Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Feb 13th 2012
B Gata H Kei: Yamada's First Time
Blu-Ray + DVD - The Complete Series
Yamada has a goal – during her high school years, she will have sex with 100 different guys. But how to begin? After all, she doesn't want just anyone to be her first. After all, an experienced guy might laugh at her or something. The obvious solution? Her first guy ought to be a virgin too. When she (literally) bumps into classmate Kosuda at the bookstore and discovers that he, too, is inexperienced sexually, he seems like the perfect guy. But how can she get him to step up to the plate? And will a concentrated pursuit of him start to make her question her goals?
Sex humor is the adult equivalent of potty humor – for whatever reason, we all seem to find some form of bodily function incredibly funny. Yamada's First Time, also known as B Gata H Kei, knows this and goes out of its way to make viewers laugh with its crude, over-the-top jokes and an impressive variety of euphemisms for the word “vagina.” Is it a bit tasteless? You bet. But it is also a surprisingly clean, very funny show about one girl's realization that sex and emotion aren't totally divorced from each other.
Our story opens with Yamada (no first name) primping in the bathroom. Her skin? Perfect. Breasts? Lovely. Hair? To die for. Then she sits on the floor and sets a mirror between her legs. Okay, so maybe that isn't as pretty as she'd like it to be, but it'll still get the job done – the job of having sex with 100 guys! At this point, viewers who aren't likely to find this show funny should consider themselves warned: it doesn't get any less raunchy from here. Yamada is single-minded in her determination to get down and dirty, and this isn't the only time she examines herself intimately, so if that makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the show for you. For other viewers, however, it is rather refreshing to see a girl so comfortable with her sexuality and wants, even if we don't share them. Also a pleasant surprise is that Yamada's best friend Takeshita simply thinks she's crazy – she doesn't dislike Yamada because she thinks her objective is skanky or unbecoming, just kind of dumb. That no one, including the show itself, denigrates Yamada's desire for sexual activity is a positive statement.
Not that the show aims to sexually empower women. From the perky “Oishiete A to Z” to the catchy “Hadashi no Princess,” Yamada's First Time is out for the laughs. The dub script is considerably funnier to an English speaking audience and scriptwriters Jamie Marchi and Leah Clark have done a bit of rewriting to make the text cruder and more appealing to an American audience. This seems like a natural step in switching between the much more formal Japanese language and the far more casual everyday spoken English. While Japanese may have just as many euphemisms for sex as English, they perhaps do not get as much public usage. The result is a dub script with rather less subtlety than a KY commercial and a good many laugh-out-loud moments, with the teacher's lines being the most altered. The voice acting in both languages is good, but English audiences may find Yukari Tamura's Yamada a bit too young and innocent sounding compared to Brittany Karbowski's blunter interpretation. Scott Freeman does an admirable job in his first true lead role, but the real standout is Cherami Leigh's Takeshita. Her dry, sarcastic delivery is spot-on and she makes an excellent foil to Karbowski's loud, sex-obsessed Yamada. The only voice that shows a major difference is Takeshita's boyfriend, who has a much more resonant Japanese voice that suits the character a bit better than his English counterpart.
The relationship between Yamada and Kosuda that forms the core of the series swings between real, sweet, and utterly bizarre. Kosuda can't figure out what Yamada wants from him – does she want him to touch her breasts? To kiss her? What is her deal? Yamada, for her part, is convinced that all boys are horny sex machines and can't figure out why he doesn't read all of her clues properly. This leads to some very funny and kind of real awkwardness between them as they try to figure each other out and how they feel about each other, although the idea that she might feel something for Kosuda at all is utterly foreign to her. At one point she even considers hiring Golgo 13 to take Kosuda out, but then her first time might be with the ultra-experienced Golgo and then...This is the kind of ridiculous sidetrack that this show likes to take, and for the most part, they remain funny. By the end of the series' twelve episodes, however, even with the jokes made at the expense of the couple's sexual experiences (and organ, in Kosuda's case), it is easy to hope that the relationship works out.
Another of the show's gimmicks is the inclusion of the characters' “eros deities,” a cute term for their libidos. Yamada's, which looks like a version of her with a mustache riding around on a pink cloud, serves as a narrator in a way which may remind some people of the role that the bunny girl played in Gokudo. Kosuda's eros deity more often simply stands in for his penis, and sweet girl Miyano's looks like a magical girl. The deities are an amusing edition to the show's other gimmicks, and Yamada's has some of the better sex euphemisms in her lines, but Kosuda's is a bit underutilized.
While the highlight of this show is the audio and the jokes, the visuals, while not spectacular, are more than adequate. Fuller breasted girls' bosoms have a tendency to bounce on their own or blow gently in the wind, but given that each girl's bra size is shown on the screen when she appears during the opening theme, not to mention the plot of the show, this is a bit less of an offense than it could be. Beautiful siblings Kyoka and Keiichi have perpetual sparkles surrounding them, which would be pretty standard if the other characters did not consistently notice them. Backgrounds can look a bit odd due to the fact that they are not outlined in black. Characters are all easily distinguished, and with the talented voice cast, even minor players become memorable, no matter how generic they may look. The music is peppy and poppy, with the “Oni Brand Condom Song” playing as an insert in many episodes. Perhaps the most easily stuck in your head, however, is the simple chant of “B gata H kei” that pops up from time to time. Even the voice actors mention in the commentary for episode one that they can't get it out of their heads.
The regular DVD set comes with both the regular and the Blu Ray discs and extras include two episode commentaries (the first with the director and leads is a bit better), outtakes, clean versions of the songs, and trailers, while the limited edition also includes a mousepad of Yamada in her underwear. Whichever you decide on, if you're up for a humorous romp with a single-minded, horny teenage girl and her confused target, you don't want to miss this. Yamada's First Time is a funny, raunchy story that never points accusatory fingers, and if you give it a chance you may find yourself, like this reviewer, very pleasantly surprised.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Very funny without ever getting too explicit, Yamada never looked down upon for her goals. Catchy, funny insert songs, well dubbed.
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