High Score Girl is one of the theses seasonal shows that quietly snuck up on me at the of the Summer 18 season. It was a manga series done by Oshikiri, Rensuke and until mid August where it Netflix announced they will be streaming the series in December 2018 the show least for a short while was hanging around in obscure vile and even after that Netflix announced the series is still pretty obscure compared to almost every other anime from this summer season.
Fast forward to late September where I was done watching throwaway seasonal anime from this season like Angel Of Death, How to Not Summon a Demon Lord and Happy Sugar Life I decided to check out High Score Girl after leaving the show in my plan to watch list for so long. Then I watched it and after watching all 12 episodes of this I can defiantly say this. High Score Girl is not only the best anime from this season but it’s also one of the best modern anime romcom to ever come period. I completely underestimated this show because at first, I thought this would be another forgetful romcom anime but this series completely blew me away in terms of writing, characters, music, romance and plot to a point where the series became a masterpiece
The story follows Haruo Yaguchi who is a gamer who spends he’s all free time at the arcades playing various retro games such as Street Fighter II than take his daily life seriously, earning him the title Beastly Fingers Haruo. However, things would take a turn one day when he encounters honour student and rich girl Akira Oono dominating everyone else at his favourite game with Zangief. Having lost to her 7 times in a row and eager to break her 29-win streak, he resorts to underhanded tactics with his own favourite character Guile, an act which earns him a solid right hook from the otherwise quiet and aloof girl—and ultimately sparks their rocky relationship as she brazenly follows him from arcade to arcade after school.
The story of High Score Girl is brilliant and sweet.
Right from the gate, the show makes a great first impression where the show fantastically shows us the setting of the series with its early 90s gaming atmosphere where there are people standing up watching the players playing various arcade games. Not only that but it greatly introduces it’s main two characters in a form of a Street Fighter match where up to that point they have never interacted with each other.
It is series is effectively a coming of age tale of two people who meet up thanks to the hobby of gaming as well them understanding how the world really works outside of gaming.
At first this show may appear as your typical happy romcom anime however as the series progresses the show becomes more than just your typical romcom anime where the anime slowly dives into serious and relatable themes such as lack of free will, child abuse, letting go of your hobbies in favour of improving your studies and helping people get into the medium that you love and am glad that the show was able to handles theses theme with respect.
The romance in this show is very well handled. At first, Haruo and Oona don’t have much character chemistry with each other but at the series progresses these two started to understand each other thank to video games to a point by the end of the series you feel like they are made for each other.
Even though this show a rom-com at heart it was still a great detail that adds more life to this show world.
The one thing that I loved about High Score Girl is how the show perfectly presents gaming in the 90s era. Before the days of Fortnite, Call Of Duty and League of Legends where people play these games online people would go to the arcades to play various games such as Street Fighter II, Final Fight, Vampire Hunter Darkstalkers Revenge etc. Not only that but compared to modern gamers today where they mostly spend the time talking to people online thanks to the power of the internet people around that time would ask face to face if they co-op/versus match with them.
Another thing that I liked about High Score Girl that was that the gaming industry develops alongside the characters for example in episode 1 people are playing the arcades as well SNES/Genesis however after episode 8 onwards people in the show started to talk about Virtual Boy, Sega Saturn and PlayStation 1 showing us how much the technology has evolved since episode 1. You would think that the attention of detail would be pointless in the overall narrative but it isn’t as it perfectly tackles the themes of catching up, pride and getting left behind. In episode 10 when Harou lost to Koharu in both Street Fighter and Vampire Hunter Darkstalkers Revenge he didn’t simply lose the fight but he’s slowly losing his gaming pride as while all the new games and consoles were coming out Haruo was studying hard to get the high school that Oono is in and because of all that hard work Haruo literally started to struggle to play games for a while. This doesn’t end there the social commentary in High Score Girl is extremely well handled. Throughout the show, characters would often commentate on a certain games/consoles as well as non-gamers giving they views on the game industry. For example Haruo mother despite her being clueless about video games she doesn’t mind Haruo playing video game even if his grades are at rock bottom. On the other side, we have Oono’s private tutor who thinks that video games are a big waste of time and she doesn’t’ want her to be part of the gaming crowd
Overall the story in High Score Girl was amazing as it’s not only a great throwback to 90s gaming but it’s the best modern love story I have ever seen.
