Review for Love Election & Chocolate Collection
I love that I can still be surprised by anime. Once in a while a show will come along that will do something I haven’t seen before, and at that minute, I feel like a new fan again, back when I first discovered the medium, with every new anime a revelation, every new story a reminder that not everything has to be done the same ‘Hollywood’ way as was the majority of the broadcast TV shows I used to watch then. Given that I now watch more anime than shows from the Western establishment these days, those pleasant surprises come few and far between now, with most new anime following established tropes and clichés in that medium.
Love, Election and Chocolate is another high school anime, in a medium where most shows are set in high school. It’s also another one of those gargantuan high school arcologies, with thousands of students, in campuses that are practically small cities, which happens surprisingly often in high school anime. And it’s a show about an election for the student council. And that’s the refreshing surprise. I have seen countless high school anime that feature student councils, reigning from up on high over the student body, wielding life and death power over the extra-curricular clubs, and functioning like a government in miniature. And I realised in all those shows, I have never once seen an election for a student council. It’s like a low hanging fruit that no-one ever bother to pluck. At least not until now...
Takafuji High School is practically a small nation, with 6000 students, and a student council so large that it rivals most parliaments. Not that this really matters to Yuki Ojima, who with the fellow members of the Shokken (Food Research) Club spend their extracurricular activities in the passion for all things sweet. That’s all about to change with the forthcoming elections for student council president, with the outgoing president, the head of the security department Mori, unable to run again due to a certain scandal. That leaves the head of the finance department, Shinonome most likely to succeed to the post, and her first goal is to economise by getting rid of the unproductive clubs. Top of her list is the Shokken Club, and as she says, anyone can get together with friends to enjoy tea and cake. You don’t need club funds to do that.
With the impending loss of their refuge, the other club members convince Yuki to run for President against Shinonome, and soon the Food Research Club is campaign headquarters. But Yuki and his friends have a lot to learn about high school politics, especially given the size and power of the Takafuji Student Council, these politics are liable to get nasty and personal.
Twelve episodes of Love, Election and Chocolate plus the OVA are presented across three DVD discs from MVM. The show is also available on Blu-ray on the day of release.
1. Disbanding the Club!
2. Running for the Election!
4. The Funds!
6. Vote Counting!
7. The Camp!
8. The Truth!
9. The Accident!
13. Love, Election and My Sister!
Love, Election and Chocolate gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer, which on these discs is progressively encoded. The image is clear and sharp, with consistent colours, although in this show they tend more towards the pastel and autumnal palettes, a little more subdued than the average anime. The character designs conform to the usual aesthetic, while the world design reflects that of a futuristic megalopolis of a high school. It’s a pleasant enough show, although there were moments that I felt that the animation was a little limited and not quite as fluid and detailed as it might have been. The show also doesn’t scale up to an HD panel with as much clarity as most other anime DVDs. The difference is slight, but there is an unexpected degree of softness to the image. How much of that is inherent to the source can only be answered by someone who gets the Blu-ray release.
This is a subtitle only release, with the original Japanese audio in DD 2.0 Stereo format. The audio is presented clearly, with no glitches or dropouts. The stereo is put to fair use conveying the show’s music, and the occasional bits of action. The actors are suited to their roles, but you do see a lot of the usual female character stereotypes in Yuki’s ‘harem’. The subtitles are timed accurately and free from typographical error... almost. This is a show about an election, so get the basics right. The word is ‘manifesto’ not ‘manifest’. It looks stupid every time I see it, and it happens often enough to really throw me out of the show.
Love, Election and Chocolate is presented across three DVD discs, which look to be the Sentai discs repurposed for Region 2. The discs get animated menus, jacket pictures, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
On disc 1, you’ll find Sentai trailers for Girls und Panzer, Taisho Baseball Girls, AKB0048 Next Stage, Di Gi Charat – Winter Garden, Upotte!!, and Nadia, The Secret of Blue Water.
On disc 2, you get the ubiquitous textless credits.
