「青春プレリュード」 (Seishun Pureryūdo)
In my general overview of Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku in the season preview, I noted that it was cut from similar stock as MEKAKUCITY ACTORS. That’s not an exactly flattering pedigree by anime terms, less the rockstar father and more the embarrassing alcoholic uncle, but just because MEKAKUCITY ACTORS turned out to be mediocre doesn’t mean it wasn’t, on the whole, an interesting exercise. Music video to anime! Sure, it went through a light novel and a manga along the way, but it’s still fundamentally about turning relatively abstract ideas into a cohesive narrative. That’s at least a bit different from the various other adaptations we regularly get in anime.
Of course, the question begged is whether Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku is actually all that similar to MEKAKUCITY ACTORS in practice, and superficially there is of course the entire premise about teenagers with unique powers, etc, etc. But on other levels, I’m not sure if the two will end up in comparable places, mostly because I’m still not exactly sure what Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku actually is. So for those of you who didn’t watch MEKAKUCITY ACTORS and felt alienated for the last paragraph and a half, no worries! We’re going to ignore it from now and just try to figure out what manner of beast Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku is.
Ichinomiya Eruna (Kimura Juri) is certainly quite the character. Seemingly not being able to decide whether she wants to be a goofy shounen lead, a dating sim protagonist, or a magical girl, she has opted to play all of them at once. Not that there’s necessarily much of a difference between any of those these days; just look over at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha playing in the very same season. Frankly, if you’re the designated hero in an anime chances are you’re going to be a teen with some kind of hidden potential with which you LETS FIGHTING with, no matter your slight genre variation. And we know Eruna’s the hero because she wears the scarf. Scarves are the symbols of heroes! Yeah!
Being the hero and presumably important, this first episode does a great deal to endear us to Eruna, as the story moves almost entirely from her perspective, and she is expected to carry more or less the entire show. Normally, all the introductions and exposition of pilot episodes risk bogging down the pacing, but Eruna provides enough entertainment to fill in the quiet spaces and then some. No development seems dull when there’s a crazy lesbian to go hyperactive over it. I didn’t think I’d like her very much after reading a bit of the manga to write the preview, since she’s basically basically just the perverted idiot archetype that we’ve seen time and again, but Eruna manages to go enough over-the-top to make me laugh. Of course, I still don’t know why she’s special or whether she’ll ever have a motivation beyond swooning for the damsel (Oonishi Saori), but at least I like her, and am interested in finding out more.
The setting, Mikagura Gakuen, is harder to pin down than our protagonist. For one thing, I’m not actually sure about the level of fantasy this show is operating on, because we never really get a sense of how fantastical Mikagura Private Academy is compared to the rest of the world. Eruna’s overactive imagination and unique perspective blurs reality and make-believe to desensitise viewers to the oddities of the academy, but you’d think someone else would have spoken up about their whacky education unless this was par for the course. The uniform is not uniform, chemical weapons are deployed on campus, and one of their teachers is a flying-cat-mascot-thing (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu). At least, you’d think one student would have complained about the school’s criminal mistreatment of their fiduciary charges. Nope. It starts to make me look like the strange one. Apparently, everyone had the cool curriculum except for me.
We’re likely not supposed to think about it very hard, for if we were to get overly serious about the details, we surely wouldn’t last. Just consider the clubs and their representative powers, which are thematic to the point of silliness. The Art Club uses palettes as options Gradius style to throw paint bombs, the Calligraphy Club has a giant brush, the Gardening Club grows triffids and the, er, Impractical Agriculture Club wields an oversized scythe. The themes let us pin them down on first sight, and their powers aren’t even the most comical anime has to offer. The farce and frivolities, though, does clash with the cold open, in which our protagonist’s alleged love interest gets nuked by someone from apparently either the Photography Club or the Ophthalmology Club. Do the battles ever become serious business? Or was it just an action-teaser with no context? I guess we’ll find out, and until then we’ll just wonder whether people brooding enigmatically at their window is foreshadowing or if they’re just admiring the glass-work.
There’s a lot of things that Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku could be at this point—comedy, drama, action, romance, or all of the above—and just from this episode I can’t really tell what its goals are. But it looked pretty good, was paced fairly evenly, and most importantly was fun, so one doesn’t feel like they need to immediately find out. I don’t know if I want to be covering this show on a weekly basis, especially if Funimation is going to make things difficult, but I’ll give it another episode, at least, to see if it can maintain its energy. I’ll see you all again next week.
ED: 「放課後ストライド」 (Houkagu Stride) by 木村珠莉 (Kimura Juri as Ichinomiya Eruna)