DearS (that’s “Dear S”, not “dearz”), is one of those guilty pleasures that come along once in a while. It makes me wish I were still young enough to enjoy the ridiculously over-sexed humor, without thinking about what’s being “said” here. It’s not as braindead as Girls’ High, nor as pretentious as Chobits, and those are good things. The writers clearly set out to have fun by creating a piece of sexy fluff, but there are two problems: first they thought it would be funny to have an oversexed teacher and a gratuitous Don Juan running around. Second, there’s a few gaps in logic; this is not a show with “refrigerator moments” because it expects you to crank up the suspension of disbelief to somewhere near “ludicrous speed;” the illogic isn’t going to wait on a trip to the refrigerator.
While the second problem is merely eye-rolling, the first one makes the show uncomfortable at times. The writers barrelled right across delicate ground at full throttle with the clear attitude that “if it bothers you, go watch something else.”
One year ago, a spaceship with (supposedly) 150 aliens crashed into Tokyo bay. The passengers, called “DearS” (translated as “beloved friend”), were mostly female, human-looking and very beautiful — and almost all teenagers. Apparently, we’re just supposed to accept that the alien society that they come from is populated by people just as human as we are. (And judging from the, er, compatible plumbing, they have the same urges.) They quickly learned the Japanese language and customs, and were granted citizenship. At the opening of the story, many are being sponsored for home-stay in various households. The male lead is Takeya Ikuhara, who is probably the only guy in his school who isn’t DearS crazy — especially given that one is coming to their school soon. Takeya lives alone (it’s explained why later), and the closest he’s got to a girlfriend is the meganekko/childhood friend/landlord’s daughter, Nenneko. As much as he bothers thinking about the DearS, he doesn’t trust them; he thinks they’re probably really lizards here to enslave humanity (again, it’s explained why later). In general, Takeya is pretty rough around the edges. He works at a video store, where he sneaks out the adult vids for his friends — and gets decked for it by the manager.
Miss Mitsuka, their teacher for English class (we never see any other–isn’t the one-teacher school an animÃƒÂ© trope?) is one of the two problem characters. She lectures in her underwear (at best), and to say that her manner of talking to the students is sexual is to hint that the ocean is full of water. Their texts? Lurid sex novels, that they have to read aloud in class, of course. Talk about guilty pleasures… given my feelings on the subject, she’s painful to watch on one level. On another, I have to admit I’d have been fighting to be the teacher’s pet at that age. Oddly, the students don’t react like that; with the exception of one scene, the humor is that even the guys find her disgusting and over the top.
The other problem character is Hiro, who pops up in a number of totally disconnected scenes, seducing girls in the high school. Because he didn’t dress like a student, interact with any of them (besides the girls), and was usually in what appeared to be a school lounge, I mistook him for a teacher also–and I think that was deliberate misdirection on the writers’ part. He’s built up as the uber-Don Juan of the school, so stuck on himself, not even a DearS can touch his inherent egotism. Finally, he ‘s used as a foil to make Takeya jealous, which is the only time he actually impacts the story. I spent 2/3 of the series dreading any scene where he would show up, because I thought he was a teacher, and all but two of his scenes were completely gratuitous. An even more disturbing older woman / young boy scene occurs between Ruby and Khi, later on. Despite the series’ qualities in characterization, it’s likely to be these moments that account for it’s non-renewal.
At the beginning of the series, for a reason that is never explained, some DearS in suspended animation are being transported by truck, and an accident results in one of the containers falling off a bridge and breaking open. Later, on the way home from school, Takeya encounters Ren, shivering by the edge of the road. He doesn’t recognize her for one of the DearS at first, and decides that he’s not going to get involved with a weird girl that barely understands Japanese, running around in nothing but a blanket. But when she starts to follow him, only to faint from hunger and fall in front of a truck, he saves her. In response, she manifests some clothing, starts talking to him in an alien language, kisses his hand and then kisses him fully on the lips. Then she faints again. Quite the introduction.
