Review for D-Frag: The Complete Series S.A.V.E.
Last year, I reviewed Girls Beyond the Wasteland, an anime where a boy gets ‘drafted’ into an after-school club populated mostly by girls where the object is the creation of a videogame. It wasn’t exactly a qualified success, a show that didn’t really explore its premise as much as it could, and was played for the most part, surprisingly straight. If at first you don’t succeed as they say... I’m giving the premise another chance to entertain me, this time in the form of D-Frag! a show where an unsuspecting high school boy gets ‘drafted’ into the after-school Game Creation Club. This time the show looks a lot wackier, which is just what the doctor ordered.
All that Kenji Kazama wants is an easy life, which you might think difficult for Fujou Academy’s most notorious new delinquent. But Kenji is a mild-mannered and even kindly delinquent, whose sole aim in delinquency is to not conform. Top of the non-conformity list is to not join an after school club like everyone else. But that kindly nature gets him into trouble, first when he helps a clumsy girl pick up her leaflets at the school gate, and then when helping that same girl with a fire in her clubroom gets him targeted by all four girls in that room as a witness who has to be erased. Long story short, Kenji is now a member of the Game Creation Club, led by club president Roka Shibasaki. The other members are her friend Student Council President Chitose Karasuyama, and Sakura Mizukami. The fourth girl is actually the club adviser, Minami Ohsawa, a teacher looking for an easy life. Kenji’s easy life just keeps getting harder, especially when it turns out that there is more than one Game Creation Club in the school...
12 episodes are presented across two Blu-rays as follows. This S.A.V.E. release also has the show on 2 DVDs.
1. Kazama’s Party!
2. Curse You, Fake Game Creation Club!!
3. Fujou Academy Freedom Festival AKA FuF Festival
4. They’re the Band of 14 Devils!!
5. What?! Your Little Sister Makes Your Lunches?!
6. So That Means We’re in a Love Triangle!
7. That’s Dirty...!!
8. I Liked the Pixels
9. That’s Right. I’m His Little Sister
10. Tama-senpai, Long Time No See
11. What’s My Secret Move?
12. At this Rate, You’ll Have Zero Friends for All Eternity!
D-Frag gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these Blu-rays. The image is clear and sharp, bright and colourful, with no sign of compression, aliasing or even digital banding. The animation is smooth, with no issues with judder. However, there are moments in the show where the resolution seems to drop, as if a certain scene was scaled up from a low resolution source, or the animators used a digital zoom into an area of a frame, rather than animating the zoom itself. D-Frag is a comedy show, and that tells in the character designs, which are striking and memorable, and tend towards the goofy, particularly for the supporting cast. Two of Kenji’s pals look as if they’ve been lifted from other shows, Bamboo Blade and School Rumble.
You have the usual Funimation choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. The dialogue is clear throughout; the action comes across well, as does the show’s music. I went with the original language track, and didn’t even try the dub, having long since cemented my opinion of shouty English language comedy dubs. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
D-Frag comes on 4 discs presented in a Blu-ray Amaray, with two discs either side of two hinged panels, 2 DVDs and 2 BDs. The sleeve is not reversible but the inside has some more artwork for the show.
The discs present their contents with animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Baka & Test Season 2.
Episode 1 gets an audio commentary from Austin Tindle (Kenji), Ian Sinclair (Nagayama), J. Michael Tatum (Ataru), and Josh Grelle (Yokoshima).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Hyperdimension Neptunia.
Episode 10 has a commentary featuring ADR Director Jerry Jewell, Whitney Rogers (Chitose), and Bryn Apprill (Roka).
There are seven variations of commercials and promos for D-Frag! on the disc.
You get the textless credits and the US Trailer for the show, and there are further trailers for mihcuP[at]s, One Piece, .hack, School Rumble, Fairy Tail, Tokyo Ravens, Space Dandy, and Ben-To.
Just what the doctor ordered, I said. Well, this particular comedy medicine turned into something of an overdose. Too much of a funny thing in this case became rather tedious by the end. D-Frag! is a show that outstays its welcome, never really exceeds or develops its characters or premise, and just can’t sustain for its 12 episode run. It really should have been an OVA at half the length, as for the first seven or eight episodes, I really did enjoy D-Frag!, laughed heartily at its simple, and predictable comedy. There came a point where I realised that the show wasn’t going anywhere, merely reworking the same gags over again, that the mirth left the room.
The second thing is that this is a very culture specific comedy, the so-called tsukkomi or straight man reacting to the silliness around them. Basically everyone in the show except the male protagonist, Kenji is the boke or comedian, and they will invariably do something silly, after which the tsukkomi will repeat what just happened in a loud and shocked voice. The current poster child for this comic genre is Shinpachi in Gintama, but this happens continuously in D-Frag!, making even Gintama look restrained in comparison. Once again, it’s funny at first, but by the tenth episode of this, I was begging the show to do something different!
It’s a common enough premise, the fish-out-of-water main character dragged against his will into an unwelcome situation, but eventually fitting in. In this case, lightweight delinquent Kenji gets dragged into the Game Creation Club, populated by a handful of misfits, the diminutive Roka the club president, her best friend (and student council president) Chitose, and the non-descript perky girl, Sakura. Despite their name, they’re not too hot on actually creating games (other than an off-colour board game), and really just use the clubroom to hang out and be all geeky.
The show is about the challenges the club faces in staying viable in school, beginning with the real Game Creation Club led by a busty girl named Takao. Roka was in that club but creative differences (Roka’s just too weird) led to Roka leaving and setting up her own club, and Takao took it personally. She shows up to challenge Roka to actually making a game for the forthcoming Culture Festival. We meet Takao, and we meet the members of her club, and there’s a bit of development. And it’s here that D-Frag!’s biggest problem arises. It doesn’t care about developing characters or an ongoing story. Following this arc, we see a lot of Takao again (because girl with boobs and romantic interest for Kenji), but the rest of her club are consigned to the odd cameo.
We move onto the next challenge for the club, a gang of 14 delinquents who consider themselves hardcore gamers, and they wind up kidnapping Kenji. And following that, we only see the delinquents again in cameos. There’s an episode with an interesting teacher character called Sean Cone Cone (English dub missed a chance there). Again, brief cameos thereafter. Hachi Shioh is another, often absent member of the club, a masochistic devotee to Roka, and he challenges Kenji to a tournament battle to win the bag that Roka uses to attack her foes (she puts it on their heads), and you’ve guessed it, once this storyline ends, Hachi fades into insignificance. By the time the show’s final arc comes up, a confrontation with the former student council members, the rinse and repeat nature of the premise has really done for the show.
D-Frag! is funny to begin with, but it just can’t sustain. It might be better in small doses, and when the comedy does work, it can be downright hilarious. But it’s a comedy that always goes for the low hanging fruit, and as such it’s hardly memorable.