Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anime Survivor: Spring '12 - Week 6.1

Actually, that was quite liberating.

Now that I don't have the pressure to defend Medaka Box anymore, I'm actually looking more forward to seeing how most of Spring 2012's shows end up. I mean, Tsuritama and Dusk Maiden of Amnesia have rolled into interesting mysteries of their own, while Space Brothers and Kuroko's Basketball are doing well to set up multiple seasons. I mean, I haven't even watched a single episode of Fate/Zero or Phi Brain this season, yet I haven't missed a single Polar Bear Cafe.

From the above you might be able to deduce what show gets tossed, since I actually have faith in the voters this week. Why not? I'll go with the opinion of the masses.

The ninth show to be cast off in Spring 2012's Anime Survivor is...

Selling Points: You know, you average anime male lead characters don't know how good you have it. All you have to do nowadays is trip into a maiden's bosom to have a dozen slightly-flawed females, regardless of age, origin or species, fly to your side and propose to you. Back in our days, you had to WORK for your harem, boy! Ataru Moroboshi must have died billions of times for you to enjoy your tsundere princesses and androphobic girls!

Okay, so the above is an exaggeration to some degree, but there is also a solid degree of reality. There was a time in our lives where the lead role had to learn how to overcome cooties and find his soul mate. Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X) approaches that awakening in the male and female libidos, but at a particular tangent that doesn't fit neatly into the jigsaw puzzles that both shounen and shoujo stories have typically presented.

Meet Mikoto Urabe, one of the unlikeliest of lead heroines in a budding high-school romance. There is no in-between setting on Urabe's emotional dial; upon transferring to Akira's school, she basically zones out and sleeps all through lunch, only to break out into hysterical giggles during class. Physically, she's a touch slovenly, but even her low self-maintenance becomes a weird charm to Akira, and an unseen force drives him to do a weird thing.

He actually tastes the drool left on her desk after school.

Upon showing flu-like symptoms a day afterwards, Akira is bedridden, only to have Urabe visit him at his home. Apparently, that little bit of saliva is now a drug in his system, and the only way Akira can avoid getting sick that way again is by getting his daily dose of Urabe's spit. Urabe's explanation? The drool is proof that Akira is to be the only boyfriend she will ever know. Of course, Akira would like to live the life of a normal boyfriend, but Urabe's idiosyncracies (especially her ever-present tendency to have scissors stuffed in the band of her panties) don't make this normal.

Defense: Mysterious Girlfriend X is an interesting deconstruction of an anime romance. Instead of situations that leave the hero and heroine inexplicably naked (To-Love-Ru, Sora no Otoshimono) or swamped with love polygons, MGX goes in the other direction with a distinct lack of distinguishable characteristics. Kisses are demoted to simple fingertip feedings of saliva. Hugs are replaced with flurries of snips from Urabe's scissors. Akira's libido is left to his dreams, while Urabe presents her anti-social view of love in the real world.

Of course, everything starts with Urabe herself, played by novice voice actress Ayako Yoshitani. I say novice, but in reality Yoshitani has no experience as a voice actress or even a voice-over actress. For the most part, her resume is composed of TV mysteries and one starring movie role, so pegging her for Urabe is both a risk and a reward. While Yoshitani's voice is hardly powerful and recognizable as an anime trademark, it's that lack of strength that pulls Urabe into her own mold as a character. Perhaps it's due to her supernatural speed and odd knowledge of...bodily fluids, but Urabe sounds so normal that in anime she appears eccentric.

Final Decision: Ultimately, there were little insecurities with Mysterious Girlfriend X that pulled it out of the running, but surprisingly the whole idea of tasting drool wasn't the felling blow. I'm comfortable with this odd display of affection, even though the drool itself appeared to be more like...ahem...a different bodily fluid. Yeah, it's disgusting to think, but to teens love in general is a disgusting subject.

My ultimate gripe is that Hoods Entertainment is not the best anime studio for the job. Riichi Ueshiba's original designs were good for their still life, especially his unique dreamscapes, but the animated form leaves a lot to be desired. There is very little that ultimately happens in the show, leaving the movement drab and jerky once the characters do need to move. The poor animation is especially noticeable in Episode 7, the Sports Festival episode, where the various races are paced rather badly.

In the end, while Mysterious Girlfriend X had lasted this long on its concept alone, the sheer impatience of watching subpar animation had gotten to me. Part of me wants to commend Akira for lasting this long in a relationship where he is restrained sexually, but bound physically to Urabe, but part of me wants to give them movie tickets and at least a book on the birds and the bees. At this rate, third base will require at least four seasons, and I don't think any of us have that sort of patience.

Next time: Week 6's other big dump!

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