Girl Friend Beta is a twelve episode anime released in 2014. The story and characters are based on a popular mobile game released in Japan in 2012. The anime tackles the issues that Kokomi Shiina and her school mates face as they rely on each other to get through the difficult times.
As nice as it all sounds, this anime was a tough one to get through. So tough in fact that I struggled to find one good thing about it to keep me watching.
One of the most important things about any form of storytelling media is the characters portrayed. They determine how we relate to the events of the show and are often a main part of our enjoyment. When they feel pain we feel the same pain, and when something goes right for them we feel happy. Our connection to the characters within an anime is what turns it from a show into an experience.
Girlfriend Beta completely misses the mark with this in so many different ways.
Aside from Kokomi there is little to no character development in any of the secondary characters. It came to a point where I was struggling to remember their names because I could not connect with them. Even going through my notes I found that instead of using names for the various characters, they are described by their generic roles within the anime. We have generic Sports Girl all the way through to Shy Library Girl and more.
The only two characters I managed to remember the names of were Kokomi and Chloe Lemaire, but not because their characters were well-developed and I cared about them. I remembered because one was the main character and was in every third episode or so, and the other one had the same name as a Disney character.
Girl Friend Beta Characters (Some)
I think there are two possible reasons for the lackluster characters in this anime:
1. There were so many girls to deal with in 12 episodes that there was no time for character development. Aside from the five main characters, there are around 15 secondary characters. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue if the anime had focused on the five main girls exclusively and had the others do small cameos, but there were instances when secondary characters had entire episodes dedicated to a problem they were having.
2. This anime was the direct result of a popular mobile game and the character development all lies in there. According to data, since its release in 2012 up until 2014, there had been around 5.3 million users of the smart phone game. That is a very large fan base, but a fan base is not a justifiable reason from ignoring character development within another form of media even if the story is the same.
Regardless of the reason for the lack of development, its impact is clear: those characters that weren’t worth remembering (all but two) were nothing more than filler and white noise in an already bland high school drama anime.
In fairness I tried to download the app for an android and apple phone to get the full experience and change my views on the anime. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it on either store. I’d like to think that if I had been able to get the game I might have felt differently about the character development. However, as a stand alone Girl Friend Beta is a let down in this aspect.
Be prepared for a rather short examination here, because there isn’t much story content in Girl Friend Beta to examine. Unfortunately what story there is, is nothing more than you would find in other similar anime.
Girl Friend Beta Mobile Game
From worrying about failure to the student council having to step up and tackle some form of adversity, this anime has all of the classic and overdone anime high school tropes you have seen a hundred times. Unfortunately such a situation makes for a pretty boring watch.
This can be described as Slice Of Life where we see a particular moment of each of these high school girls lives. Alas, with the generic characters as mentioned in the above paragraphs, there is nothing to keep the audience entertained. It is a case of having seen it all before….aside from one episode.
It may be odd to pick out a particular episode and discuss it, but this one had to be done. Mainly because it is so mind-boggling convoluted that I don’t understand how it manages to exist.
In episode 2 (Blue Melon Buns) Kokomi is feeling disheartened about her weight and decides to go on a diet. This is not unusual as it is something most girls of that age would do in this situation. However, how the issue is resolved is cause for concern.
Instead of Girl Friend Beta addressing the fact the Kokomi is a teenager and putting on weight at that point in life is unavoidable…her friends come to her aid and start a dieting club. A group of girls going through puberty starting a dieting club to deal with the issue. Is it just me or does that sound like an unhealthy moral to anyone else?
It doesn’t stop there for the bad news story-wise though.
So Many Characters
Because there are so many underdeveloped characters that all have different stories going on at different times, there isn’t any flow. You are left wondering if this character has their problem resolved and if so are we going to get back to Kokomi? At one point there were so many different stories going on that I was wondering if Kokomi is actually the main character, or if I misunderstood all along.
With most animes there is a bigger picture. Something that keeps you watching until the end of the season so you can see it resolved. Girl Friend Beta doesn’t have that. The lack of one solid story line leaves it feeling jumpy and broken at the worst of times, and having a vague trickle of flow at the best where you happen to see Kokomi in two episodes one after the other.
Only to find that she is only in the second episode for about a minute in the beginning. She’s also giving directions to another character you’ve never seen before this point yet they are about to have an entire episode about them.
To sum up it is the unfortunate truth that Girl Friend Beta is rather uninspiring. There is however a chance that it is great if you have played the mobile game released four years ago. If you can find it that is.
As a standalone anime it misses the mark entertainment wise and leaves you wondering why you are watching it. You wonder who the main character is? Wonder if you have seen this generic blonde girl before in another episode? Wonder if every student council president is actually that useless in real life? You wonder why?
Girl Friend Beta is an anime full of wonder, but not in a good way.
Girl Friend Beta is available for purchase now. Check out the Madman website for more information.