Everything about Chio is below-average. Her grades, her looks, her social skills, everything. Well, “everything” except for her anime, that is. Chio’s School Road manages to rise above the tide of random comedy anime, even if only by a little.
As its title implies, the anime follows the daily struggle of Chio Miyamo to get to her school. She’s a socially awkward hardcore gamer, prone to staying up way too late and promptly oversleeping. To make matters worse, it seems like not a day goes by without inconveniences. Roadwork, obstructive biker gangs, random acts of violence, or friends who need help. Issues that a well-adjusted person could maybe resolve normally, but Chio’s mind is too corrupted by those darn video games.
Right off the bat, Chio makes for an enjoyable character. She’s not only a certified gamer girl, she has strong opinions about gaming too. She almost exclusively plays Western games, loathes Japanese RPGs and their tropes, and she is fiercely competitive to boot. Strong writing and the excellent performance by Naomi Ōzara (Jahy, Uzaki-chan, Susanna Hopkins) make her nerdiness come off as strikingly genuine.
Episodes are segmented into two or three smaller sketches, which I felt were reliably funny. One such sketch sees Chio run into a friend while trying to sneakily buy a BL magazine, after which she goes through great lengths to try and hide what she is trying to purchase. Instead of, you know, putting it back and buying it later. Another has her rush into the men’s toilet by accident, forcing her to hatch an elaborate escape clan.
The comedy is very silly with occasional surreal touches. It’s somewhere between Nichijou and Asobi Asobase. Everyday situations escalating to ridiculous proportions, with jokes that lean on embarrassment and teenage insecurities.
While I adored Chio, her anime has a bad habit of leaving her to carry the series all on her own. The opening implies that her friends Manana and Yuki are also main characters, but the random nature of the sketches often leaves them without ample screen-time. These girls are also far less defined than Chio, with their personality subtly changing from episode to episode to suit whatever the story requires. In some episodes Yuki is easily embarrassed, in another she is entirely shameless.
I enjoyed the jokes they got involved in, but can’t really say that they are coherent characters. This problem is admittedly worse for Yuki, on account of her sparse appearances. She’s more of a tool or plot device, existing mainly for the convenience of the author.
I certainly had fun with Chio’s School Road, but it could have been more ambitious. The lack of an ending or noteworthy finale was particularly disappointing. It was funny enough that I might revisit it some time, though, which is more than I could say for about 70% of comedy anime.