OP: 「Clover」 by (Sakamoto Maaya)
「弟子入り志願」 (Deshiiri shigan)
“I Want to be an Apprentice”
The hope of this anime season lies in the spate of seinen manga adaptations on the schedule. They’re all new to me, but given what the rest of the slate looks like, some of them are going to have to come through in order for the season to avoid being a clunker. Given the theme and staff behind it, Arte was certainly prominent among that group – it’s not like we get a lot of series about the pursuit of art, never mind ones set in Renaissance Europe.
If I’m honest, having premiered at the same time as Yesterday o Utatte – and my decision to watch that show first – really didn’t do Arte any favors. This premiere was pretty good, but it paled in comparison in pretty much all respects. That’s not really a fair measure since Yesterday is easily the best non-sequel premiere so far this season, but it is what it is. But then, one week does not a season make – and each of these series is going to have to prove itself over the long haul.
Arte is the story of a girl with the unlikely name of Arte (Komatsu Mikako), growing up in a noble family in Florence in the early 16th century. She loves, well- art. Her recently deceased father brought her a tutor and encouraged her passion for it, though her mother heartily disapproved. After his passing she cracked down on her daughter’s hobby, as at nearly 15 years old she was moving into prime marrying age for the time. And with the patriarch gone, the family would not be in a position to offer suitors a particularly impressive dowry.
Let’s stipulate to a couple of things. Was it incredibly difficult for women to become professional artists in 16th century Florence? Absolutely. Did the few who managed it likely possess massive skill and determination? Certainly. So in that sense Arte’s story is perfectly plausible. As is the fact that every artisan in the neighborhood refuses to even look at her portfolio of drawings. It’s only after she threatens to cut off her own breasts in the street in order to stop being treated like a girl (I’d like to think she’s smart enough not to have gone through with it) and artisan Leo (Konishi Katsuyuki) stops her that Arte more or less lucks into an opportunity.
For all that, though, I must say I didn’t find this first episode especially convincing. The best way I can describe it is to say that rather than as a seinen, it played like an above-average light novel. Everything was executed rather broadly, and rather than Florence in the Renaissance I felt like I was watching 21st century anime characters stuck in a Renaissance setting. And while the look of the series was fine (art director Scott MacDonald is one of the most accomplished gaikokujin in the anime industry), somehow it didn’t pop the way you’d want a show about Renaissance Florence to (the way Paris popped in Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, for example).). The look was generically anime in much the same way that the tone was.
I’ll say this much – it’s a tricky balance, showing a character like Arte trying to accomplish what she is without making her seem like a standard plucky anime girl. But even so the premiere didn’t manage to – at least for me. I just wasn’t getting authenticity from her, or from the overall execution. Leo was fine but he too came off as more of a familiar anime archetype than an original creation authentic to the setting. It’s only one episode, it’s seinen, and it’s Florence – a city I love. Of course, I’m going to give Arte every chance to win me over. But next weekend, I think I’ll watch it before I watch Yesterday o Utatte.
ED: 「Hare Moyou」 (Sunny Design) by (Kiyono Yasuno)