While I may be one of Anime-Planet’s resident shounen whores, I do love a good bit of comedy slice-of-life. Sadly, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by several of the industry’s more recent offerings. As such, I didn’t go into A Channel expecting much, and even then I was still disappointed.
As with the many moe adaptations of 4-koma manga, A Channel doesn’t have much in the way of an actual plotline. The series focuses primarily on Tooru, a particularly tiny and baby-faced girl starting her first year of high school, and her obsessive friendship with second year Run. The anime (very) loosely follows her progress as she meets Run’s other friends and interacts with them. In terms of narrative, to utter the immortal words of Porky Pig, “Th- th- th- that’s all folks!”. Though the lack of a solid story isn’t out of the ordinary for this type of series, what little thread of plot there is doesn’t grapple with the viewer’s attention. Part of the reason for this is that unlike other shows, A Channel doesn’t really have a ‘hook’ to make it stand out from the crowd. K-On! has its music; Working!! has the restaurant; GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Hidamari Sketch and Sketchbook ~Full Colors~ all have art,; Azumanga Daioh has wacky humour; and Kanamemo has the newspaper office; but while all of these have automatic springboards for fun and memorable situations, Tooru and the gang have to rely on the everyday occurrences that other shows only fall back on when they run out of ideas or want to pander to the fanbase (karaoke anyone?).
Despite setting the mood of being a light and funny series, A Channel focuses more on the slice-of-life than the comedy. Certainly, had the anime bombarded the viewer with an abundance of laughs, the everyday meanderings of the girls would have been more bearable. Many of its more “humorous” moments tend to fall flat, and though Run’s naivety and idiocy means to serve as the central pillar for the jokes it barely manages to raise a smile. In order to pull off a successful boke, the character in question must either be forceful or in your face (think Tomo from Azumanga Daioh or Nichijou’s Yuuko), or should have enough appeal and verve to carry a scene (like K-On!’s Yui and Miyako from Hidamari Sketch). Unfortunately Run isn’t brash, nor does she possess that crucial vigour, and as such most of the show’s comic potential gets squandered.
Now, many anime will have a scene where a song kicks in over the action (nine times out of ten it’s the opening) in order to heighten the emotion. Be it the latest shounen hero finally pummelling that pesky bad guy or the heart-warming and teary-eyed farewell in a shoujo series, these sections can be incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, A Channel decides that all the emotional impact that a decent bit of music can have is a pain in the bum, and instead just dumps a song into every episode; actively disrupting the show’s rhythm and detracting from any storytelling that it manages to scrape together. While the lyrics are generally matched to the action onscreen (such as “Crazy Love Cake” playing over the girls munching on homemade pancakes), the tracks themselves serve little purpose and feel more like an excuse to showcase the artist.
Having seen my fair share of moe slice-of-life anime, I’m fully aware that bodily proportions are never going (or for that matter, intended) to be accurate, be they stumpy-ankled creations from the likes of Manabi Straight or spindly-legged girls from K-On!. However, A Channel takes thin legs and tiny feet to a whole new dimension that drastically reduces the series moe appeal. With lower limbs that look like tapered chopsticks with a raisin impaled on the end and heads the size of over-inflated balloons balancing precariously atop their necks, it’s amazing that the girls don’t fall over – especially Run with her MASSIVE FOREHEAD OF DOOM!
The show’s visuals can be patchy at times and generally don’t astound the viewer. However, the series does boast odd moments of impressive animation; for example, in the scene where Tooru is running down the street in the middle of winter stepping on the frozen puddles, some of the close-ups of her feet cracking the thin layer of ice are truly well executed, with cracks forming in perfect time and odd shards chipping off in a realistic fashion.
A Channel’s voice cast makes the show. With a lacklustre story and uninspiring characters, the series’ seiyuu do a stellar job of bringing the anime to life. Aoi Yuuki doesn’t stray far from her all-too-familiar path of the soft-spoken kuudere type; however her previous experience shines through as she nails each and every one of Tooru’s inflections. Likewise, I could listen to Daisuke Ono’s dulcet tones all day long as he gets the balance between creepy forehead-pervert and sickly weakling for the bizarre Satou-sensei spot on.
The majority of the show’s background music makes little impact, but doesn’t affront. Only the aforementioned insert songs make their presence (almost painfully) known. The twelve tracks vary between normal, inoffensive bubbly J-Pop and gratingly fluffy tunes about eating cake. While not my personal taste (I’d far rather sit down to the Celtic inspired rock melodies from Fairy Tail) the songs themselves do fit the anime’s overall tone.
Like everything else, A Channel’s cast is mediocre at best and half of the main group feel like cheap K-On! rip-offs. While Yuuko bares an alarming resemblance to Mio all the way down to the long black hair, slender figure and excessive squeamishness towards anything even remotely scary, the worst offender is Yui-clone, Run. Now, as much as I find myself desperately wanting to punch K-On!’s lead idiot for being such a useless bint (sorry Patches), the hapless moeblob at least has some inherent charm, Run on the other hand simply fails. Not quite moe enough to actually endear the audience, the dopey teen spends most of her time standing around with a dumb (and highly slappable) look on her face.
Meanwhile, Nagi is the most enigmatic of the gang and, despite that being her selling point, she still feels woefully underdeveloped. Undoubtedly though, the star of the show is Tooru. With her small stature and as the youngest of the group she naturally gets a lot of attention, yet when it comes to Run, she demonstrates behaviour more akin to a feisty dog protecting its master. Her jealous streak when it comes to Yuuko and Nagi alongside her tendency to wield a baseball bat whenever boys get too close to Run, means that the young pup not only has the charisma that everyone else lacks, but she also hogs the limelight in whatever scene she’s in. Additionally, Tooru is the only member of the group to actually develop over the course of the series as the girls gradually “tame” her, something that manages to redeem the show from its otherwise tedious cast.
When it comes to secondary personalities, I’m not entirely sure that they get enough screen time to make their presence worthwhile. Certainly, the most prominent figures outside of the main group are the two teachers, Kitou and Satou. The creepy school nurse, Satou, makes a reasonable impression whenever he appears with his weak constitution, crazy shirts and unfathomable fetish directed at Run’s forehead. Meanwhile Kitou’s only “appeal” is her hot-blooded nature, a gag which soon wears thin, especially after you’ve seen her standing outside the school gates yelling “Good Morning!” at the top of her lungs for the third or fourth time.
A Channel is one of those shows that needs to rely on moe content in order to thrive. Sadly, like that pot plant in the corner you’ve forgotten to water for the last week, this series wilts from a lack of “HNNNGGGG”-y goodness. If you want something where you can switch your brain off while watching, then you could do worse than A Channel, but there are far better series out there for school-related comedy, slice-of-life and moe.
Having been close friends for years, when young Tooru passes her entrance exam she immediately rushes to tell Run that they will be attending the same school. However, since Run is one year older, not only will the two girls be in different classes, but the air-headed second year has already made her own friends, Yuuko and Nagi. Now the small, volatile and overprotective Tooru must learn to share her best friend and get to know her new acquaintances, as the four girls make the most of each new day.
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While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.