The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Kandagawa Jet Girls
How would you rate episode 1 of
Kandagawa Jet Girls ?
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How was the first episode?
If this show uses the word “adorbs” one more time, I may have to hurt someone. I might not be so annoyed by that if one of the main heroines (and pretty much everyone else with the exception of Misa) wasn't so intensely irritating, but the fact stands that Kandagawa Jet Girls was hands-down the most obnoxious episode to debut so far for me. In part this is also likely due to the fact that growing up (and still living) on the coast has also made me ridiculously picky about things like the idea of taking a jet ski to school, because you'd almost certainly show up drenched, and wet suits take a long time to get into and out of.
This is on me, however, because Kandagawa Jet Girls really isn't interested in being any kind of realistic. The show's pedigree includes the producer of Senran Kagura, so it goes without saying that a primary focus here is on fanservice, and a sport where two girls ride high-powered jet skis and the goal is to race while shooting the other team's clothing off is about as perfect for that as you can get. (Lest you worry, the uniforms all have laser-activated buttons that cause the zippers to unzip; there's no actual danger to the competitors.) And until the end of the episode, the fanservice feels relatively natural – there's no going out of their way to strip anyone and clothing that displays underwear is clothes that would do that even outside of anime. That really works, because it allows the fanservice aspect without feeling like the show is trying too hard until we learn how the sport of Jet Racing is played. If everyone is uniformly ridiculously buxom, well, that doesn't feel any more shoehorned in than anything else, although the physics involved would certainly seem to imply that the animators think that breasts function like balloons rather than flesh.
So the real issue here is the characters. Rin, one of the two main girls, is aggressively chipper and has zero concept of personal time or space, which makes it feel like Misa, her soon-to-be-Jet-Race-Partner and unfortunate roommate, is spending the entire show being uncomfortable. Presumably it's intended to be more that Rin is breaking down Misa's walls, but it just feels like Misa can't catch a break and has no time to herself where she can relax or not have Rin touching her. Throw in a bunch of tropes masquerading as characters, like the cutesy idols, the mean girl with sausage curls, and the one who's always eating, and it's clear that the draw here isn't meant to be the cast. That's fine, but they also shouldn't be so annoying they ruin the rest of the episode.
If you're going to ignore the girls themselves and can just focus on the (silly) sport and the art, this could be fun. But introverts beware – Rin might be enough to give you a few nightmares.
Based on the advertising copy for this series, I was expecting it to be a sports-type story about two girls who get into an odd variation on watercross (i.e., jet ski racing). What I was definitely not expecting is an opening episode which would put it in strong competition with Val x Love as the season's most dedicated fan service title. But that's partly because I failed to notice that the director is Hiraku Kaneko, whose résumé is populated with some of the most ecchi titles of the past decade.
In fact, the first episode goes after the fan service with much more dedication than Val x Love does. Whether it's co-main character Misa's mother in a cleavage-baring suit in her memorial picture, the sexy outfits worn by other characters, the persistent boob and butt shots, the panty flashes by Rin, a late set of clothing-destroying shots, one implied lesbian attraction scene, or even multiple racy clothes-changing scenes (one of which requires significant censoring), the camera almost literally never misses an opportunity to sex things up. I don't know if the creators actually intended to make a fan service series and just threw in the jet skis for good measure, or if they just didn't have confidence that girls in body suits racing around on two-person jet skis would be enough appeal on its own, but that element is so prevalent that this series is not in the slightest worth checking out if you are normally averse to more prurient fare.
And honestly, I don't think the series needs it, nor does this level of service fit what the series is otherwise trying to do: have a rural girl try to pursue the same path to glory as her mother through combative jet ski racing, while a city girl unexpectedly finds the partner/pilot she's long been seeking. The service is not smoothly and playfully integrated in like Keijo!!!!!!!! did and, unlike Val x Love (whose premise is built around things having to get sexy), it distracts as much as it enhances. The set-up may not be all that fresh, but there is at least some potential for a story here and there are already signs that chemistry could develop between Rin and Misa. But will the production effort let it? And what's up with the maid sporting the massive rice ball? That made no sense.
