Akemi KandaAi NonakaYuko GotoTadashi Miyazawa
Kujibiki Unbalance
Medium: TV, OVA, series
Year: 2004
Director: Takashi Ikehata, Tsutomu Mizushima
Writer: Michiko Yokote
Actor: Ai Nonaka, Akemi Kanda, Akiko, Ami Koshimizu, Ayako Kawasumi, Eri Nakao, Fujiko Takimoto, Ikue Otani, Kana Ueda, Kazuko Kojima, Kumiko Nishihara, Masato Amada, Masayo Kurata, Nomiko, Reiko Takagi, Saeko Chiba, Shinji Kawada, Shintaro Asanuma, Tadashi Miyazawa, Yuka Imai, Yukana, Yukari Tamura, Yuko Goto, Yuko Kaida, Yuko Sasamoto
Keywords: anime, ninja, SF, fantasy, mecha, robot girl
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 3 episodes (OVA) and 12 episodes (TV)
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=4239
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 16 May 2024
Kujibiki Unbalance
The idea behind this show is mental. The characters in the otaku comedy Genshiken watched a show-within-a-show called Kujibiki Unbalance. The studio who were making Genshiken then decided to make some Kujibiki Unbalance as well, initially as one-off OVAs that were pretending to be randomly chosen episodes from a full-length TV series. A fictional show became real. It got three OVA episodes in 2004-05 (although they're not very good) and a full twelve-episode TV series in 2006 (because the OVAs were popular).
The two versions are sort of the same-ish. The TV series has been significantly reworked and it's weird to return to the OVAs after finishing it, even though they're more faithful to the glimpses we saw in Genshiken. Every version, though, is about student council candidates who've been chosen by lottery. This school believes in lotteries above all. Yeah, it's insane. The whole point of the series was to have fun with anime/manga cliches, so this apparently ordinary high school has aliens, ninjas, spies, guns, swords, assassination attempts, psychic powers, giant robots, android students and a teacher trying to sleep with her little brother.
The OVA continuity splits all the first year students into competing groups, who then fight each other in cooking tournaments. The TV series has only one small group of lottery-selected candidates, but they must still complete challenges to prove they're up to the job... or get expelled.
This is supposedly a 26-episode season (from which these OVAs are episodes 1, 21 and 25) and we even know all the episode titles. These OVAs are a mixed bunch. I don't hate them, but they're not that memorable. Ep.1 is okay. It's a decent first episode, introducing the wacky ideas and a lively cast. Ep.21 does random silly stuff and I got bored. Ep.25 is good, with an emotional point and engaging character work.
Renko is horrible, bratty and the best thing in every version of this show. She made me laugh and the series wouldn't be worth watching without her. President Retsuko, though, proved far less interesting than I'd expected. She's a stoic bystander who neither shows emotion nor participates in the challenges. She's Chihiro's childhood friend, admittedly, and there's deeper stuff under the surface. She can do surprising things. Nonetheless, ultimately, she's a bit boring.
They've overhauled the core cast. Chihiro is still the hapless male protagonist, but Komaki's been demoted to "minor supporting character" (a restaurant chef) while Izumi the yakuza thug is completely gone. Instead, Renko's been promoted from "rival" to "obnoxious teammate", while the newcomer Koyuki is a shrinking violet with psychic superpowers. As for Tokino, she's unrecognisable. Same name and plot role (i.e. Chihiro's love interest), but a completely different character. OVA-Tokino is a dozy blonde with a monstrous appetite and very little in her head beyond a love of mushrooms. TV-Tokino is an optimistic-to-a-fault, likeable redhead who's Chihiro's childhood friend (with Retsuko) and will eventually realise that she's in love with him.
The show works. The character beats are quite good. The plot's silly, but that's the point and I could name sillier shows. Surprising things turn out to be realistic, e.g. yes, pet chickens can indeed live that long. As for the absurdity, they're going for it wholeheartedly and leaving no room to doubt their intention. Renko keeps transforming her sidekick Yamada into giant mecha that can go on the rampage and destroy buildings. The chemistry teacher can make love potions. The school facilities are palatial, e.g. an aquarium that includes a blue whale. ("This is supposed to be a school, right?")
The only thing I dislike is their failure to embrace the "lottery" concept. It's in the title! ("Kujibiki" means "lottery" and the OVAs portrayed it almost as a school religion.) It's a fantastically weird idea and in principle the most interesting thing about this series. The more I think about it, the freakier it gets. This school chooses its student council randomly, to the extent that the current council's four members include a dog. What would a society like that be like? There's a character in ep.10 who wants revenge on the student council for his father's death while working for the student council... ten years ago. What? But there's no connection. Selection is random. It's literally names pulled out of a hat, every year. That guy's logic is insane. Similarly, Chihiro gets worried towards the end that he's not good enough to be president, despite the crazy system. Surely it's not his problem? Ability and aptitude aren't selection criteria, because there aren't any. The pool of potential candidates was "anything capable of pulling a piece of paper", including layabouts, infants, morons and passing gusts of wind.
I'd love to tell stories in that world. You could spend years exploring it. This series doesn't try and indeed is creating logic holes by dodging the question.
It's still surprisingly good, though. I like Tokino. Renko made me laugh from her first episode (OVA) to her last (TV). I'd say the TV series is worth a watch, after which you might consider trying two of the three OVAs if you're curious.