What They Say:
A totally ordinary art club at the totally ordinary Tsukimori Middle School. There, Subaru Uchimaki squanders his artistic talent on his true passion and life’s mission: drawing the ideal “2D wife.” Club member Mizuki Usami finds herself with a crush on the hopeless Uchimaki. The seemingly uninterested club president is always sleeping, but he keeps a close eye on Uchimaki and Usami’s antics. Then there’s the mysterious Colette, who’s usually lost in her own little world. When this ragtag bunch gathers together as the Art Club, there’s sure to be some problems…
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. No dub was produced for the show so we get just one language here. The series has its moments where it goes kind of big and crazy but the swells come more from the music than sound effects and it gives it a really good feeling overall. The bulk of the show is dialogue but it handles the placement of it well with some very creative scenes thanks to the style of the show. The mix handles the highs and lows well and there’s some good directionality along the way as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve-episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by studio Feel, the show is one that works with a number of vibrant colors that fit perfectly, giving it something that really stands out beautifully. There are a lot of detailed backgrounds working off real locations and that gives it a very rich and lived-in feeling as you’d expect, but it blends well with the character animation. The solidity of the colors is spot on and the encoding keeps it from blockiness or noise during regular playback. I love the visual design of the show and the job done on bringing it to home video here is pretty strong overall.
The packaging for this release is a really cute one that uses some style to capture that feeling of the club elements. The front cover works the main cast across it with some colorful artsy widgets in the background. The main cast is showing off their personalities well, though it’s amusing that only Subaru is engaged with the artwork. The back cover goes for a blander background here and we get a solid summary of the premise, listing of extras, and a few cute shots from the show in a strip along the bottom. The production credits are a bit minimal while the pink and blue technical grid covers how the set is put together accurately and easily. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the manga Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru by Imigmuru, This Art Club Has a Problem is a twelve-episode anime series that aired during the summer 2016 season. The original work is serialized in Dengeki Maoh and has been since 2012 with eleven volumes and still ongoing, showing a solid base of fans and support to be profitable. The anime adaptation was one of the rare ones from that summer that didn’t get picked up for simulcast and felt like it was left on the table. Maiden Japan picking it up and giving it some attention helps to keep it from being lost to obscurity, or a weird pickup ten years from now. Animated by studio Feel, it brought on Kei Oikawa to direct based on the scripts coming from Naruhisa Arakawa. Arakawa goes back a long ways for me, right to Blue Seed, but has had an odd series of choices over the last few years, including Action Heroine Cheer Fruits and Island.
We get a number of series every year and every season that focus on club activities and I do enjoy them since we sometimes get unusual clubs or there’s a sports focus or something else unique. There are so many configurations that you can run with as well just by gender and type of school and ages of characters that you can reinvent the familiar easily enough. With this series, we get a group of kids in an art club on the middle school level. It’s a mixed school so it’s not just all boys or all girls and that adds in its own quirks. Like most clubs, it’s pretty small overall but it spends its time both in the club room and the school as well as adventures outside of school. At this point, I think the only club series that frustrate me are the ones that never leave the clubroom. And even then it still has a good chance of working well for me if it can do something really fun with the concept.
The premise here is that only one of those in the club is actually interested in the art side of it – though that’s a limited view of it. Mizuki’s a pretty good character that plays the straight man of the comedy in the series and has to cope with an unruly group around her. She’s definitely interested in art beyond just the basics but that gets subsumed by all the other things going on. The main foil to her life is Subaru, a young man who is a part of the club that’s got a serious crush on 2D girls. He’s intent on creating her and bringing that special something to life but only on the printed page. He’s comically against 3D girls but he’s also pretty lazy when it comes to anything beyond his main pursuit. He won’t do contests or other competitions to showcase his strong design skills as that’s not helpful in his pursuit of a waifu. Subaru’s a good kid overall and you can see why Mizuki starts crushing on him but also why he’s oblivious to it all.
Under the supervision of club advisor Yumeko Tachibana, the club also has a first-year named Colette in the group as well as the simply named President of the club. The President amusingly feels out of place within this group as he looks older, taller, and his heavy need of sleep keeps him from being involved in most things which makes him look pretty out of it. He does have some moments of interaction from time to time but you’re more likely to see him sleeping somewhere more than anything else. Colette, by contrast, has spent half her life in Japan and just feels a little off compared to the rest because of that and her general curiosity about everything with how she’s kind of enamored by “very Japanese things” from time to time. And while not in the club, a transfer student named Maria is a thorn in Mizuki’s side as Maria has a connection with Subaru because of shared interests. But that frustrates a lot of others because she’s popular because of her looks but spends her time with this mild outcast group.
With that in mind, if you’ve watched anime for any period of time and a few club shows, well, you can see where it’s going to go. This Art Club Has A Problem is not looking to reinvent the wheel and the wheel works well here. Mizuki’s enthusiasm and interest in art is what keeps her here but the frustrations in dealing with everyone makes her question it a bit. But as much as she hates to admit, and she does her best not to, she really is interested in Subaru. But even that’s awkward, such as the first episode where he asks to paint her but all he wanted was a look at her panties for his 2D waifu. And discovering that after putting in the hard work of modeling and positioning, it makes her wary of him but still drawn to him. Subaru’s not exactly a jerk in how he handles a lot of this, setting the stage for what’s to come, but he is fairly oblivious to the feelings of others and largely focused on his own work.
Each episode is set up with two or three stories in it that plays with the character configurations and often uses everyone. We get Yumeko coming on as the advisor about a third of the way through the season and see how she learns to handle just how strange they are. She adapts well enough and proves to be a good advocate for them though they don’t make it easy. One episode focuses on them being the ones drawn in to clean the pool but being the artists that they are they opt to paint on this big canvas first before washing it off. It’s fun to see their approach to all of this and what they come up with since there’s a good bit of enthusiasm about it all. But the poor choice side comes into play well which gets them in trouble, which is a delight because they’re not trying to be bad kids. They just end up screwing up often along the way.
And that’s pretty much how it operates. It works our core group at first and brings others in, such as Maria transferring in around the sixth episode so that she’s not just a constant thorn in Mizuki’s side. We also get a number of adult characters working with the club, Yumeko being the main one as she even gets them to try and take seriously a regional art competition. I do like that we get some of the parents once in a while and seeing how Mizuki’s mom is totally rooting for her daughter and Subaru is cute. Thankfully, the show doesn’t try to gin up a big and ominous ending storyline for the season such as the danger of the club being canceled or someone moving away. Those always feel forced, especially when you know the manga is still ongoing and it’s such a common tactic to use to make it more serious before the end. Instead, we just get more light humor and character material that works.
This Art Club Has A Problem does a lot of the things I like when it comes to a club show but it also leans into a whole lot of the familiar. It doesn’t just stick to the core characters but keeps adults around and gets out of the club room and school itself, which keeps it from limiting its stories. I like the cast and that they’re introduced gradually but I’m also just a little frustrated that it played with so many familiar staples and didn’t feel like it had a lot to say. It’s enjoyable with the small moments and the quirks as well as following the potential budding romance within it, but don’t expect it to really reach a significant level. The Maiden Japan release is about as I expected with a clean and appealing transfer and problem-free audio while also giving us the basic extras. It’s in a great package for fans who want to own it and to just be glad it didn’t fade into obscurity without being made available.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.