Step Up Love Story

Step Up Love Story

STEP UP LOVE STORY

Watched via DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Once I heard there was an OVA for the long-running and infamous Manga Sutra, I just knew I had to watch it. The general premise of the franchise is the marital development of Makoto Onoda and his wife Yura Onoda. Both of them new to the dating world, and rather shy, they end up meeting at an omiai (arranged blind date with the intention of marriage). From there they get married and thus the anime begins. Most of the shenanigans stem from the two both being virgins prior to their relationship and being totally clueless about physical intimacy.

While the manga develops the couple’s relationship over time as a “believable” representation of Japanese marital life, this OVA dives into “key” moments to exploit its more soft-core pornographic moments for fanservice. I suppose you could say it cuts right to the chase of what fans want, but I found it to make the whole concept more pathetic than anything else, which I guess makes sense considering the genre. Really I think they could have cleaned up the content a little and made this into a much more interesting series that explored more than titilation.

PLOT: Makoto and Yura, both 25, have never had much success dating but want to get married to someone. They meet through an omiai and end up getting married, though up until their marriage is finalized they remain quite chaste. Then comes their wedding night, when they need to consummate their marriage, and neither of them knows what to do. The resulting experience, due to Makoto’s premature ejaculation and their mutual inexperience, is less than desirable.

Because of this disappointing first time, Makoto and Yura decide to become better at sex for each other. This is a great plot, actually, because I honestly wish more fiction focused on the sexual aspects of romantic relationships and on the possibility of sexual incompatibility. Indeed, through these four OVA episodes, the couple gets advice from others and makes some progress towards a better sex life (though making Yura orgasm eludes Makoto). This would be fine if not for two things. One, the harem setup of this show is ridiculous, where Makoto all of a sudden becomes the most appealing man on the planet, with women throwing themselves at him every chance they get. Two, Makoto fantasizes about having sex with all of these women. Yes, he’s technically faithful for Yura, but it’s still distracting and messes up what I consider to be the whole point of this narrative. Instead of being a guide for young couples needing sexual confidence and education, Step Up Love Story just turns into another place for men to find images of a guy having sex with lots of different women.

SETTING: Step Up Love Story takes place in modern day Japan. Makoto and Yura, having given up on the tedious task of finding a boyfriend/girlfriend, decide to use a dating service to set them up with someone. While omiai are hardly used in present day Japan, this series shows how the traditional act of arranged marriage can have an unexpected and romantic twist.

As you’d expect from a series focused on bedroom shenanigans, the majority of the OVAs take place in domestic settings. Occasionally we get a glimpse into other aspects of the couple’s lives, for example when they ask family and friends for sexual advice. Ultimately the settings have no real purpose aside from checking off “red flags” on the bucket list of things to watch a married couple do or fantasize about. I can only imagine that the manga goes into even more detail, as it burns through every scenario possible. I’d like to say that the anime keeps things simple, new, and exciting, but it already feels old and dull from the get go.

SETTING: I was actually quite excited to see this anime use a successful omiai as the setup for the main romance, since I’ve never seen an anime where an omiai is followed through with. Normally I see omiai show up as a threat or as a plot device to make the main couple end up together, so it’s nice to see the results of one here. I’m still not quite sure about the process, though, since this OVA skims over the omiai to get to the sex.

Beyond that, as Whitney says, most of the show is the two main characters going normal places and Makoto imagining having sex with people everywhere. He’s a salaryman, so we see him at work, and we see the couple at their home. We also see Yura visit her younger sister frequently for advice. The show does spice up the characters’ sex with cosplay and multiple positions, but that’s about as much fun as the show gets.

CHARACTERS: I’m not sure if the characters are banal so that I can project myself onto them, or if that was just the best the manga-ka could do for a married couple.

Makoto is your typical Gary Stu. He’s an office worker who has never had sex and has zero sexual appeal, that is until he gets married. Apparently the message Step Up Love Story would like us fans to get is that if we can get married our lives will be filled with hot women throwing themselves on us. Instantly Makoto turns into the hottest man alive and women can’t help but hit on him. Of course Makoto would never cheat on his new bride, but he’d totally fantasize about it! Just to put it honestly, Makoto is a total noob and he constantly messes things up and looks like a horny pig. I guess men are supposed to empathize with him, but really I don’t see the appeal in connecting with someone so lame.

Yura on the other hand is a beautiful accomplished woman completely devoid of sexual thought and experience, the perfect waifu! While she also becomes a magnet for men, that has more to do with her natural charms than being “off the market”. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a woman, or that she’s written a bit stronger, but I connected just a bit more with Yura. She comes off as quite earnestly trying to be a perfect woman and wife, and I think it’s rather charming to see, even if it is extremely stereotypical and sexist. Even that I don’t find to be too irritating, after all that is what she wants, and the culture of people want who are watching the series. Let’s just say the series isn’t breaking much new ground.

I think the characters are so bland so that any man can pretend to be Makoto and think about being with Yura, the stereotypically perfect wife. Real relationships are nothing like this, and it makes you wonder if the manga-ka’s ever been in a relationship that he finds this to be the perfect marriage.

