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.

Review: Hakuouki

So there are two seasons to this show, the first being Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan, the second Hakuouki Hekketsu-Roku. As you have probably guessed, this is a show about the Shinsengumi, and it actually references some historical events.  As you might not have guessed, the Shinsengumi were apparently all hot young bishi eye candy.

In the first episode, the main character, Chizuru, is traveling to look for her missing physician-esque father and is attacked by some shinsengumi coat wearing peeps (non bishi, so you know they’re not main characters). And then saved by other Shinsengumi (bishi, you know, because only pretty people matter), only to have them capture her because she saw them do that.  It’s a mystery as to why! (I feel like half a brain can guess, but whatevs. They’ll tell you in the show after a few episodes). Then she lives with them for a few years, and the show follows that.

Now, not only does the protagonist LOOK exactly like every other crappy Pollyanna female lead…

Which offensive role am I playing today?

She is about as useful as a bag of rotting fish. And she knows it, highlights it.  Now, I can accept that for the viewer, a POV that doesn’t know what’s going on is useful for creating suspense and unfolding the plot.  And I know this show is meant for females and idiotic people seem to think that viewers only identify with characters who pee in the same position they do. But really.  It’s just offensive when female characters, especially main characters, are just walking bags of uselessness and emotions and have to constantly be taken care of by men.  It is just bigotry and stereotypes and just fills my thoughts with ways that chivalry hurts women in everyday in real life.  Being rescued is nice and all, but the idea that she’s a woman and therefore incompetent and needs rescuing all the time, is… Ass backwards and offensive.  It’s not cute, or interesting, or lovely when a woman shows up and melts the hearts of men and makes them want to protect her.  It’s trite and sickening and should make people angry. If she could just save herself a little, or it was clear she was just a bit over her head, or if they held some personal feelings for her in particular, it wouldn’t be so offensive and still get the “Thank you, o talented and attractive bishi that murders people” smexy vibe that they’re going for. But no, she can make tea and clean. BLEH. UGH. BLEH!

Moving past that, there are some interesting things going on in the show.  They have several historical tie-ins, the fact that the Shinsengumi were not a well-liked group, the issues of protecting the weakening, shifting government, the turmoil of the capital, the change from swords to guns and the differing war styles (this is a major plot point even, towards the end of the first series, and in the second).  There is a lot of supernatural interest with the oni/vampire/thingies, which I actually found the most interesting of the numerous plot hooks (most left unexplored, but that’s a criticism and I’m trying so hard to list it’s good points).  Some interesting Oni antagonists that are impressive and strong and likely to kill you all, were they to take an actual beef with you ( I love the character who never has a beef and is so polite).  There is some AMAZING fan-service shots of the bishi men, that are also funny if you’re not into the excessive smexy service.

So if these things interest you, go for it! See if you like it.

If not, keep your distance.  The show is confusing and overly complicated. It introduces a lot of interesting things possibilities and plot points, but it never really seems to explore them at all, much less fully or well. For example, its apparent I’m supposed to be pairing the main character with the vice-commander from the op/eds, but there is nothing really in the show, and her boyfriend options really just boil down to a war of attrition (once all the other potentials or the slashable boyfriends are gone, she’s the only option).   There are some totally arbitrary actions by the main characters (for example, .they have every reason to ditch the bitch really fast, but instead THEY DIE FOR HER. Very pointless and frustrating when there are bigger things going on that they care about more, but one chick they have no obligation towards or no apparent feelings other that friendly affection is a reason to lose men? No way, dammit, no way).  The main character is an annoyingly useless and halfhearted protagonist who never actually DOES anything other than serve tea and clean the house and ruin the achievements women have fought for for a century.  Also, with an ending like Hamlet that leave miss useless in worse straights than ever just knocks it down another distasteful peg. Bleh in the beginning, a bummer in the end, not much good in the middle.