dna2_cover1Tenchi has a wicked stranglehold on anime comedy. That show, which I kinda liked at first and whose quality has seemed to erode with each subsequent viewing, has allowed anime producers to get away with substandard dreck thanks to its popularity. This isn’t even one of those cases where only the easily emulated aspects are copied, like with the slasher movie boom of the 80s, which mined Halloween without ever coming close to its style or excellence. Tenchi was pretty dumb from the get go. It has a nothing protagonist, literally personality free, who is chased by a series of increasingly annoying women for no other reason than plot demands. There’s nothing compelling about any of the characters, there is no decent motivation for actions, and the humor more-often than not falls flat.1

DNA2, which premiered six months before the Tenchi Universe TV show, is what these harem shows2 could have been, were they smarter or better crafted. Junta Monamari is a dweeby high-school kid with an interesting allergy – when he gets near girls, he vomits. Copiously. The only girl he can spend any time with without puking his guts out is his lifelong friend, Emi, in whom he shows no interest at all. Junta is also destined to be the “Mega-Playboy”, the sole cause of a future population bomb. Junta is ultra fertile, and he will impregnate 100 ladies, all of whom will have sons with his extreme fecundity. The future is awash with Mega-Playboy’s.

Karin, a blue-haired bounty hunter from the future, is sent into the past to shoot Junta with a DNA changing bullet that will renege his Mega-Playboy proclivities. Karin is not overly bright, and she shoots Junta with the wrong bullet, curing him of his allergy – but only when he sees a woman’s tears.3

So, of course numerous beautiful ladies all want the Mega-Playboy version of Junta for themselves. But they all have decent reasons – Karin is looking for a husband to retire with, Emi has loved Junta since they were little kids, the class beauty Tomoko is looking for a boyfriend to treat her nicely for once. And they never throw themselves at the vomiting Junta just for the convenience of the plot. Most of the time, the show even makes sense.

It helps that the character designs are uniformly attractive. The women in Tenchi all look like genetic freaks to me, with their odd and architectural hairstyles and weird body shapes. Stupid costuming doesn’t help, either. All of the girls in DNA2 are fun to look at, with an underlying realism behind the designs that keeps them interesting. The animation is very decent, especially for a TV production. Particular attention is spent on animating the eyes, which struck me – I noticed more subtlety in the movement and expressions in the eyes than I have in most of the dreck I’ve been watching lately, which is invaluable in making the characters come to life. DNA2 is always fun to look at.

Until we get to the near rape scene – that threw me off guard. There seems to be a different standard (at least as demonstrated in anime) to the seriousness of sexual assault in Japanese media. You can see it in Wings of Honnemaise, where the hero is immediately forgiven for his sexual aggressions, and here, the threat of rape is used in an ostensibly funny scene. I’m as ready to laugh at horrible things and human degradation as the next guy, but this scene made me feel uneasy.

Hell with that, though. The show is funny and entertaining – it isn’t great, it won’t change your life. But it offers the sort of stuff that Tenchi and its clones pretend to have – a real sort of
sexiness, bolstered by the excellent character designs. There’s plenty of skin (though it never feels smutty as Love Hina4 occasionally would) and there’s even some nice, friendly violence to keep us watching when there aren’t nearly naked ladies on the screen. You ain’t gonna name your kids after this show, but it’s a lot more fun than most of the crap that passes for decent anime these days.

Of course, this was produced nearly a decade ago, which may be an indication that in the future, we have nothing to look forward to from Japan. Except for bizarre nose porn.

1And, of course, the show becomes War and Peace after about episode 15. I don’t know if DNA2 gets serious eventually, but if it does somebody needs to be shot. That’s one point in Love Hina’s favor – that it doesn’t ever become a Russian drama.

2I don’t know if Mike Toole coined that description, but I first read it from him, so he gets credit.

3I hate doing these synopses. I find them boring to read, and boring to write, but we need some common ground to talk on, so there they are. Like a mammoth dead slug in the middle of the room, something nobody can avoid. Stupid review.

4Love Hina has been one of the worst reviewed shows to come out in recent years, at least in proportion to its popularity. I watched it in Digisubs (yep, I watch downloaded anime sometimes, before it is available in the states. I’m something like the devil) and found myself entertained throughout. I’m afraid to go and get one of the DVDs now, though, since I’ll probably find out that I was wrong. And it’s no fun to find out you’re objectively wrong about a subjective opinion. Undermines one’s self-esteem.
Rating: B+


About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com