Should You Watch Fastest Finger First?

Our Episode 1 Summer Anime 2017 Review
  • Anime
fastest finger first summer anime season 2017 review episode 1
Fastest Finger First. (c) TMS Entertainment

Fastest Finger First is an anime about a high school quiz bowl club, starring a kid who looks like Pidge in Voltron. There’s something Digimon-like in the character design, which is crisp and colorful, but somehow without distinction. “Good enough but kind of generic” is the best description I can give for episode 1 of Fastest Finger First, which stumbles by relying on stale tropes for both humor and character development.

Our protagonist, Shiki Koshiyama, is a spindly bookworm with no hope of getting into a sports club and apparently no interest in trying for the culture clubs. At the school activities fair, he’s accosted by a looming upperclassman whose delightfully ridiculous passion for quiz bowl and frenetic recruiting effort repel him. He winds up with a sample quiz bowl pamphlet in his hand that he goes through when he’s bored in class. It turns out he knows all the answers, but he still can’t see himself getting up on stage in any kind of quiz bowl scenario, and he’s still pretty turned off by upperclassman Sasajima’s aggressive approach.

Unfortunately, Shiki fails to nab the class librarian representative spot he’s enjoyed since middle school, which sends him plummeting into an abyss of malaise and self-consciousness as he eats lunch alone. He takes refuge in the library to avoid the pitying comments of his schoolmates, where class beauty Mari trips over him and flashes him her panties in the process.

Groan. In case the stupid fanservice panty pandering wasn’t tired enough, Shiki spends more time triggered by her panties (striped blue and white, as we’re reminded several times) than making a case for himself as a character with any derring-do. I was enjoying Fastest Finger First and sympathizing with quiet, self-conscious Shiki up until this point. The panty humor is so banal and off-putting, yet relied on so often for a cheap snicker for the rest of the episode, that I stopped feeling confident about the show’s sense of humor.

That’s a shame, because there’s some real potential here. I love the over-the-top dramatics used in the show’s second half, as Sasajima shows off his skills as a quiz bowl host to promote his club to the whole school. The show does its best to cram as much glamor, tension and interest into a high school quiz bowl presentation as possible: there’s wide eyes, comical action lines and hair rippling with shock.

Fastest Finger First is also deft at giving you the information you need to know in order to appreciate quiz bowls as a competition and understand what talent and skill look like in such context. Anybody can appreciate “kick the ball real hard,” “run across the field real fast” or “throw the ball real good,” but grokking the quiz bowl art of guessing the question first or buzzing before you know the answer takes a little more set-up, which the show does well.

Ultimately, however, I can’t help but wonder why Shiki is our main character. He has an obnoxiously passive, self-conscious personality type that I’m sick of seeing. A protagonist with this type of personality is pushed along by the plot rather than doing the pushing, which makes the plot feel weak and lack dynamism. With few exceptions, I’m not sympathetic to these characters and their deleterious effects on a plot’s progress. The second half of the episode is particularly egregious as Shiki agonizes over pressing a button despite knowing every answer. Good god, man.

It’s especially annoying because next to Shiki, we already have someone who could fill in the role of protagonist: Mari. She knows enough about quiz bowl to mentor Shiki and is good enough to literally pick out the moments in questions where you know enough to hit the buzzer. She also seems well-liked by her classmates, is considered a beauty and has enough of a spine to volunteer for both class librarian duty and the quiz show demonstration on stage. Her only weakness is a lack of straightforward trivia knowledge that could be easily overcome through a couple of study session montages and the power of determination.

But no: instead, she’s love interest fodder, a literal cheerleader who forgives Shiki for ogling her panties as long as he joins the club (gross) and lavishes him with unearned praise (“you could be a quiz bowl king!” she gushes on the basis of him answering a single question). We’re meant to be impressed by Shiki’s natural ken for quiz bowl, but I find myself wondering whether or not I’ll have to sit through more panty gags and sniffling monologues about how Shiki couldn’t possibly do X, Y or Z.

On the other hand, it means I don’t have to sit through Mari’s voice acting, which is noticeably stilted and uncertain. I suspected a newbie voice actress and I was right. This is one case in which a dub might improve on the original.

Finally, there’s Sasajima Gakuto, the tall and overbearing senpai with sinister light permanently reflected off his glasses. He is both a bright spot and a mystery, with a booming and theatrical voice that enlivens these rather nerdy proceedings. Where does Sasajima’s passion for quiz bowl come from? How is his presentation of this incredibly nerdy not-even-a-full-fledged-club activity so mysteriously compelling? What’s his story? I’d like to know.

Everything about Fastest Finger First, from character designs to animation and music to voice acting, is serviceable, but no single aspect of the show stands out. This isn’t necessarily bad if you’ve just got a sports anime itch, but if you’re deeply in need of a sports anime take with an unusual twist in subject matter, this season’s Welcome to the Ballroom is the clear winner. I’ll be hanging on for a few episodes to see whether or not Fastest Finger First improves its sense of humor or lets Shiki make an actual move without stuttering and blushing, but if it doesn’t, I’d count this one out.

Fastest Finger First streams on Crunchyroll every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Will you be watching? Let us know in the comments section below.


Fastest Finger First
Should You Watch Fastest Finger First?
“Good enough but kind of generic” is the best description for Fastest Finger First, which stumbles by relying on stale tropes for both humor and character development.
  • Crisp, clean character design
  • Unusual subject matter for a sports anime
  • Glimpses of goofy humor
  • Stale tropes
  • Mari's voice acting
  • Overuse of a single, tired gag
  • Passive protagonist
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