Day 2: Bloom
Episode 10 of After School Dice Club, appropriately titled, “”Happy Holy Night,” is a clever episode, using two board games, Ladies and Gentleman and Blokus, to explain the true meaning of Christmas: family and shopping.
Wait. Okay, maybe it doesn’t go into anything particularly deep (and we do hope that you’ll find time this year to really consider what Christmas is really all about and celebrate it in a meaningful way), but light and fluffy isn’t necessarily bad, and it’s at the better end of what we can expect out of anime. This episode is quite nice, actually, and you can go into it without having to know much about the series. I’d only seen one episode of After School Dice Club previously and armed with that light context, I was able to get about 95% of what was going on, while my wife filled me in on the rest.
The episode is split into two halves:
Blokus and Family
Aya Takayashiki and her father are the focus of the first part. In typical anime fashion, Aya apparently lives without either of her parents; she and her sister make it quite fine on their own, thank you very much, with mother MIA (someone can perhaps fill me in on this) and her father traveling the world as a wildlife photographer, and especially absent since divorcing Aya’s mom. But after being away on assignment for two years, Aya’s father finally makes it home for a visit right around the holidays. She’s of course super excited and wants to invites him to a holiday party hosted by another of the club members so that he can meet her friends. However, in the worst Clueless Dad fashion, Aya’s father spends about one full day with his daughters before taking another assignment, totally forgetting about the Christmas party. Aya, ever the tsundere, is furious (BAKA!).
The game store owner is able to imbibe some wisdom into the situation, however, by having Aya and her father play Blokus along with Miki and Midori. This part of the episode was why I tuned in originally. We love playing Blokus around my own home. If you’ve never played, the objective is to use block pieces that look like they’re out of Tetris and fill in as many blanks as possible on a large square board. Up to four players can play, each taking one side, and whomever uses the most total blocks wins. It’s simple yet strategic, as the owner notes: At first, you’re trying to extend into others’ territory, but you win by letting others into yours. He’s absolutely right with his explanation, as you need their pieces so that you can curl around them and into whatever spaces you can find. The analogy is heartfelt and eventually taken, as daughter and father reconcile.
I should note that there’s actually some authenticity in the relationship here. Aya’s father really feels like a genuine, clueless Dad, and one that is also parenting like an absent father, one without experience. It’s awkward and bad. Aya also doesn’t know how to react—she has all this emotion pent up, both in bitterness and a need for affection. Troubles should arise, as they do, even if the conclusion is wrapped up a little too cleanly with a bow on top.
By the way, I highly encourage you to purchase Blokus for yourself. Think of broken relationships as you play.
Ladies & Gentleman (Boys and Girls)
At the actual Christmas party, Emilia (Who doesn’t have a last name? What is she, a secret gaming agent?) whips out Ladies and Gentleman, the most sexist game this side of the U.K. (or so some will claim I’m sure). Players pair up, boy and girl, with the guys having the objective of making money by flipping these coins representing commodities and selling them with cards that give values, and the girls shop, determining which dresses and accessories they want to wear. It’s kind of cool because the guys are playing on one side of the table at the same time as the girls play on the other, and then they come together to see what each pair is able (and willing) to purchase.
The purpose here, at least in terms of the Christmas episode, is to bring some romance in. I think we already knew that the extremely loud Shouta likes the extremely loud Aya, but there’s a revelation here that shy Ryuuji likes quiet Miki. The pairs line up just right, so it’s very cute—and this being anime, Emilia plays the very forceful mate to Midori’s male moneymaker. The scenes provides a bit of kawaii romance of the holidays, topped off by a couple of cute bookend scenes between the potential couples, including one where Shouta gifts Aya a pair of mittens.
In true anime tradition, I’m secure in my prediction that any advance made by the guys in this episode will be lost and they’ll start back at square zero whenever the series decides to bring the romance angle back in again. At least the boys got a little thrill for the holidays, though, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
No, it’s not—but that’s okay. This episode was a cute way to spend half an hour during the holiday season anyway (and is definitely worth a watch).
Again, you can purchase Blokus and Ladies and Gentleman on Amazon, and After School Dice Club is available for streaming on Hulu. Tomorrow’s episode isn’t an episode at all—it’s from the An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride light novel.