Video games are pretty darn cool and you’ll find no shortage of anime willing to celebrate them. No big surprise, considering anime and video games are both major exports of little old Japan. Less popular are the analog variety of games; classic board, card, and dice games played on a table with your real-life friends. Fortunately, After School Dice Club is here to tell you just why you should consider putting down the GameBoy in favor of a game board.
The anime follows 4 girls: the uptight board game enthusiast Midori, genki girl Aya, the half-European Emilia, and the quiet introvert Miki. Miki has been having a hard time ever since starting high school, so when Aya one day runs into her she decides to help out. Together they wind up at a shop that sells board games, where Midori introduces them to the hobby.
After School Dice Club is a fairly typical, seasonal anime that centers around a specific activity it wants to promote. Most episodes have the girls tackle one or two games from various places all around the world. You can easily buy these yourself if you are interested and the anime playfully teaches you the rules and shows off some basic strategies. We also get into some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, as both Emilia and Midori want to be game designers themselves. Through them the show explores what it takes to actually make a board game, which becomes central to Midori’s character arc in particular.
While some anime will fluff up a normal activity like board games with fantastical animations, this only rarely happens in After School Dice Club. You usually just get people explaining and playing a game, which admittedly can make the anime somewhat dull to look at. It’s also no visual powerhouse to begin with, though the character designs are very cute and the anime excels in its realism. For example, various real game boxes are often used as decor in the background and actual game boards, cards, etc. are faithfully recreated. It’s not “exciting”, but it is lovingly authentic.
What also helps After School Dice Club stand out is that the girls are frequently joined in their games by other people who are facing some problem, and help them overcome it through play. One episode for example has Aya getting upset with her dad, so the others get them involved in a game during which they slowly open up to each other again and address their problems. These are short, sweet storylines, and the characters involved stick around throughout the series, so they don’t feel like throwaway inclusions. It’s quite impressive for a single-cour anime and I found myself especially enjoying Miki’s arc throughout the series.
Overall, After School Dice Club is a competent anime that is fun so long as you go into it with the right expectations. It’s not an elaborate slice-of-life or comedy series, but rather a smaller anime laser-focused on its core concept. I went into it curious about board games and walked away more than satisfied, but if you go into it expecting Yuru Camp or Non Non Biyori, then you’re bound to be at least a little underwhelmed.