Manabi Straight OVA

July 4, 2008

Finally I’ve made it a point to watch Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA. Though the subs for this OVA came out quite some time after the tv series has ended, I didn’t really watch it immediately. But that doesn’t mean I have forgotten all about this comedy and slice of life series yet. I kept this ‘reminder’ at the back of my mind until I have the right free time to watch it. Really? Am I such a busy person? Yeah, busy watching animes.
 
Like many OVAs of a tv series, this is an extra single episode DVD special. Fans of the series will definitely want to add this to their collection. Otherwise, I feel that it’s like a marketing strategy to make anime viewers who are curious enough wanting to know what this episode is really all about, to buy and watch the DVD.
 
Don’t expect anything that special or extraordinary from the tv series, though. As I’ve said, it’s just an extra episode. According to Anime News Network, this OVA takes place before the school cultural festival and between episodes 6 and 7 of the tv series. I thought probably the OVA will show how the girls go about in their daily lives after the end of the tv series. But seriously, I think if it does, you won’t manage to see the same quirkiness of the girls you’d expect to see in the tv series.
 
The story starts off with Momo narrating herself as a member of Seioh’s newspaper department and wants to do a special summer report called Student’s Special Rights. No, she’s not gonna do some protest or be an activist. But she did mention about wanting to win the Pulitzer Prize (something which she can’t really pronounce in the first place). Furthermore, Momo is seen following and taking pictures of Mikan. Yeah, it also seems that girl has woken up earlier than her alarm clock so much so her mom wonders if there’s a need to set it up in the first place after offing it.
 
The scene changes to Momo’s mansion. We see Momo along with Manabi, Mikan and Mei cleaning her pool. But Momo, being that mischievous girl she is, starts spraying the water hose on Mikan, ‘immobilizing’ her. Of course Manabi tries to assert her authority by asking Momo to get back to work, but was met with the same fate. Mei is of course amazed at the size of the mansion and wonders if they pay their taxes on time. Is that what she thinks. In no time, Mei gets Momo’s water hose sprayed in her face too. Haha, we see the 3 ‘victims’ lying down there as Momo still continues to spray on them when Momo’s maid comes by to bring their drinks and refreshments. Mikan is relieved but Mikan says no and reminds them that they’re here to work so that they could earn money for their special summer training camp. While Manabi is blabbing and imagining the perfect seaside training camp, the rest have already gone to enjoy their break. She’s devastated when Momo wants to drink her share. No choice but to go join them.
 
As they enjoy their drinks, they discuss the specialness of summer. Mei says that there isn’t anything special as it’s just the change of the state of mind of those who get easily influenced by the environment. Like going to school or not, or when it’s hot or not. Since Manabi and Mikan didn’t get it, they asks Mei to say it once more. She obliged. They didn’t get it. Once more. Okay, still blur. Care to repeat that? Before this could turn out to be a repetitive affair, Manabi wonders if Mei is easily influenced, in which Mei refutes. Momo then mentions how this is the first time Mei is playing with them outside school, causing Manabi and Mikan to say how special it is as Mei blushes while trying to change the subject that they’re here to work and not play.
 
Meanwhile Mutuski has just finished her sports practice in school and calls Mikan that she’s going over to Momo’s place now. On the way, she gets a little upset when she hears a couple of workers saying how they envy students having summer holidays now because they’re so carefree. Back at Momo’s place, the quartet are continuing their work but it looks like they’re having fun playing. Can’t resist, huh? Manabi mentions how a summer is special is because of its ingredients, from blockbuster Hollywood movies to having 5 scoop ice creams. Just then, Mutsuki arrives and is surprised that there hasn’t been any progress in their work yet. Yeah, she’s even a little disappointed that at least the serious Mei would put her feet down and see things through. How embarrassing. Mutsuki also chides them that’s why odd job workers look down on students. Silence fills the air. But Mutsuki can’t stay mad at them because she’s soon asking where’s her water gun. So the girls continue to have their water gun fight. I’m not sure whether they got the job done or not.
 
