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An Anime Review: D-Frag
One of this winter's anime debuts, D-Frag is another entry in the ever-growing land of romantic comedies. We are of course in high school, where Kenji is trying to make a name for himself with his fellow delinquents. However, all his plans and notions of normality is destroyed when meeting the tsunami that is the Game Creation Club (temp), which he helps out once and is then captured by. As per usual, Kenji's male friends are at this point largely moved out of the plot while Kenji gets to know his the members of the club.
D- frag does have stories that span more than an episode, but rarely more than two. The focus is on the characters and what kind of comedy they get out of the various situations they encounter. So let us quickly go through the characters:
The Main Characters
Kenji himself is the classical anime delinquent version of the anime protagonist. One has to wonder how he got his bad reputation, as he really does nothing worse than scowl and occasionally fight if provoked. Our only indication that he is a delinquent is that he and others refers to him as such, but is standard for the heroic delinquent, who never does anything mean spirited at all. Japan's bullies are usually kind and helpful, although with a wish to be left alone that is never granted. At the very least he less of a doormat than some anime heroes, but he will quickly give up and go along with what is happening if the plot demands it.
Roka is a tiny girl with an emotionless expression which can at any given time change to an adorable one for manipulation purposes or a a void of darkness for threatning purposes. She has the role of the anime's main eccentric, living in her own world while being unreasonable, insane and a catalyst for everyone else's problems. She enjoys making games and has a reputation far overshadowing Kenji's. Feared by anyone, her main weapons are putting a bag over peoples and threatening her opponents with malicious(?) hand gestures. She has what seems to be the beginnings of romantic feelings for Kenji, a fact he is of course unaware of.
Then there is Takao, the leader of the Real Game Creation Club, the rival of our heroes' club. She starts of a sort-of villain, but quickly become a friend. She also makes the last part of the obligatory love triangle, and is the reasonable one most of the time, but shy, clumsy and easy to get out of balance. Takao usually provides foil for the others, as well as being someone not at all capable of understanding the strange world of the romantic anime, but who tragically still exists in it.
There are other characters, but their involvement in the plot has been rather limited, usually standing around setting up jokes on the sideline. The dictatorial student body president Chitose is fun, and so is the sadistic Sakura. Still, while not much have been revealed about them, they do have distinct characters that can be amusing. But let us move on to the plot and jokes.
Story and Comedy
The stories are mostly conflicts that could have been epic in other genre's, like a battle tournament with different games or a fight against another delinquent gang, but here they are always ridiculous twists and in the end nothing is accomplished. The side characters are suitably insane, and often they parody action manga with strange nicknames and special moves referred to by an awed audience. Usually they are disposed of shortly after their introduction, or, if their premise is especially silly, they may come back for more jokes. The humor in addition to parody and the pure bizarreness of the situations, is the classic where one character says or does something weird, and a straight man yells about why it doesn't make sense or thinks something sarcastic.
In the family of anime that D- frag belongs to, the comedic potential of the main characters is the most important aspect. This is how so many meets their end, as the character-related humor is used up, every facet of the characters explored. D-frag may one day fall into that abyss, but for the moment the characters, especially Roka and the student body president Chitose, manages to be fresh. The romance is absolutely standard with no deviation taken from the norm, focusing on the cutesy misunderstandings and obliviousness of our male lead, so if you have seen that one too many times you may want to turn your eyes away. For the most part it is merely a B-plot in any given episode, though.
There is not much to say about the art. There is no attempt to make anything that really stands out in that regard, it is simply your average anime look.
D-frag is nothing special or new, but they manage to be funny with their strange side-character that comes and goes without explanation and the parody of serious action. One of the genuinely funny animes of the season, and I hope it does not grow stale too soon.