Gratifying both an audience’s immediate desires and its deeper longings can be a challenge—a challenge met by the 2002 series Onegai Teacher (Please Teacher!) and its 2003 side story-sequel Onegai Twins (Please Twins!). These memorable Yasunori Ide-directed anime unabashedly service fetishes for hot high school teachers, and play to sister-twin-incest fantasies, while underscoring the human need for love, anxiety about facing one’s life ahead confidently, and the quest for community.
Kei Kusanagi is pondering just such fundamental insecurities as he first espies his soulmate, materializing in a column of light by the shore of a lake. I left out that she’s an alien, didn’t I? Initially he writes the episode off as a dream. Next day, he finds he has a new homeroom teacher, Mizuho Kazami, a stunner that has all the guys’ spirits way, way up. More than that, Kazami-sensei is moving in next door, and when, in helping her carry some boxes in, he recognizes her as the alien by the lake, she learns that he knows, and there’s trouble. Serious consequences are averted only with a pledge to keep her identity, an extraterrestrial sent by the Galatic Federation to observe the earth, a secret. But Kei has a secret of his own that Sensei must keep mum on. He suffers from a rare illness where he has “standstills”, a form of sleep-like stasis brought on by depression or emotional shock. Typically the standstill is brief, but once he had a standstill of three years’ duration. Thus, while Kei is a freshman in highschool and appears to be 15, he is actually 18; his move to the lakeside town, where he lives with his aunt and uncle, was done to avoid the shock of his old friends growing up and moving on in life without him. As the story continues, that most inveterate and practiced of tropes, getting locked in the sports equipment room with an attractive member of the opposite sex (and caught!), is shamelessly used to speed up a love affair that was bound to happen. Those who’ve seen more timid, slow-paced romance anime will be surprised just how quickly they make it official, though their emotional development all the while is in no respect hurried.
Yet for all the shared secrets, Kei and Mizuho-sensei aren’t left to sort out their problems alone. The town is a tight-knit community, and Kei shares strong bonds with several of his classmates, among them Ichigo Morino, a petite, quiet girl who may have something in common with Kei, and the attractive Koishi Herikawa, a potential love interest. The faculty isn’t short interesting characters either. Mizuho’s colleague Masaomi Yamada has a passion for human-powered aircraft, and Kei’s circle of friends cheers on his efforts throughout the series, Herikawa going so far as to deliver him lunches from her family’s grocery store. Most significant, too, is the setting. Characters may not much remark on, or take for granted living in, the peaceful, human-scaled lakeside town, but it is beautifully depicted in backgrounds. The lake is based on Lake Kizaki, a real lake in Nagano Prefecture, and thanks to these twin series an otaku pilgrimage site. Even if she is an “alien”, Kazami-sensei feels very much in her rightful place, and is invested in the well-being of her students.
Even through (trope alert!) the Okinawa vacation and interstellar visits from Mizuho’s voluptuous mother and jealous loli sister, there is but little ecchi after the first few episodes of Onegai Teacher. This is amply amended in the OVA, but the director seemed to think better for the next series... there is skin, bright bare skin in virtually every episode of Onegai Twins, so foes of fanservice, be warned! Set two years after Onegai Teacher, life has settled down for Kei and Mizuho, but news reports from UFO sightings in the area brings three new residents to the town, all high school-aged orphans: computer programmer Maiku Kamishiro, and girls Miina Miyafuji and Karen Onodera.
The plot has a sort of dynamic simplicity and aesthetic perfection to it. It reminds me a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, which involves a similar conundrum. In Onegai Twins: Maiku, Miina, and Karen all have copies of a photograph from their infancy, which shows two fraternal twin children, a boy and a girl, playing in an inflatable pool in the yard of their childhood home. On seeing the home in the background of news coverage of the UFO sightings from the prior series, Maiku moves into the house, out of which he fulfills programming contracts (a depiction of coding in anime) and attends school. Later, Miina and Karen show up, each presenting herself as the girl in the picture. When they realize there is no way of knowing who is the sister and who the “stranger”, both Miina and Karen move in with Maiku, in hopes of resolving the mystery. In return for his hospitality they attempt to pitch in by doing chores, but mostly get in the way. Soon they begin attending high school with Maiku (you can imagine the guys’ envy to learn he’s living with two pretty girls), and seek out part-time work. The while, they’ve seriously fallen for him, but that creates a serious dilemma: to demonstrate belonging with Maiku (and not being a “stranger” who should leave) means being related to him as a sister, making any physical relationship inappropriate. Miina and Karen vacillate between hope and fear of being the real twin throughout the series. Much of the fanservice comes from the girls bathing together; they use the bathroom as a private refuge to discuss their feelings toward Maiku in the nude.
Not that this ecchi weakens the anime’s heart. Both girls, beyond their conflicting desires for a brother and a lover, soon begin to feel at home, and dread giving up the community of school, and friends, and household, even as feelings like interlopers in Maiku’s life sometimes compels them to consider leaving. While Kei and Mizuho (and Mizuho’s spritely UFO programming interface Marie, which Karen calls Fushigi-chan, or ”Little Wonder”) make occasional appearances, the most significant return character is Morino, since become student council president and a voyeur extraordinaire, using an elaborate system of spying for the sake of gossip and dirt on others; she does, though, remain uncommonly shy for a student leader.
An endnote: Only one thing could amplify the joy of watching these series, and that is the translation of the third installment, Onegai Friends (Please Friends!) The second spin-off was released only as a drama CD, and as yet appears to remain untranslated. Help! I have some hopes that, if fans continue to watch and Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins year after year, in time a bilingual benefactor will see fit to render Onegai Friends into English subs.