The scene changes as we see the girls waiting under the hot summer sun in sweltering heat at the train station. Manabi comes by to give each of them their ice cream but they don’t seem too happy. They ask her where are the spoons. Yeah, can’t eat or scoop them without spoons, right? Not too sure if they manage to get spoons but Manabi narrates that since they missed their transfer train, they have to wait 1 1/2 hours for the next one. That’s a pretty long time if you’re waiting under the sun. When they manage to take the next one, they all fell asleep onboard due to exhaustion. Manabi also narrates that the train ticket that they bought is special as it allows unlimited rides for express trains during the summer holidays and that it’ll be a 2 day 1 night Seioh Student Council Special Training Camp.
 
Even though it’s summer, the weather is still unpredictable. Upon reaching their destination, the girls are clinging on dearly to a post as a heavy storm is passing through. Didn’t they check the weather forecast? I don’t know who had to cheek to say that it’s something Mei will do because she should have known about their ‘lazy’ personalities. True. I think Mei must’ve caught their ‘lazy’ disease ever since she joined them. You could say that they’ve come unprepared. Just then, the girls spot Mikan being ‘blown away’ by the wind. Well, she’s actually rolling on the ground. The girls trek hard in the storm and tries to find a place to stay when Mikan once again is ‘blown away’ by the wind and into the fields. Better hurry go save her.
 
The girls manage to take shelter at a nearby inn and we see the inn lady talking to Manabi’s brother, Takefumi, on the phone. They are allowed to stay here and Takefumi tells Mikan that he has already transferred some money into their net account and also cancelled reservations at the initial hotel that they booked for their camp. After that, Manabi is thrilled to see the girls in their yukata and thinks Mei has the cutest. While Mei is reciting important areas of the place, Manabi suddenly jumps on her and strips her! Holy smoke! She really wants her cute yukata that bad? Momo quickly takes a snapshot. Hopefully that shot won’t appear in undesirable places. Then at the hotspring bath, we see the girls holding the 1st Seioh Student Council breath holding contest. And the winner is Manabi. Erm… Isn’t that Manabi floating back up with her face down in the water? Argh! Call for emergency! Call 119! Call 119! Now I learn that 115 is the number for domestic telegram in Japan.
 
Back in their room, we see Mei back to her serious and assertive self as she tells the others to stop doing silly things like Mikan not to fall asleep, Momo not to stand on her hands without any reasons, Mutsuki not to watch sports programmes, and Manabi not to eat those fattening snacks. Well, actually that last bit was said by Momo. Once Mei gathers the gang, she tells them off that they should have a sense of purpose and that this is a training camp to unite them all for the upcoming school festival. So she suggests that they play a card game first. The girls are excited. Ah, so this girl has learned to soften up too. I don’t really see how all that fun and games, including enjoying the massage chair, eating a wholesome meal and playing the obligatory ping pong match, as special training. Hey, maybe all that fun is to strengthen their relationship and bonds. You’re expecting something like an army boot camp? Come on, they’re just cute little girls.
 
That night, Mikan couldn’t sleep so she went to get herself a drink at the vending machine when a young inn staff girl spots her. The duo then chat away like how Mikan tells her she feels like she’s being left out by the rest because she doesn’t know what she’s good at unlike the rest. The girl also tells Mikan how she’s a little envious of this training camp of theirs because she has never attended high school before. But she’s glad that she got to inherit this inn and loves working here. Soon the inn lady comes by and the girl goes off to clean some room. Mikan apologizes that she dragged her into their chat but the inn lady is okay with it, saying that the girl hasn’t talked to people of her age for a very long time. She also went on to say how she used to often go on summer holiday trips with her buddies and that they would be a noisy bunch and talk about the boys they liked. Though she wanted that girl to attend high school, she rather come and help out at the inn. Since the inn lady feels the same way, she allowed it. She also feels that there’s more to attending school than just finding things you want to do. Though Mikan didn’t understand that, the inn lady says that she’ll understand it someday.
 
Bewildered at first, Mikan narrates how she hasn’t come to any conclusion on how to go about on stuffs like the purpose of attending school and the things she wants to do. But the only thing in her head now is the school festival. As she feels that this inn too holds special memories because she’s with everyone and wishes they too think the same, Mikan gets herself a sense of self confidence and heads back to sleep.
 
