Monday, January 6, 2014

Yamada's First Time slips onto Netflix, promises to be gentle

Every so often, Netflix winds up sneaking an unexpected gem into its anime lineup - and it's scored another coup with Yamada's First Time / B Gata H Kei.

At first blush, Yamada's First Time seems like another dim entry into the endless cavalcade of high school sex romances - and, admittedly, this is because the main character's lifelong dream is to sleep with 100 guys which she's still in high school.

Thankfully for the viewers (and Yamada's vagina...), the series quickly jumps away from the promiscuity angle when it shakes out that Yamada's never been kissed - let alone found someone to sleep with.

Instead, the series switches its focus to the hilarious - if crass - moments of comedic insecurity that ensue when the hottest girl in school (Yamada) tries to coax her unassuming love interest (Kosuda) into taking her V-Card, only to realize that she's as fragile and uncertain as the next teenage girl.

Bizarrely, this bait-and-switch is exactly what allows Yamada's First Time to really stand out from the flood of other high school romance animes.

Its spot-on portrayal of the awkward pressure that most teenagers feel while coming to terms with their own sexuality will resonate with any who's ever stumbled through a high school infatuation, and it'll also cause most viewers to laugh at their own painful, pubescent missteps.

 If I was a girl, this is how I would have put the moves on someone in high school

Amazingly, and pleasingly, Yamada's First Time isn't even that heavy on the fan service.

Sure, her best friend Takeshita is endowed with a gravity-defying pair of "F-cups" and, ok, there's a panty shot and swimsuit episode here or there, but it's pretty tame compared to some other ecchi romps that have made their way to Netflix.

Equally surprising is how Yamada's First Time manages to capture the incredibly tender moments between the witless Yamada and the socially awkward Kosuda.  Yamada - and the viewer - both soon realize that Kosuda is far more important to Yamada than she first thought, and it's impossible not to d'awww at the unexpectedly sweet romance that blossoms between them.

Less of a sex romp and more of a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the awkwardness of high school romance, the 12 episodes of Yamada's First Time won't disappoint if you're looking for a good anime to watch this winter.

It might be a hard sell to your friends, and good luck explaining its premise to anyone who walks in on you, but the comedy and tender moments of Yamada's are really tough to top.