Tag Archives: anime review

Puni Puni Poemii: Wishes it could be on par with Excel Saga

Puni Puni Poemii is an OVA from the early 2000s. It’s ostensibly a spin-off of Excel Saga although the two don’t have that much in common, but I’ll get to that in detail later. It was brought to us by JC Staff. Like Chocotan, Voogie’s Angel, Potemayo, Kill Me Baby or a whole bunch of other anime of varying quality I’ve reviewed. It was written by Kuroda Yousuke, which could also go either way considering he’s done scripts for absolute trash like Highschool of the Dead but he’s also done script work for solid anime like Battle Athletes. So, let’s see how this stacks up.

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Story:

We open with an action sequence involving our “heroine” fighting her way through a bunch of magical girls including Usagi from Sailor Moon and Sally. But don’t worry, they appear very briefly and there’s a bright red filter so it’s not copyright infringing.

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After this, we cut to Earth and the whole action sequence is never mentioned again which makes it entirely pointless. We meet Watanabe Poemi who calls herself Kobayashi because “her actress can’t get into character.” That’s the level of humour we have to look forward to. Kobayashi loses her parents to a stand user but gets taken in by the Aasu sisters, thanks to her friend/ red string of fate partner Futaba.

Let’s start with the big problem with the series. Most of the jokes aren’t funny. The opening sequence is a great example. Poemi goes through a bunch of familiar magical girls in a brutal fashion that just comes across as mean-spirited. Compare that to Excel Saga where there’s also a clear reference to Sailor Moon but it’s actually a joke and a very funny one. And having a battle between the characters could be funny. Just have Poemi win by pushing the Usagi look alike into a desk with a maths test or something to that effect.

Then there are the jokes that are based around Kobayashi talking really quickly and loudly. Which you can also compare to Excel Saga since that was also a part of Excel’s character. The difference is that Excel had funny dialogue to go with it and in this the entire joke seems to be that she’s ridiculously energetic to the point of being annoying. There are also a lot of fan-service jokes, which just come across as crass and exploitative. Then there are the fourth wall breaking jokes which generally just don’t work all that well. Fourth wall jokes work best in moderation and used at unexpected, strategic moments. Not so much when they’re a constant, in your face factor.

That being said, there are some funny moments. Having Futaba and Poemi’s relationship be like a super homo-erotic relationship you would get in a magical girl series while one of them pursues some random guy anyway works since they make it even more blatant and have the girl without any interest in a male love interest, Futaba, actually react to the way her obvious girlfriend is carrying on. There are also some funny action sequences. The scene where Nabeshin fights the one-balled alien is really funny. Unfortunately, those actual moments of comedy are heavily outweighed by the unfunny moments.

Characters:

There aren’t much to the characters in this. Kobayashi is just kind of loud and annoying. Futaba’s main schtick is that she’s madly in love with Kobayashi. Her sisters are all one-note fetish fuel. Which becomes especially obvious towards the end with an egregiously unfunny scene, but it’s totally okay because they lampshade it as being fan-service.

Art:

My big issue with the art is the excessive fan-service. It’s not the only problem. The backgrounds are frequently lazy. The opening sequence with its red filter to marginally disguise the familiar characters we’re looking at actually hurts the eyes. It’s like that climactic battle with the red filter from Figure 17, but much worse. And there’s just not much to recommend the artwork except for the visual gags in the aforementioned Nabeshin fight.

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Sound:

The acting isn’t very good. I think that both Kobayashi Yumiko & Imai Yuka are capable actresses. They’ve been strong in series like Angel Beats or Doki Doki Precure but one of the by-products of going with the obnoxious, hyperactive style of humour is that your actors don’t come across very well. And I’m speaking as someone with ADHD. The music also isn’t very good. It’s the worst showing I’ve ever heard from Masuda Toshio. And we know he can compose because he also did music for Mushishi.

