Golden Boy is best known for being a fun six-episode ecchi comedy about university dropout Kintaro, who travels around Japan working various jobs (coincidentally under women) to learn new skills and broaden his horizons. “Study! Study! Study!” is his motto. While browsing for something to read a while back, I came across the Golden Boy manga and added it to the list, curious to see how the source material fared. After all, I enjoyed the anime and most of the manga’s 104 chapters wouldn’t have made it to the screen.
Good heavens. What a disaster.
The premise at first is of Kintaro doing this variety of jobs, incompetent at every one of them yet his hard working nature and determination makes him a force for good after a whirlwind of chaos. These chapters, the basis for the anime, are done with in the first volume. Afterwards, Golden Boy goes into longer “arcs” with Kintaro spending more time in one location doing a single job. The education aspect quickly falls to the wayside. It pretends to keep up the premise but none of the quality in that first volume remains.
Scenarios instead devolve into being all about sex fetishes. It gets quite graphic, though not in that erotic way. I believe it was meant to be erotic but this artist isn’t good, so it looks janky and it only grows worse. Sometimes the art is intentionally bad for comedy, though you’ll be waiting for when it gets good. Basic elements such as aligning the features of someone’s face is too difficult a task here. Character sizes aren’t even consistent from one panel to the next on the same page. It’s just ugly in general. You’re unlikely to find titillation. More importantly, the writing is terrible.
Golden Boy works best in single-chapter stories, where the author can extract all humorous material of any given scenario and move on before it gets old. The longer arcs are an absolute drag to get to through and painfully unfunny. A central problem is that they put the sex first and the work experience second, whereas the single chapters did it the other way around. The sex comedy isn’t funny when it so overt. Honestly, I’m not even sure if it’s meant to be a joke half of the time.
Alright, Kintaro is going to learn to be a more seductive dancer by becoming this woman’s slave and watching her have sex. Silly premise but it’s just a gag. Wait, you’re going to repeat it over and over and over and over and over and over. (Release me from this pain.) Later arcs repeat earlier material as well. Golden Boy anime versus manga is a great lesson in the benefit of keeping it brief.
Some arcs even try to “educate” the audience on love, romance, and relationships. However, it’s the worst advice to give anyone. You may be thinking, “But Kintaro is an idiot and this is a comedy manga. Of course the advice isn’t meant to be taken seriously.” I thought that as well until I realised these are the moral conclusions of the arcs and nothing contradictory occurs.
I have never seen such a disparity in quality between adaptation and source material than seen with Golden Boy. To have one version be better than the other to some degree or vice versa is expected, but for it to be this bad is astonishing. No wonder they only made six episodes.
The isekai genre in anime is almost universally garbage, having run itself into the ground with the most low effort clones for a decade now. However, one isekai caught my eye in the spring 2021 line-up for not being an action series or featuring a teenaged protagonist.
The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent features a twenty-something office lady summoned against her will to another world to be the “saint” that will fend off the growing evil from this strange kingdom. Except, she’s not the saint. The other woman summoned with her is. The mages aren’t sure why the summon called forth two people – perhaps the dire situation requires two saints? While the prince whisks off the other woman to fulfil her destiny, Sei is free to do as she pleases and receives all the comforts the kingdom can provide. Bored with her new situation in life free of TV and the internet, she wanders into the Research Institute of Medicinal Flora and soon starts brewing potions, which turn out to be more effective than the norm. Her cooking also makes soldiers stronger. Is she the saint after all?
My initial impression of Omnipotent is a positive one. I like the older protagonist (not being an isekai rapist for once is a plus as well) and the less action-orientated premise stands out. My interest quickly wanes, sadly, as Sei meekly goes along with everything far too easily and her magical power is a nebulous gift that makes her the best at everything. I didn’t expect the title to be literal.
She makes potions the same as anyone else (never mind that she just started) yet they’re 50% stronger simply because. When she visits the mages to learn to enchant gemstones for a gift to her beau, she executes a perfect enchantment stronger than anyone at the institute could do on her first try. She proceeds to enchant a box of gems at the head mage’s request within a casual afternoon.
