Friday, January 4, 2013

An Astronomy Club like No Other! (Ebiten Review)

I think it's time I actually review anime for a change. And for this post, I'm going to review a new yet unusual anime called "Ebiten: Kōritsu Ebisugawa Kōkō Tenmonbu / えびてん 公立海老栖川高校天悶部" (Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School Astronomical Club), which is not your ordinary comedy, parody or harem (!) anime.

Ebiten characters. L-R: Hakata Kanamori, Rikei Hiromatsu, Izumiko Todayama, Kyouko Todayama, Itsuki Noya and Hasumi Ooba.
Like a mashup of different songs, Ebiten is a cross of various anime cultures and parodies different shows. Starting out as a manga, it was developed into a net animation and was shown on NicoNico Douga. The story centers on first year student Itsuki Noya, who is heir to the Noya Financial Group, and joins an Astronomy Club (Tenmonbu) which doesn't actually act like a real Astronomy Club at all (well, at first impression).
Itsuki is then forced to cross-dress (wear female clothes) by the club president, Kyouko Todayama, who is an obnoxious Haruhi-type girl but also smart when it comes to chemistry and astronomy. Throughout the series, Itsuki and the club go through different daily adventures together, and even coming across Kyouko's sister, Izumiko, who transfers from another school to find someone.

The series, made up of 10 episodes (with each one parodying a specific anime), is filled with a lot of humor and occasional fan-service. But nonetheless, the fan-service isn't as pointless as most mainstream anime, especially the ones in episode 7 which play a part in Itsuki's destiny. The pacing is very good for 10 net episodes; however, there may be different blank points for you if you didn't read the subs well. I've watched both Staircase subs and HorribleSubs versions, and I think it's necessary to watch them both for you to understand the story well. For instance, Kyouko's incense/aroma research was not specifically mentioned in episode 9 of the Staircase version, unlike in the HorribleSubs version. 

The plot itself is cool, even if it's not unique. After all, it is a mashup of various anime and cultures, so it's no surprise as it is a parody series. But I like the fact that it had a lot of real scientific and astronomical facts and figures (delivered mostly by Kyouko the genius) because it makes the anime a lot more realistic aside from breaking the fourth wall, as many other animes do. In fact, stars are colored differently in the sky (representing their real scientific color as observed from huge telescopes)! Also, some real scientists are mentioned there, as well as astronomy and science terminologies / concepts.

Character development is brilliant. I like the fact that Kyouko Todayama  (戸田山 響子) is a Haruhi Suzumiya-type of character, and I actually like her more because she doesn't completely hurt other people's feelings unlike Haruhi, and is less obnoxious than her. Itsuki Noya (野矢 一樹 / 野矢いつき) is an awesome shota/bishie/loli all-in-one and right now, he's my favorite character, because of the fact that you'd think he's doing nothing, but he really is doing something, and the story wouldn't happen if it weren't for him. Izumiko Todayama (戸田山 泉子), Kyouko's sister, is a very cute and versatile maid, Hakata Kanamori (金森 羽片) is a moe like Mikuru Asahina (from Haruhi) who is a yaoi(?!) doujinshi lover and Rikei Hiromatsu (廣松 理圭) is a counterpart of Yuki Nagato (also from Haruhi) who is a neko (cat) lover. Hasumi Ooba (大庭 蓮實) is a great senior and vice president of the club, and she's much like the Chuck Norris of it, too (if you know what I mean). Yuka Iseda (伊勢田 結花), the student council president, is an obvious tsundere and possibly lesbian (since she's in love with Hasumi who is a girl). On the other hand, we've got their stalker teacher, Shouko Oomori (大森 荘子), Neko-sensei (ねこ先生) (a cat who acts as the club's advisor), and Eiji (エイジ), Itsuki's big brother, who is also a bit like Kyouko in terms of being determined and being a genius. The whole ensemble of characters are interesting and each one has his/her own individuality and uniqueness.

Music is also a top notch. The opening theme, "Future-colored Promise / 未来色の約束" (Mirai-shoku no Yakusoku) is very catchy and fits the overall atmosphere of the Astronomy Club. Ending themes are covered songs from various animes (e.g. Saint Seiya, Sailormoon, Dragonball Z and K-On!) by the characters (their seiyuu's) of the series, such as "Chikyuu ni I LOVE YOU / 地球にI LOVE YOU" (Special Armored Battalion Dorvack) covered by Hakata Kanamori, "MELOS no you ni -LONELY WAY- / メロスのように - LONELY WAY-" (Blue Comet SPT Layzner) covered by Itsuki Noya and "MONKEY MAGIC / モンキーマジック" (Dragonball Z) covered by Izumiko Todayama.

Artwork remains steady throughout the series and quite brilliant, because of the fact that, as mentioned earlier, stars have different colors, and that's how you really see them on large telescopes, because of the fact that different stars have different classifications (red giant, blue, white dwarf, etc.) and I think that's cool.

Overall, I recommend this anime to all comedy-parody-harem lovers out there, and give Ebiten 5 out of 5 stars because of its diversity, humor, and at the same time, uniqueness despite being a parody anime. So if you are into good laughter, fourth-wall breaking, humorous fan-service, astronomy and science, cultural and anime parodies, and age progression (spoiler alert, you'd have to watch the series to find out), then Ebiten is a remarkable series to enjoy.

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