It’s a sunny day back at Seioh Academy as we see Momo uploading pictures from their training camp onto their website. She narrates that a summer holiday can be defined as a student’s right. A special summer holiday is a moment only for students. The thing that they call an answer is definitely contained inside this image. Meanwhile the principal of Seioh is looking at their website and is quite pleased. She then makes a phone call to Kyoko (the superintendent of Aikoh Academy against the school festival and is planning on cancelling it), who is also looking at the website, and wants to talk to her about some things and to speak her mind on it.
 
All in all, I feel that this OVA episode is just okay. As mentioned, nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just to satisfy our curiosities and probably to have a feel-good end to the series (if they’re not planning to make a 2nd season, that is). But I’m sure those who have watched the series would know the outcome of it, right? So it made me wonder a little that if Kyoko had really given a little thought for the efforts that the girls put in during their summer training camp. Maybe she didn’t see the connection of what this camp has got to do with the school festival. It’s not what the things they did. It’s the will and determination that the girls have.
 
The drawing, art and animation seems pretty consistent with the tv series, as well as the voice acting. Well duh? Can’t be making a complete makeover with a new cast of characters with this single OVA episode, can’t you. I wonder if they would make a second OVA. It’ll still be interesting to see what the girls are doing. You can still count on their quirky antics. Hey, I kinda noticed something is missing here. It’s that victory pose! Aww man, I really miss and love seeing the girls in that pose. I’m doing 1 myself now. Hehehe.
 
So it goes to show that as long as you are together with your friends, you can still have fun and learn no matter where you are. Yup, location doesn’t really matter as it all boils down how you make good memories at the place you’re at. Hey, I also noticed that Manabi didn’t say her usual catchphrase "Massugu Go!" (meaning, go forward) here. Maybe that’s already implied as well. So people, are you happy with your lives? Now, let’s massugu go with life!
 
Manabi Straight

Manabi Straight

November 3, 2007

I somehow seem to think of this series, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, as the Azumanga Daioh and Ichigo Mashimaro of the future. I mean this anime isn’t a rip off or a spoof of that series but perhaps it’s mainly because of the cute group of high school girls whom at first look like elementary school kids to me. Okay, they may not seem that cute or moe to me but at first glance, I think that’s their main appeal.
 
This anime is set in the near future, the year 2035 and has a little futuristic appeal in it. Is the world getting better by then with all those modern technology and gadgets? Not too sure. But here, there is a drop and decline in the birthrate. I’m not too sure whether this is a worldwide phenomena but this is quite a serious case in Japan (and even now in the real world) so much so that schools around the country has been forced to close down due to the lack of students. It’s quite ironic seeing that every year the human population is booming and we’re wondering if the Earth is enough to sustain the future generation.
 
But that’s another story. For now, let’s concentrate on this 12 episode slice of life comedy series. Having said that the declining birthrate has forced schools to be closed down, I somehow don’t see the ‘scarcity’ of students. I mean, it’s not that the screen is over populated with them, but enough to make me think "Hey, this school doesn’t have any such problems". Unless, if I take into account that this particular all-girl private high school that this anime is set in, Seioh Academy, is quite a large campus. So perhaps in terms of school size to student ratio, yeah, it may seem justified.
 
So in episode 1, we are introduced to one of the main protagonist of the show, Manami Amamiya or better and fondly known as Manabi. She’s your typical quirky eccentric hyped up positive and genki little girl and rides some sort of a hovering scooter to school. Her favourite catchphrase is "Massugu go!", meaning go forward, which is also her life’s motto. In addition, she punches straight up in the air whenever she says that. Manabi is late on her first day at school (read: she’s a new transfer student) and bumps into a student council member and soon would be buddy, Mika Inamori AKA Mikan. You’ll find that this Mikan girl has low self-esteem and is a crybaby but over the series, she’ll gradually change (well, at least for the most of it). At first impression, Manabi’s genkiness may seem weird so much so you may think that she’s an alien from another planet. Nevertheless, Manabi gives Mikan a ride on her scooter and off they blast to Seioh Academy.
 
