Sabage-bu! Review

This is review number four hundred and eight. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup, and it’s called Sabagebu. It’s a twelve episode anime about a club that does survival games. It’s a pretty straightforward premise. As a side note though, I noticed I talk about the manga when some awful show fails up to live up to their original source. For reviews comparing the anime to the manga, the cover image will be from the manga. As I said, this anime will be compared to its manga. Does it stack up? Let’s read on.

Story

Momoka Sonokawa is a transfer student, and she ran into the Survival Game club president on her first day. Miou Ootori, the president, soon wants her to join the club. Momoka finds club activities tiresome, but Miou forced her into joining. For her time in this new school, Momoka will be spending it with the Survival Game club.

Taking the Pants Off

I only have two more anime to watch before I can close the Summer 2014 lineup. I can skip the anime shorts, since a lot of people can easily cover and review those. For now, I just want to keep going until real life ruins my review momentum. Anyways, Sabagebu is pretty bad. It honestly had some brilliant moments, and I did enjoy some of the skits. The anime is problematic overall though, and it isn’t just a case of a bad adaptation. If it’s just a mishandling of the original source then I wouldn’t enjoy some of the funny moments in this anime. There’s something else wrong with this one, and I think it’s entirely a technical one. The presentation of the anime is pretty OK, for the most part, but the show just didn’t do enough to really standout. It had potential to be a truly enjoyable anime, but it just falters on a lot of important points. I’ll explore each mishandled element, but I will say that I did honestly like this. For what it is, the anime is fine. It’s a harmless show with some good points. I can accept this show for what is now, and I guess I’ll just be nitpicking on a lot of the show’s negatives. There are a lot of negatives in this anime, and it does overwhelm the positives culminating in a pretty forgettable anime experience.

Anyways, this anime is about an all-girl school’s Survival Game Club. It’s about a bunch of gun enthusiasts playing around with some BB guns. It’s basically a “girl with guns” anime, and this little sub-genre mostly follows girls doing a lot of shooting. In a way, the show is just like Upotte but with less fan service. It mostly just uses the “guns” premise as a placeholder, but the anime is more of a club themed one. It mostly follows girls fooling around in a club room, and it is a good idea to showcase the club themed premise since it’s a more flexible idea than just girls with guns. This is a big problem for the show though, because it should’ve been a “girl with guns” show AND a club themed anime. It can still give us some episodes where the character engage in random stupidity, but the core of the show should’ve been survival gaming. I think we really only had a serious talk about guns in one episode, and the rest are just misadventures with our characters. This is a problem, because the anime lacks identity. Since it doesn’t commit to its survival gaming premise, the anime is now directionless and bland. It doesn’t standout on its own, and this makes the show mild compared to other enjoyable club themed anime. I mean, Jinsei had a crippling premise but it was always the base for the other elements of the show. This anime should’ve done the same thing. Even though talking about guns can be risky and complicated, it shouldn’t stop a survival game club to talk about survival gaming. Without the show’s identity, the experience is really just a flat “fine”. Jinsei is amazing and great, because of its identity as an advice club. Compared to that, Sabagebu is just a bunch of random characters shooting each other from time to time.

There’s a bigger problem with the show though, because this anime isn’t just a club themed anime. It’s supposed to be a marshmallow anime as well. Cuteness was supposed to be a major factor, but the anime didn’t carry that. If you look at the manga, you’ll realize how much moe is supposed to be oozing out of the characters. I think for a good comparison, the anime should’ve been like Milky Holmes. The cute characters were supposed to interact with eccentric characters to produce a more adult humor than most marshmallow anime. It kinda makes sense, since the anime feels like it was trying to be cute. If you look at the manga, I believe the character design is supposed to be more rounded and cuter. If you look at the aesthetics of Jinsei, then I believe the manga is going for a very similar kind of design. The manga is trying to feature some skin as well, and there’s this wonderful yuri vibe in the way the author design her characters. Even background characters look incredibly cute. It’s baffling that the anime didn’t carry this element over, because it could’ve helped in establishing the identity of the show. Cute girls in army gear and camouflage shooting each other sounds like a really fun premise. I guess this anime just have a very pathetic budget, so the show worked with what it has. It’s a shame, because the manga deserves better. Can you believe I’m defending manga now? Back in 2012, I was such a huge anime freak that I’ll try to sell this anime to you with some bullsh*t I’ve made up at the moment. Yet, here I am now hunting down the manga to properly find out where the anime failed at. Does this mean I’ll be reading up LNs too when I review their adaptations? Gawd, I hope not.

