By Jonah Morgan
Less than 10 days after it was initially announced in Japan (see our March 11th entry), Marvelous Entertainment stepped out of the shadows at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 for the first time announcing its production involvement in the forthcoming anime adaptation of Mitsuru Hattori’s comedic swimming manga Kenko Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho. Their booth featured the first-ever released art-still from the TV series (the same image you can see on the main page of the official website now), in poster and flyer format. Although Umisho is expected to begin broadcast in Japan in June, MMV spared no time at all getting on with trying to sell the series abroad. It was fully ready to offer overseas distribution rights and was handing out a specially prepared English language press release to prospective buyers. By the time I made it round to their booth on Thursday they already chatted up several interested foreign leads.
The story features perhaps the strangest high school swimming club on Earth including a talented young green haired girl, Amuro Ninagawa, who likes to swim nude and always (at least in the promo art) has a huge mishchievious toothy grin on her face like she’s doing something naughty under the waters. She regularly substitutes undergarments with swimsuits and also wears her swimsuit to summer festivals. Staff includes Director Sohtome Koichiro (Mushishi, Bokura Ga Ita, Galaxy Angel), Series Composition by Ikeda Mamiko (Sgt. Frog, Ojaru-Maru) and Chara Design + Art Direction by Rie Nishino (Save Me Lollypop), Production by Art land. The short and simple English press release reads as follows: “The original work produced by Mitsuru Hattori is serialized in Shukan Shonen Magazine [debuting in SM No. 33 in 2005], Kodansha. Comics has been published up to 4th volumes (the newest one is coming in the middle of April). The comedy story with slapsticks unfolded by high school students belong to Swimming club in Umineko Commercial High School, some times with the erotic constituent, has been gaining the popularity since the start of the serialization. The animation is being planned with 13 episodes series and the broadcast in Japan is expected to be in June, 2007.”
Having a read of some of the manga I think the formula to be found in Umisho is brilliant. It has an appeal similar to what we’ve seen from shows like Tenchi Muyo or Love Hina. In the west these kind of shows are quick to be branded and stereotyped as “harem genre” (and I’ve already seen folks in internet land talking of this one in that way). I’m not a big fan of labels myself and sticking a name on something and shelving it without giving it a chance however. I think Umisho will work extremely well overseas, is one of the hot series to watch for in the 2nd half of ’07 and has an all star staff to boot!