Minami-Ke Okawari Is Not Awesome

7 02 2008

As the title suggest, I am really not digging the second version of Minami-Ke. I had a very high opinion of the first season, so it is particuarly painful seeing the same characters and setting treated so many degrees worse than the previous series. Going in I was a bit skeptical, not only because a second adaption being aired in the season directly after the first adaption was aired is totally unheard of, but also because the new studio Asread seemed to have unnecessarily altered the character designs which is always a surefire way to win over fans. The biggest overall problems with the show are that it looks and feels cheap, and that it’s not funny which is a bit of an issue for a comedy show. For some reason I get the feeling that the studio just doesn’t seem to really want to be making this show.

Here is a list of 10 reasons why Minami-Ke Okawari is not awesome.

#1 The Opening

Trapped in terrible OP, send help.Trapped in terrible OP, send help.Trapped in terrible OP, send help.

From the very thing you see in the show is this horribly generic opening. Let’s compare the new one to the original one for a sec. Notice how the Okawari one has a song that doesn’t really fit in with the tone of the show at all? It has terrible walk cycles for the three sisters at the beginning, it has the section with the creepy eyes, but by far the worst crime though is that they couldn’t even be bothered to animate Hosaka.

#2 Cheap animation

I hope you don’t like animation in your anime

It’s amazing how little animation there is in this show sometimes.  Even in the opening five minutes of the first episode, there’s almost none. What typically happens with anime is that they blow their budget making the first episode look amazing, often much better than the rest of the show ends up being. This definitely happened in the first version, and if you don’t believe me watch the sequence where Kana is chasing Chiaki around the apartment again. This show however seems to be having budget problems from the get-go. For example, whenever Chiaki chucks the bear at Kana, it’s accomplished using only one or two frames of animation.

#3 Too cheap for mouth movements

I call this the Rob Liefeld clause

Following on from the previous point, they really go out of their way to avoid showing people speaking. They will often show a shot of the person a character is talking to rather than the character who is talking. If they don’t do that, then somehow obscure the characters mouths. It reminds me a of parody of a cheap episode that the Kujibiki Unbalance OAV did, which had a 2 minute scene that was entirely montionless apart from people’s mouths moving. This is cheaper than a parody of cheapness.

#4 Fujioka?

Original show on left, Okawari on right.

Uhh is that what he looked like?

#5 Poor use of Hosaka

Hosaka, cliff-notes version

Hosaka is appearing in more of the episodes, but he only seems to get about one scene per episode. Part of the humour of the original series Hosaka episodes was watching him come up with these elaborate plans to woo Haruka, get bogged down with the details, and never actually get anywhere with it. In Okawari he just appears and says ‘So Minami Haruka likes Rabbits.’, has a brief fantasy and unbuttons his shirt. It’s like they made some bullet points of his original plots, and just wrote from those without really understanding what they were doing.

#6 Haruka is a right bitch now

They’ve totally nailed her character.

In the original Haruka was a kindly parental figure for the other sisters, who is mistaken for being a hard-as-nails gang leader despite her best efforts to convince people otherwise. In Okawari she is a to-be-feared authority figure for the sisters, and actually goes as far as not cooking dinner for them as punishment for a situation that she couldn’t be bothered to listen to the explanation of. Thanks for making her unlikable, Asread, or should I say… obvious joke based on studio name.

#7 No Sensei and Ninomiya-kun

He’s a samurai, I guess

Yes, I know that they were invented by the writers of the first adaption and were not present in the the original manga, but I don’t care. Their show was brilliant, and one of the funiest things in the first adaption. I guess what we have to put up with as a replacement  here are these terrible and barely animated sequences with that bear thing.

#8 That Fucking Neighbour.

FUCK OFF

This stuttering cretin moved in next door, and won’t stop showing up in each and every episode. He is possibly the least likable character I’ve seen in anime since Renge from Air Master. Look at him, he looks like Harry Potter, only somehow much more pathetic. His gimmick is that he’s a whimpering little shit who can’t turn down any request even if it means he ends up wading through raw sewage to help someone move a rusty bicycle.

#9 Creepy-ass background characters

Fetch the holy water

Comically cheap looking background character have been an anime staple since the original Di Gi Charat where minor characters were drawn as anthropomorphic thumbs. The same idea has also been used in other comedy shows like Puni Puni Poemi where the background characters were black outlines filled in white. In Okawari, the design team have for some reason decided to colour the skin of only some background in character completely black, but not the mouth or the hair. These character even have spoken dialogue. The effect is creepy, real creepy.

Di Gi Charat characters (left), Puni Puni Poemi characters (Right)
Di Gi Charat (Left) and Puni Puni Poemi (right)

#10 Too lazy even to properly do creepy-ass background characters

You lazy bastards

This is what happens when you combine cheap animation with creepy design. Though it does reveal that they draw the characters properly, then cover them up, which is even more confusing.

 Here’s one last screenshot I took and couldn’t fit in anywhere.

Kana is off model





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!