Okay guys, thanks for sticking around for this extra course in Elementary School anime. Now, I know I already covered an elementary school show with “Kodomo no Omocha”, but there was one show in particular that I really wanted to cover that is based in Elementary School that has gone, for the most part, unnoticed in many anime viewing communities. “Naisho no Tsubomi”, in its three episodes, manages to capture all the awkwardness and new feelings that kids of this age feel without being melodramatic or over the top. In fact, it captures the feelings so well, I felt really weird about watching it for reasons that I’ll explain in the review. But for now, please take out your textbooks and let’s get this extracurricular lesson started.
Warnings and Objectionable Content: I seriously don’t know how to rate this one; there is no formal rating according to my research. The show gets into the topics of puberty, reproduction, and pretty much the birds and the bees. Episode 2 actually features an educational video that the kids watch that pretty much explains how the whole process works showing a clinical representation of genitals. There is also some perverted and toilet humor that is to be expected from young immature kids in the 5th grade. Long story short, I would keep anyone under the age of 10 away from this title.
Series Availability – Plain and simple, this one is strictly an online series. You might have luck finding it on YouTube or some other streaming sites, but do not expect to find this for purchase anywhere.
Story Premise – “Naisho no Tsubomi” is a three-episode OVA based off a manga created by Yuu Yabuuchi. The story follows a young girl named Tsubomi Tachibana, a fifth grader who is going through quite a few changes in her young life. Not only is she starting a new grade in Elementary school at the onset of the manga, and not only does she find out that her mother is going to have a new baby, but her body is also going through its own changes, both physically and emotionally. The series goes through three key moments in both the development of her new sibling inside her mother and Tsubomi herself, from starting her first period to dealing with her new budding feelings and emotions for a special boy in her class. Throughout the series, Tsubomi seeks the council of a somewhat mysterious transfer student named Saya Endou [And no, she’s not an Espier like some OTHER mysterious transfers in anime…] who acts as a kind of guide for Tsubomi through this sensitive time in her life and helps her understand exactly what’s going on. Now, when I first stumbled across this series a year or two ago, my first reaction was “If I ever have kids, particularly a girl, I would want her to see this series.” My second reaction was “Gee…umm…I kinda feel like a pedobear watching this kind of thing…” After all, the idea of watching these little kids learn about sexuality, and watching this little girl learn about her “special time of the month” is a bit strange. But, I soon came to the realization that this time of a young kids life, boy or girl, is inherently strange! I mean, think about it—for about 10 or so years, you’ve gotten used to your body and think you know just about everything about it you can possibly know. Then, along comes puberty and BANG, everything changes. All the things you thought you knew about your body gets thrown out the window. The show captures that feeling of awkwardness and the uncertainty very well, making the audience, both young and old, relive those emotions along with the characters. The ending is positive and, well, what do you know… THE MOTHER DOESN’T DIE IN CHILDBIRTH!!! If I seem excited about this fact, it’s because, in all the years I’ve been watching anime, I’ve noticed that the odds of a mom surviving birth or the days after the fact is almost 50/50. To finally see a mom make it through the process in anime and live to tell the tale is somewhat refreshing. To sum it up, the story of these kids going through this unique time of their lives is almost too awkward to watch, [Something I’ll explain a little more about under “Animation”…] but on that same note, one could say that “Naisho no Tsubomi” captures the awkwardness of puberty perfectly. I would’ve liked to have seen more episodes to give the characters a chance to really mature and develop more. I mean, three episodes seems a little short to tell the story about the most important time in a kid’s life. [23/25]
Characters – The series follows our female lead Tsubomi Tachibana, a young girl just starting the 5th grade. Pretty much your typical young girl; interested in cooking and hanging out with her friends…That is, until the onset of puberty which brings on, among other things, her first period, developments in her body, and new feelings of love. Add to that the news that she is going to get a new baby brother or sister and you have a character that is learning, in short order, exactly what the human body can do. Watching Tsubomi go through the process of puberty is both beautiful and painful to watch, which, one could argue, is the same as going through the process itself. Our male lead, Daiki Nemoto, is pretty much your typical 5th grade boy, but as compared to some of his classmates, he is more sensitive and not as rambunctious. He has moments of Tsundere when it comes to Tsubomi, but on the whole he’s a cool kid, and in episode 2, he pretty much gives us a boy POV of puberty. Saya Endou, our resident mysterious transfer student, acts as councilor to Tsubomi and Daiki and is pretty much there to say “Hey, don’t worry about what you’re thinking/doing. What’s happening is completely natural.” We should all be so blessed to have a person like that to talk to, especially during such a time, and Saya fills that niche perfectly. As I mentioned earlier, I would’ve liked for this series to have been longer to give the characters a chance to REALLY mature and grow because I see great potential for these characters to be even more adorable and relatable. [22/25]
