Genre: Slice of Life
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 1/4/2010 to 3/22/2010
“A great day starts with a great pair of underwear.”
Young Nayu Hayama is heiress to a family of undergarment craftsmen, and has an incredible passion for all things underwear — designing and making it, test-wearing new designs, making sure others are wearing the best underwear for their body’s comfort and health. Afraid she is misunderstood, Hayama starts an Underwear Club at school so she can share her enthusiasm with all!
summary by Papa-san
Reviewed 7/11/15 by
Highs: Some interesting and informative facts, some good laughs
Lows: Keeps falling back to juvenile lasciviousness over bras, breasts, and bottoms; uncomfortably close to loli
Appalled. Simply appalled. That was my first reaction to this series, at one minute in. At about two minutes, I stopped watching. A few weeks later, I steeled my reserves, told myself that it was my duty to otaku-dom, took a drink, and began watching again.
And after 12 episodes, I have to admit: I am only slightly less appalled by this bizarre series. The opening, which I promptly turned off the first time, involved young Nayu Hayama taking a faceplant at middle school opening ceremonies and exposing her surprisingly adult–style underwear. Well, that shouldn’t have been too surprising, as the actual first-episode title is The Girl Who Wore Adult Panties. As the opening summary indicates, Hayama is a young girl who is fascinated with underwear, but not in any improper way. Coming from a family of clothing designers, it is her heritage, and this could have been a quite tasteful examination of the history and culture of undergarments.
Instead . . . it can’t quite seem to decide in what direction it wants to go. Just when it starts to treat the subject with some seriousness, here comes another barrage of gratuitous and provocative upskirts (and mind you, these are largely of underage girls.) In one running routine, this is at least excusable, as two of the older boys are shown standing at the foot of the stairs trying to peek up the girls’ skirts. At one time, we get practically a tutorial on how a bra is made, with all the different bits of fabric cut into unique shapes to fit the female contours. At other times, it takes the tone of an old-fashioned 8th–grade health-class film for the girls, explaining how a girl’s body starts to develop and that some girls will have smaller breasts than others, how breasts may be sore, especially at a certain time of the month, and how proper bra-fitting will prevent many annoying problems. A first-episode soliloquy seems to want to set the tone and premise of the series: “Whenever I put on underwear, it feels like I get a lot of lewd stares.” This is followed shortly by a vision of two pubescent naked girls, just barely covered by strips of pink ribbon.
The one boy, Hiroki Komachi, who belongs to the Underwear Club is there because he wants to overcome his terrible shyness and fears of girls and underwear and such, and story-wise, he is something of a stand-in for the male viewer. One of Hayama’s habits when fitting a bra is to actually slide her hands inside the bra, to make sure the cups are correctly sized and shaped, and that the girl’s breasts are fitting comfortably in them. Now, there is nothing suggestive or improper about the depiction of this: except that the viewer is basically sharing the view with, and the reaction of, young Komachi-kun. His reaction is basically what one might expect from an 8th-grade boy: an awkward mix of embarrassment, arousal, and fascination. In other words, a scene which is innocent enough in and of itself is gratuitously assigned a certain eroticism by way of Komachi. Similarly, at the beginning of the very first episode, the other girls suspect that Hayama is engaged in phone sex or outright prostitution. We the viewers are treated to a phone conversation which actually is quite innocent: Hayama is speaking with her step-brother, Keigo. Keigo is an underwear designer, and Hayama is test-wearing his newest creation. We hear, along with the eavesdropping girls, Hayama complaining about the fit. But too, we hear Keigo’s line, urging her to state exactly where the panties don’t fit properly – in a manner quite suggestive of erotic chat. The second episode opens by treating us to a glimpse of Hayama’s bare bottom as she decides which panties to wear that day. From time to time, we see the manner in which others are imagining Hayama, again quite inappropriately for her age. We get lots of views from the girls’ locker room, too, and even a few views of completely realistic uncovered breasts, as well as a couple of comedic bosoms. (Honestly, I am not certain that this series is entirely legal in the US.)
There is one redeeming sequence toward the end of the series. As the Underwear Club gains acceptance, the Drama Club asks them to design and make costumes for their annual production, which appears to be a Renaissance-type costume drama. Speaking personally, I got a HUGE laugh when the production turned out to be a broad parody of one of my favorite anime series! (And no, no spoilers. You want the laugh, watch the whole bloody thing like I did!)
Artistically, this series owes quite a bit to Azumanga Daioh, from the episodic slice-of-life storytelling, to character design, to surrealistic little events taking place in the margins. Artwork and animation are good, if not remarkable. Incidental music is pleasant and unobtrusive, and often has a classical flavor reminiscent of Utena’s classical themes. The opening and closing themes are rather hyperactive and odd, not to mention packed visually with lots of titillation. (Sorry. It got to me at last.)
Finally it takes another stylistic turn at the end, as Hayama is called to leave her school and friends and Underwear Appreciation Society and go back to the family business in Kyoto, turning to thoughtful contemplation of the importance and meaning of friendship. However, this does tie up the whole underlying theme of growth and change.
I hesitate to outright recommend this series to anyone, for any reason. Be prepared, if you do watch it, for some very uncomfortable moments (unless perhaps you yourself happen to be in the 12 year old range), and for other moments of complete bewilderment. As I said, this just can’t quite seem to make up its mind what kind of a story it is. And while that could conceivably work for some series, it does not work here.
Chu-Bra!! can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.