Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
Reviewby Carlo Santos, Oct 12th 2005
Just when woman-allergic Yukinari thought his life was stressful enough, another girl from the female-dominated world of Seiren shows up. Koyomi has been assigned to bring pink-haired sweetheart Miharu back to Seiren at the request of her older sister, Maharu. However, Koyomi gets amnesia upon arrival, so she'll need to retrieve her memory first, as well as fend off the advances of town pervert Fukuyama! After the mission, Koyomi goes to Earth again, this time to find a husband for Maharu. Yukinari and the girls try to help, but somehow they always attract the worst kind of men. Then it's back to school for Yukinari, where a chemistry experiment goes horribly wrong when Miharu drinks laboratory alcohol and accidentally replicates herself—over, and over, and over...
Here comes the crucial next stage in every harem anime: the introduction of more characters. Yukinari, the milquetoast so pathetic that a woman's touch makes him break out in hives, can now count four girls among his entourage: Kirie, the childhood friend; Miharu, the One; Koyomi, the scaredy-cat; and Tomo, the token lolicon interest. The show is still at its best when it's being as ridiculous as possible, and maybe just a little bit sweet. Of course, that's not saying much when the rest of it is cheaply drawn T&A and situational fluff. This volume gets a "bravo" for loopy comedy, but an apathetic "meh" for everything else.
If the naming of Episodes 5 and 6 seem like a hint of a more ambitious story structure—"Bravo on a Rainy Day" Parts I and II—don't get your hopes up. It's a euphemism for "we couldn't think of a good episode name for the next one," as Part I is basically a madcap hunt for amnesiac Koyomi, and Part II is an account of Miharu's return to Seiren. Episodes 7 and 8 are more of the same: a dire situation arises, Yukinari and company get into some scrapes, and everything works out in the end. It's an efficient use of the half-hour sitcom formula, but hardly original, and veterans of ecchi comedies will see the gags coming a mile away. Miharu wearing nothing but an apron? Come on, wasn't this on DearS? And in the find-a-husband episode, Miharu, Kirie and Koyomi get into tight outfits and strike provocative poses for gawking hordes of men. Why not just get to the beach or hot springs episode already?
Despite the chauvinism and predictability of the comedy scenes, they can still entertain when it comes to sheer energy. The best laughs come from playboy Fukuyama, whose sex drive is exaggerated to the point of hilarity—just watch as he puts his libido to good use in the final battle against the Miharu clones. Kirie gets some comedy mileage out of her violent tendencies, injuring Yukinari several times within the first fifteen minutes, and even Miharu shows her weird side in wanting to eat Tomo's animal mascot. However, this show is capable of other moods as well, and Miharu's separation from Yukinari in Episode 7 manages to squeeze out a little bit of heartache, even though it's obvious that they'll get back together.
"Plain" is the kindest way to describe the visual style of Girls Bravo, which never ventures outside of friendly daytime colors and basic camera angles. Kirie's attacks are the only evidence of dynamic movement, and with all the high-quality animation budgeted towards slapstick, the rest of the show is a dry visual chronology of events—Yukinari does this. Then Miharu does that. And sometimes they do things offscreen, because that's cheaper. Likewise for the character designs: although the girls are easy to tell apart, there's no variety to the basic structure of their faces and bodies. Except maybe for differing chest sizes—speaking of which, the fanservice somehow manages to fall short of sensual. All the parts are drawn in the right place, but flaunting a cute girl's body is useless if it's posed in a boring way.
Expect the usual light-pop fare on the soundtrack. The comedy music is surprisingly non-intrusive, letting the action set the mood; there are even some pleasant downtempo arrangements like a mellow acoustic guitar riff and a solo piano version of the theme song (listen for it when Yukinari and Miharu part ways). In its original incarnation, though, the opening theme isn't anything special, and the ending is a similarly bland love song.
Sometimes there are English dubs where the supporting characters are more entertaining than the leads. Liam O'Brien is a riot and a half as Fukuyama in this volume, and his character ought to go terrorize more girls just so we can hear that smarmy delivery. Lulu Chiang is similarly high-spirited in her role as Kirie, playing the uptight foil to Fukuyama. Now if only Yuri Lowenthal and Michelle Ruff—Yukinari and Miharu respectively—could match that energy. Of course, it helps to have some great one-liners too, and the dub script takes several liberties to make those punchlines work. Fukuyama: "Every fiber of your being is crying out for me!" Koyomi: "My fibers don't even know you!" It may not be what they were saying in Japanese, but it's funnier and quirkier.
Along with a clean version of the ending, the most substantial extra on this disc is a 32-image lineart gallery. Unfortunately, a textured background obscures finer detail while upper and lower margins waste available space. A word of advice to the DVD production staff: put the art on a white background, and use the whole screen.
If the first volume of Girls Bravo made you a fan, then you can expect more of the same here, and with new girls to boot. It isn't really essential for anyone else, though—other comedies are funnier, other romances are sweeter, and other ecchi shows have hotter girls. It can still be cute, and even ridiculously funny, but that isn't enough depth to carry the entire show. A laugh can last a few seconds, but what are you going to do with all those other minutes of pointless waffle?
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C+
+ Silly enough to elicit several laughs.
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