Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Outburst Dreamer Boys
Episodes 1 - 11 and OVA
High school student Mizuki Hijiri has just transferred schools and is looking forward to leading a peaceful school life. All of those plans are dashed, however, by the cruel twist of fate that has her wearing an eyepatch for an infection on her first day, which puts her firmly in the sights of Yamato Noda. Noda is a member of the school's “hero club,” a group that he thinks is made up of fated superheroes but basically just helps out whoever needs a hand. Unfortunately, the other boys in the club are all just as weird in their own ways, and now that Noda's got Mizuki in his sights as the Pink Hero, she can kiss her dreams of a peaceful high school life goodbye.
Reverse harems can take on all kinds of flavors depending on the personalities of the guys making it up, but rarely is it as weird as poor Mizuki's. Almost as soon as she transfers to a new high school she finds herself tagged as the “missing” member of the school's so-called Hero Club, a ragtag group of imaginative misfits who all have something just a little bit off about them: Noda thinks he's a super sentai hero, Takashima who's obsessed with a particular anime girl, Rei who “pulls strings” (as in strings of fate), and Nakamura who is classically chuuni in that he believes he's a reincarnated angel/devil/hero/warrior/etc…and later another transfer student, Futaba, shows up and turns out to be just as weird as the rest of them. Since Mizuki's stated goal is to have a quiet life with normal friends and her beloved jigsaw puzzles, getting roped into the Hero Club is about as far from what she wants as you can get.
As far as set-ups go, however, Outburst Dreamer Boys has a pretty good one. It manages to combine the standard reverse harem with otaku comedy while leaving just enough space for us to wonder if the boys are really as delusional as they all appear to be, something that's very well used in the final episode of the main series. To this end, there's a good balance of cracks in everyone's stories and their unflagging belief in what they tell themselves and others, and that comes off as one of the more accurate and faithful depictions of what being a (deliberately) weird teenager is like. While we never really see what might have caused most of the guys to form and buy into their stories – Rei and his overbearing sisters being the exception; the poor boy needs to feel he has some power – we do understand that they need them for some reason. Whether it's an earlier aspiration gone wrong, a safe way to have a crush on someone, or just a way to escape stress, there's a sense that everyone is who they are and in the club because it does something for them. It could even be something as simple as having a place where no one accuses them of being weird and they can all prove that they're worth something as people.
Of course, it takes Mizuki most of the series to reach this understanding for herself, and most of the episodes are taken up with her trying to cope with the boys' antics and to understand what the Hero Club really does – and that she does, in fact, want to be a part of it. Mostly this involves the club taking on a task, which can range from harvesting crops to protecting someone from unwanted attention, doing it in the most bizarre way possible because it has to fit with everyone's quirks, and then realizing that they did, in the end, get the job done. Along the way we meet other school groups, mostly as teams or cultural clubs, as well as members of the heroes' families. Since this last is primarily Rei's – he has many siblings and a large cat named Benjamin – that may suggest that he's intended to be the most important member or possibly the romantic interest, something borne out by the fact that he's the only one who shows major evidence of having a crush on Mizuki. None of that goes anywhere, however, leaving us to surmise that any further development on either of those fronts only exists in Megumi Hazuki's source manga.
The humor in the series walks a fine line between being laugh-out-loud absurd and trying too hard to be so. Nakamura is perhaps the best example of the latter; he's almost a caricature of himself as he flails around, inventing new elements to his past life (or possibly lives) as the situation calls for it. Single elements of his persona work, like his “phoenix” (parakeet) Faust or his overly dramatic speech, but with both of those along with a variety of other chuunibiyou tropes and traits make him an overstuffed character. Meanwhile Rei's string-pulling is dropped fairly early on in the series to the point where it's difficult to remember what his weird belief is, especially since his cat hoodie and the presence of Benjamin make it easy to think that instead he's a crazy cat gentleman. The same is true for Futaba, who comes in later and, thanks to having lived in L.A., speaks a lot of random English but is in fact a secret YouTube star as his oddity. Noda and Takashima are the most consistent, with Noda functioning in some ways as Mizuki's touchstone throughout the series as she comes to understand the group a little better. Among the more successful episodes is the one where they help out at an amusement park, which brings both Noda's and Takashima's fantasies to the foreground as there is both a hero show and an iLive (Takashima's favorite anime) performance. Noda in the hero show is a major highlight as he gets way too into it for his own good, while Takashima's experiences introduce a side character who shows up several more times in the series, possibly just for the gag of two guys acting like cutesy anime characters.
Outburst Dreamer Boys is definitely one of those series that gets better as it goes on, and by the final three episodes, when the showdown with the cantankerous student council comes to a head, it's really hit its stride. The ending brings together the show's themes of believing in what you want to be true and making it real, which together with the more absurd aspects (and some weirdly detailed penguin mouth) functions as a very satisfying conclusion. I'd almost suggest waiting a little bit before watching the OVA because it backtracks into the more usual antics of the series after things have been nicely wrapped up in episode eleven; don't watch it out-of-order, however, as it does contain some spoilers for the finale.
While it does have its issues, this is at the end of the day a very fun show. The music is catchy, the art and animation fun if not fabulous, and more importantly, it never treats even its weirdest characters as less than human or as objects of ridicule. It's a comedy that pulls it off without being unnecessarily mean about how silly its characters are, and there's definitely something to be said for that.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Nice blend of two different genres, treats its characters well despite their weirdnesses. Ending works well.
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