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Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School’s Tenmonbu Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

8 min read

EbitenI’m not familiar with this thing I am seeing…

What They Say:
Take one group of rabid fan girls with tenuous grips on reality, toss out all rules of proper social behavior, mix them together in a basement with more twisted anime parodies and allusions than you can shake a schtick at, and what do you get? Well, besides a recipe for disaster, if borderline delusional Kyoko Todayama is in what passes for charge, you get the Asstronomy Club, where mayhem rules and the wall between the real world and total fantasy shatters at least once every five minutes!

And as if things weren’t wild enough, let’s throw in a “boys love” manga fanatic who always seems to end up in her underwear, a maid on a secret mission, a ruthless arch enemy whose goal is to have the club disbanded, and a cat as the faculty adviser! And then there’s Itsuki, who inexplicably still thinks this is a serious astronomy club. To be fair, some of the members do seem to be robots/aliens and/or from outer space. One thing’s for certain though: the Student Council will most definitely not approve of what happens!

Contains episodes 1-10 plus the OVA.

The Review:
Audio:
This is a sub-only release, which is only offerend in 2.0 stereo. As always, I wish there had been a dub, especially for a title like this that is so dependent on visual gags. It would have been nice to not have to keep shifting my attention. That said, the audio is otherwise fine. The channels and tracks were clear with no dropout. Dialogue stayed centered along the two channels, but there was some decent directionality in the sound effects.

Video:
The transfer for this release is really well done. There are no technical flaws that I could see; coloring was bright and lining was clean. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the character designs—they have rather large heads for their relatively tiny bodies. They are almost half-chibi, if there is such a thing. That said, I cannot fault the level of detail in the designs. They cram a lot into the small spaces, and the various parody effects are really well done and reminiscent of the original titles. I was particularly impressed by the Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequence in one of the earlier episode which looked as if it came straight from Sailor Moon.

Packaging:
The two discs for this release are housed in a standard amaray case. The front cover has a picture of Todoyama and Kanamori in various states of undress. The back of the case has the series summary and a bunch of screen shots. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about this set, but it is perfectly fine.

Menu:
The menus for this release are also pretty basic, but they are functional. There is a picture of some of the characters to the left with the selections off to the right. The cursor stands out well against the rest of the menu. As is standard with Sentai releases, there is no Play All button, and each episode is listed individually on the main menu; however, selecting an episode functions like Play All as it will transition to the next episode when an episode finishes automatically. My only real gripe is that the music loop is fairly short, so if you leave the menu up for any length of time, the music gets old quickly. Otherwise, it is perfectly fine.

Extras:
There are a nice amount of extras on this release. There are a series of commercials and promotional videos, some music videos, and clean versions of the OP/ED. My favorite part of the extras, though, are the five omake: the “Heart Throb Hot Springs Shorts.” Each of these is in the range of 4-5 minutes (though the first minute and a half of each are exactly the same) and feature the female cast hanging out at a hot spring spa and getting into various sexy and/or wacky hijinx. These are pretty amusing and are just long enough to get the make the joke but short enough that the joke doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ebiten was a title that really did not leave much of an impression upon me when I first heard about it, but some relatively positive reviews made me want to take a look. I’m as big a fan of random comedies as the next person, so I decided to take a flier on it. Unfortunately, it never really grabbed me as much as I might have hoped.

At Ebisugawa High School, the Astronomy Club is continually under pressure of disbanding from the student council due to low attendance and a seemingly indifferent interest in proper club activities. Even though the club boasts the scientific genius of Kyoko Todoyama, they never seem to live up to whatever potential they might have, instead preferring to get sidetracked by Todoyama’s inability to stay focused on anything important. However, Todoyama carries a secret, one shared by her sister Izumiko and the club’s newest member, Itsuki Noya, and keeping that secret a secret might just be the key to saving the world.

As I said above, I tend to be a fan of Quack Experimental Anime (tm Excel Saga), and Ebiten fits that bill perfectly. Each episode revolves around Todoyama’s random acts of insanity and whatever trouble she manages to drag the rest of the club in. These random acts of insanity often involve varying levels of cosplay and play acting, making each episode something of a parody of another series (also similar to Excel Saga). Throughout the ten episodes, we see parodies/homages to Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, K-On, Fist of the North Star, and plenty others. The repeating gag of Iseda being killed and randomly coming back after finding all the Dragon Balls, only to be killed again was one that amused me greatly. An episode will usually have a single series it references as the main theme, but it isn’t unusual to see them jump into other series for one off gags.

On the surface, this sounds pretty good. The problem for me, though, was that the series was almost too random. Until the last couple of episodes, the series tends to bounce from random gag to random gag like a drunken person trying to navigate a narrow hallway, and it’s hard to really get any sense of continuity from it. Each episode technically has a storyline, but they are so loosely followed that they might as well not exist. It meandered so randomly and so rapidly that it hurt any sense of enjoyment I might have had.

It does not help that Todoyama is really annoying as the somewhat protagonist (there really isn’t a true central character, but she as close as we get to one). She is incredibly overbearing, and her incessant need to run roughshod over everybody else in the club—particularly Kanamori, whom Todoyama finds a reason to strip at least once an episode—gets old very quickly. It wouldn’t be bad if somebody would occasionally come along and put her in her place, but that never really happens. Hasumi Oba—the club’s vice president—occasionally overrules Todoyama’s ideas, but Todoyama ultimately always gets her way. She irritated me from the moment she first appeared on screen in the opening moments, and it just got worse from there.

Now, all of this said, I will say that for the last couple of episodes, the series settles down a little bit into something of a cohesive storyline. It’s still as random as ever, but that little bit of direction to help ground the randomness a little bit helps it a lot. With some focus, the random jokes carried a little more weight, and what dramatic tension it tries to build was more effective. Excel Saga always had that little bit of focus with the concept of Lord Il-Palazzo attempting to take over the world, which gives each episode at least a vague purpose and keeps it rolling. This series is missing even that little bit for much of it, and it shows; however, once Ebiten finds that purpose very late in the series, it is almost enjoyable. I just wish that it had it throughout.

The last note I want to make is that I did really enjoy the concept of the OVA at the end too. Much like the rest of the series, the gags are very hit-or-miss, but the overall idea of characters in the anime discovering they are in an anime and getting to meet the crew and their voice actresses, as well as figure out what it all means for their concept of reality is a neat idea. Add in my enjoyment of the omake in the extras, it was a nice ending to an otherwise tiresome experience.

In Summary:
Ebiten was a series that I won’t pretend I had high hopes for going into, but it didn’t even live up to the minor hopes I had for it. A stronger effort in the end game saves it from being a completely wasted experience, but it still doesn’t come close to making up for the first three-quarters of the episodes. To me, its saving grace, really, was its low episode count. It might be generally awful, but at least it’s short. If you really enjoy random comedies, then you might find that you like it more than I did. Of course, I’m a fan of random comedies, and it was still a chore to watch for the most part. Thumbs in the middle if you like random, generally perverted humor, but avoid it otherwise.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Heart Throb Hot Springs, Japanese Commercials and Promos, Music Videos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: D+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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