by Carl Kimlinger,


Sub.DVD 2 - Drag Dilemmas

Otoboku Sub.DVD 2
Now established as a respected upperclassman at Seio Girls' Academy, Mizuho sets about being the best “elder sister” he can be. He befriends icy student body president Takako when her unyielding nature lands her in a high-stress swimming competition with Mariya. He helps impossibly petite Kana wear her beloved ribbon to class in spite of an ultimatum from the student council forbidding it. He encourages Yukari to recapture her love of track and field. He does right by Mariya, even when she gives him the cold shoulder to hide her growing feelings, and stage-smooches a flustered Takako at their Romeo and Juliet rehearsals without flinching. All in the name of sisterhood. Any resemblance to the behavior of hormonal, harem-gathering male leads is purely coincidental.

In Tim Burton's Mars Attacks, listening to Slim Whitman causes Martians' heads to explode in a shower of green goo. Listening to the cast of Otoboku nattering in their heliumized voices with their oh-so kawaii affectations has much the same effect. And if that doesn't do it, the incessant cross-dressing harem tripe will.

Those who were able to make it through the first volume without painting their walls with green goo may be tempted to drag their battered ears and psyches further into the series in the hope that the second volume will present some sort of narrative development that gives meaning to the ordeal they endured in reaching it. Belay the thought. While the onslaught of squealing, caffeinated moe-bait has abated somewhat in its ferocity, a sagging of the already listlessly undirected plot ensures that the series' sophomore outing is only marginally more tolerable than the first.

With the onset of the series' middle third, the writers felt it time to enter a series of stand-alone tales centering on various members of the supporting cast. That the supporting cast is excruciating even in small doses fazes them not in the least as they charge headlong into episode-long riffs on stupid high-school rivalries and the subjectivity of ribbon-appropriateness (don't ask), all while tragic back-stories crawl from the woodwork like fuzzy pink centipedes from under a candy-coated rock. It's an intentional lull in a series that can ill afford it. It isn't until the last episode that even the weakest signs of life return, and it takes all of Masumi Asano's (as Mariya) considerable skill just to keep that faint flame burning.

If you stripped away the series' obnoxious quirks and technical shortcomings, you might think that a fairly harmless slice of weightless fluff would remain (if only because there'd be nothing left). However, ignore the score that consistently makes the same embarrassing mistakes as you will (those melodramatic flourishes whenever someone rushes to the rescue!), imagine it with flexible animation and focused artistic intent if you can, and even pretend that the insipid script isn't flagrantly wasting the talents of its respectable lineup of B-list female voice talent, and still you're left with a narrative that hinges on a horny adolescent in drag cuddling with a stable of innocent girls who believe him to be a harmless elder sister figure. Ick.

The disc's one extra is a forty-minute web radio episode featuring Miyu Matsuki (Shion) and Yuko Goto (Takako). Made with the intent of promoting the Japanese DVD release, it's a more appropriate promotion than anyone intended. Staged as a tongue-in-cheek “lesson” in two periods (art, which involves a collaborative poster, and physical education, which consists of a game in which the two praise each other's “wonderful traits” for nearly twenty minutes), it is so cruelly phony and drawn-out that only the pathologically masochistic will enjoy it. And I can't imagine a better audience for the show proper than that.

Production Info:
Overall (sub) : D
Story : F+
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : D+

+ Mariya's episode isn't terrible.
The rest are.

Director: Munenori Nawa
Series Composition: Katsumi Hasegawa
Scenario: Katsumi Hasegawa
Toru Ishimoto
Toru Yoshida
Episode Director:
Takayuki Fukuda
Yasuyuki Fuse
Ryo Miyata
Yuki Nanoka
Munenori Nawa
Yoshinobu Tokumoto
Kazuki Tsunoda
Shinji Ushiro
Music: Toshimichi Isoe
Character Design: Noriko Shimazawa
Art Director: Naoko Kosakabe
Sound Director: Takahiro Enomoto
Director of Photography: Takeshi Kuchiba
Hidehiro Kashiwagi
Tomoko Kawasaki
Gou Shukuri
Kazuya Takahashi

Full encyclopedia details about
Otoboku - maidens are falling for me! (TV)

Release information about
Otoboku - Drag Dilemmas (Sub.DVD 2)

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