Animation – Remember back at my “Air” review when I took the animators to task for the almost-freakishly large eyes on their characters? Well, in the case of “Naisho no Tsubomi”, the wide eyes ARE back, but considering the age of our characters, this gets a pass. Character designs are cute and well done as are backgrounds. If I had to take issues with anything in the animation department is the fact that the camera tends to linger on some clothes changing scenes with regards to the girls for what feels like minutes. It’s extremely creepy. And it’s only done with the girls, which makes it even MORE creepy. I suppose this is where those feelings came from that I mentioned above…I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but I think you can tell the same story without making the audience feel like a bunch of pedobears while watching it. [6/12.5]
Music – There’s no real opening theme song to this series. It just opens up on a title card and then gets started. Because of the story that “Naisho no Tsubomi” tells and the amount of episodes given to tell the story, It’s understandable and in fact acceptable. The ending theme, which is simply several different piano pieces is nice; nothing really to write home about. All the incidental music used through the different episodes is nice and gentle. There’s nothing special about it, but it’s not bad either…[12/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Naisho no Tsubomi” was directed in Japan by Akira Shigino. As I mentioned earlier, this series was not dubbed so we will be looking at the original Japanese version. We actually have a pretty small cast this time around. Kaori Nazuka plays our young female lead Tsubomi Tachibana. Those in the know will recognize her as Mei Ogawa in “Bamboo Blade”, the young Kisa Soma in “Fruits Basket”, and…oh yeah, the title character in “Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven” and its sequel “Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean”! I have to say, this is a very nice casting decision. Kaori-san does an awesome job playing the innocent Tsubomi. Playing our male lead Daiki is Ryoko Shiraishi. Sub fans will recognize her voice as being the non-plussed Ninja Kaede Nagase in the “Negima” series, and more recently playing the female lead in the ongoing series “Sket Dance”. Again, I have to applaud female voice actresses who play young male roles. Ryoko-san does an excellent job here. Lastly, Ami Koshimizu as the sympathetic and empathic Saya Endou is all kinds of amazing to listen to. I find it funny that the same actress who played this sweet, big-sister like character also played the twisted and sadistic Anemone in “Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven”. Just goes to show what talented voice acting is all about. [25/25]
Story Breakdown – 23/25
Characters – 22/25
Animation – 6/12.5
Music – 10/12.5
Performance and Production – 25/25
Final Score – 86/100 = 86% – (C)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):
- The original manga received the Shogakukan Manga Award for Children’s Manga in 2008. Other noteworthy recipients are Rumiko Takahashi for “InuYasha” in 2001, Kenta Shinohara for “Sket Dance” in 2009, and more recently Yuki Kodama for “Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) in 2011.
So where does that leave us? In this case, don’t let the score be too much of a put-off; “Naisho no Tsubomi” is a good OVA. The story it tells speaks to the heart of everyone who has gone through those awkward years and feelings of puberty with characters that give voice to those feelings thanks in no part to the amazing voice cast. Just…try to ignore those icky-icky feelings building up when you watch one of the many changing scenes. It might be for the best.
And that’s it for the extracurricular lesson, boys and girls. Elementary School—those were the days huh? Things were so much simpler back then, weren’t they? Well, we all have to grow up sometime, and the same can be said for anime characters! Coming up next, we have to put on our new uniforms and head out to middle school with this next show. Honestly, I was scratching my head trying to think of what show to do—after all, I don’t have many middle school-based shows in my collection (And I won’t do Kodomo no Jikan on this Blog -Andrain). Then it hit me like a brick…or rather an egg. What do you get when you take the story “Mrs. Doubtfire” and give it an anime twist in a middle school setting with a ? You get…
“I, My, Me! Strawberry Eggs”