Jason checks out Manga 2.5, a new service offering fully-voiced and kind-of-animated manga series including Detective Loki and Otogi Soushi.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 16th 2005
DVD 2: Budding Attraction
Koshiro is consumed with guilt over his actions in episode 4, greatly fearful of what Nanoka may or may not have seen him doing that night, and still unsettled by his feelings for her, so he lashes out at his little sister. Things get even worse when seeing Nanoka walking home with a boy sparks jealously within him. Though he partly manages to rein in his feelings, and thus act more civilly and comfortably around and about her, he cannot escape or deny his attraction or bring himself to admit his feelings.
Nanoka, while frustrated by her brother's behavior towards her, seems to obsess over him so much that her friends label her as having a “brother complex.” Though she protests, her thoughts and actions suggest otherwise. Is the love she feels towards Koshiro just sisterly affection, or has it progressed beyond that?
The first volume of Koi Kaze established the series as a superbly-written, mostly-serious romance far removed from the norm for anime romantic stories. This second volume not only retains those traits but also establishes the series as one of the best-written anime romances to date (SaiKano included) and the best-written series to be released in the States in the first half of 2005 (Paranoia Agent included). Granted, the subject matter—a relationship between an adult brother and a teenage sister which is developing in an incestuous direction—is likely to make some viewers uncomfortable, so this title is not for everyone. Those who can get beyond that, though, will find a flawless work of storytelling. Every thought, action, and reaction in the story—indeed, every word of the script—feels so natural, so real. How else could one reasonably expect a man like Koshiro, who has always had trouble expressing his emotions, to deal with the feelings he now has? How differently could you expect Nanoka, a serious-minded girl inexperienced in matters of the heart, to act concerning her developing fixation on her brother? Even when the two squabble with each other, it just feels right. The tone and pacing of the series are exquisite; although there are a few bits of humor here and there, this is a serious, low-key story wisely allowed to develop on a slow burn as the seasons change. Time and sensitivity are needed for this kind of delicate character development, so to move things along quicker, or make the story livelier, would sacrifice credibility. The slow pacing does not make this volume any less fascinating, however; even silent pauses are used effectively, a practice rarely seen in anime outside of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
As is true with any quality romantic anime story, it is the characters which help really sell Koi Kaze. Koshiro is wholly believable, and Nanoka is utterly appealing. Supporting characters serve mostly as comic relief and framing devices for the main characters, but all of them serve those roles well. Although the story is still told primarily from Koshiro's point of view, this volume gives much more of a look into Nanoka's thoughts, focusing on her for the better part of two of the five episodes.
The artistry and technical merits in this second volume are still the weakest aspects of the series, though I have upgraded my opinion of them since reviewing the first volume. Nanoka is well-detailed, realistically proportioned (she's small but not delicate), and by far the most visually appealing character. Although she is drawn younger than she's supposed to be (the birthday she has during this volume should make her 16 years old), she is also portrayed as being on the cusp between cuteness and pure beauty, a not uncommon look for girls of that age. Koshiro, by comparison, is almost distractingly square-jawed and rough-edged. The level of artistic merit on the supporting characters varies, but all are distinctive and only Koshiro's lecherous co-worker Odagiri is stereotypical. The quality of rendering on all of the characters varies greatly between close-up shots and views at any distance; in the former case detail is quite good, but it suffers in any shots where the characters are more than a few feet from the theoretical camera. Background art, while not bad, usually looks like pencil sketches. As a result, it starkly contrasts with the digitally-colored characters. The animation quality continues to be inconsistent; it looks quite good in select scenes but takes shortcuts in other places, leaving the impression that the producers focused most of the animation budget on a few key scenes. Thankfully lacking, though, are most of the exaggerated reactions seen in many anime romances. For all the artistic and technical faults of the series, it does handle quite well some details that are often overlooked, such as how natural Nanoka looks while sleeping in one scene or how convincingly mussed up her hair looks when she wakes up. This volume also gives Nanoka a wide range of wardrobe and hairdos, something that a lot of anime series focusing on a teenage character often skimp on.
The musical scoring eloquently supports the story by highlighting key scenes with gentle, poignant piano themes while smartly remaining silent at other times. The pleasant opener and more amateurish closer are unchanged from the first volume. Also worthy of note is the attention to detail in the use of sound effects, such as the sound of sock-clad feet walking across a wooden floor at various points. All too often these details are overlooked unless they are intended to be meaningful to the scene.
The English script continues to stay reasonably close to the subtitles and is just as eloquent, while the English vocal casting continues to be a close match for the originals. The styling of the performances varies a little more from the originals in this volume than in the first one, but it's for the better. Newcomer Tiffany Hsieh shines in her role as Nanoka by straying just enough from the original performance to portray the credibility and emotion of the character in a way more conducive to the English language. In the process she delivers one of the best female English vocal performances of the past year. Patrick Seitz masterfully mimics, and even slightly improves upon, the delivery of the original Koshiro, while the rest of the veteran vocal cast turns in uniformly competent performances. All-in-all, it is a very good dub.
Extras are fair in number but unexciting. In addition to the standard trio of Geneon previews, a short promotional trailer, a set of commercials (at least one or two apparently for episodes in the third volume), and version 1 of the textless closer are offered. This volume does pack five episodes, though, and separates the language and subtitling options. Also look for a set of “No-No! Big Brother” stickers included in the case.
While some may be turned off by the inherent creepiness of the concept, those who give Koi Kaze a chance will find it to be a delicate, plausible, and heartfelt look at two siblings who are falling in love despite their own misgivings and all of the societal taboos against it. This is as atypical as anime romantic stories get, but you also won't see one told better. “Budding Attraction” ranks as one of the premier examples of anime storytelling across any genre in its continuance of a classic story of forbidden love. I do not easily give a maximum grade to any anime volume in any category, but this one deserves it.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : A
+ Incomparable writing, great English voice work, effective musical scoring.
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