The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide Is the Order a Rabbit?
Review: Super happy girl-of-indeterminate-age Cocoa has just moved into lazy hilltop town-of-indeterminate-location-where-everyone-is-friendly to start school, and through a series of gently adorable circumstances, ends up working at a cafe called Rabbit House. She has a great head for numbers, and her two coworkers, impossibly shy Chino and femme-butch Rize, have their own talents they bring to the charming establishment. Soon they'll become fast friends! But in the meantime, there's lots of super-adorable nothing for all of them to do in between serving customers. The show looks alright, the character designs are expressive and attractive, and the show is successful at making their world feel warm, welcoming and Disney-ish. Apart from that, though, Is the Order a Rabbit? is exactly as labeled. This is sweet, inconsequential fluff with a cast of cute stereotypes living in a perfect world of coffee, cake, and unfortunate audience implications since this isn't a children's show or anything. The comedy is lukewarm, the drama nonexistent...it's "cute girls doing cute things" with every t crossed and every i dotted.
Ultimately, when material is this aimlessly saccharine but still well-produced, I fall back on one pass/fail metric for maintaining interest in future episodes. It may not be yours, but on the off-chance it's useful to someone, I'll sum it up for you. "Is this show genuinely adorable, outside of any other context, or does it feel like the girls are doing certain adorable things in the interest of fetishizing themselves?" While the waitresses of Rabbit House are mostly cute and kinda funny, I'm afraid this show is firmly in the latter category. Girls dress and undress in slow detail for the camera, hang out in their underwear, roll around on beds, bathe together while suggesting that they "share a bath and then a bed" and then one girl blushes and...ugh. The number of babyish underage fanservice scenes feels nearly equal to the number of genuinely cute and innocent comedy bits, and that's enough to wear me out on entry #1487 in the "cute girls doing cute things" genre here. Not a gross show at all, it's still 95% inoffensive, but I think we all know each new episode will be more of the same, and that'll get boring real fast. I need a little more salt with my sugar than Is the Order a Rabbit? plans on spooning up.
Is the Order a Rabbit? is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
Review: Everyone loves sugar; it's encoded into our DNA. But there are limits. You eat too much and your teeth rot, your body balloons, your muscles disappear, you get diabetes, and you die. Rabbit isn't quite on the “you die” level of sugariness, but it's past the threshold of healthy, or even appetizing, and hasn't any salt or spice to offset its candied sweetness. Like many a cavity-causing confection, Rabbit makes its home in a café. The café is called Rabbit House, and transfer student Cocoa Hoto is lured in by its name. Cocoa expects fluffy bunnies, but she gets a little-girl barista named Chino who has a furry feline blob living on her head. As luck would have it, Rabbit House is to be Cocoa's new home—she's living abroad to attend school—and to earn her keep, she decides to work at the café. Let the heartwarming hijinks begin!
Rabbit is a well-meaning show. Gentle and kindhearted, it wants nothing more than to brighten your day and boost your mood. It's not the kind of show you can hate, nor is it awful to watch. But it is artificial as hell, the sweetness of its characters and their little whimsical interactions jacked way past what could conceivably be considered normal. (Bonding over latte art. Bah!). It's the high-fructose corn syrup of shows. And like high-fructose corn syrup, it feels cheap and mass-produced. Cocoa and her friends—she also befriends combat-trained waitress Rize—are cute, but in a generically moe way that leaves little lasting impression. Ditto their relationships. Which makes the show, for all its pep and sugar, bland and kind of limp. Shows of this type need some vigor, a little creativity—a touch of poetry in their soul or a hint of melancholy in their blood. They need a vein of substance to underwrite their empty calories, and Rabbit has none.
Is the order a rabbit? is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Review: Cocoa has come to a new town to attend school, a prospect that she is excited about since everything is so quaint and peaceful. She gets lost on the way to where she is staying, so she checks out a café called Rabbit Hole, which she expects to be full of rabbits but in truth it has only one: a big furball who sits on the head of cute hostess Chino. She soon learns that this is, in fact, the place where she will be staying, which mean that “helping out around the house in exchange for room and board translates into “working at the café.” She also encounters part-timer Lize, a girl who's maybe a little too handy at self-defense, and learns about the fine art of creating milk art in latté, while Chino and Lize discover that Cocoa's claim to have no talent at anything isn't quite true; she's actually a whiz with numbers. The strange thing is that the rabbit seems able to talk, and in an adult man's voice, too.
This looks to be this season's obligatory incarnation of the “cute girls do cute things” concept, and indeed, one should not expect too much more than that from the first episode; although it does toss out a couple of tantalizing hints of at least slightly greater substance (it suggests that Chino may be dealing with a loss and Lize has trouble making friends, for instance), appreciating it almost entirely comes down to whether or not the girls charm the socks off the viewer with their cuteness. The girls are really, really good at winning viewers over, though, so much so that it will take quite the cynical soul to resist watching most of it with a silly grin on one's face, and the gentle humor works quite well. The character designs may be quite generic, and the setting may have some glaring inconsistencies (architecture and signs look like classic German, but the “how would you write your name” question is more distinctly Japanese and the cell phones the girls use seem incongruous), but the soft art design is a perfect fit. The one element some may find mildly objectionable is that one of the girls is shown in her underwear and fantasizes about being dressed in a Playboy bunny costume at one point, but those scenes are exceptions rather than the rule.
Director Hiroyuki Hashimoto has had some previous stints as episode director in assorted titles, but this is his first time in the lead chair. We'll be seeing more of him in that role if this first episode turns out to be indicative of a consistent quality effort.
Is the Order a Rabbit? is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
About halfway through Is the Order a Rabbit?, I said to myself, “If this isn't based on a four-panel manga, I will eat my hat.” Partly this is because I have been reading too many books where they say things like that, but also because the episode is very clearly divided into small portions so that it is very easy to envision where one strip ends and another begins. While four-panel comics can make shows that flow well, this one suffers a bit in its pacing. It's too bad, because the effort was clearly made to streamline things – there are no titles in between each scene, and there are no awkward pauses as the scene changes. It's more that the action is so clearly demarcated that transitions fail to smooth things over.
The basic story of Is the Order a Rabbit follows Cocoa (with the “a” pronounced), a perky high schooler who has just moved to a new, idyllic town. As she's looking for the house she'll be living in, she finds a sign for “Rabbit House,” a cafe of some kind. Being an extremely literal person, she assumes that this is a cafe where you get to pet rabbits, and is very sad to find that the only such creature is a fat fluffball named Tippy. Tippy, as it turns out very quickly, is somehow the waitress' grandfather. The waitress turns out to be the daughter of the man putting Cocoa up while she attends school, and Rabbit House is coincidentally where she's staying. Conveniently there's a third girl with a strange quirk (military nut) also staying at the house to round out the adorable population.
If this episode was any sweeter, it would give you cavities. The girls meet in adorably uncomfortable ways (Lize, the military girl, is in her underwear in the closet with a gun, hiding from Cocoa), show off their latte art skills, and Chino, the rabbit's granddaughter, is sweetly uncomfortable with Cocoa yet yearns for the sisterly affection she offers. It all plays out in a pseudo-European village awash with pastels. If you're looking for something self-consciously cute and charming, this is the show for you. Regretfully the clunky (or absent) transitions detract from it, and to be fully honest, I thought the show was really quite boring. But it is nice, and there are many worse things that it could be.
Is the Order a Rabbit is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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