On their first day of high school shy Ayumi Nonomura and taciturn Tatsuki Iizuka become lost on the immense campus of Kamizono Academy. An irresistible force of nature named Torako Kageyama accompanied by her best friend Suzume Saotome appears in front of them. Led, sometimes pushed, by Torako, the girls and their classmates work through problems of school, home and adolescence.
This show completely blew me away. Usually when Maceart suggests something to watch, it's some harem melodramatic crap or moe moe crap. But Hyakko is a different beast altogether.
Hyakko is about the lives of students in Kamizono Academy. The cast numbers around 20 well-fleshed out students, mostly high school students and two elementary school students. The series is fairly episodic, and goes into each of the characters one by one.
The characters make Hyakko golden. No other show in recent memory was this funny. The plot synopsis, a group of girls and guys hanging out in this high school, may sound like the most boring thing
ever. But it is not. You get the classic hyper girl, the quiet girl, the glasses girl, the scary girl, the tall airheaded girl, the girl who never opens her eyes, the bisexual girl, and many others. To make the show even better, Hyakko introduces a few key guy characters at just the right moments. You get the angry homeroom teacher, the lovesick guy, the bully, and the photographer dude. By the end of 13 episodes, all the characters will be etched inside your head like jam on toast. That analogy was pretty bad, but you get my point. What I mean is that everyone will find at least one character that they like. For me, I loved the lovesick guy and Tatsuki. They are amazingly awesome.
Hyakko has situational comedy defined down to the atomic level. For example, when Torako and the gang visits the cafeteria, you get such classics as COMBO CARDS and BIG SERVINGS. Hyakko can create comedy out of the most mundane things. Thought dodgeball isn't funny? Well you haven't watched Hyakko. How about art class? Well, Hyakko has got that covered too. Hyakko also does not resort to tired conventions such as fanservice to get its comedy across. In that aspect, Hyakko rises above Toradora and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Looking for beach episode? Hot springs episode? Not in Hyakko, nope.
As if the characters and situational comedy aren't enough, Hyakko's music is also awesome, to boot. I'm a classical music buff, and when I heard Vivaldi's 4th Season used as effective background music, I couldn't help but stand up in shock. Shocked in a good way, I mean. All of Vivaldi's work is presented in Hyakko, from Spring to Winter, and it is used so perfectly.
People have asked what kind of animation you should expect in this show. Well, the show airs in HD. Expect orgasmic clouds and super sharp trees in the background. The character designs need some time to get used to, but I love them. Sometimes Hyakko uses the technique of speed lines to animate scenes very well that usually don't require awesome animation. For example, in episode 1, the scene when Ayumi chases Tatsuki and Tatsuki turns around. That must have cost bundles of yen to animate. Like all anime, the animation quality dips during the middle but not to the point of pure QUALITY. It got fine in the end though.
As for the voice acting, Hyakko is littered with an all star cast. Aya Hirano is here. So is Yui Horie. So is Keiji Fujiwara. All the voices were superb. Even the two existential brats were awesome.
Are there any bad things about this show? Well, only episode 2 was kind of on the weak side, as they stretched 18 pages of manga across 24 minutes. But even a weak episode had its golden parts. DREAM TEAM, anyone?
Don't miss this show, please. I implore you not to. If you are looking for references and parodies, there are plenty. Hyakko covers Tetsujin 28, the Ring, Slam Dunk, and the Stonehenge, all within 13 episodes. Looking for lesbian tendencies? Hyakko has also got that base covered. If you are a fan of comedy, watch this show. If you like to watch pretty girls do surrealistic things, watch this show. If you have siblings, watch this show with them. My sister loved this show too.
Hyakko is so good, that I spent the last two days translating the last three episodes. (Sorry Mayu-subs) That's six hours of my life right there, and rightfully spent.
PS: This is more of a final impression/rant/giddiness rather than an objective review. The very long review by tehnominator is more level headed. I hope you still enjoyed reading it, though.
High school slice-of-life comedies are possibly the most common of anime. Dozens of them come out every year, and with a frequency that has only increased over time. Sometimes one of these school life shows does something special that makes them memorable and standout from their ilk, but usually they fade into obscurity, lost among a sea of similar shows. Such is the case with Hyakko, a generally enjoyable high school romp from 2008, that ultimately provides nothing outside the usual anime high school shenanigans.
The shenanigans are those of teenage trouble-child Torako Kageyama and the many odd friends she makes at Kamizono Academy. And what
a eclectic group of friends she has; including the cute and shy Ayumi, snobbish Tatsuki, physically fit and gluttonous Suzume, yankee Ushio, Sadako look-a-like Inori, bisexual class president Nene, and so many other peculiar personalities. With such a wide variety quirky characters bouncing off each, the show is undoubtedly fun. The show has dozens of character gags from Torako and Tatsuki's conflicting personalities, to Suzume's oddly nonchalant personality and excessive eating, to Nene's drooling over the rest of the female cast. The gags and jokes are quite simple but the animated personalities of the girls make them work enough. Of course this is essentially just another 'cute girls doing cute things' anime, as evident by the fact most of the characters are girls even though Kamizono is a co-ed school; there are only 4 reoccurring male characters, one of them being a teacher.
