Sotsugyou M
"oretachi no carnival"(OVA)


There is only the one animated release for the M boys…and that’s not including the not-really-animated snippets on the MVP release. It comes in the form of an OVA which – I have to be honest – isn’t totally long enough to convey everything it wants to convey.
Some people have criticised it for this fact. Personally I like it a lot, but I’d like to have seen more. The characters are just about developing into individuals by the time the show closes.

The five boys are still pupils at the Seiryuu Academy, like in the manga and drama CDs (Fushigi Yuugi geeks like me continuously find that amusing, considering the cast), - a boys-only boarding school and evidently fairly elite. We don’t see anything of the boys’ families during the course of this show, but even without reading the manga you can imagine that to be enrolled at this place they must be fairly well-off. And quite possibly a little bit strange, considering some of the boys that go to this academy in the first place. But we'll come to that.

There is only one single reference to them as “M” during the OVA – which is Nakamoto’s note to Arai and is shown at the very end. It reads "Mはいつも5人です" (M wa itsumo gonin desu.)

Translated, that means “M is always five people ” (i.e. the five of us are a team, no matter what).

For the most part this OVA is not connected with music at all - not even Takagi's guitar playing. A slight caveat to that is the fact that all of the themes and background music is performed by the E.M.U boys under their character names - these songs were released on a separate CD and include such tracks as Okiayu Ryoutarou's "Melody Go Round". The OVA itself was released on two separate VHS and, most probably, also on laser disc. My copy is on DVD, a single disc with both the episodes plus the music video (if you can call it that) for Ishikawa Hideo's song OVA song Slam Dunk, but there is no English language version or dub. As with the manga, there only exists an official release in Japanese - as far as I know no Sotsugyou M stuff has ever been licenced for the English speaking market. (Although that hasn't stopped it getting here...and thanks to the diligent work of fansubbers, the OVA does exist in subtitled form.)

The plot of the OVA is a little bit strange. Our five boys are manipulated by the (scary!) council president Kusanagi into taking the lead roles in the Bunkasai (Cultural Festival) performance. Being that it's the school's fiftieth anniversary, it's imperative that they put on some kind of special show that will be long remembered. And because of this, Kusanagi (an evil prince with his palace of minions type bishie) sets into motion a cunning plan (supported by the leader of the drama club, plus his willing-but-wary vice-captain Sugita and others) to convince the five boys of M to be their stars.

The boys, lured into the President’s property by promises of dinner (namely by Yuusuke and Mikimaro's insatiable appetites) find they have been tricked (no surprises there!) and are imprisoned in an underground vault whilst Kusanagi not only creates mass-publicity for the event (to the point of television attention), but forces them to accept his proposals.(I did say the boys at this school were a tad odd).

The end result of all this scheming is simple – the five boys are forced to learn and perform (in drag) the story of Little Women for an expectant audience.

I guess that's what you can call a unique performance, right?

Having read Little Women as a kid, I found the whole thing quite funny. The rebellious Arai is cast as the equally rebellious Jo. The sensible, studious Nakamoto is cast as the gentle, intelligent Beth and Mikimaro is cast as Amy, the youngest sister of the family. Of course, the boys are not thrilled by the idea of performing this way – but they seem to get into the spirit of it by the end. Perhaps the funniest part of the whole OVA is the footage of the boys 'rehearsing', and the various things that keep going wrong. Between Yuusuke's eating the rotten food, Mikimaro's crying fit, the wild, madly peeing pedigree cat and Arai's love of a good fight, not an awful lot of the Little Women spirit really gets through. Louisa May Alcott would be turning in her grave - but still, it's all in fun.

Theme aside, there’s a brief glimpse into the relationship between the characters and the character diversities themselves. Nakamoto and Arai share a room, Mikimaro and Yuusuke share a room – but Takagi seems quite content having one to himself, and in some respects he does come across as a solitary kind of character. I identify him with Hotohori from Fushigi Yuugi a little in the OVA, particularly because of one scene where he decides he’s too beautiful to dress up in drag.

