“An absurd science-fiction sexually charged super powered coming of age comedy. A succession of naughty jokes, erotic shots, absurd situations and inventive fun ways of using superpowers,… ”.
Adapted from the popular SF-comedy manga Minna! Esupa Dayo! (written and illustrated by Kiminori Wakasugi), which was serialized in the weekly young magazine, this drama follows the story of Kamogawa Yoshiro “Yocchan” (Shota Sometani), an average teenager with no special talents nor outstanding abilities, who lives Higashimikawa, a town in the prefecture of Ehime.
“I was wondering what kind of work it would be, and it was actually a live-action adaptation of manga that is like a total opposite from ‘Himizu’. I think it will be quite interesting. If we categorize it, it would be in a comedy genre, but I am so sure it will be the drama that does not fit in any genre, or even protrudes from any genre. (Sometani Shota, 2012)”
One day Yoshiro suddenly realizes that he can hear other people’s thoughts. The first thoughts he reads are those of Hayashi-sensei (Toshihiro Yashiba). His thoughts reveal his ulterior motive when it comes to dealing with the new attractive transfer student, Asami Sae (Erina Mano). Yoshiro, because he has these newfound powers, but more importantly because he’s in love with Asami, resolves to protect her from the Hayashi sensei. But the thought of “I shall protect you” quickly broadens into “I shall save the world!”. Later that day, at the Cafe where he often hangs out, he realizes that his tough-minded “yankee” childhood friend, Hirano Miyuki (Kaho), and the sexually “frustrated” cafe owner, Nagano Terumitsu (Makita Sports), have also acquired new powers.
Meanwhile, upon hearing the news of townspeople acquiring special powers, like telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, clairvoyance, precognition, etc. the mysterious professor (Ken Yasuda) and his assistant (Megumi Kagurazaka) decides to move to the town of Higashimikawa to further his research.
One of the problems before – and even while and after – watching Minna! Esper Dayo! is knowing what you’re getting into. Wrong expectations concerning Minna! Esper Dayo! can potential ruin your viewing pleasure. In other words, the way you approach this dorama, given the pre-existing expectations you have, will affect the way you feel about this dorama. If you expect a normal superhero story, you’ll be sorely mistaken. If you expect a simple story of good against evil – even though this dichotomy is used in the dorama to a certain extent, you’ll embark on a fruitless trip. In which way can watching Minna! Esper Dayo! then be fruitful?
Even if the story is in part about superpowers and about good against evil, the central focus of the narrative lies elsewhere. In its core, Minna! Esper Dayo! is nothing more than a comical, often absurd, reinvention of the coming of age story. The story’s focuses almost solely on the coming of age of Kamogawa Yoshiro, a coming of age which is in this case entangled with the aspect of his newly acquired telepathy power. The starting form of the character of Yoshiro resembles that of the protagonists of Moteki, Boyz on the run and Proposal daisakusen, in that he, as them, desires, but fails to attain his object of his desire because of inhibitions and indecisiveness. All those protagonists desire the same thing too: a girlfriend, a relationship… .
The comical super powered coming of age story of Kamogawa Yoshiro is therefore primarily structured in relation to (for the most part) the lack of relation with Asami Sae and the friendship with his childhood friend Hirano Miyuki. Nagano Terumitsu, his sexual desires and his café functions in the narrative as the primary element that puts the triangular relations between Yoshiro, Asami Sae and Hirano Miyuki into play.
What will help to really be able to appreciate this dorama, is the ability to see the overarching plot as a mere background element. For the first ten episodes an overarching plot is almost absent. I say almost, because a minor tread of overarching plot is used to sew, to harmonize the episodes up until the last two episodes; these last episodes are nothing less than the rapid development of the overarching plot itself. These absurd final plot developments will leave viewers with a lot of questions and – dare we say – leave viewers wanting for more. Minna! Esper Dayo! will keep the interest of the viewer through the introduction of minor enigma’s i.e. one aspect of the minor overarching plot we mentioned above, by way of the composition of the narrative of a particular episode. Because of the minor overarching plot in more than three fourths of the series, Minna! Esper Dayo! is best enjoyed episode per episode. The best episodes in our opinion are episode 8, 9 and 10, which are sheer brilliance.
The way the dorama is structured – we mean structured as the way it is presented to the viewer – reveals two aspects we already mentioned above. The first aspect is that the overarching plot is a mere background up until the last three episodes. The second aspect is that it’s an absurd coming of age story of Kamogawa Yoshiro. The way the script was written and the way the script was realized on the screen underlines the reality of these two aspects.
The dorama is structured around what we could call the staging of the psychic reality of Kamogawa Yoshiro. The first way this is revealed is through the use of inner monologue and the staging of Yoshiro’s consciousness. This technique, which is often used in this kind of Japanese dorama, gives the viewer an little insight in the troubled psyche of the character. Another way Yoshiro’s psychic reality is touched upon is the effective use of music. The music, because it’s often paired with the inner monologue, successfully underlines Yoshiro’s inability of realizing his pulsating desire.
The most important and often overlooked way in which the psychic reality is staged in Minna! Esper Dayo! is by way of the structure of the episodes and the overarching plot itself. The structure of the episodes and the overarching plot are a direct realization of Yoshiro’s psychic reality. Every episode is pregnant of unrealized potential and the desire to be more than what it ultimately is, but this gets never realized because of the protagonist. The focus on the staging of the psychic reality has as effect that the plot and individual episodes are as inhibited and indecisive as Yoshiro. Much of the problems viewers have with this dorama stem solely from this aspect.
Even the way in which the ending, the three last episodes are presented is an answer to the inhibition and indecisiveness of the ten previous episodes. The speed of the subsequent plot developments, underlining an inherent absurdity to it all, is nothing other than a way to form a partial conclusion to yoshiro’s coming of age.
The joys of this dorama are primarily found in the quite comical, often absurd, sexually charged interactions between characters – most of the time these interactions are between Yoshiro and the other characters. In this respect we’re obliged to mention Nagano Terumitsu, the sexual desiring café owner, who is the prime source of naughty sexual humour. On minor element of criticism is that some special effects do hurt the believability of the absurdity and the comical effect of the superpowers. But it’s also on the level of the comical we find the greatest accomplishment of this dorama: the aspect that the staging of the sexually charged humour at the same time underlines the personal drama to which Kamogawa Yoshiro is subjected. On the one side the dorama pokes fun with it, but at the other side it seriously respects Yoshiro’s painful psychic reality, which is structured around the teenage blossoming of sexuality and the desire to have a relationship. This dramatizing effect of comedy is nevertheless a function of the degree in which the viewer identifies with Yoshiro.
“Wakasugi-sensei’s manga is the best! I will try my best not to ruin the wonderfulness of the original work. (Sion Sono, 2012)”
This dorama is one of a kind and will certainly divide opinions. It’s not ordinary story concerning superpowers; it’s not a simple story about heroes. It’s an absurd science-fiction sexually charged super powered coming of age comedy. The main reason why this dorama divides opinions is because the focus on the staging of the psychic reality structures the narrative and reveals it as inhibited and indecisive as its protagonist. In this sense the often posed question concerning the goal of the dorama is an effect of this structuring.
The main reason to watch this dorama is it’s humour; anyone who likes sexually charged humour will feel at home right away. The succession of naughty jokes, erotic shots, absurd situations, inventive fun ways of using superpowers makes this dorama worth your while. And to end this review we feel obliged to say the following: Panty shots, panty shots, panty shots!