First love is never easy but this relationship may take things to a brand new level.
What They Say:
When the oddly peculiar Mikoto Urabe transfers into Akira Tsubaki’s class, he finds that life has thrown him the weirdest curve ball ever. While Urabe may be an anti-social loner who sleeps on her desk, carries a pair of scissors in her underwear, and breaks out in sudden fits of insane laughter, there’s something about her that Tsubaki just can’t quite put his finger on. …Until he accidentally puts his finger in it, and suddenly the phrase “sharing spit with a girl” takes on an entirely new meaning!
Before he can wipe her drool off his face, Tsubaki is mysteriously addicted to Urabe, which isn’t half as strange as the fact that she not only finds this normal, but already seems to have plans for her new drooling boyfriend. So, can a girl spitting in your face ever be a GOOD thing? Is this relationship bound for disaster or great expectorations? Find out as Urabe puts a spittle love in Tsubaki’s heart and things get REALLY bizarre!
The release of this television series contains two language options for the presentation of the material- English and Japanese- though both tracks are present in only a 2.0 stereo mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is presented on the disc with no dropouts or distortions noted while the dialogue comes through clearly. Given the rather normal setting (even with the abnormal events that take place there) there isn’t a ton of directionality or effects needed and so much of the material tends to come off most balanced between the speakers though on the occasions where directionality is required it is provided to an extent leaves the impression of being a solid audio track.
Originally airing in the spring/early summer of Japan’s 2012 television season, Mysterious Girlfriend X is presented here in its original 16:9 aspect ratio complete with an anamorphic encode. The series is largely one that uses an animation style that feels more lived in and kind of realistically faded than using overly bright colors that would call extra emphasis to its animated nature. For this release Sentai Filmworks places 13 episodes and extras on two discs on three discs which probably help the visuals, but it is hard to say how successful this is as there are a number of issues that show up in the presentation.
Present on the disc is a level of fine noise that is usually moderate, a bit of ghosting, the occasional background bleed through of foreground characters, some moments of aliasing as well as some feedback in a fair number of colors and some bleeding present in a strong red-orange scene were all noticed during playback. The biggest issue though is the presence of banding which is present a large percentage of the time and which detracts from the visuals, though the colors and blacks themselves are often strong and solid and there is a nice stylish touch of adding some manga shading that really helps make the series stand out in the visual department and have me wanting to get a hold of the Blu Ray to see if the banding is source related or a product of the DVD encode.
The packaging for the release houses three discs in a regular DVD sized case that includes a hinge that has space for a disc on either side with the final disc being stored in the back of the inside of the case. The cover features Urabe in the foreground and it takes up almost half the cover and it shows her removing her saliva covered finger from her mouth which also extends in a thin trail to her mouth as she looks out of the corner of her eye toward the viewer. Behind Urabe on the left is the main male Tsubaki lead looking a bit spaced out and carrying a pair of scissors on a town street, set against a golden yellow and orange sky that suggests either pre-sunrise or just after sunset time frame that adds a bit of a fantastic imagery that suggests the setting isn’t one that can be said to sit in one time or another (as in day or night) but more one that exists in between and helps foster the idea that just about anything may be possible.
The back cover continues the sky color from the front along with eight stills placed at the top, near the bottom and one on the side surrounding a black space where the series copy is written in white on the right while a large image of the main secondary young woman Ota is seen kneeling on the left in her gym clothes with her own finger sticking in her mouth while the bottom cover space is reserved for technical information and copyright information. Each DVD gets its own image with Tsubaki and his friend on the first and while disc two features Urabe in her bikini and the third has her in her black sweater with her right hand under it as an image taken from a scene in the series.
The menus use are fairly basic in mechanics in that they use static images of characters with the main menus featuring artwork that shows off Urabe in some various outfits from the series that are a bit on the fetish side of things. The Main Menu also lists the options selectable horizontally on the right with episodes being listed on top while the disc’s Language Option and Special Features (where applicable) are listed underneath while a portion of the themes play for background music on all the menu screens. The menus themselves are on the simplistic yet effective side and they are quick to respond to changes in selection while they also respond promptly to whatever option was chosen and they have large indicators to signify which option is highlighted as it uses either a pair of scissors or a “Bad Cat” head to indicate what option is highlighted.
The series release includes the almost standard clean open and closing animation as well as a set of Japanese promos for the series and a Japanese promo for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off the manga by Riichi Ueshiba, Mysterious Girlfriend X is the story of a budding relationship between Tsubaki Akira and recent transfer student Urabe Mikoto as they both discover love and their newly realized awakening sexuality while they go about their unusual courtship. The show opens with Tsubaki having an odd dream with more than a few hints of a sexual nature the same day that an odd girl named Urabe is introduced to the class he is in. The girl hides her eyes behind her bangs and has a very short introduction to the class she gains a reputation for really being odd but when one day she suddenly bursts out laughing uproariously in the middle of class. That start plus her avoidance of stating just what it was that tickled her fancy to such a degree results in her being labeled weird which leads to her being pretty much avoided by her classmates, though her behavior of falling asleep at her desk at every break just further cements that her own actions (or lack of interactions) also serve to help alienate her from her classmates.
