* heavy spoilers *
So after 24 episodes, several kimis getting kissed, and probably the most complicated relationship chart ever for a bishoujo series, Kimikiss is over--Asuka and Yuumi fans will surely disagree, but I still think Kimikiss was one of the best anime series of its genre I've seen in a while. What made the series unique to me was the way it took the old "Everybody Loves Juinchi/Yoshiyuki/Yuichi/Tomoya" formula we typically see in harem anime and threw it out the window and into the wood chipper. Having multiple male leads made the relationship chart a hell of a lot more interesting--it was such a simple move to make, and I wish that other anime would follow the same example. Yes, it makes the story diverge from the source material, but since I don't play the games these series are based on, I don't have any predisposition to a "route" or "flag" that I want to see animated just so--if it's a good story, I really couldn't care less if it follows the game's path or not.
Here are the things I liked the most about Kimikiss:
* More than one lead character - I generally like most bishoujo-game-to-anime series because I'm a sucker for any series with a romance angle to it, but in a lot of examples of the genre it's insane the sheer number of girls that you have after a single guy. I've mentioned this before with Da Capo--while it's one of my favorite series, at the same time the sheer number of residents of Hatsunejima with crushes on Junichi defies belief, and hints at darker forces at work. But Kimikiss broke the lead role up into Kouichi, Kazuki, and Kai, with even Hiiragi, who by any measure is a side character, having his day, a day that you know will never come for Sunohara in Clannad... It immediately breaks the "let's go through each girl's route" formula you come to expect, and while I think Mao and Futami were front-runners from ep 1, it also introduced enough uncertainty to where you could realistically see Asuka or Yuumi getting the win in the end instead. Compare this to Clannad--did anyone think it was going to end with Tomoya x Fuuko, even for a second?
* Great Cast - This is 9000% subjective, but personally I thought Kimikiss had an excellent, very likeable cast. No, they're not all perfect--as Stripey has pointed out before, there's nothing more cruel than stringing people along in the name of not wanting to hurt them, and Mao and Kouichi were definitely both guilty of this to a point. And yes, around episode five I wanted to put the damn frogs in a blender and set that sucker on 'frappe'. But at the same time, the characters' emotions, their struggles as they come to grips with their feelings, it all came across as very real, and I can't think of a single character that I really disliked. You know from the outset some people at the end of the series will be together and some will be left alone but hopefully better from the experience, and while if I had to vote I'd have said I was rooting for Futami and Mao, I can't say I dislike Asuka or Yuumi, far from it.
* Story - While lacking the drama of say, the last episode of Da Capo, the story was well-written overall, I thought--it didn't feel like there was much "filler" to speak of, and thanks to the multiple love triangles going on, there was always some advancement in the plot and a dramatic moment to end each episode on. While not everyone may be happy with the "winners", I think they did a solid job showing Kouichi and Kazuki's feelings and why they make the choices they do. As good a character as Asuka is, after Kazuki spent 23 episodes chasing Futami, there was just no way in hell she could plausibly get the win, and while Kouichi seemed more torn with Yuumi, there were plenty of signs he was looking more Mao's way, especially after she confessed.
* Character Designs and Music - It didn't hurt that I really liked the character designs (when they were drawn on-model anyway) and the OP and the ED (for the first half) quickly found themselves spots on my playlist.
Of course, nothing's perfect, so moving on to the parts I wished had been better:
* Animation Budget - Let's just say, this isn't Clannad...even ep 19 of Clannad with the ef-like distance shots was better than some of the distorted facial expressions we got in Kimikiss. Given all its strong points, I'd still buy Kimikiss on DVD in a heartbeat, but I'm hoping the DVD version they fix some of the more glaring issues.
* Mitsuki - Not a bad character and I have no problem with her personally, but why was she in this again? I thought for sure given the time they took to show her background and introduce the whole "engaged since she was little, but has never fallen in love" angle, that they'd explore this a little more, but nope. In the end, she doesn't even wind up with Hiiragi, since he seems to prefer tsunderes.
* The Play Within the Play - While the end was good, I was surprised they didn't use the student movie to better advantage--I was thinking we'd see at least part of it, that watching it all in edited form would be the catalyst for Kouichi running after Mao or something, but nope. Poor Hiiragi had to suffer all that time editing for nothing...
* Udon and the Frogs - I'm guessing both were more or less there for comic relief but...not nearly as funny as say, Tomoyo vs Sunohara in Clannad. But I hated the frogs, so I'm pretty biased...
In the end, I think Kai should get some kind of award for being the Martyr/Catalyst character--he was right on in his observation Mao and Kouichi were actually very similar. Mao lied to herself about how she felt about Kouichi, and Kouichi did the same, telling himself it was for Yuumi's sake. The scene with Yuumi and Kouichi in the end I thought was really well done too--Yuumi knew, as it'd be hard not to given Kouichi's expressions when he saw Mao, and clearly she'd prepared herself for "the talk" well in advance since she didn't shed a tear. Askua it's hard not to feel bad for since if she'd realized she liked Kazuki before he met Futami maybe there could have been something there--but to Kazuki's credit, he was consistently chasing Futami the whole series and not about to change his mind at the 11th hour.
In the end, I'm happy for Mao and Futami--Mao because while it took her a while to realize her feelings she clearly did love Kouichi and did the right thing breaking things off with Kai once she realized that. And in Futami's case seeing her progression to dere-dere mode it's hard not to be happy for her landing Kazuki, and somehow, to me those two make the cutest couple in the series. Futami's stubborn "I'm not crying" when there were tears rolling down her cheeks is one of my favorite anime scenes from this season.
Before the season started I didn't have much of any expectations for this--but if anyone from JC Staff is reading this, thanks for a series that I'm sure I'll be re-watching down the road...now I just have to hope it makes it to DVD over here someday. Also thanks to BSS for subbing this at epic, blazing speed.