Bloody hell, it's appalling. It's the kind of anime that triggers moral crusades to protect children from filth. (Nothing illegal happens, mind you, and all the adults are determined to do their jobs and protect the children. What's bad is the presentation, not the plot.) It's about an 8-year-old girl who falls in love with her 23-year-old schoolteacher. The actual story's quite good. What makes it dreadful is the eight-year-olds' inappropriate behaviour and wildly under-age fanservice, suggesting a target audience who need locking up.
The original manga was briefly licensed for North American distribution, but got pulled over "controversies over its content". No shit. Eventually, it got an e-book.
At the same time, though, both the manga and its anime adaptation are written by women (although the anime's director is male). Furthermore, the anime scriptwriter is Mari Okada, who's one of the industry's most interesting voices. It's a good show. Painful to watch, yes, and modern anime fans often avoid mentioning it, for safety's sake. But it's still good. In Japan, it was popular enough to got several OVA episodes, with this chronological watching order:
- 2007 - TV 1-4
- 2007 - OVA - What You Gave Me
- 2007 - TV 5-12
- 2009 - Nigakki 1
- 2009 - OVA - Kuro-chan and Shiro-chan
- 2009 - Nigakki 2-3
- 2011 - OVA - A Child's Summer Time
...and there's also a compilation movie of the TV episodes, called Rin's Classroom Diary, but I don't think that has any original material.
The offensive material... Jesus wept. You'll die. Panty shots and worse with eight-year-olds is something no one needs. Furthermore, the girls will more or less accuse Aoki-sensei of being a paedophile and/or try to sexually excite him, in public. Adults and/or children might be present at the time, e.g. during class.
Was this funny in Japan in 2007? Today, not so much.
If you can shut your eyes to the fanservice and view the show through the eyes of its writers, though, it's rather good. Aoki-sensei is the co-protagonist, yes, but he's a fantasy figure and comparatively static. Rin, Kuro and Mimi are the heroines and they all have issues. Rin goes through hell, despite tormenting Aoki on a regular basis. She wants the impossible and she knows this, but she doesn't stop trying. (In ep.10, she considered pushing someone down a flight of stairs.) Kuro is a grumpy sadist who's in love with Rin, i.e. fixated on another impossible outcome. Mimi has almost no self-esteem, she's been skipping school and in Nigakki #3 she'll wonder if she'll ever be happy.
For me, the last two episodes have the strongest female voices. They get weird, but they're funny.
There's a lot of loneliness here. Parents are either bad, dead or living far away. Rin's guardian is her cousin Reiji, who gets backstory in ep.6 that blew me away. I hadn't realised that this show could have material like that. He's an interesting character, capable of twisting noble motivations into something scary. Similarly, there's more to Shirai-sensei than her "bitch in the staff room" plot function. I really liked the friendship that developed in the later post-TV episodes between her and Kuro, both of whom are hiding loneliness underneath bad personalities.
That said, though, I wasn't always keen on the characterisation of Houin-sensei. She's the adult rival character and sometimes implausible. There are also rough spots in the 2009 revival episodes, with adults occasionally becoming parodies of themselves for the sake of "comedy".
It's good. Sometimes it's harsh. The characterisation's deeper and bleaker than you'd think, yet it's charming and warm under the inappropriate content. Remembering it later, I find that I've forgotten the dodgy bits and become quite fond of the show. It's certainly far, far better than, say, Moetan (released the same year and pandering to a similar audience) or Chocotto Sister. At the same time, though, today it's unbroadcastable. The TV show's closing title sequence is pure pain, for instance. You'll be lunging for the "skip forward" button, even assuming that you'd made the questionable choice of deciding to watch this show in the first place.