Special A, an anthology of comments: Part 1

I thought this would be an interesting exercise to do, and I certainly didn’t plan this while I was watching and actively commenting on the show, which is what makes for such an interesting “experiment”.  Basically, this is a collection of posts that I made on the series on the Animesuki forums in the Special A thread as it aired.  I chose Special A because I happened to comment on all bar a couple of episodes, and I was reasonably accurate with my earlier assessment of it, which is one of those rare cases where I actually look perceptive.  I also think it’s interesting to make additional comments with the benefit of hindsight, and compare some of the fluctuations in opinion with what I finally thought in the end, and wrote in my review.  I often use these sessions as a way of clarifying my own thoughts on a show, which makes the review-writing process a little easier (the posts basically become my starting notes), and I try to make these posts as loyal a representation of my thoughts as possible, or, at the very least, a bit of fun.  Anyway, enjoy.

Why has the hype this season been so misleading?  I heard this show was like School Rumble.  It’s nothing like School Rumble.  Now I love School Rumble… *ahem*, excuse me, I love School Rumble’s characters, but I hate its go-nowhere plot.  There have been quite a few of these shounen rom-com series of recent times that actually have a fairly likable cast, but a plot that moves like molasses.  Hayate no Gotoku even went so far as to admit it.  I can see this show very much falling into the same trap.  I guess that’s where a comparison with School Rumble is probably fair.

Ep 1

The whole thing was pretty over-the-top, and I have a fair idea where they’re going to go with this.  Everything lies on the shoulders of the characters.  If the characters are good, this will be enjoyable… if not, it will be torture.  As Skyfall points out, expecting character development will be a mistake.  It doesn’t seem like the show that will have too much more ambition than to set up its equilibrium, and then only make very minor nudges away from it, only to quickly fall back for much of the course of its run.  The side characters annoy me.  I think that’s a real problem.  This may well have to be one of those shows that’s carried by its leads alone.

As far as the seiyuu are concerned, I think the criticisms against Fukuyama that he sounds too much like his Lelouch voice are fair, but let me put it this way: would you rather he sound like Iba Itsuki?  I like how Goto’s approached this, but I like Goto in general.  I think she’s really underestimated, and has a hell of a lot more range and versatility than her SOS-dan counterparts.

I don’t think this has anywhere near as much potential as, for example, Itazura na Kiss but, as I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think even its writers realize how much potential Itazura na Kiss has.  This might work as yet another enjoyable shounen rom-com with likable characters and a terribly stagnant story, but I can’t see it topping School Rumble in that department, and I can’t see this doing too much more than that.

Meh, I guess I’m the only one who’s going into this series like it’s akin to KareKano rather than Ouran. Humour wasn’t really in SA (unlike Ouran), but I absolutely love the rivalry between Hikari and Kei, much like I did to the main couple in KareKano. And like that show, I’m here for the development of their relationship, it being rivalry, romantic, or whatnot.

Yeah, but, as funny as Kare Kano was, it was at its best when it was dealing with realistic situations for teenagers in a mature and serious way.  I’m not sure this show has the capacity for the same thing.  It’s comedy is too over-the-top, so if it tries to deal with something serious, it’ll almost feel like a wild mood swing (unless they’re exceptionally careful).

The wild mood swings did become apparent, but they happened so often and were so innate to the show that after a while you just stop noticing them, one of the reasons why I didn’t mention how jarring the transitions between off-the-wall antics and character-driven moments of drama were.  I think, also, the over-the-top comedy just lost impact after a while… the show was never going to be particularly “elegant” with its comedic approach, but after a while it wasn’t even all that annoying, it was just… there.  LOL @ my praise of Goto, I actually started to dislike her in this by end.  Maybe her character had something to do with that.

I liked the OP, but to say Goto’s voice is an “acquired” taste is an understatement, so I can’t blame people for not liking it. It’s not that she can’t sing, but she sings in such a unique way.

Ep 2

The ep itself, though, gets a big giant “meh”. There’s something really underwhelming about how the whole thing has been executed and there’s just a total lack of atmosphere with any of this. The characters are rather boring as well. Particularly Takishima. He pretty much had the same facial and vocal expression throughout the entire episode. He’s a character that’s rather lacking in energy, and he seemingly exudes even less than I think they designed him to.

Formulaic challenges-of-the-week will get old very quickly.

And they did.

Why doesn’t Lelouch just use his Geass on her? Hmm… that jokes probably getting old now.

Ep 3

Ok, I didn’t mind that, but the rice-making sequence went on far too long. I was almost about to repeat my comment from last week that Takishima is boring, but the last scene kinda redeemed him a bit in that respect (even if it was predictable, it was still rather endearing). His past, though, was ripped straight from the book of troubled childhood backstory cliches. I really couldn’t see what it added to the whole thing, other than give him a reason for specifically choosing hand-made bento. As far as adding to his character, I really didn’t think it did all that much.

Love Goto’s moe voice (see the President’s fantasy for what I’m talking about). I could listen to that all day. Even in a profession filled with people doing cute voices, I don’t think there are too many seiyuu that can do a cute voice better than Goto.

Better than last week. More episodes like this and less with pointless contests-of-the-week, please. Although better pacing would help a little (I can tolerate twenty minutes of rice-making and waiting for rice to be made, but there are plenty of other things I’d rather be watching).

