- Nineteen 19 (1990: Madhouse) 1/1 ep.
Staff and Background
This OAV is based on a manga called Nineteen by Shou Kitagawa, who’s most famous other work is probably B.B. Fish. The manga itself ran in Young Jump and so what we have here is one of the very rare shounen romances. The anime was directed by Kouchi Chigira who directed S1 of Full Metal Panic, one of my favourites, and Last Exile. So a great director working on the rare beast that is the shounen romance, this should be interesting.
Story and Characters
The story is quite simple in its setup. Kubota is 19 and freshly graduated from high school. He is the last in his friend group to remain a virgin and so he is out looking to get laid. But it is none of this weird shoujo sparkly romance shit, no he is happy with anyone as long as they are pretty. Then one night down at the club he stumbles upon Fujisaki, an old unrequited love from school. He finds out she has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and so the quest to pull begins! Now this might all sound a bit basic and crass but the show handles it beautifully. The characters and the romance actually feel realistic as it stops and starts, is awkward, and is generally much closer to what a real romance feels like, especially when compared to shoujo and western live-action romances. I know I am not explaining it all that well but trust me, the show handles this really well. It also helps that the characters feel real. Kubato is not an uber-jock or a #niceguy, he is just a young dude who isn’t all too sure of what he is doing but is in love/trying to get laid. On the other hand we have Fujisaki who isn’t just a moe-ball of cute but bland. Instead she is active in the relationship and is often the instigator when Kabuto fails to act out of nervousness. In addition, their reactions aren’t these overblown things we see in most romances, instead they are subtle, quiet, and actually feel tangible. Now I know I’m praising this a lot but there are flaws to be found. The side characters are paper thin and honestly some didn’t need to be in it at all. The main offender here being Kubato’s boss, who has a weird thing about bums. If less time had been spent on that and more had been spent on developing the main pairing, and maybe Kabuto’s chums, then it would have been a stronger product.
Audio and Visuals
This is where the show really shines. Naoyuki Onda is one of the unsung greats of the character design world and he is a bloody great animation director to boot. The character designs in this are simple but they are elegant, realistic, and perfectly nail the tone of the show. In addition, the show is full of wonderful animation that is both technically proficient and used to great effect, the small character movements are especially wonderful. Then we get to the fact that music videos were an obvious inspiration as there are several montage sections that are imaginatively done with multiple art and animation styles. Finally, the cinematography itself is excellent with the show actually making use of the fact it is animated, unlike so many other anime both old and new. Overall, it is a very strong showing on the visual end and the fact that it is actually done with narrative purpose makes it even better! On the audio end things are good too. The VAs are all solid and do a pretty good job all around, but where the audio comes alive is the music. The music is fits with the overall 80s vibe and syncs seamlessly with the rest of the show. The decision to use the song Boys (NSFW) was an inspired one as it sums up the aesthetic of this show perfectly.
Before I make a final conclusion I do want to make one overall point that didn’t really fit anywhere in particular. As Justin Sevakis says, this show absolutely represents that 80s that we all think of and that probably never really existed. The 80s of the big hair, leg warmers, electro pop, big suits, and cocktails at the pool party. The 80s of music videos and movies is what this show represents and so it taps that nostalgia nerve. I’m only 22 myself and yet this is the sort of show that makes me nostalgic for the 80s, for the 80s that never really was.
But in conclusion, this is a really solid and realistic romance. It isn’t like most cinematic romances and I think that is a good thing. It is an affectionate look back on a part of our lives that many go through and to see it represented in such a recognisable manner is great. It helps that the audio-visual side of things is also fantastic but even if they were bit shit those characters who still resonant. Definitely give this one a look, it is a shame that it has mostly been forgotten to that cruel mistress we call time.
Final score: 7B