Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Wandering the hills of his hometown in hopes of healing his heart, broken by the rejection of the girl he loves, effeminate horticulturalist Hazumu is accidentally struck dead by a falling spaceship. The alien, quite sorry about his fatal blunder, rebuilds Hazumu's body only to find, much to his embarrassment, that he has switched the poor fellow's gender. After issuing a public apology, the alien drops the now-female Hazumu off and goes on his merry way.
This naturally causes a considerable ruckus. Hazumu's parents are fine with it (her mom always wanted a daughter anyway), but the mass media is in a slavering frenzy, her best friend Asuta is tortured by his newfound attraction to his formerly male buddy, and Tomari—a childhood friend with hidden feelings for her—is understandably confused as to her place in her new girl friend's life. But the biggest change of all comes in her relationship with Yasuna, the girl who rejected her. Yasuna's rejection, it turns out, was anything but simple, as Hazumu learns once her new sex allows her to get closer to Yasuna. Close enough to learn about just what it is that keeps Yasuna isolated from everyone around her.
It says it right on the disc: "Yuri Fan." But don't let the all-girl love triangle scare you. This is one show that isn't using girl-on-girl necking to cover for a lack of quality; the series would make a fine little romance regardless of what sex its leads might be. Of course, the necking doesn't hurt.
Unlike Kannazuki no Miko, its most prominent peer here in the US, Kasimasi (also known as Kashimashi) isn't looking to emotionally overwhelm its audience. Instead of a brutally manipulative melodrama, it's a gently emotional romantic comedy. There are no devastating secrets or twisted, buried emotions here. The potential secret of Hazumu's sex-change is immediately destroyed when the alien broadcasts his mistake to the entire world, and the series itself follows suit. Hearts are worn on sleeves, characters are honest about their feelings, and by the end of the first episode, it's magnificently clear just where everyone stands in relation to each other. The story here isn't what the characters feel, but what they do about those feelings.
It would be easy to pigeonhole the cast into common anime character types: Yasuna as the quiet, refined, pampered rich girl; Tomari as the violent tomboy childhood friend/love interest; Hazumu as the cheerful, pure-hearted girl-next-door. But to do so would be a great disservice to the empathy that they inspire even within a brief time of their introduction. The series' skillful juggling of different characters' viewpoints puts the audience in a position to sympathize strongly with each one—to experience Hazumu's heartbreak and attempts at healing, to feel the depths of Yasuna's loneliness and pain, to understand Tomari's confusion and affection. Director Nobuaki Nakanishi guides the emotional content with a light, gentle touch—wisely forgoing extensive internal monologues, speeches, and emotional outbursts. Instead, he draws you in with soft, effortlessly evocative visuals and a simple, beautifully understated score, relying on subtly shifting facial expressions and meaning-laden actions to communicate the quietly affecting emotional states of his characters.
The series has a sharp eye for the comic and dramatic potential of its gender-switching premise, exploiting them without becoming exploitative. Good-natured fan-service highlights Hazumu's attempts to fulfill her new role as a woman, which in turn provide humorous counterpoint to the effects the switch has on her relationships. True, her father's reaction to being suddenly blessed with an adolescent daughter is a tad creepy, and the antics of the aliens and Hazumu's overprotective homeroom teacher can be a little strident and disruptive, but on a whole the humor is more an advantage than a detriment. The fantastic touches hardly distract from the series' foundation in its unusual little love triangle, though it is somewhat disheartening that it needs to rely on alien technologies and unrealistic mental disorders in order to present an honest account of same-sex love.
The animation isn't intended to be impressive—though the alien spaceship is suitably so, but instead focuses on important little details such as wind-blown hair and clothing, Hazumu's increasingly feminine behavior, and characters' changing expressions. Backgrounds are softly evocative without drawing attention to themselves, and character designs tend strongly towards the cute side of the spectrum, while effortlessly crossing the line to sexy when appropriate.
Like an increasing number of Media Blasters titles, this series has no dub. However, given the wildly variable quality of their dubs, perhaps it isn't much of a loss, and the reduced price certainly softens the blow.
Two short ten-minute talks between lead actress Kana Ueda and Yui Horie and Yukari Tamura respectively are the extras of note on this disc. A small collection of Japanese TV ads and textless openings for both the irregular first episode opening and the series' regular opening—which is, like the ending theme, an appropriately melancholy pop song—round out this disc's extras. To the spoiler sensitive: the TV ads cover episodes not on this disc, and none of the actresses are shy about mentioning events from later in the series.
With this title and the licensing of Simoun, Media Blasters seems poised to provide a shoujo-ai counterpart to their growing catalogue of shounen-ai titles. If so, they're off to a strong start. Kasimasi is a low-key charmer suffused with a refreshingly understated sentimentality that, along with this volume's unexpectedly self-contained narrative symmetry, makes this one of the most satisfying discs of anime to come out in some time.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Gentle romantic comedy that doesn't skimp on emotion.
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