It was thought of as unlikely or impossible, yet the greatest harem of the world has somehow managed to make an ecstatic return – Seitokai no Ichizon starts its second season with an introductory “episode 0″.
Seitokai no Ichizon is a series which plays out to the, now horribly exploited, concept of one male and many a female – although of the many reasons why this series is more so renowned than others which attempt to succeed under the same formula is that it does it all whilst high on parodies. However, that’s not all the main attraction has to its name – the series’ comedy gets quite elaborate, alluding to common stereotypes, tropes, and genres of Japanese animation, in a fashion memorable, hilarious, and somehow relevant and enjoyable.
Of the immediate revisions from season one to be noticed, the art style is much sharper than the series’ first incarnation – and in a literal sense. Faces and edges seem to have not only an increase in line count, yet they consist of straighter and more solid motion than before – although such discrepancies of technique are to be anticipated with a transition in studio.
More unfortunate however, visuals seemed to have been tamed into lifelessness, frequently offering little to no movement in the environment aside from the people themselves. The backgrounds appear almost too static – trees are stagnant, clouds are even more, and the setting feels as if on its final pulse of vitality.
Yet with the negatives, there comes much gracious respite – characters still retain their core elements. Uniforms boast the signature plaid patterns of purple, black, and white – and it’s not only the ensemble which remains intact, but also the physical form of the bishoujos, as well as our heroic man of men. They all, despite the alterations in aesthetics, have manage to stay true to their original design.
Forgetting not the finer details, the distinctive hairstyles haven’t changed amongst Sugisaki’s crew of lovers – and overall, the characters remain much the same as we came to love them in terms of appearance.
After indulging in the sensory unit of sight, the story starts to pour in – this “episode 0″ shows the foundation for the series as a whole, exploring the basis of the plot, as well as how it came to be. A particularly interesting topic of the many being how Sugisaki came to be the single male member of the student council.
The episode starts with an internal monologue by the amazing Ken Sugisaki himself – detailing his escapades of becoming the top student, and this dialogue of his actually continues throughout the entire episode. A true visionary even in his early days, Sugisaki is first seen in an eroge shop, trying to purchase a game from a rather strange and stern shopkeeper. Trying to get back into the gaming industry, he seeks advice from the female shopkeeper – although she seems to simply belittle him instead.
Ultimately, Sugisaki ends up purchasing a plain vanilla harem game with the unspectacular title of “Everyone is Your Girlfriend”. It is here where we start to see Sugisaki’s real character development.
Drawing similarities from the protagonist from the game, Ken sets a bar for himself – he wishes to become an intellectual, and being the extrovert that he is, he also gains the desire to become popular with his classmates. He sets himself a goal which while simple sounding, is actually a most laudable objective indeed as the difficulty is definitely no matter of stepping stones. Sugisaki is set on becoming confident in himself – which for him, means scaling the ranks of academics and joining the student council.
Ulterior motives unknown at this time, Sugisaki begins to study vigorously, spending almost all his time either in the library, or nose deep in books. At this point, the series takes off in a direction quite peculiar – whilst in the middle of rehearsing facts from a textbook, the shopkeeper of earlier interrupts Sugisaki. “Misane Runa” as she’s apparently so-called, completely attempts to discourage him for striving to become the student with top marks.
After much bickering, she eventually tells Sugisaki that it is, in fact, she sits at the position of “top student” – going so far as to assert her defeat is impossible.
Later in time, a confused Ken walks back into the eroge store to purchase yet another game – finding Misane right back in her condescending chair. He questions her motive for becoming number one, to which she merely replies that being on the top makes her happy, as it shows that her pride in excessive studying – and perhaps is some means of relieving a dominatrix fetish of some kind.
In any case, the self-admitted reality is that supposedly, accordingly to Misane, hardworking patterns are not beaten by people who spend money on games and socialize. The spark is reignited within Sugisaki, but only for a transient passing.
The stress of working part time, while socializing, studying, and most importantly, playing eroge, seems to be too much for Ken. The taunting Misane once again reiterates the fact that arbitrary interactions will only cause him to fail – and the only way to beat her is to consistently study. Sugisaki explains that communication with other classmates is fundamental to growing and learning as well – to which the robotic female shrugs off and walks away.
Almost losing hope of becoming number one, his extroverted nature and kindness finally pays off – when his other nameless classmates notice he is once again aggressively studying, they, one by one, offer to help tutor him in each individual subject.
Days transpire, and he invites his rival to view the results of his efforts – at which point, there’s a dramatic camera panning sequence which reveals the names of high-scorers on a recent exam. One by one, the names are unveiled starting from the top, only to find that Misane is once again number one – however, this time she has another name sitting besides hers on this mountain of educational prowess. “Ken Sugisaki” has tied for first place – and whilst an achievement to be praised, Sugisaki is foremost confused, who is it now that will take the student council seat?
Surprisingly, Misane declines it – stating that she never wanted it in the first place.
Now regardless of what Misane may have said, it’s not tough to figure that she actually does carry mixed feelings of jealousy and satisfaction from Misane – almost as if she were silently cheering our male protagonist, yet still seeking to prove to herself as well. It’s a bittersweet moment – and although most of us likely knew the outcome in advance, it was still certainly a surprise to see.
And subsequently, there comes the moment where we realize the true intent of our A-making male lead – standing outside the student council room for the first time, hesitation grows as he begins to recall previous moments in his life. Each individual flashback sheds light on a time where Sugisaki was in dire need – whether it be advice, someone to talk to, or even consolation. And every single moment was helped by one of the many respective student council members that seasoned viewers are sure to already know.
Sugisaki wishes to repay that debt by creating a harem ending – albeit not the sort of typical petty romance, but one in which every party is pleased, just as how they had helped him regain his happiness.
Still wavering to proceed forth and introduce himself, the cold Misane appears and confronts Sugisaki in what seems to be something of a farewell. She instructs him to be himself, and announce a ridiculous goal like an idiot. With a hint of personal experience herself, she follows up by telling him that “girls get a good impression from a guy like that”. Feeling re-inspired, the man who goes on to become a legendary hero in our daily lives, Ken Sugisaki, bursts into the room – proclaiming his absolute and undying love for all the girls of the student council.
In case one hasn’t noticed, or perhaps is blind, this is nowhere near a typical harem. Elements of slice of life may prevail, not to mention humor and wit are quite prevalent as well – yet it’s meaningful, down to the silliest gag or most idiotic scene of self-mockery, it all packs legitimate purpose for the great intellectual of modern time, Ken Sugisaki.
Although the art may not be something to have seizures of vehement salacity over, it’s effective in its intentions – and the story carries impact enough to be judge, jury, and executioner all in one. With the return of Seitokai no Ichizon, it feels as if the MVP is back on the team.