Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: Next Season

September 3, 2021

Sorry, but I don’t have many nice things to say about this one.

From what I understand, this OVA was the result of Bandai Visual wanting to salvage something after having obtained the license to make a Muv-Luv anime and then having the project fall through. So they went back to the well to make another KimiNozo anime instead, this time centering on Haruka’s route instead of Mitsuki’s. They had originally intended to make a straight adaptation of Haruka’s route from the game, but Age talked them out of it, on the basis that the Haruka route shares too much in common with the Mitsuki route that had already been animated (and keep in mind that the old anime also adapted several plot points from the Haruka route as well).

Instead, they came up with the idea of creating a new story, set after the Haruka route. Age wrote out the basic plotline and provided it to the anime staff, which then fleshed it out into a 4-episode OVA. Age would also go on to adapt that basic plotline into its own afterstory route, alongside other afterstory routes for both Mitsuki and Akane, and released a new version of the game with these new routes, labeled “Latest Edition”. This new version of the game also updated the entire game to use the AGES graphics engine that was developed for Muv-Luv.

The fundamental problem with the OVA is that there is absolutely no need for a story set after the ending of Haruka’s route to begin with, and the show struggles to find a reason for one. The basic plot of the OVA is that Haruka breaks up with Takayuki becauseā€¦ he’s being too good of a boyfriend? I think the idea is that Haruka, having been asleep for 3 years, is scared that Takayuki has matured so much more than she has, but the show utterly fails to convey that in a compelling manner that justifies spending 4 episodes on it. The characters instead sit around moping, and at the end, Haruka decides she was wrong, and simply calls Takayuki up and gets back together with him. Takayuki himself is almost completely removed from this entire process – Haruka decides on the breakup on her own, then gets back together with him on her own. Takayuki pretty much just decides to keep on doing what he’s doing for the entire OVA, and waits for Haruka to change her mind.

The way the story unfolds seems to cast Haruka as the lead character, since she’s the one who makes the major decisions that drive the story, but the OVA then undermines that by shifting the focus off her for most of the story. The OVA is structured to focus on Haruka in the first episode, Mitsuki in the second episode, and Akane in the third episode, before returning to Haruka in the final episode. So because Haruka is the lead character, that renders the middle two episodes essentially worthless in terms of moving the story forward. Episode 2 is particularly bad, as the entire point of Haruka’s route is that Mitsuki moves away to avoid any interaction with the other lead characters, so her episode is just her narrating the events of Haruka’s route to her random friend who we’ve never seen before. I also can’t help but notice that her description of Haruka’s route is a little self-serving, as it completely skips over the part where she turned into a crazy person. (You can still see a little of it in Akane’s flashback in episode 3.) On the plus side, she does offer a summary of the missing 3 years that is closer to the game, so you can compare it to the TV anime’s version and see just how much more melodramatic that version was.

Akane’s episode is a little better, since Akane is actually allowed to interact with the other leads. We get to spend more time getting to know Akane, including the obligatory cameo from Chizuru, but ultimately it doesn’t lead to anything – it can’t, since Haruka is the only one capable of moving the story forward. This episode also has the most cop-out cliffhanger imaginable, as Haruka collapses again after Akane yells at her – in the next episode, she gets back up immediately and continues on as if nothing ever happened. She doesn’t even check in with the hospital about it.

The final scene of the story, with Takayuki successfully meeting Haruka at the meeting place from 3 years ago, is nice, if a little cheesy. It’s abundantly clear, though, that the story was created by coming up with that scene first, and then trying to work backwards to figure out a compelling reason for them to reunite there. They clearly didn’t work hard enough, because the moment doesn’t feel earned at all.

I continue to be baffled at what led the creative staff to make this story. I’m not a big Haruka fan, but it seems to me that if I were, this isn’t the story I would want to see animated. What I would want to see is the story where Takayuki meets Haruka on time 3 years ago, avoiding the accident and concluding with a happy ending for everybody. That’s the story that was included in the KimiNozo fandisc, and from the moment this OVA was announced, I was sure that that was the story they were going to be adapting. The original anime crammed the entire high school story into only two episodes, so I thought there was plenty of material that was originally skipped over that an OVA could cover. Four episodes that adapt the game more faithfully, ending with Takayuki and Haruka going on a successful date. Doesn’t that sound great? Why did we get this instead? I don’t understand that now any better than I did back when this was first released.


Anime Rewatch 2021: Ayu-Mayu Theater

September 2, 2021

Now here’s a weird one. Ayu-Mayu Theater started out as little skits that would run at the end of an episode of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, where a next episode trailer would usually run. They were comedic shorts that had little if anything to do with the actual KimiNozo episode. They ran at the end of episodes 3-13 of KimiNozo, and then returned for episodes 2-3 of AkaMani. The final episode ended with a gag suggesting that the show’s director (as depicted in the show) actually intended to create a full Ayu-Mayu Theater series. So now comes an actual Ayu-Mayu Theater series, picking up where that episode left off.

This series has a very strange release history. The “prologue” episode #0 was included in Age’s Comiket release, previewing the upcoming series. The first four short episodes were then streamed on Age’s KimiNozo Radio website once a month. Afterwards, they released a full DVD of the entire series, including the prologue episode #0, the four episodes that were streamed, and three other episodes that were never shown. It’s usually described as a “web anime”, which is kind of true? Only half of the episodes in the full release were ever streamed though.

As I mentioned, it streamed exclusively on Age’s own KimiNozo Radio site, so it was targeted only to Age’s most diehard fans, and you can tell by the content. It’s composed almost entirely of in-jokes and obscure references, most of which probably fly over most English-speaking fans’ heads. Perhaps most importantly, even though it was never advertised as such, it contains numerous in-depth, spoilery references to Muv-Luv Alternative, which had only been released earlier that year. In fact, it could be said that the number of references to Alternative in what is supposed to be an Ayu/Mayu series reflects what Age fans in late 2006 would have wanted – having waited 3 years for Alternative to come out, we definitely still had Alternative on the brain at the time. It cannot be stressed enough that this series spoils so much of Alternative that it should be watched only after completing that game.

I usually spend most of my time on these posts going through a thematic analysis of the story, but of course this is just a bunch of short skits with no story, so instead, we’ll just go through some of the more obscure references. Episode 0 features the conflict between Ayu and Meiya. In fact, there is an entire conflict in the KimiNozo/Muv-Luv universe between the Daikuuji and Mitsurugi companies, with both competing in a wide variety of businesses. Ayu and Meiya are themselves apparently well acquainted with each other as well. This conflict is pretty much only ever hinted at and teased in Age’s actual works. Throughout Muv-Luv Extra, Meiya always makes a bit of a face or pouts whenever the Daikuujis’ Sky Temple restaurant from KimiNozo is brought up. She seems frustrated that Takeru and his friends seem to be such big fans of the Sky Temple, and she seems to interpret that to mean that the Mitsurugis’ family restaurant division isn’t doing enough to reach the common man. In the fanclub-exclusive game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu, Meiya actually accompanies Takeru and Sumika into the Sky Temple in one scene. Ayu spots her and immediately ducks out of sight, afraid to let Meiya see her working in the restaurant. Episode 0 of this series actually features what I believe is the first extended conversation we’ve ever seen between the two, as Ayu taunts Meiya over having received her own series. To be honest, this conflict between the two is something I’ve always wanted to see more of, and in some ways I find the interaction between these two to be the highlight of the entire series for giving me more of that.

