Pile of Shame
After School Tinker Bell
by Justin Sevakis,
After School Tinker Bell
One popular shoujo light novel series was the After School (Houkago) series, written by Shoichiro Hyuga and illustrated by Ken Mizuki and Yukine Honami. The series followed the adventures of Akizuki and Misako, two teenaged next-door neighbors/childhood friends/classmates who, while very definitely not dating, miiiight just have a passing fancy for each other. But while Akizuki is a horny idiot and Misako is flighty and a little clueless, the two make a great team and have the chemistry of two people who've been friends for years and years.
The After School series is a line of mystery books, with each one using a fairy tale or classic work of children's literature (or, occasionally, historical figures) as a jumping off point. Starting with After School Tom Sawyer in 1988, the series ended up spawning 23 books. The books are now out of print and hard to track down in Japanese, and none of them were ever translated into English. The only relic of this series we have today is a single OAV series, released in summer 1992 (alongside a drama CD with the same cast) of the second book in the series, After School Tinker Bell.
Produced by Youmex, animated by Production Reed, and adapted by director Yasushi Murayama and screenwriter Akira Okeya (neither of whom are particularly famous or noteworthy), the one-shot 46-minute OAV was likely made as a promotional vehicle for the book series, as well as to test the waters to see if the show could be made into a larger franchise. Like most OAVs of this era, it didn't really set the world on fire.
The show picks up as Akizuki and Misako are attending a screening of the wedding ceremony of two of their teachers. The screening was organized by their friend Ryoko, the DJ of the school's broadcast club. But before the screening can start, the hall monitors come in and, claiming the tape violates people's privacy, shut down the screening (accidentally breaking the VHS tape in the process). A short time later, her new boyfriend Kenichi comes to Akizuki claiming the girl has gone missing, and was possibly kidnapped. Then the broadcast club gets an ominous letter, from a dead former member of the club, claiming to have killed her.
Fingers immediately point to Keiko, the unpopular head of the hall monitors, but there are any number of shadowy corners of the school to poke around. Akizuki and Misako explore all the gossip and rumor, trying to figure out who might be behind the letter, and behind Ryoko's disappearance. Despite the sometimes heavy themes, the whole thing is very screwball comedy, which made me wonder if The Thin Man movies of the 1930s were popular in Japan.
I do the show no favors by comparing it to The Thin Man. While those movies are cinema classics, the craftsmanship behind After School Tinker Bell, between the storytelling and the animation, are all decidedly mediocre. The art quality and designs just scream "early 90s," from Ryoko's giant pony tail to Kenichi's garish pink-and-yellow wardrobe. The animation is unremarkable, and essentially high-end TV quality for the era.
That aside, the interplay between Akizuki and Misako is fun, and is unmistakably the highlight of the franchise. For all the horrors going on around them, the two keep things light, and make the drudgery of school and mystery solving a fun affair. There is little going on in After School Tinker Bell that wouldn't charitably be described as pablum, but it's a fun little OAV nonetheless.
Japanese Name: 放課後のティンカー・ベル (Hōkago no Tinker Bell)
Media Type: OAV
Length: 46 min.
Genres: Shoujo, mystery, action
Availability (Japan): Laserdisc and VHS releases are out there, but no DVD anywhere.
Availability (English): Just fansubs.