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Friday, October 25, 2013

Anime Review: Recorder to Randoseru Mi

The series is mainly about the Miyagawa siblings: Atsushi—an elementary student whose build and appearance is the same as a typical adult man; and Atsumi—his sister and a high school girl whose appearance is like an elementary student. They live everyday encountering misunderstandings and misadventures, most to be blamed to their ironic age/looks. (Source: ANN)
Recorder to Randoseru has always been one of those odd, quirky five-minute episode series that really shouldn't be as enjoyable as it sounds. On the surface alone, it's loli/shota bait disguised as a height difference gag series. Atsushi is in fifth grade but looks like an adult! Atsumi looks like a little girl but is in high school! For the first two seasons, RtR managed to rise above the cheap jokes, for the most part. 
Yet somewhere in the development of its third and final season, that concept of fun times with mismatched bodies got lost. Everything got a little weird - and not in a positive way. Still, it was good while it lasted.

The third season of Recorder To Randoseru/Recorder and Backpack/リコーダーとランドセル revolves around a lot of the same jokes from the previous two seasons, especially those about Atsushi's appearance. He is the favored punchline for a lot of Recorder's visual gags, and he's still getting wrongly arrested just from being around his classmates. Plus, Atsushi still acts like a typical fifth grader, which only serves to confuse outsiders even more.
In turn, Atsumi gets a few more jokes thrown at her due to her lack of height, and the poor girl is still working to get taller somehow. A lot of Atsumi's troubles come from taking care of her younger brother as well as dealing with her classmates' perceptions of her. I'm glad the series doesn't try to force a romantic subplot with her; that would just be creepy, considering how she looks physically. And I sincerely doubt Atsumi is interested in any of Atsushi's classmates.
In the Mi season, however, we are introduced to a few new characters, including a new female police officer, Aono, to join the current roster of female officers that are on call to deal with Atsushi's constant state of arrest. We are also introduced to Makoto, the second shortest student in Atsumi's high school, as well as the Yoshioka brothers , who both have some curious and conflicting hang-ups about the age of women and how desirable they find them.
And here is where Recorder to Randoseru's main conflict goes from amusing to slightly horrifying. Y'see, Yoshioka (the only one of the two brothers actually given a name) is a self confessed lolicon. He likes little girls. He is attracted to Atsumi because, in his eyes, she is a 'legal loli'. This series has officially crossed into questionable, gross territory with Yoshioka's character, and it doesn't seem to care - and so I don't care for his scenes or his narrative.
Luckily, Yoshioka is not the focus of this series. It's pretty much Atsushi, who has to balance being in fifth grade with looking like a grown teenager. Strangers think he's a pervert, his sister's friend Sayo is secretly enamored of him, and his girlfriend Hina doesn't want to keep it going with him any longer. He'd be an adorable fifth grader if he actually looked his age. Then again, that's the whole point!
Also, it seems as though Recorder went through a studio shift between the Re and Mi seasons. The artwork in the third season is very different which is not always bad, but there are moments when the character designs seem wonky, especially Atsushi's face. Some scenes actively fluctuate between decent and poorly drawn animation. At least the ending sequence, with its use of real life stills and sketch-like animation, is good; it's easily the best ED of all the seasons.
You can blow through an entire season of Recorder to Randoseru in under an hour. It's a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of series with episodes under five minutes, which works the best because none of the visual gags are strong enough to last a full half hour. It's still an amusing, fun series but some of the aspects of the Mi season, especially the introduction of Yoshioka, put some unfortunate shadows into a usually lighthearted series.

Still, now that the entire RtR series is better, there's no harm in spending a little time marathoning all three seasons in one go. After all, it is still a better written anime than NakaImo.
All three seasons of Recorder to Randoseru are currently streaming with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.