As you can see, the anime is broken conceptually. It botched its premise, it didn’t properly adapt the manga, and the animation clearly sucks. I still liked some parts of the anime though, and let’s talk about that next. First of all, the anime behaves like a cartoon. Some of the gags are physical violence, and the truly good jokes are juvenile in nature. For example, the main character, Momoka, learns how to walk in high heels by walking on a sidewalk full of dog crap. The dog crap is represented by strawberries though, and the entire sequence is funny.  The strawberry joke came out of nowhere, and someone did eventually step on them. They did something worse, but that’s the genius comedy of the show. It works with juvenile stuff, like poop jokes and violence, to catch the audience off guard. Now, imagine if the cute design of the manga is actually walking all over that strawberry sequence, then the entire thing becomes funnier. It’s a contrast thing, since something fluffy is working with something rough. Milky Holmes had the same approach, and you’d often be surprised to see one of the cute characters performing bondage on a masochistic muscle bound freak. Hey, it works.

The physical violence is really one of the best part of the show. It just comes out of nowhere sometimes, and I just love how it is delivered straight. No one reacts to it sometimes, except the audience, and it works brilliantly for the show. One of the running gags of the anime involves a masochistic character getting beaten up by Momoka. I enjoy these scenes a lot, because the physical violence is unique. It’s too cartoonish to take seriously, but the anime just feels a lot more enjoyable thanks to it. There aren’t a lot of these though, but I still think they’re the best parts of the show. It’s especially fun, because most of the show involves hit-or-miss jokes. They look funny but most skits just don’t really feel enjoyable. There are a lot of problems with most skits, and I think the biggest one is the directing itself. It feels half assed.

The show is often divided into three skits per episode. Some skits feature the entire club doing some survival games. Some episodes are just about Momoka and another character, and some episodes feature the club just doing something random together. A lot of the skits really could’ve been better, and the problem often goes back to how it is directed. The pacing is often the biggest issue. I don’t mind bad animation, because the show can still deliver some visual storytelling with ease. The pace is often a big problem though. Scene transitions are often awkward, the punchlines are flat and the story itself just lacks a punch to really be interesting. The director often has trouble trying to make the scenes look good, and it’s a shame because some of the skits are often random spectacles of different activities.

Some skits break out in a shootout, and the duel feels flat. The narrator would often butt in and point out that the entire scene is just playing out in the characters imaginations. This is important, because the characters look like they are shooting actual bullets. Some background items are riddled with bullets, and you often see blood come out when characters are hint. It’s supposed to be an over the top moment, so the entire scene should come off as such. They could’ve utilized a different tone for the imagination shoot outs, or maybe use a frame in the edge of the screen to symbolize that something nonsensical is happening, or maybe just go parody with the scene and make a true over the top spectacle out of it. I understand the intention of these over the top scenes, because it’s another rough element that the fluff cute characters participate in. It’s out of place, but it feels like routine that’ll eventually make you appreciate the characters. The director seems to be completely limited though. I’m not sure if he truly can’t deliver a proper scene or if he just wasn’t allowed to. Either way, it’s a missed opportunity because it could’ve helped made the show more worthwhile.

Some of the random survival games the characters have also ends with a bathing scene in shower rooms or hot springs. This was truly to indicate that this is the routine of the characters, and later bathing scenes should’ve felt more special. Marshmallow lacks story, so it relies on character showcase. It needs to highlight the fun characters and their experiencing growing together, and the end result should’ve been the audience growing to like them as well. Marshmallow shows can be forgettable after some time passes, but you always look back fondly on them. I still remember the fun time I have with Gochuumon Usagi desu ka. I still remember the cute times I have with Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. Even a badly animated show like GJ-bu made me care for the characters, because that’s the point of marshmallow shows. You fall in love with the characters because you learn to love their routine. The running gags become endearing, and the characters just naturally become likeable. Sabagebu had a chance to feature a character showcase as well. The routine of the club is established, but the director just botched everything. Since the pacing is off and the punchlines doesn’t land, you often just watch the characters doing random things. You never really enjoy what they’re doing. Their various quirks don’t land, and they don’t become endearing overtime. It’s not that hard to do a default marshmallow show, but I guess you can still mess it up.

There is another problem with the anime though, and it doesn’t have to do with the director’s style. I actually have issues with the voice acting. It’s really weird to point it out, but the voice acting in this anime feels a bit off. The voices don’t often match the characters, and they often lack emotion to deliver a scene. Some jokes don’t land because the voice actors often doesn’t emphasize on it. When the straight man reacts, it lacks energy sometimes. Momoka’s voice is especially off. She is portrayed as a sadist and cold blooded person in the show, and the voice acting should’ve used that to its advantage. After all, it’s another rough element interacting with the cute fluff. I mean, seeing a cute character knock an otaku out and then kick him when he’s down should’ve been funny. If the voice acting emphasized that Momoka has turned into a sadist at that point, then the scene would’ve been more impressive. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for this anime. Everyone just sounds really bored and you can’t shake that feeling off. I have never found fault in voice acting in an anime, and I often don’t consider it a true element of an anime, but, damn, this show just feels like it wasted a lot of potential. Every character actually lacked emphasis. The masochist girl doesn’t sound masochistic enough, the kuudere otaku doesn’t sound overwhelming with her two opposite quirks, and the club president lacked elegance. Look at her in the manga. She should come off as this elegant and cool character despite being absolutely stupid, and the voice acting could’ve delivered that. It’s annoying, because the voice I imagined in my head when I read the manga feels much more appropriate. I honestly don’t get how you can botch voice acting.

