Medaka Box is a deconstruction of school comedies, so get ready to be triggered because of it. It starts as a goofy school council president helping out students and then changes to a fighting shonen about ridiculously overpowered teenagers. Said school council president is able to defeat everyone with a single punch from the very beginning, making this One Punch Man all over again, but with a girl. You might as well call it One Punch Woman, or since she loves running around in her panties, One Pantsu Woman.
Despite that, Medaka Box is not super famous or highly praised for being a deconstruction, because that word has lost its meaning and is now used only when someone wants to convince himself he is not reading garbage. This includes everything made by Nisio Isin, the guy who can only write softporn and has every pretentious overthinker making him sound like a genius for being meta as fuck.
And by meta, I mean having the entire manga taking place in a school, where the only things you never see are parents, teachers, adults, or any form of education. Meaning there is nothing school-like happening inside a school, because the setting has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. It’s just there as a cheap and lazy way to have teenagers being in one place so any shit you want to see happen, will happen. Which is why buildings are constantly blown up, psychotic teenagers are constantly sexually molesting each other, people are constantly being severely injured, and not a single police officer ever comes to check out what the hell is going on.
So basically, it’s another one of those chuuni stories where the entire planet is a generic high school full of oversexualized teenagers who are constantly fighting each other with cool superpowers they gained simply because they really wanted them. There is absolutely no realism whatsoever, and thus becomes pretentious when it tries to have a serious theme going on somewhere in there. The heroine for example is the definition of a Mary Sue. Perfect at everything, always on a higher moral ground, and always trying to help out everyone.
She is obnoxious for her constant smug and boring for never struggling to defeat someone. How do you expect any semblance of theme exploration to be taken seriously when your protagonist is always trying to reform the bad guys into good guys with the power of friendship, and a way of thinking that never goes beyond treating everything as either black or white?
Ah, but wait, there is a catch, she is intentionally written to be unsympathetic, as part of making the point more clear. It goes for a Mob Psycho 100 approach, poking fun at overpowered characters, who despite being perfect at everything, they are pressured psychologically because they don’t feel they are human next to everybody else. This is why Medaka constantly needs weaker people around her. Not because she needs assistance in defeating the bad guys, since that is something she can easily do by breezing through the school’s problems in her underwear, but because she doesn’t want to lose her touch with humanity.
The way I describe it makes it sound like excellent material for pretentious overthinkers. So why isn’t it super popular or analyzed to death like One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100, when it’s essentially the exact same thing? It’s definitely not because it didn’t have an anime adaptation to promote it. It was adapted, by Gainax of all studios, where it bombed horribly despite the bouncing boob physics. It’s also not because it wasn’t made by the super famous author who made the masterpiece of harem deconstructions that is the Monogatari franchise. It should have worked by mentioning his name alone.
Despite these credentials, nobody cares about it because down to it, no matter how subversive they try to make it seem, most people dropped it right away because of the unsympathetic Mary Sue. Most of the rest lost interest soon afterwards, because there is not much going on in terms of theme exploration. You get everything the story has to offer in twenty chapters, with the rest just regurgitating the exact same story structure for every new character that is introduced. He is psychotically evil, he has some strange power, Medaka and her friends kick the crap out of him, he becomes good, then another character appears and the cycle starts anew.
If you compare it to something like Neon Genesis, a show made by the same studio, which also had an unsympathetic protagonist, you see how you were always kept engaged there because something new was happening on every episode, which was far more than learning about the special power and backdrop story of someone who will not matter after a couple of pages. Neon Genesis also had fan service but even that was kept to a reasonable amount, wasn’t ever present, and was way more creative than the done to death way it’s done in Medaka Box.
There is nothing of interest in it once you have read enough titles to stop giving a damn about the premise or how meta the jokes are. It’s a case of not hitting any of the right buttons, despite having good ideas.
