Fake Anime Review
US Release By
Yaoi Murder Mystery
Like all good police partners, New York cops Dee Laytner and half-Japanese Randy "Ryo" McLane have very different personalities but have learned to work together. However, Dee is looking for more than just a work friend: he wants Ryo in a big bad way. That is why he convinces his boss into giving him and Ryo vacation leave at the same time. The duo check into a nice hotel in London and Dee has one thing on his mind. While Ryo is unsure what to do about Dee's advances, the body of a woman is discovered in a lake on the hotel's property. Another detective, Berkeley Rose, informs the duo that there was another similar murder in the area recently. Much to Dee's chagrin, other acquaintances from New York begin to show up, however it soon turns out he has more important things to worry about when Ryo finds himself as the killer's next target!
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Fake is a one-shot OVA that's fairly successful at giving pre-existing fans what they want while also selling non-fans on the appeal of the title. The fact that it involves a budding romantic relationship between two male cops turns out to be the feature's strongest quality. Dee and Ryo have a multifaceted and adult relationship that any two people could have, and it puts an interesting spin on how their alternative lifestyle is depicted by not depicting it as alternative--it's just a relationship. The murder-mystery storyline, unfortunately, feels like window dressing, and there's a half-baked ghost story tacked on as well. At least the ghost is good for a laugh; humor is definitely one of Fake's strengths and is well executed by the animation and Japanese voice acting--there's a sense that the staff who worked on this OVA knew what they were doing.
Although it has shortcomings inherent to one-shot OVAs, Fake is a humorous and respectful look at two very different personalities attracting and at times pushing each other away. Representing their relationship as ordinary without the need to categorize it as something different than a heterosexual relationship is refreshing. With very good-looking animation thrown in for good measure, it's not a bad way to spend an hour.
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I've always had mixed feelings about one-shot OVAs like Fake because they're generally made for fans of the manga. For those unfamiliar with the original source, the OVA will usually act as a commercial for the manga at best. While this is true for Fake, I found the feature was fairly successful at what it was trying to do. The fact that it involves a budding romantic relationship between two male cops doesn't bother me; it's the feature's strongest quality.
We're initially introduced to Dee and Ryo while they're on vacation. However, there are key flashbacks that provide some context to how they originally met. There's some complicated history between these two. Dee is outspoken, and thus Ryo is all-too-aware Dee is attracted to him, but he's hesitant to reciprocate. Ryo is more thoughtful and introverted, so he's unsure how he feels. It doesn't help that Dee keeps sending him mixed messages; despite passing off their first kiss as a joke, Dee ends up locking lips with Ryo more than once during their vacation. However, at the drop of a hat he flirts with two attractive ladies at the hotel they're staying in. As much as Ryo comes across as the shy one, there's a lot left unsaid by both men. Though he's physically aggressive when it comes to Ryo, there's something holding Dee back from just laying all his cards on the table and telling Ryo how he truly feels.
Dee and Ryo have a multifaceted and adult relationship that any two people could have; these two just happen to be men. At least in the translation, no one uses words such as "gay" or "homosexual" and that puts an interesting spin on how an alternative lifestyle is depicted: by not depicting it as alternative. One of the women Dee flirts with sees right through him and asks point blank if he likes Ryo; she has a similar conversation with the other party as well. Two supporting characters named Bikky and Carol bet on whether Dee will finally get Ryo into bed. During these conversations, no one mentions that they're discussing an attraction between two men; it's just an attraction between two people.
The murder-mystery storyline the duo get caught up in feels like window dressing and more of an excuse to further the relationship between Dee and Ryo than anything else. The character interactions are more engaging than trying to guess who the killer is, mainly because it's ridiculously easy to figure out. The murderer's motivations are portrayed unconvincingly and there's even a half-baked ghost story woven in that is little more than an excuse to delay the killer long enough during the climax so he can be stopped.
Although the OVA could have done without the ghost, I got a good laugh at Dee and Bikky's reaction the first time they saw it. Humor is definitely one of Fake's strengths and is well executed by the animation and voice acting. Dee's single-mindedness in getting some action from Ryo is hilariously unsubtle. At one point Ryo flashes back to one of Dee's earlier attempts to bed him, which looks the same as it did originally, except Dee is drawn with a wolf's ears and tail. The way Dee whines at his boss to get time off while shaking his desk is so funny the show manages to get away with using the same gag a second time.
