Saturday, September 29, 2012

Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate – 12 (End) and Series Review

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KoiChoco ended up being like a sandwich with a delicious filling on slightly stale bread.


[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_03.02_[2012.09.28_12.59.26]I’m going away from KoiChoco with a mostly positive feeling, though the conclusion doesn’t show off the series at its best.  The concluding episode (there will be a bonus BD ep, which looks like a beach/service episode) was better than the one that preceded it, but it doesn't really stack up as the conclusion I really felt the show deserved.  There were some really interesting things happening in the middle of the run, most of which sort of got lost in the stampede to get things done on-time with the pre-ordained results.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_04.11_[2012.09.28_13.00.35]As much as any show in recent memory (well, perhaps not as much as Sakamichi no Apollon), KoiChoco is one that really would have been well-served with a second cour.  This was a series with a really, really big story – in fact, it was the plot that had me hooked into the show long before I became attached to the characters.  The title really was truth-in-advertising as you had three separate threads that all needed telling, though in the end “Chocolate” ended up being a subset of “Love”.  I think both the romance and politics plotlines ended up being hurt by the rushed nature of the adaptation, and neither ended as satisfyingly as they should have. 

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_05.18_[2012.09.28_13.01.42]Let’s start with “Love” as for me that’s the more clear-cut analysis.  In reflecting on KoiChoco, it seems to me that a Chisato route was certainly possible – but it would have required two cours to do adequately.  Whereas a Satsuki route (or Hazuki, though that was never going to happen) would have been a better choice for one cour.  My reasoning is simple: Chisato’s story is far, far too complicated to properly develop in 12 episodes while trying to also spin a very complex tale able politics and cloak-and-dagger intrigue.  Because of all the baggage between Chisato and Yuuki, their “romance” ended up feeling more dysfunctional (and a bit disturbing) than anything else.  We never had time to properly explore her traumas, how she was dealing with them, and the complicated healing process that would have to occur for her to end up romantically linked with Yuuki in a healthy way.  Instead, it all just sort of happened in the last three episodes.  The net effect on the audience (or this part of it, at least) is indifference at best, and possibly some real discomfort with the results at worst.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_05.56_[2012.09.28_13.02.20]With Satsuki, it would have been possible to do a very convincing route in one cour – in fact, it seemed as if that was exactly what KoiChoco was doing for about eight episodes.  Her relationship with Yuuki is much more straightforward, without all the heavy lifting of the traumatic Chisato story.  They meet through politics, initially rivals but honorable ones, and a spark forms.  There’s the issue of the support for financial aid students, but it would have been fascinating to watch the process of the two of them trying to work that out (which was sadly glossed over in the end).  Plus, not unimportantly, there was a real romantic chemistry between the two of them – and Hazuki’s presence makes the relationship even more interesting.  I think that story would have worked better in the context of what the anime seemed to be trying to do, but what we got was something like two series awkwardly cobbled together, the latter being extremely rushed in order to get it finished in time.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_06.04_[2012.09.28_13.02.28]Of course I see some viewers dismissing these criticisms as simple sour grapes over which girl “won” and which lost, but for me – and indeed for most who agree with me, I suspect – it’s not about that.  I won’t deny that Chisato as presented in the anime didn't come off as an especially appealing character or that I would have preferred a Satsuki end, that’s not a problem for me in itself – I simply think the anime was ill-served by the direction the series went.  If they were going for a Chisato route I think some things needed to be done differently in the first eight or nine episodes – and if they had, we might have missed out on some of the most charming parts of the anime.  Why not go the Satsuki route, which fit so much better with a one-cour adaptation, and have the best of both worlds?

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_06.32_[2012.09.28_13.02.57]The “Elections” part of the story was undoubtedly the highlight of KoiChoco for me – but here again, I don’t think it got the ending it deserved.  Unlike most anime that touch on school politics, KoiChoco treated the political game as an end in and of itself.  It was clear from the beginning that there was a real love for the topic in the writing, and a lot of little details were just right.  Of course I’ve never heard of a high school remotely like this in real life – the money, the student autonomy, the Byzantine power struggled – but once you suspended your disbelief, it made a great vehicle for exploring the world of real-world electioneering.  As a neophyte, Yuuki was a good stand-in for the audience, and having his eyes opened to the world of polling, stalking horse candidacies and backroom power-brokering was fascinating.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_07.35_[2012.09.28_13.03.59]Perhaps the most interesting element of this storyline was the very real policy question at the heart of the campaign – what to do with the financial aid students, and about the clubs.  Satsuki could have been cast as the villain for wanting to shut clubs down but it was made clear that there were some genuinely frivolous examples out there, and she wanted to use the money for a good purpose – one which Yuuki, through the presence of Aomi, came to support himself.  Here again we saw an interesting lesson in real world politics, as Mouri argued that Yuuki would be foolish to take up the cause of a small minority before the election and possibly cost himself votes, where if he kept his mouth shut and won the election he might be able to help those students.  It’s an interesting dilemma, especially considering the divide between Satsuki and Yuuki, and it’s what I was hoping the final episode would focus on.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_09.00_[2012.09.28_13.14.34]Rather than that, though, what we got was a spy thriller ending – one that was rather exciting for a while, though ultimately a disappointment.  I did like seeing so much explained – such as Shiohama’s crossdressing (yet another subterfuge, this time for more club funds) though we were left with some unsolved mysteries, like the moheji mask.  The players ended up filling the roles more or less as I expected.  Oosawa was behind Chisato’s kidnapping in an attempt to blackmail Yuuki and help Moheji win (the deal between the Katahira Faction and General Affairs that Kana almost paid with her life for uncovering) and Mouri ended up being one of the good guys after all when he learned of the truth.  Yuuki rescued Chisato with Mouri’s help and showed up at the last possible moment, hijacked the microphone and made an inspiring speech to the students.  Thus persuaded, they dismissed the scandal story that Oosawa had planted, and voted him President – Satsuki ends up as his Veep (and a member of the Food Club - I would have been happier with an ending where she won the election.).  Presumably a decision was reached between the two of them to help the financial aid students without dissolving the clubs, but those details are sadly absent.

