Mitsuo IwataYuko MiyamuraNobutoshi HayashiMy Dear Marie
My Dear Marie
Medium: OVA, series
Year: 1996
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki
Original creator: Sakura Takeuchi
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Actor: Mitsuo Iwata, Yuko Miyamura, Nobutoshi Hayashi, Rica Matsumoto, Yoko Asada, Chinami Nishimura
Keywords: anime, robot girl
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 3 episodes
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 8 February 2006
This should have been worthless. However in fact it's an endearing little curiosity, sidestepping its genre so deftly that some reviewers don't even seem to have realised. Tech-nerd Hiroshi Karigari fances a girl in his class called Marie, but doesn't have the guts to ask her out... so he builds an android duplicate. Also called Marie. Episode one shows this process in scary detail, complete with the lengths to which he goes to get the bust measurement right. Oh dear. Sounds like the usual sad loser romance, but even creepier?
Bizarrely, it's not. You'll be bracing yourself for some sinister combination of the Harem and Robot Girlfriend genres, but the expected romance is sidestepped. Hiroshi never even glances at robot-Marie, despite her being regularly naked for maintenance and data uploads. There are plenty of adult situations, but Hiroshi's relationship with robot-Marie is half mechanic, half big brother. You'd have every reason to expect another kind of blossoming relationship... genre expectation, catty comments from a wannabe-girlfriend and even the theme song's lyrics all seem to be pointing in that direction, but the actual episodes are blissfully oblivious. The last scene in particular is going in a completely different direction.
A live-action adaptation of this show would be almost pornographic, but the anime's character designs are oddly cartoonish, with jug-handle ears and absolutely no sex appeal. I was reminded of Steve Parkhouse's art style, oddly enough.
Also unpromising was its three-episode length. OVAs of this "blink and you'll miss it" length are mostly forgettable, collapsing under the self-imposed strain of condensing a manga epic into a handful of scenes. Not here. Instead of trying to retell the whole manga, My Dear Marie has simply chosen three strong episodes from the series and animated them. Plot? Hah. There's no attempt at a greater story arc... which I think is very sensible! Watching this OVA is like being introduced to a full-length series by a friend who's showing you his three favourite episodes. It's clearly just snippets rather than something complete in itself, but at this length what did you expect? As a result, these episodes can meander wherever they like, producing quirky charm and sometimes surprising characterisation.
Episode one shows us Hiroshi building Marie and taking her out into the world. Okay, they had to adapt the origin story. It's weird and creepy to see Hiroshi surreptitiously photographing the real Marie and painstakingly building her robot duplicate, but once the new version wakes up you realise you've been wrongfooted. Episode two gives Hiroshi a female stalker. Episode three has Marie persuading Hiroshi to reprogramme her so that she can dream... and that's it! It's sweet, but cleverer than it looks. I didn't watch this expecting anything innovative or even new, but My Dear Marie ended up springing a few surprises.
I've heard good things about the English dub. Apparently Lauren Worsham in the title role completely outshines the Japanese voice actress and makes the show far more lively and boisterous. I'm certainly not going to test this claim myself, but I mention it on the offchance that it's true. If only by the law of averages, I suppose it's inevitable that every so often an English dub will come along that doesn't suck.
At the end of the day, this is just three episodes. It won't change your life, but it's more intelligent and sly than you'd expect. Just don't expect an ending or any kind of resolution... the third episode wanders away muttering to itself into surreal dream sequences, then stops. Nevertheless I found this charming and in its own quiet way modestly impressive.