Regardless of how students handle the many academic challenges facing them, they all know that there will come a day when they will leave all the hurdles of scholastic achievement behind and tackle the triumphs and sorrows of true adulthood. One thing that many young people don`t realize is that this often means leaving behind the friends that have been with them through their youth.
"Do something that you can do...before you try to find something you can do..."
Graduation, or Sotsugyou: Graduation, is a partially obscure two part OVA series based on a teaching simulator of the same name, which was released in 1993, whilst the OVA was made in January-February 1995, but it oddly was never released in the US. The game was about five schoolgirls named Reiko, Shizuka, Mami, Mika, and Kiyomi graduating from the Seika Girls' High School. The player played the role of a male high school teacher, where they'd have to try to raise statistics for each girl and be careful to make sure that
they had a good balance between work and free time and that they don't flunk out, whilst also featuring stuff like the girls performing in plays and such. It apparently was successful as it spawned sequels, spin-offs, and of course an anime adaptation, which is what we'll be looking at here (Only its sequel, Marriage and a spinoff, Sailor Victory were released here, so only those who saw those two might want to see this).
Graduation is split into two episodes, both with different stories. In the first episode, the five girls, finished with their exams and currently on their post exam break, decide to spend it at a hot spring. On the way however, Mami, who seems very sad about something, gets lost and the others have to find her. Will the other girls find Mami and help her out, and what exactly is bothering the green haired goof?
In the second episode, round about the time of graduation, the girls feel something is wrong with Reiko, which turns out to be that her businessman father wants her to marry a man from another business, and whilst Mika, Kiyomi, Mami and Shizuka have decided what they want to do in the future, Reiko has not and is stressed about it. What will happen when she meets the man, will her friends help her out, and will she be able to set her future, the step after graduating from high school?
Both episodes are simple, slice of life stories, nothing spectacular, but still enjoyable. with decent pacing and use of subplots in between that hint at what the characters want to do (Mika for example wants to step up and become head of her father's cafe but had already sent in an application to be a physical education teacher), but the biggest flaws with this series is that they're only half an hour and this show is only two episodes. Why not make more? It would have helped with certain other flaws (which I'll mention below), and to be frank, if they could make so many Graduation games, why not make a Graduation anime series? We could see how the girls met, what their home lives are like, how they interact in school, and what they do when their time's off, going on vacation, celebrating holidays...
It's a flaw I find with OVAs like this, why not make more than two episodes? These feel like the conclusion to an anime that was never aired. Despite that though, I enjoyed the stories, it might not have meant to be a deep, epic, exciting story like you'd see in anime like Sailor Moon, or Spirited Away, for example, just a simple story about students graduating.
I also loved that "Jurassic Parlor" place Mami mentioned, I'm sure we all know what they were thinking...
The art and animation are 90's anime art, and may be considered dated by some people. However, it is actually beautiful, matching on par of what OVAs tend to look like (having higher budgets than TV show anime). The backgrounds are very pretty, detailed, brightly colored and a treat for the eyes, I especially liked the motorcyclist poster in Kiyomi's garage. The characters are also well drawn, sharp, and all have their own unique hairstyles and look good (though Kiyomi kinda looks like Rei/Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon) and the animation is fluid and smooth.
Warning to some people who don't like fanservice, at the end of the first episode there is some partially graphic nudity with the girls in the hot springs.
(This was seen in Japanese with English subtitles as despite an English dub being mentioned, it is practically impossible to find)
The voice acting in here was excellent, with each voice actor putting in great emotion for each character. Some famous seiyuu also took the spotlight here, with Hiromi Tsuru (Chameleon June/Mermaid Thetis from Saint Seiya, Bulma from the Dragon Ball franchise) as Kiyomi, Yumi Touma (En from Sailor Moon R and the Kisenian from the Sailor Moon R Movie) as Reiko, and especially Aya Hisakawa (Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury from the Sailor Moon franchise, Kero from Cardcaptor Sakura) as Shizuka (whose dream of being a vet is interesting considering Ami wanted to be a doctor).
The music was good, beautiful, catchy, heartwarming, but felt a bit bittersweet, as graduating and having to leave your friends is a very conflicting time, it is good to move on your own path and achieve your goals, but it is very sad to leave your friends, and it may be hard for you to meet them again or come in contact with them...
The ending song used here was nice, as all five girls sing about graduating, though it would have been nice to hear the original song from the original video game this is based on.
Also the sound quality was pretty good. It was clear, not muffled or garbled.
The characterization is more simple compared to other anime like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Saint Seiya, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, but it is easy to tell what the characters' personalities are like and they do have characters. Kiyomi is sly, a bit cold, more reserved, and not interested in school, going so far as to skip it once. Shizuka is quiet and kind. Reiko is lady-like and tries to make things suit what she believes fit her. Mika is happy-go-lucky and always tries to help her friends, and Mami is an adorable goofball who refers to herself in third-person. The minor characters also have a bit of character; the fathers we see here are strict but want the best for their daughters.
The problem with the characters though, is the writers chose to make this anime rely on plot over characters, so most of the characters don't undergo any development (which is the problem with the two episode format). The only character who really seemed to have any development here was Reiko as she talks about her problems with Takei, the guy she was asked to marry, and is then able to solve her problem. Shizuka unfortunately seemed to feel the least developed out of all of them, but she and Kiyomi did eventually develop and we saw more of what they were like in Marriage, the sequel to this OVA.
And once again, I must bring this up, whilst the characters are entertaining here, why not just make a Graduation anime series, which would develop the characters, and then maybe place the two episodes at the end?
Graduation is a decent, enjoyable anime and I liked it, though there are better anime out there with better stories and characters. With that said, I can only recommend this anime to certain anime fans: those who know what graduation is like, those who like schoolgirls, and those who like simple slice of life anime or OVAs like this.
If you're interested in any of those types of anime or you came here after hearing of/seeing Sailor Victory or Marriage, then I'd recommend giving this a shot, otherwise, stay far, far away.
"A separation will come to everyone, and there will be many more in the future. But the important thing is to remember the feelings of the moment, isn't it?"