What bothers me more than the instant omnipotence is how irrelevant the isekai device is. Apart from her mentioning she’s bored without TV a couple of times, the fact that she’s from another world is irrelevant. Screams of lazy writing. Why not have her incorporate modern medicine and knowledge into her potions to make them stronger, à la Outlander? A notable twist could be that she is indeed no saint but her modern capabilities make her better than a saint. Weirdly, she only makes real use of each type of magic once – outside of the potions – in the series. This is a “magic spell of the week” show. That’s a first.
Beyond her abilities, I have never seen someone acclimatise so quickly and forget all connection to the modern world. There is some consternation about what would happen if everyone found out that she was a saint, probably the saint, though no conflict comes to fruition. It feels as if this is an isekai because isekai is popular, therefore you must have that tag no matter how flimsy. Omnipotent would have worked better if Sei were a gifted mage discovered by a high scholar in some remote village.
I find it tough to overstate how little effort went into the premise and the world. Sei’s power is undefined. The present day connection is meaningless. The fantasy society has no sense of lore or world building beyond the visuals and a few copy-pasted video game elements for magic. The great evil is as ill-realised as the rest, seen towards the end with a bit of action against nameless, faceless enemies.
“What are they?”
“Yes, but what kind of evil. Do you have a bestiary or something?”
“No. They evil.”
This is more of a slice of life anime though, and as such, this doesn’t turn my opinion negative. The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent is a relaxed comfort watch where everything looks lovely, where a romance with the commander matters more than the great evil. It’s a case where more effort could have made an anime I love instead of a watch, enjoy, and forget series.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: For fantasy slice of life fans only. The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent is for those in need of a conflict-free, no-thought fantasy anime. For a little more oomph (woah, not too much though), I recommend Snow White with the Red Hair instead.
When you’ve consumed enough anime with an analytical eye (or books or movies), judging the quality of series within one episode becomes easy. It may sound unfair – “You have to finish or it doesn’t count!” If a first episode is full of problems, then expect those same problems to echo throughout the series. Core elements don’t magically go from bad to great by the end. Not to suggest they can’t get better. You might get a 10% improvement by the end or an element that isn’t working falls away, elevating the rest in the process without much change. When a story has potential for greatness, the seeds are present from the start. What about judging the ending if you only watch one episode? You won’t be able to tell how good the ending will be (though a bad series ending is often predictable), but you can judge whether the journey is worth it. Remember, the end is a fraction of the overall experience.
And so, we come to The Pet Girl of Sakurasou. Let’s go through episode one for all the markers of how this series will be.
Opening scene, protagonist Sorata looking out of the classroom window at a bright but uneventful day, indicating his boring but easy life. He then tells us as much. Unnecessary showing plus telling. Not a big deal, but I expect to see this a lot, where they will show something (should stop there), but then have someone vocalise it as if the audience can’t infer on their own. Anime does this often. Problem repeats next moment when he wakes up (pointless dream opening scene is also a red flag) with a cat’s arse on his face – not a pleasant experience – and then has to tell us how it’s not a pleasant experience, a simile for his adolescent life.
Turns around to find his face now in a girl’s arse (camera about to perform a colonoscopy of course). Tells me the fan service will be non-stop and sleazy. She wakes up and her first line, yelled with extreme energy, is, “I want to be a bride when I grow up!” Atrocious introduction to an obnoxious character. She only gets worse as the scene continues.
Less than two minutes in and this tells me about 70% of what I need to know. There will be too much telling, sleazy fan service, and bad characters. All that remains is to see the narrative drive, which I expect within a few minutes, and I could give a recommendation.
Escapes into the hall where he runs into his teacher, whose priority one the first day of school is showing off her cleavage, as stated by her. She hands him a toolbox to fix the sign out front. This is Sakura Hall, a dorm notorious for housing the problem students of this art school. Sorata’s plot goal is to get out of this hellhole of a living situation. A funny premise, to be sure, but it hinges on having great characters in the dorm for comedy and all you’ve given me so far is sleaze and a colonoscopy.
There’s another minor instance of show and tell here. A couple of girls walk past and whisper about Sakura Hall’s reputation, which is all we need. Then Sorata tells us the same information again a second later.
Predictably, the panty girl from the start throws a window open and yells to him about how hot she is naked, reinforcing my judgment of obnoxious fan service and this character. A little over three minutes in and I’ve seen more than enough. Let’s keep going though.
