About a year ago, back when I was Living The Dream in Japan, a man who will remain nameless extolled the virtues of the Mitsudomoe comic to me. Considering that the comic ran in a shounen publication, it would have furigana, so my rudimentary gaijin mind would be able to comprehend it. Intrigued, I perused Japan’s numerous used bookstores, and to my surprise was unable to find copies of it. About a year later, its anime adaptation–which is a lot easier to get a hold of–is currently being transmitted across Japanese airwaves, and I don’t think I’d be able to go back to the comic, quite honestly.
This is not the to discount the comic, mind you. This nameless man who recommended it to me is not a man of poor taste (in fact, one could say he’s a man of exquisite taste) but there is something to the Mitsudomoe anime’s presentation that warrants mentioning, and that’s simply in how over-the-top it can be. Stripped down to its bones, Mitsudomoe’s pretty simple. The humor is primarily centered around misunderstandings, toilet humor, sexual humor, and the personality quirks of the various students. It’s simple, straightforward, and free of pretension; inspiring anything between a giggle and a wholehearted guffaw out of this anime blogger. What tends to push it up to 110% is a special brand of care that goes into making everything as ridiculous as possible.
To see this, one has to look no further than the characters. Mitsuba’s sadistic tendencies always come complete with a perfectly rendered sneering expression, sometimes highlighted with a touch of drool, and a seductive and bratty show put on by seiyuu Takagi Ayahi. Futaba’s unreal strength is portrayed as unrelentingly destructive. Rather than being cartoonish, her destruction of desks, walls, and public property is always portrayed as realistic and brutal, underscored by painful sound effects. Furthermore, her enthusiasm for breasts is driven home wonderfully by an energetic performance by Akesama Satomi that pulls no punches. Hitoha’s evil eyes are rendered with the utmost amount of detail every time, complete with dark shadows and at times a gloomy aura that radiates off her every pore. And like the rest of her sisters, Tomatsu Haruka’s performance is sharp, cold, and deadpan, but considerate when need be. I don’t doubt that some of these elements are present in the original, but the anime’s attention to detail when portraying these kind of character quirks (not just amongst the main girls, but everyone) along with the voice acting (which is of course not present in the original) is what gives Mitsudomoe its charm.
Aside from the characters, there is a general push to take everything up to 11. You know, sometimes really stupid stuff will be rendered in overly-dramatic slow motion, or certain scenes will be backed with spectacular orchestral music. And often times, there will be one scene in an episode (I can’t be sure if it’s every episode) where some kind of action is just given top-class treatment. One scene in particular I’m thinking of is when the sisters’ father cleans up for parent’s day, and ends up looking like a yakuza thug. The girls were tasked with writing an essay about their parents to read aloud to the class, but Futaba and Mitsuba get their essays mixed up, so Mitsuba–who is usually cold to her father–reads a very embarrassing and gushing essay about her dad, while Futaba (half-awake)–who is typically all over her father–reads Mitstuba’s insulting tirade aloud, and promptly falls back asleep. Shocked by Futaba’s words, their father runs out of the classroom crying. This scene of him running is magical, complete with fully rendered 3D backgrounds–so the “camera” can move around freely–and inspired and fluid running animation lavished upon the girls’ father, who also often drawn in a sketchy, dirty style. It’s moments like these that make the Mitsudomoe anime what it is.
The crack team behind this madness aren’t newbies to anime sitcoms. Both the director Ohta Masahiko and series composer (that’s what you call someone on series composition, right?) Aoshima Takashi, as well as bunch of others all have previous experience with the first season of Minami-ke (you know, the really good one) so the style and quality of the humor is not unexpected. It seems these guys have carved out a niche for themselves doing things like this, so my only hope is that a potential second season of Mitsudomoe isn’t passed on to another studio, like the ill-fated Minami-ke. Well, season 3 was alright I suppose.