"Comic Party Revolution": Bad Comic, Boring Party, Failed Revolution
There have been many, many anime series over the past couple decades that have spoofed the otaku subculture. Some have done it harshly, some have done it just for fun. But one of them, a small series known as Comic Party, was actually good.
But then it got a sequel: Comic Party Revolution.
Kazuki Sendo is your average high school teenager, except for his special talent for art. Normally, one would channel this talent through paintings and such, but not Kazuki. Instead, he writes and draws dojinshi, or fan-made comics, and sells his work at the mega-convention Comic Party, along with fellow artist Aya Hasabe, crazy-go-nuts best friend Taishi Kuhonbutsu, and his own otaku-hating girlfriend Mizuki Takase. He’s even supported by fellow artists, such as the street-smart Yuu Inagawa, the egomaniac Eimi Ohba, the young businesswoman Chisa Tsukamoto, the genki girl Subaru Mikage, and Minami Makimura, the head of Comic Party. But life is a lot crazier than simply drawing the next issue before the deadline. Why, there’s summer vacation at the beach to consider! And a deadly baseball game for placement at the next ComiPa! Don’t forget the mighty cosplay battle between lovely maidens and creepy pervert fanboys! Also, the grueling tennis game that has nothing at all to do with dojinshior ComiPa! As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the poisonous fancomic that will sap away your drawing ability! How horrible!
Now, the original Comic Party was a quaint little series. Kazuki got wrapped up in the otaku subculture, Taishi went over the top to recruit him, and Mizuki was freaked out by the otaku and the large crowds. The original series looked at Kazuki’s life as he dived into the fancomic world and struggled mightily to balance his new desire with the outside world, eventually straining his relationship with hot redhead Mizuki (that alone should tell you how realistic the series was, but I digress) and flushed away his chance at going to a good school in the future. The series had its over-the-top moments and it was never subtle, but it did have one foot grounded in reality and treated its characters as that: characters. Kazuki, Taishi, and Mizuki all had goals to achieve and spent the original series trying to accomplish them with varying degrees of success. Granted, the series was nowhere near as super-awesome as Otaku no Video or even Animation Runner Kuromi, but it was a fun series with grounded characters that had some silliness mixed in.
Well, apparently that wasn’t good enough, so Revolution had changed all that. Apparently somebody on the staff saw Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and thought Hey, wait, I wanna do something like that! This monstrosity is the result. Instead of a continuing storyarc about getting the next issue ready for ComiPa, we get one-off gag episodes about the most trivial things. Some of them actually have to do with comics, such as Yuu and Eimi competing for the same spot at the convention, but most of the episodes have nothing at all to do with comic books and simply try to get in as many parodies as possible (and none of them are done as well as the aforementioned Fumoffu). The plots tend to be super-thin, relying on a ton of sight gags and exaggerated expressions to move the story along, and none of the episodes ever tie into each other, making one wonder just when the series is going to move forward. There’s also a problem with the timing of the series. In the original, ComiPa was held once in summer and once in winter, and we got to see only three of them, but here we get to see the convention about five or six times, and three of them within the first four episodes!
As if that is bad enough, the staff apparently decided to just throw out the characterization from the first series and turn everybody into one-note gags. Eimi, oddly enough, gets a lot of early spotlight, and considering how much of an idiot she is, her schtick gets tiring really quickly. Chisa’s running gag of always going out of control when trying to deliver her shipments was funny in the original series because she was legitimately making deliveries and couldn’t control the cart. Here, even in a forest with no supplies and no directions, she somehow is able to find a cart full of ready-to-be-shipped manga just so she can perform her running gag. Minami, a character who could barely be called a supporting character in the original, not only hangs out with the gang constantly, but has officially become a major character. But the worst change is to Mizuki. In the first series, she detested everything about otaku culture, only relenting so she could help out her boyfriend; and even then, she only tolerated the subculture so she could be a good girlfriend. (Man, is Kazuki ever lucky). But here? Her distaste of otaku subculture is brought up in only one episode, and she’s so into cosplay that she’s willing to become fanservice bait, and she spends so little time with Kazuki that one wouldn’t get the sense they were a couple if they hadn’t seen the first series.
Notice how I didn’t mention Kazuki or Taishi? Well, that’s because the girls have completely taken over and pushed the guys to the side. Taishi gets in some jokes every now and then, while Kazuki is just a plot device (when he’s actually active in the plot) for the girls to bounce off of. It was one thing when the girls were plastered all over the promo material, but Comic Party is supposed to be Kazuki’s story, not the girls’ story.
