Love, Election And Chocolate Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 335 minutes approx.
Sometimes anime can be its own worst enemy – we might see a show with a great first episode which is followed by a sharp descent into a mire of mediocrity and cliché at the expense of a promising plot. Then you have a show like Love, Election And Chocolate which reverses this problem by opening with a lame episode likely to put people off with its lazy rehash of lowest common denominator nonsense.
Luckily, reviewers like yours truly, obliged to sit through every episode, are on hand to warn you of such misdemeanours because once this show gets going, it is actually a pretty decent comedy drama as well as a veiled satire on the world of politics and electoral foul play.
Takafuji Private Academy is a large school boasting over 6,000 students, whose ruling Student Council has more power than the teachers. The incumbent Student Council President Yakumo Mōri has reached the end of his term and the elections for his replacement are due to begin.
Frontrunner Satsuki Shinonome believes many of the school’s activity clubs are a burden on the finances and has called for those with “no merit” to be abolished. For the Food Research Club – where the members basically stuff their faces with sweets – this could spell the end so they nominate male club member Yuki Ojima to stand as a candidate for Student Council President.
Essentially we have a grass roots David versus the established Goliath in a contest for political supremacy, with the latter willing to do anything to prevent the former from gaining any traction in the race. With an intriguing, if hardly original, premise to work with how on earth can the first episode jeopardise the whole show?
The blame lies with the origins of this series as an adult visual novel, the prurience of which has thankfully been excised – save for the occasional fan service of gratuitous panty shots and large bust hugging outfits – while the harem aspect remains. Since the harem comedy pretty much falls into the “seen one, seen them all” category one can be forgiven for expecting the worst and for the bulk of episode one that is what we get.
However despite being surrounded by the usual female tropes – the shy cat eared one, the lolicon mad inventor, the ditzy sisters, the childhood friend and even the immature teacher – Ojima isn’t burdened by a huge female following and instead only has to contend with the overprotective and emotionally wounded Chisato Sumiyoshi as his love interest, facing only one temporary challenge in the early going.
Because of the various personalities among both the club members and the election candidates the main crux of the political machinations and underhanded tactics take a while to come to the fore. Until then the comedic mishaps of Ojima trying to have his name pronounced properly (everyone calls his “Oshima”) and the usual lusty female shenanigans obscure the actual depth of the plot.
Episode one actually opens with a student, Kana Ōgibashi, photographing student council members in a politically compromising situation with an external party only to be run over, her camera smart card stolen and Kana left for dead. A gripping opening followed by Chisato waking Ojima up and dragging him to school while bickering like a married couple because harem conventions.
As already explained the show redeems itself after the fifth episode when the election becomes the main focal point, aside from a couple of backstories to explain the behaviour of some of the characters which indirectly affects the main story. Ojima barely survives the first round to make it as a legit candidate but some people don’t want him anywhere near their comfy little circle of corruption and employ some good old fashioned dirty tricks to sabotage Ojima’s election chances.
Having not played the visual novel game I can’t even begin to imagine quite how this ends up with Ojima sleeping his way through his fellow food club members and/or his election opponents so we should give series writer Katsuhiko Takayama a huge pat on the back for filtering out (most of) the tacky and pornographic material and instead crafting a rather entertaining and eventful story which prominently embraces drama and intrigue.
This is hardly Death Note or Code Geass but the second half of the series which focuses on the election, along with the reveal behind Kana’s hit and run, ramps up the drama sufficiently and effectively enough that the misgivings shown towards the early episodes are consigned to the history bin. It’s rare to see a show with such a hackneyed and uninspired early run redeem itself and while this is no classic, it doesn’t deserve to be written off either.
AIC Build are the animation studio behind this adaptation and on the visual front they present us with a nicely detailed world for the action to play out over. The character designs seem to have remained loyal to those of the original visual novels although they hardly break any new moulds, with the majority of the girls being top heavy and the men being largely indistinguishable.
One issue which is down to Sentai, the US licensor and translator, is how the word “manifesto”, which is obviously used a lot here, shows up in the subtitles as “manifest”. Japanese speakers will know that due to their syllabic alphabet and phonetic speaking of English, words ending in “t” are spoken as “to” in Japan (e.g: “heat” = “heato”) which are then amended for English translation – in other words, someone has actually applied this to “manifesto” which clearly doesn’t need changing! Doh!
With little knowledge or high expectations going in to Love, Election And Chocolate I dreaded the worst and found the first episode was infuriatingly counterproductive, but I urge you to stick with it as a rather enjoyable, smart and engaging comedy drama eventually reveals itself.
An unexpected treat which gets my vote!
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black