Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl Anime Review
Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl
Ruckus - Girl Meets Girl
US Release By
Gender-bending Yuri High-School Romance
13 25-minute episodes
2006-01-11 - 2006-03-29, 2006-10-27
What's In It
- Girly Boys Becoming Actual Girls
- Wacky Alien Observers
- Cute Human-shaped Computers
- Ever-so-sweet Yuri Romance
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 1 (mild)
Hazumu is a quiet boy who likes nothing more than caring for flowers. Nothing except, perhaps, shy Yasuna. Yasuna, however, has a secret problem that's prevented her from developing any relationships. Meanwhile, tomboyish Tomari, the childhood friend who's always stood up for Hazumu, may harbor feelings for him, but has never said anything.
When Hazumu confesses his feelings to Yasuna, he is heartbroken when she turns him down. Things take a turn for the strange, though, when shortly afterward an alien spaceship crashes directly into him.
The good news is, the aliens manage to resurrect him. The bad news is, it's as a girl. Now Yasuna is inexplicably interested in Hazumu again, Tomari is trying to teach her how to live as a girl while coming to grips with her own confused feelings, and an alien observer and the human-shaped avatar of his ship's AI have moved in with Hazumu's family, who seem a little too glad to have their son become a daughter.
Joined by the quiet, observant Ayuki and energetic buddy Asuta, life for these five friends may never be the same in Kashima City.
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Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl takes a generic high-school romance and adds a gender-bending, anime-style twist. Sadly, it fails to do anything worthwhile with it, instead spending all its energy on warm-and-fuzzy, mildly bitter, mostly sweet romance. It's a pity, because the concept is practically designed to tackle tough gender issues, and there are a lot of interesting dramatic hooks that it seems either unwilling or unable to grab. It ends up spending most of its run on sappy romance sprinkled with weak, unfunny comedy before finally getting serious, by which point it took effort to start caring. Protagonist Hazumu is a bigger issue; she was effectively a girl to start with, rendering the gender-swap angle of the plot somewhat pointless, and she's practically a placeholder--the other two girls get nearly all the emotional focus and character development. On the plus side, it doesn't hold back on the yuri romance; there's at least a little chemistry, and the all-in romantic finale is satisfying so long as you don't think about it too hard. The soft-focus art is also pleasant, and the soundtrack does a lot with simple solo piano pieces that fit nicely. The Japanese acting is decent, but doesn't help much with the muddled characterization, unfortunate considering the decent resume of the cast.
On the whole, Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl is a candy-sweet but forgettable series--basically an entirely generic high-school romance with some yuri painted on to try and make it look more interesting. If you're not a yuri fan it's likely a waste of time, and even if you are you'll probably spend at least as much time waiting for something interesting to happen (or frustrated with the protagonist) as enjoying yourself.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl takes a generic high-school romance and adds a gender-bending, anime-style twist. Sadly, it fails to do anything worthwhile with it, instead spending all its energy on flowery, mildly bitter, mostly sweet romance. The result is a generic yuri high-school romance, and a rather bland one at that.
It's a pity, because the concept has a lot of potential for amusing confusion, gender-identity wrestling, awkward romantic twists, even some sociological musing. All of which it utterly fails to capitalize on; every time it finds an interesting hook it seems either unwilling or unable to grab it. It ends up spending most of its run on fluff romance sprinkled with weak comedy. When it eventually tries to get serious and kick up the drama, it's hard to start caring.
I have nothing against oversweetened romance--Oh My Goddess thrives on it--but Kashimashi had the potential to be a lot more. Why bother needlessly complicating the story with interesting twists if all you're going to do with it is light romance? The manga has somewhat more going on, so I'm not sure who to blame, but the anime is mostly cute, teary-eyed, soft-focus seasoning, very little meat.
That it doesn't address any difficult social issues is particularly glaring. Some yuri fare--the seminal Maria Watches Over Us, for example--puts a narrow focus on individual relationships. Here, however, there's a gender-reversal literally broadcast to the whole world and an alien observer expressly watching the romance develop. It's like it was designed to tackle tough issues, but got too distracted by sappy romance and pastel flowers to bother.
