Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 15th 2009
Ah My Buddha
DVD 1 - The Aroused One
15 year-old Ikkou is a Buddhist monk in training at a temple which also has several teenage nuns in training, all under the supervision of the old priestess Jyotoku. Although normally a whiny, pathetic fellow, Ikkou has an unusual ability: when his libido is stimulated he can release immense amounts of spiritual energy, which can be quite useful given that the temple's denizens are often called upon to participate in exorcisms. All that the girls have to do is flash him a bit of flesh to get him worked up, with buxom country girl Chitose usually being the intentional or unintentional catalyst. (Calming down the horny young man afterwards is another matter entirely.) Hijinks ensue as Ikkou and the girls deal with one case of haunting after another, whether it be uppity dolls, an out-of-date arcade, or a ghostly undergarment thief.
Few things in anime viewing are more satisfying than seeing an anime series live up to high expectations or exceed modest ones. Conversely, few things in anime viewing are more depressing than seeing a series sink into the depths of its bargain-basement expectations. Such is the case with the series known in Japanese as Amaenaide yo!!, a series which clearly wants to be an silly ecchi romp in the style of Ninja Nonsense but instead ends up being dull, lame, and brainless, with not even a sufficient quantity or quality of fan service to justify that as an excuse to watch it.
The corny premise is actually the least of the first volume's problems. The notion of a male character whose power increases with his arousal, and that he can be aroused by merely looking at the stripped-down forms of the girls around him, is an amusingly naughty one that sounds like it belongs in a hentai series instead. (Indeed, reverse the genders and the premise somewhat resembles that of the actual hentai title Beat Angel Escalayer.) It also allows a convenient excuse to work in lots of fan service and certainly seems abusable for all kinds of ribald jokes. With just a modicum of cleverness, such a concept could easily work.
As the first four episodes repeatedly prove, however, writing and execution matter even in lowbrow content like this. Jokes consistently fall flat as the same old boring gags and story set-ups recycle from numerous other anime series. A poor sense of timing hampers the humor, and when the series tries to be serious or establish some sort of threat level it never manages to induce any tension, resulting in most of its scenes being pale imitations of equivalents done vastly better elsewhere. (Ghost Hunt offers a far more effective haunted doll sequence, for instance.) Most of its attempts at originality fail even worse; the haunted arcade in episode 2, for instance, is only worthwhile because of the background cameo of sound effects from the original Donkey Kong arcade game. The fan service quotient is even surprisingly low for a series designed around it.
A pedestrian cast of common archetypes does not help. Ikkou looks like Tenchi Masaki and whines worse even than Shinji Ikari – no mean feat. Consistently playing him more like Inuyasha's Miroku, rather than like the typical hapless harem romantic comedy male lead, would have served the series so much better. Amongst the harem, innocent and upbeat Chitose gets the feature treatment, but her only claim to freshness is her unusually pragmatic attitude towards horror movies. Amongst the rest are the buxom tanned girl, the flaky blonde, the petite-built tomboy, the “girl with glasses,” and Hinata, the token Ruri-from-Nadesico rip-off; in other words, a typical harem mix. Naturally they have the tiny old lady priestess as their trainer/supervisor.
The English dub does the content no favors, either. Although generally fairly close to the original script (maybe too close at times, which could partly explain the stiff dialogue), its English script curiously rewrites around most of the strongest sexual innuendo, as if a deliberate effort were made to keep the English production PG-13-rated; if true, this would seem a self-defeating effort. It also changes a clear reference to cosplay to “dressing up,” something that English dubs generally have not done in the past decade. Many of the English acting performances suffer either from overkill – as in the whiny-overkill version of Ikkou – or awkward-sounding timing and delivery, which denies the smooth and consistent flow that even the more mediocre dubs have these days. The Japanese dub is hardly a stellar production, either, and the English actors do settle down some by episode 4, but this is still a detrimental effort.
Studio DEEN gives the teenage female character designs a rounded look not unlike that of Ninja Nonsense and very distinctively different appearances, allowing viewers to pick their own favorite depending on preferred style. (Do you like bigger or smaller breasts? Pigtails or short hair? Tanned or pale skin? The harem has all of the options covered.) By contrast, most one-shot and supporting characters have a very generic look. A vibrant coloring job and solid animation give the series an appealing look, albeit one decidedly different from most of the studio's other efforts. If only they had put equal effort into the boring and unimaginative soundtrack, which has a decent opening number and better country-themed closer but in between fails to generate much excitement or enthusiasm.
Extras are limited to only a clean opener. Media Blasters does continue their recent trend of printing cover art lengthwise, however.
Not everything in the first four episodes is a total failure. The artistry looks respectable, they do offer an occasional funny moment, the references to one of the longest-running American horror movie series in episode 4 actually get a little creative, and at least some of the fan service is sexy. Those plusses fall far short of balancing out all of the minuses stacked against them, however. Doubtless some will find this to their tastes, as the series was successful enough to warrant a second season, but for most this first volume, at least, is not worth the cost of the DVD.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C
+ Generally sharp coloring, occasional funny moment.
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