Title: Spirit of Wonder: Scientific Boys Club
Company: Bandai Visual
Format: 4 OVA
Dates: 25 Jan 2001 – 25 Jul 2001
Synopsis: The year 1958 is a great year for science. It sees the first manned space expedition to Mars by the school club “The Scientific Boys” – a league of elderly gentlemen founded in 1908. But that’s not all – the beautiful young China, owner of an oriental restaurant, also experiences the wonders of science first-hand when her husband helps a mad genius with his experiments…
Humor: Tongue-in-cheek praise of scientific spirit.
Plot: Splendid storytelling.
Characters: Straight from the cookie-cutter.
Art: Unnecessary fanservice.
Logic: Plot doesn’t fit into scientific context of its time.
I’ve always loved Jules Verne novels, and my favorite by far is his Journey Around The Moon where an engineer and a millionnaire, believing that science can overcome all obstacles, dare to do the impossible. Very much like that novel, Spirit of Wonder is a series of OVAs that have one true message: science is the one power that can break all barriers and do the impossible and fantastic.
The four OVAs tell three stories: the two-parter Scientific Boys revolves around the aging scientists who set for Mars while Reduction of China and Planet of China feature the adventures of one of the side characters of Scientific Boys. All three stories have one in common, though: they are told extraordinarily well. The script spends exactly the right amount of time to convey the mood, suspense and qualities of the setting, and whenever it starts to drag, light-hearted, humoruous moments save the day.
While the story rarely takes itself too seriously, it does indeed convey the “spirit of wonder” it is titled after. It’s easy to relate to the fascination the characters have to their respective scientific projects, and the viewer is allowed to share the spirit of breaking boundaries in which these projects are made. Just like Jules Verne was able to inspire generations of readers to dream of the impossible, Spirit of Wonder does the same.
The whole series would have been better, though, if any of the characters had been more than a classic stereotype. There are old, befuddled men, a young and naive sailor, a so-called “scientist” who is little more than an obedient housewife and a tomboyish China who could just as well have been named “Shampoo” and placed in a different series. Even worse, China is the center of some unnecessary topless scenes that only serve as fanservice. The art and animation are good and clean, but it wasn’t exactly necessary to show some naked boobs to prove that.
Also, Scientific Boys suffers from a minor plot hole: the Mars expedition is possible because of a scientific theory that was supposedly invented only a few years earlier by Windy, a woman in her twenties. Unfortunately, that theory actually goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, and Windy is just not old enough to have lived by the time when it was set up. A little more scientific accuracy in the spirit of Jules Verne wouldn’t have hurt the script.
Spirit of Wonder is an entertaining expedition to the limits of imagination. Its humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach to science is something you rarely see in anime, and even though it has a few flaws, it still manages to recreate the “spirit of wonder” in the viewer’s mind. Not as great as it could have been but anything but bad.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Taleweaver