Archive for the Dear Brother Category


Yuri Anime: Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 2

July 30th, 2015

DearBrother3-275x390“The tears, they will not stop.”

We hear this sentence at the end of of every preview, but do we listen? The tears, all the tears which have not been shed by Rei, by Kaoru, by Fukiko, and by Nanako are going to come gushing out in the most horrible lancing of a wound possible. It takes a pointless, awful, stupid, tragic death for healing to begin.

Saint Just is dead. It’s not a suicide, and that helps, but it doesn’t change that she’s gone.

All along, we were thinking that Nanako was the mascot of this series, that the story was always about the beautiful people. But in the end, it turns out that Nanako, like Yumi many years later, is truly the protagonist and that she functions as a catalyst for the lives around her, is not entirely accident.

Misohoh Nanako, who can see the symbolic moments in her life, the rain, the wind, and the doves, has always been the center around which this tale orbits and Saint-Just was just everyone’s mascot after all.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 6 Bathing suits, nakedness

Overall – 9

It’s been a long time since this series ran on Japanese TV. Divorcing parents are no longer a scandal, breast cancer is no longer a death certificate. But, some things are timeless. Dear Brother is timeless.

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Yuri Anime: Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 1

July 3rd, 2015

DearBrother3-275x390It’s so fascinating, isn’t it, when something that was life-crushing 40 years ago is pretty normal now.

There is a movie, Stella Dallas. It is about a poor mother who has a child out of wedlock. She raises the child while working, but when a rich sophisticate falls in love with her daughter, the mother all but disowns her, driving her daughter into her fiancee’s arms and keeping herself out of the picture. She sees the wedding through the church windows from outside, in the rain, because of course. In 1937, this movie was a tearjerker. In 1990, when it was remade as Stella, it kind of didn’t really make any sense. Single, unwed mothers were no longer a life-ruining thing or something to be ashamed of.

In 1975, divorces were just starting to become common. I remember when, for the first time, I was in a class where more students had divorced parents than not. It was just about then that the stigma of a divorce was starting to fade.

Now, in 2015, it has no stigma at all. Like, say, being gay, having divorced parents will not completely trash most young lives. It’s not to say that the actual action of coming out or going through a divorce is not difficult, but…

So watching Mariko in the beginning of Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 1, crying her heart out over – and worse, suffering bullying because of – her parents divorce is a Stella moment. It doesn’t have the impact it would have in the 1970s…it wouldn’t even all that much in the early 1990s when the anime was made. Times change.

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As Miya-sama will learn, as Kaoru-no-kimi proposes the dissolution of the sorority. Watching Miya-sama’s delusions being eroded, while she sits in denial, was fascinating.

The school drama is far more interesting than poor Mariko’s personal drama, until we learn that Mariko and Aya had once been friendly rivals and in the end, save each other just enough to face another day.

And finally, we come to the most amazing, heartbreaking scene, as Fukiko asks Rei flat out if she hates her and Saint Juste breaks down completely over her feelings of love and hate for her half-sister.

This volume is a rough ride. I think I ended every episode by saying, “Wow, this is a depressing series.” But for all that, it’s one of the most deep, complex and in many ways human, dramas I’ve ever watched. The characters by now are all so fully fleshed out that you can see them as humans, rather than ciphers. These were the days before one-issue/joke per character was the rule. Everyone has flaws, everyone has strengths.

My personal favorite scene is when Nanako notices that drama-signifying doves have all left and no one else notices that there were ever any doves at all.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 2
Service – 4 Naked Rei.

Overall – 9

To the end, Miya-sama remains selfish and mean. And in our hearts we can never even imagine her as anything but.

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Yuri Anime: Dear Brother Set 2, Disk 2 (English)

April 30th, 2015

DearBrother2With Disk 2 of  Dear Brother set 2, we finally encounter the full depths of madness that runs in between Miya-sama and Saint Just and, if we are completely honest, we find it pitiable.

Miya-sama who, we learn, was always an entitled jerk, was jilted by her first love at 12 years old, and has spent the last 6 years wallowing in her own bile and torturing her half-sister because she’s a sadistic jerk.

Now, on the brink of adulthood, her sadism and jerkishness are about to hit a wall…the common decency of a decent commoner.

Miya-sama takes the coincidence of Nanako’s relationship with Henmi personally, and in the twisted scales she uses to judge everyone but herself, finds Nanako to be a threat. She’s tried threatening her, controlling her through the sorority, and in the bottoming out of her sanity, even attempts to seduce her. Luckily for Miya-sama, Nanako is a kind and decent human being and is neither seducable or attracted by insanity. Unfortunately for Saint-Just, she is.

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Now we know everything there is to know about Miya-sama and not one iota of it is good.

Nanako is firming up as the drama deepens. Tears have been replaced by confidence and defiance and she’s such a good person that she’s successful in dragging Mariko back into the world. If Nanako were a real person, I would have no doubt at all that she would be the Sorority club president as a third-year and radically redefine both the school and the sisterhood as her legacy.

