Houkago Saikoro Club

January 26, 2020

What kind of games to bored people play? Why, bored (board) games, silly! Haha! Oops. Sorry. Bad pun. Anyway, with today’s world of advanced technology, it seems like games in the digital format is here to stay and the way forward. While this may be hugely true, it is also unfair and inaccurate to say that traditional games like board games are dying. In fact, there is a niche market for them and they are still in demand although comparably to digital games they are not as hot or trending. So what a way to ‘remind’ us that there are some games that we can play anytime and anywhere even when the electricity is out, hence we have Houkago Saikoro Club. A group of girls playing board games together after school and discovering its unique joy. Wow. Ooooohhhhh. Isn’t that so super exciting?! Oh wait. Is this another one of those cute girls doing cute things? Board games are cute, no?

Episode 1
You can tell Miki Takekasa is the unsociable kind as she rejects Midori Ono, the class rep’s invitation for the girls to go karaoke this weekend. On the way home, Aya Takayashiki almost bumps into her on her bicycle but crashes into the river. After a change of clothes, because Aya is new around here, she has Miki reluctantly show her around Kyoto. They head to strange places and because Aya is so in her own pace, Miki starts to panic and cry that they might get lost! But leave it to Aya to explain her twisted logic they aren’t lost because they have no destination! Instead, they are pretend-lost. Huh? In the end, they manage to reach a beautiful place and watch the beautiful sunset. A place that Miki never knew despite living here for a long time. On the way back, they spot Midori making her way a shady area in town. They tail her to a saikoro club (table top games club). Both sides are shocked to see each other and as explained, Midori is working here. Aya is not happy with Midori’s ‘hypocrisy’ because she told others not to hang out after curfew hours but yet she herself is doing it. To calm things down, the manager Takeru Kinjou decides to introduce them to some board games. He has them play Marrakech. Takeru is brutal as he shows no mercy to newbies. When Midori helps Miki a little, Takeru warns her about the ironclad rule of not helping others during a game. But because Miki pleads to her for help (did those tears do the trick?), Midori joins in the game as her teammate. That’s not breaking the rules, right? With that, Midori takes some big risks that could end them up losing the game but the gamble pays off and they turn the tables to beat Takeru instead. In the end, Miki and Aya are interested to come back and play again. However, Midori warns them she will overlook this since technically it is wrong for school girls to loiter around after curfew. Do this again and she’ll report it to the school. However… Weekends and holidays aren’t part of the rule. There’s your loophole. Hooray! The fun continues!

Episode 2
Aya tries to get friendly with Miki and Midori. Somewhat it backfired because it is Miki and Midori who got friendlier with each other instead. Shouta Tanoue has a crush on Aya. In his bid to try and lend her something she forgot, it looks like other girls were fast enough to lend her. Tanoue continues to be ‘suspicious’ and hence he is called out by Midori who is also his childhood friend. Since it is after class, Aya invites him to join them playing games. You bet he’s in. Midori introduces a bluffing card game, Kaker Laken Poker (I Am Cockroach Poker). Tanoue hopes to get closer to Aya in this poker game but it gets off to a bad start and it seems like as though he is trying to target her? Yeah, Aya and Tanoue being bad liars so much so Miki can tell that Tanoue actually does have a crush on Aya. Midori is a tough nut to break too as she is a veteran in such games and can tell based on your body language and reaction whether you are lying or not. Aya is on a losing streak and this final card will most probably make her lose the game overall. Tanoue is in a pinch as he really wants to help and save her but cannot tell if the card she is playing is true or a bluff. This guy is stressing so much on this that even Miki once more can tell what he is trying to do. In the end, Aya loses and yup, Tanoue inadvertently delivered the finishing blow to her. Depressed guy tries to leave but Aya wants to talk to him privately. She knows something about him. Gulp. Has he been exposed? Turns out that Aya thinks he is in love with Midori and will help support him! Damn, not only Aya is bad in games, looks like her female intuition is really off! Aya then whispers this secret to Miki and hopes they can invite Tanoue to play more future games with them. Hey, at least he can try again…

