The OVA anime release Marriage consists of two 30-minute pieces by Miki Kasamatsu on the topics of love and looking for that special someone. The first deals with a group of young women who, after being out of school for a few years, are beginning to think about settling down. However, there is one member of the group who has no prospects, and Shizuka's friends are worried that her shyness will keep Mr. Right from noticing her beauty and character.
They persuade her to join a dating service called The Wedding Club, but when her first match seems to be quite a dud, Shizuka wonders if a trip down the isle just isn't in her future. The second episode is about five sisters, only one of whom isn't married. What's more, the cool Kiyomi seems to have no interest whatsoever in finding a husband. Her sisters have other ideas, though, and when a co-worker asks her out on a date, the women convince the suitor to propose marriage that very night.This is easier said than done, however, as Kiyomi's attitude can be quite intimidating.
The young man may not end up following through with the plan, but even if he does there is no guarantee that the headstrong lady in question will say yes.
I bought this DVD on a whim, because I had a chance to get it cheaply, and I thought it looked like it might be a cute romance. This disk contains two short romantic comedies using characters borrowed from previous works. My understanding is that you don't have to have viewed any of the related anime to watch these, and, in fact, the two episodes are really not connected plot-wise. They merely share characters who have the same names and personalities, but not the same situations. (In the first episode, the five friends are coworkers; in the second episode, they are sisters. But
they are essentially the same characters.)
With those details out of the way, let's talk about the pros and cons of this DVD. First, the art is old-fashioned, so if you are not willing to put up with 90s-style art, give it a pass. Second, because each episode is so short (about 30 minutes), it is not able to do the kind of complicated character development one might like to see. This means that the romances in each episode may seem rushed. The first episode in particular is about the process of finding one's match; we don't actually get to see much interaction between the couple when they do get together.
Those are the cons. What about the pros? Well, the episodes do deliver entertaining romantic comedies. The first one is more sweet; the second is more funny. (Personally, I liked the second episode quite a bit more, but the ending of the first one WAS cute.) Both could provide a quick fix for someone longing for a simple rom-com. Plus, the two works have a quirky sense of humor that I wasn't expecting. In the middle of each episode, there is a bizarre interlude that is essentially like an educational film, complete with "research" and "statistics" (I have to wonder if the numbers are real; they might well be.) The first interlude is all about dating services; the second one is about where to go on dates and what to do for a proposal. These are strange segments, but I found them amusing. It made me wonder if the two works were seriously trying to teach the viewers something about courtship/dating. Interesting idea, even if it seems a bit foreign.
My verdict? At first I was going to give this release a 6, but I liked the second episode enough to bump it up into 7. I'd say this is one to rent or borrow rather than buy, but if you can buy it cheaply somewhere, it might be worth a purchase. It's the sort of thing you might watch once and then pass on to a friend. Or, rent it and watch in on a girls' movie night. In any case, "Marriage" deserves a little more love from anime fans!
"For the first time...I call out to him. Because he is the man that I love. If we could just get to know each other...I'll quietly check my pinkie finger; perhaps...we may be tied by the red string of fate." --Shizuka Nakamoto
Marriage, or Marriage: Kekkon, is the two episode sequel to the original Graduation OVA from 1995, and despite being the second in the franchise was the first of the Graduation franchise released here for some odd reason. It was also based on a visual novel game of the same name, which, instead of being a graduation simulator where you played as a teacher, was
a dating simulator where you played as a random man who had to date one of the five, and the good ending was to get married to the woman of your choice. The five Seika Girls' High School girls, Reiko, Shizuka, Mami, Mika, and Kiyomi, about seven years after they graduated, have returned once again, so to celebrate this years' Valentine's Day, let's take a look at this.
Marriage, just like Graduation, is split into two episodes, only unlike the previous OVA, the stories are two self-contained ones rather than two stories that followed a continuity, as whilst the five girls, now women, were friends from different families in the first episode, in the second episode they're somehow all sisters. But that's really a minor thing and not much to complain about. Anyways, in the first episode, the five women all work in an office building, and while discussing stuff about relationships, they found out that Shizuka is the only one without a boyfriend, as she's not interested in getting a guy, despite having bumped into Sho, one of the workers there. Mika feels that Shizuka needs someone so she doesn't end up feeling lonely, and tries all sorts of methods to try to find a perfect match for her, with stuff like dating services, but has Shizuka's red string of fate already been cut?
