No matter how badly flawed a show is, it is possible for it to have elements of fun in it. Though it can still remain badly, badly flawed.
What They Say:
Due to a strange curse called Absolute Choice, Kanade Amakusa’s life has turned into a “choose your own adventure” game from Hell. Series of options that seem designed to cause him the maximum possible duress and/or public embarrassment randomly appear in front of him, and if he doesn’t choose one he suffers agonizing pain. Needless to say, his resulting bizarre behavior has already branded him as one of his school’s five worst social misfits, and things get even weirder when he chooses one of the strangest options yet: “have a beautiful girl fall from the sky.”
Because not only does the adorable Chocolat drop on him like a bag of bricks, but she seems to have been sent to help remove the curse! Only, she can’t remember how because she has amnesia. But it has something to do with missions he has to perform, and if he fails to achieve the objective of any of them, he’ll be stuck with the curse for life! Prepare for the ultimate multiple-choice test, where even the best answers are usually horrifically wrong, as Kanade attempts to survive My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with My School Romantic Comedy!
Contains episodes 1-11 on 2 discs.
Audio: For this review, I listened to the only audio track included on this release, the Dolby Digital 2-channel 48khz 224kbps Japanese track. There were no noticeable dropouts or distortions during playback. As this show is largely dialogue based (as one would expect of a school comedy), most of the work is done by the center speaker. It’s competent enough.
Originally airing in 2013, the show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 16:9 and enhanced for anamorphic playback. In general, this is about the level of quality which many of us have come to expect from upscaled standard 480i MPEG-2 video. Diomedia used a fairly bright and shiny palette (and bright and shiny other stuff), which doesn’t present any serious problems. As expected, on-screen text and the subtitles can sometimes appear slightly jagged, a reflection of the lower resolution they are meant to be displayed at. The video is fairly sharp and clear, without significant noise or signs of compression artifacts. The episode split is eps. 1-6 on the first disc and eps. 7-11 on the second.
Packaging: The front cover shows the main three girls (Yukihira, Chocolat, and Yuouji) in their usual outfits. The logo is creatively designed to include the full, overly long title, as well as highlight the show’s Japanese shorthand moniker No(u)Come. The back of the cover has the catalog text accompanied by a very fanservicey shot of Yuouji in a swimsuit, together with a group of screenshots from the show above the technical grid which lines the bottom. The disc art features a fanservice heavy swimsuit shot of the main trio of girls on the first disc and a cosplay shot of the three from the unaired eleventh episode which is included on that disc (and is slightly spoilerish).
The menus have a clear emphasis on fanservice. The menus on the first disc feature two cheesecake shots of Chocolat while the second disc’s main screen shows Yuouji and the Special Features submenu has Utage-sensei (the legal loli) in a swimsuit. Access times are quick and the layout is straightforward, with options on the main menu for the individual episodes and any other links listed along the right side of the frame. Snippets of the show’s opening and ending themes play in the background on short loops.
Very little in the way of extras. The first disc has the usual assortment of trailers from Sentai along with the disc credits (which count as a special feature these days?). The second disc has only the clean opening and ending animations, though Sentai should get some credit for acquiring all of the OP and ED versions in textless form (including the extended ending to episode 10, the final broadcast episode).
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um0EUnWa1aE?rel=0]Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The problem, in many ways, with shows of this sort lies in their essential falsehood, right down to the underlying premise. The scenario is this: Kanade Amakusa was once a popular and handsome boy in middle school, but when he entered high school he suddenly fell under a terrible curse which he calls “Absolute Choice.” As if he is trapped in some kind of crappy simulation game, at inconvenient points in time, two choices appear before him and he must choose one or else he will be hit by debilitating headaches. The problem for him is that both choices invariably suck. This basic setup even plays into the marketing text that Sentai Filmworks have used on their packaging: “His problem isn’t that he has no options…it’s that most of the options he has all really, really suck!”
Now this appears to be superficially true, as we see Kanade stopped at the worst possible moments and forced to decide between doing something embarrassing and stupid (like walk around making lewd noises) or doing something that is stupid, embarrassing and that calls attention to himself (say walking around making lewd noises while also pants-less and making sweeping arm gestures certain to draw people’s attention). So, it must suck to be Kanade, right?
If it really sucks to be Kanade, then why is it that despite these drawbacks, he also appears to be surrounded by three lovely young ladies who all have the hots for him? Why? Because…we’re in the realm of otaku fodder. For some reason, the writers of light novels (this is based on a light novel series written by Takeru Kasukabe) think that all that is necessary to get the audience’s attention is to throw in a combination platter of comely females who fill out a roster of character body types and personality traits. Do that and little else matters. Now, I’m not arguing that such simplistic thinking is wrong, simply because it gets repeated far too often for it to be a complete failure. There is a reason that formulas are used: they have to work at least to some degree. Well, this is formulaic comedic and formulaic high school romance in its most simple form. Kanade, the unfortunate boy, is loved by a seemingly cold, but actually just painfully shy, girl of the very slim type, Furano Yukihira; a much more filled-out combination of Wacky Genki Girl/Rich Girl (the Ojou-sama), Ouka Yuouji; and a bottomless stomach/pet who is supposedly a divine helper sent to support him while he must work his way through the curse, but who provides no help at all: Chocolat. Considering all three like him very much and none of them is unattractive…umm…how is Kanade unfortunate again?