Episode 3
Miki was often bullied when she was young. Hence being alone is her best defence mechanism from getting hurt. Miki spots a girl lying on the ground. Actually Hana is trying to get her pet cat, Sakura hiding inside the drain. Yeah, the cat hates the vet visit. Miki uses a cat toy to lure it out. After the girls chat, Miki goes to meet up with her friends. This time they are supposed to visit Aya’s house. Funny fate turns out to be because Hana is Aya’s older sister! Hana has also bought her friend, Maki. Miki is afraid of her because she looks like a delinquent. Oddly, Maki thinks she has seen her before but can’t quite put a finger on it. But Miki thinks she is one of those bullies. Today’s board game will be Incan Gold. Basically it is a chicken race. In the first round, Miki pulls out early while Maki is daring, pulling out only when her intuition tells her it is dangerous to go on. Because of Miki’s shy demeanour, Maki comments that she is often bullied a lot and can tell by her reaction. Midori and Aya come to Miki’s defence and vow to protect her. The game carries on for a few more rounds and in the final round, Maki is in the lead as she advises Miki to pull out because getting second place is still good enough for her. Miki is unsure what to do but with Sakura lying on her lap, this must be some sort of encouragement, right? Eventually Miki pulls the biggest upset and wins the overall game. She credits everyone supporting her. Maki then apologizes to Miki for saying some rude stuffs. It is then the rest discover that Maki is her surname and her first name is Kyouko. Apparently Maki doesn’t like to be called by that name. Miki then remembers that it was Maki who came to her rescue from those bullies. Many feared her because of her reputation as Mad Dog Kyouko. Miki is glad that despite she has scary memories, if she pushes forward, she’ll find pleasant ones.

Episode 4
Ren Shibusawa pleads to Midori for help with the upcoming student council work but is refused. It seems she has trouble trying to come up with the best school cultural festival. Because Yuuto Aoshima the president is hospitalized, she as the vice has taken over his role. Flashback shows when she first joined, Aoshima seemed very casual. But after she hears his reasons to join because he wants to see everybody’s smile, she became motivated. She also tried following in his footsteps because he may not look like he but he actually understands everyone. Ren goes to see Midori again and hopes she would change her mind. It seems the duo were in the same middle school and in the student council. They were a perfect team. But Midori still turns her down as she explains her dream to become a game author. Ren laughs at this and believes board games is outdated. Miki and Aya butt in and argue otherwise but the bias in Ren is strong. Games are useless and she doesn’t want Midori to waste her talents on something like that. It’s time for Midori to put her foot down and settle this. Via game. They’ll play a card game called 6 Nimmt and if Midori loses, she will obey her. Ren thought this is going to be easy but of course she lacks the strategy and she thought her sure win card would seal the deal. Instead, Midori turns the tables on her. Safe to say, Ren loses overall. Big time. Ren admits her loss and that it was also a fun game. But she still can’t accept Midori is going down this route. Thus Midori explains about how games benefited people throughout history and by being a game author, this is her way of bringing smiles to people. Sore loser Ren runs away. So she’s not giving up? Next time then. On their way home, Midori explains to her friends how her brother introduced her to the board game world when she was young. She was hooked and then learnt a little history how it all started in Germany. Alex Randolph became the first person to put his name on the board game as previously it was only companies who affixed their name on it. By doing so, the games becomes works of art by the authors. Just like manga. Hence it becomes Midori’s dream to become a game author and her friends are supportive she can become a good one.

