Wednesday, September 14 2005

DearS/Girls Bravo, disc 1

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

  • Our Hero is a high-school loser, who’s never had a girlfriend.
  • Girl Next Door bullies him because she doesn’t have the courage to confess her true feelings.
  • Dream Girl suddenly appears from another world.
  • DG moves in with OH, for no apparent reason.
  • OH ends up in a Compromising Position with DG, and is caught by GND, who assumes the worst without waiting for an explanation.
  • This is just the first CP; there are many more to come.
  • DG has big boobs (usually bigger than GND’s), frequently displayed to best advantage.
  • DG has superpowers. (optional: frequent property destruction)
  • DG has an unusual and/or unusually large appetite.
  • DG knows nothing about life on Earth, and needs to be looked after.
  • More Strange Cute Girls begin to appear, some of whom compete for OH’s affection.
  • Wacky Hijinks ensue.
  • OH’s classmates enthusiastically accept the DG and SCGs, even when their WH result in (temporary) injury, embarrassment, or property damage.
  • Handsome Rival attempts to steal/seduce/acquire DG, SCGs, and sometimes GND.
  • DG is utterly clueless about HR’s intentions.
  • More WH ensue.
  • Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

How does Girls Bravo differentiate itself from this basic formula? Lots of bare tits, plus more than the usual complement of bare asses. The animators pushed it so far that the Japanese TV networks made them add fog effects to cover the girls up a bit. The fans knew what they were missing, though, so the DVD releases are fully-nippled and unfogged.

DearS tries a different approach, taking its basic setting from the film Alien Nation, replacing funky-skulled humanoids with half-dressed hotties, mostly female. Where most of AN’s slaves wanted freedom and equality, though, the DearS are conditioned to need masters, something they try to keep from their new hosts on Earth. One would think that the prominent dog collars they all wear would be a dead giveaway, but a year after arrival, it’s still a secret. Until the night a “defective” DearS is accidentally released into the wild, or, more precisely, Our Hero’s apartment…

OH apparently spent more time watching V than Alien Nation, so he is perhaps the only teenager in the world who distrusts the motives of the cuddly aliens. This, combined with a hint of moral fiber, keeps him from taking advantage of his willing slave girl.

Clich├ęs aside, are they any good? Both are generally well-drawn and well-acted, with a good mix of humor and fan-service. Girls Bravo is plot-free episodic comedy that makes no attempt to explain the “other world” or its magic; Miharu (DG) and the women of Seiren (SCGs) are from somewhere else, they have a way to get to Earth, and that’s that. The manga it’s based on doesn’t seem to have any explanations to offer, either; it’s just not important.

DearS, on the other hand, has plenty of story potential, and at least tries to set up and explain some mysteries associated with the setting. They rearranged the first three volumes of the manga to come up with a relatively self-contained storyline, while leaving plenty of things to explain in a second season.

They didn’t get a second season. Girls Bravo did. Such is life.

On the whole, I prefer DearS. It’s frequently compared to Chobits and accused of blatant, vicious misogyny, but neither comment makes sense to me. The two women who create the manga know that they’re writing for a mostly young, mostly male audience, but their slave girls aren’t helpless naifs used and abused by their captors (those anime usually involve tentacles…). They’re slaves put into a situation where they’re forced to confront their conditioning.

Ren (DG) is a person with a stunted sense of free will, who rapidly adapts to her new life; Chobits’ Chii is not quite a house pet, not quite a person, and she’ll never really change. Ren, Takeya (OH), and Miu (SCG) all grow and change, and they’re all moving away from master/slave stereotypes. Neneko (GND) grows up a bit, too, although she starts out way ahead of the others.

Girls Bravo is amusing fluff, and based on the fansub reviews, I think it will deliver what it promises. DearS is a promising start at telling a story that will only be finished in the manga, but it’s still a good show, and I honestly like the major characters. As an added bonus, the end credits sequence more than satisfies my dancing-chibi fetish, accompanied by a painfully cute j-pop song.