Naisho no Tsubomi

By bluemist on July 7th, 2008

Naisho no Tsubomi

Originally a shoujo manga aimed at young girls, this is a small anime about a huge topic… or should I say a topic huge to girls who are growing up. Well basically… it’s about girls growing up.

I know that a lot of people may not like this anime, and indeed in the surface it just looks like some fanservice anime about young Japanese love/sex/physical education. While the original manga was supposed to be for young girls, I think no modern Japanese parent in their right mind would pick up and buy an OVA anime like this for their growing-up child. I saw a lot of pantsu and underage fanservice goodness, which borders on the absolute controversial. This leads me to think that this time, the anime is specifically aimed at lolicon otakus. And as some of you know, I tend to be a lolicon every now and then (or more often than not lately?). Of course I’m going to give it a positive review merely based on that. NO, I am NOT. I don’t like Naisho no Tsubomi just because it completely fulfilled a LOT of my anime preferences… or should I say fetishes. This anime is a surprising and timely reminder of why I am watching anime in the first place.

Episode 1

Beyond the extremely sensitive topic lies a touching slice-of-life anime about the innocence of childhood. And you know what? It’s extremely entertaining! I have read some of the manga before, and the overall feel of it remains very faithful. From the first minute to the last, the story runs with effective pace in that no single minute gets wasted… well maybe except the unnecessary dream sequence. The characters are absolutely cute in their innocence. Tsubomi, the main character of the series, is like your imouto-chara with a very distinct charm. Throughout the episode, she wonders about ecchi things and what’s happening to her body. At the same time, she is very sensitive about the needs of other people, especially her mother, family and friends. She didn’t want to make her mother worry about her ‘unknown disease’ (menstrual cycle) because her mother is going through a rough time in her pregnancy so she tries to hide it for a while. Also, the angle of Tsubomi and her new friend Saya is just so adorable too. Simple friendship with an innocent Marimite undertone. Together they just pinned up to me one of the most memorable scenes I’ll ever see in an anime:

Tsubomi: “I am happy. Being an only child, I have always wanted a sibling. That’s why when I heard about the baby, I was so happy! Is it a boy? Is it a girl? Either is fine so I wanna hurry up and meet him.”
Saya: “They must be so happy, your mother and the baby inside her.”

This line is absolutely not effective in the English translation, but the scene and Tsubomi’s expression of love for her future-born sibling is just so heartfelt, these are the kinds of persons you want to be with growing up. moe~ factor overflow, and also testament to great voice acting by the popular seiyuu cast.

Episode 2

This episode is about more sex education, as the girls ponder about the, ehm, male sex organ. Also, guys taking an interest at the girls’ vital statistics during the physical examinations. But enough about that, we discover that Tsubomi’s friend Yae is actually dating Yuu. What’s more sweet are Tsubomi’s scenes with Nemoto-kun. The guy gives me Syaoran-vibes (Cardcaptor Sakura) for some reason, and he always helps Tsubomi (Sakura?) when in need (finding the handkerchief, and that bird accessory which he himself gave during episode 1). More fun is the scene where they saw Yae and Yuu… kiss! And Nemoto-kun has to catch Tsubomi from the window. Adds up to the romantic (and sexual) tension.

Again this episode was gold. I smile and giggle at all the children’s innocence, and also honor Saya’s maturity. She seems like the most mature girl in the group, and almost a cupid in disguise to our main couple. The fanservice went up notches over here, but nothing too offensive.

Episode 3

Saya was really a cupid in disguise! Or should I say, some kind of guardian angel for growing up kids? I guess that dream sequence was necessary after all. I was a bit surprised about that part of the story, because the anime has always been so down-to-earth. There were actually some fantasy elements in this one, but it was executed quite well.

And in an awesome development, this episode focused on love more than sex education. It is the love story between Tsubomi and Nemoto-kun that, while extremely simple in anime standards, was entirely heartwarming! I was all smiles during this episode, really, because the couple reminded me more than ever about my favorite anime pairing (Sakura X Syaoran). And just like that, I was shown one of the best kokuhaku (confession) sequences in an anime! I think the music that played in the scene contributed to the feeling. It was just so great, period. This anime just ended so well and so perfectly, I can’t ask for anything else.

Anime of the year.