Ho-yay:

Like I said, the stuff between Futaba & Kobayashi is really obvious. To the point where there’s a red string of fate joke and they disappear together into a futon while Kobayashi is naked. So, they’ve had sex.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Take better advantage of the magical girl parody aspect. Like I said, when it actually parodies the whole “blatant les-yay, but here’s a male love interest so we can pretend it’s not” element that’s common in magical girl series, it’s actually funny. They could do more with that. Have a character who they think has been brainwashed into turning evil, give the big speech about friendship & “opening their eyes” only to have the character just be mad over some minor sleight. Have a magical creature companion but no one can actually understand it when it tries to talk to give advice. There’s a lot of room for actual genre parody here.
  2. Have a modicum of class. Excessive fan-service in and of itself is not funny. So, just show some restraint and do something that’s actually funny instead of bringing in all the fan-servicey shite.
  3. Limit Fourth Wall Breaks. Like I said, these work best in moderation. In two episodes I would say the most you should have if you want them to retain their impact is three or four.

Final Thoughts:

Puni Puni Poemii wants to have the style of humour that Excel Saga uses to great effect. The problem is, it doesn’t have a good sense of why Excel Saga works. As a consequence, it takes some superficial aspects like the quick, energetic dialogue and acts like that’s enough. And while it has the occasional comedic bit that works, most of it is just obnoxious. In the end, I give it a 3/10.

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Kanamemo: When one character brings the whole thing down

Kansmemo is an anime from ’09 based off of a manga by Iwami Shouko. It was brought to anime form by feel. One of the studios behind the 4th series of Galaxy Angel, which I’ll get to eventually & the studio behind Oregairu. It’s a shoujo-ai slice of life, so it should be pretty firmly within my area of expertise. Let’s have a look.

kanamemo2.png Story:

The plot is simple enough. Young Nakamachi Kana loses her grandmother and finds herself without any relatives to look after her. Fortunately, she manages to find a job at a paper and it comes with boarding. It also comes with a bunch of quirky co-workers, which results in either completely normal events or shenanigans. As a premise for a slice of life comedy, that’s fine but the true test lies in the execution.

My big issue with the way the comedy is handled goes back to one of Kana’s co-workers, Haruka. Haruka’s comedic quirk is based around two things: She drinks a lot and she tries her utmost to molest little girls. That’s the big “joke” with her. And it’s not funny. At best, it comes across as uncomfortable and cringey. Haruka’s big scenes are, by a wide margin, the worst part of this series.

That being said, a lot of the humour that ignores her character works pretty well and the series does have a lot of funny moments. It goes in some weird directions as well, like having a musical episode but it generally does it well. I also appreciate Kana’s character arc as she becomes more secure and capable thanks to her determination and the help of those around her, besides Haruka who’s just interested in groping the thirteen year old. Have I mentioned that Haruka is horrible?

Characters:

The big flaw in the characters is probably obvious after the preceding discussion. I do have to say, Haruka isn’t exactly a unique character type. She’s reminiscent of Akane in Yuru Yuri or Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. The problem that Kanamemo encounters is that she’s a much more prominent character than either of those two. You can go episodes without an appearance by Akane or Kimura. You can have episodes where they appear for maybe a minute and the rest of the episode is good. Haruka, in contrast, does something despicable in every single episode. Usually in longish segments.

That being said, there are some great characters in this too. We have the love birds, Yume & Yuuki. The two of them are consistently adorable. We also have Hinata, the stingy ronin who’s trying to get her life together and has a bit of a clueless attitude when it comes to judging others. For example, there’s a scene where she calls Yume out for being irresponsible. When really, Yume has things together pretty well, certainly better than Hinata. She’s studying to be a pastry chef, she works hard, she has her bride lined up and their relationship dynamic is pretty well defined. She’s just weird and can come across as childish. We also have Saki, the strangely serious “chief” of the newspaper, who also happens to be in grade school. Then there’s Mika, an employee at a rival paper with a serious crush on Kana. What I like about her character is just what a genuine portrayal you get of a young teenager’s awkward first love.

One thing I do appreciate about the characters in general is that they’re shown as having goals and lives outside of the paper. Even Haruka is trying to become a sommelier. Although, in her case, that pretty much just translates to drinking a lot. I also like the way Kana’s character arc and consequential development are handled. If you exclude Haruka, I also like the dynamics you get with the characters. They work well for comedic purposes and characterisation purposes.

