Madman Entertainment/AV Channel .
R4 . COLOR . 100 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Itís one of the quintessential schoolboy fantasies. You drag your sorry arse into school one morning only to find that the old hag who normally teaches your sixth grade class has suddenly been replaced by a relief teacher; a young, voluptuous sex-kitten of a relief teacher. And as your mind wanders from the pages of your maths book and out over the playground, you imagine that, while the rest of the class fawns and giggles, Ms Beauty-Pageant only has eyes for youÖ
Yes, I'm the awkward one.
Schoolboy fantasy is one of the very cornerstones of anime, and over the years countless productions have provided exploitative titillation for teenage boys and immature giggling men (like yours truly) of all ages. By definition these productions are contrived in the extreme; conjuring up situations in which these kinds of fantasies can be played out. Filled with pantieĖshots, barely contained breasts, and rather inappropriate non-PC behaviour (itís kinda the whole point), theyíre certainly not everyoneís cup of tea. My wife walked out of Please Teacher midway through the second episode - not because she was offended exactly - she just couldnít see the point. But for many male anime fans (at least those who donít need to see battling mechas in every scene), they represent an enjoyable, rather guilty pleasure.
And in Please Teacher we find a particularly enjoyable example of the genre. Contrived to present just the situation I related in my opening paragraph, it concerns an awkward 18 year old, Kusanagi Kei; a high school student in a near-future rural Japan. Kei suffers from a strange medical condition that he calls Ďstandstillsí. Basically he falls into a comatose state whenever he is depressed or stressed. As a result, while Kei is technically 18, he is physically, emotionally and scholastically stunted; easily passing as just another 15 year old in his class.
"Itís a priority one!"
On the same morning that Keiís rural idyll is rocked with news reports of strange lights and UFO sightings over the local lake, Keiís scabby old teacher is replaced by the stunningly beautiful Ms Kazumi Mizuho. Of course all the boys in the class are immediately smitten, but only Kei knows the truth! For Kei alone was up at the lake the night before, when Ms Kazumiís spacecraft came in to land. Things become even more complicated for Kei when Mizaho moves in next door. Knowing that Kei is privy to her secret, Mizaho attempts several times to approach him about it, but to onlookers it appears only that the pair are romantically involved! And so, in no time at all, Kei finds himself married to his teacher, to this frontier planet surveillance officer from the Galaxy Federation, in order to protect her secret. With the nuptials unknown to Keiís classmates, the situation threatens to spiral out of control as the pair attempt to keep secret both their marital status and Mizahoís origins, whilst coming to terms with the budding romance that is flowering between them.
The Japanese love their baths..
While filled with genre imperatives like cleavage shots and bawdy sexual-innuendo, Please Teacher is a charming series that strikes all the right notes at all the right times. Predictable, yes. But not as much as you might think, for even though the plot has been seen in many guises before, it is Please Teacherís quirky, well-developed characters that provide the series with charm and a rather unique voice. In addition to the two leads, the raft of supporting characters, including Keiís classmates and his Aunt and Uncle, are given well-defined, empathetic personalities, reasonable character arcs, and most of the best, often scathingly sarcastic, dialogue. There are several laugh-out-loud moments - in addition to a few that are squirmingly trite - but all in all, while this first volume from Madman contains only the first four episodes, I was certainly left wanting more. We all know how itís going to end, but Please Teacher still promises to be a rather enjoyable journey.
Yes. It's that kinda show...
Made primarily for television, the look and feel of Please Teacher is typical of the slew of other schoolyard teenage anime series that have been produced over the years. Those big, doe eyes abound, hair is every colour of the rainbow, and the artwork is all rather simplistic; a modicum of super-deformation underlining the more comedic moments of the script. Backgrounds meanwhile are of the semi-detailed, semi-watercolour style, and provide a pleasant backdrop for proceedings.
So there you go. The image itself looks as good as anime can look on DVD. Effortlessly cramming four episodes into a single-layer disc, Madmanís transfer has been taken from pristine source material and suffers absolutely nothing in the way of film-to-video or compression artifacts. The image is as sharp as the artwork allows (with the exception being the intentionally soft Ďromanticí shots) and colours are beautifully full and vivid. This is one stunning anime release from start to finish and continues Madmanís exceptional treatment of anime in our region.
One interesting aside is a moment midway through the first episode in which the contents of one of Mizahoís moving boxes falls open, and the contents are mysteriously pixelated to hide them from viewers. I assumed that this was a requirement of censors either here or in the US (to hide something naughty), but Matt Currie from Madman had this to say:
"Madman didnít blur/pixel out the contents of the box in episode 1. It was done originally on the Japanese version. The contents of the box is meant to be a secret alien device that humans are not supposed to see! So they (as a joke) pixelated it out as humans would be watching it. I still reckon itís a box of sex toys Ms Kazami owns, but the Aussie censors had nothing to do with it."
Sailors. They've got one in every port.
With only Dolby Digital stereo mixes supplied in both the original Japanese and a serviceable English dub,Please Teacherís audio presentation certainly isnít going to blow you away. Basically itís what you might expect for romantic-comedy anime. Ensconced in the front soundstage, the surround channel is given little to do for these first four episodes; the exception being a little echoing and ambient wind effects as Mizuhoís spacecraft lands on Earth. From then on both mixes are basically dialogue-heavy, with only the Łber-cheesy synth-pop score and the obligatory (totally wet) J-pop opening and closing themes providing anything in the way of variation. And although your Prologic decoder balances these opening and closing themes somewhat towards the rear, after the first episode youíll want to skip them, believe me. When appropriate, channel separation across the front is fine, with some stereo effects provided for such this as passing cars and so on.
The English dub, meanwhile, is a reasonable offering. Sticking closely to the original Japanese translation, the plot isnít complicated or convoluted enough to provide it any headaches. The English voice cast are quite a reasonable bunch; the standard collection of valley guys and girls theyíve dragged in this time fitting the production nicely.
Subtly animated full-frame menus provide access to several extras, the first two of which (and which account for the greatest proportion in terms of running time) I couldnít sit still through.
O-ne-Tea Promo Clip (long version): An eight-minute introduction of sorts to the series, basically a set of images from in and around the series (mainly character shots) with untranslated Japanese text, and set to an agonisingly long, musical accompaniment that comprises film-score tracks and traditionally sickly-sweet J-pop tunes. Only for those with a death wish.
Onegai Teacher! Promo Clip: A five minute promo/trailer of the series that basically presents the footage from all the best bits of episode one, accompanied by a techno J-pop tune. Pretty boring stuff.
Lesson One Preview: A 30-second preview of the first episode not dissimilar to those teasers you normally get between the episodes that follow, but presented only in the original Japanese (without subtitles).
Character Artwork: 26 still images giving a good overview of the many faces and costumers of Mizaho and Kei, as well as some of the supporting characters.
Character Profiles: Six pages of text that gives a rather rudimentary outline of four of the main characters. Thereís nothing here that canít be gleaned from these first four episodes.
Madman Propaganda: Provides seven trailers to other Madman releases Chobits, Spirited Away, Arjuna, Geneshaft, Steel Angel Kurumi, Read or Die, and Love Hina.
Please Teacher is an enjoyable, at times laugh-out-loud funny anime series that, while sticking pretty close to most schoolboy fantasy/romance genre conventions, provides enough in the way of quirky characters to set it apart. Despite the inclusion of only four episodes on this introductory disc from Madman, fans of the genre will definitely find something here to like, and I find myself highly recommending it to all. Enjoy.