Asami SetoRumi OokuboSatomi AkesakaHisako Tojo
Urawa no Usagi-chan
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: U
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Mitsuyuki Ishibashi
Actor: Asami Seto, Hisako Tojo, Keiko Watanabe, Miyu Kubota, Nao Tamura, Rumi Ookubo, Satomi Akesaka, Yo Taichi
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 three-and-a-half-minute episodes
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 8 September 2016
It's better than I'd expected after watching ep.1. It's still basically pointless, but it gradually crawls its way up from "why am I watching this?" for the first half of the series to "mildly amusing in places" thereafter. I ended up almost sort of liking it.
The show was commissioned to promote tourism to the town of Urawa, in Saitama prefecture. Ep.1 lays it on thick with our heroine (Usagi-chan) telling us all about her hometown and showing us shrines and things. She loves Urawa! Yay! She has some fairly pointless banter with some schoolfriends, then the episode ends. That's not much, even in three-and-a-half minutes. Is that it? Is there anything in this anime at all? It wasn't clear on first viewing what the episode had even been aiming for.
If you rewatch ep.1 after doing some reading about the show, though, you'll notice the backgrounds. They're photographs. That's not immediately obvious because they've been photoshopped to add blur, flatten the colour and reduce the resolution, mind you. Backgrounds shouldn't upstages the main action. Besides, it would have jarred to see anime characters against a photorealistic backdrop. Even so, though, this is still visibly a real place and it's mildly interesting to see it being used in this way. The only problem is that the show's set in a school, so for the most part its photographic backgrounds are plain, ugly and indistinguishable from any other anime with a school setting. Doors, tables, etc. Only when Usagi goes outside do we have anything to look at.
Anyway, I watched on. It soon becomes clear that no one's paying much attention to the Urawa thing. Basically this is a show about eight schoolgirls. No plot, obviously. It's approximately a comedy. The first half isn't funny. The banter doesn't feel as if it's going anywhere. Ep.5 has a tsukkomi (straight man punchline) so ill-timed that you'll decide that comedy just isn't this show's thing.
Eventually, though, it improves. You get to know the characters. They're not brilliant and there are too many of them for such a short series, but they have their moments. Tokiwa's escalating physical retaliation against Minami's bad behaviour starts getting funny. Lying on the floor is dull. Upside-down in a dustbin is better. Hurled horizontally into an open locker with your computer game up your bottom is quite amusing.
The cast has eight girls with four hair colours, either dark or bright. This might perhaps be confusing (particularly with the yellow girls), but the show compensates with some bold hairstyles and outfits. They've also been sorted into two groups: members of the Railway Club and members of their school's student council. The latter tend to be the ones with pale hair colours and sillier hairstyles. We have:
1. Bright pink, Railway Club - Usagi, the main character and a goofball. Hates studying, which makes ep.10 quite funny.
2. Orangey yellow, Railway Club - Minami, energetic motormouth, teases Tokiwa a lot and as a result gets knocked unconscious. This doesn't bother her.
3. Blue, Railway Club - Tokiwa, tall, slightly menacing. Has a low tolerance of idiocy and sensitive radar for detecting it. Particularly dislikes comments on how her diet or exercise regime doesn't seem to be getting results.
4. Dark green, Railway Club president - Midori, serene and vaguely maternal, you'll forget that she's there.
5. Light green with classes, Railway Club - Sakura, even less presence than Midori.
6. Pale pink with a goofy hairstyle and a comedy skirt, student council president - Saiko, delusional, wears cat ears and bat wings. She's the only student council member who earns her place in the show, although Misono's sweet even if she isn't funny.
7. Pale yellow with stars in her hair, student council - Kojika, not much personality although she does get an episode where she likes ninja-themed food.
8. Pale turqoise-blue and an absolutely ridiculous hairstyle, looks about six years old, student council - Misono, no sense of direction.
...and that's it. That's pretty much all there is to this show. Nothing consequential happens. We never even learn what that quiz show prize was in eps.8-9. It's just schoolgirls being silly and occasionally telling us about Saitama. She see a shrine or two. There's not much point to any of it and you could improve the show no end by jettisoning half the cast, but I wouldn't be averse to seeing the show expanded or continued. It slowly grows on you. It exceeded my low expectations. It's not worth hunting down or anything, but Minami and Tokiwa amused me.