Usually, I’m not too big of a fan of school life series. I dunno, but they always look the same, there’s always the same set-up, often filled with dull moments. It makes it really hard to separate the cream from the crop at first sight, and even the ones that do seem vaguely attractive often turn out to be somewhat enjoyable, though not entirely worth the time invested in it. However, there are obviously exceptions to every rule. For this one, it’s Hyakko. I’m still not sure why I ended up enjoying this series so much.
From the outside, Hyakko seems like yet another comedy about a group of four friends. And yet, it feels fresh and engaging. Instead of simply focusing at a group of four or five friends, the creators attempted to bring an entire classroom to life, and that actually turned out pretty well. High school (or middle school or whatever the school system in Japan is called) indeed isn’t a time that you spend simply with three or four other people over and over and over again, you actually meet lots of different people with very diverse interests, and that’s what Hyakko is about.
And what makes this series extra enjoyable is the very strong cast. Unlike other school series with lots of characters like Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei and Pani Poni Dash, the characters may all have their own traits, but none of them are cardboard cut-outs, and all of them receive a bit of depth through the series, making their quirks even more enjoyable. Especially the lead character Torako is really fun, but really: the entire cast is enjoyable to watch with hardly any exceptions. I really laughed hard during the best jokes of this series. I also just have to give credit to the teacher’s voice actor: this guy sounded like he was having the time of his life while voicing his character, resulting in a bunch of awesome one-liners from the guy.
Unfortunately, like most comedies out there this series also got the inexplicable need to introduce some drama as the series nears its end. But as a surprise, it actually doesn’t suck, and it’s in fact pretty good at times. This series never forgets that it’s also supposed to be a comedy, and just when the drama gets too heavy, it’s sure to insert some sort of hilarious joke to brighten up the mood. This works great, compared to most other comedies which completely forsake their comedy for the sake of a dramatic ending. The ending itself is also really original: for once it isn’t about some sudden overdramatic plot twist or love triangle, but instead a very normal problem that is handled very subtly. Really, more comedies should look at this series for that.
My only complaint with this series lies in the sound department, something of which I hardly ever have problems with. The serious scenes of this series were nearly ruined by the sound director, who at times is a bit too eager in inserting sad piano music when there’s absolutely no need for that whatsoever. The OP and ED are also plain baaaad. Seriously, Hirano Aya should stop doing singing stuff she’s bad at. And it’s not even one mistake she made, she just keep taking jobs that are simply way too far out of her league. Her work on Nijuu Mensou no Musume was excellent, but apart from that I really haven’t heard any performance of her that really impressed me.
Nevertheless, in a season full of good comedies, Hyakko has turned out to be the best of them after Skip Beat. There are only a few episodes that are just mildly hilarious, apart from that all of them hit the mark. The drama is a bit too cheesy at times, but for a comedy it’s way above average in that aspect. And even though it has received mixed reactions, I really enjoyed the characters. I’m really getting amazed at how each non-kiddie series from Nippon Animation seems to turn into something special.