Rom-Com Anime Nostalgia: From Detective Conan to Please Teacher! and Please Twins!

  Discovering Japanimation one happy little accident at a time.

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This review is a companion to the discussion I had with  biogundam and ThoughtAgent which I have embedded above. You don't need to watch the discussion but the two complement each other.

Please Twins is sort of a sequel-ish spin-off to Please Teacher so you should definitely watch Please Teacher first.

Both have OVAs which are pure fan service, by which I mean I mean they don't really add anything to the story but are there for the fan to get one last look at the characters before turning the last page on the story.

I really like to feel fake nostalgia, as should be pretty obvious by this website's layout. The web didn't look like this when I got on it, no instead most sites looked like early wordpress blogs. Please Teacher! scratches that fake nostalgia itch, as it too is slightly before my time with rom-com anime but not so distant that I can't pretend to have watched it when it came out.

When I first consciosly got into watching anime as something from Japan there was a period from 2010 to 2013 where I mostly watched anime romantic comedies.

I know it may make me sound stupid but until the age of 12 I didn't know that anime was not western, that it was from Japan.

This may have been because everything I watched up to that point was mostly Shounen like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Yu Gi Oh, Shaman King, Beyblade some of which were actually set in Japan but which for the most part featured kinda surreal settings that it was easy to miss the Japanese references, also I watched it dubbed in Italian so there was quite a bit of localisation. The first time I remember Japan being mentioned in anime was in the Gear Fighter Dendoh mecha series.

To make make matters more confusing to my young self I also watched a whole lot of World Masterpiece Theatre anime like Heidi, and Anne of Green Gables, Rose of Versailles (not World Masterpiece Theatre) which were either adaptations of European/American novels for children and/or basically period pieces set in Europe.

Then there were series like Magical Circle Guru Guru and Escaflowne which were basically set in western fantasy settings which again did not exactly seem Japanese to me back then.

Thinking back about it I did watch unmistakably Japanese anime like Ranma 1/2, Doremi, Mila e Shiro, and Urusei Yatsura, Detective Conan and Lupin the third. Actually with Lupin it only added to the misunderstading, because Lupin, especially in the red jacket tv specials was always involved in some failed heist/robbery saving damsels in distress in various world locations from New York to Egypt so he never came across as Japanese. There's a Japanese swordsman called Goemon but he was the one who felt like the token Japanese unlike the other cast who looked more like something out of hollywood.

To put into perspective how ignorant I was about anime, the time I got a manga into my hands (vol1 of Detective Conan) I tried reading it but I gave up because the story was not making sense. I was seven years old. Five years later I came across the same volume, now yellowed out and with the front cover missing, and I realised the reason I could not understand the story was because I had to read the manga volume back to front and from right to left, as the instructions at the front I had neglected to read said, because it was from Japan.

I really liked the first volume of the Detective Conan manga and soon enough I had bought and read all the 80 volumes of Conan which were published in Italian.I didn't care about the fact that it was set in modern Japan - I was only interested in the Poirot-esque increasingly improbable murder/detective mysteries (seriously there is no trick to murder someone and get away with it that Conan has not covered over its 1000 manga chapters and 1000 anime episodes) and also in the romance sub-plot between Conan and Ran. More than 25 years have passed, their romance subplot has still not reached a conclusion and Conan is still a 17 year old in a seven year old's body. To be honest I would be a bit sad if it came to an end, those annoying bootleg "Baker-street boys" kids around Conan can just die though. I get it you gotta appeal to that elementary school kid market - though maybe by this point it is too late for that.

Come to think of it Conan is the only murder-mystery series I know of aimed at kids too. I say it's for kids because it's basically a bit like at the end of a He-man episode when a case has been solved, the show tries to impart kids with some moral message, but in this case it comes after solving a brutal murder case.

There's an old joke in the Conan community, that if you were to meet Conan then you should probably run for your life because there just happens to be a murder fo him to solve wherever he goes sightseeing around Japan.

The protagonist of Detective Conan is also not a loser, or for that matter "just your average Japanese middle/high schooler" but is kind of a Mary Sue character but in a charming and not arrogant way, a bit like orginal Sherlock Holmes I guess,  whereas protagonists in anime aimed at boys (and man-children) tend to have protagonists who are essentially losers or completely average because by the time they are in middle/high-school the intended audience has lost any delusions of grandeur, and so can't self-insert into characters who are just perfect in every way. Basically they need some sort of a Dr. Watson-like character at least to serve as self-insert for the reader.

Anyway the reason why the joke about Conan going around bringing death with him works partly because the story makes a point of taking the characters around Japan and in the process it feels almost like a tourist guide, or propaganda for why Japan is a good, clean and beautiful country.

