Reviewby Patrick King, May 22nd 2006
DVD 1: Spring
The first volume of Boys Be introduces our three male leads - Kyoichi, Makoto, and Yoshihiko – along with their respective love interests. Kyoichi is kind of guy who is more concerned with art than sports. Naturally, he also has a crush on his popular, video game-loving, athletic, childhood friend. Where Kyoichi is sensitive and shy, Makoto is lewd, obnoxious, and utterly reliant upon Dr. Misuboshi's “Love Manual.” His outlook shifts when a moped accident lands him in a hospital staffed by a particularly attractive nurse – a nurse only slightly older than he is. And then there's the last member of the trio, Yoshihiko. A star athlete, he has a solid group of fans in school. His heart is taken by a transfer student in the library – not precisely the part of the school in which he spends most of his time. After meeting her, not a day goes by without Yoshihiko returning to the library, hoping to encounter once again the girl who earned his love with a single kiss.
When developing a new series, it seems as if some studios do nothing more than latch onto the latest fad and assemble a product engineered to sell. Given the high cost of modern anime production and the absolute necessity for a series to make money in order to keep its studio afloat, this is not terribly surprising. Nor does it necessarily result in a bad series. Many copycat shows are just as entertaining as their inspiration – some even surpass the originals.
It is always nice to be reminded that there are exceptions to such a mercenary model for series development. Boys Be serves well as one such reminder. Based on the manga by Itabashi Masahiro and Tamakoshi Hiroyuki, it strays somewhat from the short story structure of the printed version, featuring a core cast of characters instead of mostly different protagonists. Themes from the manga occasionally seep in, however, nicely bridging the gap between the two.
At first, Kyoichi gives the impression that he's nothing more than a stereotypical anime milksop. Yet, instead of portraying Kyoichi as a cookie cutter character archetype, he is a surprisingly well-rounded, dynamic character. His friends are just as complex, and in a good way. Makoto plays the role of the lecher in the series, but his lustful façade dissolves swiftly. Makoto's true personality becomes apparent when he befriends a little girl recuperating from a recent procedure while they're both stuck in the hospital. Following the trend examples of Kyoichi and Mokoto, Yoshihiko eschews the expected behavior of an athlete of his caliber. He's thoughtful and introspective, and beneath the stoic exterior of the star baseball player there are telltale signs that he's a sucker for romance. Each of the characters are introduced and fleshed out slowly and deliberately, which is great for viewers who appreciate depth in a show. For those looking for a fast-moving series with clear resolution at the end of each episode, however, Boys Be may not be nearly as enjoyable.
The production quality here is good, but the actual story content is far more important than the visuals of the series. Satellite, one of the studios behind the stylish Heat Guy J, handled part of the animation for Boys Be, but don't expect a gratuitous use of computer graphics. More effort seems to have gone into keeping the character designs consistent from scene to scene than into creating a show full of eye candy, but it lends an even greater sense of realism to the show.
Music in the show works well as background music, though sometimes it wanders dangerously close to sounding like the OST for a bad love sim game. It's not exactly on the list of soundtracks anime fans must buy. Some viewers may have a soft spot for the stuff, but it adds a little too much melodrama to an otherwise well-balanced combination. The opening and ending themes handily redeem the in-show music; they're appropriately inspiring Japanese soft-pop tunes.
Luckily, voice acting fares better than the music. The English translation stays close to the Japanese version, both in subtitles and the actual English dub track. Both tracks sound fairly organic, and both do a good job of enhancing the real-world tone of Boys Be.
As usual, The Right Stuf has done an excellent job packaging this release. With a dual-sided cover, a transparent case, and 12-page full-color booklet with interviews with the Japanese staff, character profiles, and more, they continue to set the standard for DVD releases. Also included are an on-disc line art gallery and a textless version of the opening sequence. There are only three episodes on the DVD, which seems a little skimpy, and it's especially pricey for viewers who opt to purchase the disc + art box combo. Seeing as the only extra on that particular version is an artbox, no matter how high the quality of the box, it's getting hard to justify purchasing a box for every series that comes along. This is especially true for a show that could have fit on three (or less) DVDs.
Yet, Boys Be is certainly worth the price of admission – with or without the fancy box. The show is frequently tender, but never mushy. Its female stars are attractive, but they're not pin-ups, nor do they jiggle without reason. Romance and humor are deftly intertwined in this series, but it is not a standard romantic comedy. The down-to-earth spirit of the manga has been exceedingly well-adapted to animated format, resulting in a show that has the slightly ironic distinction of being unique by going out of its way to be normal. The creators of Boys Be definitely succeeded in creating a series that depicts the “normal” world quite well, but this show is far from average.
For fans who may be sick (or even a little tired) of the typical anime routine, Boys Be may be the perfect pick-me-up. Even though it was written in mind for the guys out there, ladies might enjoy it just as much. It could also serve as a nice introductory series to get a significant other into anime. Giant robots and samurai are great entertainment, but how many series out there are good for a date? That alone makes Boys Be noteworthy.
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : C+
+ Sincere romantic comedy; different without the use of a gimmick.
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