My regular readers – working on the egocentric assumption that such a species might exist – will remember my most recent review as having been commissioned via TACO by KiraRin in an attempt to offend my sensibilities. This time round, sothis herself has got in on the act, deciding to exploit my utter distaste for lolicon material and underage nudity by forcing Chu-Bra!! upon my unwilling person. Thus did I end up watching a show about young teens in underwear. At least that’s what I plan to tell the police.
In a way, Chu-Bra!! is like multiple-Oscar-winning film Rain Man. Its central protagonist is an individual lacking in the social graces and common sense that anyone would consider natural, compensating this with an outlandish talent that anyone would consider god-given. Unfortunately, that’s more or less where the similarities end because, while Raymond Babbitt had an encyclopaedic memory and the uncanny ability to count things at a glance, Nayu Hayama has an encyclopaedic knowledge of underwear and the uncanny ability to annoy me.
When summed up, the show’s plot is ridiculous. A teenage girl goes around teaching others about underwear and solving their problems, on the proviso that they relate specifically to bras and knickers. However, the real problem with Chu-Bra!! is not that it is as bad as its premise sounds - rather it is worse. There was room for humour here. There was room for nonsense, room for parody, room to make something that could be laughed with rather than laughed at. Instead, token steps are taken to create something respectable, or at least as respectable as a show about a middle school underwear club could hope to be. There are trials, tribulations, and other laughable pleas for the viewer to become emotionally involved in the recycled plot points and pointless interactions that the makers have the gall to pass off as a story.
What humour and diversion the show does manage to offer is sub-par at best. Aside from a delightfully over-the-top drama club who make an Utena-referencing cameo towards the end, the comedy can be summarised in one sentence: middle schoolers of both genders find lingerie embarrassing. While the show occasionally elaborates on the theme - for example by employing a cavalcade of blushes and nosebleeds to illustrate the idea like some kind of puerile crimson PowerPoint presentation - it would be unfair to credit Chu-Bra!! with much more than this simple observation, re-told again and again with tedious dedication.
Chu-Bra!!’s animation is both generic and lazy. Backgrounds are clean but far from striking, and they frequently exhibit a lack of detail. The character designs, meanwhile, are uninspired. Aside from a couple of touches – such as Ms. Mizuno’s constantly unkempt hair – nothing much even resembles novelty. Similarly, the show is short on visual flair, and the animated medium is never used to achieve anything more creative than an overused face fault or two.
More unfortunate still are the inconstancies which haunt the show like an unusually irksome spectre. Some of the more obvious are a teleporting tea cup, a boat which can’t decide whether it has seats or not, and the curious case of Haruka’s eyelash protrusions, whose length inexplicably varies throughout the series. These are by no means the only errors which leapt out at me, and I have no doubt that an eye sharper than my own could catch many more before succumbing to some bad-animation-induced strain of ocular cancer.
Chu-Bra!!’s assault on the ears is no gentler than its assault on the eyes or brain. Both the OP and ED fall some way short of the bouncy, energetic J-pop for to which they presumably aspired, owing to jarringly fast lyrics in the OP and an irritating melody in both. The background music is usually too loud and often too serious – the relic of an earnest but failed attempt to add some kind of drama to the insistently daft and shallow plot.
I also found myself disappointed with the voicing. Whether the actors were poorly cast or just did a bad job is open to debate, but Minori Chihara, who shone as Yuki Nagato in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, offers only cutesy blandness as Nayu. Meanwhile, Takahiro Sakurai, so engaging in the role of Mononoke’s medicine seller, is wasted as Nayu’s quiet and entirely irrelevant step-brother. Not that any of the half-baked roles on offer would have particularly suited.
As well as having nothing to offer in terms of intrigue, the main characters in Chu-Bra!! have no obvious personality outside of their attitude towards underwear. In a way, that’s about all that could be expected given the premise, but in another, equally valid way, it makes for dull viewing. There is some modicum of redemption to be found in the sparse appearances of the off-the-wall eccentricity of the drama club and the down-to-earth maturity of Kiyono, but when I found myself siding with the poisonously stereotyped, no-fun-on-my-watch headmistress in her attempts to close down the underwear club, it became clear that this was not a cast I could easily care about.
In order to give an overall picture of Chu-Bra!!, there is value in going back to the very basics. This is a show about middle-schoolers with underwear problems and, no matter how you cut it, there’s a certain wrongness to that. Confronted with such wrongness, there are two things that a successful show can do. Firstly, a show such as Kodomo no Jikan can embrace the wrongness, use it to confront the viewer and create drama and intrigue. Alternatively, a show such as Moetan is able to acknowledge the wrongness, parody it, and generally have a lot of fun. What Chu-Bra!! does is make a foolish attempt to bury it. Foolish because a lame plot and weak attempts at self-legitimisation amount to barely two shovelfuls of dirt, and the wrongness is even more apparent than if they had simply let it be.
While Chu-Bra!! may not be the sole reason for which anime fandom is generally looked down upon, it nevertheless makes an excellent case for the prosecution. The show brings neither humour nor drama to the table, and the small amount of ecchi appeal it might have is nothing more than desperate barrel scrapings. There are far better anime out there.
While Nayu Hayama may be a middle school student, she has the fashion sense of an adult – at least, when it comes to lingerie. Unlike her other classmates, Nayu is an underwear fanatic and is highly knowledgeable about a girl’s changing body, the right fit for a bra and a variety of materials like lace and beads. Alongside her new friends the busty Haruka and flat-chested Yako, Nayu will spread her love of panties and even help form a club dedicated to researching ladies’ delicates!
When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.