Best Student Council: Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Mark Thomas
Review Date: Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

While it stumbles at times, Best Student Council is a wonderful series that lives up to its name.

What They Say
At first glance, Miyagami Gakuen seems like a typical all-girls' school. But beneath its placid surface, a highly-disciplined student council is engaged in an unceasing struggle to keep Miyagami Gakuen safe from the outside (adult) world! Complete with covert and assault divisions, all student council members wield some kind of special ability. So, how did cute, little transfer student Rando Rino make the cut?

The Review!
Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. A Japanese 2.0 track is also available. The mix is solid, with each channel coming through clearly and no dropout present anywhere. It is not a spectacular effort as there is little directionality, and the channels stay fairly balanced. However, for a dialogue driven show such as this, this mix is more than adequate for the job.

Video:
Best Student Council offers a pleasant visual experience. The series is bright and colorful, and the transfer maintains these visuals. The character and background designs were also really nice. The only real technical problems I noticed were some moments of pixelization, especially in transition background shots. However, these were fairly minimal and might not be noticed on casual viewing. Overall, this series looks really nice.

Packaging:
This collection comes in some nice, concise packaging. The box is a double width, amaray case, with two double sided inserts to help hold all six discs. The front of the case has a nice composite image of most of the more visible members of the Best Student Council, with Rino, Puuchan, and Kanade taking center stage. The girls are standing at the gates of Miyagami Academy with the school behind them. The back of the case has a series summary on the left, with stills and a shot of Puuchan to the right. Technical details are listed along the bottom. While it is not the most elaborate case, I can definitely appreciate the compactness of this packaging.

Menu:
The menus for this release are also well done. Each has a different picture of one of the girls from the Best Student Council, usually one that has a fairly large role on that disc. This picture is set to a solid background, with the selections provided in a white, stylish font. The highlight is shown by an object to the side, usually having to deal with the girl featured in the picture. While not animated, or fancy by any measure, the menus are simple and well designed.

Extras:
There are a few extras across the six discs. Each disc has some previews and clean versions of the songs. There are also some character profiles, a number of Japanese TV spots, and what they call the Pilot Episode. The Japanese TV spots are short advertisements for everything from DVD releases, to soundtracks, to other merchandise. The Pilot Episode is roughly three minutes long, and is just a series of sketches and other images set to some pretty music. There is also some text of character lines set over some of the images that help convey the character personalities. It is actually really neat to watch, but not something that I would have considered a Pilot Episode.

Content:  (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Best Student Council is a comedy series that takes place at an all Girls private school that deals more with friendship and relationships than with anything academic. While it has a tendency to drag at times, great characters and a blend of comedic elements make it one of the sweeter comedies I have seen. Overall it is a very well done series that should have a fairly wide fanbase.

Rino Rando is all alone in the world. With her mother’s recent death, she struggles to find her way in life. She is a klutz and a dunce, and she never seems to have anything go her way. The only person she can really turn to is a mysterious pen pal named Mr. Poppit, a person she has never met but who is always willing to lend a helping hand. With Mr. Poppit’s assistance, Rino gains acceptance to the prestigious, and very private, Miyagami Academy.

Of course, Rino only seems alone. With her at all times is her oldest friend, Puuchan. Puuchan is a hand puppet that never leaves Rino’s left hand. While the presence of Puuchan initially seems an odd personality quirk of Rino’s, a foul mouthed one at that, it becomes quickly apparent that Puuchan is actually a sentient being. Puuchan’s strong will is the only thing that keeps Rino moving forward with her life.

At first, Rino is lost at Miyagami. The apartment she had lined up burns down the day she arrives, with all of her luggage inside. Then she gets lost on the way to the school, ultimately finding it late at night and sleeping at the gate. She ultimately finds her homeroom where she meets Ayumu who lends a sympathetic ear. At Ayumu’s suggestion, Rino runs for the post of class representative which would grant her a spot in the Miyagami Academy Maximum Authority Wielding Best Student Council, otherwise known as the Best Student Council.

Despite being a student committee, the Best Student Council has more power at the school, not to mention the town, than any of the teachers have. They run the show at Miyagami Academy. Members of the Best Student Council get free housing and tuition to Miyagami Academy, so this seems like a good option to Rino. Running against Rino is Kaori, the previous class representative, whom Rino manages to defeat despite everybody voting for Kaori. With this victory, Rino secures her spot at Miyagami, not to mention Kaori’s enmity.

