Good can turn to bad very quickly
From a pretty superficial first episode, KoiChoco has really found some surprising depth. Quick review: The fourth episode sees the Food Club move into full campaign fund-raising mode ahead of the school bazaar in order to boost Yuuki Oojima’s chances of getting out of the primary round of the election. After agreeing to strategic help from the outgoing disgraced president and the forces of the Security Commission, they’re learning the realities of a large scale effort for an election. Luckily they seem a lot more capable than you might originally think from a group that gets together to snack.
KoiChoco is proving to be nothing like a typical adaptation of an eroge. In fact, if you didn’t know it was, you probably wouldn’t suspect such a thing. The plot is really getting its legs, and the show is actually doing a good job of doling out the exposition in manageable chunks, while keeping you curious for more. In this episode, we learn the reasons for such a large-scale Student Council, which are not quite as far-fetched as they could have been. We also learn a little more about the financial aid system, where some students agree to labor for the school in order to get help for both their tuition and apparently supporting their families.
Along with the machinations of the election, there’s also a little bit of exploration of a couple of the characters. Satsuki Shinonome continues to be impressive every time we see her. Far from the initial big bad that she appeared in the first episode while attacking the outgoing regime, in personal interactions with Yuuki she’s consistently kind and at the same time focused and purposeful in the election. Her welcoming of the electoral challenge from the Food Club, as well as her very normal behavior around Yuuki – not flirting, not standoffish, but hitting a good balance of friendliness and candor – really seem to be making her an audience favorite. We also see more of Isara Aomi in interaction with Yuuki, and she also has a refreshing openness about her. Rather than getting embarrassed and running away after a bullying drive-by from some boy classmates, she takes the really cute move of asking Yuuki to see if she actually does smell. And again, this is played straight on her part, not flirtatiously, and the resulting interaction seems very sincere.
Unfortunately, there are some expectations of the genre, and the relative lack of romantic antics since the first episode is a little disappointing. While we saw some of Isara and Satsuki this episode (albeit in a very platonic way), we’re still in the dark about Chisato and her chocolate aversion, and we know almost nothing about Michiru and Mifuyu. Their presence in the ED would indicate that they’re major characters, but so far the bit characters Non-chan, Ai, Kii, and Yume have gotten more screen time and lines. Michiru has provided just about all the fanservice so far, in a klutzy, non-self-aware manner, but so far that’s all she’s notable for. And Mifuyu has been almost a complete non-entity. Heck, Teacher / Advisor Hazuki has had more romantic interaction with Yuuki than any of these other girls.
And on a personal note, the promise of more Michiru from last week’s ending and preview was blithely ignored.
The ugly is really ugly: Some of the students who pay their way into Takafuji Academy seem to have it out for the students on the financial aid path. We’re seeing this through the experiences of Isara, but Satsuki’s campaign manifesto makes it clear that this is much more of a widespread problem. In this one afternoon from episode 4, we see Isara subjected both to that drive-by denigration by the boys in her class and worse, degrading humiliation from a group of 4 girls who apparently know her. Even though the depiction, with the cuts between Isara being bullied (dare we say sexually harassed?) and abandoned and Yuuki looking up Satsuki’s remedies, is a bit cliched, it still has impact, as do the shots of President Mori and Advisor Hazuki, the two people who know about it and you imagine hold some responsibility. We’d seen hints of this classist divide between the students before, but this really brought it to the forefront. For Yuuki, it also starts to add some perspective to the difference between Satsuki’s campaign, which started out as a bogeyman trying to harm clubs but now transforms into more of a moral crusade, and the Food Club’s campaign, which is ostensibly to save their free snacks (and, by the way, advance the agenda of the disgraced Security Commission).
So as I said, some surprising and welcome depth. In fact, at this point, the show is far more depth, plot, and intrigue than romance, harem, and hijinks. I certainly don’t mind it so far, but I gotta be honest and say that I’d definitely like more romance in here. And definitely more Michiru (even if Satsuki is my current favorite).