Episode 4 features Radhabinod calling out for “Fuguta-kun”. International fans may not realize this, but Radhabinod’s voice actor, Norio Wakamoto, is most famous in Japan for his role as Anago in Sazae-san, and the way he says “Fuguta-kun” (one of the show’s main characters) is one of his most recognizable lines.

Episode 6 features the original lead characters from Age’s fanclub-exclusive games. Everyone will recognize Jouji Gouda from Akane Maniax, of course. The other guy, Jun Ibuki, is the lead character from Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu. Just as Akane Mainax featured Gouda chasing after a largely-indifferent Akane, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu tells much the same story with Jun chasing after Ayu. And just as the game version of Akane Maniax centered around an extended parody of Tekkaman, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu centers around an extended parody of Saint Seiya, with Jun using his “Nayuta” (Saint Seiya term: Cosmo) to transform into a “Sakimori” (Saint Seiya term: Saint). And just as Akane Maniax went big in getting veteran actor Tomokazu Seki to voice the lead, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu gets even more veteran actor Nobuo Tobita to voice Jun. This is Jun’s only anime appearance, so it’s nice to see the two of them sharing the screen. Easily the other highlight of this series.

The special “SP” episode features a showdown between Ayu and the 00 Unit. The 00 Unit has her Susano-O Mk IV, but Ayu’s mech might look unfamiliar. It’s the Hinokagutsuchi from Ayu-Mayu Alternative, a fanclub-exclusive game that depicts the characters from their earlier game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu in a non-canon version of the Alternative world. Both the Hinokagutsuchi and Ayu’s fortified suit from this sequence come from that game. However, Ayu-Mayu Alternative actually hadn’t come out yet at the time that this show was released. They had already announced the game, but like all things Muv-Luv, it got massively delayed and didn’t come out until after Ayu-Mayu Theater (they eventually suggested that part of the reason for the delay was because they were now a “serious” company that needed to work with sponsors for a possible anime deal, and they were told that for the sake of maintaining good relationships, they could stand to tone down the parody elements that their fanclub games were known for).

When the first 4 episodes were streamed online, they actually came with their own ending credits, with the Ayu-Mayu Theater theme song playing over some cute SD drawings unique to each episode. These drawings were cut from the home video release, as all of the episodes were stitched together with only one ending sequence playing with full animation at the end. As far as I know, the web versions with the original ending sequences aren’t available anywhere.

The ending theme itself was actually released on CD with an accompanying music video, featuring the KimiNozo cast as cameos. At the time, most of the KimiNozo cast (specifically the actors for Takayuki, Haruka, Mitsuki, Akane, Ayu, and Mayu) recorded a weekly radio show called KimiNozo Radio that was streamed online every week, and was actually fairly popular – popular enough that the program continued, in various formats, all the way until 2010 (keep in mind the anime ended in 2004). Ayu-Mayu Theater streamed on the KimiNozo Radio website, and arguably it was only made because of KimiNozo Radio’s popularity in the first place.

All in all, I enjoyed it for what it was, keeping in mind that what it was was not much of anything.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Akane Maniax

August 31, 2021

Now that we’re done with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, let’s move on to Akane Maniax. Akane Maniax started out as a special 5-part mini-game that was included in 5 issues of adult game magazine Tech Gian. It’s set after KimiNozo, and its purpose was to introduce players who had just finished KimiNozo to the world of Muv-Luv (which they had originally intended to release later that year). Eventually the 5 parts were collected into a single game, and released as Age’s first fanclub-exclusive game, now with full voice-acting (the original Tech Gian releases were unvoiced).

If you’ve only seen the AkaMani anime, you might be surprised to learn that the original game version is even more wacky and wild. That’s because the game, much like the KimiNozo game, strictly follows the first-person perspective of its main character, in this case the completely nutso Jouji Gouda. By contrast, the KimiNozo anime introduced the concept of Mitsuki as a POV character to great effect, and here, it does the same thing for Akane. The game version of Akane is simply a MacGuffin for Gouda to pine over – the anime, by introducing Akane’s perspective, can dig much more deeply into her own issues. The end result is that the AkaMani anime is much more sentimental than the game ever attempts to be.

As I mentioned in the KimiNozo posts, the AkaMani anime takes the time to more properly depict aspects of Akane that the KimiNozo anime kind of glossed over. The game doesn’t really bother, in large part because Akane’s true feelings are properly addressed in the KimiNozo game, both in Mitsuki’s route and in Akane’s own route. So there isn’t really anything left ambiguous for the game player. But because the anime stopped short of going into Akane’s issues in full, there’s room here to explore that space. In that sense, AkaMani actually becomes something of an epilogue to KimiNozo, with some material that is well worth experiencing, whereas the game version of AkaMani is pretty much completely throwaway material.

Even on Gouda’s side, the anime radically changes up the kind of crazy stuff that he actually gets into. The game leans heavily into a parody of Tatsunoko’s old Tekkaman anime. He still relies heavily on Yuuko for advice and direction, just like in the anime, but he also takes advice from a PE teacher named Andorou Umeda, a parody of a Tekkaman character named Andro Umeda. He also clashes with another student, the improbably-named Takeo Takeo, who serves as the school festival committee member for Class 3-D alongside Akane. In what the game has the cheek to declare its “true end”, the parody comes full circle as Umeda reveals that aliens are invading and that Gouda must fight them off. Takeo then transforms into the robot Takes, a parody of the Tekkaman robot Pegas, and Gouda then climbs inside and transforms into the superhero Tekkumen and flies off while a parody of the Tekkaman theme song plays in the background. In the anime, Takeo does not appear directly, but Akane briefly mentions him in episode 1 as the person who will likely serve on the committee with her. Umeda does not appear in the anime at all, although he does appear in the special trailer for the anime (itself a shot-for-shot parody of the Char’s Counterattack trailer).

Gouda does look up to one other person in the game, and that is Mikoto from Muv-Luv. Mikoto saves him from drowning in the ocean while Gouda was trying to practice swimming. In return, Gouda practically worships him as the Emissary of Gaia, while Mikoto, in typical Mikoto fashion, neither knows nor cares what exactly Gouda is doing with him. His interactions with Mikoto are completely cut from the anime, but you can still catch glimpses of it in dialogue in Muv-Luv Extra.

The anime does away with all of this, particularly the Tekkaman stuff, and depicts the insanity surrounding Gouda as a delusion of a generic super robot story. As Gouda gets to learn more about Akane, his opponent begins to take shape as a parody of Takayuki himself. This, surprisingly, helps establish some structure to his delusions in the anime, whereas in the game he could be all over the place. As I said, even though the anime looks silly and random, the anime staff have actually put in quite a lot of effort to forge the original game into something more coherent.

