The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
The Comic Artist and Assistants

Apr 8th 2014

Hope Chapman

Rating: 1.5

Review:
Hip hip hooray for Sexual Harassment: The Anime! Okay, maybe less hooray for some audiences. This 4-koma gag anime is solidly composed of jokes about a manga-ka taking advantage of his assistant (named Ashisu-san, ha ha, she doesn't even really have a name,) under the pretense that guys forcing women to do sexual things for them to keep a job is weird and funny. It's not, it's a sad thing that many women really do have to deal with on the regular. The way it's framed places Ashisu in a position of stupid  and bemused compliance rather than frustration, which would be at least honest if no less unfunny. Comic artist Yuuki says "I need a live reference so I can draw breasts being groped" and Ashisu complies with a timid "If...if it's really just for research" and that's the joke.  Ew. Ew ew ew. No thank you. The escapades with his feisty twin-tailed editor aren't any less uncomfortable, from her textbook tsundere behavior to her tired, purity-enforcing "girls are always like this, boys are always like that" advice for how he should write his terrible shonen manga.

The show's only saving grace is the bumbling enthusiasm of its protagonist. Yuuki does a surprisingly good job at convincing the audience that he's a purely accidental pervert with a heart of gold, moreso than many of his contemporaries in this sort of show, anyway. A few of his antics are even executed with clever enough timing to make them almost funny, if it wasn't for their sickening subject matter. The show isn't incompetently made, and the comedy is directed fine, but this is faint praise. All the yuks here are old cliches revolving around such thick levels of "girls have to be prudes, and boys have to be perverts, so sexual harassment is hilarious" garbage that is both so uncomfortable and unfunny that it can't really be recommended.

The Comic Artist and Assitants
is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.


Bamboo Dong

Rating: 2

Review: It's not a good sign when a show feels like it's already running out of material at the end of its first episode. Its first 13-minute episode. And if you can't figure out a way to make 13 minutes interesting, how are you expected to fill an entire season?

There's an art to adapting 4-panel comic strips into interesting, engaging anime; The Comic Artist and Assistants apparently skipped that day in class. Instead, it just spits out joke after joke, hoping that something, anything will stick. Every minute is filled with mindless fanservice, under the wink-wink-nudge-nudge pretense that it's all being drawn and imagined by a manga artist whose bread and butter is drawing fanservice. Within the first few minutes, he's already propositioned his busty female assistant to allow him to grope her breasts. And then, when she says no, he convinces her to grope herself instead. That the act is technically sorta-but-not-really voluntary (in that the character said yes to such a request) is marred by the sobering realization that, no, she's fictional after all, and her actions are dictated by a team of writers and animators. The end effect is something that's a little creepy and disturbing, because we're watching a gal who's all too willing to subject herself to the perverse needs of her employer "for work"… as conceived by the writers, anyway.

Ironically, the next bit is a scene where the mangaka's editor tells him that the leading gal (amusingly named Moemi) of his romcom is too enthusiastic about showing her panties to her boyfriend, saying that in real life, being in a relationship isn't license for the guy to fulfill whatever spontaneous sexual needs he has. The conversation ends with the author hunched over, bemoaning, "can't we at least have our dreams in manga?"

In that moment, the series almost blips to life with self-awareness, lampooning an industry rife with male-drawn fanservice (for male reader needs). But this satire is dropped as soon as it's raised, when the entire next scene involves a spirited (and very much illustrated) discussion over what's hotter—full panty shots, or panty flashes. It's an admirable attempt at finding an excuse to draw both, but the jokes drags on for much too long, and doesn't make it past the "get it? panties" gate. The last sketch is similarly lazy, relying on bras and the ol' small breasts punch line that can't find a way to leave anime.

I'm not saying that one can't enjoy some good ol' fanservice, but the way that the fanservice comes about in The Comic Artist and Assistants is just lazy and strange. Everything that the main character does is just a set-up for a drawing of boobs and butts, and even the side characters are just props in his one-man show. It's dull.

The Comic Artist and Assistants is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 2

Review: There's nothing too unpalatable about this behind-the-scenes comedy about a pervy mangaka and his support team. Sure, the show seems to think that habitual sexual harassment is a harmless eccentricity, and, sure, Aito—the mangaka in question—is an insult to the male half of the human race, but the show is good-natured enough that that only makes you queasy every once in a while. No, Assistant’s problem isn't unpleasantness; it's boredom. The show is the Sahara Desert of laughs: just miles of meandering conversations, stupid situations, and wacky author antics without a drop of actual humor in sight. Aito convinces his assistant to grope herself in the name art, his editor beats him up for revealing her bra size, everyone discusses their dreams, and we… well, we never so much as crack a smile.

The Comic Artist and Assistants is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


Theron Martin

Rating: 2 (of 5)

Review:
The Comic Artist is based on a 4-panel manga series which was created by the same mind behind Doujin Work and ran in a seinen magazine from 2008 to 2012. It features Yuuki Aito, a manga-ka who is hopelessly clueless about women despite the fact that he draws a fan service-laden manga. Hence one can reasonably expect that the content is going to be more than a little tawdry and mostly consisting of short skits. That is, indeed, exactly how the first 13 minute episode plays out.

Yuuki has pretty Sahoto Ashisu as an assistant and boyish (she even wears male clothing when at work) Mihari Otosuna as an editor. He has little to no experience with the kind of prurient activities that he draws about, which leads to begging his assistant for some groping for reference material, a discussion over whether or not girls willing to show panties to their love interests is something sensible to depict, and a philosophical quandary of whether showing full panties, just a hint of panties or no panties (and thus leaving everything to the imagination) is most suitable for his manga. While out shopping on an off day, Mihari encounters Yuuki in her preferred lingerie store, where he is buying “research materials,” which leads to no end of embarrassment for Mihari.

The opener indicates that two more girls are soon going to come into the picture, which is good because the content is already struggling. The production values are actually pretty good for a series of half-length episodes – well above what one might expect, in fact, and featuring some attractive character designs – but first-time lead director Takeshi Furuta does not seem to know how to make the jokes work on screen. (Either that or the humor just does not translate well from manga form.) The result is a largely tasteless production whose jokes reek of stale execution. While not awful, it is neither as funny nor as lecherous as it wants to be.

The Comic Artist and Assistants is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

Review:

Aito is a struggling mangaka. Not struggling in that he has yet to be published, but more in the sense that he's not sure why others (read: women) have issues with some of his ideas and problems. In this clear adaptation of a four-panel comic, comprised of three short segments in its twelve minute run time, Aito asks his assistant if he can grope her breasts to draw it more authentically and doesn't understand why both she and his female editor object to a girl willingly lifting up her skirt when a boy asks her to. In some ways, this is a direct hit at the stereotype of otaku as overgrown boys who have no real idea of what women are like or what it means to be involved with one. This is show very well in the second segment, when Mihari, the editor, tells Aito that he's probably one of those guys who thinks that going out with a girl means that you can grope her breasts all the time. (He's visibly shocked when she tells him that's not the case.) That's moderately funny, in a kind of horrifying way.

Mostly this show is just uncomfortable, at least for me. Aito's delusions of what one can do and say to women are borderline unsettling, even if they are played for laughs. There certainly are some chuckle-worthy moments, like his rationalization for not drawing panty shots, but there's also an edge of discomfort to them. Am I reading too much into this? Probably. Does that make me less uncomfortable with a lot of this episode? Not really. This is definitely a case where your tolerance and comfort level with its brand of humor will make or break it for you, no matter how great Yoshitsugu Matsuoka's delivery of his lines is.

The Comic Artist and Assistants is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


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