Of the entirely vast array of romance-themed anime series, only a few stand out in my memory. Why? It’s because most of them are harem in nature, meaning ALL the girls like the male lead. I don’t usually like that kind of anime. It reduces the chance of a story progression to happen, and all episodes will become mere fillers for character development. On the other hand, progressive anime series have plots that really ‘move’, and are very enticing to watch because you want to know what happens next. It’s somewhat the same way why some people love regular soap operas on TV. Certain progressive romance anime series like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien are very appealing to my tastes. And that’s why this next progressive romance anime, Suzuka, makes such an impact as a series that somehow deviates from the cliched world of harem anime.
Based on a manga, we have a seemingly typical setup of a harem series in Suzuka. Our main character Yamato has just arrived to stay in an apartment, where he would live with a girl next door, aptly named Suzuka. Then we have the usual array of supporting girl cast, including a shy type, a younger sister type and her mother, a drunkard, a meganekko, a teen idol, and a fellow cool beauty. We also have an array of supporting male characters to annoy them, including the ever-required perverted male best friend.
Sounds typical so far? Okay, let’s go to the differences. First up, behind the romance plot is a background of shounen-type high-school athletics theme. Suzuka is on high jump, while Yamato eventually joins track and field. They practice their sports and compete in inter-school tournaments. This sub-theme gains secondary focus, and makes for some interesting plot devices for the romance part. Secondly, not all girls like the male lead. Whew, this is a very refreshing counterprogramming (cough*Da Capo*cough), if you get tired of those kind of harem anime. And lastly, the most important of all, is story progression.
The plot of the Suzuka anime literally ‘moves’. Nothing stands still. You see characters developing, relationships changing, rivalries starting, etc. It won’t even take the entire length of the series just to make anything happen. In Suzuka, something happens in every episode. While some may still argue otherwise (the anime did drag near the end of it), don’t you think it is already non-cliche because of the continually moving story? It was a wonderful experience to watch an anime that is more story-based.
Because of the story, character development is affected by the plot dynamics. You may end up liking a character at one point, and hating him/her at another. This human aspect makes the anime more realistic than most series. That does not mean the characters have no special characteristics. Suzuka, for one, is the ever-loved (or ever-hated) Ice Queen and Denial Queen. Her cold and sarcastic attitude towards Yamato makes her oh so cool and cute! I like girl next door types, and Suzuka really rocks in that department. Also, it does not mean that the characters don’t grow up either. Honoka-chan, the shy girl type, will shed her shyness away, and unbelievably even take center stage at some point. Watch the series to find out how.
The only caveat is the radically changing animation quality. Arrgh, the Negima curse remains. Thankfully, it doesn’t annoy me too often, because the plot is really engaging. At some point in the series, I didn’t notice or even care whether the characters look kinda off or poorly animated. It’s that good. The background music doesn’t stand out too much, but isn’t an annoyance either. There are some good tracks though. The OP (Start Line) sounds kinda 80’s, which is good. I didn’t like the first ED (Aoi Field) too much, but the second one (Kimi no Koto) is now an instant classic in my playlist.
All in all, this is a highly recommended watch. If you are tired of fillers, Suzuka is a refreshing progressive change. IMO one of the best of its genre, which is saying much already, if it even belongs to one. Everything else is cookie-cutter, but this one takes a shape all its own.