Anime Review: Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!

Synopsis:

Five high school boys team up with a wombat-like alien to protect the Earth from a sinister organization bent on world domination. As the Earth Defense Club, they must use the power of love* to fight off bizarre monsters and make the world safe. Only time will tell if they can overcome their enemies or their own laziness long enough to uncover the secrets behind their struggle.

The Earth Defense Club Assembled
*Love may not mean the same thing to them as it does to the rest of us

When I first heard about Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, I immediately thought the show would either be a massive cringe-fest or a parody gold-mine. While it didn’t turn out to be a modern classic, I’m happy to say it falls closer to the latter category. It’s genuinely funny and does a fine job of skewering the genres it’s based on.

It can be a bit hard to properly review a comedy, especially a parody, since it’s not always easy to tell when the writers are being lazy or deliberate. In Earth Defense Club, most of the characters and scenarios are extremely one-dimensional. The heroes fall very firmly into their archetypes, like the studious one, the greedy one, the lazy one, and so on. No one in this show is really going to break the mold, but they serve their purpose as standbys of the magical girl/teen fighting squad genres.

What the hell, indeed?
A fine question, good sir

Likewise, most of the episodes are retreads of common plotlines found in other shows. Jealous rivals show up, two old friends get into a spat, the boys go on a test of courage at a hot springs. If you’ve watched any high school or magical girl show, you know the drill. The show manages to deliver some pretty funny twists on each of these, which makes the plot familiar but not dull. The simplicity of the setting and scenarios helps put the focus on the humor.

Personally, I don’t find many jokes in anime comedies to be very funny. Much of it seems to break down into two parts; something zany happens, then someone says, “Look at how zany this is! Isn’t that funny?” While Earth Defense Club has plenty of moments like this, it maintains enough self awareness to be amusing. It actually goes deep enough into the strangeness of the situations the boys find themselves in to make it clear that the writers know their genre well. I’d like to offer some examples, but I fear that doing so would spoil too many of the gags.

Is your principal Baron Harkonnen?!
Seriously, is your principal Baron Harkonnen?!

Depending on your tastes, some of you might be concerned that the show takes the “boy love” angle too far. While this element does appear once in awhile, it’s played entirely for laughs and doesn’t distract from the rest of the humor. Surprising as it might seem (especially considering the screenshot above), the show doesn’t  bother with that kind of fan-service most of the time. Earth Defense Club focuses much more on poking fun at the common tropes of magical girl shows, which helps it avoid the pitfalls of relying on cheap titillation. That being said, if you’re uncomfortable with shirtless dudes exchanging banter in a public bath, you may want to give this show a pass.

Villains are always snappy dressers
As always, the villains look cooler than the heroes

Beyond just being funny, the show succeeds as a parody because of how faithful it is to the genres it’s mocking/aping. The all-boys high school setting is a perfect inversion of the all-girls schools regularly seen in similar series, and it goes a step further by never showing a single female character. Details like this help emphasize the inherent weirdness in the genre. Additionally, the costumes and transformation sequences are spot-on send-ups of typical magical girl aesthetics, but do not mimic any particular show.

As far as the overall plot goes, there’s not a lot to say, honestly. The boys are tasked to fight monsters created by the villainous student council, which is operating on the orders of a green space hedgehog. You know… totally normal stuff. For most of the show, it’s a bog-standard monster-of-the-week formula, and it is passable. The show never puts on airs or expects you to think that it’s deep, so looking for more than that is unnecessary. The plot does eventually come to the fore in the final two episodes, which gives the show a satisfying conclusion.

Listen to the marsupial!
Most of the humor holds up, but don’t expect comic genius every time

Despite being good overall, Earth Defense Club does have a few things working against it. A few of the jokes in the early episodes fell flat for me. They’re heavily focused on Japanese cultural and culinary oddities, which may very well be hilarious for someone who knows more about them. For my part, I didn’t find them very funny. These sorts of jokes pop up over the course of the show, but they don’t take away from the more cross-cultural humor too much.

Another place where the show feels a bit weak is in the characters’ magical alter egos. While they certainly nail the look of gender-swapped magical girls, their “elemental” powers boil down to energy blasts in different colors. Making them more distinct, a la Sailor Moon, would have helped differentiate them and made the fight scenes more interesting. The powers fall into the same trap as the characters’ personalities; they are deliberately broad to parody a wide array of material, but they lack a solid identity.

It's all just fun nonsense
Well said, buddy

At the end of the day, Earth Defense Club is a decent parody that pokes good fun at its target genres and has enough genuinely funny moments for me to recommend it. Much of the humor can be lost if you’re not familiar with where it comes from, so take that into consideration before viewing it yourself or showing it to others. Watch it with a group of friends who share some familiarity with the genre, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Even though it stumbles in a few places, it’s a fun little show that knows exactly what it wants to be.

Final Verdict – RECOMMENDED

Pros:

  • Genuinely funny gags and some memorable situational humor
  • Nails its parody subjects perfectly, without focusing on any one show
  • Lighthearted and charming

Cons:

  • The early episodes aren’t as funny as the later ones
  • Characters and situations lack originality
  • Not as accessible if you’re unfamiliar with its tropes

Critical Info:

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! / Binan Kōkō Chikyū Bōei-bu Love!

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