B Gata H Kei: Yamada's First Time
B Gata H Kei revolves around fifteen year-old high school student Yamada, whose lascivious nature (combined with a relatively poor grasp on reality) causes her to aspire to one day have sexual relations with one hundred different boys. She is, however, a virgin, and her insecurity regarding this leads her to reject any boy that attempts to date her, much less be intimate with her. In order to get across this mental barrier, Yamada decides to search for a "cherry boy", an inexperienced boy who will be her first partner. One day, while perusing a bookstore, Yamada has a fateful encounter with awkward classmate Takashi Kosuda. Believing that Kosuda is the boy she is looking for, Yamada goes to great lengths to try to seduce him. All the while, she discovers the difficulties in making that first important step towards reaching her goals, not to mention, finding out her true feelings for him. (Adapted from Wikipedia.org)
B Gata H Kei, one of the raunchiest anime comedies I have ever laid eyes on, is an extremely strange beast. Among a relatively small number of series to chuck any pretension of female modesty in its lead character (a concept that even many harem and ecchi series quietly embrace), it revolves around an unabashedly hypersexual character, its humor almost entirely consisting of dirty jokes and its dialogue frequently permeated with lewd fantasies. Although I found its strain of humor to be quite funny, if insubstantial and juvenile, you simply aren't going to enjoy it if you don't like your comedy seasoned with a strong dose of sex, libido, and innuendo. And yet B Gata H Kei is something of an oddity in the world of sex comedies in that it makes what I believe to be a sincere effort to comment on the fragile nature of the budding sexuality of teenagers in a serious light. It is an attempt to discuss human sexuality through satire, and while in my opinion it doesn't entirely succeed, as we're too often distracted by the zany antics to truly care, it did make me give a little more thought to the series than I had expected to.
In any case, the show centers around the loudmouthed and amazingly tactless Yamada, who in spite of being quite attractive and extremely popular with her male classmates has never had a boyfriend. To put it bluntly, she's a girl who would greatly benefit from having a therapist: she is desperate to lose her virginity, but she's so clueless about the actual act and obsessed with very minor "defects" on her body that she frantically turns down any boy who asks to go out with her. Her solution is to pick the quiet and average-looking Kosuda to be her boyfriend, in spite of the fact that they've never spoken and the only plus to their relationship is that he is a "cherry boy". For the most part, these antics are played for laughs: Yamada is obviously a bit of an idiot, and we can't help but laugh. To her detriment and our amusement, she speaks basically anything that comes into her mind, no matter how vulgar or explicit it is, leaving her straight-man best friend Miharu to gawk at her tactlessness.
Whether one enjoys the series may ultimately hinge on whether one can stand Yamada, her general loudness, and her childish behavior. I usually laughed, and when I didn't, I could tell there was something at work (I'll get to that in a minute); though occasionally infuriating, she's a riot to watch, and her voice actress' dramatic delivery helps emphasize the ridiculousness. Kosuda doesn't match up, unfortunately: he's somewhat predestined to mediocrity by the fact that the show deliberately paints him as a bland nobody, but the show misses an opportunity to give him any personality that might not be instantly evident, meaning that he's basically reduced to a sounding board for Yamada's bizarre schemes and occasional abuse. In addition, there's one character, a rich transfer student named Kanejo whose appearance triggers an otherwise amusing rivalry, with an incestuous fixation, an unfortunately commonplace "joke" that detracted from my enjoyment somewhat. In spite of the weaknesses of a few cast members, however, B Gata H Kei is a fun series, made all the better by one ingenious addition: each character's "eros deity". In keeping with the show's theme, each main character is frequently accompanied by a sprite, usually in SD form, whose sole purpose is to help their counterpart find a sex partner but whose advice is rarely followed, much to their exasperation. These humorous encounters are never particularly clever, but they are delivered with enough flair that I felt pleasantly amused for most of the series' run.
On a technical scale, B Gata H Kei pulls of an acceptable but pedestrian effort. The character design is generally very cute but not distinctive, the art is appropriately bright, cartoonish, and (when the situation calls for it) full of visual gags, and the animation can often look as if it were spliced together with Adobe Flash. Those who enjoy ecchi, however, have nothing to worry about: the show's sexual scenes are well-drawn, and in spite of there being the odd sparkle or abrupt intrusion I found them to be tasteful. The music, meanwhile, sits in the background and does little else, while the two opening themes are girly J-Pop songs that I simply didn't find to be to my taste. The show certainly doesn't look or sound terrible, however, and considering its intent, it's hardly necessary for it to be a visual and aural masterpiece.
