While that may sound like the premise for the most thinly-veiled escapist jerk-off fantasy since Kiss X Sis, Let me make two things perfectly clear: First of all, unlike the two abominable creatures from KXS, Yamada doesn’t live in a world where her behavior is considered normal, or even worse, encouraged. She lives in a world much closer to our own, and the few people who know about her endeavor spend a decent amount of effort trying to advise her and keep her under control.
And second of all, Yamada is all talk. She’s a virgin, and the story clearly acknowledges that she has no idea what sex is, let alone how to get up the nerve to have it. In order to gain experience and overcome her insecurities, she decides that the first step towards carnal domination is to sleep with a boy in her class named Kosuda, because, in her words, he’s a “Plain Jane cherry boy.” Yes, Cherry boy is term they use.
In any case, these two plot elements go a long way in making the character of Yamada not only funny, but 1000 times more likeable than she should be. Her constant efforts to take a step towards losing her virginity are peppered with her complete lack of understanding about common logic or human behavior. She is, in every way, a dog chasing a car, and it is hilarious at nearly every turn.
By the way, did I mention that several characters get an Eros deity? A little chibi wiseman version of themselves that floats on a cloud and gives them comically misleading sex advice that they can’t even hear? Yes, that element could easily become annoying, and probably will for some people, but unlike the narrator from Okami-san, they only appear once in a while, and remain consistently funny when used. You could take them or leave them, but I thought they were great.
Now, if you don’t notice early on from such exquisite phrases as “Totes,” “Cherry boy,” “What the crap,” and “Rocking your V Card,” this is a Jamie Marchi script, and her dialogue has a habit of being a little… Slangy. And while it’s subdued, there is an element of pop culture references as well. To put it bluntly, Yamada randomly blurts out the most inappropriate things, and much like the dub for Panty and Stocking, Marchi’s writing can occasionally reek of ‘trying too hard.’ Thankfully , the actors do a pretty damn good job with it, especially Yamada’s VA. Her voice is supplied by Brittany Karbowski, who’s been rapidly climbing up my favorites list lately. I am convinced that she can deliver any line you put in front of her, no matter how ridiculous or obscene, without losing a single drop of sincerity. She goes a long way towards making this a highly recommendable dub. The other actors do their jobs really well, too… Cherami Leigh does a commendable job going out of her comfort zone to play Yamada’s long suffering best friend/straight man foil Miharu, and the deity actors fill out their roles as well, but Brittany is really the one who makes the script hers.
Scott Freeman doesn’t have a particularly difficult job, playing a character like Kosuda… He’s bland and ordinary, but compared to most anime male leads, he’s actually rather unique… He reacts to Yamada’s sexually confused insanity the way a normal boy would, rather than just getting freaked out and taking a moral high ground. Although he’s confused about what her advances mean, he’s still receptive to them, although as it turns out, he’s just as nervous and unsure as she is. And thank god, for once, both characters screw things up just as often.
There are a few other elements at play, dealing with Miharu’s boyfriend, Yamada’s younger sister, Kosuda’s childhood friend, Kosuda’s older sister… I’m happy to say they actually ACT like brother and sister… But the main sub-plot deals with Kyoko Kanejo, a rich transfer student and rival for Yamada. Their rivalry in the fields of both beauty and popularity go a long way in highlighting just how shallow these values are, but the most memorable thing about her would be her ‘dark secret…’ And once it’s revealed, it’s a story element that would normally bug the crap out of me were it handled any different. But like Yamada’s ambitions, the fact that she’s completely delusional about it saves her from being wholly unlikeable.
Outside of the opening, the animation honestly isn’t very good. Talking heads prevail, and the animators are not exactly coy about the budget saving tricks they’re using… speed lines for intensity, bouncing images for walking, and so on and so forth. Thankfully, unless there are a bunch of frozen characters in the background, it’s easy to ignore. On the other hand, where the show really shines is with it’s artwork. The backgrounds, while stiff, are highly detailed and vibrantly colored. The character designs are well thought out, very expressive, and easily recognizable.
What really impresses me about this series is it’s dual appeal. For those looking for a gleefully sadistic sex comedy, Yamada’s First is exactly that… The jokes are fast paced, well executed, and rarely ever miss the mark. There’s fan service abound, but it’s rarely ever in bad taste.
For those looking for something a little deeper, this show hasn’t forgotten you, either. It has an almost nostalgic feel to it, as if it were written by someone who wanted to see how an exaggerated, over-the-top version of themselves would have dealt with their own real life experiences. The character development is subtle, as Yamada slowly gets a grasp on the reality of her feelings and hormones, and Kosuda slowly becomes more interesting and likeable as he interacts with her.
I was a little shocked to discover that it was based on a four-panel manga. Normally, you can tell this right off the bat from the story limitations and the pacing of the jokes, but up until I looked it up, I honestly thought it was based on a more traditional style manga. The pacing of the jokes is kind of a dead giveaway, but the story seemed to flow a lot smoother and more seamlessly than similar titles like Kill Me Baby, Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star.
Yamada’s First Time is available from Funimation. You can stream it pretty much anywhere, or just watch it for free on Netflix. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it, but if you can find it on sale on Amazon… It’s about 23 dollars for the BR/DVD combo pack at this particular moment… Then you should totes go for it.
All in all, this series works great as a comedy, and just as well as a coming of age story, as it takes an unflinching yet not unforgiving look at the genuine awkwardness of adolescent relationships. It has a few minor hiccups, and we never do find out where Yamada’s thirst for sexual conquest came from, but it’s hard to deride a show that’s this consistently funny and unpredictable. I give Yamada’s First Time an 8/10.