Now we have the character bios. Panty girl is an animator, in comes a playboy guy (anime screenwriter and high school gigolo), the teacher we’ve met, and there is a NEET programmer no one has ever seen. Sorata is an average guy amongst a bunch of freaks. I’m not a fan of rapid-fire inductions like scrolling through game profiles, as they just info dump without engagement. At least it isn’t as bad as the one in Wave! Let’s Go Surfing! and they did intersplice character moments to give a bit of personality.
After classmate introductions and more talk of Sakura Hall’s infamy, we flashback to Sorata adopting a stray cat and being forced to move to Sakura Hall since regular dorms don’t allow pets. Bit of a forced scenario set up, but alright, works for comedy. He’s had stray cats come to him ever since. This is foreshadowing for later.
Side note: the bloom is too strong and ever-present.
The teacher introduces the foil in the story. Her cousin is coming from England (prediction: she will be nothing like a British girl) and will be staying in Sakura Hall. Sorata has to pick her up from the station. He finds the girl and the first thing she says is, “What colour do you want to be?” A feeble attempt at a philosophical conversation follows (purpose: on the nose metaphor of the theme). This tells me the story will try to cram a deeper meaning in somewhere (prediction: the ending, with sudden drama) that will utterly fail in the face of the sleaze and shallow characters. Her colour is white, like the stray cat. A bad introduction via writing from a film school student’s first indie movie.
We are a little past halfway in the first episode now and I have yet to find much positive to say. The colours are nice, though marred by the overbearing bloom. A couple of funny lines as well, yet far outweighed by the unfunny ones.
Next day, he has to wake her up for school, only to find her room in a disaster state as if the FBI had rifled all her clothes for secret intel. She’s a manga artist and sleeps under the desk. She comes out from blanket to stand before him naked. Nothing has changed from that first scene when he woke up. Turns out, she’s an absolute idiot for the sake of fan service, underage nudity, and comedy. The explanation is that this is normal because the culture in England is different? Yeah, I doubt the author has ever been to England. He has to get her ready like a child. This is the pet of the title and from all that foreshadowing. I get she is supposed to be like a stray cat to care for, like his many other stray cats, but did they have to make her mentally deficient just to fulfil his fetish?
And so ends the episode.
Let’s summarise. The characters are obnoxious, the love interest is imbecilic, the humour repeated itself several times within a single episode, the “serious” dialogue is laughably bad, showing plus telling, and fan service takes priority over all else. A thick blanket of anime clichés wraps this up.
One episode was too much to know The Pet Girl of Sakurasou isn’t an anime worth watching. Yes, there are many far worse than this, but also a thousand high school anime that you could watch first. Toradora is a much better version of this anime type.
For the sake of thoroughness and this review, I watched the series in full and nothing changes about the quality of this series. The characters are still weak stereotypes, the fan service is still sleazy, and the few good jokes are buried under the mountain of same tired lines in every high school anime. The feeble deeper messages die under the tonal nonsense of the sleaze. My only off prediction was the dramatic ending. It wasn’t as dramatic as expected, instead mirroring the first episode with nostalgia. The end was a typical graduation moment filled with crying people (understandable). It’s clear the main couple has barely evolved.
I could apply the above analysis to the first episode of any series, whether good or bad, and highlight the markers that predict overall quality. Maybe I should do it in future with some excellent series. Sounds like a good idea.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Skip it. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou isn’t worth your time in a sea of high school anime.
It is no secret that I’m not a fan of moe anime. Apart from usually looking hideous, they bank everything – character, plot, personality, effort – on the moe. The characters are insufferable, one-note, and what passes for humour is non-stop screeching. Oh god, the voices. They’re torture. So, what does a seemingly stereotypical moe anime with good characters, restraint on the screeching, and real humour look like? Meet K-On.
This anime revolves around the daily school life antics of a girls’ music club. They claim it’s a music club, but they spend more time drinking tea, eating cakes, and doing odd activities to promote the club. K-On is more a slice of life than a music anime. We have Yui the protagonist on the guitar, Mio on bass, Mugi on keyboard, and Ritsu banging the drums. A fifth joins the club later. Each girl fits one of the main archetypes of the typical “cute girls doing cute things” cast. Yui, for instance, is a clumsy airhead, which sounds clichéd. Another girl is the shy, self-conscious type yet popular with the boys. Also sounds clichéd. Their teacher is more of a child than half of her students. Sound familiar?
