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!

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!

 

Review: Gakuen Heaven

Clearly, I am still going through what I call “wall of guys” kinda of anime.  You know, when a show literally has a shot of bishi lined up for the camera like in “The Last Supper.”  Well, Gakuen Heaven certainly falls into that category, with 14 main characters, all bishi and all male. And this isn’t the cute and fluffy BL.  It’s the tall, dark, and handsome sweep you off your adorable feet BL.

The premise of the show is that the main character, Keita, is suddenly accepted into the insanely famous and elite Bell Liberty harem School (otherwise known as BL gakuen, *cough cough, hint hint*).  The school sends out acceptance letters only to famous and elite people who are very good at whatever it is they are good at, so middle-of-the-road, not-so-special-but-adorable-and-lucky Mr. Protagonist is rather confused as to why he gets accepted, and even though he questions his qualifications, transfers in.  In actuality, he got in because the chairman has the hots for himis his childhood boyfriend … gave him a special recommendation and overrode the board of directors. Whether or not he is qualified to attend becomes the driving plot point, eventually culminating between and out-and-out, no holds barred challenge between the corrupt Vice Chairman and the Chairman (he does actually have some amazering lucky luck, and this is sorta given as his special skill that got him in and keeps him in. And I suppose it does count as great luck to have run into the chairman as a young boy and won his heart…).

The cast consists entirely of males, and they’re pretty much all bishi, all slashable with one of the other supporting cast, and all slashable with the main character. At one point the main character even comments on the all-male cast, to which the bishi he’s talking to is like “Oh no, females totally exist! I can introduce some to you” and the protagonist is like, “Oh, there’s no need, k thx.”  To which I snorted loudy in amusement.

There are some of the typical BL tropes in the cast but they actual stood apart for me as moderately unique, especially due to the size of the cast and their unique talents.  It’s no Angelique, but the selection of pairables is pretty extensive.  And the show makes a great many overtures to turn your mind down a dirty dirty BL path.  The first few episodes (before some angsty plot kicks in) start of with salacious sounding dialogue between two mostly off-screen supporting characters, only to pan out and show them doing mundane activities (such as paperwork and patching a leak). Which, honestly, I adored!  It was exactly the note I wanted to start a fluffy show like this on, though I am glad it phased out when the tone of the show changed.  Most of the eye-catches were also meant to titillate.

So taken out of the BL context and appeal,  the show isn’t really anything impressive.  The huge cast of characters doesn’t really allow much characterization and relies heavily on tropes, though some of the individual character’s personalities do manage to shine through rather well.  The plot is mainly exploring the fit of Keita to the school, in order to inevitably hook him up with his main love interest, but never really explains to my satisfaction why he belongs there, whether or not he is actually qualified to be there.  It just sorta was like, well you’re a lucky dude, and look at how happy you make all of these extraordinarily talented bishis! Of course you belong here! The Chairman wants to bang you so bad! The directing wasn’t bad, and did what it could on a the typically low BL budget, but I never really saw anything noteworthy to it either.  The art and animation was similarly restrained by lack of money, so talking stills abound and most of the backgrounds are fairly blase at best. The movement was occasionally awkward and bad, and there are a few shots that are bad enough to deserve a facepalm scattered throughout the show.

It confines all of it’s SD silliness to a very, very poorly animated segment at the end of each episode called Hamu Hamu Heaven (which clearly is because it features chibi hamster versions of the main characters).  I enjoyed them, but I wish they had added a little more to the show, instead of being a silly aside that gave a smidgen of characterization.

Overall, the characters are underdeveloped and the cast massive, the plot totally falls flat when you stop and think about it and the tension of the show is mostly sexual and slashy. however, for the most part the show is interesting to watch and feels unique and distinct from other, similar titles.  I especially love the treasury vs student council dynamic (plus I heart the treasury pairing, so…).  I enjoyed this show, though I didn’t love love it, but I like BL.  If you are into BL, enjoy a moderately silly premise, don’t really want to think to much but aren’t in the mood for one of the fluffy, foolish titles (like Princess Princess), this is a great show to just sit back and enjoy the titillating yet serious BL bishi fun. If not, run, don’t walk, away from this show. It will hurt your thinking parts, and if you have them, your homophobic ones, and it won’t even be cracked out or insane enough for it to be so bad it’s good.

Review: Ouran Koukou Host Club

Ouran Koukou Host Club is a great example of a really popular show that’s all about the moe, but isn’t by Akamatsu Ken and isn’t even made for males. All the main cast are bishi, all of the male bishi have many slashable moments (most prominently the twincest done purposefully by the manipulative twins), and they even acquire a character meant to create or highlight any stray moe moments that might happen. It’s also one of the best examples of a “beautiful people’s club” in anime, and I can’t in good faith start reviewing that tag of anime without pointing this one out as the big contender.

The premise is that the protagonist, Haruhi, stumbles into a Host Club at her extravagant illustrious school for the rich (which she has gotten in via hard work and talent, because she is actually poor).  She ends up forced to work there thanks to an accident, and due to her appearance is mistaken for a boy at first, and spends most of the show dressed as one anyway.  They really rush the premise establishing, but I enjoyed the first episode anyway.

Tamaki chooses you!

The show is in great part driven by the antics of Tamaki, the “King” of the host club.  He’s got a huge personality, and a foolish streak a mile wide, but he really manages to drive the fun of the show well.  He really is the thread holding the characters together, which becomes more and more apparent as the show goes on.  Kaoru even starts making overtures about how he must be brilliant to manage to come up with a setting to get them to live happily ever after (and then later bemoans his foolishness for thinking it was anything other that idiocy and luck). The show, by the way, is entirely character-driven.  If you don’t like the cast or watching them fool around then you’re not going to like the show. All of the episodes plots are about the antics of the club, backstory about the characters, or developing relationships between Haruhi and one of the other bishi, including the ending.  Which was a nice ending, overall. It had a really good build up, climax and message.  There is a element of sadness and of happiness and of maintaining the status quo.  Also, I adored Kyoya’s role in it, and how he really whipped out his badassery, and learning gradually about it as the show progressed.  AWESOME! … As you can tell, he ended up being my favorite character, though honestly, I liked them all quite a lot.

The character designs are stylized and simple, and unfortunately I think they occasionally they stick out against the often extravagant and detailed backgrounds. But the movement and overall animation is smooth and well done, though I don’t really understand the decision making process of their opening and ending’s animation. They don’t really exemplify the show at all, and seem almost the cheapest made thing for the first several episodes. Later on when the quality drops a bit they stick out less, but I was never a fan of more than the opening song. From time to time there is some unusual directing, such as the blinking arrows, which I like and find lighthearted and interesting, but again, nothing mind-blowing or amazing.  It occasionally sinks to being cartoon-ish, even adding excessive sound effects and having monkeys and banana peels show up out of nowhere to trip up the cast. Some of it is in good silliness fun and some of it is just low-brow and bleh to me.

Overall, the show is really good at what it does, which admittedly isn’t much.  If you’re looking for complexity, or A’s across the board, this isn’t the show.  But it is an incredibly entertaining watch if you want some light-hearted fluffy shoujo fun, a little eye-rolling, blatant moe , and some well-done characters. From beginning to end the show has a great feel, delivers fun and foolish antics, silly costumes, unlikely situations, and of course, sparkling bishi. It’s a must-see for the genre, but not really for everyone overall.