Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's Good to be an Anime Fan: Narue no Sekai

At first glance, Narue no Sekai ("World of Narue" in Region 1) looks like it's going to be a pretty typical anime romance/comedy series--there's your average otaku-ish male lead, Kazuto, and one day he encounters a half-alien girl, Narue, and falls for her. You'd expect that from here he'd dither about asking her out for 3/4 of the series' length, try to confess to her six or seven times but always get interrupted, have his harem expand without his realizing it, and so on--but in a refreshing twist, none of those things happen. Instead Kazuto and Narue are basically an established couple from the first episode on--and instead of going down a harem path or throwing in a love triangle or rectangle, the series just focuses on their growing relationship and while there are obstacles that they overcome together, there's no doubt Narue and Kazuto like each other.

I think it's a pretty gutsy approach, when you consider you can usually get a lot of mileage out of romantic tension, and by having them start dating in the first episode they threw all that out the window. The most famous example of what I mean is probably Moonlighting, which had great ratings when Cybill Shephard and Bruce Willis sniped at each other (the cover of Newsweek even speculated on when they'd get together on the show), but as soon as they actually hooked up and became a couple no one watched it anymore. Or imagine if in the first episode of Kimikiss the main couples all started dating and you knew they'd be together throughout--the series would basically be over before it started.

But Narue no Sekai manages to work even without the 'when will they become a couple' angle, mostly thanks to a genuinely likeable cast. Narue herself, voiced by Mamiko Noto in a more energetic tone than most of her other, more reserved characters, is easy to root for, and Kazuto, while nowhere near GAR-level like Nagasumi in Seto no Hanayome, is still a genuinely nice guy who shows some guts when push comes to shove. The supporting cast is solid too, from UFO-addict-turned-friend Yagi, the obligatory sidekick Maruo, Kanaka, Bathyscape, and the rest.

The overall plot isn't anything spectacular, the animation won't make your jaw drop, but it's still a likeable feel-good type series, with a good cast and good character designs (except for the bad guys, but who am I kidding, it's most important to make the bishoujo look good). While the more cynical would probably find it crosses the line to cornyness at times, to me it stayed on the good side of that line. Yes, there are some very generic, badly developed bad guys ("terrorists" that don't want Narue to live on Earth, for reasons that aren't ever well-explained), and there are some solutions to problems that just seem too convenient (I'm especially thinking the end of the episode that introduces Haruna), but this doesn't detract from the series' enjoyment overall. There's a little fanservice thrown in, but not anything that would get you dirty looks if you're watching it in a middle seat on a full trans-Pacific flight. Overall, Narue no Sekai is just a fun series to watch when you want to relax, kick back and watch something that will put a smile on your face. And as a bonus, in region 1 the box set of all 12 episodes isn't expensive--despite being a bit of a cheapskate herself, I think Narue would approve me picking it up.

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