Doki Doki School Hours
Mika Suzuki is a 27-year-old high school teacher who looks no older than 12, and hoo boy do we, the viewers, never get a chance to forget THAT. The series revolves around her and her students during their second year at high school, with wild and funny antics about.
I heard all sorts of things about Doki Doki School Hours prior to checking it out. Some blogs said it was funny, AnimeJump labeled it as one of the most offensive comedies ever written, and others had even compared it to School Rumble and Azumanga Daioh in terms of sheer entertainment value. Being a fan of slice-of-life high school comedy, I decided to ignore all of these opinions completely and let my tastes do the talking. So I go onto Netflix, ordered the first DVD, and about a week and a half later, my brother and I started to watch it.
Doki Doki School Hours is quite an interesting series upon first glance, but not in the good way. Unlike other shows of its kind, it starts us off in the beginning of the second year of high school, as opposed to the first. It also has three of the main characters just come up out of nowhere, as if the writers had no clue how to introduce them. Unfortunately, this is just an indication of the many problems of this series.
Compare this to Azumanga Daioh's first episode. We see the students' teacher, Miss Yukari, riding to school on a bike, only to have it break down. One of her male students offers to fix it (hoping for the excuse of being late for class), only to have Yukari steal his bike from right under his nose. We then cut to the main class, where we introduced to unforgettable characters like Sakaki, Tomo, Yomi, and the rest, their names spelled out and everything in their on-screen appearances. Then Yukari comes and introduces Chiyo-chan, a 10 year-old girl in high school. The rest of the episode introduces us to nearly every major character in just that one episode, and the ones that don't get a lot of air time (Osaka, Miss Kurosawa, etc.) do so within a relative quick time frame.
In Doki Doki School Hours, we just have to assume we know these people already, and the show does a generally piss-poor job at introducing characters via mid-episode eye catches. This isn't good; it means that the characters are so simple and stereotypical that their whole personalities can be explained in a manner of 20 words or less. In Azumanga Daioh, we see the characters do things that explain who they are in less than a minute a piece, with nary a scribble of text filling in the work, as opposed to Doki Doki School Hours.
The main character, Mika Suzuki, is a baby-faced teacher who acts exactly like a child but constantly tries to deny being treated like one. She might as well have been a 12 year-old: even my 8 year-old cousin looks and acts more mature for his age than Mika does. Like Chad from AnimeJump said in his review, her existence just merely allows for a barrage of short jokes and how incredibly underage she looks. The fact that she still lives with her parents (which will brought up to the viewer time and time again) further cements the possibility of just making Mika a 12 year-old in the first place. The worst part of all about Mika is that she's also the target of sexual advances of one of her students!
No, I'm not joking; one of her students, Kitakawa, tries to make advances on Mika. Almost every single second she's on screen she's either hugging Mika, making advances on her (!), or fawning over how cute she is. This would be creepy enough if she were doing this to a girl her age, but need I remind you that Kitakawa is doing this to her 27 year-old teacher? She makes Azumanga Daioh's perverted teacher Kimura's advances on his students look innocent in comparison. To say she ruins the show for me would be an understatement. For those who want equality need not fret; we also have a guy who does nothing but fantasize of his male crush, sometimes to the point of getting nosebleeds. Incidentally, his love interest has one of the single most annoying voices in anime I've ever heard.
What about the rest of the students? Well, we have a glasses-wearing girl with an attitude problem (which, of course, means she's the class president) and a huge crush on some generic J-Rock star. In addition, we have a girl who obsesses over her weight, a guy who looks old, a guy who draws half-naked girls as well as manga in general, a narcissist guy who cross dresses (in and out of school), and later on, a girl who adds cutesy suffixes to the end of her sentences.
Even worse than the fact that the cast is made up of stereotypes is the jokes. I've seen wittier and better writing on most pre-school shows than in Doki Doki School Hours. Michiko Itou (who also did the script for the Suzuka anime and the scenarios in Girls High) couldn't write a funny script even if he had the help of Jerry Seinfeld, let alone the material he's given. Here's how a usual episode plays out:
- People make fun of Mika's height and looks, including the faculty. Everyone makes smarmy remarks at her. She also does incredibly childish things.
- The narcissist guy twirls around while wearing girls' clothes. Everyone makes smarmy remarks at him.
- The glasses girl lusts over the J-Rock guy. She also beats up the narcissist.
- The girl worried about her weight worries some more. She also beats up the narcissist. The other students occasionally make fun of her weight.
- The old-looking guy does something that makes him look old, such as reading the newspaper with coffee. Everyone comments on how old he looks.
- Kitakawa makes sexual / demeaning / love advances on Mika. Mika cries and whimpers for Kitakawa to stop it, but to no avail. No one even bothers to report to the principal to get Kitakawa's ass kicked out of school for doing such things.
- The perverted male thinks about his love interest, gets a nosebleed, and then thinks about him again.
- The guy who draws manga with half-naked girls continues to do so, even pleasing Mika in the process.
The sad part about the last character I mentioned as that he's one of the best characters in the series, along with the old-looking guy. Something's wrong in a series when a guy who draws half-naked anime girls is one of the best characters. Those two also happen to be the only two characters in the series who aren't complete jackasses. You see, in Doki Doki School Hours, people don't speak to each other as much as they try to one-up each other in how awesome they are. This gets annoying pretty quickly, no thanks to the horrendous cast overall. Combine this with jokes that repeat in the same episode they're introduced, and you've got yourself something you wouldn't subject your enemies to.
The animation is, well, horrible, with bad backgrounds and characters who roughly look the same but with different hair styles. Don't be fooled by the DVD covers: the actual show doesn't look that good. The only interesting thing of note is that each character has a different sized gut, as opposed to all being built the same way aside from the chest. And to be fair, the art and character designs don't jump all over the places like they do in Azumanga Daioh and Pani Poni Dash. The voice acting is fairly poor...Omi Minami tries her hardest as Mika and kind of succeeds at not being annoying, but the rest of the cast don't fare so well, especially the guys (which is a shame, considering the voice talent in this series). Don't bother with the dub...it's second-rate Ocean Group dubbing. The music, aside from the nice ED theme, is either bad or forgettable overall.
Watching Doki Doki School Hours is like that one joke in high school you heard that was really funny, but everyone got so carried away with it they started saying it every day and eventually got tired of it and moved on to something else. The difference, though, is that Doki Doki School Hours didn't move on, and in the process, remained boring, dull, unfunny, and even scary at times at the ill treatment of its characters. Don't even bother.
How director Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Sky Girls, Bottle Fairy, Love Hina, Familiar of Zero) is still allowed to direct anime to this day baffles me.
This managed to run for 20 episodes?! — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Would be appropriate for children if it weren't for all the sexual jokes and innuendo. Instead, this raises the bar up to older teens and up, and only to those who've never watched a single funny TV show in their life.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Partial (5/20)
Doki Doki School Hours © 2004 Tamami Momose / Takeshobo * Sensei Project
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