All of these characters are shown as having positive aspects to their personalities, except Haruka and negative as well. Which helps make them a bit more rounded. For example, Saki can come across as cold and, possibly too serious, but she also displays genuine concern for her employees. Yume can be childish but she also has a kind heart and tries to bring joy to those around her. Yuuki can be possessive and needy when it comes to Yume but she’s also a hard worker, loyal and she mitigates her jealous tendencies with understanding.

So, if Iwami can write characters this well, why did she just decide not to bother with Haruka?

Art:

As a whole, the art is fine. It’s not among the best I’ve seen, even for the genre, but it’s passable. The big thing I don’t really like about it is the way animals are drawn. They’re portrayed with these tiny, button-like eyes that makes their faces look huge by comparison. Especially when it comes to dogs. One thing that’s a bit interesting is that the series likes to censor out its potential fan-service with little cat pictures. Which is better than being fan-servicey, but it’s also kind of bizarre.

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Sound: 

Feel did get some strong actresses for this. With excellent performances from Toyosaki Aki, Hirohashi Ryou, Kugimiya Rie, Endou Aya & Mizuhara Kaoru. Even with Haruka’s actress, Horie Yui, I can’t fault her performance. She does about as well as anyone could when voicing such a trash character. Hashimoto Yukari’s music is good. Then again, she’s done well in every series I’ve reviewed that used her music. So, no surprise there.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot and of greatly varying quality. Any time Haruka gets involved, it’s awful. Yume and Yuuki are the opposite. These two are like really affectionate newly weds and they make for an adorable couple. Any time there’s a scene of them lying in bed together, sneaking a kiss or just interacting, it’s fantastic. There’s also Mika’s obvious feelings for Kana, Kana’s friends even notice and use that fact to tease Mika, and some strong indications that they’re reciprocated.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Get rid of Haruka. This one is really simple. Haruka single-handedly brings the series down. I would say there are two ways to go with this. The first is to just have one less major character. The second is to replace her with a not despicable character. Maybe a charming womanising girl who isn’t a rapey paedophile.
  2. Learn to draw animals. I just really don’t like the way animal eyes are drawn in this.
  3. Give us the scene where Mika learns that Johnny is a goldfish. This one, I just think would be really funny and probably cute. So, I’d like to see it. And I’m sure someone is going to say “oh, that’s in the manga. Just read it.” I intend to check the manga. I’d still like to see it animated.

Final Thoughts:

Kanamemo is one of those series that really works when it’s doing what it’s good at. Unfortunately, it also has a massive flaw that really hurts it. And her name is Haruka. Without her, I could say this was great, maybe even fantastic, and whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who likes slice of life. With her, I have to pull back and say it’s just okay. If you can tolerate Haruka in all her horribleness, you’ll probably appreciate all the fun, charming moments it does have. And it may be worth watching just for the Yume and Yuuki scenes. So, I’ll give it a 6/10.

Meisou-Ou Border: Basically Nothing

Meisou-ou Border is a forty five minute OVA from ’91. It’s based off of a Caribu Marley manga and was brought to life by Artland. That’s right, the studio behind such pieces of complete tripe as Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou. But they also did Mushishi and Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, so we can’t assume the worst.

Story:

We open with two blokes living in filth in a sketchy flat complex being hired to do a job. Since it’s good money and they’re incredibly stupid, they don’t think to ask what the job actually is before taking it. From there the plot just meanders.

Therein lies the big problem with this OVA. There’s some build up leading to their job but the actual work ends in five minutes and, after that, it’s just these idiots faffing about for the second half of the OVA. Even the job doesn’t get resolved well. There’s never a point where anything really engaging, funny or interesting happens. Which makes watching this roughly equivalent to staring at your wall. You probably won’t be too bothered by doing it but you also won’t gain anything from it.

Characters:

I’m just going to refer to our protagonists as young scruffy guy and old shabby guy. Yeah, I could take ten seconds to look at their names, but I don’t care enough. Scruffy is one of those protagonists who’s an amicable, well-intentioned slob. Shabby is more the hedonistic, cheapskate but good on the inside type. They’re both incredibly stupid and we get the same problem with them as we have with the narrative in general. They’re just devoid of anything noteworthy or compelling. You could replace them with stray dogs on an adventure with no dialogue and at least the dogs would be cute which would make them better.

