Summer 2016 Preview: This Art Club Has a Problem!

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With the sheer volume of slice-of-life anime comedies available each season, any show in that genre usually has to do something new or noteworthy to catch my interest, like New Game!‘s fresh combination of moe cuteness and office humor. But once in a while, a show can manage to squeak into my schedule with average comedic value and characterization solely on the strength of its high production values. This season, the anime that managed that feat was This Art Club Has a Problem!, also known as Konobi.

Konobi‘s story follows the usual formula for the most part, this time being set in a middle school art club with a variety of eccentric characters, most of whom aren’t exactly there to do art. In fact, Mizuki Usami is the only member who is remotely interested in growing her artistic ability in general. The club President is just there to sleep, Subaru Uchimaki is bent on using his considerable talent in search of the best 2D waifu, and Collette has so far done nothing but spend the entire first episode hiding inside a locker in the corner for no adequately explained reason. As befits this kind of show, the characters all exhibit some pretty outrageous eccentricities, and much of the show’s story so far derives from the inevitable clashes as they get to know one another.

All of this so far is fairly standard anime comedy material, and if I’m honest, there hasn’t been much about the show’s story or characters that shows any potential for transcending the baseline standards of the genre. That is to say, it’s a competent slice-of-life comedy, but I’ve seen many that were better due to some combination of a more creative premise, more relatable or three-dimensional characters, or an actual storyline beyond silly people doing silly things. Konobi did manage to evoke some real emotion towards the end of the episode, which is admittedly a good sign for things to come; however, too many anime comedies rely far too heavily on “will they, won’t they” subplots for me to jump to the conclusion that Konobi is actually planning to develop a romantic relationship between two of its characters. If it does manage to do so, great! But, I will hold off on being excited for the time being.

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If I’m honest, although Konobi is reasonably entertaining and funny, the thing that’s actually keeping it on my schedule at this point is the show’s excellent production values. I’m a sucker for smooth animation with attention to detail, so one of the first things I noticed about Konobi was the detail that went into animating the brush strokes and hand movements of the characters, especially as they are working on their art. This attention to detail complements the show’s attractive art style and Mai Otsuka’s typically adorable character designs. The camera work is similarly solid, with some especially evocative shots during the aforementioned emotional scene towards the end of the episode. On top of all that, Konobi offers a solid soundtrack and serious contenders for both OP and ED of the season. Overall, the show just looks and sounds so much better than it should have any right to given its formulaic nature, which is the one thing that gives me some hope that maybe the writers will take more risks and try some new things as the season moves forward.

I hesitate to say that Konobi is a mixed bag, per se–if your standards for anime comedies aren’t particularly high, you’ll probably find quite a bit to like here, both visually and otherwise. However, those of us who have become accustomed to more elaborate comedies like Haganai and Baka and Test might find that Konobi‘s first episode feels like it’s missing something. The foundation is definitely there for a really solid show, but it remains to be seen whether or not Konobi‘s creators will actually take advantage of that potential.

Verdict: Watching for the pretty animation for now, though I may drop if it doesn’t go anywhere.

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