- Unsympathetic Mary Sue
- No tension because she is undefeatable
- Runs out of juice very fast
- Ruined theme exploration because of done to death sex jokes you can find on every ecchi comedy
This is my first review that I've ever done, so I do apologize if it doesn't quite hit marks that it should. But I'm going to give it my all and try to convey my feelings as much as possible. Let's go!
Summary: Medaka Box is about a high school student named Kurokami Medaka who is the leader of everything in the student council. As time goes on, she meets various students who help take over the student council with her, solving problems the students bring to her. As the plot advances, they find out many deep and interesting facts that result in Medaka growing even more powerful than one can imagine. (Sorry if my summaries are awful. I tend to reveal way too much in summaries, so I tried to keep it short and sweet without too many spoilers.)
I'm going to be honest here: This is my FAVORITE anime on the planet. I love everything about it and I've been reading the manga and I've seen both seasons. I feel as though the story doesn't really get too far, but it releases enough about the characters that sets up for some MAJOR events in the second season. I also feel that the story sometimes gets sidetracked with ecchi things (Don't get me wrong, I do love me some ecchi) but I sometimes felt that it confuses itself and gets lost in what it is really supposed to be about. But it doesn't get so lost that you can't understand the plot anymore or where it's going to be headed. Reasons why it ranked 7/10 for the plot.
The animation wasn't all that bad. I love the bright and vibrant colors that were used and I feel that each color used on a certain character reflected their personality. Even during some of the sadder scenes within the anime, the colors still gave it a off set, making it still seem positive in a room filled with darkness. Probably not what most animation would make you feel in an anime, but it certainly gave me a good vibe and kept me watching.
The music was not awful whatsoever and I honestly enjoyed all the OP and ED's that it had. It didn't feel over the top or out of place from what the story line was.
Now, this is where things get serious. I absolutely LOVED the characters in this series. Now, I know most people who have seen this anime have said, "Medaka is so over powered, it's not fair. She's so perfect making her a boring and stupid character." I believe the point of this anime and the chracteristics of Medaka were supposed to represent that even a "perfect" person in society goes through things when they can't save themselves or people from certain situations. Though she ends up doing it anyway, I believe that through some events in the series, Medaka didn't just overcome them in one fellow swoop. If so, the anime would just be complete repitition and predictable. But the fact that even though she can do anything without any physical flaws, she still maintains a personality and struggles with some events that happen. Again, only my opinion, but I value Medaka as a special character and her personality really speaks to me and about how even though someone may seem perfect and "over powered" on the outside, you never know what's happening on the inside or how people handle when they can't accomplish a perfect record. Additionally, her over the top personality seemed real and loving. She cared deeply for her friends and would save them no matter what came their way. She was honestly devoted to doing what she loved and strived to be passionate and positive in every situation. The other characters, however, still make the show hilarious, they also have development (mostly in the second season) that shows that people are "perfect" in their own way, so to speak. Yeah, they didn't accomplish anything super or complete something flawlessly like Medaka did. But it shows that through strength within one's self makes a difference in what seems "perfect" in someone's eyes. Medaka Box used to have the strongest character development (in my eyes) before I watched a few other animes that have had even better.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
I watched the anime first and read the manga afterward out of curiosity. And as I expected, the third arc in the manga (right where the anime left off) is the best. Everything that comes before and after is almost a waste of time.
But wait! Medaka Box is a "satire" anime manga, right? Shouldn't this be entertaining in some way then? It parodies shounen/manga cliché, character stereotypes, cliché scenes are poked fun at. Everything is present. Even the use of the "plot armor" aspect, in terms of plot.
What could go wrong?
First and foremost, the type of humor is completely forced and every possible character seems like a sad NPC without any depth or personality. They are just different character designs with dialogue. And this one is still the better of the two seasons since the setup from the anime was still kind of interesting and had charm.
A real plot is not present in the anime, not even after the second season. No, even in the manga there is no real plot. It's just one arc after another that has almost no relevance other than introducing new characters.
The characters aren't hateful, in their own bizarre and bad way, they are likable. Excluding, of course, the main antagonist of the third season (arc 3), which is a sympathy bomb.
