Wednesday, 11 April 2012

今日の5の2 / Kyou no Go no Ni / Today in Class 5-2 (Xebec)

You may notice that the pic is familiar – that’s because I wanted it to directly echo the one for the original Kyou no Go no Ni OVA series (right-click and open the pic in a new tab/window to see it full-sized). When I mentioned this Xebec adaptation there, I expected it to be quite different – much cuter and less full of erotic situations featuring its 11-year-old cast. After all, that series was made by an anime studio that makes hentai – and I described it back in 2006 as ‘ultimate pedo-bait anime’. Xebec mostly make cute stuff like The Third and DNAngel, right? So they’re not going to make it that pervy. Even if they did also make Kanokon…? 

In fact, it was much the same, only without all the gratuitous panty-shots. Sure, not having panty-shots makes for a bit less squirming and eyebrow-raising, but to my surprise, the scripts were still centred on sex jokes, especially for the first half of the episodes. Ryouta is still forever walking in on the girls topless, accidentally falling on top of them and being caught in compromising positions that, for example, make it look like he’s receiving oral sex.

And again, it’s when the series moves away from this that it is at its best. With a full 13 episodes and its own season-based OVA, this version of Kyou no Go no Ni at least gets to develop its characters more. In particular, the boys are given more of a focus – in the old version, they were almost ignored, while here Kouji’s quick-wittedness and Tsubasa’s amusing innocent wisdom get fleshed out properly, and the girls similarly have more time onscreen and get more character development beyond being the archetypes of the tomboy, the childhood friend, the funny spacey one etc.

To my surprise, though, I actually preferred the art style of the original. I’d hoped it was going to look like Minami-Ke, which as I said in my review of the OVA is from the same mangaka, but in trying to move it towards the fad for cute moéblobs it actually ended up looking mostly cheap and clumsy. A lot of the art just looks ugly and off-model and the kids’ body shapes are often weird and malformed in motion. Ryouta looks much better than in the OVA, but other than that it definitely suffers for the comparison, and a more defined and slicker art style would make the characters more distinctive – I more than once mixed up the two short-haired girls Yuuki and Natsumi.

Overall, the series did show the improvements I had hoped for – but only when it had already repeated all the parts of the OVA that were a bit too far. Moéblob art only accentuates that these are 11-year-old kids who don’t suit the sexual-themed humour here – I would have much preferred they were aged up and drawn in a slightly more sophisticated way. I’m not usually one to preach against the sexualization of minors in anime, but this is one of the rare cases in which it seriously detracts from the piece overall, which only gains its charm once the steam goes out of the ecchi humour and more quirky character-based jokes or funny situations –like one with a duck – can come in. 

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