Girlfriend (Kari) Review

This is review number four hundred and fifteen. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called GirlFriend Beta. It’s a twelve episode anime about a popular meme or something like that. I tried real hard to sell this anime, guys, so I hope you enjoy. Let’s read on.

Story

The anime follows the various girls of Seiou Academy in their usual school life. They do their club activities, they interact with each other and they even goof off and have fun as a collective.

Taking the Pants Off

There’s not much to say about this anime. It’s an original screenplay based on a popular smartphone game. The anime itself lacks content, and there’s a strong argument about it being boring as f*ck. It’s true though, the anime is pretty vapid and boring. I can’t defend this anime. In terms of content, it doesn’t really have one. Despite that though, I actually really like this show. I guess it’s because this isn’t my first smartphone game adapted anime. I’ve experienced this kind of hell before, and GirlFriend Beta is a friendlier approach at adapting something that wasn’t meant to be an anime. I’ll tell you this though, Zettai Bouei Leviathan changed me. I literally sat for hours thinking that my life is meaningless after finishing and reviewing that anime. I decided right then that I needed to find a job and make something out of my life. That’s how bad a smartphone game adapted anime is. It can be utter sh*t, and this anime is actually pretty good. There is effort here, and it’s assembled smartly, which is something I immensely appreciate. Anime is all about effort, and this show has tons of it. It’s still vapid and boring, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it.

The Meme That Started It All

Before we start, I want to talk about my first impression of the anime. I watched about half of the first episode, and I was bored to death by it. I felt a bit insulted too, since the first scene was so contrived. A girl practicing gymnastics gets photographed, then another girl stopped the photographer and then something fell out of her pocket. This was the motivation for the first episode. Basically, it’s just the gymnastics girl going around school trying to give the picture back to the other girl. I was fearing the worst, so I googled the anime thinking it was a visual novel. When I do my reviews, I do research on the original source. Well, it’s a video game but not the one you’d expect. It’s a smartphone game, and it’s like Idolmaster where you do rhythm game with the girls. The game is very popular though, and it has over 100 characters voiced by over a hundred seiyuu as well. That’s insane.

Anyways, I decided to ditch the anime for a while and brush up on the game. There are gameplay videos on youtube, and this VIDEO gives you an idea how it’s played. I should also tell you that I suck at rhythm games. My sister played the Miku Hatsune games for me when I had my PSP. I just wanted to own the PoPiPo song and see Megurine Luka in her “Just be friends” PV. I couldn’t even clear one round. That’s how much I suck, and I can tell I won’t fare well in this game as well. My sister can juggle me in a fight in Tekken. It’s embarrassing. After realizing my life sucks, I was then directed to the Wikipedia of the game, and it has a Chloe Lemaire meme section. I checked out what the meme is all about, and it’s basically one of the characters’ indecipherable lines in a New Year ad of the game. Chloe Lemaire is a French character, so she has a weird accent. This commercial is played countless times though, so, naturally, a lot of people pick up on it.

Apparently, she comes off as retarded in the commercial and she was subsequently mocked for it. “Kuoueeeerueuooo!!!” And thus, a meme was born. The Japanese community soon did spoof videos of Chloe Lemaire, and the know your meme page has some of the best. I was laughing all night, and I even fell asleep just playing countless meme videos. The dubstep version is cute, btw. I forgot I had the anime paused, and that’s my experience with this anime. Why did I go on a tangeant about Chloe Lemaire? Well, her popularity kinda made the anime adaptation possible. The New Year ad gained steam throughout 2014, and by Fall 2014, we got an anime of GirlFriend Beta. Of course, I’m just speculating here but think back on the first episode. It featured Chloe Lemaire heavily with her retarded French accent, fully acknowledging her meme.

In fact, the anime ends with the girls celebrating New Year and, of course, Chloe Lemaire is in her New Year ad get up complete with the rest of the girls.

Coincidence? I think not. The meme gave birth to the anime, and they even acknowledged it with this scene:

They’re talking about the meme, and that’s basically the appeal of the anime. If you know the meme and the game, and if you especially played the game with some of the characters, then you’d like this anime. It’s an “inside reference” type of anime, and it is pretty fun watching a show born of a meme.

