Please Teacher Complete Collection
Mike Toole rates it:
In the parallel universe where Biff stole the sports almanac and took over the world, Please Teacher must have been based on a dating simulator. It has all of the stuff I’ve come to expect from dating sims– a callow, vapid main character, blindingly archetypical potential love interests, and a handful of window-dressing buddies, all tied together with character designs and settings that seem curiously sterile and artificial. That’s the impression that I get from Please Teacher. In order to dig into the show’s finer qualities, watching the entire series is necessary. Good thing Bandai decided to repackage the whole shebang together.
Kei is a withdrawn young man suffering from a nameless ailment that causes him to have seizures. This illness surfaced after time spent in a coma, during which Kei mysteriously stopped aging. When he woke up, the world had moved on, and he was eighteen but appeared to be fifteen. So there’s arrested adolescence right off the bat. Kei’s life isn’t so bad– he lives with his Uncle Gendo (the guy’s name isn’t Gendo, but he looks like Gendo from Evangelion so that’s what I’m calling him) and Aunt Konoha and goes to school, where he has a small circle of friends in the extroverted Hyosuke, nerdy Matagu, effervescent Koishi, ditzy Kaede, and cynical Ichigo. (Hint: the latter three are girls.)
Kei has a life-altering experience when he spots a UFO in his town’s forest. Specifically, he gets a look at the alien pilot, who just happens to be a total babe, a curvy redhead clad in black lycra. Thinking it a dream, he goes to school the next day to find he’s got a new homeroom teacher– a total babe, a curvy redhead clad in modest officewear. That’s right– the alien lady has ingeniously disguised herself by putting her hair up and wearing a pince-nez. Kei’s new teacher, Mizuho Kazami, is also his new neighbor, and also an alien observer. When she realizes he knows her secret, she whisks him away to her ship, but accidentally reveals herself to Kei’s bemused uncle and aunt. Later she confronts Kei in the school’s gym supply closet, the room that’s launched a thousand cheesy Japanese porn stories. Unfortunately for Mizuho and Kei, the principal stumbles across them and immediately comes to the wrong conclusion. The only way to save Kei’s reputation and Mizuho’s career is to make up some kind of crazy story about why they’re spending time together– let’s say they’re married. After all, Kei is technically 18, and Mizuho is a smokin’ hot babe. See where this is going? See how I was able to summarize the entire plot framework in just a single paragraph?
Granted, there’s a hell of a lot more to Please Teacher than the setup. Kei and Mizuho’s relationship develops like a bingo game for lonely otaku nerds; he starts by moving into her apartment to preseve the illusion of marriage, almost walks in on her when she’s bathing, goes through with a civil ceremony involving a ring and a white wedding dress, and gradually gets closer to his teacher, who’s baffled but amiable about the whole thing and finds herself having fits of jealousy when Kei isn’t paying attention to her. It goes without saying that the pair have to keep this entire situation secret from Kei’s buddies, who walk around the world of Please Teacher equipped with boom-tubes that allow them to instantly teleport to wherever Kei and Mizuho are in order to create an embarrassing situation for them. Later, Mizuho’s irritating relatives will show up for a couple of episodes, just like in real life.
Please Teacher is all about artifice. Kei’s seizure-inducing condition is not epilepsy, because that would be diagnosable. This illness of Kei’s is very mysterious– Uncle Gendo, who happens to be a nice country doctor, thinks it’s psychosomatic. At the heart of things, though, Kei is frail and sickly not because it’s an importanf facet of his character, but because boys are cuter when they’re broken. His physical fragility and benign personality seems to work wonders on the ladies– Mizuho finds herself falling for his charms, and his much more likeable buddy Koishi spends the entire series pining for him. The problem with this, the HUGE problem with this, is that the medical condition is a giant cop-out. It makes no sense, there’s no rhyme or reason to the condition. It tends to be used as a crude deus ex machina whenever the writers want to introduce a crisis.
Mizuho herself is even more irritating and contrived– she’s not really a character, see? She’s a walking, talking, adolescent male sex fantasy. She’s naive yet worldly, modest but undeniably sexy. If Koishi is the girl next door, Mizuho is a Penthouse Letter come to life. I wish she had more in common with Teddy Roosevelt than just the pince-nez, because she’s desperately in need of some personality and perhaps a Big Stick.
What I like about Please Teacher– what I like quite a bit, actually– is the cast of secondary characters. They’re realistic. They behave like ordinary goofy teenagers, with nifty little details and indiosyncracies about them. Hyosuke, for all of his party animal airs, is actually very smart and motivated. Kaede is in love with him, but is too shy to say anything. (In one of the series’ better moments, the two accidentally stumble into a relationship, making it seem about as planned and just about as awkward as stepping in dogshit.) Matagu likes bookish subjects and just wishes he had a girlfriend, any girlfriend, and Ichigo is a sarcastic kid who’s decided she’s had enough of relationships. She’s my favorite– she has a deadpan delivery that would make Stephen Wright burst into applause. In short, Kei’s friends are interesting and magnetic people; he himeslf is just kind of callow. That’s no way to build a story.
At least Please Teacher looks decent. I like its bright, primary colors and solid, if not sumptuous animation. Its character designs are also OK, but I still wonder about this:
Why the hash marks? Is it a stylistic trend? What’s the basis of it? It keeps me guessing. Please Teacher‘s acting is as unfocused and unsatisfying as the show’s story– Souichirou Hoshi is an enormous disappointment as Kei; he’s so much more noticable in his other well-known roles like Gundam SEED‘s Kira and Infinite Ryvius‘s Yuuki. Here he’s totally nondescript and bland, and the delightful Kikuo Inoue as Mizuho just goes through the motions. On the other hand, we’ve got the efflorescent Ayako Kawasumi as Koishi to keep things interesting; along with the hilariously overacting Mitsuo Iwata as Hyosuke and Yukari Tamura’s great deadpan performance as Ichigo, this keeps the show from sliding too far into Flavorless Country. The dub features no real standouts– the great Dave Wittenberg tries valiantly to give Kei some sort of character, but he fights a losing battle.
I met Onegai Teacher‘s entire creative team in 2003. They were a fun bunch, particularly character designer Hiroaki Gohda; they had a relaxed attitude that Japanese con guests, separated from the attendees by the language barrier, usually lack. I guess in the show’s case, they were a little too relaxed. Please Teacher is a masterpiece of squandered potential and lazy storytelling. It has strong background characters and some surprisingly interesting dialogue, but I can’t get over the sheer contrivance of the plot; this obscenely bland and safe wish-fulfillment fare bores me to tears. I’ll bet if I were sixteen and at the mercy of my own hormones, I’d think Please Teacher was pretty awesome. But the adult in me just isn’t sold on Kei and Mizuho’s relationship– even the cutesy-wootsy antics of Keiichi and Belldandy in Ah! My Goddess are easier to swallow than this stuff.
Added: Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Related Link: Bandai Entertainment