Four cute girls and an excitable guy sit in the student council room. Laughter ensues. That is Seitokai no Ichizon in its entire sum. Why are we watching this show? Why does anyone want to watch this show?
If we can define a new genre of anime, and call it "cute girls do things," maybe Seitokai no Ichizon is just yet the best example in the same category. But what makes this one different than Joshiraku or K-ON is the sort of jokes it offers. In other words, Seitokai no Ichizon is about people like us. Or specifically, people like me. Who would like you to click on and read about it in this post.
When I said people like me, I'm operating on the assumption that it is relatively rare when a joke about Strike Witches that doesn't involve wars or pants (or lack thereof) makes someone laugh. I'm going on the assumption that when someone references the state of the industry, they get the joke without having anyone explain it to them. And Seitokai no Ichizon is really that Japanese verbal comedy anime that relies on a close understanding of all these anime-game-manga cultural awareness in order for it to function.
That alone might already be limiting the appeal of this show--after all, it's an anime that relies mostly on dialog, jokes, moe visual gags, and lacking in intense plot or intricate animation sequences. There are no action or explosion, although there's the occasional fanservice. Forget that. What really makes or breaks Seitokai no Ichizon, I think, are how you take these characters--the five people in the student council room.
The student council president is Kurimu Sakurano, a certifiably moe-regressed high schooler who acts like a 6th grader. Babying her is secretary Chizuru Akaba, a tall and model-like character who extrudes matureness and sadism. Tagging along are twins Minatsu Shiina and Mafuyu Shiina, vice president and treasurer, respectively, each mirroring opposite temperaments: Minatsu is a hot-blooded, athletic tomboy, and Mafuyu is girly but also a borderline introverted fujoshi. Once you wrap this crew up with a fairly simple main character Ken Sugisaki, all of this feels like the generic harem trash that we're all too tired of seeing again and again.
Except, of course, that is exactly what Seitokai no Ichizon wants you to think. Behind the jokes about modern anime and game culture, Seitokai no Ichizon actually tries to weave this ensemble-cast style backstory into some kind of credible character development, giving Ken and his harem enjoyable, if unbelievable, personal motivation for being the gag characters that they are. It is the sum of its self-aware existence, being the thing it mocks as it does the mocking. The appeal of the show goes beyond the simple gags themselves, as well. It goes beyond just knowing what do seme and uke means, or that nobody likes Dragonball Evolution, or merely straightforward references. When Ken cried that it takes more than a person to make anime in season 1, I think that's kind of what resonated with me. Enough to write this review-disguised-as-first-impression post.
The new season of Seitokai no Ichizon does bring a lot of changes--a whole new production crew, for starters, are now behind the wheel. The voices for Mafuyu and Akaba have changed, and while the new actresses do their jobs admirably, I really miss the old voices. The show doesn't have the same chemistry as the old one, but it is slowly coming to its own. Seeing the "prequel" episode zero for Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2 was a bit of comfort, as it showcased Seizon's brand of character-driven story to get new viewers to realize that, yes, Seitokai no Ichizon is always about character-driven dynamics, even if it spends very little at all on it.
Three episodes later (4 if you include episode 00), Seitokai no Ichizon season 2 has finally begin to find its stride, making fun of things as usual. Hopefully I can continue to bring its banal banters and sharp criticism for fans and industry alike to Japanator's weekly annotated anime.
[While season 2 is currently broadcasted via niconico in Japan, it has not been picked up for streaming overseas in English. You can still watch all of season 1 for free on Crunchyroll, though.]