Episode 5
Summer vacation is here and since Aya is bugging to go on a beach trip, Miki has an idea. Because her Aunt Miyabi runs an inn at Kanazawa, she invites her friends over. As they are about to take a bath, Aya stumbles into strange shogi pieces. Some of them don’t have characters on the reverse side. Midori recognizes this as pieces for GOITA, a traditional game from Noto. Since this team game needs 4 players, they rope in Miyabi to help play since she isn’t busy at the moment. When Miki notes this is her first time playing, Miyabi says she has played it before but Miki can’t remember. The game was fun as they continue to do other stuffs for the rest of the day before hitting the sack. Next day, the much awaited swimming in the sea is… CANCELLED! Because it’s raining! No, pouring! Aya so sad that she is throwing a tantrum. Just like this kid, Takashi. Oh well, what to do but play GOITA. This has Takashi interested so he joins in. Takashi teams up with Midori. As a noob, Takashi doesn’t understand strategy so he gets confused when Midori says not to match his teammate’s pieces on one hand and then in the next round he should match them because it is special case. This has Miki now remembering she played this game before. She was in this exact same position and because of that, Miki was disheartened. Noticing that Takashi is now in this same predicament, she offers to team up with him. So I guess he wised up and now it’s like they can read each other minds. Hence Takashi wins the game and for his team. I know the game is fun but since it has stopped raining, can we go out to the beach now? Hooray! Damn Takashi got his own harem of onee-chan now. Takashi you lucky cheeky little bastard!

Episode 6
Takeru is in a bar with his old military friend, George Beresford. Learning Takeru opened a board game shop, George isn’t the least bit interested. He doesn’t believe Japan has a market in board games since Japanese mostly consume digital ones. Takeru begs to differ and believes Japan is catching up in this area. Midori tells her friends that she is making a game. Because Aya keeps bugging she wants to try, Midori gets mad and tells her off because she already told her the game is still incomplete. One day, Midori is trying to get Takeru to test play her game when George walks in. Once Midori learns his name, she knows he is a famous board game designer in the west. George wants to try her prototype but again, that excuse it is incomplete. This is when George tells her straight she is afraid to fail, somebody might tell her it is boring. She claims she will complete it soon but when? Even if she becomes old, it will never be completed. Midori is now mad after he adds she is not a designer. One last word of advice: A game cannot be completed alone. Midori burns the midnight oil to complete her game just to show him. But then she hits a dead end. Desperate times calls for desperate measure so she calls her friends to help test play. They are amazed she has some of the designs completed like the board and the game cards. She explains this interior design game which of course sounds interesting and fun. After playing it, Aya and Miki look… uhm… depressed? They compliment her but Midori knows they’re just trying to be nice. Just tell the truth! The brutal truth! Okay. It seems the game will feel monotonous if it is played for a long period of time. Because they were thinking about getting more points, it doesn’t feel like interior decorating their home. Then they add lots of other comments and opinions like adding pets or deducting points. Now Midori is depressed? Actually she can’t believe they got so many suggestions after just a single game play while she spent so much time and thought on it. Then she remembers George’s words. Now you know what he meant, right? Takeru apologizes to George because it should’ve been his job to guide Midori but now he made him the bad guy. George doesn’t mind because he did what he wanted too. And then Midori barges into the bar to admit he was right and that she won’t give up. Eh, are minors allowed? How did she know they’re here at this time of hour?! At night! George is interested to see how much she grows.

Episode 7
With Midori busy making her game and Aya away for holiday, oddly Maki stumbles into Miki and suggests they hang out. She gives her a ride to the river and I suppose there is only so much these city girls can do. Miki remembers she brought this Monjiro game. They lay blocks to create a word. Maki is masterful as she mocks Miki with insulting words. Miki tries to do the same but comes off as ‘weak’ and no effect. Miki then thanks her for saving her then. Maki remembers that incident. She tells of her own tragic story whereby her parents got divorced. They are bad memories that won’t go away so when she saw Miki being bullied, it reminded her of her useless dad. Her excuse wasn’t to save her but just to vent her frustration. They continue the Monjiro game but this time using gentle words. The tables are turned since Miki uses nice words to describe Maki and this makes the latter feel awkward. Miki enjoying every moment of it. Is she a sadist? With the new semester started, the cultural festival is around the corner. Midori and friends hand in their application to do a board game café but this idea is quickly shot down by Ren. Still holding a grudge, huh? Midori knows better than to argue and leaves. With Ren vowing to make this festival a success, suddenly Aoshima returns. Gasp! As she goes to call other student council members, Aoshima sees that board game request. Apparently this is the only board game café in town so Aoshima seems to have found it despite being first time here. Amazed at the collection, he is interested to try one so Midori suggests The Island. I wonder if Miki is listening to Midori explaining the rules because she has been thinking that this guy is the student council president ever since. The game goes on with Aoshima daring to take risks. He loses but it was really fun. Because of that, he overturns Ren’s decision and approves it himself! Ren can’t stop pouting. You mad, girl?

