Where you are in life can easily shape what you’re interested in, what you find problematic, and make you realize that there are some things definitely missing in entertainment.
Chu-Bra, based on the manga by Yumi Nakata that began in 2007 and ended in 2011 with seven volumes, saw an anime adaptation arrive in 2010 when it was about at the halfway mark of its run. The manga, unlicensed as of this writing, ran in the seinen magazine Comic High and got a pretty good anime adaptation overall. Studio Zexcs was brought on board to animate it and Reiko Yoshida adapted the source material into the scripts. Yukina Hiiro, who had done a lot of episode direction for a range of very different series at that point, came on as the series director. It was a show that had some solid talent to it but you also saw it as a little bit of a budget show, one that wasn’t getting a ton of money thrown at it but enough in hopes that it would spur greater manga sales and awareness.
Because it really did need it in that the show was all about choosing the right bra. Yes, this leads to a lot of prurient interest in the show but it was one that leaned more in the educational direction when you got down to it. It’s a series that revolves squarely around panties and bras and all things associated with them and makes no bones about it. While that in itself is certainly not a bad thing, it’s a bit more complicated when the show focuses on twelve-year-old girls in middle school as it will certainly provide a creepy factor for many people, fans or not.
As its central character, Nayu is one of the many new students at the Ounan Middle School that she’s now attending. While some of them have come up through the elevator system, there are many students from other elementary schools who are here for the first time. For Nayu, she’s got a hard time actually making friends and it’s the biggest thing on her mind now that she’s at Ounan. This endeavor is made more difficult when during the entrance ceremony she’s selected as the one to give a speech because of her high grades, but also because she trips herself up on the way up and reveals that she’s wearing adult panties. Black skimpy panties at that.
The girls are all a buzz about this now in the days to come and they’re doing what girls do best and that’s to be catty in groups about it. Nayu’s fairly unaware of this as she does her best at things while finding herself forced into the class rep position as well. The ones who follow her the most so far though are a pair of friends from elementary school named Yako and Haruka. They’re intent on figuring out what’s going on with her as there are rumors of paid dating, sugar daddies, and more. So they follow her and try to keep their distance in the day to day business of school so they can try and catch a glimpse of what she’s really all about.
And what it is all about is admittedly an interesting angle to take, provided you actually believe the show is aimed at girls of this age rather than lecherous older men who want to see lots of undergarments on young girls. As Yako and Haruka get closer to Nayu, they discover that she’s actually something of a tester for underwear for a man named Keigo, who she lives with but has an unknown relation to her that’s explored later in the series. Nayu’s passionate about underwear because it’s something that has completely clicked for her in a way that passions do; it’s just not what many would consider “normal” or “acceptable” unless you actually know her and understand what it is she delves into with it.
When she talks about it, you do get the feeling that it’s earnest as she discusses the way a young girl’s body changes as she gets older and the types of clothes she has to change into wearing. Anyone with kids of this age or younger siblings who are going through said changes, there’s certainly truth to some of the “taboos” that Yako talks about in not being able to deal with it with parents. And Nayu’s concerns for Haruka and her ample assets also makes sense in an educational sense, but one that is laced with a whole lot of fanservice. At the time I had watched this, my kids were getting closer to their tween years and it’s the kind of situation where, unless you actually have to deal with it, you don’t realize some of the societal taboos that come up and how different they can be from person to person, generation to generation. Watching a show like this as I was just starting to grapple with the reality of it personally – wanting to be an open communication parent – really helped a lot. I could easily see why a lot of fans would be dismissive of the show because of the fanservice elements that play out in it and the ages, but when you actually see kids asking similar questions and trying to figure out the whole thing in reality, it really connected and made talking about it a whole lot easier.
The series covers about six months of time and deals with the problems that comes from Nayu being as open about this as she is and the start of creating the Underwear Club and then the Underwear Appreciation Society. The transformation of the cast over the course of twelve episodes and six months in-show works pretty well as the core group clicks well and comes together right. Nayu’s got a lot of friends, most of them have become more outgoing and all are much more aware of their bodies and how they’re growing as well as discovering something of their own sense of style. Trouble and hardships along the way, but this group of friends held together pretty well. But the confidence in self is huge because they’ve been given the tools to understand who they’re becoming.
Of course, Chu-Bra deals with a lot of issues that come up for girls of this age so it’s not like it isn’t filled with familiar stories and events. The structure’s pretty standard and it’s just the trappings that are different as you could swap out undergarments for standard fashion and you wouldn’t miss a beat except for the way people react to it. It’s not surprising that the show never saw more than a simulcast run on Crunchyroll as it never got picked up for home video release. And the manga never saw a release either. But I’ll admit that when stories in other media come up about underwear and what’s involved in making it – which is a huge industry with a fascinating history – Chu-Bra almost always comes to mind. It’s the little show that I think is far more educational than anything else, especially for its target audience. And it’s one that I think is useful for guys in a really big way in order to understand what women went through when they were younger, making for better connections to be had there.
Yes, it’s a show about bras and underwear and attempts at making a school club about it. But, like so many shows that resonate with people, it’s about more than that. The show holds up well as these are universal truths overall and how parents and peers deal with it hopefully only gets better as time goes on.