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AKA: Gakuen Toshi Vara Noir, Kingdom of Chaos The Universe
Genre: Comedy
Length: OAV series, 2 episodes, 50 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed.
Content Rating: PG-13 for some fanservice.
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Magic School Lunar
Notes: Based on a slightly obscure PlayStation 2 game of the same name by Idea Factory that was ported to the Nintendo GameCube.

The main character, Mieu, originally appeared in Spectral Souls as did three other indicated characters (Choco, Vanilla, and Yunellia). She would later appear in other crossover games, including Chaos Wars and Cross Edge, both of which made it stateside.
Rating: One Star
 

School City Valanoir

Synopsis

Mieu is a chimney sweeping granddaughter of a man named Jii, who seems not too keen about sending her out into the world. One day, while eating burgers, Mieu finds that the wrapper is advertising the Valanoir School and claims that the school is accepting transfers. After enthusiastically asking Jii to go, she gets the OK from him while he continues to try looking up her skirt and thus she's off to the school to make new friends, but demonstrates density previously thought unscientific.


Review

If this were the future of video game-based anime, there'd be hell to pay.

School City Valanoir is a dead-zone of anime. It's shocking that of the fifty minutes I gave this show, it almost never rose to anything above needless. Sure, game-based anime can be decent, but to make decent game-based anime, you need to put some heart into it. I originally looked at it because I thought it would have a chance of being that diamond in the rough, but I feel like I just hit my ball into the water hazard.

Which is probably the location where the artist did the art for this one. The art would look dated for an early nineties series, let alone 2002 when this came out. It also makes little sense because, having seen some screenshots of the original game, the color seems toned down here. The character designs are abysmal and the town shots are so simplistic and so lacking it's almost shocking. While this could've been tolerable, being a comedy, I can't tolerate it, sadly. The reason is because it's my guess that this was largely made as an ad. Not only does it seem to heavily hint at it at points, there's even a small commercial at the end. As I said before, the art here seems less fine-tuned than the game. When you're advertising a product, it's somewhat counter-productive to make it look inferior, even in jest. Were they trying to be self-depreciative?

Not that there seemed to be a "self" in this anime...the characters in this border on construct. Mieu, who was arguably my favorite character (not high praise), is the token "how did she get so far" swordswoman who only wins by luck. Faust seems the typical ham of the bunch and is twice propelled in the air by Ryuuto, who seems to be...a victory seeker? Truth be told, most students at the school are so ill-explained that you can write them off as characters. One character - a pink-haired schoolgirl who may be a ghost - appears for three seconds, asks for the door to get closed, then disappears (this is not an exaggeration...she really was in the anime for three seconds). Then you have the principal of the school and the vice principal, who usually are in the same scene with each other, and seem to have little point other than coming in the midst of the Mieu/Ryuuto fight and advertising the school on burger wrappers. The home room teacher appears three times, and two of them are nothing more than variants of the same scene while the last is him intimidating the principal and vice principal. Finally, there's Jii, the grandfather who is ostensibly a master swordsman who also seems to have a pervert complex. I want to go into detail on all of these, but how can I? This is all I got out of the deal.

And the characters' lack of development may also stem from the fact that this anime doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Serious? Funny? The plot just seems to shake its head, as in just twenty minutes, give or take, Mieu and Ryuuto go from a sword duel to a manjuu-eating competition that may or may not have something to do with the "lowest grade gets kicked out of school" plot (which is discussed rarely). It starts serious (with the school having recruitment problems), then comedy with the principals, then serious with Mieu asking her grandfather if she can attend the school, and then comedy from there out with seriousness thrown in. I could get behind this if it were a game (and to be honest, quite a few Idea Factory crossover games do this as well), but its not a style that translates well into anime. The misfire, as a result, leads to this empty feeling where you're not sure if the general mood is serious now or if you're supposed to laugh. This is what happens when you take an ill-fitting to anime concept and improve nothing about it.

The single good thing I took home from this one was that I do admit I like the opening and ending. The music here is the saving grace, but even this tends to fall, as there's an extended choir scene with Faust that drags on...and on...and on...and on. It was chuckle-worthy at first, but by midway through I wanted to mute it. From there, the rest of the music is decent.

However, I wanted to mention the music first, because I have saved the worst for last: animation. I originally mentioned that the art seems dated by ten years or so, but at least it seemed ok at points. The animation quality is so degradingly poor by comparison. There are still shots galore in this in addition to reusing footage (not much of it though) and the old howler of showing movement by moving a still of the character up, then down. The only sequences with any real animation are a few motivational scenes, like Mieu running up the roof to get a view of the school. Parody, comedy, or serious, this animation doesn't do it favors.

Perhaps that's the most disappointing thing about this anime: it's trumped just about everywhere by other based-on-game adaptation. It was made on a budget? Lunar Legend Tsukihime never looked like it was a million-dollar project, but it wasn't dismal. It's an odd art style for a game-into-anime adaptation? Pia Carrot: Sayaka's Love Story came out this same year and it looked universes better. Animation quality? The Pikachu shorts were also comedic and fun, and they moved fluidly (plus looked good). Taking an RPG not-so-seriously? Magic School Lunar did all that and more. And I'm only selecting among other game adaptation; throw in other anime categories, and by the time you're done, this would have sunk lower than the sea.

However, I will confess I did laugh every now and then on this anime, but the problem was that after I watched this anime, I spend about the next hour or so in a stupor where it seemed like nothing makes sense. Were those few laughs worth this odd feeling? No, not really. Sorry Valanoir, but a few funny scenes didn't make up the difference. You've flunked out.

A few funny scenes and an OK opening and closing theme weren't enough to bail School City Valanoir out of the bin.Jake L Godek

Recommended Audience: Other than the grandfather's perversion and fanservice, it's fairly tame.



Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release Fansub
Review Status: Partial (1/2)
School City Valanoir © 2002
 
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