Oh, yeah, the curse thing. It is a rather rotten situation to find oneself in, being forced to do random and often sexually suggestive things all the time, without being able to explain to anyone why you are forced to do it (the only one who is openly in on the secret is his homeroom teacher Utage Douraku, who apparently was afflicted by the same curse in the past; now the only curse she’s under is that the author made her into a “legal” loli, as she is an adult stuck in the body of a 10-year-old by Authorial fiat). One can sympathize…though only up to a point. Why am I being so harsh?
Because in terms of characters, especially the lead male, this show fails miserably. As much as even the highly screwed-up three lead girls are appealing (and they do have their appeal), they are also so highly unbalanced as to drive me away in frustration. Yukihira is actually a sweet, wonderful girl who likes cute things. But she is so incredibly shy, the only way she can even interact with anyone is to put on a completely false front that is cold, snide, biting and often dirty in language use. I can understand being afraid in social situations, such fears can be debilitating for some in real life, but the personality 180° turn here, meant to be funny, eventually gets grating. Over time, you wonder how she is not getting frustrated with herself for being a massive fake all the time, to the point that she might finally get over her unreasonable fear. As for Chocolat, when they basically turned her into a dog, for me it was an immediate turn-off. Sure, it’s “funny,” ha ha, she acts like a pet, even offering her paw…I mean hand when Kanade says “Shake.” But to so thoroughly dehumanize her while at the same time making it clear that she is mainly intended to be a sex object for the audience, with copious shots of her ample cleavage and tight curves, was a very off-putting combination. Of the three, it’s oddly the odd-ball Yuouji who comes across as the least objectionable and least fetishized by the author, though she is hardly a bastion of mental health herself. Having her regress to childhood at one point was not a plus.
The rather sad state of the three lead ladies, however, is a minor matter in comparison to the deeply-rooted problem of the show. It’s not fanservice I object to (though if you’re going to do it, I’ve come to have greater respect for shows that blatantly cater to it with no shame and far less respect for shows that still play at being innocent, as this one does at times). It’s the utter shallowness of the chaste nature of the relationships that occur in these shows. I know some are wondering: “How can you use a word like ‘chaste’ with this show, which is quite open with its pervertedness at times?” I can without any irony or hesitation. Look at the way the show is resolved, or rather, the manner in which it is not resolved. This is a major spoiler, but what the hell: when it appears to be revealed in the show (I have no idea about the original source novels, so this could be an anime-only thing) that the way to break the curse is for Kanade to fall in love and he is given the option of confessing his love to one of our three off-center-but-certainly-lovely ladies…he refuses to choose any of them. Why? Because “I don’t want to hurt the feelings of the others.”
“• • •”
Yes, Kanade nobly continues to suffer from the curse all because he is concerned not to hurt either of the other girls, whose feelings he will not be able to reciprocate. Tell me another one. Pull the other leg.
It’s this hypocritical concern for others’ feelings, which is quite commonly given as the reason for not making a choice in a harem setting, which draws my ire. Because we all know in reality that it is impossible to resolve a situation like this without hurting someone’s feelings. Now, there are cultures where it is considered acceptable for a man to have more than one wife, but Japan (and those of us in the West) does not consider that acceptable any longer. So, I’m sorry to put it to you Kanade, but there is no getting around hurting someone’s feelings. And by not making any choice…do you really think you are helping the girls at all? No, you’re actually making them just continue to agonize, the primary state of people with unrequited love. So while no one is hurt through rejection, none of them are being helped either. The only feelings really being protected…are yours, hypocritical male lead. As that is the true story. You don’t want your feelings to be hurt, which they would be by knowing you were responsible for someone else feeling bad.
What’s sad is that this show demonstrated occasional sparks of ingenuity and creativity during its run. The opening episode ran a lengthy montage showing famous historical figures engaged in decision making, in the same style as Kanade’s Absolute Choice, many of them leading to important, others to silly but amusing, results. There were times where it also tried to show that Kanade was not such a bad guy, as with his hesitation at doing anything dishonest or distasteful towards Ouka’s friend Konagi, one of the most popular and attractive girls at school who is also steeped in the purity and innocence that is seemingly yearned for by otaku in their heroines, even if they want that purity to only be in public, as they would like them…otherwise…when in private. There were plenty of times where the show was able both to pander to various otaku fetishes and be fairly funny, such as in the climactic battle between two utter crackpots, the Imouto of all Imoutos Yuragi and the (fake) outrageously busty and highly sadistic Ayame. The waterpark war between the brainwashed onii-chans of the former against the ball-gagged masochists of the latter was quite funny. Throughout the run, some of the choices Kanade had to make were slightly clever (though far too many were just crude).
But in the end, all of that was wasted effort because of the shallowness of the characters, combined with lame recurring gags that played into common cliches and stereotypes that are becoming less-tolerated in the West (Konagi’s Fan Club were a tired trope the first time they appeared). The humor attempted a scattershot approach. Doing things that way, you’re bound to have a few hits here and there, but for the most part, they missed the target. In many cases, badly.
The concept originally seemed intriguing, but it was hurt by the execution in the long run. The show had some interesting ideas at times, but ruined them largely by turning far too often to cliche and trite, tired “humor” which is long past its sell-by date. While there is some comedy to be had, sadly the final feeling I am left with is frustration, exactly the same feeling the girls in Kanade’s harem must be feeling, as they pound their heads against walls and bewail their fate: falling in love with one of those indecisive idiots who tries to cover up his weakness by claiming “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” By making such an infantile choice, you wind up hurting everyone’s feelings but your own. Grow up.
Japanese 2.0 audio, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animations, Clean Closing Animations, Sentai Trailers.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.