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 Post subject: Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2008, 6:56 pm 
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Mika is late for her highschool swimming contest and thus meets Manabi, who takes her on her levitating city scooter.
That's how the story begins, AD 2035. Birth rates are low, schools are being closed, traditional competitions cancelled.
Now, enter Manabi, tansfer student, freshman, optimist, and a hardliner in that field. She is elected chair(wo)man of the student council and begins pouring her overflowing energy and love for highschool life onto her environment, eventually giving it all to make the school festival possible.

"Manabi Straight" is a bit like "Azumanga Daioh", in terms of a similar message the show gives:
Highschool is not for learning anything. Highschool is for making friends.
True, it's a nice slice of life story about five girls finding friends in each other, which I find very nice, but if that was all about the show I would hardly find it very much worth mentioning.

Why did I decide to watch the show in the first place?
As you know, I'm a voice fetishist, if I have no whatsoever motivating information beforehand I watch shows for their voicecast. "Manabi Straight" has several good names in it. There's Hayashibara Megumi, who needs no introduction, and Hisakawa Aya, a well known veteran as well. The first has a very minor role, but sings opening and ending songs. The latter has a major minor role, so to speak, acting as the superintendant of the rival school.
But there are remarkable younger-generation names as well, like Inoue Marina, Chihara Minori, Hirano Aya and Horie Yui in lead lead roles. Such a gathering of talented ladies must draw my attention for sure.
All of the Seiyû give a very good performance, but especially Hirano Aya outdid herself, in a sense. Her performance in "Suzumiya Haruhi" was solid, and in "Lucky Star" she also did very good, but her nuances in this show were very finely tuned and she gave much life to the character of Etô Mei. I was very impressed, and I am convinced that she is the most talented newcomer of this decade (so far).

The character design is very... remarkable, too, and some people might joke about it, because it's very cute, tending towards being moe, if I can define that, in this particular case, as a more extreme form of kawaii. I'd like to use a "controversial" term brought up by xx0xNEiTHx0xx, I'm talking about "chubby". A German term that jumped me first was "knubbelig", you'll hardly find it in a dictionary, and then came "chubby". It's not like the characters were overweight or anything, but - how can I put it? - the designers have used every means to present prototypes of what makes cute Anime girls in your head, in a slightly exaggerated way, and I'm not talking about their style of clothing. You see, the character design does not just feature big heads and round eyes, but also generally round forms that any subconsciousness will immediately link to kids. You'll start thinking the girls were, like, 11 to 13yo, when they actually are 16yo highschool freshmen. It takes a little time to get used to the conscious thought that the characters are actually older than they look like.

I found the soundtrack very interesting as well. It's one of the very few occasions where I actually noticed the background music and liked it. Well, not all of it, but there are a few minor titles that are very pleasant to listen to. Usually I have no interested in off-vocal background music, always preferring songs. And these are very nice, in "Manabi Straight". What would you expect when I am offered Hayashibara Megumi, Horie Yui, Hirano Aya and Chihara Minori? I wasn't exactly blown away, like with the "Pani Poni Dash" OST, but it was close. The character image albums are very interesting on that behalf, but even the original soundtrack gives a nice array of songs, like the "Seioh School Anthem", performed by Horie Yui, or a song that was performed at the school festival, "Sakura mau kono Yakusoku no Chi de", "Fluttering Cherry Bloosoms at the Place of (our) Promise" (or something like that).
The scene in question is very similar to the school festival episode of "Suzumiya Haruhi". I like the song even better than "God knows" and "Lost my music", the animation is not as good, but the girls on stage are simply cute (hey, I like brunettes with pony tails)...
Be it as it may, I sense a kind of injoke in that performance scene, as, at the Seioh festival, the bandleader's and singer's voice is Chihara Minori - the "voice" who only played guitar in the corresponding video in "Suzumiya Haruhi", in form of Nagato Yuki.

As I said, if the show was only about friendship in highschool and beyond, I would have hardly written so much about it. We've also already had optimists, too, galore. But there's a little more. The series is also about youthful impatience and rebellious will to take action against felt injustice. I was kinda (positively) astounded by that.
When Seioh Girl's Highschool is about to be merged with the more prestigious Aikoh Highschool, Aikoh's superintendant cancels Seioh's school festival, it being "an unimportant little fun thing which has nothing to do with students' duties". Led by Manabi the student council puts up a fight "against the tyranny of the administration", wearing worker helmets and preparing posters and flags with lines like "unyielding spirit" and such, and not only that, they also have to battle the widespread ignorance of their school mates who are more interested in a dance event in town, in the new uniforms and the new school anthem. Such reminiscent praises of past student uprisings give the Anime an interesting political aspect, which is rare in Anime. It's subtle enough (at least for those with an underdeveloped interest in history), so don't worry.

I love this show. But I know it's not for everybody. It's very cute in many aspects, and if you can't stand hardly obstructed non-stop cuteness, you might not like the show. Maybe you even will not. "Manabi Straight" is for slice-of-life, highschool comedy fans who don't mind (or wish) the absence of romantic themes (like seen in "Azumanga"), and, in regard to the subtle sociopolitical aspects that I mentioned, like seeing an unusual topic brought up now and then.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: March 25th, 2008, 7:41 pm 
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I watched this a while back, and it is an interesting nice short series about school life. Nothing too deep or dramatic, but was just plain entertaining.

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 Post subject: Re: Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight
PostPosted: November 13th, 2008, 11:50 am 
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Did I already mention that Manabi Straight has one of the best popsicle scenes ever? :nose:

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My version has hard subs in it, so I didn't want to use these two seconds.
Incidentally, I found a raw collection on YouTube (please refer to the according thread).

Edit: I wonder what idiot marked that .gif as inappropriate... and how - the picture had no tags or anything and it was enigmatically labelled "nameru" (jap.:"to lick"), which hardly anyone would recognize. :wtf:
Looks like I have to find another hosting possibility.

Edit 2: It's back! :D

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