My initial review of To Heart is dated during my early days of being a blogger. It actually resided in an older anime blog of mine before my move to animeblogger.net. Back then I failed to elaborate on how this is the best bishoujo game-based anime series (EVER!), and now I have returned to finish the mission. This anime is almost a decade old by now, archival by today’s standards, but to me it stands the test of time. An anime about, well, nothing except the simplicity of high-school life, To Heart gives a slice-of-life twist to the almost-redundant bishoujo game-based anime genre. Oh wait, let me correct myself. This is actually one of the earliest anime based on a visual novel, way, way before it even became an oversaturated genre in anime.
Before nice boats, before 3-year amnesias, and before wish-granting sakuras, To Heart was there. Yes, before even Kyoto Animation started milking Key with all their games. What’s remarkable about To Heart is, despite it being the first eroge to be animated on TV, it features no ero AT ALL. Even modern takes on To Heart had gone the tired and true fanservice route. It could have been worse though, because the late 90s-early 2000s were also the age of eroge-turned ero anime as well. Remember those many Pink Pineapple ero animes? Many of them come from lesser known bishoujo games. And guess what? Some of them have the same slice-of-life feel as To Heart. For all we know, a To Heart anime would have been just a hentai title. Thankfully it is not, because of how groundbreaking the original game was. I think you can blame this title, and Kanon, for introducing the concept of true story-based visual novels. Past eroge would only focus on the ero, but To Heart and Kanon focused on stories and characters. Maybe the big impact of these games is how it made the gamers cry. An erotic game that makes you cry. Funny how that works eh?
And yes, I discovered To Heart “because” it was an eroge. For some reason I can’t remember, I got a copy of the game. These were my early times being the green non-otaku machine. All I knew about anime was Cardcaptor Sakura and Love Hina. But I also knew about Pink Pineapple and the H animes (hey, it was puberty). Then it arrived. To Heart, in that bootleg shop. I thought To Heart was a hentai anime, 13 episodes of ero. I went home thinking I’m going to have a ero fest with this. Sadly, I was wrong. A few episodes later… I was so glad to be wrong. Being one of the earliest animes I’ve ever watched, of course it will have a great big impact on me. But where Love Hina failed is how I keep running back to this title, rewatching it multiple times, over and over again. Those VCD bootlegs were of To Heart being subbed by a group called Sachi Fansubs. A couple years later, I was delighted when I saw a seemingly-original To Heart being sold in a video store. It was a local English dub made by Magnavision. I didn’t have any particular biases towards dubbing back then.
I went back to that “same” bootleg store some time later and saw HK DVD pirated versions of To Heart. I bought that. I kept digging. When I had the broadband internet one of my first missions was to hunt for a DVD version of To Heart, because I reckon it will have better subs. Indeed I saw and downloaded them. I would have had every possible copy of the anime by now, and I’m not kidding.