Monday, January 01, 2007

Winter Garden

As the new year dawns, every anime fan faces a critical choice--what will be the first anime you watch of the year? Will it be an episode of Yoakena or Soul Link, figuring that leaves nowhere to go but up? Or will you turn to face Kyoto, bow to the anime gods, and then watch an episode of Kanon, or Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu? For me it was an easy choice--I hadn't finished watching Winter Garden yet, so it got the honor of being the first anime I watched in 2007. And it was really pretty good, in spite of being just two episodes.

If you hate cuteness and/or romance in anime, I can guarantee you'll hate Winter Garden, because it's...well, a cute romance story. The main characters are Dejiko, who's 20 now, her younger sister Puchiko, who's 15 and lives with Dejiko, and Takurou, the guy Dejiko meets by chance on Christmas and becomes interested in. Dejiko and Puchiko are characters from Di Gi Charat, but since I've only seen one episode of it, that didn't mean much to me--if you'd watched Di Gi Charat you'd doubtlessly find more references and in-jokes that would've blown right by me.

The characters really make or break most anime for me, and Winter Garden has a very likeable cast--Dejiko's hard not to root for, she's innocent and a little ditzy, while Puchiko has the ability to tease her older sister down perfectly, and the interactions between the two are some of the best parts of the OVA. Puchiko's character is just awesome, and Dejiko's reactions to her comments are pretty funny. Puchiko gets to play the guitar in the second episode, although if like me you were hoping for something along the lines of Lost My Music, it's going to disappoint you--damn you, Kyoani, for setting such a high bar to clear for concert scenes. The character designs in Winter Garden are simple, but really cute, reminding me a lot of Snow Fairy Sugar. It's not jaw-dropping animation like the ball scene in Kyoani's Kanon, but it's not Cabbage Love either--the characters are drawn consistently well, the backgrounds are good, and the atmosphere fits the story perfectly.

Hinano already has an excellent summary of the plot (ep 1 and ep 2), but to put it in a single sentence, the plot is boy-meets-girl, misunderstanding between boy and girl (of course), and (as you can probably guess from a mile away) the misunderstanding gets cleared up at the end. The ending's not entirely conclusive (you don't see Dejiko get married or anything) but you can fill in what happens from there easily enough. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's still a well-told story, it's cute, and hell, it's better than the allegedly heartwarming crap they show on US TV around Christmastime. I can definitely see myself watching it again next Christmas, or anytime I'm just looking to watch something that'll put a smile on my face. Although it's only two episodes, if it shows up on region 1 DVD, I'll buy it in a second, since I'm a sucker for shows like this.

On a side note, I really wish they would do this with Galaxy Angel--take the characters a few years down the road and put them in a romance-type story like this one. There were a couple serious epsiodes sprinkled throughout Galaxy Angel's run, but I'd love to see something like Winter Garden done with the cast, in an alternate universe or what have you. The second season of GA kind of went that way in one episode as I recall, but Milfeulle x Volcott? Ugh.
On a side, side note: between Winter Garden and Kanon, I'm really starting to miss snow. I'm sure I wouldn't miss it if I had to shovel out my driveway, but sitting here when it's 63 degrees Fahrenheit outside I'm just not feeling that winter atmosphere. But before everyone who lives in colder climates starts throwing e-snowballs at me, wishing it was anywhere near 63 where they are, I should probably shut up.


Babel said...

Thanks for pointing Winter Garden out to me - I must have missed it - I'll go dig it out, I could do with something a bit happy after the usual Christmas/new years relatives and arguments. Bleh!
Happy 2007!!

Sana Jisushi said...

I still say play the games if you want serious romance Galaxy Angel. I played through the first one and I really, really suck at Japanese. (Unlike my computer.)

suguru said...

babel: You're welcome, hope you enjoy it--happy 2007 to you too!

sana: I'm tempted, but I've never played one before and since I can't read kanji I'm not sure at any of the decision points I'd be able to pick wisely. Maybe I'll break down and import the game one of these days though...

Anonymous said...

Nice write up. This was the first anime I saw on the new year too. It's extremely good and because I'm a huge fan of Digi Charat and have seen a lot of the series, this anime had twice that heart warming effect. But I'll tell you, I didn't even know it was a Digi Charat OVA until I saw the picture at the end of episode 2.

So to answer your question, there aren't any similarities with the characters that you would expect from the actual Digi Charat series. In fact, the artwork doesn't even resemble them a whole lot. Although Puchiko seems to resembles her former self a lot more than Dejiko resembles her former self. The bangs needed work in order to help her look like she's really Dejiko. And it didn't help that the personalities do not resemble the original characters at all in any way whatsoever. Although Puchiko did have somewhat of a sharp tongue. Puchiko's personality is a lot more believable than Dejiko.

Dejiko was initially stuck up and a completely mean person and far from innocent. It just seemed like she was far too GOOD.

I guess they were trying to show the fact that she's matured with age but meh, being a writer/visual artist of anime(as a hobby) I realize it's realistic for people to make drastic changes in personality from youth to adult-hood; however, when dealing with characters it's best to leave some old character traits in order for the viewers to relate the new character with the old. Unless you are writing a story where the character matures over time as you watch. Then it's believable.

whoops sorry for the ran. In all honesty, I loved it. But I have a habit of pointing out the bad in any form of art. That anime made me smile so much and it was so beautiful and heart warming. I recommend anyone who loves cute love animes to watch this you definately won't be dissapointed.

suguru said...

yotsuba: Thanks for the info--it's interesting they had to change Dejiko's character so much, but I like what they came up with. Now I need to rent Di Gi Charat...