Fastest Finger First Series Review: Do You Like Watching Characters Answer Questions?

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Overview:

Koshiyama is about as typical an anime dweeb as they come. A book nerd starting high school with few friends or social skills. Then he get dragged into a practice quiz and discovers Quiz Bowl.

Review:

There’s really not a lot of story here. Geeky and shy kid joins new quiz circle at his high school and as a result gains some confidence, kind of makes some friends, and kind of finds a rival. I say kind of, because in these 12 episodes the skeleton for future developments is set up but very little time is devoted to anything outside of quizzing and learning about question formats and practicing to answer.

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Enjoyment of this show relies very heavily on the audience enjoying game shows or playing along with quizzes. If you like hearing characters discuss strategies for when you can quiz in or narrow down answers, then you will have fun. If you like seeing if you can beat characters to the right answer, you’ll probably have fun. If you actually want the back story on the characters or to see any of the potential character developments realized you’ll probably end up disappointed.

For me, I loved being inside Koshiyama’s head as he tried to find the answer to questions. Sometimes he was successful and sometimes not (so at least no plot armour for the rookie quizzer) but his thinking and how he drew on his knowledge from the vast array of books he had read was kind of fun to follow.

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The other members of the team and most the rival players are also fun enough, but they just don’t spend enough time with any of them. They all remain more types than characters and, particularly with the leader of Koshiyama’s team, it felt like there was a lot missing that would just make all these characters feel a bit more real and fleshed out.

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Mikuriya gets a lot more time as the set up rival from another school, but even he doesn’t get much beyond his attitude and aptitude. We literally know nothing about him beyond the fact that he likes quizzes and he doesn’t like to lose.

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Of course, the show isn’t all smooth sailing. The introduction of Akira in the latter half hurt my enjoyment of some of the final episodes. He was a really annoying character and while the show needed something to shake up all the composed quizzers and Akira served that role well, he didn’t make it more fun to watch.

The opening song is enjoyable enough and the dings and beeps of the buzzers are certainly nostalgic sounding. Otherwise the music and sound is pretty unremarkable as are most of the visuals.

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There’s no greater narrative going on here. No fighting for a greater good. This is just about the characters and quizzing with Quiz Bowl getting the lion’s share of development even at the expense of the characters. Still, if that works for you then you should have some fun with this show. I certainly did and while it is hardly going to be my favourite anime ever and rewatch value is pretty low (sorry, once I know what the answer is going to be a lot of the fun goes out the window) I’d actually happy watch a second season of this, though that seems unlikely that we’ll get one.

Probably the best thing I can say about this show is that it is consistent in what it delivers.

If you watched Fastest Finger First I’d love to know your thoughts on it.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 12: Define Fun

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Review:

As expected, this anime has ended by wrapping up the meet though really the tension in the episode ended with the end of the match up between Koshiyama and Mikuriya (no spoiler on how that goes). Basically, there’s a lot more story implied with where the two go from here after this meet but as this is the final episode there’s a real question of whether we’ll ever get a second season or if this is really it for the anime.

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I had a lot of fun with this final episode though will admit that other than watching characters over think questions, and seeing people try to deal with Akira, nothing really happened. Of course, it is a show about quizzing so I’d probably have been a bit put out if they’d tried anything else for a final.

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I’ll get to a full review of this show later but I think the biggest disappointment is that the characters still haven’t been developed much at all. Because we spend so much time with the quizzes, any characterization is definitely taking a back seat.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 11: Low Level Thrills Ahead

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Review:

There’s not a lot to this episode beyond the obvious and yet when it ended I felt my body relax because I’d clearly been tensing up during most of the second half. It’s kind of fun to be that caught up in a single character’s emotions even if the end result is quite a sore neck.

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The third round of the quiz meet continues with the second group and Akira is back in his sister’s school uniform and determined to generally annoy people. I still really hate Akira’s character but I give credit to the creators because clearly that is what his character is intended for.

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The real thrill here though is Koshiyama as well see him employing everything he has learned about quizzes and questions as well as a fair desire to win even when he doubts he can. I particularly loved the final question mostly because he did exactly what I would do when I know I’ve come across a piece of information but can’t remember it. Of course they end on a cliff-hanger but from what I’ve been able to find out next week will be the final episode of the season so I guess things will come to an end one way or another then.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 10: No Time For Distractions Like Backstory

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Review:

They finally kind of got into the team leaders past this week on Fastest Finger First and then they decided that was too distracting from answering questions and we moved on. Or rather, Fukami does as she puts aside the question of whether their captain actually knows her brother or not and focusses on answering the questions in the third round as she fights it out for a place in the final.

