Akiba-chan focuses on the daily life of Akiba-chan and four fellow TV and game fans in the Maison de Akiba apartments. Buildup Entertainment (Gundam: Mission To The Rise, Macross Plus) produced the computer animation with director Junya Kabe (Specter, D) and character designer Poyoyon Rock (Nurse Witch Komugi, Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko).
"She's magical, oh, she's magical... Akiba-chan! One more time!"
Akiba-chan is an odd series, to put it mildly. After all, it's not often you come across a series acted out entirely with dolls and a little CG magic. Luckily in the case of Akiba-chan it works quite nicely, albeit while lacking the depth and staying power of many series utilizing more classic tried-and-true techniques.
Rather than having an ongoing plot carry over from episode to episode, Akiba-chan has episodic storylines arranged in five-minute vignettes. Each episode has a cute but somewhat shallow story; one episode has Akiba-chan and Milk-chan making chocolate, another has Akiba-chan trying to lose
some weight. Rather than developing any kind of depth, the stories are driven by the personalities of the characters, most commonly Akiba-chan and her dojikko nature. Really, in place of a story they've substituted cute characters being cute.
And combined with Akiba-chan's aesthetic, it actually works nicely. The dolls take a little getting used to, but the CG that smoothes out their movement is nearly seamless and speeds up the 'getting used to it' process. In keeping with the characters' dollish appearances, the colours are bright and vibrant; as the title suggests they look like items any otaku could proudly display on their shelves. Of course while the style has its high points it also has its limitations; the characters' movements are often jerky and awkward, and they don't emote very well.
Perhaps attempting to compensate for this, the voice cast puts around twice the amount of inflection and emotion into the characters' voices that they might normally. The result is a perpetual boucy, cutesy, overacted banter that would kill all realism... had it not gone out the window the second the sugary earworm opening theme kicked off the first episode. Because of the over-the-top cutesy nature of the show itself, the over-the-top cutesy nature of the voicework is actually a perfect fit. The fact that the leading ladies keep to relatively realistic tones instead of heading straight for the old 'gratingly squeaky-cute' standby really doesn't hurt things either.
Of course the problem with an episode series built on cute and little more is that, 3D though the characters may be, they still come across as totally flat. Akiba-chan is a dojikko, Riki-chan is a tomboy, and so on... but they don't get any development at all beyond the sparse cover provided by their generic labels. Granted the short episodes don't give time for character development any more than it gives time for deep, thought-provoking storylines, but after a few episodes 'Akiba-chan does something silly and it's cute' gets kind of old.
Overall, Akiba-chan is like a sugary desert: it's good while it lasts, but once you've finished you really don't want even a little more. Akiba-chan's ten episode course is the perfect duration. It goes until its shtick gets stale and then stops; even one episode more could very well be too much. I feel that if it was a series of the usual 23-minute installments that lasted a full season I would probably want to pitch my laptop out the window by the end of the first episode, but for what it was it was just right, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.