「失われた未来」 (Ushinawareta Mirai)
The first thing that willll strike you about Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete is how generic it is. It’s a visual novel adaptation and is keenly aware of it, playing on all the tropes we have come to know and (perhaps) love. Most of this episode was dedicated to character introductions, specifically, the Astronomy Club (which, curiously enough, seems to do very little astronomy). By order of appearance: our cookie-cutter male lead is Akiyama Sou (Terashima Takuma), who’s the only member with any interest (and only interest) in stars. Sasaki Kaori (Takada Hatsumi) is the unfortunate childhood friend with an unhealthy strawberry addiction. Hasekura Airi (Mizusawa Kei) is the club president who solves problems with violence because it has no repercussions. Hanamiya Nagisa (Tamiyasu Tomoe) is the manipulative senior with social influence. Taidarou ‘Kenny’ Osafune (Yamaguchi Kappei) is the luckless male wingman defined entirely by his foreign status. Of course, there’s also the semi-relevant supporting cast who struggle to even have names. Those of you familiar with Japanese entertainment media, especially visual novels, will have seen all these archetypes before. Even the fanservice is uninspiring fare. But really, the tried and true is not a bad way to start. Things go predictably, but solidly. The character designs are pleasing and personalities fun. The budget is modest, with the art going slightly QUALITY now and then, but generally adequately animated. With the orientation nailed, we can start doing development, introduce a love triangle, all that good jazz.
That’s until they run over a female lead with a bus.
The first 21 minutes of the episode was essentially bait, a ploy to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. A fake-out? Of sorts. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien immediately comes to mind, but in that anime the accident defines the entire narrative of the show. In Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete death seems to be a condition easily reversible. Or maybe it’s time that’s easily reversible. Steins;Gate, anyone? Well, we don’t have definitive proof of a Groundhog Day scenario yet so it could also be something like the Little Busters! route structure. But that would mean…wait, was that the entirety of the Kaori route? Surely not! I know we only have twelve episodes to work with and that’s not a lot of time, but an entire route in less than an episode would surely be a record breaker. Not to mention we’ve had no actual closure on Kaori as a character. This won’t be the first time a visual novel adaptation has brushed over a character in favour of the main route, though. As if to drive that point home, yet another rival appears, in a fashion that really is reminiscent of Steins;Gate. That, or Terminator, once she makes demands for Kaori’s clothes. Isn’t it sad, Kaori? This is the fate of all childhood-friend-types. You get the confession in first and you still lose. Your competition cheats.
Searching for the future
I know I flagged it somewhat in the preview, but I’ll say it clearly this time: Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete is likely more than it would seem at first blush. This first episode should make that apparent, and not just because of the sudden traffic mortality. The episode is bookended with hints of science-fiction elements, but I don’t think this anime is going to focus on sci-fi. I haven’t read the original visual novel so I don’t actually know, but a story with time travel, no matter how it’s done, does not necessarily need to be sci-fi, in the way one shouldn’t consider a story like, say, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to be sci-fi. Yes, let’s not beat around the brush—time travel is our big conceit for this narrative. The science isn’t important, but time will be a major theme. Consider the prominence of dates (assuming it’s not just an artefact held over from the VN) and the focus on clocks. And let’s not forget the metaphor on stars that Sou casually drops near the beginning of the episode. Even though we see the light of stars shining in the present, they may already have passed away long ago. And Sou? He loves stars.
ED: 「Le jour」 by 佐藤聡美 (Satou Satomi)