Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anime Review: True Tears

Another anime review? So soon? What is this, 2010? I ended up going through this show really quickly and it left me very, err, let’s say “talkative”. Longtime fans of the blog may remember that I sometimes get a bit flustered and annoyed with how much science fiction/fantasy based anime I watch and somewhat yearned for something based in reality for a change. Well True Tears is my reward.

True Tears is a 2008 anime that is based on a Visual Novel of the same name. I can’t recall if I’ve talked about visual novels before but basically they’re video game-like digital literature. They’re not actually video games (mostly) but they tend to be “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of narratives with vastly different branching scenarios. Many, many of them are labeled as dating sims. A lot of those are also pornography. Yep. The closet example I can think of off-hand is the BlazBlue fighting game series as its story mode is in the visual novel style (but itself wouldn’t be considered one). The most infamous visual novel may be School Days which featured a bunch of endings that involved crazy-ass murders and soul crushing despair before getting an anime adaption that ran with that theme with horrific results. Visual novels are very popular in Japan, and a lot of anime are based on them, but they don’t really appear too much in America.

Weirdly True Tears apparently doesn’t have anything to do with the original visual novel except for the name; not the setting, not the plot, not the characters, not even the artwork. I’m not sure why this is but if I were to guess I’d say it might be because the anime studio didn’t want to make an show where fans essentially already know all the possible endings or perhaps the studio came up with its own original show but decided it would sell better if it had the same name of a popular visual novel. Regardless the show was produced by P.A. Works, Lantis, and Bandai Visual in 2008. Bandai Entertainment licensed and released it in North America later that year. A mundane, romance anime set in the real world with no fantastical elements? What could possibly go wrong?

 Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: The review contains MASSIVE spoilers as I apparently didn't give a crap if I spoiled every detail of the show's ending. Read at your own risk.] 


The main love interests in the show...and also Aiko
Nakagami Shinichiro is a normal high school student except that his dream girl, Yuasa Hiromi, has been living in his house for the past year. After the death of her parents she moved in with his family (as his father was very close to them). However she is very cold and aloof when at home despite being friendly and smiley at school. Matters are complicated further when Shinichiro meets local weirdo Isurugi Noe, who has a bit of a bad reputation, and they become friends (sort of). Things become increasingly troublesome as the makings of a bitter love triangle starts to form.

Before we get too far I must again remind you all that I don’t hate romantic fiction. I enjoy them probably far more than I should, especially when I was younger. I just hate the whole “Will They or Won’t They” scenario. Unsuprisingly that exact plot device shows up a lot in anime. But when done well a cartoon about two teens in love can be really good. Case in point one of my favorite anime of all time is Kare Kano, which I thought handled things very well (except for the ending, which is a whole other essay). So don’t bitch to me about how I’m just a mean asshole who doesn’t like the genre.

 Pretty much the best character in this damn show
Anyway there’s not much positive stuff to talk about here. I will say that the animation is possibly the best I’ve seen since starting this blog which is likely a result of the shorter episode count as it often is. Also the music, which is mostly piano scores, can be very beautiful at times which greatly add to the tone of the show. I don’t want to say I cried but the show’s composer apparently really wanted me to.

On the other hand the show has two outstanding issues that can’t be ignored: 1) the characters and 2) the plot itself.

Not including Shinichiro’s father, who doesn’t really do much, most of the important characters in the show are assholes that I really couldn’t stand. The two exceptions were Noe and Shinichiro’s best friend Miyokichi who were both genuinely kind and sweet, despite what they were forced through in the show. Hell, Noe is actually a really cool character. I’d prefer to call them “victims” rather than “characters” because a lot of sad shit happens to the two of them and they didn’t deserve an ounce of it. Everyone else made the show nearly unwatchable for me.

Shinichiro is a lousy main character. First of all he is the embodiment of the terrible “Ordinary High School Student” archetype. We’ve seen this before in Highschool of the Dead and Princess Resurrection, but it’s played the most straight here. He’s wishy-washy, he avoids conflict at all cost, and genuinely not a strong character yet somehow finds himself the center of everyone’s attention and is the most desirable person in their world. He grows a set in the very last episode but that was far too late for me. To make things worse he treats Noe like shit for most of the show and in generally inconsiderate of anyone but himself throughout the series. I HATED this guy in a different yet similar way that I HATED Ayano from Kaze no Stigma. When you hate the main character in a show it’s hard to watch said show.

"I should really do something about all these girls I'm hurting"
[Plays video games for next three days; doesn't answer cell phone]
Hiromi isn’t much better as her quiet and docile demeanor is often in conflict with her tendency to inflict emotional pain on others. I don’t’ want to say she manipulates other characters but she did clearly play with her supposed crush Shiniciro’s feelings from day one. She is also pretty horrible to Noe and is prone to really dark bouts of jealousy. I really didn’t like her either. Aiko, the supposed “Third Girl” of this love story is only slightly better in that she’s probably not a bad person but she is totally only using her boyfriend Miyokichi to get closer to Shinichiro, ultimately breaking the poor kid’s heart (but at least she is shown to feel really bad about the whole things all through the show). I really, really hate to come off like a shipper here but I suspect that if Miyokichi was the main character instead of Assclown McGee and if he met Noe in the exact same circumstances this show would have been 1000x times better. Instead I kept having the song “Teenagers Are All Assholes” by Hi-Standard stuck in my head the entire time I watched this crap.

