A sweet, highly sexual account of the troubles of one newly-wed couple.
What They Say
Makoto and Yura Onada are a newly married couple. They're happy and deeply in love. But there's just one problem: they're both inexperienced in the ways of intimacy. As a result, their expressions of love and passion tend to be a little awkward. Seeking advice from wherever they can get it (neighbors, relatives, co-workers, etc.), the couple begins to explore all the ins and outs of the married life.
The only language track available on this release is the original Japanese 2.0 track. Being a niche title, it is not surprising that they forewent the dub. The mix is pretty basic, with no real directionality, but as Step Up Love Story is primarily dialogue based, that does not hinder the effect at all. Otherwise, the tracks are solid with no dropout; characters were varied and distinct; and the quiet soundtrack was enough to enhance the ‘action,’ but subtle enough not to take over.
Originally released in 2002, Step Up Love Story actually looks quite a bit older. Though the transition to digital animation was in full swing by that time, it looks as if this was done in the traditional manner; combine that with some old school character designs (not that there is anything wrong with that), and it looks like a title that could have easily been released in the early to mid 90s. It has a lot of varied color, though it is not bright and vibrant; instead the colors are a bit faded. I think that is an artistic choice however. Being done with in a more traditional animation style, it suffers from some of the typical problems older titles tend to have with digitization: there are quite a few moments of noise in the background, and a few short instances of cross coloration. Now, with all that said, it certainly is not a bad looking title, and the technical flaws do not ruin it in any way, but it may not look quite as nice as you would expect from a title that recent.
The collection has been given a thin artbox to store the two singles in. The box reuses most of the imagery on the singles cases, so there is quite a bit of repeat. The main theme to the images are shots of Yura in “just about to burst out of her clothes” poses. The back has quite a few screenshots, but again they are all repeats of the screens used on the singles. The repetition does not ruin the composition in anyway, as it is quite nicely put together. My only concern is that the artbox is a bit flimsy, and I am not sure if it will hold up over time. Mine already has a decent crease in one of the top corners from when I was pulling the shrink wrap off. However, the rest is nice, and considering that the discs are still stored in amaray cases, the flimsy box is of no real concern.
Again, being a bit of a budget release, it is not surprising to see basic menus. Each menu is static, with the closing theme playing in the background. The main menu has the same images of Yura from the front of the singles cases, and it looks as if it were done on a scratchboard, as the background is a solid pastel blue, but the pictures and selections have a continual polychrome effect. It is a nice look, but nothing fantastic. However, the selections and highlights stand out well, making the menus easy to follow and navigate, and that is the most important part.
Not a whole lot to speak of here. The first disc has a textless version of the closing, along with the original Japanese trailer. There are no extras on the second disc. It is a minimal amount, but about what was expected for this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Step Up Love Story is a series of four, ecchi OVAs about a newly married couple and the problems they have in the bedroom. As an ecchi title, it is built exactly like you might expect for a hentai title but with the “offensive” portions of the sex removed. It has a pretty decent story, and some innocent humor, so it would work well as a title for those interested in hentai, but are a bit hesitant to make the jump.
Makoto and Yura are newly-weds. Though they were introduced for a possible arranged marriage, they both quickly fell in love with one another and could not be happy. There is just one problem: they are both still virgins. As such, when they get to the honeymoon suite, their affections are more than a little awkward.
While they are willing to learn by themselves, they both become the unwitting students of their friends and family. Makoto is taken in by Yura’s younger, and infinitely more experienced, sister, while Yura is given demonstrations from a couple friends who have been married much longer than she. This, of course, causes great embarrassment for both of them, as they are barely willing to confront their sex lives in front of one another, let alone other people.
Once they become more comfortable with each other in the bedroom, they find themselves in there more often than not, to the only partial chagrin of the neighbors who live on the other side of thin walls. When those same neighbors invite Makoto and Yura to join in on a couples vacation to a hot spring resort in Hokkaido, the newly-weds are unable to refuse. And once they hit the hotel, they find they are unable to keep their hands off one another, again to the partial chagrin of neighbors on the other side of thin walls.
Finally, after they are back from their vacation, they settle into ordinary life. And for Yura, this means staying at home and being a good wife. Since she had worked all of her adult life, she begins to get a little bit bored and gets herself a job waitressing at a family restaurant. Makoto if perfectly fine with this until he sees the cute, revealing uniform she has to wear. At this point, he is torn between his fantasies of her in the outfit and his jealousies of what effect she is going to have on the guys she serves. For the first time, the two have come to a crossroads in their relationship as his jealousies dominate his thinking.
I was surprised with how much I enjoyed Step Up Love Story. Makoto and Yura made a believable couple, and the situations they found themselves in were humorous. I found it interesting that they continually set up situations that were perfect for misunderstandings—a staple of anime comedies—but did not go that route. For example, in the second OVA, while Makoto and Yura are still trying to sort out their bedroom deficiencies, Makoto gets lured to the hotel room of a co-worker who wants to sleep with him, while right next door, Yura is with her two friends learning the art of oral pleasure from her friends using bananas as practice. Of course, I expected the two to bump into each other somehow, but it never actually happens.
I liked this change of pace, because it kept the humor and the situations on more of an ‘innocence’ track. Therefore, the interactions and reactions of the principle characters are that much sweeter. This title could have easily gone off and become completely raunchy in everything that it tried to do, but it is stronger for having not done that. Instead, it is more the romantic comedy.
As I said, Step Up Love Story is essentially a hentai without the graphic sex. But that does not mean that there is no sex. In fact, there is plenty of it throughout the four OVAs, primarily with Makoto and Yura, though a few others get a little bit of screen time. However, nothing is ever shown below the waist, either through fancy camera angles or strategically placed objects. Therefore, there is nothing here you would not see on a late night Cinemax movie, and it is even tame for some of those. This actually works well for the overall effect of the story, as it adds to the innocence and playfulness of the characters and plot.
Recommendation for Step Up Love Story is a little difficult, because it falls right in the middle of the too much/not enough dichotomy. It is set up and flows like hentai, but stops short of any graphic sexual situations. Therefore, it might be too tame for fans of hentai, and too explicit for fans of general romantic comedies. What is here is pretty innocent and sweet, so I think it would at least be a good title for people who are interested in hentai, but are nervous about making the leap. Step Up Love Story would be a good initiation.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System