September 25, 2011
Remember the joke about the Old Comedian's Home, where all the jokes have been told so many times they replaced them with numbers? One Comedian says "23" and they all laugh. Another says "82" and again they laugh. A third says "107" and they laugh yet again. A curious newcomer decides to take a stab at it and says "72" and gets crickets. He turns to the first old-timer and asks "Why didn't anyone laugh? Did I say something wrong?" and the old-timer replies, "The joke was fine, but your delivery was awful."
I suppose you could take TVTropes and number all the entries, and tell an Anime series by the numbers. For example, I just finished with DearS, and you could look at a review like this 2005 one from DotClue (http://dotclue.org/archives/002400.html) and put it in a format like this table.
- Our Hero is a high-school loser, who’s never had a girlfriend.
- Girl Next Door bullies him because she doesn’t have the courage to confess her true feelings.
- Dream Girl suddenly appears from another world.
- DG moves in with OH, for no apparent reason.
- OH ends up in a Compromising Position with DG, and is caught by GND, who assumes the worst without waiting for an explanation.
- This is just the first CP; there are many more to come.
- DG has big boobs (usually bigger than GND’s), frequently displayed to best advantage.
- DG has superpowers. (optional: frequent property destruction)
- DG has an unusual and/or unusually large appetite.
- DG knows nothing about life on Earth, and needs to be looked after.
- More Strange Cute Girls begin to appear, some of whom compete for OH’s affection.
- Wacky Hijinks ensue.
- OH’s classmates enthusiastically accept the DG and SCGs, even when their WH result in (temporary) injury, embarrassment, or property damage.
- Handsome Rival attempts to steal/seduce/acquire DG, SCGs, and sometimes GND.
- DG is utterly clueless about HR’s intentions.
- More WH ensue.
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
DotClue (Jgreeley) was comparing and contrasting DearS, Girls Bravo and Chobits. Having not seen Girls Bravo, I can't comment on that, but the analysis he makes is pretty reasonable.
You could also add a checkmark for the obligatory Bathhouse/Onsen episode.
But you know, boiling DearS down to just the numbers doesn't do it justice. The temptation is to lump it with all the other Harem shows, but really, in spite of the large cast of female characters, OH doesn't end up with a swarm of women competing for his affections and all moving into his tiny apartment.
In fact, now that I think about it, I'm not sure labeling shows like these "Harem Comedies" is quite correct. I'm thinking this is more of a "Broken Doll" Genre, and although that name sounds all Emo, It's actually hopeful as it typically depicts these damaged cast-off girls (frequently not even able to speak the language) becoming whole people through the power of finding love.
Another plus is that the show nailed me with a lot of laugh out loud moments. One would think that the one-note character of Miss Mitsuka, the terribly over-sexed English teacher, whose exhibitionism knows no bounds would get old really fast, but it's played SO far over the top that when it's revealed she's got a whole section in the video shop where Takeya (OH) works, I laughed. And the misunderstanding that develops when she assumes the gang's study group is an orgy forced me to pause I was laughing so hard.
Then there was the run-up to the Onsen episode. A brief shot of Miu (SCG #1) shows her washing her floor length Anime Hair. And as the camera pans up her back, it keeps going up and up and up the huge stack of sudsy hair.
Personally, I dislike humor that depends on humiliation. It embarrasses me. One advantage of Anime is that since I'm not immersed in Japanese Culture, the things that are supposed to be horribly embarrassing to the characters slip right by me only half-noticed. I can accept Ren's (DG) ignorance of Japanese Culture and the problems it causes. I can understand Takeya being mortified, but it doesn't bother me.
Takeya is a pretty decent Center. He's a fairly upstanding guy, not too easily pushed around, although he sometimes takes a passive-aggressive tack by pretending to not care about what's going on and clinging to his previous solitary lifestyle. Yes, he's unwilling, and he takes a strong moral stance. He does not LIKE the idea of Ren being some kind of programmed slave. Twice she senses him in a state of arousal and moves to "take care of" it, and he refuses. Why? Who would refuse a beautiful woman who wants to be your slave and serve your sexual needs? He does, and for a very good reason. Love should be mutual, and the way she says it like it's her duty, a part of this role she has taken on herself that he does not want, makes him doubt her motivations. In fact, he often pushes Ren to think and feel for herself, but she's not really capable of it yet. Is it tough love, or his hatred of things Alien?
