Based on the manga by Tomoya Haruno, D-Frag! is a high school comedy in the tradition of School Rumble et al. Like a lunch at a
local diner, it’s familiar and pleasant but never exciting or innovative.
Kenji Kazama (voice by Austin Tindle) comes to Fujou High with
a reputation as a terrible delinquent. When he notices a fire in a trash can in
the Game Development Club’s room, he extinguishes it–and stumbles into the
school’s oddest social group: quirky Roka (Bryn Apprill), belligerent school
president Chitose (Whitney Rogers) and perky Sakura (Megan Shipman).
No one in the club knows how to write a program or actually develop
a game. Chitose keeps the club going to give a Roka a place she can call her
own. When a rival group (whose members actually can write code) challenges them
to see who can attract more visitors at the school cultural festival, the Development
Club wins by setting up spaces for bowling and other old physical games. The one
game they come up with—“Scramble for Porn Magazines in Outer Space”–is a board
game with special playing cards.
The conflict draws in the buxom Takao (Tia Ballard), the
president of the rival club with the competent developers, and Tama (Lindsay
Seidel), Chitose’s rival since childhood.
At times, D-Frag
feels like it’s trying to be a romantic comedy focused on the triangle of Kazama,
Roka and Takao. But it’s never clear if Kazama is interested in either of the
girls or vice versa. Most of the jokes center on Roka and Chitose picking on Kazama
or on the size of Takao’s pneumatic chest.
The premise and the characters are no sillier than many
other high school anime series—maybe they’re not quite silly enough. But the
creators fail to give the characters enough depth make the viewer care about
what happens to them. Kazama is the most interesting member of the cast, and
he’s basically a nice guy under his delinquent pose. But he’s not nearly as
much fun as Harima in School Rumble, who
really is the local bad boy—even after his talent as a manga artist emerges.
Kazama’s image of himself as threatening is an illusion; people
may describe him as a delinquent, but no one’s afraid of him. (Nor do they have
any reason to be.) At times, he feels closer to the put-upon Kyon in The Melancholy
of Haruhi Suzumiya. But Suzumiya possessed supernatural powers that could
alter the space-time continuum; Roka and the others pretend to command
game-related powers, but they don’t. Kyon had to listen to her; Kazama doesn’t.
Nothing in D-Frag
approaches the nutty interpersonal chemistry that makes Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu or School
Rumble so much fun. It’s not a bad series, but it lacks the qualities that
make a great series.
D-FRAG!: Complete Collection Funimation: $69.98 (4 discs: Blu-ray and DVD)