Sabagebu: Survival Game Club is a comedy anime that builds its story around one concept: What if you cast a vengeful, egomaniacal narcissist as an "innocent newcomer" in a cliché anime school setting — and then give her an airsoft handgun?
Good — A Bad Person and a Great Character
Sabagebu is the story of transfer student Momoka and her adventures in the airsoft gun shooting survival game club at her school. When first introduced, Momoka, the protagonist character, seems to fit the stereotype of the ordinary new girl at school. She tries to make friends, appear cute and nice, and assimilate into the school as quickly as possible. However, her fated meeting with Survival Game Club president Miou — who is also the most popular girl in school — along with Miou's subsequent attempts to get Momoka into the club, cause Momoka to get bullied by jealous girls in her class. When Miou realises what is happening, she steps in and shames the bullies into apologizing.
It is at this point we first see Momoka's true character: Instead of gracefully accepting their apologies, she elects to retaliate by bullying them far harder than she herself had been bullied. Momoka is an incredibly self-serving and petty character. She will do anything to pad her own ego and never forgets a slight — real or imagined. She is a backstabber and a dirty fighter. She has no sense of loyalty and is always ready to sacrifice/exploit others — even her friends. In Momoka's world, friends are just people she keeps around to serve her interests in a critical moment.
How bad of a person Momoka is often serves as the crux of the anime's humour. By and large the anime world she inhabits treats her as an innocent girl protagonist and not the egomaniac she actually is. Thus, she is continually put into cliché conflicts typical for an innocent character to face, only to react to such stimuli in violent or narcissistic ways. She really has no morals and will do anything in the name of self-gratification.
Good — The Narrator
The person who best plays off Momoka isn't one of the other girls in the Survival Game Club, but rather the show's narrator. He is never afraid to expose and comment at length about the horrible person Momoka is underneath her innocent veneer. At the same time, however, he seems to praise her most horrible actions — as if he is a sports announcer watching a masterful player in action.
The narrator also serves to lampshade the more fantastical or otherwise unreal nature of the plot. He will often go on protracted rants in which he proclaims that the anime itself is for entertainment and is not an accurate portrayal of real world survival games — all the while apologizing to people who were expecting that type of anime. Between Momoka and the narrator, there are a lot of laughs to be had.
Good — Fantastical Reality
While the guns in Sabagebu are all airsoft guns, they are always animated as if they were real guns doing real world damage — hence the need for the narrator's reoccurring disclaimer. But the characters' shared delusions go far beyond the guns. Their whole world can shift to fit various comedic narratives. We are treated to an episode where the characters all act as Yakuza (after watching a crime movie) and another where they battle a zombie outbreak.
On the other hand, other episodes fit perfectly in the "real world," as when Momoka challenges an otaku to a light gun arcade game or when she accidentally gains a vast amount of weight. Of course, most episodes switch between the fantastical and normal at will.
In other words, this is anime that has an episode that starts as an investigation into what type of animal the club mascot is and ends with a mother/daughter gunfight over Momoka refusing to eat her broccoli.
Mixed — Hit or Miss
Sabagebu tends to take the shotgun approach to comedy — if you shoot a wide enough area, some jokes are bound to hit. Each episode contains two to three short (often unrelated) stories about Momoka or the club in general. Therefore, the stories are fast and focused. When the show is on target, it presents some amazingly entertaining, over-the-top adventures.
Of course, when it misses, it misses equally hard. Just as you can have a short story full of laughs, you can also have one nearly devoid of them. However, there is more than a little solace in the fact that even if one story is a total wash, you'll still have a few more chances for comedy gold before the 22-minute episode is finished.
Sabagebu is a great little comedy with a fun cast and malleable setting. If you enjoy fourth wall-breaking humour and if the idea of watching a spiteful egomaniac utterly demolish cliché anime situations sounds like fun, then it's probably a safe bet that this anime is for you.
Sabagebu: Survival Game Club aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It is currently available in the US for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.