Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 22nd 2011
Kimi to Boku.
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Studious Kaname, gentle Shun, and troublemaking twins Yuta and Yuki have been friends since kindergarten. They're in high school now, but still inseparable. And a good thing too. Girls, bullies, hyperactive Germans—high-school can be hard, and a few good friends can make all the difference. Even when they come to include a hyperactive German.
There are as many reasons to watch something as there are things to watch. Sometimes you want to laugh, sometimes you want to cry. Sometimes you want to be frightened, shocked, challenged, or urged to expand your horizons. And sometimes you just want to curl up with something warm and be told that everything'll be okay. For that, you can hardly do better than Kimi to Boku.
It really is nothing more than a show about friends. They play around, tease each other, recall embarrassing childhood memories, and support and understand each other. Watching them, it's pretty much impossible not to feel better. Episodes are generally split up between the characters, with each one focusing on a different member of the entourage. So Shun gets an episode in which he catches the attentions of a complicated freshman girl, and Yuki gets to search for a club to join and try to remember Chizuru the (half-) German. Chizuru later spends an episode seizing his summer and complicating Shun's relationship with the complicated freshman, while Yuta gets confessed to and Kaname remembers his kindergarten crush on a teacher. And so it goes. When one takes center stage, the others retreat, lending the kind of helping hand (or good-natured sabotage) that only people who know each other very well and like each other very much can.
It's very sweet, and more than a little unrealistic. Frankly, no one is as insightful and attuned to their friends as Shun and the gang are, especially not high-school boys. Nor are the hijinks that teenaged boys get up to when they get together nearly as innocent and harmless as what these boys do. Granted, not all teenage boys spent high school shoplifting porn, shotgunning street signs and lighting each other on fire (I admit to nothing), but even fewer spent it cutting each other's hair and staging fake mixers in the park. Still, it's a nice fantasy, and the ribbing and romantic interference, at least, are dead on. And it's never too sweet. The show acknowledges the back-biting that can go on in schools, and that not everyone can look beyond outside appearances to see the loveable cuddlebunny underneath. There's pain in these boys' lives, and regret. Romance in particular can end up being...complicated.
The very best episodes sneak surprisingly nuanced emotions beneath the omnipresent layer of laid-back warmth. Shun's ordeal with Masaki the complicated freshman is one such episode: a series of hilarious pranks that takes on new meaning when we're finally let inside Masaki's head. It's sometimes surprising how thoughtfully written the show can be. Just watch the subtle play of emotions inside of Masaki as Shun confronts her, and the way that those emotions fit seamlessly into previous events. Or how Yuta's dating behavior starts to make sense once you take into account his date's motivations and his own perceptiveness. The writing isn't flashy or attention-grabbing, and in fact makes a concerted effort to be subtle and unobtrusive, but it is far more intelligent than it has to be.
The series is directed by Mamoru Kanbe. It'd be interesting to see the decision-making process that led to that appointment. "Hmm, a director for a feel-good story about a group of guy friends? How about the guy who directed Elfen Lied? It was nauseatingly cruel and only had one male character. Perfect, right?" Whatever his past experience—and it does include the similarly relaxed Sound of the Sky—he does right by the show. The careless rhythm he gives it is perfect for a show about the everyday lives of boys and the pastel softness of the visuals fits the tone of the series like a glove. Gentle use of sweet pop songs and an unusually spare score help keep the emotional volume down, while pitch-perfect emotional timing and a focus on character animation help coax complex feelings from some deceptively simple situations. Laughs are frequent and frequently dry, delivered without any of the exaggerated reactions or musical capering common to anime. From a purely technical standpoint the series is nothing to write home about—the animation in particular is just standard—but it uses its limited resources intelligently and appropriately. And, in its own way, that's more impressive than any bloated spectacle could be.
That's Kimi to Boku in a nutshell: It isn't high art, but what it does it does with intelligence and conviction. It's feel-good entertainment that you don't have to feel bad about. Think of it as a big anime teddy bear: soft and fuzzy and more than a little artificial; kind of embarrassing to snuggle up with, but irresistible anyway.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ As warm and comforting as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold morning; sensitive and surprisingly funny given its laid-back nature.
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