Review for Midori Days: Volume 1 - A Helping Hand
There's no such thing as a conventional relationship between a boy and a girl in anime. There's always some twist, some flight of fancy that sparks the imagination, draws an audience, and makes the show stand out as deserving of Middle England's ire and righteous fury. If it doesn't make a grey haired old lady somewhere scream out, "Ban this filth!", then it's doing something wrong. Right from the get go I was presented with a prurient mindset when I was introduced to the concept of the harem, where a hapless, teen male, wimpy and pathetic, would find himself surrounded by a bevy of beauties, who would all fall for him in some way, competing for his affections. It's wish fulfilment of a major section of the typical male anime audience. Thereafter, I saw goddesses falling in love with hapless teen males, ultimate cyborg weapons, androids, robots with their reset switches in intimate places... I've seen a show where a girl's object of affection would turn into an animal when hugged. I thought I'd seen it all. I thought that nothing remained in anime that could shock or surprise me, when it came to what the creators could imagine. I thought wrong.
Almost every teenage boy goes through that rather messy phase where his most meaningful sexual relationship is with his right (or left) hand. There may come a point for some boys that the fear grows, that this relationship will be the only such relationship they ever have. Seiji Sawamura has such a relationship. In fact his right hand gets so much of a work out that its toughness has become legendary. Seiji is a delinquent, which makes his iron fist useful as he's always on the receiving end of challenges from rival schools. Except being a delinquent he has no luck at all in finding a girlfriend. Then one night he goes to sleep, lamenting his single status, only to wake up the next morning with a miniature girl where his right hand used to be. Midori Kasugano has secretly nursed a crush on Seiji for the last 3 years, but now being his right hand girl may be a little closer than either of them expected.
Media Blasters present the first five episodes of Midori Days on this disc. Midori Days did see a Region 2 release from Beez, in France. I guess just the idea of submitting it to the BBFC must have dissuaded them from trying it in the UK.
1. Right Hand Girlfriend
Seiji Sawamura may be the toughest kid on the block, his right hand feared by every other delinquent in town, but having had zero success with girls over the 17 years and 2 months of his life leaves Seiji feeling a little discouraged. His only relationship has been with his right hand. He's never expected it to love him back. But when he wakes up with a little girl where his hand used to be, his fortunes in love may just be about to change. Midori Kasugano has had a crush on Seiji for years, and now has the chance to confess to him, but surely having a girl where your hand used to be isn't conducive to a healthy relationship. He certainly can't be seen in public that way, and soon Midori is hidden away beneath some bandages. But with Seiji's infamous right hand 'injured' that's just the opening his rivals need.
2. Two People's Feelings
Reluctant though she is to face her family that way, Seiji decides that the best thing is to take Midori home and try and figure out a solution. But heading to her mansion (she's rich) will have to wait until after school. Midori gets to see firsthand the isolation that Seiji has to deal with as the class delinquent, as well as the constant disapproval from the class representative Takako Ayase. Practically his only friend at school is fellow delinquent Osamu Miyahara, but Ayase's opinion of Seiji is challenged when a rival school gang shows up at their front gates, demanding that Seiji fight them.
3. Discovery Days
Rainy days always herald some aspect of doom. Seiji might not have thought so, as he was counting his long awaited allowance, but that's when his older sister arrived. Now Seiji has the choice between hiding his money, and hiding Midori. Unfortunately Rin discovers both. She's the real delinquent in the family, although she's glad to learn that her brother finally has a female friend. She offers to celebrate by taking them to a hot springs to relax. Then she invites her biker gang, and she decides that Seiji will pick up the tab. It turns out that it was Rin who taught Seiji how to stand up for himself, and while she's holding his head underwater, she decides to tell Midori about Seiji's childhood.
4. Secret's Exposure!?
Even sharing an ice cream with a girl becomes problematic, when the girl is appended to your right arm. Seiji promises to compensate Midori by buying her some clothes, although at that size, it will have to be doll's clothes. Instead of going to a toy shop, Seiji makes the mistake of going to a speciality figurine shop, the sort of shop that is frequented by anime fans and otaku. It's where he bumps into the class geek, Shuichi Takamizawa. But once Shuichi spots Midori at the end of Seiji's arm, Seiji has a brand new 'best friend'. Shuichi too is into dolls and figurines, and loves dressing them up. He also likes glove puppets, and he'll do anything for a closer look at Midori, including blackmail.
5. Love Strength
It's been happy, if weird bliss so far, having Midori replacing his right hand, but the real world is finally about to catch up to Seiji and Midori, as the reality of their situation begins to take its toll. Seiji's made an enemy of a teacher named Nishi due to his constant tardiness, and his recent desire to skip P.E. with his 'injured and bandaged' hand. Nishi has started devising one-armed exercises to torment Seiji with. Midori's been doing the domestic chores, taking notes in class, and trying to keep Seiji awake and punctual, and she's beginning to think her presence is more trouble than it's worth. But when Midori catches a cold, Seiji comes to realise how much he's gotten used to his new body part.