[Pomf] Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate - 12 [E02EDCE1].mkv_snapshot_09.39_[2012.09.28_13.15.13]KoiChoco, then, ends up being quite an odd series for me.  It had the same slow start that romance VNs usually have, and the first couple of eps left me fairly indifferent.  Once Chisato stepped to the forefront and everything began a headlong rush to the conclusion, the flaws in structure really began to assert themselves.  But for about half its run, this was a really good show – charming, good-natured, smart, funny and genuinely interesting.  The plot was compelling and well laid-out, and the character development surrounding Yuuki, The Shinonome Sisters and Mifuyu was excellent.  As a character-first viewer it’s very rare that a show can keep me hooked in mostly with plot, but KoiChoco did – and the character side eventually almost caught up.  AIC and veteran writer Takayama Katsuhiko did a lot of things right here, and delivered more good content over the course of 12 episodes than a vast majority of anime are able to.  It’s just a shame that some unwise choices led to a somewhat indifferent conclusion, but that doesn’t negate all the good things KoiChoco was able to accomplish.

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12 comments:

  1. Man, Satsuki got so incredibly screwed.

    Doesn't get Oojima, loses the election, but ends up as Veep and doing all the actual hard work anyway.

    What the hell?

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    1. I feel like they could have made this ending work if Yuuki realized that he cared for Chisato a lot, but not romantically like he had been previously and got her to understand that. They would become closer as friends, but not become lovers. That would still fit with Yuuki trying to save Chisato, but leave for an ending where Yuuki could develop a relationship with Satsuki (although I agree with Enzo that Satsuki winning the presidency would have been better, and have Yuuki as VP). Then all of this Satsuki development wouldn't have just made her out to be screwed, and we wouldn't have that creepy Chisato development from the last few episodes blossom into seemingly forced love.

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  2. Was okay in the end. Well, I'm not really a connoisseur of this moe-harem-whatever genre (only watched this cos Enzo told me to), but it did have some decent bits.

    The whole "conspiracy" crap was just that... crap!!
    Sure, there might have been some message about discrimation and the general reminder that upper class people are twats (like we didn't know already), blah, blah, blah.... but it was so poorly done I wasn't even bothered.

    The comedy early on was okay, but my favourite bits were mostly those involving the teacher. Shame we didn't get more of her. The other chicks didn't really cut it for me (queer-stick boy had some rare moments, I guess). In the end, typical ending, typical anime. Mildly entertaining.

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    1. At least you were entertained.
      Well, i am a bit disappointed with the chisato/satsuki thing but Im with Enzo. Especially since this is not Canon. What is canon is playing a game where you get what you want... Im not gonna play it, and am sad that Satsuki was just left hanging.

      But thats life. If she pushed Ojima down in her room earlier, he would have went along her route. (He aint such a bastard to leave a girl after a night out + his feelings on Chisato were not clear to him yet). Well, the only true happy end is the Harem End?? Dunno about that. Cant remember any anime that went that way... Maybe next season's seitokai (considered a pun??) would show us the way. (or at least me)

      P.S. We never saw the mask's man face. Moe-Heji

      P.P.S. "I did like seeing so much explained – such as Shiohama’s crossdressing (yet another subterfuge, this time for more club funds)" Once they start closing or lessening funds for evil clubs, it may be possible to help the financial kids.

      P.P.P.S. Beware of high school kids Enzo. Japan has interesting laws that protect minors. So dont go near any bad kids. Take for example, underage driving and bribery and ramming a car... that girl wont feel afraid, really strange laws, kids can just get counseling and what not and go back to society.

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  3. The ending was disappointing because it didn't conclude the politics portion properly. Instead, we got some half-assed love and chocolate as well as a rushed end to the election.

