Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Mashiroiro Symphony Episodes 1 and 2 – Reluctant Opposition

Mashiroiro Symphony Episodes 1 and 2 – Reluctant Opposition

I wrote yesterday about a series that I went into with extremely low expectations, and how I was thus pleasantly surprised when it turned out not to be the bottom of the barrel sort of show I anticipated it would be. Mashiroiro (“Pure White”) Symphony is another show I thought would be utterly wretched, and, to be fair, it’s not. It’s not particularly interesting or innovative, or even worth your time. But it’s not flat-out offensive, which is a shock in itself.

The basic premise is that Shingo Uryuu’s school is closing down, in preparation for a merger with a local all-girls academy for the elite. That by itself should set off multiple warning bells, partially because it would make absolutely no sense for a school whose reputation is built on providing a female-exclusive educational community catering to the upper crust would let in plebeians of any sort, much less male ones. But aside from destroying the school’s brand, it also offers a hackneyed excuse to get Shingo into a female-heavy classroom with an opulently wealthy setting.

The principal of Yuihime Girls' Private Academy fits the "hot yet irresponsible-acting parental figure" model to a t, including actually being someone's parent. She knows full well how much letting boys in will disrupt the school and anger the student body, and doesn't care

The surprising part here is how Mashiroiro Symphony avoids some basic traps to this type of plot. Shingo isn’t the only male in the group of transitional students, nor are the other guys wastes of oxygen. Shingo, when he looks good, does so because he’s a genuine leader, and not just because he’s better than the available alternatives. There’s also genuine resistance on the part of the student body to introducing men into the school—not universally held, but strong enough to feel real. Certainly, he’s not greeted with hoards of cooing girls all eager to jump in his pants.

That doesn’t prevent Shingo from having a series of remarkably cliche ecchi moments with Airi Sena, daughter of the principal and leader of the anti-male faction. I suppose I should be grateful that Airi just gets angry and spreads stories about how horrible men are, rather than engage in the over-the-top violence that anime girls are so prone to, but these scenes aren’t necessary at all. Airi already has plenty of reason to want the men gone, and half-hearted fanservice still hurts the show as much as eagerly indulged-in fanservice when the narrative wants to turn to the serious.

The only thing more artificial than how Shingo keeps accidentally violating Airi is how fast all the girls conclude Shingo is a pervert, and then forget about it after one good outreach effort

And the show wants to be serious: The opening has the various girls giving a narrative voiceover introduction, much in the vein of a Key show. Unlike in a Key show, it feels more like the writers are grasping at straws: trying to be profound, but really just blathering on. It’s possible there’s some hidden depth to the various girls who make up the cast, but at the moment they are more walking stereotypes than real girls.

Airi is the closest thing to an exception, but even there the distinction is relative. She had a brief but friendly encounter with Shingo the night before she learned that he would be one of the men dirtying up her school, and it’s implied that she’s been attracted to him from that moment. She’s committed to defending the academy’s feminine prerogatives, but her feelings for Shingo are constantly challenging her resolve, giving her one of the most believable tsundere templates I’d seen in a while. (This, incidentally, is another reason the show shouldn’t make it easy for her to hate him through enforced ecchi moments; the natural conflict is quite fine by itself.)

Airi is much friendlier when she's not forced to defend the honor of her school. As a side note, Manglobe does a fine job with the animation, but there's plenty of lovely series this season

Aside from her, we have school’s student maid (English, obviously), an animal-friendly senior, and athlete in Shingo’s class. Oh, and we also have Shingo’s sister Sakuno, who appears to be one of those “not blood related” siblings so common in harem games. Sakuno is also one of those girls who constantly gets lost, which is a trope I never want to see again outside a pure comedy series.

If the characters are predictable, the plot is more so. It’s Shingo’s job to win the trust of the female students, showing that he and his fellow male transfer students aren’t ravenous brutes. And of course, he’s going to succeed at that task, just as Airi (like a bunch of other girls) is eventually going to give in to her feelings and fall for him.

Sana Inui, the athletic girl, is probably the most forgivable of the remaining harem candidates, not because she's a particularly deep character but because her collection of stereotypes is at least grounded in the real world. Here's she's trying to encourage her androphobic homeroom teacher—showing that "characters grounded in realism" are few and far between

“Predictable” isn’t necessarily equivalent to “horrible,” as clever writing or deep and interesting characters can redeem even the most basic or overused plotlines. Mashiroiro Symphony doesn’t have either of those, or at least if it does, it hasn’t bothered to bring them out yet. Yes, it’s amazing that the show can devote half of the first episode to Shingo searching for his lost sister Sakuno and make it more interesting than watching paint dry. But the show needs something better than that to prove worthwhile. Taking bad or boring scenarios and making them decent leaves you with, at best, a decent show.

Decent is, as I said above, far more than I was expecting this show to pull off. Credit where credit is due, and all that. But with one of the strongest seasons I’ve seen in … well, ever, a show is going to have to be far more than decent to keep my attention. Mashiroiro Symphony isn’t (that) offensive, isn’t (utterly) stupid, and isn’t (just) one scene of moe-bait after another. But it also isn’t more than a mediocre show.

Another point where the show tries to imitate a Key work is by having an odd looking animal as the cute mascot character. But if you have a cat look-alike creature and a cat-obsessive like me doesn't find it cute, you're doing it wrong

If you have a fondness for this genre of show, mediocre or otherwise, you can watch the series here.

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