Midori Days gets a 4:3 regular transfer, which on this US disc quite naturally is in NTSC format. It's really quite a pleasant experience, clean, sharp and free of compression artefacts. Colours are well defined, and the animation is smooth and reproduced well on this disc. Midori Days is an older show, and that does come across in the simplicity of the character designs, and in the world design. However the animation is energetic and fluid, the characters stay on model, and the backgrounds have an atmospheric feel to the lighting, shade and warmth that really makes this show appealing to watch.
You have the choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. There are no problems with the sound, the dialogue is clear and the music and action sequences come across without distortion or dropout. The credit sequences get appropriate songs, and as always my preference was for the original language track, which I found most satisfying. The English dub on the other hand is not quite as appealing, it's one of those comedy tracks that emphasises loudness as a source of humour, so characters will be screaming at several points during the show. Teen girl voices in English dubs for anime usually are high pitched and annoying to begin with; with Midori miniaturised, that irritation goes off the scale for me.
A whole lot of logos kick off the disc, with Media Blasters, Anime Works, and Rareflix.com all referenced.
The disc is presented in an Amaray case, with a pleasing if simple cover. Inside you may find a catalogue for other Media Blasters titles. The disc itself gets static menus.
On it you will find trailers for Otogi Zoshi, Shrine of the Morning Mist, Giant Robo, and Gokusen. Naturally you'll get the textless credits, but there are some interesting extras as well.
You get the Original Audio Drama Day 1, which as it says offers 6 minutes of character interaction, played out against static scenery taken from the show. This is in Japanese audio with English subtitles.
You also get a 90-second promo reel, and about a minute of English dub outtakes, which given the show's premise boils down to the actors getting naughty.
Volume 1 was also released at a higher price point with an artbox, a sturdy card construction with some nice character art on it, along with a complimentary Midori Days T-shirt, size XL.
Midori Days is a fun, romantic anime comedy in a very familiar vein. It's only the central premise that marks it out as particularly different. The main conceit of an isolated young male whose life begins to drastically change when a love interest unexpectedly appears has been done again and again in anime, and it probably will be done again repeatedly in the future. After all it caters to a major chunk of the anime buying demographic. With that in mind, it's fair to say that depending on how many romantic anime comedies you have seen, you may find Midori Days to be predictable, even clichéd at times. But its characters are well thought out, the story is interesting, and it's easy to sympathise with the central pairing.
There is that premise as well, which certainly puts a fresh spin on things, with Seiji's right hand replaced by a cute girl. There could have been a lot of crudity and gutter humour here, and to be fair, Midori Days is a little more ribald and edgy compared to similar comedies. But it also restrains itself from going too far, never crosses the line and actually becomes offensive. So Seiji is the one guy who has to pee with his hand behind his back, at least he has the sensitivity to decline when Midori offers to help.
Seiji is the iron-fisted delinquent who beats down his rivals with ease, terrorises the neighbourhood, but can't get close to anyone of the opposite sex. Midori is the girl who has had a crush on him for years, but has never had the courage to actually speak to him. Bizarre circumstances throw them together, and Midori gets to confess her feelings at last, and Seiji gets to actually talk to a real girl, albeit a miniature one. There's a lot of humour to their situation, coming to terms with what has happened, having to keep it a secret, and getting used to living with each other. It's funny to see that Midori is still independent of Seiji, and can on occasion drag him off behind her when she sees something of interest.
As usual with these comedies however, it's the supporting cast that make it work, and Seiji's altered circumstances slowly begin to have an effect around him. Up to that point, he's been ostracised in his class as a delinquent, especially by the class representative Takako Ayase, but when because of certain issues with Midori, he has to deal with a rival school gang; Takako sees another side of him when he rescues her from them. Later she sees that he isn't just a mindless thug, and suddenly she develops a crush on him as well. Before he met Midori though, the only female attention that Seiji got was from a younger girl in his neighbourhood named Shiori, who takes a delight in teasing him, offering to be his girlfriend if he can't get one his own age. After one encounter with Takako, and the preview for episode 6, it becomes clear that Shiori will play a bigger part in the show as well.
Perhaps the most annoying character in the show is Seiji's sister Rin, who shows up to grab his allowance, spends it on getting drunk with her friends, and laughs out long and hard, teasing him, bullying him, and generally being obnoxious. She's a bigger delinquent than he is, and taught him everything he knows, and as the episode unfolds we learn more about the affection she has for him, but she still manages to annoy. There's a fun episode with the class otaku Shuichi, whose passion for figurines makes him believe that Midori is his ideal girl, and there are a couple of notable scenes at Midori's home where her real body lies comatose. First Seiji goes there to somehow restore Midori to her body, with embarrassing results, and later we learn that Midori has a young admirer of her own who's anxiously waiting for her to recover. Certainly he looks as if he'll show up more in subsequent episodes.
There are better romantic comedies out there, but having said that, Midori Days rarely puts a foot wrong during its first five episodes. It also has the benefit of originality. Certainly I'm not too aware of similar shows, and the novelty of putting two characters together in such away gives it more mileage than just another random boy meets (odd) girl show. It's different enough to make it worthwhile to stick with it.