A Strong Script

Of course, Chloe Lemaire can’t carry this anime by itself. What is there to her aside from her French accent and tall build? Well, nothing. With a game of over a hundred playable girls though, I do think you can do a lot with it. There is a problem though with a flooded cast like that. You won’t really achieve balance, and featuring so many girls will turn this show into a messy directionless shlock. Enter the series compositor, Michiko Yokote.

The anime doesn’t really have a story, but its episodes are still good. They’re basic, in terms of storytelling. We have a setup and there is payoff. The episodes have a goal in mind, and it’s achieved at the end. I really love the way the script was handled, and there is grace to how the series is composed. Credit goes to Michiko Yokote, the series composition and a script writer for various episodes. She has worked on a lot of titles, and her filmography is pretty impressive. She wrote some of the best episodes of Cowboy Bebop, including my favorite: the one where Faye watched a video she recorded as a child. She also wrote the episode Mushroom Mamba, which is objectively one of the strongest episodes in Cowboy Bebop. She composed the awesome final episode of Love Stage, where the couple had sex, and she handled some of the best episodes of xxxholic. She’s no stranger to original screenplays as well, since she put out some solid episodes of Tamako Market. I trust anything she crafts, and GirlFriend Beta is no different. Despite having no overall story, the episodes themselves are still handled with care.

I was bored out of my mind with the show was well, but I can’t seem to stop watching it. The characters always engaged me in whatever activity they are doing. It’s stupid simple, like going on a diet or hosting a contest, but they are genuinely well written. I’ve experienced horrible writing in anime before, so trust me on this. No human being should sit through Argevollen, and I can confidently tell you GirlFriend Beta is nowhere near that awful. I’ve also seen video game adapted anime struggle before too, like Escha and Logy struggling to make content, and this anime is really handled more smartly. In fact, I’d even claim that it had episodes as good as K-On’s. Not in the animation department, of course, but in terms of content. K-On can be vapid in some episodes too, and some of the strongest episodes of this anime are on par with KyoAni’s giant. I mean, do you remember any story in K-On? I remember Azunyan in cat ears, but that’s about it.  K-On still had a setup and pay off per episode though, like when Yui was saving money to buy a guitar. They’re well written episodes, and you can make the same case for GirlFriend Beta.

School Life

One thing I like about this anime is how it handled its large cast. Each episode focuses on a different girl, but the same characters appear in other episodes. Sometimes, they function as a group. As you soon get accustomed to the show’s pace and presentation, you soon realize how much the anime feature “school life”. The interaction of the characters in different grades, the way the clubs cross and match, the way the girls just hang out and live out their school life is pretty solid as well. Again, some episodes are boring but you’d often smile seeing recurring characters just cameo in an episode that they don’t really belong in. Chloe Lemaire does this a lot, since she is a walking meme. Also, for some gawd damn reason, Miss Monochrome so this makes her second cameo in an anime (the first being Shounen Hollywood 49).

The problem with the anime though is that it drowns you with characters. An episode would start with two or three, and it explodes into a seven or ten cast of similar looking characters. I guess it makes sense, since you want the girls you play in the game to appear in this anime. There are a lot of them though, and some of them play very minor roles (like just standing around). I suck at remembering characters, so I am always overwhelmed at the cast ballooning into ten and above.

But again, the strong writing comes through. The characters really complement each other, and they even work off one another. The cast of ten are given enough time to act cute or silly in an episode, and you gotta hand it to the series composition to smartly take care of each girl. Even though there’s a handful, the girls still had a quirky trait to them that does add to the episode. Even though some are awkwardly forced into an episode, their addition never really ruins the episode itself. They stay in the background, and they are focused on when it’s their turn to shine.

As you reach the middle portion of the show, you soon begin to accept the large cast. You are accustomed to the various clubs and their members, the different years (freshmen, senior) of the characters, and the relationship between all of them. It comes to a point where the entire cast is utilized, and you do feel the anime is set in a school. The anime achieves a beautiful “school life” that accommodates the large cast. It becomes more apparent in the cultural festival episode, the club centered episodes and even the New Year’s episode to finish off the anime. Naotaka Hayashi (really did his best to give a stable foundation, so you can tell this anime is really in good hands. He found a way to really capture the large cast of the smartphone game, and he made the whole thing work. The adaptation of Idolmaster is handled awkwardly, and GirlFriend Beta is admittedly more strongly written. Don’t get any ideas though. This show is still boring as hell.

