The phrase “short and sweet” was made for this anime. Emphasis on “sweet.”

In fact, it’s so short it wouldn’t be worth the review if it wasn’t so damn sweet. But cute little characters, excellent design and artwork, and sufficient story to carry the cast are just enough to make these 12-episodes of six-minute vignettes worthy of my attention. I really enjoyed this little drop of sweet water in the vast ocean of the world of anime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 8

Four characters. That makes me happy.

Three if you don’t count the faceless Douki-kun, the object of everyone’s desire. He does not have a face, you read that right. Ultimately this set of vignettes is about showing off the girls and all that goes along with that, so it kind of makes sense that he wouldn’t have a face. So it works. He’s in the background as much as any harem protagonist could be, if you could even call him a protagonist. Or this a harem anime. Meh, it works. This show isn’t about him.

Douki-chan! Sweet little Douki-chan! Big soft eyes that light the way to a girlish and loving heart, a shapely figure that would attract attention next to anyone, and an amazing voice that begs for kisses and cuddles! Other than her timid and innocent attraction to Douki-kun, there isn’t much to her character, but there doesn’t have to be. Her appearance, mannerisms, and behaviors are enough to make her a beautiful character. I cannot praise Nene Hieda enough for her vocal performance. Hieda-san is extraordinarily new to the anime world, but she knocked it out of the park with this short display. I look forward to her future in voice acting.

Speaking of great voice acting: Sumire Uesaka, as in Nagatoro (Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro), Shalltear Bloodfallen (Overlord), and Sanae (Love, Chuunibyou, & Other Delusions), plays Kouhai-chan. Kouhai-chan is her rival for apparently the only man in this office setting any of the ladies care for. Lucky him. Anyway, she Uesaka definitely makes this character. Her purring voice is out to seduce Douki-kun from the moment we meet her, if her physical attributes failed to do so. I always knew she was the rival and didn’t want her to succeed, but between her voice and mannerisms and knowing this was the same voice as Nagatoro (which had just finished when this show began airing), I couldn’t help but smile when she was around for any length of time. 

Hey you, yes you with the POV…she’s trying to tell you something. Do something ’cause she’s melting my heart.

Very late in this short series we were introduced to Senpai-san, everybody’s senior from everywhere apparently. She had all the aspects you’d expect of a sexy and mature female office character. Even though she was a rival, she knew when she didn’t have a chance, and knew when to let off the gas and root for the person the guy really liked. Mature right? Asami Seto voices this character. Lord have mercy, as in Mai Sakurajima (Bunny Girl Senpai), Hori-san (Horimiya, 2012), Nobara Kugisaki (Jujutsu Kaisen), and Raphtalia (Rising of the Shield Hero)? Yep, that’s the one. Her voice crawls all over you. It’s a wonderful experience.

None of the characters have names, you say? No, we all know them by their seniority titles, and never are given their names, presumably because this isn’t important. Most of us are pretty familiar with “senpai” and “kouhai”, but less often we hear “douki.” And I’m not even totally sure if I’m right thinking it means “equal,” where “senpai” means “senior” and “kouhai” means “junior.” Most of the translations for this show write it as “co-worker,” but that’s only contextual. I’m pretty sure “douki” means something like “of equivalent level” or some such idea. Hopefully that clears up any confusion any of you might’ve had about this. And if any of you knows better than me, please enlighten me. My Japanese is always improving!

For a show almost entirely centered on the visuals, this is a sweet and highly satisfying set of characters. There’s not much substance to any of them, but they are highly memorable and keep you coming back to the show for many reasons beyond their visuals. I looked forward to spending time with these four funny characters for six minutes every week, and I rooted for Douki-chan shamelessly. I look forward to seeing them again in S2.

Artwork

Rating: 8

This is definitely an artwork-driven series. Everything else is meant to support the visual side of this show. For a show in that realm, it’s extremely satisfying.

Artwork-driven series span a big spectrum. Action is the genre that gets the most attention in this realm of course, but right next to that is…ecchi. Yes, we’re talking about Ikkitousen, High School DxD, Queen’s Blade, etc., that ecchi-for-ecchi’s-sake ecchi, not Monogartari or Danmachi ecchi. Those former shows are entirely visual-centric, say what you will about other parts. Somewhere in that spectrum, and close to the ecchi end, are shows like Ganbare Douki-chan. It’s nowhere near the level of ecchi of those shows mentioned above, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to tease where those others are meant to traumatize. In other words, it gives a warm sensation where the others cause a violent explosion. But I stray. I like how this show is lightly but unavoidably ecchi. It keeps you on your toes, just a little on edge, the whole time you’re watching. I also like how it doesn’t overshadow everything in the show. As mentioned, such aspects can be the entire focus of an artwork-driven show, and that certainly isn’t the case with this anime. It’s light, delicate, and sweet, not big and in-your-face. It works.

