「ハルカズハート」 (Harukazu Haato)
It’s not quite the same as Amagami’s omnibus format where the story completely resets after every girl’s arc, but Yosuga no Sora employs something similar with a bit of episode overlap throughout. Using this approach, the writers seem intent on providing four four-episode arcs with only twelve episodes in total. Pretty clever. Word is that the breakdown will actually see Sora’s arc spanning five episodes and taking the finale episode of the series, while episode one depicting Haruka and Sora’s arrival serves as a common baseline. With that in mind, it’s no wonder every single girl was blushing helplessly at the sight of Haru in the premiere episode, as all the routes are pretty much open at that point. Given the rapid development between our studly protagonist and Kazuha last time, the conclusion of her arc this very episode probably came as just as much of a surprise to many viewers as the mostly uncensored sex scene at the very end. While the latter provides a somewhat sensual adaptation of the fact that this is based on an adult romantic simulation game, the decision to intertwine the stories does as well by showing that they all begin the same way but can progress down a vastly different path depending on the “flags” taken (i.e. decisions made). As the preview indicates, the next episode will diverge from episode two onwards when the story progressed down Kazuha’s route instead of Akira’s, meaning that their two stories share a common progression in the first two episodes. Next is supposedly Nao and then finally Sora, both of who will continue on from episode one with a common episode seven, before having their own conclusions. i.e. Episodes 8, 9 and 10, 11, 12 respectively.
While I can’t say I’ve ever seen this form of storytelling in an anime or any form of media before, I’m almost dumbfounded by why that is when it makes so much sense from a visual novel adaptation’s standpoint. Granted, it’s not something I’d like to see become the norm since there are pros and cons to this approach, but I’m definitely not opposed to seeing it now and then for the obvious reasons — it provides multiple endings and showcases the appeal of each girl. The game makers at Enterbrain expressed the desire to see Amagami adapted as such for that very reason, and after having gone through four arcs of the omnibus format that AIC’s decided to go with, I have to say I really like how it works out. In addition to seeing multiple endings, the arcs themselves are also short and sweet, whereas a single story stretched out to 12-13 episodes or more tends to feel like it’s been beating around the bush far too long. Comparing the two approaches, I can’t definitively say which one’s better, though if I had to pick one I’d still go with the complete reset. The reason being the obvious one, as it dedicates more episodes to each character and doesn’t terribly take away from the sense of the intertwining stories and when a path isn’t taken. What’s more, there are a lot of character traits revealed in each of the arcs that carry over to future ones, giving off a sense that it’s one story with multiple endings. What I actually like about Yosuga no Sora’s approach though is that it makes it feel more constrained in a game’s sense and the branch points are much more apparent (and potentially more meaningful) because they happen in the middle of the story. Either way, they both work for me and I’m really enjoying this refreshing new spin on romance anime.
As for the conclusion to Kazuha’s arc itself, my overall impression is that I like how it added a fair degree of drama to the series like I was hoping. In particular, there was the unilateral problem Kazuha had with her father, which was revealed to be not a problem at all once Haru did some prying into Akira’s past. The revelation that he had been secretly supporting Akira financially and deeply cares about her but had been keeping it a secret from Kazuha for her mother’s sake may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things; however, it gave that extra dimension to both the characters and the series as a whole that I like to see. If nothing else, it gives hope that the other girls’ stories will provide something similar and possibly even more compelling. In addition to that, Akira herself gave indication that she’s not entirely happy about not acting on her feelings toward Haru first, despite how she insisted that she was happy for Kazuha. “Conflicted” would probably be the best way to describe her actions, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how Kazuha will react when the tables are turned in the next episode. From the look of things, it doesn’t look like there will be any bad endings when all’s said and done, but there will obviously be girls who feel they lost out and it’s interesting to see that aspect depicted as well.
Last but definitely not least is the sex scene to commemorate the coveted end scenes that are undoubtedly one of rewards in adult romance sims. As I mentioned back in the Fall 2010 Preview, I was hoping that the nudity would be used in some tasteful and sensual way if there’s going to be any at all, so I’m quite happy that’s turned out to be the case. The scenes themselves are still pretty risqué and not suited for younger audiences, but the fact that it’s consensual makes it difficult to perceive it as merely hentai with no purpose other than the obvious. Objectively speaking, they also do justice to the source material. It’s worth noting that some scenes were censored on AT-X’s broadcast, though it’s questionable as to why that is when some more revealing full-length ones were not. I gather they want to save something for the DVD/BD releases, but viewers really aren’t missing out on too much without them in this case. Thinking back, I had my eye on this series from the very beginning of the season, but studio feel has really surprised me with both the format and its delivery. If this keeps up, we might have a good contender for Amagami for romance/drama for this year.
* In addition to that full-length spread of Kazuha, I also made one of Motoka in the omake.