「あかね色のファーストキッス」 (Akane Iro no Faasuto Kisu)
“Madder-Red First Kiss”
It’s a little bit concerning when I can go through the cast list for a show and instantly recognize every single name on it (in Japanese) off the top of my head, but that’s what we have here with Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka—quite possibly the romance comedy of the season. In a mouthful, we basically have three-quarters of the Lucky Star cast, two leads from Gundam SEED, two-thirds of the ARIA cast, a couple of girls from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, plus Kugimiya Rie and Hatano Wataru playing the two leads. Throw in the ever-so-funny Koyama Rikiya (Shinigami-sama in SOUL EATER) to play the teacher Sugishita Seijirou, and we’ve got series that’s overflowing with too much talent. Question now is, does it have the production quality and substance to go along with the cast?
Since I’ve been eyeing this show a lot more than the others this season, that question’s been on my mind for a while. Much to my delight, the first episode didn’t disappoint one bit. Based on an adult visual novel developed by feng, Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka may inadvertently turn some viewers away, but my experiences with visual novel adaptations has been surprisingly good. It’s been so good in fact that I actually look forward to them quite a bit, since they generally have interesting characters that can be easily adapted into a romance comedy—my favorite genre. With that said, I absoluted loved every minute of the first episode, with each of the characters quickly showing their little nuances that will undoubtedly carry on throughout the series.
Fans of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu should make an easy transition over to this series, since Ayase Yuuto’s seiyuu now plays the surprisingly similar Nagase Junichi. Being a fairly level-headed male protagonist unlike the ones you’d typically expect in a harem-like series, Junichi reminds me a lot of Yuuto, except he’s a bit better looking (subjectively speaking). Between these two series, Akane Iro no Somaru Saka comes across as more of the type of show I was hoping for in Nogizaka Haruka, primarily in the comedic department. Here, we also have much more interesting male sub-characters in the form of Junichi’s friend Nishino Fuyuhiko and teacher Sugishita Seijirou, who add that extra comedic flair when it comes to our male protagonist. Add Inoue Marina into the mix as classmate Kiryuu Tsukasa and you have the sarcastic teasing element that was sorely missing in Nogizaka Haruka.
So wait, it’s not all comedy though right? This is where Kugimiya Rie comes in as Katagiri Yuuhi, a new transfer student at Junichi’s school who was helped out by him on the first day. Having not caught his name though, she takes an unexpected interest in him, only to be kissed the next day when Junichi misunderstands things. Being the rich, strong-willed, stubborn girl that she is, Yuuhi naturally doesn’t respond well to her first kiss being taken away, but later moves in with Junichi and his sister Minato as per marriage arrangements by Junichi’s parents. While I’m sure hearing “strong-willed” and “stubborn” will make most most people think of Kugimiya Rie’s typical tsundere roles — Louise, Shana, and now Taiga in Toradora! — Yuuhi’s actually really cute and timid for the most part, making me feel that this is how a tsundere should be. (Note: I love tsundere characters when they’re portrayed well.) Rie doesn’t use her usual high-pitch voice here, so it’s not deafening when Yuuhi blows up either. As such, I find her much more amiable than Taiga as well. Yuuhi aside, other notable appearances this episode were Tanaka Rie as the student council president Shiina Mitsuki, and Katou Emiri as the assertive, class-rep-like Ayanokouji Karen.
Production-wise, TNK did an impressive job on this series, which I feel is miles ahead of their work on School Days. Much like Rosario + Vampire, Akane Iro has lush colors that pop out at you, fluid animation, and cute character designs — all of which simply add to the overall appeal. The opening song is performed by Hashimoto Miyuki, which instantly made me think of her catchy songs in SHUFFLE!. In what seems like a rarity this season, there’s an actual opening sequence rather than a video collage of episode scenes too. As for the ending song, it’s performed by Kugimiya Rie and sounds a lot better than Rie’s usual songs, since it’s not overly silly like her Zero no Tsukaima ones. Length-wise, I have yet to confirm from an official source how many episodes there will be, but given the current pacing, I think a good single season series is preferable to a stretched out two-season one.
Anyway, romance comedy of the season — I’m making my stake on it here. If I turn out terribly wrong, we’ll address that when the time comes. I have high hopes that this series will turn out to be just that if the first episode was any indication of things to come.
– Nagase Junichi (長瀬 準一) : Hatano Wataru (羽多野 渉)
– Katagiri Yuuhi (片桐 優姫) : Kugimiya Rie (釘宮 理恵)
– Nagase Minato (長瀬 湊) : Hirano Aya (平野 綾)
– Kiryuu Tsukasa (霧生 つかさ) : Inoue Marina (井上 麻里奈)
– Ayanokouji Karen (綾小路 華恋) : Katou Emiri (加藤 英美里)
– Shiraishi Nagomi (白石 なごみ) / Shiraishi Yutori (白石 ゆとり) : Hirohashi Ryou (広橋 涼)
– Shiina Mitsuki (椎名 観月) : Tanaka Rie (田中 理恵)
– Tachibana Mikoto (橘 ミコト) : Hadzuki Erino (葉月 絵理乃)
– Nishino Fuyuhiko (西野 冬彦) : Ishida Akira (石田 彰)
– Sugishita Seijirou (杉下 清次郎) : Koyama Rikiya (小山 力也)
– Fujimiya Sai (藤宮 彩) : Kobayashi Yuu (小林 ゆう)
– Nijou Aya (二条 亜矢) : Fukuhara Kaori (福原 香織)
– Yocchan (よっちゃん) : Toyosaki Aki (豊崎 愛生)