But wait, there is a silver lining! After 11 episodes of complete and utter crap, the final two episodes are actually, dare I say it, good. Episode 12 deals with Kazuki, Mizuki, Aya, and fellow cosplayer Reiko touring the anime/manga business to see if they want to continue in the field after school is done with. This episode is most like the original series in that it offers a relatively realistic take on the characters and provides a good look at what goes into making a weekly anime and manga series. While many of the scenes are familiar to anyone who’s seen Kuromi, it’s still pretty interesting, with thankfully very, very few over-exaggerated sight gags to be seen. Episode 13 deals with Kazuki getting a prime seat at the next ComiPa and feeling the pressure of trying to up his previous work to justify his new slot. This episode starts out really well, especially as Kazuki and Mizuki actually act like a couple for the first time all series, and it has a vibe similar to the episode that precedes it. Unfortunately, things get stupid in the final act as some tasteful Mizuki fanservice (that’s actually relevant to the plot) is replaced by your typical fanboy-pandering Mizuki fanservice, and then a stupid shonen-esque battle takes place that makes no sense whatsoever. If only the whole series had been like Episode 12 and the first half of Episode 13, there might be a third Comic Party series right now.
As if the changes in plot and structure weren’t enough, the visuals even changed between series. The original rounder and meatier character designs have given way to leaner, more simplistic designs that tend to look more like traditional harem-show anime designs than anything. Unfortunately, this means the characters have lost whatever charm they used to have and now look flat and uninspired, especially Mizuki. I’m not sure how they managed to screw up the best character in the show so badly, but they did, and she’s lost all her cuteness. Also, for some reason all the characters with long hair have especially poofy hair as well, so their bangs and the main body of their hair end up so big and long that one is surprised their entire head doesn’t get swallowed up by their hairstyles. Of course, I’m talking about the girls here, as the guys (all, like, six of them in the show) have such generic designs that they aren’t even worth talking about. Much of the animation is okay, though it doesn’t use as many frames as when OLM was in charge during the previous series. The visuals are bright and fluid, for the most part, with the various sight gags using a lot of digital pans and generic CGI to up the ante.
As was the case with the Ah! My Goddess series, the first season was dubbed in New York with ADV picking up Season 2. However, unlike AMG, ADV decided to not bring back the original cast and redid everything in-house. Now, the original dub wasn’t that great, and the only characters I really liked in the dub were Kazuki (Sam Regal), Mizuki (Rachel Lillis), and Taishi (Liam O’Brien), but the replacements ADV got just don’t work at all. Luci Christian is probably the best replacement as Mizuki, but she lacks the warmth Lillis had, though that may be due to the tone of the show just as much as Christian herself. Eimi was annoying in both languages before, and her new dub actress continues the tradition, but Yuu is the biggest sore spot. Her original voice made her sound like she was in her 40’s, which was bad enough, but the new ADV dub gives her a pseudo-Brooklyn accent that’s almost just as bad. I know she’s got the usual Kansai dialect in the Japanese version, but can’t somebody dubbing this show give Yuu a halfway-fitting voice for once? The only other voice that sticks out to me is Josh Grelle’s Taishi. It’s not a bad job and it kind of works, but when you compare it to O’Brien’s performance in the original, it just comes off as a pale imitation.
FUNimation seems aware that this isn’t one of their hotter properties, and it shows. For extras, we only get textless songs and trailers, which isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that FUNi opted for a clear 2-disc standard Scanavo DVD casing (with the discs overlapping each other on one side) rather than the thinpak release they’ve been doing with all their other collections. As if that didn’t seem cheap enough, even the front cover is questionable. For one thing, Kazuki and Taishi are nowhere to be found (not surprising, but still stupid considering they were the main characters of the original series) but even more confusing is the title. For some reason, FUNi has “The Complete Series” floating by itself at the top of the DVD cover, while the bottom has the “Comic Party Revolution” logo, making it seem like the title of the release is “The Complete Series: Comic Party Revolution” instead of the other way around. Why exactly did they not put the subtitle at the bottom underneath the logo? I know it’s an incredibly nitpicky thing to complain about, but it just bugs me.
Overall, this is a really poor attempt to cash in on a budding franchise. It lacks any of the charm or wit of the original Comic Party and should be avoided at all costs. If you really want an otaku-based anime, pick up the original series, either of the Animation Runner Kuromi specials, or just skip the middlemen and go straight for the gold standard: the highly under-appreciated Otaku no Video.