Review/discussion about: Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo.
Whether direct or not, we all eventually learn of a biological truth: “the birds and the bees”.
And for the ladies of Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo., evolution chirps and buzzes.
In a normal town with a normal school, five young women are in their beloved literature club where they share their favorite passages. Yet Kazusa, Rika, Hitoha, Momoko, and Niina are keenly aware of the more risqué words they read at times. It follows, then, that their thoughts drift towards that act which has saved lives and crumbled empires: sex. Minds now “tainted”, Araburu kicks off this wild coming-of-age story.
And it does so with poise and with expertise. For instance, the anime understands that such a topic cannot escape from inherent awkwardness, so it embraces its sillier side. Sharp comedic timing, wordplay, metaphors, and jokes offset the subject with laughs without taking away from its more serious dramatic elements.
Especially because this other half matters just as much to Araburu. Yes, Rika providing newfound romantic wisdom, only for Momoko to reach the exact same conclusion in a few words of her own, strikes at comedy gold while simultaneously hinting at the simplified complexity these emotions carry. But that animalistic urge likewise becomes the very driving force for their individual troubles, any interpersonal conflicts, and the all-encompassing themes of the anime.
The drama most often revolves around their respective relationships. Be it Hitoha’s attempts at ill-fated trysts with Tomoaki or the difficult love triangle between Kazusa, Izumi, and Niina, the show creates scenarios ranging in tension and elation. Thus, where the comedy supplements those embarrassing parts, the drama reminds the audience of the realer, more grounded paths they take.
All the while, its themes on sex and maturity earn their writing chops, exploring as much as it can through definitive scenes and developmental milestones. Differences between sexual and emotional interest. Sexuality itself. What sex really is and means for those involved. Alongside confessions, advances, and even masturbation, the anime turns sex not into a commodity to sell but rather into a meaningful idea that most everyone can relate with.
Unfortunately, Araburu cannot quite stick the landing. Its last few episodes or so introduce some questionable last-minute dilemmas, they wrap up the various plotlines in a too-brisk fashion, and they seem to retread familiar ground already visited. Worse still, despite the themes and the romance and the sex talk everywhere, the plot plays out here in an uncharacteristically puritan manner. Not to say that the home stretch is terrible by any means, for it contains smaller moments that get the job done. However, when compared to what came before, it certainly does not reach the same caliber.
But the anime remains true to itself until the end. Indeed, the mini-epilogue gives not only enough closure to let the viewer rest easy that the ladies will be all right but also a concluding line that captures the soul of Araburu in full-circle narrative style.
ART & ANIMATION
Araburu may not exactly wow with its artistry, but it does what it can to bring an engaging presentation regardless.
For starters, the characters’ designs provide a look-see into them and their personalities. Rika moves away from her bookish, reserved choices to a prettier getup that signifies the outward growth of herself. Niina has a stoic expression and a dull-white aura about her, lending well to her general air of mystique and contrasting nicely with those rare blushes.
The others follow a similar notion. Hitoha can be more described as a tomboy, and so her defeatist view of her own femininity fits well with her design. Momo, in contrast, is cuter and more girlish, following her own arc and the perceived expectations of a lady like her. As for Kazusa, her plain-Jane choices give her a normal demeanor that go with her role as the protagonist of the bunch.
More impressive than the designs, Araburu selects larger contributions to the visuals to reach loftier goals. The directing manifests its quick scenes and heavier moments with a simple yet rewarding efficacy. A bevy of reaction faces dot the expressions of the characters for another increase to their comedic chops. And the softer style to the coloring, lighting, and art stop the anime from swamping into rougher waters that wouldn’t benefit it.
Actual animation tends to do fine as well when running, grabbing, and other major actions become the norm for their dramatic interactions. Unfortunately, Araburu has slight decreases in quality near its middle and middle-end sections. Not anything blasphemous, but noticeable enough that it can’t quite maintain a fair consistency for its entire run.
As a character drama, Araburu puts a lot of stock into its cast. Niina, Rika, Hitoha, Kazusa, and Momoko address the onslaught of sex and sexuality in personalized fashion. The culmination of their efforts resulting in a lot of intriguing writing.
Niina earns the top spot as the most complex character in the anime. Her semi-aloof attitude paints her as an esoteric and independent person. In reality, however, she’s simply a lonely, lonely girl.
She takes after her manipulative mentor, trying her hardest to steal love for herself in a selfish way after realizing her imposed complacency, causing her fall from a would-be hero to a pitiable villain to become downright fascinating. Thankfully, she punches her past, accepts her present, and looks forward to her future. Like her or hate her, she’s the most vital piece of the Araburu puzzle.
Rika undergoes the most development as a character, instilling her arc with the most satisfaction. Intelligent and bookish, her poetic word choice and her immense aversion to illicit relations exudes from her an arrogance that pushes others away.
But through the sincere care of a boy, the wisdom of an unlikely friend, and her own ability to read situations, she beats back this ostracization. She embraces her prettier side. She learns different viewpoints on love. She comes to accept that it’s perfectly okay to be “dirty” now and again. Altogether, her growth from start to finish is praiseworthy.
Hitoha, unable to write compelling erotica, pushes for what she wants. But, much like a hard-covered book, her outward toughness masks an inward fragility. So it is then that Araburu tests her tensile strength, involving a blackmailed teacher and an unbeatable “rival” to explore her personal struggles.
