Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 5th 2010
Kimikiss: Pure Rouge
Sub.DVD 1-2 - Collection 1
Up until middle school, friends Kouichi Sanada and Kazuki Aihara looked up to older girl Mao as a Big Sister figure, but then she moved to France. Mao has now returned to take her senior year in Japan, though, and since her parents are still in France she'll be staying at Kouichi's house. Though the three quickly fall back into old roles, they are now all teenagers, and that adds a certain extra layer of hormone-driven tension to their relationships. As the school year begins and the spring term progresses, each soon finds other romantic interests: for Mao, it's a taciturn jazz saxophone player Eiji Kai, while Kouichi gradually strikes up a relationship with the shy beauty Yumi. A series of odd encounters leads Kazuki to become fascinated with Eriko Futami, the school's pretty resident genius, whose copious intelligence and odd way of approaching things isolates her from others. Kazuki must also contend with soccer jock Asuka, who regularly corrals him for practice but may have her own crush on him. Other girls linger on the fringe, including rich girl Mitsuki, who may have an interest in Akira, the president of Kouichi and Kazuki's Film Club; high-strung disciplinary enforcer Megumi; Kazuki's younger sister Nana; and Nana's new udon-obsessed friend Narumi, who shares with Nana an interest in cute froglike accessories. As a new film project goes into development, the relationships begin to shift and grow.
No veteran anime fan who watches the opener and/or first episode of Kimikiss pure rouge (or, for that matter, even looks at the DVD cover art) should be at all surprised to learn that this 25-episode 2007-2008 anime series is a loose adaptation of the eponymous PS2 dating sim game released by Enterbrain in 2006. What may surprise some are the liberties that J.C. Staff took in converting the game into anime form. Instead of making a straight-up adaptation, which often results in an awkward-feeling romantic effort as the guy tries to cycle amongst many girls, J.C. Staff split original main character Kouichi Aihara into two different characters, one (Kouichi) who retains the original's looks and the other (Kazuki) who retains the original's soccer affinity and little sister. They also added another prominent male character, Eiji, into the mix to further diversify the love interests. The result is a love square, an entirely separate love triangle, and some suggested pairings which look like they may develop into a third love polygon. That's a whole lot of relationship dynamics to bounce around, and that's what keeps the first 13 episodes busy – and that does not even include the running side joke about the “romance” between Nana and Narumi's plushie frogs.
That is the entire sum and substance of the series, too. Nothing elaborate or gimmicky can be found here, just pure, lightweight romantic drama mixed with occasional doses of equally lightweight humor, all set within one of the most mundane possible slice-of-life frameworks for an anime series. The series even stays true to the source game's original Age 12+ rating by almost entirely eschewing fan service; all that is present in the first 13 episodes are a few suggestive panning shots of female characters (especially in the swimming competition episode) and the regular kissing scenes, which is the one factor which distinguishes this series from others of its type. Beyond that, this is just a bunch of interrelated stories about boys and girls trying to hook up, figure each other out, and fall in love, and the complicated ways that the heart can shift when people are first learning about romantic love.
And yes, this can be as banal as it sounds. The writers are clearly depending on the degree of complications in the relationship arrangements (a flow chart would have been a nice Extra, but sadly Sentai Filmworks did not include one) to carry the series, but viewers have to muddle through a few episodes of character and connection establishment before the assorted romantic entanglements achieve sufficient lift to send the series aloft. If that aspect does not click with the viewer, though, then the series can easily become a tedious exercise in lightweight drudgery. Oh, sure, it does have some comedic moments which might initiate a few chuckles, such as the ongoing love story between the frog plushies or the reactions of the restaurant patrons when the “taste-blind” Eriko dares to try the notorious Very Berry Ramen, but those alone will not sustain a viewer through the series. They are simply there to provide extra flavor for those who already savor the taste.
The standard personality distribution, which looks like something taken from an Idiot's Guide to Making Dating Sims/Eroge book, certainly will not entice anyone who does not already eat this kind of fare up. There must always be a shy and gentle girl, and that is Yumi. There must always be an athletic/physical girl, and that is Asuka. Eriko is both the asocial intelligent girl and the eccentric girl, while Mao is the requisite boisterous girl who's also a childhood friend. Megumi is the high-strung, strictly principled girl, while Mitsuki is the wealthy girl. Nana and Narumi round out the cast as the youthful little sister figure and immature girl, respectively. Amongst male personalities, Kouichi is the more conservative side of the male lead, while Kazuki is the slightly bolder, more experimental side. Akira is the odd, frequently imposing male friend, while Eijo is the quiet but handsome mystery man. No characterizations shown so far are remotely original or even slightly fresh takes on a standard character concept, though Yumi does show signs of keeping a big secret during this set's waning episodes. Some characters can be endearing, and some relationships can have interesting aspects, but that does not completely offset the stale texture to the content.
The artistry and music both make a concerted effort to give the series a softer feel. While the artistry paints itself in warm but not garish designs and color schemes, the music remains light and breezy, never letting things get overly excitable or heavy; even the love song “Aozora loop” by marble, which serves as the opener, contributes to that effect, while equally pleasant and gentle closer “Negai boshi” closes out episodes 1-12, only to be replaced by the similarly-toned “Wasurenaide” beginning in episode 13. (The closing visuals remain the same, however.) J.C. Staff put the bulk of its artistic effort into the character designs, crafting a pleasingly varied array of girls that are attractive and distinctive without ever having to resort to outlandish elements or styles fancier than double hair braids. The designs of Kouichi and Akira are a little too similar, but otherwise the guys look good in this one, too, especially Eiji. The artistry is otherwise unimpressive, with backgrounds often done in faded water colors for outdoors shots and a bit greater detail with interiors. The minimalist animation relies much too heavily on panning and still shots and only uses CG effects in a couple of oddly incongruous animations of a saxophone in use.
Sentai Filmworks does not dub this one, for understandable reasons; its mainstream appeal is likely not great. It only includes clean opener and closer on the second of two disks for its Extras, but at least this time its subtitles are clean.
The first half of Kimikiss is ultimately akin to light whipped cream: fluffy, somewhat sweet, and short on calories but also devoid of much substance. It is reasonably well-made for what it is and does get more involving in the later stages of this episode run, but fails to do much to draw in those not already inclined to watch light romantic comedies.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Nice character designs, pleasantly low-key storytelling and music.
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