At first I was pretty reluctant to watch an anime entitled "Marmalade Boy." The name was just too weird for me in the beginning. Actually, I was pretty reluctant to ask the guy at Borders, "Do you guys have any Marmalade Boy graphic novels?" And that was after I've raced through all its TV episodes. Now I think I'm getting the hang of it :)
Essentially, Marmalade Boy is a soap opera. Literally. So it was no surprise that it spawned a live action series. There are no magic powers at work here. It's simply everyday life with a dysfunctional family. If you look at it very closely, you'll actually be disturbed by this anime's premise, because Yuu and Miki are double-stepsiblings.
Marmalade Boy is yet another one of those anime that doesn't correspond with its manga. Actually, the anime started while the manga was in the middle of the story. Because of this, the anime was a little longer. It came out once a week while the manga came out like every other week (or every month?), so the TV producers had to do some fillers while Yoshizumi Wataru wrapped up the manga. Subsequently, the anime had characters that the manga did not have. Fortunately, the anime people had Yoshizumi create the extra characters for them.
When Miki burst out that she didn't want to be separated from her parents and have a broken family, they merrily announced that they're all living together in one big house. So essentially, virtually overnight, Miki acquired an extra father, mother, and brother. Her only consolation was that she could go to school and pretend her life was normal because her family couldn't follow her there. Unfortunately, Yuu decided he was too lazy to commute to his old school in Yokohama and transferred to Toryo High, which was Miki's school. This was pretty much where the story starts taking off.
Be warned that there's a lot of love triangles in this anime. A number of girls like Yuu a lot, and an approximately equal number of guys like Miki. There's also a sidestory about Miki's best friend, Meiko, with their high school teacher, Namura-sensei (Na-chan). Incidentally, Na-chan's seiyuu was Furuya Tohru, who also did Mamoru. Howabout that?
The story chronicles not only Yuu and Miki's relationship, but how they mature as they go through high school. Marmalade Boy is all about part-time jobs, career decisions, childhood sweethearts, exchange students, family relations, and long-distance relationships. It may sound incredibly mundane, but they make a great combination. Marmalade Boy has 76 episodes plus a movie. Unlike other movies made out of TV series, though, the Marmalade Boy movie is fantastic. Even though it's really a prequel, it's not meant to be seen until you've seen all episodes. And after you watch the movie, you'd want to watch all the episodes again. Stroke of genius, I tell you.
Oh yeah, and where did the name Marmalade Boy came from? Shortly after the Matsuuras and the Koichikawas moved in together, Yuu and Miki were having breakfast. Miki asked Yuu to pass the apricot jam, and he passed her the marmalade instead. She then told him that he's a lot like marmalade, sweet on the outside but has a lot of bitter bits inside. Yuu retaliated by comparing her to mustard. While that may sound a little mundane, Yoshizumi explained in the final issue of Marmalade Boy that originally, the main character was supposed to be a guy. In other words, Miki was supposed to be a playful guy and Yuu was supposed to be a mysterious girl. The name Marmalade Boy was cooked up then and it stuck ever since.
Oh, and most importantly, this is not one of those anime that you could watch an episode a day and be happy. In other words, it's not an anime to start watching when you have a midterm in two days. Unless your midterm is about Marmalade Boy, you'll be toast (gosh, that was bad. No pun intended, tho' ^_^).
That said, this is a great shoujo anime. It's relatively aged compared to most of the stuff out there right now; you can tell that the characters' outfits are right out of the eighties. Ah, the horrid eighties. Nevertheless, it's a great anime. I'm typically impressed when the story delves into specific activites that require a lot of expertise or research. Miki and Ginta play tennis, and there's a few episodes in the beginning of the series that center on tennis games. In her manga, Yoshizumi actually gave a quick tutorial on tennis (the manga version of Tennis for Dummies). Not surprisingly, she's a tennis player. And a good friend of Takeuchi Naoko--well, from what I gathered anyway. In one of her side notes, she mentioned talking to Takeuchi about how the anime had a lot of kissing scenes. Takeuchi laughed and told her, "It won't be Marmalade Boy without a lot of kissing!" Or something along those lines. I'm too lazy to reach for the manga right now and pull out the quote. Interesting how different Marmalade Boy is from Sailor Moon, huh?
It's not only tennis too. Later in the series, Miki meets this incredibly attractive coworker, Kei. He happens to be a musical child prodigy. There was an episode showing him sitting in a nightclub, composing by a grand piano. Later, he plays his piece to Miki and a full house after announcing that he composed it for the girl he loved. Now isn't that sweet? The mush factor is actually not that high, because at that time, Yuu and Miki were still together. Whee. Oops.
One thing that really struck me about this series is how easily the characters handled awkward scenes. Yoshizumi especially made Yuu a master at handling awkward scenes, especially when it comes to telling Miki what he felt about her. I still think the hand-holding scene should be in some this-is-romantic-without-being-mushy hall of fame. Of course, it should be cut off after Yuu asked Miki if she was hungry. I think Miwa was great at handling intense moments too. Actually, Miwa's probably my favorite character in Marmalade Boy.
This is actually one of those rare series where I think the anime is better than the manga. Maybe it was the added characters and the added storyline. Hmm. Probably the added storyline. I must admit, I was cheering when Miki returned the dialer to Yuu and walked away. I was also cheering when she started dating Kei. Can't help it, he's just way too hot. Especially when he first appeared by walking into the freezer and then looking up? Oh yeah. Guess I'm part of the Kei-and-Miki camp. Camp, you ask? Oh yeah, there's a lot of camps out there. I heard there's even a Ginta-and-Miki camp? Hmm. Yeah, I'm also part of the Miwa-and-Meiko camp. Even though Na-chan has anime's favorite boyfriend as his seiyuu, he just didn't appeal to me that much. Miwa was just so much better. And that library scene where Miwa said, "I'm honored you know my name. Maybe I'm ahead by three lengths too," and Meiko sighed and snapped, "Everybody knows the student body president" was just priceless.
The music is nothing to run to the anime store for, but there are some choice pieces that will just grow on you. Marmalade Boy's opening song, "Egao ni Aitai," could've been typed as a TV jingle, but it's good enough to listen to by itself. Its slow version played during the hand-holding scene. Kei's song, "For You," wasn't as good as it was intriguing. Still worth checking out. Another well-remembered song from the series would be "Saigo no Yakusoku." This played when Na-chan left for Hiroshima and became known as Meiko's theme. However, it also played when Miki left Yuu, so it can be known as Marmalade Boy's heartbreak song. Considering this is a series chock-full of love triangles, that only makes sense. I think it also played when Arimi let Yuu go. It's a sad melody. Definitely worth checking out if it appealed to you the first time you heard it.
Even though Marmalade Boy is very shoujo, it's still worth checking out even if it's just to study how it was done. And if you consider yourself a traditional shoujo anime fan, there's no excuse for you not to see this.