Anyways, one of the best recurring skits in the anime involves Momoka interacting with some creepy people. I like this part of the show, because it features the best character. His name is Fried Chicken with Lemon. It’s an online name for sure, and he is this obese otaku that just befriends Momoka on an earlier episode. He soon had some more skits with her, and they are often the most enjoyable parts of an episode. The jokes are still hit-or-miss though, but just his presence actually salvages the anime. He is that one rough element that the show actually got right, and he deserves to interact with a cuter version of Momoka. It’ll looks absolutely alarming, but that’s actually the point. He is just an annoyingly clichéd otaku though, and it just works. The way the show portrayed an otaku is funny, and I love how he would often use words like “lol” under his breath when talking. In one skit, his reactions are displayed as nico nico douga comments scrolling through the screen. I love it, because it’s a randomness that actually makes me laugh. He is always in some of the best skits of the show, and I actually remember him more than the main characters. He’s an example to why this anime is so broken. A side character is more memorable than the cute club mates of Momoka.

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Fried Chicken with Lemon is funny, but I think the breakout star of this anime is the narrator. He is voiced by Tesshou Genda, and the guy is a veteran at this point. He’s done voice acting since the 70s, so he’s a legend now. He is known for his funny narrations in other shows though, and he’s doing the same thing in this anime. As the narrator, he would often break the fourth wall to inform the audience that the characters are imagining the bloodshed. He pops up from time to time to point out inconsistencies in the story, and he often outright calls the anime stupid when something doesn’t make sense. He’s a very different kind of character in the show, and he stands out because of it. I like him a lot, because he makes most boring scenes actually come off as funny. The jokes still can’t land properly, but you’ll always be paying attention to the skits when the narrator interrupts it. It would’ve been awesome if the characters actually argued with him, because I think the narrator’s awesomeness could’ve rubbed off on them.

The anime has a lot of side characters, but some of them don’t really come off as funny. They often just appear in one episode, and they never really add much to the show. If they became recurring characters, then I think it would’ve helped the show become more enjoyable. I mean, Fried Chicken with Lemon is a great recurring character. If the student council president, the two mean girls from the first episode and the elementary student that challenged Momoka came back to other skits, then we could’ve established a School life element that could’ve given the anime an identity. The show is just bland with a few hints of passing flavor. Again, I have no problem with the show but it just doesn’t stack up compared to other club themed anime. The lack of interesting characters is really the biggest fault of the show, and I think the botched technical aspects contributed to it greatly. As I look back on the anime, I have forgotten most of its content. There are no skits that are truly good, and there are only a handful of jokes that landed. Even when I was watching the show, I often wonder what happened in the previous episodes and that just gives you an idea how forgettable this show is. It’s not even bad enough for me to reference it in future reviews. This one will just quietly fade as I watch better shows. I think that’s for the best though.

This anime is presented by Pierrot+. I believe it’s a subsidiary of Studio Pierrot who animated Tokyo Ghoul in the same lineup. I don’t understand why they didn’t just feature one show. This anime is just bland, so they didn’t need to present it. Being a subsidiary, it also makes sense why the anime has a low budget animation and why the director is limited in what he can do. This anime feels like an afterthought, and it really shows. Pierrot is a legendary studio, but they do cut corners as frequently as Toei Animaton. When you’ve been around for so long, you often don’t need to rely on high quality animation to stay afloat. I understand that. I mean, Baby Steps isn’t really known for its animation. It still had a good story though, and it’s really a shame that Sabagebu wasn’t given the same treatment. You can tell Masahiko Oota actually put effort in this anime. That’s the main reason why I wasn’t really offended by the show’s awfulness. You can still feel the effort in the animation, and the director really did his best. Despite the limited animation, he still delivered some solid laughs. He still tried to give us some fun shoot outs, and he tried to be as close to the manga as possible. He failed hard though, but he still tried. I respect that. Of course, I feel sad for the author though because the manga looks really fun. As for the director, I believe this show was just one bad stain on his record. He directed Umaru-chan after this, and I do believe he had more chance to flaunt his stuff then. He also gave us Love Lab and Yuru Yuri, so I do think he knows his stuff but he just couldn’t apply it in this anime. If the studio treats it as an afterthought, then he clearly had no chance.

