Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 3rd 2007
Sub.DVD 2 - Triangles Hurt
Seeing Yasuna and Hazumu kissing forces Tomari to accept the relationship between the two of them, but it also causes her to be standoffish towards Hazumu as she sorts out her own feelings, something which distresses Hazumu greatly. An outing to the beach offers an excursion in cooking for the group, but also an opportunity for Jan-Puu to be introduced to the crowd, Asuta to come to terms with his newfound attraction for Hazumu, and Tomari and Yasuna to talk about Hazumu. When Sora arranges a “test of courage” for the group in another scheme to study romance, Ayuki reflects on her status as the observer while Tomari and Yasuna conflict over extreme scaredy-cat Hazumu. A visit to a local shrine's summer festival gives the girls a chance to wear yukatas (some for the first time), though it also brings to a head Hazumu's notorious indecisiveness as she recalls memories of a past bad experience at a festival.
Despite its lower price point, AnimeWorks has driven some potential viewers away from the anime version of Kashimashi because it lacks an English dub. That's a shame, because those who refuse to watch on that basis alone are missing one of the year's best romantic comedies. Those not watching because of discomfort over the decided yuri (i.e. lesbian) elements are more forgivable, but if you are nervous about that, allow me to clarify one thing: the only truly sordid content present through the first nine episodes involves scenes that could be found in any romantic comedy. The actual yuri content is as tender and warm-hearted as anything you could possibly ask for and still be entertaining.
For fans of the original manga, episodes 6, 8, and 9 equate precisely to chapters 8, 10, and 12 of volume 2 of the manga, while episode 7 seamlessly combines chapter 9 (“A Trip to the Beach”) with chapter 11 (“Princess of Curry”). Although some of the exact details get tinkered with a bit, a more ideal adaptation of this chunk of the source material is hard to imagine. Every element of the production, from the style of the artistry to the palette of colors used to the soundtrack, contributes wonderfully to the look and feel of the original story, and the anime script not only exactly duplicates many scenes from the manga but also does everything in its power to stay true to the spirit of the original writing. Not wanting to invest in something which so closely replicates the manga you've already read is no excuse for not watching, as seeing the characters and scenes originally created by manga-ka team Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura come to life on the screen is a joy unto itself. Spending a couple of hours watching these episodes can leave you with a warm fuzzy like few other series can.
For those not familiar with the manga, this volume picks up exactly where the last one left off: with Tomari walking in on the first kiss of Yasuna and Hazumu. The repeat of that scene from Tomari's perspective marks a transition between the focus on Yasuna's feelings, which predominated in the first volume, to a focus on Tomari's, which predominates in episode 6. In episode 7 Asuta also gets a chance to examine in depth how he feels about the change in gender of his best friend, and we get brought to an understanding about why the observant nonparticipant Ayuki behaves the way she does in episode 8, with episode 9 reserved for Hazumu's viewpoint. Spreading the focus around reinforces the impression that, while everything in the series revolves around Hazumu, it is hardly a one-man (er, woman) show. It also allows the viewer to empathize with the whole core cast.
Usually an anime romance cannot exist without some kind of comic relief, and the antics of the alien Sora, the childlike ship avatar Jan-Puu, teacher Namiko, and Hazumu's parents provide ample opportunities for that. Asuta also gets a few moments of his own in his fantasizing about Hazumu, but scenes involving the awkward positions Hazumu sometimes inadvertently puts him in work better because it's clear that Hazumu, for all that he has adapted to being a girl, has not attuned yet to the impact her curves now have on her male best friend. Other attempts at humor succeed remarkably well for as heavily retread as the jokes are, with two priceless scenes involving Sora's wildly inappropriate manner of dress standing as the highlight moments.
Also handled with great skill are the dynamics of the love triangle. These kinds of stories work best when we can see the churning emotions of credible characters, and the storytelling offers no shortage of that. The gentle, delicate handling of the interactions between the three give the story a softer feel than it might ordinarily have, and in the process avoids all hint of melodrama. Too often anime love triangles descend into fits of bitchiness, intense angst, and/or overwrought emotional reactions, but not here.
The artistry fully retains the look and feel of the original manga effort while improving significantly on the quality of the designs and renderings, especially the adorably (but not overtly) sexy look of Jan-Puu. All of the regular cast members except Sora have appealing looks and get extensive arrays of clothing and hairdo options as the settings change throughout these episodes. Nice background art and flawless foreground/background integration contributes to the overall look, but what truly sets the tone is the flat but still richly diverse color scheme, which suggests warmth, comfort, and familiarity rather than the bold, brassy look of more glossy color schemes. Given the content, fan service is remarkably infrequent and mostly incidental. Animation is limited to foreground characters, but what does get animated gets animated well.
Just as the color scheme sets the tone visually, so does the wonderful soundtrack establish the mood audibly. It can get peppy during comical moments, but most of the time it stays a gentle undercurrent which drifts along leisurely in the background, providing the extra push where needed to bring out the full feel of a scene. It flows seamlessly into the soft, delicate love song used for the closer, while a more cutesy front number is set to opening visuals featuring all the female characters in flowing white gowns. Well-cast and on-target Japanese performances also contribute to the overall audio effect.
Extras on this volume include clean versions of both closers used through these episodes (same song, but the visuals vary a bit in episode 9) and two back-to-back 15-minute voice actor interviews featuring Kana Ueda (the seiyuu for Hazumu) with Masumi Asano (Ayuki) and Daisuke Ono (Asuta) respectively. Unless you are a major fan of the seiyuu, the inanity of the content makes the interviews quite skippable.
The settings and many of the gags may be familiar, but the successful use of humor and graceful quality of the romantic elements once again proves that superior writing and execution can elevate even the most stereotypical of story elements. Excellent use of complementing visuals and music makes this a project worthy of attention even if the yuri aspect doesn't interest you.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A
+ Artistry and music contribute wonderfully to the overall feel and mood.
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