I thought a show had to be good if other anime start referencing it. nas-imasaS[at]ianarabnaG threw in a Love, Election and Chocolate reference, and I had hoped that would bode well. Alas, it could be that it was referring to the erotic videogame upon which this anime is based, something I discovered only recently. The anime certainly isn’t erotic, aiming for a more mainstream audience. It’s also not very good. It’s very much a case of overegging the pudding, something which a Food Research Club should have been well aware of.
Love, Election and Chocolate tries to do too much in its twelve episodes plus one, it has so many balls in the air at one time, that they do get dropped on more than one occasion, and it’s really hard to relate to a story that is told piecemeal, at a breakneck pace. The three things alone, Love, Election, and indeed Chocolate would be more than enough for this anime, but it tries to do more on top, it tries to be romantic, tragic, comedic, dramatic, dark and light, and the resulting unevenness of tone, and uncertain execution makes it a chore to watch.
The base state of the show is the Food Research Club, a group of like minded students who get together to appreciate sweet food and tea, a bit like K-On!’s Light Music Club without the music. So they’re always goofing around, doing silly things, with plenty of gay innuendo from member Yume, who’s trying to market his family company’s Yaoi Bar. Yuki, Chisato, and Mifuyu have a love triangle skit they keep wheeling out, a couple of the girls keep getting Yuki’s name wrong, and a baby professor type keeps creating mad inventions. And there’s the quiet neko-girl who inadvertently provides fan service. Ooh, almost forgot their supervisor, teacher Hazuki, who spends her time in the club getting drunk.
When this club is threatened with closure, they decide to enter the election for Student Council President, only they’re minnows getting into shark infested waters, as the government in this school is serious business, and bad things happen to people that don’t toe the line. The show actually begins with some ominous night-time machinations ending in a hit and run, knocking down a photographer gathering evidence. It’s a dark and bloody beginning to a light and frothy show, and every once in a while you get reminded of this nasty edge in the background of the story.
The incumbent president Yakumo Mori and his security department are leaving office because of a scandal, unable to run again, and this scandal plays more of a part as the story unfolds. The most likely next president is the head of the finance department, Shinonome, she who is cracking down on frivolous clubs, although her biggest opponent is the head of General Affairs. When Yuki appears on the scene, a flirtatious rivalry/friendship develops between him and Shinonome.
Chisato doesn’t eat chocolate herself, but insists on sharing it with Yuki, all down to a childhood trauma that she hasn’t been able to get over. The two could be in love, but this trauma keeps a distance between them, and Yuki does get a fair amount of interest from the other girls around him (his relationship with Hazuki goes beyond teacher student), but he refuses to commit to anyone because of his unconventional relationship with Chisato. Mifuyu’s got a bit of a crush on Yuki, but has a trauma of her own to get over.
Shinonome and Hazuki are half-sisters, only Hazuki has cut herself off from the family, and that’s a sticking point between them. Yakumo’s trying to get Yuki elected as a puppet president, machinating and manoeuvring behind the scenes, all for a comatose girl in a hospital. His second in command, or rather leader of a rival faction in the security department shows up, starts being evil and manipulative, and then starts kidnapping people to swing the election in her direction.
It’s also an elite school, educating the rich and shameless, but there is a scholarship program of sorts, a scholarship program where the hard up students work school mandated jobs to pay for their tuition, and are all bullied by the rich and elite as a matter of course, exemplified in the example of Aomi, a girl that Yuki rescues from bullies on more than one occasion. I’m sure I’m forgetting a whole lot more.
If the last few paragraphs look like a mess, they’re nothing compared to the show itself, which structurally, emotionally, and in terms of narrative, is all over the place. The worst thing is that a show that could have really nailed student politics, really have fun with the idea of student council elections and the popularity contests they become, totally misses the opportunity. Most of the electioneering, campaigning, speechifying, and grandstanding either happens off screen, or in montage, as the show has all this other stuff to deal with as well. It’s hard to relate to any of the characters or the things that they go through.
Still, Love, Election and Chocolate is just about watchable. It may not hang together all that well, but you can find the arc of an overall story if you pay enough attention, and it just about pulls things together for its story climax, delivering enough of an emotional crescendo to satisfy. And the word is ‘manifesto’! You sound like idiots when you get it wrong!