Child's Toy (AKA Kodomo No Omocha)

If a generation of Japanese children has ADD, this show may just be the culprit.

Child's Toy is possibly the most frenetic, most utterly spastic anime ever created. Although other shows rival it at times, it makes popular manic favorites like Ranma 1/2 look anemic by comparison. Despite creating a swirling maelstrom of comic lunacy, when the show slows down for a moment, it becomes genuinely warm and compelling, sometimes even as moving as the best dramas out there. If you've been watching anime for a while, you may have seen some of the stories told in Child's Toy, but it's no matter--Child's Toy is indescribably fun, and certainly the most fun I've had watching anime in a great long while.

Sana, an 11-year-old girl who stars on a popular television program called "Child's Toy", is a hyperactive spaz in a hyperactive, spastic world. She lives with her mother, an eccentric award-winning writer who drives a miniature car around the house and wears hats in which the family squirrel resides; somewhere in the same apartment, there's Rei, Sana's manager, whom she affectionately calls her lover, friend, and pimp. (Oh, folks, we're just getting started...) She's constantly late for school, but the teacher doesn't notice--she's too busy trying desperately to handle the tsunami that is her classroom. A group of boys led by the mysteriously quiet Hayama have mastered chaos theory and put it into practice; between blackmailing the teaching staff, bungie jumping from the rafters of the gym, and battling with ink-filled squirt guns, they tear the place apart. Sana is determined to put an end to this madness (though blindly oblivious to her own frantic posturings). In-between rap creations where she figures out her next move, she goes against Hayama in a series of challenges to get the class back in order. But Hayama has a secret that could explain his reasons for being a devil child...a secret that Sana must uncover if she is to actually restore order to her little universe. And that's just the first story arc in the opening six episodes, friends...once that section wraps, we start getting the backstory on Rei, the manager haunted by a jilted lover from years past. It just gets crazier and crazier...

Child's Toy is a well-crafted mixture of insanity, good humor, and heartstrings. Though the budget is slight for this TV series, it overcomes those boundaries by its very nature. This is not a show designed to look beautiful or illustrate massive explosions. It has to be extremely funny, and at that it succeeds. I never once thought about the art, though it bears a similarity to Marmalade Boy; I didn't have time to analyze its shortcomings. It's simply too exuberant for that, and in particular the music captures that exuberance and makes it addictive.

For all that, this show would not be such a rousing success if that were the whole of it. However, it transcends the "manic comedy" genre by slowing down long enough to give us real characters in real situations that can actually touch the audience. Everyone here, even the antagonistic Hayama, is likable in a way, which is rare in a genre where normally everybody is at each other's throats. Although Sana's extreme blabbering and non-stop motion might be a little over-the-top to some, I found it impossible to look away.

The show also draws you irresistibly into the next episode, creating the "just one more" feeling that will sell DVDs by the dozens. The fact that it has a continuing storyline is great, particularly when comedy anime tends to be very episodic--it's just one more way that this show takes it to the next level. If anything, it's surprising that this show is marketed to middle schoolers in Japan, as it's just a little too smart for its age. Or maybe we're just used to what's pandered to kids here; at any rate, I think anybody the age of 12 or over could easily fall for this show. (Younger kids might not be ready for some of the language and themes, which are a little stronger than one would expect.)

Despite all my words, I don't think I can do Child's Toy justice. You can't be prepared for it; you simply must experience it. At its wacky core, Child's Toy is a celebration of life at its fullest. TOKYOPOP has picked up the show for distribution in the US, and there's no doubt that it can be a top seller if they market it right. Even if you don't like shoujo, even if you aren't a comedy buff, you might just try this one--if you see one new comedy series this year, Child's Toy should be it. It's too fun not to try.

Child's Toy (AKA Kodomo No Omocha) -- profanity, themes a little mature for the intended audience -- A+