Anime Rewatch 2021: Ayu-Mayu Theater

Now here’s a weird one. Ayu-Mayu Theater started out as little skits that would run at the end of an episode of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, where a next episode trailer would usually run. They were comedic shorts that had little if anything to do with the actual KimiNozo episode. They ran at the end of episodes 3-13 of KimiNozo, and then returned for episodes 2-3 of AkaMani. The final episode ended with a gag suggesting that the show’s director (as depicted in the show) actually intended to create a full Ayu-Mayu Theater series. So now comes an actual Ayu-Mayu Theater series, picking up where that episode left off.

This series has a very strange release history. The “prologue” episode #0 was included in Age’s Comiket release, previewing the upcoming series. The first four short episodes were then streamed on Age’s KimiNozo Radio website once a month. Afterwards, they released a full DVD of the entire series, including the prologue episode #0, the four episodes that were streamed, and three other episodes that were never shown. It’s usually described as a “web anime”, which is kind of true? Only half of the episodes in the full release were ever streamed though.

As I mentioned, it streamed exclusively on Age’s own KimiNozo Radio site, so it was targeted only to Age’s most diehard fans, and you can tell by the content. It’s composed almost entirely of in-jokes and obscure references, most of which probably fly over most English-speaking fans’ heads. Perhaps most importantly, even though it was never advertised as such, it contains numerous in-depth, spoilery references to Muv-Luv Alternative, which had only been released earlier that year. In fact, it could be said that the number of references to Alternative in what is supposed to be an Ayu/Mayu series reflects what Age fans in late 2006 would have wanted – having waited 3 years for Alternative to come out, we definitely still had Alternative on the brain at the time. It cannot be stressed enough that this series spoils so much of Alternative that it should be watched only after completing that game.

I usually spend most of my time on these posts going through a thematic analysis of the story, but of course this is just a bunch of short skits with no story, so instead, we’ll just go through some of the more obscure references. Episode 0 features the conflict between Ayu and Meiya. In fact, there is an entire conflict in the KimiNozo/Muv-Luv universe between the Daikuuji and Mitsurugi companies, with both competing in a wide variety of businesses. Ayu and Meiya are themselves apparently well acquainted with each other as well. This conflict is pretty much only ever hinted at and teased in Age’s actual works. Throughout Muv-Luv Extra, Meiya always makes a bit of a face or pouts whenever the Daikuujis’ Sky Temple restaurant from KimiNozo is brought up. She seems frustrated that Takeru and his friends seem to be such big fans of the Sky Temple, and she seems to interpret that to mean that the Mitsurugis’ family restaurant division isn’t doing enough to reach the common man. In the fanclub-exclusive game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu, Meiya actually accompanies Takeru and Sumika into the Sky Temple in one scene. Ayu spots her and immediately ducks out of sight, afraid to let Meiya see her working in the restaurant. Episode 0 of this series actually features what I believe is the first extended conversation we’ve ever seen between the two, as Ayu taunts Meiya over having received her own series. To be honest, this conflict between the two is something I’ve always wanted to see more of, and in some ways I find the interaction between these two to be the highlight of the entire series for giving me more of that.

Episode 4 features Radhabinod calling out for “Fuguta-kun”. International fans may not realize this, but Radhabinod’s voice actor, Norio Wakamoto, is most famous in Japan for his role as Anago in Sazae-san, and the way he says “Fuguta-kun” (one of the show’s main characters) is one of his most recognizable lines.

Episode 6 features the original lead characters from Age’s fanclub-exclusive games. Everyone will recognize Jouji Gouda from Akane Maniax, of course. The other guy, Jun Ibuki, is the lead character from Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu. Just as Akane Mainax featured Gouda chasing after a largely-indifferent Akane, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu tells much the same story with Jun chasing after Ayu. And just as the game version of Akane Maniax centered around an extended parody of Tekkaman, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu centers around an extended parody of Saint Seiya, with Jun using his “Nayuta” (Saint Seiya term: Cosmo) to transform into a “Sakimori” (Saint Seiya term: Saint). And just as Akane Maniax went big in getting veteran actor Tomokazu Seki to voice the lead, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu gets even more veteran actor Nobuo Tobita to voice Jun. This is Jun’s only anime appearance, so it’s nice to see the two of them sharing the screen. Easily the other highlight of this series.

The special “SP” episode features a showdown between Ayu and the 00 Unit. The 00 Unit has her Susano-O Mk IV, but Ayu’s mech might look unfamiliar. It’s the Hinokagutsuchi from Ayu-Mayu Alternative, a fanclub-exclusive game that depicts the characters from their earlier game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu in a non-canon version of the Alternative world. Both the Hinokagutsuchi and Ayu’s fortified suit from this sequence come from that game. However, Ayu-Mayu Alternative actually hadn’t come out yet at the time that this show was released. They had already announced the game, but like all things Muv-Luv, it got massively delayed and didn’t come out until after Ayu-Mayu Theater (they eventually suggested that part of the reason for the delay was because they were now a “serious” company that needed to work with sponsors for a possible anime deal, and they were told that for the sake of maintaining good relationships, they could stand to tone down the parody elements that their fanclub games were known for).

When the first 4 episodes were streamed online, they actually came with their own ending credits, with the Ayu-Mayu Theater theme song playing over some cute SD drawings unique to each episode. These drawings were cut from the home video release, as all of the episodes were stitched together with only one ending sequence playing with full animation at the end. As far as I know, the web versions with the original ending sequences aren’t available anywhere.

The ending theme itself was actually released on CD with an accompanying music video, featuring the KimiNozo cast as cameos. At the time, most of the KimiNozo cast (specifically the actors for Takayuki, Haruka, Mitsuki, Akane, Ayu, and Mayu) recorded a weekly radio show called KimiNozo Radio that was streamed online every week, and was actually fairly popular – popular enough that the program continued, in various formats, all the way until 2010 (keep in mind the anime ended in 2004). Ayu-Mayu Theater streamed on the KimiNozo Radio website, and arguably it was only made because of KimiNozo Radio’s popularity in the first place.

All in all, I enjoyed it for what it was, keeping in mind that what it was was not much of anything.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: