Monday, June 14, 2010

Anime Review: Dojin Work


After three straight fantasy and science fiction anime series I felt it was time to watch something a bit more mundane. A light comedy would be just what the doctor ordered.Recently I came across yet another anime that I had never heard of before: Dojin Work. And so, based solely on the cover of the DVD, I watched this anime looking for a sensible comedy grounded in reality.


Ruh-oh

On a related note I learned an important lesson about judging a book by its cover.

This, let's call it, colorful cartoon ran in 2007 in Japan. Alternatively spelled “Doujin Work” it was based on a manga series by a fellow called Hiroyuki. For the uniformed dojinshi, the subject matter of this series, is basically fan made comics. It literally refers to self-published comics of all sorts, but a very large number of these books are actually based on some popular franchise or another (Copyright laws in Japan appear to be a bit more lenient than here in the States). And a lot of it is actually porn. It’s a pretty big deal in Japan and many famous artists got their start doing it, such as Yoshihiro Togashi (YuYu Hakusho), Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma ½, Inu Yasha), the group known as Clamp (X/1999, Magic Knight Rayearth) and others. I’m unsure at this time how pornographic their amateur manga was. Probably very.

Najimi Osana is a college student who has recently been fired from her job. She ends up helping her creepy friend Tsuyuri sell her adult (i.e. pornographic) dojinshi at a convention and, upon seeing how much cash money her friend made, quickly declares that she too will become a (Pornographic) dojin artist and become rich through practically zero work. Exactly how she came to this conclusion is a bit confusing, but nonetheless Najimi soon finds that dojin work is exactly that: work. Also she’s a horrible, horrible artist.

First and foremost this series is short. It ran for 12 episodes, which makes it the shortest episode count in this blog so far, and the length of each is only about 14 minutes. I was actually able to breeze through this show in a matter of hours. Also it’s a very wacky comedy often ignoring the laws of physics for the sake of humor (So much for realism). It’s very silly and we’re not expected to take any of it seriously. This is the show’s saving grace; due to its nature some problems can be ignored while others are worked around; banking that we’re too busy laughing to notice the negative issues. Sadly the show isn’t that funny. For a cartoon about college kids making porn this show isn’t nearly as raunchy or suggestive as I was expecting. Sure, it has its moments; misunderstandings caused by a poor choice of sentence structure that subtly implies sexual connotation is fairly common. However it’s all pretty tame and never really pushes the envelope. Well maybe in Japan it might, but I have seen worse (Better?) examples of anime in the past that were significantly more risqué without being actual hentai (“Anime Porn”. Don’t ask). As I understand it the anime toned downed the original manga’s content. I don’t know all the details but one example is the adult character Justice’s relationship with child Sora in the manga is less “kind of creepy”and more “Jesus Christ, dude. That’s just wrong”. It’s very possible then that we’re better off with the editing.

Lock up your prepubescent daughters; it Justice!

Dojin Work has a pretty decent cast of colorful and eccentric figures. The main ensemble includes Najimi, Tsuyuri, Justice, and Sora. None of them are very deep, but luckily the nature of the show is such that it works out fine. At the end of the day it’s a heavy comedy so character drama isn’t really needed. There is some character development that happens in the show, so that certainly deserves some praise. Najimi, our protagonist, is easily embarrassed while also incredibly money grubbing which leads her to doing all sorts of tasks that mortify her (Like drawing porn, visiting a love hotels) but will hopefully allow her to live the “good life”, although she is hampered by the fact that she can’t draw for crap. This makes up the bulk of the anime’s storyline; Najimi wants to be a rich dojin artist but Najimi can’t draw to save her life. Oops. Tsuyuri is the counterpoint to this as she’s a talented artists who is more than comfortable with her chosen career (To the point of being eerie about it) who is also morbid and depressingly blunt. Justice and Sora, as I mentioned, have a creepy relationship with each other but it’s fairly innocent in what I watched. Junichiro, Najimi’s fan/not-so-serious love interest, and Kaneru, her dojin rival who is just as bad at it as she is, round out the cast but that’s pretty much it. With the exception a few more characters that pop up every now and then there’s really no one else on this world. Literally.