The second episode has a similar concept, only it's Kiyomi who's the one who's not interested, but this time it's about a co-worker of hers, Mikimaro, who has fallen in love with her and wants to propose and marry her. Kiyomi is unsure about this, but will she change her mind as time passes?
In between the halfway points of these two episodes are also some little educational segments, which I'll touch upon soon.
The stories are simple, breezy and are nice. All the characters are mostly used well, getting time to shine. You get a little hint of romance from the stories, feel the feelings the characters feel, and the slice of life elements add a little bit of depth to the world to where you can relate to the situations (hanging out with friends in a restaurant, travelling, going to/interacting at work), a nice little simple bit of everyday life. It also contains a good amount of comedic jokes in them, which makes me feel like I'm watching an episode of Seinfeld or something. Heck, I actually thought the thing with Shimon constantly getting dumped by women was funny for what it was, and Mikimaro provided some good comic relief.
It isn't perfect though. The biggest problem is the pacing; the two episode format once again has its problems as due to the time limit, certain things like Mikimaro trying to propose on the first time he dates Kiyomi does look like it's way too rushed, and obviously wouldn't work in real life. Had it been more episodes or the episodes been 45 minutes to an hour like the Bubblegum Crisis series, it would have been better, but we do get to see a bit of character development for some of the characters. Also, that joke with the transgender may come across as politically incorrect/offensive nowadays.
Also included between the halfway points of the episodes are two little segments that are educational and provide what dating/marrying is like in Japan. These two spots are a true highlight as they provide interesting information for one interested in Japanese culture. The first talks about what men and women see in each other and also show how Japan provides things like dating/wedding services and vending machines with cards to try to provide a perfect match/mate for one who is struggling. That all sounds well and good, but the biggest problem I have with that is this: what if for one of those dating services, you didn't like the person you matched or vice versa and it turned out there was no match? Will you ever get another chance to try to find someone else you like, or is that it? You're all done, never get another chance and be doomed to spend the rest of your life being single? Some information on that would be nice.
The second talks about why people marry and provides some interesting tips to learn when dating someone or trying to propose, where to go, how much to spend, what to buy for your significant other, etc. But don't rush into things.
I will say as far as the episodes go, whilst I enjoyed both, I think I enjoyed the second one slightly better, it had actual character development for both its protagonists and a certain part of the first episode even segwayed into it pretty nicely. I do wish we got to see more of that hospital movie that Sho starred in (guess in that episode he was a movie star), that would have been interesting.
Unfortunately, the art and animation quality are a step down from Graduation, having a lower budget to work with this time. The characters do move fine, there's some nice details and bright colors with the backgrounds like the city, various restaurants and building interiors, but the art style is a bit rougher, the movements are a little more stiffer than the previous OVA and this time there's more noticable still shots, and the colors look a little more washed out in comparison. Madhouse did help animate the first episode, but this wasn't one of their best. There's also some goof where Mikimaro's tie kept changing color as if they couldn't decide what color it should be. And while I do like the new character designs for the five women, I think Mami's hair should have stayed green, it's very odd to see it change from that to brown, and Mika looks a little too much like Natsumi from You're Under Arrest. What's also odd is how the girls all look like adult women, like they should, but all of the guys, especially Mikimaro, who's 25 years old, looks like young teenagers instead. Go figure. Also, for the educational segments, the characters turn into chibi/SD forms of themselves. It works in that regard and they all do look cute, and I even liked the little thing with the cats that looked like an obvious Sailor Moon reference. The animation isn't great, but still is pretty good for the average OVA and still works. I even enjoyed that cute doggy design on Kiyomi's apron.
Sound/Music/Voice Acting (8.5/10)
(This was seen in Japanese with English subtitles and in English).
The voice acting was excellent in the Japanese version. The original actresses from Graduation return and do a fine job as always, with Aya Hisakawa and the sadly late Hiromi Tsuru being the standout among them, but the male actors did wonderful work too, especially Daisuke Sakaguchi (Uso, the protagonist from Victory Gundam) doing a great job as Mikimaro and Hikaru Midorikawa (another Gundam voice actor, this time Heero Yuy from Wing) doing good as Sho.
The English dub was provided by Coastal Studios, formerly called Coastal Carolina Sound Studios, known for making the English dubs of Ah My Goddess and especially Shinesman. They did a pretty good job with their English dub too, I liked Amy Church's take on Kiyomi and Traci Dinwiddle's Shizuka, but I did also enjoy Tamara Burnham Mercer (who interestingly voiced Kiyomi in a rare English dub of Graduation and coincidentally voiced Natsumi in the dub of You're Under Arrest! Interesting...) the best actor was Shane Callahan as Mikimaro. He managed to be just as good, hilarious as and in some places even better than Sakaguchi. Shame he wasn't in much more anime dubs...