Let’s talk a little about the casting. Gouda is voiced by Tomokazu Seki, and while they only appear in the game, Umeda is voiced by Yuuji Ueda and Takeo is voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino. These are really big, mainstream names, considering this is a pretty disposable fanclub-exclusive game. At the time, voiced adult games were just getting started, and did not feature recognizable names (none of the KimiNozo voices were very well-known at the time that game originally came out). Even though Akane Maniax was not an adult game, it was still made by an adult game maker, was set in the same world as other adult games, and was originally serialized in an adult game magazine. I remember it was considered a very big deal at the time to land names as big as this, especially because all of them used their real names on the project rather than pseudonyms.

Did you know where Gouda’s name came from? His given name, Jouji, is the same as the lead character in Tekkaman, continuing the Tekkaman parody, so nothing surprising there. But his family name, Gouda, actually comes from Tech Gian itself. Tech Gian is commonly nicknamed “Gouda” by Japanese fans, as a reference to the Doraemon character Gian, whose real name is Takeshi Gouda. So Gouda’s name is actually a reference to the magazine that originally serialized the game.

Seeing the final Ayu-Mayu section of the OVA is a little bittersweet. Age has basically confirmed that there were indeed plans to follow up Akane Maniax with a full Muv-Luv adaptation, just as the Ayu-Mayu section implies, but the project fell through. Seeing this section again after all this time, just a few weeks before an actual Alternative anime is about to premiere, brings back a lot of emotion for me. I’m sad that many of the people who should have been a part of this, like director Tetsuya Watanabe and the old cast, won’t be there. But I wish the actual cast and staff of the Alternative anime the best, and hope they’re making something amazing.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 12-14

August 29, 2021

It’s the end of the road for KimiNozo, and there’s a lot to talk about, but can I start by saying it’s just like Takayuki to end episode 11 whispering Mitsuki’s name to nobody, then start episode 12 by whispering Haruka’s name to Mitsuki. Wouldn’t these final episodes have been so much simpler if he could just manage to do those in the right order?

So, the big development in episode 11 for Mitsuki’s side is her breaking up with Takayuki. And the hell of it is that, even at the beginning of this episode, Mitsuki still seems to have had some hope left. As she herself says, it’s the fact that Takayuki doesn’t get mad at her having slept with Shinji that seems to be the final straw. If Takayuki can’t even show an emotional response after she’s gone that far, then what is left of their relationship? But what Mitsuki doesn’t realize is that Takayuki doesn’t get mad because he feels he no longer has the right to. He knows that he’s the one who pushed Mitsuki to this point. It’s a tragic scene, where both sides know they’ve done wrong, and are merely waiting for the other side to get mad. But the relationship is dying, because neither side feels they have the right to make the first move to save it.

This would be the point where Takayuki would try to escape the reality of the present-day by going to Haruka to immerse himself in the past, but he can’t even do that anymore, so it’s back to the Sky Temple for him. It’s clear by this point that the Sky Temple is another place for Takayuki to escape from reality, and Shinji calls him out on it in this episode, but there’s more to it than that. Did you ever notice that while at the Sky Temple, Takayuki engages in a lot of arguing and banter with a loudmouthed, long-haired girl, while being kind to and taking care of a clumsy, short-haired girl? No less than the game’s creator himself, Kouki Yoshimune, pointed that out on his live stream once – somewhere deep inside, Takayuki subconsciously behaves at the Sky Temple the same way he did in high school. Much like visiting Haruka at the hospital, his job at the Sky Temple makes him feel like he’s returned to the past, when life’s problems could be resolved with a simple punchline, and he doesn’t have to deal with the issues waiting for him outside. So although the Sky Temple setting can sometimes feel superfluous, it actually furthers the show’s central metaphor of nostalgia and yearning for the past.

Speaking of the past, over on Haruka’s side of the story, Haruka manages to wake up again, this time fully able to understand the amount of time that has passed since the accident. Throughout the series, Haruka has represented the past – everybody who interacts with her must return to the past and shut out the true events of the present. Over time, our lead characters, Takayuki and Mitsuki, become trapped by the past due to Haruka’s presence. In a way, then, by awakening this time with full awareness of the present, Haruka becomes the first of the three to break free of the past and begin to move forward.

Moving ahead to episode 13, then, the first thing I notice as the episode starts is that we’ve completely skipped over the moment when Takayuki first meets Haruka after her awakening – we begin the episode with the two of them already talking. That seems a little disappointing, since the entire show seemed to be building up to the true reunion between the two, without having to hide the truth. In fact, what strikes me on rewatching this episode is how much I wish we had gotten to see more of this version of Haruka. We really only get this one episode, and maybe half of the final episode.

I’ve mentioned before how only Takayuki and Mitsuki seem to be real characters in the story – Haruka, lying in bed and unable to understand the truth, doesn’t have enough agency to drive the story in the same way. Now that Haruka is fully aware of the true passage of time, we’re finally getting to know Haruka as a character. She slaps Mitsuki when Mitsuki reveals the truth of their relationship, she shows her strength in going through therapy, and then she shows her weakness that night while lying in bed. That final scene is honestly the first time we get to dig into Haruka’s hidden emotions – and it only appears in the show in order to further Takayuki’s story. It really drives home the fact that this is truly Takayuki’s and Mitsuki’s story – developing Haruka into a character in her own right is simply not a priority.

Let’s talk about that slap a little. There’s a similar slap in Mitsuki’s route in the game, but the context is completely different. Most importantly, in that version, Mitsuki is actually the one who slaps Haruka, for insinuating that everybody else had it easy while Haruka is the only one who suffered. In the anime, Haruka slaps Mitsuki for confessing that she and Takayuki had been dating – and, I think, for trying to shift all of the blame onto herself. What I think is most interesting about the contrast between the two is that in the game, Mitsuki was still strong enough to stick up for herself and Takayuki. She’s clearly had a rough time of it, but even so, she was still on speaking terms with Takayuki at that point. The Mitsuki of the anime has clearly been brought down far lower than in the game. I think that may be the reason the anime switches things up – it’s almost impossible to imagine the Mitsuki of the anime slapping anyone at this point.

And that, then, brings us to episode 14, the finale. The finale is basically broken into two halves, a final scene between Takayuki and Haruka, and a final scene between Takayuki and Mitsuki. And what I want to touch on here is that the anime actually swaps the two scenes around. In the game, Takayuki goes to Mitsuki first, to get back together with her for good. Only then does he go to Haruka, to tell her what he’s decided. The anime starts with the Haruka scene, and moves the Mitsuki scene to the end. I can see why the anime does it that way – it’s because they want to end the series with the climactic reunion between Takayuki and Mitsuki, which is a much more dramatic finish than ending with the Haruka scene.

The only issue I have with it is that a number of people seem to have interpreted this new order of scenes to mean that Takayuki had still not made up his mind when he goes to see Haruka, and it’s only when Haruka says goodbye that he returns to Mitsuki. I don’t think that’s true – I think, even in the anime, the subtext of the scene makes it clear that Takayuki is here to inform Haruka of his decision, and it’s only once Haruka recognizes that that she proposes to say goodbye. But the idea that some people may interpret the final episode that way makes me a little sad, because it’s critical to the story that Takayuki make that final decision by himself.