The special thing here is actually that the characters towards the end of the manga have character development. But since this only occurs at the end, it is not relevant to the anime.
The intro is average, the osts are average except for the final one in episode 12.
There is hardly anything that can be said about this anime. It is empty and a below-average prologue. It has minimal strengths but that's about it. It stands out only for its bizarre features.
Enjoyment - 4
What is a "Mary Sue", really?
A lot of people will point you to classic and recent examples of the "Mary Sue", like Hermionie from Harry Potter, Rey from Star Wars, and to a lesser extent Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan. Whether or not I agree with the claims of these characters being the "Mary Sue" of their respective media, is up to your imagination. However, if I were asked by some random person what the "Mary Sue" incarnate would look like, at least in anime, I would prompt them to watch Medaka Box. Now, you also might be wondering if the only reason to dislike the show is the existence of the "Mary Sue". Not necessarilly... because there are a multitude of reasons to REALLY not like the show, with very few reasons to like it. Let's start by asking the first question.
(also content warning... I'll be saying "Mary Sue" like a hundred times in this review)
Does it have "Plot"? (14)
Hmm... let's see: Our main character... actually, IS she the main character? I don't think it's made clear which of the first two characters is actually the protagonist. Whomever it may be, I'll just decide that the show starts with Medaka Kurokami being chosen as the student council president of another pointless school, and basically attempting to solve all the school's problems through a "Suggestion Box" (thus the title of the show).
...and that's pretty much as far as the plot goes, because all of the things that happen afterward can fall under just solving the school's problems, with the only difference being that some episodes become "Duel Academy" style episodes. Although the second season does change the story a lot, but not to its benefit. It just goes from a "Duel Academy" to a "Dungeon Crawler", for no real reason.
That's pretty much all there is to the show for the two seasons currently available. The specific scenarios for the "Suggestion Box" change every episode or two, but the formula remains pretty much the same for each. As for the second season, the formula is a little different, but the new formula is now reused in each episode. There is no real climax or high or low points in either plot. They try to give you this idea of a climax in the first season, but it becomes aparent that they miss the mark once you realize what's going on with the character cast. Speaking of:
Does it have "Character"? (18)
Well, why don't we take a look at the main cast to figure this out. I'll get to Medaka last as there are a truckload of things I have to say about this one.
Let's start with Zenkichi. First of all, I find it difficult to figure out if the show wants Medaka or Zenkichi to be the protagonist. He is the one who narrates most of the time, and he is the only other character on screen with about as much as screen time as Medaka. Whichever is the case, one thing is certain...
This is NOT a good character. It's not that he is necessarily bad, but he's just kind of boring and generic. Like, his only purpose seems to be just going along with what the other main character is doing, and nothing else... I'd almost call him a "SIMP" as he always tries to justify everything Medaka does, but it's not clear that the guy likes Medaka in any way. He just hangs around her enough. Still, other than hims "SIMPing" over Medaka, there's almost nothing else going for him. I think they try to present him as this emotionless character "who you don't wanna see emotional" but it really doesn't work.
Next, we have Akune, who I can tolerate a bit more than Zenkichi. He has a bit more of a personatity to him, and they actually do a decent bait and switch to the character if you notice. Basically, they introduce him as the generic pretty boy stereotype (kind of like Fukuyama from Girls Bravo), but he doesn't really play that part much. They don't even make him out to be a perverted character. They do try to make him a sort of rival to Zenkichi, but there's really no contest between them. His only gimmick is that he has a crush on Medaka and unlike Zenkichi, he actually straight-up "SIMPs" for Medaka, but not to the point of making him look like an idiot. Even with that one gimmick, he's still much more tolerable than Zenkichi.
