Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
by Amy McNulty,
Once in a while, a new anime comes along and you wonder what took so long for someone to come up with the concept. Magical girl shows (at least the ones that feature teams) owe at least part of their roots to sentai shows, which primarily consist of male warriors. Showcasing a team of all-female warriors was already an inversion of one idea, so why not take it a step further and put male warriors into those distinctly magical-girl trappings?
Due largely in part to the enduring popularity of shows like Sailor Moon, parodies of the magical girl genre have sprung up left and right since the mid-'90s. Even popular franchises like Tenchi Muyo!, Soul Taker and Fate/stay night have devoted entire spin-off series to satirizing the aforementioned genre. In many respects, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a straight-up magical girl series, only with bishōnen instead of bishōjo in the lead roles and clear signs for the audience that the production staff is having fun. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a mouthful of a title, but so are the titles of many "normal" magical girl shows. (Do we really need to emphasize that Sailor Moon is a "pretty" guardian?)
A wombat of the talking, pink, otherworldly variety crash-lands into a public bathhouse, where inquisitive Atsushi and laid-back En, two high school friends, are having an overly-detailed discussion about chikuwabu, The Office-style. Understandably freaked out, the two head for the hills as bubbly classmate Yumoto, whose family owns the bathhouse, interrupts and attempts to cuddle the wombat, finding the creature more adorable than frightening. Add one teacher's unconscious body, two more boys (money-obsessed Io and playboy Ryuu, who fill out Atushi and En's “Earth Defense"/Do Nothing Club,) and a classmate whose negativity turns him into a chikuwabu-monster, and the Battle Lovers are on the scene. Forced to transform magical-girl-style into heirs to the "Throne of Love," the magical boys simultaneously decry their situation while kicking monster butt.
Subsequent episodes examine the shadowy enemy behind the Total Conquest of Earth's Lifeforms Project, which turns out to be the three boys on the student council. They're more serious and elegant than the Battle Lovers, but they're also led by an adorable green hedgehog with a deep voice, making The Conquest Club equal parts menacing and chuckle-inducing. As the episodes settle into the common "monster of the day" routine, our heroes continue to question things we've been thinking about magical girl shows all along. What's with the cute, impractical costumes? How come no one seems to recognize them when transformed even if they don't wear masks? Why are five warriors necessary when they could conceivably work in shifts? Why, when the warriors are in Japan and the magic is from another planet, are all the attacks and codenames in English?
As of the first three episodes, the main drawback of the show is that not enough time is spent getting to know the characters beyond their one major characteristic. Then again, most magical girl shows have "the sporty one," "the brainy one," etc., so this in and of itself could be a comment on the genre. It's not enough to take away from my enjoyment of this refreshingly original and very funny show, and it already offers more entertainment this season than Sailor Moon Crystal, a remake of the series this parody most seems to emulate.
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! should make any anime fan laugh, although long-time fans of magical girl shows will get the jokes better by default. As a parody of a genre that can still entertain in its own right, this series walks the line of critiquing and venerating the magical girl genre with finesse. It's comedic, but it's not a gag-a-minute affair. Yes, it has over-the-top situations, but it's just slightly less believable than the typical magical girl show, so it works. We're not laughing at the show, we're laughing with it.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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