The Deal Breaking Downsides

I keep praising this anime and the staff behind it, but I think it’s time to really unpack the negatives of this anime. Despite all the effort put behind, there is still really nothing to this show. It’s still a bland narrative with bland-er animation. You can watch K-On’s vapid episodes because of its one true strength, and GirlFriend Beta doesn’t have that. It has some cute sakuga scenes, but they’re still handled awkwardly. A lot of the scenes are boring wide shots, and the quality dips when there are more than four characters eating up the screen. The lack of direction is also hard to handle. I can forgive a show like Love Live to feature twelve or so characters and this anime should’ve done the same. Why not just pick the most popular and recognizable characters and make a show out of them? You can keep the other characters as background or minor characters, because the lack of a core group of girls is really tough to watch. It signifies that the show lacks direction, and there’s no stability to keep the anime focused.

The anime is also a co-ed school, but we never see male characters as part of the show. It feels like a missed opportunity to have a “girlfriend” game, and the girls don’t act like how they are in the games. It feels like a needless aspect to make the school co-ed. Why not just make an all-girls school? It’s so weird to see male characters attend a group meeting, and the show never acknowledges their presence. In the student council, there are three boys and they never talk. They just awkwardly sit and do nothing. With that being said, the anime also didn’t feature a lot of songs. This is a rhythm game, but I think there are only three singles (OP, ED and one insert) throughout the anime. It feels like a waste not to feature one defining aspect of the game. I’d even accept a dumb montage with the songs in them. It’s a nitpick, but it is a noticeable omission.

This anime is also carried by its cast. The episodes feature a basic story, and the cast carries the rest of the load. Their random activities, their quirkiness and their voice acting are the core aspect of the show. If you aren’t into the girls and their random activities then the anime will really feel like a waste of time. Considering there is no direction, a stupid basic setup, and a below average animation, there’s really not a lot to enjoy in this anime. I hate to say it, since I really like this one, but the show has very little offer. There aren’t any memorable moments as well, so this is really just an exercise on futility when you watch this one.

Silver Link and C Station

This anime is presented by Silver Link and C-Station. The latter studio is the weird one that gave us Seikoku no Dragonar (which features hentai level tentacle raping). I think they’re known for Star-Myu or something, and I think they’re an interesting studio. They aren’t making great hits, but they’re solid enough to keep them relevant. Being a small time studio, they also pair up with other studios. I think they gave us Akame ga Kill along with White Fox. Teaming up with Silver Link is also a right move for them. They make solid hits and even have some great shows in their lineup. Watamote comes to mind right away. Silver Link also did Non Non Biyori and last seasons’ Invaders of the Rokujyouma, which is one of my favorite shows. GirlFriend Beta is a good enough addition to their lineup, but it is forgettable. They have some odd misses too, like Nourin. Anyone remember that? Did anyone even watch that? Now, I praised them enough, but I still want to send my love for the director and the series compositor. They turned what could’ve been a giant mistake into a serviceable experience. Working with nothing, these guys gave us a “good” anime when others couldn’t even create “good enough” with the same concept. Their talents really shine with this boring anime, and I do wish others would give it a chance.

Sight and Sound

The characters are originally designed by QP:flapper, a duo team of illustrators. They do visual novel, light novel and even original anime illustrations. If you watch the Chloe Lemaire meme long enough, then you’d realize how beautifully illustrated Chloe is. Of course, the anime downgraded the designs. The original illustrations had a flashier color palette, and the detail work on the faces is intense. To create over a hundred characters are also pretty damn amazing, so I admire them for that. The build of the characters are pretty standard, but they really shine in terms of their outfit designs. The various accessories put on the characters, the color play of their outfit and the visual novel poses are really wonderfully conceived. I bet collecting the cards in the game is fun considering the duo’s designs are just extremely lovely eye candies. The original illustrations also have a wide range of characters and poses. Some of the cards have the girls with their legs open, while others are pedo bait characters, so you kinda understand the demographic this game, titled “provisional girlfriend”, is targeting. The anime still did a good job handling the characters as well. All their identifiable aspects were kept in, but the flashiness was just toned down. I’m not complaining though, since the sakuga scenes of the characters are still fun to watch.

