Reviewby Nick Creamer, Nov 28th 2016
Jinsei: Life Consulting
Sub.Blu-Ray + DVD - The Complete Series
The 2nd Newspaper Club is creating a new advice column, and it's Yuki Akamatsu's job to manage it! Joined by representatives of each of the school's main departments - Izumi Suzuki from sports, Rino Endo from sciences, and Fumi Kujo from the humanities - he'll handle questions from students and anyone else in the community, doing his best to offer some sound life counseling. But whether this ragtag group of consultants actually have much to teach their community is another matter entirely.
Some shows feel like they're just barely even there. You can watch them run for twelve or thirteen episodes, but by the time you come out the other end, you're not even really sure you've watched anything at all. They hew so closely to what is minimally expected of their genre that their faces are essentially those of crash-test dummies - empty white voids, waiting mindlessly to crash against the blank stares of an uncaring audience.
As you might have guessed, I didn't have a particularly good time with Jinsei. The show revolves around Yuki Akamatsu and three girls, Rino, Fumi, and Izumi, who are tasked with working together to write an advice column for their school's 2nd Newspaper Club. These particular three girls are chosen as representatives of their departments at school: Rino covers sciences, Fumi humanities, and Izumi sports. Having established this, Jinsei's episodes proceed as a disjointed series of question-prompted skits, with the four leads and occasional extras pitching advice, arguing, and muddling through vaguely relevant extracurricular activities.
In theory, a slice of life series based on an advice column could result in a pretty strong show. Slice of life shows tend to thrive on the low-key interplay of their characters, with conversations often not serving any purpose beyond deepening our understanding of the characters, adding texture to their interpersonal relationships, and possibly just being funny or endearing for their own sake. Framing a show on an advice column offers an easy template for enabling all of these goals, as the different personalities of the main cast are forced to bounce off each other in order to answer questions.
Unfortunately, Jinsei is not that show. While its cast does indeed argue about advice, this never results in a greater understanding of who they are as people. That's because Jinsei's cast does not change or develop beyond the stereotypes we meet in their earliest scenes. Rino is “only talks about science + shy + in love with Yuki,” Fumi is “only talks about history + ojousama,” Izumi is “genki airhead,” and Yuki is The Boy. Their personalities never evolve beyond these basic templates, and their interactions never feel charming or meaningful as a result.
The series' first episode demonstrates basically everything you can expect from the series going forward. There's some mild arguing based in the divergent priorities of the characters (Rino tries to explain everything logically, Fumi tries to empathize with the writer or rely on historical anecdotes, Izumi emphasizes heart and guts), some semi-relevant skits (a water balloon fight), and Yuki and Rino are ultimately pushed together for an impromptu date. That date ends up revealing the fundamental problem of Yuki and Rino's romance: they have absolutely no chemistry. With no backstory either connecting them or simply giving them diverse identities, every scene of the two together ends in nothing more than shy blushes and awkward small talk. Their longest conversations generally come down to Rino rambling about unrelated science facts while Yuki just stares at her - in this first date's case, Rino just talks about fatalism until it's time to leave.
The first episode's water balloon fight points to another of Jinsei's priorities: fanservice. Jinsei's fanservice is about as routine as the rest of its material, often just coming down to Fumi having large breasts. Yes, Fumi has large breasts, and the other characters often comment on or grope those breasts, and the camera points itself at the breasts in question. Other scenes occasionally diversify this fanservice by putting the girls in various compromising outfits, and the show later introduces a pervert artist girl who likes to get naked, but Jinsei's fanservice isn't really unique, extreme, or sensual enough to be noteworthy. It's just another thing the show does.
Not everything about Jinsei is utterly doom and gloom. There are occasionally inspired visual gags that riff on the characters' more harebrained advice schemes, generally courtesy of Fumi. Jinsei's characters also follow through on each others' absurdist ideas frequently, instead of performing the more standard and far less funny manzai shutdown. The show even tries for more narrative focus eventually, pitting the cast up against a rival advice column, a secret society, and eventually the student council president. But these plots are executed with roughly as much personality as the show's standard material, so they don't really elevate the narrative.
Jinsei's aesthetic execution is functional and nothing else. The show's character designs are bland and not particularly expressive or even attractive - Fumi may have big boobs, but they're not really drawn well enough to carry the show by themselves. The show's background art is mundane and its animation limited. The music is likewise uninspired, a series of unobtrusive, barely-there jingles that successfully evoke the sensation of being stuck in a classroom for hours talking about nothing. The one noteworthy musical addition is the theme song of Koganen, a local sentai hero that Izumi once looked up to. That bond between Izumi and Koganen might be Jinsei's one legitimately engaging emotional thread - the idea of a young girl being inspired by a local part-time performer carries more emotive baggage than basically anything else this show offers.
Jinsei's packaging matches its content; a bare-bones release containing the show on Blu-ray and DVD, with no dub and no extras beyond the clean opening and endings. Overall, I can't say I'd recommend Jinsei to anyone. There are much better slice of life shows, much better comedies, much better fanservice shows, and much better slice of life shows that are also heavy on comedy and fanservice. Jinsei can barely muster a passing grade.
Overall (sub) : D+
Story : D
Animation : C-
Art : C-
Music : C
+ Succeeds as a basic representation of its genre, some occasional inspired gags
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