In the span of two episodes of Houkago Saikoro Club we’ve seen two nuggets of drama/conflict that will drive the anime. The first, and most compelling one, revolves around Miki’s reticence to join in other social activities and how she’ll emerge from her shell. The second, and least thrilling point of drama, is when Tanoue has a crush on Aya, tries to get close to her, but results in Aya misinterpreting his intentions.
That sort of drama gets a big eyeroll from me, even though it’s there to drum up some comedy. Having two decades of life experience may be a factor in my inability to sympathize, but that can’t completely be it. My annoyance springs from Houkago Saikoro Club unoriginality. Series like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun do a great job with the romantic misunderstandings and I often found myself in stitches. Factors tilting it in Nozaki-kun’s favor are a stronger cast of characters and the absurdity inherent in its premise.
On the flipside, Houkago Saikoro Club’s characters are mostly cardboard cutouts and its execution is pedestrian. They don’t have the personality or the gravitas to be able to sustain the humor. Without the subject matter, it’d be almost tiresome. I hope these romantic overtures don’t get in the way of the gaming.
Midori is best Saikoro Club member
So if I think that most of the characters have the consistency of mashed plant pulp, you can probably guess which one does stand out to me. Midori is easily the character I identify with most. Do I even need to count the ways I find her appealing? Well, let me do it anyway:
- She and I are passionate about board games. OK, granted, low-hanging fruit because the subject matter is why I’m watching Saikoro Club to begin with.
- She and I introduce games to people who’ve never played games before. Moreover, we’ll also introduce a stream of new games to people.
- She and I bear the thankless task of being the rules explainer. That said, Miki and Aya are pretty easy to work with, unlike some instances that I’ve dealt with in the past. I wonder if they’ll ever poke fun of how aggravating the rules explanation process can be.
- She and I also carry games around with us at all times. In this episode, we saw Midori dispense with some of my favorite games like Hanabi and 6 Nimmt! when Miki and Aya asked her about potentially gaming after school. Me? My coworkers were surprised to learn that I carry games around in my car. Right now, I’ve got Kingdomino, 6 Nimmt!, and Fairy Tale in the trunk. You’ll never know when a gaming opportunity arises.
- Finally, we’ll make comments about game strategy while playing and blow other people’s minds at the depths of our gaming knowledge. I’d like to think that Midori’s tone is a bit more condescending than mine. Maybe that’s because she was speaking to Tanoue.
So take a subject matter that I really enjoy, pair it with a character I can really identify with, and you can see why I’ll be sticking to this show for the long haul. It’s a slightly more cutesy version of my experience with the gaming hobby.
Saikoro Club’s Game of the Week: Cockroach Poker
Speaking of gaming, the show continues to use its game-of-the-week formula. That’s not a bad thing because both the viewers and the characters are going through the gateway games phase and this week’s selection, Cockroach Poker (or KakerLakenPoker) is a good one. Cockroach Poker is a fun bluffing game (as these guys can attest) where you get to bullshit around and make outrageous claims. It’s so fun that it’s effectively replaced Coup in the bluffing category for me.
And the anime acquits itself well when it comes to capturing the vibe of Cockroach Poker. First off, Midori’s instructions were concise and complete. Even if you’ve never heard of the game, watching this episode is sufficient for you to learn how to play. Second of all, the players’ actions coupled with Midori’s commentary captures how it’s like to play.
I especially liked how Midori brings her knowledge of the metagame into this round of Cockroach Poker, correctly calling out Tanoue’s passing of a card and recognizing some of the characters’ tells when they’re bluffing. The strategic aspects are also addressed when they talk through what card constitutes a risky play. All in all, this game has a big deviousness factor going into it and I love the game itself and how Houkago Saikoro Club approaches it.
What I’m saying is that Houkago Saikoro Club is doing an excellent job in its depiction of the board game hobby. They’ve done a good amount of research into the games and what it feels like to be playing them. So while I haven’t been enamored with the characters beyond Midori and the romantic comedy bits are a wash, I’m still pretty enthusiastic about what this show is doing and am looking forward to the next episode!