What’s it about? Miki Takesaka is an uber-introvert – she doesn’t enjoy what most of her classmates do, hates crowded places, and spends most of her time walking alone by the Kamogawa River. She’s accepted her quiet life of solitude, until her new classmate, Aya, almost runs her over with her bike. The two end up wandering Kyoto together, but then as they find their way home, they run into the stern class representative, Midori! Their school doesn’t allow students to go out after 6 P.M. on school nights – what could she be doing?
A high school imposing a 6pm curfew feels totally out of bounds to me? I was definitely out after that time on school nights regularly, and I was a relatively well-behaved teenager. I just don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the idea of youth curfews, especially at this exaggerated extreme.
Still, that curfew is the catalyst for this season’s most hotly-anticipated cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime: After School Dice Club. Like cute girls? Like tabletop games? This is the anime for you!
As for me, I’m lukewarm at best about cute girls series, having survived the moe-splosion of the mid-00’s. I get the appeal; there’s a warmth and a degree of relatability to the quiet, low-conflict storytelling, but I prefer more challenging heroines and greater complexity. Having them participate in an activity that I have at least a passing interest in makes things more interesting at least, but I generally prefer playing them to watching them.
And the thing is, I could easily spend the time playing them instead! The show features real board games, some of which I have on my own shelves! For the first episode they played Marrakech, which seems like a perfectly fine game but isn’t really a thrilling watch. You know, like most tabletop games.
One thing the episode handled well is how Miki is exactly the kind of person who usually ends up getting into tabletop games and other geeky communities. She’s introverted but not necessarily asocial. She doesn’t connect with popular interests or activities for people her age, so she ends up spending most of her time alone.
Board games, which involve focused interaction within a small group, are perfect for someone like her. As someone who joined her university’s simulation gaming association in search of an alternative to loud, alcohol-soaked frat parties, I genuinely appreciated and related to Miki’s situation and outlook.
Aya and Midori fill out the cast, but as non-POV characters, they come across as much flatter. Aya is energetic and outgoing, drawing Miki out of her shell and inviting her to take an interest in the world around her. She’s just moved to Kyoto, the traditional cultural capital of Japan, and she wants to experience everything the city has to offer; as opposed to Miki, who has lived there all her life and takes it all for granted.
Midori, on the other hand, is much more buttoned-up. She softens up a bit when the game store manager is completely overpowering Miki at Marrakech (which, jerk move, that’s not how you get people interested in games) and steps in to assist Miki to win over him, but still insists that Miki and Aya keep to the curfew. I did think it was interesting how she chooses to speak in standard Japanese rather than Kyoto dialect, because she finds standard more precise… but that’s more about me being a linguistics nerd than something I think the show will build on.
I’m not especially enthused about this first episode. Not because it does anything wrong or sketchy, but because I just don’t think watching other people play games is interesting. However, in this age of Twitch and Let’s Plays, I know that there are a lot of people who feel otherwise. So, maybe this series will be for you. Just, probably not for me.