In fact, if I were to detail K-On in full on paper from its characters to the episodic scenarios, it would be normal for you to dismiss it as more of the same clichéd moe fare. To own a truth, though this had been on my list to watch since before my first review, I always suspected it as more of same that a hardcore fanbase overhyped to outsiders. Probably why I took so long to get to it. I was right, in a sense. K-On is more of the same, technically. However, it takes that sameness and executes it so much better than the competition that it makes me think even less of those other anime. Yes, K-On had many imitators in the years that followed, but it wasn’t an original idea either. I look at this anime and can’t pick out anything I would call different or innovative for the genre, apart from caring about more than the moe. Here we have a great example of the importance of execution over idea. I talk of this plenty in isekai reviews, where all they have going for them is that one change from other isekai, as if that alone will make for a great story. You could change nothing at the core but execute in a great way and now sentiment won’t be, “Oh, it’s just a rip-off of [other anime here].” Instead, viewers will say, “It’s like [other anime] but actually good.”
These characters are fun and the scenarios are fun, especially in season two when the series hits its stride. The humour works and has more than “it’s funny because she’s cute” as the joke. K-On is, in simple terms, fun. Who knew that having good characters with depth would make for an enjoyable experience, aye?
Huge praise must go to Kyoto Animation for applying their considerable artistic talents to the series. Nothing about K-On visually feels template. When the girls have those expected moe and anime reactions, we aren’t getting stock animation you see copied and pasted across the seasonal clones. These characters have such life and energy, such expression thanks to caring artists. Very giffable too, as I’m sure you’ve seen around the net.
One problem tangential to K-On is the ease in which it is to imitate. Imitating well is a different matter, but to create a clone (similar to how easy it is to clone Sword Art Online) takes little effort and had caused a flood on the market. If you have seen its imitators already, I can imagine them lessening your experience with K-On, for while this is better, you could feel as if you know everything about K-On before you even start. That said, should you have an inclination for the genre as an outsider, I do recommend this one. Actually, this is the only anime of the typical moe variety that I would recommend to non-core fans.
I want to be clear. You aren’t finding anything revolutionary here or the anime to change your mind on moe, but it is still a good anime regardless.
One final note – should a dub be your preference, avoid the original Animax dub. Absolutely lifeless. The Bang Zoom redub is close to the Japanese in tone and energy and a fine experience.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must for “cute girls doing cute things” fans. This might appeal to those not already predisposed to the moe genre. K-On is good though still very moe.
Gorgeous character art and designs (after a few volumes)
Starts and ends well
Art begins in an ugly state
Main thread goes nowhere for ~30 volumes in the middle
Oh! My Goddess (sometimes called Ah! My Goddess) was one of the first anime I loved after having seen the 5-episode OVA and movie. It would later receive another adaptation with the first season retelling the OVA and several other volumes to be more manga accurate. It was enjoyable, but still the same section of story, more or less. The second season came about and was just comedy slice of life, much to my annoyance. Season 2 felt like a waste of time. The lack of closure has bothered me ever since.
My dive into the world of manga had me thinking of incomplete anime I could conclude in the source material. Oh! My Goddess was my first candidate. It has taken a while – 308 chapters over 48 volumes – but I did it. Does it have everything I’d hoped for?
The first shock came to me with the art of chapter one. To me, Oh! My Goddess has always had characters designs in a beautiful style I cherish. However, I find the manga starts ugly. How did they get the anime designs from this? I considered the possibility of a redraw of the manga that I hadn’t heard of, but the covers for later volumes showed what I was used to. And I must say, it is impressive to see how quickly the art improves from chapter to chapter. The art is years better within a few volumes. Thank the goddess, for I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate that Belldandy with the melting face for long. Oh! My Goddess ends up with elegant characters, expressive features, and detailed backgrounds where needed. The chibis are adorable too.