But for every decent character in the show, there seems to be another one who is not so good. There's a name for characters like this, but we'll just call this one "Kikaijima". Once again, it's not that she's explicitly bad... she's better than Zenkichi, but there are still some issues I have with her. First of all, her introduction completely contrasts her character after said introduction. There's a reason for that which is coming up, but once she becomes a mainstay character, she's treated as a 4th wheel character. She doesn't really do much outside of... once again, "SIMPing" for Medaka, and unfortunately it's the same as Zenkichi's "SIMPing", where she just defends her honor because she's stuck with her. If I had thought about it at the time, I would have counted up the amount of screen-time used where all three of these characters were doing this, and I gurantee it would have covered at least half of the show's runtime (including both seasons).
Before we get to the character that destroys the show, I want to talk about the character who should have gotten more screen time. Shiranui is definitely the most entertaining character in the show, in my opinion. Although, due to her having so little screen time, her character isn't that fleshed out. Maybe she has more of a presence in the manga... anyway, it seems like they were going for a character with varying personalities. She has a little bit of airhead in her, sometimes mischievous, some creepy almost sadistic moments, and even just a happy friend for Zenkichi, who likes to eat a lot. Whatever the case, the points where each of these traits come out are sparse and don't usually intersect with each other, which is a good thing. It's unfortunate, and really if she even had a couple more scenes, especially in Season 2, where she only had one (if I remember correctly), I would have been satisfied.
And now for this abomination...
Before we get to the debate of whether this character is a "Mary Sue" or not, let's just talk about my general thoughts of this character. Well, to be blunt, Medaka is definitely one-dimensional. I will admit that she is complex, but not in the way most people would describe a character as complex. Her personality is somewhat generic and she doesn't go through virtually any character development in the show. She's written as this positive attitude girl who can do anything (and everything) she puts her mind to. She is also what the anime calls an "abnormal", which is basically the show's word for "superhuman". That in and of itself is a problem with the whole show, which I'll get into later. When it comes to Medaka, this only amplifies the "Mary Sue" in her character...
Which is a great segue to talk about this aspect of Medaka's character. To anyone with this confusion, YES Medaka is a "Mary Sue". Before we talk about the ridiculous stuff, just her personality and surface level traits are enough to get her half way there. All the generic traits are there: Extreme Confidence, Preachy Monologues, High intelligence, "Strong, Independent woman who don't need no man", it's all here. She almost never makes a mistake, and whenever she does, it's either someone else's fault, or her minions come in to simp for her and preach to you why the mistake she made wasn't so bad. What's funny to me is that the show seems to be aware that viewers would look at Medaka as a "Mary Sue", so there are many times within the anime where they try to pretend she's not just that. The problem is that the things they try to bring up to counter this idea, such as many of the scenes with young/baby Medaka, either do nothing against her overall character, or just describe a completely different character than who we actually get to see. In fact, I would be willing to admit that young/baby Medaka is NOT a "Mary Sue", because she has completely different traits than her older character does, and some actual natural character flaws. Even adding onto that, if this was a story just about baby/young Medaka, it would have been way funnier and even more interesting than the actual show, to say the most.
Now on to the stupid stuff. First of all, the whole idea of the "abnormals" is its own level of stupidity, and it's not that characters with superhuman abilities is a bad thing. I mean, I love X-Men, and many other shows like that. I'm sure one of these days, I'll get around to watching My Hero Academia. The problem with that in this show, and an issue I have with many anime like this, is that the school basically just doesn't exist. Not that I necessarily want the show to be about the school, but you could take the school out of the whole show and it wouldn't be any different. It's just there so that they can justify all the main characters being teenagers. I also hate the "Supreme authority of the Student Council" trope you see in over half of the anime taking place in schools, including this one, where they somehow have more authority in the school than ANY of the teachers and to some extent, even the principal/headmaster. But even within the idea of characters having "abnormal" or superhuman abilities, Medaka is still rediculous, in a bad way.
