Here is one for the category “series with very misleading titles”. This one has two titles: Gakuen Senki Muryou and Shingu – Secret of the Stellar Wars. And yeah, I guess that they make sense when you’ve seen the entire series, but with such titles I expected an epic show about galactic warfare and strategic battles and the role of a random school in them. I was expecting a fully blown action adventure here. Madhouse had different plans, though.
First of all, Gakuen Senki Muryou isn’t about war at all. Sure, there is a war going on and all and there are a few battles here and there, but it’s actually focused much more on diplomacy than actual warfare. Throughout the entire series we get to see all kinds of diplomats, trying to get all kinds of alien relationships to flow smoothly, and trying to take care of the oddball aliens that try to invade the earth. It’s actually quite an interesting concept that the creators got here, unlike any other show I’ve seen here.
Second of all, I did not expect this series to have as much slice of life as it did. It’s even a bigger focus of this show than the diplomacy: this series really shines in the way that it depicts its characters when nothing is going on and they’re just living their daily lives, and it really took its time to portray all of its characters as ordinary humans who have enough things to do on their own when they’re not saving the world. It’s all wonderfully down to earth: often you just randomly see people having dinner, attending classes or trying to get an interesting school project off the ground.
It all meshes surprisingly well with each other and often times the line between slice of life and diplomacy gets pretty blurry, with some wonderful results. It also really helps that this show is really good at fleshing out its characters: the dialogue is often quite witty, the lead characters, especially Nayuta, receive quite a bit of depth throughout the series, and even the smallest side characters here feel like actual people that have their own lives. This show also likes to sometimes focus on random discussions from people that just happened to be in the neighbourhood, and this show actually succeeded really well in making its setting come alive.
This show also subverts a ton of stereotypes: one thing that I especially loved about the first half of this series is that nobody really turns out like what he appears to be at first sight. The show comes with a ton of surprises because of that, which made it very fun to watch, even during the slow pacing of the plot and the childish (but hardly ever annoying!) characters.
Now, first and foremost this is a series about middle schoolers, but it’s also one of those shows whose target audience is pretty vague: there is also quite a bit of attention to the large cast of adults that roam this series, there are no high schoolers whatsoever and the elementary school kids that pass by are also wonderfully characterized (I especially loved Hajime’s sister). On the other hand, all of the scientific theories, diplomatic discussions and the entire backstory will probably fly over the heads of most kids (because really, there is a ton of depth behind the world that this show attempted to create).
It’s pretty much a series for many different ages, especially if you like middle school adventures and the combination of slice of life with something else (in this case science fiction and diplomacy). Just don’t watch this for the action alone: the battles are few and far inbetween, and it’s about the only part of this show that isn’t creatively portrayed. Shingu is a very obscure series, but it really doesn’t deserve that: it’s got more than enough to like.
It’s definitely not the most exciting series: it always favours its laid-back style and pacing, even at the darker parts in the series, but at the same time I can hardly see anything that this show does wrong. Yeah, perhaps it has one tsundere and perhaps the ending could have been less rushed, but that’s just nitpicking here.