Throughout the story, Haruka has represented the past, and Mitsuki has represented the future. So, dealing with the show’s central metaphor, choosing Mitsuki at the end is the only ending that makes sense. The story simply can’t end with Takayuki choosing Haruka, because the entire story has been about the dangers of becoming so obsessed with the past that you begin to neglect your future. The game has numerous routes, and it doesn’t explicitly label one as the “true route”. But thematically, Mitsuki’s route is the true route, which is why it’s the one that Akane Maniax and Muv-Luv follows. Some visual novels are written broadly enough to support multiple endings; KimiNozo is written, from beginning to end, solely to support Mitsuki’s ending. You can also see that in the fact that it is only in Mitsuki’s route that we learn the contents of the picture book, Mayauru no Okurimono – its contents are tailored specifically to Mitsuki’s route. That may be a major reason why the anime ends up working so well for a visual novel adaptation, because unlike many visual novels, KimiNozo builds cleanly to a single endpoint rather than multiple endings.

So with that, all that’s left is a few items to note from the show’s epilogue. A recurring subplot through the series has been an offer for Takayuki to become a full-time employee for the Sky Temple. As I mentioned earlier, the Sky Temple is another metaphor for the past, so it only makes sense that Takayuki turns down the job at the end of the show. In fact, when Takayuki turns down the position, he explicitly says it’s because of Mitsuki. This entire subplot is yet another anime-original addition to the show, which I suspect was added to bolster both Takayuki’s story and the importance of the Sky Temple location.

As some people may know, the epilogue features cameos from both Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu and Muv-Luv – Yayoi Isumi can be seen cleaning Takayuki’s apartment after he moves out, and Chizuru Sakaki can be seen cheering Akane on sometime in the future. According to director Tetsuya Watanabe, though, Yayoi’s cameo wasn’t planned at first. Originally the script simply read that the character was to be some nondescript landlady. However, Age informed the anime staff that the landlady of Takayuki’s apartment was, in fact, an existing character, something that the game does indeed establish, although we never see her in the game. So it turned out to be just a coincidence that the anime staff’s plans for the scene happened to incorporate a KimiIta cameo.

So how does the story actually end? Some find the final moments, with Haruka standing under the tree, then turning around and smiling, to be ambiguous. But pay close attention to the final shot of the show – it depicts the four characters of Haruka’s book, reunited under the tree. And it is a reunion, not a flashback, because the tree is now fully grown. By placing this final shot after the shot of Haruka smiling, the show clearly implies that this final shot shows what follows in real life as well – that after many years, our four leads have managed to put the past behind them and come together once again as friends.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 10-11

August 26, 2021

Episode 10 is the big one, the culmination of all the build-up spanning the last few episodes. I’ve mentioned before that the anime is directed to be much more melodramatic than the game, and the ending to this episode is definitely the go-to example of that, in that both Haruka and Mitsuki hit their rock-bottom lowest point at exactly the same time. The two events aren’t connected in any way, they just happen to occur simultaneously, leaving the viewer with an intense double-whammy to close out the episode.

I said earlier that trying to get the viewer to forgive Mitsuki in episode 5 is one of the biggest “asks” I’ve ever seen in an anime, but in terms of raw emotional impact, trying to ask the viewer to get over what Mitsuki does in episode 10 may be even rougher. Part of that stems from the fact that this event doesn’t play out in the original game the same way. The anime is, of course, based on Mitsuki’s route, the game’s true route. However, the event where Mitsuki winds up sleeping with Shinji comes from Haruka’s route. So in Mitsuki’s route, the player is never asked to come to terms with Mitsuki sleeping with Shinji. In Haruka’s route, on the other hand, this event basically marks the end of Mitsuki as a sympathetic figure altogether – from this point on, Haruka’s route treats Mitsuki as more of an obstacle to be disposed of than a real character. By choosing to incorporate this event into Mitsuki’s route, the anime sets a far higher bar for itself, trying to maintain Mitsuki as a sympathetic character even after seeing her cross this line.

Part of what the anime does to make it work is, as I’ve continued to emphasize, make Mitsuki a POV character almost equal to Takayuki himself. In Haruka’s route in the game, the player see things exclusively through Takayuki’s eyes, so they learn of Mitsuki’s infidelity at the same point that Takayuki does: after the fact. By focusing on Mitsuki’s POV, the anime more vividly portrays what happened to Mitsuki to bring her to this point. Takayuki has been giving her the cold shoulder for basically three episodes straight by this point. She doesn’t seem to have any other friends; her normally-friendly boss is coming down on her due to her increasingly sloppy work. She really is all alone at this point. And so when Shinji comes rushing in to stop Mitsuki from sleeping with some sketchy rando, Mitsuki actually breaks down laughing. Shinji is the first person to actually show some concern for Mitsuki in what feels like forever. Seeing her break down, and knowing what has happened to bring her to this point, is probably the saddest moment in the series.

Is it enough to keep the viewer’s sympathy after seeing what happens next? I dunno. Like I said about episode 5, it’s a big ask. If I may skip ahead to episode 12 for a moment, I think the show does an excellent job of showing how Takayuki could forgive her for what happened – he is, after all, in no position to throw stones, and he seems to understand that the ultimate blame for what happened can easily be laid at his feet. So I totally buy that Takayuki can move past it. And maybe that’s all the show really wants. Maybe the show doesn’t necessarily need the viewer to forgive Mitsuki, it only needs the viewer to accept that Takayuki does.

As for Haruka’s side of the story, it’s actually also drawn from someone else’s route. In Mitsuki’s route, Haruka discovers the truth from the picture that the four of them took. The anime version draws inspiration from Akane’s route, which also depicts Akane blurting out the truth. As I’ve mentioned before, the anime is definitely drawn to melodrama, and the Akane version is definitely much more dramatic. I imagine this change was also made to give more focus for Akane, who we really haven’t gotten to dig into much in the anime despite her importance to the story.

It’s striking to me to find that, after writing so much about Mitsuki’s side of the story, there’s almost nothing to say about Haruka’s side other than what is shown on the screen. I think that drives home the fact that Haruka has not really been a full-fledged character in this story so far. Because of the nature of her condition, we don’t get to dig into her character and learn more about her, despite the fact that her condition is what drives the story. I’ve said a lot about how Mitsuki carries the show as a POV character alongside Takayuki, but that’s simply impossible for Haruka the way she is now. Keep that contrast in mind as we head into the show’s endgame.

After the explosive end to episode 10, episode 11 is a slow recovery episode depicting the fallout. On Mitsuki’s side, we’ve got Mitsuki and Shinji trying to figure out what to do now. I have to say, I actually feel pretty bad for Shinji in this episode. Takayuki is a screw-up and Mitsuki is a mess, but Shinji seems like he’s only trying to do what’s best. It’s just a shame that he has no idea what’s best at this point. Shinji is definitely not blameless here – it takes two to tango, and he shouldn’t have gone along with Mitsuki – but I can’t be too mad at him. He’s dealing with two crazy people and he unfortunately wasn’t strong enough to resist getting washed away in it.

