While there are examples of Otaku who take themselves far too seriously on the whole Otaku culture is very aware of itself. The hit Lucky Star is an example of the culture looking back on itself and having a laugh at some of the sillier aspects. Seitokai no Ichizon (The Student Council’s Discretion) sets out with this same goal and will delight hardcore anime and manga fans but may leave more casual fans scratching their head.
The show is about a Student Council who have been elected by a popularity contest. So, obviously, they are all beautiful young girls. The fifth seat, given to the student with the best exam grades, is filled by Ken Sugisaki who went from last in his class to first in order to turn the student council into his own personal harem. The majority of the time is spent inside the student council room as the characters explore their likes, dislikes, talk about the future, and pretty much, as is stated through the series, do nothing.
The major focus of the show is on the individual characters because there is no story to drive the plot forward. Each character represents a specific anime genre or trope. Kurimu Sakurano is the Loli and Tsundere, Chizuru Akaba has a sadistic and dangerous aura around her but remains very quiet and serious, Minatsu Shiina is very athletic and always attempting to get the student council to hold tournaments or fight demons, Mafuyu Shiina is an avid gamer and is obsessed with writing boys love fiction, and Ken Sugisaki plays the horny sex obsessed pig and the heroic “make girls happy” archtype all in one.
It’s probably bad form to write a character analysis into a review. But the show relays so much on these characters it is difficult to review the series without an understanding of what the show is trying to accomplish. The show uses these characters to explore those common tropes and make fun of them. There are two main methods that they do this. The first is simply coming up with a strange topic that each member comments on and the second is for the characters to collaborate to write a piece of fiction. The first becomes somewhat formulaic as the show goes on, which is bad for a series only twelve episodes long, but does allow for the jokes to keep flowing around the topic at hand. The second is far more enjoyable because it allows for the series to play out some of the tropes it’s making fun of in actions even if it’s just being imagined. Those sequences becomes a welcome break from the standard formula which features the characters sitting around a table in the Student council club room.
Seitokai no Ichizon is a satire and in order to enjoy it the audience needs to have an intimate knowledge of what they are parodying. They don’t just cover anime in general but some of the most recent anime that have aired in Japan. There were jokes tossed in during the preview where one of the characters became excited reading off names of shows airing that season, then disappointed when she gets to “Student Council.” They make a joke about Haruhi’s Endless Eight Arc, which aired over the summer. There are very few references in the show that a mainstream American anime fan will understand with the exception of a few Dragonball jokes. A general anime fan might enjoy the tropes being parodied but it takes an intimate knowledge of Anime and Manga in order to truly appreciate some of the satire.
It’s unfortunate that the jokes will appeal to such a small audience because of the quality of the writing. The writing is wonderful, which is expected considering this show was adapted from a very popular light novel, and the author manipulates the tropes in a way that explores the absurdity of the medium without being over the top. But this exploration does fall into a formula. The characters talk about the topics in turn and then the topic changes. Repeat. The writing keeps the show entertaining but if watching five people talking in a room for twenty minutes doesn’t appeal to you then you should probably pass entirely.
I don’t want the weight that I’m putting behind the ideas that these characters these representative of anime tropes to say they don’t have characteristics of their own, they don’t interact with each other with their own personalities, or that they do not grow. They are three dimensional, fairly well developed characters, but that development is restricted by the elements listed above. Even so, the moment of growth towards the end of the series comes when each character breaks, at least a bit, some part of their stereotypical roles. It is an enjoyable moment but it ultimately disappointing because shortly after the characters begin to develop the show ends.
The character animation and designs are stunning. Each character has their own unique, colorful qualities that not only fit in with visual archetypes but make for a visually interesting combination. The uniforms are one of the most distinctive part of the show specificity the men’s which mirrors the girls as a way to make fun of the idea that men always have plain uniforms while women have elaborate ones. There aren’t many times the characters leave the student council room so it isn’t surprising the animators would make sure the character designs were of exceptional quality.
Seitokai no Ichizon is an anime for anime fans. It has little to no mainstream appeal and can be formulaic at times. But the jokes are funny and the characters somehow become endearing despite their limitations. If the series went a little longer they may have developed beyond the confined of the gag.
Great character designs
Characters grow out of their predetermined molds
Casual anime fans will miss most jokes and references