Episode 8
The girls learn a new board game café opened nearby and decide to go check it out. Well, it’s empty. Except for that cute German girl, Emilia AKA Emmy. Apparently Emmy knows the girls. Because she overheard them talking about board games in the street. Uhm, so that is considered as an encounter? Anyway, Emmy likes board games so she and her father opened one in Japan since there aren’t many. The girls get it going by playing a Celtic based board game, Keltis. After explaining the rules and playing the game, Midori wins it with the most points. Emmy is shocked and happy because she is the first person who beat her in her most favourite game. When the girls tell Emmy they are going to do a board game café at their school’s festival, Emmy couldn’t be happier. In fact, she is transferring to their school soon! She gives thanks that her wished to see them again came true. And so the festival gets underway. It’s such a lively festival. Except for the board game café… Not a single customer soul. Could this be Ren’s doing by putting them at a far corner of the school? Can’t blame her. Their application got approved last minute and this was where she could only slot them. But don’t despair. Emmy has an idea. I guess we only know one reason why Tanoue is here. But he also brought his best friend, the popular Ryuuji Yoshioka. Yeah, he is so popular with girls and this guy prefer to go with his friend than be bugged by females. Whatever. To Tanoue’s shock, the board game café girls are dressed as maids. Maid board game café! I APPROVE!!! Thanks to Emmy posting this over the school’s social media, the café is now swarming with guys! Yeah. Worse day for Tanoue as Aya pleads him to explain some of the games to customers are they are short of staffs. The guys in his table not happy not to be served by a maid. I understand, I too would get mad if a kawaii meido didn’t serve my table. Since the student council are here and Yoshioka looks like an unapproachable loner, Midori shoves them to let Miki handle it. So she introduces to them a speed pairing French game, Dobble. It goes on smoothly and they had fun. Because Yoshioka is from the kendo club, his reflexes are lightning speed. However he soon ends up losing because he can’t simply name the pictures fast enough. But Miki notes he can name them anything so he gives them funny names and this causes the rest to laugh out loud. In the end, the café is a success. This should blow away some of Ren’s suspicions, right? See how many smiles we had today? So don’t be looking so gloom yourself!

Episode 9
Emmy is brought to Midori’s board game café. She sees an old game she used to play when she was in Germany, Elfenland. They have a go at this travelling board game and at the end of it, Emmy wins. This prompts Midori to say how her sense of direction in games are good but not in real life. And this prompts Emmy to remember the last game she played in Germany with her German friends before she left for Japan. Oh, Emmy is crying?! Nostalgia? Actually, she feels sad she couldn’t keep her promise to her best friend, Anna. You see, they both promised to become game designers. But WTF?! Midori starts to get jealous and depressed?! She excuses herself and we can clearly see that she doesn’t take it quite well that another person is sharing the same dream. So you telling me that she’s the only one who can make games? Hence she is sleepless that night, overthinking if Emmy’s games are good and if she is much better than her. And then George’s face pops up. Stupid oyaji… Next time when all the friends gather, Emmy mentions she wants to learn traditional children games in Japan because it might help give ideas to make her board game. So they go with this daruma game as Miki explains its rules. Emmy also notes how the western world also has this game but called in different names with some little difference in rules (though she didn’t really elaborate on that). After playing a round, it seems Emmy could point out its ‘flaws’. There is practically no reward and the players take a lot of risk. Also, this means the game is endless like many other traditional games. Hence she suggests to incorporate some points to make it exciting. Trying out this new incorporated scoring system, the girls suddenly feel intense. Because there is competition now. It’s not perfect but they still have some fun. Emmy quotes Randolph’s saying that all games are works in progress so as to motivate Midori to achieve her dream. Midori is shocked she knows about this. Actually Aya and Miki told Emmy about this but since Emmy never had a chance to talk to her about it, that’s why she consulted them. Game problems are to be solved via games. Hence this is what today’s outing’s goal is too. Midori throws away her silly pride and tells Emmy about her dream and hopes she could try out her game in progress.