Akane’s side of the episode is largely devoted to wrapping up Akane’s role in the story, by allowing her to lay out her side and then letting her bow out. What I find interesting about her big scene in this episode is that even though she does explain that much of what she did was for Takayuki’s sake, the anime seems to back away from having her say the most important part explicitly, instead leaving it to the viewer to make that last leap. I think maybe the anime wanted to avoid making the core love triangle too complicated? The show more-or-less says explicitly that Shinji had a crush on Mitsuki, but it seems to stop just short of having Akane say the same about Takayuki. But don’t worry, if you want to get into more detail about Akane’s true feelings, Akane Maniax will have your back.

After hitting rock-bottom in episode 10, the show needs to start building back up towards the finale, so we close out episode 11 with the first glimmer of hope the show has offered in a long time, as Mitsuki returns to the apartment to find Takayuki collapsed on the ground. Er, that didn’t sound too hopeful, did it? It is, I suppose, a very KimiNozo-ish way of offering hope – despite the circumstances, it’s the first time in a long while that either of these two have actually expressed concern for each other. It’s a nice way of bringing the two of them back together so that we can start moving into the endgame.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 8-9

August 24, 2021

This batch of episodes continues the significantly slower pace that began in episode 6, exploring the emotional toll on the characters rather than the breakneck speed from episodes 1-5. Here the show is really building to the big climax at the end of episode 10, so there’s not too much plot development at this point in the series.

The major development in episode 8 is Mitsuki’s request to Takayuki to stop visiting Haruka. This is spurred by Mitsuki successfully visiting Haruka after the aborted attempt in episode 6 (again, another anime-original storyline). Seeing Haruka talk so happily about Takayuki is the catalyst for Mitsuki to ask Takayuki to break off contact. The rest of the episode concerns the fallout from that, as the relationship between Takayuki and Mitsuki begins to break down completely.

We’re really beginning to see the central metaphor of the series take shape here. Takayuki doesn’t just keep seeing Haruka because he loves her, it’s because he loves the experience of talking with her. When he’s with Haruka, he’s forced to act as if he is still in high school, and it reminds him that that period was the happiest time of his life. When Haruka asks about his studies, it reminds him that once upon a time, he hoped to get into Hakuryo University so that he could be with her. For that small period of time, his vision of the future was bright, and it was all because of Haruka.

By contrast, his relationship with Mitsuki is disintegrating before his eyes. Even though they now live together, he barely talks to her. Immediately after promising not to see Haruka anymore, he requests more shifts at the Sky Temple rather than spend more time with Mitsuki. He’s shown hanging out at the park, at the arcade, or just loitering outside killing time, rather than return home where he knows Mitsuki is waiting for him.

The problem, for Takayuki, is that his relationship with Mitsuki is difficult and complicated, an adult relationship with adult problems that they are both failing to handle. His relationship with Haruka is extremely simple, an idyllic high-school romance with little effort involved. The fact that Haruka cannot process the amount of time that has passed means that she is trapped in the past, and she can only engage with Takayuki based on the past. But for Takayuki, returning to Haruka and the past is more attractive than dealing with Mitsuki and the present.

Moving on, the major development in episode 9 is Takayuki’s search for a fresh copy of Haruka’s picture book, which gets resolved with a random encounter with Ayu. This provides the show’s only hint to Ayu’s backstory, and brings up an interesting point about how the show uses its supporting cast. In most visual novel adaptations, all of the characters’ routes are incorporated into a single show, making sure that anime viewers get to see all of the characters’ stories. KimiNozo is somewhat unique in that it focuses entirely on the main storyline featuring Takayuki, Mitsuki, and Haruka, and all of the other characters’ stories have been ruthlessly cut from the show. Characters appear only as much as necessary to support the main storyline, but fade into the background otherwise. As I mentioned before, the show goes to great lengths to present itself as a proper dramatic story rather than a visual novel adaptation, and this treatment of its lesser characters is a major aspect of that.

Ayu is a great example of that, as her story is only touched on to the extent needed to get that picture book into Takayuki’s hands. After her role is done, she fades back into being a supporting character, and those hints about her backstory are never followed up on. Mayu’s backstory is reduced to a single line in episode 3 about how car accidents are scary, which is only included because of its resonance to Takayuki’s story. On the nurses’ side, Hotaru has already made her last appearance on the show in accordance with her backstory, but it’s never explained in detail. Fumio will drop by later to expand on it a little. And Manami has been reduced to cameo appearances, for reasons fans of the game will appreciate.

On the flip side, this episode also brings both Shinji and Akane back into the story in a major way. Shinji had faded from the story, while Akane had mostly been treated as an obstacle to be overcome. But this episode restores them as characters in the story, setting them up for their much larger roles coming next episode.

How do the Hakuryo Hiiragi Uniforms Work?

August 23, 2021

So, watching episode 5 of KimiNozo reminded me of a little trivia question: how many people know how the Hakuryo Hiiragi uniforms work?

There are probably a number of people reading this right now going “What’s to know? 1st years wear red, 2nd years wear green, 3rd years wear the familiar purple. Duh!”

Well, you’re wrong. Believe it or not, that is not how the Hakuryo Hiiragi uniforms work at all. Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a doozy.

Most Japanese schools assign uniforms based on year, and then each individual class rotates through them. So for instance, a class might enter the school as 1st years, where they would wear a red uniform, then they switch to a green uniform the next year when they become 2nd years, then they switch to a purple uniform the year after when they become 3rd years. The color of the uniform designates a specific year (1st, 2nd, 3rd), and each class cycles through them over the course of the three years they are at that school.

But Hakuryo Hiiragi is the exact opposite. Uniforms are in fact based on the class, and each year rotates through them. So what does that mean? It means that, for example, when Takeru and his class first entered the school, they were assigned the color purple as 1st years. They then continued wearing the purple uniforms throughout their three years at Hakuryo Hiiragi. The color of the uniform designates a specific class (purple for Takeru’s class), and each year cycles through them over the course of the three years they are at that school.

That’s probably confusing. Let’s lay out exactly how that works. Consider the school year at Hakuryo Hiiragi beginning in 1996. The KimiNozo cast (Takayuki, Mitsuki, Haruka, and Shinji) would be 1st years for this year. They would have been assigned purple uniforms upon starting at Hakuryo Hiiragi. During this year, 2nd years would have been wearing red uniforms, while 3rd years would have been wearing green uniforms. In Muv-Luv Alternative, Michiru is described as being 5 years ahead of Takeru’s group, while Mitsuki and Haruka are described as being 3 years ahead. That means Michiru is 2 years ahead of Mitsuki and Haruka, and would’ve been a 3rd year in 1996. That means she would have worn a green uniform during her time at Hakuryo Hiiragi. While I don’t think she has ever been depicted in a green uniform in the games themselves, she (alongside her squadmates from the Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles story Confessions) has been consistently drawn in a green uniform for promotional illustrations. They’re also depicted in a green version of the training fortified suit in Confessions.

