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.
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.
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.
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.