Kuronuma Sawako is a high school girl feared by her classmates because of her looks and the rumors about her. The other students even call her Sadako because of her resemblance to the character from Ring, but Sawako is misunderstood and just wants to be friendly with them. The person she really looks up to is the popular and friendly Kazehaya Shouta who she had first met on the day of the school entrance ceremony, and he had thanked her after she gave him some directions. On this particular day, Kazehaya tells the class about their plans to have a test of courage event, and he’d like everyone to go. Later, when Sawako volunteers to come in to help their teacher, Kazehaya objects because it’s always her who has to do it, and he ends up volunteering himself. Even though she insists on doing it and eventually gets the job, Sawako is impressed by how Kazehaya paid attention to what she did.
Her next interaction with him comes after he overhears her chatting about his cheeriness to her friend, and he’s glad that she doesn’t hate him. In talking to him, she realizes that he actually knows her real name, and he advises her to convey her feelings properly by speaking to people properly. As a result of this, Sawako wants to go sign up for the test of courage event, and she overhears two of her female classmates, Yano Ayane and Yoshida Chizuru, talking about having her act as a ghost. To their surprise, Sawako actually wants to play that part, and thanks to Kazehaya’s advice, she clearly explains her feelings to them and how she can’t actually sense the supernatural. On the night of the event, Sawako hides in the forest and scares everyone who comes by until Kazehaya shows up by himself and sits down with her. Ayane and Chizuru also come by to tell Sawako that she did a good job and to give her a drink, and Kazehaya observes that Sawako became friendly with them. She attributes it all to him, and he gets embarrassed when she looks at him, in turn leading to some new feelings in her.
At school the next day, the others guys want to punish Kazehaya for finishing the test of courage last by forcing him to go out with Sawako for a week. Kazehaya objects because it’s rude to Sawako, but it’s actually Sawako herself who speaks up to protect Kazehaya’s reputation and to explain her own feelings to clear up any misunderstandings. Afterward, Sawako believes that she did the right thing, but she later finds herself crying over the loneliness because she thinks that he’ll avoid her from now on. Much to her surprise, she finds him waiting for her on her way to school during summer vacation to help their teacher, and he hands her a bag of apology candy from the class. Kazehaya feels that Sawako doesn’t understand him as well as she thinks, and he actually wants to see her over summer break. What she doesn’t know is that he still remembers her smiling face from that day they first met, and he wonders if someday his feelings will reach her.
I started off liking the opening song more than the ending song since it reminded me a bit of Spitz and because I didn’t like the roughness of Chara’s voice. However, after listening to them a few times, the Chara song really grew on me, her voice stopped bothering me, and I actually like it more than the opening song now. Both the OP and ED sequences have some great artwork to go with them though.
If I didn’t know any better, I would have said that Kenichi Kasai and J.C.Staff were behind this series. It’s a testament to how well Production I.G was able to capture the details and feel of the original manga and pull off that beautiful watercolor look for the backgrounds. It’s like candy for the eyes. But that’s not all: I really loved the music as well, including the piece when Sawako was crying and the one that led into the ED. The latter helped make Kazehaya’s closing words feel extra special and reminded me a bit of some of the tracks on the Clannad OST.
This first episode followed the first chapter of the manga fairly closely, and it seems clear already that Sawako and Kazehaya are destined for each other. Obviously though this isn’t about the end result but rather about the journey getting there, and if this beginning is any indicator, it’ll be one filled with emotional highs and lows. The voice actors do a good job conveying that, and while I’ve seen some grumblings about Noto Mamiko in the main role (and how Hayami Saori could have done better), I had no problems with it myself. I think my only complaint is that it felt like they covered too much stuff for one episode, making the pacing a tad on the fast side, but like I said above, I really liked how the episode ended, so I can’t complain too much. In any case, I enjoyed this first episode and haven’t read too far in the manga, so I’m hoping for more good things from the rest of this series.