Art:

In terms of artwork and animation, it doesn’t look bad. It’s not the world’s most polished looking work, but it’s fine. And that’s, unfortunately, the highest praise I can give any element of this OVA. The worst part of the artwork is the character design. A lot of the major dudes who show up are just these kind of generic looking mangy guys. So, a lot of it ends up looking the same. It’s kind of like Marvel’s old GI Joe comics with clean cut blonde, blue-eyed dudes you can’t differentiate at a glance. Except that those gave them distinct outfits and these guys all dress similarly too.

Maybe Caribu just likes having generic mangy guys as characters as much as I like writing LGBT characters.

Sound: 

The main characters are voiced by Yara Yuusaku & Horiuchi Kenyuu. Their performances aren’t particularly impressive but they’re perfectly passable. I’ve heard better performances from both of them in the past, but those were in series where they were doing things that warranted range. The music is entirely forgettable. It’s all just rather generic.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any on display.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Focus on one story line. Part of the problem with this work is that, instead of giving us one cohesive narrative and doing it well, it gives us a mesh of thrown together, half-assed plot lines. Focusing on one story would have given it a chance to develop the conflict and characters better.
  2. Characters need personality. If you’re going to waste more than half the work doing nothing, at least use that time to give the characters some complexity.
  3. Distinctive Designs. These guys looking very similar and just generic in general does not help this OVA. Even if you want to maintain the aesthetic of having them both look shabby, you can do that while also giving them more differentiated facial features. At the very least.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Meisou-ou Border isn’t a bad OVA. Its biggest failing comes down to one simple factor, there’s nothing to it.  So, unless you need a sleep aid I can’t really recommend it. I’ll give it a 4/10 for being dull and tedious but inoffensive.

Panda Kopanda: Early Miyazaki

Panda Kopanda is a pair of sort films from the early 1970s. Yes, that is even older than me. It was put out by Tokyo Movie Shinsha. You may remember them as the studio behind Magic Knight Rayearth & Versailles no Bara. That might give you low expectations but it was also written by Miyazaki Hayao, back before Studio Ghibli was a thing. And he’s done screenplays for some of the best anime films out there. So, get your expectations away from mediocrity or worse.

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Story:

We open with young Mimiko seeing her grandmother off. Apparently it was time for the old bat to go into a home. (Actually, she’s going on a trip and can’t take Mimiko because she has school.) While on her own, Mimiko finds out that something strange happened while she was out. She swiftly finds the culprit and it’s a baby panda named Pan-chan. Pan-chan’s father arrives and is very upset to learn that Mimiko has no parents. So, he decides that he’ll be her father and, in exchange, she says she’ll act as Pan-chan’s mum. I know that sounds really questionable, but it isn’t. Thus the trio forms a bizarre little family.

The biggest issue with the films is, ultimately, that it doesn’t always take full advantage of its scenarios. For example, there’s a segment where Mimiko takes Pan-chan to school and some shenanigans ensue. But, ultimately, considerably more could have been done with this. Then there’s the grandmother. Mimiko having a grandmother doesn’t really do anything. Theoretically, she’ll get back from her trip at some point and that will lead to something, but there were only two films and that never came to fruition. Having her departure scene doesn’t really do anything and having Mimiko write to her doesn’t really do anything. Although, tying into the first point, there could have been a really funny scene of the grandmother reading the initial letter and misunderstanding it. It also is a bit weird that some animals talk and others don’t. Most of the circus animals, for instance, don’t say anything.

With that being said, the content they do have is fun and it has a real charm to it. Watching the characters interact with circus animals is fun. The stuff we do get at the school is enjoyable. The initial meeting with the characters is a fun time. There’s never a moment where what’s on the screen is just nothing. Miyazaki also does a good job of bringing in some minor sources of tension for the children. As adults, we know it’s going to turn out okay but for the intended audience, they work well.

Characters:

The cast is simple, but they’re entertaining. Honestly, their interactions and dynamics are strong enough for a work with a comedic bent. Even if it was intended for older audiences they’d be perfectly functional in that regard.

