Shelf Life The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
by Paul Jensen,
I downloaded the new Fire Emblem mobile game the other day, and it seems reasonably entertaining. I'm not all that familiar with the characters since I've played exactly one game in the franchise over the course of my gaming life, but the turn-based strategy mechanics are fun. If I'm still playing it a couple weeks from now, I'll call it a success. In the meantime, let's get into some new anime releases. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
On Shelves This Week
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Danganronpa - Complete Collection [S.A.V.E.] BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $19.49 Right Stuf
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Extra: This movie has seen a couple of previous releases in the US, but we don't seem to have any reviews of them. Our user ratings are vaguely positive, averaging out at around 6.8 out of 10.
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Extra: I'm very fond of this odd little comedy, so I'm happy to see it return from an extended stint in licensing limbo. We have a review of the first few episodes, and while Funimation does have a page for it, no episodes are actually streaming as I write this.
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Shelf Life Reviews
Nothing this week.
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
Nothing this week.
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior came out just a season or two before we started doing episode reviews here on ANN, which partly explains why it never got much coverage. The series recently got a Blu-Ray release from Sentai Filmworks, which seemed like as good an excuse as any to finally give it a proper review.
Our intrepid hero is Usa, a first-year high school student who moves into an apartment of his own after his parents are transferred out of town for work. Usa spent most of his middle school life surrounded by weird kids, so he's hoping to start fresh and keep things nice and normal in high school. The good news is that he's moved into the same apartment complex as Ritsu, a pretty girl from his school who always seems to have her head in a book. The bad news is the rest of Usa's new neighbors aren't quite so appealing. His roommate Shiro is a creepy but harmless masochist, twenty-something office lady Mayumi is frequently drunk and always obnoxious, and college student Sayaka is just plain evil. Usa has his work cut out for him if he's going to stay sane with neighbors like these hanging around.
Kawai Complex has a pretty simple formula for creating humor: set up a romantic or sentimental moment for a character, then derail it in spectacular fashion. Sometimes this is the result of outside interference (Mayumi in particular seems to enjoy sabotaging Usa's love life), while in other cases, the characters manage to crash and burn all on their own. This setup can be quite funny when it works, but that subversion of viewer expectations relies heavily on the element of surprise. Since most of the characters are limited to a couple of key personality traits that guide their actions, it's often too easy to see the jokes coming long before they arrive. As a result, the comedy tends to lean more towards “amusing” than “hilarious.”
There's no one dynamic or relationship that stands out as being more entertaining than the rest, but the cast as a whole has some well-balanced chemistry. It's no coincidence that many of the show's best moments happen when the majority of the characters are all gathered in one place. Since all of the main characters are at least a little odd, placing them all in the same room allows them to snipe at one another's weaknesses without piling too much ridicule onto anyone in particular. This ensemble approach to humor also plays into the recurring theme of sharing burdens; when everyone is an unhappy oddball, each character's individual problems seem a little easier to deal with.
Unfortunately, Kawai Complex doesn't go quite as deep with its ideas as you might hope. There's a general sense of “we're all in this together,” but there's not quite enough plot or character development to support anything more nuanced. The one exception is Ritsu, who gets a chance to display some complexity as she tries to balance her introverted personality against her desire to make friends. It's a solid character arc, I just wish we could've seen something similar for the other residents of the apartment complex. Part of this might be down to the fact that this is a single-season adaptation of an ongoing manga series, so there may be some more ambitious story content that didn't make it into the anime.
Kawai Complex probably works best if you look at it as a goofy piece of escapist comedy, the kind of thing that you're more likely to see in a western sitcom. The characters play close to their particular roles, and conflicts rarely last longer than a single episode. It certainly feels more like a sitcom than anything else; there's not enough romance for it to qualify as a genuine romantic comedy, and I wouldn't really call it a harem comedy since Usa only has one love interest. If you watch it with your brain switched off and a generous supply of snacks within reach, it makes for a decent time-killer.
The art style in Kawai Complex is kind of odd. While the character designs are fairly conventional, the colors have a rich, almost over-saturated look that may or may not work for you. There's also an abundance of floating text, which is used both for adding visual emphasis to particular lines of dialogue and for providing witty, unspoken footnotes to whatever a character happens to be saying. It'll either make you laugh or drive you nuts depending on your tolerance for on-screen text. The music is generally decent with some nice opening and closing songs. Along with the basic extras, this set includes a one-off OVA episode and a handful of those still-image commercial bumpers that you sometimes see at the end of simulcast episodes.
Kawai Complex is neither especially hilarious nor emotionally gripping, but it's good enough to merit a single viewing. It does a respectable job of providing a temporary escape into a world where you can see your neighbors every day and not be sick of them after a week or two. If you've ever lived in a real dormitory or apartment complex, that might just be exactly the kind of fantasy you need.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from sakuraember:
"Hi, my name is sakuraember. I have been an anime fan for over twenty years now. My manga is currently boxed up, except for Cardcaptor Sakura of course, but I do have all my anime out."
Wow, that's quite the stack of Studio Ghibli films! I really need to start collecting those. Thanks for sharing!
If you have an anime or manga collection that you'd like to show off, send me your photos at [email protected]!
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