First things first – today’s review was brought to you by the generosity of Audrey! Much gratitude to her not only for the DVD, but for any inconvenience it caused her getting it to me. Thank you thank you. :-)
Doki Doki School Hours, Volume 1 (Sensei no Ojikan) introduces us to the members of Class 2-A of Okitsu High School, a generic Japanese High School. As we meet the main players, we are also introduced to their teacher Suzuki Mika, a 27-year old who is baby-faced, about 4’10” and, most importantly, pretty childish. Mika-sensei is joined by the following students with their respective obsessions and quirks:
Iinchou – the class representative seems pretty normal, until you hit her obsession with boy-band member “Koro-chan.”
Tominaga – rich, smart girl with a sharp tongue. She seems pretty normal to me…
Kobayashi – not so smart girl, obsessed with money, brand goods and losing weight (a bit of the Tomo from Azumanga Daioh about her in character design and function.)
Kitagawa – tall, smart, pretty lesbian (how ’bout that…) with a self-proclaimed preference for petite, childish women. She likes girls in general, but Mika-sensei is exactly her type. The translation later says that she “likes little girls” but that’s sort of wrong sounding, since she likes “little” in the sense of small or short, not young.
Nakamura, called “Oyaji” – he’s a nice normal guy, who just happens to look, sound and act just like an old guy.
Kudo – as queer for boys as Kitagawa is for girls, Kudo’s also smart and attractive. Sadly he’s in love with…
Suetake – the good-natured, but boneheaded athlete. He’s clueless about mostly everything, especially Kudo’s feelings.
Seki – attractive, intelligent, completely, utterly self-absorbed, with a tendency to cross-dress.
Watabe – hardcore otaku, draws doujinshi. Constantly.
The plot basically runs through the school calendar year, covering all the things that typically happen in a Japanese school, with gags focused around the personalities of the characters.
Which brings me to the one episode that just makes me grit my teeth – the physical examination episode. Despite the fact that it had some genuinely funny moments, and Kitagawa gets to show that she *actually* likes girls in general and is not just gay for Mika-sensei, I just can’t stand the 15+ minutes of Kobayashi whining about how fat she is and the whole breast size thing. I can’t stop wondering why no one ever a) watches the guys obsess over their body images and 2) why no one ever suggests that guys’ penises be measured. Because surely that’s as relevant to their health as breast size is to the girls’. And, btw, 50kg…not fat. At 5’2″ (which is average height for Japanese teen girls, actually a little short these days), not even pudgy. That’s just barely flesh on the bones, so, please, dear Japanese schoolgirls and everyone who writes/draws them everywhere, shut UP already about the weight thing. Gawd.
The personality quirk gags are just that; Mika-sensei is short, she looks and acts like a child, Iinchou is obsessed with Koro-chan, Watabe obsesses about his doujinshi, Kudo obssesses about Suetake, etc, etc, nothing ever changes and it’s all in good fun. This is broad comedy, so the farce factor works. You couldn’t do something serious with these characters and keep them intact, but this kind of light, “around the year with class 2-A” is just fine.
The DVD subtitles are clearly dubtitles – there are a number of times where words or concepts were changed, usually for no real reason that I can see. Watabe’s doujinshi/manga gags are the ones that take the biggest hit. The word “doujinshi” is replaced by “manga” and “Comiket” is replaced by something generic like “event”. When he absent-mindedly draws a page of doujinshi on the back of an exam sheet, Mika-sensei’s warning to not put on the screentone is changed to “Don’t take the carbon out” which I found to be a hysterical choice of change simply because how many young people today would have the VAGUEST clue what that meant? Sure, I remember carbon paper. Obviously the translators and editors do too. What’s the chance that some 15-25 year old anime enthusiast will? Slim? None? They’re more likely to know “screentone” than “carbon paper.” Which takes me back to my “who are you translating for, anyway?” question.
Dear anime distro companies – THINK harder about your audience. Aside from the stuff that’s on TV, WHO do you think watches a direct-to-DVD release of a little known comedy anime? *Not* folks off the streets in Blockbuster. Please translate for us, not for Ma and Pa Kettle, please?
Let’s get back to Watabe for a second. In a scene where they are discussing girl’s swimsuits, Oyaji and Watabe back the school suits as being fine. Watabe goes on to say that bikinis and high-cuts don’t have that “moe” factor. Moe remains untranslated. The rest of the class stares at him like he has six heads – Suetake even goes so far to say, “is that Japanese?” which I thought was very funny. Living as I do in otaku-world it’s nice to be reminded that “normal” people in Japan do not use that word or, probably, many (most!) of the words we’re familiar with. :-)
Honorifics – Mika-sensei and Miyamoto-sensei get their titles, and SYNYAP’s “Koro-chan” gets his, and pretty much everyone else has none. As most of them refer to each other casually by family name, it’s no harm, no foul.
Packaging – well, you get a cover picture on the DVD, it isn’t plain white. :-)
Art – 5, but has its own charm
Story – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 6
Service – 3
Overall – 7
Gee, the lesbian character is smarter, more attractive and cooler than everyone else around her. How (not at all) unusual! ^_^