The creators of this anime have gone beyond just wanting to make you cry: they put (the product of) crying in the title and promise us it will be genuine! Whether this show lives up to that title remains to be seen, but so far, I’m surprised by how good it is in spite of itself.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the plot, thus far, seems ridiculous. The show does a great job hiding its ridiculousness because of how accomplished everything else is, but stated baldly, it goes like this: guy lives with a pretty, normal-if-introverted girl at home along with his parents, and she takes no notice of him despite living under the same roof. Said guy meets another cute girl who has a thing for blessings, curses, and an affinity for poultry and associated paraphernalia like bird feed. She is saddened only by the sudden death of a beloved chicken, and makes a grave out of his cage. She claims to have given her tears away and keeps a bottle around her neck to retrieve those tears back. Meanwhile, a beginning of a love triangle between resolutely normal girl and weird girl. Protagonist is like most male anime romantic leads, hapless.
Read that again. Look at how disjointed and strange it sounds. Why the heck does this actually, kind of, work?
First is the show’s mood, which is strikingly subdued. I must admit a weakness in my reviewing here: I have been known to confuse a subdued or quiet mood with realism. The plot kind of killed the “realism” aspect, especially in episode 1, though episode 2 did go some way in immersing myself into the show’s “world.” Music, which is tasteful and melodic, is used sparingly. Combined with a penchant for occasional flights of fancy (especially since our protagonist is a budding manga artist–shades of ef here anyone?) and for Noe to spout quasi-poetic passages, it sets a somewhat more elevated tone than most shows of this type. When we are given a brief bit of Noe fanservice in episode 2, it actually comes somewhat of a shock: it doesn’t quite seem like that kind of show, unlike the Rosario + Vampires of the world. The show is even intelligent enough to comment on that fact; the “walking into the bathtub” scene in episode 1, for instance, has Shinichiro musing that Hiromi acted just the opposite from what a standard anime/manga heroine would do (“kyaaa! ecchi!”). Most self-aware types of jokes and references are done in the context of heavy comedy like Abenobashi or Hayate no Gotoku; this is how it’s done relatively subtly.
Wait. Did some random passerby guy just call Shinichiro a “pimp”? I’ve been waiting forever for someone in a harem show to tell that to the wimpy lead!
Noe is the latest in another line of anime girls who have Asperger’s or some other social deficiency that makes them strange, devoid of typical human responses, but still somehow incredibly cute and moe. She’s better than a lot of such characters, granted–her oddness comes off as genuine oddness rather than contrivance, like in movies where putting on frumpy clothes and glasses can’t hide the fact that the actress is still really hot. A parallel would be Eriko in Kimikiss, who came off as genuinely antisocial and unfriendly at first. Noe seems genuinely uninterested in “normal” things. That she is in a show with a “realistic” mood though suggests either the writers intend to do something serious with her or they messed up somehow. I have to admit her presence really threw me off in the first episode, but it’s a testament to the skills of the creators that by episode 2, I was being sucked into her world in a way; I was beginning to accept the “rules” that her presence brings into the lives of these characters.
Other aspects of the show that I find intriguing include Shinichiro’s continuing attempts to come up with an idea for a manga after being rejected by a publisher (dude, I know that feeling)–the scene where he takes the bottle that Noe showed him and turns it into a metaphor for imprisonment is particularly good. It almost reminded me of Chihiro’s image of the circular pen in ef. Noe and Shinichiro are thus an interesting pair–one is trying to create worlds through his pen, one may or may not be in another world altogether, and the two worlds are beginning to intersect. Naturally, there will be obstacles, and it looks like Hiromi will be the main one, turning this into yet another love triangle story. (We’ve already been given hints of her sad past, and I’m sure Noe will have something like that too. It always happens in these sorts of anime.)
It could actually work as a decent love triangle story, though. Code-E, before it was unceremoniously cut in half, was such. So I’m hoping no more major female rivals/harem members show up soon. There is already the beginning of a good character dynamic here and I’m looking forward to see how the stranger elements of the show play out amidst the more “normal,” school life ones. It’s not ef nor is it groundbreaking, but so far the most intriguing straight “drama” so far this season. I’m very likely to keep blogging this one.