Now we have the charters and to be frankly honestly the characters are all awesome and enjoyable in they own ways.
First up have our main protagonist Haruo who is an anti-social boy who has a passion for video games. Haruo may start off as a generic romcom geek protagonist he quickly became one of the most relatable character I have ever seen in a long while.
The way that he develops over the course of this series was as he went from being an anti-social kid who just sat down playing video games to a sociable person who starts caring more about the world as well Onna by trying his best to reduce his gaming addiction just so he can better person. It doesn’t stop there the way he behaves and acts towards people was a nice portrayal of gamers from the 90s as whole were they so passionate toward video games that they either stay in the arcades playing games until closing time or pretending to be ill so they can play more games missing school in the progress. Overall brilliant character and he’s by far my favourite character in the series.
Next, we have Akira Oona who is the silent rich daughter of the Onno family who sneaks away every so often to the gaming arcades to escape the harsh environment at home. Despite her being mostly silent in the anime I really enjoyed Oono. Instead of being another typical loud tsundere type she uses facial expressions that what she likes and what she hates. This alone makes Oono a complex character because the only way we relate communicate with Oono is by facial expressions. Unlike Haruo where he a great gaming life Oono gaming life is pretty sad as she has a strict private tutor that prevents her from going the hobbies that she enjoys doing like playing Video Games and while all that drama is going on she doesn’t say a word as she show us her facial expression of what she’s feeling. Overall great character.
Finally, we have Hidaka a girl who has no real hobbies. I really like her. At first, I thought she would just love triangle bait for the main two however as the series progresses she beings her own character where instead of interfering with the potential couple she actually supports Haruo by helping him get closer to Oono. Her character doesn’t end there she actually starts getting interesting playing video games and by the 10th episode, she becomes a competent gamer for fighting games.
The rest of the characters were great for what they were as they are all fun and entertaining to watch especially Haruo’s mom.
Overall the characters High Score Girl were amazing and it’s easily the series biggest strength
While the story and characters were amazing I sadly cannot say the same thing the visuals because this is easily the weakest part of High Score Girl. Okay the visuals aren’t necessarily bad in fact I don’t mind if a show goes for a different visual style but the problem with High Score Girl is how the show uses it’s CGI. When the show it’s at best visually the anime can look pretty good however a lot of the show can look rough especially the first half where the CGI was at it’s worst. It eventually did get better in the second half as the show more constraint with its CGI but I honestly wish the show could have handled the CGI a bit better where it can attract the mainstream audience of anime fans. It’s such a shame really because the show is outside its use of CGI is very good especially when the show uses actual footage of video games that are been played by real skilled people.
The soundtrack in High Score Girl is an amazing throwback piece towards the 90s gaming as many of the tracks in the anime have that nice retro 16-bit mix to it along with a couple of modern tracks.
The opening theme New Stranger by sora tob sakana is a fantastic opening theme that perfectly captures the show tone and setting of the series with a nice blend of modern and 16-bit style. Not to mention it’s very catchy.
The ending theme “Houkago Diestrauction by Etsuko Yakushimaru is a clam and relaxing theme that perfectly closes each episode of High Score Girl. While it’s not as great as the opening theme it’s still a good song that is memorable on its own right.
The voice acting in High Score Girl is incredible. The Seyiuss all did a fantastic job on the roles that they were given. Not only was the voice acting well acted but the characters react to the games based on voice acting alone was great as they all sound like actual gamers that either won or lose a game.
At this time of the review, High Score Girl hasn’t got an English Dub, however, like with Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan the show will be dubbed sometime in the future by Netflix.
High Score Girl is another modern anime masterpiece.
Sure the CGI in the show wasn’t that great however the writing, romance, music, characters, and the great use of gaming references completely make up to a point where we can ignore the shows meh use of CGI. The show was truly a wonderful experience I will never forget and because of that, I thank the people who make High Score Girl for making this wonderful anime that perfectly shows that the story and characters come first before the production values.
Final Score 9.5/10