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Minami-ke (みなみけ) Review

August 3, 2009
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minami sisters(Source)

This series will warm your heart, like so much wasted cream stew.

Synopsis: The three Minami sisters live in a quiet apartment complex in an unassuming town in Japan. Haruka is the nurturing and gentle eldest sister of the three, thereby giving her the duty as caretaker. Kana is the dopey and hyperactive mid-sister who is always at odds with Chiaki, the deadpan and snidely youngest sister. With a legion of supporting characters and no parents in sight, Minami-ke follows the three sisters as they do everything together from analyzing a love letter to playing dress-up.

Review:

Adapted from a manga series by Koharu Sakuraba, Minami-ke is the perfect blend of a seemingly innocuous pseudo-shoujo and a zany over-the-top slice-of-life. It’s a show that knows when to not take itself too seriously in its humor, much in the vein of ancestor shows like Azumanga Daioh. Any value or feeling of enjoyment held by the viewer ultimately relies on the affability of the characters themselves.

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Each episode is told in split segments that jump by as quickly as they came, with each new segment having little to do with the one before it. And while the character archetypes themselves have been played out many times before, from its onset, we can see that Minami-ke‘s dynamic is a little more controlled in the sense that they actually play off of each other to produce an incredulous yet hilarious outcome. When Kana and Chiaki are toiling over a new video game or bullying each other into submission, Haruka is there to act as arbitrator. When Haruka and Chiaki are working together on creating a delicious dinner, Kana is there to contribute with her own unsavory concoction. Utterly predictable but charmingly chuckle-worthy, it brings to memory comic strips in the Sunday funny pages or yonkoma manga made for children.

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Of course for this to work, it was necessary for there to be absolutely no parental involvement, and not just with the Minami sisters. The show is noteworthy for its extensive secondary cast of classmates and distant family members. Each girl gets her own allotted time at her respective school, allowing whole sets of characters to get their fair share of screentime. If you thought the main characters were eccentric, you’ll be glad to see that some of the side characters go beyond anything that’s been brazenly thrown into the crazy world of slice-of-life. The set-up is, in and of itself, kind of like a built-in failsafe for the show – if you’re not particularly taken to one of the Minami sisters and any of their contingent classmates, then you can always stick around for the other two. With such a doubtlessly large cast that explores every nook and cranny of Anime personalities, you’ll feel yourself playing into the center of one of their quaint little adventures.

The show’s humor isn’t only silly slapstick and character interaction. Many of the jokes are told as subtle satire of popular forms of media. There’s an ongoing gag involving a television drama within the series about a love affair between a teacher and one of his students. While having a paltry collective screentime of less than a minute in some of the episodes, it parodies live-action drama series with its off-tune melodramatic acting and cheesy plot hooks. There’s also a very humorous play on Boys Love with one of Haruka’s classmates, illustrated in a certain upperclassman who just can’t seem to keep his shirt on when he thinks about his love interest.

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When it comes to animation, Minami-ke exhibits a flourish all its own. Much like in shows like Golden Boy, character expressions are jokingly exaggerated, as shown in the close-up above (memetically known as a Bible Black face). The abruptness with which these scenes transition into the next make for genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. While the character designs are ostensibly bland, when coupled with the bubbly charisma contained in the show, they’re something you’ll learn to cherish as episodes progress.

Keikenchi Joushouchuu is the OP song made specifically for the series. With its energetic pacing, it crams every last significant detail from the characters’ behavioral idiosyncrasies to their relation to other cast members – not to mention that it’s an infectious song. It tickles that urge you try to suppress when you hear a familiar tune to just hum along or at least chant with the chorus of secondary characters. The ED song, Colorful Days, maintains a more placcid sense of cheerfulness, and is a rather soothing piece.

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Given its genre, Minami-ke is hardly something you would want to watch if you’re looking for something to grease the cogs in your brain. Rather, it’s the type of Anime you’d watch in the company of a close friend or after a long, hard day of work. While unable to boast any meritorious claim of substantivity, it has much replay value. So why not take a load off and get familiar with the world of Minami-ke? It’s something you surely will not regret.

Art/Animation: B+
Story: B
Music/Soundtrack: B+

Overall: B+

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2009 11:33 pm

    Good review, but is the attitude to Minami-ke: Okawari and Okaeri kind of like how people say that Highlander 2 never existed?

    • saturnity permalink*
      August 7, 2009 5:58 pm

      Honestly, I have yet to see Okawari and Okaeri. I might marathon them sometime soon, but my friend tells me to lower my expectations.

      Also, I’m afraid I’m far too young to understand your reference.

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