It's a bit like how the original Sherlock Holmes stories were propaganda in favour of Britain despite the occasional criticism of England. I mean Holmes basically ends up working for the British government in the great war if I remember correctly, it has been a while since I have read Holmes.I remember when I read the Sherlock Holmes stories I really wanted to visit London and go to the Baker Street museum. I was able to but unfortunately I also ended up living in London.Just as Sherlock Holmes fans who live abroad want to visit London because they have a romanticised view of the city, so too anime fans end up being fond of Japan for the same reason.

There's even a Conan movie (there's many of them so it is just one among more than twenty of them) about Conan solving a case of foreign espionage on a Japanese Self-Defense Forces battleship. The country which does the espionage is never named, it was probably China because they love to steal, but when it aired in South Korea, they had to edit the movie so much not to offend the Koreans that the Korean version of the movie tells a different story. This is the closest I think I have seen Conan being official propaganda, but the point is that even without trying - just by saying an exciting story in the place called Japan it turns into international propaganda in favour of that place. As with Conan Doyle's SH stories I don't think it was even meant to be international propaganda, but just as the Holmes stories were just meant for a British audience but ended up being popular in Japan inspiring Detective Conan, after all the "Conan" in Detective Conan is from Conan Doyle's first name, so too anime was seeing by eyes it was not intended to be seen by.

Anyway this is not a review of Conan so I'll stop but I consciously got into anime as something from Japan through Conan so I thought it might have been worth bringing up. There was another thing that Conan brought to my attention and interest, the romantic sub-plot in a "mundane" setting (obviously the setting of Conan is hardly mundane  because it is full of murder mysteries, kidnap attempts, FBI and CIA agents, robberies, secret criminal organisations etc... but by mundane, I mean that it is not set in the future or the past, nor a fantasy/sci-fi setting but just in modern day Japan). There were other series in modern day Japan like Ranma 1/2 but again because the characters basically had super powers it didn't feel real, same with sports anime like Mila e Shirou, the sport is more important than the fact it is set in Japan - so it is international in that sense, as for stuff like Sailor Moon once again the fact that there was magic and monsters and a guy in a tuxedo and a mask waltzing around sort of took away my attention from the mundane Japanese setting, same with Mecha anime set in Japan like Gear Fighter Dendoh - there's giant robots and aliens fighting each other literally destroying the mundane setting so that's a bit distracting.

Basically Conan contained the ingredients to my fake nostalgia for early 2000s anime rom-coms, even if the rom-com bits were a sub-plot/flavour in between the murders and the whodunit.

After I caught up with the latest vol of Conan I searched, and I searched but could not find another detective anime that took the whodunit mystery aspects seriously like a Sherlock Holmes story would. So I actually read all of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and I loved it but not as much as Conan, there are many specific reasons for this, such as Conan having an underlying over-arching plot that would be occasionally visited and progressed in-between episodic crimes, but of course the reason which popped out pretty obviously was the fact that it wasn't anime.

Sure I tried stuff like Death Note, Detective Academy Q (short but the closest to Conan), and Code Geass which were said to have very clever charismatic protagonists but to put this plainly and not too get bogged down too much in the details in this already meandering essay, they were not as good as Conan especially when it came to selling that their protagonists were clever. Please don't write comments to me about that is not the case, I am not really interested in arguing about cartoons, some of the most unpleasant, pointless and circular conversations I have had online far beyond political discussions, is those that I have had with fanboys. For example, a few months ago I had a nearly 100 YouTube comment debate with some attack on titan fanboy on ThatAnimeSnob's comment section "arguing" that there isn't exposition in Attack on Titan when there clearly is. I don't like arguing about politics but I would rather do that than deal with that level of stupidity and denial ever again.

Unfortunately what I found out was that Detective Conan was an ever-expanding black hole when it comes to Detective anime. Basically Conan is one of the only autistic murder mystery anime where you get to see some actual sleuthing but inside itself it contains so much that it is a genre in and of itself - a bit like Australia is both a country and continent.

I also watched a bunch of Shoujo anime like Mermaid Melody and Tokyo Mew Mew which had romantic subplots but the difference between that and what I think about when I refer to early 2000s anime rom-coms is that Shoujo is aimed at girls and has female protagonists. The early 2000s anime rom-coms I am thinking of are romantic comedies aimed at boys which have male protagonists. These boy-oriented rom-coms have more in common with visual novels when it comes to fan service and tropes but I haven't seen any evidence that one was birthed out of the other.

