Nakagami Shinichirou is an aspiring picture book author who is currently working on a story with the theme of tears. He’s frustrated because he wants to draw gentler pictures than he has been, and when he heads out of his room and downstairs, he finds and stares at Yuasa Hiromi working at a computer. Shinichirou has feelings for her, and after their short conversation about her work and eating dinner, he wishes he had said more. He returns to his story once he’s done eating and writes about collecting a person’s tears to make a necklace and decorate a tree. In his mind, Shinichirou develops an image of a girl standing under a giant tree, and he starts drawing. At school the next day, he watches Hiromi during gym class and gets teased by his friend Nobuse about it. After changing out of his gym clothes, Shinichirou hears a girl singing and traces the sound to a girl standing atop a tree branch by the school courtyard. As he stands there stunned by the view of her against the sunlight, the girl notices him and angers him by telling him not to look at her without asking. However, when he turns to walk away, she stops him and jumps down on top of him.
As it turns out, the girl had been in the tree getting berries from a branch to feed the school’s two chickens – what she calls a sky meal. She feels that the chickens want to fly, and since they’re caged up, she wanted to give them a meal from a high place. The girl then compares how one of the chickens doesn’t try to fly to what she thinks are Shinichirou’s own problems flying, and he responds by ridiculing her flying analogy by saying that her head is light with air. This causes the girl to get angry, and she walks off after wishing unhappiness onto him. Shinichirou learns from Nobuse later that the girl is Isurugi Noe. Returning home, Shinichirou pays a visit to the family brewery where his father is too busy at work to talk with him. He remembers how Hiromi came to live with them after her father – who was his own father’s acquaintance – had died. Shinichirou had been in the same class as her since elementary school, and since she was always cheerful, he had been worried about her smile. As Shinichirou is thinking about this, Hiromi comes home, and the way she simply greets him before heading inside reminds him of the unhappiness that Noe had wished onto him.
That night, Shinichirou heads to his friend Andou Aiko’s home to practice a traditional dance before heading to her family’s imagawayaki store, and when he voices his frustration through a loud sigh, Aiko warns him that sighing will lead to unhappiness. She is concerned about him, but Shinichirou leaves as soon as Nobuse stops by the store. Back at home, Shinichirou notices that he smells bad, so he decides to take a bath. What he doesn’t know is that Hiromi is already in the bathroom, and so he walks in on her changing. He rushes back out when he sees her, but to his surprise, it’s Hiromi who apologizes to him. Shinichirou thinks to himself that the normal reaction would have been screaming and calling him a pervert, and he’s frustrated at how she apologized. He ends up channeling this energy into making a chicken out of a box of tissues. The next morning, Shinichirou is sitting down to eat breakfast with Hiromi and his father when his mother walks in with a letter from a Tokyo publisher. She wants to know what he’s been hiding, but Shinichirou storms out without answering after grabbing the letter. Despite his mother’s protests, his father thinks that Shinichirou is his own person and doesn’t have to follow the family business.
The letter from the publisher turns out to be a rejection, and it once again reminds Shinichirou of the unhappiness Noe wished onto him. To get rid of this curse, he finds Noe – who is again up in the tree – and offers her a gift to take back what she said. She loves the chicken-shaped tissue box that he gives her and thinks that he can fly now. They then head to the chicken pen, but when they get there, they find the front of it broken open from what appears to have been a tanuki attack. Only the white chicken who can’t fly remains alive, and there’s blood on the ground, yet Noe feels that the black chicken flew away. Shinichirou thinks that she’s going to cry, but to his surprise, she doesn’t shed any tears despite how sad she sounds. As they two walk together past the waterfront, Shinichirou comments on how strong she is, so Noe admits that she’s really sad, and the truth is that she’s given up her tears.
Based on the first episode, true tears appears to be hitting all the right buttons production-wise with its great animation quality and very nice soundtrack (particularly the pieces that started and ended the episode). I think the only (very minor) complaint I have is that they chose to use CG people for the distance shots, and that looked odd and reminded me of how Utawarerumono did the same thing.
As for the story, I thought this had a bit of a slow start. Most of the episode is devoted to introducing the characters, and it looks like Aiko has feelings for Shinichirou, Shinichirou has feelings for Hiromi, and Hiromi feels like a burden on the Nakagami family. None of that was horrible interesting though, and it wasn’t until Noe’s appearance – with her eccentricities about the chickens and flying – that things got better. And then of course there’s also her problem with tears/crying, and that’s likely to be one of the central themes of the show given its title. Overall, I’d say H2O probably wins out for more interesting first episode, but this show has potential too, and I expect it to get better now that we’re past the introductions.