3D Kanojo – Real Girl Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 563 minutes approx.
Despite anime being immensely popular in Japan and across the globe, being an otaku is apparently enough to make you a social pariah on the same level as admitting to liking Mrs. Browns Boys. And romance? Forget it, that is definitely NOT going to happen.
Hikari Tsutsui, an 18 year-old high school student and socially awkward otaku, is a loner aside from cat ear-wearing fellow otaku Yuto Ito. One day Hikari arrives at school late, and is punished by having to clean the school pool alongside another late arrival, pretty Iroha Igarashi, a girl with a reputation as a troublemaking boyfriend stealer.
Whilst on detention, Iroha takes a shine to Hikari and offers to date him, but only for six months as she has move away due to her father’s job. A life time’s teasing has led Hikari to think 3D girls are a pain, only anime character Ezomichi is the one for him, but Iroha is actually serious. It takes a while but Hikari begins to fall for Iroha much to his own surprise.
Mao Nanami’s manga, upon which this is based, commits the same crime many do in relying on far too many clichés and genre tropes in the hope this sense of comfort and familiarity will suffice in hooking attention. Unlike the worst offenders, Nanami has created a cast that steadily grow on the audience and with a few canny twists to the story, surprise us into finding ourselves enjoying the journey.
3D Kanojo – Real Girl is a teen romance aimed at the hardcore otaku unable to forge any kind of real life relationship with people, and have resigned themselves to being loyal to a 2D waifu. The idea a girl like Iroha would ever pick a bespectacled nerd like Hikari for a boyfriend is unlikely and unrealistic, but this is a fantasy where such things do happen.
After a whirlwind start, we wonder what is in this for Iroha, since she has the reputation of being promiscuous and a delinquent – neither of which are actually true. Hooking up with Hikari has no logical endgame unless she means to lure him into a world of despair. Hikari thinks the same thing and tries to ignore it ever happened but Iroha is persistent and soon this odd couple are the talk of the school.
Iroha’s sharp tongue proves sufficient in putting snarky girls in their place whilst boys seethe with jealousy, including narcissist Mitsuya Takanashi, who does his best to break the couple up. Iroha makes it clear she has no interest in Mitsuya whilst Hikari agrees it is absurd, but a low act to discredit Hikari by Mitsuya using his younger sister Anzu backfires on him, and along the way, an awkward friendship evolves.
This is where the story progression diverges from the norm, by dealing with the issues of the support cast to create a cadre of teens on a journey of self-discovery as they navigate the choppy waters of a school romance. Outspoken Arisa Ishino is one of Hikari’s earliest critics when he starts dating Iroha but after finding out her boyfriend has been two timing her, finds herself siding with him and becoming friends with Iroha, as well as pursuing a disinterested Mitsuya which provides some great comedy.
Elsewhere, another otaku, this time first year student Sumie Ayado, also demonised for her love of anime and manga is comforted by Hikari and she falls for him, which helps Hikari recognise his feelings for Iroha. As it happens, Yuto takes a shine to Sumie as she becomes part of their little group, so maybe there is hope for one or both of them in the romance stakes after all.
Yet, for all the box ticking and rehashed plots, an air of curiosity is still pervasive as the show goes on. This collection compiles both 12 episode seasons into one set which is handy as it does become rather addictive once it gets going. Part of its strength is how the idea of love and relationships is not limited to the two leads but to everyone, even extending to Hikari’s parents in the second half, as well as his younger brother Kaoru.
Fulfilling the nominal antagonist role is Iroha’s younger step-brother Chika, an arrogant twerp intent on crushing Hikari for he is in love with Iroha, and uses his assumed “man of the house” position in the wake of their father’s death to reign Iroha in. You can imagine how that goes down with Iroha, yet there is some comedy to come out of this later on through Hikari’s persistence and eventual manning up in the name of love.
But the real masterstroke comes in the last two episodes. Iroha hasn’t been truthful about the reason for moving away after six months, yet instead of dealing with the fallout, we jump ahead seven years, where everyone is now in the mid-20s and have moved on in their lives – sort of. I won’t say anymore except the ending was perfect if predictable and if you are the emotional sort, you’d better have your hankies to hand.
Not so perfect are the production values, with the animation quality tending to fluctuate between decent and slightly iffy and not just for the usual comic affectations either. It also doesn’t help that Iroha and Arisa look very much alike as do Yuto and Mitsuya, even when they are all in the same scene together. Plus the flaky, hot and cold mood swings and often sulky behaviour will prove vexatious for many and make it harder to engage with them.
Remarkably, 3D Kanojo – Real Girl has enough innate charm, personable characters that overcome their tropey origins and a strong second half to add depth to its themes and situations that it ends up being a good value watch. Whether it gives hope to the least of us is unfortunately not a guarantee but good natured and surprisingly heart warming fun is.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 3 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Limited Collector’s Edition
56-Page art book
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black