Original Run: July 13, 2018 - September 28, 2018 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Comedy, Romance Based on the Series Created By: Rensuke Oshikiri
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for High Score Girl. Reader discretion is advised.***
It’s the 90s, and a new wave of video games are spreading across Japan’s arcades, candy stores, and shopping malls. Better graphics, tighter mechanics, and a growing pool of worthy challengers, it’s more than enough to get the competitive blood pumping. One such gamer who has been bitten by the bug is Haruo Yaguchi (voiced by Kohei Amasaki).
In his local territory, Haruo has earned a reputation as a top player. However, there is always someone stronger.
One day, Haruo is soundly crushed at his game of choice. Shockingly, his opponent is none other than his classmate Akira Oono (voiced by Sayumi Suzushiro).
As the quiet daughter of a wealthy family, Akira has the exact opposite look of the stereotypical gamer. But, don’t let that fool you. Not only can Akira play with the best, she can beat them as well.
In an instant, Haruo found a rival in Akira. After some time, though, Haruo begins to realize he may have actually found someone a lot more special.
As I watched High Score Girl, I kept drifting back and forth between two questions. Was this show good? Was this show bad?
After a while, I settled on:
There were a ton of outstanding elements that made this series worthwhile, and yet, there were also many misguided aspects that made the whole thing a bit awkward.
A perfect example of this was High Score Girl’s animation.
In all the anime I have seen, the only show besides High Score Girl to be entirely reliant on CGI was 2017’s Land of the Lustrous.
Regarding this shared style, Land of the Lustrous benefited from CGI. It was a fantasy story set in an otherworldly location. The big and the mystical that can be accentuated with CGI was not out of place. High Score Girl, on the other hand, was a contemporarily set romantic comedy. The most fantastical this show got was when it used the in-game graphics of real-world video games.
Thanks to this, many scenes (usually the ones where characters were simply talking to one another) felt off. I’m not sure how else to describe it in words, so I hope this makes sense:
High Score Girl sometimes had the unnaturally smooth efficiency of an assembly line robot rather than the fluidity of an animated series.
That said, there were other times when this show was downright breathtaking. There were several notable instances of visual storytelling. To name one, the scene where Haruo Yaguchi and Akira Oono headed home along the riverbed at sunset was excellent.
High Score Girl played a strange duality that made it often as smart as it was problematic. It was, if nothing else, a curiosity that I don’t regret watching, and in the end, I suppose it was more enjoyable than not.
If someone weren’t one of three characters — Haruo, Akira, or Koharu Hidaka (voiced by Yuki Hirose) — then I wouldn’t bother getting too invested in them. Besides, the three people I listed were more than enough to get you through this show.
High Score Girl did something unusual. In many series, there is either the return of a childhood friend or the arrival of a new companion. This show had both.
It’s difficult to say when High Score Girl got started. The first few episodes were like a separate series onto themselves. We saw the beginnings of Haruo and Akira’s relationship. Following an Akira-less two-year time jump, Koharu then joined the story. When Akira made a return, that marked the beginning of what turned out to be an intricate connection between our three main characters.
This show was more than a story about people who liked video games. Instead, this was a look at how the love of a shared hobby brought vastly different individuals together.
Haruo, at the start, was a lazy kid with a deep aversion to studying. He was more willing to come up with an excuse no one would believe rather than putting in five minutes worth of effort. Nevertheless, he had a passion for video games and was happy to share his excitement with anyone who was interested.
Akira was from a well-to-do family whose home life was rigid and strict. Constant studying and expectations drained away any chance she had for fun. Video games were her only form of escape, and she was very particular in her style of play. However, that didn’t stop her from occasionally seeking out a Player Two.
Koharu, unlike Akira, had put up her own barriers. When we first met her, she had trouble seeing the point in hobbies. To her, it all seemed quite childish. That changed when she saw the passion a gamer, like Haruo, put into whatever they were playing. That dedication to something she saw as trivial impressed Koharu enough for her to venture outside her comfort zone.
About midway through this series, High Score Girl had firmly established its main trio. From there, three completely different paths were intermingling and barreling towards a single point. Much of what made this show was the speculation of what would happen when Haruo, Akira, and Koharu finally came together.
When that eventually did happen, that was when High Score Girl was at its best. The last few episodes of this series were well-done. They certainly illustrated how far the story had come.
This section proved to be challenging to write. How does one convey a sense of periodic disinterest? The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is listing where these instances took place.
Before I say anything more: I don’t think it was a coincidence that the CGI animation of High Score Girl was at its worse when this series was at its dullest. With fewer distractions, it was easier to see how off this show looked.
For instance, a recurring rage-player character with a violent streak and incomprehensible vocabulary would often pick fights with people who beat him. These bits looked horrendous. Unless it was the secret Kung-fu master Akira delivering the blows, the “action” in this show looked like two plastic dolls rolling around on the ground.
Taking that into account, let’s move forward.
I consider myself to be a gamer, and I do enjoy the history of video games. But for some reason, when this series did this, something didn’t click.
Don’t get me wrong. It was wonderful to see actual video games appear in this series. It was clear there was love for the medium. I was also extremely impressed when High Score Girl showcased Western games alongside Japanese ones.
You’d be surprised how often that doesn’t happen.
A considerable part of this story was 90s arcade culture in Japan, and I do feel as though this show tapped into that.
However, the thing that left a bad taste in my mouth was how many of the games highlighted in High Score Girl also happened to be celebrating milestone anniversaries with special collections on sale now.
I’m unclear how intentional this was, but High Score Girl would, at times, come off as a giant commercial. Whenever this series went into its sales pitch mode, that was when I cared the least.
Please keep in mind, though. It was nice when the games served a purpose in the story. For example, it said a lot about Koharu’s character when she successfully pulled off a specific type of finishing move on her first attempt. Had she done that with a fictitious title, it would have been harder to gauge Koharu’s natural gamer intuition.
There was also the time when Akira proved to be afraid of ghosts and creepy things because she got spooked by an actual release. These types of instances were fun.
Too bad it was exceedingly off-putting when High Score Girl would rattle through a list of games and — Oh look. This particular series happens to be releasing a collection bundle. Better buy now.
Lastly, this show did not end. But its finale is coming – in the form of three OVA episodes in 2019. I’m obliged to return to series when those last episodes drop, but that really is a cheap move. I say it all the time:
OVAs should NEVER contain plot-crucial information.
I intend to recommend this series because it was a solid attempt at something unique. There may have been problems and set back, but it was, nevertheless, enjoyable enough.
This show had a strong trio of protagonists and a genuine love for the video game medium. It tapped into a sense of nostalgia that was a treat to see.
Unfortunately, nostalgia sells and I’m not in the mood to buy.
I don’t feel as though I wasted my time with this one. Therefore, I do recommend High Score Girl.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning High Score Girl? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
Post Editor: Onions