Kusanagi Kei is a high school student in a near-future rural Japan. His backwater town is suddenly flooded with reports of strange lights, but only he knows the truth. Yes, there really was a UFO from outer space, and the alien who arrived in it happens to be his beautiful next-door neighbor and homeroom teacher, Kazami Mizuho. The two of them get caught up in circumstances that make it appear as if they are having a romantic affair - and Kei must marry Mizuho to protect her secret. So now he must learn to balance being married with being a high school student, difficult enough, except for the fact that Kei has secrets of his own.
It's hard to write a review for a series with so many good things going for it. On one hand, we could blindly go around and say, "It's great! Go see it! Now!" But we have to explain why it's so great, and why you should go see it now. And with an anime like Please Teacher! that appears to be a stock love-triangle show with some SF thrown in, this doesn't seem to be easy to explain.
Only, Please Teacher! isn't exactly what it appears to be. The characters aren't stock at all, though you'd think so at first glance. Kei may seem like the passive geek cliche, but his determination and his personal struggles are quite unlike the usual male romantic lead, and he seems much more like a complex, real person than most anime characters out there. And Mizuho may seem like an SF version of the "goddess fallen from heaven" cliche, but she is petty, flighty, silly, and quite intelligent (when she isn't struggling with her glitchy personal computer / ship navigator, the oh-so-adorable comic relief Marie). Instead of being shoehorned into the role of the "perfect wife", she must often set aside her own ego to be able to live with Kei. And while Kei and Mizuho complement each other, they have honest-to-goodness chemistry - the sort you see when real-life couples bicker and quarrel or act cutesy and downright embarrassing. While their situation may stem from unusual circumstances, it is unquestionably a relationship, and not just a couple slapped together in the name of artificial romance. Anime hasn't had it this good with romantic leads since Maison Ikkoku.
Unfortunately, this anime isn't quite perfect, because the plot does rely on a whole lot of circumstances and cliches that do get grating as the series goes on. As if the whole "married-to-your-teacher/space alien" angle wasn't enough to play off, the creators decided that Kei's female friends would also make adequate rivals for affection. While the accessory characters are often just as well characterized as the leads, you do get really sick of them popping up to interfere with the main relationship. Well-meaning but attention-starved, the "rival" Herikawa Koishi wears out her welcome very quickly as the third wheel in a love triangle, and puts too much conflict into the series. The entire angle seems forced and unfocused, and while perhaps the creators felt it necessary as part of the genre, it could've been executed better.
However, when Kei and his classmates hang out together as a group of friends, the very true-to-life chemistry of the series comes right back at you. You can easy believe these characters as buddies. There's wild-haired, girl-obsessed (but very cool) Hyousuke (sorta like an anime version of David Lee Roth from the "Hot For Teacher" video) and UFO nut Matagu to round out the boys, and earnest friend Koishi and shy, sweet girl-next-door Kaede to represent the girls. The standout, though, is the petite, incisively sarcastic meddler Ichigo, who is at her best when she is bluntly putting down the advances of her male friends.
Even the smallest roles have a sense of fullness of characterization that is rare in anime and even rarer in short-run television series like this. This makes the plot shortfalls that much more frustrating. There are times you want to throw stuff at the television because the characters are being sent through such ridiculous hoops to get where they're going. For once, it's the plot that's cliched and the characters that aren't! But there are enough original wrinkles to make things interesting when it counts, because at least the characters are just as frustrated (and realistic) about all of this as anyone in the audience.
The animation for this anime is very well executed, with appealing character designs and interesting cinematic choices, like the mock-camcorder opening sequence. Backgrounds are lush and very detailed, almost to the level of a Ghibli film, while the character animation is mostly fluid and about on par with what you should expect from a modern television series. The background music, while appropriate, is fairly unobtrusive and unmemorable, but the opening is catchy, and the ending is a pretty ballad that is appropriate and expresses the mood of the show well.
Despite the annoying cliches and overuse of the "My, what a coincidence!" plot point, Please Teacher! is enjoyable because of the richness of its cast of characters. There are moments in this show that are pure magic. While its flaws prevent it from being the best of the best, this anime is very well worth watching and picking up the moment you see it on the shelf.
As Mizuho would say, "It's a priority one!"
Except for a few too many predictable moments in the plot, this is one of the best romantic comedies in the last couple of years. Add one star if you just love this sort of show. — Carlos Ross and Christi
Recommended Audience: Despite all of the references to sex, be it premarital or marital, it's handled tastefully and maturely, and they actually discuss the ramifications and consequences of it as well as the good points. It is not gratuitous, and neither does it pander to the audience, which is a credit to this series. No nudity and no violence. Fine for teens and above.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Please Teacher! © 2001 Please! / Bandai Visual
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