Finally, another controversial anime. Ever since the hugely destructive emo soap opera in the name of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien left me breathless, I’ve been clamoring for some other show that has all the angst of a mature romance story in anime form. Alas, no other anime ever came close to the greatness of that one… until School Days. But the question is, did School Days topple Kiminozo in my heart? Well, let’s see…
Byousoku 5 Centimeter
“a chain of short stories about their distance.”
Again, Makoto Shinkai blew me away. He is really the master of “wide open spaces” in animation. It is not so much the attention to detail as it’s really the cinematic scope of what he draws. The backgrounds have this sort-of emotion that conveys the beauty of this world, whether it may be a rural or a city setting. And so as you enjoy the sights and sounds of his new OVA offering, we also see very simple but heartfelt stories about three characters and their distance between each other.
5CM is a three-episode tale of three people, a guy and two girls, and how distances can make or break love and friendships. We start with two childhood friends, Takaki and Akari. They were very close to each other, but then after elementary school, they have to part ways. Akari moved to some town in Tochigi, while Takaki went to Tokyo. They still contact each other by letters, but then Takaki’s family will move much further away to Kagoshima. So Takaki agreed to meet her before that happens. It’s quite a long multiple train ride between Tochigi and Tokyo, and harsh snowy conditions delayed Takaki’s travel. Eventually they meet up, albeit late, and a very heartful reunion for the two. Takaki promised to still keep in touch, but eventually the letters dried out.
The second part is about Takaki, now in Kagoshima, and Kanae, a classmate who feels for him. They became close friends but Takaki still feels distant sometimes, as if he looks on to the horizons often. Kanae was trying to build up her courage to confess to him, but Takaki still thinks about Akari who is very far away. Takaki plans to go back to Tokyo to work after graduation, leaving Kanae behind.
The final part is about Takaki and Akari, now grown up. Akari is actually engaged to another man by now. Takaki has a girlfriend and have been exchanging text messages, but then she finally told him that their lives are so apart that their love for each other can’t work anymore. The anime ends with a music video-style piece, with the song “One more time, one more chance” by Masayoshi Yamazaki.
Can I say HD FTW? This is a prime example of why DVD can’t satisfy me anymore. This would have been so beautiful in high-definition, and it really shows in the preview. The downloadable teaser in the website is actually 720p, but then the original release is of course 480p in DVD. There seem to be no plans (yet) to bring this to either Bluray of HD DVD, and so my I’m quite sad to not see the whole thing yet in it’s real cinematic glory. Oh well, as if I already have an HDTV…
Seemingly this is also the only anime from Makoto Shinkai without a fantasy setting. It is very down-to-earth, but then again so were Beyond the Clouds and Voices of a Distant Star aside from the science. And… do you notice that all his works are about “distance”? Distance relationship stories really strike a tone on me for some odd reason, maybe because the longing for each other is so strong when people are far apart. This is a very effective and affective anime especially for someone who might miss a loved one from far away.
A pretty somber but emotional piece this is. I feel bad for Takaki and Kanae, they were pretty much broken by the end of the anime but I think it is implied that they should be able to move on after this. The whole anime is just within a span of an hour, and yet it has created very fleshed-out characters that you can somewhat relate to. Plus the animation and sound really livens up the emotional level, and so this is mighty fine viewing. Definitely a must-see.
Slice-of-life, one of the more difficult genres of anime in my opinion. In this genre, it is important to have not only great characters, but great chemistries of characters. Because your story will remain in the sidelines for the most part, the characters must be interesting enough, and not only that, the characters must interact well with the other characters. Series like Azumanga Daioh and Ichigo Mashimaro fit this bill quite perfectly, and now I would like to add Hidamari Sketch on the list.
