Minami-Ke Review

5 01 2008

Minami-Ke Logo

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy

Main Studio: Doumu

Episodes: 12

Minami-Ke begins each episode with the instruction not to expect very much from it, because it claims that the premise is uninteresting. In their words it is ‘a plain depiction of the everyday lives of the three Minami sisters’. Yeah, doesn’t sound that compelling does it? The sisters are not vampires who kill other vampires, they don’t have some brown-haired idiot male protagonist to fawn over, they aren’t angels from the future, and they don’t save the world at any point. The slice of like genre is like this, and this show follows in the footsteps great shows like Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, and uh…that nauseating Honey and Clover show I gave up on. I am going to make no attempt to keep the comparisons to Azumanga low, because it’s a comparison that should be made. They are just very similar, hell even the logo looks similar.

Minami-Ke Sisters Running
Kana, Chiaki and Haruka from the intro.

The Minami sisters all go to different schools which are the rough equivalents of primary, middle and secondary schools in the baffling Japanese school system. The youngest sister Chiaki is very serious and rarely acts her age, the eldest Haruka is motherly and runs the family. The middle sister Kana is the star of the show, and is a hyperactive Tomboy, like a cross between Kagura and Tomo from Azumanga. If the show had just been Kana on screen doing stuff for 22 minutes it would have been just as entertaining. I’m not sure what happened to their parents, presumably they died in a fire sometime before the show takes place. This sort of thing is common in Japan, or so anime would have me believe.

I think the most important thing to emphasise before continuing is quite how funny this show is. It would be quite difficult to convince you of this without painfully describing scenes in laborious detail, so I guess you’d just better trust me on this. It’s damn funny and regularly caused me minor injuries through the laughter. Anime comedy I admit is probably not a very sure sell. When most people think of Japanese humour, they probably start thinking of the WarioWare or Katamari ‘Ha Ha Ha, Oh Japan, you so wacky’ style of humour. This isn’t what this show is about by any stretch, it’s situational, character based and occasional physical, you know like normal humour. Anyone who appreciated the antics of Osaka and Tomo from Azumanga will be right at home here.

There is an extended cast of minor characters, including a different sets of classmates for each sister, the odd friend and relative, and another Minami Family who live nearby. These are the usual range of clichés, bearable but ultimately forgettable people who serve as comic setups for the sisters. For example, there’s a guy who for various reasons always has to dress as a girl when he visits the sisters house, and a tomboy girl from the other Minami family who always dresses like a boy and no-one believes she’s a girl. Lot’s of cross dressing in this show now that I think about it, which I guess is okay as it’s a British comedy staple.

The real standout character from the extended cast is a male student at Haruka’s school named Hosaka. Hosaka is about as bishōnen as it gets, so much so that he comes across as nauseating rather than attractive to other girls in the show. He constantly undoes buttons on his shirt, and thinks up incredibly elaborate romantic fantasies. He has a stilted laugh that seems to be an exaggerated impersonation of other irritating bishōnen characters, or possibly the infamous laughing scene from Final Fantasy 10, christ don’t even think of watching that unless you want to know why I hate dubs.

Minami-Ke Hosaka conducting Minami-Ke Hosaka1
Here is Hosaka doing typical Hosaka things. Imagining to conduct an orchestra from the top of a sky-scraper under construction after having dyed all the worlds crows white on the instruction of his lover. Also, imaging cooking pasta for his lover in a very theatrical manner and freaking out his classmates.

I guess I should talk about the art. A lot of people found the oddly shaped mouths of the characters designs distracting, but I honestly had no problem with it. The animation is good, and largely consistent. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as excellent as the amazing first episode leads you to believe, but it settles down into a pretty decent standard and certainly doesn’t become poor at any point. It doesn’t even have a ‘bad art’ episode which usually happens at some point in a run.

This season of Minami-Ke is over now, and while the plot didn’t exactly go anywhere, it really didn’t need to. You might want to criticise it for dropping certain plots, but this is really missing the point of the show. There are no plots per say, only sketches which sometimes have a common theme. The show ended with an absolutely hilarious sequence with Hosaka that will make me fondly remember the show for years, or maybe just months, more than weeks certainly.

Minami-Ke was based on a manga by some guy and, here’s the weird part, is being adapted by two separate studios. The second studio is airing their 12 episodes starting in this winter season, and is called ‘Minami-Ke Okawari‘, Okawari roughly means ‘Second Helping’. As far as anyone understands, this is technically not a continuation, but rather just a second attempt to adapt the show. Of course, as people are now used to the designs from the first show, the art from the seconds show is getting mixed reactions. It just looks like they get in a slightly worse artist and changed everyone’s hair colour around. This feeling of slightly negativity isn’t helped by the fact that the trailer shown appears to be an onsen episode, a cliche which they had managed to avoid up until this point. At least they are using the same voice actors.

Arbitrary Rating: 9 – Great!