Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sub.Blu-Ray - Complete Collection
Akira Souma doesn't just wear glasses, he loves them. Together with his friends Yukiya, Takuma, and Mitsuki, and fake-glasses wearer Hayato, he has started the Glasses Club at his technical high school. Together the boys rejoice in all things related to spectacles, from proper cleaning methods to the perils of trying to eat hot ramen without the lenses fogging up, all while striving to build a working pair of X-ray glasses. When it comes to frames, there's nothing these boys don't know and won't do, because they are the Megane-Bu!
When it comes to premises that you wouldn't expect to see animated, “five hot guys who are mad about glasses” would certainly be on the list. Based on a series of drama CDs (although it has the feel of a four-panel manga), Meganebu! translates to “glasses club,” and is about the kind you wear on your face rather than the type you drink out of. The story revolves around Akira Souma, a second year high school student, and his bespectacled buddies, all of whom love their specs to the point of absurdity. Throughout the course of the series' twelve episodes they wax rhapsodic about frame styles, cleaning methods, proper names for all of the parts, and just the overall joys of being vision-impaired and wearing glasses. Except for Hayato, of course. He's the “probationary member” of the group both in terms of his club status and social acceptance. A first year like Mitsuki, he's on the outskirts of the group because he wears lens-less fake frames for style rather than vision correction. This makes the other boys view him with disdain, and there's a distinct feeling that most of the time they barely tolerate his presence, often making it clear that he isn't really part of the group. Strangely, and fortunately, this rarely if ever comes off as mean (although Mitsuki needs to stop poking him in the eyes), and Hayato hangs in there, trying his best to fit in. Reading those sentences, you can see how in a different show this would be a bullying storyline; in Meganebu!, it's simply a quirk by which to remember the character.
And each character does fit very smoothly into preset stereotypes. Akira is the force of nature, over-the-top perky one, Yukiya is the quiet, stoic one, Mitsuki is the feminine one in love with Akira, Takuma loves sweets, and Hayato is the outsider. You could replace them with just about any other similar character from a different show and still have the same basic story, which is why it is even more of a plus than usual that the voice actors really give their all to the show. Kenji Akabane, who does not have a lot of lead roles to his name, more than carried the show as Akira, his energy and infectious happiness spilling off the screen even when the plot got too silly to handle. Kouki Miyata (Ukyo in Amnesia)'s Mitsuki switched from lovesick to angry smoothly, and if neither Yukiya (Junichi Suwabe) nor Takuma (Atsushi Tamaru) got as many expressive lines, both voices added a pleasant note to the mix. Also of note is Mitsuo Iwata's role as student council member Antonio Tanaka, whose accent was so (intentionally) atrocious as to be hilarious.
The artistic choices for the show are very interesting, almost overwhelming the viewer and eclipsing the plot in places. There's a 1960s pop art aesthetic to the show, with coloring resembling the style used in silver age comics and a color scheme that looks like it was chosen by LiSA Frank. Shading can at times look very blocky, to the point where I debated with myself (and consulted with someone else) as to whether that was a deliberate style choice or a disc glitch. Given the other stylistic choices, I went with deliberate, and it does suit the way the rest of the show is put together. Students who do not wear glasses are drawn as 2D purple-uniformed stick figures with tablets for heads; if you occasionally see a teacher or classmate with a face, you can be sure he is wearing spectacles. The animation is limited in most cases, employing manga panels with the camera just shifting from one the the other and no mouth movement for the speakers. Even when this is not the technique used, Studio DEEN uses as little actual involved animation as possible. Given that part of the draw of this show is to look at the pretty young men, there is a margin for forgiveness here, and it is worth noting that the characters are never off-model and that the elusive male nipple is present every time a shirt comes off.
The plot is most episodic, with the thread of trying to build a pair of x-ray glasses to see under girls' clothes carrying through the entire show. This is a little strange, because there do not appear to be any females at all in Meganebu!, with the exception of the middle-aged cafeteria worker...who is voiced by a man. There also don't appear to be any parents, with most characters living with brothers or, in one case, a dog, giving the show a weirdly post-apocalyptic vibe. In any event, plot points, while all revolving around glasses, do vary from a bizarre Jumanji episode clearly based on the 1995 film to the older boys getting lost on their school trip to Okinawa. The basic school festival is also present, and two of the episodes, three, which deals with a ghost, and five, which is about bugs, are better done and more effective than the rest. There's a vaguely homoerotic tone to most of the show, likely only truly deliberate with Mitsuki's crush on Akira although doubtless the inspiration for doujinshi, and you are practically guaranteed that a pair of glasses will explode spectacularly in every episode.
Meganebu! is an uneven mix of funny parodies (Mitsuki's Ace Attorney is terrific) and scenes of guys geeking out about glasses. It makes some interesting visual choices and consistently maintains a corny soundtrack of background music that works for it, but the plot is thin and the characters little more than stereotypes. Unusually Sentai Filmworks has put all twelve episodes on a single disc, but the quality does not appear to suffer. There's one spelling error – Juliette rather than Juliet, which is only noted because the reference is the Shakespeare character – but otherwise the production is quite good. Whether or not you enjoy the show will likely be based on how much you enjoy the visuals of hot guys on a bright background, because if you watch for the plot, you may find yourself disappointed.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : C-
Art : B+
Music : C+
+ Visually interesting, voice actors are clearly going all out. Some very funny parodies and attractive characters.
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