I must be succumbing to the Borglike consensus or something: I liked this episode. A lot. Very much. Just but short of love, but only just. So far the show looks very promising and I’m beginning to warm to the main set of characters, which, when it happens at this early stage, is almost always a good sign.
I think one of the main reasons why is that Tomoya and Nagisa actually have a relationship. They do meaningful things together. Their small talk has real back and forth, push and pull (not that kind–please :)) and they help each other out. So many lesser anime romances are about one-sided relationships. It makes the more conventional moe traits of Nagisa–her voice, her affinity for Big Dango Family, etc.–much more palatable. I remember being annoyed by the “gao” and squeakiness of Misuzu in Air, and it ultimately blunted the force of the ending for me. She seemed more like an incoherent jumble of cute and quirky traits. So far, at least, Nagisa is a more credible character. Or maybe just emotionally more subdued. I don’t know. I have a bad habit of confusing emotional restraint with realism.
Tomoya is also a much more distinct character than a lot of harem male leads. He has specific likes and dislikes and an actual backstory. The dysfunctional family side is a tad melodramatic, but it already helps overcome the typical blankness that afflicts most guys-who-meet-tons-of-girls shows. He is also clearly a helpful guy, though as the character introductions continue, the helpfulness is becoming just a bit programmatic. It’s here–when we flit from the next cute girl to the next as he helps their little problems–where the game roots of the show are most exposed. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be the focus; Nagisa is clearly the co-protagonist and Promised Girl and I doubt we will see too much of the usual shenanigans that these scenarios produce. (Well, OK, there might be a love triangle down the road. But that’s well within genre expectations.)
The animation continues to be sharp and clean, and the starting scenes of both guys getting injured–one by bike and one by kick–is not only well done, but funny. I loved the little hit counter, and the “bi” joke that followed. I didn’t find the humor in episode 1 to be all that engaging, but this episode is an improvement. Lately I’ve realized just how much I really like slapstick these days and that other brands of humor just don’t make me laugh as much. I’ll try to keep this in mind as I review other shows too.*
I’ll end on a semi-personal note. I remember a number of years ago, when I was in the middle of rather deep funk of loneliness; it was sometime in the middle of undergraduate college. When I become especially depressed and lonely, I come up with stories and write, and I wrote the plans for an entire novel about a doomed relationship. One of the key early scenes in the novel was simple, and, to my mind, deeply romantic: the guy would be trying to get to his first date with the girl, but it would be raining hard as it often does on the East Coast during the summers, and there would be many obstacles on the way that would make him late. He would find his date standing out in the rain, with no umbrella, shivering in the cold. He would get out of the car, stand there for a moment as he realized that she had been waiting for him all this time, while getting soaked. Only then would he offer the umbrella and the two of them, their wet clothes pasted to their skins, would enter the restaurant together.
I couldn’t help but think of that scene, which I never wrote, as I watched the final moments of this episode. It stirred something within me, a twinge of memory that carried me back to those days. And as the closing credit song started, a song full of childish cuteness, it suddenly sounded terribly sad. And I knew from that point forward that I had been not only sucked into Key Land, the land of sad girls who say cute things as they die in snow, but that I figured out why this group of people at their best seem to touch so many fans. I may, in fact I probably am, projecting my own memories onto this scenario, and not even real memories but one of my fictions. I sometimes wonder if I wrote an anime or manga what kind of story I’d produce. It would probably not be exactly like this; it wouldn’t have a harem. But it would probably have scenes like this.
In short, it shares my aesthetic tastes. That means it has to be good!
The Key Borg Fairy is impelling me to blog about this show again, surely. That’s all I can ask a good new anime to do.
*The more I think about it, the more I think I need to reassess Kimikiss Pure Rouge. For some reason, I keep coming back to watch the Mao scenes. Expect a full reconsideration when episode 2 is released in English.
75% recommended for your anime diet. But go watch episode 1 first!