The jet ski designs too obviously depend on CG, as does some of the racing footage, but otherwise the visuals aren't bad. However, unless the series finds a better balance in upcoming episodes than it does in the first, I can't recommend the series on any basis other than the service.
Kandagawa Jet Girls opens with one of my favorite sequences of any premiere this season, as we receive a series of quiet establishing shots in rural Japan, as cicadas play out their summer melody. As the winter approaches, I feel like I could really use a warm and inviting atmosphere-focused series, and there's something about the atmosphere of rural Japan that always comforts me. If this season is still hiding something like Flying Witch or Non Non Biyori, I would be immensely thankful.
That is not this story, though. Kanagawa Jet Girls' control of atmosphere and sound design are likely its strongest features, but on the whole, this episode presented a fairly standard introduction to your classic “girls do sports accompanied by copious fanservice” production. We're quickly introduced to Rin Namiki, an enthusiastic girl whose mother once competed as a jet racer, and Misa Aoi, her reluctant future partner. Over the course of this episode, Rin completes a journey from her remote island to Tokyo, in hopes of competing on the Kandagawa course that her mother once conquered. Once there, she sets to work bashing her exuberant head against Misa's emotional walls, eventually resulting in them competing in a race for the rights to the Kanda river.
Kandagawa Jet Girls' narrative and dialogue are rigidly functional from start to finish. I appreciated the show taking the time to set up threads of past motivation for both our heroines, but in the context of a fanservice-focused sports show, it was a little difficult to take their personal struggles seriously. The sequences dedicated to setting up their sports rivalry felt more properly in this show's dramatic wheelhouse, and took advantage of their rivals' amusingly over-the-top character designs. More worrying was the relatively tepid execution of this episode's big race; all distant shots relied on mediocre CG models, whereas all closeups were mostly focused on boobs, meaning there wasn't really any visually conveyed “sports drama” to speak of.
If Kandagawa Jet Girls can actually infuse its races with some dramatic tension, it could serve as a relatively middle-of-the-road fanservice sports show. As is, it falls a decent ways short of that bar, and is so far mostly just offering a lot of jiggling boobs.
Kandagawa Jet Girls' premiere is the kind of sleazy, shoddy-looking premiere that seeks to generate a modicum of interest by amping up the fanservice to the max, but the saddest thing about this show is that it can't even do smut right. Copious amounts of jiggling boobs and awkward upskirt shots are strewn across this episode like litter after a particularly sexed-up outdoor music festival, and the results are about as appealing. Before even getting to the plot, it cannot be stressed enough that this is one ugly show – the visuals ranges from basic to garish, the character animation is frequently reduced to slideshow levels of fluidity, and the CGI used to animate the combination jet-ski/water-gun fights that serve as the show's one identifying gimmick would have looked amateurish in 2009, much less 2019. In the show's ED, one of the two main girls is giving of an eerily blank-faced grin while sporting what looks like a broken neck.
Even if the show could be bothered to look even ten percent better than it does, it isn't like there's anything here worth animating. Our main heroine, Rin, is repellently chipper and oblivious, and her partner Misa is…well, she's there all right. As for plot, it's the usual stuff: Rin wants to be a fancy jet-ski/water-gun sports girl, and so does Misa, and after what seems like an eternity of incredibly boring buildup and blather, we get about half of an actual Jet Race match. This amounts to girls firing improbably powerful water laser things at each other's genitals, for some reason, until everyone's clothes fly off. So if you're somehow watching this show for anything other than fanservice, you're bound to be disappointed with how dull 90% of this episode is, and if you're here for the smut and the sports, well, there's dozens of other anime that can do either or both of these things much better.
Keijo!!!!!!!! is probably the best example of the type of anime this premiere feels like it is trying to be: Well-produced, mostly good-natured fun that knows it can be entertaining in spite of the ludicrous amounts of mammary glands flying every which way. Kandagawa Jet Girls falls at the other end of the spectrum, a show about jet-ski/water-gun booby battles that somehow manages to be completely devoid of excitement, humor, or sex-appeal. I would steer very clear from this one.
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