Ever have one of those moments where you’ll look at the trailer for something and it’ll look amusing as hell and then when you watch the finished product you just feel underwhelmed? Well that’s how I felt coming away from Shomin Sample. What looked to be a funny High School romp with a single guy having to teach a school full of secluded sheltered rich girls about common people and things turned out to be a slightly less amusing by the numbers life lessons anime thanks to a really boring sub-plot.
Title: Shomin Sample
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Harem, Romance & School
Series Details: 12 Episodes
Release Date: 05/04/2017 (Australia)
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English subtitles
Number of Discs: 2
Runtime: 300 mins (23mins per episode)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen Full Height Anamorphic
Distributor: Madman Entertainment (DVD)
Special Features: Episode 5 Commentary, Shomin Shorts (1-6), Textless Opening and Closing Songs
Rating: M: Mature themes, sexual references and nudity
Review Parameters: DVD Release, English Language, no subtitles.
Kimito Kagurazaka is a commoner with a fetish for men’s muscles—or at least that’s the lie he must keep telling if he wants to keep himself out of trouble at the elite all-girls school, Seikain Academy. Kidnapped by the school under the assumption that he prefers men, Kimito is made to be their “commoner sample,” exposing the girls to both commoner and man so that the transition to the world after school is not jarring. Threatened with castration should his sexual preferences not match the school’s assumptions, Kimito keeps up the facade to protect his manhood.
But there are eccentric individuals around every corner who begin to make Kimito’s life even more difficult. Among them are Aika Tenkuubashi, a social outcast who blurts out whatever comes to mind; Hakua Shiodome, a young genius; Karen Jinryou, the daughter of samurai who is obsessed with defeating Kimito; and Reiko Arisugawa, the perfect student who has delusions of marrying Kimito. Along with the commoner himself, these four girls make up the Commoner Club, which attempts to teach the girls more about life outside the school, while Kimito gradually learns about the odd girls surrounding him.
The characters in Shomin Sample start out with so much promise, but as the mystery around them and their pasts gets revealed, they are left as the anime stereotypes that they are. Kimito is the stupid guy who is just there to instigate comedy moments, Akia is the real “main character” who goes through the most character development in Shomin Sample, Reiko is clueless but has big boobs so she can get into sexual situations, Hakua is the sheltered special child who opens up emotionally later, Karen is the Samurai obsessed Tsundere who uses violence as affection, and Miyuki is the mystery woman who you will know nothing about unless this show gets a second season. There’s also a voice-actress friend of Kimito who shows up near the end of the season, but again, nothing unless you get green-lit for another season.
Kimito Kagurazaka – Voiced by: Atsushi Tamaru (Japanese) / Dallas Reid (English):
The main protagonist of the series. He is a commoner who is forced to enroll at Seikain after being kidnapped. Kimito immediately notices how detached the girls are from the outside world. His first informal speech at the commencement ceremony leaves them flabbergasted. Kimito has a thing for girls’ thighs. The staff has falsely announced to the school that he is a homosexual with a muscle fetish to protect the girls’ pride and chastity. To help offset the strain of living up to his false credentials, his room in the school dormitory is renovated to look exactly like his bedroom at his family’s home.
Aika Tenkūbashi – Voiced by: Yū Serizawa (Japanese) / Sarah Wiedenheft (English):
The primary heroine of the series. She is childish, naive, and shy about talking to others. This distances her from them even though she wishes to be popular among her peers. Aika is strongly fascinated of the outside world. The PSP, ramen, and manga are but a few of her interests. She asks Kimito to teach her how to be a commoner. Aika declares the establishment of the Commoner Club with Kimito as the master. She seems to have feelings for Kimito beyond that of master and disciple.
Reiko Arisugawa – Voiced by: Rika Tachibana (Japanese) / Mikaela Krantz (English):
Reiko is considered the most innocent, polite, and cheerful girl in the school. Because of his earnest attempts to help her and the other girls with learning the Commoner Way, she quickly grows fond of Kimito and falls in love with him. She is someone who always acts positive although has a horrible singing voice. However, her personality drastically changes when she learns about Aika’s idea for helping her reconcile with her friends and classmates after a certain uncharacteristic outburst. She does not want to accept Aika’s unexpected help and bitterly confronts her for her actions. In the end, the situation is resolved amiably. In turn, this breeds a rivalry for Kimito’s affections. Reiko joins the Commoner Club to stay close to Kimito and interfere with the advances of other girls.
Hakua Shiodome – Voiced by: Yūki Kuwahara (Japanese) / Jeannie Tirado (English):
Hakua is a short, soft-spoken, and extremely youthful girl genius who is very antisocial until she grows attached to Kimito, which shocks her maids. Hakua is an expert in mathematics and the sciences. She habitually documents new equations on any convenient wall. She goes into a strange daze at such times and wriggles out of her clothes as she writes. Her family owns a cellular phone company. Hakua’s maids tend to get her and Kimito into intimate moments. She’s a very by the numbers recluse that comes out of her shell when someone sees her for more than her skills and value to the world at large.
