Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 28th 2005
DVD 1: A Helping Hand
High school senior Seiji “Mad Dog” Sawamura is an indomitable fighter. With his Demon Right Hand, none (save his older sister) can stand against him in a fight. His fearsome reputation scares off any girl he tries to approach, however, which makes his life miserable since everyone around him seems to be a couple. Only the underaged tease Shiori initially pays him any mind, and that's not enough. After his 20th failed attempt to approach a girl, Seiji despairs that he is doomed to have only his right hand for a girlfriend. He wakes up the next morning to discover that his fears have become true in the most literal sense—his right hand has somehow turned into a doll-sized version of a high school girl named Midori! Though puzzled by how this came to be, Midori is elated by the development since she has, for the past three years, secretly adored Seiji from afar because of what she saw as his hidden gentleness (he never uses his strength to bully people and always protects the weak) and longed to be near him. Seiji is less pleased because of the sudden complications to his life, but gradually grows to appreciate Midori's enthusiasm and loving devotion. Keeping what's happened a secret is certain to be problematic, though, as is figuring out how Midori ended up on his hand while her full-sized body is lying comatose at home. And then there's the issue of how he's going to be able to continue to fight with his Demon Right Hand unavailable for use. . .
Cute doll-sized girls in love with full-sized male characters aren't unknown in anime; one only needs look at Hand Maid May or Maze: The Mega-Burst Space, among others. A talking, self-aware hand able to act on its own is also not unknown in anime, as evidenced by the Vampire Hunter D movies. Combine the two, though, and you have one of the oddest and most absurd premises ever conceived for a romantic action-comedy. The show works because it's quite funny, more intelligent than its wackiness would lead you to expect, and features two endearing lead characters.
Pint-sized Midori is irresistibly cute and enchantingly enthusiastic, and while her personality is typical for a love-struck anime girl, she does have at least a bit of depth; her reluctance to make any attempt to go back to her real body suggests that she finds her “predicament” to be refreshingly liberating, allowing her to not only be close to her love but also to say things that she couldn't work up the courage to say before. Seiji, meanwhile, is best described as a punk with a heart, one who has a temperament akin to Inuyasha but not the rashness or stupidity to match. A look into his background in episode 2 reveals circumstances which could have led him to become a bully, but instead his gruff exterior hides a noble soul which looks out for those weaker than himself. He is also more intelligent and sensible than many give him credit for and is not a slave to his image; at one point he even allows himself to be soundly thrashed by opponents he could have easily defeated because he didn't want to risk dragging innocents into the situation and knew that beating the gang members to a pulp wouldn't have solved anything in the long run. These traits attract the attention of Takako Hayase, Seiji's stuck-up class rep, who at first regards him as a common thug but becomes attracted to him after he rescues her from a bad situation. Other significant supporting characters so far include Shiori, a flirtatious elementary school girl; Osamu, a friend of Seiji's who's constantly getting into trouble because he's Seiji's friend; Kouta, a boy who adores Midori as much as she adores Seiji; Rin, Seiji's rowdy and irascible older sister, who taught him how to fight and is the only person Seiji can't beat in a fight; and Suichi, a classmate of Seiji's who is obsessed with dolls based on anime characters and acts as you might expect upon finding out about Midori.
The storytelling sidesteps a lot of the difficult issues presented by the premise, such as how exactly Midori is attached to Seiji's arm (we get to see her from the hips up at more than one point, but never the actual point of attachment) and how she is able to drag Seiji around. The series does partly bring up the touchy issue of how complicated it is for Seiji to go to the bathroom, though so far it leaves the great potential for truly crude and tasteless jokes alone. The anime-styled exaggerated reactions of some characters get annoying after a while, and many of the situations will have a familiar feel to anyone who's watched a fair amount of romantic comedies, although Midori Days sometimes puts a new spin on them. The dialogue writing is pretty good and the humor works much more often than not.
The artistic merits for Midori Days are good, especially in backgrounds. Midori is intensely cute in miniaturized form, but otherwise there are no standouts in character design. The animation favors freeze frames in fight scenes and exaggerated mouth movements but is reasonably good when depicting normal movements. It also shares the distinctive styles for depicting facial expressions and exaggerated reactions commonly seen in many comedy anime. The soundtrack is unremarkable, as is the opener, while the closer is a solid adult contemporary-styled piece.
The English dub for Midori Days is a strong one in key roles, though a quality drop-off can be heard in supporting roles. Managing a high-pitched cutesy voice and still being able to emote is a difficult task for American voice actresses, but newcomer Kether Fernandez does a commendable job with Midori; her performance certainly contributes to the appeal of the character in the dub. Relative newcomer Drew Aaron (he's done only one title prior to this one) also turns in an excellent performance as Seiji. Curiously, though, some of the English voice actors aren't credited; the credits list both the Japanese and English performer together on some roles but only the Japanese performer on others. The English script isn't as tight as it could be to the subtitles but is never far enough off to be a problem.
Although Midori Days has a good amount of violence, none of it is bloody and a lot of it is on the cartoonish level. Four of the five episodes have at least brief nudity, but this volume is surprisingly short on innuendo and adult content given the subject at “hand.”
Extras on “Helping Hand” include standards like trailers, clean opener and closer, and a promo reel. Less common is part one of the Original Audio Drama (in Japanese with subtitles only) and the English dub outtakes, which are quite funny and much dirtier than what is actually heard in the series. A separate option for “English With Subtitles” is included.
Though its premise inspires any number of crude jokes, this first volume of Midori Days is an entertaining and surprisingly clean treatment of a very odd twist on shounen romantic comedy storytelling. It won't win any quality awards but is well worth a look.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Appealing lead characters, good humor.
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