Chinatsu AkasakiAzusa TadokoroMinami TsudaHisako Tojo
Also known as: Himegoto Secret Princess
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: H
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Takeyuki Yanase
Original creator: Norio Tsukudani
Actor: Yuki Kuwahara, Ayane Sakura, Azusa Tadokoro, Chinatsu Akasaki, Hisako Tojo, Minami Tsuda, Saki Ono, Yuka Saotome, Hiroomi Tamaru, Norio Tsukudani, Ryuichi Kijima, Takehiro Hasu, Takuya Eguchi, Yoshihito Sasaki
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 five-minute episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 12 March 2015
I really enjoyed it. You'd think something this short would just be ephemera, but I thought it was excellent.
What it's excelling at is low gags and gender-reversed sexual harassment, mind you.
Hime Arikawa's parents have loaded him with a dodgy name (Hime means "princess") and a ton of debt. He's thus forced to become the student council's "dog" and go to school dressed as a girl. Most of the show's comedy involves the three-girl student council finding ever-more inventive ways to humiliate Hime, e.g. cheerleading, cosplay for the photography club, much attention paid to his underwear, etc.
On one level, it's just outrageous girls tormenting a meek boy. They're an entertaining bunch of loons, with one who calls herself Unko ("poo"), a sadist called 18+ and a manga artist who draws Hime into her dodgy manga and says offensive things through a stuffed toy frog. On its own, though, that wouldn't be enough. Bullying isn't funny. What makes this show work is the sexual inversion. The girls are loud, brazen and immodest, while Hime's personality and behaviour fit the stereotype of a delicate maiden. He's not gay or anything. He's a normal boy with no love of cross-dressing, but he's being thrust into all kinds of exploitative gender-based situations and subverting them just by being himself. Boys drool over him. Panty shots show a prominent bulge, but his reaction will be classically girly anyway. Pull his top down and he'll scream and cover himself, only to realise a moment later that he's got nothing there to hide.
Mind you, that's later in the series, after his outlook's started warping. He's a very cute girl, after all. He's popular. Is that so bad? The bra episode ends with him admiring himself in it in the mirror, while later episodes will see him asking for cross-dressing tips and getting excited about a kimono.
Gradually, over time, Hime and the girls become friends. You can call it Stockholm Syndrome if you like, but it happens and it's mutual. They're girls doing girly things together. (If you squint.) The girls go too far in ep.12 and Hime gets upset enough to quit, but then of course they patch it up in ep.13. I found it both lovely and funny.
Oh, and the cross-dressing isn't confined to Hime. His brother is a gender-bender too (through choice), as are members of the Public Morals Committee. Sometimes you'll think the entire cast is either in the student council or a transvestite, which heightens the parody of gender expectations.
Don't get me wrong, though. The purpose of all this is gags. It's a comedy and a good one. Its manga-ness is an important factor, so for instance all the characters are being drawn to look as cute as possible. This includes the cross-dressing boys. On the surface, it looks exactly like a Cute Anime Girls show, except that underneath it really isn't. I'd love to see more of this, but then again I also think the five-minute format is perfect for this kind of comedy. The show can take the shortest line to its gags, yielding a comic density that couldn't work the same way in 25-minute episodes. This show's goals are raucous, daft and sometimes crude, but for me the way it goes about them is pretty much perfect.