Season 1 Review
Now, the camera quickly pans up from the bottom
And the logo shows up with a thud!
This leads into...
The part where we introduce everybody
All of us, one by one
Our characters are established as we show up on-screen
And now we're running!
We're reaching out our hands!
- Actual lyrics to the anime's opening theme, "Stand Up!!!!", mocking anime opening theme clichés
Needless to say, that title sequence is the reason that got me into watching the anime in the first place. I've expressed on record multiple times my love for metafictional movies and TV shows, especially if those shows are making fun of familiar tropes and conventions. This affection wasn't necessarily born out of some meanspirited obsession to make fun of everything I dislike, but more often than not, it's due to something entirely opposite: my love for those things being made fun of. For example, I remember liking that film class scene in Scream 2 (where everyone is making fun of sequels) more than the rest of the movie itself, even wishing there are more movies like this that just spend all day long talking about movie conventions. Naturally, this is because of my love for movies and talking about them.
Similarly, Tesagure is a slice-of-life anime talking about anime. It's like that one film class scene in Scream 2 stretched over an entire series of 12 episodes, but the topic being anime (and manga) instead of movies sequels. And when I said slice-of-life, I do mean that the entire anime is about nothing else but the mundane conversations between four girls sitting around a clubroom table. It's not really a parody like Excel Saga or Panty & Stocking that imitate the conventions on a visual level, which is a misunderstanding I had going into the show (and from the meta lyrics of the TV intro, could you honestly blame me?). More specifically, it's about a middle school club with a suggestive and problematic name ("The Groping Club") 'groping' around for the identity of their club.
The formula of every episode usually plays out in similar ways: 1) the four club members would decide on a school club theme they want to discuss about (be it a sports club, a chess club or even a music club), 2) discuss what's the first impression they get when they think of the club, 3) talk about the way said clubs are portrayed in anime and manga, and 4) by the end of the episode (though not every episode), they would head over to the gym and try out new and unusual activities related to the club theme (such as a card game but with photos in a journalism club, or Twister but with chess pieces). While the anime would occasionally involve amusing jokes about the silliness of anime tropes, more often than not, Tesagure is more about the girls just fooling around in the clubroom and spending quality time with each other, which is actually the main appeal of a slice-of-life show: characters going about day-to-day mundane activities.
I mentioned before that I'm not particularly a big fan of slice-of-life anime because they are essentially about... well, nothing really. That's the point. But as I've found out, it isn't a genre exclusive to anime, but existent within some of my childhood cartoons as well like Hey Arnold! and Disney's Recess, or more notably and effectively utilized, As Told By Ginger. It's what you do with the genre that matters, but unfortunately, the Japanese seem really obsessed with "school culture nostalgia," thus leading them to create strangely popular shows like K-On! where characters just sit around doing mundane things that don't really make for an exciting narrative or even exciting drama. "Drama" is the keyword to a good American slice-of-life like Doug or even Seinfeld, which is why most Japanese slice-of-life anime don't work for me due to their lack of it.
That being said, slice-of-life can work when they focus on something with more substance than just cute girls sipping tea and lazing around. Nichijou, for example, exaggerates the mundane nature of the genre for laughs, while Tesagure's end credits sequence denotes that the show is intentionally about nothing to focus on the quality time students spend with each other before the tearful graduation split them apart. Even the melody and lyrics of the ending theme, 12 kagetsu or "12 Months" (indicating the 12 months taking place in the anime) are melancholic in nature:
Although there was nothing special
There was meaning to the time we spent together
You'll never return, so I'll tell you
"You're more important than anything else"
Encounters, departures, everything has an effect on our future
The final episode in particular confirms this as the newest member of the quartet, Koharu Tanaka, cries out in sorrow at the idea of the senior members leaving her. For some reason, even though K-On! also contains such a tearful departure, it just comes off more effectively for me in Tesagure, probably because such a message has been repeated in its closing theme for 12 episodes (whereas K-On! merely has a really energetic pop music that I can't stop listening to).
Another reason is also because the conversations between these girls feel very grounded. Tesagure is a "pre-scored" animation, meaning the lines were recorded then animated over them using the MMD ("MikuMikuDance") freeware (originally used to produce the famous Japanese virtual idol, Hatsune Miku). This means that the girls basically sit around and talk with each other about club themes every episode as if it's a podcast, which is why their conversations tend to come off as more natural and realistic, like a group of girls having fun chatting with each other. It's probably the reason why it's so easy to connect with these characters and just act like you're one of them, listening in on the conversation and enjoying their company. Because of such a realistic style, when it's time to depart, that sentiment feels stronger and more relatable. It really doesn't help that an anime like K-On! sidelines the audience while the characters eat cake and dress silly, making the audience feel more like an outsider looking in on something fun you'd much rather participate in than watch.
By the way, the MMD technology has also been used for other recent anime, though they are such obscure titles it's not really worth naming them. However, I've also seen it used to create virtual YouTubers, and more notably, virtual Twitch streamers. It's probably not gonna be my favorite animation style any time soon as they seem like an amateur form of 3-D animation, but hey, it's yet another creative use of the medium in the wonderful world of animation! Or as the characters of this anime would say, atarashii (it's a novel idea)!
Final Rating: 7.2/10