「クマなら、ここで終わってた」 (Kuma nara, Koko de Owatteta)
“If It Were a Bear, It’d Be Over”
Despite the generic feel feng’s (pronounced “fon”) latest adult romance simulation gave off, its anime adaptation turned out much better than anticipated due to the seemingly generic characters themselves. The disparity between my initial impression coming in and the one I left with was quite surprising, because my research into the premise along with the promo video had already given a very good idea of what I was in store for. The big difference between then and now was the execution, which played out exactly like I had read about yet so better with some life behind the characters. By no means does this imply that Hoshikaka has suddenly gone from a run-of-the-mill eroge adaptation to a standout romantic comedy of the season, but it does mean it’s suddenly gone from a show I was considering only watching the first episode of to something that I want to see the rest of.
The premise itself is exactly as I laid out in the Spring 2011 Preview, starting off with Hoshino Kazuma (Asanuma Shintarou) moving to countryside of Yamabiko with his younger brother Ayumu (Oohashi Ayuru) out of best interest to the latter’s health. The “bit of trouble” they run into on their way to Yorozuyo inn turns out to be hopping on the bus in the wrong direction, followed by a monkey snatching Ayumu’s hat and running off with it. Not exactly the most exciting turn of events on paper, but quite a different story on screen when Kazuma is climbing up trees and fearlessly jumping between branches (…and falling). End result is of course Kazuma running into our beautiful heroine Nakatsugawa Ui (Nakamura Eriko), who just so happens to be gathering edible wild plants in the area. What distinguished this chain of events from the promotional video were the post lighting effects in the forest and Ui’s cheery innocent personality that raises the question on whether countryside girls like her really exist.
Character descriptions simply don’t convey exactly how a character will come off with a voiced personality behind them, which goes doubly for Ui’s friend Hinata Ibuki (Aoba Ringo), who wasn’t the least bit pleased about seeing Kazuma stumble and fall on top of Ui, locking lips with her in the process. Of all things, I actually opened up to Ibuki’s brash side more upon seeing her bashful one in the ending sequence, which means she’s likely the token tsundere of the series. However, the characters who really won me over in this first episode were Yorozu Senka (Kawaragi Shiho), the proprietress of Yorozuyo and Kazum/Ayumu’s new guardian, and Toudou Tsumugi (Takahashi Chiaki), Kazuma’s third-year senior at Yamabiko Manami Gakuen. In Senka’s case, she falls into the typical female character trope of being sensitive about her age, but the fact that it came so unexpectedly was oddly refreshing. Tsumugi on the other hand had a very cute reaction to seeing Kazuma’s package (in comparison to Senka’s devious one), which helped balance out all the character introductions at Kazuma’s expense.
In effect, all these happenings established an immediate familiarity between Kazuma and the heroines, allowing their relationships to snowball into more interesting ones as soon as he transfers to his new school. At the moment, I’m quite keen on seeing where things are headed between Kazuma and Ui after their first innocent kiss, but there’s already been a fair bit of foreshadowing between Kazuma and his childhood friend/shrine maiden Koumoto Madoka (Shimizu Ai), whom he left behind when he moved away. Plus, there’s still another senior named Sakai Hina (Yoshida Mayumi) as well as Tsumugi’s younger sister Koyori (Ookubo Aiko) slated to join the mix and further spice things up. When it comes to eroge adaptations, it’s no secret that the character personalities themselves play a huge part into how well it turns out, so if there’s one thing that Dogakobo’s done right, it’s establishing the finer points of a few heroines early on.
As mentioned above, there’s still very little to suggest this title is a must-watch of the season though. For me, I was entertained enough by its first showing — particularly with the comedic aspects — so I’m inclined to follow Hoshikaka all the way through now. Sometimes, you just never know with these seemingly generic adaptations. I try not to overlook them so easily after Fortune Arterial turned out better than expected a couple season ago.