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So if you are desperate for back story or anything really other than the quiz itself, you probably aren’t getting it this episode, but the quiz is really fun so that isn’t really too much of an issue. Plus, with so many religious themed questions this one didn’t really require specialised knowledge of Japan and made it much easier to play along at home, presuming of course that your knoweldge of Christianity is better than your knowledge of Japanese classic literature.

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All and all another fun episode and one that leaves us on a cliff-hanger as Koshiyama prepares for his own go at round 3.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 9: Way To Make A Character We Hate

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Review:

The final group of the second round have their go and of course Koshiyama ends up paired with the girl (who is actually a guy) from the arcade who really is just a jerk. There’s no other way to describe someone who treats others with that much disdain. Really, really wishing, that his team leader had actually sent him home after that round.

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Despite really hating that character, the quiz was still fun and because of the format of needing two people to buzz in I was actually hearing enough of most of the questions to guess an answer which was entertaining. The outcome of the round is pretty much what you would expect at this point in the season, but I’m just not sure adding that character was a good idea. The characters so far have been relatively benign and then adding one truly irritating individual to the mix does not seem like a good plan.

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I guess it did mix things up a bit, but this was probably my least favourite episode so far of this show.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 8: No Reward Without Risk

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Review Episode 8:

And the competition has begun. There’s not a lot to say about this episode other than I had a lot of fun watching the team take a paper quiz and then two rounds of buzzing. There’s some character stuff going on with the girl they met at the arcade and the whole potential rivalry thing between Koshiyama and the guy from that other school, but basically if you’ve been enjoying the quiz element of this show, that’s what you get this episode.

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Though, I have to wonder how often this guy actually adjusts his glasses. It is getting to the point where I have to assume they are a fashion statement and not needed because no one who wears glasses for actual sight purposes would play with them that much.

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I really enjoyed the two answers thing as it gave another spin on the buzz and answer format. So this show isn’t the stand out of the season or the show you should definitely jump on board with if you haven’t already started it, but if you like quizzes then it might be a relaxing bit of viewing this season.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 7: New Rivals, New Brothers, New Buzzers?

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Review Episode 7:

This was interesting in that it felt like lots happened during the episode and you could list off a lot of stuff, but in terms of moving the plot forward we started with them preparing for the regular meet and we end with them still in preparation for the regular meet. Points for not letting an episode with almost zero plot progression drag and a lot of that has to do with the different character interactions.

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At the same time though, I just kept kind of wanting them to move this along a bit. As much fun as the quizzes have been, and learning new facts, and watching the characters stumble their way toward being competitive, as a series the show is leaving a lot of room for improvement. We get small hints at character development and relationship building but these haven’t amounted to a lot yet so it is hard to know if the payoff will ultimately be enough to carry the show to its conclusion.

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Still, there are worse ways I could spend twenty minutes of my week than catching the next episode of a show that isn’t exactly brilliant but has managed to remain pretty even in its delivery throughout the season.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 6: Have Phone = Have Social Life, Maybe

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Review:

Koshiyama is on an outing with a friend, or at least a classmate in the same club as him so that kind of counts. And he is armed with a smartphone gifted to him by his parents so now he’s out to collect your contact info. Unfortunately, making friends isn’t exactly covered within the phone manual.

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I found this sequence kind of adorable given I always used to love reading the manuals that came with new devices. Saddest thing ever was when they stopped including anything more than basic specs and part guides and made you go online to actually find out how to use the device. Even the Kindle guide only tells you how to open the user manual on the Kindle – tragic but not relevant to the show.

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This episode sees our budding quiz bowl players in an arcade playing a quiz game and of course rival boy is there as well. There’s some back and fourth, some new quiz formats and discussion of how to get faster or better, and some general quizzing before your clichĂ© bullies show up and then get taken out by another character that looks too distinct to be a random one episode character so my bet is they are showing up at a quiz meet later.

Outside of this we get the brief side story of technology girl and the club leader shopping for parts to make the buzzers, and the quiz obsessed girl helping her friend at a maid cafe for reasons that only the word ‘anime’ can explain.

