Twin sisters Yukino and Kanade Sakurai room together in the dorms at their high school, enjoying school life with their friends and one another. One day, Sakuya Kamiyama, an underclassman, seeks out Yukino, while Kanade learns from a friend that Sakuya has admired Yukino for a very long time. This innocent revelation sets into motion a chain of events that eventually lead to Yukino expressing her feelings for her sister.
Ah, how such a missed opportunity can grate on me much, much, more than an abject failure. I sensed a great deal of potential in this recent web series, for it, at the start, promises to be a depiction of LGBT romance that eschews the usual self-consciousness of such pieces, treats its characters with the respect and seriousness given to opposite-sex couples, and easily makes their story affectionate and empathetic. But while the show largely succeeds on those accounts, it falters horribly when certain gimmicks seemingly designed to create mass appeal enter the picture, indulging in misguided comic relief, misusing potentially likable side characters as idiotic and abusive third wheels, and, most damningly, introducing an unnecessary incestuous element without properly dealing with its implications. While I don't find Candy Boy to be a bad series, it feels frustratingly disjointed, and after finishing it, my overall opinion was that it could have been much better than it was had the best moments not been buried by so much junk.
I divide Candy Boy up between the episodes in which Kana and Yuki's relationship takes center stage and the distractions hover in the background and those in which the reverse situation occurs, and when the series takes the first approach, it works rather well. The two girls make a lovely pair, and while their individual personalities aren't immediately striking, they complement each other just as many successful couples do in real life. For the most part, Kana's gloomy and perpetually irritable personality bounces nicely off of Yuki's usual serene happiness, and the two behave as the contrasting pair that time has shown makes effective drama without fitting so neatly into roles that they become unsympathetic. Those who don't enjoy romance will likely find these parts boring, for the show does not strive to be intellectual: it promises a quiet love story and delivers it, with many affectionate scenes that neither become sappy or melodramatic but relatively little beyond that. The show's technical aspects are acceptable for such a show, too: the characters are all attractive and the backgrounds well-detailed, and although the animation is limited, as the characters' movement is a bit stiff and there are a few too many static shots, it is generally pretty if not particularly distinctive-looking (the music, sadly, is rather trite). The story does suffer somewhat from a few moments at which emotional impact is achieved via a tenuous premise, and when the show reaches a point at which the pair's attachment to each other begins to damage their educational and occupational prospects, an effective personal adjustment comes but with too little buildup. Indeed, relatively little development occurs for most of the series, which makes the ending a little less satisfying than it should be, and while the pair do, largely, simply act as a couple, there still are a few points at which the show seems to become uncomfortable about their genders, adding some pointless humor to the one point at which they do kiss. But while Candy Boy is not a great show by any means, there are parts of it I quite enjoy: when it does what it does well, which is romance, it is quite pleasant.
When the distractions come into play, however, the pleasant air is entirely ruined, and I personally found most of the middle episodes to be abysmal. Frankly, designating Yuki and Kana as a pair of twin sisters was a huge mistake: this fact could easily have been removed without damaging the show's story or making its characters into different people, and this addition simply made me needlessly anxious while doing nothing to make their relationship more interesting. Candy Boy, sadly, never properly deals with that choice or its implications, only making a point of it when the pair's "other" sister is thrown into the mix, and even then only lightly touching upon it. The sister, Shi, unfortunately feels only like an agent designed to highlight this gimmick, and the brat does little besides bad-mouth and bully Kana, act jealous of her relationship with Yuki, and butt into their conversations, seemingly incapable of doing anything besides acting as a third wheel and making me wonder if such an incestuous desire is inherent in this family's genes. The worst, however, comes with the introduction of Saku, who is perhaps the best example of a potentially sympathetic "outsider" character gone horribly wrong, an extreme version of Azumanga Daioh's Kaorin. She essentially stalks Kana in a manner that would earn her a jail sentence if she were a boy, taking unwanted pictures of her, imposing on her personal vacations, obsessing over anything and everything of hers in order to "get her smell", and, worst of all, groping and pushing herself against her repeatedly (in Yuki's presence to boot). Her behavior is at best annoying, and at the very worst, it strikes me as being disgustingly manipulative; there's even an episode in which she uses her father's money to add a penthouse suite to her dorm and pulls strings to land her and Kana together there, nonchalantly telling Yuki that "there's a single room for you". Considering the levity with which the others take her antics, and the fact that her schemes usually fail, I wonder whether I take her much more seriously than I was meant to, and indeed, I admit that there are moments where it is possible to feel sorry for her or to be vaguely amused at the ridiculousness; nevertheless, I was consistently bothered by her and her harassment, and by the end, I had begun to groan every time she appeared.
Even without Saku, meanwhile, the show's attempts at comedy are almost always embarrassing, and inserting random acts of mania and moments of super-deformed artwork into otherwise tender moments simply makes it seem noisy. It's ironic that there are, actually, some moments that give me a chuckle in the episodes where the show doesn't self-consciously attempt to be funny, and my opinion holds that the episodes that dump the comedy act are the very, very best it has to offer. Surprisingly, both the pilot episode and the first of the two specials fall into that category, adding some backstory that increases the plot's poignancy, and I think that the show would have been all the better had it made a central story out of those and the main series' quieter episodes and dumped the comedy act entirely (the second special, sadly, is mostly an excuse to show the girls in swimsuits). It remains, however, that my opinion of Candy Boy suffers from the comedy and the unnecessary incestuous vibe, and I'm quite disappointed that such a promising show was hampered by what was, ultimately, copious amounts of otaku bait.
At one point in episode seven, Yuki tells Kana that "it's been a while since we last went home together", and I have to say that I felt a similar emotion at the end of the series, where the elements that had originally made me enjoy it finally reappeared. I liked Candy Boy at the start and liked it again by the end, but the hatred I felt for the middle episodes made finishing it feel a bit like reconnecting with an old friend whom I'd lost touch with during a dark time in life. In spite of my frustration, however, I cannot help but feel that the show's heart is, ultimately, in the right place. The elements I've complained about make it a wasted opportunity rather than an actual "poor" series, and while the unnecessary theme of incest drags it down, Kana and Yuki's romance does still make for a lovely story in the end. It's just that I really would have enjoyed my candy better had I not discovered the layer containing sour milk, and had I not needed to get past that to reach the sweetness at the core.
At heart, I think that this is a good series, yet certain elements make it unbearable at moments and keep my rating at a very weak three stars. Those who have no objection to incest, I suppose, may add another star, and the homophobic should skip this altogether. — Nick Browne
Recommended Audience: Aside from some standard slapstick antics, the series contains nothing violent, and there is no profanity to be heard. There is, however, some fan service once in a while (though nothing is remotely explicit), and I'm more than a bit bothered by the casual treatment of incest. I sincerely hope that the fact that this is centered around a lesbian relationship is not offensive to you.
Version(s) Viewed: Imported R2 DVD (Raw Japanese Soundtrack)
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Candy Boy © 2007 Takafumi Hoshikawa / AIC
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