Here’s a secret about me I won’t mind sharing: I like stupid, shameless sex comedies.
I know that’s a bit personal of a reveal and makes for an awkward first impression, considering how little you probably know this reviewer. But it helps explain why I have a copy of High School DxD next to Cutey Honey, and moreover, how I came upon B Gata H Kei, or Yamada’s First Time as FUNimation has aptly named it.
My appetite for this subgenre stems from many places. First, as an adult I hate censorship and right-wing meddling; nothing pisses me off more than organizations with ‘Family’ in their titles lobbying Congress to tell adults they cannot read or watch what they damned well please. Second, it’s a slap in the face to both conservative wingnuts and our American society’s insane idea of sexuality, which is dealt out in a two-fold oxymoron of plastering sex everywhere and then acting ashamed of it. Our kids get piss-poor sex educations and hook up thinking they can’t get pregnant on Wednesday. A bare breast on television makes headline news for a year. Senator Fingerwag-R will demand that some silly erotica get yanked out of time and space, and my response is to say “The hell with you!” and put it on my book shelf.
Which brings me to B Gata H Kei, an anime I bought with some discretion. Before spending $30 I decided to put the show through the obligate “three episode test,” where I learned two eye-opening facts: 1). B Gata He Kei is not really an ecchi show, and 2). It’s not really that trashy, either, at least not in the way the cheesecake ADV-like presentation sells it.
B Gata H Kei begins by subverting a cliche and then bait-and-switching on the premise. There are countless anime shows, not to mention Western movies and television programs focused on a horny teenage boy wanting to lose his virginity in a sweaty, naked harem. This time the libido-ridden protagonist is not a boy, but a girl. Yamada is a high school freshman who enters the doors with a “lifelong dream” of having one hundred male sex partners.
We’re never told how long she has had this lifetime wish, and the fact that Yamada is blatantly stated as being fifteen might give more than a few viewers pause. Normally translators avoid this controversy by bumping the ages to eighteen and moving the characters from high school to ‘junior college.’ Here FUNimation has opted out of damage control. Considering what B Gata H Kei turns out to be, maybe they wouldn’t have needed it.
Like Beavis and Butt-Head, Yamada is libido personified. She wants sex, the feel good part of it, without considering any physical, mental or emotional ramifications. She highlights dirty words in her dictionary. She window shops for condoms, always accompanied by the stupidest, most irritably cute condom commercial jingle I’ll ever hear.
This behavior is not that much of a stretch. Fun fact: women can be just as horny, caddish and disgusting as men. I should know; I read Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden once.
Yamada’s biggest obstacle enroute to her three-figure sex goal is that she is a virgin who has never been kissed. The obvious solution is to find a test subject, practice on him and then dump him. Thus she discovers nerdy, plain everyman Takashi Kosuda. Kosuda is almost Yamada’s antithesis. He’s horny but not overt about it, and quietly introverted instead of loud and boisterous. But like Yamada, his purity is untainted.
Yamada’s seduction attempts are blatant at first, like the scene where she drags Kosuda into the storage closet (a little reverse-rape, anyone?), or the episode where she attends school sans panties. Kosuda cannot comprehend Yamada’s endgame, and it’s here the show switches gears. Yamada pursues Kosuda thinking he will be an easy first conquest, only to find herself hung up on him for the rest of the series. Instead of her chasing after one hundred dicks she ends up pursuing just one, and by the time Kosuda is able to fathom anything they are becoming a couple.
That takes time, however. Yamada and Kosuda need all 13 episodes to reasonably fall for each other. This slow buildup could be worse—I’ve seen shows where couples did the will he/won’t she dance upward of four seasons—and the relationship works because Yamada and Kosuda are both awkward virgin teenagers. They misread signals, wallow in misunderstandings and second guessing, and make each other jealous from afar. Kosuda thinks Yamada will be stolen away by Keiichi, a suave Harvard Business School superstar. Yamada is wary of Kosuda’s jiggly childhood friend Mayu and also Kyoka, a rich bitch so perfect at everything that stars are always floating around her head.
A show about teens being nervous around each other can get old fast, and considering that B Gata H Kei runs for 300 minutes across two Blu-rays this presents a potential pratfall. Fortunately the A plot is broken up with frequent humor. There are so many quick jokes packed into each episode that it might warrant a second viewing to find them all. Poignancy is inevitable, of course, and fortunately B Gata H Kei waits until the end is near before taking itself seriously. Up to that point, it rightfully keeps telling jokes.
Ultimately, B Gata H Kei is a show that deals with realism. The characters are human enough that they rise above being animated players in a slapstick sex comedy. This is especially true of Yamada, who goes from being a one-joke caricature to a person with believable feelings. And Kosuda is accurately depicted in every sense of the word. There’s a good chance that you know this guy, an even greater one that you are him.
That said, I do wish Yamada’s personality had less of the “violent female” gag that’s so common and overdone. I would have believed her more if she wasn’t the archetypal anime girl who is constantly screaming and punching the male lead in the face. We get plenty of that in addition to her being treated like a person. It’s confusing, to say the least.
B Gata H Kei certainly defied my expectations. I went in thinking it was going to be a cheesecake raunchfest, and instead I got a raunchfest with some cheesecake that was also sweet and thoughtful. I enjoyed it, but it certainly isn’t a show for everyone. If you aren’t a prude, if your patience threshold is moderate, and you aren’t averse to some feels with your comedy, B Gata H Kei is recommended viewing.
FINAL GRADE: B