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Arcade in the Sky Blog: Otoboku Review

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Otoboku Review

I got this anime at Otakon, and have been enjoying it a lot, so it's only natural that I put up a review. I should preface this by saying that I have a weakness for gender-bending anime and manga. Ranma was my first anime, so anything with this subject matter has a shard of nostalgia in it for me. Nonetheless, I can still make a fair assessment after I've picked it up.

Otoboku or "Maidens are Falling for Me" is based off a manga from Arashikanao and Caramel Box (huh?). The cover art is BS, as no animated show could look like that. The comic art doesn't even look like that, it is much simpler and "Azumanga dao"-esqe. The show does, however, look good with a high amount of detail without sacrificing fluid and frequent movement. The plot-or lack thereof- concerns a boy, "Mizuho", who must attend a girls school as a condition in his grandfathers will.

Were they out of haunted houses?

From that point, the series takes on most if not all of the archetypes, scenarios, and cliches from other "yuri" shows like MariMite and Strawberry Panic. If you are a fan of those two shows, there's no reason why you wouldn't like this. The show, if fact, have little to do with Mizuho being in drag, and goes along it's merry way as if he were a she. Her character design is completely female and he is voiced by a female voice actor. There is even a point in the sixth episode where one of the main characters-much like the audience-completely forgets that Mizuho is smuggling a twig and two berries in that catholic schoolgirl uniform.

In a way, this show has a leg up on some of the "pure-yuri" fair in that it holds back on the melodrama. Conflicts are treated like the simple disagreements they are, and not like the fate of human civilization rests on the outcome.

This bring me to my verdict. I hate to say it, but this show won me over in the end. This is a guilty pleasure in every way a shojo title could be-- but the quality visuals, music and cute chibis spoke to me. They look like Raggity-Ann dolls! There are stories that actually have character interaction and growth, sans the blue humor, slapstick and melodrama that other shows have. The moment that really did it for me was in the fifth episode. Here, Mizuho discovers that her/his dorm room is in fact haunted (see my comment above). The ghost is named Ichiko, and is much more along the lines of "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" than "The Ring". There is a montage of Ichiko the friendly ghost participating in dorm life-- in which there is an image of her playing a board game. They aren't playing go or shogi, they are playing "The Game of Life". They are playing Milton Bradley's The Game of Life with a dead girl. I fell over I was laughing so hard. Now, I know that is a tragically horrible visual pun--but if the Haze-man has a weakness, it is tragically horrible visual puns. Curse you Anime Works, and curse your 13+ anime DVDs!

Speaking of which this is a "hardcore" DVD. That is to say if you pop it in, it will start playing the raw Japanese show with no subtitles-at least on my player. It has textless title animation as a bonus and there is even a behind the scenes feature on the second volume. I should note the image I'm using here is inaccurate. The first volume has teal lettering, but the actual second volume has orange letters.

There's also the issue of the "Yuri-fan" logo that appears on the back of the box. Many hardcore yuri fans will argue that this is not true yuri because the protagonist is not a girl, but a guy pretending to be one. Personally, I'd have to say the logo belongs there. This show religiously follows the checklist of every element a stereotypical "yuri" show should have. The protagonist is male only through dialog and is never characterized as anything but female (except the time she left the seat up). Most yuri-fans are male, just as most fans of hip-hop are white. It seems logical that a show would be developed with some sort of "in" for them. SO if Eminem can be a true rapper, I don't see why Otoboku can't be a true yuri series.

Now that I've made an analogy that will send me straight to hell, I think I should sign off for the night. I will recommend that if you are a fan of girl-on-girl anime, that you check http://okazu.blogspot.com

That blog has everything you could ever want to know about yuri, and it's a must read!
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