Manabi Straight! follows the lives of a group of young high school girls living in the year 2035 while they attend the all-girl Seioh Private High School. Since the birth rate has dropped dramatically, schools are being closed down due to the sheer lack of students available to teach. Morale in schools has dropped dramatically, and Seioh is no exception.
The story begins when the main character, Manami Amamiya, transfers to Seioh. After some initial hijinks involving a futuristic scooter and a swim meet, followed by an inspirational school song performance, she is inducted as the student council president. The story that follows pertains to Manami working with Mika Inamori, the only other student council member, and three other classmates named Mutsuki Uehara, Mei Etoh, and Momoha Odori, in student council matters. After some remodeling of the student council room, Manami and her friends set forth to plan for the upcoming student festival.
What a wonderful series. I am so glad I decided to watch this anime. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s one of my favorite, maybe one of the greatest anime I’ve ever seen. Don’t be fooled by its childish loli-looking exterior, what lies in this anime is the bittersweet and heartwarming message of moving forward.
The story is set in the future, where schools’ populations continuously decrease, and is about girls brought together by something as simple as a student council. They develop such a strong bond throughout the series, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anime where friends were this close. Mainly it is about them preparing and then trying to revive the school fair, which turns out to be a long struggle. There is the lighthearted and funny moments (mostly brought on by Momo with her refreshingly odd antics) but there are also sad and dramatic times. Each episode will bring on different emotions, some sad, some happy.
I love the animation. Each shot seems to be carefully done, and though some angles can be odd, others make the series a piece of art. The music is well done too, and the opening is so beautiful and becomes so clear as to what they've done once you finish the last episode. The ending theme is a little strange considering it is stop-animation, but perhaps this is one of the things that makes this series just a little different.
What I was very impressed at, also, was that when the times of Manabi singing, the lip movements actually correspond with the words perfectly, instead of going up and down. This isn't true the whole way through the anime, but there were instances where I saw the brilliance shine forward into tiny details such as that.
A strong controversy sets out over the "loli" factor. Yes, the girls are drawn looking cutesy and they look much younger than high schoolers, but if you get past that in which would attract viewers who would only watch this show for the cute girls, you see a deeper interior of a sweet, heartfelt anime that deserves to be watched.
There are also other debates as to whether to consider this shoujo-ai. They do blush a bit with eachother and hold hands, and things could be inferred there, but nothing is taken too far. I believe the story tries to focus more on friendship, but obviously there are some undercurrent hints.
However, I cannot give character as high of a score as I would like. The characters may be sweet and likeable, but really most aren't developed enough. While I realize it would take away the point of the show to feature their home lives, this results in a lack of character development. This could have been made up for by each character having an episode of their own besides Mei, whom in episode four you really get to see inside of her. Also, you would think the main character would be Manabi, but it is mostly shown through Mikan's perspective, probably the reason being Mikan is the person Manabi affects the most. So we see this change in Mikan... but do we really get to understand Manabi, and why she fervently defends the school she has been at a significantly short while?
You do get to go into Mikan and Mutsuki’s relationship a bit, which is nice; however, the a couple scenes with them proved to be a bit confusing, because it gives the viewer no knowledge of what is happening beforehand, at the current time, or afterward. It’s sort of a key point to why they are good friends, too… perhaps I missed something. I believe their episode is episode 6.
Don’t get me started on Momo. All we know about her through the entire series is that she has no attention span and she wealthy (which I’m not sure you really see until the OVA anyway). She may have been adorably odd and a treat to see on screen, but it’d have been nice to explore her personality a bit more. Yet despite these flaws, the characters are still enjoyable and each girl’s personality is different, but they still all become good friends.
To sum it up: the animation is great and the art is adorable; the characters are cute and very loveable but some could be better developed; the opening and ending themes are amazing but the BGM is forgettable; and the story is sweet and poignant and the end suggests a positive outlook in life. The basic concept of the story is maturing and growing up, while still maintaining relationships. Though this may not be anyone’s cup of tea, I still recommend this highly and Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight reminds one of my favorite anime.read more
Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! This anime features wonderful creativity and enjoyment to the maximum, while not being bogged down with heavy clichés. I will not hesitate to say that it is probably my favorite slice-of-life series and probably one of the most touching series I have ever watched.
5 words review: Deep, touching, fun, cute, epic.
The story is amazingly simplistic yet its plot is complex. In fact, this whole series is about the student council and the Seioh School Fair with absolutely no action or romance. There's not a lot of comedy, and it is basically a slice-of-life drama (weird, I know). Manabi Straight uses the school fair to explore the true meaning of friendship, endeavours, and dreams as Manabi, Mika, Mei, Mutsuki, and Momo go through trials of hardship to find their courage and understand the bonds that they share. I love it for its ability to turn something so simple into a beautiful work of art.
