The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
One Week Friends

Apr 6th 2014

Theron Martin

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Review:
Yuki Hase has been interested in classmate Kaori Fujimiya, a dedicated loner, for some time because she has “a cute face,” so one Monday he finally works up the courage to ask her to be his friend. She tearfully declines, but after some soul-searching he decides not to relent and instead starts eating lunch with her, but “not as friends.” Gradually, over the course of the week, his efforts seem to be working, until she flat-out tells him that she cannot have friends because she will just forget about them, and the good moments they had, at the beginning of the next week. Yuki doesn't believe her, but the next Monday he discovers that what she said is true: she really had forgotten about him and their efforts to connect. But he is convinced that she is desperately lonely having to go through life avoiding making friends, so he resolves not to relent even then. He will be her friend, even if that means having to do it all over again.

One Week Friends
is the sweetest, gentlest, and cutest title you are likely to run across this season; even its artistry, which has a kind of rough, pastel style that will undoubtedly remind many of Bunny Drop, contributes to that impression. It is a simple, low-key story about budding love complicated by one whopper of a gimmick: Kaori's memories about personal interactions beyond her family reset every Monday. The utterly contrived nature of this scenario creates the biggest barrier to appreciating the series; there is such a thing as retrograde amnesia, where sufferers cannot retain short-term memories for more than a certain length of time, but that does not seem to be Kaori's case or she could not function in school (a la Chihiro in ef – a tale of memories). Hence a certain suspension of disbelief is critical here. Roll with that, though, and the storytelling is incredibly effective. It doesn't do anything exciting but doesn't need to, either, to have its appeal, as watching these two interact, and Yuki bounce ideas off of friend Shogo, is surprisingly involving and Yuki's reactions – both the embarrassed ones and the subtler eye moments at other points, are thoroughly charming. The main concern here is what this series will do in future episodes to stay interesting, but so far it is off to a pretty good start.

One Week Friends is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


Bamboo Dong

Rating: 4

Review:
One Week Friends might have a hokey premise, but it's so adorable and sweet that one can't help but forgive it for its unrealistic storyline. Kind-hearted Yuki is dead-set on befriending Kaori, a quiet girl who doesn't have any friends and always slinks off at lunch time. She refuses to be friends with him, but agrees to let him eat lunch with her on the roof. As the week goes on, she warms up to him and even shows the first signs of a schoolyard crush.

Alas, their happiness is not meant to last. I suppose it's foreshadowed with a title like "One Week Friends," but that's exactly what happens. Kaori tells Yuki that on Monday, her memories will reset, and every moment that they shared will be forgotten.

The story reminds me a little too much of Hollywood romcoms like 50 First Dates, but unlike that trainwreck of a movie, the execution in One Week Friends is absolutely on point. The relationship between Kaori and Yuki develops organically over the span of a week (and amazingly, within one episode) without ever feeling forced or rushed, and even though there's a little bit of an eye-roller when Kaori says that she thinks friends talk about "love," the hint of possible romance feels natural. By the time the last scene fades to white, you're so invested in their friendship that your heart can't help but crack a little when he once again asks to be her friend.

The whole thing is helped out a lot by the fact that everything is colored with soft watercolors and laced with tinkling orchestral music. It provides the perfect atmosphere for the story, lending an almost nostalgic feeling to a story that's otherwise one part teenage awkwardness, and two parts teenage love. Even the character designs, borrowed faithfully from manga creator Matcha Hazuki, are perfectly suited for this series—with the exception of large, emotive eyes, characters' faces are largely blank. The noses and mouths barely exist, and those that do are set so disproportionately low on the face that you have no choice but to focus on the eyes.

The pessimistic side of me worries that the rest of the series won't live up to the high standards set by the first episode, but I guess there's no way to tell until it happens. There are too many examples of series that were spectacular out of the gate, but veered into humdrum, cookie-cutter territory, but I'll do my best to keep my hopes up until then. If One Week Friends follows the trajectory of the first episode, it'll be one of the best this season has to offer.
One Week Friends
is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.


Hope Chapman

Rating: 4

Review:
The best way to do a story about amnesia is to not make it about the stupid amnesia. Case in point: One Week Friends, an anime with a wholly contrived premise that overcomes it through pure openhearted optimism. Kaori is a schoolgirl with an oddly specific case of amnesia. Every seven days, she loses all memory of any new people she's met or relationships she's formed. She can still recall her family back home and learn new information in school, but meeting new people? Making new friends? Out of the question, for the rest of her life. Now, logically speaking, this is pretty silly. The cause is implied to be an accident of some kind, but really it could be magic or aliens for all it matters to the story. The amnesia is not the point. The point is the story's message, and how it's carried through its two extremely likable main characters.

