Years ago, when I was a freshly-minted anime fan, the most popular daydream in the fandom was to one day create your own animated show. And not some run of the mill Western cartoon, but something that unabashedly drew from the influences of Japanese animation.
Sadly, anime was still too unfamiliar to have mainstream appeal, and while the ranks of enthusiastic Japanese animation fans were growing, their numbers at the time were far too few, and the potential market far too small, to justify the investments necessary to complete their personal castles in the sky.
Fast forward to today, though, and anime has a firmly established presence the world over. What’s more, the ability to produce and display your creation digitally means that with enough gumption, all it takes is a few passionate individuals to realize your anime-inspired vision. As proof, we present the initial episode of Senpai Club, which comes to us not from Japan, but from Sweden.
Senpai Club comes to us courtesy of Olivia Bergstrom and Eric Bradford, collectively known online as makebabi.es. The two share a love for anime, but their sentiment isn’t so strong that it blinds them to some of the sillier clichés of Japanese animation, and their show’s initial episode is as much a good-natured skewering of the medium as it is a love letter to it.
Let’s count the tongue in cheek homages. We’ve got main character Tsumiki’s self-introduction including random bits of trivia…
….waking up late for school…
….and even the old “eating a piece of toast without using your hands as you run down the street” scene, all before we hit the 35-second mark.
The friendly potshots at anime’s tried but true visual and story clues don’t let up either. Although when we catch our first glimpse of one of Tsumiki’s senpai (upperclassmen), makebabi.es’ exaggerated take on the stylistically pointy dreamy anime boy chin isn’t so much a figurative jab as an uppercut.
▼ Warning! Do not try to literally uppercut this man. You’re liable to cut your hand something awful.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about Senpai Club isn’t the authentic-looking designs or numerous variations in camera angle, but the fact that the whole thing is in Japanese, including the theme song.
While the non-native speakers doing the voicework have noticeable accents, their acting isn’t half-bad, and the grammar is solid for the most part, too. Plus, as a stealthy bonus for those who can understand Japanese, the English subtitles occasionally take some…liberties in their translations. At one point a ticked off Tsumiki lets loose with the word baka (dummy) 22 times in a row, and her tirade is subtitled as:
“What in the world are you doing? The fact that you would just stand there, in the middle of the road, with little consideration for others who may (or may not) be in a hurry for something important is honestly baffling, and to be honest after an incident like this I wouldn’t hesitate to give you a smack right in the –“
Some of these hidden in plain sight jokes are even spoken in English (although with a heavy fake Japanese accent). In one scene we see Tsumiki’s stern teacher, who doesn’t take kindly to the pink-tressed lass being tardy. Our ears tell us she admonishes her student by saying, “You little whore,” but the subtitles assure us her choice of words is more benign.
Actually, Tsumiki’s first non-narration speaking line qualifies. Remember how we said she wakes up late for school? When she realizes what’s happened, she exclaims, “Kuso!” (umm…let’s be nice and say, “feces”) followed by fakku (let’s go with “fudge” on this one). Again, the captioning is several degrees milder.
▼ Although there’s something to be said for resisting the urge to forcefully punch up your dialogue with needlessly explicit translation choices.
The first installment of Senpai Club clocks in at just a little more than four minutes, but we’re anxious to see how Tsumiki’s harem of attractive upperclassmen forms, and just what kind of misadventures are in store for them. Congratulations to makebabi.es for living the dream, and hurry up with episode two!