At some point after that incident Tsubaki realizes that he left his lunch container in the classroom after school has ended one day and he rushes back to the room to finds that Urabe is still sleeping at her desk as no one else has apparently realized she was slumbering or was brave/kind enough to let her know school was over. He wakes her up and is momentarily stunned as her hair is just out of place enough when she raises her head for him to see her eyes for the first time and he becomes a bit captivated by her looks, though he recovers enough to point out to her that she has drool on her chin before she leaves the room. After he is alone he remembers his strange dream he had at the open of the series and he sees a pool of drool on Urabe’s desk and he feels drawn to stick his finger into the pool and tastes it, proclaiming it sweet though he immediately questions just why he had done that (likely along with the audience). That night Tsubaki has an odd dream of him and Urabe dancing in a strange town and, even odder, the memory of the dream doesn’t fade even days later though Tsubaki does as he faints in gym class and comes down with a sickness that keeps him from going to class a few days after.
As he is lying at home a classmate stops by ostensibly to bring his homework and Tsubaki is stunned when rather than his best friend the visitor turns out to be Urabe and she proclaims that she is concerned about his health and though she didn’t bring any school work with her she did bring an answer as to why he has been feeling sick. As Tsubaki’s embarrassment grows she correctly guesses that he had tasted her drool on that day he woke her up after class and he sheepishly affirms her suspicions. Without explanation she has him open his mouth and she then works up some saliva, covers her finger with it and then inserts it into his open orifice as he sits more than a little stunned at the whole conversation. He discovers though that nothing can prepare him for what she says after he discovers all of his symptoms are immediately gone thanks to her actions though- Urabe simply states that he has become addicted to her drool and will suffer from withdrawal symptoms if he doesn’t periodically sample it.
When he tries to discover just what it is about Urabe that has caused this reaction she tells him that it is simply he is love struck with her…but is this the truth or is there something about this sometimes strange acting girl that goes beyond what she is saying? In any event with an addiction to deal with and what seems to be a very willing provider for his affliction, a somewhat strange yet sweet relationship is launched but will its odd beginning serve to circumvent some relationship problems or will they discover that starting a relationship is easier than continuing it…especially when at least one of the participants seems to be decidedly different from the norm?
When Mysterious Girlfriend X was airing I saw a lot of talk about it, though more than a small amount of it revolved more around the drool swapping of the series than anything else which left me with a bit of hesitation about giving the series a try. I was worried the series was going to go off into some of the more slightly (or very) sexually charged (and often way overblown) territory that seems to have become rather common in a particular subset of shows recently- at least when it comes to overcharging such situations and catapulting them into a viewer’s face in any case as there have been more subtle displays for ages.
Not of course that the whole drool thing didn’t more than a little turn me off as such a blatant (and frankly strange even in context) display of ‘swapping spit’ as it were is something that I wasn’t comfortable with at the start of the show and even at the end after having fallen in love with the cast and story there is still a part of me uncomfortable with that mechanic, though far, far less than I was at the start. Looking back maybe that is something that worked in the show’s favor as the story often centered around the awkwardness of its cast in dealing with each other and honestly even the most sappy public displays of affection rarely can create that same feeling (unless one is trapped at a table or in an elevator with such a couple anyway). From that standpoint the mechanic is brilliant as it had me feeling as off center as the cast often was and it really helped form a bond with their trials in relationship building as they went through the awkward process of courting without knowing how to communicate their needs other than this now obvious one of salvia.
The heart of the show really revolves around those attempts at –or lack of- communication as Urabe is a girl that is different enough that probably no one can really guess what she is thinking while Tsubaki has no clue how to put what he wants into words and often acts on impulse which tends to go very wrong as Urabe is a young woman who is very clear on her personal boundaries and is more than capable of wielding her scissors to make her point. One of the more fascinating things is that despite the fact that this the pair (and later one more cast member) can communicated a feeling itself- say embarrassment- through drool, the whole process of thinking and other emotions or needs don’t come across without specific attempt to do so making it so even with knowledge of the other person’s feelings they still don’t know a very large amount about what is going on in the other person’s head and which leads to mistakes and misunderstandings.
I didn’t see that as a dismissal of feelings as such but more a reinforcement of how vital it is in relationships for people to know what they want and be able to express it as misunderstandings can be so easy and as Tsubaki grows in the relationship he becomes more attuned to how some of his spontaneous desires to hold and embrace Urabe need to be held in check until she is ready more out of consideration of her feelings than just because of her scissors. But as it is a relationship that bridge goes both ways and as the series progresses Urabe starts to change as she recognizes some of Tsubaki’s needs as well as coming to realize that her needs from the relationship have expanded beyond the place she had become settled in with her personality and she has to adapt to this new situation as well as to Tsubaki. This helps to set the relationship as making each of the two grow not only as they learn about the other but it also makes them different – and sometimes more- than what they had been before.