    I read an interesting blog post about KSC.
    "In the end, what does this all tell me? It tells me that Chocolate has no confidence. And because the show has no confidence in itself, it has to cook up these wild, far out scenarios involving a yandere childhood friend (with a symbolic candy bar) and a shadowy student council government that wants to reenact Brave New World. Even worse, it hops from one subplot to the other without allowing anything to develop. There is, however, a bit of a trick being employed here. By making the scenarios as over-the-top as possible, you give the illusion that you have something to say. Chisato going yandere is an attempt to shock the audience into submission: “Look how crazy she is! That makes her character meaningful!” But it doesn’t. What does it really say about Chisato that isn’t skin-deep?

    To me, the premise of a green, idealistic candidate who slowly becomes cynical when he exposes himself to the political process is already interesting enough. You could develop this. You could examine Oojima’s ascent (or descent from your personal perspective) from multiple viewpoints that sheds light on how real life candidates fall victim to the same tragic system. Everything just has to play out on a high school stage. But Chocolate doesn’t believe in itself. It weaves a whole bunch of plot, but there’s no depth behind any of it. The anime looks like it has a lot to offer, but it’s doing fuck all.

    Any amateur writer can just cram as much silly subplots into a story, but you could honestly recap all of the anime’s subplot with a single sentence. For example: “Chisato lost a close friend when she was really young, so she now has abandonment issues with regards to Oojima’s newfound success.” The yandere part adds nothing to our understanding of her character or her subplot, which is why I regard it as a cheap trick done for thrills. On the other hand, a master storyteller takes a single plot and makes it a complex issue that reveals something to the audience that isn’t readily apparent. So Chocolate tries to be everything, and as a result, it’s nothing. Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate should have just been Senkyo, the one thing about it that can’t be found in other anime shows."

    As an aspiring creative writer myself, I have to agree, but the politics were exciting enough for me to hold out on it. I'm tired of trying to define "good" and "bad" anime. I suppose this makes me a hypocrite since I dislike the big shounen shows, but I don't want to think about it.

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    1. Most artistic mediums has in its core a single line or idea. Its how that takes form that makes it great.
      A river is a river. But some rivers are just way more grand than others. I agree that there were lots of tricks to make viewers hooked on. But thats whats shows do, especially episodic shows. If this was a game, where one can save and continue and not what a week, there wont be a need for such things (well, that would still be some to keep things active)

      I find using distractive tactics an art in itself. Of course, not everyone does it at the same level.

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  4. I love anime but one thing I have always hated and never will get used to it is how a series villians can pour on the evil and bad deeds and in the end their punishment (for all that they did to the main characters) is much less then they deserve. She ran down a girl, kidnapped another (with help), and tried to throw the election.

    In the end she walked off in handcuffs with a smirk and smile on her face. Probably her 1st offense and she got probation and back in school the following day! At the very least someone should have gotten to be able to slap the taste out of her mouth before she was carted away spitting out chiclets.

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    1. I think the implication is that with a photo of her running over someone, she's going to get a little more than probation. It's not her first offense either - we've already seen that she was suspended for an extended period of time over the wrongful prosecution of the financial aid student.

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  5. I'm glad you used the sandwich metaphor. For me, the bread is the most important part of a sandwich. A sandwich with bad bread can never be anything other than bad, no matter how good the fillings are.

    There was pretty much no realistic way for this ending to satisfy me after episode 11. The writing in that episode was so atrociously bad and took the show so far off the rails that bringing it back would probably have required even more bad writing, which just would have piled problems on problems. I honestly a week later still have trouble believing that episode was written and directed by the same people who did the previous 10, it felt so disjointed from the rest. You say the ending was preordained but it sure doesn't feel like it, it feels like they forgot to write the ending until they got to about episode 10 and then were like "Oh shit guys, what the hell are we gonna do?" I freely admit I wanted a Satsuki ending (hopefully someone will translate the VN at some point so I can see what it would have been like), but I would have been satisfied with any ending as long as it had actually been developed properly instead of apparently decided at (or forgotten until) the last minute.

    Well, this one ended up being a write off, hopefully the coming season can provide enough goodness to make up for it.

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    1. I can't totally write off a series if the pastrami in delicious enough, and I can't write off a series that gave me as much pleasure as KoiChco did. For about 8 episodes (3-10) it was really eye-opening and delightful.

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  6. Like I said in the comments section of last week's episode: This show, and MANY others like it (like Sakamichi no Apollon, as GE mentions), would have been so much better if it were 15-16 episodes.

    It saddens me that animation studios have seasonal restrictions that prioritize the needs of advertisers as opposed to the needs of audiences.

    I hope that with the rise of Internet television (and the decline of traditional television), there can be more flexibility in the rules governing anime broadcasts.

    Hopefully, there won't have to be stupid 12-13/24-26 episode either-or choices with the rise of Internet television.

    KoiChoco seriously could have been a much better show. It had the plot, the characters and the production staff supporting it. But it had to limit itself so that it could fit into the Procrustean constraints of television scheduling.

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  7. Japanese broadcasting at its finest.

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