Naisho no Tsubomi
Tsubomi Tachibana has to adjust to two major body changes- that of her mom, who's two months pregnant; and her own, as she is now beginning to go through puberty. Her friends have their own ideas about all this- mostly seriously mistaken- but her new friend Saya Endo helps her understand the secrets of the "facts of life", even while Saya is withholding some facts about her OWN life from Tsubomi.
Grandpa took sex ed in school, believe it or not. But his parents had to give permission; and while the presentation HE watched looked a lot like the one Tsubomi's class looks at in this show (simple anatomical drawings), he remembers the same kind of class reaction (a near riot.) But there is one important difference: Tsubomi's being shown this as a fifth-grader. Grandpa wasn't shown this until about eighth grade.
Of course Tsubomi is getting the information at exactly the point where it's becoming relevant; she'll experience her first real menses (period) during the course of the show. Naisho no Tsubomi is, in fact, "the facts of life" done as frequently charming entertainment, with a little fantasy added to spice it up. My only reservation is that some of these kids seem a little TOO precocious, at least to American eyes- yes, age of consent in Japan is 14, though I gather that even in Japan most people don't marry until at least their 20's. Two of Tsubomi's classmates who are only slightly older than her, Yae Yamabuki and Yo Saegusa, are already (quietly) in a relationship (kissing only, as far as we can tell.) Tsubomi already has a boy, Daiki Nemoto, that she's suddenly finding herself thinking about. She's got quite a bit to think about in fact, worrying about her mom's pregnancy (and her future role as a big sister), and feeling embarrassed because another of her friends, Rea Kato, is making an issue of Tsubomi's parents' "ecchi" behavior that led to that pregnancy. (Rea is a bit of a loudmouth, and it turns out quite a bit of a hypocrite as well; you'll see her attitude about all this do an amazing about-face when SHE sees the sex ed film. Well, maybe it will clear up Rea's OWN hilarious misconception of how babies are conceived.) Fortunately, Tsubomi has that mysterious new friend, Saya, a more mature-looking girl who suddenly joins Tsubomi's class, and who allays Tsubomi's fears and concerns by providing her with solid facts and, most of all, a valuable sense of perspective on the issues of sex, love, and parenthood. Saya doesn't let Tsubomi into her own life too much, though; for example, she won't let Tsubomi go to her home. It will later turn out that Saya's current home is a place that Tsubomi once knew quite well.
I liked most everyone in this show- well, maybe not the most noisy one of the males, Futoshi Kuki, and Rea, his female equivalent, not that much either (though she isn't always obnoxious.) At least this show is NOT dominated by its jerks. Tsubomi herself is a completely sympathetic character. It's a gentle show that wants to treat its subject matter responsibly, but there's that cultural difference in age-appropriateness; the original manga actually won a CHILDREN'S manga award in Japan, while the age rating on the box of the American release of the anime is TV-14!
A sensitive and accurate treatment of a touchy subject, though the youth of its cast makes it controversial. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Tsubomi in the bathtub, and the girls have some changing room scenes, NONE of this being explicit. (The most explicit thing here is the sex-ed video.) The show is NOT kiddie porn in ANY respect, and NOT played for exploitation at all (this is NOT Eromanga Sensei), but as noted American audiences might feel uncomfortable with its frank discussion of this material (and even dating!) by characters not even quite in their teens. As I said, the box rating is TV-14. The Recommendation has a segment on first sexual moves (the pair there IS several years older) that also does well in exploring the anxieties involved in these rites of passage.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD.
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Naisho no Tsubomi © 2008 Studio Kikan
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