Never before have I watched two television series in a row that were so completely opposite from each other that just putting them in the same room might cause extreme vertigo in the viewer due to his head spinning in pure mental insanity. But that's what I endured when I first watched the "harem comedy" Ladies Versus Butlers, and then switched over to Studio Production IG's uber-shoujo series Kimi ni Todoke (aka From Me to You, or even Reaching You). Then I threw up.
Let me back up a bit and tell you all about my thoughts on the genres involved. Yes, I have a long and sordid history with harem shows dating all the way back to the original Tenchi Muyo. Typically I loathe harem shows; there's rarely any question who the fuck the protagonist boy is going to choose (of his many potential girlfriends in the series) in the end, the "humor" usually revolves around horrible miscommunication and lame lapses in judgment, and whenever they try to get serious things actually end up even more painful because watching terrible cookie-cutter character cliches try to act dramatically is always laughable (*cough* Clannad *COUGH!*). Yes, sometimes a harem show will come around and switch things up a bit in order for me to appreciate it, but those stories are more rare than finding a man who collects hentai body pillows who will ever touch a real girl in real life (even on the crowded train).
My feelings about the other end of the anime spectrum (that being the "shoujo genre") are probably even worse. Whereas harem shows cater to red-blooded males (with tons of provocative lady poses and "service" out the yin-yang in every episode), shoujo anime focuses on hyperly overdramatic and inappropriate emotions (that nobody ever really feels), pathetic wastes of human space in the form of the female protagonists, and usually features a romantic interest whose sole job is to act like the world's largest smug used douche while smirking his obnoxious way into the protag's confused panties. Does this sound familiar to you? Without even meaning to I actually just described the main "plot" as it were behind Twilight. Wow, I guess it really is just shitty American shoujo (redundancy abounds)... But I digress.
So yes, in general I really don't like harem shows, and I usually run in fright from shoujo series. Not because I'm not secure enough in my masculinity to take a little bit of estrogen in my anime, but mostly because every true shoujo series I've ever watched could have been summed up in one half hour chapter if the pathetic main character didn't act like such a goddamn wimp all the time and instead just TALKED to the loser she gets all moist for the instant she realizes she likes him — which is usually within the first 5 minutes of the series — and stopped moping around or fucking with other losers' hearts for another 25 episodes. Yes, the same can be (and should be) said of harem shows too, but at least those shows don't usually wallow in pathetic self-pity and have some fun with some T&A... But whatever, on to the reviews.
Ladies Versus Butlers
Waiting for the latest season of anime to end before diving into anything "big," I found myself with a week of free time and a recommendation for a fairly new series that promised to mix the ideas of Harry Potter (a specialty school for teenagers) with Hayate the Combat Butler (dealing with rich kids and maids and butlers) with La Blue Girl. Ladies Versus Butlers was that series' terrifying name, but I was assured it would make me giggle like a little girl, and so I gave it a shot.
You can't help but laugh along side this awful, awful show. No, you don't laugh AT it (like in the sense that it's got no real comedy but THINKS it's hilarious, or that it tries to be something that it's not, like a Shakespearean work of drama [*cough* Clannad *COUGH!*]), you chortle with it because it really is funny — but it is cackle-worthy ONLY because it has no scruples and constantly bombards the hell out of you with its overuse of fan service. No, wait, "fan service" is not the term to use here. Fan service is (by unwritten definition) just small, titillating shots of panties or cleavage; Ladies Versus Butlers is almost full on pornography. There is full frontal (thankfully only women) nudity in almost every scene, bouncing breasts popping out of their coverage aplenty, and at least one bit per episode in which a lady character's crotch gets planted on the main protagonist's face (sometimes this crotch scene goes on for two full minutes of the girl squirming and grinding her snatch into the poor guy's mouth). Even edited, how the HELL did this make it onto TV?
Storywise Ladies Versus Butlers goes a little something like this: Our main character (one down on his luck sap by the name of Akiharu Hino) ends up going to an elite high school academy in Japan that caters to teaching the elite rich girls of the world how to act elite and proper, and this school also educates soon-to-be butlers and maids about how to do their future jobs with precision and perfection. Akiharu is of course a butler in training, and NOT an elite rich girl.
Because Akiharu looks like a delinquent though all the rich girls fear him (well, they also fear him because whenever anybody gets near him they somehow end up pinned beneath him, his hand on their tit, or people end up naked and wet), thusly not allowing him to learn how to butler better. But soon (this being a harem show and all), every girl Akiharu runs into starts throwing their panties at him (both literally and figuratively). I'd get into each of the girls and their deals, but like that really matters. They're all rich and cute. What more do you want? And they all fall into old stereotypes that you've seen countless times before: There's the obnoxious tsundere one, the cold and calculating one, the extreme-moe gaijin one, the child-like one (actually two fall into this category [three if you count the principal]), the shy one who doesn't understand love (and has to hide out as a boy), the clumsy one, and the one who always takes her clothes off for the most retarded of reasons... Not complaining about that last one, just explaining.
But like I've stated before, LVB is actually entertaining and pretty damn hilarious at times, in a keep-a-box-of-Kleenex-nearby kind of perverted way. Almost every joke is dirty, but damn if they aren't largely chuckle worthy. There is no real plot to speak of other than "who will Akiharu end up with, and how much nudity will he see today?" but I was okay with that. This show has a pretty huge animation budget (LOTS of jiggling) and does NOT take itself seriously in the least, and for that it had my gratitude. It was a welcome break from all the other overly theatrical high school shows I've seen lately, and it made me laugh (and look up a ton of doujinshi afterward).