So Takeya finds himself stuck with the what Heinlein described as the “lost kitten” problem. “Never pick up a stray kitten, unless you’re going to raise it. You can’t just give it a bowl of milk and then send it on it’s way.” That is the story being told here, dressed up with a lot of sex and a little humor. It won’t surprise anyone, given the name, collars, and other fairly obvious clues, that the DearS weren’t “companions,” they were slaves. They weren’t people on the short end of the economic or military stick; they were created to serve their masters — and it’s what they’re driven to do. Now that they’re on Earth, they’re hoping to find new masters — but since humans treat slavery as a fairly archaic custom (“it’s out of style here” as Miu puts it) they intend to be subtle about it. But Ren seems off somehow; she was never given the training (programming, actually) to operate in human society. As a result, she’s anything but subtle, embarassing Takeya constantly. If Hideki from Chobits was the “man from Mars,” then Ren is the “woman from Venus.”
So Takeya, not at all willingly, becomes responsible for Ren. His suspicions and generally rough edges means that he’s often cold or angry towards her, even to the point of making her sleep in the closet. She’s quickly mistaken for the DearS transfer student who was destined for his school, and ends up being a student there also. The principal is just a genial fool who tends his garden and never questions anything. Crank up the suspension-of-disbelief engine a little higher…
When Miu, the real transfer student shows up, the sparks fly. What little social status existed among DearS apparently derived from either the status of their master, the quality of their breeder, or their role in seeing to it that the DearS all serve their masters appropriately, and Miu was evidently a very high-placed slave; she was actually a part of the negotiations and ceremony granting them citizenship. When she finds her place at school usurped by a bumbling, ignorant, untrained girl (who has bigger breasts), the fight is on. Miu challenges Ren to a contest to see who should stay, and while I won’t give away what happens, she ends up with reason to both despise and respect Ren by the end of it.
Miu serves as the villian for the early part of the story, but that changes over time. She is unhappy in her home-stay because the pleasant old couple she stays with dotes on her and won’t let her do anything around the house. DearS are meant to serve, and her inability to do so is affecting her sense of self-worth. “If we are not called upon or needed by our masters, we have no reason to exist.” She actually envies Ren, who works hard to please Takeya, even though he does anything but dote on her; in fact he’s often childish and rude. In showing her how to do the job right (and sometimes just doing it herself), Miu starts finding her own sense of worth — and is also attracted to Takeya, even volunteering to help him study. (And Miss Mitsuki mistakes their study group for an orgy. Like I said, the writers barrel right across delicate ground, don’t they? With land mines.)
Takeya is about as sensitive as a brick; he has never managed to notice that Nenneko is in love with him, but lacks the confidence to let him know. Instead, she just nags him like a mother and pines quietly. His desnity approaches willful resemblance to neutronium: “I don’t understand what you mean by that,” is his typical response to Ren calling him “Master” (a word that hasn’t been overused this much since I Dream of Jeannie), despite having both Ren and Miu explain it to him. In Miu’s case, verbally. In Ren’s case, verbally and otherwise, in no uncertain terms.
When Ren senses that, under his gruff exterior, Takeya is actually horny for her, she offers herself to him–but he refuses to take advantage of it, because she can’t say she really likes him.
I really have to give all the guys at the center of these romantic comedies major points for willpower: they never seem to fail to be virtuous and profess a belief in needing to love the girl before banging her, no matter how tempting–or willing–the vixen is. Even when she considers herself his property. (And the bearings on the suspension engine start to melt down. . . )
There’s a snake or two in the garden, of course. The titular (pun not intended) leader of the DearS community is the dominatrix-like Ms. Ruby, and she wants Ren captured and returned to them. Ren’s constant referral to herself as slave to her master Takeya threatens to give away their actual status and raison d’etre. (Like the collars don’t?) Miss Ruby is anxious to keep humans from finding out the truth, and Ren’s “poor” performance is an embarassment to them. The truth is, they’re not even particularly desirable property, and they’re ashamed of it. After all, whomever owned them last doesn’t care enough to come find them after their automated ship crashes on Earth. (Their masters are as human as we are, as we see Miu’s in a flashback.) They’re discarded trash. Ren and the other “zero series” (defectives), remind Ruby of their lack of worth far too much.
Aside: For once, someone besides ADV plays fast and loose in the translations. When Khi, her assistant, explains this to Takeya, he says in the sub, “We’re property.” In the dub, he says “We’re an asset of sorts.” Major change of emphasis there, and it really changes the impact of the scene.
