Review: Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku

[Synopsis]: Ichinomiya Eruna (Kimura, Juri), possessed by fantasies of cute girls and adorable uniforms, decides to attend Mikagura Academy after seeing Mikagura Seisa (Oonishi, Saori) as a model for the school’s pamphlet. Once she arrives however she learns that Mikagura is not like other traditional high schools and features club battles wherein representatives from different cultural clubs at the school duel in order to earn points for their respective clubs. The points can be used as a substitute for money within the school and one’s status along with that of their clubs and their budget are often tied to the results of these skirmishes. Awakening various powers and abilities, the students of Mikagura Academy battle to further their clubs and improve their standing in the school.

[Characters]:

To start off with the heroine and protagonist of the show, Eruna was I think the strongest part of the show. While her bubbly enthusiasm and blatant naivete is by no means an innovative trait as a female protagonist, her over-the-top, reactionary style of comedy along with her rampant love fantasies and her drooling over other girls makes her stand out in my mind. On top of that, I felt that Kimura Juri did an outstanding job executing Erun’s eccentric personality and gave her a voice that I think avoided most vocal archetypes and furthered her uniqueness substantially. Eruna’s desire to make friends and interact with others sets the pace for most of the show’s scenes and plot and while she is never far from a comedic moment she has a genuine investment in her friendships beyond that of her romantic fantasies. I think that Eruna is the single strongest appeal of the show and her presence carried a countless number of scenes.

Seisa is a far cry different from Eruna in that she is poised, reserved, and distant from the other students at the school, opting to often stay at home in her mansion instead of attending classes or battles. While she is not entirely cold to other people and sometimes exhibits a more playful side the majority of the show’s infrequent yet central plot is investigating the past circumstances that led to her current demeanor as Eruna struggles to make friends with her. Seisa is likely the strongest student at the school in terms of battling how however her ability ‘Killing Art’ I felt was woefully under-explained and while it worked well enough as an ability within the show, I think some further clarity would have been beneficial to both her and the plot.

I suppose the last character to mention outside of the general cast and Eruna’s other friends would be Bimii. Bimii is a flying cat and a teacher at Mikagura Academy however at no point during the show does he actually teach any of the students and can almost always be found following Eruna around. Like some members of the drama club he has a phrase with which he ends each of his sentences with which can become grating after a time and his overall presence in the show I thought was pretty irreverent as his purpose was to provide context for the school and its battles and be a comedic character – something I believe he failed to become as his gags were bland and not even Matsuoka Yoshitsugu could make me pay any mind to his character.

Mikagura has a fairly concise cast outside of it’s main characters and had enough members to construct a believable enough school setting however, despite their outrageous designs, many of the characters felt generic and forgettable as the show only really focused on a handful of people and made liberal use of fairly uninteresting side characters. A select few characters outside of the main two or three characters occasionally receive some investigation into their backstory or personality insights however these things hardly complicate them in a meaningful way and unfortunately don’t end up mattering a great deal in relation to the show.

[Art/Animation]:

While the show is produced by Doga Kobo, a studio which I always felt did quite well in the animation department, I was surprised by the below-average performance in this category. While the comedic faces were fairly well done throughout, the character designs wavered from scene to scene quite frequently and the action sequences were honestly pretty bad – at first I mistook the minimalistic, low-definition battles to be a stylistic choice however as the show progressed and I gained further examples of how these fights played out I realized that the animation was suffering heavily and the crude artwork was underselling the potential of the scenes. To posit a guess I would say that the show lacked a sufficient budget for what it wanted to do however whatever the actual reason, I feel Mikagura fell short in this area, an area I felt it needed to succeed in because of its character designs and premise of school battles.

To speak to the art itself, the show is just as flamboyant and flashy as it’s characters in that the colors are bright and pop against the generic background. I harbor no great love for vibrant character designs and so I will be straightforward when I say that I didn’t enjoy a majority of the cast on an aesthetic level – the drama club, utilizing traits like cat ears, heterochromia, and outlandish hats I felt was especially guilty of this however almost all of the characters are quite eccentric in design while I feel Eruna and Seisa are slightly more reserved and far more appealing in this category.

[Story]:

After establishing Eruna as a character and the setting of Mikagura Academy the plot of the show falls away somewhat in favor of more trivial scenes and exchanges in which the show introduces different characters and holds various school battles in accordance with its premise. The plot could best be identified as Eruna’s quest to find a club to which she wants to belong as well as her desire to make friends especially in the cases of Seisa and Otone. With these motives at play, the show conducts itself in a fairly simple manner and occasionally offers progression in the form of Eruna’s status at the school or by revealing the context of Seisa’s past.

While the show features a good many school battles it is first and foremost a comedy and the majority of scenes are spent on Eruna’s comical interactions with the rest of the cast. The battles themselves are frequent enough to keep one’s attention if that is their main draw to the show however their poor execution damages this aspect of the show. Despite this I must admit that a handful of the battles were quite enjoyable and that some of the student abilities were fun to watch play out however the battles almost entirely featured student’s butting heads against one another and were more or less devoid of actual strategy. I don’t feel that the show’s lack of plot progression was a negative factor as I thought it did quite alright in the comedy department and so I didn’t think it needed to overly concern itself with something it didn’t need to. None the less, It should be noted that the show is quite shallow as far as the story is concerned.

[Music]: The music in Mikagura was fairly forgettable outside of a few repeated songs that appeared in the battle sequences and even those didn’t impress me substantially. The battle music aside, the rest of the soundtrack was pretty generic background music and the only other thing of note in this category that I think is worth mentioning is that, as the series itself is based off of a light novel series inspired by Vocaloid songs written by Last Note. This being the case, there are a handful of songs outside of the OST that might catch one’s attention such as the varying ED’s which feature character covers of the original songs.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

Mikagura was a fun enough show and I don’t ‘regret watching it by any means if only because of Eruna but it’s poor animation, lack of other compelling characters, and moreover – it’s lack of interesting qualities tarnished my enjoyment of the show. Because I feel the show is so incredibly reliant on Eruna as a central force of comedy within the show I would guess that one could determine whether or not they will enjoy it based on the first episode and their impression of the character.

Rating: 5

I gave Mikagura a 5 because it fell short in a number of meaningful places yet still featured a decent level of comedy and a fun protagonist. The negative elements were not enough to ruin the show entirely for me however they weighed heavily on my ultimate perception of it and as such I can’t see any way that I could give the show more than a mediocre score.

[Recommendations]: Mikagura was a pretty decent comedy and anybody that enjoys the character of Eruna will probably find it worthwhile to stick around and watch the show despite its shortcomings. The action sequences are pretty fun and decent overall yet lack even moderately good animation to back them up and so I recommend this show very tentatively in regard to its battles.

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