No, not Chii. Miu.
Genre: Comedy/Sci Fi
Company: MSJ/Bandai Visual/Team DearS
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 7/24/2004 – 9/26/2004
“What does it mean to love someone?”
An alien spacecraft crashed on earth. Now, a year later, the aliens have been taught Japanese customs and language, and been christened: DearS. And are about to be released into society!
summary by Papa-san
Reviewed: 10/15/2014 by
Highs: Pretty pictures; funny bits; some depth
Lows: Unoriginal; top-heavy on the fan service; lightweight on character depth
DearS puts me to mind of a line from an old story in which a literary reviewer is commenting on a newly-published book: “Speed repeats himself — and others.” If you have seen Chobits, you have seen DearS. Oh yes, with the tremendous difference that the girls are aliens, not robots. Even among DearS, our Ren is unique, a special case. Our protagonist, Takeya, even looks like Motosuwa Hideki. He lives alone in a sloppy six-tatami apartment, is chronically broke, and has to teach his strange new roommate to speak Japanese. He is caught in compromising-looking positions with Ren which are actually wholly innocent. Ah, one significant difference: Motosuwa had Shinbo in on his secret, Takeya has Nanako, who is a girl. The story begins with the tremendously groundbreaking theme of an ordinary young man living with a bizarre secret he can’t reveal. Oh wait. That was done in My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Mr. Ed, and more American sitcoms than I can recall. That phase passes quickly, though, as His and Ren’s Circumstances become known. And in the background, mysterious forces who are trying to recover the erratic Ren.
The fan service would embarrass Chii-chan herself as Ren learns the importance of both outerwear and underwear. The opening theme “Love Slave”, with its suggestion of B&D, is slightly disturbing. Even more unbelievable than a spaceship full of endearing (get it?) aliens crashing in Tokyo Bay is a high school teacher who appears before the class (and on the street) in her lingerie.
And yet .. and yet… there is a certain charm to this, despite its unoriginality and all-around tackiness. Part of it is the artwork. Backgrounds are soft pastels, nearly Impressionistic. Incidental and background music may not be memorable but is well done. The voice acting is quite good in English: to my untutored ear, perhaps even better than the Japanese. And there are some very funny bits which rely not at all on adolescent body sensibilities. Nanako’s dry, wry comments are actually quite good, and she ends up quite a sympathetic and endearing character herself. Niyaa, the cat-girl, I found lots of fun.There are running routines involving a pair of housewives shopping and a fishmonger, and a bakery. A self-impressed, bishounen playboy named Hirufumi. These do eventually pay off and connect with the story. There are some truly touching moments — unfortunately, most tend to be bookended with gratuitous panty shots, boob-squeezes, or worse.
The series does have its dark side — the DearS ship, it seems, was actually a slave ship, and they were the cargo (Alien Nation, anyone?). However, unlike Chobits (and others), it tells its story straightforwardly and without making the viewer think the writer is deliberately messing with his head. The ending does not try to make you feel like a dullard because you can’t make heads nor tails of it and think you must have missed something. Not to say there are no mysteries revealed over its course or intriguing plot developments (I hesitate to say “twists”). However, too much tries to squeeze into the last couple of episodes, including an interesting sequence on the ideas of free will and individuality, in a way which seems to intentionally challenge traditional Japanese mores of conformity to society.
I think this would have been much better done as possibly a 6 OVA series*, cutting down on the fan service and perhaps getting in a little more backstory on the aliens. There seems to be some sort of caste structure to them (Niyaa, the “apprentice biter”), not to mention the unspoken mystery of who they were meant to be slaves for. Also, there is a small side issue with Nanako which sort of appears and fizzles to little purpose — it would have been nice to see her problems resolved. OK. So maybe not an exact copy of Chobits. A fun, short series. I ended up rating this higher than I had first thought I would, but thought it deserved at least to be out of the basement. So bottom line: worth a watch, and you may like it quite a bit.
*Strictly speaking, this is 12 regular episodes plus a single OVA, “A Ball Of Gold”. This was actually the unaired 10th episode, released later. Thus, it integrates seamlessly into the series, and there is no reason to review or enumerate it separately.
DearS can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.