The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Summer 2016 Shorts
The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi is a show that's pretty much destined for culture shock. A “fudanshi” is a man who's into boy's love material, but as this episode is quick to protest, that doesn't our hero Sakaguchi is actually into boys. Gay fetish material for both genders is often about fetishizing the "Other," meaning that an unrealistic ideal of gay love can be coveted by people able to say “oh, I'm not gay. I'm normal.” Meaning that embracing certain media about gay couples can actually move true acceptance further away, and that fans of this media can be just as homophobic as anyone else.
There's one joke in this first episode that leans directly on that ugly disconnect, when Sakaguchi does indeed protest his “normality,” but outside of that, this episode was actually pretty charming. Perhaps the biggest implicit joke here is Sakaguchi's design - he's a sturdy, hunking young man, and so it's inherently funny to see him peeking around corners and getting insecure about the cashier judging him for his purchases. The quick joke of him turning his friend's misfortune into BL fantasy fodder was also nicely executed, and the comedic timing was snappy overall. If you're not put off by the near-inherent homophobia of the premise, The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi is a reasonable comedy all around.
It's a little tough to gauge how OZMAFIA!! is actually going to play out based on this first episode, but if this one's anything to go by, the show has two priorities: cute, chibi-style boys and very mild jokes. That's all we got in this episode, as the protagonist's introduction to his new school was accompanied by jokes such as “I am lost,” “that man is angry,” and “I fell down.” It's all very harmless stuff, though I'm not really sure how the show's decision to super-deform its characters will play with its intended audience. The boys are cute, but definitely not sexy, meaning it's likely this will stick in a low slice of life/comedy tone, where you simply enjoy the characters riffing off each other. It's very outside my wheelhouse both in terms of comedy and cute stuff appeal, but if any of these variables seem appealing to you, it's probably worth a glance.
Welp, we've done it, everybody. We've clearly arrived at the final anime, because I don't know where we go from Bananya. Bananya is about a cat who lives in a banana - that's the joke. The cat lives in the banana, and it bounces around on its banana-bottom. It likes sweets, apparently. Its name is Bananya.
In a world where Bananya is an anime, anything is possible. Feel free to follow your dreams, because this cat is also a banana. It wants to be a chocolate-covered Bananya one day. That is a noble goal.
Bananya is an anime, an anime you can watch. There are other shows too, but they are not this one, and they do not feature a cat who is a banana. What are you waiting for. What is there left to say. Bananya.
It seems like we get at least one “cute but bizarre” short series each season, and that spot is being filled by Bananya this time around. The show follows the daily misadventures of tiny cats that live inside of banana peels. Despite the somewhat odd mental image that premise conjures up, the simplified art style ensures that the banana-cats are cute enough to eventually make their way to the inevitable lines of plush toys and cell phone charms. Bananya is reasonably amusing thanks to its narrator, who provides a humorous nature documentary-style commentary on whatever mischief the cats get up to. If the style of the series appeals to you, I can imagine Bananya providing a few minutes of entertainment per week.
On the low end of the comedy spectrum, we've got OZMAFIA!!. It's ostensibly a story about an ordinary kid transferring into a school full of crazy characters, but the first episode doesn't get much further than introducing the cast. Their supposedly quirky personalities seem fairly generic at the moment, and most of the characters can be distilled down to an obvious archetype. This one's the eccentric leader, that one's the mischievous guy, and so on. The comedy in the first episode depends on the sword-wielding security guy Caesar, who chases the main character around campus after assuming that he's a spy instead of a new student. OZMAFIA!! isn't a completely hopeless case, but it's far too formulaic to be worth watching at the moment.
The most promising short series at the moment may be The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi. As the title suggests, it's about a high school guy who's really into reading BL manga. The first episode follows him as he navigates the social minefield of buying a new book from the store, complete with a humorous inner monologue. There's also a conversation between Sakaguchi and one of his high school buddies, in which he complains about not having any friends who share his interests. The dialogue is entertaining, and the writing is able to find humor in Sakaguchi's hobby without having to resort to making fun of him. Depending on how entertaining the supporting cast ends up being, this show could prove to be pretty funny. Think of it as a short, BL-focused twist on genre parodies like Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun.
Despite how voluminous this season otherwise is with new offerings, the pickings for shorts were surprisingly slim. I watched all three of the ones that streamed in the States, with the following reactions:
Bananya – The concept here is that a cat is living inside of a banana, so instead of walking around the house he hops around in his banana peel. He's also seeking fellow cats who live in banana peels (and it looks like more will eventually show up) and wants to become a “trendy chocolate-covered banana.” And yes, this is entirely as stupid as it sounds, but clearly the series is going to try to get by on raw cuteness. The artistry and animation are also very basic. Fortunately the episode doesn't overstay its welcome at a mere 3 minutes of length, although it actually seems to be stretching at points.
OZMAFIA!! – So there is an otome game out there by the same name which is a reverse harem title, but that isn't at all what this seems to be. This instead focuses on a boy named Scarlet who comes to Oz Academy, his new school, but gets lost inside the school grounds and beset upon by a military-clad young man who turns out to be school security. He gets chased until he meets up with his teachers. Some of it is supposed to be funny, I guess, and it does use semi-chibi versions of everyone, but all-in-all it was largely forgettable.
The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi – This is the best of the lot by a mile, whether measuring the title in terms of production values, storytelling, or effective humor. Even the very concept here is pretty funny: the main character is a high school guy who swears up and down that he's straight and yet he still loves to read BL manga (hence the “Fudanshi” in the title, as that's apparently meant to indicate the male equivalent to a fujoshi rather than an ordinary otaku). This naturally causes all sorts of problems for him, such as cashiers looking at him funny and him being derisively mistaken for being a girl in online discussions about BL. The gender-reversed irony of all of this is delicious, but the real capper is how his (male) friend with the luxuriously long hair is so frequently mistaken for being a girl from behind that he regularly gets groped on trains. While that's definitely more edgy humor, it's still funny, as is his reactions to the MC's eagerness to turn that into BL fodder. The production values are remarkably high for a short, too. All-in-all, this one looks like a winner.
I only watched two shorts as it turns out, because The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. ended up not quite being one, even though that's how it first aired. I never finished Show By Rock!!, so that left me out of the audience for its shorts, and other than that there seemed to be only Bananya and The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi for me to sample. I can't say that either impressed me hugely. Much as I love cats, Bananya was sort of the anime equivalent of cleaning the litterbox – the unpleasant byproduct of something I enjoy. For comparison, I think Poyopoyo is adorable, as is Chi's Sweet Home. But three minutes of the same dumb joke killed Bananya for me, no matter how cute the kitty was.
On the other hand, we have The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi. I really want to like this – I love the idea of a show about fudanshi rather than fujoshi, and I think there's a lot of awkward humor potential here. What I'm not thrilled about is the way its first episode fixated on the “but I'm normal” aspect. Really, you'd think a fudanshi would be able to get away from heteronormative statements, and possibly realize that being the lone guy at a fujoshi event would be a chance to meet girls if that's who he's into. But more importantly to the show itself, it just wasn't making things particularly funny. I want awkward situations, not protestations of “normalcy” in this kind of show. I'll give it a few more episodes, which is more than I can say for Bananya, but I'm not feeling thrilled about my shorts options this season. Can we bring back BONJOUR Sweet Love Patisserie?
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