Saturday, 15 October 2011

この醜くも美しい世界/ Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai / This Ugly and Beautiful World

Both at the time and in retrospect, 2004’s KonoMini seemed to be something very significant in the anime world, even monumental. Gainax heralded it as their 20th anniversary series, alongside Diebuster as a 20th anniversary OVA. It was one of several coproductions with Shaft just as they were really finding their feet – their Tsukiyomi: Moon Phase also came out in the same year and a few months later Pani Poni Dash would truly establish the studio’s style. The character designs and production values were nice and it had a great opening theme from Takahashi Youko, far closer to the opening for Evangelion than, say, the songs she sang for Shakugan no Shana or Pumpkin Scissors.

But sadly, the end result was something unoriginal, uninspired and unmemorable. A typical everyman teenager called Takeru and his friend Ninomiya-kuuun see a strange glow in the woods. Investigating, they find – what else? – a gorgeous anime girl short on clothing but keen to profess her love for our main character. Another girl soon appears for the best friend, claiming Hikari is her sister, so they call her Akari. Drama comes, as ever, from a childhood friend (in this case, a cousin) getting threatened by the new cute girl going after her man – a cliché seen most recently in . On the other hand, here her lashing out in her jealously almost causes the end of the world.

The most interesting part of the series soon becomes the comic relief – a weird, predictably giant-breasted alcoholic scientist from America called Jennifer Portman who manages to muscle her way into living with Takeru to study the strange girls from the sky and the well-meaning robot creature Aionios, who Jennifer loves to confound.

KonoMini never really goes anywhere, or makes you care much for its characters, who never really distinguish themselves from stock characters seen in so many other anime yet usually given at least some unique distinctions. The drama is all overwrought and unconvincing, and the nice art ends up repetitive because everything seems to happen in the same places, with the same characters.

Not a terrible anime, but severely lacking anything to make it stand out beyond its infinitely hummable opening theme.

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