Amazing Nurse Nanako
Misogyny has been a buzzword surrounding anime for a very long time. Though talk of it has cooled over time, the release of the Legend of the Overfiend movie in the early 90s caused some great controversies, particularly with its treatment of women and the treatment of women in all of anime. Although the vast majority of shows within the anime genre show women as highly competent, capable individuals who are infinitely more qualified than their male counterparts, there are still a few shows that find their kicks in the abuse of women. Normally, these shows are meant for adults, and though they might be repulsive to many audiences, they are niche programs that get far more attention than they deserve by the media. However, I was surprised to find out that the latest release from Pioneer, Amazing Nurse Nanako, seemed to be bringing misogyny to the mainstream. As advertised, this should have been a funny show with a bit of fan service to spare. Instead, I found a show where the majority of the humor is attempted through putting the title character in danger, then slapping her around for being so inept. Some may think me oversensitive, but I haven't been this bothered by a title in a while.
But let's first start by going over the basics of the two episodes on the first DVD. Nanako works as maid, housekeeper, nurse, and general slave to Dr. Ogami, a brilliant young scientist. In the first episode, the doctor is called in to help the military investigate a mysterious creature in his lab, and due to no fault of her own, Nanako gets involved in the madness surrounding the experiments. In the second episode, Nanako goes on a "training" exercise with Ogami and a few of his father's old cronies, and we find that the doctor's background with Nanako may go back farther than she even realizes.
From an objective perspective, the animation in Nanako is quite nice, bright and colorful. The character designs aren't unique but are pleasant, and Nanako is obviously designed to catch the viewer's eye. The music within the show is OK, essentially filler but not annoying. There's really nothing technically wrong here, save perhaps for the annoying panning technique they used, which is rather distracting. At the same time, there's nothing here to particularly recommend it on the technical side, either.
Now on to the heart of the matter--there are three major problems that destroy the show, in my opinion. The first is a lack of any real, discernable plot. Certainly, events happen during the course of the show, but there is no sense that we're getting anywhere or that there is even a story to tell. Even madcap shows such as Ranma ½ have a decent setup, but that doesn't happen here, at least not well. The second problem, which is much worse, is the objectification of Nanako. The doctor treats her as if she was a possession, not a person. If Nanako would stand up for herself, that might be one thing; the show does not allow her to do so, to its detriment. In fact, Nanako is established as a flaky character who can't get anything right. What's really sad is that you want to like Nanako, but at every turn the creators try to put up a roadblock. She's dumb, plain and simple, and the program tries to use this as an excuse for all the terrible things that happen to her. She's not worth anything anyway, so why not beat up on her? What's worse is that the second episode establishes that she cannot protect herself; she is weak and helpless. The third and ultimate problem is that the show is simply not funny. I laughed exactly twice during the two episodes, and for me, that's a really, tremendously bad sign. Almost all the comedy is attempted at Nanako's expense, and it's not creative or intelligent in any way. It's obvious when you watch the show what things the creators think are funny and want you to laugh at, but it's painful instead.
This is the time when some fans get up and say, "But what do you expect from a fan service show? We're just looking for some kinky camera angles and a good time!" The fact is, it fails on the fan service side, too--anybody expecting to get their kicks from this show is going to be disappointed. I'm not one who enjoys fan service much, but this is a terrible example of it anyway. The show screams out, "I'm sexy", even on the DVD menu screen where Nanako's healthy bosom bounces from time to time. It's all smoke and mirrors, though...I've seen and read sexier things than this in Good Housekeeping. A view of someone's underwear does not a sexy show make.
Though Pioneer did slap this disc with a "16 and up" rating, I still think that this could be a bad sign for the market. One can argue that titles like Cool Devices and Ninja Resurrection that prominently feature misogyny are designed for adult audiences and would never be seen by others. Nanako, however, is not unlike this summer's Scary Movie in the US...because it's a comedy, because it's supposed to be silly, kids will likely get to watch it. Hopefully, this title won't make much noise, since you can literally drown anymore in the sea of anime titles being released; that doesn't make it better, however. I would have expected this kind of show maybe 60 years ago, but not now.
Frankly, Amazing Nurse Nanako is not sexy, it's not funny, and it's not worth your time or your money. If you're desperate for a fan service fix, you've been warned.
Amazing Nurse Nanako Vol. 1 -- brief nudity, violence, language, disturbing treatment of women -- D-