Ryotaro OkiayuMami KoyamaSanae KobayashiJunko Minagawa
Hare+Guu Final
Medium: OVA, series
Year: 2003
Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Original creator: Renjuro Kindaichi
Studio: Bandai Visual, Shin-Ei Animation
Actor: Naoko Watanabe, Rikako Aikawa, Kaoru Morota, Mami Koyama, Mari Yokoo, Mitsuaki Madono, Naoko Takano, Ryotaro Okiayu, Showtaro Morikubo, Junko Minagawa, Sanae Kobayashi
Keywords: Hare+Guu, anime, comedy, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 7 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=3435
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 30 January 2014
It's the second OVA sequel series to the Hare+Guu TV show. It's also the only one of those three series that AN Entertainment didn't give an English-language release, which made me nervous. In the end, I see both sides of the problem. It's uneven. It has too many characters, none of whom get enough screen time. It begins badly and ends disturbingly.
In short, it commits many sins. I like it.
The backstory's approximately the same. It's the story of a ten-year-old boy (Hare) who lives with his drunken layabout mother (Weda), his selfish, obnoxious father (Dr Clive) and a baby brother (Ame). In case you were wondering, stuff happened in the first OVA series. Unchanged, though, is Guu, the Lovecraftian extra-dimensional human-devouring sardonic Hare-torturing monster that goes around under the guise of being a pink-haired ten-year-old girl. This fools everyone but Hare. They think Guu's cute. They even think Hare and Guu are best friends, because the two go around together and seem inseparable. (In fact, Hare's afraid that Guu might destroy a city or something while his back was turned.)
The TV series had 26 episodes to fill and, as a result, spread out its plot. The show rarely seemed to be going anywhere, although eventually it did. The OVAs, on the other hand, each have about as much plot development as the entire TV series. Furthermore, the tone's getting ever more bumpy. The show's trying all kinds of different stories, from wacky computer game parodies to serious character work that doesn't get enough screen time. I applaud the variety and courage, but it can be an uncomfortable ride.
Episode one is the worst of all 39 Hare+Guu anime episodes to date. Combined with an opening theme I hadn't yet warmed to and a dull closing theme, it left me reluctant to keep watching. The gags are poor, Weda's mother gets treated poorly (both by the characters and by the storyline) and I didn't buy Hare's character journey. Why's he so desperate to get back to the jungle? (An explanation is provided that should theoretically have been sufficient, but somehow it felt unsatisfactory.) Why should Hare fall in love with a girl? He's ten! What about Marie back in the jungle?
In short, it's an attempted character-based comedy about the regulars that, for me, didn't work. Even Guu does nothing of interest, although the animators have fun drawing her (evil) and Hare (yet more imaginative over-reactions).
Oh, and that sad streetwalker in the opening sequence disturbed me, especially since all characters in Hare+Guu opening and closing sequences end up appearing in the story. (The credits thus become ever more meaningful as you progress through the show.) What did she mean? Was Hare+Guu going to get into prostitution? Was this the depressing future for one of the child characters? In fact my guesses were all wrong, but that just means that the truth was disturbing in ways I hadn't imagined.
After that, the show improved.
Episode two is about Hare going to school in the city. Guu gets lots to do, eating people again and even finding a way to surprise me yet again. This show always needs more Guu. Life's more entertaining when Guu's making Hare look like a loony in front of everyone while depopulating residential areas and/or turning into Mecha-Guu. Meanwhile Robert's funny and we get some interesting new characters. There's Childish Teacher and her two puppet sidekicks (with knives!). More important, though, is Rita. She's fascinating. I'd have been delighted had all seven episodes of this series been about her. There's bullying, unpleasantness and the question of whether doing good things for selfish reasons makes you a bad person. It's surprisingly complicated and raising issues that, sadly, get cut off way too soon, when the show does another of its abrupt jumps.
Episode three was where I decided I liked this series, despite part one. There's plenty of variety in the following episodes, including a very odd anti-story in which Ravenna goes on an errand for her (teasingly unseen) mother and just walks past a whole bunch of stuff without reacting to it. Now that's storytelling confidence. It works, too.
Episode five is brilliant. It's a parody of computer games.
There's a talky two-hander with Hare, Dr Clive and a killingly funny ending. There's a turning point episode for Yumi-sensei. Then eventually there's a finale that does disturbing, almost upsetting things with a certain established character and makes you want to know what happens next to Hare and Weda, especially if you watch the bit after the end credits. That's the end of the last episode of an OVA series called Hare+Guu Final, by the way. Grrrr. (There's still plenty to go after this point in the manga they're adapting, though.)
This series won the "Best Animation Video Award" at the 9th Animation Kobe (2004). However to embrace it fully, personally I think you've got to be a Hare+Guu fan to start with. It's awkward. It lurches between characters and settings. It keeps you off-balance. It's more uneven than Deluxe, which itself had been a switchback ride compared with the TV series. I wouldn't go so far as to say this series has a bad ending, but it takes unsettling decisions, shifts the show into unpredecented moral territory and ends with one foot in the air. Personally, though, I found a lot in here to love. Much of it is classic Hare+Guu, perpetually surprising and full of evil gags. Often it's extremely funny. Besides, no matter what one's opinion of this show, I don't think it's possible not to be fascinated by Guu.