Eriko MatsuiTaku YashiroMiyu TomitaHisako Tojo
After School Dice Club
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: A
Also known as: Houkago Saikoro Club
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Kenichi Imaizumi
Writer: Atsushi Maekawa
Original creator: Hiro Nakamichi
Actor: Eriko Matsui, Hisako Tojo, Kohei Amasaki, Kotori Koiwai, M.A.O, Marika Kono, Miyu Tomita, Saki Miyashita, Shun Horie, Takaya Kuroda, Taku Yashiro
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 4 September 2022
Houkago Saikoro
Schoolgirls play board games. (Despite the title, most of them don't involve dice.) It's likeable. The girls are nice and the games are real. No names have been changed. You can google all of them and I recognised at least one game I own. This is surprisingly cool and it kept me watching the shelves and occasionally looking up something I didn't recognise on the internet.
Does it work as an anime, though? Would you watch twelve episodes of yourself playing Monopoly?
Answer: it's okay. I'd give it a mild recommendation. Don't expect a plot, although Midori wants to be a game designer and will try to design a game. Miki's shy and lacks confidence, but will grow as a result of getting dragged into games by the exuberant Aya. (She's also quite clever and tends to score better than Aya.) There's a surprisingly large supporting cast, including siblings, problem fathers, delinquent-looking best friends, ex-military shop owners, foreign game designers, school council presidents and more. The girls will happily play games with anyone and will, for instance, save the day for a grumpy child who'd been dragged on a failed day out by his parents.
The show teaches us about the importance to gaming culture of Germany, Alex Randolph and authorial credits for games designers. There's the debate about auteurs vs. playtesters in ep.6, which Midori is doomed to lose even if she fights her corner spiritedly. I also really liked the scene in ep.9 where the girls pull apart a traditional playground game and give it additional rules.
Less than half of each episode goes on actual game play. (I'm happy with this. I like board games, but I wouldn't watch a series of just that.) There's also character stuff, which is reasonably good.
The games include:
1. "Marrakech"
2. "Kakerlakenpoker"
3. "Incan Gold"
4. "6 Nimmt!", aka. "Take 6!"
5. "Goita", a traditional Japanese game that's played with what look like shogi pieces
6. Discussion of Midori's home-made game
7. "Monjiro" (dice with Japanese writing for making words) and "Survive: Escape From Atlantis" by Julian Courtland-Smith. (The anime calls the latter "The Island", though, which is its international name.) I bought the Atlantis game after seeing it in this episode and it's pretty good, but these days it makes our brains bleed out of our ears in this household because Misaki made us play it to death despite being too young to understand the concept of games. (It's very cut-throat and you're trying throughout to sabotage your opponents' rescue attempts and murder their explorers.) Incidentally, I've also heard good things about Courtland-Smith's "Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs".
8. "Keltis" (also known as "Lost Cities: The Board Game") and "Dobble" (also known as "Spot It!") I bought "Dobble" too. It was the UK's best-selling game in 2018-19, but it's not as good as you'd think. It's an ingenious spin on "Snap", basically. I'm sure it's great between children of the same age and I could also imagine sharp five-year-olds getting familiar with the cards and trouncing their parents, but it doesn't get much play in our household.
9. "Elfenland"
10. "Blokus" and "Ladies & Gentlemen"
11. Midori's home-made game again
12. finale episode
After buying "Survive: Escape from Atlantis", incidentally, I rewatched ep.7. The anime does a better job of explaining how to play it than the game's official rules booklet, but you'd probably expect that. Personally, I think this show's most interesting when discussing game design, especially in ep.9 when they examine a children's playground game and turn it into something even adults might want to play.
There are lots of games this show doesn't cover, though. They don't do tabletop role playing games ("Dungeons & Dragons", etc.) or Games Workshop style games like "Talisman", "Warhammer 40,000", etc. Another missing one I'd recommend is "Carcassonne", although be warned that its expansion sets don't tend to add much.
This show works. Watching schoolgirls play board games sounds like a boring idea and you'd probably expect this to be slice-of-life nothingness... but it's not. It's better than that. Its character types are familiar (the shy one, the genki one, the strict one, the foreign one, etc.), but they have enough depth and texture to be worth watching. I hadn't expected ever to rewatch this, but I ended up going back to the "Survive: Escape from Atlantis" episode (albeit for game-related reasons). The show's fairly well done.