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3 Episode Taste Test: Chu-Bra!!

Another series another lascivious story seed, this time with the formation of a high school underwear club by a girl smitten with all things underwear. Rolling one's eyes and ploughing into the first three episodes of Chu-Bra!! it becomes increasingly apparent that this isn't the naughty teenage giggle parade that is expected from such a premise. Instead it is a charmingly sexless celebration of a girl whose passion is looked upon with disdain by the prudish or antagonistic students of a school that is all but aligned against her, a situation easy to relate to in principle if not in implementation.

Hiroki, who suffers from a rare form of underwear paralysis
At the entrance ceremony of middle school, Nayu embarrasses herself by tripping up when called to give the opening speech; this also inadvertently exposes her adult underwear to an unsuspecting student body who begin to circulate rumours about her partaking of compensated dating and other less wholesome activities. In reality however Nayu simply loves underwear, despite her adoration resulting in her being a pariah since junior school, it takes some investigation but two classmates, Yako and Haruka, discover the truth behind Nayu and become fast friends with her. As Nayu's confidence grows she suggests the formation of an underwear club, however this is met with resistance from the uptight head of the more generic handicrafts club and finding members proves an uphill struggle, even if she is wearing the brassier and panties her grandmother gifted her.

Almost apologetically so, the first episodes of the series feature a smattering of lingering posterior shots and springy cleavage moments. At first they're pleasantly restrained and anyone passingly familiar with innumerable other raunchy series will find them tame; however the second episode disposes of the outlandish slapstick found in the first and produces a surprisingly poignant look at the insecurities of a school girl still coming to terms with puberty. From that launching pad the third episode covers the tribulations of Nayu who desperately wishes to share her passion but is greeted with indifference and a scorn so easily spouted by gangs of backbiting students. More than just an emotive exploration of school life, the series concerns itself more with education than smut and frequently uses visual euphemisms as Nayu explains the finer details of bra choice.

The foundation of the series though is light-hearted comedy, it takes pleasure in the absurdities the female lead engenders which range from the misinterpretation of her affection for Haruka's bust to Yako's quest to surreptitiously photograph Nayu's undergarments. This attitude permeates the first three episodes of the show with a lilting pastel colour palette, extended high-tempo opening and ending and spinning underwear scene transitions. What taints this set up however is a significant lack of chemistry between the three lead girls who operate more or less independently of one another and seem connected in only the most superfluous of ways. The introduction of Kiyono, foretold in both opening and ending, and the third episode premier of Hiroki, who suffers from a rare form of underwear paralysis, could well mix up an otherwise staid cast.

In the opening trio of episodes, Chu-Bra!! doesn't feel like it has hit its stride quite yet, but at only thirteen episodes the series could well be over before it has. It doesn't completely shed the bawdy connotations of its premise however the protagonist is affable, helped along by all-round pudgy character designs, and the execution is pleasant and easy to watch however it never quite escapes a lingering impassiveness that manifests as a "take it or leave it" viewing mentality. A fun but ultimately shallow opening to a series unlikely to betray those who stick with it.

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