After the powerful first series and its less than impressive sequel, the popular bishoujo game franchise returns for yet another ‘da capo’ in anime form. Da Capo II the anime is actually made up of two 13-episode seasons, and I’m here to review both, although some may argue that the only one worth reviewing is Da Capo II Second Season. I think everyone knows by now how bad Da Capo II (first season) went, but I have another alternate reaction about it.
All along Da Capo II was probably really slated for 26 full episodes, but the producers deliberately cut it in half, maybe because of production/time constraints and TV broadcast conflicts. Assuming that is the case, Da Capo II, when taken as a whole, is an excellent anime overall. The problem is that viewers would tend to isolate the first season from the second. But do remember that the first Da Capo didn’t really hit its stride until after the latter half of its 26-episode run, and Da Capo II isn’t any different from that. If both seasons were taken as a whole, it makes more sense. The first half would be introductory episodes for everyone, and minor arcs for minor characters. The second half would make up the serious main arcs. This setup captures the essence of the first Da Capo anime, without those half-baked seiyuu music videos and side-stories.
So Da Capo II is around 50 years since the original, and the same city setting of Hatsunejima. We see that the sakura is unwithered all year round just like before, and the magic to grant wishes is starting to grow once again. Joining the Da Capo mythos are new characters, mostly descendants of the original set. First, Yoshiyuki is the ever-present boring male lead, and in twice the fun, he has two sisters, Yume and Otome Asakura (imouto and onee-chan complex). Sakura Yoshino returns as the eternal loli, while we see our original male lead Junichi as a grandfather, and Suginami… as the same freaking Suginami (a mystery?) The rest are the usual fare of male sidekick (Wataru), childhood friend (Koko), tsundere robo (Minatsu), loli know-it-all (Anzu), and school idol (Nanaka). Thank goodness we have a smaller cast, although too bad they didn’t capitalize on each one effectively.
The first season gave the limelight mostly to Koko and Minatsu, with a sad little spotlight to Nanaka. I’m quite surprised that they gave the love angle immediately to Koko. It was something worthy of praise especially with the annoying bishoujo cliche of having so many girls but not much romance. Koko was an underappreciated character in the game, so this is one point for the Koko fans. It was really a fair run during the Yoshiyuki-Koko relationship, and I feel that Yoshiyuki had more character in this first half, because he deteriorated a lot in the latter half (more on that later). Minatsu’s story starts its stride in a very accurate portrayal of her game scenario. But again, Minatsu is another underappreciated character. With those two getting so much attention, all the boos by fans came out of having almost no loving for Nanaka. She gets a few episodes but not much story. Towards the end, the Yoshiyuki-Koko separation is very expected, and many wonder how this season overall is da crapo because of no Otome and Yume in sight. Again I argue that if taken as a whole 26-episoder, this isn’t any different from CLANNAD and Kanon right? Kill a few arcs from the start before going to the main juicy stories.
In any case, fans rejoice at the announcement of Da Capo II Second Season, where the much-awaited Otome and Yume stories are expected to be shown. This is really where the series shined like no other, the animation was consistent, and the music is atmospheric. But where it really hit the mark is how they gave the baton to not only Otome and Yume, but also Sakura as well. If one didn’t play the game, this is a welcome surprise, as Sakura is really central to the plot. This solid mixture of Otome, Yume and Sakura’s game scenarios is one for the history books. The pace is excellent, and the drama is endearing to watch. Classic Da Capo like never before, and it “almost” dethroned the original in terms of magical emo drama… “almost”. Because I have a fundamental nitpick… Yoshiyuki. Yup, again the male leads tend to spoil all the fun. Yoshiyuki in this second season lost his character, and he is more faceless than ever before. We see Otome, Yume, Sakura, and even the minor cast pouring out all their love for him, and yet I can’t see that he deserves it. He accepts everything at face value, and his smiles seem so empty. Even when Yume and Otome confessed their love, he seemed too naive. Why not show a bit of affection? Not even sisterly love? I know that it is a good decision to get rid of some romantic aspects so that Yume and Otome are treated as equals instead of rivals, but I can’t see how Yoshiyuki loves even ‘both’ of them, not even as sisters. He’s so emotionless here, and he acts indifferent. And the ending which is essentially a deus ex machina is expected, but with an unlikable character such as Yoshiyuki, the experience is somewhat cheapened. I’d rather have it end at episode 12, where he is completely gone.
