Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Impressions: Kimi ni Todoke

Out of all the 2009 fall lineup, I was most looking forward to Kimi ni Todoke ("Reaching You"). What can I say. I like love stories in my anime. Even as I gravitate towards political and social commentary shows, it's never too interesting unless there's some kind of romance going on between some of the characters.

Strangely enough, I like my love stories to take the backseat -- a side dish, if you will. I rarely, if ever, like anime that are pure romance with a few exceptions. I don't really know why this is so but I suspect it's because I've had traumatic experiences with the romance genre in anime. To put it bluntly, they're terrible. I always have a romance title in my watchlist each season and each time I drop them after only the first three episodes. I'm hoping this doesn't happen to Kimi ni Todoke.
EPISODE 01: Prologue
More Screencaps from Kimi ni Todoke 01

OP: Kimi ni Todoke (Tanizawa Tomofumi) [YouTube]
ED: Kataomoi (Chara) [YouTube]

The story is typical high school stuff. Sawako is the misunderstood girl, unpopular because of her uncanny resemblance to Sadako, the villain from the horror film, Ringu ("The Ring"). It doesn’t help that she tries too hard to get people to like her and ends up sending out the wrong signals instead.On the other end of the spectrum is Kazehaya, the all-around nice guy who is popular with both girls and boys. He and Sawako met one time on the first day of classes when Sawako gave him directions to their high school. Unknown to both, each one made quite an impression on the other.
I've forgotten how much shoujo manga boys sparkle.

But before Sawako can find her happy ending, she still has to go through the horrendous first few days of high school. If you’ve been through high school, you probably know what it’s like. The expected things happen, in which Sawako tries to make friends with classmates who have already arrived at their own -- wrong -- conclusions about her personality. Let’s just say, she’s having a hard time.

Enter Kazehaya, who treats her like he does everybody else. Because of this, Sawako looks up to him and decides to emulate his cheerful personality (with disastrous effects, if I might say).

Long story short, the misunderstanding between Sawako and her classmates gets partly resolved by the end of the episode, thanks to Kazehaya and an old parlor trick that makes perfect use of Sawako’s, erm, “assets.”The episode actually ends with a beginning for both Kazehaya and Sawako and one can immediately see the turbulent, angstastic road ahead. But that’s okay because predictability goes hand-in-hand with romantic comedys. At least, Kimi ni Todoke doesn’t pretend to be different only to fail in the end to live up to expectations created by hype.

In terms of art, it’s the best part about this anime. It's by Production I.G. so production value is pretty much a given. I was half-expecting the art style to take after Tokyo Marble Chocolate, a 2-episode OVA by the same animation studio released in 2007. Instead, I'm looking at a style that looks like it's lifted from right out of the canvas for Porphy no Nagai Tabi. I got no complaints because the whole thing genuinely looks good.I especially like the manga-esque feel of the characters. I am also partial to black-haired characters so the fact that both main characters sport black hair is a huge plus. Kazehaya’s design especially looks good. Sawako is also appropriately pretty, and her “Sadako” persona is genuinely scary. Even the super-deformed (SD) images don’t detract too much from the overall style. I have no real issues against SD. They make for great icons at the very least. But some people might find them off-putting. So just a warning then: there’s a lot of SD in Kimi ni Todoke.The opening and closing themes are okay. Nothing to write home about. I kind of like the opening better than the ending theme but that’s just me. Honestly, I’m not that into Jpop anymore so the songs hold little charm for me. I do like the BGM though. Then again, I am insanely fond of piano pieces.

Seriously though, you can always tell a good BGM by its ability to set the tone for the story or the emotion of a particular scene without taking center stage. The BGM for Kimi ni Todoke does just that. Just don’t try to listen to the individual tracks as a standalone because they will put you to sleep in no time.IN SUM --

Kimi ni Todoke isn’t about to break any borders but I wasn’t expecting that anyhow. What I do expect is a nice, light, fluffy school romance that delivers the goods without trying too hard. So far so good.

MORE INFO:

OFFICIAL (JPN)
Kimi ni Todoke @ ANN
Kimi ni Todoke @ Wikipedia
Kimi ni Todoke Official Trailer [YouTube]
Kimi ni Todoke Promo [YouTube]
Kimi ni Todoke Harajuku Anime Event [YouTube]
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