Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! was one of the top anime that I wanted to watch this season. These characters are soooo freakin’ cute! This anime is based on a manga that’s being serialized in Dengeki Daioh. The very same one that brought us Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&! (but not the same mangaka).
Manabi Straight begins with Inamori Mika running late to class. She’s spotted by the uber-genki Amamiya Manami (try saying that five times fast) who offers her a lift on her hover scooter. Apparently this anime takes place in the future. They crash land in the school’s pool. It turns out that Manami (who goes by Manabi) is a transfer student, and a “trouble child.”
Manabi doesn’t win the swim meet, but she proves that she did it “her way.” The next day, Manabi is late yet again. Mika gets conned into joining the student council and tries to convince the other students to join. I like how she draws “hito” on her hand and eats it in order to alleviate her nervousness. Plus I’m proud that I get that Japanese culture reference.
Anyway, Manabi predictably crashes the meeting and gets stuck holding water buckets. She somehow convinces everyone she should be in the student council, because she can sing! She transforms the dull meeting into a hanami party and gets a unanimous vote!
I’m really looking forward to the next episode of this anime. While there’s not much of a plot now, it really could get interesting. I’m kind of getting a Haruhi vibe from it, what with the super energetic girl taking command of things. Except that Haruhi, Manabi is very, very bad at sports. I’m actually a big fan of the weird girl archetype, and Manabi brings plenty of that.
The character designs are awesome! Especially Mika, who has the perpetual :3 face happening. The art is just a joy to watch, with the gradients on the hair. I really like the way this anime looks.
The OP wasn’t played this episode, they just did an extended intro instead. The ED was oddly in claymation, like the Futakoi Alternative and Coyote Ragtime Show ones. The song itself was okay. It kind of put me to sleep, though.
Download the ED: “Lucky & Happy” by Megumi Hayashibara
The cuteness factor of Manabi Straight is just way too high to ignore. The animation quality is excellent, and the story could even end being interesting, too. I think this’ll be definitely be one of the anime that I pick up for Winter 2007.