That’s a nitpick that doesn’t take away the magic of this anime though. The rest of the anime is so solid that it deserves a second sitting. It was really a good run, deserving of the original Da Capo standard. If you liked the original Da Capo, you’ll definitely love this one. It extends the bishoujo-dorama genre upward to new heights of quality.
Kanon is considered by some as the greatest bishoujo game of all time. Of course, a “best * of all time” is mainly subjective opinion depending on who you talk to, but definitely this game by Key has struck a tone that will resonate in the industry for years and years to come. To sum it up, you don’t know jack about bishoujo games if you haven’t at least taken a peek at Kanon. It’s like Final Fantasy, a pinnacle of RPGs, and Half-Life, a pinnacle of first person shooters. Kanon is a pinnacle of bishoujo games.
Kanon and To Heart were the two main animes that led me to be interested in bishoujo games. For the record, Kanon was my very first completed digital fansub. Using a crappy dial-up, I remembered waiting for hours and hours using a certain P2P program to download 13 episodes of this certain beautifully animated anime that I never knew at that time. Granted that by today’s standards the characters looked kinda ‘pointy’, to me (in my early days of anime watching) Kanon certainly looked beautiful.
We have the usual setup of a bishoujo game, which is one guy, many girls. This generic-looking guy (they always look generic) comes back to his hometown after 7 years. As usual, the generic guy is amnesiac, and almost never remembers his past. And so he meets this group of girls, some of which he has already met before. Now he gets involved with all those girls, and he connects the past life he had forgotten for 7 years.
Sounds simple enough isn’t it? Let’s complicate things. Back in 1999, the original game of Kanon became the new standard that changed the landscape of bishoujo gaming forever. Why? Because there was one thing that Kanon did right… the ‘drama’. Each character was so well fleshed out, and each scenario was so heartwarming, that when the drama does come, it hits the player so hard emotionally. This game makes you cry. I remembered reading mere summaries/spoilers for the Kanon game, and each story was already so sad and devastating for me. What more if I played the game itself?
The anime more-or-less captured the feel of the original game, at least initially. Towards the end though, there were some dramatic plot lines that got watered-down in the conversion. I mean, the sad stories didn’t seem too sad anymore. Some were even converted into happy endings, if I recall correctly. Another fault of the anime was the way they introduced the supernatural theme. I think I had explained this in detail over at an anime forum, but I can’t seem to find it. Basically, I initially thought that this was a realistic world… until the supernatural themes arrived. The supernatural stuff appeared so suddenly, that my suspension of disbelief failed to see it as logical for a while. Nevertheless, the story portrayal is still pretty good, despite my nitpicks.
Kanon the anime probably was the first that ignited the boom of bishoujo game based anime. In the next subsequent years, the number of anime conversions from games had seen a dramatic exponential rise, and it has grown into its own specific genre already. The bubble can only get bigger, and it doesn’t seem to be bursting anytime soon. And so this year, we will pay a tribute by returning back to the very same series that started it all for bishoujo game based anime.
Yes! A remake of Kanon! Now to be produced by Kyoto Animation (which brought the highly successful AIR anime), Kanon will be remade into 24 new episodes. I think that Toei already did a wonderful job with this first Kanon anime, but Kyoto Animation could raise that bar even further, possibly having an impact as strong as the original game itself back in the days. Surely I will be eagerly awaiting that. For now, I can recommend this first Kanon anime for those who haven’t seen it yet, and I hope that they could see a sneak peek of the powerful emotions that only bishoujo games can deliver.