So I just watched the first episode of the Kaichou wa Maid-sama! anime (“The student council president is a maid!”, for those not learned in the ways of romaji and/or Japanese (not that I am)). I’ll get into the dirty details after the jump, but here’s a screen:
I guess my impression is “bleehhhhhhhh.” Misaki’s voice is done pretty well, but Takumi’s is almost completely monotone and emotionless… after good performances in To Aru Majutsu no Index, Asu no Yoichi, and Ookamikakushi, it’s disappointing to see such an effortless performance. Sure, it’s only the first episode, but it sounds like he literally read the script for the first time while doing it. I can’t believe they OK’d it for the final cut.
Being based on a shoujo manga, I can forgive the animation a little bit, but I felt like it was pretty horrendous, compared to say Skip Beat’s anime adaptation. The backgrounds are completely uninteresting, being neither minimalistic nor somewhat detailed, and it’s like that pretty much throughout the whole episode. Again, since it’s based on a shoujo manga, I would expect there to be less focus spent on backgrounds, but that doesn’t mean to completely half-ass them all. It’s like they poured all the effort into making pointless signs and onomatopoeia all over the place. Seriously, I don’t think it’s necessary for <step, step> to be in every frickin’ frame.
Now, compare the scene from the anime with the same scene in the manga (right to left!); this probably isn’t the best scene to use, but one of the things you notice about shoujo manga is the use of white space and sequencing to accentuate the story-telling. It’s not like shounen manga doesn’t do the same thing, but it’s very prominent in shoujo manga: speech bubbles switch between regular black-lined bubbles to fuzzy thought bubbles to thoughts in panels to even bubble-less commentary multiple times per page. Even the fuzzy thought bubbles have different forms: round ones for regular thoughts to distorted ones expressing anger or sadness to fluffy ones for happiness.
The character style used by Fujiwara Hiro is a lot closer to shounen than most other shoujo manga, but it’s still distinctly shoujo, with focus on characters’ hair, mouth, eyes, and expression over the rest of the body. However, the anime seemed to adapt into more of a shounen style, which might be the demographic the producers aimed for. I think this really takes away from why the manga is good, which is the integration of the characters and setting with the shoujo manga style. In anime, it’s also harder to follow the “frameless” style used in shoujo manga. I believe the approach used in Skip Beat was to draw backgrounds for all the scenes, and only use patterned or opaque backdrops for stuff like the Kyouko-spirit scenes or joke/parody scenes. In Kaichou, the backgrounds are already bland and “unfinished,” so there’s no contrast between normal scenes with half-assed backgrounds and comic/parody scenes. This kind of ruins the pacing, since the viewer doesn’t really get a sense of direction from the dialog, having to instead rely on the multitude of signs and onomatopoeia.
Each individual gripe I have with the Kaichou anime might, on its own, have not caused any great damage, as long as they followed the manga or Fujiwara Hiro’s vision. However, combining all the factors into the same production really makes me disappointed that something with such subpar quality was allowed to air. I can probably stand the animation shortcomings, but if Okamoto Nobuhiko can’t give Takumi’s character a little more humanity, I don’t think I can stand watching this. Here’s to hoping the next few episodes can at least hold a small candle to the manga.
PS: Subs by [Eclipse]. As usual, great job, no glaring problems. If only the subs could make the anime better…