You had me at "A slapstick adolescence idol success story."
Reviewby Carlo Santos, Oct 29th 2005
DVD 2: 2nd Contact
Even though everyone loves the DearS—beautiful aliens who have crash-landed on Earth and integrated themselves into society—high-schooler Takeya isn't too happy to be living with one. Ren proclaims herself to be Takeya's "slave," but all her attempts to help him (even sexually) end in disaster. Another DearS, Miu, has taken it upon herself to teach Ren proper manners and conduct, but cooking, cleaning and shopping can be a real challenge for those not of this world. Then Takeya's little sister Natsuki shows up, and all hell breaks loose when she finds out about Takeya and Ren's living arrangements.
Next, on an exciting installment of DearS... nothing really happens! That's right, this excuse for a romantic comedy is in a holding pattern until the story gets far enough to reveal some major plot points. (What, there's a plot?) In these filler episodes, Miu yells at Ren nonstop, and Takeya's little sister vies for the title of Most Annoying Character. Does that really qualify as 75 minutes' worth of material—or, for those tracking the episode count, one-quarter of the entire series? Maybe it's the pantyshots, cleavage, and random acts of nudity that make 75 minutes of filler worth it. Then again, if your personal tastes run counter to that, maybe not.
It's no secret that the premise of DearS is as derivative as they come—substitute Ren with a goddess, android, or childhood friend and you've just written the plot summary of several other popular series. But the copycatting doesn't stop there: this show keeps regurgitating well-known comedy setups like it's trying to win an unoriginality contest. Episode 5 is about Ren learning how to clean up after school… with zany results. In Episode 6, she tries her hand at housekeeping, with—you guessed it—zany results. To make matters worse, Miu tags along and turns the learning process into a tedious one-note gag where Ren does something wrong and Miu yells at her for it. Imagine this for two straight episodes and that's the kind of torture you're in for. But in case you're wondering where the fanservice went, don't worry. Ren also tries to seduce Takeya in the middle of the night, all the while spouting lines like "I've never executed it, but the process is programmed inside me." How's that for a mood-killer?
If that seems embarrassing, just wait until Episode 7 where Takeya's little sister comes on to him. While not as indecent as Ren's behavior, the joke violates both the incest and pedophilia barriers, ending up being neither cute nor funny. Natsuki's pushy, talkative attitude also makes her the new contender for most annoying character in the series, edging out the oversexed English teacher (who still shows up at times to flaunt her fetish outfits). With no room for character development among the existing cast, introducing a new personality seems like an easy gimmick; however, it's just another stalling ploy until certain ominous scenes are allowed to become a fully-grown story arc.
Tasteless and derivative as it may be, DearS still does better than most of its peers in the art department, with sharp colors and varied lighting techniques adding some visual flash. Ren and Miu's shapely bodies also provide eye candy in its purest form; the stylized linework is a major departure from the manga but distinctive in its own way. The angular look might not be pleasing to all eyes, however, and the designs are so homogeneous that hair color is the only thing keeping Ren and Miu from looking exactly alike. Natsuki adds some variety to the cast, if only by being younger and short-haired. On the animation side, director Iku Suzuki's comic timing still shines—just watch that pause on Takeya's face after Ren and Miu renovate the apartment—but the monotonous plot leads to fewer opportunities for that unique sense of humor.
The soundtrack remains as unexciting as it ever was, with synthesized pop instrumentals providing the musical base for Ren and Miu's antics. Sadly, the unintentionally hilarious soft-porn track shows up only once, when Ren tries to put the moves on Takeya. The theme songs are cute but barely worth humming; the lyrics to "Love Slave" are enough to make you wish that they hadn't subtitled that part.
T. Axelrod continues to be the driving force on the English dub with his delightfully cynical performance as Takeya. Karen Thompson follows close behind as Neneko, the sardonic voice of reason who doesn't get nearly enough screen time. There's some good acting going on here when the cast gets into pure comedy mode, but Miu and Natsuki's long streams of anger start to grate on the ears after a while—in any language. Also, Mia Bradly doesn't always capture Ren's simpering tone of voice, often sounding self-conscious rather than submissive. Geneon's dub script sticks fairly close to the original translation, but that may have been the wrong way to go this time; the freewheeling, adlib-crazy script on the similarly themed Girls Bravo is a lot more fun.
So, how'd you like to pick up an anime where you can get a good dose of T&A without having to worry about silly things like story or characters? The second volume of DearS is the epitome of that, with the plot going nowhere fast and everyone running around in prefabricated comedy situations. The only new development is that Ren keeps finding excuses to disrobe, and the other female characters get in on the panty-flashing action too. That's 75 minutes of fanservice filler that you could spend doing, well, just about anything else.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : D
Story : F
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : D
+ Sharp colors, cute girls, and rare bouts of well-timed comedy.
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