Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > A Channel Episodes 1 and 2 – A Little Less Tame

A Channel Episodes 1 and 2 – A Little Less Tame

I’ve talked quite a bit in recent days about slice-of-life shows—mostly negative. But although most slice-of-life shows are non-sequitur filled wastes of time, I can think of at least two features that can redeem them. The first is when they sneak in character development through the back door. The second is when they are consistently, rather than sporadically, funny. Azumanga Daioh (which antiotaku should probably cover at some point) manages to accomplish both at once, making it one of the best in the genre.

It’s too early to tell if A Channel will sneak in character development or worship at the altar of the status quo. Technically, it’s even too early to determine if it be more than occasionally funny: Azumanga Daioh had an inconsistent start (although not as badly inconsistent as this). But it is not to early too say that A Channel is doing something that sets it apart from many of its sister series. Unfortunately, that “something” is to overtly sexualize its cast.

Tooru (with bat) has an obsession with Run so deep it seems borderline stalkerish. In the foreground, that's Nagi and Yuuko

Ok, technically shows like K-On! are practically custom made to encourage the writing of pornographic doujinshi works, with a cast of characters whose archetypes were meant to appeal to certain fetishes and with an absence of male characters or romantic interests for its all female cast (which would interfere with the fantasy). Even so, there wasn’t much attention given to the characters as sexual beings. My co-blogger called it “the tamest kind of pornography there is.

What A Channel seeks to do is to take that basic format and be a little less tame. With a quick look you’ll find the usual stereotypes: the beautiful and buxom girl who is nonetheless shy and easily embarrassed, the short-haired airhead who would forget her brain if it wasn’t firmly attached, the diminutive girl with a chip on her shoulder, etc. But the way in which the characters interact provide far more opportunities for perverted fanfic writers.

Run forgets important things on her way to school like any number of parallel characters in similar shows. But none of those shows had their clutz forget her panties

The particular relationship triangle that dominates the first couple episodes is between Run, Tooru, and Yuuko. Tooru, a tenth grader just entering high school, promptly reattaches herself to eleventh grader Run, who was her closest and perhaps only friend in junior high. But she’s remarkably dismayed to find Run has gotten new friends in Yuuko and Nagi, and is particularly incensed by Yuuko’s womanly figure.

What follows is a continual campaign of abuse that, in the real world, would probably result in suspension. Most of the “plot” is Yuuko trying to make nice with Tooru, only to find her timid attempts met with various forms of sexual harassment. This, alongside Run’s oblivious interpretation that this harassment is a sign that the pair is getting along, we are supposed to find funny.

In addition to boob flipping, Tooru employs several other methods of invading Yuuko's personal space, particularly when the two of them wind up sharing a bath in the second episode. For reasons of taste, no screenshots of those scenes will be provided

There are some other gags, mostly revolving around how often Run’s clumsiness gets her into trouble or how Yuuko gets psychologically scarred by other factors besides Tooru. (Perhaps the reason Run thinks Yuuko and Tooru are getting along is because Yuuko gets set off by practically anything.) The latter half of the second episode is devoted to the characters dealing with a rainy day, which occasionally elicited a laugh.

Such laughs are an exception, however. In general, the show’s recourse to originality is to take the usual stereotypes to eleven. Making Tooru’s feelings for Run more stalkerish, Yuuko’s phobias more crippling, and Run’s absent-minded errors more extreme helps distinguish the show from its competitors. Likewise, the quasi-lesbian hints of certain character interactions and the absurd amount of skin the cast has shown in just two episodes is hardly par for the course among slice-of-life shows. But sometimes there are good reasons to stay in familiar territory.

Run is saved from falling out a window while waving at Tooru only through fast action by her friends. Why is she allowed to run around without a leash?

I shouldn’t make the show sound more sexualized than it is; when compared to your average harem show (particularly those in recent memory) it really isn’t competing for lasciviousness. But by the standards of slice-of-life shows, this is sin city. And not only do such additions—very deliberate additions—not do anything to aid the story, they waste time the show should be spending on the one thing that would justify its existence: being funny.

Being funny, however, would mean occasionally surprising the audience, and the descent into stereotypes keeps that from happening. Instead, we are treated to the usual gags with the usual results, only perhaps a little more extreme than the usual. Nothing in supporting cast gives any reason to expect that their inclusion will improve things.

Kamade plays the role of the quintessential disinterested teacher. Most of the other teachers seem like one-note wonders, too

I didn’t really start to enjoy Azumanga Daioh until episode three and didn’t think it hit its true potential until episode ten, so maybe A Channel is just a late bloomer. What the first two episodes indicate, however, is that even if that’s the case, what A Channel will blossom into isn’t something I want to be around to see.


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