For some series I often notice weird character facial expressions, awkward animation sequences, or lazy screen shaking/panning/scrolling, but for this series the art is really excellent. Of course, it is nothing that makes you say "wow," but there's just no flaw. It is a solid series with good enough animation to capture the vast range of emotions the series portray. What I love best was the opening sequence that made so sense. Aside from being one of the most artistic and best animated opening sequence ever, it is very "cool," matching the energy of Manabi and other student council members.
Once again I would like to point out that the opening sequence was excellent, and it had an extremely catchy song to go along with it. Other than that, the background music was excellent and nothing seems out of place. It should be noted that Yui Horie voices Manabi, and she sings the Seioh school anthem, a pretty song, in many occasions throughout the series. Insert songs, especially good ones, are always a plus.
As well as this series convey feelings and emotions, nothing is really known of the characters outside of school. Manabi Straight is strictly about school and rarely do the characters go outside of school, and even so, it would be for a school activity. Manabi and Mika's out of school life is pretty much most explored, but for Mutsuki, Mei, and Momo, no one really knows anything about them. However, their personality and and actions are quite unique and noticeable, which gives them character, unlike other shows with three girls that are just too similar. Oh, and did I mention? The characters are way too cute (this is a good thing), even though they're in high school. It adds an interesting element to the plot, as well as showing the difference of experience between high school students. For example Takako, Aikoh's student council president, is shown to be taller and about high school age, and she is usually more mature and organized.
It should also be noted that a very widely known voice acting cast is used for Manabi Straight, including Yui Horie and Aya Hirano. The results are generally positive.
This category is very important, because Manabi Straight is often a "hit of miss" anime for many people! This means that there's one group that finds it extremely good while there's another group that finds it pointless. Since this series really have no meaningful story, it could be understood why some would hate it. The meaningful part of Manabi Straight is the bond of friendship, and while people prefer action and romance to create drama, I personally find friendship a very unique yet powerful source for drama. I often forget how important the bond of friendship is, and this series did well to remind me of it.
I consider the series excellent, and even though it has lots of valuable messages, its best points were being enjoyable and "cool." I love how this series does comedy. It's definitely not overdone to take over the drama, but it is there enough to release tension. There are also some interesting additions, such as how the girls blush when they hold hands or are talked to, but I assume that this goes nowhere and that it's just there for fun. But overall, it is a series not to be missed, especially if you're taking a break for romance/drama or just trying to find something unique and interesting. I am personally impressed at how much a series like this could impress me. Don't miss it!read more
I swore when I seriously started writing reviews that I would never give anything a perfect rating. No anime was flawless no matter how great I thought it was. However, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight is the closest thing I've found to perfect.
Set in Japan in the near future, Manabi captures the outlook of its setting better than any other series that's tried to work out such a scenery. It is made clear with a national birth rate crisis reflecting the current steady drop in Japanese citizen births, as well as advanced but realistic technology such as streamlined buses, computers built into desks, and student organizers that are essentially limited-function Blackberries. These subtle points serve to add an extra glow to the already wonderful story presented.
Manabi's plot is so basic it may almost be seen as a flaw, but alas it cannot. So often do we get caught up in the grandeur anime has to offer that it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy the simple story Manabi presents. But as is the theory regarding real life, Manabi takes great pleasure in the little things. Cleaning up what will be your office, making sure an assembly presentation is complete, recordng video interviews of your friends... all of these are either easy or mundane, yet for Manabi they are crucial plot elements and are thus treated with proper gravitas.
Likewise, Manabi's story is not just an event-to-event episodic process like so many modern slice-of-life series are. Manabi is clearly a linear storyline. Episodes begin with character development, begin to introduce conflict simultaneously, flesh out the conflict once the characters are developed, conflict is properly resolved, and the story is even given time for a dynamic epilogue that brings the message of the series full-circle. This is proper storytelling, paced to perfection with each episode having its own moment of new resolution for a contained or continuous conflict. I can think of nothing to take out or add upon.
Manabi is lead by five high-school girls, including the titular character. This is another point where Manabi stands out as well. Though each girl is given a requisite character archetype, their personalities were still given room to grow to the point that it no longer becomes acceptable to say "oh Mei's just a typical tsundere" and the like. Perspectives are also another plus as far as characterization goes, as the series starts leading us to believe it is from Manabi's perspective, yet it becomes clear as the series progresses that it is another girl through whose eyes we are watching the story unfold, and rightfully so as the epilogue demonstrates.
