Da! Da! Da!
It's been a little while since a nice, new, pure-bred shoujo has crossed my path. And this one meets all those requirements in addition to showing substantial promise of being a good anime, as well as a nice depiction of the collision between fantasy and reality. >
The show opens with two adults whose dreams have led them to fame and success. She's leaving Japan to become a NASA astronaut, accompanied by her husband who's involved in the design of the next generation craft. Everyone's very happy for them, although their daughter suddenly realises that she's effectively been orphaned for the foreseeable future. And while she's not overly delighted at having her importance so clearly demonstrated she knows she's not going to be able to affect their decisions.
They've also found a distant relative to take care of her. And since he owns a large house on a hill she figures it won't be too bad. Although on discovering that the building is actually a temple, he's the head priest and he's got a very `male' child her own age living there as well things become more complex. And when he suddenly receives a chance to study in India, and flee's out the window, the uneasiness is at high levels. After all, they're both at a relatively sensitive age, especially where the opposite sex is involved.
Fortunately for the show they are brought together by their child, and the effort of raising him. Did that wake you up? In fact it's not quite their child, but actually an alien baby and his, occasionally useful `sitter-pet'. They're stranded on earth, for at least two years and beg the assistance of the two youths. While the child is actually alien, and both he and the sitter have access to powers and technology, he is still a baby in appearance and behaviour. Thus our two leads find themselves not only having to be children but also sharing the responsibilities of being parents.
And it gives all the appearances of being good fun. Although I will mention once again that this is definitely on the shoujo side of the fence. Epic alien forces and earth shaking conflict and revelations on not at all likely to be a part of the series. What will be is character driven drama as a mostly normal environment is complicated and confused by a touch of fantasy.
And like many shoujo series it's got strengths and weaknesses. There's lots of opportunity of `situation comedy' which it appears are going to be taken. At the same time it occasionally offers interesting insights into the characters and some quite memorable scenes. And the `soap' factor is also reduced by the solid characters. The lead male is a dead ringer of Hayama (from child's toy), he's a strong and capable character, but sometimes a bit too forthright, direct and unpolished. Something his guardian blames on being raised without any women in the the environment. Meanwhile the female is almost too perceptive, so busy trying to read the subtle meaning behind actions that she might miss the obvious and simple. Although, at the same time, she is clever and capable in her own right and much better at dealing with social situations. The dynamics between the two of them is very well done.
Of course the cast is larger than that. The shape-changing sitter pet being occasionally useful. And the help's neeeded, because their school friends (and especially the guys fan club) are going to consider the two of them living together, and raising a child, to be quite a scandal. In a similar vein letting the `authorities' know that they're living with an alien is unlikely to have good consequences for the child. And with the child's alien powers, combined with the normal difficulties of child raising, there's no shortage of problems and possibilities for discovery.
It's also tempting to examine some of the underlying issues that add power to this show. It's quite dramatic seeing such `careless' parents depicted in anime. With children being forced to grow to independance much earlier. Likewise the fact that a teenage couple are raising a child is an interesting social situation. In this model the sitter has the interesting value of being sufficiently helpful to make it possible, but not useful enough that the kids don't take on most of the responsibility. Fortunately these elements are not overblown, the focus is on the concerns of the moment and the actions of the characters (plus a bit of humor and romance). Even so their existence as a `spine' for the show does give it an interesting degree of hidden depth.
Of course I need a lot more than i've seen so far to know if the formula can work, and develop its full potential. But I can recommend the show, as long as you can cope with shoujo in general. And if you're a shoujo fan, well, it's not like there's too much else around at the moment anyway.
The production is quite attractive, but true to the genre. The attractive backgrounds, the somewhat simplified character designs, the SD moments and the total lack of `flash' is typical of shoujo style. At the same time it looks good, expressions are well portrayed and the characters have a good sense of personality in their appearance. It's quite sufficient to tell the story and you quickly adapt to the style. The voices are good and the dialogue is fine. The opening music is cheerful, but quite subtle and not too catchy.
None of my regular sources have a review for this title, yet, but I suspect we will be hearing more about this title.