Not all the acting was perfect though, while most of the acting was good/fine, Danielle Sullivan unfortunately turned in a very lackluster job as Mami, not emoting enough and sounds like she wasn't taking the project seriously, and the actors doing the two boys trying to hit on Mika really could have done a better job, and unfortunately were the worst sounding. Better voice directing could have worked in this case.
Speaking of those boys, the dub also did add some pretty suggestive dialogue in it, like one of those boys saying to Mika, "gee, you really wanna make me be an ice cream". No wonder this has the 13+ rating...
The music is pretty good too. Most of it is nice, gentle and sweet, nothing too memorable or will have you humming anything, but the opening and ending themes by Miki Kasamatsu are excellent, catchy and lovely.
The characters are simple here, and retain their same personalities, so there's nothing deep about their characters, but you can tell their friendship is strong here, because of how much they try to help each other and others out in these situations, I like simple, subtle friendship depictions like that. The interactions with Mika and Shizuka is one example. Whilst Mika, who still has her easygoing attitude, may seem too pushy to some for trying to get to Shizuka to open up and find a lover (I even don't know why she asked Shizuka to take off her glasses, she obviously needs them!) you can tell that beneath that she really wants Shizuka to be happy and not end up with a sad future, and even apologizes for how she acted, but as Shizuka said, she's funny that way. Shizuka even manages to come out of her shy self and interact with others, and though her thing with Sho seems like a love at first sight thing, you can still get the feeling she's opened up. Mami is still lovably klutzy like always, but feels underutilized along with Reiko. The best characters in the OVA are both Mikimaro and Kiyomi, as both have their personalities shine through and end up undergoing some good character development. Kiyomi, who still comes across as tough, ends up showing a kind, fun loving side to her and grows to like Mikimaro, whilst Mikimaro becomes more confident and determined, a far cry from how clumsy and unthinking he was in the first episode, and him having Kiyomi as his supervisor also helps give a sense that he and Kiyomi knew each other for some time, so it provides a little meat for the relationship, even if it does feel sorta rushed, it still ends up working. That's what I meant when I said the first episode kinda flowed nicely into the second, even if the characters somehow became sisters in the second one.
I quite enjoyed this romantic anime, both as a collection of short stories and as providing some insight as to how dating and marriage works in Japan. It's no Midsummer Night's Dream or Ah My Goddess, but it's still a nice, enjoyable, simple and fun anime to watch on Valentine's Day or any time, or if you're interested to see what it would be like to marry in Japan. If you're interested in that and like simple romantic stories, then watch this, but if you want more depth to characters and relationships, then stick with Ah My Goddess or something else. This anime OVA is no hidden gold/silver ring, but it still deserves far greater credit than people have given it.
"Without really knowing, you are thinking. Without really knowing of that person. Without really knowing, that moment will come. So...wait for it patiently. The proposal will be over in a few seconds." --Kiyomi Arai
This is the middle instalment of a trilogy of three features, all focusing around a group of five girl friends. The first, GRADUATION, was about the girls leaving school and balancing the end of their childhood with the beginning of their adulthood. The second, MARRIAGE, was about the girls searching for a soulmate to spend their lives with. The third, SAILOR VICTORY, was an outright adventure in the line of giant robots and magical girls.
This feature is divided into two tales, both of which deal with finding a good husband to marry and settle down with. The first is about an introverted office worker who
is dragged into dating by her friends; the second is about an aloof executive who goes on an arranged date. The stories, to be honest, are painfully bland and standard; there's very little character/plot development and everything just works itself out at the end with no issues at all. The first story is better than the second, but only marginally and that's because it has more likable characters.
The artwork and music are pretty and above average, but they can't help with the stories; it's bizarre that the female characters look like grown women, while the male characters look like teenagers. What does help, interestingly, are a series of vignettes that explain Japanese dating protocols. They add an interesting documentary-like feel to the feature; the average Japanese viewer is somewhat prepared for future marriage, and average the non-Japanese viewer gets an interesting insight into Japanese dating culture.
Do not expect anything too amazing or revolutionary from this, and you will probably enjoy it for a once-in-a-while watch. I enjoyed the first tale, anyway.