Reviewby Mike Crandol, May 2nd 2003
Amazing Nurse Nanako
Nanako's Secret Box Set (DVD 1-3)
She's called Amazing Nurse Nanako, but she's really more of a maid for a military-backed hospital run by Dr. Ogami, the world's foremost expert in cloning. Nanako's ditzy nature often lands her in trouble with the doctor, who constantly threatens to turn her into his latest experiment and inexplicably keeps her in a rigorous exercise program. When the US government shows up with a mysterious DNA sample for Ogami to analyze, he ends up caught in the middle of a plot between the Pentagon and the Vatican to bring about the Second Coming. Nanako may hold the key to the project's success or failure, but in the meantime she finds plenty of opportunities to get herself and the hospital staff into all sorts of wacky predicaments involving grizzly bears, mutant monsters, and giant death robots.
Had the creators of Amazing Nurse Nanako put as much care into the overall production as they put into the animation of the heroine's breasts it would surely be one of the greatest anime series ever made. Director Hiroshi Negishi, best known for the so-so Tenchi Universe, concocts a half-baked mix of serious government/religious conspiracy and ecchi anime sex comedy, and the result is a highly uneven mess in which moments of brilliant storytelling are drowned amidst some of the most perverted shenanigans this side of Pink Pineapple.
There's nothing wrong with a good sex comedy, but “Nanako's” shamelessly twisted fantasies are just disturbing. Some of the ecchi humor works, such as Nanako throwing the clothes on her back out of an airplane to “lighten the load”; most of it does not, like when Dr. Ogami and the hospital staff sexually torture Nanako in order to lure out a genetically-altered monster hunting the hapless nurse. Negishi tries to play the abusive relationship between the sadistic Dr. Ogami and the submissive Nanako for laughs, but this is no satire of abuse; it's a glamorization of it, and there's nothing funny about that. Ogami claims to have Nanako's best interests at heart but is unrelentingly vicious to her, and all the other characters - including Nanako herself – see nothing wrong with this. Nanako's unwavering devotion to someone who beats and berates her at the drop of a hat is a thinly veiled power fantasy, and her grueling “training sessions” are nothing more than S&M games in cheap disguise.
It's a shame, because there is some real potential in the material. Some people might take issue with a plot that has the US government and the Vatican teaming up to make a mutant Jesus clone, but it's a blasphemously brilliant idea. Blood obtained from the Shroud of Turin lends the notion some credence, as does some convincing techno-babble regarding DNA triple helixes. The mystery behind Nanako herself is also a creative bit of science fiction, and the series can be pretty funny and entertaining when it's not being perverted. The standout episode is a hilarious parody of anime archvillains that finds Ogami's former classmate seeking revenge for his college sweetheart, whose head Ogami grafted onto a Go-bot as an experiment.
But none of these great ideas are fully realized. The emphasis on ‘comedic’ sexual situations doesn't allow time for much else. The supporting characters are fun but get no proper introduction, and after six episodes it's still a complete mystery why a witch and a Shinto priest work at Ogami's hospital…and just who the heck is the kid with the glasses? There are a few vague references about a plan to transfer Nanako's brain into a giant robot called the Venus 2000; the back of the DVD case implies this is a crucial plot point, but it has no bearing on anything in the actual story. Even the inspired Christ-clone plotline completely derails when Nanako is brought into the equation and muddles the story up But Good, and some more bouncing breast shots are thrown our way in a feeble attempt to cover up all the holes left at the end.
I wish I could at least say that the breast animation is nice, but Nanako's ridiculously-shaped melons are anything but sexually appealing. Resembling a pair of guided missiles tied to a flagpole, Nanako's pointy chest could put an eye out, and her tiny frame makes her enormous assets look all the more unnatural and unattractive. They do bounce and flop around with great attention to detail, and admittedly fully-animated breasts in an otherwise limited-animation production are pretty amusing. Though Nanako's huge tracts of land doubtless sucked up most of the animation budget, the creators had enough money left over to produce an engaging closing credit sequence starring CG-rendered chibi versions of the cast. This is accompanied by a sugarcoated song about love that stands in sharp contrast to the dark sexual themes lurking beneath “Nanako's” surface.
You might expect someone like Nanako to have a typically squeaky, high-pitched j-girl voice, but Maria Yamamoto puts a deeper, refreshingly different spin on the archetypal anime character. She is matched tit-for-tit….er, tit-for-'tat'…by Mariah Martin in the English dub. Both actresses bring Nanako's whiny personality to life without making her obnoxious, and the character's oddly endearing quality can be almost entirely attributed to their vocal stylings. Their castmates in English and Japanese also turn in worthy performances and lend the series what little dignity it has.
Pioneer's “Nanako's Secret” box set wisely makes no attempt to portray the series as anything but what it is. Underwear-clad portraits of the star adorn a sturdy box covered with a clear slipcase that adds more modest layers of clothing to Nanako's buxom form. Inside all three standalone volumes of the series are collected along with a decent-sized foldout poster of our heroine in her “Nana-Go” combat suit. The first pressing also comes with a “Nanako's Secret Collection Catalog” in which the female cast members model various revealing outfits. The only thing more embarrassing than being caught ogling a Victoria's Secret catalog would be caught ogling this.
“Amazing Nurse Nanako” does get an honorable mention for attempting to do something different. But the mesh of styles is uneasy at best, and ultimately the creators let kinky fantasy overrun the production. The inspired plot threads could have been better developed in another series, and even Nanako herself could have been entertaining under different circumstances. Maybe a guest appearance on Mahoromatic?
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : D+
Story : D
Animation : C+
Art : C
Music : C
+ the only anime with a mutant Jesus clone
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