OP: 「恋するレンズ」 (Koisuru Lens) by 隼人加織 (hayato kaori)
Meet Maeda Kazuya, your typical didn’t-really-do-anything protagonist who has lacked an eventful life until he got his hands on a good DSLR camera. Upon acquiring said camera, cute girls around him begin asking to have their photo taken as well as vice versa. Such girls include Kazuya’s little sister Maeda Kanon (Ise Mariya), school idol and childhood friend Niimi Haruka (Itou Kanae), chummy friend Masaki Nonoka (Saito Chiwa), and Kanon’s friend, Mai Sakura (Kanemoto Hisako). Sound like familiar character types to you? Must’ve watched Amagami SS.
Due to this, Kazuya has attracted the attention of the Photography Club, which boasts its focus in borderline eroticism and the beauty of the young female form. After much pressure from the club and the rival Photo Club headed by Kurebayashi Katsumi (Mizuhara Kaoru), Kazuya reluctantly joins, torn between the appeal and the shadiness of their activities. However, the real drama begins as Kazuya observes Misumi Tomoe (Sawashiro Miyuki) crying on Haruka’s seat, which triggers the unveiling of a secret meant only for the two of them.
In order to judge this show’s debut correctly, I proceeded to recall the first time I watched Amagami SS and think about what kind of reaction I had back then. For a first episode, the show was alright–it had good art, a pleasant cast of characters, and that hok at the end was good enough a reason to keep watching. I wasn’t spectacularly impressed though, as other shows that season, such as Sekimatsu Occult Gakuin and Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi had caught my attention. It was an alright show, but then episode 4 stole my heart (as well as Haruka)–from then on out, I gave that show a lot more respect, especially for its fair distribution of screentime for each character.
Though I am hesitant to apply that same hope for Photo Kano, it’s possible, especially after looking past the graphical flaws that the show presents.
When I first watched the first episode, I was thoroughly disappointed in the animation and drawing quality, at least as compared to the standards that a rom-com fanservice show should abide by. Though the screenshots above manage to capture the better-looking moments that episode, those moments mostly came from still-shots. The majority of the animation is an average effort, though the animation of dialogues between characters is borderline low-tier. In order to hide this, the episode likes to flash many a shot in photographic fashion, but the tactic is used so much that it almost feels like watching a slideshow at times. Why can’t the show look like this or this all the time? Though there are moments where the animation is slightly creative, those moments need to appear more often to have a more profound effect. By golly, if you’re going to animate a dating sim that requires taking pictures of cute girls in the name of borderline eroticism, you’ve got to make sure, before all else, that your animation is superb!
But after a second watch-through, it looks like this adaption isn’t as much of a letdown as I originally thought it to be. There are numerous hints in the background foreshadowing the events yet to transpire, as well as events in the foreground that are subtle enough to hint at the future conflicts between the characters. Though lacking in animation, the careful directing of subtle hints creates an effective foreshadowing that actually makes a second watch-through enjoyable. I didn’t notice the first time that Hiromichi was actually stalking Maeda from the very beginning, and that Tomoe hinted at the sad distance she has with Haruka well before the end of the show. It’s those small details that go unnoticed in the first viewing, but become fairly obvious (and enjoyable to find) during a second watch. Though the larger plot and dialogue needs some work, I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt for trying to cram all the characters in 20 minutes. It wasn’t the most fluid plot, but if Photo Kano is trying to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps, I have hope that the show will improve over the course of the next 3 episodes.
There is one thing to look forward to in Photo Kano though, and that’s the audio! The cast is filled with experienced seiyuu, who despite the sometimes awkward dialogue they had to recite, did their best in doing so. The voices I’ve heard are so far pleasant and provide a much-needed aesthetic boost to the show. What’s even better though is the music selection and the OP, both done by the very talented Kubota Mina. Her work with creating the OP’s for the Aria series and Sasameki Koto shows itself again in the music and the opening song. The music fits well with the tone the show is aspiring towards, and while the animation for the opening song might be average, the song itself is catchy and gentle, like the river in four seasons…or something like that.
Anyways, those who feel a bit disappointed this episode should stick it through, especially if Amagami appealed to your tastes. Though the staff is almost entirely different from the last Enterbrain adaption, their true strength doesn’t begin to show until the introductions have completed themselves. It’s a shame that the animation hasn’t gone so well, but hopefully with a well-directed story and pro audio, the value of this visual novel adaption should show itself soon enough.
ED: 「スマイルF」 (Smile F) by うたカノ♪ (Uta Kano♪)