Spring has sprung – as the saying goes – the tulips, azaleas, lilacs are in bloom and all plants, from the biggest oak tree to the smallest blade of grass work their green magic to make the snow and cold a distant memory. Is it a surprise, then, that this season of anime, like the season it’s named after, offers an abundance of good titles.
Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 10.5/12 Strong A
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5 – High
Yamada is her school’s idol even though she’s only a freshman. She has flawless skin, beautiful hair, long legs and mesmerizing eyes so accomplishing her mind’s desire (to woohoo with 100 different guys before she graduates high school) should be a cinch. The problem is that even though that’s her desire, she’s pretty naive about such things, she over thinks things in a very similar manner as Minami-ke’s Hosaka, and she lacks many of the basic social abilities like holding a conversation with someone because her mind has stuck on the ecchi stuff and has never learned.
As a result, she hasn’t so much as held hands with a guy and that’s a problem because all the “cool” guys are very experienced (according to her) so she decides that before she can bag her 100 guys she needs to train on a loser “cherry boy” that won’t mind that she’s not experienced. She picks a really plain looking guy sitting next to her in class by the name of Kosuda and so starts one of the most hilarious, confusing courtships I’ve seen in anime.
The Fine Print
I have a stately old lilac bush in my backyard and that lilac reminds me of B Gata H Kei. There’s been some attempts to update lilacs but the type people still like the most is the tried and true bluish-purple lilac that their grandmother’s and probably their grandmothers grew. And as an ecchi comedy, B Gata H Kei, belongs to a very old genre within anime – lacking the bells and whistles that get people excited about the newer types of shows. Also like lilacs, most of the time people don’t expend much time and thought about shows like B Gata H Kei; no one grows lilacs for their interesting foliage or fall color or “winter interest” and no one watches an ecchi comedy for it’s well-drawn backgrounds or animation style or the cinematography.
So why does almost everyone love lilacs?
It’s their flowers that bloom over the course of a few short weeks in late April-May and the nostalgia. But let’s be honest, even if the lilac is incredibly old and can only muster a few flower spikes in a year that’s enough to keep people from digging it up and planting something newer and better in it’s place. It’s a rather short bar we ask the lilac to jump over and the same can be said for ecchi comedies – they have to be really lifeless for people to scorn them.
Sometimes, though, these stately old lilac bushes surprise you and, instead of a couple flower spikes, there’s dozens and dozens – putting on a show as memorable as the most sought after cherry trees or rose bushes. And sometimes an ecchi comedy like B Gata H Kei comes along and really surprises you.
As with any good show, several things have to be done right for the show to be good. One important element is the main characters and B Gata H Kei gets the ball rolling with Yamada and Kosuda. Introduced as a generic male character, Kosuda looks the part but is way more interesting the longer we get to know him. He’s an accomplished photographer, he’s kind and considerate, and he occasionally displays an actual backbone. Yamada’s character, for all it’s ecchi bluster, feels very similar to Minami-ke’s Hosaka though she’s been a little more successful in attracting her target. The side characters haven’t been given a lot of time but that’s okay since the animators have been using the time to focus on making the main characters work. From what I can see so far, the side characters are all decent characters with Yamada and Kosuda’s siblings being the standouts.
Another important element is for an anime to be entertaining. Different types of anime are entertaining in different ways and I’m very flexible in what I find entertaining which probably accounts for finding so many different types of anime entertaining. Comedy is one of the easy ways to make a show entertaining and I love the comedy found in B Gata H Kei – the miscommunications between Yamada and Kosuda, their inexperience in dealing with another person while in a relationship, their fears and expectations sabotaging everything they do. Another way to entertain is come up with something new and different (or at least something that’s different from what everyone else is doing) and B Gata H Kei can be given a thumbs up for creating Yamada from a pretty standard male archetype and letting her mess with everyone’s expectations and for making Kosuda with just enough backbone so he’s not a pain to watch but enough shyness to make him believable in the role he plays. And the final way a show can be entertaining that I’ll mention today is for that show to keep fresh and the viewer guessing what’ll happen in the next episode and that’s certainly true with B Gata H Kei. I have no doubt that the pair will end up together but the path to do so is really up in the air due, in part, to Yamada’s conflicting drives between the superficial confident idol that eats, drinks, and breathes ecchi stuff and the deeper feelings of inadequacy at not being good enough to attract the eye of “cool” guys and the fear from actually experiencing the events leading to what she desires.
Which leads me to probably the biggest surprise to B Gata H Kei, that underneath the superficial setup to the show, it’s really a sweet story of two shy losers falling in love and learning what it takes to have a real relationship. And before the voices speak up about the well-wornness of that story, let me remind those voices that put in the right hands even a well-worn story feels new (last summer’s Taishou Yakuu Musume was a great example of both an underdog story and a girls prove their equality to boys story) and so far B Gata H Kei has been in good hands.
The final thing that I wanted to bring up was that after a fair amount of fan service in the first episode, there hasn’t been too much since. As an aside, that’s why I decided not to call this a fan service show and use the better fitting term “ecchi”. I bring this up because I know some people gauge a show’s worth by how little or how much fan service is involved and however one feels about the subject, I wouldn’t be doing my duty as reviewer if I fail to mention this point.
Okay, one last final thing. Another reason I’ve been enjoying B Gata H Kei is that I like both the opening and closing songs. So, if you haven’t given B Gata H Kei a chance yet – maybe you read those horribly done ANN impression posts – watch a couple of episodes and I bet there’s a good chance that you’ll fall for B Gata H Kei like I have.