Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Building romantic relationships seldom happens without complications, as Kouichi, Kazuki, and the girls around them gradually learn. Yumi's revelation that she will soon have to move quickly draws an earnest commitment from Kouichi to maintain their deepening relationship, but the building romantic feelings between him and Mao eventually threaten to intrude. They also threaten to get in the way of Mao's relationship with Eiji despite Mao's efforts to give up on them. Kazuki continues to devotedly pursue Eriko even after she is convinced to break off her experiments with Kazuki, but that is not something that Kazuki can be satisfied with. Asuka realizes this and intervenes on their behalf, even as her own building feelings for Kazuki drive her to distraction, but even so Eriko is a tough nut to crack. Meanwhile, the movie must be completed (with Mao now as the lead since Yumi is unable to perform the lines adequately), Nana and Narumi struggle to master the art of udon noodles, and Megumi struggles to keep everything in order as the school festival approaches.
In the bonus episode “Love Fighter,” Megumi is thrown by the idea that she might be missing out on something by not having already fallen in love, so she converses with many of the series' other characters about it in turn.
In its first half Kimikiss concentrated primarily on laying the rather complex groundwork for the web of romantic attractions and relationships that lie at the core of the series. That allows the second half to concentrate on playing those relationships out to their logical (by anime standards) conclusions. Love deepens, hearts are broken, people learn to move on from one-sided attractions, and much experimentation with udon noodles goes on in a run of episodes which can plod along at times but rarely stays dull for long.
For those who enjoy complicated romantic entanglements and/or watching teenagers sort out where their hearts really lie, these episodes are a dream come true. Couples form, break up, and reshuffle on a regular basis, characters pine for the ones they cannot have or try to force down feelings that might betray them, girls help other girls match up with the guys they actually like themselves, characters emerge from their shells and loneliness as they learn the wonders of being in love, and so forth. Remarkably, very little of it actually comes across as sappy as this description probably sounds and it all can be quite involving even for those who do not normally go out for this kind of fare, though at times the writing does overplay the relationship drama just a little bit and stretch it out just a little too long, especially the whole clumsily-handled A Dog of Flanders business.
Also on the downside, very little that the series does here is at all fresh. Most of these relationship routines are the same kind of dances that we have seen many times before, such as the scenario where Boy A has a good thing going with Girl B but is unable to totally set aside lingering feelings for Girl C, who is a childhood friend whose feelings have grown into love towards him over time (reverse the genders and this happens a second time, too) or the scenario where Girl D likes Boy E but also knows that Girl F does, too, and so tries to step aside for Boy E and Girl F to get together even though she knows that Boy E likes her. (This also happens multiple times.) And really, is it some kind of rule in anime romances that characters cannot get angry and resentful when their hearts get broken by one they loved? In fact, the only character in the series who doesn't give up without a fight when rejected is Kazuki in his dogged pursuit of Eriko – and that, perhaps not coincidentally, is the series' best plot thread.
Although most sources would probably classify this as a slice-of-life romantic comedy, calling it a romantic drama supplemented by comedy content would be a more accurate description, as the comedy elements, though regularly present, generally stand apart from the romantic elements. Nana and Narumi's udon escapades are one of the chief sources of humor, and Megumi's efforts to keep everyone on task are another, but almost all of the main and regular supporting cast members get involved to some degree in some kind of shenanigans. Even the homeroom teacher gets involved when she upstages her students in one vastly amusing segment late in the series. The bonus episode also takes on a more light-hearted spirit as Megumi gets conflicting information about love from various sources and evaluates each of the main male characters as a potential love interest. The comedy is not prominent or prevalent enough for the series to be worth watching for it alone, but it does provide a nice complement to the romantic elements.
As with the first half of the series, the visual strength of the second half lies in the character designs. The girls get a wide array of appealing looks, from Asuka's tomboyishness to Yumi's gentle beauty to Eriko's wide-eyed frowns, and the character rendering never disappoints. The most distinctive-looking girl through this stretch is unquestionably Mao, whose hair braids have something of a backwoods American style. The boys have an unusually broad range of looks, too, and the bishonen Eiji should delight many a female viewer. The background art is still much less impressive, though, and the animation, while good when present, is sparse overall. Both do continue to serve well in giving the series a softer feel, however.
So does the music. It remains light, breezy, and gentle, more of an understated supporter than a tone-setter. The catchy love song which serves as the opener gives the same kind of gently uplifting feel, while new closer “Wasurenaide” is a lovely song which provides a distinct upgrade to the original closer without changing the visuals. It is one of the year's best. (Original closer “Negai boshi” returns for the bonus episode, however.)
Sentai Filmworks is releasing this title dub-free, with its twelve episodes spread across two disks. Extras on the second disk include clean opener and clean versions of both closers. Also included is the bonus episode, which was originally available only on the series' Japanese DVD release.
In the end Kimikiss never completely escapes the feel of its dating sim origins, though its second half does broaden the story a bit by focusing at least as much on the perspectives of the female characters and does provide some scenarios that are at least mildly interesting to watch. The series is definitely not for anyone seeking fan service, plotting more involved than whether or not one girl can come to terms with setting aside her own romantic interest in a boy to aid another girl in succeeding with said boy, or suspense beyond who will and will not end up with a broken heart at the end. It does carry through with its main focus reasonably well, though, and that and the plethora of pretty girls may be enough.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Nice character designs, pleasantly low-key storytelling and music.
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