Nakahara Sunako, a high school girl whose interests include horror movies, coffins and gore, is sent by her aunt to live in an extravagant mansion with four ridiculously handsome boys. As if living with these “radiant creatures” who give her constant nosebleeds isn’t hard enough, she soon discovers that the boys have made a bet with her aunt: in exchange for free rent, they will try to mold Sunako into a magnificent lady. As someone who has cast aside all her femininity and sworn to live in darkness, Sunako is ready to do whatever it takes to nullify these efforts; but is there a way for the creatures of darkness and light to coexist?
StoryThe term yamato nadeshiko implies an unassuming, graceful, submissive young woman – think of it as the “girl-next-door” (or wallflower) of traditional Japan. In our progressive, modern world, shoujo anime seems to be raising a vendetta against this image, grinding out one loud girl after another to shriek their way into the hearts of romance fans. There exist, however, a few specks of color amidst today’s gray mass of brazen, power-hungry female protagonists. One takes the form of Haruhi Fujioka from the seminal Ouran High School Host Club. Another is Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket. The last, and perhaps the most underappreciated, is Sunako Nakahara – the high school pariah of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge. See, Haruhi and Tohru were at least normal; Sunako, on the other hand, will resonate with what forms the core of most female otaku: the not so normal. Superficially, it offers nothing more than your typical school-life anime: Filler-oriented plot encompasses a group of friends, who all engage in episodic antics that incites laughs from viewers. While Yamato’s over-the-top humor continually pops up to flash its assets, it frays at the edges as the series progresses. What it has in pure zaniness it lacks in style and intelligence. Yes, Sunako’s volcanic nosebleeds were amusing the first several times, and the boys’ exaggerated “dazzling” features did draw from me a few squeals of delight; there’s no need, however, to have such ploys become stale moves. Add to this the fact that Yamato squanders its shining potential. I mean, how often do we see four drool-worthy bishonen lavishing attention on a socially awkward girl? The foundation is unique and strong, but the actual construction is not; the show manages to stand only by flinging a carefully crafted comedic cover over its relatively weak plot structure. Critical analysis aside, the show does promise some solid entertainment. Clichéd shoujo tricks are delightfully parodied, and the story does end up evolving, albeit sloppily. More importantly, Yamato holds a direct pertinence over our own lives. Not many of us blush with happiness over dead bodies, or reside in a mansion with the hottest guys in town. Too many of us, though, endure similar insecurities as Sunako: Am I normal? Am I attractive? Do I fit in? Can I make friends? Sometimes it’s just too trite to see yet another social butterfly fill up the screen. We can relish in the fact that Yamato magnifies what brews within practically everyone – and especially within us otaku. It serves as a fun, ridiculous, exaggerated reflection of our own social grappling.AnimationYamato unleashes its entire animating prowess within the first few episodes; by the twenties, our beloved bishies aren’t quite as beloved or bishy – actually, I’ll go so far to say that they seem to develop into trannies. Clearly, the studio’s budget dried up in the middle of production. As the series progresses, it cannot prevent its stodgy and simplistic animation from bursting from the seams, and we can see with unfortunate lucidity a retrogression in character design quality. For Sunako the animators don't even try, being apparently satisfied with her ubiquitous "diminutive stuffed animal" look.SoundWhere Yamato is a famine to the eyes, it is a feast to the ears. On top of an absolutely stunning performance by Yukiko Takaguchi as Sunako, the boy harem retains their physical deliciousness through voice alone. I was awash in a positive symphony of male sound: Takenaga’s deep, intelligent lilt, Ranmaru’s graceful sultriness, Yuki’s charming, boyish inflections, and Kyouhei’s masculine resonance (with a distinctive “I-want-to-do-things-to-you” undertone) consistently left me in a puddle of aural ecstasy. Musical elements boast a unique ability to gather strength and familiarity with each episode, rather than becoming stale and overused. Perhaps most impressively, sound effects hold a vibrancy and a sometimes disturbing richness that props up the entire show; without such effects, the comedy would wilt. Bottom line: Instead of further deafening your ears at the next scheduled rock concert, stay at home and subject yourself to the pleasing, arousing harmonies of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge.CharactersThe reverse harem anime genre provides plenty of open doors for good characterization. Unfortunately, this show takes a step or two inside a door, shuffles around for a bit, pops out with a small trinket, and then proceeds to shut the door in its own face. At first, I didn’t think Yamato’s characters all that lacking – as forgettable as they were, they still amused me. After happening across three Ouran episodes the other day, however, it dawned on me just how utterly pale Yamato’s male cast seemed in comparison. It is a strange, empty experience when at the end of twenty-five episodes I realize that I know about as much about the inner personalities of these characters as I had in episode one. Revelations, angsty moments, and better-than-average stereotyping? They’re all there. But where on earth is the development? And I’m sorry, but Sunako is downright creepy. Socially awkward or not, this girl needs to visit a shrink. Period.OverallThe best way I can sum up Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge is to liken it to a handful of sweets: It’s fun to savor and easy to digest, but ultimately unsatisfying. Look up Ouran High School Host Club if you’re searching for a main dish.
