By Shelley Pallis.
Girls at the single-sex Seikain school are raised to be perfect young ladies, cut off from the perils of the modern world, hot-housed in an environment that supposedly shields them from bullying, online distractions, and everything else that supposedly ruins the characters of today’s teens. Unfortunately, this has rather backfired, producing a class of girls largely oblivious about anything that goes on in the real world, leading to a drastic attempt to bring them up to speed.
The relentlessly normal teenage boy Kimito Kagurazaka is kidnapped and brought to the school to demonstrate what the outside world is like – hence the show’s original Japanese name: one of those unwieldy tabloid headlines so beloved of modern light novels, I was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner. Kimito’s dorm room is rigged up to look exactly like his bedroom back home, and he is prodded into interacting with the students so they can find out all about how to live like common people, and do the things that common people do.
The fact I can throw Jarvis Cocker lyrics in only goes to show that this is not a new idea. People from different classes often end up feeling like they inhabit different worlds, and Kimito’s situation cunningly reverses his normalcy to the extent that he is surrounded by pretty girls who are fascinated by everything in the outside world that would make him entirely unremarkable. Some of the girls even start a Commoner’s Club so they can spend more time observing his odd ways.
Of course, in anime terms this is plainly the set-up for a “harem” situation, in which a male slacker gets to bask in the company of women way out of his league, and gamely mansplain the very basics of Japanese society to an audience that might as well have been home-schooled in a nuclear bunker. Additional tension is added by the school authorities’ misguided claim that Kimito is gay, and thereby presents no danger to the girls’ virtue. Well, he doesn’t, because he will be neutered with extreme prejudice if he ever admits that he prefers girls.
Author Takafumi Nanatsuki has previous form, although not always under that name. His early works, including a couple of Tokimeki Memorial spin-offs, were published under the pseudonym Takafumi Imada. The Nanatsuki name only came into its own after 2005, when he started publishing novellas with a greater degree of personal investment. These included College, World and Paradise, a Japanese school drama set in a radically altered near-future world in which a new nation has trounced much of the old order in a worldwide war, and Love You, in which characters and events from a role-playing game start to phase in and out of existence in the real world, with disastrous potential consequences for both realms. His biggest splash outside Shomin Sample was undoubtedly Tomorrow I will Date the You of Yesterday, a romance in which the traditional boy-meets-girl narrative is compromised by a girl who is plagued by visions of the future – it was adapted into a live-action film in 2016.
But it’s Shomin Sample that most seems to have caught the imaginations of his readers, lasting for 11 volumes in its original prose form, and subsequently adapted into a manga that ran in the teen title Monthly Comic Rex. The anime version from Silver Link was originally broadcast in 2015, and is notable in its English version for being the voice-directing debut of Aaron Dismuke, better known to anime fans as the original voice of Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. This year he celebrates his 16th year working in the anime business, which is a remarkable achievement for someone who has yet to see his 26th birthday. If that’s not an odd life far removed from the real world, I don’t know what is.
Shomin Sample is released in the UK on Blu-ray by Funimation.