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This summer I hope to find more time to review some classics. While I don't think that “After School Dice Club” will ever become one of them, it's a nice enough anime to review. It may well be for you if you're into slice of life anime and board games. If so, you'll likely to enjoy this cute and innocent show featuring, well, a number of high-school students, board games, and friendship. If not, perhaps not so much.
The story starts out with Miki Takekasa sitting alone in class during break time with a pair of headphones over her ears. She tentatively cuts off all contact with her surrounding classmates. She's not only an introvert without any social contact to speak of, she's also almost pathologically anxious, the latter also as a result of having bullied as a child. What is more, Miki fully aware of all of this.
When Miki meets her new, outgoing classmate Aya, who has just moved to Kyoto, this doesn't immediately change, but she slowly starts to open up. It all starts out with a random stroll together into the nearby countryside — adventurous by Miki's standards. After a quarrel with their strict class president, Midori, the new friends then follow her around and discover that she has a part-time job in a mysterious shop, the bald owner of which has the look of a violent delinquent. They soon discover that the owner is actually a nice guy, that the shop sells (primarily German / European) board games, and that Midori is actually something of a board game buff who dreams of and works towards becoming a game author herself.
The three girls start hanging out more regularly in the shop — the eponymous dice club — to explore more and more board and card games, later joined by Emilia, a half-Irish, half-German student who has moved to Japan.
In a typical episode the girls will play a real-life board game, explain the game's rules and logic and enjoy the competition. The featured games are often author-games by major, often German publishers, though in some episodes they also explore traditional Japanese games, word-games and others. Even though we rather often play board games in family, I didn't know most of the games beforehand, but quite a few gave me the appetite to try them out.
In the second half we also increasingly see Midori develop her own game ideas and try them out with her friends. She gets to understand that even as a game author you don't act in isolation — you need friends to try out and criticise the game mechanics to produce something catchy.
If overall this sounds to you like your typical Cute Girls doing Cute Things show, you wouldn't be too far off. However, the girls go to a mixed class, and other than the shopowner other classmates, both male and female, increasingly play a role in the show. Without wanting to spoil too much, we also see pairs in various combinations of genders developing, much as you'd expect in a real life high school scenario.
The biggest story, however, is Miki's growth in self-confidence and social skills. While to the end she remains the calmest of the group, she increasingly finds her way. This part isn't fiction only — games with their clear and strict rules are known to be a great way of integrating less outgoing kids and for that matter adults into a group.
Overall, this show doesn't break much new ground and is unlikely to be remembered for years to come. That said, it does what it does correctly and give us a glimpse into the fascinating world of board games.
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