R-15 – Series Review

R-15 - 2011-07 - Large Guardian Enzo R-15 - 01 - 36 [NicoNico] R-15 - 09 [640x360 H.264 AAC].mkv_snapshot_08.00_[2011.09.03_17.14.15]

I pretty much knew when I started blogging R-15 that I was writing mostly for myself, and that most discerning anime fans would never give the series a serious look.  But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the hell out of both the show itself and writing about it, no matter how tiny the pageviews and comment counts are.

I’ve made most of the points I want to make about this show over the course of the last three months, so in summation I’ll just highlight some of the things that really stick with me.  First of all – snobbery is a bad thing.  I’m guilty of it as much as anyone, in anime and elsewhere – but there’s no substitute for an open mind and personal experience.  Don’t let anyone else tell you whether a show is any good, and don’t let your own biases close you off to the possibilities.  It happened to me with Hikaru no Go – which I’d written off as a kiddie show about a boring board game – for years, and it almost happened to me with R-15 this season.

The other thing I want to make clear is that I’m not blogging this series as a charity case or to make a point, though of course I’m thrilled that I’ve goaded a couple of readers into becoming fans of the show.  I’m doing it because R-15 is a damn good series.  First and foremost, it’s unbelievably likeable.  It’s show with a genuinely good heart that cuts through it’s edgy humor in the same way its unabashedly idealistic view of romance cuts through the ecchi.  The three characters at the heart of the series and the love triangle at the center of it, Taketo, Fukune and Utae, are some of the sweetest and most likeable teenagers you’ll find in anime.  They’re all smart, all kind, all genuinely considerate of each other and the awkwardness they exhibit towards each other where romance is concerned is a thousand times more real than in most “serious” teen romances.

As well, the supporting cast all emerged beyond the tropes they appeared to be at first.  Even as the series got off to a great start, there were worrying signs that it would be a typical example of a series where a bunch of girls tortured the good-hearted but helpless male lead, as his crush forever has the wrong idea about him through misunderstanding.  But all of those girls, one by one, showed that they were capable of admitting they were wrong and even became allies of Taketo to some extent.  Raika is the most glaring example – the worst kind of sadistic she-witch and I hated her at first, but in shocking terms she was shown to be a victim of terrible self-loathing – and she was genuinely grateful (despite her tsun exterior) to Taketo for helping her to see her own worth.  She’s a fascinating character, but even the likes of Ran and The Chief of the newspaper circle proved to by complicated and ultimately decent people.

I adore the fact that a series about a teen porn writer turns out to be the most unapologetically romantic show in many a season.  Taketo is a character steeped in irony – he writes porn that readers eat up because it reflects his totally fantastical 15 year-old boy view of sex.  But in actuality he’s both a thoroughly innocent “NBK” and a pure-hearted romantic who sees Fukune in terms of romantic love much more than sexual desire.  Even his final Pièce de résistance, his chorale score for the indoctrination contest, reflects the duality of his nature.  And that’s the dual nature in all of us, the body and mind, the big head and the little one, the physical and the spiritual desire.  Taketo is nobody’s fool and nobody’s pushover – he’s both smart as hell and a determined kid who never gives up.  But he’s too innocent to understand that neither sex nor love is as simple as he makes them out to be – and that makes him even more likeable as a protagonist.

This is by no means a perfect series.  There was a lull of 3 episodes or so in the middle where the delicate balance R-15 worked under tipped too heavily in favor of the mean and the ecchi, and the show stumbled.  The totally inexperienced voice cast was inconsistent, though Goda Aya stood as with an excellent performance as Taketo.  But on the whole it was a rousing success both as an entertainment as as – believe it or not – something deeper.  I made the astonishing claim after the first ep that this show as “sort of deep” and damn, I think I actually got that right.  It really does seriously look at the duality of human (especially the male human) nature, and the supreme irony really is that the show itself is misjudged and maligned in exactly the same way the main character was at first – dismissed as sex-crazed and shallow and stupid.  Taketo had a happy ending, as through the act of helping his fellow students he was gradually acknowledged as a smart, kind person.  Will the show itself be so lucky?  I doubt it – I suspect this is a series that will never be taken seriously by “serious” anime fans who’ll dismiss it without so much as a glance.  But that’s their loss – R-15 is good in both qualitative terms.  It’s well-made, and it has a good heart.  Give me a few shows like that every season and my nosebleed meter is at 100%.

[NicoNico] R-15 - 02 [640x360 H.264 AAC].mkv_snapshot_13.29_[2011.07.16_19.57.47] [한샛-Raws] R-15 - 03 (D-TVK 1280x720 x264 AAC).mp4_snapshot_05.30_[2011.07.23_16.15.46] [한샛-Raws] R-15 - 03 (D-TVK 1280x720 x264 AAC).mp4_snapshot_06.13_[2011.07.23_16.14.45]
[NicoNico] R-15 - 10 [640x360 H.264 AAC].mkv_snapshot_13.40_[2011.09.10_21.15.39] [NicoNico] R-15 - 12 [640x360 H.264 AAC].mkv_snapshot_15.06_[2011.09.24_15.48.16] [NicoNico] R-15 - 12 [640x360 H.264 AAC].mkv_snapshot_15.03_[2011.09.24_15.48.14]


  1. A

    on your commendation I'll be watching this. thanks!