Because I couldn't find the sleuthing aspects of DC, I went for the other bit that appealed to me, the idyllic, slow, repetitive romantic-subplot packaged with a rose-tinted image of Japan. I would also say that these rom-coms tended to be far less melo-dramatic than Shoujo romance but as Shoujo disappeared I think the melodrama leaked back into these boy-oriented rom-coms because girls don't get their own genre now, not in Japan anyway (Korean webtoons/drama kind of fill that niche, in the west anyway - I have no idea about in Japan itself).

Given that these stories focus mainly on the characters getting to like each other or even just admitting to like each other, they are a bit innocent and childish that way. For example there is hardly if ever any actual and if there is, there's no drama about unintentional pregnancies or whatnot. It's not supposed to be realistic even though it's a mundane setting, the characters don't really have any problems and spend more money than they should have if you think about it. Characters do not usually break up and if they do then will usually get together with each other rather than get into a relationship with someone else kind of to maintain the purity of that romance or something. Basically it is a romance but it is as equally comedy, bad things might happen but things turn out right in the end. If they don't then it's a subversion like Clannad is.

The longer ones focus on the characters getting to know each other and finally admitting their feelings to each other after 140 chapters or something but then they quickly lose steam and conclude because after the characters get together there's no way to maintain the stakes other than by making them break up or something but if you do that too often then it just ceases to be a comedy (an intentional one anyway) and veers into melodrama like josei manga does, like Nana does. Itazura na kiss was extremely boring for this reason, the characters get together early on, and you as the viewer are left feeling as the third wheel rather than rooting for their romance.

I think the proof of concept for how long you can drag a rom-com where the characters do not get together till the end  can be found in Maison Ikkoku, one of the early and best examples of rom-com aimed at boys.Maison is by Rumiko Takahashi as are Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura, so even before Conan I was already kind of primed to this kind of story.

From what I understand Rumiko Takahashi was one of the pioneers when it comes to making rom-coms for boys creating many of the tropes or at least popularising them. Her use of the "misunderstanding" as a way of stalling the characters getting together is kind of dying out, I remember people complaining about it, but I thought it was rather innocent and cute, though I must admit Takahashi pushed my patience beyond the limit a few times. The love rivals and fake harems are usually though not always just delaying techniques as well. Unless it is a true harem like Tenchi Muyo where the protagonist never chooses one girl but maintains a status quo where all the girls cock-block each other whenever anyone of them is going to actually confess or kiss.

The reason why I call it fake nostalgia because the rom-com anime that I actually watched back then was stuff like Mayo Chiki, MM!, Sakurasou no Pet Kanojo. There were a bunch of urban fantasy anime like Shakugan no Shana which were slowly veering to fantasy and then came Zero no Tsukaima  which was still a rom-com but an isekai aimed at boys (back in the 90s these stories about ordinary people being transported into a fantasy setting were aimed at girls with stuff like Fushigi Yuugi and CLAMP's Magic Knight Rayearth though usually characters did not die and get reborn in another world but were just transported into another world like Narnia)- from that point onwards people slowly stopped complaining about all anime being set in an ordinary Japanese high school setting and started complaining about all anime being set in a jrpg western fantasy kind of setting.

I know that there are rom-coms being made every season like niggertoro and Kaguyasama: Love is War and that pathetic simp anime, Rental Girlfriend - something about them feels wrong and I can't put it into words. Some of it feels too self-aware and like riaju propaganda but I think there's something deeper wrong with modern rom-com anime.

The last anime high-school rom-com I paid any attention to was Oregairu (My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected by Wataru Watari) which reeled you in with the perfect cynical self-insert protagonist (a trend started by Haruhi Suzumiya probably) but then the protagonist becomes so self-aware that it breaks the genre, the charm, the coziness and essentially tells the audience to go fuck themselves as if that were some sort of genuine insight which were baited into thinking we would receive by the end.

Basically the protagonist became self-aware that he was not a ronnery-loser like audience which was supposed to self-insert into him and that broke the comedic aspect of the story - because the reason it was fun was because he insisted he was a loser and a loner and proud of it when in fact he wasn't any of those things.

The rise of fake-tsunderes in teasing ani-manga also soured my taste for this genre, the appeal of tsundere characters to me was kind of that they pushed the protagonist to improve himself but now they just berate the protagonist and just fall in love with him without him doing anything - which is boring. I like Asuka but this is probably her fault. Still better than Rei, and her dead clones.

It's either that or that straight-forward dumb riaju propaganda like that Bottom-Tier character Tomozaki, Tsurezure Children, and I Can't Understand What My Husband is Saying with characters who supposedly live fulfilling lives but are so boring and bland  that they ironically make the NEETs they look down on, look good by comparison. They are saying "you're missing out" and I feel like falling asleep. A problem that earlier rom-com anime did not have for me, I don't know why that is, maybe it's because they were more trope heavy. For example when was the last time you saw a nosebleed in a modern anime, I don't pay attention to new anime but I haven't seen that in a while in the mango I read.

