My Dear Marie Anime Review
Boku no Marii
US Release By
Sci-fi Love Comedy
3 30-minute episodes
1996-03-06 - 1996-08-21
Geeky college student Hiroshi Karigari has a healthy interest in Mari, an attractive classmate. Unfortunately, like many geeks, he's also about as good at relating to women as a shy rock. Solution? Build a robotic copy of Mari, of course. Problem: Robo-Marie isn't about to just sit around the house doing nothing--she's up, about, asking questions, and of course going to meet the prototype Mari. Now instead of just longing for one Mari, he's got a "younger sister" who "mysteriously" looks just like his classmate to explain to the outside world, and what it means to live in the outside world and look exactly like another person to explain to an energetic robot. Be careful what you wish for before you build it.
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My Dear Marie looks like yet another story about a geek with the perfect robotic girlfriend, but in the end something about this cute little series kept me watching, enjoying, and for the most part even caring about the characters. On one hand, despite the wacky premise, the characters and their predicament are handled just a bit more realistically than most series of this type--from some half-decent sci-fi excuses to Marie's mechanical nature being very out in the open. On the other, the college-age characters are slightly more mature than the average anime romantic comedy, and their personalities are both more likable and even a bit more realistic than I'd have expected. Robo-Marie, in particular, is lively, pragmatic, and fun.
Combine that with nice animation, energetic acting, and some fun, occasionally mature situation comedy, and you've got a series that's a fun diversion for those who enjoy a wacky romantic romp. The last episode is a shame, though--on top of being an extended, rather uninteresting dream sequence, it's entirely inconclusive.
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Oh, no, another story about a geek with the perfect robotic girlfriend. Not only has that premise been done to death, it wasn't even very good to begin with. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much from My Dear Marie (particularly given its similarity to the spectacularly bad Don't Leave Me Alone Daisy). Thankfully, it surprised me. It's not high art, but in the end something about this cute little series kept me watching, enjoying, and for the most part even caring about the characters.
The idea is basic, but mildly amusing: A guy so shy he'd rather build a robotic copy of a girl than ask the real one out on a date. Sure. But the finished robo-Marie is most definitely not another empty-headed toy devoted to the service of her creator. No, Marie's pretty sharp, strong-willed, and she has a lot of questions for Hiroshi. More interesting still, instead of the perfect girlfriend, she becomes more of a brave younger sister, determined to get him to date the other Mari, and do a good job of it at that.
The characters are a big part of why the whole thing works, but it has more going for it: Despite the premise, the world is relatively solid (and, all things considered, believable), and the series has a bit more maturity than most of its kin.
I particularly enjoyed the way the robotics are handled. From scenes with access panels open and metal parts hanging out, to a bit of superhero-style part-time work (just because she couldn't say no), no effort is made to soften Marie's mecha-ness. Even from a science fiction standpoint, there are enough good excuses to make a lot of it work--from why the copy isn't quite like the real one, to programming her dreams (look for the Phillip K. Dick reference).
As for maturity, the characters are mostly college students, so for once I wasn't wondering where everyone's parents are, and the relationships have just a bit of a mature air that usually isn't present in series like this. Some of the humor is also more bluntly adult-oriented than average, though far from shocking.
Getting back to the characters, the robotic Marie steals the show. Despite not breaking any molds, her combination of sweet nature and direct, pragmatic way of going about things makes her a likable and pleasingly fresh character. The other characters aren't at all bad, either. Hiroshi, though amusingly shy, isn't the total loser geek I was expecting--he actually turns out to be something of a nice guy, and has a bit of realistic personality in there as well. The original Mari has a surprisingly small role, but she and the one other female character are marginally more mature than the generic anime babe (as is Hiroshi), making for a reasonably interesting cast.
The dynamic this sets up works surprisingly well; Marie (the robot), despite her appealingly sweet, born-yesterday naivete, is often more mature than her supposed master, and at times has an almost motherly concern for Hiroshi. This leaves lots of room for fun "learning about life" situations, some good situation comedy, some light romance, and even a bit of drama to round it out. There are hints at more--Marie gets along quite well with the original Mari and also may have some interest in Hiroshi herself--but the series unfortunately doesn't get around to playing up that love triangle angle.
That brings us to the series' one rather large weak point, which is summed up pretty well by Mari herself when she says "Hearing about someone else's dream is the most boring thing in the world." Perhaps the writer should've taken his own words to heart before he decided to make the final episode--meaning a full third of the series--an extended dream sequence. To its credit, this episode does have the meandering feel and unstable reality of real dreams, and it's intended to indirectly lay out some of the emotional conundrums facing the mechanical Marie, which it does effectively enough.
Unfortunately, it also provides about as inconclusive and unsatisfying an end to the series as would've been possible, and is boring compared to the other two episodes on top of it. Had the series been quite a bit longer, letting the viewer quite literally get inside Marie's head could've worked (though it would still have been too long and repetitive). But, it's a terrible way to conclude the series, and you haven't spent nearly enough time with the characters to care enough to sit through something like that. Being a dream, it also willfully throws out the solidity that is a big part of why I liked the rest of the series, making it all the more disappointing.
Visually, My Dear Marie is again surprising. The art is simple and makes heavy use of pastels, so I was expecting it to have the weak look of an inexpensive series from the early '90s. Instead, I found the character designs fun and just a bit better than average, and there are some nicely realistic touches with Marie. There's also plenty of expressive and appealing character animation--Marie's face in particular is all kinds of fun to watch. There's even a bit of robotically-enhanced brawling action in episode 2. On the down side of the production values, the music is unmemorable, and although the end theme is cute, it's also generic and badly sung by Yuko Miyamura (Marie's voice).