  2. -

    now that this series has ended, i can marathon it.

    also, after reading this review, i'm now more motivated into watching it 😀

  3. S

    Well, I've been following it along side you since the start, and the first commenters on the shows were mostly lowlife ecchi fans complaining about the massive censor bars covering the "best parts". "Where is the uncensored version!!?!!"
    The censor bars were a gods send tbh. They will never release an uncensored version, they are all part of the show. Sometimes almost the entire screen was censored, and other times, they even censored bras. on a girls back.Just for fun, I guess. And mostly enabling the writers to make an intelligent point in the series about something taboo.

  4. Two more victims, LOL!

    I hadn't really thought about the censor bars being worked into the comedy, Stot – it's an interesting notion.

  5. S

    Thanks for blogging this show, Enzo. Psychoanalysing a 15 year old genius porn writer is not an easy task and you get top score for that ;D
    Just on the surface, R15 already has some of the better slapstick/off-color humor I've seen in a while, coupled with a charming lead and colorful supporting cast, R15 has been a fun ride. I'll look forward to Ika Musume for my weekly dose of LOL next week. De Geso~

  6. Not all the humor is off-color, either. I loved the little sobs the occult genius was emitting during the Class chorale performance. Not to mention the Enterprise cameo and the AIC jet…

  7. v

    I've been following your blog lately and after reading your thoughts on 2nd episode, I decided to watch it. I must say this show is quite unique. I suppose it's a bit funny but certainly I'm expecting more. I like the main cast but the side characters don't make too much impression on me. I like the main premise of the story and the interaction of characters.

  8. Vince, welcome and thanks for posting. I think you'll find the side characters will really surprise you and grow on you. Still, it's the main characters that really make this show special – and there's a third main character you'll appreciate quite soon.

  9. L

    I'm a fan of most ecchi shows, no matter how 'bad' they are, so I had little trouble picking this up.

    I'll admit that the censoring was quite distracting (though that'll probably be fixed for the Blu-Rays), but overall, it didn't hinder my enjoyment for the show, which I agree is far better than most people will probably think. After all, all they see is "ecchi comedy about a teen porn writer" and they'll dismiss it as another sign that "the anime industry is dying and cannot produce good shows anymore". But yeah, their loss, I guess.

    I've been rooting for Utae ever since she showed that she's not just another selfish idol who could get any guy if she wanted to and the last episode showed me how much of a good girl she really is. She can't be together with him, but she supports him nonetheless.

  10. A

    Thanks for the excellent review!

    Sadly, you're right that many 'serious' fans would disdain this show without even watching it because of their bias against ecchi shows. As someone who tries very hard not to be that kind of person and as someone who actually likes ecchi shows, I'm glad to read your review.

    The end of R-15 was really excellent, greater than the sum of it parts, and it's parts were good too. Seeing Fukune remember why she loved music, and Taketo's…interesting lyrics was great.

  11. You're welcome, Anon. I'm not vain enough to think blogging is a public service, but in the case of an unjustly maligned show like R-15, every little bit of fighting misinformation helps.

    LoF, I really love both Utae and Fukune. I wish they both could have won, but R-15 – despite what the haters will say – isn't a threesome kind of show…

  12. F

    This was indeed one of the surprises of the season, and certainly much better than certain far more hyped shows.

    I never really warmed up to Fukune, I get what her role is, but she remained such a cypher that by the time the show rolled around to her, I was far too invested in Utae to really care. I can't even make myself ship her with Ran, because goddammit, Ran can do better. Besides, Ran already has at least two devoted pets, which she can make orgasm by touching their necks. What does she see in Fukune? The entire female gay/bi population of the school is at her beck and call.

    Anyway, the final arc did work quite well, despite my reservations about Fukune, and when judged against its initial concept, it most certainly exceeded expectations (much like Lotte no Omocha did).

    I did like how respectfully the show treated both Ran and Ritsu. They managed to avoid the most crass lesbian/gay jokes, and especially for Ran, avoided the temptation to make her fall for Taketo as well.

    But still, Utae forever! I take solace in that in a slightly different world, she found love with the heterochromatic adopted child of a set of interstellar lesbian magical police officers.

  13. The only think about Ran is, if anything maybe the show was too rspectful. I found her predatory attitudue towards her "harem" a little disturbing.

  14. F

    She never forced herself on anyone though. Her two sextoys were quite clearly with her consensually, and actually initiated the affection on several occasions. The closest we ever saw was when she explored the back of the Miko's throat with her tongue, but we lack any context as to their relationship.

    Otherwise, the furthest she went with Fukune was stroking her knee and rubbing cheeks. Which granted is probably further then Taketo will get in the next few years.

  15. Eyes of the beholder, I guess. She was the one character in the series (after Raika mellowed out) that I thought crossed the line sometimes.

  16. A

    I hope the DVDs of this show sell well. They ought to be because they're likely going to remove all of the censorship. That at least will do it for some.

  17. Yeah, but I'm not too hopeful. The groupthink has probably doomed this series.

    Still – it does my heart good to see 17 comments!

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