Four girls… four apartment rooms… four seasons… THE END. That’s the basic plot. Now we should go to the characters. The series centers around Yuno, a seemingly normal, but sometimes clumsy, girl. A very natural and happy character. Yuno is paired with Miyako, the clown of the series. If I may so compare, she is the more mature version of Ichigo Mashimaro’s Miu… same weirdness, but still sensible when situations demand her to be. The third character is Hiro, a very softspoken and kind girl. She is particularly obsessive-impulsive when it comes to her body weight, and yet she likes sweets so she is hard-pressed to cut down on her fat. Hiro is paired with Sae, the short-haired meganekko which could serve as the onee-san of the group. Very mature but slightly emo at times, she is also a writer. These four girls go to a sort of art-inclined high school, and go home in their own apartments at the complex called Hidamari-sou.
The tendency of slice-of-life shows is to capitalize on each characters quirks in personality. For example, Hiro’s food and weight problem is always a running joke. What’s hard in slice-of-life though is how to use these quirks without getting repetitive, and I think Hidamari Sketch succeeds in that department. For one, you can call this Apartment Living 101 anime series. As some of you know, there are more apartments than homes in Japan cities, and it is basically the way to live here. Hidamari Sketch reflects life in the apartment, and life in Japan in general. They talk about apartment maintenance, season changes, and tons of stuff about Japanese food. Also, (non)events like buying in nearby convenience stores, going to karaoke, visiting temples, public baths, etc. That is aside from the usual school themes we normally see in anime series. Like Ichigo Mashimaro, Hidamari Sketch is more focused on home.
Director Shinbo Akiyuki spearheads this production. Compared to his previous works of Tsukiyomi and Pani Poni Dash though, this is IMO the weakest in the technical quality department. Some episodes have radically different character designs, and others seem completely unfinished. Such a shame really, because the voice work and music is really well done. If anything, Hidamari Sketch can pass as a good audio drama during those low-budget episodes. Nevertheless, Hidamari Sketch puts the ‘cute’ in ‘very very cute’, and that’s not only because of the drawings and voice, but because of the well-established characters and the chemistry within them.
If you can stomach a few boring episodes you can find some real entertaining gems in this series. Here I am already ready for a second viewing immediately after (because there is a widescreen version available, but I was watching the 4:3 version all along). Hidamari Sketch can bring you a few laughs and moe~ feelings, something only few slice-of-life series can provide.
In about two years, I feel like I have learned more about all this otaku stuff. I just replayed the first Genshiken series in sheer anticipation of the new OVA, and now I get most of the things that they say. I would say that this anime helped me understand the whole subculture from various viewpoints, because each character has his/her different interests. Madarame and Sasahara lead the doujinshi life, Kohsaka is the hardcore otaku, Tanaka is master of plamos and cosplay designs, Kugayama is the talented manga artist, Ohno is the ever-loved cosplayer, and Saki is the ever-loved outsider who just happened to have an otaku boyfriend.
The new OVA adds two more characters to the wild mix. Kuchiki is the loud and totally obnoxious otaku, and now I found my new wuv… Ogiue Chika! Ogiue is the tsundere in terms of her love for yaoi fandom. She pretends to hate otaku (especially female ones) despite being one herself. I feel like she is going to be the most complex-layered character of them all, having read parts of the manga not yet animated. OVA Episode 13 introduces Ogiue, how she came about to join Genshiken, and the riot yaoi fangirl war between her and Ohno.
One very enjoyable thing I noticed is that the voice acting is “very” top-notch this time around. Particularly, Ohno’s seiyuu (Kawasumi Ayako) really shines. Everytime Ohno utters a line I seem to get goosebumps. Almost the same way with the other casting, everyone’s very smooth in their portrayals.
Aside from the excellent voice acting, the animation really rides almost exactly like the manga. While it will be a bit of disappointment to some due to lack of consistent quality, I feel like it captured the original manga art pretty well. I think this is one of the best OVA episodes I have watched.
6 episodes, 24 minutes, impossibly short. Packs a lot of punch though.