Animation is inconsistent. Some episodes are well animated, others are awkward, and the rest are plain. The episodes do have a few seconds of sakuga though, but it’s barely noticeable. Majority of the scenes are boring wide shots of the characters. The rooms they are in are also empty, and it’s a lazy work by the director. Later episodes are a lot better though, but your first impression of the anime is greatly affected by the subpar work. The animation also dips when the scene is crowded with girls. Some of them aren’t even moving in certain group shots, and the girls just don’t blink in general. I could spam this review with really cute shots of the girls by themselves though, and you can tell the director is really trying hard to make this anime work. I don’t really have much to say about the animation, so why don’t I just spam this review with images. Here are five cute shots of the cast. They look as good as those pedo bait cards, I can tell you that much.

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I’d also like the point out the voice acting in this anime. For a game that boasts a hundred VA, some of them really sound the same. I’m not sure if it’s an intentional move, but they don’t try to stand out from each other. I think the only one that really enjoys voicing her character is Chloe Lemaire’s VA. Of course, there are also two or three characters with distinct voices but it doesn’t really make the show special. It should’ve though, since the game boasts their vocals. They should’ve put in the work. I know for a fact the experience would’ve been a lot better if the voice actors really gave it their all with their performance and wowed us with their amazing vocals.

The anime’s OP is “Tanoshiki Tokimeki” by Neuron★Creamsoft [Haruka Kazemachi (Saori Hayami), Momoko Asahina (Yui Ogura), Nagiko Kurokawa (Saori Gotou), Kurumi Etou (Aya Suzaki), Sumire Yomogida (Hiromi Igarashi)].Yeah, there’s light music club in this anime, and they performed the OP. It’s as dumb as the lyrics of a K-On song, and I think it’s enjoyable because of that. It’s about having a carefree time at school, and it’s a pretty adorable song.  They also have a strong group of VA to sing the song, so the awesomeness of the track really comes through. The OP sequence features the “school life” that I really enjoy in this anime. It features the core characters, the clubs, the various odd ones and it ends with Chloe Lemaire high fiving everyone. It also features an above quality animation rarely seen in the actual show, so that’s a plus.

The anime’s ED is “Hareru kanaa” by Kokomi Shiina (Satomi Sato). I think Kokomi is the mascot of the game, since she’s heavily featured in the advertisements. It’s only natural she gets a chance to sing in this show, and it is f*cking incredible. Oh man, did Ritsu ever sing in K-On, because her voice is amazing. Satomi stays in character though, and I just love how gentle the song is. It’s about having a wonderful time with your friends at school, and I’m just sold by Ritsu’s VA. It’s amazing. The ED features the core characters goofing off, and it had some solid sakuga scenes like Kokomi biting into her melon bread. The anime had a lot of scenes like that in short pockets. The ED also embodies the spirit of the show as it features a simple time with the characters.

Overall Score

5/10 “It’s boring, but the effort put in this show is still something I find satisfying to watch”

The show doesn’t have a story, compelling characters or even consistent animation, so there’s really not a lot it can offer. Despite all that, I still really enjoyed this anime. The technical aspects of the show shined for me, and it made a boring experience into an interesting one. Of course, I don’t recommend this people but I do hope you can at least try one or two episodes of it.

4 thoughts on “Girlfriend (Kari) Review

  1. I watched it as just mindless CGDCT, sometimes it doesn’t pay to think too hard… Plus, Girlfriend Beta introduced me to Miss Monochrome – and that alone made it worth it.

    • yes, miss monochrome is awesome. xD
      and i’m not myself if I don’t analyze an anime. haha. though the “turn your brain off” or “it’s simple fun” argument is valid. i prefer to go the extra mile, since i know no one will. xD

  2. I’ve never really liked girly anime. I’ve always found them too pushy, if you know what I mean. 🙂 Like they tend to be overly pink, filled with glitter and shiny things and have too many cringy moments that are meant to be cute. And because of this, they tend to be predictable and a complete snooze fest.
    It’s hard to find girly anime that isn’t boring. But at least, it was a good game adapted anime and you liked it. 😀

    • they re predictable, but you’d be surprise how much of a big seller these clones are. haha. they’re also easy to make, and i have seen the same thing over and over. at this point i’m just comfortably numb oiver everything.

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