They arrived at their school but because of the speed (remember kids, do not speed) they crash into the swimming pool, in which the school is having some swimmming competition. This isn’t gonna put Manabi down yet as she changes into her swimming outfit and gets ready for the competition. Um… I wonder how she got tangled between those float borders. But mainly this episode is about how Manabi tries to set up the student council member. Later at the school hall, Manabi’s positive speech to become the student council president seems to bore the audience. Furthermore, since she’s new, she isn’t allowed to be on such a post yet. So how did Mikan ever landed the job at the student council? It seems a previous student council president left her in a lurch as the secretary when she transfered to another school. Not until Manabi starts singing the Seioh’s school anthem did everyone felt touched so much so they agree to make her one. That easy? I guess she must have the touch to touch people’s heart. I’m surprised that Manabi could remember the lines of the entire anthem, unlike me. I must’ve forgotten my own old school’s anthem by now ;P. Besides, somehow the anthem doesn’t sound like a typical school anthem (as comparison to where where I come from of course) but more like a slow pop ballad.
 
Let me just introduce briefly the other characters who will soon be part of Manabi’s student council. First there’s this tomboy, Mutsuki Uehara who is also an athelete. But her multi-talent in sports has other clubs inviting her to join them and not wanting to turn them down, she decides to join them all.
 
Then we have some sort of an introvert or rather disagreeing nature, Mei Etou (looks like a chibi version of Natsuki of Mai-HiME). She has difficulty in expressing her true emotions and usually rebuffs what she does with some excuses rather than telling the true stuff. Thus, she keeps a distance from others and doesn’t have many close friends. Of course as the series progress, you’ll find that she opens up and becomes more expressive of herself.
 
Finally there is Momoha Odori or known as Momo for short. Among the quintet, it seems that she’s quite lazy and doesn’t do much to help around. And whenever there is something that needs to be done, she’s always missing. Meaning that she doesn’t get directly involve in student council affairs. So much so I kinda notice that the rest seems to ignore her from time to time.
 
I need to mention that their homeroom teacher, Shimojima (I don’t believe I’ve seen his eyes opened before), who loves lighting up a smoke sometimes, seems to be interested in helping Manabi and co into making school life more interesting for his fellow students as the series progresses. Not that he directly helps them outright, but indirectly and more discreetly. The principal of Seioh Academy too shares this view and also helps Manabi in a way. From time to time, we’ll see Manabi’s elder brother, Takefumi, who seems to be like Manabi’s guardian and parents because he’s seen doing the house chores like cooking and cleaning. So what about Manabi’s parents? Throughout the series, it isn’t mentioned.
 
Having a position as student council president doesn’t mean one will have an easy life. Besides, that’s not what Manabi is hoping for either. Basically, episode 2 is about how Manabi and Mikan try to clean up and reorganize the student council room. It won’t be an easy task since the room is quite dark, dusty and there’s lots and lots of boxes and books (probably unused) sitting idly on the old shelves.
 
Since they can’t do it by themselves, Mutsuki, Momo and even Mei lends a helping hand. Of course obviously Mei is denying that she’s really helping them. They come up with all sorts of ideas, strategies, tactics and plans on how to turn the student council room into a better looking one because a student council counterpart from Aikoh Academy is paying them a visit soon. So I see that’s why they have to get things done in a hurry to impress their guest. Soon, word of their effort gets round and other girls start to help them (partly because of Manabi’s moving words and those who didn’t want to help eventually does so as not to be seen as the ‘bad guy’) and because many hands make light work, the student council room is given a tremendous makeover in no time. The girls at the end seem tired and sleeping, but they’ve earned it.
 
The Seioh Academy student council organizes some inter-school dodgeball tournament in an effort to work things out in episode 3. Poor Mei. She got hit by the dodgeball and the mark is so evident on her face even after the tournament. Other than that, the student council of Aikoh Academy, Takako Kakuzawa, pays Manabi and the rest of her gang a visit. They talked about organizing the upcoming school festival. However, Manabi wasn’t able to give any suggestion and because of that she gets a little depressed.
 
But that depression won’t stay for long as that night itself, the idea light bulb hits Manabi and she’s back to her genki self. I know she’s bloody enthusiastic to let her pals know about her plans. But calling them up dead in the middle of the night to get to Seioh Academy (and even in their school uniforms!) and just telling them some words of hope like how they won’t just be copying Aikoh’s school festival but having a unique one of their own, the gang then felt some renewed hope and determination to make their school festival a grand event. I guess it must be Manabi’s speech full of hopefulness and optimism which made them imagine the grandoise of things like flying through the air, fireworks and such. But I suppose it’s a start. If you want to do something, the most important is to have the will and heart to do it right from the start.
 