Enter Yuki, a timid, jumpy, kindhearted boy who notices that Kaori seems lonely and goes out of his way to be sweet to her. She tells him she's not allowed to be his friend, (and he assumes this means she has horrible strict parents of some kind,) but he keeps spending time with her. Even if they sit in silence on the roof, that's okay, because Yuki can sense that his willingness to just be there is giving Kaori some unspoken thing that she needs. By the time her walls come down and he learns about her weird amnesia, it's too late: Kaori has already forgotten him. The moment he is confronted with Kaori's wary, disinterested stare is the highlight of the episode, as he struggles with how to respond to the situation. His best guy friend tells him to give up. His common sense tells him to move on. But the words that come out of his mouth are "Hello. I'd like for us to be friends." Kaori, who was achingly grateful for his company only the previously day, seems entirely unimpressed and shrugs at him. It's moving and heartbreaking all at the same time, and you can't help but wish for the best, for both of them.

It helps immensely that Yuki is not characterized as being kind to her because he thinks she's cute and he's needling for their friendship to become a relationship. He is attracted to her, as he almost-but-not-quite reveals in one of their lunchtime conversations, and this is after he's gotten to know who she is inside. But initially, Yuki is drawn to her because she's lonely, and in return, Kaori tries to protect him from the heartbreak of getting close to her and her problems. They're both truly kindhearted and charming characters, and wherever their story goes, happy or sad, romantic or not, it's off to an enchanting start. The episode is deliberately slow-paced, so if that or the saccharine setup isn't to your liking, be warned. For everyone else, however, this is a guilt-free teaspoon of sugar that may be followed by some healing if bitter medicine in future episodes. Give it a shot.

One Week Friends
is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 4

Review: How much more literal can a title be? One Week Friends is just what it says: a show about friends who can only be friends for a week. The friends are Fujimiya and Hase. Hase has always had an eye on Fujimiya. An honest boy, he admits upfront that it's because he likes her looks, but he's very sincere in his desire to get closer. Fujimiya is quiet and pointedly standoffish, but once he finagles a recurring lunch date with her, Hase sees another side: the kind, lonely, loveable side. But the further into the week their undefined relationship (Fujimiya refuses to call it a friendship) goes, the odder Fujimiya begins to behave. When she tries to cut ties completely, the truth comes out: every Monday, Fujimiya loses all of the previous week's precious memories. Better not to make any, she believes, than to lose them.

That may sound a bit far-fetched, but it actually isn't. It's not uncommon for brain trauma to interfere with the conversion of short-term memory into long-term memory. It isn't as selective as Fujimiya's condition, nor as predictable, but this is fiction and so let it have its license. After all, it's a fantastic concept: a boy and a girl who must forge their friendship anew each week, knowing they're doomed to lose it at the end. The show that Tarou Iwasaki and Brains Base build around that core is lovely and delicate but packs a big bittersweet punch. Hase and Fujimiya occupy a watercolor wonderland that itself seems always on the verge of fading to white. Their rapport is sweet and funny and achingly fragile, the scene where it dissipates quietly devastating, and the effects of reliving that demise over and over potentially very interesting (and thoroughly heartbreaking). Both Fujimiya and Hase are little too sugary-nice, as is the show itself, but again, let it have its license.

One Week Friends is available Streaming at Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Review:

Kaori Fujimiya is the class loner, generally assumed to be cold by everyone. Yuki Hase thinks that there might be something more to her, so he flat-out asks her to be friends. He's crushed when Fujimiya turns him down, but persistence does eventually bring him closer to her, even if she keeps insisting that they are not friends. It looks like things are going Kase's way, but suddenly on the last day of the school week, Fujimiya announces that their relationship must end. When Kase asks why, she tells him that every week on Monday her memories of the previous week are erased. Kase doesn't quite believe her until she shows up for school on Monday...and it turns out to be true. Thus begins Kase's quest to become Fujimiya's friend each and every week, to make sure that she stops living a lonely life.

One Week Friends looks like this season's sweetest offering thus far. Done in pastels reminiscent of Bunny Drop, the story thus far really only has the two main characters, although we see Fujimiya's mother and Kase converses with his buddy Shogo a few times. There's a real simplicity to both art and story that tugs at you, even if there are some fears that each week's episode could essentially be a repeat of this first one, with different activities. That doesn't detract from the fact that this is really quite charming, however, and Fujimiya's problem is different enough that it doesn't just feel like a rehash of other high school stories. The same could be said for the fact that Kase just wants to be friends, not in a romantic relationship, though as I type that, I have a strong suspicion that that will change.

The main problem that this episode has is that it is very slow. Most of the action is verbal, with very little actually happening to compliment the dialogue. On the one hand, it makes a certain amount of sense that the set up would be so gradual with a psychologically based story, but on the other, you could almost just listen to this without looking at the screen. If you need action, this will not be episode for you, as it can drag at times. If the show manages to plumb Fujimiya's depths, however, and to offer a hope that Hase can break through her problem – because after all, she doesn't forget her family members – then this could be an incredibly sweet little story.

One Week Friends is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


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