Kanokon OVA Anime Review
Kanokon: Manatsu no Dai Shanikusai
Kanokon: The Great Midsummer Carnival
US Release By
Dirty Slice-of-Life Comedy
2 25-minute episodes
2009-10-04 - 2009-10-10
It's summer break, and the various Kunpou High students--human and otherwise--have their own ways of whiling away the sweaty, lazy days while trying to find some relief from the heat. Kouta is trying to get his homework finished in spite of Chizuru and some uninvited guests, Chizuru's brother Tayura is doing his best to ask Class Rep. Akane out, and Nozomu is... not wearing much.
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Put bluntly, the two-episode Kanokon OVA is rather shockingly not bad. Through a combination of unexpectedly subtle artistry, giving more screen time to the less-crazy secondary characters, and focusing on the bits of good buried in the sleazy mediocrity of the TV series, it not only isn't awful, it's actually kind of decent. Not literally, of course--it's still Kanokon, and still all kinds of dirty (although even the rampant fanservice and dirty jokes come across better). Of particular note is how good of a job the two episodes do at capturing the hot, lazy days of summer vacation--the pacing is languid yet not boring, and the sense of heat is almost palpable. The colorful (and less filthy) secondary characters turn out to be more interesting than the two leads; they get the time to do some amusingly real-seeming slice-of-life things. The visual budget is lower and there's almost no music, but in spite of this--or, perhaps, because of the creativity forced by it--the OVAs are surprisingly artistic, and better-looking than the TV series, which hinted at some artistic skill but failed to capitalize on it.
It's hard to say which is more shocking--that someone would apply the considerable skill necessary to build the few bright bits in Kanokon into a half-decent pair of OVAs without abandoning its mind-in-the-gutter mentality, or that the creative team that pulled this off was the same one responsible for the TV series. Either way, if you actually liked Kanokon, you should love this little bonus slice-of-life take on it.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Long story short, the two-episode Kanokon OVA is rather shockingly not bad. Through a combination of unexpectedly subtle artistry, giving more screen time to the less-crazy secondary characters, and focusing on the bits of good buried in the sleazy mediocrity of the TV series, it had me doing a slow-motion double-take as I realized that it not only wasn't awful, it was actually kind of decent. Not literally, of course--it's still Kanokon, meaning all kinds of dirty.
I don't know which is harder to believe--that someone managed to take this uninspired concept and pull a half-decent little series out of it, or that the creative team that pulled it off was the exact same one responsible for the TV series. Meaning they apparently had the skills necessary to make something other than vapid (if lurid) drivel, they just didn't. Baffling.
So what went right? In essence, it picks through the TV show for the interesting bits and focuses entirely on those: A sense of functioning normalcy to the otherwise-broad characters, light, fluid banter, appealing secondary characters, a degree of slice-of-life realism, flashes of artistry in the locales, and rather creative raging, near-pornographic fanservice.
In particular, it puts more focus on the secondary characters. Who, frankly, are a lot more interesting than the leads. Set during summer vacation, the episodes divide their time between Chizuru and Kouta doing characteristically filthy things, and an assortment of much-less-filthy interactions between various classmates on their time off.
Most notable is Chizuru's far-less-lecherous brother doing his best to get a date with the prudish class rep. This very low-key bit of romance, in addition to being refreshingly clean, actually works. Since they're not stuck playing straight-man to the crazier characters, the two have the chance to act more or less like functional people. It's unusual to put two straight-man types together, and the resulting awkward interplay is surprisingly cute and kind of appealing.
Even the pair of normal human classmates--whose brief vacation escapades consist mainly of video camera shopping and then figuring out how to waste time with said camera--are unexpectedly entertaining in a slightly-exaggerated slice-of-life way. The two girls' cheerful chit-chat has a loose, natural flavor to it--something the TV series offered tastes of but never capitalized on. Even when they start doing dirty things--attempting to shoot a peeping-Tom (peeping-Jane?) documentary of Nozomu--it ends up being less filthy and more fun than I was expecting.
As for Kouta and Chizuru, they're still one-trick ponies--Kouta squeals and squirms while Chizuru gets naked, does fanservice-y things, and molests him. The series makes some vague motions to imply that their relationship is getting bumped up a level emotionally, which I suppose is better than random fetish-bait, but that's about it.
Speaking of fetish-bait, even the dirty jokes and creative fanservice work better. You've got funny little off-handed things like Nozomu's deadpan demonstration of how to eat a popsicle if you really want it to look lewd, or what happens when her classmates try to spy on her--turns out she doesn't wear a lot of clothes around the house on hot days, nor does she care at all if somebody is filming her. Which, by the standards of Kanokon, are downright clean. Chizuru, for her part, does her fanservice-enhanced take on a summer-favorite cold noodle dish, which is shameless, but does fit nicely with the mix of hot-and-cold sensations that the whole production works to capture.
