|Seriously, get that kid on medication|
O ur leading lady and child star Sana (think an eleven-year-old blend of Ran from Super Gals and Excel from Excel Saga and crank up the spastic to eleven) is facing chaos in her elementary school classroom as a gang of boys, led by the infamous Akito Hayama, have begun picking on the teacher, who seems incapable of controlling them. The outspoken Sana is fed up, and she decides to put a stop to their behavior, with advice from her eccentric novelist mother and her “manager, chauffeur, agent, pimp and boyfriend.” (Not kidding. Yeah, it was…almost cute).
As far as the art and animation goes, Kodocha has wonderfully expressive and pretty designs going for it and…honestly, not much else. The music is just as blandly mediocre, and aside from an adorably upbeat opening that I could never bear to skip even upon the umpteenth episode, and a lovely little instrumental during some emotional scenes, I barely noticed it. That being said, I actually must complain about the instrumental piece more than I would have liked. It’s over-used to the point where it becomes noticeable. Whatever enjoyment you may get from this show, it will certainly not be due to the production values.
Kodocha was licensed by Funimation, (not counting the unlicensed second season) a studio with a reputation for putting out the most consistently good English tracks, and overall this dub is some of their lowest quality. True, Greg Ayres is hilarious as Tsuyoshi, and really does sound like a nerdy eleven-year-old boy. However, as good as Jerry Jewell’s performance as Akito is (cool and disenchanted but with undertones of barely controlled rage) he doesn’t sound by any stretch of the imagination like an elementary school boy and he never will, because he’s a grown man. (Greg Ayres is a special case). Also, they keep mispronouncing Akito’s name, which is really going to bother some people. And then there’s Laura Bailey as Sana. She’s adorable, she’s hyperactive, innocent, and consistently funny—her voice bounces all over the place. Plus her rapping is just…well, it’s hilarious. This is not only one of my favorite dub performances it’s one of, if not the very best dub performance of its year, and in spite of the overall iffy quality of the dub, I would actually recommend it for her delivery alone.
Be warned: this is old-school shojo romantic comedy, at its simplest and sweetest level. What keeps it from being just like every other of its ilk is very much do to its characters, and also partially due to clever writing. Sana may be ditzy and childish, (and a tsundere) and that’s the cliché here. But she’s also spunky, charismatic, talented, hardworking and courageous—a very admirable and endearing heroine. And unlike other tsundere, she has a legitimate reason for disliking her leading man at first. (Believe me I wanted to punch the little douche.) Akito doesn’t put on the cliché bad boy façade concealing a secret nice guy. He really is a bad boy. He’s nice when he wants to be regardless of who’s watching. (He also has an Oedipus complex, which is a little creepy but interesting.) The supporting characters are all very sympathetic and riotously funny as well, and the show has a surprising amount of dramatic depth. There are moments that really make you pay attention, and the issues the children face are very relatable: divorce, adoption, classroom rivalry and bullying, sibling abuse, etc. It’s well-written, well-paced, emotionally involving and (surprise!) it’s a romantic comedy that is actually funny.
Rarely do I bring up the manga when reviewing an anime, but therein lies the problem. As an adaptation, the anime has trouble standing on its own. Much like its spiritual predecessor, Fruits Basket, director Daichi left out of a lot of its punch for the more family-friendly version he wanted. The anime still has more dramatic depth than many of its kind, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. You cannot watch the anime (and that includes the unlicensed second season) and feel very satisfied. If you’ve read the manga, you won’t get much out of the show (aside from Sana’s rapping).
Regardless of its slight manga deterioration, the anime is still one of the very best shojo romantic comedies out there: heartwarming, honest, exuberant, spirit-lifting, and of course, disarmingly funny. Fans of the sugary genre won’t be disappointed and newcomers may very well be surprised. It is truly a delight.