Also Hiromi starts wearing glasses near the end for some reason
Also Jun, Noe’s brother, IS a manipulative and cold son of a bitch who also is secretly in love with his damn sister. Oh, did I not mention this? This show has an uncomfortable amount of incest-teasing floating around. So if you’re into that, and are creepy, this show is for you. Anyway Shinichiro’s mother, Shiori, is one of the biggest bitches I’ve seen in an anime and is probably the closest thing to a villain in the show. Here’s a picture of her.

Pictured: Shinichiro's mom baking cookies for the cast. Probably
All that written and I’m still only halfway done? Jesus. Anyway this brings us to the plot itself which was loooong, unsatisfying and extremely bafflingly. First of all this is a story about the triangle between Shinichiro, Noe and Hiromi. Aiko is featured on the cover and the promotional art and is love with Shinichiro as well but she’s very unimportant to the main plot and seems to just be there to make things slightly more complicated and also ruin Miyokichi’s life because screw Miyokichi (is what I assume the writers were saying). The problem with the love triangle is that it doesn’t make sense. It’s all very complicated so I’ll try to summarize. Basically Shinichiro likes Hiromi but finds out she likes someone else (who happens to be Jun) but at the same time meets Noe who is kind of weird but is sweet. So he ends up dating Noe which is fine because she’s cool and it’s not like he’s got anyone else. And then the show flat out tells us that DATING NOE MAKES SHINICHIRO AWESOME! He’s an artist making a picture book and dating Noe inspires him to work on it. He’s leading this traditional dance thing and dating Noe makes him more focused in rehearsals. When he’s with her he feels like he can fly (which is her whole deal) but when he’s with Hiromi he tends to say things like “I can’t fly after all.” The show is clearly telling him, and the audience, that NOE MAKES HIM A BETTER PERSON! He even realizes this himself. But he ends up stringing Noe along for a while and then dumps her for Hiromi as soon as she becomes available…but doesn’t have the guts to inform Noe of this development thus ensuring that she spends the last quarter of the anime in absolute agony over the whole thing. F**k you, Shinichiro.

I don’t understand why in the holy hell the show go out of its way to make Shinichiro and Noe look so good for each other only to suddenly yank the rug out and have him suddenly be with Hiromi, who a) the show NEVER EVER EVER explains what about her attracts him to her except maybe that’s she’s hot and kind of acts like a traditional Japanese housewife and b) at least once did her best to F**K HIM OVER BECAUSE SHE WAS JEALOUS OF NOE!!!! This would be like if at the end of Return of the Jedi Princess Leia finds out that Luke Skywalker isn’t her brother after all (or indeed perhaps never knew they were related to begin with) and dumps Han Solo for him despite the last two movies clearly setting up for the Han/Leia pairing. It’s just bizarre.

There’s more to it than that including secret “girl trades” between Shinichiro and Jun, the minor second love triangle between Shinichiro, Miyokichi and Aiko, and the sub-plot about whether or not Shinichiro and Hiromi are actually brother and sister (See? I didn’t just pull that Star Wars analogy out of my ass) and it’s all pretty goddamn bad; I just don’t have the time to go through every detail. The number one thing you need to know is that the main character picks the girl that will probably cook for him over the girl that helps him be a better version of himself. Now this might be a cultural thing and perhaps, not being Japanese and also not hating women, I just am not looking at things the way the creators intended. Regardless it just doesn’t make any sense to me. What kind of moron would choose the person that keeps hurting them over the person who supports them and makes them stronger?

Bella Swan Approves This Anime
True Tears is a pretty shitty anime that left me in a real sour mood when I finished it. I’m not alone since I guess this anime has something of a partisan fanbase, some who agree with my sentiments, and engage in a lot of shipping wars over the ONE TRUE PAIRING. All I know is that the way the story was told for most of the series is weirdly disconnected from the last three episodes and then it ends depressingly. I thought about whether I should give this show my first 1 Panda score for an anime. The only reason I decided not to was because I compared it to my most hated anime of all time and asked myself “Is watching True Tears more or less entertaining than that other sack of shit?” The answer is “more”, therefore this show doesn’t fail. Plus I know a lot of people will enjoy it and truthfully had it not gone off the rails and had an actual likeable lead character it would have been a decent show.

True Tear gets a very generous 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.



Pros

-The score is well done

-The animation is top notch

Cons

-The lead character is very unlikable

 -Likewise the supporting cast is mostly made up of unlikeable characters

-The plot pretty much makes no logical sense

-The most melodramatic anime I’ve ever reviewed

A naturally forming relationship that's good for both parties and the audience?
WHY THE F**K WOULD WE WANT THAT?! HUMPTY DUMPTY DOO!!!

Guys, seriously, I need more anime to review. I’ve got a queue set up but after this show I could really use something fun to watch. If you have any anime you’d like to me to review or just a suggestion of what to check out next shoot me an e-mail at betaisdead@gmail.com or send me a tweet.

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