Miki is a shy high school girl who has a hard time finding ways to have fun, until a new student named Aya bumps into her after school and pulls her along to wander the town. When the two spot their straight-laced class rep, Midori, entering a suspicious shop late in the evening, they discover that she’s been working at a store specializing in board games. The girls and the owner sit down for a friendly game, and Miki begins to think that she might just know how to have fun after all.
Houkago Saikoro Club (After School Dice Club) opens with a charming episode about a girl stepping out of her comfort zone and making friends. It’s a simple setup to a simple premise; what if a few high school girls got together after hours to play board games? While there’s a bit more to it than that, this straightforward premise was enough to make me intrigued.
Our main character is Miki, an introverted girl who doesn’t seem to have many interests or friends. She keeps her headphones on to avoid conversations, and isn’t interested in group outings or other common high school activities. That is, until Aya, a recent transfer student, almost crashes into her on the way home from school.
Aya is a ball of positivity, and wants to explore her new town. She kind of drags Miki along, until Miki breaks down and cries that they’re just getting lost. Aya cheers her up by pointing that it’s just for fun, so they’re only pretending to be lost. This eases Miki’s anxiety, and the two spend a fun afternoon wandering the town, with Miki beginning to appreciate the place she’d grown up in but never truly explored.
Miki and Aya’s interactions are enjoyable to watch. I like seeing things told from the perspective of the introvert rather than some boring “normal” girl, or from the viewpoint of the more energetic one. Both girls are nicely characterized, and they come across as endearing when they could easily have been annoying or over the top.
The new friendship between Miki and Aya may be the heart of the first episode, but it’s focus is revealed in the second half, when the two follow their class rep, Midori, through the bar/club strip after sunset. What would the strict and proper representative be doing here, of all places?
Their sleazy suspicions are shattered when they realize that she’s just working at a modest board game store, though her manager does have the whiff of Yakuza about him. A cool detail of the shop is that the games all seem to be real-world board games, and you can spot famous examples like Scythe, Descent, and Castles of Mad King Ludwig, among many others. We Con Artists are various shades of board game geeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of the selection as we progress.
The game they choose to play is Marrakech; a short and simple game where players lay down rugs to try and force a customer to land on them so they can earn money from other players. It’s a simple game with a reliance on chance, so it’s a perfect way to introduce newbies to the hobby. Miki becomes uncomfortable playing with people as intense as Aya and the manager, but Midori offers to help, and for the second time that day, Miki learns how much fun can be found in stepping out of your comfort zone.
The show doesn’t bog us down with rules or strategy, but instead focuses on the feeling of the game. Episode 1 is light, fluffy and sweet, like a nice pastry. The trio of the introvert, the extrovert, and the rules lawyer play off each other well so far, and I’m excited to see what they get up to as the show carries on. If you’re looking for a show to relax with, or need a break from the more intense/darker fare this season, I think that Saikaro Club might be just the ticket (to ride (badum-tish!)).