All background characters, of which there is a giant amount of, are basic humanoid forms with not that many detail and are never properly colored. They literally appear completely colored in purple, green, or orange. Some of them even get speaking roles. It’s weird. You can pretty much tell who is important to the plot of the current episode due to whether or not the animators bothered to give them a proper color scheme. This inevitably makes the world this show takes place in seem pretty empty even though there were a lot of bodies floating around. I recently re-watched the American cartoon Daria before watching this show and I can’t help but compare the two. In Daria the animators drew a ton of characters whose literally only job was to stand in the background and make the main character’s school look populated. The only possible explanation for this is a lack of budget. When you’re working with a limited amount of cash sometimes you have to cut something less important stuff to make sure the more significant aspects will work. Sadly it was very noticeable.

Selling porn has never been so uninteresting!

On the same train of thought the artwork of the show is terrible! At first the art doesn’t seem so bad but slowly you realize that the actual animation is extremely limited. Characters do very little in the way of actual movements and even the act of turning around more resembles flipping a cardboard cutout than an actual person. The wacky nature of the show does a lot hide this but ultimately it’s hard to not notice it. Again I have to assume the budget came into play here as well. What the hell was going on during the production of this thing? Was this intentional or did someone screw up? The original manga was pretty much a gag comic, as I understand, so maybe they felt they could get away with it? All I know is that it bugged the crap out of me during the viewing.

In addition to the show proper there was also a live-actions segment featuring the voice actresses of Tsuyuri and Sora, Momoko Saitō and Kimiko Koyama, as they are bamboozled by the producers and their agents into creating their own dojinshi and we follow them on their journey to learn the ins and outs of the dojin process while trying to meet the agreed upon deadline. This 12-part series ran about 10 minutes each and filled out the rest of the half-hour format that the cartoon proper did not. It is terribly dull and mundane for the most part as it’s usually either just the two of them talking to each other or someone talking at them (As opposed to “with them”). There’s some humor to find here as the actresses themselves are somewhat entertaining. And by that I mean they’re morons. If you ever needed proof that the stereotype about Asians being universally incredibly smart without exception is an exaggeration “Momo-chan” and “Kimkimi” are here to provide it with their inability to perform basic math skills and difficulty to follow the simplest of instructions. If I were you I’d skip this part of the DVD as it’s completely superfluous.

Pictured: Momoko Saito

Not Pictured: A Rocket Scientist

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention Bloomer-kun. Apparently used as some kind of author avatar in the manga in the anime it is a miniature, anthropomorphic pair of bloomers with arms, legs and a face who seems to be a pet or something of Tsuyuri and spends most of its time dancing on her head. You might as well throw any negative comment I say in this review out the window because you can’t have an intellectual conversation about fiction when something like that is a constant presence.

I wanted to give this show a fairly low rating since its budget problems greatly annoyed me and the comedy wasn’t good enough to balance it out. However at the end of the day it never really made me mad and I left the show feeling fairly neutral. Plus it does get a little funnier once the cast if fully introduced. It’s not a good series at all but it’s inoffensive; it’s much, much too short to be considered offensive. It may not be worth going out of your way to watch though, as there’s not much here you can’t find elsewhere and probably more fulfilling. Still if you happen to get your hands on it for whatever reason it’s something you can bang out in an evening, maybe two, and may appeal to those who are partial to fan-made manga as it does explore some of the aspects of the lifestyle (I assume very loosely, however). Just don’t expect it to be particularly nasty (If you know what I mean).

I’ll be generous and give Dojin Work 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros

-The characters are pretty good, considering the tone of the series

-It does have some humorous moments, especially toward the end

Cons

-Terrible artwork clearly due to lack of budget make the show almost unwatchable

-Bloomer-kun confuses and frightens me

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