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AKA: アズサ、お手伝いします! (Azusa, Otetsudai Shimasu!)
Genre: Baseball slice-of-life / comedy
Length: OAV, 45 minutes
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America.
Content Rating: 7+ (animated slapstick)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Metropolis, Slam Dunk
Notes: This anime won the 2003 Animax Taisho (Animax Award), given to anime with original screenplays and storylines.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Azusa Will Help!

Synopsis

In the year 2099, Karugamo High School's baseball team has been doing lousy as of late. They are constantly getting creamed by players with not only better players, but robots as well! When one of the members of the team quits due to his up-coming graduation, a ninth is needed to fill in. Our teenage protagonist, Harumaki Shunpei, is given money from a helpful old man to find themselves a robot to fill in. At the end, the only robot he can afford is a robot maid. Her name is Azusa, and she at first doesn't seem to be any better at baseball than the rest of the team (but is very good at cooking and cleaning. She says so herself). She even tires easily, and she's a robot! But there's a mystery surrounding her that could turn Azuka into the team's ace in the hole..


Review

With a plot as predictable as a modern-day Disney movie, Azusa Will Help! shouldn't win awards for originality. You probably already know what's going to happen before you even finish it. But it is cute, I suppose, and an all right time killer: with only 45 minutes to tell a story, there wasn't really anything else TMS could do.

The director of this OAV is none other than Makegaki Hajime, who also directed Sonic X. You can easily tell this is the same art team right off the bat without even watching it: the low-budget look and color design give it away (Azusa herself looks a lot like a reject Sonic X human character). The animation itself is serviceable, but bad for an OAV: this looks more like a low-end kids show. But hey, this is the same guy who directed the barely animated Fushigi Yugi and Cres: Mystical Legend: if you were expecting something better in the animation department you'd only be kidding yourself.

The actual plot itself is nothing special: loser team gets robot, robot doesn't turn out to be up to snuff, robot reveals hidden power, robot almost destroys itself, team turns around, big victory for all! It sounds like I'm giving a lot away, but I'm not: the viewer will unravel this soon enough if he or she has seen any sports anime in the last couple of years. Why, the team even has an old, grumpy manager voiced by none other than Ogata Kenichi (Saotome Genma, Ranma 1/2, Ebisumaru, Goemon series of games). You even have your training montage of sorts as well. What makes it all work is the characters have just enough personality to keep it from being forgettable. The one exception is the token girl of the team, Yuuki, who I'll talk about later.

How is Azusa herself, you might ask? Well, she's voiced by Noto Mamiko (Miyazaki Nodoka, Negima), with a personality not unlike many of her other characters: soft-spoken and full of "I'll do my best" spirit. While not too annoying, you can't really tell the OAV is actually about her until the last ten minutes or so. Until then, she really doesn't get much more air time than any other member of the team. She also doubles as a deus ex machina at the end of the OAV, in an effort to make the message even more loud and clear. Our male protagonist, Shunpei, is wishy-washy almost to a fault: like Azusa, he only seems to be there to move the plot along. He also finds out about sports robots, which ties in to the end of the OAV. He also looks a hell of a lot like Kazuki from Comic Party.

In addition to Never-Give-Up Girl and Wishy-Washy Male, you also have your other typical archetypical anime characters: the bushy-eye browed team captain; the Yamada brothers, twin guys who often end each other's conversations; Tonomura, the tall, lanky guy with a funny-looking chin; and a couple of other throwaway characters (one used as practice for Asuza's pitches). You may notice I'm not referring to some of these characters by names. This isn't to be mean..it's just that some of the characters' names aren't even mentioned during the OAV! If it wasn't for Anime News Network, I wouldn't know even half of these characters' names. The last time this happened in an anime I watched was in Blue Seed. (I still couldn't name you half the cast even after my watching half the series. Really.)

One of the few characters' names I did remember was the team's sole female human, Yuki. She's a violent bitch whose sole purpose in the OAV is to beat the crap out of the other guys in her team and call them disgusting pigs. Needless to say, I got tired of her antics in about 3 seconds. One of her more "charming" scenes has her clubbing her own teammates with a baseball bat. What a wonderful person! And you gotta love how she talks about the male gender ("that's because all men are PIGS!"). Even her parents seem to not care much for her: when the coach sends the team to early summer training, her parents say to keep her as long as a month if need be, so that they can have a peaceful summer without her. Ha!

What about the other aspects of this anime? Well, the voice acting and music are good, but they don't fulfill any more than the basic needs they serve.

Azusa Will Help! is an okay time-killer for those who like baseball or sports anime. Still, one wonders what might this have been if the leads were more fleshed out or if they made several episodes to expand upon its basic concept (especially when the first few minutes are much funnier than the rest of the OAV, especially the baseball-playing robots).

Probably one of the better two-star anime out there, Azusa Will Help! is weighed down by an unoriginal script, an uninspired male lead, and a very irritating female character.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Some animated slapstick, all of it from Yuuki. The anime never uses Azusa for the sake of fanservice (thank goodness).



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Azusa Will Help! © 2004 Tokyo Movie Shinsha
 
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