Though character designs are skewed young, similar to Lucky Star, they are appealing and don't pander to moe extensively. Cute, but not sickeningly so, and within reason. More to the point, the fact that the characters were drawn in a "loli style" doesn't do anything to harm the series as a whole. Besides, any high-schooler can tell you that just because they were 16, that doesn't mean they acted like it.
Manabi was animated by the spotty, hit-or-miss ufotable. All the stops were pulled out for Manabi though, from the gradient-style hair colors to the richly detailed web sites and chat room discussions. Animation flows smoothly throughout and frequently touches upon movie quality for its more poignant scenes. It's work that could hardly be improved upon and easily the studio's shining star for quality. One can only hope that ufotable animates another series of this art quality soon. Of course, ufotable included its penchant for a clay-mation ED sequence, but that is only to be expected, and the sequence is well choreographed despite its appearance.
The accompaniement is provided by first-time composer Yasuhiro Misawa, and I pray that this is only a taste of what is to come. The soundtrack captures the urgency of Manabi's pace with appropriate music throughout, ranging from slow and serene, to frentic and uplifting. No track is quite the same and quite a few well probably memorable for every viewer; the most memorable arguably being the *CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP* that decorates every next episode preview and other scenes. The OP and ED, originally songs by the late, etheral Ritsuko Okazaki are now sung with a headier sound by famous seiyuu Megumi Hayashibara. Both are quite good.
The vocal performances however are all wonderful. Voiced by a blend of veterans and rookies to the field, each gives their all to their respective performance, capturing all the individual nuances of every single sentence. It's quite possibly the best ensemble cast for a slice-of-life anime, and arguably one of the best ensemble casts of any anime.
At this point I think it's rhetorical to ask if I enjoyed it. This series took me to every possible emotional high and, despite its short run, satisfied me to the upmost. Everything about this series has left me with nothing but good impressions. Though personal biases will easily detract some from watching this, those with an open mind regarding the style should come running. Anime does not get much better than this.
Overall, I proudly give Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight a 10 out of 10.read more
Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! is a classic example of looks over substance. While not totally devoid of any redeemable qualities, it's hard to recommend Manabi Straight to anyone, as it is simply outclassed by too many other choices.
The story revolves around the Seioh high school student council and its attempt at organizing the school fair. Underneath that lies a story of friendship between the five girls who takes part in student council activities. However, neither of these stories succeeds in gathering much interest for one important reason: the characters.
Simply put, after the initial impressions, the characters of Manabi Straight get stale very quickly. You have Manabi, the hyperactive student council president; Mikan, the mousy and insecure treasurer; Mei, your typical tsundere in an all-girl setting; Mutsuki, the cheerful tomboy, and Momo, the side character with the attention span of a goldfish. There's not much to the characters beyond that, and if you have watched any significant amount of anime, none of the characters would strike you as original; but more importantly, the key flaw is in the lack of meaningful character development. Viewers are never given a glance behind Manabi's over-excitable disposition, hence they never come to understand her zealous passion for the school. Mikan's growth from her shy self is done in the ancient formula of "confidence through friendship", the kind of stuff you would expect from series aimed at younger children, such as Digimon. The only meaningful character development happens with Mei, but most of that takes place in one episode during the first half of the series, leaving the rest of Manabi Straight rather dull.
The underlying friendship story concerning the student council as well as the rest of the school is just not very compelling, partly because of the caricature-like main characters, as well as the cliche developments that you would be able to see coming from a mile away. Because of this, it's very hard to actually care for the personal struggles of the characters or the school fair, which accounts for much of the overly simplistic plot.
On the bright side, the art style of Manabi Straight definitely scores it some much-needed points. The colors are very pleasantly vibrant, both in the backgrounds and on the characters, producing an unique sheen. The characters are drawn in a slightly chubby style that is probably cuter than their actual personalities will ever hope to be, though trying to pass them off as high school students is a very long shot. Beyond that, the animation in the movements and mannerisms of the characters are above average, though the detail is never too high when dealing with the simplistic (but pleasant) character designs.
In the terms of sound, the seiyuu of Manabi Straight did a fine job, though Mikan's mousy voice may get on some viewers' nerves at by the end of the series. The musical score consists of nothing too memorable, but nothing offending either. The opening, ending, and insert songs are also commendable, but once again fail to leave much impression.
In the end, beyond the refreshing art style, Manabi Straight fails to impress. With a story more suited to younger audiences, yet a concept that appeals to older viewers, it suffers from a sort of identity crisis. The comedy is sparse, the drama is weak, the plot is cliche, the characters are generic -- reflecting upon these facts, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! probably turned out better than the sum of its parts. Of course, that's not saying much, as Manabi Straight remains merely a mediocre experience. read more