Watching Strawberry Panic!, Aoi Hana, and Blue Drop can lead you to think that shoujo-ai anime is serious business. Fortunately, Kasimasi: Girl Meets Girl demonstrates that an intriguing romance stories spring out of a stupid premises and unoriginal gags just as easily. Behind the gender-bending antics and zany alien shenanigans hides a show of surprising emotional content that pulls heartstrings and elicits laughs in equal measures.
In a wonderful display of deus-ex-machina, Kasimasi's story gets rolling when "Sora Hitoshi" (or so he calls himself), crash-lands his spaceship on the forehead of the quiet and unassuming high school student Osaragi Hazumu. A quick application of the alien's advanced technology revives the vaporized student, but since the visitors can't easily distinguish girls from boys, they get the sex all wrong. Unlike most gender-bender anime, the narrative only pauses for the briefest moment to reflect on Hazumu's new situation before charging headlong onto a shoujo-ai love triangle involving the "current-girl-past-boy", his childhood friend, and one of their pretty classmates. In this case, the breathless tempo of the plot imbues the proceedings with a sense of momentous urgency that more stately titles lack, and the frequent comedic situations give it a light and refreshing feel despite the serious business rounds out the series' run.
However, the speedy train of the plot nearly wrecks itself at the end. Fresh from an emotional pair of episodes, the series proper culminates in rushed and hollow-feeling confession followed by a poorly-executed cliffhanger during the closing credits. While clipped pacing aids significantly in the buildup to an emotional eleventh episode, it also sucks much of the life out of the final installment. In this case, a more prolonged treatment of Hazumu's encounter with the girl she chooses would have served much better than the abrupt confession that the show provides. While this hiccup leaves a bad taste as the screen fades for the last time, viewers should remember that Kasimasi brings them to the finish line in much less time than epics like Maria-sama ga Miteru and with plenty of comic relief along the way--more than enough to redeem itself in my mind.
Kasimasi's visuals exude a "journeyman anime" feel. Along with standard looking, static backgrounds, the show uses speed lines, pans, and stills whenever possible and suffers from occasional errors in proportion. Luckily, series' source material outshines its humble production values. The simple but expressive character designs help deliver the story's emotional payload, and will endear many viewers to the show all by themselves. The girls all have rounded features and large eyes that facilitate easy transition into chibi or super-deformed modes during comedic portions, while also providing excellent canvases for displaying each person's thoughts and feelings. Though all the ladies look somewhat similar, the attention given to hairstyles and body types of each character provide ample differentiation, so no one should have trouble telling the small cast apart. Little details like the femininity of Tomari with her hair down as opposed to her usual twin-tails and Hazumu's magical retracting bangs bring home the thought put into each person's look, and make it easy to forgive occasional inconsistencies.
For the most part, the sound production matches the quality of the visuals with slightly more consistency. Each episode starts with a plain but cute ditty that sounds a whole lot like the opening for Shugo Chara! and ends with a generic ballad. In between, the score keeps pace with all the series' developments whether funny or dramatic, but otherwise makes little impact. Luckily, the voice cast works hard to carry the show's content. Tamura Yukari's Tomari shoulders most of the comedy along with Ono Daisuke in his role as Asuta. Across the aisle, Yuki, Hazumu, and Yasuna fill their more serious roles with equal skill on the part of their seiyuus. The anime squanders Horie Yui during the season as the complex but reserved Yasuna--though the actress does upstage everyone when she reprises her role in the OVA. Finally, the aural icing-on-the-cake comes from the super-cute Jam-pu. Any viewers who share my fondness for vocal affectations will squeal with delight every time she opens her mouth ("...pu!").
While Kasimasi focuses on Hazumu, Yasuna carries the series. She won't turn many heads at first, but this damaged girl's progression from paralyzed wallflower into self-assured young lady dictates the pace of the narrative. Unlike Hazumu, who suffers from her indecision more than her fear of love, Yasuna wrestles with isolation both from humanity in general and her immediate friends. Her bravery and heartbreak create the real emotional tension and resonance of this anime, forming an excellent compliment to the more standard relationship arc between Tomari and Hazumu. For her part, the red-headed lead is both personable and entertaining--a refreshing change of pace for a genre filled with humdrum main characters. Neither an oujo-sama (Chikane of Kannazuki no Miko) nor a doormat (Himeko of the same), her kindness, energy, and caring nature make her seem a great deal similar to Strawberry Panic!'s Naigsa, only less confused and more conflicted. Her beauty coupled with a fun and down-to-earth personality make her a believable target of two girls' affections. As the least original of the gang, Tomari's obstinate nature seems to come straight out of the tsundere playbook, as she refuses to show weakness in the presence of her childhood friend. However, mix of loyalty, gung-ho attitude and youthful insecurity ring truer here than in many similar situations because she makes no secret of her underlying affection for Hazumu.
Each supporting character also adds something to the action, whether it be Yuki, who acts as the all-important romantic instigator and crying shoulder à la Toradora!'s Ami, or Jam-pu, a personified spaceship AI who exists to be adorable ("...pu!"). Namiko-sensei, proves to be the only clunker in the cast. Though she fits the same mold as the many romance-less faculty members who populate high school anime, her repetitive, Team Rocket-like appearances and melodramatic pronouncements start to grate as the series turns towards its more serious second half. Whereas the ensemble comedy of Hazumu, Asuta, and Jam-pu continues to add levity to the proceedings, the sensei's pursuit of the uninterested alien and subsequent nose-dive into the nearest hole feels like a pathetic distraction.
Kasimasi: Girl Meets Girl succeeds in its straightforward look at a complicated topic. In this case, the compact pacing, unadorned characterizations, direct dialogue, and frequent bursts of comedy accent the drama on the screen instead of detracting from it. Freed from endless internal monologues or extended shots of girls wrestling with their feelings, the series communicates an almost elemental truth about how hard it is to love two people. While this anime may seem familiar at first brush, stick to it because its cast and story make it an endearing, if unoriginal gender-bender. True, you have to watch the OVA, Kasimashi ~Girl Meets Girl: A Girl Falls in Love with a Girl~, to get any kind of closure, but even without it, this show is worth the price of admission.
Hazumu is a shy and quiet boy who loves flowers and is forced to rely on his tomboy childhood friend Tomari as a bodyguard. Yasuna is the prettiest girl in school but she avoids men like the plague… until she meets Hazumu. Encouraged, he confesses his love; heartbroken, he heads for the mountains to be with his flowers. As if Hazumu’s troubles aren’t enough, his day is further ruined when an alien ship accidentally kills him. Luckily, alien technology exists that can revive him, but not without a price: Hazumu returns from the dead, but in the form of… a cute girl?!
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.