There is an absolute ton of emotions and behaviors seeded here that events bring out as Tsubaki has to deal with not only controlling his impulses around Urabe but also the decision on how open to be about their relationship (not surprising for their ages they go with keeping it rather secret), how to deal with lingering feelings for the crush he had carried for three years previous but also the feelings of possessiveness he has toward Urabe. Meanwhile Urabe goes through many of these same things it seems but because of Tsubaki being the audience entrance character and Urabe being so different it is often left up to either Tsubaki to comment on how things look or the audience to infer from the events which in some ways makes the audience an active part of the relationship as they have to pick through events to try to understand some of them.
It isn’t just Tsubaki that is going to have to deal with issues though as at various times Urabe is going to be approached from other students who have developed an interest in her from a boy in the class who is also taken with her to her classmate Oka who’s motivation is never completely clear as she has her own boyfriend (Tsubaki’s best friend in fact) and yet she has more than a light interest in Tsubaki and especially Urabe. One of the most enjoyable things here is that Oka and her intentions are never met with either the kind of over the top hijinks that some other series would use for a character that isn’t quite third wheel or some sort of breaking the characters heart actions to generate some more emotion for her. She just kind of seems to slide in and become a natural part of the dynamic without becoming a focal point for chaos which is unbelievably rare in most media, to say nothing of the story deciding to just have her there but not feel the need to define everything about her.
Of course being an anime series (and originally a manga), the story is free to really punch up some things beyond what a live action show could get away with which often revolves around the pair of scissors that Urabe keeps tucked into the waistband of her panties and which can seemingly cut through just about anything, though like a fabled samurai sword they only cut through what she wants them to (at least when she is in control of herself anyway). The fact she keeps them in her waistband means that the show can throw in a fair amount of fanservice from time to time as there aren’t a record setting number of panty shots but there are still more than a couple used to spice up things and presumable keep the audience that loves such things entertained. The series also likes to use some nudity at times (though covered in shadows) to serve both as titillation and as a sign of a kind of psychological openness that works on both levels to help bring more power to the scenes that it is used in without going into overkill.
The series also takes a rather interesting touch that really helps it stand out in regards to Urabe herself. In many anime series the female cast tends to have fairly high pitched voices and yet Urabe’s has a more deep and husky tone than almost any female lead in an anime series that I can recall which both works to set her apart from some of the other students in her class but it really works to set her apart from many of the leads in other anime series as well and it helps to add an almost adult like weight to some of the situations in the show.
While the show mostly stays away from direct sexual scenes there is plenty of subtext and undertones that help to make it feel more than a show that is limited to the target audience that is probably around the age of the cast to one that can carry broad appeal to an older audience as well. This status helps add additional weight to the story when Tsubaki is pressured into helping his old crush and it really underscores the feeling that it is touching on a bigger idea of cheating in a relationship without having to explicitly state the message for the viewers. One other idea is that, aside from Tsubaki’s sister who is seven years older than him, almost no adult appears in the series or gets anything memorable for lines until the last episode which also helps to create an idea that characters are a bit older than their stated age and helps add layers to the dialogue as it goes on.
The show does have a bit of a slower pace compared to some of the other series that go for lots of motion, action and fast paced dialogue to show off energy but here the pace feels like it adds depth as it doesn’t try to do too much too fast but allows the characters to feel a bit more like they are pondering and growing as well as giving a more adult feel as they aren’t always rushing into every new thing which wouldn’t be out of character for their age group (though adults are more than casually guilty of this at times as well). All this blends together to make a series that is nearly pitch perfect and feels incredibly fresh even when some of the ideas in it have been covered many times in many different places which leads to a final product that is at least near, if not at, the top of the class over the last few year’s productions. Highest Recommendation
Possibly the most interesting thing that a writer can do is take something that seems ordinary and make a minor twist and suddenly everything comes across as extraordinary and that is certainly the result in Mysterious Girlfriend X. While its mechanism of trading spit to communicate feelings may make it a propositions that leaves some feeling a bit queasy- and it certainly was a bit uncomfortable for me at first- it may just be a mechanism that helps the viewer to get the same feeling of being uncomfortable that this young pair is feeling as they move through the stages of being a couple. When this is paired with a young woman that one certainly can’t guess the thoughts in her head it creates a series that all but drags the viewer into being an active participant in the series as they try to figure out what is going on. Once one gets past the whole saliva thing they will find an amazing series that isn’t afraid to move at its own pace and is one of the most spectacular gems in recent memory and a definite crown jewel in Sentai’s catalog. Highest Recommendation
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Preview, Japanese Promos
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 11th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.