Art:

The artwork definitely shows its age. It uses that really old school style where the animation is a bit janky and the art style is very basic. Honestly, though, it holds up pretty well. You’ll never confuse it for a newer series, but the bright vibrant colours and simplistic style do have their own sense of charm when they’re used well.

Panda Kopanda1.png

Sound:

Our little family is voiced by Kumakura Kazuo, Oota Yoshiko and Sugiyama Kazuko. You might not be super familiar with them since a lot of their acting roles are in older anime but they all give solid performances. The music is very energetic and just fun.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any romance whatsoever in this. So, no ho-yay. And, in this case, that’s a good thing.

Areas of Improvement:

Now it’s time for me to present those changes that I think could have made for a better work.

  1. Cut out the grandmother. Honestly, I think it would have been better if they’d left out the grandmother and had a girl, living on her own and finding a strange family with talking pandas. The grandmother just does nothing.
  2. No Mum. Basically, instead of having Mimiko agree to “be Pan-chan’s mum” I’d just have her agree to help take care of him and have her treated as an older sister. Because the mum thing is the only part of the films that’s weird and not in a good way.
  3. No More Mute Circus Animals. I don’t really think they all need to talk. Especially since most of them appear very briefly. But the Tiger mum could benefit from some actual lines. Especially since her baby talks and has quite a bit of dialogue. And it just comes across as strange that she only seems capable of making actual animal sounds.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Panda Kopanda is an entertaining, endearing children’s film. If you’re just looking for something that’s simple and fun, give it a go. It’s not one of Miyazaki’s best works, but it is quite good. I’ll give it a solid 7/10.

Figure 17: Tsubasa & Hikaru- Wonder Twin Powers Activate

Figure 17 is a thirteen episode anime from the early 2000s. OLM, the same studio behind Gunsmith Cats, Disgaea & Pokemon, was responsible for bringing it to life. It was written by Yonemura Shouji, who also worked on scripting episodes for both Doki Doki Precure & Hunter x Hunter. So, that’s all a positive sign as far as I’m concerned. Let’s get into it.

figure 17

Story:

Shiina Tsubasa is having a rough time. She’s lost her mother and just moved to a new area for her father’s work. To top it all of, she’s very shy and doesn’t make friends easily. At least the place she moves has a nice dog that she gets to look after. I immediately relate to this character. Change the parent she lost and that’s my childhood. One night things change when there’s a loud crash. Tsubasa wakes up and finds a UFO with an alien pilot and a hostile alien life form called a Maguar. Maybe it just wants Reese’s Pieces? Tsubasa accidentally combines with an alien called a Riberus to take on an armoured form capable of fighting the hostile creature. After the battle, an unusual thing happens. The Riberus takes on Tsubasa’s form. She calls herself Hikaru and the newly created twins have to balance their school lives while secretly combating the alien menace before it overwhelms Earth.

Now, my big problem with the narrative is with one specific side story. Namely, the reporter’s. Basically, we get segments throughout the series of this researcher turned columnist wandering around the scenes where they’ve fought Maguar and trying to figure out exactly what happened to cause the ecological damage. And throughout the series I kept wondering how this random dude’s story was going to tie into the main plot line. So, how does it ultimately pan out? It doesn’t. This character and his bullshit segments could have been completely cut out and it wouldn’t have had any impact except to give more time for the characters who matter. Frankly, they could’ve given us scenes of the dog playing around and those would have been better. At least the dog’s cute and interacts with the main cast. Maybe Yonemura thought it would be interesting to get an outsider’s perspective (it’s not) or maybe he had plans that didn’t pan out. Still, ultimately, all the time we spend with this guy is completely pointless.

With that gripe out of the way, there are a lot of positive aspects to the plot. It melds the sci-fi monster hunting aspect with more personal, day to day life drama really well. There are stakes for both elements and there are points where there are problems trying to balance them or where things that happen in one will cause issues with the other. I appreciate that the trained adults can get help from Tsubasa and Hikaru while still coming across as capable in their own right, occasionally even battling the creatures by themselves. That’s not something you see often in this type of narrative and it’s not something that’s easy to pull off. Then we have the ending. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a strong bitter-sweet ending. Which works phenomenally in no small part due to the way it foreshadows the tragic elements. And the tragic elements may have made me tear up… a lot.