The overall tone of the show is largely zany. This is unmistakably a comedy show, and it rarely takes itself seriously. Most of the show's run time is spent on Torako's hair-brained antics and slowly introducing more characters into Torako's ever expanding group of friends. The usual episode is light and breezy, easy to watch and completely comfortable; devoid of any actual tension. While this makes the show enjoyable, it is also why the show ultimately doesn't accomplish anything of consequence, it is a good time but there is nothing more grasp onto. With no real plot and minimal conflict, the events of every episode blend together into a fuzzy glob of jokes. The comedy itself isn't particularly original or exceedingly crafty, it is more or less the usual anime humor of silly situations and overreactions, albeit done fairly well.
What makes this particularly frustrating is that Hyakko does have the potential to be more than the average school life comedy, the show just never capitalizes on it. The potential lies in two characters, Tatsuki and our lead, Torako. Tatsuki is a rich heiress with a complicated family life, she's used to being alone and despite attending Kamizono Academy since elementary she hasn't made any real long lasting friendships. In one of the show's rare slightly more serious episodes, Tatsuki ponders the solidarity of her school life til high school and the value of her new friends, only to realize she actually treasures them when they drop by her house in a surprise visit. This is a nice bit of development, which makes it too bad that it is confined to a single episode; pushed aside for high goofy shenanigans.
Likewise, Torako also has a complicated relationship with her family, probably even more so. She doesn't get alone well with the other members of her family, and often runs away from home. This could have been the foundation for some potent, maybe even mature family drama; perhaps even delving into why Torako behaves the way she does. However, this is only elaborated in a single admittedly good episode near the end of the series. There isn't really anything wrong with a show focusing on comedy, but Hyakko has clear potential for meaningful drama that it passes up, content with showing cute girls doing cute things. As a consequence, the show feels like a real under-achiever.
On a technical standpoint, Hyakko isn't all that impressive either. It is by no means a bad looking show; the character designs are quite adequate, certainly cute enough. They are more or less what is expected from an anime with a high school setting, and that is kind of the problem with them. Kamizono Academy is laid out well enough to feel like an actual place, but the backgrounds settle for passable; adequate enough to properly establish the setting, but never exceedingly well detailed. The animation is full of shortcuts and fully animated movement is rare. Such shortcuts are commonplace in slice-of-life comedies such as Hyakko, however this is a show that was made after The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, and other much better animated slice-of-life series, so it is hardly the best looking show of its kind or of its time. The music is largely light and wacky, adhering to the show's dominantly comedic tone. However, there are times when it achieves more emotional richness, which works well when the show aims to be slightly more serious or melancholy.
Hyakko certainly isn't an unpleasant show, quite the contrary. It has likeable characters and plenty of funny moments. The zany antics and personalities are easy enough to enjoy; the show is an easy and comfortable watch. In fact, it is probably too easy of a watch. There is essentially no plot, little tension or conflict, and sparse character development. The potential for such things is there, but the show is so preoccupied with being cute and funny that it neglects to be anything more. Fun though the show might be, it is ultimately unremarkable and unmemorable.
You could call this series "The Melancholy of Torako Kageyama" and not be far off. If you like Kyon, Mikuru, Yuki and Haruhi you'll probably enjoy Tatsuki, Ayumi, Suzume and Torako almost equally. Normally, Torako would be the the character in charge of slapstick comedy - loud, boisterous, and embarassing like Tomo, Himeko or Kana but here she shines. But Hyakko revolves around Torako no less than MoHS is centered on Haruhi, as a matter of fact if Haruhi were a "normal" human she'd probably be Torako Kageyama. In Torako's world there's too much to do and too many chances for fun and entertainment to
spend your time worrying about the sadder aspects of your life. Torako hates sitting still, grasping both life and her classmates with both hands she pulls both along in her wake blithely ignoring complaints and criticisms. There are other "slice of life" school girl comedies that are "funnier", Azumanga for instance, but I doubt if you'll find one with more fully developed characters in both the lead and supporting roles; particularly Torako Kageyama.
FOR YOUR SAKE, watch in this order: Episode 13 then Episodes 1-12.
Why? Because Episode 13 occurs chronologically before all the other episodes, and is a whole lot more enlightening if viewed first, and, I'm sure, will make your viewing experience much more enjoyable. It's a waste of time to see the "first" episode at the very end, because, by that point, you can pretty much fill in all the blanks yourself.
As for the show on the whole, it elicited a lukewarm response from me. At first, it deceivingly markets itself as a comedy, when it truly follows more of the drama/slice-of-life genre, although the drama
is mild and far-between.
The only thing driving this show is the characters, comprised of a diverse cast of different personalities. Hyakko's characters are certainly the only thing that saves it from its less-than-lackluster plot.
On the whole, Hyakko is decent. It wasn't for me, but if you're into this kind of genre (and the characters especially), it's certainly worth a run-through.