The acting in Japanese is all-around quite nice, although there aren't any particular standout performances. Mitsuo Iwata gives Hiroshi an unusually deep voice, and despite his skill at voicing pathetic, middle-aged losers does manage to cover the ground between excitable loser and meek but relatively realistic-sounding normal college student, and even pulls off a couple of slightly emotional scenes. The two Maries (who aren't voiced by the same actor) are fine, with the robotic version being all-around cute, fun, and funny--a very likable performance by Yuko Miyamura to go with a likable character.
When you put it all together, My Dear Marie is not a particularly original series, but it has enough substance, creativity, humor, and likable characters to make it quite enjoyable for what it is. Add a more-solid-than-average handling of the premise, and you've got enough meat for just a bit of romance and drama that works. Just be warned that it has no conclusion at all, and the last episode is sort of a waste, so it doesn't get the chance to follow through on its potential. On the whole, the series is a worthwhile little romp that could have been more.
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Don't Leave Me Alone Daisy is a sort-of reverse of the same concept, with a geeky genius fixating on a human and basically trying to enslave her. It's also really awful, and not worth looking for. Saber Marionette J and its sequels, though more of a standard wild anime comedy with a much larger-scale sci-fi plot, are along the same lines--cute robots adopt a cute guy and cause destruction. In a very different vein, Metropolis has some of the Pinocchio themes in a much more serious story, and if you like the college-age romance, you might check out Sakura Diaries; it has a much more mature theme and a realistic setting, but it's got a similar look and some flavor in common. I'll also mention Birdy The Mighty, which has almost nothing to do with this series but for some reason comes to mind anyway.
Notes and Trivia
Also known as "Metal Angel Marie," My Dear Marie is based on a 10-volume manga of the same name ("Boku no Marii," that is) by Sakura Takeuchi. The manga has similar character designs, but obviously a lot more story. It's not available in English as of this writing.
The title is taken directly from a 1967 song, "Boku No Marii" ("僕のマリー" aka "My Mary") by the then-popular Japanese group The Tigers. The song's title is written with the kanji for "boku," while the anime and manga have it written phonetically.
One interesting note about the names is that, although ADV didn't bother translating it, they're supposed to be slightly different. In the case of the human, her name is "Mari" (真理), a Japanese name meaning, appropriately, "truth." The robot's name, on the other hand, is pronounced the same but written in phonetic characters (マリ), which is likely intended to be a Japanization of "Marie." Subtle, admittedly. Also, the title uses the long vowel Marii (マリー), due to the song reference mentioned above, although neither character's name is pronounced that way.
My Dear Marie was Sakura Takeuchi's first serialized manga series. As of this writing none of the other series she has written have been adapted into anime, but Chocotto Sister, which she illustrated (and has a somewhat similar theme), was developed into a full-length TV series.
In an odd bit of trivia, a couple of very brief shots of Marie under construction during the intro feature visible pubic hair. Due to Japan's incongruently strict laws on the subject, this was exceedingly rare in all but the hardest-core hentai anime until quite recently, and in 1996 was almost unheard of. It's particularly surprising given that the series isn't otherwise edgy at all; presumably it got a pass due to being attached to a partially-constructed robot. The only other mainstream example from anywhere near the era I'm aware of is a brief background shot of an artist's model in Armitage III.
US DVD Review
ADV's DVD is a basic one, including English and Japanese audio and not a whole lot else.
Although ADV rated it 13-up, there is enough mature humor in the 2nd episode and nudity elsewhere that I think that is a bit leinent.
Violence: 1 - Some exaggerated but mildly serious brawling.
Nudity: 3 - Several characters are sans clothing more than once, and the nudity is unexpectedly detailed.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Nothing ends up happening, but there are some bluntly sexual jokes.
Language: 1 - Nothing noteworthy in the sub.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Marie Karigari: Yuko Miyamura
Hiroshi Karigari: Mitso Iwata
Marie: Yoko Asada
Tanaka: Nobutoshi Hayashi
TV Man (ep 1): Takashi Nagasaka
TV Woman (ep 1): Fujiko Takimoto
Club Members (ep 1): Kouichi Touchika, Taeko Endou
Delivery Man (ep 1): Jun Kisaichi
TV Announcer (ep 1): Airi Yoshida
Hibiki Kennou (ep 2): Mitso Iwata
Middle Aged Man (ep 2): Katsuaki Arima
Gang Leader (ep 2): Hironori Miyata
Kyon-2 (ep 2): Airi Yoshida
Miporin (ep 2): Makiko Miyagi
Man (ep 2): Takashi Nagasaka
Bad Boys (ep 2): Jun Kisaichi, Kouichi Touchika
Ball Mari (ep 3): Kumiko Watanabe
Original Story: Sakura Takeuchi (Published by Gorou Sanyu in Weekly Young Jump)
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki
Producer: Yuko Sakurai (Victor Entertainment), Michiyuki Honma (Studio Pierrot)
Screenplay: Gou Sakamoto
Character Design: Hiroto Tanaka
Director of Animation: Hiroto Tanaka
Assistant Animation Director: Keiko Shimizu
Art Director: Hidetoshi Kaneko
Director of Photography: Masahide Okino
Sound Director: Masafumi Mima
Music Director: Yuko Sakurai
Music: Hisaaki Hogari
End Theme: "Hello, Strange Days"
Lyrics: Yukio Aoshima
Music: Kazuyuki Sekiguchi
Arrangement: Hisaaki Hogari
Performance: Yuko Miyamura
Animation by Studio Pierrot