Characters:

One of the significant reasons that the marriage of daily life drama and monster hunting works so well is because the characters are so strong. So much of this series is dedicated to Tsubasa’s personal growth. Not just as a reluctant heroine who has to come into her own but as an individual learning to cope with things like loss, loneliness and how to tap into her strength. Hikaru is a superb character as well. The “twins” are handled in a semi-complementary way with each one having strengths the other lacks but they also have aspects to their personalities that are very similar. And after the sheer number of twin characters I’ve seen who are basically one character, this is a refreshing take.

They also have a strong dynamic in spite of them both knowing they aren’t actually twins. Normally, I would say that it’s unrealistic for them to bond so quickly but Figure 17 makes it work by showing us what Tsubasa’s life is like before all of this happens and showing us how isolated she feels. So, it makes sense for her to latch onto a girl who opens up to her and treats her as family.

The side characters also get a good amount of complexity to their characters. Sakura may be one of the strongest representations of those aspects of adolescence that make teenagers difficult to deal with while also showcasing those parts of life that are hard for teenagers which makes her come across as pretty relatable. Even the pointless reporter has depth to him. It’s part of the reason his segments waste so much time.

The only things that don’t have complexity are the Maguar. We basically learn that they’re artificially created but they don’t seem to have sentience. They just kind of want to feed and spread.

Art:

The character design is pretty nice. It’s interesting the way some minor changes between the twins make it readily obvious which one you’re looking at even when they’re wearing the same outfit. That’s a good touch. The armoured Riberus forms are interesting looking. The alien technology is neat looking. The Maguar themselves have some interesting designs. At least, they do at first. After a while, they kind of gave up and started giving you a bunch that basically look the same. To be fair, there is an explanation for it.

The action is pretty well animated, although some of the motion blur and such can be a bit over-used. There’s also an action sequence near the end that takes place in tunnels where everything has a red tint. Which was a bit hard on the eyes and not that good looking. When we got to see the tunnels from inside the Riberus and they had normal colours, they looked great. But, unfortunately, most of it is spent with the redness.

Figure 171

Sound:

The performances are great. Orikasa Fumiko & Yajima Akiko pull off the leads really well. There are also particularly good performances from Koyama Rikiya, Horie Yui & Inoue Kikuko. Although all of the performances are good. The music works quite nicely with the action on screen.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. The crushes we do see among the children are hetero-normative. Although I do appreciate that they’re presented subtly.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Cut out the Reporter Segments. This is definitely the most obvious thing, and for good reason. These parts do nothing. I’d honestly replace them with segments giving some spotlight to the side characters who actually spend time with our heroines.
  2. Colours for the tunnel scene. I mentioned this a bit when I talked about the artwork, but I’d show the tunnel scene the way you see it from the Riberus perspective instead of with that awful red filter.
  3. The Hikaru Question. One thing that comes up in the series is that no Riberus has ever done what Hikaru did. IE: take on a physical form like that. I’d like to see DD and Oldina discuss it from a scientific perspective and from a philosophical perspective. They don’t really touch on it that much in the series proper, which seems a bit weird.

Final Thoughts:

The young man who requested this review said this was one of his favourite anime of all time, and I understand why. While it has some problems, most notably those pointless segments, it is a bloody good series. It has a fantastic sense of character, a compelling story, strong acting and artwork. It might not be one of my favourites, but I can respect it and what it does. Personally, I’ll give it a solid 8/10.

Ayane-chan High Kick: Just Couldn’t Commit

Ayane-chan High Kick is a sports comedy from the late 90s. It was written by Shizuya Isao and put out by Nikkatsu & Rikuentai. I’ve reviewed a lot of semi obscure OVAs so let’s delve into this one.

Ayane Chan1.png

Story:

We open with our heroine, Mitsui Ayane, skipping school in order to try out for wrestling. Unfortunately for her, throwing herself into things carelessly doesn’t work out and she isn’t signed. But things look up when she’s approached by Tange Kunimitsu who sees championship potential in her. She eagerly takes him up on his offer to train her, not realising that he actually wants her as a kick boxer rather than as a wrestler.