The premise in brief, for anyone not familiar with the franchise: University student Keiichi accidentally calls the Goddess Helpline and the goddess Belldandy answers his call with one wish. Thinking it’s all a joke and as a “manlet” (his words) with no chance of getting a girlfriend, he wishes for someone as beautiful as Belldandy to stay by his side forever. Wish granted! Since his dorm doesn’t allow girls, he finds himself homeless with his…girlfriend? They settle in a temple and begin to go about daily life in this unexpected relationship. No one at uni can believe someone like him got a woman like her. Her two sisters, Skuld and Urd, soon join them on Earth and the pandemonium only increases.
The anime’s second season that annoyed me so much turns out to be canon. It’s not exactly the same, but content is in line with the manga. See, Oh! My Goddess the manga stops main story progression – the Keiichi-Belldandy relationship – around volume 5 and doesn’t restart until the volume 38-ish mark. That is over 30 volumes of no progress and I could it feel more acutely with each passing chapter. The issue isn’t that the “filler” is bad (I’ll get to that in a moment), but rather that we don’t seem to go anywhere. Doesn’t even have the decency to focus on the main thread for one in four volumes – would still be a bad ratio, by the way, though it would be something. It recalls when classic Naruto was in filler mode while waiting for Shippuden. A filler arc would finally end and you’d start the next episode thinking, “Are we finally done?” only to have more filler molest you.
This middle section of arcs across 30 plus volumes focuses on side characters and most are decently fun. Urd arcs will often play on her demon half with visits from other demons, included her powerful demon mother (different mother to the other two sisters). Hers are quite good. Skuld arcs, on the other hand, are more child-like and about growing up as she crushes on a human boy or relies on her gadgets to solve all problems. I didn’t find these good or bad either way. Keiichi arcs are very much university centric, especially involving the motor club, where he has to build or repair some vehicle and partake in a race. These are among the better sub-arcs as author Kosuke Fujishima’s gearhead nature spills across the pages (he has a couple of other racing-focused manga). The background art also shines in these segments.
As for Belldandy arcs, they generally involve a challenge from a heavenly visitor. Someone either wants to bring her back or just wants to toy with Keiichi. These are among the weakest arcs. For one, they are all similar. What is it with the adult male gods/demons appearing as a child to mess with her? I don’t recall a single adult male god throughout the series (turns out the one featured in the movie is non-canon). These arcs could have been the focal points for progression, but they don’t amount to more than weird magical trials. Belldandy shines in other people’s arcs (she’s my favourite character).
My favourite of the sub-arcs has the interdimensional whale. Keiichi’s motor club seniors are going away for a time and need him to look after a couple of boxes of expensive parts. A couple of boxes ends up being a garage full. Since temples don’t have garages, they store it all in lounge room, but now they can’t use the lounge! Skuld has the idea to build a device that can create a TARDIS effect – “It’s bigger on the inside.” The intention is to expand the interior of the lounge room without affecting its exterior volume. However, the device doesn’t operate as planned and expands the room to infinity. They have no idea where their things are in this space. A creature called Schrodinger’s Whale soon appears before them, and it can navigate the space with ease as a being of negative dimensions. It’s an interesting concept clearly inspired by Star Trek (they are watching The Next Generation on TV before meeting it). I like those arcs that explore a mysterious concept. But no matter how much I like these, the total absence of main plot is nothing but infuriating.
Why didn’t they make more use of Heaven as a location? There is so much one could do on another world of immortal beings that blends Norse mythology with technology. The movie had more of Heaven than the manga series did before the final arc. So much untapped potential lay wasted.
So, after all these volumes, I reached the final arc that sends Keiichi and the three goddesses into Heaven for a series of trials that will put Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship to the ultimate test. It is a good arc, ending in a lovely conclusion, except for one moronic detail. There is a canonical explanation for the lack of relationship progression. I kid you not, magic prevented development. That has to be the worst defence put forth by any author in the history of literature. Other than that, it’s a fine end.
I got my closure. I simply wish the journey there had been better.
Art – High
Story – Medium
Recommendation: I can only recommend the Oh! My Goddess manga in full to fans of the anime that want closure. For the uninitiated to the franchise, the first season of the anime followed by the movie is the best experience, ending with volumes 39 to 48 of the manga should you want that final tie of the ribbon.