Karen Jinryō – Voiced by: Chitose Morinaga (Japanese) / Skyler Davenport (English):
Karen is a girl from a samurai family who carries a katana on school grounds. Her fear of insects causes her to reflexively slash others nearby even though their clothes are often the primary casualties. After Karen inadvertently experiences a humiliating defeat at the hands of Kimito, she believes herself to have become weak and swears to stick closely by his side. She is determined to kill him whenever a chance presents itself. She masks her feelings for Kimito with a fake desire to defeat him. She has a sexual arousal with Hakua. There came a point where Karen felt overexcited for displaying her full potential the first time when invading Reiko’s wedding arrangement.
Miyuki Kujō – Voiced by: Saori Ōnishi (Japanese) / Mallorie Rodak (English):
Kimito’s personal head maid (in name only). She is a very sadistic person, often carries out severe punishment whenever Kimito commits a blunder, yet she secretly kisses him in the morning to wake him up. She often takes time to make sure Kimito is playing up the fact that he ‘likes’ muscle men in order to keep with the arrangement that Kimito has with the School and also to protect it’s values. There seems to be more to Miyuki’s relationship with Kimito due to the kissing to wake him up in the morning, but this is not explored much in the anime and might be left for season 2
Technically Shomin Sample is just as by the numbers as the story does. It’s one of those comedy shows that will change the art from nice and detailed to cartoon style during violent moments in order to make it not look that intense. However it does keep the bright and light atmosphere that the show permeates though out. One of the highlights is when the girls see something that we know is common place, as the animators made sure to add sparkles and shine to the item or moment in order to make it look as amazing as possible, this helps greatly in making these moments even more funny than they would be in any other anime. The audio track for the English dub isn’t too bad, the voices chosen do not grate on me at all through the 12 episodes, the only downfall would be Jeannie Tirado as Hukua, who seems a bit too young sounding for a character who they expressly mention is high school age. But this is to get past the whole Lolicon aspect of the character. The script does date itself very early on though, using things like “Fleek” and “Fetch” (Seriously, who the hell thought it would be funny to bring a Mean Girls reference into this show?) and dated comedian sketches from Japan that I’m very sure were dated long before this show was made.
One of the best things about Shomin Sample is how it tackles the subject matter of how some people of a higher class might not understand the everyday things that most people do in everyday life. From eating Cup Noodles to ordering your own meal at McDonalds, these things seem like fantastical amazing things to the girls of the school. The best example of this is Episode 6 “Step Outside” where the girls are sent to a specially made theme park called Shomin Land where they can do things like cross the road, order their own fast food meal, play at an Arcade and other common things while keeping the girls isolated at the same time. The pure amazement and horror about these common day things is what makes the comedy in Shomin Sample really worth seeing. Mistakes are bound to happen, and the girls misunderstanding things is pretty funny. The other half of the comedy is the girls having to work out their own feelings towards Kimito, leading to new experiences and rivalries between them that you could question are due to Kimito himself or the fact that none of the girls in the school have ever seen a guy before.
After a while in Shomin Sample you tend to feel that the show is a victim of bad pacing or a victim of it’s own premise being so short lived. The whole common things amaze the girls plot wears thin after Episode 6, but at the same time the sub-plot of the show that is about Akia’s distance and issues with trying to make friends at the school also end up being solved around the same time, this makes things in Shomin Sample end up being a lot slower than they should be. So unfortunately, the writers drop back into what are very stereotypical anime tropes in order to get the show to 12 episodes, including the “hot girl gets a marriage proposal from someone she doesn’t love and the protagonist confesses his love to save her” story which brings the season to a close. They also take two characters who do not have much to do with the plot thus far and give them a mysterious aspect that does not get resolved at all and is almost dropped as soon as it happens. I know they are sequel baiting, but it’s horrible to do this without a second season confirmed. (At time of publishing, there is no second season confirmed by any source.)
Shomin Sample is very by the numbers. It starts out great but I don’t know if the writers just ran out of material or something, but the second half is all as trope worthy as any other anime in existence. There are moments that have me frustrated since they are sequel bait for something that might not ever come, but I might just end up finding the manga and reading the rest of what could happen. But when that’s how an anime leaves me feeling, then it’s not a great look. At the end of it all, Shomin Sample is a decent anime that is worth watching on a lazy afternoon or something, but it’s not worth repeat viewing and will quickly be forgotten.
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Amusing look at the subject of classism
Shomin Sample is very bland in the second half, but that being said, the first half is some of the best “out of place” comedy that I’ve seen in anime since Excel Saga. The characters are ok enough to push the story forward, but there really does seem to be a writing quality drop off by the time you finish Episode 7. Shomin Sample is worth a one time watch when you have nothing else to watch.