The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Chu-Bra!
Genre: Comedy
Company: ZEXCS
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 24 Dec 2009 – 22 Mar 2010

Synopsis: “A great day starts with a great pair of underwear.” So says Hayama Nayu, freshman middle schooler and underwear connoisseur. She helps her pro underwear designer older brother by wearing trial models at school, much to the dismay of her classmates and teachers. But her mania doesn’t stop there; whether it is changing for gym class or a fortuitously large gust of wind, Nayu takes every opportunity to appraise the undergarments of her fellow schoolmates. She and friends soon set out to start an Underwear Appreciation Club to teach and advise other girls about the functions and wonders of these magical garments.

The Highlights
Aesthetics: Serviceable but plain.
Fanservice: Thankfully not as flagrant as it could have been.
Education: Underwear 101.
Poignancy: It’s there.

The seedy realm of late night TV fanservice anime seldom makes occasion for fans of the medium to point to and say, “this is why we love anime.” So much of it reeks of soulless commercial product, made by corporate committee, with characters designed for maximum fetish points, copy-and-paste plot and setting, and crammed full of random titillation in lieu of content. I’m not necessarily always looking into these titles for high-minded artistic vision or pointed social criticisms, I enjoy some eye candy as much as the next guy. I just want some creative effort and sensibility every once in a while. With that mindset I walked into Chu-Bra, the next show in line to promise an overload of bras and panties and generous helpings of bare under-aged flesh. Yet instead of exasperation, I often found myself intrigued by Chu-Bra’s uncommon faithfulness to its concept and its earnest portrayal of adolescence.

But first, Chu-Bra firmly establishes itself in the ecchi genre by frontloading all its jailbait elements: a trio of middle school friends of different “sizes”, voyeuristic scenes of undressing, measuring, and groping, even low-angle camera pans and gratuitously detailed breast jiggling. And that’s just in the opening credits! Also, considering how young many of these characters are cranks the sleaze factor way up. It assures us its motives, underwear appraisal, are honest, but those words seem terribly transparent. Yet the further in you go, the more you realize Chu-Bra does sincerely want to discuss women’s underwear, presenting practical knowledge about fitting and form, and dispensing with such nuggets of wisdom like, “underwear is something everyone wears. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” There’s also a surprising level to its characterization. Not “deep” per se, but each cast member has realistically understandable desires and motives and they each deal with issues relatable to anyone who has gone through the awkwardness of adolescence. It delivers some genuinely poignant themes, but held back by block-fisted writing and that bizarre penchant to showcase scantily clad middle schoolers.

That’s the big hurdle this anime fails to overcome: even if it were deadly serious about the topic of women’s underwear, every aspect of production is too mundane to breakthrough an audience’s natural incredulity and embarrassment. Some bare skin and changing scenes come with the territory, sure, but it’s handled with little subtlety or sensitivity. The animation is plain, the sound is unmemorable, and the character designs and script are unremarkable. Thankfully (or regrettably, depending on your position), the fanservice elements soon level off after the first episode, but even then you could say those who came for that element would be disappointed. The pull in contradictory directions is the single biggest flaw with Chu-Bra. Who is its audience? Young girls for the themes of friendship and practical underwear knowledge? Or the ronery otaku who just want to ogle said girls?

There’s an interesting concept there. Young girls everywhere could do to learn more about underwear, to love their bodies, and to find courage in pursuing their unique passions despite the disapprovals of conservative society. A show handled with deep insight, remarkable production, and great focus on its empowering message for youth could have made for an offbeat cult classic. Sadly however, that didn’t play out here. Still, Chu-Bra‘s plainness and less-than-savory aspects are balanced with its redeeming commentary, novelty, and resistance to wholesale degeneration. The show was difficult to watch (at times very much so) but I’ll admit that the experience turned out OK.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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