The fact that Takagi happily models women’s clothing (see top right pic, lol!) also features, and he proves to be quite a natural on stage. So much so that Nakamoto is determined to work harder to match up to him and not let him down. Takagi is always the most enigmatic of the characters and the most difficult one to get an emotional grip on. This is no different in the OVA. He seems somewhat in the shadows of things in terms of their group - and the rivalry that exists between him and Arai in the manga/novels is only vaguely picked up on (although it is there to some degree - neither of them want to go to the President's place, for example, and they comment on how rare it is for them to agree!). He also comes across as a lot more narcissistic in the animated OVA than he does in the manga - although there he has pride in his appearance and image, he's a much more pragmatic, intelligent character and much less stuck on his own appearance. (In fact, in the manga and novels, his chief love over everything is music...although that's not touched on at all in the OVA).

Of course, there’s an interlude with Nakamoto and his cats (I may be alone in this, but there's something disturbing about japanese cat mewing sound effects...on all of Nakamoto's stuff they sound like the hell cats of doom or something and the OVA is no exception, creepy...). A brief note must be made here that Nakamoto only seems 100% at ease when he's around the kitties. At least, his language relaxes completely. He uses fairly polite Japanese to speak to his comrades, but he's much more casual with the cats. Draw your own conclusions about that ;)

There's also some footage of Arai and his motorbike, Mikimaro and his games and Yuusuke playing basketball. The distinct impression in the OVA that Nakamoto is the one who holds them all together…as I said on the other page, the voice of reason. (It seems sort of ironic for that to be Hayashi-san's role, actually...hehehe:D Maybe I'm just used to him voicing more insane characters...). It's not quite that way in the other stories, where to some degree Nakamoto is dependant on both Arai and Mikimaro at times, although as a group they do rely on Nakamoto's intelligence for logical solutions to problems quite a bit. I guess that's what they're trying to put across. Nakamoto is very reisei in the OVA. Having read the novels and the manga, I think that maybe he's too much that way. But there is not enough time to convey anything deeper and his family issues are not even mentioned in passing.

There are some quite funny scenes involving food, too – the fact that Yuusuke can apparently eat for Japan, yet the sight of food seems to make Takagi run for the bathroom.

Mikimaro's fondness for Arai and the shounen-ai theme is also somewhat touched on. Aside from Takagi's moonlighting as a female clothing model, there is the rapport between Arai and Mikimaro. It's fairly evident that Mikimaro has a crush on Arai, and there is some tension between him and Mikagekouji Kasumi (Kusanagi's vice captain) where some prior connection is hinted at between Arai and this other guy. They're former roommates - you draw your own conclusions as to what that means, but Mikimaro gets rather jealous of the whole thing. Arai is pretty mean to Mikimaro at times - even calling him a kid despite the fact Mikimaro is older than he is - but it's a similar kind of rapport to what the characters seem to have in the manga. No real definite lines are joined for relationships and there is no connection of this kind made for Yuusuke, Nakamoto or Takagi (except perhaps with Takagi and his reflection). Still, if you've got five bishies in drag, you sort of expect a bit of shounen-ai for seasoning, don't you!?

I've come to the conclusion that you're supposed to view the OVA as happening towards the end of their final year at school when their friendship has been fairly securely that respect it probably makes more contextual sense (since in the manga, Takagi is a relative newcomer to the school, and it takes time for bonds to be formed).

One other thing struck me when I was watching this through recently. Midorikawa-san sounds so much like Tamahome when he’s voicing Arai that it’s untrue…;) It's true that the two shows are of a vintage, pretty much...but even so, having heard Midorikawa speak naturally and performing other roles, the likeness is still uncanny.

Honestly, as fond as I am of the OVA, and glad that it was made, I would have *loved* them to have done a proper series of episodes either following the manga or the Plus novel storylines. There is SO much potential in some of those themes for a really, really good (and popular) animation that it's a shame that the chance went to waste. Even so, I guess the seiyuu were maybe quite busy with other projects at the same time, so it just wasn't possible to get them together enough to do more than just the OVA.


Video release: 1999
DVD release: 2001
DVD release code: COBC-4072