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Tuesday, 08 November 2011 00:00

R-15

Couple of annoying trends in anime at the moment: shows with a "hook" that turns out to be nothing of the sort; and shows where so much is obscured pending the home video release that there's really no point in the broadcast version. R-15, while actually being quite fun in its own shallow way, unfortunately also has both those flaws...

Taketo Akutagawa is a high schooler who's also a genius erotic writer, and whose work is serialized in the newspaper. He goes to Inspiration Academy, a school where only people with a unique talent are allowed - subtley referred to as Geniuses by the school. A genius clarinet player, a genus mathmatician, a genius hacker and a genius idol, there are all sorts here - and just the ort of people that Taketo can use to fuel his fantasies. And fiction. But could love be on the horizon, too..?

There are a few other pet peeves of mine that the show plays to, as well, but one thing at a time. The hook that isn't: Taketo, the "genius porn author" - by which you'd expect far more in the line of risqué and lewd dialogue than what we actually get. There are two particular scenes that come to mind, in the first and last episodes, where the series goes where it really shouldn't and plays up Taketo's writing skills to the max, and they're funny enough that I wish it happened more often, but sadly there's very little of it. And the TV edit complaint: given the subject matter, the series is heavy on the fanservice, but it's so heavily obscured, through the unimaginative use of whiteout bars, that there are times when there's barely anything visible on-screen. If shows must do TV edits (and I'd much rather they didn't), then I'd much rather they used creative flashes like B Gata H Kei's Ogre Brand stickers, or Demon King Daimao's "No peeking!" stickers, than lens flare or whiteouts. Have a little class about it.

Put those two complaints together, and you get what would really be my first issue with the series: It would have worked so much better if they'd just gone all out and made it a hentai series, which would have allowed them to go all out with the idea. Instead, it's playing around on the fringes, trying to titillate and get you to buy the 'uncut' home video version, and.... meh. It's not quite hitting the mark.

The reason it misses the mark is two-fold: first, Taketo's "special ability" really does raise the expectation that the show's going to be crude and rude, and it doesn't live up to that expectation (and the home video version won't change that). Second, there's Taketo's choice of love interest. Inspiration Academy has a wide and varied collection of female characters, from the bondage-loving newspaper society chief, to everyone's-oneesama Ran, through uninhibited photographer Raika to perfect-in-every-way (and I do mean every way) singing idol Utae that he's spoilt for choice. There's the added bonus that Utae in particular wants him. Quite badly. But no, Taketo has to go for clarinet-playing Fukune Narukara - who is the most personality-less character I've seen in quite some time. She speak in mono-syllables, she appears oblivious to almost everything going on around her, she's considered a musical genius despite being able to play one song. Repeatedly. Never in the history of anime has the lead male in a harem made such a wrong choice.

Some fairly major flaws, then. But you may have guessed from the intro that it's not without its charm. That primarily comes from the female-characters-who-aren't-named-Fukune department, as when they get their chances to let loose, they're all great fun to watch, and not entirely playing to stereotypes. Utae is refreshingly direct in letting Taketo know what she thinks of him, even if he still manages to be oblivious; Ran's natural talent for making other girls fall in love with her is played to great comic effect; and the other girls each have talents that are overplayed in fun and reasonably creative ways. There is fun to be had here, and you don't even have to look that hard to find it.

It's just a shame that the good stuff is almost the desert, to a main course that could have been so much better but that doesn't really live up to its promise. As a streaming show, I can't complain - it didn't cost me anything over & above my subscription, and I did get enjoyment out of it. Don't know that I'd go so far as to buy it, though.

Rating - ***