3rd Year: Green (Michiru, Michiru’s Confessions friends)
2nd Year: Red
1st Year: Purple (Takayuki, Mitsuki, Haruka, Shinji)

The next year, the KimiNozo cast would have moved up to being 2nd years, while retaining their purple uniforms. The 2nd years would have moved up to being 3rd years, while retaining their red uniforms. And the 3rd years, including Michiru, would have graduated. In their place, a new class of 1st years (including Misae Munakata, who was described as being 2 years ahead of Takeru’s group) would have entered Hakuryo Hiiragi, now wearing the same green uniforms that Michiru’s class wore. All of the uniform colors have shifted, and now represent different years than they did last year.

3rd Year: Red
2nd Year: Purple (Takayuki, Mitsuki, Haruka, Shinji)
1st Year: Green (Misae)

The next year, the KimiNozo cast would have moved up to being 3rd years, while Misae would have moved up to being a 2nd year. The previous year’s 3rd years would have graduated, and the new 1st years would now wear that class’s red uniforms. This new class would have included Touko Kazama, as well as Manami Homura from KimiNozo. This year is depicted in the high school era of KimiNozo.

3rd Year: Purple (Takayuki, Mitsuki, Haruka, Shinji)
2nd Year: Green (Misae)
1st Year: Red (Manami, Touko)

The next year, Misae’s class moves up to being 3rd years, and Manami and Touko’s class moves up to being 2nd years. Akane joins Hakuryo Hiiragi as a 1st year, as does the entire cast of Muv-Luv. This year is depicted in the Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu 2011 remake, as well as during the flashback in episode 5 of the KimiNozo anime.

3rd Year: Green (Misae)
2nd Year: Red (Manami, Touko)
1st Year: Purple (Akane, Muv-Luv cast)

The next year, everybody moves up a grade again, and joining as a 1st year is Rin Nanase, a character from Muv-Luv Duelist. She also appears in the TRPG mini-game Faraway Dawn, but otherwise is not a particularly important character.

3rd Year: Red (Manami, Touko)
2nd Year: Purple (Akane, Muv-Luv cast)
1st Year: Green (Rin)

Finally, in 2001, Akane and the Muv-Luv cast move up to become 3rd years. This is, of course, the year that is depicted in the post-high school era of KimiNozo, as well as in Akane Maniax and Muv-Luv.

3rd Year: Purple (Akane, Muv-Luv cast)
2nd Year: Green (Rin)
1st Year: Red

At this point, you’re probably thinking, that seems really convoluted, how do we know this is how uniforms work instead of the normal system where a color is permanently assigned to a year? After all, the years that KimiNozo and Muv-Luv take place (1998 and 2001) both show purple for 3rd years. Well, we know because every time they have depicted a year other than 1998 and 2001, they follow this system rather than the simple color=year system.

In Muv-Luv Unlimited, there is a flashback to the first time Takeru and Sumika put on their Hakuryo Hiiragi uniforms for each other. Obviously, this scene takes place just before they begin their first year, meaning it is 1999. If they followed a simple color=year system, they should be wearing red uniforms, since red is depicted as a 1st year uniform in 1998 and 2001. Instead, they are wearing their normal purple uniforms.

Episode 5 of the KimiNozo anime is an extended flashback to 1999, a year after Haruka’s accident. Akane is clearly a 1st year during this episode, so again, she should be wearing a red uniform if this were a color=year system, but again, she is wearing a purple uniform throughout the episode.

The 2011 remake of Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu also takes place in 1999, so if they used a color=year system, then Misae, a 3rd year, should be wearing purple, while Touko, a 2nd year, should be wearing green. Instead, Misae is wearing green and Touko is wearing red, consistent with the system I described above.

(Does this system actually exist in Japan? Well, I don’t live in Japan so I can’t give you a thorough answer, but judging from how other Japanese fans have described it, it sounds like the answer is yes, but it’s not common.)

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 5-7

August 23, 2021

Episode 5 probably contains the biggest “ask” I’ve ever seen an anime make. As I mentioned before, episodes 1-2 are devoted to convincing the viewer to back Takayuki and Haruka together. Episodes 3-4 are then devoted to turning the viewer against Takayuki and Mitsuki, by portraying their relationship in the harshest possible light, seemingly leaving Haruka behind in a coma without giving her the slightest thought. And now comes episode 5, which is devoted to convincing the viewer to completely flip their opinion on Takayuki and Mitsuki yet again, by showing the true extent of the pain and heartache they experienced during the 3-year gap. Far from having casually left Haruka behind, they’ve had to endure countless hardships while dealing with the aftermath of the accident.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another show ask the viewer to change their opinion on all of the main characters so many times, to such extremes, over such a small batch of episodes. Certainly I’ve seen a number of people say they were never able to make that final switch, to feel sympathy for Mitsuki after being led to look down on her for so long. Seeing Takayuki and Mitsuki suffering in this episode is a vital step in making these characters sympathetic, so a lot of this could have been avoided by showing these events in chronological order, but the show (and the game, for the most part) chose to present the story in this fashion specifically to see if people were willing to follow along such a difficult journey. It’s a big ask, that’s all I’m saying.

Virtually all of episode 5 is completely anime-original – the game has a few flashbacks set during the 3-year gap, but not to this level of detail. I think I’ve made it clear that the anime gives itself the freedom to rearrange much of the game’s events, and that extends to how the anime interprets the events of this episode. For instance, the date at the aquarium where Takayuki buys the mugs for Mitsuki does exist in the game, but it takes place after they started officially dating, while the anime sets it before.

The moment when Haruka’s parents tell Takayuki not to visit Haruka anymore is a powerful one, and probably deserves a little discussion. What’s important to understand is that once a coma patient reaches the 1-year-mark, like Haruka has by this point, she is extremely unlikely to ever reawaken. So when Haruka’s parents tell Takayuki not to visit anymore, they are essentially telling him to consider Haruka dead from this point on. As her family, they will continue to watch over her and hope for her recovery, but for someone like Takayuki who has really only known her for a little over a month, it’s foolish for him to continue dedicating so much of his life to her when the chances of her waking up are essentially none. I think it’s important to judge both Takayuki’s and Mitsuki’s later actions – both later that night and over the next few years – based on the knowledge that they have been told that Haruka is basically dead. Mitsuki in particular must be deeply concerned for Takayuki’s state of mind, having just seen him literally losing his grip on reality earlier that night by trying to drag Haruka away, then being told that Haruka is essentially gone forever, and it’s seeing Takayuki in that state of mind that finally pushes Mitsuki to cross the line.

The anime is definitely directed to be more soap opera-ish, with more melodramatic flourishes, while the game tends to be a little (just a little) more down-to-earth and realistic, and we can see that come out in full force in this anime-original episode. The ending to this episode, with Akane literally walking in on Mitsuki completely naked in Takayuki’s bed, is definitely more melodramatic than how the game would have portrayed it (the game doesn’t actually portray this moment). The official artbook for the anime includes commentary on every episode from director Tetsuya Watanabe, and for this episode he actually takes pains to make clear that the events of this episode only apply to the anime, and that the viewer should not take this as an indication that the same events happened in the game.