In episode 4, Seioh’s student council decides to do some promo video clip presentation about their upcoming school festival. However, this episode is mainly about Mei and how she develops her wariness of others and shun her true emotions. It all started because of a slip of a tongue from Mikan. You see, Mei is quite good with those computer design and programming stuffs and she created the clip amazingly in a short amount of time. Thus Mikan quoted that if Mei was there, the rest of them wouldn’t be needed. This prompts Mei to have flashbacks about her traumatic past again. Back then, her old classmates told her how she fits being the class rep because she’s diligent and strong. But that isn’t a compliment. It’s an excuse for them to slack of and let Mei do everything by herself. Those little #*@!!!
 
Because of that, Mei locks herself up in her room and spaces out. Until Mutsuki pays her a visit and some talk did Mei decide to see for herself how those blokes are doing without her. Emm… Can she really spy on the room after just typing some code. Hopefully spy cams won’t turn out like this in the future. But after Mei hears how sincere those girls are, Mei realized and decides to help them. The next day of the presentation, it seems that the video froze halfway. How are they gonna fix this? With teachers and students wondering what’s going on in the school hall when Mei suddenly appears from the main door. In a jiffy, she fixes the problem and soon the presentation went by smoothly.
 
I like the last part of this episode because it show the girls in their victory pose. The 5 of them stood there, their bodies a little titled with a serious face, their right arms raised to eye level and fists clenched. No, it doesn’t look like a salute to Hitler, mind you. Hehehe. Nice one girls. Another major milestone is that we see a congratulatory note on the student council room board that Mei has officially joined the council body as the treasurer. She’s free from her past now, though you’ll still see a little of her old attitude from time to time.
 
In episode 5, Manabi has some kind of mumps which makes her cheeks swollen. No, she doesn’t look cute at all. Because of that Mikan tries to think up of a plan for their school festival before Manabi recovers, which is probably about a week’s time. But mainly, this episode focuses more on the drama between Mikan and Mei as the 2 bond together through the school festival’s planning. But since their minds are blank, they tried different and weird methods to get their brains working like running (only to be run out of breath) and looking up some reference in the library (and even ‘stealing’ them at night when nobody’s around. However Shimojima spots them but just let them be). In the end, Manabi has recovered from her illness and sees the plan that Mei and Mikan had come up with and is thrilled with the theme ‘From Friends To Buddies’.
 
Since summer vacation is over, the students now have to take upcoming exams in episode 6. Besides the student council making and planning for their school cultural festival, just like the previous episode, this one focuses more on Mikan and Mutsuki. So we see some flashback how on Mikan’s first day at Seioh whereby she tripped and was helped up by Mutsuki and it’s like they become friends ever since after some chat. Back to the present, on the night before of the exams, Mikan decides to go to Mutsuki’s house to study. We get a glimpse of why Mutsuki is quite tomboyish because she’s got 3 boys as her siblings and she’s like being the ‘big sister’ who’s trying to keep those naughty little boys in line.
 
I guess it’s understandable that the house is too noisy for them to study and with Mutsuki trying to keep the boys in line (not to mention Mikan getting in the fun as well), later that night, the duo sneak out of the house and had a little snack at a cafe and a little fun like karaoke and a stroll through town in the early morning. Though they got their friendship bonding, however the next day, Mikan completely bombed her last exams (meaning she floped. And what’s this? Mutsuki just sleeping on it, literally). But all is not lost as in the end, Mutsuki officially joins the student council as the assistant. Okay, so it has really got nothing to do with her exams.
 
Episode 7 is the start of the turning point. The exams and summer holidays are over. But before we get serious let me mention a few hilarious points first. It seems that the student council members are having writer’s block as they try their best to plan for their school festival so much so they’re losing it! Manabi’s gone a little ‘haywired’ as she’s saying her "Massugu go!" lines repeatedly and punching Mutsuki in the face repeatedly! I wonder why she didn’t dodge it. Maybe she she’s haywired? Probably Mei herself is getting shortfused as she and Mutsuki are duking out. What about Momo? She’s really tanned and has returned from her Hawaii trip and looked so carefree. Because of that everybody else seems to ignore her. Haha. But the funniest part is when a cicada on a tree is too noisy outside so much so Mei can’t stand it and yells at it through the window to be quiet. The cicada instantly went silent. Then later in the episode, that cicada died silently as it falls off the tree. Hahaha.
 
