Another high school show! Yahtzee, we’re on a hot streak, but while Toradora was a romance, and The World God Only Knows a comedy, GJ Club is a slice of life (though naturally that genre does come packaged with some comedic leanings). Slice of life can be tricky, trickier than you might think, because even though by nature it’s just about a person (or a group of people) living their lives, if you don’t nail the atmosphere and/or the humor, you’re left with something that’s insubstantial at best or boring at worst. It’s a slippery slope from being simple but endearing to just being dull, and I have experience with both ends of that spectrum. So today, let’s see where GJ Club lies.
As always, the review is provided in video format and transcribed directly below. I would like to note that my reviews are written first and foremost to be experienced as videos (that is, read aloud), so no guarantees that jokes, grammar, or anything else will transition entirely smoothly to text.
You know, it doesn’t matter. It really, really doesn’t matter. In fact…
That’s more like it. If you’re confused, the way this series is, the way it’s built and structured, I don’t feel I can review it in my traditional sense, with a bullet point list of all the pros and cons, “The Good” and “The Bad”, because it’s just not that kind of show. What it is is a cutesy moe high school skit comedy. There’s no plot to speak of or character arcs to analyze; it exists solely for smiles, hoping to make you laugh or at least chuckle every once in a while. There are the barest threads of a chronology, but not something you could call a “story”.
We open on the club room, a lone boy surrounded by all manner of cute girls, followed by an opening with even more cute girls... and I got worried. I thought “oh no, did I get myself into a generic harem anime?”, but I didn’t. To GJ Club’s credit, I didn’t. What I did get myself into was a kind of by-the-books slice of life. Like I just said, what you’re in for here is purely episodic skits. It sort of reminds me of last season’s Dagashi Kashi, in that things just happen. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll shrug, maybe you’ll groan, but it’s not consistently funny enough to really work as well as it wants to.
The main problem is that so many of its jokes are the easy jokes. Jokes you’ve heard before, punchlines that the genre has worn-thin: diet jokes with the girl that obsesses over her weight, fish-out-of-water jokes with the rich girl who’s never had fast food, foreigner jokes with the grotesquely tall foreigner, and uh, bite jokes for the tsundere. Ok, that one might be a little different, but do you get the picture? Of course, yes, I did laugh a handful of times. GJ Club would be an utter disgrace as a comedy if I didn’t find any of its jokes at all funny in the six or so hours I spent watching it. For instance, at one point they throw out that this club basically kidnaps random passerby from the hallway to recruit new members, which is kind of funny in its sheer absurdity.
Even so, even if it elicited a smirk or a guffaw every so often, GJ Club never had me on the floor, dying, especially when it starts to reuse its old jokes. You could call that a running gag, or you could call it tiresome, because by the fifth or sixth time that’s what it’ll be. Welcome to GJ Club. (Which stands for Good Job, by the way. Why is it called the Good Job Club? Doesn’t matter, no one cares. Moving on.)
And the weird thing is, there’s not even always a punchline. Sometimes you get a short conversation... then that’s it, it moves on to the next skit, leaving you to question what the point of that was in the first place. You could perhaps argue that such scenes are meant to further the characters or their relationships, but they don’t. These characters and their interactions are exactly the same in the premiere as they are in the finale. So maybe it’s not meant to foster development, but just the comfortable sense of cuteness that the show tries to secrete. And if you’re into it, that’s fine, but cute girls (and one cute guy) doing cute things isn’t meaty enough for me.
Moving away from the jokes and on to the setting, pretty much the whole show takes place in the club room (or the adjoining hallway). On its own, this isn’t that big of a deal, because in these types of series, the location is often secondary to the writing. I once saw a great Japanese comedy called University of Laughs that took place almost entirely in one room, but the big prerequisite here is that the writing needs to be strong enough to hold the show up, which I already said it pretty much isn’t, or only just barely.
The animation likewise is functional but utterly unremarkable, fulfilling its basic duties but not making even a passing attempt at any originality or creativity. I would say the same for the music, but it’s been two months since I saw the show and frankly I don’t remember the soundtrack at all. It’s scored by the guy who did K-on, though. Does K-on have good music? I would assume so; I haven’t seen it. So GJ Club was probably fine. I think.
All that said, the very last episode was pretty neat, almost uncharacteristically good in comparison to everything that came before. You would expect a show like this, not to end, but to stop, leave things in a state of limbo, but GJ Club actually ends. The final episode is about the seniors of the club actually graduating and moving on, passing the torch to the remaining club members as each one gives a final farewell, which was surprisingly touching. The interesting thing about this finale is that it only works so well because it follows such a generic show. You never think about the fact that these anime clubs don’t exist in perpetuity, that the membership will change and grow as years go on, but GJ Club actually addresses that, which is probably my fondest memory of the series.
And at the end of the day, I can at least respect that GJ Club knows exactly what it is, and makes no effort to become something that it is not. Unfortunately, the thing that it was didn’t really appeal to me. Fluffy and basically entertaining, endearing to a point; it’s not exactly good, it’s not exactly bad, it’s just GJ Club.
This has been one long verdict, but it’s time for the grade. So, after taking everything into account (as well as my own subjective enjoyment), on a scale from F to S… C. Yeah, C sounds good, and this is a C in the purest sense of the term, the C’est C of all the Cs you’ll ever see. As in, average, passable, meets but does not exceed expectations, because that’s what you’re looking at with GJ Club. Nothing ambitious, nothing offensive, nothing anything. It’s a skit comedy that warrants a few chuckles but rarely outright laughs. That’s it. I could have written this article after only the first episode, and it would’ve been almost entirely identical to its current form (really, it’d probably all be identical except for my thoughts on the finale). For better or worse, this is one anime where you know exactly what you’re in for from the very first minute. Hell, probably from the first very glance at its DVD cover art. If you need your daily dose of moe slice of life, go right ahead. Otherwise, there’s not much here to warrant a watch.
My apologies for the relative brevity of this review, but I said everything that I felt was worth saying and I’m not going to artificially stretch things out by going in-depth into whatever nonsense I can think of.
All twelve episodes of GJ Club are currently available for legal streaming from Crunchyroll. There is also a 45 minute sequel OVA around if you happen to really like the series, but I can’t personally comment on that because I have not seen it. I’m guessing it’s more of the same.
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