Kimi ni Todoke
So after being confused, but kind of pleasantly surprised by LVB, I then jumped immediately into Studio Production IG's newest big thing, Kimi ni Todoke (From Me To You). Unfortunately for me I went in thinking "Wowwie! Production IG's newest TV show, eh? Even if the story's lame at least the feel of the world and the animation will be top notch! Hell, they made Ghost in the Shell: SAC! A high school show by them has got to be top notch! Stupendous! Zowie!" Yes, that is actually how I talk to myself.
Well, needless to say I was wrong. Oooooooh boy howdy was I wrong. Kimi ni Todoke is nothing but angst. Dorky, unnecessary, annoying, frustrating, high school girl angst. It's a mopey tale about a pathetic and wimpy girl named Sadako, who (because she looks like, and because her name sounds like the creepy girl's from The Ring) has lots of stories told about her being haunted by ghosts, and has most of her class run away from her in fear whenever she approaches them. But really, Sadako just wants to fit in and have friends... Awwwwwww. Ain't that a cute story? I mean, of fucking COURSE she's going to have friends by the last episode! And so, knowing that "plot twist" from the very beginning I was able to see the inanity of this thing for what it truly was: nothing but shitty plot, with shitty characters (who are so annoying and one-dimensional that they put Saved By The Bell's Screech to shame) who all impress upon you the emotional investment of a female praying mantis in her mate right after getting it on.
Okay, so things start out cute and harmless enough. The first episode of this thing actually made me want to see more. We start off seeing Sadako from both her and her classmates' perspectives, and it kind of made me remember my old high school life a bit myself. I remembered thinking how what one person thought of me was the only reason for living, how... Um... Well, that was really the only thing my high school life had in common with Sadako's but whatever. Unfortunately things go South fast for both our heroine and for us, the viewers when Three's Company-styled misunderstandings soon take center stage, and the plots surrounding them draaaaaaaaaag oooooooooooooon and oooooooooooooon for episodes without end. The goddamn kicker about these misunderstandings is that ALL of the problems that Sadako and her classmates encounter could EASILY be fixed if just one person (ANY person) simply asked one tiny question or spoke up and said "Really? Is this what you truly meant?"
Nope, instead Sadako pines for a boy (without doing anything about it), the boy pines for her, she does all the chores for the class because everyone else volunteers her, she wants nothing more but to have a few friends, a few of her classmates want to be her friends, some rumors get started that people think Sadako started, people are like OMG! No whey!, but... But whatever. The fact that Sadako just whispers to herself and CONSTANTLY talks down about herself to others because she's introverted doesn't make me feel sorry for her, it just makes me want to slap the crap out of her like a drunk pimp taking shit out on his ladies on a Saturday during a recession with only ugly whores available that night. You don't feel pity and sadness, you feel pain, frustration, and annoyance. It's annoying. Everybody in this whole damn show is stupid and annoying.
Don't get me wrong; I've watched some shoujo shows in the past that I've rather enjoyed despite their best efforts to try and be too gay for white men. I mean I love His and Her Circumstances. If the heroine in a shoujo series is even just somewhat intelligent, or if she actually has any kind of opinion about herself that doesn't include the desire to go home and swallow a handful of sleeping pills every night, then that's all you need to keep me at least entertained. It might also help if the main boy that the chick is into isn't a smug smirking asshole, but I realize that's kind of an improbability since apparently dickless douchebags like that are all high school girls ever get their ovaries in a tickle over.
So Kimi ni Todoke has a wimpy star, lame side characters (whose names I didn't even bother to look up they were so uninteresting), dragged out plots that involved nothing more than rumors getting started and maybe the possibility of gaining a friend or two, and the animation quality was subpar most of the time. Really, a Production IG tentpole series (at least that's what all the fans were making it sound like during its airing) with terrible animations and lame designs?! What has this world come to?
Ooooooh yeeeeeeeah, G! So like, I was baggin' on this cute high school schizzy tail the other day, down at the Circle K, when I find out that this hot piece of ass is like so screwed up due to lots of lame emotional shit and because some of her classmates just keep raggin on her and spreadin' lies like she's a ho, that her dad deals coke, and her mom done shot a police man in the head. Now I know that shit's a lie since Robot Pedro killed that cop after trying to cap my ass two Sundays ago because I said his momma was a vacuum cleaner and I used her on myself the night before.
Yo, so after an hour and a few brewskies, I convinced the hot young thing that her classmates was right about her and that the only thing she could do was give in to fate and be the slut they all knew she was. Man oh man she was a very special girl... She was a super freak, dawg! She super-freaky!
Don't worry though. After I got her from the rear for the 5th time that night I told her that all the peeps she thought was friends was all nothin' but haters, and that she was better than them and just needed some confidence in herself to have a happy high school life... Hmmm, or maybe I just got my clothes and tip-toed out of her trailer home after the roofies kicked in for good. I don't remember. Happy ending though.
These two shows, they brought back some fond memories I had back when I was a high school science teacher, and some of the experiments I would run on some of the kids. I used to throw a sack over the heads of the problem children, bring them to my underground lab complex, strap them to chairs, and then make out with their drugged up mothers in front of them until they promised to sit up straight and keep their eyes forward during my lectures.
Hmmm, looking back on it, I suppose it wasn't much of an "experiment" per se, but really just a double kidnapping and molestation... But dag-nabbit if it wasn't a good time for all.