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!
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.