A few questions for the director of Occult Academy, Silver Spoon and of course, the smash hit series Sword Art Online.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 13th 2006
DVD 3: Autumn and 4: Winter
As the seasons progress into fall and then winter, Kyoichi struggles to deal with his break-up with Chiharu. A new girl, Shoko Sayama, steps up to become a new potential girlfriend, but ultimately she isn't able to assuage his feelings of loneliness and has her own priorities. That role falls to a coworker at his new part-time job, but the relationship he forms with that coworker troubles Makoto. He has love designs of his own, however, as he hits up Yumi for advice and training on how he can win the heart of her friend Erika but discovers in the process that he might have other options. Yoshihiki also has troubles as he tries to figure out his girlfriend Natsue, and a chance daylong encounter with a gorgeous idol just might help him sort things out. Kyoichi has a somewhat similar encounter when he finally gets around to making his long-considered visit to Hokkaido.
To say that the second half of Boys Be... has anything approaching a plot would be inaccurate. The closest equivalent is the evolving nature of the love lives of the three male leads, but that doesn't quite qualify. Each of the last six episodes is instead a more or less self-contained exploration of relationships and matters of the heart as they apply to high school students. It's hardly one of the more exciting and titillating examples of such fare, instead opting for a more serious, reflective, and philosophical approach than one normally sees in romantic anime.
The low-key approach doesn't keep the final two volumes from having a bit of fun, especially in the “date training” scenario in episode 9, and occasionally things do get a bit sexy. (This is a series about relationships designed with guys in mind, after all, so it has to include a few bits of eye candy.) The stories are told well enough that they are often involving and entertaining even without that, though the slow pacing is sometimes an issue. Each episode also has a tendency to linger about a minute or two beyond what feels right.
Unlike volume 2, where the girls took turns in the starring roles, the last two volumes focus firmly on the guys. Kyoichi solidifies his position as the lead protagonist by being featured in three of the six episodes, while Makoto and Yoshihiki take turns in the limelight in one episode each. The remaining one, episode 12, splits its time about evenly between the three male leads and their female counterparts, which along with marking the end of the calendar year also gives a concluding feel to the series. . . except for the one big loose end about where Kyoichi's feelings lie. That is explored more in the final episode, leading to a real ending whose ramifications are certainly open to interpretation. And be sure to watch for the Epilogues on episodes 12 and 13!
The strength of the artistry in the final two volumes lies in its character designs, where its male characters are just a little more distinctive than normal and its female characters are well-defined. In a somewhat atypical approach for high school-oriented series, designs favor sexy looks over cute ones, which allows for bits of fan service that can occasionally get quite inventive. Background art is adequate but less distinctive. Oddly, the artistry in general is significantly worse and less consistent in episode 9 than elsewhere, and certain scenes from episode 8 featuring the female vocalists in the rock acts look so generic that they could have been ripped off from other anime featuring such characters, especially Bubblegum Crisis. The minimalist approach to animation is unlikely to impress anyone. As before, the eyecatches generally concentrate on the busts or butts of live girls in swimsuits, except for the animal-themed ones for episode 11. (Because the characters are at the zoo at that point, of course.)
The normal opener and closer both have pleasant pop sounds, as do the alternate opener and closer used for the final episode and one prominent insert song. None of them are stand-out numbers, but all would work well in a rotation of anime standards. The background music follows and supports the changing moods of the storytelling pretty well but isn't especially distinguishable.
The English dub eschews any reasonable attempt to get voice actors that sound like the original seiyuu in favor of choosing actors that sound right in the roles. This practice occasionally results in performances that sound a little too old for the roles, but it also produces performances that have the right tone and are delivered well. Add a dub script that stays reasonably close to the subtitles everywhere except in background chatter and you have a dub that should easily satisfy anyone who normally tolerates dubs, although fans of the Japanese dub will probably find the discrepancies in vocal styles to be too jarring for their tastes. The latter group may also be interested to know that prolific fan-fave seiyuu Megumi Hayashibara makes a guest appearance in the final episode as the blond biker chick Kyoichi meets in Hokkaido (the one that's featured on the cover art for the final volume).
On-disc Extras for volume 3 include a couple of Japanese promos and a line art gallery. Also included is the standard booklet with character and matching seiyuu profiles and Director's Comments on each episode.
The last half of Boys Be... isn't one of the more exciting runs in romantic anime series, but it does feature good enough storytelling involving the philosophies of love and methods of teenage relationships to be a worthwhile view. How appealing such content will actually be to the typical male viewer, even with the occasional fan service, is debatable.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B
+ Well-written, appealing dashes of fan service.
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