Monday, June 29, 2009

Cinderella+Pygmalion with twists - Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge and Nobuta wo Produce

Summer is a time for scares, and Sunako loves them. Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge is the story of four Bishounen's attempts at turning the horror-loving girl around into a lady. A bit of a Cinderella and a bit of a Pygmalion tale, you might think "I've seen that before!" and dismissed it.

Yes, you might have seen it before, but with hilarity at this magnitude? From urban legends such as the seven school mysteries, vampires lores and the top grossing Japanese horror film, the Ring, this series takes all of the fun elements and mix them together into a ghost house ride.

The anime is a low budget production, instead of cheapness, however, the anime maker's clever use of SD characters and presentation makes the anime even more humorous.

Another drama which takes a similar vein is Nobuta wo Produce, instead of having a horror loving action heroine, Nobuko, a.k.a Nobuta is merely a bullied, quiet girl who failed at finding a place in her class. In come Shuuji and Akira, the two handsome boys who take up the challenge to "produce" her.

Again, seen that? done that? but have you seen Johnny's boys do it? Kamenashi and Yamashita even did a role play on romantic interaction for Nobuta (and the laughing audience). It's not really what they do for Nobuta that garnered praise, it's the growing friendship (with light homoerotic undertones) that really pulls the overused theme a notch above the others.

Hilarity and homoerotic undertones aside, there is one common factor that makes these two show differ from the usual Cinderella+Pygmalion mixes.

Instead of really changing the girl by decking her in beautiful clothes and sweet-talking her to build up her confidence, what the shows really did are having the public change perception of the girl.

Sunako won her first friend Noi over with her action heroine and cooking prowesses. Soon she enamored other girls by her willingness to chase cockroaches away for them. Although in SD form most of the time, her quietness still managed to win her some (mis)guided suitors.

All the boys really did is to drag Sunako to school and occasional counselling sessions with her. Pretty clothes crop up almost every chapter, but they really are foils. What changed was the public, not Sunako herself (at least not her sense of style).

Having to wear a school uniform for the most part of the year meant that the usual Cinderella trick won't work. Shuuji and Akira had tried to go around it and decked Nobuta in designer clothes. Her popularity is shortlived, for she has to go back to wearing her school uniform and the crowd around her dissipated.

It is by accepting the tests that her classmates and the boys pushed at her that Nobuta showed them another side of herself. She did not become the bubbly, high strung heroine, she remains quiet and awkward, it's the crowd that slowly learns to accept what she is.

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