Delinquent in Drag

I really should learn to just stopping giving Go Nagai material a go--no pun intended. As one of the most influential manga artists in Japan (or so we've been led to believe), I can't help but feel that I should occasionally review material based on his work. But what's becoming more and more clear is that he's well known because he's a larger-than-life envelope pusher, not because he's really any good at what he does. It's not uncommon for an artist to gain fame through controversy only to be soon forgotten...just look at the rise and fall of former cause celebre Robert Mapplethorpe. What's sad is that, at times, Go Nagai's material shows real talent. Such is the case of Delinquent in Drag, an hour-long show whose humor, though lowbrow and obvious, is still quite funny. However, an unnecessary incestuous plotline combined with an incomplete ending and some ill-defined secondary characters make this a minefield of mediocrity and bad taste.

Banji gets into fights with everyone and everybody. It's a hereditary trait picked up from his father, who also can't seem to control his temper. Between the two of them, they wind up having to move from place to place often. However, both of them fear the wrath of Mom, who is the only one who can keep them in line (and is strangely aroused by Dad's apologies about his bad deeds).

After having to land in a new city yet again, Banji's father signs him up for school. Too lazy to bother with getting the application right, he takes home a girl's uniform for Banji, who's frankly too stupid to realize at first what it is. Mom and Dad think it's hysterical, though, and send him to school that way. Of course, the local tough girls have it out with him, though he defeats them soundly, gathering the attention of the mysterious headmaster and the other students.

Banji eventually makes friends with a cute girl who wants to be his study partner. Banji, of course, realizes that dressing like a girl makes it infinitely easier to be close to a girl, so he doesn't give up his new persona. Although he fails at every chance to really seduce his love interest--after all, she still thinks Banji's a girl--that won't stop him from trying. What will stop him are a variety of competitors who believe that defeating Banji on the field of battle will make them the tops in their own fields--whether kendo, baseball, or field hockey, I guess. Can Banji get the girl who thinks he's a girl if he can't reveal who he is while challenges pour in from every side?

Like Hanappe Bazooka, the character designs in Delinquent in Drag are in the secondary art style of Go Nagai, conforming more to cute, Rumiko Takahashi-esque creations rather than the amazingly ugly antagonists in his more serious work. In fact, Delinquent in Drag feels like a naughtier take on Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2. Though Takahashi has far more class than Go Nagai, the similarities are striking.

There are some laughs to be had in Delinquent, though most of them can be found elsewhere. The beginning fight sequences that destroy a quarter of the city are funny, but are reminiscent of Project A-Ko and similar parodies. The lecherous guy trying to get with the cute girl is a staple of many anime, but some of it works. And the endless battles aren't unfamiliar to any anime fan who's sat through boss battles. I don't know that the world really needs more breast-grabbing jokes by guys pretending to be girls, but this show does that as effectively as any of them, I suppose.

What drags Delinquent down are some simply distasteful bits that aren't really necessary. In the middle of the show, out of the blue, Dad decides that Mom must be attracted to Banji since they only have an 11-year age difference. (Through some unexplained happenings, Mom and Dad apparently got at the baby-making business very young, which in and of itself is pretty cringe-inducing.) As he's thinking it, sure enough, Banji walks in on his mom doing a rather racy bit in lingerie and seeming every bit the temptress. Is she really serious about it? The show doesn't go that far, thankfully, but by that point the idea had already smashed its way into my consciousness. Taken with the bizarre and frankly disgusting behavior of Banji pretending to be sick to get his girlfriend into his bed, the show is just in poor taste.

This is another show where the ending is completely ambiguous, and though the story is finished enough to appreciate, some characters seem to have no purpose with what we have. I'm sure this comes from being based on a manga series that takes a while to wrap up. But for English audiences, it's yet another letdown. Frankly, the ending ten minutes or so are just tedious.

Although this isn't terrible, Delinquent in Drag has enough marks against it to be only anime worth watching if there's nothing else available and you aren't particularly sensitive. It's not patently offensive as some shows are (even other ones by Go Nagai), but there are a few moments that are definitely just wrong. Considering all, I'd rather just watch a couple of the best Urusei Yatsura OVAs instead.

Delinquent in Drag - violence, profanity, lechery, adult situations, crude humor - C-