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Review: Kodomo no Omocha

Kodomo no Omocha is the longest anime series I have ever completed, weighing in at an impressive 102 episodes. In the best case, a series of this length could be a magnificent and impressive achievement leaving a lasting impression. Unfortunately, this is not the best case.

The main character is Kurata Sana, an 11 year old actress well on her way to fame. The storyline is broken roughly into quarters. The first quarter sets up the primary cast, and is an incredibly energetic romp through slice-of-life. There are any number of nonsensical and strange goings-on, but we’re too busy laughing and just keeping up to really care. Unfortunately, that sets the high point of the series.

The second quarter seems to change focus a bit, from energy and so forth to the drama happening in the Sana’s life. However, the version that I watched seemed to be aiming for records for incredibly poor quality in translation and subtitling. There was an episode where every title was timed wrong by no less than 10 seconds–a lifetime in a conversation. There were episodes where the translator had no idea how to say what was going on in English, so just started swearing incompetently. Watching this set of episodes was difficult.

The subtitling quality improves for the third quarter, during which the fallout from the actions of the characters during the second quarter drives Sana to New York. This New York is not much like the one I’ve been to: not only does every person there speak Japanese fluently and regularly (they have to; broadway plays and television commentaries on such plays are also in that language), but details like license plates and the sound a telephone makes while calling someone conform to the Japanese norms instead of the American. Actually, the only clues we have that we’re not just in a remote area of Japan are the presence of landmarks (occasionally) and a giant transvestite. Obviously American!

The fourth quarter brings the main characters back together in Japan, and generally tries to recreate the status quo from the first quarter.

Around episode 25, I had very high hopes for the series. The previous episodes had been high-energy romps in which I was continually kept off-balance by the continual introduction of the new and the unexpected, but in a good way. Moreover, the series had recently introduced more serious elements, dealing with friendship and the nature of emotion in children.

Unfortunately, it was those elements which did the series in, because after their introduction, not only could the series not revert to the original comedy of randomness, it also couldn’t maintain the strong emotional pull of the first few dramatic moments.

Children are many things, but they are not romantic. In recognition of this, during the second quarter Sana grew breasts and moved into Junior High School, so that the series could have some sort of believable drama to work with. This did not help the quality.

This series also has technical production flaws, from repeating clips up to a minute long more than 10 times over the course of the series, to the fact that there was exactly one song for any particular mood and it was played every time that mood was desired. Between the third and forth quarter, just before the most serious of the plots is resolved, two complete episodes are devoted to random and useless mini-stories which have no bearing on the plot, no effect on continuity, and aren’t funny. In the end, there is barely any attempt to wrap up the major story threads; it would have been easy to tack on yet another season.

Despite all these flaws, this series wasn’t all bad. It takes a fairly substantial investment to watch a series of this scope, and there were more than a few moments when it felt like that investment was being returned. I can think, offhand, of no less than six times during which I was laughing hard enough to have to pause the film so that I wouldn’t miss what was happening next. If the overall emotion is disappointment, that is only because of the incredible amount of potential that this series has. It makes me really wish that someday someone would revisit the concept, and reimagine the series in more talented hands.

Genre: comedy
Emotion: disappointment
BTFS: .43

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