The way Dee's over-the-top expressions are animated (particularly with his mouth) is entertaining and helps make him likable, even when's he's butting heads with a kid. Despite paying him not to come to London, Dee's nemesis Bikky shows up anyway, along with Carol and the inappropriately clingy J.J. However, as usual for an hour-long OVA, most of the characterizations are pretty thin. It's never made clear just who these people are and how they came to know Dee and Ryo. Obviously fans of the manga are well-served by seeing those characters come to life and, to be fair, I found myself wanting to learn more about them instead of feeling alienated. There's a sense that the staff who worked on this OVA knew what they were doing. Although this is the only Fake anime in existence, it feels like the director had a clear vision of what he wanted and how to best represent the original source. While the murder-mystery plot is dumb, overall it feels like the best aspects of the Fake manga were translated to the anime, and that's why I think it's a successful one-shot. It gives pre-existing fans what they want while also selling non-fans on the appeal of the title.
The technical aspects are quite nice overall with rather attractive artwork. The detailed, watercolor backgrounds almost make it look like the characters are vacationing inside a painting at times. I like the lanky character designs; the men are undoubtedly pretty, but not androgynous thanks to the squarer jawlines. However, it's the eyes that really sell the character designs. Anime is known for representing a lot of emotions through eyes but I've never encountered ones that were so expressive yet subtle as they are in Fake. You can tell a lot about Ryo and Dee just by watching how they look at each other. I also enjoyed the variety of designs used for the minor characters. From the police chief in New York to the chef at the hotel in London, everyone in the feature has their own distinct look.
Although the background music isn't memorable, the voice cast is quite good. I can't speak for the dub, but in Japanese Tomokazu Seki as Dee highlights the show with his immature reactions towards Bikky and seductive vocals towards Ryo. Nobuo Tomita gives a more shy and nuanced performance as Ryo that contrasts well with his potential suitor. Rika Matsumoto is appropriately bratty as Bikky and I liked Kikuko Inoue as the hotel guest named Alice. Despite having limited screen time in the anime, the acting for characters such as J.J. and Berkeley is well done; the respective voice actors give their characters a lot of personality. If I didn't know any better I'd say the cast had been playing these roles for a while. The ending theme is decent but unremarkable; however, the chipper, high-tempo opening is downright infectious.
Fake's plot awkwardly tries to incorporate a murder-mystery and ghost story, but those things aren't really what the show is about. Although it has shortcomings inherent to one-shot OVAs, Fake is a humorous and respectful look at two very different personalities attracting and at times pushing each other away. Representing their relationship as ordinary without the need to categorize it as something different than a heterosexual relationship is refreshing. With very good-looking animation thrown in for good measure, it's not a bad way to spend an hour.
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I'm not very familiar with shounen-ai or yaoi anime, so unfortunately I'm not the best person to ask for recommendations. What I can say is the company that released Fake in North America has shown a lot of support for shounen-ai and yaoi for a number of years. In addition to this title, Media Blasters released Earthian back in the VHS days, which is a sci-fi story but like Fake does not feel the need to specifically point out that the main character's relationship is homosexual. In more recent years the company has released shows involving same-sex male relationships under the "Yaoi-Fan" label and those titles include Kizuna, Loveless, Gakuen Heaven and Sukisho, among others.
Notes and Trivia
This OVA animates the second volume of Saname Matoh's popular shounen-ai (boys' love) seven-volume manga series of the same name, which originally ran in Be-Boy Comics magazine. The author produced a 5-volume continuation in the first half of 2007, which ran in Hug magazine. There was also a three-volume semi-bootleg (somewhat ironic, given the title) doujin spin-off called "FAKE second," involving different characters, published in 2010-2011. The original manga was released in North America by the now-defunct Tokyopop; the second series hasn't seen an English release as of this writing.
In addition to the single OVA anime adaptation, three drama CDs were produced using the same voice cast; one was released a year prior to the anime, one around the same time, and the final one (appropriately subtitled "Final Act") several years later.
Fake was broadcast back in February, 2007 on the U.S. channel Logo, which specializes in LGBT programming.
US DVD Review
The DVD is about what you would expect for a Media Blasters back catalog release. The video is watchable but fuzzy and there are composite artifacts such as dot crawl that are noticeable if you look for them. The Japanese audio sounds clean but what little I heard of the English track sounded weak and muffled. The subtitles are decently proofed for a Media Blasters release, but I did find a questionable translation choice. During a flashback scene showing when Dee and Ryo first met, Dee asks Ryo if he is "oriental" in the subtitle translation, which is not the proper way to refer to a person of Asian descent. The simplistic menu provides access to a chapter list, trailers and nothing else.
Media Blasters rates the title 13+ and there's nothing depicted in the feature that would warrant a higher rating. Those who think same-sex relationships are an issue likely wouldn't find this appropriate for any age.
Violence: 2 - There's a stabbing at the beginning and a bloodier slashing near the end.
Nudity: 1 - There are bare chests, but when it's a man's chest it doesn't count as nudity. If it did those Twilight movies would be rated R.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Dee could qualify as a sexual predator at times. The kissing is also animated with more detail than the average anime. There's no mistaking these two are slipping each other the tongue.
Language: 1 - Not much of note in the subtitles.