**Spoiler Warning** (Talks about late season 1 and season 2 abilities, revealed for Medaka)
So Medaka has way too many advantages. I'd even say she ONLY has advantages. The major power she seems to have is that she copies the powers of her enemies and can use them better than the original powers with little effort, which in itself is a "Mary Sue's" power, but she somehow also has mastery in multiple martial arts through "hard work", even though as someone her age, it should be impossible for someone to achieve mastery in more than 1 every few years. Then not only is she a master in martial arts, which doesnt make someone strong, but just means they are at least competent in combat... well she also somehow just has super strength, super speed and agility... oh yeah, and she can walk on water. Now, if you haven't watched the show yet, you might be reading that and thinking "Walk on water?! What, is she supposed to be like JESUS or something?" WAIT, I wasn't finished! She can also go Super Sayan, into what the show literally calls "War God Mode". Not only this, she has a higher tier version called "Altered God Mode". So wait, does it end there? No! She also apparently has full control of all bodily functions down to the celular level... which is likely just an excuse to somehow explain any other ridiculous 'Deus Ex Machina' power they decide to give her at any point in the anime, which DOES happen multiple times throughout the show. I'm leaving out a plethorough of powers that the manga just keeps on adding to her.
For those who have watched the show, some of whom may also be Medaka simps, saying things like: "but her 'War God Mode' makes her 'lose her humanity', so she can't be a 'Mary Sue', right?" And to that I say, "WRONG!" The whole issue of the "Mary Sue" (and "gods") is that these characters are inhuman to begin with. "Mary Sue" characters are still allowed to have emotions. And even so, the only time in the anime that this argument could possibly be brought up, is during a point where it's hinted that she is looking to actually target and do physical harm to an enemy, but before she actually lands a finishing blow... can you guess what happens...? It's pretty easy. If you guessed her "simp army", you'd be correct. Yeah so her simp army basically comes to her rescue to turn her back into the normal Mary Sue, in other words ensuring that she can't do anything that would slightly tarnish her "righteousnes" reputation. Then she just goes right back to the Medaka you've all grown to know and not love.
But, back to the topic of why there is no real argument against her being a Mary Sue... What happens when she fights or "competes" with an opponent? Does she actually face ANY hardship in the anime? I can give you 4 examples of how she never really does.
What's repeating here? Essentially she either switches to a different method, OR the different method is placed there for her. There's nothing difficult about changing to a different weapon to give you an advantage, and that's basically what happens in all of these. There's no challenge, outside of "Oh darn, they went that way? Guess I have to also go that way..." Now this is not to say that being forced to switch to another tool on the belt automatically makes a character a Mary Sue. I mean most video games do something like that. But also in most of those cases, even switching to the other method doesn't really eliminate the challenge.
So looking at my rants about the characters, you'd think I have nothing but relentless disdain for all the characters in this cast... you'd be correct for a majority of the characters. There are a few more, like Shiranui, who I at least liked a little bit.
I did like some of the villain characters. I don't like calling these characters villains, simply due to the rediculousness of the "abnormal" powers, but within she show's own lack of logic, they technically are still villains. Anyway, in particular I enjoyed Unzen, Naze, and Shigusa. The latter two were in it very shortly, which is probably why I didn't hate them. I also like it when anime studios have the balls to stereotype certain characters, even within the "politically correct" climate seems to get out of control. At the same time it might simply be because certain types of people are so uncommon in Japan that they kind of have to stereotype...
...anyway so I like the characters. Unzen in particular I like for basically being the one character who is self-aware enough to point out how much of a "Mary Sue" Medaka is, but in a way that makes sense within the show's lack of logic. This is also one of the reasons why I think the creators knew about Medaka's traits. The only reason I don't like them is because of "Mary-daka". All of them eventually become non-villains after their interactions with her. Unzen is the only one who remains sort of neutral, but he's still a completely different character.
...and enough of that. I don't want to give these characters too much praise as to give y'all the idea that I might like this cast more than I say. So let's talk about something else...
Like maybe... the "Atmosphere"? (5)
SURE! But what do I mean by atmosphere? Well, here is where I would talk about my general thoughts about the sound, the art and animation, among other things that set the "General Effect" of the show. I usually group these things together because in my opinion, they need to work together in order for the audience to connect with the show. If one works and the other doesn't, the show can be off-putting.