That sensual motif underlies the other big way the Kanokon OVAs succeed where the TV series demonstrated aptitude it completely failed to capitalize on: Subtle artistry. Which was about the last thing I was expecting. The OVAs do an uncommonly effective job of capturing the hot, lazy days of summer with a leisurely pace that slides along without getting boring. Nearly every scene has subtle cues to the heat, from the bright, sweaty exterior shots to the cool relief of walking into an air-conditioned building. It's so effective that you can almost feel the heat and contrasting chill.
There's also almost no background music to speak of. This may have been due to lack of budget, but in practice it actually works as an advantage--the ambient sounds of summer enhance the sense of heat and unhurried time spent in it. It also helps with the slice-of-life feel. There are full opening and ending themes; the ending is generic, but the decent opening is by Yui Sakakibara, whose distinctive warbling style made the ending theme of the TV series memorable.
On a purely technical level, the budget seems a little lower than the TV series--the coloring is flatter and the character art a hair simpler. Distant shots of characters also have an oversimplified, somewhat distorted style that you could call crude, though it kind of worked for me, and the crowd shots are nice--fully animated. Either way, the character animation remains good and there are some pleasant backgrounds.
Combined with the evocative locations and situations, it's paradoxically better-looking than the TV series even though it has less to work with. As with the soundtrack, I wouldn't be surprised if the limited animation budget deserves credit for forcing the team at studio Xebec to come up with a more artistic presentation to compensate. I probably shouldn't be so surprised--their track record is extremely good, even when working with lackluster material (the TV series was an unusual exception).
The voice cast is the same as the TV series, which is to say relatively talented (excepting Nozomu's voice, which continues to be intentionally dead-flat). The secondary characters have more to do, which isn't a liability--they're fun and likable.
It's hard to say which is more shocking--that someone would apply the considerable skill necessary to build the few bright bits in Kanokon into a half-decent pair of OVAs without abandoning its mind-in-the-gutter mentality, or that the creative team that pulled this off was the same one responsible for the TV series. Either way, if you actually liked Kanokon, you should love this little bonus slice-of-life take on it. I can't say that the OVAs are good enough to make watching the TV series worthwhile if you had enough sense to stay away from it, but the fact that that thought would even occur to me speaks to how well it's done.
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Aside from the Kanokon TV series, which is similar but much worse, there aren't many things with the same mix of slice-of-life flavor and dirty, fanservice-heavy content. Best bets might be the very raunchy schoolyard comedy B-gata H-kei, or the similarly randy, more mature comedy-romance Sakura Diaries. Neither of those has any supernatural elements (not that these OVAs do, either), and the latter has a lot more drama. KissxSis is also somewhat similar, though it's basically just hentai-light.
Notes and Trivia
A direct sequel to the Kanokon TV series, which is in turn based on a series of light novels by Katsumi Nishino. There's also a manga adaptation.
These two OVAs were released in Japan individually on DVD and Blu-ray. It's hard to believe compared to what anime costs in North America, but the list price of each episode was over 5000 and 6000 yen, respectively; even at a steep retail discount, they'd still run you the equivalent of about $25 ($40 for high-def) for each 30 minutes of anime. Ouch.
Note that while Japanese schools have a summer break, unlike US schools it's relatively short and usually homework is given to do during it. It's somewhat more akin to winter or spring break in the US.
US DVD Review
Media Blasters' DVD set includes both episodes on a single disc (sold as the "OVA Collection") with Japanese and English audio, and English subtitles. It includes some animated shorts originally released along with the TV series as extras, which is pretty decent considering that the pair of OVAs costs exactly the same amount as Media Blasters' set of the whole TV series.
In 2012 they released a TV & OVA collection that combined the OVAs and TV series into a single complete box set.
Unlike a lot of no-holds-barred OVAs this is, if anything, a hair less explicit than the TV series, but still easily qualifies as 16-up on account of nudity, generally lewd behavior, and mature humor.
Violence: 0 - Nothing at all.
Nudity: 4 - Plenty of nudity, and plenty of leering by the camera.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - A couple of relatively explicit sight gags, semi-consensual groping, and generally mature themes.
Language: 0 - Nothing of note, unless the subtitlers get creative.
Available in North America from Media Blasters on bilingual DVD as the "OVA Collection" or as part of the "TV & OVA Collection," which also includes the complete TV series.