Three weeks worth of comments from a Goto fanboy.  And what type of Code Geass based joke ever gets old?  Eh?  Eh!?

Ep 4

Well, that was rather predictable, and not terribly funny, but I enjoyed it somewhat. A random thought entered my head while watching the dragonfly scene. Something along the lines of: “man, these two would have the most violent sex”. They’re so competitive and violent, I just can’t help but think that evil things would happen between them in the bedroom.

Anyway, that’s where I derived my most mirth from in this episode. Takishima continues to be boring except when the script calls for it, so it feels forced when he suddenly ‘becomes human’. (At least the show had a certain self-awareness about this, but I really don’t think it works all that well when you have one of the leads in a romance series be as robotic as Takishima).

Nonetheless, I don’t mind this, and I certainly won’t be dropping it. It’s not terrible, it’s just “meh”. I think if it makes certain, minor changes (like the male lead growing a personality and the female lead not having extreme tunnel vision), it could be a lot more enjoyable. I’m not going to discount the possibility that this could eventually get better, because there’s no obvious reason why it can’t.

You’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes, right?  Is it sad that the ‘violent sex’ thought was one of the funniest things I found in regards to this series?   The ‘it’s just “meh”‘ line of thought was pretty much where I came back to by the end.

Ep 5

Trying my best to overlook the fact that an elite Japanese high school has more money than the Polish economy. That’s a typical anime-ism after all. But I’m really growing weary of all these contests. Yes, I realize it’s an integral part of Hikari and Kei’s relationship, but, as this episode kinda hints, the inevitability is that they’ll both realize that their constant bickering and competitiveness is pointless. I just wish they’d realize this faster and just have their angry sex already.

Ep 6

I think this ep would have been far more interesting if it had at least a few scenes with Hikari and Kei interacting with the guests and Kei trying to clean up the mess every time Hikari committed a faux pas. Instead it had to devolve into another mindless contest.

Hikari’s not exactly winning me over with her romantic obliviousness and extreme reactions to the very thought that Kei might be interested in her. And Kei is still showing that he has less personality than a block of wood. The romance in this show is hardly impressing me.

And that never really changed, as far as the main characters were concerned anyway.  Sure, they had their moments, as I’ll get to later on, but romantically, it was really the side characters that stole the show.

Ep 7

This show doesn’t seem interested in breaking out of patterns any time soon. Another contest.

Well, even though the writers did everything they possibly could to postpone it, at least we got there in the end. It’s only a tiny amount of progress and, as usual, it had to be forced through with the most asinine of plot devices, but at least it’s progress.

The comedy isn’t really doing much for me. It’s mildly entertaining at its best, but it certainly falls over when you compare it with something like Ouran where I was laughing almost every episode. Knowing that the comedy is there almost purely to postpone any plot progression kinda takes the enjoyment out of it.

As I said in my review, the same can be said about Hikari herself.  In fact, Hikari turned out to be a much more annoying plot staller, because she ultimately had no excuse.  Kei told her flat out what his feeling were for her, time and again, and the stupid girl still didn’t get it.

Ep 8

Yeah, agree with Kimichi and others that the fact that we’ve seen this set up before kinda mutes its impact. But I was suitably impressed with Hikari. She did all the right things in this ep, IMO. Takishima’s also on the verge of possibly growing a personality as well, so I guess things are starting to go in the right direction in this show.

If there’s one thing that can be said about this show, it’s that it always did go in the right direction.  It just took very slow steps to get there.  I’ve never really had huge problems with the plot, even if it did have its share of flaws, but if one could say the romances were inspired by Kare Kano (which is a good thing), then the pacing was inspired by School Rumble (which is a very bad thing).  I guess that’s why the pre-hype was comparing this with School Rumble, after all.

Anyway, we’ll take a break at this point… in part because I’m actually surprised that I wrote this much just on the first 8 episodes, and I don’t really want to inundate my two readers with a giant wall of spoiler-laden text about a series they may or may not have seen.  Oh by the way, a warning, this post has spoilers…

Don’t feel too cheated, the real spoilers are still to come.

2 Responses to “Special A, an anthology of comments: Part 1”

  1. Your review more or less scared me away from Special A so I’ll just comment that I do find the method of taking notes is pretty damned useful when it comes to writing reviews (I more or less do the same thing, whether it’s posting on ASuki or jotting down a few thoughts on Notepad). Always an interesting revelation to see when my earlier thoughts do a complete 180-degree turn towards the series completion. It doesn’t happen often, but enough for me to always be amused when it does.

  2. I personally think that’s among the best arguments one can come up with for persisting with a show that starts off on a weak note. I actually find that, often, my impressions of a show are dead wrong after the first ep. Sunrise in particular has a habit of proving my initial expectations wrong.

    This is about as close as I’ll come to doing episodic reviews. I’m actually surprised at how comprehensive these “notes” actually turn out to be. This blog post turned out to be 2000 words, and that’s just the first 8 episodes. The average full series review is 500-600 words. The review format we use is a restrictive one, we really do have to compress down and tighten up when we go to write a review. There’s no room for excess, but I guess with this style of episodic comments you can’t help but repeat certain points over and over again. That’s probably one of the reasons why this turned out to be so long.

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