One of my favorite emerging genres in anime is Cute Boys Doing Stupid Things, so you can imagine my delight when I came across this commercial:
At this point, despite an uncharacteristically serious ending, Ouran High School Host Club is my gold standard for this genre, as it was not only entertaining but a truly intelligent play on the conventions of the genre (that is, an unexpectedly adroit combination of smart and ridiculous).
Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! is no Ouran, but it is a short, sweet confection that has the added appeal of being a glorious, glittery train wreck.
The show’s setup is a strange combination of ideas we’ve already seen and weird twists on those ideas. First, it fills all the bishounen slots – Yumoto Hakone is the cute little one with a big brother, Ryuu Zaou is the ladies’ man, En Yufuin is the handsome slacker, Io Naruko is rich and financially-obsessed, and I’m not sure what slot Atsushi Kinugawa is meant to fill except maybe the average guy with glasses.
The show’s “cute mascot” is actually an absurd pink alien wombat with a heart-shaped cutie mark who blends in by posing as the pet of the reanimated corpse of a teacher he accidentally killed. Also he has come to earth to protect it and fill it with love. Since the boys are already members of the “Earth Defense Club (lol)”—a.k.a. their BSed name for a BSed school club—he figures they fit the bill. And so, color-coded magical boys happen, complete with the best transformation sequence ever (or worst, depending upon how much pandering you can take).
Also Yumoto’s family owns a bathhouse, so literally every episode is a hot springs episode.
By this point, you already know if you’re part of the audience for this show.
As pure ridiculous fun, Cute High succeeds, primarily when it makes fun of itself. Episode 1 of the show clearly establishes that most of the group is not into this magical boy thing AT ALL, least of all because they transform into froofy costumes, shout “Love Making!” before each transformation, and as a group are known as the Battle Lovers. Yumoto becomes the leader by default since he’s the only one remotely excited about the power, and the others go along with him against the episode’s monster not out of a sense of love and duty, but because they literally just want to get it over with and get out of costume.
Each episode’s monster is amusing, too, if not very complex. Each is a student with some negative trait amplified by the series’ antagonists, the all-powerful student council (a.k.a. Earth Conquest Club), led by Lord Zundar, a green alien hedgehog from Planet Evil who seeks to conquer earth. Often the traits translate in ridiculous ways—a shut-in turns into a giant kotatsu, a rejected ballerino turns into a giant swan with the ability to shoot love feathers, etc.
Underneath the flashy absurdities, though, the series is a little lackluster. Each episode is basically a Monster of the Week story and the climaxes generally follow the exact same formula—The whole group transforms to fight; only Yumoto actually does anything; the monster is hit with a Love Attack and Love Shower and all is solved without any real meaning at all. The characters also have only one defining trait each, and though they play off of each other well, this only works for one particular character, whose personality is literally a joke making fun of one-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, in a show full of one-dimensional characters, the joke doesn’t play as well as it could, and though some do gain some complexity later on, it’s not even enough to round them up to two complete dimensions.
It’s good that this show was only twelve episodes long because I didn’t think it could have sustained anything longer. (Yet somehow it got a second season, so maybe I missed something?)
Really, the only thing this show does better than Ouran is its ending, which is much more tonally appropriate. Its twist—yes, there’s a twist—comes totally out of left field, but really this whole show comes out of left field, so that’s not out of place. And while I wouldn’t call it a completely satisfactory ending, it definitely takes the series to new heights. The last three episodes are easily the most fun in the series, though ultimately I can’t think of an episode I didn’t like.
All this said, if you enjoy colorful, flamboyant, absolutely absurd anime, Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! is a fun watch. It’s nothing more than that, but really, it isn’t meant to be.