The Shokken Club, AKA the Food Research Club, are a group of kooky snack food otaku, who sit around and scrutinise sweets and treats for sensory appeal and satisfaction. Their clubroom is somewhere between secret hi-tech hideout and storage closet, with goodies tucked away and hidden. It’s led by de-facto leader Yuki Ojima, whose intricate friendship with Chisato Sumiyoshi is Shokken’s support system. We find out that Chisato doesn’t eat chocolate, positing one of the series’ central mysteries.
The Takafuji Private Academy setting is an amalgam of education and politics – a futuristic bureaucracy that comes off a little dreamlike. Like other clubs that can’t be quantified in terms of achievement, Shokken is in danger of disbandment after student presidential hopeful Satsuki Shinonome puts her manifesto forward. As head of the finance department, Satsuki is driving financial reforms, and has her sights set on cleaning up the club system, trimming the budget on some and outright terminating others. She’s got legitimate and sensible reason for tightening the budget, so siding with any one party is more complex than good versus evil.
To combat the impending threat, the Shokken Club members band together and invest in Yuki as their electoral candidate. Reluctantly, he takes on the weighty responsibility. The school itself is something of a microcosm, standing in for a bigger topic, and opens a satirical glimpse at Japan’s relationship with its economy. Yuki, like the audience, seems to see things that no other character can, which begs the question how much of the series we’re supposed to take at face value.
It does a pretty admirable job of balancing its roster of characters – sometimes it’s a case of spinning the character plates, and in later episodes it increasingly relies on archetypes, but with the glacial pace of the plot, it allows many of these dramatic and character-driven elements to unfurl naturally. As the characters are drawn from the Sprite adult visual novel, their personalities and quirks have already been charted. It was just a matter of cherry picking the best parts. Likewise, the gorgeous character design, which flirts with colour and style, is taken from the source material.
The tone, however, is inconsistent, with its dark and enigmatic opening left dangling until the latter episodes making the whole series feel like a sucralose filling in a dark chocolate shell. The pontificating on the ins and outs of election and campaigning certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it sees the idea through, from drumming up support to fundraising and speeches and so on. With later episodes, it all gets a bit farfetched and, frankly, dull. Even the ending is ultimately rushed, and the added OVA can’t make up for that.
Trying to save a doomed club is hardly breaking new ground, but the complex, if at times silly, politicking and espionage add a level of grit and starkness, tempering the humour, fanservice and drama like crafting good chocolate. The series, like life, is a box of chocolates, and getting to the good ones means suffering some of the mediocre.
Also available from Sentai Filmworks; disk credits; clean opening and closing animation and OVA – Love Sister.