Tuesday, November 13, 2007

D.C. II: When Side Characters Attack

It's official--Da Capo II is trying to kill me. It's not a quick, speedy death either. It seemed like it had such potential for greatness, with appealing characters, and (based on what I'd read about the game) a solid, dramatic plot, but instead, like a fresh doughnut with a creamy ear wax filling, what looked good at a glance is rapidly turning into something really hard to keep down.

There are a few things D.C. II has done well so far--the characters aren't bad (when they get screentime), the character designs are good, and the animation quality is decent, if not inspiring. So far they've forgone the love triangles, rectangles, or dodecahedrons common in bishoujo-game-to-anime series, with Yoshiyuki and Koko being monogamous and pretty much accepted as a couple by the rest of the cast (although Yume's a little annoyed...). On that count I have to give them points for originality.

However...then we get to the bad part, starting with the male lead, Yoshiyuki. Yoshiyuki is a perfectly nice guy--which also makes him perfectly boring. Compared to Junichi from the original Da Capo, he just has no edge at all. He rarely teases anyone, doesn't have a sarcastic bone in his body, and cries at sappy movies. There's nothing wrong with nice characters, but take Junichi and subtract the sarcasm and laziness and what's left, other than a pulse? The banter between Junichi and the rest of the Da Capo cast was great, but that's sadly missing completely from D.C. II.

The worst flaw so far, though, is the relentless focus on Koko. Koko is Kurumi from Pani Poni Dash--she's perfectly nice and all but jimi (plain) as hell. There's just not much potential for drama with her character in the spotlight. Not to mention focusing on one of the less popular characters would seem to be a bad recipe for selling a lot of DVDs. In a popularity poll for the game, Koko would rank well behind Otome, Yume, and Nanaka--but those three barely show up in the anime at all. Otome only cameos for a token second or two an episode, Yume gets a couple lines and that's it (an easy paycheck for Horie Yui, I guess), and Nanaka gets some screentime in episode 7, but other than that she doesn't get much attention either.

At first I thought Koko would get dumped halfway through the series, but they've focused on her for so long now that having Yoshiyuki dump her for another member of the cast would defy belief, since they've done nothing to develop Yoshiyuki's relationships with Otome or Yume (aside from the occasional Yume snippy-ness.) Minatsu has gotten some attention, but like Koko she's another one of the mostly forgettable "follow this route first so you can hurry up and get to the interesting people" side characters.

Koko's route in the game at least had a love triangle, but in the anime the only drama we're getting is the burning excitement of "Yoshiyuki and Koko: Will They Hold Hands?" I expect once the sakura tree comes into play we'll get some drama, but at this point they've done so little to develop Yoshiyuki's relationships with Sakura, Otome, and Yume that the drama is going to be seriously weakened. Unless they're going to cut the sakura tree story out completely, and really just make this The Koko Show--maybe that's the best I can hope for, with a "D.C. II Alternative" delivering the real drama in a later season.

You can do a solid, dramatic series in one cour, and I think Gift ~eternal rainbow~ is a good example--Gift started out with the introduction of the main love triangle, went through the side characters, and had a solid finish with the dramatic part of the story. But D.C. II so far seems like it's trying to compete with Shana II to put the audience to sleep, and the drama has been strikingly absent. Watching the original Da Capo, while some of the middle episodes you could argue wandered, the main drama/conflict was set up from the very beginning, versus D.C. II where it's nowhere to be seen halfway through.

Maybe, like Yoakena, on re-watch with lower expectations, I won't find D.C. II as frustrating, but right now I'm quickly moving into Disappointment territory. I'm hoping D.C. II will redeem itself towards the end, and as a Da Capo fan I'll definitely keep watching, but for now I'm baffled at the direction they're taking it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Seto no Hanayome

It's impossible to review comedy well, and since there's probably nothing more subjective than what's funny, reviews of comedy series are honestly pretty useless anyway. One blogger will say any given comedy is pure gold, the next will say they'd rather stick their face in a fan than watch it. Having said that, I can tell you I laughed out loud like an idiot at practically every episode of Seto no Hanayome, both the first and second times I watched it, but your mileage may vary. This is probably going to end up my favorite series of the year, so I'll ramble on about it anyway.

The basic plot of Seto no Hanayome is simple enough--Nagasumi goes to the Seto Inland Sea with his parents for summer vacation, and promptly gets a leg cramp and looks like he's going to drown. Of course, to avoid this being the shortest anime series ever, he doesn't drown and gets saved by a mermaid. It turns out that mermaid, San, is the daughter of a yakuza family of mermen and mermaids, and that since he knows her secret San has to die--unless, of course, he marries her, in which case he'll be a family member and knowing her true identity won't be an issue. So they end up engaged, even though they're both still in junior high, and heading back to Nagasumi's home in Saitama...although now the majority of San's family wants to kill him, including her father, and he has to made sure no one else finds out San's identity.
Just from the description of the plot you might think it's just another love comedy, and it's true it doesn't aspire to be more than that--but it does do the comedy side of things very, very well. The cast is excellent, with all of the characters being very unique and memorable. The character-based humor, slapstick, and over-the-top comedy all reminds me a lot of Urusei Yatsura, or more recently Magikano (from the same director as Seto). Luna's reaction when her Terminator-lookalike father shows up in serafuku...Mikawa's reaction whenever his helmet's taken off...San's reactions to Akeno's 'training' to resist turning back into a mermaid when she gets wet...Nagasumi's reaction to Masa's CPR...there are too many moments like this to list, but they're all hilarious, and wouldn't be possible without a great cast. You could argue the romance part takes a back seat to the comedy, and that's probably true, but overall I think Nagasumi and San's relationship gets developed well along the way too.
When this first aired, I wasn't sure Halko would be a good fit for San's voice, but I'm glad to say I was wrong and she did a great job. Lunar and Akeno are two of my favorite characters also...and although he's a clone of Mendou from UY, Mikawa always cracks me up too. Nagasumi is a refreshing male lead in that he's not allergic to girls or a total wuss--in fact, by the end he turns into a paragon of gar-ness.

Some would argue the best anime should be deep, or profound, or make you cry, or soil yourself in fear, or whatever--but for me anime is entertainment, and Seto no Hanayome did a great job at keeping me entertained from start to finish. If you're looking for a laugh at the end of a long workday, with a great cast of characters it's hard not to like, you can't go wrong with this.