Kill Me Baby Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 334 minutes approx.
When it comes to adapting four panel manga strips – the equivalent of the comic strips in our daily newspapers – into an anime series, the format follows one of two directions: either a fully-fledged sequential storyline is developed from the main concept or the individual gags are simply translated directly to form something akin to a sketch show.
Kill Me Baby falls into the latter category. Created by Kaduho, it is set at school (where else?) and features two classmates, the excitable and ditzy Yasuna Oribe and the considerably calmer and logical Sonya. Nothing new there except that Sonya is apparently an assassin, while a third character, Agiri Goshiki, is a laconic shinobi who has set up base at the school without permission.
And that is it as far as the core concept goes. Somehow studio JC Staff and director Yoshiki Yamakawa have managed to eke out a thirteen episode series and an OVA (not included here) of what is essentially a one note joke – and that joke is Yasuna trying to engage Sonya in some activity or hijinks and usually being rejected with a swift verbal rebuke or more often than not, physical violence.
Because Sonya is a trained assassin, her instincts are set to paranoia thus every time Yasuna does something extremely innocent like touch Sonya on her shoulder, she ends up with a broken wrist or worse. And this is a regular occurrence, sometimes happening three or four times an episode, with the morning greeting as the pair walk to school being the most common set up.
You’d think that Yasuna would learn from her mistakes but without this repetition about 60% of the show’s material would vanish. From broken wrists to a bop on the head, from being put in wrestling holds to being hung from a tree Yasuna suffers dearly for her ebullience and tactile expressions of friendship but keeps on coming back for more.
The comedy mileage of this never-ending gag will naturally vary from viewer to viewer, and be warned it is a staple of the script used excessively throughout. Perhaps wary of any potential ennui, Yamakawa at least tries to keep the variants of Sonya’s violent responses as wide as possible, in the hope of creating a sense of freshness but seasoned anime viewers will be used to seeing a simple joke ad infinitum.
Similarly beset by such simple dimensions is the third regular character Agiri, the supposed ninja. She is so laid back and dopey sounding in the delivery of lines she makes Yasuna seem like Stephen Fry. But don’t be fooled – this complete flakiness and outward ineptitude towards her shinobi activities might be a mask for a genius at work; although I do stress “might”.
Through the ability to juggle, perform sleight of hand magic and her booby trapped home, Agiri is able to convince Yasuna that she is a ninja of rare calibre whilst Sonya mostly rolls her eyes at the absurdity of it all, but is caught out on occasion. Of the three Agiri is the most inert and indeed her eyes seem half-closed most of the time but she remains in high spirits, seemingly oblivious to the tense relationship of the other two.
A regular supporting cast is barely negligible, with only an elderly teacher who seems confused by the world and an unnamed girl angry at not being given a spot in the show being tenuously worthy of being labelled “regulars”. The latter shows up possibly three times to kill the two main leads (and fails) while the old man serves as more of a buffer between skits.
We’ve not really discussed an overarching plot for good reason – there isn’t one! Each episode is made up of two or three skits involving Yasuno incurring Sonya’s wrath. All of the usual localised scenarios are explored as one might expect – the school culture festival, a trip to the beach, shaved ice, rainy days, lost animals, ghost stories, etc. – relying on the personalities of the duo to evoke interest.
Experienced anime viewers will recognise that whilst the individual set ups are distinctly Japanese the humour is mostly broad enough to appeal to international audiences, although it is fair to say that the biggest reaction will be in response to the extreme overreactions of Yasuna, the incredulous stoicism of Sonya and the gormless oblivion of Agiri, along with the adroit physical dexterity of Sonya and the remarkable capacity for storing weapons upon her tiny frame.
It’s an age old dichotomy – the idiotic ball of energy and the long suffering straight man – and a successful one but what makes these characters engaging is the performances of the voice actors, in particular Chinatsu Akasaki as Yasuna. A relative newcomer with only four previous shows to her credit at the time, Akasaki maintains the high energy, ear splitting, rapid-fire delivery of her dialogue throughout, never missing a beat.
Production values however are modest with the characters regularly dropping off model for comic effect, the artwork is minimal and basic, and the use of still frames and economic movements are dominant. Yet the offbeat humour and manic energy wouldn’t work if the visuals were fluid and highly detailed, so in this instance all is forgiven.
Obviously the reception to the zany and repetitive humour will be purely subjective and the multi-strand format per episode will make this harder for some to fully enjoy this show. Therefore the best way to watch this show is one or two episodes at a time as the sheer onslaught of the frenzied comic capers will prove draining and become white noise if watched as a marathon binge.
Kill Me Baby may not be totally original or feel particularly substantial but it has something, that intangible and inherent Japanese quirkiness, which should offer even the most hardened anime fan a brief respite from the blues if needed.
In small doses only of course.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black