CHARACTERS: Man, is Makoto boring. He’s an earnest guy who just wants to have sex with his wife, but he doesn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, he’s inexperienced and ejaculates prematurely, but he also assumes that Yura will be open to having sex whenever he is, which I find rather annoying. From what I understand, it takes until chapter 120 of the manga for him to give Yura an orgasm. He’s just a pretty pathetic lead, especially since he’s so preoccupied with fantasizing about all of the women around him when he’s got a great wife at home. I’m sure men respond differently to Makoto, but I just want him to go away.

Yura, on the other hand, gets sympathy from me for being sexually inexperienced in a society where that’s strongly taboo for proper women. She puts in a lot of effort to make sex better for Makoto, and she never gets fairly rewarded for that. Moreover, she’s an attractive woman and deals with several advances from men, all of which she turns down. Makoto still gets jealous, though, in a way that makes me roll my eyes because of the hideous double standard.

Beyond these two, characters mainly show up to provide counterpoints to this relationship or for Makoto to fantasize about. Some couples have more issues having sex than they do, while others are more experienced and give them advice. I’d like to see more development for Yura’s sister, who seems experienced but also isn’t in a great relationship. Other than that, Step Up Love Story is populated by a bunch of hot women who inexplicably want to sex with Makoto. Why is that? Just because he’s married? I’m pretty confused about why this character type is considered valid.

Ugh, I forgot until you said it how Makoto assumes his wife will always want to have sex with him. Makoto totally fails when it comes to relating to other people. It’s actually rather demeaning for men to see this as an example of “what men are like”.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Honestly, I don’t think this series is about “looking at the artwork”. As you’d expect, Step Up Love Story has an OVA budget that gets the job done, but nothing more than that. I guess you could say the character designs are at least improved from the original manga ones. While the manga characters looked like they could hardly move anatomically, the designs for the anime made everyone look much more believable, which helped a little tiny bit in taking them more seriously.

Everyone is of course type-cast in their dress, actions, and movements. Yura’s sister, whom she and Makoto get advice from, is portrayed as a total slut, you know, because only a slut would have knowledgable information about relationships. It’s rather disconcerting how each character fits a very derogatory niche. Really it just gets worse from there.

You can pretty much guess every character’s personality and sexual experience based on how they look. I get that this is the norm for male fantasies like this, but I’d appreciate more variety than super virginal or mega slutty.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: This series isn’t the ugliest anime on the planet, but it’s pretty basic. The budget is good enough when it comes to important moments, like when a woman removes her clothes or showing boobs or panties, but this is by no means a show where animation is everything, and it uses its fair share of animation shortcuts to compensate for the detailed boob shots. To me, the animation looks cheap and plasticky, but that could be a result of it’s being from 2002 more than anything.

The character designs clearly point out the manga’s age, as it started in 1997. The characters all have round faces and large eyes, which are still pretty normal, but Yura’s hair is the dead giveaway. The way her bangs are short and wavy is straight out of the nineties, reminding me of Kotori from X/1999. As Whitney said, the character designs all clearly reflect what kind of person everyone is, and the presence of lingering panty and boob shots will let you know whether or not you should be sexualizing them.

XD XD XD I can only imagine what the director’s notes would be like.

OVERALL: I flat out didn’t care for this OVA series. While the franchise premise is very cheesy, the manga still managed to redeem itself through character development and through building relationships and talking about important issues. This short series captures none of the charm of the original and focuses solely on badly orchestrated fan service. I’m not sure what audience this was targeted at, from what I can tell it fails to do anything. I don’t even know if I could say it “gets the job done”. So yeah, just don’t buy this. If you’re interested in this sort of genre, I’m sure you can find plenty of better things to watch.

On the other hand, if you really are curious about this story, read the manga. It might seem very stereotypical and sexist, but it also covers a lot of important topics and is rather brilliant once you get around all the sexual fantasies. How many manga series, or novels for that matter can you say go into various methods of having safe sex, talk about anatomical functions, and are focused on sexual empowerment?

OVERALL: As far as hentai anime goes, I’m sure Step Up Love Story is the cream of the crop, with an actual plot revolving around the characters and their sex lives instead of just presenting ridiculous situations where people can have sex. However, as someone who’s not into anime for the sexual titillation, this is still a pretty disinteresting OVA series. The characters are cardboard cutouts and clear results of the manga-ka’s fantasies, and the series uses any excuse it can to show Makoto having sex with other women. The result feels forced and ridiculous, like a wish fulfillment series for lonely men.

From what I hear from Whitney, the manga’s vastly more interesting and includes a lot of sex-related facts, like types of nipples that women can have. I have no idea how factual any of that is, but it certainly sounds like a better way to spend your time than watching Step Up Love Story. If you absolutely want to watch this, I won’t judge you, but be aware that it’s a pretty boring and lewd narrative about characters who aren’t that much like real people.

FINAL SCORE: (5/10) FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

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Edit: This was the original content of this post.

Due to unforeseen circumstances very similar to that of the video above, the review for this week has been postponed until next week. In the meantime, enjoy the video and steer clear of Crystal! -W

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