Overall, I like this anime. It was humorous without being overly campy. Story: While at first, the characters seemed set in "pretty boy" and "that one girl" roles, the story allows them to have depth and personality beyond their looks. It goes beyond the main story of making Sunako into a "lady", and that definitely helped the overall feel of the anime. The random "Road to Womanhood" segments were hilarious breaks in the story. Animation: Besides making the guys a little androgynous, I saw no real fault in the animation. Chibi!Sunako was used a bit much, but it made her appearances as a normal-girl all that more special. Sound: Had no fault with the sound. Hadn't looked at the voice actors before hand and was thrown off when I heard Vic. (The fact that he appears in at least two animes like this is rather amusing to me: the other being Ouran) Characters: Like I said, the characters are given depth, and their backstories show the reasons behind some of their particular quirks. My favorite character was Sunako and her ability to make herself a Lady without giving up her prized occult items.
Story: 7 Every high school has at least one female Goth student, but apparently these girls are not born with the Goth mindset. In fact, Yamato offers a great explanation for the appearance of a Goth persona: all it takes is for a guy to tell a nice girl (who probably happens to like him) that she is ugly, and oh by the way, he wants nothing to do with her. This negative response from the guy will consequently send the girl into a downward spiral of introversion, obsession with mannequins, skulls, horror films, and all things dark. The above events underscore Sunako’s transformation from a sweet middle school girl into a terrifying high school Goth chick, who emits a strange purplish-black aura and frequently gets mistaken for something inhuman. The four high school boys living with Sunako’s aunt are charged with transforming Sunako into a lady in exchange for free rent; they figure the task will be an easy one, only to find that Sunako is far too scary to deal with, let alone transform into a princess. Despite the initial setup focusing on the desire to transform Sunako, the series is more about day to day events involving Sunako and the boys, with sporadic attempts to change Sunako, which always, and I stress always, end in failure. So, to put it bluntly, there is not much of a story at all, more of a series of interactions between Sunako, the boys, and their peers. Which begs the question: why bother introducing the prospect of transformation when the series only weakly and inconsistently evokes that plotline? Granted, it provides an opportunity for the frequent “The Path to Becoming a Lady” shorts within the series, but it does not make sense that that the series was set up in one way (for the boys to transform Sunako), while the show played itself out in an entirely different manner. Animation: 6 Could a series be any more chibi? Although I’m sure it could, the amount of chibi in this series tested my patience. Sunako, who is supposed to be a crazy Goth girl, constantly appears chibi-fied; this representation really contradicts the idea that she is perceived by her peers as hideous and terrifying, and it drove me crazy to say the least. The animation in Yamato is nothing special, and really, it does not need to be since often the characters are chibi or drawn in outline form to depict their surprise, terror, or any other cliché emotion that one could think of. On the plus side, the series contrasts light and dark hues depending on which side of Sunako has graced the scene with her presence. Sound: 7 Forgettable comes to mind when I hear the opening of Yamato. Not that it is bad, but nothing really makes the song stand out. It did not help that the end theme outshined the opening; I prefer a strong opening theme to start the show off on a good note, so to speak. The voice acting helped keep this series afloat, especially the portrayal of Sunako’s many personas – from brooding to shy, explosive to calmly submissive, Sunako’s voice brings depth to her character, and allowed me to (for the most part) get past the chibi representation. Characters: 7 The best phrase I can think of to describe the characters in Yamato is “all over the place.” I was sorely disappointed by the lack of depth of the main characters of Yamato, especially since I had just finished watching Ouran High School Host Club; Ouran has more main characters than Yamato, but the character development of Yamato pales in comparison. The boys are pretty much typecast into their four personas: the playboy, the smart one, the girly one, and the “dazzling creature” (as Sunako puts it); the series does not provide much extra insight into the boys. Additionally, it seemed as though the writers realized the poor development and overcompensated by cramming in as much information about the major characters in the back third or so of the series. Surprisingly, the minor characters complemented their major counterparts well. In particular, the antics of Sunako’s aunt were a pleasant addition to the story; her unexpected and often overly dramatic entrances and exits were something I looked forward to during the series. Only one set of minor characters really seemed to detract from the show – the four girls known as the “Goth-Loli” sisters. I enjoy random funny/strange stuff, and some people may view the “Goth-Loli” sisters as just a random sideshow. However, in my mind, I’m not sure what purpose they served since their presence was a poor attempt at comic relief (do you need comic relief in a comedy series?), and they do not provide a stark contrast with the “normal” school girls since Sunako already exemplifies the dark, outcast persona. Overall: 7 I picked up this series after watching Ouran High School Host Club since so many people recommended it; I can only say that while Yamato is not terrible, it leaves something to be desired since I have not laughed nearly as much at Yamato compared with Ouran, and the characters in Yamato are somehow not as loveable as the mischievous host club members. Yamato has many elements that make it appealing; it just does not reach its full potential. Initially, I kept debating whether to drop this series, but stuck with it because each episode would have at least one line or one scene that was pretty decent and led me to believe the series was going to get better. In the end, I’m glad I finished the series, but it would have been much better if the beginning had started on pace with the latter portion of the series.
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