Translated as “looking up at the half-moon”, Hantsuki the animation came from a series of written novels, detailing a love story between two patients in a hospital. The guy, Yuuichi, is hospitalized because of hepatitis, which I think isn’t too serious. The girl, Rika, has a certain heart problem that seems oh too serious, something that she may not be able to survive from. Classic setup just like the multitude of hospital dramas we see on every other medium of entertainment. Somehow having characters in life or death situations in the hospital strikes so hard on us viewers (blame ER?), much more when added this innocent and endearing love story.
I do admit that the short length of the anime might not hook you up in terms of character development, but somehow Hantsuki pulls it off quite nicely. The episodes were very well paced, umm, except for that seriously weird masked man friend of Yuuichi. The humor seems out of place sometimes, and there were some subplots that I think should have not been included or focused on too much. Plus there’s the issue of the ED sequence, a picture of Yuuichi and Rika getting married, which gives either false hope or an unhealthy teaser for the ending.
And finally I have an issue about the ending that left me disappointed. Nope, it’s not about how it ended, but how it was ‘built up’ during the first minutes of the last episode. I was so thrilled, already overly emotional because they kept hiding what went on with Rika, so it must be a big shocker. But then the reveal came, and I wasn’t shocked at all. Maybe I think like a girl in that situation (watch the anime and see the explanation of Nurse Akiko). It was as if I was hoping for something else but the real ending was a very expected thing. Anti-climactic. I hope you got my drift.
The character designs get quite wobbly all throughout the anime, but no one can deny the cuteness of Rika. OP/ED are fine, and the background music soothes a lot. I also can imagine a much better pace if the anime were twice the length. Those 6 episodes summarized a 5-volume novel long series of light novels. Surely lots of details are missed. The story’s not over too, there is yet another volume of Hantsuki. I really hope there is an OVA or something.
All in all… umm… since this is a very short anime, try using up a bit of your time to watch Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s not a waste of time if I may say so. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this one, so don’t expect much. But it’s quite nice also, so please do give it a try.
Okay, I’m going half-moon on that one.
9 episodes, 12 minutes, impossibly short. Packs a lot of punch though.
Based on a manga of the same name, REC is a story about a guy and a girl who gets to live in one roof because of some circumstances. Fumihiko, 26, is a worker at a local sweets company, brainstorming ideas for promotion of goods. Aka, 20, is a newbie seiyuu (voice actress), loves Audrey Hepburn movies and likes to quote movie dialogue all the time. They get to live in one roof, but still confused as to what is exactly their relationship, they aren’t a couple after all. They get to work together for a snacks promotion in need of a seiyuu. Eventually they get closer, but reality kicks in, as their own respective careers either sway up or down. How will they handle the ups and downs of work, and the ups and downs of their own romance?
An anime about a budding seiyuu! I’ve seen anime about j-idols, singers and stuff like that, but never about a seiyuu until now. REC totally landed my interest, and the red-haired cutie Aka is a plus! While I can’t relate to her obsession for the late great Audrey Hepburn’s works, the way she modulates her voice when making a movie quote gets a 10 out of 10 in originality. We also see a bit of focus on the seiyuu scene, which is somewhat the same thing we see in the j-idol or music scene. Of course, voice acting is not just about anime, it’s as comprehensive as dubbing gets. From movies to commercials to even bishoujo games, seiyuu are there to lend their voices and spice things up. Er… I was rather surprised that they’d even deal with the bishoujo game seiyuu topic, quite boldly I must say (heck, a mosaic of a p****! and a sample dialogue of an H anime even!!).
Anyway, not even inconsistent animation can cover-up the cuteness of Aka. Must be due to her seiyuu… I mean, the real-life seiyuu who voices Aka. She is Kanako Sakai, and I must say, she’s rather cute herself too. She seems to be a budding seiyuu and actress too, having only REC and Magikano in her anime belt, along with made-for-DVD dramas, TV and radio programs, and a PS2 game. I wish her luck.
All in all, short but totally sweet. It’s an interesting story about careers and relationships. While short, REC delivers at a steady pace, no dull moment at all. I really wished it could be longer though. Oh well, a new OVA episode would be underway quite soon. Need more anime like this. Anime about seiyuu, that is.