Summer 2009 Anime Impressions – Kanamemo

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I’ve tried to write this impression post several times already but every time I’ve tried to, I just can’t convince myself that I’ve accurately pegged this show. Episode 5 was able to convince me of my opinion but you might be surprised to find out how. 🙂

Rating: episode 1 – 6/12B-
Rating: episode 2 – 6/12B-
Rating: episode 3 – 7/12B
Rating: episode 4 – 9/12A-
Rating: episode 5 – 3/12D
Anticipation Level: 2/5 – Below Average

Some of you might have noticed the subtle clue in the ratings above that episode 5 created but for the sake of clarity, if you look at the letter ratings then you’ll see the word BAD spelled out. I’ll say calling this show bad is definitely a much too strong word but it did crystallize my thoughts.

The show is about a elementary school girl – a bit of a scatter-brain, think Yui from K-On! (both have the same seiyuu) – who lives with her grandma until the grandma passes. The parents are apparently dead (though I think it was hinted at otherwise in the first episode) and when movers started to remove the furniture from the grandma’s home, the girl misinterprets it and runs away. She ends up living and working for a neighborhood newspaper company run by an elementary school student. Comedy and hi-jinks ensue, hopefully.

I’ve already said this show isn’t bad but it’s very far from being good so far. My biggest problem with Kanamemo is the cast of characters and the characters themselves.

As a result of writing this blog, I’ve done some long thinking about what exactly makes a good comedy anime and I’ve come to a few solid conclusions. One of these is particularly relevant here. A good comedy needs an great instigator character because this character is required to drive the show’s comedy. Pull Konata out of Lucky Star, pull Kana out of Minami-ke, pull Miu out of Ichigo Mashimaro, etc. and you have no show. In the case of Kanememo, the instigator character is a college age female that has the libido of a fourteen year old boy and the desires of a female Michael Jackson. Setting aside the creepy factor and law-breaking aspects (since this is an anime and not real life), she’s a very poor character to use as the instigator because she’s a one trick pony and that trick isn’t even that funny the first time, much less the 57th time. And the animators have not tried to soften this failing by making this character a more well-rounded character, instead they continue to push the character type to the extreme and making her feel like a caricature and not a real character.

This is the first domino that sets up a very weak cast. To give the above mentioned character a couple of targets necessitates stocking the show with a couple of targets (the head of the newspaper company, the main character, and another) which is fine but that locks a greater percentage of cast spots towards trying to wring out comedy from an already dry stone. Next, every show needs a little romance but what does the creator do when putting in a male character would apparently ruin the show? Add in an all-girl couple which is what Kanamemo does. I have no problem with the couple itself but it feels very inefficient from a story telling standpoint to have this couple and the skirt-chasing creepy female as well. All this leaves a sole spot amongst the main cast and it’s filled by a pretty normal girl but even this is problematic because she has no presence compared to the others and is easily forgotten. (As she is right now for me, I can’t remember much of anything about her.)

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If there was a better cast of characters then it would be very likely that I’d be raving about this show right now because even with a poor cast and sub par animation, I still find the show funny and very watchable at times. An example of the show showing how funny it could be is episode 4; it played out like a Broadway musical and I kept laughing as the various characters broke out into song. The situation in general was humorous and the songs were also funny – one mentioned something about choosing a newspaper over the internet.

The last thing I wanted to cover was the reason for episode 5 receiving such a low score. On the surface, episode 5 was no worse then the first three episodes and would have probably scored in that area except for the actions of the animators. What happens is the characters of Kanamemo go to a public bath (onsen) because a hurricane has knocked out the power at the newspaper building. I’ve watched lots of onsen episodes and realize their place in the fan-service hierarchy and that’s not the problem here; the problem is the animators did this episode in such a blatant way to try to drive up DVD sales. They should either shoot the scenes to minimize the need for censoring and focus on the character interactions like a slice-of-life show would, or show us everything like a fan-service show would, or just make it a DVD extra episode. Pick one, I don’t care which one but pick one of these options and don’t waste an episode slot.

This show is just good enough that I’ll say if you’re desperate for a comedic, slice-of-school-life show that’s airing right now and you pretend that Taishou Yakyuu Musume, Sora no Manimani, and GA – Geijutsuka Art Design Class do not exist then I’d suggest giving this show at least a watch but all three of the those shows are much better shows.

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