- Genre: Sports!!, comedy
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: TMS Entertainment
Shiki Koshiyama is a Sports! anime protagonist. You know what I mean, he’s short, a little shy, unassuming. He just started High School and all he wants to do is stay out of trouble and read books without having the mean boys call him a nerd. And then he joins the Quiz Bowl Club cause that’ll show them who’s a nerd! Thing is, the club has this really intense passionate girl as a member who also happens to be really cute so there may have been some motivation there. What started out as this weird hobby Shiki sort of got dragged into, quickly turns into a passion for him as well as he discovers how exciting and rewarding the world of quiz bowl truly is.
Unrelated useless random fact about yours truly, I still think quiz is written with two Zs, as in quizz. No kidding, my auto-correct has already yelled at me a bunch of times and my notes are just overflowing with superfluous Zs. Why am I telling you this? Is it just to pad this review? No way, I would never to that to you guys. So did I ever tell you about this one time back in grade school…
Ok this may be a first. I think I actually have something useful to say about Fastest Finger First, in a review sense! Are you proud of me? Here goes: Fastest Finger First is bad…but I kinda liked it. Wait, you say that’s the opposite of useful? Aww man..well I guess at least I’m sticking to my strengths.
Production wise this show is, well, bad. I just told you. The character designs themselves are fine, nothing special. But there’s something unpolished about the rendering that makes them look a little like an amateur effort. The animation is competent and the shortcuts it takes blend well with the rest of the show so I have to give it that.
On the other hand the backgrounds and colors are some of the blandest stuff you’ve ever seen while sound design… There’s a lot of buzzers in this show so I give it points for not being unbearable. I wouldn’t call it pleasant. What really turned me off though, was the voice acting. The main character, Shiki does a decent job but everyone else is either completely stiff, sounds like they’re reading the script for the first time or both at once and also not good. This was especially apparent in the character of Mari Fukami, who is one of the main cast members, a regular source of exposition and the main love interest, and as such has quite a lot of lines. Her delivery was just so unappealing to me that it completely took me out of the scene every time she opened her mouth.
To be fair, I looked up the actors bio and from what I can tell, this is her first and only voice acting credit, so that may explain a few things. She’s a very pretty actress who seems to have quite a few live action roles to her name but as I’ve said before, voice acting isn’t at all easy and just because it may share certain aspects with television acting, it’s really not the same thing and you won’t be automatically good at one if you can do the other. I’m sure Ms. Kawashima is an absolutely lovely drama actress and idol but she needs a bit more practice at the voice acting thing.
But it’s in the writing that you can discover what a true gem this little puppy is. I’m kidding, it’s also kinda bad. The characters are all basically just props. I’m not a person who believes that character growth is necessary for a good story but your characters should at least be somewhat interesting and fleshed out if you’re not going to have them learn or change in any way. In Fastest Finger First, aside from Koshiyama, everyone else just basically has a marker role where they fulfill one specific part in the narrative and have no traits beyond what’s required for that part. The passionate senpai has the mentor role so he’s patient, very good and knowledgeable at quizzes (there’s your two Zs) and…that’s it. There’s some trivial pursuits drama in his past but we never get to it. Inoue, is the best friend and comic relief so he gets overly excited but is generally good natured and not quite as talented as the lead.
It’s like someone just looked up the standard archetypes picked a couple of the most common traits for each and called it characters. Granted, it’s not exactly unusual for Sports anime, that usually deal with relatively large casts of characters, to be filled mostly with cardboard cutouts until you get past the 20 first episodes (except for Haikyuu that really does a great job with characterizations), but as it stands Fastest Finger First only has 12 episodes and there’s no reason to believe these characters will ever get any deeper.
Beyond that the narrative presentation is rather unskilled. We jump form exposition dump to exposition dump and characters plainly state their feelings or even personalities in odd unnecessary speeches. This is the sort of writing your high school teachers warned you against. Also it’s got a lot of fanservice that’s harmless but useless and doesn’t blend with the rest at all.
Yet…remember when I said I liked it. I didn’t lie, I really did enjoy Fastest Finger First for the most part. Now I know that I have certain soft spots when it comes to sports anime and that certainly played into it. As soon as those rivalry, team spirit and competition tropes started flying out at me, I felt comforted. However, there’s more to it than just my insanity.
First hats off to the director and editor team who cut this thing together. The pacing is excellent. Explanations are clear and timely enough to really allow you to engage with the action while never going on for so long as to make you loose interest. Competitions and obstacles all come at you at the perfect frequency to make you want to keep watching. If this was a mobile game with micro-transactions – it would make bank! I’ve said before that we only talk of pacing when it’s bad but good pacing can really save a show.
Beyond that though, there’s the quiz bowl itself. You may have thought my title was sarcastic. I kinda wanted it to sound that way. But guys, watching quiz shows is fun! I hadn’t watched any game shows in a long time so I had forgotten the weird mind numbing pleasure of it. And in the somewhat more personal high school setting, it’s fantastic. If you’ve ever watched a spelling bee documentary, you know what I’m talking about.
This is a “sport” you can play along with at home. You can actually try to should out those answers or marvel at some useless bit of knowledge you’ve just acquired. That’s a rather unique experience and it translates perfectly to anime. I found not only the quizzes themselves enjoyable but I was fascinated by the entire mechanic behind it. The way questions are structured and asked. How rules can be exploited to your advantage. The fact that I can only name like 4 apostles..
I found myself having to watch the next episode because I needed to find out how the quiz bowl ended. I really wish they would have had one of these clubs at my school.
So was this useful at all? It’s objectively a bad to o.k. show that I found subjectively rather fun.
Favorite character: Hajime Sasaki
What this anime thought me: Quiz bowl bad boys are best boys
That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink.
Suggested drink: Virgin’s Answer (so appropriate)
- Every time Sasajima pushes up his glasses – take a sip
- Every time you hear a buzzer – shout out the answer
- Every time people think somethings going on between Koshiyama and Fukami – fan yourself and take a sip
- Every time we go into x-ray quiz mode – take a sip and get ready
- Every time Fukami puts her hand behind her ear – take a sip
- Every time Koshiyama eats in the library – have a snack
- Every time we see a close up of a finger on a buzzer – stretch your fingers but don’t crack them
- Every time we get quiz bowl exposition – take notes
- Every time Jinko is building or taking something apart – take a sip