I recently started re-watching the first season of Da Capo, which combined with D.C.S.S. is the longest-running renai-game-to-anime series (52 episodes). It's a lot of fun going back and watching this again--I really like the cast, and while at first Da Capo seems like an ordinary harem series, it has an element of mystery to it and some well-done drama at the end. Plus going back and watching it again there are some things, like Kotori's comment in episode 10 that she's glad Nemu is "only Junichi's little sister", that have a little more irony now than the first time I watched it.
I still prefer the character designs from D.C.S.S. over the first season's, but the side stories in the first season of Da Capo have grown on me over time. The middle episodes of Da Capo are shorter than normal (about 15 minutes not counting OP/ED, instead of 21) to make room for a five-minute side story, each of which focuses on a different member of the cast. When I first watched Da Capo, because they were so different they were a little baffling, but knowing what to expect they're creative and entertaining in their own way. In some ways they're like watching really short episodes of Aria--nothing really incredible happens, but you get to follow each character through a small, five minute slice of their lives.
Mainly for my own benefit if I ever want to go back and watch a specific episode, here's the Cliff Notes version of the first 13 episodes of Da Capo--when I get all the way to the end I'll do this again for the last 13 episodes, where the drama kicks in:
Episode 1: The first episode opens with a dream--the protagonist, Asakura Junichi, has the ability to see other people's dreams in his sleep. Junichi tells us this is about the worst special power to have because there's nothing more boring than watching someone else's dream. He sees Sakura in his dream, but then gets woken up by Nemu. The main cast gets introduced--there's Junichi (the male lead), his sister (not related by blood) Nemu, who lives alone with him and tries to wake him up every morning with varying degrees of success, Suginami, Junichi's best friend, Mako and Moe, the sisters who always eat nabe on the roof at lunch, Miharu, Nemu's banana-obsessed best friend who's a year younger than her and Junichi, and Kotori, the school idol, who's so considerate it's half-seriously joked that she can read minds. At the end of the episode Sakura shows up--she was a childhood friend of Junichi's who moved away to America six years ago, and mysteriously she hasn't aged at all since then. This is unusual, but on
Episode 2: Nemu's annoyed with Junichi after what happened at the end of the last episode, but in the end they make up.
Episode 3: Miharu's story--she's trying to reach a cat stuck in a tree after school, but falls and gets injured. In her place, since the real Miharu could be in a coma for a year, mecha-Miharu, a robot, is sent to school who looks and (for the most part) acts just like the real Miharu. No one knows this, except for Junichi, who notices smoke coming out of Miharu's head, and later gets the truth from Koyomi-sensei. Koyomi-sensei explains to Junichi that mecha-Miharu has a hole in her back where she has to be wound with a key periodically in order for her to keep running, and occasionally she overheats--but with Junichi to help take care of her, she's sure everything will be OK. Junichi spends the day giving mecha-Miharu a crash course in everyday life at school, and she's earnest and really wants to be like the real Miharu. There are definitely some gaps in her knowledge, but she does love bananas, and since that's Miharu's defining characteristic, everyone else just buys that she's the real Miharu. I don't know what that says about the real Miharu--let's just say she's "simple".
Episode 4: It's Kotori's turn on stage--Junichi comes across her singing under the sakura trees, and we learn she has a special power as well, the ability to tell what other people are thinking. Junichi doesn't realize this though, he just thinks (like everyone else) that Kotori is just really perceptive and considerate. Kotori herself sees reading minds as a mixed blessing--while it's useful sometimes, there are other times that it's almost overwhelming for her. When she collapses after being bombarded with everyone's thoughts during a recital, Kotori is caught by Junichi, and afterwards she starts to like him, feeling that he has a pure heart. Well, pure except for the whole siscon thing.
Episode 5: The girl in the first episode watching Nemu and Junichi go to school from her window had a cat named Yoriko--and in episode 5 it takes off suddenly, chasing after Nemu and Junichi. Later that day some little kids are picking on a girl with nekomimi, but Junichi chases them off. Suginami thinks she's another of the wonders of Hatsunejima, and she ends up going home with Junichi because they have an extra room (an extra room that's the future home of Aisia--if the Asakura house was a two bedroom they'd get in a lot less trouble). Mako and Moe live in a palace, now that I think about it, but somehow people always end up in
Episode 6: Beach episode, which means mizugi for everyone. Nemu's a little annoyed all episode because Junichi had promised to go to the beach, just the two of them, but instead the whole world ended up going with. In the end Junichi does remember the promise though, and finds Nemu when she wanders off by herself.
