Review: Chu-Bra!!

Yes, the show is a comedy about Bras, as in undergarments.  Specifically, the main character, Nayu, is obsessed with the fashion and practical benefits of women’s undergarments.  Her brother and grandmother are also underwear designers, so it’s in the family and she has good reasons to demo her brother’s products for him.

This has led to her having a less-than-flattering reputation, mostly started by a jerk-girl squad in her class.  And throughout the show haters gotta hate. Though the evolving bad reputation, from a prostitute to a lesbian etc., is pretty entertaining.

She meets two friends, they are weirded out, but eventually accept her love of underwear. They try to start a club, and they add some more characters throughout the show.  Each character has a different perspective on underwear, since they have different personalities and interests, and they all get together to have fun times together. Underwear tends to show up, though they do have interesting interactions outside of that.  The show makes a lot of good points, for example the fit of a bra is really important to it looking and feeling right, and certain cuts of bras are much better for different sizes and kinds of busts.  And there is something lovely about fashion and looking and feeling good about yourself.  So I like that about this show. But it’s seinen, so it’s for men and utilizes the male gaze rather regularly when actually showing shots of undergarments.

But!  Even though it’s an ecchi comedy made for men and there are panty shots galore, the way that it’s done isn’t really offensive or problematic to me.  Firstly, the premise and subject matter are underwear a lot.  Having them shown is not just thrust in there for perving, its mixed in with the story and characters.  Rarely if ever are panties shown to the viewers that are not shown to the characters. It doesn’t have a predatory POV or even a character that is like that. Second, they talk about and show how this objectification and sexualization of clothing affects the characters, both male an female.  For example, the episode where they go to the beach and the male character, Komachi, has a really revealing swimsuit that he’s too embarrassed to wear, but gets seen in anyway, as well as the characters shopping for a swimsuit for the teacher, many of which were similarly embarrassing.

Third, they actually make a point of showing that even though he gets all hot and bothered by things, that this too isn’t always pleasant for guys.  There is a real sense that although some of the exact details of the girls versus boys experiences with underwear and also sexuality are different, in general its very similar, human experience that they’re growing into, and I find that lovely and fascinating.  And watching women’s fantasies about men is always fun and nice for a change, so go Mizuno-sensei! And the episode with male bras?  AMAZING!  Perfect ecchi entertainment!  And non-squicky ecchi comedy, BANZAI!

The end is an ending that just shows that the good times will keep on rolling, pretty common in anime, but this one’s happily realistic, where the whole thing isn’t neatly wrapped up so that life can go on exactly like it is.  I really liked that.  There is something really good about the timing and set up of the last two episodes that really helps create and relieve/resolve some good tensions without just making the whole plot points of angst that started it all magically disappear. The characters grow and change, and that’s good stuff right there.

The character designs and art overall are nothing to shout about, and the animation has some bleh moments and otherwise is really a non-entity.  The directing, likewise, is par for the course, standard.  Nothing to scream about in rage but also nothing to scream about in amazement.  Occasionally it does some interesting things with borders and patterns.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful anime, chock full of easily enjoyable lighthearted comedic fun that anyone can enjoy.  Granted, if you’re not into things about school-aged characters or you’re not a fan of any ecchi comedy or something, this won’t be for you.  But I think that it will even appeal to people who aren’t big ecchi comedy fans, nearly anyone.  There are a lot of issues that hold it back from being a three-star masterpiece, but good entertainment is good!

P.S.  The Shoujo Kakumei Utena references in the latter half of the show?  WONDERFUL!  So exciting! BRAVO! The thrown in Evangelion one?  Made my nerd heart so happy!

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The Two Transformations of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge

So forever ago I watched Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge.  Back then, I wasn’t quite as aware of and annoyed by the way that women are often treated when they’re not perfect, beautiful, and docile.  But even then, I was often irritated and bothered by this show. I did still enjoy it for it’s fun comedy antics.

Having come back to it years later and re-watching it, I have a much stronger opinion, and it’s not as forgiving.  However, the reason I picked it back up again was because I found the live action version.  And that version, I honestly enjoyed.  It felt like a re-vamped version that minimized a lot of the problems I have with the original.

So for those who haven’t seen any of this show, the premise is that there are four REALLY hot bishi who live together in a mansion.  Why, I have no idea. They just have a beautiful people’s club in the mansion of a really really rich lady who is looking all over the rich world for love.  She promises to let them live rent free if they help her niece to become a “Yamato Nadeshiko,” which is basically the historically ideal japanese woman. However, if they fail the rent triples.  As it turns out, her niece the protagonist Sunako, is obsessed with horror things like blood and skulls and slasher movies, has rejected all things feminine, and even beauty/health care.  Antics ensue.  Many very stupid and crazy and hilarious.

So… yes. The premise and driving plot point is ACTUALLY four men trying to force and pressure a woman act less like herself and what she likes and more like they, and society, thinks she should act and be and look. Yes, everything you’ve ever heard about advertising and the unrealistic ideals of beauty, how women have to spend time so that they’re pleasant for others to view or else they’re value-less as people, how they’re discouraged from studying non-feminine subjects and interests and are encouraged to pursue household and other kinds of interests and works.