Episode 10
Aya’s father, Kenji just returned from Africa. Because he is a wildlife photographer, naturally Japanese cats > own daughter. You bet Aya is a sad + mad cat. Talking to her friends about this, they suggest inviting him to Emmy’s family Christmas party. Hence Tanoue gets the most ambiguous call in his life. Aya wants him to come and meet her father!!! This guy so panicky that he calls Yoshioka to come along! Of course Kenji eventually couldn’t make it because another contract comes up. Yup, bears. Bears > Christmas party. That’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Aya runs away. Luckily she stumbles into Miki. She takes her to the board game café. Soon Kenji comes in looking for her. Apparently Miki called Hana about it. As she won’t talk to him, Takeru tells them to play a game. Hey, this is a board game café. Play or leave. So he lets them play this territorial game of Blokus. Initially it is awkward when father and daughter won’t talk. Eventually Kenji admits he is a selfish man and loses sight when he becomes obsessed with something. It is the reason why mom left him. However if he stopped being that, he ceased to be the Kenji he knows. Even if Aya forever hates him, he will forever love her. Now it’s Aya’s turn to open up. As she used to cry a lot when young, Kenji often cheered her up and told her positive stuffs. Because of that, she has made friends and found things she loves to do. In that sense, she can never hate him. With that, father and daughter is back on track. Thank goodness.

So naturally Kenji can’t come to the Christmas party. Bears more important, naturally. But Aya isn’t mad since she has talked to him. Not sure if Tanoue is sad or relieved after learning what actually happened. Yoshioka? He’s glad Miki is here. The kids play this dress up board game, Ladies & Gentlemen. This game must be paired a boy and a girl because guys make the money for the women to spend and buy clothes! Father Christmas working his miracle tonight as Tanoue is paired with Aya while Yoshioka gets Miki. So I guess that leaves the gamer girls together, huh? Tanoue loves it when Aya acts like his wife. But then gets depressed when he has not enough money to buy her dresses! Oh sh*t! A different vibe on the other end as Yoshioka must be really loving Miki who is being courteous and polite. Midori is playing the strict ‘husband’ and her ‘wife’ Emmy using her ‘seductive charms’. In the end, they won. Those who lost, well be glad that it’s just the game so their ‘wives’ are quite happy having fun. So how does it feel being tested on their manhood? I guess Tanoue still feels the need to make up to Aya so he buys her gloves as Christmas present. Happy girl so happy, so naturally happy boy is also happy. Yoshioka gets to walk Miki to the train station. The one who got ‘screwed’ is Midori because somehow sleepy Emmy is still acting like her wife and starts hugging and calling her darling! From the looks of it, safe to say that Midori isn’t going the yuri path.

Episode 11
Takeru tells Midori that George’s company is holding a competition for game designers. He is telling her because George personally contacted him to tell Midori that he has yet to play her game. Hence Midori talks to her friends about this and they are more than happy to help her test play her game. We can see there are lots of improvement in this One Room v2 game of hers. It has a much better flow and all. At the end of the game, everybody had fun and despite Takeru admitting the game has largely improved, it still feels like it is missing something. This will not get her far in the competition. Midori isn’t insulted because she too felt something similar. As the friends brainstorm about this, Emmy notes Midori should just do what she wants to do. This has her remember her father runs a furniture shop which she often frequents. Sakamoto, a store employee was particularly passionate about furniture and because of that, the reason why he took on this profession. This gave Midori a lot of food for thought and there were some things she didn’t understand then. Midori now works hard to further improve her game. She is obviously tired and starts snoozing at school! Shockingly, despite sitting right in front and sleeping before the teacher, when called to answer a question, she can still answer flawlessly! OMG! Does she sleep with her brain on???!!! We here Midori narrate how she has taken Sakamoto’s words as inspiration. Because of her rigid view on how game designers should be, she left her own desires out. Now that she has incorporated what she wants, the very much improved One Room v3 is here. It looks a lot more polished. She adds a lot more exciting factors and elements to the game so much so that her friends started to have anxiety and strategize on how to go about and win the game! Watching them so engrossed in her game makes Midori feel so happy. And of course, she has to thank her friends for playing with her. Without her, she wouldn’t have moved forward. Also, somewhat paying tribute to what George said. With Emmy and Aya having a really deep discussion with Midori about her dreams and stuffs, this makes Miki ‘worried’. Feeling left out?