With that being said, the Atmosphere is rather average. The sound does seem to take a back seat to the animation, which I have to give this show credit for. That being, the art and animation of this show are great, even for 2012, when animation seemed to reach a peak with shows like Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica, and eventually Attack on Titan. The animation is definitely not as great as those, but it definitely shines through when the show calls for it.. especially when the focus is mostly on Medaka and how overpowered and "perfect" she is. There are plenty of visually impressive shots involving her looking down on her lesser peers, as well as many of the action scenes, some of which take obvious inspiration from other action anime, like Dragon Ball Z, and sometimes do them better than those classic shows. The art itself is also pleasing to look at. As stupid as it is for this show to have a school in the first place, the backdrops and uniforms do still look good... even if I'm not always a fan of school uniforms in anime, as it makes drawing unique characters much easier since they're all wearing the same thing... but I digress as that's more of a gripe I have with anime in general rather than this specific show.
As for the sound... well it works. I did suffer through the English dub. I didn't dislike the dub, as it did feature a lot of Voice Actors I enjoy a lot. Medaka's Voice Actress, Shelley Calene-Black, in particular is one of my favorite female VAs. Ironically, even with her having one of the least flexible voices in English Dubs... as in her voice is basically the same for every character she plays... but I think it works for 90% of the characters she plays. She does nail the persona of Medaka very well. Greg Aries as Unzen... really as anyone... is usually a blast. Those are really the only ones that have really no problems... however the other characters' problems really just stem from bad translation. I can't tell you how annoying it is when English Dubs use the Japanese name endings. This is one of those things where I'll say "if you don't think that's a bad thing... It's okay, it's not always bad to be wrong sometimes."
If you are okay with Japanese name endings (like "-chan", "-kun", "-san", etc.) in English Dubs, then you should be okay with all English Dubs...
Look, if you're trying to localize a show for certain regions, you have to actually localize it. What does that mean? Put it in a way that most people in that region will understand. Most people in America don't know what "-chan" or "-san" mean. It's one thing to keep Japanese names, since Proper names mean the same thing in both languages, but the name endings have no meaning in English, so there's no reason for them to exist in an English Dub... I mean, unless you're trying to normalize other regions using those terms, but wouldn't that be cultural appropriation...? err cultural injection...? IDK the term, but that would be like replacing Sushi in Japanese local restaurants with Barbecue ribs or something. It makes no sense to do that unless you're trying to Get Japanese people to think it's normal...
This rant is very out of place...
So let's just say the dub is spotty, but has a couple good performances. The music direction is... generic, I guess. The only one that really stands out is just the opening theme, mainly due to the animation shining lights on Medaka. The music does it's job and nothing seems out of place or anything, but again nothing really stands out either.
*[Edit] I just remembered something after publishing this review*
I remember reading that the manga was apparently meant to be a satire on anime itself, making fun of many common anime tropes. Maybe the manga did that better than the anime, but I never got that feeling from the anime. The show seemed to take itself rather seriously, all things considered. The show doesn't really make fun of these ideas, but rather seems to adapt them. And really, the only exaggerated tropes or anime staples they seemed to make fun of, if at all, were attached to Medaka, and seem to further cement the "Mary Sue" aspect of her character. But they really don't even make fun of that. It might have been a bit better if it was obvious that was the case. An example of this working would be the main character from Good Luck Girl. Though, she's technically not a "Mary Sue", she does bare similarities to Medaka, but that show generally succeeds in making fun of the protagonist.
This doesn't really change any of my opinions of the show, but I felt like I should address this, since it would likely be brought up in the comments.
So the Verdict? (37)
It's a mess...
Medaka is a "Mari Sue".
There's 3 decent characters in the whole show.
The animation is actually pretty good.
The sound (in English) is mediocre at best.
And this review is full of rants, as you should expect in a website full of reviews... full of rants.
So it's with all of these points that I give Medaka Box a rating of: