Reviewby Theron Martin,
Step Up Love Story 1
25-year-old newlyweds Makoto and Yura Onada have just begun what they hope will be a long and happy life together, but one obstacle presents itself almost immediately: they are both virgins, which makes their first sexual encounters rather awkward and less than completely fulfilling. Uncertain of how to improve things, Makoto finds himself getting advice on foreplay from Yura's sexually precocious younger sister, while naïve Yura gets an education in the finer points of oral sex from two of her female friends. Other problems arise when a girl Makoto once knew starts working at his office and gives him a startling proposition.
Never heard of a 2002 OVA series titled Step Up Love Story, even though it's based on a best-selling seinen romantic manga? Its official title may sound drab and forgettable, but mature, hard-core anime fans may be more likely to recognize it under its alternate titles Futari Ecchi and/or Futari H, both of which make much better titles than the one actually used. That a series like this actually got licensed for semi-mainstream release is more than a little surprising, given subject matter more typical of a hentai title, but if a racy non-hentai OVA like Weather Report Girl can make it into release in the States then there must be at least a small market for something like this. Licensor Media Blasters must have been thinking along those lines, as they have given it the niche-marketed sub-only release treatment under their Anime Works label.
Everything about this title, from its subject matter to its explicit displays to the behavior of many of the characters, gives the vibe of a full-blown hentai title, but SULS always stops just one small step shy of straying into material that would require digitization by Japanese release standards; think of those soft porn Adult flicks Cinemax airs in its late-night programming for the closest American parallel. Even so, accompanying the plentiful nudity, undergarment shots, and sex scenes are topics including graphic discussions and depictions of foreplay, masturbation, blow jobs, premature ejaculation, and general sexual activity, with references only made to cunnilingus. One major plot point even involves Yura not realizing that Makoto's “quick on the draw” initial performance did not bring her to orgasm, since she has apparently never had one before and so has no point of reference. How Media Blasters got this one by with only a 16+ age rating, instead of the more suiting Mature Audiences rating, is beyond me.
Step beyond all the explicit content (hard as it may be to overlook) and you have a generally pleasant slice-of-life story about two inexperienced individuals learning the ins and outs of the physical side of romance, with occasional bits of humor sprinkled in for good measure. The writing tries to liven things up with regular interference from Yura's sexpot younger sister and some rather aggressive Women at Work who do not regard Makoto's new marital status as an impediment, but even the refreshingly frank and honest way in which the series approaches learning how to please your partner does not establish good enough writing standards for the series to stand without its more ribald content. Watch the series for its sexual content, don't expect much else, and you will probably not be disappointed.
Pleasingly sexy character designs demonstrate where the focus of the series lies, with Yura looking especially good in her Western-styled wedding dress and sister Rika looking hot in just about anything. The artistry works best when narrowly focused on characters in key scenes, but at other times the unremarkable background artistry and occasional lack of refinement in the character renderings falls well short of the quality level of the better OVAs (or even TV series, for that matter) from the same time period. Animation loaded with shortcuts will not impress much, nor will a thoroughly bland musical score. Its strongest aspect is its closing number “Sync,” but that isn't saying much.
This first volume contains only the first two of four 28-minute episodes, with extras including only company previews, an advertising trailer, and a clean closer. DVD menus tend to run off the edges of the screen, and viewers should be aware that some of the clips shown in the cover art do not come up in this volume. (Nor, unfortunately, do the scenes showing Yura wearing only her apron.) The Special Features listing on the packaging is errant, since these episodes do not have an opener, and the cover art on this volume is different than the one used on the original Japanese release. As previously mentioned, no English dub is available.
If you want a simply, sexy, surprisingly sweet bit of fan service-laden fun that will not strain your brain (but may strain other choice body parts), and you like generous amounts of highly explicit fan service, then this one may be worth a look.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Lots of racy content, for those who like such things.
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