3 Episode Taste Test: Medaka Box
Medaka Box, despite sounding like the more amenable sister of Pandora’s Box, is proof positive that you need a strong director to make the most of sharp writing. Coming from the same pen as Bakemono and Nisemonogatari it’s hard to believe the protracted, laborious dialogue here could ever be transformed into the wit that his other two animated series showed.
By and large it’s the same type of banter just presented by who has to be one of GAINAX’s most uninspired directors – the one behind such meteoric duds as He Is My Master (shudder) and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.
It doesn’t help that the titular Medaka sports of all the loathesome personality quirks of Haruhi Suzumiya - arrogance, self-importance and a complete lack of empathy with other characters. It would be wrong to even label her a protagonist as it’s her hawkishly styled lacky who does most of the heavy-lifting. Certainly she turns up for some entirely out of place fan service and sporadic grand speeches, but it’s Zenkichi and his diminutive friend Hansode Shiranui who provide the bulk of the entertainment.
Like a buddy-cop duo they go about trying to solve whatever mystery has fallen into the suggestion box – nicknamed the Medaka Box and the impetus for the plot of the first three episodes. It’s definitely Hansode with her cackling laugh and fashionable, prehensile quiff which brings the chuckles; Zenkichi’s straight-man routine meanwhile would work if he were dead-pan serious (e.g. Kyon) or fists-up and bolshy, but neither happen regularly enough, leaving him rather dull.
It’s a feeling supported by the animation which is almost painfully generic despite the pleasant pastel colours. The palatial school with its myriad club-houses feels flat and though this allows for stories like a derelict kendo club and a bullied track racer, it’s hard not to feel entirely underwhelmed by the formula as a whole. The opening hints at a more varied cast to come than a shark-toothed thug and besmirched runner but the question the first three episodes pose is: should you stick around?
There’s certainly nothing offensive enough here to drop this unless the GAINAX jiggle proves a step too far, but mediocrity is its own anchor and without a stronger hand reigning in or capitalising on the extensive dialogue, this will in all likelihood sink. A significant change in the trajectory of the story would be a great start, as would expediting the inclusion of the other members of the student council to introduce some much needed chemistry. Until then though, this will remain like Corpse Princess: just another bullet point for GAINAX until their next hit comes along.