The biggest issue with the OVA comes down to the humour. To explain it in simple terms, it can’t decide whether it wants over the top, absurd comedy or more subdued dry comedy. Which basically results in it giving you kind of absurd, over the top situations and then reeling things back and giving you a subdued punch line that usually proves a bit disappointing. Having Ayane woken up when she’s sleeping in class by her friend doing a countdown could be really funny, if she let loose and decked the student in the desk next to hers. Not so much when she just stands up awkwardly and shouts. That’s just a little funny. Having the antagonist bring a van to her school and challenge her would be really funny if she gave a kind of exaggerated challenge speech like the Ultimate Warrior but it’s not really funny when she’s just a bit haughty.

Another issue is with how much time they spend on training montages where nothing all that amusing happens. I get it, you have a sports thing so you want to show some training and progression. However, this OVA has two episodes and runs for a little less than an hour. So, spending a bunch of that time showing training doesn’t seem particularly prudent when you could have some jokes for your comedy or character development if you want to take it semi-seriously. Or both.

With those critiques out of the way, I will credit the series for being kind of entertaining and having jokes that might not be uproariously funny but are a bit funny. And there’s nothing in the OVA’s writing that’s actually bad or even boring. Its main problems come down to trying to do too much with limited time and a general unwillingness to commit to the more absurd elements. And the worst that’s going to lead to are some scenes that are a bit “blah.”

Characters:

I’ve often said that a comedic work doesn’t need characters with all that much depth so long as it has characters that have strong comedic interactions, although it is a bonus. That being said, this OVA isn’t solely comedic. It takes its sport elements somewhat seriously and, because of that, I would say it needs some depth. Which it really doesn’t have. Even if this were purely comedic most of the characters aren’t all that funny in their interactions. So, you ultimately end up with characters who are a a bit too flat to make for a good cast in a sports work that’s taking itself somewhat seriously and not animated enough for a strong comedic cast.

Art:

The artwork isn’t all that good. It’s not bad either it’s just kind of average 90s fare in terms of character designs, backgrounds and the like. The biggest issue I had with it were with the action sequences. The OVA opts for more pulse pounding action rather than absurd, over the top action. Which is a perfectly acceptable choice but the problem is that it’s not good at it. The action sequences mostly involve Ayane taking hits with flashes and recycled footage before she pulls it together and delivers her devastating titular high kick and it’s just not that exciting or interesting to watch. And when it tries to illustrate injuries, there’s really no detail so it just doesn’t work. I get not wanting to show too much blood or detailed gore in a comedic sports work but at least give us some bruising or anything that can actually convey the damage they’re supposed to have taken.

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Sound:

The acting is fine. Nishihara Kumiko, Miyamura Yuko, Kawamura Maria & Ootsuka Akio all deliver acceptable performances. I dare say they could’ve done better if they’d had stronger comedy and/or stronger characterisation to work with. The music is okay. Not anything spectacular or super memorable but it works well enough.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit between Ayane and Kayoko. When they start talking about graduating together and Ayane realises she has to win her match for that purpose it gets pretty homo-erotic.

Specific Improvement Suggestions:

This is something new I’ll probably do from this point on. Namely, I’m going to suggest three specific changes that I think could have made for a stronger work. Obviously, it’s going to end up being a lot easier with works that aren’t as good and get more nit-picky when you get something really strong, but I think it’ll be interesting. So, for this OVA here are my picks.

  1. Embracing more absurd humour.
    I’m not opposed to drier, more subdued comedy, but with the ridiculous set ups and situations I definitely think going for more zany, over the top japes would have made for stronger comedy.
  2. Cutting The Training sequences down, using that time for character interactions.
    If the OVA had done a bit more with developing strong comedic interactions, I definitely think the characters would be both stronger and more memorable.
  3. More polish for the action sequences.
    Whether you want to keep the pulse pounding action, or you want to keep with the general motif and make the fight sequences more ridiculous, the action sequences definitely need more effort.

Final Thoughts:

Ayane-chan High Kick is all right. It’s certainly better than some of the random OVAs I’ve gone over but there are also plenty of better ones out there. If it sounds like it might be your thing, you won’t lose much time watching it since it does run for less than an hour and you may enjoy it. But if you skip it you aren’t really missing out on anything. I’ll give it a 6/10.