Obviously, it exemplifies exactly the sorts of things that third-wave feminism has been fighting against.  But it also does a decent job of highlighting that these things still happen in everyday life, which a lot of people are really against (and usually think feminists are hormone raging man-hating machines of overreacting).  Things like that women are bullied and treated badly if they’re not pretty by their peers.  They also try to use Kyouhei to talk about the effects of sexual harassment, and how people will often objectify and not give a damn about more than your looks when you have them, how people will treat you differently and how that can be hard to live with.  The fact that he’s a man kinda doesn’t really let them explore it too much, especially since his character is prone to violence when that happens, which isn’t really a reasonable solution for when it happens to women in reality.

When Kyouhei gets hungry basically says “Bitch get in the kitchen where you belong!” to Sunako, who cooks or them for no apparent reason other than that’s what women are supposed to do, yes, a part of me dies inside.  When they’re filthy and she cleans up after them (even though she is a border at the house just like them and there is no apparent reason for her to act like their private maid) or worse, when she doesn’t and they end up living in filth and that’s okay that they can’t/won’t do their own housework, doesn’t it seem weird and wrong and like they’re taking advantage of her?  BECAUSE THEY ARE!  Bleh.

But in the live action, they do a much better job of everything, with much less of the troublesome overtones.  The characters and premise are basically the same, but the message is way better.  Yes, the bitch=kitchen is there. But the Aunt and related people who are the driving force of making Sunako a lady says several times that it’s not about being what everyone wants you to be, but finding yourself and your confidence, being able to walk proudly around other people, and also there is an element of maintaining appearances, but that it’s something everyone has to do, make and female alike.  Even though she still loves horror and isn’t doing hours of hair and make-up a day, they agree that she’s made progress because she’s getting better at being with people, not hiding, and finding herself. That it’s about being able to find people who you like you for who you are, and how that’s just a bit easier if you make a few concessions.  It’s not perfect, but I liked it without many reservations, as opposed to the anime. Also, I like Kyouhei’s insistence on being uninterested in anyone who likes him for his looks, and instead wanting to be valued as a person.  It’s a conversation I’ve had before with women, but it’s nice to hear.  I also ADORED the ending when he was on stage and crying.  That was the cutest love-story thing I’ve seen in a long time and I loved it.

So! Don’t watch Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge anime.  It’s funny sometimes, but it promotes something that I can’t in good faith recommend to anyone. Also, it’s probably one of the worst art and animations of any anime I’ve ever seen.  Shit, the opening for the first 13 episodes is just a mash-up of random footage from the first episode. Unless you want to write a more thorough feminist analysis that I have.  Then I’m cool with you watching it.  Also, doode link me! However, DO watch the live action, as it has everything going for it the anime does (though no constant SD, I will admit), much better done and with much better overtones, and it’s good stuff.  Not anime, but close!

 

Amagami SS: Wait a minute… Is this offensive?

So, I was watching Amagami SS.

It’s cute, low-key entertainment that is obviously based on a dating sim.  It follows a 100% nondescript, inoffensive and typical protagonist (I think they come in ten-packs at Costco), and his adventures with six (I know, he’s got a lot of options for a nothing-man) lovely ladies.  You know, standard dating sim fare.

Though I do like this show.  I am enjoying getting to know each of the girls and the burgeoning feelings.  It’s kinda the feeling of cloud watching on a warm summer day.  I think the presentation of their characters in interesting and that they feel well rounded and pleasantly more like real people than most dating sim characters (which are so often SO HEAVILY trope-based).

So, it exactly the kind of show the one Michelin star statement “Very good in it’s category” is meant to describe. So I’d recommend it.

But then I got to thinking.  It’s nice to get to know the girls, it’s nice that they have decently developed characters and aren’t just flat wank-fodder.  It’s nice to see female characters portrayed like people, with worries and hardships.  But the protagonist barely has any characterization.  His flat, uninterestingness might work well for a game, but it makes me totally uninterested in him. He has a single, count it, ONE sentence of characterization, and that’s his “I got stood up once” backstory.

Compare this to Yosuga na Sora, where I was very interested in the inner world, the life and times of Mr. Protagonist. Why bother even being from the male POV if he’s going to be the lukewarm addition. Wouldn’t the story be much better if it was just about the female characters? From their POV?  With it centered in his POV, it kinda gets so much of the offensiveness of dating sims, where it’s just men manipulating women for sex. When there is good characterization, does that somehow negate the IMMENSE objectification that sexualizing them, fanservice, and the whole genre in general regularly engage in?

I don’t know, and this show got me to thinking about that.  Because as a rule, objectification pisses me off and is a big check minus against a series.  I can only tolerate so much before it is only contributing to societal problems with sexual hostility towards women and other issues I take a firm stance against.  But this show, being a good one, does a better job at not doing those things.  But by the sheer “belonging to this genre” is it irredeemable? I’m not sure, but I’m glad it got me to thinking.