In a cookie-cutter world of bishoujo anime, sometimes there are a few series that surprise and amaze me, one of which is Canvas 2. I actually watched this during a recent vacation trip of mine, and it never failed me at all during the boring bus rides. Canvas 2 is a witty, smart, and effective romantic comedy that tries to humanize the usual bishoujo romance and add not only an artistic element (focusing on art and drawings), but also real-life concerns and decision-making.
We start off in a rather typical high school setup but with a new twist: the male lead (Hiroki) is an apprentice teacher and art club adviser. Yup, not a student. Moreover, one of the choice girls is also a teacher (Kiri), and hear this: she’s an old flame. Hiroki actually rejected Kiri when she confessed back in high school. They had parted ways after graduation but now she returns as the Physical Education teacher. Interesting dynamic. The other main girl? A highschool student (Elis), Hiroki’s cousin with the typical oniichan complex. Typical sure, but she is still a very talented painter with a trauma of not being able to use red paint because of a tragic past. Oh, and the guy has history too, as he refuses to draw a painting again (even though he’s an art club adviser). There are also a multitude of other girls from all age spectrums, and it’s rather nice that each one has their own episode focus while not diverting too much with the overall plot.
I think the writing, story and direction of Canvas 2 is a work of art, really, which I hope to describe in this review. The dialogue is smart and spot-on. Each line uttered seems to have a very heavy meaning, and no time is wasted in fleshing out each character. Oftentimes you even see the characters psyching themselves, doing their own self-evaluations, wondering about love, life, careers, etc. Couple it with a plot that moves every episode, and we have a masterful piece. I love the fact that there are no secrets in Canvas 2, as far as feelings are concerned. The love triangle is quickly revealed to all parties involved, and the story moves into how they go through these relationship changes. I like the way Elis slowly discovers her feelings while Hiroki and Kiri slowly become closer to each other because of their teacher work. I like the way Kiri deals with her old flame and how she desperately tries to win him back while still caring about Elis and her feelings. I like Hiroki because he is not a shallow bishoujo male lead, he tries to defend his decisions in life and love, although they are sometimes wrong, but then again that makes him so human. Indecisive or not, how he dealt with love and career (choosing Kiri is like choosing the teaching business, while Elis is him returning to painting) is very intriguing in the story. And really, he left me guessing until the very last episode. Well, I’m not particularly happy with the ending, how he chose a girl, and his path in life, but still it’s the journey towards it that counts. All loose ends seem to be tied up, it’s so coherent it’s scary.
I was afraid that things will shake up the wrong way because of some uninteresting new character introductions halfway through, like an old friend and artist guy who likes Kiri, and a fellow student who confessed to Elis. Thankfully, they are just minor characters that don’t affect the love triangle dynamic too much, and so they are still welcome additions to the cast. Moreover, the minor characters have stories that bring cross-reference reflections to the main characters’ concerns and feelings at the moment. Everyone learns at least one thing from each other at some point, and the way these characters interact is just so meaningful. There is no dull moment in this anime at all. I don’t even have time to critique about its technical aspects (animation, music, etc) because it’s so engaging.
I just can’t find any fault with this anime at all, aside from Hiroki relating his career with his love. Why can’t he choose both, I mean, be a teacher while drawing as an aside hobby or something? It’s not like both careers are awfully unrelated, I mean, being an art teacher and an artist? Aren’t they dealing with the same darn art and drawings theme? And he shouldn’t tie it up to his love life at all. Choosing Kiri doesn’t mean he should just be a teacher and give up drawing, like choosing Elis doesn’t mean that he should be an artist and quit teaching. Those seemed mutually exclusive, but he turned it into his own symbolic decision. And for the record, I was rooting for both girls equally, a possible historic first in my anime watching. Kiri stayed very wise and mature in so many things all throughout, while Elis represents the coming-of-age girl who grew up tremendously throughout the series. Both are incredibly charming girls, and it’s really hard to pick who is better for Hiroki. Well, can’t they just be MINE? Both of them? Haha! Anyway, Canvas 2 is a welcome addition to the cream of the crop, best bishoujo game-turned anime series in my list. Wonderfully and perfectly crafted, it deserves a watch and a rewatch, because like a good work of art, it never gets old.