Am I describing Naisho no Tsubomi too deeply? Or am I bordering to be like a total fanboy? In the end I understand that this anime will not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like lolis running the show. But for me, it closely approached the meaning of moe~ like never before. It genuinely entertained me with its innocent, down-to-earth portrayal of growing up. Slice-of-life at its finest, and clearly one of the best anime I’ve seen this year.

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Posted By: hashihime On: April 27, 2008 At: 2:14 am

Excellent piece. What you describe is exactly what I saw. First-rate slice-of-life with well-conveyed warm emotions and real issues in the background. Plus a hint of tasteful fanservice. Nazuka Kaori and Koshimizu Ami voicing the two main characters were absolutely outstanding. The only thing I disagree with at all is that I thought the dream sequence — and the mutual dream aspect of it that turned up later — was one of the key parts of the show and worked wonderfully.

Posted By: piyo On: April 28, 2008 At: 6:46 pm

I checked this out because of your post. 😉

> “the anime is specifically aimed at lolicon otakus”

I start off agreeing, somewhat. Who would pay about 7500 yen for a exclusive version of a 30 minute anime? Then again, I wouldn’t call these those pantsu scenes “fan service” because to me there’s no titillation angle about it. In fact, I believe you do this anime a big disservice calling it “loli”.There is of course sexual content, but the sexual content is all verbal, not visual, which really makes me doubt this is aimed at guys at all. So I’m going to have to disagree.

I felt aggravation and annoyance with all of the misinformation scenes. The typical Japanese group think/staring scenes and bullying compounded this feeling. Perhaps that is the point. What happens when your parents don’t tell you about the critical things that happen to your body, and the only information you get is from other kids? I was expecting this down slide of unfortunate circumstances to continue to the closing credits, but luckily the scenes with Nemoto-kun and Tsubomi’s mom at the end salvaged the anime. The dream sequence adds by being mysterious.

I wrote most of this comment before seeing the trailer for the next episode (paused on the voice cast credits, naturally). The next episode seems to be a bit more visual with a kiss scene, probably. As it stands I think this first episode has satisfying closure on its own and I don’t feel the urge to watch any more.

The voice cast is surprisingly bishoujo major. Its great to hear Kaori Nazuka again. I remember her from Canvas 2. Sara Nakayama as Tsubomi’s mom is another long-time no-see seiyuu (to me). I remember her from Yumeria and Green Green. Ryoko Shiraishi does her young boy voice after having a year long practice with Hayate no Gotoku. No doubt you could probably link the other seiyuu to bishoujo works. Perhaps it’s this link that makes me assume this is yet another otaku-oriented work.

Instead of feeling wonderful at the end, I just felt relief that the downturn plot finally resurfaced. I was hoping to find something “anime of the year” about this, but in the end I’m not even moved to read the manga. Still it was entertaining and surprising.

Posted By: bluemist On: April 28, 2008 At: 9:48 pm

I would agree that maybe fanservice and ‘loli’ are too strong words to describe the anime, and I was actually supposed to oppose the ‘loli’ part too but I didn’t emphasize too much about it. I still consider this anime more on the shoujo-slice-of-life theme and it’s really supposed to be like that. But I felt that they didn’t downplay the nekkid scenes, instead over-exposed them a bit to be noticeable. When you blatantly have semi-nekkid scenes (even if not titillating at all), plus the moe~fied seiyuu performances, I can’t help but think they’re aiming for that other kind of audience entirely.

“Anime of the year” was supposed to be sarcasm, of course this could never deserve it, but with all the anime crap I watched recently, then watching this, I felt a sudden jolt of quality in anime that left me so engaged in it.

Posted By: LDC On: July 10, 2008 At: 10:47 am

I don’t know. I love this show, but I can’t decide whether this show is shoujo or lolicon. Can it be both?

Posted By: Baoky On: July 13, 2008 At: 7:15 pm

Thanks for this article , well written hehe


Posted By: Naisho no Tsubomi 3 review, a new life and a new love is born. « Crystal Tokyo Anime Blog On: August 04, 2008 At: 11:19 am

[…]        Now that’s a question people have been asking since time began, and as far as I’m concerned it’s never been properly answered, if there is any answer at all. What I really liked was how this episode dealt with the issue of Tsubomi’s stirrings of love for Daiki in a very sensitive and kind manner. I agree whole heartily with what was said about this episode in the Bluemist anime blog   […]