One problem with the show is that her retrieval attempts are not convincing. Though DearS internal politics are obviously playing a part here, I just feel that the attempts to retrieve her were incredibly clumsy. If it was deliberate sabotage on Xaki’s part, it’s not very convincing. There’s apparently a political struggle going on between them; both are assistants to Ms. Fina, the actual leader. She is spending time in one of the suspended animation tanks for an unexplained reason. Ruby is the more assertive of the two, but it’s questionable who is supposed to be in charge. (There’s also hints that she’s actually a tsundere).
The situation is complicated by the fact that Ren and Takeya develop a mythical relationship called the “Gift.” It’s not explained well, but apparently, under certain circumstances, a DearS can choose who her master will be, rather than the other way around. And if a DearS is treated by her master as a person of value, and not just a object or posession, they can develop an empathic bond that allows them to sense each other’s location and thoughts. Gift or no, Takeya insists on trying to treat his kitten as an independant cat, only to find himself endlessly frustrated by the framework in which she thinks. And he doesn’t realize that he is likewise limited by his own insecurities. The key to whether the story ends happily or not is whether Takeya comes to understand their limitations in time. I can’t be more precise without giving a lot away.
The “Gift” relationship is one of those things that intrigues me, because if Ren and Takeya can develop it, as unsympathetic as Takeya tended to act, I suspect a lot of the DearS-human relationships are going to turn out to be similar. Given that Ren and Takeya’s relationship is probably triggered by his saving her life when they first meet, it may not happen often, but I suspect it’s going to move from the mythical to the “merely rare” before long. And I think, based on the last scene of the series, Ms. Fina knew it in advance.
Which leads me to think about the unanswered questions in this show, especially about exactly how the DearS ended up on Earth. Why was Miu’s former master assassinated, and is there any connection to their being stranded? Why is Ms. Fina in cryogenic storage? Why were the “zero series” being transported away from the ship, and where to? Why are the DearS (and their masters) so human-like? And do we ever get to see the yuri (i.e.: lesbian) relationship between Miu and Ren that the OP and some of the menus hint at, or was that just false advertising? Were all these supposed to be hooks for a sequel (edit: or a second season, per J. Greely), or am I overthinking a silly story? And most importantly, have you ever seen anything this cute in a pot?
Finally, I applied Steven DenBeste’s corney romantic comedy scoring system and got:
19 20 (forgot the locker-room sequence at the bathhouse)
(0)* – 2 or more people seriously contending for the affections of one (1 point for each serious contender)
(0) – …who trickle in (1)
(1) – …who aren’t human (1 for each)
(1) – …who have special powers (1 for each)
(1) – Dorky hero (1)
(0)* – …who has a unique power (1)
(1) – Klutzy heroine (1)
(0) *- …who has a unique power (1)
(0) – Love expressed as violence (1)
(1) – Obvious choice (1)
(1) – Women with exaggerated figures (1)
(1) – Jiggle (1)
(1) – Panty flashes (1)
(1) – Ecchi (1)
(1) – Joshikousei (1)
(1) – Meido-san (1)
(1) – Accidental exposure (1)
(1)* – Accidental groping (1)
(0) – Swimsuits at the beach (1)
(1) – Bathing and yukatas in a bathhouse (1)
(0) – Kimonos at a summer festival or cultural festival (1)
0 1) – Girl’s locker room (1)
(1) – Cosplay (1)
(0) – Romances among secondary characters (1)
(1) – Meganekko (1)
(1)* – Annoying relatives (1)
(1)* – Meddlers (friends or family) (1)
(1) – No romantic resolution at the end (1)
*It’s really only one, because Nenneko lacks the confidence to admit she’s in love with Takeya.
*After a lot of indecision, I didn’t score the “Gift” for either Takeya or Ren, since it wasn’t an individual power.
*Does the groping count if it’s on purpose? Anyway, I scored this one for Takeya’s faceplant at the bottom of the well. Some guys have all the luck.
*Takeya’s sister, when she shows up, should get multiple points for annoyance. But since she tries to meddle, I guess she does.
Ah, and I almost forgot these two photos. I get a kick out of in-jokes when the artists and writers are poking fun at animÃ© itself. I found myself thinking throughout the show, “I bet it must be hell trying to wash all that hair!” Then these two scenes came along late in the series: