Fun fact: I’ve read this anime in manga form. By that, I mean I’ve read the source material for this anime. It is also among my favorite manga. For those of you who may be scratching your head at this proclamation, I can only say: I don’t blame you.
Umishou, as I will now address it, is an anime based off a manga that was published in 2005. I read the manga over two years ago, and fell in love with its controlled insanity and carefree expression of female sexuality. The anime was announced before the manga was finished, so the ending for the anime will leave a lot to be desired. Even for someone who’s read the manga, the anime’s ending leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as it shows off what couldn’t be animated and essentially spoils a big portion of future chapters of the manga. I won’t drag it until the end: read the manga. The anime is basically an advertisement for it anyway.
There are two things that become apparent from the beginning of Umishou: it is dumb and it is naked. The name translates roughly to “Umisho High School Naked Swimming Club.” There will be a lot of focus on the female form. However, a single male character enjoys the thrill of nudity as well. In any case, whether you’re male or female, be prepared for tits, ass, and lots of in-between. The anime does everything in its power to exploit it at all possible moments, both for comedic and sexual purposes (mostly comedic). But it is also dumb. Laws of physics will be stretched. Human capabilities will be strengthened. Every cliché that could lead to sexual fan service or misunderstood pseudo-sexual situations will be displayed with pride. It is a series that is better suited when one doesn’t think about it. “Turn off your brain.”
As simplistic as I make the series seem, there are various moments where characters embrace in a heart-warming unity of fleeting youth and wanting to create a wonderful life. There is a very, very slight underlying message of wanting to make the best of the situation for everyone else’s sake. However, in the anime form, this becomes nearly invisible. The anime seems to want to focus on, well, tits, for about ten episodes. Then, the final three episodes become a tad more reflective and supported by the chemistry of the characters. Very predictable. The anime somewhat encapsulates the magic the manga had on me, but I don’t recall the manga being this… stupid. It’s been over two years. I don’t quite recall how bonkers the original story is.
I really should focus on the anime and stop comparing it to the manga. I apologize.
One thing I will compliment is the anime’s style of drawing. I really enjoy the art of one Mitsuru Hattori, who is also responsible for Sankarea. The style is almost cat-like, with a heavy emphasis on the eyes and a variety of different-shaped heads for each character. Some are perfectly circular, some are square. Some look like a turnip, while others are as slim as green onions. There’s a lot of variety in character styles and types, though admittedly I believe they’re used to make them less desirable. It’s creative ugliness, ladies and gentlemen. Almost zero characters have noses, either. Only when turned at an angle can viewers see ’em, but facing forward, it’s just eyes and a mouth, which is usually open far and wide. The comedic stylizing of characters’ faces is also humorous. While the jokes aren’t typically funny, the expressions on characters’ faces are enough to leave one entertained. The title also looks fairly good for a title from 2007, I think. A little bland palette-wise, but it has a nice sheen to it.
However, what I can’t praise is animation. Lots of choppy movements and constant shortcuts being taken to lessen the workload. Some of this is attributed to the comedy, but even serious segments have a small tendency to recycle animation or feel stiff. For an anime about swimming, the actual swimming isn’t very impressive. I liked the underwater scenes, but it’s overshadowed by how convenient they are to make characters seem incomplete. The amount of effort taken to censor female (and male) anatomy is also distracting.
Characters are archetypes, at least they are on the surface. The only character I feel isn’t an archetype is Orizuka, the vice-captain of the swim team, but even she exhibits some qualities of a tsundere. They also get very little, if any, development throughout the series. The fun-loving Amuro will stay fun-loving for 95% of the series. Maaya will be the rich, famous bitch for 95% of the series. There are attempts at development during the second-half of its run, but whether they pay off is debatable. And by the end of it, does it even matter? As I stated previously, the anime is an adaptation of an incomplete manga. Therefore, there’s a lot to be desired from both the story and the characters by the end of episode thirteen.
Humor is funny if you think cliché segments of suppressed sexual urges and misunderstandings are funny. If not, there’s a lot of slapstick, too. If you don’t find either of these funny, well, fuck you. Umishou will continue to use these two tactics until they become so tired that the mental image of a sheep will knock them out for a month. The characters’ archetypes have a lot to do with these two comedy styles (Orizuka likes hitting people and Amuro doesn’t have much shame), and the way they play off one another is charming, but only to the minimalist degree. The mindset of almost every female character is geared towards sexual humor, and supreme author Hattori takes advantage. This girl has big tits. These two girls have small tits. Those two girls with small tits wish they had big tits so they grope the girl with big tits because why not? It’s a god damn groping party.
Story… well, yeah. If you can call it one, a swim team wants to be the very best, that no one ever was. To swim fast is their real test, and victory’s their cause. However, approximately two members take swimming seriously, and usually just take advantage of looking at girls’ skin and/or slacking off. It continues along like this for a while, somewhat treading the slice-of-life terrain, but also incorporates sub-plots based on characters’ issues. They are serious enough to partake in tournaments and swim meets, so there’s that. Excuse me for sounding so lax about this, but the story’s so unimportant that the premise basically sums up everything. It’s somewhat episodic, with very little in terms of threading various incidents together. Sometimes they use them as a callback, sometimes they forget it even exists. It really depends on who’s trying to be developed and whether the author can exploit it for sex.
The manga was a great read for me back in the day. The anime pales in comparison. However, watching the anime gives me an innate desire to re-read the source material to see if it’s as stupid as the anime, because MY GOD the anime was stupid. The worst part is, the anime is pretty true to the source, which only makes me feel like the manga is just as—if not more—stupid. In any case, the result is enjoyable stupidity and uninhibited nudist freedom (aside from the censors). Those looking for anything deeper than that need not apply.
Personal Score: C+
Critical Score: D+
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.