Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fake (anime OVA)

If I ever decide it's time to sell some of my anime collection so that I can afford to buy new stuff, this will probably be on the pile of stuff I'm willing to sell. It's not the worst thing I've ever seen, not by a long shot, but it's not great. I have a feeling this was produced primarily for fans of the manga - since I've never read any of the manga, I'm not really part of the intended audience.

Before we go any farther, a quote from the back of the DVD box: "Contains depictions of alternative lifestyles. Viewer discretion is advised." I guess they couldn't say "Warning: nearly every male character in this is gay." Anyway, there are several kissing scenes, with tongue, but otherwise nothing terribly graphic. If you're actually hoping for something (i.e., sex) to happen, even the suggestion of something, you'll be disappointed.

Synopsis:

Dee Laytner of the NYPD and his half-Japanese partner, Randy "Ryo" McLane, are taking a much needed vacation at an out-of-the-way place in England. Originally, they were supposed to be going with a kid named Bikky, but, unbeknownst to Ryo, Dee paid Bikky not to come, because Dee would like some alone time with Ryo. You see, Dee has had the hots Ryo for quite some time, but Ryo hasn't really taken his feelings seriously, and all they've ever done is kiss.

Unfortunately, their happy vacation time is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body. For some unknown reason, this is not a cause for alarm, and Dee, Ryo, and two female guests are allowed to continue staying at the hotel. One of the guests, a Japanese woman, does her best to try to cheer Dee up and encourage Ryo to be more open about his feelings.

Dee and Ryo's alone time is again interrupted, this time by the arrival of both Bikky and Carol, two children they know, and then J.J., a cop from the same precinct as them who happens to have heaping boatloads of unrequited love for Dee - any possibility of Dee and Ryo doing more than kissing has now gone out the window. After talking with a workaholic NYPD cop named Berkeley Rose (seriously, that's his name) who also happens to be on vacation, Dee learns that all the murder victims who have been found near the hotel recently were tourists of Japanese descent and that the hotel owner's daughter had been killed five years ago by some Japanese tourists. Now that the hotel owner knows Ryo is half-Japanese, Ryo is in danger, so Dee rushes back to the hotel.

It's a good thing, too, because the hotel owner and his knife-wielding thug of a cook have decided it's time to slice Ryo up. Dee saves the day when he hits the hotel owner in the chest with a motorcycle. This does not, by the way, kill the guy or even result in his hospitalization. The hotel owner, who just prior to being hit by the motorcycle had seen the ghost of his distraught daughter trying to protect Ryo, realizes the error of his ways and is led off by the (English) cops. The ghost of the hotel owner's daughter is finally put to rest, the two female tourists from earlier are dead but apparently no one cares, and Dee never got to rip Ryo's clothes off.

Lucky Dee and Ryo - when they get back from their vacation, they learn that Berkeley Rose is their new commissioner. Or something. I'm not really sure how this works. It's quite possible that the creators of this series don't either.

Commentary:

This really needs to be watched with your brain turned off. Otherwise, you start to think about things like: How come none of the local police care about all the dead tourists? True, if it's not reported in the local news, that might delay bad publicity, but, if enough people die, word gets out, and wouldn't the lack of an investigation look really bad? Is an investigation really necessary? The guy is hardly even trying to hide that he's behind it, and a child could figure out that "dead Japanese tourists" + "daughter killed by Japanese tourists" = "killer father." Why did it take Dee so long to figure out that Ryo would be a potential target? Why was no one worried about staying at the very isolated hotel when a body was found right nearby? How did the hotel owner get hit by a motorcycle and not get hurt? How do all these cops keep their jobs when they're so awful at them and seem to care more about getting into each other's pants? How did a 13-year-old girl and a boy (maybe girl?) who's probably a bit younger manage to get the money for two tickets to England, and so quickly at that?

So, brain turned off.

You never know what you'll get when you're watching anime (or reading manga) that has gay characters. Will their gayness be considered socially unacceptable by other characters? Will the "but we're both guys" aspect be an obstacle in a romantic relationship? Or will the gayness go without comment? In this anime, it goes without comment - it probably helps that nearly every adult male character in this OVA is gay (judging by the opening animation, Berkeley Rose wouldn't mind getting into Ryo's pants either). The main conflict between Dee and Ryo is not "but we're both guys," but rather "I don't know if you're really serious about me, and I'm also not entirely sure how I feel about you or what I should do about how I feel about you."

