Hiiro no Kakera – 04
「聖女の降臨」 (Seijo no Kourin)
“Holy Woman’s Advent”
Ever wanted to know how to count in German, but didn’t know how? Well now you can, with Yuuichi as your tutor!
Of course, you’ll never get past four, but sometimes, it’s more about the eye candy and a little less about the content. And if there’s anything Hiiro no Kakera has a surplus of, it’s pretty visuals. I don’t mean just the guys – the backgrounds are lush with color and I really love the autumn shades they use on the fields and some of the mountain scenery. The show is at its prettiest during the afterschool moments, when the art for the background accentuates the languid mood. It elevates the scene in an understated way, and the scenes of Tamaki walking home with the quartet definitely would not look the same without the visuals backing it. It really adds to the moment, and compounded with the rapport the characters share on-screen, the whole thing feels authentic, and I cannot get enough of it.
The chemistry between the characters is really something and their interactions always bring a smile to my face because it’s so easy-going and familiar. Tamaki has really integrated herself into the group in a manner that doesn’t seem forced, and it’s telling that none of them truly over-emphasize her role as the Tamayori Princess. She wants to get to know her guardians on a personal level – who they are as people, not by the roles that define them. The scenes with Tamaki leading the 20 Questions was a delight to watch, and boy did I get a laugh out of some of the answers. It showcases what the show does well: integrating expository elements into the flow of the dialogue. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when shows lay out the story in the simplest terms and reveal all key character/plot information in neatly packaged dialogue, replete with ten minutes worth of info-dump in case viewers didn’t get it the first time. Sometimes it’s necessary, but most of the time it’s just poor story-telling.
Tamaki’s “What’s your hobby?” definitely isn’t the subtlest way to reveal character info, so why am I praising it? Because it isn’t forced. It’s not a desire that she was forced to have because the producers deemed it necessary for the viewers to get to know the characters better. Instead, it’s a genuine curiosity that stems from her own desire, her declaration just moments before when she tells the guys she wants to know them better. To put it simply, I feel like she’s speaking to Takuma, Yuuichi, Mahiro and Shinji instead of me. It’s that sort of authenticity that engages viewers, and it’s a sign of some pretty solid story-telling. Plot and character exposition should not feel like an info-dump, and in Hiiro no Kakera it all feels natural.
Transitions from light-hearted moments to serious moments don’t feel as natural as the exposition, but Studio DEEN is still handling it pretty well. Another weakness Hiiro no Kakera has is in some of its animation – everything certainly looks pretty, but some distant shots reveal some sloppy – or at the very least lazy – facial animations, and some darker scenes present such a disparity between the characters and the background that it looks like the characters were pasted on top of a completed background (similar to how manga artists paste on characters against a CG background). The color the animators are using to outline the characters do not help either; while it works very well with the reddish backgrounds, it just does not blend with the darker backgrounds. These are just some seriously minor complaints though and hey, they gave me some nice action sequences in my shoujo anime, so who am I to complain? The villains all get proper introductions this time around, although it feels a little superfluous to have them re-introduced in such a grand manner when they’d already done that last week. It’s a minor complaint, and the conflict has me sufficiently interested to make me want to see the villains more often – especially Vier, because her and Fiona? Shady. Real shady. The man at the end (Nagano Yoshikazu) – who was introduced in the first episode but never formally given a name – is pretty shady, too, and there’s no way to discern whose side he is on based on that phone call. There’s also some foreshadowing going on with Shinji, although it might just be a red herring to throw viewers off. In any case, it’s a complication that I welcome since a double agent in the form of an adorable shota is an element of mystery I never really expected, and I have to say… mystery on top of what you’ve given me already? Studio DEEN, you spoil me.
The Preview Guy was Suguru this week, and finally, he gets some screen time! All the youngsters are running circles around the poor guy! He’s not my favorite, but come on – ossans need some love, too.