Fastest Finger First – Anime Review
Synopsis: Bunzou High School is welcoming its new first-year students. One of them, Koshiyama Shiki, is chosen to participate against his will in an impromptu fast-buzzing quiz meet by the president of the Quiz Bowl Circle. As a quiet boy who loves reading and doesn’t want to stand out, Shiki is overwhelmed, but his classmate, Fukami Mari, is able to hit the buzzer and answer questions before the full question is given. As he watches her, Shiki realizes that there’s a point in each question where the answer becomes certain. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Fastest Finger First lacks immediately compelling characters, relying instead on tried and true classic shonen archetypes. From our meek, yet knowledgeable lead Koshiyama, to the classic underused female lead Fukami Mari, to the prickly rival Mikuriya Chisato, everyone feels like stock anime characters. Rarely do these characters break out in a way to make Fastest Finger First feel fresh. This means the series relies entirely upon its core, quiz bowl, concept to provide any kind of originality.
Linny: The most compelling, or rather attention grabbing character is someone that the show throws in about mid series, named Akira Sonohara, mainly to be an agent of chaos. He’s made out to be a playful, maybe even evil, quiz bowl player who’s in it solely for the sake of his own amusement and to see what he can get away with in the game. While his over the top persona does add some extra excitement, the fact that he’s often shown to cross-dress makes for a mixed reaction. The show seems to insinuate that he cross-dresses mainly as part of his refusal to stick to the rules, but given how cross-dressing can be a sensitive topic in western culture, it might cause some angst for certain audiences. He’s ultimately a cliche as the show concludes with him revealed to be just another lonely young man whose mischief is a cry for attention and despite the extreme outrage he causes, is easily and happily welcomed back into the fold by his team mates with minimal repercussions.
Tom: Sonohara Akira injects some much needed personality into the series. His over the top, aggresive, joker-esque persona elevates the back half of the season, at the expense of providing yet another stereotypical anime character type to the mix. As Linny noted, the uncomfortable cross-dressing villain is a staple in the heart of the anime medium, with many 80s, 90s and even 00s anime utilizing this depiction to make both the audience and its heroes uncomfortable. It’s an unflattering character type and one that does injustice to the portrayal of the LGBT community. That said, Fastest Finger First pulls back on the more problematic portrayal, and has characters openly accepting of Akira, only willing to condemn his villainous actions rather than his outward appearance as Linny noted above. Even his less than savory actions are forgiven, mellowing the problematic aspects of Akira’s portrayal.
Linny: Fastest Finger First is plagued with shonen and sports anime cliches. It follows the very popular style of taking a plain or extremely mundane sport/activity and trying to present it as a thrilling rollercoaster ride that has you gasping every single second. I still crack up every time i remember how this show tried to make a buzzer check test come off as something breath-taking to witness. As the show proceeds, the focus shifts to character drama and background exploration which could prove to be a nice change of pace for anyone less than impressed by the quiz bowl hype, though that hype never truly goes away.
Tom: I actually disagree that the character drama is a boon to the series at all. If anything, to me it feels like a mere extension of Fastest Finger First’s slavish adherence to the Shonen formula, turning it’s attention to character drama around the same time many other sports shonen have. The character drama offered is also of the most generic and expected. A brother who quit quiz bowl and now condemns his sister? Tensions rising during a tournament? Struggling to be recognized by your rival? It’s all stuff we’ve seen before with little unique spin beyond the Quiz Bowl focus. It’s not to say any of this is outright bad, staples and cliches exist for a reason, but without a few more unique features it makes Fastest Finger First feel all too familiar and generic.
Linny: My personal and biggest issue with Fastest Finger First is that besides its extreme adherence to shonen cliches, it’s main attraction aka Quiz Bowl is hard to get into for anyone not already attracted to the sport. See, the whole point of quiz bowl is to be the first to hit the buzzer and answer the question correctly before the entire question has even been asked. And since the show plays it all out so fast that even once the answer has been given and the entire question actually shown on screen, they’re all quick flashes that most if not all viewers will struggle to read and comprehend without pausing the episode every time. Compounding this maddening rush is the fact that our main protagonist never really gets a very fulfilling arch. This entire series ends up feeling like maybe the first half of an actual series, like set up for the ‘real’ meat of the story. Even the ending feels unfulfilling and abrupt as our lead achieves only a minor achievement and the show ultimately wraps up with someone else winning in a rushed and barely shown segment.
Tom: While the ending may leave Koshiyama without a true conclusion to his arc, I disagree that the ending is abrupt or out of place. Fastest Finger First offers up a ‘go read the manga ending’ but puts a cap on events in what feels like a decent place as our hero concludes his first major competition, and strives to one day have a rematch with his rival. It feels like a decent place to cut things, particularly if adapting an ongoing story. That praise aside, I’m pretty lukewarm on Fastest Finger First in the end. In some ways I feel the series is worth a watch, and provides enough baseline entertainment for a recommendation. But as it is, Fastest Finger First rarely feels like it’s own thing. It doesn’t stand out amongst all the other sports/competitive contest anime out there. Outside of the focus on quiz bowl, Fastest Finger First offers little else to make it memorable. And for that I think maybe it’s really just a decent, yet forgettable watch.
Linny: Unless you’re really into quizzes, sports anime or testing your own general knowledge, Fastest Finger First isn’t a show I would recommend to anyone. I would like to clarify that it isn’t horrid, it’s just that it’s main sport is so niche and the cliche ridden execution along with the rushed quiz segments themselves make the show ultimately too big of a challenge to get into.
Fastest Finger First is available for streaming via Crunchyroll