Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Feb 24th 2009
DVD 1 - Pencil and Paper
Under the impression that her best friend Tsuyuri is doing something highly lascivious in her free time, profit-obsessed college student Najimi Osana is seduced into helping out by the irresistible scent of 20,000 yen. Expecting to join Tsuyuri in god knows what manner of debauchery, Najimi is initially relieved to discover that she will simply be helping Tsuyuri sell her self-published manga (doujinshi) at the Comic Festival. Selling pornographic comics proves to be nearly as embarrassing as what she was originally anticipating, but once she discovers that a successful doujin circle can reap millions in profits, Najimi quickly changes her tune, aspiring at once to become a doujinshi author. That she can't draw, knows nothing of doujin culture, and has no conception of how the business works fails to faze her. After all, she has Tsuyuri to help her, as well as her towering childhood friend Justice and his loli-sized sidekick Sora. And before long she even has a fan (that's fan, singular), though Hoshi seems more interested in the cute author than her decidedly less cute work.
If there's one thing you can (usually) rely on Media Blasters for, it's great deals on under-the-radar anime. Unfortunately that's only half-true for this release. Doujin Work is under the radar—a tiny story about the expansive world of doujin, its modest scope (and production) situates it well away from the A-list—but it's no deal.
As far as peeks into the world of otaku go, Doujin Work is pretty silly and shallow. It's far more interested in fish-out-of-water jokes and extended sexual misunderstandings than in examining the tastes and mindsets of the doujinshi-consuming public. The antics of the cast (each of whom is allotted a grand total of two personality traits) carry none of the painfully true-to-life weight that they should, and the insight of, say Genshiken (whose claim that you don't become an otaku, you just wake up one day and realize that you are one ranks among the greatest fandom truisms of all time) is clearly beyond it. Heck, even its portrayal of doujinshi-creation—which it is ostensibly about—is weak. The closest it gets to an examination of the technical difficulties of manga creation is to mention the quality of paper Najimi's manga is printed on. There's a revelation for you: doujinshi are printed on paper.
Of course, silly and shallow doesn't mean boring or unpleasant. At fourteen minutes, the episodes move fast and are generally amusing. A lack of technical detail may hamstring the series' educational intent, but it also keeps the show breezy (something that the preachy Comic Party could have used lessons in). Masumi Asano, one of anime's artisans of girl-next-door charm, keeps the thinly-written Najimi likeable, while the light, harmless tone takes the sting out of Justice's more-than-a-tad-creepy relationship with Sora. And, of course, there are jokes. Plenty of 'em. Najimi mistakenly selling herself for 20,000 yen, the gag about paper quality (it's the only nice thing that anyone can say about Najimi's comic), Justice mistaking Najimi's comic for an illegitimate child—good chuckles all. You don't have to know what doujinshi are, appreciate loli-licious characters, or be amused by manga-esque touches like fake screen tones to find yourself bouncing along with Najimi and her crew through her trail by otaku-fire. Sure it's as substantial as a bucket of helium, but that doesn't prevent the first fifty minutes of this disc from being a fine diversion.
And then the other shoe drops. A little math beforehand would tell you that something is wrong. A proposed three-disc release and a series with twelve thirteen-minute episodes...snag the calculator and, yes, that comes out to fifty minutes of content per disc. And sure enough, after fifty minutes the party's over. Unfortunately, the disc itself isn't. Rather than gracefully stiff consumers twenty bucks for less than an hour of entertainment, Media Blasters fills the remainder of the disc with four episodes of a so-called live-action series. It is, in fact, an extended extra during which voice actresses Momoko Saito (Tsuyuri) and Kimiko Koyama (Sora) write their own doujinshi. These episodes are obviously intended to fulfill the educational mission that the animated series shirks, and they do educate...while failing quite categorically to entertain. None of Doujin Work's irritations, be they the thoroughly unremarkable visuals, the background characters rendered as washed-out, featureless figures, or even the blatant horny-guy fantasy of cute girls drawing perverted fan comics, can come close to equaling the annoyance of having the series proper cut short by this phony, limply shot, boring live action interlude. This kind of thing is acceptable as an extra, but when it limits the actual content to a cruelly unsatisfying four half-episodes, it becomes a jarring betrayal of the not-unreasonable expectation that an anime release include an entire disc of anime. The result is one of the most unsatisfying volumes in recent memory (independent of content, that is)—fifty minutes of stupid-but-fun love followed by a fifty minute live-action bitch-slapping. Not a pleasant experience, no matter how pleasant the show itself is.
The extras that are labeled as such include only a clean version of the power-pop opening, which, despite being pretty nondescript itself, handily outshines the even more thoroughly nondescript score. There is no English language track.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Fifty minutes of animated fan-community silliness featuring likeable characters and some reasonably nifty humor.
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