After a whirlwind 5 episodes, the show then slows down heavily upon its return to the present-day to more thoroughly explore the new status quo established in episode 4. While all of the main characters’ actions have been reasonably understandable up to this point (at least once all of the proper context was established), we’re now entering the territory in which the characters will start to go off the rails, so the show understands that it needs to go slow now and depict the change in Takayuki and the others properly.

Episode 6 begins with everybody still acting more-or-less rationally. Takayuki continues to visit Haruka, out of a sense of responsibility, but he continues to support Mitsuki and reassure her that everything is OK between the two of them. When talking to Shinji about the situation, he explicitly tells Shinji that he is not still in love with Haruka. When Haruka asks to do their special love spell, Takayuki turns her down. So far, Takayuki seems to be handling things OK, but this episode is devoted to showing his resolve gradually fading, and it ends with Takayuki agreeing to do the spell with Haruka after all. In his internal monologue, he continues to insist that everything’s OK, but he’s clearly crossed the first line that he had set for himself.

In episode 7, the characters still try to pretend that nothing is wrong, but by this point they’re clearly fooling themselves, trying to ignore the growing reality by putting up a fake front. The major event this episode is Mitsuki getting completely sloshed – the show then uses Mitsuki’s drunken state to punch through that facade and expose the real issue, Mitsuki’s growing concern that Takayuki is starting to fall back in love with Haruka. This also allows Takayuki to use Mitsuki’s drunken state as an excuse to sidestep her very valid concerns. The episode then ends with Mitsuki forcibly moving into Takayuki’s apartment without any prior consultation. Although Mitsuki tries to frame it in a positive light, there’s no question on either side that this is a drastic measure that won’t resolve the underlying issues.

On a side note, these episodes also more thoroughly introduce Mitsuki’s perspective. As I’ve mentioned before, the game’s story is told entirely through Takayuki’s first-person perspective, while the anime switches to a third-person perspective that allows the viewer to see things from many different people’s POV. We’ve seen scenes from Mitsuki’s perspective before, but now we’re establishing Mitsuki as a serious POV character with her own storyline. The anime spends several scenes showing Mitsuki’s sadness at having given up swimming. Episode 6 also shows a significant scene of Mitsuki trying to visit Haruka on her own, before being chased out by Akane. These are all anime-original scenes, as they are all scenes that Takayuki wasn’t present for. They help establish Mitsuki as her own character, capable of shouldering the series as well.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 3-4

August 12, 2021

Episode 3 might well be one of the biggest rollercoasters I’ve ever seen in an anime. After two episodes of bringing the viewer around to rooting for Takayuki and Haruka to be together, episode 3 suddenly starts three years later, with the characters having seemingly moved on. What’s more, although the early minutes of the episode dance around the elephant in the room, after the three friends have dinner the episode suddenly hits the viewer with the reveal that Takayuki and Mitsuki are lovers, with almost no warning. And it does it in the most shocking way possible – just as we see them putting their arms around each other while walking home, priming us to think “What if?”, it abruptly cuts to the two of them having sex. From there, the episode moves on to depict their current-day lives, with almost no reference to the previous episodes, until finally ending on the encounter with Akane, and the reveal that neither of them have moved on as much as the episode had suggested up to this point. It’s a masterclass in how to take the audience for a ride.

Much of the episode is original to the anime. Although the game also included scenes of Mitsuki asking to move into an apartment somewhere with Takayuki, the anime puts much more emphasis on it, centering most of this batch of episodes around that idea. By doing so, it establishes early on the central metaphor of the story, with Mitsuki representing the future. In one powerful scene, Mitsuki looks around Takayuki’s room, still filled with his old study guides and school books, and she can’t stand to see him living in the past.

The episode also introduces Ishida, Mitsuki’s boss at work. Ishida, as well as Miki, a character who will be introduced later, are characters original to the anime. The point of these new characters is to help flesh out the scenes told from Mitsuki’s and Shinji’s points of view, respectively. As I mentioned, one of the major changes the anime makes to the game is that the game focuses exclusively on Takayuki’s point of view, while the anime shifts to a third-person perspective to allow us to focus on other characters as well. That makes Ishida in particular a very important character, because she allows us to see a version of Mitsuki that we don’t ever get to see in the game.

If you managed to watch KimiNozo while it was originally airing on TV, you might remember that episode 3 includes an odd cameo – the three girls that Akane talks to at the end were drawn as the main characters from Stratos 4. Stratos 4 was another anime made by Studio Fantasia, the animation studio for KimiNozo; its director, Takeshi Mori, also did storyboards for KimiNozo, although not for this episode. The girls were changed into three nondescript girls for the DVD release, possibly because of rights issues, possibly because it’s kind of a silly cameo in a pretty heavy show.

Moving on to episode 4, the show’s third-person perspective really comes into play in this episode, as we get to see Haruka’s awakening play out in full; in the game, we only find out about Haruka when Takayuki does, when he gets the phone call. Before that, the episode cuts between Haruka’s story and Takayuki’s and Mitsuki’s story, seeing them move forward with finding an apartment and just doing much better than they were in the previous episode. The time we spend with them in this episode helps sell just how disruptive Haruka’s awakening is to their forward progress, and helps to establish Haruka’s part in the show’s central metaphor, representing the past and interrupting attempts to move on.

One way the anime massively improves on the game is in that first reunion between Takayuki and Haruka – the anime includes several shots clearly illustrating Haruka’s weakened condition. That’s something the game shied away from showing in vivid detail, but seeing those shots in the anime emphasizes just how much Haruka has been through these past three years, not just in terms of lost time but physically as well. It lends an even more tragic air to one of the most powerful scenes in the story.

The episode then ends with Akane finally giving voice to what the audience has no doubt been thinking this entire time – Just what the hell is going on here? How can they be so happy together behind Haruka’s back? How can they move on with their lives while Haruka lies in a coma? It’s a brutal scene, but there’s a certain catharsis to it as well – the show has very deliberately avoided addressing these questions head-on, and the audience is almost relieved to see that the show is finally saying out loud what they’ve almost certainly been thinking ever since the beginning of episode 3. After exposing those questions, the show is then in position to answer them in the very next episode.

Up until this point, I had just been a regular viewer of the show as it was airing, but it was here that I was driven to seek out the game and play it. I was so invested in the story that I just couldn’t bear to experience it in 30-minute chunks every week any longer. I didn’t even know what a visual novel was at the time, and I had certainly never imagined myself playing one, but I got the game immediately after episode 4 finished, and I spent almost all of my free time going through it. Episode 5 was a flashback episode, and by the time the main story resumed with episode 6, I had already finished the game and I had been blown away by it.

