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.
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: Next SeasonSeptember 3, 2021
Sorry, but I don’t have many nice things to say about this one.
From what I understand, this OVA was the result of Bandai Visual wanting to salvage something after having obtained the license to make a Muv-Luv anime and then having the project fall through. So they went back to the well to make another KimiNozo anime instead, this time centering on Haruka’s route instead of Mitsuki’s. They had originally intended to make a straight adaptation of Haruka’s route from the game, but Age talked them out of it, on the basis that the Haruka route shares too much in common with the Mitsuki route that had already been animated (and keep in mind that the old anime also adapted several plot points from the Haruka route as well).
Instead, they came up with the idea of creating a new story, set after the Haruka route. Age wrote out the basic plotline and provided it to the anime staff, which then fleshed it out into a 4-episode OVA. Age would also go on to adapt that basic plotline into its own afterstory route, alongside other afterstory routes for both Mitsuki and Akane, and released a new version of the game with these new routes, labeled “Latest Edition”. This new version of the game also updated the entire game to use the AGES graphics engine that was developed for Muv-Luv.
The fundamental problem with the OVA is that there is absolutely no need for a story set after the ending of Haruka’s route to begin with, and the show struggles to find a reason for one. The basic plot of the OVA is that Haruka breaks up with Takayuki because… he’s being too good of a boyfriend? I think the idea is that Haruka, having been asleep for 3 years, is scared that Takayuki has matured so much more than she has, but the show utterly fails to convey that in a compelling manner that justifies spending 4 episodes on it. The characters instead sit around moping, and at the end, Haruka decides she was wrong, and simply calls Takayuki up and gets back together with him. Takayuki himself is almost completely removed from this entire process – Haruka decides on the breakup on her own, then gets back together with him on her own. Takayuki pretty much just decides to keep on doing what he’s doing for the entire OVA, and waits for Haruka to change her mind.
The way the story unfolds seems to cast Haruka as the lead character, since she’s the one who makes the major decisions that drive the story, but the OVA then undermines that by shifting the focus off her for most of the story. The OVA is structured to focus on Haruka in the first episode, Mitsuki in the second episode, and Akane in the third episode, before returning to Haruka in the final episode. So because Haruka is the lead character, that renders the middle two episodes essentially worthless in terms of moving the story forward. Episode 2 is particularly bad, as the entire point of Haruka’s route is that Mitsuki moves away to avoid any interaction with the other lead characters, so her episode is just her narrating the events of Haruka’s route to her random friend who we’ve never seen before. I also can’t help but notice that her description of Haruka’s route is a little self-serving, as it completely skips over the part where she turned into a crazy person. (You can still see a little of it in Akane’s flashback in episode 3.) On the plus side, she does offer a summary of the missing 3 years that is closer to the game, so you can compare it to the TV anime’s version and see just how much more melodramatic that version was.
Akane’s episode is a little better, since Akane is actually allowed to interact with the other leads. We get to spend more time getting to know Akane, including the obligatory cameo from Chizuru, but ultimately it doesn’t lead to anything – it can’t, since Haruka is the only one capable of moving the story forward. This episode also has the most cop-out cliffhanger imaginable, as Haruka collapses again after Akane yells at her – in the next episode, she gets back up immediately and continues on as if nothing ever happened. She doesn’t even check in with the hospital about it.
The final scene of the story, with Takayuki successfully meeting Haruka at the meeting place from 3 years ago, is nice, if a little cheesy. It’s abundantly clear, though, that the story was created by coming up with that scene first, and then trying to work backwards to figure out a compelling reason for them to reunite there. They clearly didn’t work hard enough, because the moment doesn’t feel earned at all.
I continue to be baffled at what led the creative staff to make this story. I’m not a big Haruka fan, but it seems to me that if I were, this isn’t the story I would want to see animated. What I would want to see is the story where Takayuki meets Haruka on time 3 years ago, avoiding the accident and concluding with a happy ending for everybody. That’s the story that was included in the KimiNozo fandisc, and from the moment this OVA was announced, I was sure that that was the story they were going to be adapting. The original anime crammed the entire high school story into only two episodes, so I thought there was plenty of material that was originally skipped over that an OVA could cover. Four episodes that adapt the game more faithfully, ending with Takayuki and Haruka going on a successful date. Doesn’t that sound great? Why did we get this instead? I don’t understand that now any better than I did back when this was first released.
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