Makoto and Une are childhood friends who are now attending cram school together. (No, it's not a ruse on the part of the distros - they really *are* attending cram school.) Makoto hasn't confessed his long-held feelings for Une ... and he finds out that she now has a boyfriend. In the meantime, another of Makoto's friends, the cutesy Nonoka, has decided it's time to confess her feelings for Makoto.
Does Makoto still have a chance with Une? Will Une's boyfriend stay faithful to her? Will Nonoka finally get her chance to be with Makoto?
There are two places where hentai is most likely to fail: writing and animation.
Surprisingly, Stairs has some decent writing and voice acting, as there is some rather interesting character work done here that generally doesn't happen in the realm of hentai. For starters, Stairs does not actually rely on the cliché of having the childhood friends in question end up together - Makoto and Une *never* share a bed through the entire episode. Shocked and amazed? Good.
Secondly, Une's boyfriend (a disgruntled, but good-hearted pre-med student named Takashi) is actually pretty cool, and takes responsibility for his actions when Une is confronted with a major crisis halfway through the show. So many "boyfriend" characters turn out to be total jerks, and Takashi isn't. So that takes care of that - writing: decent.
So what about that second half? Well, I hate to say this, but Stairs is badly animated right where it counts. Character designs shift noticeably between camera angles, and sex scenes are ill-defined and badly rendered. The emotions and the voice acting are there, but the visuals simply can't keep up at all whatsoever, which is a bit of a shame. It's some of the worst animated sex I've seen in a long time, and it's a shame because this is one of the better *plotlines* I've seen in a hentai flick (especially for a one-shot).
Worse off, there is one bit of voice acting that bothers me, and that's Nonoka. She has one of those cutesy high-pitched voices that is really popular in Japan, but when Makoto eventually ends up losing his virginity to her (whoops, spoiled that one, didn't I?), the effect comes off much like he's having sex with a squeaky toy. ("Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!") Japanese fanboys may like it, but I find it incredibly irritating. In any case, it really seems like Nonoka is really there to facilitate having Makoto get it on with *someone* - the Makoto-Nonoka pairing is considerably weaker than the Takashi-Une relationship, but it's what we've got.
Admittedly, the character of Nonoka might actually be a nod to Mikan R's usual manga creations, most of which deal with characters considerably younger than the ones presented in this OAV (in an interesting twist, the Stairs characters are actually feasibly "19 and over"). A quick search on the author lands us with a whole lot of lolicon manga (and I mean *seriously* underage here), and I'm quite glad that I was spared having to see *THAT* onscreen.
Minus points for the cheesy "simultaneous climax" ending, which undoes a lot of the seriousness presented by the writing.
Overall, Stairs might be worth a rental on its own, but paired with the steaming pile of crap that is the B-side of the Kitty Pleasure Pack #2 release, I really can't recommend it by virtue of its lackluster animation.
Nice try. The animation really lets down a decent love triangle-style plot. If this were a series rather than a hentai one-shot (or if the animation had actually been competent), this would certainly have rated higher. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Adults only, due to explicit sex scenes. Oddly enough, there are themes discussed here, like pregnancy, that are rarely touched upon in a hentai series. No violence, and all the sex is consensual.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Stairs © 2001 Museum Pictures / Mikan R / Core Magazine
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