Sight and Sound

Hidekechi Matsumoto seems to be getting no love for her works. Aside from Sabagebu getting a horrid adaptation, her other work, Honto ni Atta Reiba Sensei, also got a really bad adaptation. It’s not fair. Her manga are amazing. Design-wise, I really love how the characters come off as cute but also incredibly yuri. She just designs in a very elegant manner, and it does offset with the heavily detailed guns they are carrying. Her characters come off as elegant though, but also rough on the edges. Momoka looks fantastic in the manga. Look at her eyes. Gawd damn, why aren’t those beautifully detailed eyes not in the anime? She also have a very feminine frame, which comes off as really girly and weak, and I bet it’ll be offset by the shootouts that’ll occur later on. I, unfortunately, only got to read two chapters since no one is scanlating Hidekechi’s work. Those two chapters are enough to know that the anime really did a bad job at presenting her work though. Mishandling Miou Ootori is the biggest crime though. She looks amazingly beautiful in the manga, and you can tell she is Hidekechi’s favorite character. Some panels are often consumed by Miou, and it points out how massive of a character she is in the story. The anime sucked the yuri elegance out of her. She isn’t the floating feminine beauty that Hidekechi intended her to be. I just can’t believe the anime didn’t capture Hidekechi’s vision of the story.

Masahiko tried to make the anime special though. The narrator is a nice addition to the story, and he made certain manga scenes more elaborate and stretched out. He tried to capture Hidekechi’s pace, but the animation just wasn’t up to the task. The animation is inconsistent. Some skits are well animated, but some are awkwardly done. Some shoot outs are nicely presented with different camera angles and cool kills, but other scenes are bland and unexciting. The girls have guns, but the animation just couldn’t highlight the action properly. The biggest thing the anime left out from the manga would have to be Hidekechi’s way of building up tension. She would often focus on the face to express danger, and the stillness of a scene before a shootout occurs builds amazing tension on the page. The anime couldn’t portray this properly, and you can tell the facial expressions are just badly presented. The manga had a yuri vibe with the expressions, but the anime just felt very flat. The animation is bad overall, and the way it sucked the cuteness out of the characters is a big indication of that. I do love the physical comedy in the anime though. Momoka abusing a character is pretty nice, even though there aren’t a lot of them.

The anime’s OP is “YES!!” by Ayaka Ohashi. I like this song, because it captures a survival game theme that the anime cannot deliver. It gets you hype for the show with its vibrant lyrics about having the skills to succeed, and stuff like that. Ayaka’s voice is also pretty good. The OP sequence is pretty horrible though. It features the low quality animation of the show, and it doesn’t match the hyped up song that accompanies it. The animation is also very awkward here, and a little bit lazy when you watch it over and over. The anime’s ED is “Piti Pati SurviBird” by Gesukawa☆Girls (Momoka Sonokawa [Ayaka Ohashi], Miou Ootori [Yumi Uchiyama], Urara Kasugano [Rumi Okubo], Maya Kyoudou [Lynn], Kayo Goutokuji [Nao Touyama]). This is pretty fun song, especially the chorus where you can tell the voice actors are having fun themselves. The opening of the song does highlight the awful voice acting in the show though. It reminds me plenty why the voices doesn’t really match the characters properly. As a fun song though, I do enjoy it a lot. The ED sequence even tried to join in on the fun by featuring chibi versions of the characters just going wild the song. I like it a lot.

Overall Score

4/10 “The anime didn’t understand what made the manga great, and the experience is just utterly forgettable.”

This anime had some positives, but the negatives really overwhelmed them. I personally find the show OK, but it is undeniably lacking in a lot of areas. Some of the jokes are flat, the characters are one dimensional, the animation is absolutely awful and the anime just isn’t any fun. I recommend you hunt down the manga instead, because Hidekechi Matsumoto needs some love for all the effort she is pouring into her works. The anime adaptation is just bad overall. It didn’t respect the original source, and it just felt like a massive afterthought. I don’t hate this show as much, but I recommend this anime just quietly fade away and stay forgotten.

2 thoughts on “Sabage-bu! Review

  1. Forgettable… just like this review!

    Okay, I kid about the last part.
    You know, seeing more of shows like this really makes me want to dive harder. I like searching for diamonds in a pile of shit. It’s exactly when you mean that there are good parts of this anime show despite giving it an overall score of 4.

    • tbh, these are the kinds of show people drop in a heart beat. it’s just bad, but i like reviewing bad shows and finding out it has good parts.

      i’m a brutal reviewer, so i no longer hesitate giving awful shows scores below five. mwahaha. (even though I’ve wasted an ample out of my time on it)

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