Episode 12
Miki trying to reconcile her existence. Yup, a very brief summary of her life changing events in this series. With the school year over, the girls will be second years come next year. But Midori has Miki push the panic button because they will be streamed into different classes. Oh no. Can’t be together anymore. Midori then shows them a letter she got from George. It’s the results of her game entry. Though interesting, it still lacks something and it needs to have better mechanism. So yeah. It failed. But don’t worry, use this as motivation to spur to greater heights. Yeah, that’s what they always say. Also, he invites Midori to come to America if she really wants to see how games are made. She could use it to improve herself. Midori is pondering to take this chance. With all that, now it’s Miki’s turn to feel insecure. Yup, things are changing. Could it be that only she wants things to stay the same? Panic time. She calls Aya. Voice mail. Oh dear. Then she goes to Emmy’s place. Not in. And Midori is not working at the board game café too. Okay. Time to panic. Hence she buys a card game called Toddles Bobbles as the monster designs remind her of the toys her dad used to buy. Worse, she starts talking to them! Oh dear. Imaginary friends now? She’s compounding her own misery by playing out how no monsters want to be with her… Meanwhile her friends learn and heard about Miki that she’s acting weird. Can’t reach her. Conveniently her phone is dead. You know something is really weird or bad when you start hearing imaginary voices comforting you about your friends. And speaking of them, here they come! They found her because Tanoue was passing by and called them. So Miki tells them her troubles of being a coward of not wanting to change. Getting emotional, aren’t we? And of course, the power of friendship to blow away that blues and assure her that they will always be friends. Just like that. Miki back again. Then they play this weird naming card game. That’s how it should be. In the end, even if they are in separate classes, they can still meet up after school and play like this. Yeah, they should form a group. What to call it? Houkago Saikoro Club! Roll credits! See Miki? Now you can continue to have fun with you friends.

Saa Ikou! Saikoro Saikou!
Just checking… So is the new club just exclusive to just the four of them? Are they going to recruit more members in the future and have more fun? Because you know, the more the merrier. Can’t they form the same kind of club in school? Unless you tell me all that red tape BS crap that you need minimum 5 members, must have an advisor, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I can see why they don’t even bother considering this. Playing at a real board game café or at their own homes is much more fun. Hey, we just want to play some games. So let’s leave this unfounded questions of mine on the back burner and move on what’s at hand, shall we?

As you can see for yourself, the story isn’t anything much. Really. There is no convoluted or confusing plotlines that would make you scratch your head. In fact, it is non-existent. So much so that you could say that this anime is just one big promotion of the board games featured here. Having a few main characters as well as some of their ‘background’ and circumstances (Miki was once a bullied kid? Eh, so what?) feels like just an excuse to cover up and breathe some life to the characters. Everything here is secondary beside the board games. After all, take away all that and the series becomes just one big half hour show on how to play the board game. I guess we have YouTube videos on that already so don’t want to be such a bore, eh?

So boring and lacking of any drama, that’s why we need to have that final episode that has Miki questioning her existence. That kind of worry that she will not be able to experience the same things with her friends ever again. I’m sure we are laughing at how cheesy it is but remember, for an shy introvert like Miki, this is one big daring step. A step into the new world in which Miki has found something new she likes. And you can see, all of her worries are eventually unfounded. Because, wait for it, the power of friendship. And games, of course. And Aya having a fight with her father for some family feud drama that eventually clears up. Yeah, so she has accepted her dad for being an idiot, huh?

