ANIME REVIEW: Indian Summer

Today’s review is aimed at our readers who may want to get into the spirit of Maid May along with us here at Anime Obscura, but who may not have a lot of free time. We get it… life is short, work is long, and sometimes even a 12-episode series can feel like a heavy lift. That’s why today we’re profiling Indian Summer, a three-episode OVA about an anime maid that you can knock out in an hour and a half without it even feeling like a binge.

Indian Summer presents us with a sci-fi, near-future world where life is much like it is right now, only advances in artificial intelligence and robotics have allowed the creation of functioning, thinking android robots that people can purchase. The story begins when Takaya Murase goes shopping for such a robot at the retailer Maid Works, intending to purchase a “pet-style” robot hardwired to be dedicated to his pleasure. Instead, though, his eye gets caught by a blonde “domestic-maid” style robot, and he takes her home. As it turns out, Murase is a huge otaku with a gigantic doll collection, and his intentions for his new maid are a bit perverse while not being nearly as perverse as they could have been: he just wants to constantly dress her up in new clothes and cosplay that he sews. Still, for this maid robot who just wanted to live a life of honest work doing domestic chores, it’s a lot to stomach.

She gradually warms to her young master after he gives her a name – Yui – and makes several gestures of kindness that slowly make her fall for him. However, this is definitely a case of “two steps forward, one step back,” as it’s only a matter of time until Murase commits some new offense to drive her patience past the breaking point. During the remainder of the series, the two meet and befriend an expanding cast of neighborhood weirdos. These include Minori, a tomboyish cafe waitress who leans into her identity as this anime’s busty fan service character; Ayumi and Kanae, a daughter and mother who seem to be constantly losing one another; and Kuon, another maid robot who is unable to find a master for some reason despite seeming objectively perfect. What ensues is a little drama, a lot of comedy, and a ton of randomness.

The first thing I want to talk about regarding Indian Summer may sound like a negative, but it’s more of a neutral (but important) observation: if you ask me, the most remarkable thing about this anime is that it exists at all, especially in the West. For all kinds of reasons, this anime feels like something that the market never asked for, either right now or at the time of its release. It was based off a short manga of the same name (Indian Summer / Koharu Biyori) written by Takehito Mizuki that received four volumes in Japan and only kinda-sorta got a US release, with the North American manga license being kicked around between small publishers ComicsOne and DrMaster and only having one or two volumes published. The anime’s Western release was a legacy of the final era of prolific American anime publisher ADV Films, during a time when they were feverishly snapping up every anime license they could get their hands on, right before the big anime market implosion of 2008-2010 took them out. Indian Summer released in 2008 and was one of ADV’s final titles. When ADV went under, it was transferred to their main successor company, Section23 / Sentai Filmworks, where it has remained ever since.

The format also makes this series a bit of an oddity in its time. The heyday of the short OVA series was during the early home video boom of the 1990s, when the VHS tape medium made short, self-contained adaptations of manga that could fit on a single video tape an affordable, appealing, and popular item for anime enthusiasts. However, Indian Summer came out in Japan in 2007, long after this boom ended and the market moved on to favoring 13 episode TV series or single movies. On top of that, its three episodes are all subdivided into two 15-minute segments each, a further deviation from the industry norm. So, with Indian Summer, we somehow got a license that was based off a relatively unknown manga, in an unpopular format, in the niche “anime maid” subcategory with a weird sense of humor, released in America by a company on the verge of dissolution… and yet it’s survived down to the present as an easily-streamable viewing experience. That begs the next important question: does that make us lucky or unlucky?

For the most part, I’d say we’re fortunate to still have Indian Summer. The most important question to answer with a comedy anime is whether or not it makes you laugh, and Indian Summer can be pretty damn hilarious. Yui’s innocence in the ways of the world can make for some really funny moments, with the episode where she gets tasked with watching a baby being easily one of my favorites. Watching her deal with changing a diaper was great, and so were her attempts to commune with the baby by dressing up like a toddler, to everyone else’s discomfort. This series is really good at subverting expectations for comedic effect, and it often bumps right against the edge of being transgressive without ever crossing the line into outright cringe. There isn’t a ton of time or space for the characters to develop within the series, but the cast as a whole is sweet and likable, and the style of most of the humor is good-natured.

This short series also gets thumbs-up from me in the production values standpoint. The visuals are a bit cartoonish to go along with its silly vibe, but the animation tends to be nice and fluid within that framework. I also thought the colors in this show were vibrant and bright. The series has a fair amount of ecchi moments, and these tend to be teasing and playful in a pleasant way rather than getting too uncomfortable. The character models are appealing, though I have to knock them a bit for all being a bit same-ish… their body types differ, but you almost could have face-swapped most of the female characters with no one noticing.

On the audio, this anime is subbed-only, but the subtitled voices are very well done. I’d single out Yui’s voice actress, Eri Kitamura, as doing a particularly great job. (Looking at her resume, she’s a prolific and experienced voice actress, so no surprise there.) The background music is fine without being remarkable, and the ending theme is sweet and makes for easy listening. The opening theme, is… uh… different. By that, I mean it’s damn weird. It reminds me of the opening to Kill Me Baby in terms of sounding kind of dissonant and strange on purpose, but thankfully it’s less grating on the ears than that opening. To give credit where credit’s due, it’s memorable. Murase painting kanji on the girl’s stomachs before launching them into the title screen and Yui’s strange opening spiel about “maido-bravo!” and the chorus of “helpu-meeee!” are something about this anime that always sticks in my brain more than its plot.

Lastly, I should mention that I appreciate Indian Summer for filling a bit of a void in the “short anime” niche. I’m one of those “working people without a ton of spare time” I mentioned in the opening paragraph, and sometimes it’s nice to watch a series that can be quickly and easily finished within a single day or two. However, with Indian Summer’s high randomness quotient, I would actually suggest taking it at an episode per day… which would still only take you three days.

In terms of negatives, that very randomness is probably my chief complaint about this anime. For a series that doesn’t have a lot of time to work with in the first place, it sure squanders a lot of it on strange tangents and gags that don’t really go anywhere. As probably the most glaring example, a full half of the final episode is an alternate-world joke that has nothing to do with the rest of the show. That’s time that could have been spent building toward a heartfelt or dramatic climax rather than cramming what we got of that into just 15 minutes. I realize that this is almost certainly a reflection of the manga it was based on, but the anime adaptation had an opportunity to give its source material a bit more direction and sense of plot-momentum like He Is My Master did. Honestly, part of me almost wishes this 3-episode show had chosen to be a 90-minute movie instead, loosely adapting the manga’s plot points to a single running story with a little more drama and direction while retaining its silly vibe.

Even so, I can appreciate Indian Summer for what it is and what’s doing. This silly anime is unpretentious in the extreme – it just wants to make you laugh with comedy of the naughty-silly variety delivered in short and energetic bursts, and it accomplishes that rather well. I doubt it’s going to top anyone’s list of favorite anime ever, but it’s a fun one to visit, and the short runtime makes it an easy one to come back to if it appeals to you. Indian Summer can be streamed in its entirety on HiDive or VRV. It received physical DVD releases from both ADV and Sentai Filmworks, and while both editions are now out of print, they are still very inexpensive on the used market at the time of this review.

Three anime maid series down, but Maid May is only half-over! Stick around, masters and mistresses, and we’ll see what else we can serve you with.

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