October 14, 2016

Nanana's Buried Treasure: "Disowned and Exiled"

It's 10 April 2014, and time for the first episode of Nanana's Buried Treasure.

High schooler Jugo Yama arrives on the artificial island Nanaejima to continue his studies in one of its dedicated education and research schools. When he is assigned rental accommodation, he is shocked to find his room comes with its own ghost: Nanana, a compulsive videogamer obsessed with eating pudding, whose unsolved murder occurred ten years earlier.

Nanana's Buried Treasure is an 11-episode anime serial based on a light novel series by Kazuma Otorino. It focuses on Nanana, a ghost who - before her death - was instrumental in setting up a group of young explorers who located treasures hidden all over Nanaejima Island. Now that Jugo has moved in with her, there's already anticipation on my part that the subsequent 10 instalments will involve him hunting for treasure and solving Nanana's murder. It is a bright, light-hearted first episode, that would be great fun were it not for one major problem.

Fan service. There is a long-standing and entirely tedious trend within much of anime to titillate the heterosexual male viewer with shots of bouncing cleavage, short skirts and brief glimpses of young women's underwear. To an extent it is so ingrained in so much of the medium that you have to effectively navigate past it, and swearing off a series because of it would rapidly lead to a diminishing number of viewable options. In Nanana's Buried Treasure, or at least in this first episode, it feels hugely intrusive. It dents the appeal of the story considerably.

That really is a shame, because the series has a really striking and enjoyable premise, and some rather likeable characters. Nanana seems a little superficial at first - a stereotypical cute and vulnerable Japanese school girl - but there's a particular vulnerability to her character that shows a lot of promise for the story as it develops. Likewise Jugo seems as if his character has a lot of room to develop and grow. He begins the episode seeing Nanana as an awkward inconvenience, but after finding a notebook hidden by a former roommate pleading for him to care for Nanana he begins to warm up to the idea considerably. Also introduced here is Shiki Moboro, Jugo's landlady: a binge-drinking cypher whose primary purpose in the episode is to have her bouncing cleavage showcased for the presumably leering male audience. It is actually quite remarkable how much effort has been put into animating her breasts.

"Disowned and Exiled" is a pretty rough start for the series, but does showcase enough potential for Nanana's Buried Treasure to potentially improve as it goes. A lot of good ingredients are in there, but  to a large extent they're getting smothered by the fan service. All in all if one was to apply the binary good/bad scoring to the episode it would be filed under "bad", but the next episode will probably determine whether or not it's worth sticking with the series overall.

John Samuel has written a review of the entire 11-episode series over at Pirates of the Burley Griffin, which is worth checking out.

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