The premise for Shomin Sample is relatively simple and completely ridiculous. That might sound like a criticism but it isn’t really. Realism has never been anywhere near the top of my list when it comes to entertainment. That’s what we have real life for. A bit of silly escapism is fine by me.
Kimito Kagurazaka is a teenage boy who gets transferred to a school for super rich girls. He is their “shomin sample”, a way for them to learn about the world of commoners by observing and talking to him. He has been chosen because of a misunderstanding. Everyone thinks he’s gay (and therefore doesn’t pose a threat to the girls’ innocence), and it’s important for him to keep up that pretence to a certain extent because his life is at risk if he doesn’t. These are seriously rich and powerful people. There is a hint that he was chosen for some other reason as well, but the anime never gets round to developing that storyline, presumably because the manga was ongoing at the time.
If you’re thinking this all sounds like an excuse for fanservice shenanigans then you would be right. This is a series that is packed full of contrived reasons to get the girls naked, and their uniforms are absurdly short and tight fitting, which doesn’t seem to fit particularly with the premise of a school for demure rich girls. But as is often the case with fanservice-heavy anime, it’s all done in a very humorous way, and most episodes had me laughing out loud at least a couple of times.
You get the usual kind of harem anime setup here, with girls gravitating towards the main character, although at least the storyline makes sense of that because he’s the only guy around, and he has more personality than most bland harem anime protagonists. The series benefits from having a tight focus on just a few characters, unlike a lot of harem anime that just keep adding more and more girls to the collection.
There are four main girls, each very distinct characters. Reiko is a typical rich blonde, and made the least impression on me. Karen is from a samurai family, and she’s really handy with a sword and very dangerous to be around. Kimito brings out the softer side to her nature at times, even getting her into some cute clothes, which goes against the grain for a girl who sees herself first and foremost as a warrior. Aika will probably be the fan favourite, a tsundere girl who goes through a pretty decent character arc from a starting point of a loner who is different to everyone else. Hakua I found the most entertaining of the girls, although she is the one who a lot of viewers will probably find the most uncomfortable to watch. Although she is 14 she looks much younger, and takes full advantage of that to play the little kid and sit on Kimito’s lap, but refreshingly the end result of that is he sees her only as a little sister. She is also an absolute genius, whose abilities are used to solve problems on a global basis. When she concentrates on her work she absent mindedly strips, which is really weird and gratuitous but I have to reluctantly say it’s just about the funniest aspect of the whole series, with Kimito frequently chasing around after her trying to get her clothes back on.
Most episodes are disposable fun, with occasional attempts to tackle issues that affect teenagers, or life issues in general. The last couple of episodes focus on an arranged marriage that threatens to break up Kimito’s “commoner club” forever, and the group’s attempts to avoid that cross over into shark jumping territory, complete with giant robot, an army to fight, and Karen suddenly developing superpowers (and losing her clothes in the process). None of it makes much sense, and people seem to pop up randomly at key moments without explanation, in places where they really shouldn’t be, but if you can get past the silliness it does all wrap things up reasonably well with a nice focus on the importance of friendship. What we don’t get, though, is any conclusion to the love…erm… pentagon, with the manga ongoing at the time. Harem anime fans will be well used to that though. Those kinds of anime with a decisive conclusion are few and far between.
This might not be the most refined form of entertainment, but one lesson this anime has for us is that refinement is not necessarily the superior way to be, and being unrefined can be a lot more fun. It had my wife and I laughing every episode, and we were both disappointed that a second season was never made. Call me a “commoner” if you like, but this is my kind of entertainment. RP