Rec was the other half of Binchou-tan’s thirty-minute television slot. While in many ways the two are very different, there’s actually a fair bit they share.
For one thing, each in its own way, the two are cute. But while Binchou-tan is a cutesy super-deformed fantasy, Rec is a mostly realistic story about the relationship between a young aspiring voice actress called Onda and a salaryman who devises concepts for advertising campaigns called Matsumaru. The art is on the realistic side, and the target audience is mature: these two meet by chance and bond, and when Onda’s house burns down, they end up having a one night stand, and then later living together. This is certainly not something that could happen in Binchou-tan. Indeed, few romance animes ever go for such a mature angle.
The show works well because Onda is just so damn adorable. She wants to be Audrey Hepburn, and the artists have fun drawing her in several famous poses during the opening sequence. She reads subtitles aloud in the cinema, has typical girly hang-ups about not wanting a boy to use the bathroom right after her, gets easily embarrassed (especially when she has to voice a perverted game) and has a strong sense of morality. Yes, she ended up sleeping with a guy she had only just met, but you could understand them both being swept up in the moment, he had been a perfect gentleman earlier (despite temptation), and she soon shows she did not take the decision lightly or think nothing of it. In a genre where it often takes the whole series for a couple to kiss, and then offers up a happily-ever-after, it’s refreshing to see some realism in a romantic comedy. Sure, it’s rare for people to sleep together so quickly, but no-one can deny that it happens. Even though Matsumaru is yet another mildly annoying clueless lead male, Onda is in a lot of ways an ideal - including not being perfect. It’s very easy to care for her as she becomes a responsible adult. She makes mistakes, is young and naïve, but utterly passionate about what she does, can be selfish, and is unafraid to stand up for what she thinks is right – if, of course, she knows what that is. She’s adorable.
The animation is beautiful, the character designs are exceptionally cute, and the story is impressively memorable for just nine half-episodes and an OVA. Daring to raise moral questions and telling a romance in a different way from what is conventional, Shaft achieved a lot with this unusual piece.
(collated and expanded from impressions, 14.3.06 and 17.6.06)