The Fall 2014 Anime Preview Guide
In Search of the Lost Future


Bamboo Dong

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

If the first episode of In Search of the Lost Future (Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete) has one critical flaw (amongst its many smaller flaws), it's that it's simply trying too hard to read from a playbook that it doesn't understand. The show seems to have a vague idea about what makes a good first episode—an intriguing hook, perhaps, and maybe some action… some hints of comedy, a touch of drama… but rather than utilizing these elements in a clever way to bring out the story that's already there, they feel forced. The entire episode, from start to finish, feels like it was created by committee, with a gaggle of staff writers and interns shouting over each other to shoe-horn in ideas: "Hey! He should make a boob joke!" "Hey, what if they have a mysterious cube?" "Hey! She should get hit by a bus!"

The last bit is really the icing on the already ridiculous cake, which started first with a layer of futuristic sci-fi, topped with everyday-school-activities, and sealed with overblown-conflicts-between-school-clubs. We already know from the first scene that what we are about to see is Not What It Seems. We see a young man hunched over a desk in despair, trying vainly to do Something Scientific to a girl in a liquid-filled cylinder. It's not hard to extrapolate who of the main cast those characters are, but I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet.

The next two quarters of the show is meant to show us a baseline for events to come. We're introduced to the members of the Astronomy Club, which includes main protagonist Sou, childhood friend/crush Kaori, and a host of other charming, but kind of blasé characters, including a girl who wishes on a star to win a Nobel Prize, but is countered with, "You should've wished for bigger boobs!" Har har har. For whatever reason, their club is just one of many at the school that are constantly feuding with each other, including a ludicrous scene where a bunch of punks are tussling with the judo club.

In any case, things lurch along at their awkward pace, including a love confession from Kaori, until she gets hit by a bus. Whoops. Luckily, the series assures us that she's okay, and that she comes back in the next episode, presumably with some time travel trickery and scientific mumbo-jumbo. If the series intends to transform itself into a heartfelt show about saving the one you love through the rigors of science, it has a long hill to climb back up. As of right now, the first episode is not a good impression. It's messy and shallow, and feels like a half-formed idea board, with tidbits borrowed from a few too many shows of yesteryear. The next two episodes will be critical, but right now, it feels like a bust.

In Search of the Lost Future is available streaming at Funimation.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

Sou is half a step away from being an anime cliché – he's a semi-attractive high school boy who lives with his childhood friend Kaori for reasons we don't know. He and Kaori are busy hiding their crushes on each other from each other while friends tease them. They belong to one of those school clubs that has five members, three girls and two boys. Everyone in the club seems to have a quirk and Airi's habit of beating up those who misbehave has their club tapped to handle school disciplinary matters leading up to the school festival despite the fact that they're an astronomy club. Add to that basic to the point of painful character designs and a very slow first 21 out of 24 minutes, and In Search of the Lost Future's first episode does not have a lot to recommend it.

Unfortunately it doesn't look very good in terms of either art or animation either. The characters, as mentioned, don't really have anything that makes them stand out visually, and the girls all have rather bulbous heads on their scrawny necks. The animation in general has an odd quality to it, kind of like shoddy CG, but not quite. The colors are all fairly dull as well, with Kaori's hair being the brightest thing on the screen. I did get a giggle out of the fact that their school uniforms have the word “Uh” on the pockets – just an abbreviation for “Uchimiya Academy,” yes, but oddly in line with how I felt while viewing.

Luckily for this episode, it does have those final three minutes. The title implies that there's something that goes wrong in the kids' future, and that is revealed at the very end. Like in other shows, it necessitates a change to the past in order to remake the future into one that works out for everybody. There aren't a lot of hints in the rest of the episode as to whether or not this first story in itself is a reworking of the past, but what comes during the credits certainly could imply that it is. We know that at some point club president Nagisa found a black reflective box, and we do see it playing a part as the credits roll – the real question is whether or not this is the first time. That's enough of a hook for me to give this another episode, annoying characters like Kenny, who sprinkles his speech with English, aside. (If questions of time doesn't intrigue you, there's also a naked girl, glistening wet, who shows up in the last couple of seconds.) In Search of the Lost Future will need to up its pace in episodes to come, but it plants the seeds of a plot in its final moments. Episode one may not be great, but it also may just be a slow start and it may prove worth giving a chance.

In Search of the Lost Future is available streaming at Funimation.


Hope Chapman

Rating: 2

Somewhere between scenes of this anime's bland male lead talking to his pervert buddy about life with a childhood friend and scenes of bland male lead going stargazing with his astronomy club, he drops a suspicious bit of trivia: he loves studying the stars because it means studying the past...the stars we see at night could have died hundreds of years ago! Fascinating, isn't it?