But what I really like is when you put all that aside, you still have an astounding visual display. The artwork isn’t intricate or astounding by any stretch, but it has a simple beauty that I adore. I love the styling on these characters! Big soft eyes that are mostly real-world colors, light hair that falls in all the right places, round cheeks that glow and invite gentle pokes, amazing skin tone, and adorable expressions that would melt the hardest heart. The episode where we saw Douki-chan imagining her wedding was enough to make a grown man cry. I wanted to say “Yes” right there! 

The ordinary coloring works for me. I mentioned the eyes are lifelike in their color. This is fairly unusual for anime, and I love it here. Shadowing, lighting, cinematography, all those little things that ordinarily escape our attention but contribute heavily to the visual quality of anime, are really well done also. Even the hands and ears are pretty. It is light, lively, attractive, beautiful, enticing, engrossing, everything you’d ask from anime. For a short series, the artwork got extraordinary attention, and so deserves the viewer’s attention. It got mine.

Let’s make it so we never have to say goodbye again.

Story

Rating: 5

Basically, Douki-chan likes Douki-kun, and he likes her, but they are both too shy or too conscious of their professional environment to declare their love to the other. Meanwhile Kouhai-chan and Senpai-san get in the way a lot. And this goes on for 12 six-minute episodes. Nothing could me more entertaining!

There isn’t much to the story. Two people like each other and can’t figure out how to say it, but slowly they come to realize it more or less without having to say it. It’s simple, it’s short, it’s sweet. It works for this visual tale.

Overall: 8

This show aired at the same time, on the same day, as S2 of Tawawa on Monday. Why does this matter? For one thing, both shows are visual-centric, and have 5-6 min episodes. Therefore I doubt I was the only person on Earth who watched these back-to-back, for that very reason. That being the case, I looked at them comparatively where perhaps I shouldn’t have. I learned that Tawawa was very ecchi compared to this show. I learned that Tawawa was a little sweeter in some ways, but that nevertheless Douki-chan could move my heart in ways that even Tawawa couldn’t. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to watch them together like this, as it invited comparisons that perhaps were unwarranted. But I don’t think it affected my opinion. My biggest fear was that I would imagine Douki-chan wasn’t as ecchi as it really was, because when compared to Tawawa it was G-rated. But I don’t think I was unduly affected. As I mentioned, the ecchi was just enough, and not too much. 

So I’ll make one last, perhaps unwarranted, comparison between the two: which was better? One was not better than the other, for they’re actually very different. They look similar, they have similar tenors, and they evoked similar emotional responses, but the similarities ended there for me. Tawawa was about multiple groups of people trying to get together (often succeeding) across various age groups (ahem) and many different circumstances, and was meant to feel extremely edgy. Douki-chan is a simple display about four people in their young adulthood innocently playing at love. Its edginess isn’t even comparable to Tawawa if you stop and think about it. If it has any edginess, it’s in the light ecchi itself and the mildly suggestive situations the characters occasionally find themselves in. The two shows are quite different ultimately. 

And it stands well on its own. Ganbare Douki-chan is a sweet little experience. When we watch anime, we think 20 minutes each week, or how many 20-minute episodes we can fit into a viewing session, or we think about the great full-length films we’ve seen throughout anime history. Less often do we remember or even stop to notice little gems like this, simply because their episode lengths are so small. Or even if we stop to notice them, they go by in a flash and are forgotten. This is a mistake. These are tiny but priceless gems in the world of anime, and deserve our attention. This is a short but beautiful little anime, and I very much look forward to the next season.

Yes

1 Comment »

  1. Yeah, you summed up everything I liked about this short series. I first got into this work while following Yom, the artist who creates the original illustrations and comics the anime adapted. Really beautiful work, and I think the Douki-chan anime adapted it well. I’m also looking forward to S2 and to Douki-chan’s eventual victory over her rivals (though personally I might have fallen to Senpai’s charms myself.)

    Liked by 1 person

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