Dr Kyoji Ogami is the world's greatest surgeon, scientist and bio-engineer, watched over by powerful figures in the military and the church as he conducts mysterious experiments in his mansion on a Japanese army base. However these experiments mostly involve tormenting a sixteen-year-old girl with breasts so large that they seem to have sucked the oxygen from her brain. Nanako Shichigusa is ostensibly the mansion's maid, but her talents mostly seem to involve destroying things, causing fires and having all her clothes fall off.
It's two shows for the price of one! First of all, it's a sinister tale of genetic engineering, global conspiracies and a decades-old secret. There's a reason behind all the weirdness and it's actually quite moving. It takes a few episodes to get going, but I liked that. Dr Ogami has some pretty staggering secrets and he's working towards a goal that's weird even by anime standards. Suffice to say that Nanako isn't quite the pointless bimbo she appears, though even she herself doesn't know that.
However at the same time this is also dumb comedy with a cartoonishly drawn cast and a lead character whose breasts are frankly disturbing. I'm not just talking about their size. Nanako's a big girl, but you'd think her boobs were spring-loaded. They ricochet as if in zero-gravity. "Jiggle" isn't the word. In 1988 Gainax invented what's since become known as "Gainax bounce", in which the female characters in the OVA Gunbuster found their breasts unusually susceptible to the laws of momentum. Anime-makers everywhere latched on to this exciting innovation and Amazing Nurse Nanako is perhaps its ultimate manifestation. Why doesn't she buy a sports bra? The poor girl must be in agony.
Nanako also has a mysterious tendency to lose her clothes during every episode, except in part six where she's completely starkers to begin with. A poor sort of modesty is generally preserved, but on two brief occasions it's proved that women have nipples. It's all oddly innocent though, like a Carry On movie. This show doesn't want to be pornography. Nanako spends an awful lot of time in her underwear, but this is fundamentally a silly show rather than a dirty one. It's riddled with fanservice, but it's never offensive.
To go with this, the comedy is daft too. Dr Ogami's colleagues include martial arts masters and a witch. Episode one has the same resolution as War of the Worlds, i.e. the goo-monster catches Nanako's cold. However when the serious drama intrudes, things get dark and you'd think you were watching a fairly heavy show.
In fairness the production values aren't bad. It's an OVA. The art style is a bit cartoonish, but that's appropriate since the show's hardly aiming for realism. Maria Yamamoto also gives a fun performance as Nanako that makes the character work better than she probably deserved.
Sadly the end result is less interesting than I've probably made it sound. Sometimes anime can astonish you with an inspired combination of story elements that would have occurred to no one else on the planet, but Amazing Nurse Nanako is a bit too stupid for that. It's not an intriguing experiment, but just two mismatched shows that don't add anything to each other. Imagine Carry On Bladerunner. It's not even particularly funny, although I'll admit that Nanako's total gormlessness did occasionally raise a smile or two.
There are two main reasons for watching Amazing Nurse Nanako: (1) the strange relationship between Nanako and Dr Kyoji and the tragic secret behind it, and (2) Nanako's nipples in the second and fourth episodes. This is not a show whose story elements are pulling in the same direction.