I’ll be honest, this is not such a great episode. Barely anything happens and while there are some laughs to be had with less quizzes and very little narrative going on the characters were left to carry the bulk of the episode and they just aren’t up to the task, despite my finding the main character adorable in an incredibly geeky way.


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Fastest Finger First Episodes 4 + 5: Practice Makes Perfect I Guess

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Review Episode 4:

I’m going to point out Koshiyama’s mother is really harsh. Admittedly, he is using a book to learn how to interact with people and socialize given he wants to join the quiz circle but her telling him he needs to work on his look first was kind of brutal. Fortunately he has other things on his mind and doesn’t seem to dwell on the fact that his mother’s only appearance in the anime so far seems to exist to tear his self-esteem apart. Then again, maybe he needs to go back to that book on social skills because suggesting the girl you are doubling on a bike is fat is probably not helping your situation unless she’s also socially inept, in which case you’ll be just fine.

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This episode steps back a bit and is going back over the foundations of question structures. We’ve already been exposed to these while watching the previous episodes, but this is a nice recap and a good chance to consolidate knowledge. We also meet the girl who is probably going to round out their club or maybe she’ll make the buzzers. Basically not a lot happens this episode and yet it feels like this was needed to really bring the characters together and to give the audience a chance to actually focus on the characters.

Review Episode 5:

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We’re having a joint practice this episode and of course the crazy buzzing pushing guy from the other match is there. Only he seems to be spectating not playing which results in a fairly cute competition with the other three players from the school. It’s a team match and we see that Koshiyama and friends are certainly working better as a team even if they aren’t yet there in terms of memorizing the questions.

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And yes, the random library girl from last week is going to make the quiz team some buzzers and she demonstrates this by taking apart the guest school’s buzzer set. I think she’s going to be a fun character.

I’m not actually sure if this show is heading somewhere, though it does seem to be trying to set up some kind of rivalry between Koshiyama and Mikuriya and that could be kind of fun once Koshiyama has figured out his own playing style.

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This continues to be really enjoyable. I particularly liked the quiz this episode because most of the questions were pretty general knowledge with only a few that required any kind of specialist japanese knowledge to answer so I was having a lot of fun playing along with them and seeing if I could get the answers first. The show itself remains watchable but is only really fun if you like quizzes.


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Fastest Finger First Episodes 2 + 3: An Academic’s Version of an Adrenaline Rush

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Review Episode 2:

I mentioned this in my last post on this anime, but I really do love trivia and quizzes. So, no surprise my favourite part of watching this came from learning something new. Even if it was just that someone actually came up with a term to describe the space between the hem of a miniskirt and overknee socks. I cannot for the life of me think where that would be a useful bit of knowledge but I loved filing it away inside my head with all the other useless facts I’ve accumulated over the years.

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Oh yeah, I should probably review the episode. Basically, classmate girl tricks wimpy protagonist into ‘watching’ a quiz on the weekend but it turns out they are entered into the competition. We get through round one with wimpy guy seriously riding high on stress and tension to the point of near collapse. If you like quizzes and watching quizzes, it’s a lot of fun. Otherwise, there’s not a lot else going on and no, I haven’t yet remembered either of the main characters’ names and yet I’m not seeing that as a deterrent from watching the rest of this.

Review Episode 3:

I think this show is going to be pretty good for me. It kind of perfectly captures the feelings of playing a game with others. The final monologue by the main character about the fun and frustration perfectly sums up  the turbulent feelings you can get from playing and just how much of a rush it can be. While from a strictly narrative point of view this isn’t doing all that much, the subject matter and the emotional resonance I’m getting from it, is kind of enough to keep me glued to the screen.

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Still, I’m not sure how we’re going to go moving forward as we seem to be working hard to set up some sort of rivalry and we’ve also got childhood friends, as well as just plain social awkwardness all kind of cluttering up the quiz floor. Maybe these things will actually make it a better show in the long run or maybe they’ll just serve as a distraction. Also, I wonder if I’d have a better chance of picking up emphasis on words if I was watching this in English dub because I have enough issue just picking out even known Japanese words when they talk that fast that I certainly couldn’t have told you there was any emphasis given in the questions. Still, it was fun reading the subs and seeing if I could figure out where the questions were going and usually the answer was not with where the characters buzzed in.

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This one is a keeper for the season. I’m not arguing it is brilliant but I’m having a lot of fun.


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