Brief Thoughts On: High Score

Obscure anime can often be fascinating, but even I was skeptical of how much I would have to say about High Score. On its surface, this show is little more than a generic high school comedy with only 8 episodes of 3 minutes each. It’s over before you even know it. However, in spite of being incredibly brief, I gotta admit that High Score left an impression.

PHOTO: The roughed-up members of a judo club look pathetically at Megumi and her boyfriend, commenting they should just die.

The 4-koma manga that this anime is based on has apparently been running since 1995 and is the only known work by author Chinami Tsuyama, outside of small cross-overs and anthology comics. It tells a story about several toxic relationships between the unhinged students of an unnamed high school.

For example, Emika Matsumoto physically abuses her boyfriend. She specifically loves him because he can take a beating and stay loyal to her. There is also Megumi Fujiwara, who believes she is superior to others because she is pretty and uses that logic to seduce hapless boys into becoming her gophers. Her equally vain boyfriend will always beat up anyone that pushes their luck, even though both of them are only attracted to the other because of their looks.

PHOTO: Sayo reads an unmarked book while commenting on the gory pictures within. Little ghosts rise from pages.

The comedy is dark-ish. The characters are deliberately written to be shallow and mean-spirited, but the more cruel they are, the happier their love lives become. The anime has a strange vibe to it that caught me by surprise.

Novelty is all it is, though. High Score works as a series of 3-minute bursts of crazy shit, but none of it stood out as being particularly good or funny. It wouldn’t work in a longer format and I certainly wouldn’t recommend High Score over a similar short series like Comical Psychosomatic Medicine. It simply doesn’t have the substance to compete, so it relies on the short format to get it over with before the viewer gets bored with the novelty.

That is, if viewers even stick around after seeing the artstyle. High Score looks about as unprofessional as you can get before amateur Flash productions become a genuine source of competition. The characters look like OCs drawn by someone who found out about anime thanks to a How To Draw Manga book and the backgrounds waver between being simplistic and not existing at all. It looks like the anime could have been put together in one of those freeware animation tools; a conclusion that is supported by the uninspired directing work.

PHOTO: Megumi looks looks at her father with pity.

This kind of look can be done well, as with the TV short Double J. Its animation is about as minimal, but it stands out thanks to some neat visual contrasts and its willingness to experiment. Or take Trigger’s Inferno Cop, which is by far the best example of how to turn low-effort into an actual aesthetic.

What High Score does have going for it is voice talent. Megumi is voiced by Eri Kitamura (Sayaka Miki, Mina Ashido, Karen Araragi), with other voice roles being fulfilled by the likes of Yuu Kobayashi (Nice Holystone, Satoshi Houjou), Aya Endou (Gilgamesh), and Yuuki Ono (Alciel, Zenkichi Hitoyoshi). The voice work hits far above what you’d expect from a series that looks like this.

High Score is short enough that, if anything about its premise seems even mildly interesting to you, then you may as well just give it a watch. It’s mediocre at best, but it’s a memorable little series with quite some novelty value to it.