She hates her perceived lack of charms, and constant losses on this and similar fronts force her to endure the largest amount of negative emotions among every character. Her amicable conclusion sees her giving up her romantic pursuit. Unfortunately, her impact is nowhere near as fascinating as Niina’s and not even close to as satisfying as Rika’s, so she doesn’t achieve the same level of fame as these two.
Kazusa is technically the main protagonist of Araburu, yet her journey also hits at a lower spot than perhaps desired. She is best friends with Momoko, and she is in love with her childhood friend Izumi. His presence drives and influences her on her quest to understand both him and herself.
Much of her character revolves around her inaction, how she often fails to do what she must, be it speaking her mind or going for it, due to a misplaced sense of inadequacy. She spends the most time with the other characters, and, thanks to their input, she finally starts to take those actions. Again, though, her arc somewhat stagnates, gliding her towards a welcomed happy ending at the cost of average execution to get there.
Momoko is not so much saved as the best for last as she is the one with the least amount of clout. For about the first half or so of the season, she stays on the sidelines, save for her occasional worries for their group and the dude-disliking subplot.
This combination has her discovering her own homosexuality, a thread that fits well within the overall themes at play. Sadly, the anime doesn’t do the best job of incorporating this thread, having focused on the other four much more until it was too little too late. Nevertheless, she drops the cuteness for blunter honesty, offering an outside-looking-in lens that, at the minimum, saves her from being outright lost.
In total, not every character within the anime stands on a spectacular pedestal, but they collectively demonstrate that intriguing writing mentioned earlier
MUSIC & SOUND
Araburu continues its notable execution with a wonderful set of audio decisions.
“Otome-domo yo”, the opening track for the anime, is not only a stellar piece but also one of the best OPs of the year. Fanciful piano, acoustic strings, and soft drums meld with violins and chimes to create a song filled with feelings of empowerment and optimism that match the undercurrent of the show itself. The female vocalist adds an extra emotional texture to the song, too, and the flow and the pacing of the composition has tons of variety as the music rises and lowers throughout. The metaphorical book-centric lyrics also connect well with the context of the story. It’s layered, catchy, and beautiful. A powerhouse of a track.
“Yume Cinderella” represents the ending track of Araburu. It isn’t as noteworthy as its OP counterpart (which was going to be tough to do anyway), but it still has strengths. The vocal warmups, the harmonizing, and the back-and-forth singing sets the song as more lighthearted in nature, and this lightheartedness can be heard thanks to the trumpets, what sounds like bass in the background, and the daintier instrumentation in general. It’s a fun, simplistic song that serves as a neat lead out for nearly every episode.
Lastly, the original soundtrack and the voice-acting performances earn high marks, especially so for the latter.
The OST brings along a range of pieces to support the comedy and the drama that Araburu regularly flits between. Piano melodies, kookier arrangements, and ambient moods are just a helping of the swell tracks it has on display during the show. Plus, the infrequent insert songs are used to great effect.
As for the VA performances, the leading ladies pinpoint the mannerisms and the subtleties of the characters extremely well. Hiyori Kouno as Kazusa, in one of her first-ever major roles, channels the naivety necessary for the budding character. Sumire Uesaka as Rika expertly weaves through the difficult sentences the smart lady produces. Tomoyo Kurosawa as Hitoha lowers her pitch to better affect her tomboyish tone. Momo Asakura as Momoka, also a relative newcomer in her field, delivers a cute cadence. And Chika Anzai as Niina allures with her calm and mysterious way of speaking.
I really like this anime a whole bunch and then some.
For me, it has the intriguing foundation of writing that I often crave in the media I consume. Maybe not brilliant overall, but this anime certainly had the oomph factor that kept it in high spirits during the entire season.
I also could not get enough of both the comedy and the romance. The comedy had me in stitches, what with Kazusa and the others unable to contain their reactions. As for the romance – with romance being my most-favorite genre – I was supremely happy with what it gave. Specifically, Rika and Shun’s relationship is a big ball of wholesome goodness, and I loved that their bond remained consistent in solidarity as the other connections went through their tumultuous times.
Speaking of Kazusa and Rika, I am a fan of each character to boot. Rika is the best with her expansive vocabulary and adorable moments. Niina keeps me on the edge of my seat. Kazusa is pure, so her happiness is paramount. Hitoha tries her mightiest. And Momoko is the rock of the group they rely on. They each bring a book to the table, and the show would not be as good as it is without them.
I also very much appreciate this project being a full experience, too. With so many sequels out in the wild, and the myriad of anime that remain incomplete or stop at a point that clearly dictates more on the horizon, seeing this tale go to completion is yet another enormous positive in my eyes.
All in all, this anime is one of my favorites of this year for sure.
Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. rallies together a fantastic anime. From its interesting narrative to the multifaceted use of its characters, the project charges ahead with execution and strength aplenty. The artistry helps this endeavor, and the audio work rounds out the edges, but it’s the entertaining pieces throughout it all that truly give it heart. In short, those birds and them bees have nothing on these savage maidens.
Story: Good, a coming-of-age tale with comedic wit, eventful drama, and strong themes on sex and maturity, held back only by a shaky home stretch
Art & Animation: Good, meaningful designs, nice directing, and solid movement offer an above-average visual repertoire even if it cannot always stay in tip-top shape
Characters: Good, Niina fascinates and Rika develops, Hitoha endures and Kazusa glides, and Momoko discovers
Music & Sound: Great, a catchy, empowering OP, a wide-ranging OST, awesome VA performances, and a lighthearted ED catapult the audio work to the front of the line
Enjoyment: Great, tons of laughs, lots of emotions, nice romance, and appreciation for being a full, complete package
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3