ADV Films // 2002 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // February 21st, 2004
"The reason I jumped out the window..." -- Theme Song
Okay, wrap your brain around these plot situations:
* You move in with five beautiful women. They are not only your school teachers, but they insist in being called "mom." The ladies fight during dinner over who is going to get the "meat" and frequently interrupt you during your bath to help out. Meanwhile, the pretty class president constantly hits on you during school hours.
* Your language teacher offers you private tutoring at home. She likes to wear business suits when she does this and affect a British accent, which is a change of pace from the French maid's outfit she usually wears.
* Your school nurse believes you need cheering up, so she ties you up and drips hot wax on your butt.
* You have a cute younger sister who likes to cuddle a little too much and says you two are like "newlyweds" when you stay overnight to keep her company. Later, while your teachers and your two sisters compete over you to see where you will live, they tie you up in a leather harness.
* You get stuck overnight in a snowbound cabin with your sexy female coach. She is injured and looks to you for comfort.
Are these plots to pornographic movies? No. These are the plots of the first five episodes of the anime comedy Happy Lesson. A television comedy.
Wait, come back. I am not kidding. Happy Lesson follows the innuendo-laden adventures of Chitose Hitotose, an orphan who moves into his late parents' house with his five female high school teachers. Each teacher fits a standard anime stereotype: the accommodating language teacher (who also cooks and acts domestic), the bubbly art teacher (who models in Sailor Moon outfits for her students), the tomboy coach (who likes to squeeze Chitose's head between her gravity-defying breasts), the sadomasochistic science teacher (who keeps dominatrix gear in the basement), and the spiritual school nurse (who, according to the text bio insert, "not only heals students' bodies, but also she heals students' heartaches").
There is something rather frightening about Happy Lesson. Real pornography requires candor: nothing is concealed or implied. Every situation must have a pay-off. The process of objectification in pornography may or may not be socially reprehensible (that is perhaps a debate for another time), but at least you know you are going to get what you pay for. On the other hand, innuendo is always about concealment. The real intent must never be out in the open. Deniability is always possible.
Happy Lesson seems to exist in order to generate comedy from the obvious sexual situations and Chitose's constant attempts to avoid succumbing to any of the women's advances. Sexual fulfillment is thus replaced by manic screaming and violent gags. And yes, the show does this quite deliberately. In episode 3, nurse Yayoi does indeed tie Chitose up naked and drip hot wax on him. In the next shot, she has him tied up naked in the yard, and she is furiously rubbing his crotch. The joke is driven by the wacky cartoon action (caricatured rather than detailed and eroticized) and the fact that Chitose is screaming for her to leave him alone. Thus, this is not pornography, because all the sex is diverted elsewhere. Nor is it really innuendo, because the situations are all out in the open and quite deliberate.
Some of this might be funny in small doses, but Happy Lesson does this sort of thing incessantly, hammering and sweating with the fury of Ron Jeremy souped up on cocaine and a case of Red Bull. And watching five episodes of this in a row is more likely to produce a headache than a laugh.
You can occasionally distract yourself by playing "spot the anime parody" with the art teacher's collection of cos-play fantasy outfits. And I suppose if you are too young to get real porn, you can enjoy the relentless teasing of this Oedipal nightmare.
In truth, the concept behind Happy Lesson seems to target little girls. Like much shojo anime, the show plays out the sexual anxiety of adolescent girls (who in Japanese society have their interactions with boys strictly monitored) by making the male a passive and comical victim, the one being objectified for a change. But in execution, Happy Lesson contains far too much obvious sexual content, unlike other shojo shows that also appeal to horny men (like Sailor Moon), where most of the sexuality is merely metaphoric. Sure, less is shown here than any Cinemax late-night movie, but these situations are clearly meant to be titillating.
Shrill and frustrating, Happy Lesson is too explicit for kids, but too teasing for adults. Who is it made for then? Perhaps that narrow audience of adolescent boys who find dirty jokes funny, but want to pretend that the joke is still a big secret. But ultimately, Happy Lesson is likely to have even those boys feeling as blue as Chitose's school uniform. Or at least parts of them are going to feel blue. If you know what I mean.
Review content copyright © 2004 Mike Pinsky; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing
* Character Sketches