January 9th, 2016.
Solid Foundation, Lacking Cover.
This show’s designs are actually nice. I saw a lot of people hating on Chika’s design, and especially her eyes, but I like ’em. The backgrounds lean heavily into CG, the animation is stiff and sparse when it’s not the focus, and even if the character designs can be nice, their execution is lacking. The music is solid, though.
The voice acting though, is… underwhelming. Sarah Emi Bridcutt as Chika in particularly gives a capable and interesting performance, but I’m not sold on Haruto, and Hanae Natsuki as Kusakabe, the teacher, gives his most underwhelming and listless performance to date. The voice acting and character design in particular combine to give the impression we’re watching a bunch of kids who just entered junior high school, and their teacher is some 17 year old slovenly boy, rather than a bunch of high schoolers and a young adult (26 years old) man.
The show is sparse, in how it’s presented. This goes beyond production values, and into sparse and uninteresting directing work. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.
ED – Nice energy. Nice sound. I like it. Not necessarily memorable, but it pulls me in as it plays.
Themes / Story:
So, this show was sort of “Hyouka meets Euphonium” in terms of premise that was sold to us. It’s constantly billed as a “mystery series”, the anime and the novels it’s based on, but man, the mystery here was weak, and the mystery in the preview for next episode doesn’t seem stronger. Now, I know all about how mystery shows are usually not about the mysteries, and here the goal was to show how Sensei is “a desired catch” to give an opening for our two protagonists to be clear they want him, and that the other does too, even as he rejects student advances, but it was still pretty weak.
This show is more Hyouka than Euphonium, but how much like Hyouka is it? I don’t think the writing is all that much worse than Hyouka was early on, but Hyouka is 90% sold by its direction and presentation, which give the characters nuances, which tells us a whole lot about the characters beyond what they actually say. There’s none of that here. Hotaru is a smug know-it-all, and Chika is a self-determined but somewhat shallow girl, and it’s all about dreams and hopes and wanting a new start. The writing is alright, it’s slightly above average, and it doesn’t really fall behind Hyouka’s first couple of episodes. But everything else is sort of bland, or even works against the show – Sensei is not alluring and interesting, and Chika and Hotaru’s relationship isn’t interesting yet. The writing is ok, but in a medium like anime, a show like Hyouka is proof, by contrast, of how much just writing on its own is incapable of doing, at least sometimes.
I’m gonna give the show a bit more time, because I like the premise, and the story, and the characters, in principle, and maybe the acting at least will pick up, if not the directing. The mysteries though… yeah, I get it’s not the point, but to build them up and then to have them be like this? Eh.