May 1, 2005 on 6:16 pm | In DNA² | Comments Off on DNA² TV & OVA

Mixing genres is a favourite thing for anime directors to do. A lot of the time they get something fresh and daring. In the case of DNA², aiming for sci-fi comedy romance time travel drama, they get a mess.

One hundred years in the future, the Earth is in danger of over-population thanks to one man: the Mega-playboy, a man irresistable to women. Mega-playboy (or Mega-play, as the dialogue frequently shortens it to), one hundred years ago, had children to twenty women; each of these children turned out to be Mega-plays themselves, and they continued the cycle. The Mega-play DNA was clearly strong enough to have a 100% success rate.
This brings us to modern day, where pathetic loser nice guy Momonari Junta. Junta is a student who vomits bright pink whenever he comes close to anything vaguely sexual. The future “DNA Operator” Karin, however, is convinced that Junta is Mega-play and shoots him with a DNA bullet. To her horror she realises that she had the wrong bullet and could very well have injected Junta with the DNA that created the Mega-playboy!

This prospect sounds funny enough, but there is something off in the execution of the series. By the second episode, Junta as Mega-play has convinced popular girl Saeki to break up with her philandering boyfriend Ryuuji. Ryuuji, then, hires a gang of punks reminiscent of Fist of the North Star to rough Junta up. Not only do they beat Junta in a café, they then proceed to attempt to rape Saeki right there on the floor. What part of this is funny?! It is not even dramatic in the “plan goes horribly wrong”; it’s just sour.

The mid-section of the series is dedicated to a ridiculous concept: Junta tries to cure Kotomi of her embarrassing ailment – she farts whenever in the presence of boys. It is handled almost sweetly, but this story has nothing to do with plot: this would be because Ami, Junta’s next door neighbour and obvious silent crusher, is a character who does nothing but look dopey (a fault of design), bite her lip and say “damnit!”.
There is entirely no chemistry in this relationship.

Basically what happens is that there is an overall idea and it is ignored; Mega-play is never a danger, and his comedy potential remains unmined. The drama that is introduced is along the lines of deep seated psychosis, and even then there is no threat in the form of Mega-play. Ami is needlessly mean to Junta, so there is no fear here! She will just slap him into place! There are some good what the hell is going on? moments, but they are nothing compared to the bad moments that provoke exactly the same feeling. A showdown in the biggest house in town, western in design, on top of a mountain, in the middle of an area of otherwise Japanese architecture? Talk about dark and contrived.

After the series proper, there’s a follow up three part OVA (actually designed for TV, but never broadcast because the show wasn’t popular enough). This OVA acts to clear up some parts of the series but, like a lot of OVA follow ups, it feels empty. The main new character is not very sympathetic or well developed and, really, by this time you get the feeling that Ryuuji has been through enough.

The characters overall are too “romance comedy”, a genre that has, since Love Hina been widely pilloried and revered. Ami, for her part, is an infuriating character. A lot of these shows have girls who secretly love the main character, won’t admit it to that character or themselves
Also, this is close to suffering the great anime disease: in Japanese high schools, there is only one boy that every girl wants. In this case there are only four girls after Junta, but honestly; one can only suspend disbelief about these love battles for so long. The writers can’t even accurately balance the female characters adequately, with Tomoko getting far too little time for what she intends to do, and Kotomi forgotten about when her purpose is served.
Junta, at least, has some charisma; he is a nice guy. Unfortunately, Ami has next to no personality, except for liking Junta.
Magic User’s Club had it more right than this; there was more than one boy, and very little competition.

Production wise, however, DNA² is largely beautiful. This is a project by Video Girl Ai‘s Masakazu Katsura, so the characters have his traditional pretty look. Based on the OP alone, one would expect something great from this anime. In action, the characters still look fine – although at times Ami’s forehead is far too large, making her look sleepy.
There are little moments of excellent fluidity, and a heck of a lot of fan service for 1994. It would be no exaggeration to say that the greatest aspect of DNA² is its attention to panties. The best moments are those devoted to bra detail – but alas! This is not a panty festival.

The casting is pretty good, with Tominaga Miina as Karin and Koyasu Takehito as unbalanced pretty boy Ryuuji stand outs. Hayashibara Megumi plays against type as the manipulative half-nice Tomoko; she’s a little shrill. Not really surprisingly, Kasahara Hiroko is as flat as her character Ami. The best audio experience of the program is definitely the OP and ED by L’Arc~enciel and Sharan Q respectively.

DNA² is entertaining from time to time, but is in no way cohesive. A lot of the comedy is lame, and the drama too out of place (and, honestly, doesn’t make a lot of sense). With more focus, this could have been a much better series; as it is, DNA² is simply tragically beautiful and, like genetic modification, just that slightly morally ambiguous.

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