Aside from that, it seems Takako pays the Seioh Academy’s student council a visit. The gang jokingly thinks that she’s here to spy on them. However this isn’t the case. Takako observes how happy and sincere the girls are in organizing the festival. So what gives? Takako thinks back whereby she has a meeting with the superintendent of Aikoh Academy, Kyoko Kiyokawa. Kyoko is telling Takako how Aikoh has bought over Seioh and the 2 schools will soon merge under Aikoh’s name! True that this is due to the declining number of students but Kyoko has another devastating announcement. With the merger, she’ll cancel the school festival! Oh dear! She doesn’t think highly of the students organizing such activities and having fun as she tells Takako to keep this a secret. The announcement date of the merger is set to be on September 1st and by the time Takako visited her Seioh counterparts, it’s already August 31st. Tick tock. Running out of time. Oh, Manabi and co better have their fun till their hearts content as they are seen playing with sparklers and jumping into the pool with their uniforms that night. D-Day is tomorrow.
 
Yeah, and it seems that at the start of episode 8, Shimojima receives an unexpected flying kick from Manabi! They’re calling him a traitor after a notice on the board states that the festival is to be cancelled. Hehehe. Mutsuki is pinning him down on the ground as well. Shimojima mentions that he can’t do anything about it. Then at the school hall, the merger announcement takes place. The student council members confront the principal but she herself too has her hands tied. With that, the gang stage some kind of a protest and are asking the other students to oppose this. But in the end, nobody really did cared that much for the festival and their protest is futile.
 
Life is bloody ironic. It seems that Manabi heads back home to find that her brother has got a new lover, who could it be? It’s Kyoko herself! At first Manabi didn’t know who she is until she asked what her job is. Oh the horror! With that, Manabi decides to temporarily stay at Mikan’s place. Can’t believe her enemy is seeing her brother. Not only that, Manabi confronts Kyoko in her office the next day to object. Quite funny to see the 2 MIB holding up a shorty Manabi as she tries to kick Kyoko (of course cannot reach lah). The next day, Manabi returns and shows Kyoko her victory pose and a scroll stating ‘presumed innocent’. With that, Kyoko decides to give her a chance why shouldn’t the school festival be cancelled with the condition that Manabi must get a 70% petition of the students signatures in order for their school festival to be revived.
 
With only a week as their time limit, in episode 9, the Seioh student council gets on their feet to get as many signatures as possible. However, because the other student’s are like ‘boh chap’ attitude, their efforts are futile once more. They’re on the verge of giving up. Other than that, we see the principal having fond memories of the time she was a student of this academy as she reminisces the old times at an abandoned dorm within the school grounds. It seems she herself was part of some protest against the administration’s tyranny but ended up in failure.
 
So how did the gang save the day? It came from an unlikely source. Momo. Yup, that girl finally did some good as she hijacks the broadcasting room in some full radiation suit (so that nobody could recognize her. Yeah, right. Even that line she said "I no Japanese"… Yeah, right) as she transmit video footages of the student council members helping to improve the school, which she has previously filmed them doing so. Uh-huh, a video freak. With that, they rushed to the student council room (Momo has already been caught by then) and with renewed hope and determination decides to fight till the very end. The next day, the quartet (I think Momo has been detained that’s why she wasn’t with them) continue their plea to the other students to sign the petition. At first no one seems interested that is until 3 girls show up and wonders if they could sign it. See, good things come to those who wait. Manabi and the rest are thrilled. It’s a start.
 
While the petionning continues in episode 10, Seioh’s old clock tower is under construction and is to be replaced with a new one. Hmm… The new one looks so floral. Then a funny part whereby suddenly a voice claiming to be the clock tower fairy telling the students below about its happy past and such and that before it goes it wants to see the school festival and asks all the students to sign the petition. Hahaha. It’s some cheap trick from Manabi broadcasting to get the students to fall for it. I don’t think the students are that dumb, right?
 
