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Anime Reviews: Midori Days
Midori Days' premise could easily have turned this into smut, but a smart focus on great comedy and a sweet romance make it a worthy and worthwhile title.
Title: Midori Days a.k.a. Midori no Hibi
Production: Studio Pierrot / Bandai Visual / TOHO
Series Length: 13 episodes
Air Dates: 4/3/2004 to 6/26/2004
Age Rating: 13+ (mild language, brief nudity)
Summary: Sawamura Seiji is a high-schooler who is well-known and feared among his classmates for being a brawling delinquent who routinely beats up delinquents from other schools, delivering particularly deadly blows with his "Devil's Right Hand." However, this is merely a front, as his true desire is to settle down and find himself a girlfriend. Unfortunately his reputation precedes him, so most girls are afraid of him--that is, except for Kasugano Midori. Midori is a quiet girl from a prestigious family attending a high-class preparatory school who watches and admires Seiji from the other side of the train tracks, and she desperately wishes for Seiji to acknowledge her and accept her feelings for him. Both Seiji and Midori's wishes are granted at the same time when, one day, Seiji discovers, with shock and horror, that his right hand has turned into a girl; a girl named Kasugano Midori.
The Good: Pleasant artwork and music; hilarious and heartwarming; every character is a riot; perfect pacing and length
The Bad: The ending feels rushed; secondary characters are forgotten in the last episodes; brief fits of fanservice may deter the more prudish viewers
The Ugly: Each and every single "right-hand girlfriend" joke that has ever been made while watching this series
You know, I completely forget how I came across Midori Days. I saw it before the folks at Anime Academy posted their review (as seen here on WebArchive because, sadly, the site is now dead), so I must've caught it when it was fresh off of its original run. I suppose I had just heard about the concept from the internet, so I checked it out solely based on that. Whatever the cause was, I'm glad I checked it out, because what I got was one of my very favorite romance anime, as well as one of my favorite comedy anime. Two for one! What a deal!
One of the first things that drew me in was the series' artwork. The art style itself may not be anything groundbreaking, but it's still very attractive to the eyes, with appealing character designs and vibrant colors alongside beautifully detailed backgrounds. The animation is also high quality for the most part, though it does dip sometimes. All in all, a very lovely-looking anime.
The music is no slouch, either. Both the opening and ending themes are very memorable, and the background soundtrack also has a few stunning pieces like "Sunao na Kokoro de" scattered all throughout (not to mention, that picture is pretty damn cute). Also, while nothing spectacular, the Japanese voice actors all deliver great, memorable performances. The English dub isn't the best dub around, but it gets the job done, and even comes with outtakes!
To make the viewing experience more pleasant than it already is, the director squeezes the story into the right number of episodes while maintaining a consistent tone and keeping the pace steady (once again, for the most part). It's very easy for a comedy or romance anime to focus entirely on its comedy or romance and forget about its pace and tone, but such is not the case here. I barely even noticed how well this series flowed until I saw other, similar anime that completely dropped the ball, with episodes sagging horribly in between jokes or languishing on a single romantic moment for far, far too long. I bet you would've never noticed Midori Days' perfect pacing if I didn't mention it to you, and that's a good thing.
What's even better, though, is the material that form the notes to the series' beat. The story, by its very nature, is hilarious beyond words. After Seiji wears off the initial shock of OH MY GOD THERE'S A NAKED WOMAN ON MY RIGHT HAND, he tries all sorts of tricks to make sure no one sees her and, of course, situations that require his right hand to not be a miniature person arise with great frequency. And then Seiji becomes accustomed to Midori's presence, and lets her out freely at home. Hilarity ensues. Actually, any concept the series introduces can be followed up with "Hilarity ensues," come to think of it. This is because, not only does the story carry a lot of comedy, but the characters pull their weight in the belly-laugh department as well. Whether it's Seiji being oblivious to hilariously transparent come-ons or Midori fashioning little shirts for herself despite the fact she's supposed to remain hidden, there's always some facet about the characters onscreen that creates a hilarious scenario. And then, when you add characters like classmate admirer Ayase, closet otaku Takamizawa, comedy sidekick Miyahara, the Seiji-obsessed little girl Shiori, and Seiji's older sister Rin, there is no end to the laughs. As long as the series goes, I mean.
Well, that is, until the last two episodes, where the story requires a bit more seriousness. This by itself is not a bad thing, but the ending does feel very rushed and one can't help but feel that another two or three episodes would've done the series a great deal of good; not just to pace the ending a bit better, but also to give us some last words regarding the side characters, who seem to just fall off the face of the earth after episode 11 without giving them a proper send-off. Even those who do show up in the last 2 episodes get shoved aside in favor of Midori and Seiji. I just wanted some more of them and to get some closure for them, that's all!
One final thing that doesn't do the series any favors is the fanservice. While the series doesn't go straight for the gutter 90% of the time, it's certainly noticeable when it does. While only one fanservice-y scene is truly gold and completely irreplaceable (it involves Seiji trying to fuse Midori back into her full-size but comatose body), the other T&A shots just seem out of place and serve only to keep the more modest among us away. It's not a major issue, but it's an issue.
Aside from a few stumbles in the final lap, Midori Days is a perfectly good romantic comedy that reminds us that the genre's A.) not dead yet, and B.) doesn't have to rely on dumb jokes and fanservice, though both do appear in small doses. If you've been looking for an anime that does both comedy and drama without making a total ass of itself, you've only got so many to choose from, and Midori Days is among the elite few that does just that.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10. The last two episodes have some pacing issues and steal the spotlight from all of the side characters, but it's not enough to stop Midori Days from being a very rewarding and very sweet little romantic comedy.