And thus you could have guessed from the start that the biggest stars of the game are some of the board games featured here. For a person like me who has no experience in playing such ‘sophisticated’ board games, all of them in particular look interesting. Although it didn’t really piqued my interest into the board gaming world, at least the games here were interesting enough for me to actually go online and read up upon the rules! Yes, true story. Not to say that Midori sucked in explaining the rules, but because she has to keep it brief and explain what is primarily important in what they will mainly play, there were some rules of course not explained and hence my overthinking mind started asking questions like, “What if it is like that or so and so? How then?”. Although such situations never arise in the game, but still my wandering mind kept asking those questions. And that is why I went online to read up. Interesting but unfortunately, I could not understand any better. It goes to show you that such games are best left experienced as you play them. Uh huh. Reading the rules is only the start of the battle. Everything else is how you play them.

So yeah, I have to give this anime some credit that it made me interested and go do some research online about those games. Unfortunately, even if at that point I would love to try them out, too bad there are no online versions of the game :’(. Worse, even if in the most bizarre of situations whereby I would go out the nearest board game store and buy any one of them, a very big unfortunate thing for me is that I have nobody to play with :’(. Sad… I guess Solitaire is the only game that I will ever get to play, huh? So sad :’(… Of course a dozen of episodes here is not enough to cover all the board games in the world. You’ve really got to have a special interest in them if you really want to discover and play each one of them. Like how some would like to watch EVERY ANIME THAT WAS EVER PRODUCED. Yeah… So those that were featured here, I consider them lucky because it gives those games some exposure and like in my case, arouse some interest to find out more. So it’s like a double edged sword here because there are way lots more of interesting board games out there that may not be discovered by the general public because of such lack of exposure. But then again, this anime may try to help create some awareness in board games and it isn’t meant to aggressively promote them. Those who are interested may contact board game enthusiasts who then could introduce them to other more exciting hidden gems.

On to the characters, as I have said, nothing really deep about them. But Midori and Emmy who harbour dreams of becoming game designers, I guess that reminds me that I too have such dreams and long ago I did ‘create’ my own games (though to be honest, it was perhaps my interpretation and rip-off from other popular games). No, seriously. Me created some games before? Well, you know, back in those days when I was still in school, the guys would often use a spare exercise book and use them to create our very own game books! Oh yeah. Damn the nostalgia flowing right back into me now. Come to think of it, they were very low cost and not well thought out. And of course as said, ripped off from somewhere else. But back then when we were just young kids, we didn’t care as long as we had fun. And we did. Oh boy. Those were really the days. That was how we social network back in those days in school! And also come to think of it, it was a good thing we never further improved those games. Yeah, it’s kinda embarrassing just remembering some of those weird games I created back then. Better take this to my grave… On a side note, I wonder what game Midori’s One Room is based on. I can’t find it over the internet (must be my bad Google skills) and don’t tell me they actually brainstorm and created such a game?! Oh wow. That’s really good if this game was really an original game created for this series.

And so having Midori and Emmy as characters who would love to become game designers as their profession, it sounds weird at first but it’s not the strangest thing ever. Because you know, Japan. You often hear how people wanted to go into the anime and manga market or even the digital game side. So when you hear a Japanese wanting to make such board games, it feels like you want to do a double take and reconfirm what you hear is correct. After all, again as mentioned in the anime, the lion share of the gaming market is now dominated by digital version (and you wonder nobody plays traditional Japanese games like karuta and hanafuda anymore). Midori has an uphill battle if she really wants to make her mark in this side of the world’s market or even stamp her presence internationally. Hard but not impossible. So what George said to her might be harsh about no games are ever created by a single person. There’s a lot of valuable lessons to learn from this statement itself. You can only succeed when you have only failed. And this is particularly true because humans aren’t perfect and that they make lots of mistakes. Midori was already on the wrong path to think her game must come out perfect on her first go. At this rate without feedback from other point of views, she might never have started at all. She still might have a long way to go, but at least she has moved forward and closer to her goal compared to when she first started.

