Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring 2010 Distraction - B Gata H Kei

(While this series was not listed in the "Maker Oudan" catalog, it has been running during Spring 2010 and has been chosen as a "distraction"—a show that wasn't meant to be reviewed.)

I was totally set on destroying B Gata H Kei for what it appeared to be on the surface—an anime adaption that was capitalizing on the influx of moe into yonkoma manga. I was all prepared to rip it to shreds for being over-the-top and too direct in its aim at the otaku market. It was supposed to be just more fluffy teenage fan-service, but something weird happened on the way to Akihabara...

B Gata H Kei is the brainchild of Yôko Sanri, a female mangaka who has evolved into strictly a yonkoma artist after failed attempts at story manga. Since becoming a full-time artist in 1997, Sanri has worked on a dozen or so comic strips that have been built around sexier characters, primarily the "Office Lady" position in Japanese companies. While B Gata H Kei is the first of her titles that dives into high-school hijinks, it still contains the "OL" mentality—the idea that sex is a goal that even a high-school girl must shoot for.

The comedy centers around the pervy Yamada, an anonymous high-school female 15-year-old who decides to coin her infamy by...ahem...finding 100 "sex friends". However, Yamada's libido is countered by the anxiety of sex itself, so she seeks the "golden cherry", the first domino to push in order to accomplish her "task", as ridiculous as it may seem. Her fateful meeting with the confused and nervous Kosuda sends mixed signals—while Yamada wants to jump in the sack with Kosuda, she's inexperienced to the point of lunacy, and her dumb mistakes only terrify Kosuda more. The show works on their brittle relationship as both Yamada and Kosuda work towards middle ground.

The manga's yonkoma style makes the show a little easier to digest in smaller vignettes framed by the show's logo, while the other characters provide quick tsukkomi-style punch-lines to counter Yamada's bubble-headed boke nature. Yamada's friend Takeshita is constantly trying to help her understand love in as gentle a way as possible, although her own bust size and relationship just makes Yamada jealous. While there are other characters to fill the void, the story is also ushered by Yamada's own fictitious "ero-gami" ("ero-god"), a smaller version of herself who flies about on a cloud dressed like an old sage and breaks the fourth wall to explain things.

While the show is blatantly geared towards fan service (despite the use of the "Demon-Mark" for hiding naughty bits and the twittering bird sounds to drown out "condoms"), the story doesn't appear to be geared towards directly arousing the otaku viewer. Granted, some of the situations are as titillating as those in Kissxsis, but the comedy appears to be more for levity and actual humor, even if the subject matter itself is in poor taste. But the thing that pushes this sex-comedy more into the "comedy" zone and possibly tones down the outrage surrounding the subject?

Yamada's complete idiocy.

Sanri herself admitted that she modeled Yamada partly after herself, but part of me wants to believe that the high "ditz" factor in Yamada was not. Seriously, she's dumb as a box of hammers. Yamada jumps to ridiculous conclusions, blabbers the wrong words at the wrong times, and runs into sexual situations without considering the fact that she's just as much the virgin as the boy she's trying to "seduce". Safe to say, that makes the show laughable and the comedy...actually funny.

The ridiculous amalgam of Yamada's ditziness with the wiser explanations of her "ero-gami" manages to save B Gata H Kei from being a complete disaster, but there really isn't much more to the story after the chuckles subside. Neither Yamada or Kosuda are prepared for a relationship, and that may turn the "sex comedy" into a story about sex education, but the story just doesn't seem like a parody. There are better shows to watch out there, but B Gata H Kei isn't exactly the worst you can do.

It's just not the best you can do, either.

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