That enmity worsens as Rino keeps being the beneficiary of seemingly random decisions. After her accidental assistance in catching the arsonist that burned her apartment down, Rino is quickly selected to fill the vacant post of Council Secretary, a position Kaori vied for and one that makes Rino a member of the Executive Council.

Rino is also the focus of much attention from the beautiful and elegant Student Council President, Kanade Jinguuji. Kanade is the founder of the Best Student Council and is the reason for the power that it wields, though much of her past is hidden in shadow. Kanade is well loved among the student body as she uses every power that her position holds to try and make Miyagami Academy as much of a paradise as possible. Kaori’s affection for Kanade, however, borders on obsession, and so Rino’s new favored status does not sit well with her. When Kanade becomes Rino’s roommate, despite Best Student Council members all having the luxury of private quarters, then Kaori begins to despair.

However, once Rino is settled, the school year begins to progress as school years tend to, and the Best Student Council is called in time and time again to solve problems around Miyagami. It is these dealings with one another and the rest of the student body that provides the heart of Best Student Council. While Rino is the main character, and her friendship with Kanade is the main focus, much of the time in the series is spent away from them.

The majority of the major players of the Best Student Council get plenty of character development as they each tend to get at least one episode where they are the main focus. Each of these episodes generally tell the tale as to why that girl came to Miyagami and ultimately became a member of the Best Student Council, though some—such as Mayura’s boy troubles and Ayumu’s ascent to pop-idoldom—deal with more contemporary issues. What this allows is for Best Student Council to have a well rounded, strong cast of characters. Each member of the Best Student Council have their own niche, and they all fill theirs well.

Aside from characterization, this series also hinges on some really great comedy. The pacing and humor in Best Student Council is very reminiscent of titles like Azumanga Daioh as the comedy centers around the close friendship of each of the girls and the way that they always rally around one another whenever needed, not to mention always knowing exactly which buttons to push when they want to be annoying. As such, the comedy is fairly low key and lends a pleasant charm to the series. Aside from being really funny, there is also something sort of nostalgic about the way the characters bond and act towards one another.

And of course there is Puuchan, Rino’s autonomous puppet. He provides much of the comic relief in Best Student Council as a) he is the only reoccurring voice providing a male perspective to events, and b) he is not afraid make fun of/offend anybody nor to be brutally honest about things to people who do not necessarily want to hear it. I also found it amusing that despite having his own mind and voice, he can only move, talk, and act if he is on somebody’s hand. Anytime he is knocked off, he falls silent, but those moments are rare.

Despite his potty mouth, though, he truly cares for Rino and wants to see the best for her future. He made a promise to Rino’s mother before she died that he was going to take care of Rino, and he is more than willing to live up to that promise. This dichotomy between his natural character and his father-like guidance to Rino make Puuchan one of the more rounded and interesting characters in the entire series.

This is not to say that this title is perfect. Unlike Azumanga Daioh, however, Best Student Council delves into quite a bit of serious subject matter, and even loses its lighthearted tone at times. These instances dragged for me. What worked in this series—the comedy, essentially—was so well done, that I lost interest when the focus would shift away for a while.

In particular, I did not particularly enjoy the three episode storyline right in the middle that introduced Minamo Katsura to the Best Student Council. She was more than annoying with her brattyness, and she did not work well as the focus. When the plot moved on, and she was relegated to a secondary role, she worked much better for me. The negatives she brought to the table outweighed virtually everything else I liked about those episodes.

Ultimately, my biggest problem was that when the show got serious, I found that I missed the comedy. The comedy and lighthearted atmosphere was so well done, that I really wished that it would remain the focal point all the way through. The serious was not necessarily bad, outside of the Minamo introduction of course, and admittedly were a relatively small part of the series, but it was no where near as good as the not-serious.

In Summary:
Best Student Council is a really fun series. There is a lot of humor and charm to the way that life at Miyagami Academy is presented. While the serious aspects slowed things down for me, they were a small enough part that they certainly did not ruin it in anyway. From start to finish, Best Student Council was a joy to watch, and I think it is something that anybody could get into. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Character Profiles, TV Spots, Japanese Pilot Episode

Review Equipment
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Best Student Council