A story about girls playing board games after school!
Kyoto in Spring. Aya is a high school girl who's just moved to a new town. Miki is her shy classmate, and her first friend. One day after school Aya and Miki follow the committee president Midori to a speciality board games store. The Dice Club!! Without thinking they try out a German board game together.
These girls, who are searching for fun, soon fall into the exciting world of games!
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS up to chapter 81
After seeing this manga in a cafe in Kyoto, I decided to pick it up and read it, just because it had a wide array of board games, and I wanted to learn about some more. While I didn't expect too much at the beginning, it turned out to be a good story that actually introduces the reader to various board games and allows them to explore the world of board games on their own.
** STORY **
Pretty standard story about a high school coming of age story, except with board games. It does a good job of
balancing the board game descriptions with the actual progression of the story. However, as the story goes on, there is less of an emphasis on explaining complicated board games through standalone chapters, and instead it moves on with the primary cast of characters as they discover what they want to do and more about themselves, while integrating board games to aid in the story telling. It uses the board games well in this aspect, instead of just including them as a "side game" the girls play just to pass the time.
One part of the story that I particularly liked were the school festivals. Usually with these mangas your school festival may be pretty standard. However, in this manga, there is a nice unique take on the festivals that makes it quite unique in my opinion, a good point for the story progression. I especially liked the second one and the planning that they had to put into making it work.
However, some things are still not perfect. Character progression feels slow at times, and it has a lot of standard Manga Cliches that might make you say "come on...". However, these are just minor details, and the overall story is still good. (score: 9)
** ART **
The board games are really detailed, and they look exactly like a real life copy you'd find in the store. From the pieces to the cards used in the games, it seems like every detailed has been accounted for. However, the characters were not given the same treatment. In the earlier chapters especially, it seems some of the characters (especially Aya) were drawn with weird facial proportions, and some of the backgrounds were not fully realized. However, this improved in the later chapters, and especially by chapters 70+, everything looks to be drawn better. (score: 8)
** CHARACTER **
The first part of the story revolves around the three main girls, with a fourth one added in later, Emilia, a girl from Germany. However, I really liked the addition of the Shopkeeper, Takeru, as someone to provide a set of diversity to an all girls cast. As an ex-army guy, with really big muscles, it provides a stark contrast to the otherwise primarily girls cast, which provides some comedic relief. Also, in Volume 8, to keep the story fresh, two new characters are added (best girl Nao), which with their introduction, helps to keep the story moving forward, instead of staying with the same cast the whole time. One critique I have is that sometimes, the characters can feel slightly two dimensional at times, but they are still different enough where this isn't really a large problem. (Score: 9)
** ENJOYMENT **
As someone that played a lot of board games and was looking to find new ones, when I saw this manga, I knew I would be hooked. I enjoyed watching the progression of the girls as they come to see what they want to do, as well as seeing the board games that they play. I feel that anyone that finishes the show will want to play more tabletop games. One critique that I have though is that when the board games are being explained, it can sometimes feel like the story is interrupted to explain the game, which kinda ruins the flow. (Score: 9)
I would recommend this story to anyone that is either interested in board games, or wants to become interested.
After School Dice Club (Houkago Saikoro Club) is a slice of life “cute girls + activity” series mainly centering around three high school girls playing modern board games together. As someone who is just as into tabletop gaming as I am anime and manga, this series feels like something that is tailor made for my tastes. Under normal circumstances, I rarely score things before I finish them, and especially not when I’ve consumed less than 15% of what has been released. However, this series strikes a very specific chord with me so I wanted to review it anyway. So be aware that this review is
currently only based on the first 2 volumes (18 chapters) which have English fan translations right now, out of the 14+ volumes worth of content that is out in Japan.
With that in mind, let’s get into the category breakouts:
-----Story - 8 out of 10-----
Despite it not having the “Slice of Life” genre tag on MAL at the time of me writing this review, After School Dice Club definitely has a slice of life story structure. We follow the daily activities of three girls and a few recurring side characters as they go to school and play a variety of modern board games. There aren’t any major plot lines and many of the chapters almost play out like tutorials on how to play different board games. That said, things flow pretty nicely with fun little bits of banter and character development sprinkled into each game session to keep things interesting. I never find myself getting bored as I read this series, but I could imagine those who aren’t into board games might not feel the same way.
-----Art - 8 out of 10-----
I find the art style of the series to be very clean and attractive. The characters are all expressive and it’s always easy to tell them apart from each other. The artist also does a good job of displaying each board game in ways that make sense and reproduces the real board games used very well so that they’re easily recognizable for board game fans even if they’re not used to seeing the titles in Japanese.
-----Characters - 9 out of 10-----
Characters are usually the backbone of a slice of life series, especially when comedy isn’t a major focus. I think the characters in this series are great. The core cast of three girls make for a great dynamic between the outgoing Aya, the shy Miki, and the proper Midori. They always play off of each other well and it’s nice to see them become closer friends as the series progresses. The supporting cast also works well, such as the macho ex-military game store owner, the guys that have crushes on the girls, and Aya’s older sister and her yankee-like friend.
-----Enjoyment - 9 out of 10-----
Honestly, this is probably an extremely niche series. It might be too “moe” for board game fans who aren’t into this kind of anime/manga, but may not be moe enough and focus too much on board games to appeal to “cute girls doing cute things” slice of life fans who aren’t into tabletop gaming. However, if you happen to be someone who is into both modern board games and slice of life content like this, then there is a lot to love about this series. I find it to be absolutely delightful and can’t wait for each new chapter to get translated. It puts a big smile on my face and I’m growing very attached to the characters. It’s even introducing me to some new board games that I want to check out now!
-----Overall - 9 out of 10 (Conclusion)-----
In the end, I think After School Dice Club is a very solid entry in the “cute girls + activity” slice of life genre with a very unique “activity” focus. The creator has an obvious passion for board games which is explicitly evident in the bonus chapter at the end of volume 2 in which he talks directly to the reader about the hobby and even gives a Top 5 List of games he’s been playing recently. In a way, this series can be seen as a board game YouTube channel in anime/manga form and I think it all just works splendidly. I would buy a US release of this in a heartbeat, but will go ahead and pick up the original Japanese volumes if an English version doesn’t get announced soon. It definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but if this sounds at all interesting or even if you’re just curious about modern board games, then you should give this a shot!