It doesn't help that as childhood friend, GND Neneko fed him a steady diet of scary alien sci-fi movies, making him one of the only men in Japan who doesn't absolutely love the cute DearS girls. So Of Course he's the one who finds the accidentally lost and incompletely programmed Ren. Just like the hero of Chobits finds an apparently BSOD'ed Chi in the trash in the alley. And Of Course he ends up unknowingly completing some kind of ritual that makes him her master and her his slave. At least he gets over the nightmares that she's part of an Invasion force and is secretly horrible behind some mask.
It's not all positive though. There are a lot of things in the series that don't really hit the mark, particularly the threat from the DearS hierarchy to break them up. They only send their least capable operative (The cat-like Nia, who unfortunately adds very little to the appeal, in spite of being cat-like - and why is she the only one? It's very incompletely explained.). The two leaders bickering inspire nothing. And there's a third character (Khi) who keeps getting "Punished" by the whip-wielding Dominatrix-styled female leader (Rubi) for failing to do... something (all offscreen thankfully). There are other plot threads that barely pay off, probably because they were longer arcs in the Manga and were set-ups for a second season that never came. The business with a handsome playboy (HR Hirofumi - not even named until his arc peaks, even though he's appeared in about a third of the episodes leading up to it) working his way through the female half of the student body during "Coffee" breaks in an unused Home Ec classroom could have been completely deleted to no ill effect on the story. He's not a threat to the relationship since he isn't taking an active role in trying to steal Ren. (Well, obviously there IS a scene where this happens, but it's just another in a long list of misunderstandings, rather than an existential threat to their relationship, such as it is.)
There are a lot of unanswered questions in the Anime (surely answered in the Manga). Nia briefly describes herself and Khi as being animal derived. But nobody else has mentioned anything about it or indicated what species anyone else is supposed to be. And Nia herself is the only one with any physical indication of this.
Ren is described as being a "Zero Number", in fact, her name Ren means "Nothing" in the DearS language. But what this means other than her being some kind of blank slate is unclear until a big infodump at the end which only explains the what and not the why. And why she was being shipped in a truck in the first episode if they're being "Stored" on the ship? The backstory, in spite of its importance to what's going on, gets the short shrift.
And why is the real leader of the DearS still frozen on the ship?
And why do the outfits all have those gray nipple things on the shoulders and waists? And could the mouths be any smaller?
I think one pointer to the "Broken Doll" Genre is that there is typically some crisis at the end of the series that forces the hero to finally admit what his feelings are for the Dream Girl, and this usually unlocks whatever mental block she has about understanding what love is. (Indeed, in Chobits, virtually ALL of Chi's mind is locked away in the hopes of finding love, as odd as that seems). In Ren's case, she's still a bit unclear on what she really wants, but at least she evolves her motivation for being Takeya's slave because she wants it, rather than it being her duty. Takeya, for his part, sublimates his desire to for his former life, and gives up not caring whether Ren stays or goes, mostly because of the fate that awaits Ren if he does not keep her. He at least cares that much for her.
If you love Dancing Chibis in the end credits, this is a great one for that.
On the technical side, the circle (Exiled Destiny) who subbed this anime needs to be smacked around a lot. Their use of bottom-justified subtitles really breaks down when they keep two simultaneous lines (including sign translations) on the screen for different lengths of time, without the use of contrasting colors or anything. You lose track of what you're reading when you see:
Line A (again)
Even worse when the Lines are more than one line. Trying to read the bouncing text sometimes requires the use of a pause and backspace. The worst being an extended scene in Episode Eleven where Takeya's stepsister is upbraiding Ren while Takeya's trying to talk with his stepmother. It's a total mess.
But it could be the result of little to no QC of a commercial release, since it's Dual Audio. Perhaps the circle was concentrating on the English language version, and only included a data dump of the subtitle track. If that's what they did, well, their lack of attention to detail shows.
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