As over the top, ridiculous, and zany as B Gata H Kei is, however, there is a very clear attempt to pick apart teenage sexuality as a serious topic amidst the craziness. One may laugh at Yamada's stupidity, but a closer look reveals that much of her experience is akin to what many teenagers experience in real life, if greatly exaggerated for comic effect. For example, it's very easy to laugh at her simultaneous obsession with sex and complete state of ignorance regarding it, but the show portrays her in a way that you feel just the slightest bit sorry for her. She's petty and capable of being mean, but she's essentially a child overwhelmed by something she doesn't understand, and in general she comes across as somebody who needs to grow up and realize how fruitless her tactics are rather than a genuinely unpleasant person. The fact is, nobody really knows anything about sex and its nuances until they've experienced it, and it doesn't help when one has become so obsessed with the idea that they can't even think intelligently. Indeed, she and Kosuda are both painfully aware of how little they actually know about lovemaking, much less a relationship itself, and Yamada, aside from being a cartoon, is basically one of millions of teenagers who has yet to realize that attempting to have sex with somebody they don't understand emotionally is a hopeless cause.
There are two reasons why I feel that this is at all important to the series, and the first is that in spite of this show's ostensibly being a teenage sex comedy, the actual viewpoint is that of a slightly more mature perspective than one would expect. Amidst all of the nonsense, the show is grounded in the relative wisdom of two more mature characters: Miharu, the only character with a significant other or any apparent understanding of relationships and, likely, the only influence that keeps Yamada from spiraling out of control, and Kosuda's older sister, who in a surprisingly frank moment gives her younger brother advice on what one does to make intercourse an act of love, doing her best to guard him against the failures that befall most adolescent boys. The second, meanwhile, is that the characters do undergo small but noticeable progress. Yamada, who basically has no concept of the emotional side of a relationship at the start, has just barely begun to grasp that side near the end, while the two of them agree to move slowly, a decision that, while not always entirely honored, does ease the tension between them enough to allow a bare handful of tender moments to occur. Does this part of the series take center stage? No, and in my opinion, not enough progress occurs for that part of the B Gata H Kei to entirely work. Frankly, I had a feeling that the show would be that way from the start; it's adapted from a long-running strip that wouldn't want to have its characters grow up too soon, and anime studios in general are prone to setting up room for sequels. We thus have a show that subtly tries to tell a semi-serious story parallel to its parade of ridiculous gags, and there's not enough closure for that part of the series to entirely work, while it's buried under enough noise that casual observers may overlook it. The show does benefit from it, however, and while I would have liked the characters themselves to be a bit better-developed, the story itself seems less one-dimensional because of it.
At the end of the day, you will find B Gata H Kei to be worth a try if you like your comedy to far on the "bawdy" side of the scale, and if not, I'd stay far out of its range. Whether one pick's up on the show's slight serious edge or not won't really change that, as the antics are impossible to ignore, but it may end up making for a slightly more nuanced experience than one would normally expect from a sex comedy. B Gata H Kei is trashy, but at times it's strangely poignant as well, and if one appreciates comedy for the insight it offers into human behavior, I'd cautiously say that this might be of interest to you.
A funny and ever-so-inappropriate series of gags with enough of an attempt at seriousness to make my eyebrows go up. Those who have any special affinity for ecchi may want to add a star, as this series has plenty of it; conversely, knock two stars off if you like your comedy clean and tame. — Nick Browne
Recommended Audience: The cruelest of practical jokes would be to show this to one's culturally conservative friends after promising to put on something "tame". Sometimes in fantasy, sometimes in real life, we see characters compare penis size, touch each others breasts, massage each other erotically, and come very close to having explicit intercourse. Characters speak frequently of their desire to have sex (Yamada), plot to steal each others' boyfriends and steal their virginity (Kanejo), and, in one case, express incestuous desires (Kanejo again). There is also a considerable amount of profanity and slapstick violence....all enough to make this entirely inappropriate for children and best approached cautiously by everyone else.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream Courtesy of Hulu.com (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (12/12)
B Gata H Kei: Yamada's First Time © 2010 Hal Film Maker/Sanri Yoko
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