The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS!
How would you rate episode 1 of
Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! ?
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How was the first episode?
At one point when we were in graduate school, my youngest sister called me to tell me that she had weasels in her bathtub. They turned out to be ferrets she'd rescued, but after watching the latest iteration of the Cute Love High Earth Defense Club anime, I now realize that we should all be grateful that it wasn't an otter with ulterior motives in that tub. Continuing the saga of high school boys who meet weird talking animals while the bath, Happy Kiss pairs a new group of five brightly colored boys with an animal from outer space who will transform them into magical boys. The schtick this time is that they'll be Prince Karls' Karls Knights as he dukes it out with his brother Furanui for rulership of planet Earth.
Other than that, this is pretty much the same formula as the previous seasons, and honestly, I'm not sure that anything could be as bizarre as the reveal of what was really going on in season one. That said, it's largely a formula that works, combining absolute zaniness with fanservice and a lampooning of the magical girl genre. This time there's also an element of making fun of sentai shows, as the guy who lands the color red, Kyotaro the Fiore Knight, is also totally lazy and lacks even basic motivation – around school he's best known for being found taking naps with various animals. No one has any idea why he's red and one of my favorite parts of the episode is when they interrupt the battle to have a discussion about just why “red” is the leader's color anyway.
Our naming theme this time is Italian (Fiore, Neve, etc.), and costumes have gotten a floofy makeover, with everything being fuller in general and the opposing side's costumes pretty much just dresses. While there's still some amusingly phallic imagery for the fight scenes, it's definitely toned down from before, although I feel like they're taking a few more risks in the fanservice department. All in all this is fun, but the concept is starting to lose its luster, and Happy Kiss is going to have to find a way to make it feel fresh again. This is a good episode to watch as a palate cleanser after something dark and a good way to cheer up after a bad day, harmless, goofy fluff that's getting a little close to wearing out its adorable welcome.
I've never seen the previous iterations of Cute High Earth Defense Club before, so I have no clue as to whether or not HAPPY KISS! lives up to those earlier seasons. All I knew to expect from HAPPY KISS! was a fanservice-driven parody of magical girl shows, except with a cast of cute boys in the leads. That was exactly what I got, though I didn't expect to enjoy Cute High Earth Defense Club's idiosyncratic style and humor quite so much.
I've seen this kind of fanservice and meta-jokes plenty of times before, and they were handled okay in this premiere. The show's art is mostly unremarkable, save for a bit of extra flourish tossed in for the boys' transformation sequences and fight near the end, though the bright color palette pops just enough to keep things looking nice enough. What ended up swaying me in favor of the series was the main boys' chemistry, which was low-key but familiar and funny enough to work. I found all of them charming to one degree or another, but my two favorites were probably Taishi and Kyotaro; the former's extended gag about overexplaining the significance of red for a magical team's leader was chuckle-worthy, and almost all the other gags that made me laugh came from Kyotaro's quizzical and laid-back personality. The series isn't going to win any awards for its dialogue or plotting, but it's just amusing enough to be entertaining throughout.
The show also strikes a decent balance between being genuinely cute and slightly irreverent. I would have preferred a little more of that mocking weirdness, but I would be lying if there was a part of me that didn't simply enjoy the sight of a crazy otter man ordering his Magical Boy servants to shower a blorf-monster in happiness rays. Overall though, this episode was more pleasant than actively funny, with the general tone being about as engaging as the attitudes of the Defense Club boys themselves. They'll transform into cute clothes and sing a song to fight despair, but they're not going to get too excited about it.
Then again, how much negativity can one harbor toward a series that features an imposing blue fennec fox as its primary antagonist? This may be far from great art, and I think I'd give Magical Girl Ore the edge simply for being funnier, but there's a certain amount of fun to be had with Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! I reckon this will be a perfectly fine way to kill some time this Spring.
Due to its focus on (a very Japanese sense of) comedy over fanservice, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! was never going to be a hit on this side of the pond. I loved the show, but much like my other returning comedy fave this season, Hozuki no Reitetsu, I understood why it had limited appeal. So now that the original cast of the show are out of high school, what better way to turn over a new leaf and bring in new audiences than with a soft reboot? I'm sure we'll see cameos from the Battle Lovers or VEPPer at some point in the future, but to all appearances, this is an entirely new show with slight tweaks on the same premise, just like the revolving seasons of Precure and similar fare that the show has always lovingly lampooned.
Unfortunately, HAPPY KISS! has lost much more than its original cast in the changeover, and I can't see this version of the show bringing in many new fans. The show immediately runs into the Love Live! Sunshine!! problem of failing to carve out much identity of its own, only without Sunrise's stellar production values. While the premise is simple enough not to require much explanation, HAPPY KISS! mostly frames it in winking "here we go again!" terms that remind you of the first two seasons without giving its new coat of paint much personality. The designs and voice acting behind these new magic knights are significantly more attractive than before, but fanservice was never this show's strength given its limited budget, and the new boys' halfhearted attempts at comedy are shockingly insufficient compared to the rapid-fire irreverent wit of the previous cast.
The new mascot characters (a river otter and a fennec fox) are alright, but they too are lacking the goofiness factor that Wombat and Zundar brought to the table. Otters and foxes are sincerely cute animals, lacking the ugly-cute idiosyncracies that made their predecessors more ripe for comedy, and the mascots basically blurting out that they're here for world conquest (though our magical boys are too dumb to notice) is less interesting than the sincere dupe the previous mascots pulled in developing reality show programming so compelling that even the audience didn't realize their true plan until the wacky twist was revealed.
Basically, this is a generic coat of paint over something that felt more creative a few years ago. What was once a loving send-up of Precure for older girls with just a pinch of cheesecake now feels like an actual season of Precure with boys in the dresses instead of girls, with the tongue-in-cheek tone that defined the series washed out to a dull repeat of bright colors and catchphrases. I'd honestly recommend Magical Girl Ore over this if you're seeking a magical girl parody this season. It's still pleasant enough if you're into this niche genre, but HAPPY KISS! feels like a stale sincere entry in a magical boy show, and I was hoping for something with a little more spunk.
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