A Channel – A Big Splash For Studio Gokumi! (OR, What Happens When the Staff of Saki Watches K-On)

A Channel had a superb first episode with a lot of potential to be my favorite show of the season. Amazingly, it plays the field of Kyoto Animation shows and comes out ahead of the season’s Kyoani series, Nichijou (albeit Nichijou is hardly one of Kyoani’s major productions).

A Channel is the second of the only two things Studio Gokumi has made, the first being last year’s Koe de Oshigoto—one of the funniest OVAs I’ve ever seen—and so far their catalog is all high quality. A lot of what I saw in A Channel episode one was the studio announcing “here’s who we are, here’s what we can do,” and they did so with a lot of confidence.

The most interesting aspect of A Channel for me is that the entire fucking staff of Saki is working on it. The director, the assistant director, the writer, the character designer/art director, and even the one key animator that’s been listed on ANN come from the Saki team. I have next to no information about the studio, but based on pure speculation, I suspect that it may be formed of former Gonzo employees, what with them having melted down a couple of years ago. It wouldn’t be surprising after seeing how the whole staff of Strike Witches went to AIC to make its second season (or so I’ve been told).

If you were a fan of Saki (which I definitely was), then A Channel will be a treat. Between the two shows, Sasaki Masakatsu has staked a claim in my top 5 character designers. Like Saki, A Channel is positively overloaded with yuri, and is even more direct about it than Saki was. If you’re anything like me, then that pretty much covers everything important.

Oh, except for the voice acting. Yuuki Aoi is in the main role (albeit she’s untalkative), but as great as that role is for her, I’m more excited about her three companions, each of whom is a talented seiyuu that hasn’t had many roles. Fukuhara Kaori is reprising her role as Tsukasa in Lucky Star, which I was always surprised didn’t land her a bunch of other roles or something. (Also worth noting, she played The Koromo in Saki.) Kotobuki Minako is almost solely known for playing Kotobuki Tsumugi in K-On, a great role that was overshadowed by the plethora of fucking amazing performances surrounding it; and while I haven’t heard her nearly enough to know her voice well, her role as Yuuko doesn’t remind me of Tsumugi at all. Rounding out the group is complete newcomer Uchiyama Yumi playing Nagi, and I really enjoy her voice. She’s something like a lite version of Sawashiro Miyuki IMO, and I look forward to hearing her throughout the show and in any future roles—I’ve got my sights set on following her!

FUCK YO TITTIES, BITCH!

Enough about the production, what about the episode, besides being beautiful and yuri-tacular? Not a lot. I’ve read some of the manga and it’s a fairly standard comedy 4-koma, but the anime adaption doesn’t seem to think of itself as a comedy. Both visually and in the way that it doesn’t obey its 4-koma nature, it reminds me of K-On, but that comparison isn’t very accurate. The show has some laughs, but it downplays them, spreads them out, and mellows down its punchlines. There’s a definitive sense that the team is going for a soft, cool-paced, fluffy school life show where the heartwarming and the laughs are incidental to the cuteness. It’s sort of like moe in a distilled, pure form. Even the opening and ending theme are very relaxed, instead of the usual high-energy openings that come with school comedies.

Because of that, the show will not be popular in the blogosphere, and I won’t be going around recommending it. If you’re a yuri fan or a moe fan, get your ass on it. If you’re not, stay the hell away.

12 thoughts on “A Channel – A Big Splash For Studio Gokumi! (OR, What Happens When the Staff of Saki Watches K-On)

  1. I like the character designs in A Channel. Which was what kind of prompted me to give it a try. I lasted 3/4 of the way through the episode, marginally better than with Nichijou with me bailing at the halfway point. I guess it’s because as you say, I’m not a big a yuri or a moe fan. But I think also, I went into A Channel expecting it to be a comedy, but it’s more of a slice of life. I laughed more at A Channel than Nichijou though…

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  3. I dunno, currently downloading the first episode but I doubt that I’ll enjoy it more than Nichijou. It just seems a lot more generic and conventional, and while I do enjoy moe and yuri, I don’t think they’re enough to hold up an entire show without some actual substance. I did, however, like Nichijou a lot. The pacing was nice and unconventional; the show as a whole is very refreshing. If anything, it reminds me of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with all the interludes and silliness. I think it’s really a gag comedy done right, though some of the jokes are kinda hit-and-miss with me. But even when they’re not all that clever, their energy and the fact that they’re so overdone still get a laugh or two out of me. It has me more satisfied than K-On, that’s for sure.

    Well, the first episode of A Channel’s done, so I’ll go watch that now.

  4. I don’t know what to say. I don’t see why you praise it so much. Like I said, I love me some moe and yuri even more, but those things are like condiments to an entree and not a meal on their own, IMO.

    For one thing, I didn’t find the voice acting THAT impressive. It wasn’t bad, wasn’t spectacular, better than Nichijou’s though, I’ll give you that. Next, I have no idea what this show is supposed to be. The jokes are downplayed, but they’re also predictable and really don’t work for me. To be honest, I’m surprised they work for anyone. It’s certainly not a drama or anything like that, and it’s not insightful enough to be a slice-of-life, really. You call it a “soft, cool-paced, fluffy school life show where the heartwarming and the laughs are incidental to the cuteness.” To me, that kinda thing can work, I guess. For such a scenario, the characters, who hold the rest of the show together, should be realistic or interesting or relatable. Not here. These characters, although well-designed and well-voiced, have no degree of depth. To me at least, they were very bland and uninteresting, albeit adorable.

    But I guess it’s just a matter of different taste. To serious fans of Moe like yourself, perhaps just cute characters can substantiate an anime. But not me. Again, it’s just a matter of different preferences. But I know you also as a man who appreciates story and wit. So is there a way you merge this kinda show into that viewpoint, or do you just have a deep appreciation for all kinds of anime?

    • Have you considered that we’re on the first episode? IMO, expecting characters to be all deep and shit after one episode is asking too much. First episodes are meant to introduce you to the characters, let you settle into the tone, get used to thing. Time is what makes things enduring. Have you noticed that all of my posts on first episodes talk solely about the production in any depth? Because that’s all the first episode can really show you.

      And yes, I have a deep appreciation for most kinds of anime.

      • Yeah, that was kinda bad wording. A better substitute there would be “uninteresting”, as in the conversations are uninteresting and the characters are uninteresting. And the first episode can tell you so much more than just the production values. It can set the tone for the series. It can set the standard for the series. And it can forshadow every other episode from here on out.

        But I digress. If another episode comes around, I’ll watch it.

  5. Definitely liked A-Channel a lot more than Nichijou. Nichijou attempts to be funny by doing random things and hopes the audience laughs at situations that are out of the usual expectations. Like making a big deal about dropping a piece of food, or a hectic chase scene just to get back one’s notes. The complete ridiculousness of what happens is perhaps amusing and laughable to some, but it hardly constitutes humor.

    A-channel on the other hand, is definitely heavier on the moe and yuri overtones, but at least it knows its a show about everyday life, and not about crazy antics. The humor here is completely pure and derived from normal banter and witty dialogue as well as humorous actions- different from actions in Nichijou in that they’re *supposed* to induce the funny, not serious actions that the audience takes as funny because they’re completely out of place.

    Thus I wholeheartedly agree that A-channel is much better than Nichijou this season.

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