This brings me to Please Teacher!. Given the quality of the artwork, this was an anime high school rom-com slightly before my time. Despite this, it was still familiar and cozy. It did not overstay its welcome and the familiar tropes for good. Only a fool would say that the mere presence of tropes is a negative when what really matters is the execution and the execution was good.

I can't say I loved the characters as much as Biogundam did but then again I did not watch Please Teach as one of my first anime. There was a message about moving on but it was done in a loving manner which did not feel resentful at all, not on the nose. It's hard to explain why and how but when it is done in good faith it is not condescending, it doesn't feel like hearing voices from the room next door talking ill about you as if you couldn't hear, as if you weren't there and could hear them talking badly about you but you can only seethe about it, you can't respond to them then and there because you are just a viewer. Nor does it feel like disingenuous concern for you, like kicking you in the teeth and then asking you if you're okay.

 Of course if you think about it for a moment their message gets inverted, and it sounds like a bunch of seething normalfags set out to make an anime to cope about how their wagie lives are more poor in quality and autheticity than the NEETs and Otaku they are trying to gaslight to come join them on the plantation. Inb4 slavery was basado.

This message about moving on was couched in the terms of "accelerating" which comically reminded me of Nick Land's stuff. Stagnation and and not changing was called "standing still." The basic message of the anime was that reality is always in flux so roll with it and bone your hot alien high school teacher.

The protagonist starts the series by lamenting that he would have preferred if there was no entropy, if the universe stood still it would make it seem more eternal but after having sex he reconciles with the impermanence of things

That concludes my thoughts on Please Teacher Onizuka. Score? 5/10. Hotel? Trivago.

There was less going on in the spin-off, Please Twins - no aliens or made up illnesses. It's not a direct sequel but it happens in the same village town, you will recognise some of the places. It takes place after the events of Please Teach. Some of the Please Teach characters show up again but I wasn't that charmed by them to care about it either way. Just listen to the video I have posted about to hear our thoughts on specific characters, it isn't worth going over them here. It would just muddle things further.

I guess both Please Teach & Twins fall into the orphan empowerment genre, which is not unheard of in anime because it's a good excuse to get adults out of the way and a cheap way to make us symphatise with the protagonist but it is not special to anime either, everything from David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter is an orphan empowerment fantasy. Please Teach's protagonist is not technically an orphan, unlike Please Twins, but he is basically abandoned by his parents to relatives, so close enough.

Because there's less stuff plot-wise going on in Please Twins the whole weight of the story has to be carried by the Schrodinger's Twin "they could be relatives but they could be strangers" premise which got pretty grating on ThoughtAgent's nerves as the characters were literally repeating the premise word for word over and over again. I didn't find it that bad and just enjoyed the ride - it's just 13 episodes, I was also right in my guess about who the protagonist would end up with. Making you guess is kind of the point, I guess.

I thought that Please Teacher and Please Twins were adapted from light novel or maybe even a visual novel but apparently they are original anime, I know how rare in this day and age, but they were later adapted into light novels and manga. I haven't read those. Probably never will but who knows if I feel whimsical enough though there is so much that I have put on a backlog and lost track of, it is unlikely.

I felt like Please Twins was written more like a the kind of rom-coms I was used to, on a moment to moment basis which doesn't really mean anything to you but as with many other things on this post, I can't explain it.

I am falling asleep as I write this so I'll start winding down. Please Twins score, 5/10. I didn't hate it enough to give it a negative score but it certainly wasn't good either.

Please Teach is the genuine retro anime but Twins felt more like what I actually used to watch than what I sometimes imagine I was watching.

I have already lost steam 800 words ago so what was the point of this blog? I usually don't stop and think that sort of thing. As usual, I immediately ran out of things to say so I said "fuck it" and went where that tangent took me, to a little bit of reminiscing about my history with rom-com anime, was it not a genuine, authentic experience just because I was engaging with a consumer product like anime rather than with nature or with other people around me? I don't know so I'll leave that to your judgement having read what I have said.

It was just as well I got some of this "personal history" on digital paper before I forget all of it. I have already forgotten most of it. That's kind of the point of this site, to jot it down while the iron in my mind is still hot, it was too late for this but better late than never. An advantage of having a short memory as I have is that I can revisit an anime and experience it again with fresh eyes again and again without it feeling repetitive and by making notes like these I can compare my previous thoughts and add to my understanding.

This article started out pretty badly but it turned out alright although, as usual, I did not intend to write it. I had to cut out a lot of irrelevant stuff from my manuscript which was annoying but half of the fun is seeing what I'll cope up with. I guess this is what is called "a happy little accident."

By Otaking, or [The Good Student]