22 September 2009 | cotfi2
I expected a derivative series, but...
This wasn't a show I'd expected to like nearly as much as I did, but having seen and enjoyed Aa! Megami-sama (Oh! My Goddess), I checked it out. There were a number of obvious parallels here; I wish I could remember which was produced first, AYA or OMG.
In any case, the tone of AYA was more adult, but the underlying characters were quite similar, right down to the two-man-crew who ran the club at the school. However, that did NOT remain the case for long at all; here, the characters drive the plot far more than the action does, and character development comes thick and fast. The comedy elements are much more sparse and low-key, and there's a great deal more mature content, mostly in the form of gratuitous panty shots. Still, somehow, it didn't come off as overly salacious.
I was definitely more impressed with the overall quality of the original Japanese dub of AYA, since so much emotion is passed along via voice rather than flowery dialog; you can't help but lose something in translation.
The clincher for me was the last episode. The final, inevitable, emotional confrontation presents TWO twists: it challenges your point-of-view in an unexpected "Boy-Named-Sue" moment, which sets you up for a surprisingly radically break from the genre stereotypes that the typical male protagonist in this sort of series suffers from. Talk about sticking the knife in and then giving it a good twist. The whole scene is absolutely marinated in traditional Eastern concepts of family honor, but somehow the rising action leading up to it helped even this inveterate Westerner to suspend disbelief. I think my jaw dropped immediately before I got some sand in my eye or something...
So I went gunning for the original source material. The books this series is based on actually ramp up the core conflict more quickly, but then put the action on hold while the peripheral developments that were spread more evenly in the animated version take place almost as a separate bloc. Very little is changed, and a little more is cut by the animated series (although I hear the second season is a little less forgiving in this regard). However, the edits thus far make sense (again, season two may vary).
I give it a 9 mostly for little nitpicks, and for the fact that I left the series feeling like an incompetent writer, a sorry excuse for a real man, and painfully, painfully single.