Then there's sweet, innocent Hazumu, nominally the protagonist. To start with, she was effectively a girl from the beginning--the only way you knew "he" was supposed to be male was the boys' uniform. This was presumably to avoid the desire to go back to being a boy, but right off the bat that rendered the gender-swap angle of the plot sort of pointless.
More importantly, Hazumu is practically a placeholder--the other two girls get nearly all the emotional focus and character development. Theoretically, a big part of the drama is supposed to come from her indecisiveness--the half-hearted moral being "choose or you'll get neither"--but somebody apparently mistook "devoid of character" for "indecisive." She does finally develop a bit of personality toward the end, but by that point it's a little late.
Yasuna, the more feminine of the two love interests, is better. She has an unexpected amount of inner strength, making her more appealing than the average shy girl. She has a psychological problem that, while contrived, is intriguing, and it's eventually tied in with the alien subplot, explaining their interest in the whole affair. Sadly, while there are some good establishing bits, it doesn't really become significant until near the end. It also doesn't quite make sense; we're shown that there was no traumatic trigger, it "just happened." Why? Probably because somebody didn't have the stomach to do something substantive and painful to the character--the series is too sappy for that--and was too lazy to bother coming up with an excuse in lieu of anything uncomfortable.1
Last is tomboy childhood friend Tomari. She's the generic hothead, but moderately appealing, not to mention mercifully less weepy than the other two. She also has one decent tragi-romantic speech near the end--really, the only meaningfully romantic thing in the whole show.
The triangle these three form is the core of the series, and the closest it manages to something original (ironically, not because of the gender-swap).
Pleasingly, they're quite clear that the yuri romance is, indeed, romance. Although it's the cute, blushing, hand-holding kind of romance, they consistently use the word "ren'ai"--romantic love--and there is proper kissing and even a ceremonial commitment. There's very little passion, but at least a little chemistry (as much as the bland protagonist allows, anyway).2
The one good thing about having such a passive protagonist is the role reversal she forces. Instead of the standard romantic lead trying to woo someone, it's the other way around--the shy, fragile one and the unsociable tomboy are both forced to take the active role and compete with each other. The additional twist is that, while both of the girls like Hazumu, and she likes both of them, only one of them needs her, and all three eventually realize it. The series is sort of vague about this, but it basically works.
Until the endgame, that is; after finally pulling off one unexpectedly decent dramatic crescendo, it proceeds to offhandedly rush through what should have been the most emotionally substantive and affecting scene in the show.
It was baffling to me that a series would spend half its length setting up a climactic breakthrough and then let it go to waste. Not to spoil too much, but the final/bonus episode that follows reveals why: In an attempt to have its cake and eat it too, an unexpected twist turns the tables. It's weird, because that episode is emotionally somewhat awkward and rather problematic, but it's also easily the best episode in the series--it goes all-in on the sweet romance, making for a satisfying finale so long as you don't think too hard about it.3
The remainder of the cast is underutilized. The most substantive, Ayuki, is a quiet, perceptive girl who is apparently interested in one of the main trio but makes a big point of being content to watch other people be happy from a distance. That's fine as far as this particular love triangle goes, but it frustrated the heck out of me; I couldn't decide whether I should feel sorry for her or just be annoyed by her aloof, knowing commentary. Having a character like that finally break her dispassionate shell and accept her desires would be interesting and humanizing, but the series leaves her as the wise observer--more of a plot device than a person.
The lone male friend, Asuta, is a complete waste. His confusion between existing friendship and unexpected attraction could have been spun into something interesting, even touching, but he's only onscreen when necessary as the butt of a joke. It also unintentionally sets up the main character as sort of a jerk, since Hazumu starts effectively ignoring Asuta as soon as he becomes a she. Hazumu's pervy dad and violent mom are likewise treated as pure jokes. The alien observer never does much, and his cloying mascot-masquerading-as-a-robo-girl, Jan-Puu, is just plain annoying.
