Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, May 21st 2009
The hooks of the dojin lifestyle may be sinking ever deeper, but Najimi is still annoyed when she learns that her coveted summer is to be spent at the beach, not frolicking in the sun and surf, but grinding away at Justice's “special” dojin-training menu. Which is a fancy way of saying that she'll spend several beautiful days locked in a dark room trying desperately to complete a dojinshi for the exhibition of her (and Nido's) work that Justice set up before there was any work to exhibit. Despite herself, she rather enjoys the experience. And from it—or rather a series of coincidences surrounding it—she gets her chance to debut as pro manga artist. But for once in her skinflint life, Najimi finds herself reluctant to take the money-making path—and not just because she knows that her awful work will spell ruin for whatever magazine is stupid enough to run it: if she takes the job, her days as a dojin artist are over.
If you can get past the bitter taste of being gypped out of half a show, Dojin Work is pretty enjoyable stuff. It's too short to do much besides goof around, but it's also too short to grow wearisome and too short for things like bargain basement character development and a stupendous dearth of substance to matter much. What does matter are the gags, and on that front these four half-episodes deliver. Some are character-driven (Nido's ongoing yaoi fantasies about Justice and Hoshi), some are topical (the otaku fan-community's willingness to jump on strange bandwagons fueling the inexplicable popularity of Najimi's work), and some are just plain weird (that bloomer-thing that dances on Tsuyuri's head). On display this volume is the series' growing confidence in its situational humor, yielding a couple a great jokes about Najimi and Nido's increasingly yuri-esque relationship and a killer scene in which a pair of not-so-innocent pick-up artists pose for Nido's drawings, realizing only too late that the job entails sweaty male love. The horror.
The funny-first approach informs the series from the ground up—story and visuals alike spurn unnecessary frills, and a few necessary ones. Are backgrounds needed for jokes? Absolutely not! Toss 'em out the window. Are rounded characters instrumental in the success of swift-kick-in-the-butt humor? Hell no! Pare 'em down to a single quirk! Does complex animation make the series funnier? Not noticeably so. Say goodbye to fluid motion, say hello to budget savings! Memorable music? Need you ask? Chuck it over in favor of Kazumi Mitome's forgettable fluff. The closest the series gets to a stylistic trademark is its habit of staging certain jokes as manga passages. (Funny...and cheap! Najimi would approve.) The characters trend heavily towards youthful cuteness, with a dose of sex appeal that would be unsettling if it wasn't so good-natured.
Even if the end result is never fall-out-of-your-seat funny (and is always a little cheap-looking), it's still fast and unfailingly amusing, with just enough insight into the artistic process (e.g. Najimi's swings from blind confidence to ego-scarring honesty) to keep from fading into complete insubstantiality.
But always, just under the enjoyment, is that sour taste. This is one of Media Blasters' most disastrously mishandled releases, and every volume ends with an hour-long reminder of the financial kick in the nads that the series is. The entertainment value of the series' live-action half has increased steadily as lead actresses Kimiko Koyama (Sora) and Momoko Saito (Tsuyuri) have grown more comfortable in front of the camera. The episode in which they visit original creator Hiroyuki's studio and make his life hell by rifling through his drawers and papers is genuinely funny, and their visit to the printers is interesting in a grade-school field trip kind of way. But the rest is as deadly boring as ever, and even at its best the entire stunt is cloyingly contrived. Will their dojinshi sell? Well, let's see... It's had an entire television series' worth of advertisement, was drawn by two cute and reasonably popular voice actresses and will be sold by them while in kimono cosplay. Gee, let me guess. The series would have been much better served by a single two-disc release (split between the animated and live action sections). As it is the series is overpriced and chopped into frustratingly bite-sized bits. Sure it's as disposable as Zsa Zsa Gabor's husbands, but it still deserves better than that.
This volume's only extra is a 24-page DVD-ROM preview of Hiroyuki's original Dojin Work manga. As is Media Blasters' habit, no English track is included.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : C
+ Consistent fun-factor; occasional howler of a joke; not completely (though definitely mostly) devoid of substance.
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