Good evening, addicts! Hide your kids, hide your wife, because it’s about to get tragic on tonight’s Netflix Adventure. Yes, sirree-bob: this ain’t your grandmother’s anime. So just sit back, gird your loins, and join me in struggling through tonight’s series:
B GATA H KEI: YAMADA’S FIRST TIME
First, a little backstory:
When I began this blog, the first thing I did was I went to the anime section of Netflix and just kind of strolled through it, and I noticed that there were a metric buttload of anime series out there to choose from. How’s little old me supposed to decide what to watch? So I resolved myself:
“I am going to watch the very worst anime I can find on Netflix. I don’t care how long it is. I don’t care how bad it gets. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care how much damage I cause. I will complete every single episode, or I will die trying.”
That’s an actual quote from me. I said that out loud. In my own home. I regret it immensely.
The anime I ended up stuck watching was none other than today’s featured series, B-Gata H Kei, subtitled “Yamada’s First Time” in America. If you’re wondering why I believed this to be the Worst Anime On Netflix, I’ll read to you, verbatim, its Netflix short-sell:
“Fifteen-year-old Yamada is the prettiest girl in school, and wants to have her way with 100 guys. There’s just one problem: she’s never been kissed!”
Oh, joy. A hundred guys, in only thirteen episodes? I’m not so good at the maths, but that roughs out to about eight dudes done per installment, an exhausting figure. Hooboy. I thought I was in for a thrashing, an all-out assort on any sense decency, subtlety, and decorum. I thought I’d have to binge-watch Pokemon just to bleach the nasty from my retinas.
Yamada’s First Time concerns itself with Yamada, a high school freshman girl who’s far more occupied with sex than she should be. She makes it her mission to bed and breakfast a hundred different men—hey, a girl’s gotta dream big, right?—and at first it seems like she’ll reach her goal, no sweat. She’s pretty and very aware of her sexuality, and guys are constantly making passes at her. There’s just one problem: Yamada’s a virgin. Yes, like the name suggests, our dubious heroine hasn’t had her “first time” yet, and is cripplingly insecure about her lack of experience—so much so that she rejects anyone who approaches her. Her solution? Find a virgin like herself to have her “first time” with, toss him aside, and move on to her other 99 conquests. Our leading lady, everybody. Luckily for her, a likely prospect comes along in the form of Kosuda, a plain-Jane boy Yamada literally crushes falling off a ladder at a bookstore. (She’s buying a new dictionary because her old one has all the naughty words highlighted.) After determining Kosuda’s purity, Yamada sets out to claim his virginity as her first stepping-stone to sluthood, but seduction proves more difficult—and hilarious—than she anticipated. Wacky hijinx ensue, hearts are broken, complications set in, Secrets are Revealed, blah blah blah. Sounds terrible right? But remember that hesitation-thingy I did earlier? Yeah, that was planned. I did it for a reason. Because… (deep breath)…
B Gata H Kei: Yamada’s First Time is actually kind of good.
Am I insane? Let’s not be too hasty. First, let’s look at the characters for a second. I’ve already exposited plenty on Yamada and Kosuda, but B Gata H Kei has other major cast members as well: for starters, there’s Takashita, Yamada’s longtime best friend/advisor, whom Yamada is always peppering with blatantly explicit questions about her “experiences” with her boyfriend—who, by the way, is in college. This show’s weird like that. Then there’s Miyano, another girl who has a crush on Kosuda, but hasn’t confessed to him yet, despite living next door to him all her life. And then there’s Kanejo (or is it Kaneho? Or Kanoujo? Or Kanejou? They spell it some funky way) another extremely pretty girl in Yamada’s grade who Yamada marks as her rival for “queen of the school.” Kanejo returns Yamada’s rivalry and becomes the outright villain of the series, constantly scheming to destroy Yamada in a variety of ways—popularity contests, stealing her boyfriend (Kosuda, purportedly)… the list goes on. She is also—get ready for it—in love with her college-age older brother.
Again: this show’s weird like that.
But surprisingly, the show’s weirdness works strangely in its favor. You see, in another similar ecchi show, this kind of deviance might go completely unnoticed by the rest of the cast. Not so in Yamada’s First Time: any time Yamada says or does something outright sexual or deviant or outrageous, Takashita calls her on it, letting viewers know that such behavior is not the norm for this universe. Yamada’s not just an ordinary schoolgirl: there’s actually something very, very wrong with her. Konejo’s brotherly love is also notably taboo: she takes great pains to hide her obsession from her classmates, and is appropriately paranoid about anyone—Yamada especially—discovering her secret. In later episodes, the show switches focus and centers not on Yamada’s quest to mount a hundred dudes, or even deflower Kosuda, but rather on just what her major malfunction is, and where it might have come from. Ultimately, Yamada’s first time isn’t the wacky sex comedy we were led to believe it was, but rather a battle for Yamada’s soul: will she right her capsized sexuality, or continue down her increasingly self-destructive path to slutdom?
Her friends, cutout characters though they are, are important pawns in this battle. Takashita, Miyano, and Konejo represent three possible endings for Yamada’s journey. Takashita is the “good ending,” representing maturity and wisdom: she has what Yamada wants (sexual experience) and also what she sorely needs (the strength of character to not make such a big deal out of it.) Konejo, of course, is the bad ending, representing pent-up sexual corruption that seemingly destroyed her mind. Miyano, while benign, is somewhere in the middle of these too: being an outright predator like Yamada certainly isn’t advisable, but neither is being so cripplingly shy as Miyano is.
Good old Kosuda also has his part to play too, of course. Most of Yamada’s difficulties (the ones that don’t stem from Kanejo’s sinister machinations) are caused by Kosuda’s cluelessness, and complete inability to read even the clearest signals from women. He’s not my favorite character—nobody’s that dumb, c’mon. She flashed me! What does that mean? COME ON!—but he does have his strong suits, plot-wise. Kosuda is a photographer, which means that he’s very good at taking in slow moments, capturing split-second instants in stunning pictures, allowing him to temper Yamada’s wilder moments quite well. Yamada, nymphomania aside, can’t act in the moment: Kosuda, on the other hand, is all ABOUT the moment, and the two work off each other very well.
There are other things I don’t particularly like about this show. This is an ecchi, remember, so there’s going to be fanservice, and lots of it. Remember that this is a show comprised entirely of high school girls and aired at ONE IN THE MORNING in Japan, giving you an idea of who its target audience probably was. The mo% isn’t spectacular, either. It probably runs at a steady 25% throughout, and its easy to see that some more well-animated scenes totally blew the budget for that episode, because the rest of the episode will look like total garbage. The voice cast isn’t terrible, but it’s easy to tell that the American dubsters didn’t take their roles very seriously, especially the poor saps who play the extras: “I’m glad we’re going on a school trip! A change in setting gives us more lines!” Please.
So why do I like this show? Frankly, I like the leading lady quite a bit. This isn’t to say she’s a likeable character—she isn’t—but she is a fascinating one. She’s almost like one of the great Shakespearean anti-heroes, like Macbeth or one of the Henrys. The idea of a nymphomaniac who’s clueless about actual sex—and a freshman girl, to boot—is just so strange to me that I can’t help but get invested in her struggles, even though ultimately it’s just as much fun to watch her fail as it is to see her succeed. This show definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you can get interested in Yamada herself, Yamada’s First Time just might be a good time for you, too.
See what I did there? That was tight.