However, another mishap befalls on the student council members. After the new clock has been installed, it blows up but the only room destroyed is the student council’s room. Oh, after all that hard work and fond memories, now they have no more room to share their future activities. But Shimojima won’t let it end this way as he show them the abandoned dorm and tells them that this could be their new base. Seems scary and haunted at first but it’s better than nothing as the girls start cleaning and tidying up the place. Soon, the other students decide to help in even into the night and once again the building looks like it’s as though it’s been given a new lease of life. The principal acknowledges their hard work and effort. Meanwhile, back at Aikoh Academy, Takako is having a meeting with Kyoko. She’s wondering how did the Seioh girls fare in their petition. Kyoko spell the results out. They got 76%. Whopee! With that, a sign at the new student council building gladly states that the school festival is back.
 
With that, preparations of the school festival is well on the way in episode 11. With the close cooperation of the students, they manage to complete it all just before the big day. And it will be a grand event. Funny to see Mutsuki like a bouncer, going around knocking those troublemakers with her Tenchu move. Also, Takefumi pays a visit to the school festival and the student council’s room as well. Though it’s the first time the other girls meet Takefumi, Manabi is telling them about how her naughty brother is in a fiery relationship with an older lady without telling the family. Speak of the devil, Kyoko soon arrives and she and Takefumi gets lovey-dovey. Yeah, Manabi still don’t see eye to eye with her as the rest of the girls take her away and leave the lovebirds alone. It seems Kyoko have a more favourable view of the school festival. As the festival continues, Mei, Manabi and Mikan are sitting and waiting by themselves at their base because of some admin job that they have to be stationed there. Takako joins them later.
 
By the end of the day, some band invites Manabi up to the stage to sing the last song (hey, they’ve been playing for the whole day now). I suppose Shimojima and the principal wonder how they ended up substituting and sitting in for the student council. Manabi sings the Seioh’s anthem and with that the band improvises and changes it into an upbeat rock song as everyone gets into the mood. The day ends with a bang of beautiful fireworks display which lit up the night sky. The principal notes that though this year’s festival isn’t much different than last year’s, but it is special because it was a school festival that the students won back as those girls put their lives on it and never turned back.
 
The final episode 12 takes place 2 years later and it’s graduating time for the girls. Even though Seioh and Aikoh have merged, many things remained unchanged like the uniform because of Kyoko’s efforts. While the student council has new members to take over the old ones (not meant to be insulting okay), mainly we see the quintet’s last gathering. Mutsuki got into a professional sports squad, Momo is gonna do digital journalism while Mei is going off to college. What about Manabi? She decides to be a free-ter. It’s a term referring to people who hop from 1 part time job to another to show that they can do anything. I see. We also find out that Momo comes from a rich family who has invented a lot of gadgets like that hoovering scooter Manabi has. Yeah, Manabi’s new catchphrase "Shiranakatta", meaning I didn’t know, each time she finds out more and more about Momo. Hehehe.
 
Meanwhile Mikan is planning on going to USA as she wants to try and change herself and to look for wonderful and exciting things to do all over again. After the graduating ceremony with another usual speech of hope and future from Manabi, the quintet gathers for one last time on the school rooftop as they reflect and discuss things. Mikan starts crying and is doubting whether she want to go to USA or not because she wants to be with them but at the same time feels that she’s dragging them behind. Manabi comforts her and say that they’ll always be together. With that, Mikan decides to go to USA. On the day of her departure, the foursome decides to see her off but got stuck in a jam. Uh-huh, Mei’s got a driving licence already. They finally manage to reach the airport just when Mikan is about to leave for her flight. Yes. They show her their trademark victory pose. With that, Manabi notes that this isn’t the end, but the beginning for them. No regrets now.
 
