why was i watching a comedy in which horny yet frustrated teenage boys are obsessed with sex? it's got a stellar cast; 7 (!) actors i know and like. and i was in luck; this turned out rather better than i had feared (i did not like american pie
, which is probably the closest well-known western equivalent).
the story revolves around four friends who are apparently the last virgins in their high school, and get quite a bit of fun poked at them for it, such as being nicknamed the DB4's (doutei boys = virgin boys). they're desperate to gain some actual experience (like, say, a kiss). they live in a close-knit neighbourhood in which their parents are shop keepers. the neighbourhood is very concerned with keeping its children "pure" -- away from any and all potential sexual activities. (good luck with that!)
at the beginning of the summer holidays, oowada chie (suzuki anne)  comes to visit; a girl who used to be the much admired neighbourhood "princess" 11 years ago, but then moved away. chie has changed; she's a bit chubby and frumpy, wears thick glasses, and is generally awkward. she's also hiding something from everyone. at first the guys don't really know how to interact with her. chie has a crush on our lead protagonist asai shouhei "shou-chan" (ninomiya kazunari) , who, blissfully ignorant of that fact, has himself an unrequited crush on a pretty teacher. shouhei is a bit young for his age, small, naive, and insecure.
then we have shouhei's friends: iwasaki kengo "ken-ken" (yamashita tomohisa), a sensitive dork who has a strange fascination with trains; enami kouji "kou-kun" (oguri shun), who is the loud-mouthed athletic type who gets foot-in-mouth disease when a girl comes near; and lastly udagawa hayato "udayan" (narimiya hiroki) who is the group’s clown.
(left to right: yamashita tomohisa, ninomiya kazunari, narimiya hiroki, suzuki anne, oguri shun)
the show is very silly, thanks to the boys doing some really ridiculous stuff in their quests to have their first experiences, and the adults all having quite special foibles. but as it progresses i started to care about those guys -- regardless of their immaturity this is clearly (once again) a story about friendship, between the four of them, and between them and chie. and despite the humour, which is sometimes a bit loud for my taste, in this show it didn't turn me off, but i got used to it. that's mostly due to good acting by the 5 lead characters, but a part of it is also that the show doesn't have any seriously dramatic bits until near the end, and so the humour didn't kick me out of the mood. the guys suffer typical teenage angst and frustration, which i can remember myself, but with enough distance to laugh at it now, so the mood stays light. kinda nice how age has taken the sting out of those painful experiences -- i really never want to be 17 again.
i'm not gonna write a lot about it because all the fun is in the well-timed interactions. the friendship between the boys and chie felt real to me; especially ninomiya does a superb job portraying shou-chan. yamapi is sickeningly adorable here -- not that he isn't always adorable anyway, but ken-ken brings it out to the max. oguri hadn't quite gotten into his stride yet -- or maybe i just didn't warm up entirely to his character, who's a type i've not cared for in real life. narimiya is just plain nuts; i want to hang out with him.
theme song: 言葉より大切なもの (kotoba yori taisetsu na mono
) by arashi (ninomiya sings with arashi). i like this one; very upbeat and has a tongue-twister section which i am still practicing to sing fast enough after 11 episodes. *ack*. i wasn't previously very fond of arashi, but lately they've been growing on me.
there is one jarring note to the show, and it comes towards the end when we finally find out exactly what chie has been hiding. all of a sudden everything turns deadly serious, and the hijinks that follow a bit later don't work for me anymore. IMO that situation is also not satisfactorily resolved, so there's a bit of a regretful aftertaste. and i don't like how the shou-chan/chie/ken-ken triangle is worked out -- the end seemed a bit rushed, thrown together hastily.
but overall this didn't feel like a waste, and not just because of the pretty boys -- actually they're just a bit too young for me to drool over here anyway. it's kinda fun to see these actors all in their late teens; at that age 7 years makes a big difference. i now must go and find everything ninomiya has been in since.
if you can handle that style of humour, i'd recommend the show; it left me with a generally warm feeling of affection for the characters.
 if suzuki anne's name sounds familiar, that's probably because she was in snow falling on cedars
 possibly also familiar, if you have seen letters from iwo jima