The opening animation is part of what makes me think that this OVA is intended mainly for fans of the manga - there's a lot going on there that never comes up in the anime's story, and there are characters that never make an appearance anywhere but in that opening animation. I'm guessing that the manga has a "cheese factor" that is similar to this OVA - if I were generally more in the mood for that sort of thing, I might check out the manga to see if it's any better. As it is, I think I may end my Fake experience here.

Anyway, one thing that took me a bit to get used to was the artwork. Not so much the...interesting...background coloring (lime green walls? really?) as the "droopy eyes" look. Sometimes the droopy eyes were a bit more pronounced than others. I got used to it after a while, but I'm so used to my anime having a certain look, and how I feel about the artwork can sometimes make or break an anime for me.

The story was very, very simple. As a murder mystery, it sucked. There weren't a lot of potential suspects - the cook's thug-like looks immediately put him on the short list of suspects, and the hotel owner's behavior made him look suspicious well before the details of his daughter's death were revealed. The fact that all the victims were of Japanese descent was revealed fairly early, so I can't imagine why Dee and Ryo didn't realize that Ryo was in danger until almost too late. They're just idiots, I guess. Or all the blood that should have been in their heads was spending too much time in their pants.

One thing I did really enjoy about this DVD, though, was the humor. Dee's attempts to finally get Ryo alone and take their relationship to the next step were hilarious. I'm sure that, if J.J. had gotten to be around more, the whole "J.J. loves Dee, who loves Ryo, who possibly loves Dee" thing would have been worth many laughs (and I'm guessing you could add Berkeley Rose being interested in Ryo). I can't imagine any of them actually conducting an investigation, so I'd have problems taking any police-related plots seriously, but I'm sure I'd love further comedic/romantic plots.

I watched this in both Japanese with subtitles and in English dub. The English dub was ok - thankfully, none of the voice actors decided to sound stereotypically gay. However, compared to the Japanese language track, the English acting seemed to be a bit off here and there. The Japanese language track was quite good, although the subtitles seemed a bit stilted.

Extras:

There are none, not even a clean opening and closing. I wasn't bothered by the lack of a clean closing, since the closing is just a bunch of clips from the OVA, but a clean opening would have been nice.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Gravitation (manga) by Maki Murakami; Gravitation (anime TV series) - Shuichi Shindo is a singer in a band that he hopes will become famous. One day, he loses a page of unfinished song lyrics. The handsome and caustic man who catches it insults the lyrics and sticks in poor Shuichi's mind. Schuichi later discovers that the man was Eiri Yuki, a famous writer, and seeks him out. The two eventually become lovers, but Yuki's emotional issues and Shuichi's rapidly developing musical career may tear them apart. Gravitation, like Fake, isn't for everyone, since it features romance between two men - although neither the manga nor the anime are explicit, the anime keeps the physical aspects of the romance slightly more "off screen" than the manga. This series may appeal to those who'd like another romance between two guys, combined with humor and a bit of drama.
  • Descendants of Darkness (manga) by Yoko Matsushita; Descendants of Darkness (anime TV series) - Even after death, there's paperwork to do and criminals to catch. Tsuzuki Asato is a somewhat goofy (yet powerful) shinigami (god of death) whose job involves ensuring that the dead remain properly dead and out of the lives of the living. Tsuzuki gets a new partner, Hisoka, and the cases they investigate keep bringing them up against Muraki, a serial killer. Muraki seems to know an awful lot about Tsuzuki and Hisoka's darkest secrets. Those who'd like another series that combines brief mysteries with humor and a wee bit of romance between guys might want to try this. Compared to Fake, the mystery aspects are a bit stronger (and darker), the humor is less goofy, and the romance is (usually) more suggested than real.
  • Weiss Kreuz/Knight Hunters (anime TV series) - There are a few incarnations of this, but the only one I have personal experience with is the first TV series. Four hot guys with dark and/or painful pasts make up a group of secret assassins called "Weiss" - as part of their cover, by day they all work in a flower shop. They kill those the law cannot touch, each with their own reasons for doing so. Those who'd like another anime that tends to fall into the "so bad it's almost good" category might want to try this. I don't remember there being any gay romance in this one, but there's lots of hot guys, melodramatic stories, investigations, and action, and hideously bad animation. I highly recommend watching this one in Japanese - I think this anime was created as a vehicle for its Japanese voice actors, so that's one area where this show excels.

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