s talent, who most of us know played Isurugi Noe in true tears and Feldt Grace in Gundam 00 last season.)
5.) Karino Tadashi (狩野 宙) / Shimono Hiro (下野 紘)
- Son of the School President (学園理事長子息).
- Frequently annoys Akira and gets abused for it.
6.) Toudou Akira (東堂 明) / Nabatame Hitomi (生天目 仁美)
- Daughter of an Airline Company President (航空会社社長令嬢).
- Seems to have a thing for Hikari, calling her 「私のかわいい光」 (Watashi no kawaii Hikari) “My cute Hikari”.
7.) Tsuji Ryuu (辻 竜) / Horie Kazuma (堀江 一眞)
- Son of a Sports Maker President (スポーツメーカー社長子息).
- Seems to get along with animals.
The S.A students seem to hang out in the campus greenhouse drinking their tea most of the time, which must be some sort of super elite student trend that I’m not aware of. In fact, two of them even share the same Hanazono surname. o_O
The rest of the episode involves:
- Hikari challenging Kei to a vaulting horse (跳び箱) competition
- Kei winning by eclipsing Hikari with a Rock Lee Shadow Dance-like (影舞葉) jump (for you remaining Naruto fans out there)
- S.A class haters Nakamura, Takahashi, and Oogawara trying to tempt Hikari with pictures of the exam so that she can finally beat Kei
- Kei and Hikari teaming up, with OP song and all (which I found somewhat cheesy), to beat up the aforementioned haters. (I’m assuming Kei unbuttoned his shirt here for some shoujo fan-service. *shrug*)
- The S.A recital featuring Jun and Megumi as a birthday gift to Kei. (Jun and Megumi, despite coming from musical parents, seem to have no musical talent.)
- Hikari scoring 100 on all her tests, only to find out that Kei scored 105 for finding a mistake in the teacher’s exam
Despite Special A’s classification as a shoujo anime, I honestly didn’t get that impression aside from the character designs. They’re all fairly tall, stalky, and have relatively long limbs, much like CLAMP’s character designs seen in CODE GEASS. Personally, I don’t mind this style, but it’s just something to be aware of.
Animation-wise, I really like the super-deformed characters and bold outlines used in comedic scenes. Also, with scenes like this, the comedic aspect of Special A is very reminiscent of ARIA’s, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since Gonzo is animating this, I’m sure everyone is apprehensive after the Dragonaut fiasco last season, but at least it’s comforting to know that their writers aren’t involved this time around, nor are they the only studio working on S.A.
Comedic-wise, I actually found the running 「二位さん」 (Ni-i-san) “Rank 2-san” gag funnier the second time through and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more blocks of 「二位」-shaped concrete falling on Hikari’s head in the future. :) If you’re not used to it by now, Hikari’s 「二位って言うな！」 (Ni-i-tte yuu na!) “Don’t say Rank 2!” line is probably going to become a mainstay in the series.
Seiyuu-wise, it’s a pretty all-star cast with Fukuyama Jun (Lelouch in CODE GEASS, Lawrence in Spice and Wolf), Gotou Yuuko (Mikuru in Haruhi, Kuonji Miyu in Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de), Nabatame Hitomi (Hanazono Shizuma in Strawberry Panic!, Margery Daw in Shakugan no Shana), Shimono Hiro (Hirono Hiro in ef – a tale of memories, Touhouin Ikuto in Nagasarete Airantou), and Takagaki Ayahi (Isurugi Noe in true tears, Feldt Grace in Gundam 00). Originally, I was a bit worried about how Yuuko would play Hikari, but after watching her performance in KimiAru last season, all my worries were put to rest. For those who have seen KimiAru, you probably know by now that Yuuko can play a comedic role very differently from Mikuru (in a good way). :)
All in all, I actually see a lot of potential in Special A and would say it reminds me a lot of School Rumble, but probably more-so Ouran High School Host Club since they’re both shoujo. While I still don’t really know what to expect from S.A (especially from the first episode alone), having writers who worked on Minami-ke, Rozen Maiden, and sola gives me hope in this series. For now, I guess we just need to continue watching to see what the producers have in store for us.
Note: since I took over Omni’s original post for this episode, please see his initial impressions below, including those for the ED song.
I know I haven’t been the most positive about some of the songs so far this season, but this one really takes the cake. It’s sung by the four male members of the SA, and while I like their voice actors, they apparently don’t have the ability to sing well together. I’ll admit that I’m no expert in music, but those guys just sounded out of sync and couldn’t hit any of the high notes that kept coming up. As for the OP, there was none this week, though they did play the song during the brief fight scene.
-Well I’m a bit underwhelmed. I thought the manga was pretty funny, but the jokes in the anime version (when they were there) generally fell rather flat for me. It might have been that the comedic timing was off or it could be because I’ve already been exposed to the material, but I think I laughed only twice during the episode (both of them towards the end).
-Voice acting, however, didn’t bother me like I thought it would. The more I listened to Gotou Yuuko as Hikari, the more I got used to her. And Fukuyama Jun was, well, his normal self (he’s in freakin’ everything this season). Actually, one of the times I laughed was when Fukuyama Jun did his serious voice because all I could think of was CODE GEASS. I didn’t mind the animation style either, though since this is a Gonzo produced series, I expect the quality to get worse as time goes on.
-And so, despite the name, I didn’t really find much special about Special A. Given that I enjoyed the manga, I’m going to give it a few more episodes to see if it can get better, but I’m not keeping my hopes too high.
- Hanazono Hikari (華園 光) / Gotou Yuuko (後藤 邑子)
- Takishima Kei (滝島 彗) / Fukuyama Jun (福山 潤)
- Toudou Akira (東堂 明) / Nabatame Hitomi (生天目 仁美)
- Karino Tadashi (狩野 宙) / Shimono Hiro (下野 紘)
- Yamamoto Megumi (山本 芽) / Takagaki Ayahi (高垣 彩陽)
- Yamamoto Jun (山本 純) / Yonaga Tsubasa (代永 翼)
- Tsuji Ryuu (辻 竜) / Horie Kazuma (堀江 一眞)
- Childhood Kei (幼少期の慧) / Shimizu Kaori (清水 香里)
- Hikari’s father (光の父) / Imaruoka Atsushi (伊丸岡 篤)
- Hikari’s mother (光の母) / Nabei Makiko (鍋井 まき子)
- Nakamura (中村) / Fujii Keisuke (藤井 啓輔)
- Takahashi (高橋) / Satou Yuudai (佐藤 雄大)
- Oogawara (大河原) / Ichiki Mitsuhiro (市来 光弘)