Format: 9 episodes
Dates: 2 Feb, 2006 – Mar 30, 2006
Synopsis: Fumihiko Matsumaru invites an attractive co-worker on a date to the movies. Unfortunately for him, he gets stood up, and a random girl ends up accompanying him to see Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn. Soon after departing, Matsumaru discovers that a fire has burned down his neighbor’s house, the unlucky tenant being the strange girl from earlier. Out of kindness he brings her to his house, where he finds out her name: Aka Onda, fledgling seiyuu.
Premise: Deceptive, yet outstanding.
Characters: Analyzed extremely well.
Sophistication: Surprisingly high considering the genre.
REC heavily gives off the impression of a stereotypical harem-like anime. Loser guy meets attractive girl who’s exceedingly attracted to him for no apparent reason, etc. etc. ad nauseum. However, this unassuming anime is interestingly unconventional in several subtle ways, ultimately leading to a creation that takes the audience by surprise. Beyond the superficial candy shell, complete with a sugary sweet (yet still likeable) opening theme, REC holds a sophisticated, fun, and interestingly mature romantic comedy – sounds like a striking paradox, but stick with me.
From the very beginning, the astoundingly short length of REC is apparent. Spanning nine episodes at a mere 12 minutes each, the total time of actual animation sans opening theme barely tops ninety minutes. The extremely compact nature of the anime ultimately becomes both an asset and a liability for the anime – though the rapid pace of the anime leaves little time for stagnation and keeps the material from becoming overly redundant, there are times where an extra minute or two could have helped the progression of plot dramatically – occasionally dramatic moments are quickly snipped, which somewhat dampens the impact of the scene. Despite its shortcomings, however, the short format works great for the anime, as it sporadically and episodically tracks the lives of the protagonists through their disconcerting lives.
The relatively straightforward plot offers little in terms of innovation, and relies heavily on the characters to perpetuate the series. Fortunately, REC does so in spades, offering an outstanding mix between comedy and reality. The mere idea of two people living with each other brings up countless possibilities for awkward humor; however, REC manages to set up genuine comedy without becoming overbearing or excessive. Alongside the lighthearted humor, however, lies drama that screams pedestrian – and I mean that in a good way. Aka’s paradoxical struggle for independence and acceptance, coupled with Matsumaru’s shot at shining in an otherwise dead-end position addresses the drama of everyday struggles without becoming overly melodramatic. This balance between comedy and drama is balanced perfectly, without one overshadowing the other, and is largely due to the analysis and development given to each character.
Matsumaru typifies the average salary man and this representation of the mediocre shines brilliantly. Throughout the series he continually makes human mistakes, and toes the fine line between pathetic loser and idealized perfection. The opposite of the superfluous bishounen, he often stumbles for words, overtly shows his inexperience with women, and often wallows in the realization that achieving fame is easier said than done. Conversely, Aka maintains an upbeat fiery appearance yet realizes the brutally competitive industry she is in and worries about her competency as a voice actor, thus lowering her from the pedestal that several shoujo leads tend to stand on. Thus the flaws of the characters become the central aspect of the story, and the anime manages to portray both without hiding their flaws, achieving something that sorely lacks in many anime – realism.
The most compelling feature of REC lies in its ability to take a stereotypical genre and tear it apart, while still keeping a close enough likeness to fit within the confines of the ubiquitous romantic comedy. The approach to comedy keeps many of the conventions of stereotypical anime while addressing matters that most anime dare not even touch. It manages to keep the tone of a comedy without being juvenile, and retains a sense of class without becoming sterile. REC takes a very large risk, as it tries to toe the precarious line between serious and trivial, but ultimately succeeds; creating an anime that stands tall among the rest.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: royal crown