The Japanese cast doesn't deserve too much blame for the mediocre drama and muddled characterization, but they don't help as much as they could have, either. In particular, Kana Ueda just doesn't give any force or depth to Hazumu's personality. Somewhat ironic, since she voiced Yumi, the protagonist in Maria Watches Over Us, whose defining feature was colorful energy. She also sounds exactly the same as a boy at the beginning, but that was apparently the fault of the director--it was supposed to be that way.4 The standout is versatile cute-girl-voice Yui Horie, who gives Tomari a decent amount of spunk and energy. The comedic supporting cast is reasonably strong; Daisuke Ono is funny as Asuta, and Yuko Mizutani as the hapless teacher does some hilarious screaming to go with her tendency to fall out of second-story windows, making cheap gags actually worth a laugh.
Visually, the series does relatively well with what looks to have been a modest budget. It's consistently pleasant-looking, and the soft-focus, pastel style matches the mellow mood. It also makes decent use of light and color--sunlit roofs and golden evenings. Its weak points are mediocre character animation, generic (if cute) character designs, and sparse backgrounds.
The soundtrack manages to do quite well with very little. Composed mostly of solo piano pieces, it doesn't sound cheap and is appropriate to the mood. The theme songs, sung by the cast, are pleasantly sweet.
On the whole, Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl is a pleasant but forgettable series. It fails to do anything interesting with the concept, the main character is a bland placeholder, and the drama is handled awkwardly more often than not--the potential for more is there, but it seems frustratingly unwilling to capitalize on it. It's basically an entirely generic high-school romance with some sci-fi and yuri painted on to try and make it look more interesting. If you're not a yuri fan it's likely a waste of time, and even if you are you'll probably spend at least as much time waiting for something interesting to happen (or frustrated with the protagonist) as enjoying yourself.
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The action/comedy/romance classic Ranma 1/2 of course does the less-permanent gender-swapping thing with a whole lot less awkward romance and a whole lot more shounen-style fighting. A little closer in theme is I My Me, Strawberry Eggs, which involves a guy pretending he's a girl rather than actually becoming one, but it actually does get into some more complex social/gender issues, and is also both funnier and more dramatically effective. For more straight yuri, there's the classic, florid Maria Watches Over Us as the vanguard of the modern genre, Blue Drop for a more dramatic (and weirder) sci-fi alien plot with less emphasis on romance, and Strawberry Panic, which is in the same general vein as this, but with less focus on humor and no supernatural elements. As for bittersweet adolescent romance with a twist of comedy and a dash of the supernatural, but no yuri, the classic Kimagure Orange Road TV series is a good pick that does a lot more within a similar framework, and the not-great-but-still-better-than-this Please Teacher has a somewhat similar romance-heavy alien-observer setup, but with age imbalanced rather than same-sex relationships being the focus.
Notes and Trivia
Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl is based on a manga series by Satoru Akahori, with art by Yukimaru Katsura; it's available in English from Seven Seas. The story of the manga version is substantially different from this anime adaptation, particularly near the end.
Akahori has created a huge range of generally wacky anime concepts, ranging from Saber Marionette J to Maze to Nadesco. Although this is his first outright yuri series (not to mention one of his least-crazy ideas), he's no stranger to gender-bending concepts--Maze features a protagonist with two girls after her and a problem with periodically transforming into a guy.
The final, 13th episode of the anime series wasn't originally broadcast on Japanese TV; it was included as an extra on the Japanese DVD release. In addition to the original manga and this anime adaptation, there is also a visual novel for the PS2, a light novel adaptation, and two different internet radio shows featuring some of the voice cast of the anime.
Yuri, for those unfamiliar with the term, refers in general to anime involving girl-girl relationships; these run the gamut from vague teenage "practice-romance" type things that have traditionally been accepted in Japanese society, to much more straightforward lesbian relationships. Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl isn't explicit, but clearly falls toward the lesbian end of that spectrum.
The "Kashimashi" in the title means "noisy." It comes from the adjective "kashimashii," more specifically the old expression "Onna san-nin yoreba kashimashii." ("If three women get together it's noisy.")--quite appropriate to the story. In fact, although the title is written phonetically, the now-rarely-used kanji for the word is composed of the character for "woman" repeated three times (姦しい). It's also a bit of a pun, since the story is set in Kashima City, which in Japanese is "Kashima-shi." The Japanese logo overlays the alternate romanization "Ka-si-ma-si" on top of the Japanese text.
