Thursday, September 14, 2006

To Heart 2

The original To Heart is one of my favorite anime series, so I was eagerly looking forward to To Heart 2 when I first heard it was getting animated. Reading the excellent posts on Bluemist's blog describing each girl's scenario from the game, it was easy to see there was a lot of potential out there for a touching, dramatic anime series. Unfortunately, while you get the occasional glimpse of what might have been, overall the To Heart 2 anime was a disappointment to me, coming across as average and uninspired when it had the potential to be much more than that.

To Heart 2 follows a fairly conventional storyline--it takes your average high school guy, Takaaki, who is living alone because his parents work overseas (have you seen this before?), and you follow his adventures as he meets a bunch of different girls in his school. This may sound like a boring formula, but executed well it can really work--the original To Heart, for example, had good chemistry between the characters, a strong male lead, and an interesting story for each of the girls. No one saved the world from an alien menace, there were no giant robots, no magical girls--the original To Heart, Multi aside, was the kind of story that could happen anywhere but it still managed to be compelling.

To me, To Heart 2 just didn't hit any of the fundamentals of the genre well--to start with, Takaaki was a weak male lead, and failed to have any chemistry with the girls at all. There's no Junichi-Nemu banter, no Hiroyuki subtly showing he cares about Akari, no real chemistry of any kind to convince the viewer, OK, it's plausible that all these bishoujo like Takaaki. He just comes across as completely generic, a nice guy perhaps, but nice to the point of being a complete pushover who lacks free will. Scenes where Yuuma is challenging Takaaki to duels are supposed to show her tsundere side but instead are so one-sided they come across as ridiculous--Hiroyuki would've said something droll but Takaaki usually just stands there and looks baffled, or less charitably, retarded. It seems silly to critize a anime about bishojou for not liking the male lead, but with a better Takaaki I think To Heart 2 could have had better chemistry between the characters and would've been a better anime.

The stories for each of the girls is another area where To Heart 2 suffered compared to the game--you don't see Manaka's sister, Yuuma's struggles with her future, or several other key points of the plot. It's like they sucked all the dramatic parts out of the game and tried to make the girls more one-dimensional. Some of this I can just chalk up to the series length, but the original Kanon did a much better job of this in 13 episodes than To Heart 2 did (although I'm hoping Kyoani's Kanon, with more episodes to work with, will be better still).

The animation--well, it wasn't first season of Negima bad, but it was a long way from Haruhi or Air quality.

Not to just keep kicking To Heart 2 in the balls while it's down, there are some things about the anime that I liked. While the girls' characters didn't get a whole lot of development, there were glimpses where it was easy to see why they have their fans--Ruri excepted, it's hard not to like them. At times To Heart 2 did remind me of the laid-back pacing of the original, and I kept watching to the last episode so despite its faults it was still compelling enough to keep me hooked anyway. The end of To Heart 2 didn't really 'end' anything, but it was a touching moment and it's not like the original To Heart ended with Hiroyuki and Akari flying off to Hawaii for their honeymoon, so I can't fault it too much for that.

Overall while it had a lot of room for improvement, To Heart 2 was worth watching once and I'm glad Aquastar-Anime and Avalon saw this through to the end so that we could watch it subbed. Part of me hopes Kyoani will remake it someday, and with Kanon getting the remake treatment, you never know...


meganeshounen said...

Spoilers abound (turn back if you don't want to be spoiled with the game/anime storyline):
If you crossreference bluemist's logs and all of the episodes, you'll see that it's as if the player (or Takaaki) is playing through ALL of the girls's stories. Though, I think he's farthest with Konomi (it ends with the part where Takaaki clears up his view of Konomi, see bluemist's Alternate Konomi Ending) and the Himeyuri twins (they got as far as Multi, that alone's enough).

suguru said...

True, I just wish they hadn't cut so much out of the stories, especially Manaka's and Yuma's...