Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight is pretty good so far. It's nice to see ufotable return to off-beat, non-mainstream shows after its largely-flawed efforts at bridging the divide via Coyote Ragtime Show.
It's also great to have Megumi Hayashibara back. She sings the OP and ED to Manabi Straight with much aplomb. She makes me want to re-watch Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi just for the OP and ED, to tell you the truth. Incidentally, as is the case with nearly all ufotable shows, Manabi Straight has a claymation ED.
Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight is a slice-of-life high school comedy featuring a quintet of girls. Most of their personalities are fairly cliche through the first few episodes, but you can bet that ufotable is playing its cards close to the chest here. There are a number of apparent spoilers found in the Manabi Straight promotional trailer. Viewers are reminded to consider the case of Futakoi Alternative which revealed essentially the entire plot for the first nine episodes in its trailer. Nevertheless, Futakoi Alternative still managed to take most of its viewers by surprise when its tone changed drastically. No doubt we can expect Manabi Straight to likewise venture off in unconventional directions.
Okay, what type of "unconventional directions" am I talking about? Well, for one thing, the show takes place in the future during an age where declining birth rates are forcing many schools to close. It's a sure thing that the story will explore this bit in greater depth later.
This is not to say that Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight is going to take a dystopian turn toward angst-o-rama-land. (At least not permanently.) After all, this is ufotable, not Gainax. There are some emo moments, though. Mei's nervous breakdown in episode four comes to mind, although ufotable painted her world in surreal colors instead of taking a more conventional bleak approach—one example of how ufotable does things better by doing things differently.
Than again, I am a little perplexed by the youthful appearances of the characters. I believe Manabi herself is supposed to be 15, so there's really no reason to think any of the characters are anything less than high-school age. I'm going to chalk it up to artistic license on the part of the character designer. Think of it as an extension of the cherubic character designs used in the earlier ufotable show, 2x2=Shinobuden (marketed as Ninja Nonsense in the United States).