Well, the Fall 2019 anime season has (as of when this goes live) wrapped up, so it’s time to start giving thoughts on some of the anime from the tail end of the year – and we start off with After School Dice Club, a healing anime about Euro-style board games.
The high concept pitch of After School Dice Club is, basically, “Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop crossed with a Cute-Girls-Doing-Cute-Things” anime. The show follows Miki Takekasa, a shy, introverted girl in Kyoto who is likely On-Spectrum (when she’s introduced and in flashbacks she’s seen using headphones to avoid auditory sensory overload – something done as a coping strategy people who are On-Spectrum, myself included). Miki is very nearly literally run into by outgoing, extroverted classmate Aya Takayashiki.
Aya initially takes Miki on a big exciting “let’s go wandering literally nowhere adventure” – but when Miki has what is effectively a semi-meltdown (not as in “tantrum”, but in the sense of achieving overload and in this case just breaking down in tears), Aya realizes that what she did was kinda crappy and they go back into more familiar populated areas for something a little quieter.
This takes the form of discovering the part-time job of the class president, Midori Ono, at a game store specializing in European Style board games. Ono introduces them to one of the games the store carries, and they play it. Miki and Aya have fun, and the three of them, along with other supporting characters, end up discovering the joy of European Style boardgames
This pretty much sets up the structure of After School Dice Club – there is a vignette with Miki and her friends, who meet with one of a group of supporting characters and then playing a board game. The board game will often, but not always, relate to a degree of character growth of one of the cast. For example, playing a game with a “Chicken” mechanic helps Miki be a little more assertive.
This is all helped by the fact that all the games featured in the show are real games. This means that if you’re familiar with the games, the gist of each episode rings true. On top of all of this, Midori is an aspiring game designer, with her character arc being based around wanting to make her own game. This gives us several episodes as well based around basically game criticism – with the characters talking about what makes for a good game, and learning the language to best express in what ways Midori’s game does and doesn’t work, so they can help her make her game better.
This is not to say that After School Dice Club is not without its issues. The show has less time to dedicate to each game than Tabletop does to its games, due to the framework of the show. Consequently, we montage through much of the play of each game, with the primary focus being on the start of play and explanation of the rules, and the end of each game. Consequently, this is not an ideal fit for games based around any sort of suspense mechanic – so Betrayal at the House on the Hill will not be showing up here.
Additionally, After School Dice Club doesn’t exactly put its best foot forward. Aya is introduced crashing her bike into a river (though not into particularly deep water) – changing underneath a bridge with Miki keeping lookout, and then mentions that she doesn’t have a dry pair of underpants, so goes without for the whole episode wearing no underpants with a skirt. Nothing really comes of this, thankfully, but I still spent the whole episode expecting the show to veer a hard turn into cheap fanservice.
In all, this series was a very fun, and very laid back show – kind of an iyashikei (healing anime) with some light elements competition, but without tension. As of this writing, After School Dice Club is currently available for streaming through Funimation and Hulu.