Yuru Camp: Send the Chihuahuas

Yuru Camp is based off of a manga by Afro. Which I’m fairly certain is a circle’s name and not the name of the actual author. Afro is known for Anthology comics based off of works like Madoka, Sakura Trick, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka & Sansha Sanyou. I’m detecting a pattern and it has to do with lots of cute girls and heavy shoujo-ai. This may be a circle after my own heart. It was adapted into an anime by C-Station. C-Station is one of those studios I’ve never heard of. They’ve got a list of nine anime they’ve worked on, according to MAL and this is the first one I’ve watched.

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Story:

We open with young Shima Rin going on a solo camping trip. She stumbles across a girl sleeping near the camp site and thinks nothing of it, until late at night when the girl approaches her, crying because she overslept. This is Kagamihara Nadeshiko, a young lady who just moved into the area. Rin shares some of her pre-packaged camp food and lets Nadeshiko warm up by her fire until her sister arrives to pick her up. In a completely unsurprising coincidence, Nadeshiko has enrolled in Rin’s school. She quickly joins the outdoor club with Oogaki Chiaki & Inuyama Aoi. From there we basically get our cast of young ladies bonding over camping.

The only real issue I have with the story telling is that they kind of do the Tsuritama thing where they occasionally spend too much time on the mechanics of the outdoors activity. Although this series isn’t nearly as bad about it and does a better job of giving you small snippets that integrate well into the story instead of the long diatribes that series had. They do go on too long about camping equipment on a few occasions though. You’d almost think they were sponsored by an outdoor goods store.

With that relatively minor complaint out of the way, let’s move on to the positives. First off, this series is really relaxing and charming. It’s one of those anime that you just feel good watching. Rather like So Ra No Wo To. The snappy banter among the girls is superb. Saitou probably gets the best lines in the series in that regard. Maybe they figured they needed something to make her stand out since she doesn’t go camping most of the time and just kind of chats with the others using text messaging. The humour is really well executed and this series has a lot of strong comedic moments. I also appreciate that they address the financial barrier that people have to face when taking up a hobby like camping. And this series loves dogs, which I can appreciate. Not only does Saitou have a dog, but virtually every episode has incidental dogs somewhere. It even gets little details right like how chihuahuas don’t do well in the cold, like to burrow and wear bunny outfits for nefarious purposes.

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Characters: 

The characters have a decent degree of complexity to them, which you don’t often see in cutesy slice of life works. They also mesh very strongly for comedic purposes. Which is part of the reason that the banter is so excellent. Even the incidental characters they encounter on their excursions tend to have a good degree of verisimilitude.

Art: 

The artwork is really nice. The characters are done in a pretty typical moe style which may not be impressive but does look good, and the scenery scenes are absolutely amazing. The series is also really good at drawing dogs. Whether they’re just being encountered randomly or they’re being put in little outfits. The level of detail put into the camping gear is also pretty impressive but camping gear isn’t dogs so it’s not that important.

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Sound:

The main cast is voiced by Takahashi Rie, Touyama Nao, Hara Sayuri, Hanamori Yumiri & Toyosaki Aki. All of whom are really good in this. I’ll also give Tateyama Akiyuki credit for doing a really good job on the soundtrack. You may recall that te did well with Kemono Friends too. The track in this might be a tad better.

Ho-yay:

There’s quite a bit. Rin and Nadeshiko in particular get a lot of moments, including sneaking into one another’s tents in order to sleep together, although in both situations there’s an explanation given beyond just them wanting to sleep together. There’s also some stuff with Aoi deliberately making Chiaki jealous.

Final Thoughts:

So, the writer for this clearly has a strong fondness for shoujo-ai, dogs and camping. Two of those things are interests we share but you’re not catching me out in the woods where some slasher film shit could go down and there are biting insects. All in all, though, I found this to be a highly endearing, enjoyable little series. If you hate the more cutesy slice of life style stories, it’s not going to change your mind. If you like them, even if only occasionally or when a really strong one comes along, chances are pretty high that you’ll enjoy this one. For myself, I give it a 9/10.