Hi Score Girl is an odd, romantic comedy focused around gaming and the arcade world of the 90’s in Japan. Though rated M in Australia, most of the show is rather tame with occasion violent parts out of nowhere and some scenes that are a little sexual, surprisingly – more in a light comedy way, but their implications are clear. From personal experience, I found that the show features true to form sights and sounds of Japan, that really captured the essence of walking the streets and soaking in the atmosphere. It was a blast seeing all the video games referenced (and all of the Astrocabs) in this show and understanding the complex combos and ideas they threw out, and that is the main appeal to the show, I feel. Hi Score Girl features a nice art style, seemingly a mixture of computer drawn graphics, standard animation and raw game footage – all blending together, creating a unique look.
Naturally, all text mostly seems to be a direct translation (still referring to the currency in the correct Yen amount) however, they weirdly localized the video game systems without post-painting them, for example, all of the PC Engine / Super Famicom games and consoles are present in the show as they would be in Japanese, but called the TurboGrafx-16 / Super Nintendo (as the PC Engine and Super Famicom were renamed to the TurboGrafx-16 / Super Nintendo, respectively, for the US market) leaving an awkward disconnect between the show’s world and the real world. As a hardcore gamer, I would have liked to see it stay the same to stop bringing me out of the show, but in the long run it really isn’t a big deal. This was then contradicted later on in the series when they talk about the Twin Famicom, a system that combines both the Famicom Disk System and the regular Famicom – Since this console only had a release in Japan, they simply called it the Twin Famicom, retconing the fact they called all previous Famicom’s ‘NES or SNES’. It really toyed with my mind.
The show’s main audience caters towards hardcore gamers who can recognize all of the games and systems showing up – however, as mentioned previously, diverts that by localizing consoles (yet a few instances of video games were kept in full Japanese, despite being called something else in the West, further adding to the confusion) however, that wasn’t enough to stop my enjoyment of the show. The main plot line is less about gaming, and more a romantic story of young love – not something I was originally going in for, or knew was in the show, but it wasn’t too jarring to make me stop watching. Anyone who loves Capcom, Taito, arcades or a realistic Japanese setting should give this show a go, just be warned that it focus’ heavily on romance at parts – but all in all it was a fun watch. I highly recommend watching Hi Score Girl if you have the free time and feel like a light romantic comedy with a heavy focus on hardcore gaming in a 90’s setting. You can watch the entire 12 episode series and all 3 OVA’s on Netflix right now, with a Second Series planned to release later in 2019.