I'm desperately trying to finish my thesis, so they move me into a room full of anime fans, astounding. Still it does mean that I get more titles to review so at least some good comes of it.
The story begins with two young female teachers starting work at a new school. The fact that this school is more than a little rough is hinted at by the graffiti, the fact the vice principal is wearing a hard hat, that teachers travel in packs and that he advises them to wear gym shoes so that when they get in trouble they can run at top speed. One of the teachers has a "nice body" so he knows she'll gain some popularity, but probably not respect. The other one is more of a problem, slightly built, unfashionable, uncool pony-tails that make her look like a school girl herself... He has no idea how she'll survive.
And indeed when she joins class 3-D it looks like things will go badly. The students aren't really evil, but they're certainly not interested in anything she could possibly say or do. Strangely enough this doesn't seem to faze her, and the class bishounen Shin, whose also the most perceptive, is starting to see some odd hints. For example roughness doesn't even get a reaction, threats just never seem to contact, and she gets oddly intense at times in a very old fashioned Japanese way. Who the heck is this weird chick?
This show has, without a doubt, one of the coolest premises of any anime I've seen recently. The first part is that the students are not the knife wielding young killers that show up in bad anime. They're actually relatively believable. It's just that they're incredibly bad students, undisciplined and quite possibly not too bright, at a school that has a history of being rough. In short they have no manners, no respect and, to be blunt, no real hopes of amounting to much. And even more so they know it, don't like it, but can't fix it. So they're cynical, negative and at times short tempered. The leader of the group, the rather overly effeminate looking Shin, is the brightest by far, but he's also the most cynical.
Yankumi, as they nickname her, is the exact opposite. She's not at all bothered by a rough appearance and she's comfortable with violence in the way that someone completely confident of their own abilities can be. On the other side she's a true believer. When she does something she does it fully, she'll keep her word and her honor no matter the cost, and when she decides to help someone, like her students, she'll keep going until she wins through. She's a fantastic character and you can see how she's been shaped by the quaint historical organization of which she is a part, and indeed the next heir of. An organization whose morals, ethics and attitude she fully believes in.
It's just great. The students, barring Shin, don't see anything special in this plucky little teacher. But somehow she always ends up on top of any conflict. Her own rough nature blunts theirs, her burning sense of honor meets their own lack of will and discipline, and her simple faith in people challenges their cynical outlook. And, once we know the secret behind Yankumi, we can see precisely why. She's gone so far down the road of the maverick that she's meeting them on the way back.
Unfortunately, and I seem to be saying this a lot, the series just can't keep it up for long. The first 4-6 episodes are fantastic, energetic and stylish while we unravel the mystery behind Yankumi. It even manages to balance intensity with humor. And then it sort of fizzles out. Yankumi stops being a mystery and becomes pretty much an ordinary teacher, the class basically just surrenders and simply become awful students rather than challenges to her, and Shin finds out the truth but doesn't see any reason to do anything with it. The story wanders around trying to find something of interest, and it has its odd moments, but the magic of the conflict is gone. The group of which Yankumi is a member also seems to get sillier which starts to dilute their intensity, and the stories in which they are involved lack energy.
Such a disappointment. It's a marked contrast to Great Teacher Onizuka, which is superficially similar (and I'd love to see the two teachers meet). In that series the students take time to play out their own stories, and they continue to be active participants in the story after he wins them to his side. In this one the students never have that much personality to start with and they don't so much warm to her as just give up fighting. It just doesn't have the skill with character to make it work. Even Shin is ultimately pretty boring. Yankumi, and her grandfather, stay intact as characters. And Yankumi is always fun to watch, but she's basically going it solo, the series failing to generate someone who can actually compete with her in depth. Still, give it a try if you want, it's certainly a bit of fun and the first episodes are great, but overall the feeling of wasted potential drags it down quite a bit.
The production is bright, crisp, but not particularly detailed. The somewhat odd character designs end up looking quite comic. This is certainly a problem for miss "nice body" who actually looks sort of overweight and puffy in the anime. Shin, being drawn to a very different style (that they don't seem very comfortable dealing with) doesn't seem to fit in that well. And a lot of effort is spent on animating Yankumi compared to the rest of the characters. It's a bit unsettling. There's some nice action animation, but not really all that much, and a couple of the scenes, almost always featuring Yankumi, are not without a certain intensity. It's quite watchable, but the differences in the visual feel can be a bit unsettling, and they amplify the somewhat broken progression in the stories. Fine music, lively but unremarkable opening track, and some decent voice acting which is primarily limited by the lack of sparkle (or even interest) in the dialog.
Very modern students, rough and cynical no-hopers, suddenly get a new teacher who upsets their expectations. Small, but fearless, and holding to some archaic moral code that just seems freakishly odd. Still, if they knew the organization which raised her all would be clear... once they stopped shaking in terror. A brilliantly balanced premise is ultimately wasted by weak plots and dodgy characterisation. The animation is clean, crisp and easy to watch but the character designs are fairly plain.
Doesn't look like any of the sites I source have reviewed it... but I really need to update my "hunting" list.