Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
When one thinks of hentai, one commonly conjures up mental images of torture devices, copious amounts of bodily fluids, and even tentacle monsters with eyeballs on their phalli. Even though hentai titles that are without these often stomach-turning fetishes are not in short supply, they certainly don't attain the sort of notoriety that their more extreme counterparts do. Critical Mass's (Right Stuf's hentai label) Endless Serenade is one of those overlooked fetish-free hentai releases, and after watching it it's not hard to see just why animated porn that didn't require a handy barf bag never quite took off. Though it seems to try its hardest to make itself stand out as a refined piece of true "erotica," it fails to get beyond the fact that it's really just a boring romp in a convenience store stockroom.
Those familiar with the usual clichés of porn and soap operas will feel right at home with Endless Serenade's plot. Yuji secretly pines for his co-worker, Satsuki, and dreams of getting her in the sack. All the while Miki, Yuji's subordinate, secretly pines for him, and dreams of getting him in the sack. As all this is going on, there's some inane subplot involving two more employees who are secretly doing each other in the stockroom. Of course, there's also the morbid twist that Satsuki is Yuji's dead brother's fiancée, and she still pines for him and his dream of operating a convenience store. None of it really goes anywhere, it's pretty forgettable, and it simply serves as an excuse to showcase a steady serving of sex scenes.
Granted, it's only to be expected that creating an epic story takes a back door to sex in a porn film, but even there Endless Serenade fails to impress. Scenes are often far too brief to keep the target audience interested, and they're extremely repetitive. Their execution is so bland and homogeneous that at times you could swear the studio was using stock footage. On top of that, the animation veers to the poor side of things, resembling more a slide show sprinkled with the occasional undulation. It even becomes outright comedic near orgasm, where the footage is simply sped up, creating something of a "hyper sex" phenomenon. Good for a laugh, but then when you're trying to make your hentai out to be a truly erogenous experience, laughing at the climax is the last thing you want to happen.
Even beyond the sexual encounters, the animation is barely serviceable. It's often choppy, and the washed out colour palette the show is presented in gives the impression that it's much older than it really is. Character designs are similarly unattractive, with much of the cast falling somewhere between generic and ugly. The lead females, Satsuki and Miki, are the only decent looking designs in the entire show, and even they sit merely at the upper end of average. The bizarre squashing and stretching of the characters' body proportions that occurs sporadically doesn't help matters, either.
Audio is damned to a similar fate as video. The musical score is a mincing, pathetic collection of the sort of chimey crap that only appears in the cheesiest of afternoon romance dramas. It's so generic and underwhelming that I didn't even notice it was there until I went back and watched the show a second time. Voice acting is another stumbling block for this OVA, with neither cast accomplishing anything of merit. The Japanese dialogue is as painfully boring as the music, and the English side of things is sadistically atrocious. Lines are either overacted or halfheartedly read off the script and voices seldom fit the characters, making for easily one of the worst dubs I've heard in a long, long time.
Perhaps the saddest part of this disc is how badly viewers may be let down by it. Everything about the presentation; the menu, packaging, the included trailer and even the title, screams "romantic masterpiece." In fact, it's actually rather humourous; the trailer, for example, will have you rolling on the floor in laughter at just how epic they tried to make this low-level animated porno flick out to be. The remainders of the extras are likewise funny in a saddening, pathetic sense. All they boil down to are three more overdone trailers for some of Critical Mass's other hentai releases, and an amazing seven-picture "image gallery."
To be honest, I had high hopes for Endless Serenade. Its lack of the typical gross-out aspects of most other hentai and grand presentation led me to believe that I might have found the genuine diamond in the rough. Sadly, such was not the case, and its true form is a sickeningly dull little OVA that doesn't even accomplish the intended task of sexual arousal. With no real redeemable qualities, it's extremely hard to recommend this DVD to anyone, and unless you're really desperate for a hentai fix, this show is best avoided altogether. Even in the realm of low-budget hentai, there's bound to be much greener pastures.
Overall (dub) : F
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : D-
+ Hentai that lacks any of the more extreme fetishes of the genre.
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