What They Say:
In Japan, participation in extra-curricular activities is as fundamental a part of an education as chalk and gym shorts. However, not all students are overachievers, and for those like Yuki Ojima, groups like the Food Research Club are welcome havens in which to slack off. But what’s a slacker to do when the radical new candidate for Student Council president announces her intent to get rid of clubs like the FRC?
Well, getting the help of the current Student Council president is a good start, but his suggestion is so counter-intuitive that it’s crazy: Yuki’s going to run for the Student Council himself! And yet, it’s SO crazy that it just might work. Especially when Chisato, the chocolate-adverse president of the FRC – not to mention Yuki’s best childhood friend – and members of other targeted school clubs start to join the swelling FRC army. But can this army of goofs and goof-offs coast all the way to political victory? Or will someone have to step up to the plate and take one for the term?
Contains episodes 1-12 plus the OVA.
This is a sub-only release. The audio is offered in 2.0 stereo. The dialogue stayed mostly centered, but there was some decent directionality in sound effects. As always, I lament the lack of a dub and 5.1 mix. In this case, the 5.1 isn’t missed too much, but I definitely would have liked to have had a dub.
Visually, this is a very pretty release. The characters had nice designs, and it was very colorful. I didn’t notice any particular technical issues: colors were bright, and the lining was clean and clear. I didn’t have any issues here.
The three discs for this release came in a standard size amaray case with a center insert to hold two of the discs. The front has a picture of Chisato and Mifuyu walking across a bride. There’s a photograph on the back of Yuki and Shinonome talking with some people, set with the series summary and some screen shots. Like the series, this package is nice and colorful, and I think presents the right atmosphere for the series.
The menus for this release are basic, but functional. To the left of the screen is a shot of a couple of the characters with the selections offered to the right. As is usual for Sentai releases, there isn’t a Play All selection, as the episodes are listed right on the main menu. However, each episode runs right into the next without needing to go back to the menu, so it works the same.
All that was offered for extras on this set are clean versions of the opening and ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Love, Election, and Chocolate is a release that I heard quite a bit of good things about coming out of Japan when it aired in the second half of 2012. Based on a light novel of the same name, it seemed to pick up a lot of hype pretty quickly, enough that it caught my attention. And from what I heard, I wanted to see it. I can say that I am glad I did.
Yuki Ojima is a student at Takafuji Academy, a prestigious high school attended mostly by the elite. At Takafuji, he is a member of the Shokken—or Food Research—Club, along with all of his best (female) friends. Essentially, their club activities are to sit around and make and eat delicious food. They get along so well, that this works out for everybody in the club.
However, there is a small problem: student council elections are coming up, and the very popular head of the Finance Committee is planning to run for Student Council President. As the head of the Finance Committee, she is well aware of the vast amount of funds being misappropriated at the school and is running on a platform of finance reform. The main target of her reforms are the clubs that are deemed to have no real value and are therefore a drain on resources, and the Food Research Club is number one on her list. With no real alternative, the members of the Food Research Club plan to promote their own candidate on a platform of saving the targeted clubs from the axe. Their candidate? Yuki.
What Love, Election, and Chocolate does better than anything else is characters. Yuki is very likeable as a the protagonist, largely because he does not fall into some of the similar traps that tend to pigeonhole a lot of harem protagonists. Yes, he pretty much does nothing but hang out with girls (many of whom seem to have a romantic interest in him); yes, he tends to let them push him around; yes, he is almost nice to a fault; however, he also has his own set of beliefs and morals and is determined to follow them, even if it means pushing back against those around him.
The person he tends to push back against the most is his childhood best friend Chisato Sumiyoshi. Yuki and Chisato love each other, if only they would admit it; the problem is that when she was younger, Chisato’s younger brother, Daiki, was hit by a car and killed, and to this day, Chisato has trouble dealing with it. She feels guilty because she had a fight with Daiki right before his accident, and has never been able to let it go. And so while she loves Yuki, she also imprints her younger brother on him, in a sub-conscious attempt to soothe her own aching soul. While Yuki has submitted to this treatment for most of his life, he also knows that they can never have a true relationship while she still sees her little brother every time she looks at him.