Episode 7: Mako and Moe episode, mainly about Moe. Moe is the very well endowed older sister of the two, a year older than Junichi, while Mako is his kind of tsundere classmate. Moe has a tendency to sleepwalk playing the xylophone, and is probably about as ditzy as Yuuna from Kage Kara Mamoru or Milfuelle from Galaxy Angel.
Episode 8: A recap already, for those viewers with really bad short-term memories. Glad they didn't pull this recap crap with D.C.S.S. But before the recap, the first few minutes are actually the first of the "side stories", short six-minute or so stories focusing on each girl in turn. Kind of like Sister Princess RePure, now that I think about it, but the Da Capo side storys are short and actually kind of interesting. In this side story, the girls are at a playground telling ghost stories, which seem to be Miharu's weak point.
Episode 9: Nemu gets a stalker, who leaves her love notes, etc. Turns out it was just someone from a poetry forum on the internet, and in the end he runs away when he thinks Nemu's in love with another girl. Not hard to guess though, that the poem Nemu wrote was really for Junichi.
SIDE STORY: All about Nemu, from Junichi's perspective. There's some Nemu fanservice thrown in, as he walks in on her in the bathroom, shower, etc. and promptly gets beaten down each time. Junichi-Nemu reminds me a lot of Keitaro-Naru from Love Hina, it's amazing Junichi's still alive with the beatdowns he takes.
Episode 10: The school festival's in progress--Kotori invites Junichi to come hear her sing, but with all the preparations for the festival Nemu and Junichi haven't spent much time together, and Junichi (like an idiot) agrees to go around the festival with Nemu at the same time as he'd agreed to go to Kotori's concert. Being able to read minds, Kotori senses Junichi's dilemna, and tells him the concert is canceled, although it really isn't. She also can tell Suginami's pressuring Junichi to ask Kotori to join the school beauty contest, which she does for Junichi's sake. Of course, since Junichi's hanging out with Nemu he misses Kotori's song and Kotori winning the contest. At the end Kotori does meet up with Junichi, and she says (although he doesn't hear it) that she's glad Nemu is just his little sister. Ah, poor Kotori...you had to fall for siscon guy...
SIDE STORY: Kotori at the beach in a hat and sundress, running into the mysterious
Episode 11: Yoriko fears the outdoors--and since she was a house cat before, I guess it makes sense. The start of the episode is hilarious, as Nemu, Sakura, and Junichi put on a play of sorts in the front yard to try to convince Yoriko that being outside is awesome and she should come join them. It's not very convincing, since Suginami comes by and points out that Nemu and Sakura are all buddy-buddy and Junichi is saying Nemu's food is really good, both things that would never happen in real life (not this season anyway). Yoriko in the end does at least get as far as the street, and hopes one day she can walk with Junichi happily like Nemu does.
SIDE STORY: This time it's Sakura, as she videotapes things and wanders around town.
Episode 12: Mako's episode. A girl's stalking her (the tomboys always get the yuri attention in anime), so to convince her she's straight and get her to give up, Mako asks Junichi if he'll pretend to be her boyfriend. He agrees, and while it's a little forced at first, eventually they really do act like a couple. Junichi gets Mako to go to a scary movie, which turns out to be her weak point, and he thinks although she has a tough exterior Mako can be cute too. In the end the girl stalking Mako gives up, and Mako almost confesses to Junichi, but he just says she should hurry up and get a real boyfriend. I can see how this episode would win Mako a lot of fans--I can't give her the win over Kotori, but Mako is still one of the cooler members of the cast.
SIDE STORY: Starts with Utamaru's day, doing what cats do best (eating and sleeping in the sun). Props to Utamaru for sleeping in Kotori's lap, clearly he has good taste. Then we see Yoriko, who's made it well out of the house, although she still avoids people using her cat-like reflexes. For once, she doesn't hiss at Utamaru either. Yoriko would probably make a good ninja with her background, I keep thinking of All-Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku.
Episode 13: Suginami gets everyone tickets to a combination pool/onsen/zoo resort, although unbenkownst to them it's a plot so they can get bishoujo in their advertising brochures. Moe wears a particularly revealing swimsuit as usual, and Junichi's in awe of her monumental breasts, while Sakura gets depressed that she's got nothing. Later Junichi tells Sakura although he can't deny Moe's breasts have a certain appeal, it's what's inside that matters. If that's true, Moe should be at the bottom of Junichi's rankings, since she's dumb as a post, and gets lost just trying to find the onsen.
SIDE STORY: Possibly my favorite of the side stories, this time Miharu gets the spotlight. She goes online and bids in an auction (and by her reaction at the end, probably loses), flames people on 2chan ("you guys can all go ahead and die!"), and discovers internet porn, rapidly furthering mecha-Miharu's education.
If you made it this far, here's a bonus picture to prove my point about sleeping Kotori: