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Source: AnimeLab

I noticed on Friday 28 February that Anime Lab had picked up After School Dice Club[1] and had finished it by the following Saturday night.

Yes, Saikoro is that much fun if you’re a board gamer.

The Set Up

Miki Takekasa is the lonely girl who doesn’t have any friends, nor does she appear to be looking for any. Then the exuberant Aya Takayashiki almost crashes into her due to faulty bike brakes and ends up in the Kamogawa River. From this an unlikely friendship is born.

This in turn leads them to the Saikoro board games shop where class rep Midori Ono is working to complete the core trio.

Saikoro is very much a cute girls doing cute things show, albeit with relatively little fanservice[2] and with some really nice character work as Miki comes out of her shell into a circle of trusted, and trusting, friends.

The Games

Much of the fun for this show is looking at the games played, whether I’ve played them before, or would want to. Usually Midori as the games fanatic is the one to explain the rules, and there’s a limited amount of game play shown for each.

Based on my twitter thread for this series the main games played were:

  • Episode 1: Marrakech. Haven’t played, would probably like to
  • Episode 2: Cockroach Poker. I’ve played two versions, the show had the less interesting one.
  • Episode 3: Diamant aka Incan Gold. I don’t think I’ve ever played this, could be fun
  • Episode 4: 6 Nimmt / Take 6. One of the more hilarious party games.
  • Episode 5: GOITA. A traditional Japanese game
  • Episode 6: I didn’t note any game in particular, but see Midori’s Game below
  • Episode 7: Island aka Escape from Atlantis. A fun game that I completely suck at.
  • Episode 8: Keltis. Haven’t played, looks good though.
  • Episode 8 (again): Dobble. A speed game that I would suck at so badly.
  • Episode 9: Elfenland. I think I might have played this once, years ago. Would not object to playing it again sometime.
  • Episode 10: Blokus. I think I’ve played this. I can’t remember
  • Episode 10 (again): Ladies and Gentlemen. Another game that would be fun for me to watch, and horribly frustrating for me to play.

Midori’s Game

One fascinating subplot was Midori’s efforts to become a game designer herself. There’s a whole bunch of topics being tackled here from the need for playtesting to perfect a game to the imposter syndrome effect of “it’s not ready, I can’t show this to anyone”. The way this is tackled by the brusque founder of the American games company Bad Dwarf[3] is perhaps a touch on the nasty side, but arguably necessary.

There was also an element of “The Bad News: Right Now, Your Writing Sucks” and why that’s OK so long as you keep writing. This is something that anime has dealt with seriously before – Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart dealt with this as well.

In this case Bad Dwarf ran a competition for a new game. Midori didn’t win but did receive a hand written letter inviting her to visit Bad Dwarf to see how games are produced. I think this is fairly close to how Whisper of the Heart handled it.

Compared to the earlier episodes with the Bad Dwarf founder, this was downright gentle and encouraging.

That said, I do kind of wish Midori’s game One Room was real and could be played sometime. I’d be willing to give at least the later iterations a try.

Miki’s Fears

Overall though the strongest part of Saikoro is watching the isolated Miki come out of her shell and discover friends through the joy of boardgaming. Then she discovers that in 2nd year of high school they’ll be scattered to different home rooms, Emilia is heading back to Germany at some point, and Midori is planning to head to New York to take up Bad Dwarf’s offer at some point.

By this stage Miki is sympathetic enough that this should resonate with you, it certainly did with me. To resolve it by formally founding the After School Dice Club so that they can keep playing games at school as a club activity felt right, and wrapped the series up nicely.

The Verdict

OK, I admit it, Saikoro probably only appeals to a particular subset of anime fans who are also board gamers.

However if, like me, you’re in that subset, Saikoro is a fun show that I can strongly recommend. There’s no sign of a season 2 as yet, but I’d cheerfully watch one if it emerged.

Here’s the quite charming OP:

Question of the Post: Which of the games listed above have you played? Are there any that you’d recommend in particular?

[1] AKA Houkago Saikoro Kurabu. I was using Saikoro as my hashtag on twitter.

[2] That slightly cringey part of episode 1 notwithstanding

[3] Not a real company. Given that all of the other games in the series are real, I checked.