After School of the Earth
Mysterious beings called Phantoms have Disappeared all the people of Earth except for four kids. The kids find their attempts to survive in an unpeopled world complicated by various weird experiences as well as the ever-present fear that the Phantoms may finally come after them too.
I'm going to start describing this, and you'll be wondering why I even gave it as high a rating as I did; then I'm going to describe it some more, and hopefully you'll understand why I consider it, on balance, a sometimes charming curiosity despite its flaws.
The "Manga 2.5" in the title is further elaborated as "The Japanese Motion Comic", and that's just what it is- mostly still pictures with only one or two things actually moving in the frame. This kind of limited semi-animation can actually look pretty awful- I shudder recalling some Marvel superhero cartoons done this way years ago, among other ghastly examples- but somehow ASOTE usually pulls this off without it being too distracting- not always, but usually. (I think it's because of very good planning in conjunction with a frequently fascinating plot, but I'm putting the positives later, so I'll continue with the negatives a little longer.)
The show does get another black mark for its bows to sexist and harem conventions. Our hero Masashi is with three young girls, and it's HE that's the leader despite the fact that the oldest girl, Sanae, looks about his age. (Even more telling is that fact that his character is the only one with a last name in the credits.) The girls, on the other hand, do stuff like obsess about their breast size. (Do girls this age do this in real life, or is this just another sop to male otakus? I suspect the latter.) There's plenty of mild fanservice as well; the two older girls wear bikinis quite a bit of the time- OK, it IS set in summer, but STILL- and cosplay outfits in one segment. All the girls are deferential to Masashi- though Yaeko, the second oldest, does sometimes disagree with him- and OF COURSE there's some competition between Sanae and Yaeko for Masashi's affections.
The youngest girl, Anna, seems to be in a world of her own, and I suppose that we're intended to sympathize with her as an orphaned child. Yet when the series begins nobody seemed that upset that everyone else was gone, and such inexplicable callousness nearly led me to dismiss the whole show, but then two things happened: it was revealed that our protagonists have been alone for a whole year; and one character later becomes terrified when they can't find another of their number. These qualifiers seemed to bring the cast's behavior more in line with what you might expect of humans in this situation, and I was able to enjoy the show a lot more.
The show IS surprisingly good at detailing how our quartet is managing daily necessities, especially food. Turns out it's partially through their own work, and partially due to a legacy of the work of others.
As for the characters: Masashi himself is very phlegmatic, and is optimistic that the missing population of the Earth is alive and well; he explains his reasoning later, but to look at the people in the process of being Disappeared by the Phantoms one might be a bit skeptical about that. Still, maybe it's not really as gruesome as it looks. Maybe our perception of the process doesn't reflect what's actually happening. Maybe. I'm with Yaeko on this, though. I like Yaeko for at least being outspoken, even if she's a bit vulgar; I definitely preferred her to Sanae, who's this show's Sweet, Demure, and Dull girl. (As an aside, it's interesting that neither of the older girls will actually go nude in front of Masashi; I suppose SOME traces of decorum remain even at the end of the world.)
As for those Phantoms, though... they normally appear as shapeless dark blobs moving by creating pseudopod limbs; they reminded me a lot of the Proxies from Scrapped Princess, though the Phantoms have some unique properties- they can imitate objects (and people!); and when they're "sick" they roll into a ball and go out in an odd kind of silent explosion that not only vanishes THEM, but also vanishes any matter in their immediate vicinity. I wish we'd had the opportunity to understand these things more fully, but you only get so much in the nine episodes here.
The same is true of the weirdness that Masashi experiences. He often sees visions (?) of his Disappeared little sister, and, even more strangely, somehow time-travels to the past on two occasions (once along with Sanae), though that turns out to be less useful than you might think. I assume that the Phantoms have some connection with all this. The show leaves you hungry for more information-which also means that it DOES engage and interest the viewer, despite all its flaws. The glimpses we get of the yearlong interval over which the people were Disappeared are also interesting. The episode where Masashi plays back a soldier's camcorder recording of the whole thing is pretty poignant.
The character art here is crude and simplistic; on the other hand, the flute melody over the closing credits is very lovely indeed.
For the show's imagination I was willing to go four stars on this, but I ended up feeling I had to consider the show's downsides as well in the ratings. Still, it's definitely worth a look, and if there was just a little bit more OF it I think I could have been talked into going with four. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: I already pointed it out: breasts are discussed a lot (and on two occasions fondled through clothing); swimsuits are worn (though Sanae is the only one who actually fills out one very much); and the disappearances of the people are NOT pleasant to look at. Mid-teen and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (9/9)
After School of the Earth © 2014 Happinet Co., ltd
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