It’s not going to get any easier as we move forward, but at least we’ve lanced the wound fully and now we just have to let it drain.

Ratings;

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 3
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Miya-sama is a terrible person. Hold onto that thought.

Now, remember, this anime ran on Japanese TV in 1991-1992. And 7 years later, Tenjou Utena ran into a haughty Student Council member who was cruel to her, who had a head of pre-Raphaelite curls and a name as upper-class as Ichinomiya. Imagine, then, what Arisugawa Juri was supposed to make us feel when we first saw her, as she is meant, quite specifically, to recall Miya-sama. When we first saw Juri, we felt…fear.

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Yuri Anime: Dear Brother Set 2, Disk 1 (English)

April 20th, 2015

DearBrother2When people referred to the anime based on Riyoko Ikeda’s Dear Brother manga as Yuri, it was primarily this section of the series they were talking about. Disk 1 of the second Dear Brother set is pretty much the pinnacle of Yuri in the series – it’s also a brief moment of life and joy and happiness in what is otherwise an extraordinarily dark series.

In this disk we start to realize that the drama – all of the drama – is centered upon a single person. Ichinomiya Fukiko, known as Miya-sama, is not just a terrible person, she is a pathologically controlling and sadistic person. As Saint Just starts to recover herself, rediscovering a small joy in the physical activity of basketball, Miya-sama reels her back in repeatedly, like a fisherman tiring out his prey.

But even on the darkest days, the sunlight can sometimes shine through the clouds and Saint Just finds enough of herself left to enjoy – fully and totally – basketball again. Mariko, Nanako and Tomoko are friends and can laugh and joke together without the jealousy we saw in the first set. Through Nanoko’s eyes, we discover that Mariko has fallen in love with Kaoru no Kimi. Not content to be a fan or admirer, Mariko has taken a kind of small possession of Kaoru’s well-being and not been rebuffed. This triggers thoughts in Nanako’s mind that she’s never had before and she considers the idea that she is in love with Saint-Just. Saint-Just does her best to prove to Nanako that she is not lovable at all.

But it’s when Miya-sama “teases” Nanako with veiled threats and unfunny jokes that we realize there is something much, much larger than the obvious going on. In the end, it his Ichinomiya Takashi, Miya-sama’s older brother who gives us the first clue to what it might be. We are left wondering why, when she has Saint Just on such a short leash, Miya-sama cares so much about Nanako?

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 5
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Enjoy the laughter and the respite from the dark…in Disk 2 the clouds will thicken again.

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Dear Brother Anime, Box Set 1 (English)

October 7th, 2014

DB1I never actually thought I’d ever write a review like this, but here I am today, reviewing Osamu Dezaki’s masterful anime based on Riyoko Ikeda’s manga, Oniisama E, translated for an English-speaking audience on physical media. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

Today we speak of the first ever release of Dear Brother on DVD in English.

The story, about “average” girl Nanako, who is caught up in the affairs of her school’s brightest and most influential, is fraught with emotional highs and lows I’ve never seen in any other school life drama.  Nanako finds herself surrounded by people so powerful and so eccentric, it makes the Yamayurikai look pretty much like the normal girls they are.

This first box set covers the intense and often depressing or shocking first thirteen episodes. Issues are dealt with that modern-day dramas merely handwave. Depression, obsession, suicide, drug use…and that’s just Rei. The casual, institutional and individual emotional sadism we see in the first third of the story is breathtaking and heart breaking. The plot offers up unhealthy helpings of manipulation and bullying, but it’s tempered with some pointed socio-political commentary as well.

Like Dezaki’s other masterwork, Rose of Versailles, I can only take Dear Brother in small doses and need a lot of One Piece to wash it down with, or it’s too bitter a pill to swallow. This is Drama with a capital D. And it hurts. Much like GUNJO, you’re walking a knife bridge with Dear Brother and the tension never really lets up. I’m tense when watching any and every episode. I know, I make it sound so appealing, right? But it’s worth it.

The translation is good enough to completely ignore – which is exactly what I want out of a  translation. It should be there to facilitate my understanding, not clash with it.

But what really stands out to me is the animation. Yes, the characters styles are dated (and yes, I far far prefer them to the current character design trends) but the backgrounds, wow. Remember, when you looks at Miya-sama’s hair, or the smears on a chalkboard, or the way cloth is rendered – all that was done by hand. Every shadow, every seam was inked by someone without help of software. Every once in a while, I’m standing at Mandarake in Nakano and a cel from this series is for sale, and I stare at knowing I will never pay the price to own it, but wanting to oh so badly. (I’ve already got a Drama CD fetish, I’m not going near cels.)

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Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 10
Yuri – 3
Service – 4 Of a different sort, with the Beautiful Ones far, far more beautiful than high school students are in the real world.

Overall – 9

With a combination of tightly wound story-telling, unforgettable characters and timeless art, Dear Brother is, IMHO, a pinnacle of shoujo anime, a classic that I’m very proud to have helped bring to DVD.

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