Going through these episodes again, I’m still convinced that this is maybe the greatest 4-episode run ever made. The beginning of Takayuki’s and Haruka’s relationship in episode 1, the ups and downs of their relationship ending in Takayuki’s new confession at the end of the episode, followed by a post-credits sting of Mitsuki in despair. Episode 2 following up on that by expanding on Mitsuki’s character even as Takayuki and Haruka get closer, ending with those astonishing final minutes that changed everything. The rollercoaster of episode 3 showing Takayuki and Mitsuki’s relationship moving forward, followed by Akane’s appearance at the end dragging them back. And then the powerful reunion with Haruka in episode 4, ending with the confrontation with Akane. It’s just an absolutely irresistible string of episodes, and even watching them again after so long, it doesn’t surprise me at all that they wound up changing my life to the extent that they did.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 1-2

August 6, 2021

We’re kicking off this rewatch with Age’s first anime, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (branded as “Rumbling Hearts” in America). I may have mentioned this before, but this is a very important show to me, since it was my introduction to Age. I had seen the game mentioned in an issue of Hobby Japan that I had bought back around 2002 – I looked up the name online to find more about it, found that it was a Japan-exclusive game with no tie-in anime, and so dropped it as something I would never get involved in (ha!). Then in fall 2003, when looking through the list of upcoming anime, I happened upon the name “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien”, and purely by coincidence, recalled looking that name up over a year ago, and started watching the anime based only on that connection. It’s amazing to look back now and think that such a large part of my life started on such a whim.

I believe Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was actually the first TV anime based on an 18+ visual novel to retain the cast of the 18+ version. Many 18+ games coming out around this time were still unvoiced, with an all-ages cast being brought on for the console release and anime. Kanon and Air are pretty famous examples that came out around this same time period – when they were adapted to anime, they retained the all-ages cast from the console release. On the other hand, games that actually were voiced for the 18+ release would often get recast with an all-ages cast when making an anime. Da Capo is a famous example of that – they wound up maintaining both an 18+ cast and an all-ages cast for all their releases for many years.

KimiNozo, then, was breaking new ground by retaining the original 18+ cast even for the TV anime, and one way you can see that is in how they deal with pseudonyms. As more anime based on 18+ visual novels were made, they eventually settled on crediting all the actors under their real names, while continuing to use pseudonyms for any credited game staff (like the original author or artist). For KimiNozo, they seem to have left it to the individual actors (and/or their management) to decide whether to be credited under their real names or their 18+ pseudonyms, and the final cast list is pretty much split 50/50 among those options. As far as I know, this is the only anime ever made where the credits are split that way. As for the staff, both the original creator (Kouki Yoshimune) and the original artist (Baka Ouji Persia / Gai Sugihara) are credited under their real names (Hirohiko Yoshida and Masanori Sugihara), which is also extremely rare nowadays.

As for the show itself, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room, at least in regards to the upcoming Alternative anime. KimiNozo and Muv-Luv share a similar structure, in which the game looks to trick the player into thinking that the game is set entirely in high school, only to reveal that the actual meat of the game is set somewhere else entirely. The KimiNozo anime compresses the entire high school section of the game into only two episodes, allowing the rest of the series to be set three years later. I actually think the anime does an admirable job of making this work, which then can’t help but raise the question: could a similar thing be done with the Muv-Luv anime, compressing all of Extra into two (or maybe even only one) episodes? And my answer to that is . . . maybe? I think that even though KimiNozo and Muv-Luv have a similar structure on the surface, the way they use the high school section of the story is different enough that Muv-Luv would struggle to do what the KimiNozo anime did successfully. It couldn’t be done if they were to simply adapt the Muv-Luv story as-is – they would need to do a really hard rethink of how the story unfolds to make it work. There’s a real reluctance in today’s anime industry to do that kind of reworking, so I don’t have a lot of faith there – but it’s not impossible.

Keeping in mind the fact that these first two episodes have to fit in a LOT of story, one thing that catches my attention on this rewatch is the way the first episode in particular uses a lot of flashbacks. Takayuki’s first meeting with Haruka in the bookstore is a major example of this. In the game, this event happens in “real time”, with Takayuki meeting Haruka early in the game, and then following Takayuki through each subsequent day until he is introduced to her again by Mitsuki. In the anime, we start with Mitsuki introducing Haruka, with the first meeting then reduced to a quick but effective flashback. Using flashbacks this way helps present all the major scenes while cutting out all of the extraneous filler material in between. Even the scene of Mitsuki pushing Takayuki to meet her at the hill is reduced to a flashback Takayuki has as he’s walking up the hill – even though that event would only have happened a few minutes ago, putting it as a flashback cuts down on the need to spend time setting the scene up and then linking it to the current scene. It’s an effective device that helps the episode get through the enormous amount of material that it needs to, without making the episode feel as rushed as it actually is.

Having spent so much time with Muv-Luv, it’s a nice bonus to see that the KimiNozo anime actually has a number of scenes with the cast in the familiar Hakuryo Hiiragi winter uniforms. My recollection is that the original game has maybe just one brief flashback sequence depicting the winter uniform. In the first episode of the anime, though, we see them wearing the winter uniform in the flashback of Takayuki meeting Haruka in the bookstore, as well as when Haruka first tells Mitsuki about Takayuki. (The winter uniform also suggests that quite a length of time has passed between their meeting in the bookstore and the present day – as I mentioned, the game has it happening only a few days earlier.)

Incidentally, now is probably a good time to mention that I last played the KimiNozo game a long, long time ago, so my memory of it isn’t nearly as good as for Muv-Luv. I do remember a lot of it, and I’ll mention some interesting points where I can, but I’m not going to get into the real nitty-gritty of comparing the anime to the game nearly as much as I would for Muv-Luv. I also apologize if I get anything about the game wrong. I do have the game installed right now, but I just don’t have time to go through both the game and the anime at the same time.

In many ways, though, it doesn’t really matter as much, because the anime radically revamps the story of the game such that direct comparisons would be pointless anyway. This is something that I will touch on a lot during this KimiNozo rewatch – this anime retains the story of the game, but it makes a lot of changes to the details to make the show work as a proper television drama rather than a visual novel adaptation. And the work really pays off – back in the day, it was very common, when people would bring this show up, for them to mention that they had no idea it was based on a game. That’s all thanks to the effort the anime puts in to adapt the story to a television framework.

One small example of that, which you can see in the first two episodes, is that the anime populates the school such that all of the lead characters actually appear to have friends. Takayuki and Shinji hang out with some other boys and talk about Valgern-On; Haruka has her own group of friends that she hangs out with after school. In visual novels, particularly in visual novels of this era, it’s common for the main characters to only talk to each other, with seemingly no interaction with anybody else. This carries over to anime adapatations as well, and it’s one of those things that simply make a show feel like a visual novel, when the main characters seem to live in a bubble. Even something as little as seeing our characters talking to other people helps break this show out of that framework and makes it feel more real.

I’ve seen people argue about whether or not Takayuki was in love with Mitsuki during the high school era, and the honest truth is, he really wasn’t. There’s even a scene late in the original game where he pretty much explicitly says he wasn’t. They actually recorded a commentary track for the Japanese Blu-ray release, and in it, Kouki Yoshimune (or “Hirohiko Yoshida”) states that Takayuki sees Mitsuki like another guy friend, and it’s a pretty good description of their relationship. He originally dates Haruka because that what his buddy wants; he hangs back from the festival to comfort her because that’s what a buddy does for his buddy. But there isn’t really any indication that his feelings go further than that.