Part of the reason he starts to feel this way is that although he gets into running for President on a whim to keep his school club together, once he starts running, he starts paying more attention to what is actually happening at his school and begins to feel that he can be a catalyst for more change. Their main point of contention in this case is his attitude towards scholarship students. Though Takafuji is mostly attended by well-to-do students, they have a scholarship program for excellent students who cannot afford the tuition. These students are able to attend the school free of charge in exchange for services around the school and with businesses around the area. Because they work so hard outside of school, they are not allowed to join in any clubs or extracurricular activities, but they do get the benefits of a top-class education.
Thanks to a random encounter, Yuki befriends one such student—a first year named Aomi Isara. Aomi works hard in everything that she does and does not like to complain, however because she is a scholarship student, she is ruthlessly bullied by other girls in her class. The bullying gets worse when it is discovered she is friends with such a cool person like Yuki. When Yuki sees the results of the bullying Aomi is forced to put up with, he realizes that her situation is not unusual at the school, and vows to fight the degradation the scholarship students are forced to endure at the hands of some of the rest of the student body.
This is a plan that Chisato cannot agree with however. At first, she is just annoyed at the sort of attention Yuki pays to Aomi (or any other girl for that matter), however once he takes up Aomi’s cause, that annoyance develops into a different frustration. She views Yuki’s candidacy on the principles with which it was started, but he has somewhat moved on from that as he realizes that there’s more important things to rally against. Chisato cannot see this, though. She is too caught up in her own feelings, and her desires to keep things as they always have been, to be able to accept any deviation from the course. Chisato is stuck, but Yuki is moving forward, and she feels like he is pulling away from her.
The complex relationship between Yuki and Chisato is really the force that drives this series, but it introduces the main issue that I have with it, and that’s that I really had an issue with the inconsistency of tone in it. Going into the series, I was expecting typical, light harem-comedy fare: a somewhat light-hearted romp with some moments of seriousness, which is what we got for something like 80% of the series. However, randomly interspersed in this light, comedic stuff is some pretty dark stuff. The complexity of the relationship between Yuki and Chisato is based on some pretty deep psychological issues that Chisato carries, and the series doesn’t really pull any punches when it stops to deal with them. The realities of the bullying Aomi is forced to put up with are pretty horrendous, despite the brave face she always puts on. To be fair, the series tells us up front what we can expect when the opening scene of the first episode sees a girl spying on some shady dealings only to then be intentionally run down and left for dead to try and shut her up. But after the opening credits, we’re right into the light-hearted romp that I thought I was getting, and that we mostly got. There’s a really dark undercurrent to the otherwise cheerful proceedings, and the way it randomly pops up in places is often disconcerting.
It’s not that it was bad, but more that it often felt misplaced. The tone of the majority of the series is so completely opposite some of the stuff that’s happening in the background, that it’s really jarring when they jump us back and forth. I really think that this would have benefitted from being something like a 24 episode series so that some of these themes and ideas could have had more time to develop. Then the two ideas might have been able to meld together better. When the endgame approaches, and everything on the seedier side of the story starts coming to a head and being paid off, I found that everything was resolved too quickly. I wanted to know more about why what was happening was happening, but it was over before I got those answers. Again, this didn’t necessarily make it bad, I just wish we had more.
Love, Election, and Chocolate is a series that I generally enjoyed, despite some issues with the unpredictability of the tone. Most of the time, it was fun-filled and light, but it would occasionally flip a switch and show us some of the pretty dark underside of it all, and it was unsettling. It didn’t ruin the series, but I think the series could have used more time to help develop all of that stuff so that it fit better in context with the otherwise happy tone. Still, even in (what I consider to be) truncated format, I was kept very entertained through the whole thing. And really, that’s all I can ask. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: D
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 25t, 2014
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System