I can see why a lot of reviewers find it easy to pan this series. High-school loser hero? Check. Missing parents? Check. Dream girl who suddenly appears from another world and moves in with him? Check. Girl-next-door type who can’t confess her feelings about him? Check. More strange cute girls showing up? Check. Insane teacher? Check. Color-coded fighting team? Check. Based on a PS2 game? Check. Fan-service? Check, check, check.
If you’re looking for truly original ideas, compelling plots, and genre-breaking characterization, you’re in the wrong place. Yumeria is an ecchi harem comedy with a touch of sentai and a dollop of sci-fi, nothing more. It’s a fun show, though, with excellent character designs, good voice acting, and a story that’s just big enough to last a dozen episodes. And Mone.
Mone. Mone mone. Monene. Mone? Mone! Mone mone. Mone.
If her remarkably expressive one-word vocabulary doesn’t drive you insane, Mone will kawaii her way into your heart.
A few of the in-jokes are a bit forced, and the insane teacher is particularly gratuitous, but most of the humor flows quite naturally from the characters and the situation. I see no reason not to buy, and enjoy, the rest of the series.
Let’s recap. Disc 1 introduced a spunky teen heroine, ruined her life, set up a plot, and began introducing the rest of the cast. Disc 2 followed her through her new life and finished introducing the cast, tossing out the occasional plot crumb. Disc 3 was stuffed with plot crumbs like you’d stuff a turkey for Thanksgiving, not entirely to its benefit. All three were amusing and entertaining, with the exception of one infodump that’s badly delivered by a throwaway character.
In an ordinary plot-driven anime series, self-contained episodes that don’t advance the plot are often regarded as filler. Sometimes they contain important character development, but far too often they add nothing, not even decent art. With Daphne‘s scattershot approach to plotting, at least 10 of the 16 episodes to date would count as filler, so it’s either a terrible attempt at a plot-driven series, or the plot is just a backdrop for the comedy. I’d prefer the former, since they worked so hard at the beginning to make me care about Maia and her problems, but with only two discs to go, it’s not looking good.
Disc 4 is a plot-free zone. It’s fun even when it’s predictable, and includes just enough plot crumbs to keep you wondering if they’re ever going to tie things together, but that’s it. Judging from the fansub reviews, this trend will continue until episode 21, after which it’s wall-to-wall plotty goodness until the end. At least one reviewer thought the ending made up for the show’s flaws, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
File under peculiar the fact that the box set for this series is sized for seven discs, but the series is being released on only six. My guess is that Geneon originally intended to put only three episodes on four of the discs, but market conditions and fan feedback led them to shrink it a bit. As good as the music CD is, it won’t quite fill the remaining space in the box, but I can’t really complain about a consistent 4-episode-per-disc release.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
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.
Clichés 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.
Maburaho, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, and Haibane Renmei. What do they have in common, apart from seiyuu Junko Noda?
Not much, really, except that I was watching them at more or less the same time. Maburaho is a pretty standard harem comedy, with lusciously drawn girls, some good voice acting, and a plot that falls apart if you so much as look at it. The director knows his fluff, though, and the show makes no pretense of being anything more.
Daphne is equal parts action, comedy, and fan-service, with a plot that could actually be pretty good if they shared it with the viewers. It has the potential to be more than fluff, but the first-time director has pretty much blown the pacing. The first two discs are spent introducing the cast, and a good chunk of the third is consumed by two lengthy, apparently-unrelated expository lumps (one of which is both dreadfully boring and immersion-breaking). Maia is an engaging heroine, and some of the other characters are nicely rounded (yeah, that way, too), but the plot crumbs are just too scattered right now.
Haibane Renmei is so good it hurts, literally, which is why it’s nice to have some fluff around when you need to recover your equilibrium. To discuss it is to spoil it. You just need to set aside an evening or four, relax, and let the story unfold.
What’s bad about them? Beware spoilers!
I’ll be watching it through again once I’ve recovered from the first time, but meanwhile I can’t help thinking about it. Much of my speculation is sure to change as I watch again and argue with others (coughcough), but this is where I’m going with it now.
Beware! Spoilers abound.
If you’re wondering where the DVDs of Haibane Renmei went, they’re being closed out in anticipation of the box set release in October. So, if you don’t want to wait six weeks for the $120 set ($90 at Amazon), and you haven’t already bought most of the discs for $30 each, you can currently get the entire series at Anime Corner Store for $30 plus shipping.
Me, I’m stuck looking for disc 2, because I already have the others…
The original Read or Die OAV was a Bond-movie spoof with superpowers. Like most of Roger Moore’s Bond films, the action, humor, and engaging characters kept you from getting hung up on the basic silliness of the plot. And, of course, Yomiko’s paper-mastery power was novel and visually impressive. I liked it.
I liked R.O.D the TV more, despite its flaws. Why? Like some of my other favorites, it’s all about the characters. The “big plot” that ties it in to the events of Read or Die is not only silly, but overexplained as well. Nearly an entire episode is wasted on clunky “as you know, Bob” exposition, and the villain doesn’t just gather the heroes for one final monologue, he gives them an open mic to all his henchmen.
The truth is, the series didn’t need a “big plot”, and it definitely didn’t need one that depended so strongly on characters from the OAV, while fundamentally altering their personalities. I like Nenene and the Paper Sisters, and I think they could have carried the show on their own. Deep down, I think the writers knew this, too, which is why the “slam-bang action finale” took up so little time in the last episode, and was followed by quiet scenes of the cast getting on with their lives. Ultimately, R.O.D the TV wasn’t about finding Yomiko, saving the world, or even paper-mastery; it was about these four women.
I knew up-front that the series would include Bond-ish clichés and a villain whose plans made Doctor Evil look sensible. I knew there’d be paper-mastery. I figured Yomiko had to show up eventually, especially when I discovered Nenene’s history in the manga. In those respects, the series met my expectations. In the way it handled the personalities and relationships of Michelle, Maggie, Anita, and Nenene, it exceeded them.
The way it presented Joker was jarring if you’d seen the OAV, but a bit less so if you’d also read the manga. Wendy’s change was poorly explained, and made even less sense if you’d read the manga. As for Gentleman, “well, that came out of nowhere”.