The end credits show Mutsuki playing in some baseball team, Mei and Takako are studying together at a college, Momo is filming something with her camera, Manabi is doing her free-ter thing and what’s this? Takefumi has become a teacher at the school? Is it for Kyoko? Anyway another fastforward to 1 year and 5 months later, Mikan returns to Japan during summer and is greeted by her 4 buddies. So if you’re wondering what the opening credits are actually, it’s actually the girls spraying the walls, floors and ground of the Seioh Academy with their colour spraycan (would this amount to graffiti?) as it spells out from the bird’s eye view ‘A Happy Life’ (which is the opening theme of the series). So did you enjoy your happy life? Well then, just massugu go forward then. As for the 5 of them, they’ll always be friends for life, friends forever.
 
Overall, this is quite a nice heartwarming story of friendship. Though there are some drama parts but perhaps it’s those weird stuffs that the 5 girls do which amuses me. Just like Ichigo Mashimaro, doing cute things the cute way. But I find it more amusing here than cute. Manabi’s positive attitude should be a role model and example to not only school kids but adults as well. No doubt she has lots of things to say (in a way may sound boring), but those words are meaningful.
 
The drawing, art and animation is top notched and smooth. Not to really say that it’s the best of the best, but the quality is there. One thing I kinda notice is that the hair of the characters have this white droplets which make it look like as though their hair is a little wet. Then again, perhaps it must be the sun shine reflecting on it (are they saying their hair is that smooth because of using a certain shampoo brand?). Also, the character’s hair has some sort of shading to it as it gets lighter at the top. Since the characters are drawn to the cuteness appeal, don’t expect to find any bishoujos here unless you consider such drawing to be one. At times, I caught myself wondering about how similar some of the characters look since the facial lines are simple and some characters look alike. At first I couldn’t tell the difference between Manabi and Mikan if not for their different hair colour. Hey, did you notice that the first names of the 5 girls starts with the letter ‘M’?
 
The next episode preview is quite short and isn’t anything much and I didn’t get to even understand or find out what the next episode is going to be all about. Most probably it’s because I was concentrating on the interesting short computer interface-like presentation with that catchy percussion beat in the background. Plus, the screen of the episode preview is quite small so I can’t really see anything unless I look very closely and strain my eyes. Then it ends like when you switch off your tv or your pc screen.
 
Both the opening theme song, A Happy Life, and ending theme song, Lucky & Happy, are both sung by Megumi Hayashibara and it seems fitting for this kind of series. The ending credits seems like some claymation, or rather they use the figurines of the 5 girls as animation. Though to me there aren’t any memorable background musics, the series itself has several soundtrack albums ranging from the series ensembles to character albums. So if you’re really into this series and those cute girls, these should be a watch out as collectors item.
 
The talented Yui Horie is the voice behind Manabi and I couldn’t recognize her at first (still couldn’t actually). She is also the voice of Naru of Love Hina, Tohru of Fruits Basket, Suzu of Nagasarete Airantou, Eri of School Rumble and Ayu of Ultra Maniac, among her many other famous roles. Likewise I couldn’t recognize Aya Hirano’s voice as Mei. She’s the voice behind other characters such as Suzumiya of Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu, Konata of Lucky Star, Sanae of Sumomomo Momomo and Mai of Itsudatte My Santa. Ai Nonaka voices Mikan and is responsible for the voice of Iriya in Iriya No Sora UFO No Natsu and Konoka in Mahou Sensei Negima. Mutsuki is voiced by Marina Inoue who also does roles as Kanmuri of Yakitate! Japan and Wataru in Hayate No Gotoku. Saki Fujita who does Momo doesn’t really have a long list to her name as I found out that in her short list the only other anime character I know she voiced is Kanisawa of Tsuyokiss. You might recognize Aya Hisakawa who does Kyoko as Yuki of Fruits Basket, Minamo of Azumanga Daioh, Lindy of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Maya of Tenjou Tenge. Megumi Hayashibara also lends her voice for this show as the principal of Seioh Academy.
 
So definitely Manabi and friends has changed their school into a utopia experience for other students as well. Hopefully their legacy would carry on to the next generation as well. Speaking of which, I read that an OVA of this series is coming out in October 2007. It’ll be quite interesting to see what the girls would be doing by that time and I’d love to see that victory pose once again. Life can actually be a bliss, only if you care to make a difference that is. Though nothing in this world really comes easy, it shows that hard work and perserverance really pays. Currently I’m in my own utopia and that is watching the animes I love. Thus I can "Massugu go!" with my animes.
 
Manabi Straight