My Dear Marie
Can there be any more loser geeks in anime? There are simply too many of them to count. Maybe it's because anime creators know they are geeks too and revel in it. Is Japan full of geeks? Possibly. Am I a geek? For running this website, probably so. Now there are plenty of geeks in anime: the jerk geek, the otaku geek, the quiet studious geek, and the clueless geek, just to name a few. My Dear Marie is a collection of 3 OVAs created in the mid-90s dedicated around the story of a mad genius geek, and it's not half bad. The mad genius geek genre skirts the cliff: make your geek too creepy and weird, and you wind up with an unwatchable cruelty-fest like Don't Leave Me Alone Daisy. Make him too focused and brainy and he loses entertainment value, such as Dr. Susumo in Wandaba Style. In comparison, My Dear Marie finds the fine line and runs along it pretty well. It has some issues, but I've seen far worse in the genre.
Hiroshi is obsessed with a beautiful tennis player named Marie. Although he talks with her every day as he hauls out tennis balls, he still can't really express his feelings for her. But that might not be a problem for long! Hiroshi builds an android that is her spitting image save for a few minor details like hair color. He's having fun playing God, but he doesn't realize that it's very easy for a creation to confound its creator. The new Marie turns herself on and gets into a heap of trouble the first day she's activated! Although Hiroshi is able to cover up android Marie's identity, lots of other questions persist: what do you do with a fully functioning android that thinks it's your sister? What do you do when she wants to learn about the world around her? And when a tomboy ruffian gets a crush on you and becomes an A-grade stalker, how do you keep her from destroying both Maries?
I was rather surprised to find how much I enjoyed the look of this piece. My Dear Marie has good character designs and animation work that kept my attention throughout. The music is pretty nondescript, but neither is it distracting. For shows in this genre, the animation and look was surprisingly crisp and attractive without resorting to hyper-cute or pop-out-at-you coloring.
I am also pleased to report that My Dear Marie proves you can have a mad genius anime that isn't a total wash. Certain concepts here are also in play in the inferior Buttobi CPU; there's enough carryover that if you've seen the one, you might feel a little bit of deja vu, but Marie deals with the themes in a much more enjoyable way, since it stays away from most of the typical plot devices found in the standard "unexpected magical lovers" genre. Although this is not a laugh-a-minute comedy, I chuckled often and found myself grinning more than once. It does a nice job of mixing romance, comedy, and dramatics, though the comedy is certainly in the forefront. I had a good time.
I still consider My Dear Marie a second-tier title for a few reasons. The show's designers did clearly make this OVA a bit more risqué than it needed to be, probably to help distinguish it from its competitors. There is quite a bit of unnecessary nudity and fan service in Marie. All of it is pretty brief and nowhere near the excesses of a Plastic Little or Agent Aika, but the cumulative effect makes it seem worse than it really is. There is also an attempted seduction, though it doesn't work (and it's absolutely hilarious).
There's also the issue of the third episode. It's about android Marie learning how to dream, and it would be fine as a part of a larger series. It's clear from the episode's ending that this is not where the show should have ended, though, and we get left not only with a bizarre cliffhanger but an unsatisfying conclusion. The show is based on the manga called My Marie (Boku no Marie), and so I'm sure it continues on from the endpoint of the anime. However, since it's never been released in English, that's not an option for most of us. If you don't like ambiguous endings, just don't bother. And if you have seen a couple dozen anime, you've seen some variation of this plot already.
Even with its problems, I enjoyed My Dear Marie. I might not watch the third episode again, seeing that it's pretty much filler without a conclusion, but the first two episodes are really fun. Although ADV Films has released it on DVD, you can still find the VHS tape dirt cheap, and I think that's a worthy way to go on this title. Simply put, it's a decent night's animated entertainment.
My Dear Marie (AKA Metal Angel Marie) -- nudity, brief sexual material, mild profanity -- B+