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AKA: ひまわりっ!!
Genre: Martial arts farce
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 25 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Section 23 Films (under their Maiden Japan imprint)
Content Rating: 13+ (fan service, violence)
Related Series: Himawari! (season 1)
Also Recommended: Burn Up W/Excess
Notes: Sequel to the 2006 anime Himawari!.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Himawari Too!!

Synopsis

Our little band of kunoichi (female ninjas) has to face increasing attacks from mutant "ninjas" and mysterious soldiers, finally becoming refugees. Can they discover just what the enemies want, and how to defeat them?


Review

I was warned that this series didn't have much to offer, but I thought the title character was interesting, and decided to start with a look at the Second Season, which ends the series. It's a cheat of course, but if given the option I'd rather know if the journey is finally worth it in the end before going back and undertaking the whole thing. Some otherwise mediocre series have, after all, been rescued by a good ending. My verdict here: for a while the series had me thinking it might end up as a three-star, but it ended up as a two instead, and I'm going to have to think over whether to do a review of Season One. Nevertheless, the show is not really a total dog (farting or otherwise); a lot of it mixes lowbrow humor with flashes of cleverness, and there's one episode here that's actually pretty wonderful, which I'll get to later.

That farting dog is the first thing that's turned off those at THEM who have looked at this show before me, and it is a lame concept as well as a vulgar one, though I did like that this creature is drawn with a permanent sneer, as befits its habits. Its owner, named Yusura, is "into" animals-she always wears an animal cosplay outfit, has a habit of using frequently incomprehensible animal metaphors, and can talk to animals. None of this was really doing much for me either, though I do give her credit for having a kappa boyfriend (a mythical Japanese water creature)-that, at least, is unique.

I was also not moved by Himeji, who likes big guns and speaks with one of the most grating, squawky voices I've ever heard. She has huge (not big, HUGE) hair, by the way, which the show did use for a pretty good gag later.

But to me these are the only major annoyances in the cast. So now the better:

I really liked Himawari herself. She's got the huge eyes that have always been a hallmark of innocence in anime, but is nevertheless a fairly clever individual, and is absolutely loyal to the person she's decided is her "master", a guy named Hayato, who we'll meet shortly. (I knew that samurai had masters, but I always thought that ninja were more like mercenaries-independent contractors-but then my knowledge of ninjas is all from Sho Kosugi movies, just as Himawari's knowledge of ninjas seems to be mostly from a meta-fictional show called The Shinobi.) Unlike most anime heroines, Himawari's surprisingly flat-chested. Perhaps it's her ancestry (you have to watch the show to understand that.)

Then there's Tsukiyohime, an elf-eared young woman in priestess robes who's kind of a living deus ex machina; she often pops up in moments of crisis to show the cast members useful visions in her bowl of soup, though she does take a much more active role in a couple of the episodes. There's also Shikimi, a somewhat cranky girl with glasses who's the most intelligent of the group; and Azami, who has a habit of starting sentences with "According to my information...", and had an interesting secret in Season One, apparently. (It isn't a secret by the beginning of this one.)

And then there's Hayato. One thing I DO like about this show is that he's certainly not the stereotypical leading man. He's drawn as a handsome fellow, but he's described by one of the girls as a "doofus", and he certainly makes some bad decisions (for himself and for the ladies), mainly because he seems to be hungry all the time and will do anything-ANYTHING-for a free meal. Using your leading man as the main comic relief is pretty rare. (OK, there WAS The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, but it's STILL rare.) And to Hayato's credit, he's not a coward when he needs to fight, and he worries and cares as much about Himawari as she does about him, though folk in English-speaking countries are likely to be a bit distressed about the age difference in this couple; Hayato is 24, while Himawari is, I gather, only 15.

Speaking of Hayato and his appetite, I have to say that this is the most food-obsessed show I've ever seen. Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) and miso soup have starring roles in the plot, though food is behind everything here from love to homicidal rage. The latter story involves a flying-squirrel woman and contains one of the most outrageous plot motivations I've seen since Excel Saga (and one of the funniest).

Another bit I did like (though not everyone would) involves Hayato's supposed "friend" Kotauro, who shows up turned (mostly) invisible by the bad guys. At one point he starts discussing the practical aspects of invisibility with Hayato, and the conversation progresses to (or some would say degenerates into) a rapid-fire scatological discourse that some would find patently offensive (including the listeners in the show itself), but I thought was highly amusing (in a sick way.) There's also a pretty good running "sight" gag involving a Magic Marker in this one, and Kotauro's perpetually frantic manner also made this particular episode fun for me.

But a few flashes of wit aren't enough to make a show good; Dokuro-Chan and Girls Bravo had two witty scenes apiece, in my opinion, but that wasn't enough to make them good. Mostly Himawari Too! is a featherweight show, funny (even imaginatively funny) in places, but that's it. What a show like this needs is an ending that, if not compelling, at least is as off-kilter as the show at its best.

It was Episode 10, "Himawari Goes Home," that made me think it might go for compelling. Featuring only Himawari and Hayato, it has Himawari going back to her hometown and to her "Granny" to verify events in her past that are now being questioned. It's low-key, stays focused on its two main characters, and is such good drama that it doesn't seem like it is even part of the same series. If the rest of the closing episodes had been like this, the show would have fully redeemed all its flaws.

(And now the spoilers start...)

But they aren't. The details of the bad guys' plot, when revealed, are identical to the details of the bad guys' plots in dozens of other series. And the ending goes for a surfeit of schmaltz, even for a comedy.

So overall good points are: an appealing heroine; some genuinely thoughtful and unexpected humor; bizarre "Monsters of the Day"-excuse me, Mutant Ninjas; and Episode 10. I'm also OK with the bouncy opening number. Bad points: unimaginative villains' plot; trite ending; two annoying main characters (Yusura and Himeji); and an appalling mascot. The character designs could be a bit better too. This show just missed a three-star rating from me, and much of it I still personally consider good Guilty Pleasure material.

This show just missed a three-star rating from me, and much of it I still personally consider good "Guilty Pleasure" material. I can recognize the difference between "trash" and art, and try to make my ratings reflect that, but frankly I often find many more enjoyable moments in two-star series than in fives.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Mild fan service. There's a 'lake lady' who's Barbie-doll nude, and we do see Himawari's panties late in the show. There are a couple of bathing scenes (with the ladies wrapped in towels.) The violence is mostly - well - cartoonish. OK for 13 up, I expect.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Himawari Too!! © 2007 Himawari!! Production Committee
 
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