I guess if you want to talk about character development, I suppose Midori is the only one who has such growth. The other friends of hers, well, it’s like as though they’re just her board games buddies and nothing more. So uh, cute girls playing cute board games? Aya being the more emotional one with a cheery disposition compared to Miki who is on the other end of the spectrum, quiet and more reserved. Emmy, transfer student from the western side, check. Technically, can she be called a weeabo? I don’t think so but… In almost every episode, there seems to be a ‘guest’ character who will join the girls play in their board game. I figure that this is to break the monotony that the show is just about the trio and then followed by the quartet after Emmy. It is more fun to have an outsider joining in, hence your excuse to explain on the rules of how the game works. So characters like Hana and Maki are just there to provide some sort of variety and that during certain circumstances, even board games are acceptable and playable just by anyone. After all, everyone just wants to have a good time, right?

Then there are Tanoue and Yoshioka to provide some pseudo romance that doesn’t really go anywhere. Don’t put your hopes up on it. Come to think of it, when Miki was doing her reminiscing on the good things she has encountered, the changes she has been through, we can see all about the games and her fellow female friends. None on Yoshioka. Prove that romance doesn’t even cross her mind! And so these guys are just probably some convenient characters who would just show their face once in a while if the girls ever need some extra manpower or players for their games. Romance brewing over board games? Heh. I’ve seen weirder romances happening in weirder circumstances. Then there’s the other case of Ren and Aoshima. Hopefully Ren doesn’t have any grudges against board games in her bid to win Aoshima’s attention. We’re all here to see what kind of board games we can play and fun today. Please don’t turn her b*tch character into one of the most spiteful characters of the season.

Art and animation are actually just mediocre. The characters look one kind and just passable in terms of today’s standards. I mean, I looked at Aya and Miki and find them looking a bit weird. Must be Aya’s twintails as well Miki’s poker face… Maybe. I suppose it is okay to have your characters and all looking simple because at least the featured board games look quite presentable. That’s why I said these board games are the real star of the series. This anime is made by Lidenfilms who brought to us Koi To Uso, Yamada And The Seven Witches, Kishuku Gakkou No Juliet, Tejina-senpai, Hanebado, Killing Bites and Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka.

Voice acting too is passable. Didn’t really recognize anybody in the line-up. I guess having such interesting board games, they don’t want to distract you with a popular seiyuu lending their talents? Okay, just a weird theory of mine. Anyway, the main casts are Miyu Tomita as Midori (titular character in Gabriel Dropout), Saki Miyashita as Miki (Kanata in Harukana Receive), Marika Kouno as Aya (Suzuka in Uma Musume: Pretty Derby), Mao Ichimichi as Emmy (Bada in ClassicaLoid), Takaya Kuroda as Takeru (Dagger in Show By Rock), Hisako Toujou as Hana (Miko in Animegataris), Eriko Matsui as Maki (Amou in Busou Shoujo Machiavellism), Kouhei Amasaki as Tanoue (Kirill in Double Decker! Doug & Kirill), Shun Horie as Yoshioka (Satou in Death March Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku), Kotori Koiwai as Ren (Renge in Non Non Biyori), Taku Yashiro as Aoshima (Natsuo in Domestic Na Kanojo) and Youji Ueda as George (Usui in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei). The opening theme is Present Moment by Miyu Tomita while the ending theme is On The Board by Miyu Tomita now accompanied with Saki Miyashita and Marika Kouno. Generic lively anime pop that gets you into the hype of the board game. My only ‘grouse’ is the ending theme is too heavy on the bass line. I think my speaker is going to fall off and my ears going slightly deaf!

Overall, this anime might not become mainstream nor would it get more exposure when the next season rolls around. It also doesn’t have anything much to offer. No real storyline or characters to be intrigued and to some it might look like one big advertisement on some of the board games that appeared here. Personally, as long as the series has something that retains my interests, I guess I can call it a good series. Sure, not a masterpiece but still enjoyable and worthy in its own right. Bonus points because it brought back some of my nostalgic memories. Also, penalty points because remembering some embarrassing memories that I hope it would have stayed buried forever… So people, if you think board games are on its way out and already seeing its setting sun, remember that they are the only decent form of entertainment when your internet is down or your Smartphone is temporarily out of service. No loot boxes, no DLCs, no microtransactions, no season pass and other money grabbing gimmicks. Just roll the dice for some good ol’ fun times.

And time for me to dust off that Monopoly game I ‘forgot’ in my storeroom…

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