AnimeWorks' translation is generally decent, except they repeatedly translate "yukata" as "summer kimono" in the subtitles, which is just weird. Even more so since they used Japanese name suffixes, implying that it was targeted at people with at least a passing familiarity with Japanese culture.
The inability to distinguish faces is actually a real brain disorder, called Prosopagnosia. The real-world disorder has to do with brain damage, not a psychological problem, as in this series, but it's not entirely fantasy.
Footnote 1: It goes so far as to highlight that plot hole when a trauma at the start of the final dramatic story arc makes her problem worse.
Footnote 2: Not-really-spoiler: I frankly would have preferred a twist end of Yasuna and Tomari ending up together. Not so much because they would make a good couple, they were just much more interesting characters than Hazumu.
Footnote 3: A bunch of unnecessary, spoiler-heavy detail about the way it ends: The final episode intellectually makes sense--Hazumu would have chosen Tomari (and in fact did in the manga original), except Yasuna needed her more. However, the series failed to clearly establish this in an emotionally meaningful way, making the whole finale feel sort of awkward--more runner-up booby prize than romantic. In retrospect, the last couple episodes were probably a failed attempt to get this across, since they treat Yasuna as if she were a second-tier character--to use a Kimagure Orange Road metaphor, like Hikaru to Tomari's Madoka--except up to that point she was, if anything, more central than Tomari.
The finale also brushes off Hazumu's pain at getting dumped--it's offhandedly mentioned, which is a lame substitute for something so important to the character. That pretty clearly confirms Hazumu's status as a placeholder--the writer only cared about the other two girls, so Hazumu's substantive character development happens offscreen.
On the other hand, the complete lack of tension and drama does free the finale up for uninterrupted happy-end romance--I was glad to see even the teacher get something, implying a resolution to the aliens' problem along with it.
The final episode is particularly awkward when you consider that it was originally a bonus with the Japanese DVD release. That means that either the TV version ends with a totally blown dramatic crescendo, or that they were saving the real end for people who paid money, TV audience be damned. The latter is presumably the case, since Hazumu also ends up with Tomari in the manga, albeit in a completely different (and more logical) way.
Footnote 4: In one of the bonus interviews, she says specifically that the director kept telling her to play the male Hazumu exactly the same as she would the female version.
US DVD Review
AnimeWorks' DVDs are above-average in most areas. They have video that's about as good as can be expected given the soft look of the art, crisp-enough stereo audio in Japanese and English, and a subtitle track, although the translation has a few awkward bits. There are some decent extras, though: in addition to promo videos and clean opening/endings, each of the three volumes contains a couple of live-action segments that consist of the main character's voice actress interviewing her onscreen friends (three women and one guy). The interviews are in the range of ten minutes each, and the material is mostly fluff, but there are at least a couple of minor bits about what the director was getting at that I found revealing buried in there.
The three individual DVD volumes were later packaged together in a rather cheap, flimsy box and sold as a Complete Collection set at a budget price. A re-release box set listed as the "Vocal Collection" will also include the complete series, but adds and English dub in addition to the Japanese audio.
Unless you're closed-minded and take issue with the same-sex relationships, the objectionable material in it is limited to a few off-color jokes about inappropriate parenting, a bit of fanservice, and relatively innocent romance, putting it in about the 10-up range, 13-up if you don't like the style of the humor.
Violence: 1 - A few mild "enraged girl" beatings and other slapstick played entirely for comedy.
Nudity: 2 - Limited to a bit of underwear and exposed skin during "getting used to being a girl" scenes.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - The protagonist's photographer father says some inappropriate things to his new daughter, played for laughs.
Language: 1 - Nothing significant in the subtitles.
Available in North America from AnimeWorks, originally on three subtitled-only DVDs, sold individually or together in a "Complete Collection" box set. An even-cheaper box set re-release that also includes an English dub is scheduled for release in April, as the "Vocal Collection."
RightStuf has both available for order: sub-only original collection and bilingual re-release set. Amazon also lists both, at quite a discount at last check: Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl (original box set), Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl: Vocal Collection.