Well yes, yes it is. It is unfortunately the only fascinating thing about In Search of the Lost Future, which was very clearly based on a visual novel, as characters are introduced in stock scenarios most easily portrayed through sprites and text, and dialogue scenes go on forever before any significant action takes place, all in an effort to put off writing choices into the game for as long as possible. The show is obviously going to dabble in time travel, given how the otherwise benign adventures of High School Protagonist and Friends twists around to tragedy in the last moments of the episode. Unfortunately, all the buildup to this world-shattering twist doesn't have the impact it should. We should get a feel for these characters, for what they want out of life, how they feel about each other, and we should care about the end result, but that just doesn't happen. This episode concludes both with a mutual love confession and a tragic death (both to be rewritten by the magic of time travel soon, no doubt,) but both land toothlessly due to poor characterization and uninteresting plotting.

It's a show with no personality, filled with characters with no personalities, and that's a hard handicap to overcome. The episode's only saving graces are its passable animation budget and its apparent willingness to play with shocking plot devices of love quadrangles, life-and-death struggles, and time-space distortion hijinks right up-front. The seeds of an entertaining melodrama may be germinating here, but the execution is so dry and ineffectual that it's hard to recommend until further episodes improve or dampen its forgettable beginning.

In Search of the Lost Future is available streaming at Funimation.com.


Nick Creamer

Rating: 1

It's somewhat appropriate that a show which will likely involve time travel seems able to make time warp around itself. Though this show's first episode only occupied roughly twenty minutes of physical time and space, the real-world experience of watching it managed to span half an eternity.

Alright, maybe that's a little harsh, but this first episode really was terrible. The show opens by establishing its protagonists as the astronomy research club, a group of friends who seem to generally just use their club as an excuse to goof off together. There's the laid-back, obtuse main character Sou, the demure childhood friend Kaori (who's actually in love with Sou, of course), the headstrong girl who's also in love with him, the mysterious club president, and the upbeat male best friend. All of them fit snugly into stereotypical character roles, and the first episode uses that simplicity to its advantage - it fast-forwards quickly through a standard confession arc, jostling its characters to a romantic stargazing, love confession, and ultimate tragic bus crash. Kaori dies, cue the credits, and suddenly we're back a few days ago, with Kaori alive and a mysterious naked girl falling from the sky.

Yeah, it's a bait-and-switch. Everything this episode establishes as “normal” is apparently fodder for the show's actual narrative, which will likely involve rerunning a few days of time and attempting to save Kaori - hence “in search of the lost future.” It's a fairly common trick, but the problem here is that the show gives me no reason to actually care. The characters are all generic archetypes, the writing is bland romcom fare, and the scenario doesn't have any hooks outside of the time-looping. On top of that, this show features some of the worst character designs of any show I've seen. The character faces look like poorly-designed CG, and even though the actual shot composition is sometimes quite nice, it's impossible to wring emotional resonance from these doll-like faces and awkward animation. Overall, In Search of Lost Future neatly demonstrates the emptiness of plot twists in an existing vacuum - if I don't care about what's already going on, telling me something else is going on isn't going to pique my interest.

In Search of the Lost Future is available streaming at Funimation.com.


Zac Bertschy

Rating: 1.5

Well, color me confused.

Sou-kun is your average boring teenager who lives with his childhood friend, the orange-haired Kaori, in relative domestic bliss. They're in the school's Astronomy Club together, with a handful of others: Kenny, who I think is supposed to be American given the engrish peppering his dialogue, Hanamiya, hyper-competent girl with a mysterious magic cube and a research lab somewhere, and Airi, short-tempered martial artist who seems to have a mild crush on Sou. All of them are convinced Kaori and Sou belong together, and it's a romantic moment under the night sky that triggers Kaori's heartfelt confession of True Love.

Then she gets hit by a bus, bleeds out in the street and dies but during the closing credits sequence she's alive again (or is this a flashback?), Hanamiya's magic cube glows and a mysterious lavender-haired naked girl appears with a thud in the school's upstairs storage room. Sou cradles her and is like "whoa what" and that's it.

I have absolutely no idea what's going on in this show. The entire episode builds up to Kaori's confession, along with some hijinks about the astronomy club being asked to keep all the other clubs (which apparently can't stop fighting with eachother) in line. I thought the "oh no the sweet girl who just confessed her love is now roadkill" would be the 'shocking' twist but then the closing credits sequence threw another monkey wrench into the otherwise-banal proceedings. The show gave me plenty of reasons not to stick around for more; even with the last 5 minutes being as crazy as they are, "mysterious unconscious naked girl arrives" is one of the most tired plot elements they could've possibly leaned on. The animation is pretty awkward too - lots of misshapen faces, strange animation shortcuts and attempts at uncommon angles that just make the characters look mushed-up and weird. Still, I find myself baffled enough by the story to check out another episode in the hope that it gives me some idea what they're aiming for with this. It's weird stuff - not really in the 'good' way, but weird in a tonally dissonant "is this bad writing or are they trying for something unique?" way. Proceed with caution.

In Search of the Lost Future is available streaming at Funimation.com.


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