The Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Three Leaves, Three Colors
How would you rate episode 1 of
Three Leaves, Three Colors ?
What is this?
Poor Yoko Nishikawa's chickens have come home to roost. Once she was an unspeakably snobby rich girl looking down at all the common plebes beneath her, but after her family's company went bankrupt, Yoko found herself living in a ratty apartment and eating her school lunch alone. Fortunately, a gluttonous bread-maniac in search of a shortcut (Futaba Odagiri) and a crafty class president in pursuit of an adorable kitty (Teru Hayama) end up plowing into her secluded lunchtime spot and changing Yoko's life forever. These three goofy girls couldn't be more different, but fate has an indomitable friendship in store for them, and their school life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Three Leaves, Three Colors is based on a 4-koma comic and can be found streaming on Funimation, Sundays at 12:00 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
Review: Are we seeing a minor resurgence of the big moe boom of a few years back? It certainly seems so this season, as this latest series is yet another minor variation on the standard “cute girls do cute things” scenario. While it's a pretty decent variation, there's really nothing much going on in it that would entice those not normally at least tolerant of such content.
For those that do have such tastes, the first episode provides an enjoyable blend of personality types. Yoko is a former rich girl struggling to deal both with now being poor and with acting like a common person now that she can no longer claim to be an elite, which is a fresher angle for this genre. That makes her very reserved and unsure of herself, which is partly why she doesn't have friends until the other two girls come along. Futaba, contrarily, is the standard energetic, good-natured glutton, while Teru, the Class President, has an outwardly sweet and pleasant air but is implied to be a real terror when out of the public eye; those that question her always seem shaken after a private chat. Thus they form the three colors in the title, while their names represent the leaves.
The interactions between the girls is perfectly pleasant and relaxed as each of them lets their idiosyncrasies show, which is about what you'd both expect and demand of a series like this. There is also a certain level of sweet sincerity here, too. Yoko is so desperate to earn and keep Futaba and Teru's friendship that she gets very anxious about it, but she has yet to realize that she doesn't need to try so hard; if she just allows herself to be comfortable with them, the other two will get along with her just fine. Less pleasant is the former servant who pops up occasionally to look over Yoko or give her free stuff. The writing makes jokes about him being a stalker, but that's totally what he is, good intentions or not. The episode doesn't go anywhere lewd with that – what little fan service it has is very tame – but that is a gimmick that is wearing old fast.
While the girls are cute enough in design, the artistic effort overall isn't all that special. Curiously, the animation quality varies a lot; in places it actually puts effort into animating background characters, but it doesn't do that consistently. Still, it's good enough to support what the episode does, and the strength here is going to be on the character interactions anyway. In the end, it's nothing exciting but still watchable.
Three Leaves, Three Colors is one more show about girls hanging out at school, much like the season's earlier Anne-Happy. However, as far as these shows go, Three Leaves, Three Colors has a powerful weapon in its favor - it's produced by Doga Kobo, one of the studios best known for strong, consistent character animation, and a studio generally renowned for its takes on just this kind of show.
The power of that animation is clear all throughout this first episode, which introduces the three main girls as Yoko Nishikawa tries her best not to scare her new friends away. The character animation is stellar from top to bottom; characters are consistently expressive, and much of the show's humor is in physical gags that don't even bother with dialogue. There's emotive expression work and little dashes of body language and great gag faces all throughout, making for a funny and visually rewarding experience.
On top of that, Three Leaves, Three Colors main characters actually feel like characters - they don't have tropes, they have personalities, all of which have demonstrated a variety of sides within this first episode. The scenes of Yoko trying to gather her courage and actually become friends with her classmates are both inherently funny and actually relatable, and her two companions seem like relatively charming people as well.
Overall, Three Leaves, Three Colors probably won't wow you if you're not looking for this kind of show, but within its genre, it's a solid effort elevated by strong execution all around. Some of the running jokes fall a little flat, but the characters are likable and the animation is excellent. It's a perfectly reasonable genre effort.
Jacob Hope Chapman
So after Tres Hojas, Tres Colores, I discovered my feelings toward it were basically identical to how I felt watching Siempre, Tanaka-kun Está Apático, which I didn't write up this season, so you can consider this review a joint opinion for both of those anime, just with two opposite intended gender demographics.
This show is unusually pretty and pleasant for having such a nothing premise and familiar character types. The jokes are genuinely funny, thanks largely to sharp production values that bring out the best of its intended tone, but it's all quiet sleepy chuckles that come from cooing over the cuteness of the cast, not the kind of big laughs you would get from a comedy with actual wit and verve. I definitely want to recommend this show to anyone in the market for a harmless sugary cute girls (or boys for Tanaka-kun) doing cute things show, but the complete lack of ambition, too-obvious and repetitive (albeit very cute) gags, and less-than-stellar pacing keep this perfectly charming endeavor from being appointment anime to anyone but the most ardent cutesy comedy fans. Unlike its faintly-related dud this season, Anne-Happy, I enjoyed my time with its cast, but the whole experience mostly begs to be shrugged at.
Thanks, Three Leaves, Three Colors! Got two birds with one stone!
As cute high school girl stories go, Three Leaves, Three Colors is remarkably harmless. It's set in one of those realities where the grass is always green and people's hair and eyes are color-coordinated, where short uniform skirts are made of a mysterious fabric that doesn't allow for panty-shots no matter how girls sit, and former servants are so devoted to their down-on-their-luck mistresses that they become stalkers. It's weirdly wholesome.
So what sets this episode apart from its genre brethren? For starters, it does a surprisingly good job with “show don't tell” – one of the three girls, Yoko, is from a formerly wealthy family, but something has happened and now she lives alone in a crummy apartment existing on bread crusts and mayonnaise. No one says this out loud (although her former servant Yamaji makes allusions to it), but it's understood that she's eating bread crusts and mayo because that's what she A) can afford and B) knows how to prepare. The lack of info-dumping backstory really sets this apart, not just because it's generally accepted as a better storytelling technique, but also because it makes Yoko a more interesting character. We don't need to know her entire past to understand that she's trying hard, and while one particular misstep is mentioned, we can tell from her body language and how hard she tries after meeting Futaba and Hayama that she has not had an easy transition to everyday life.
That's actually the best scene in the episode, in my opinion: Yoko wavering outside the other girls' classroom door. If you're a person who doesn't like to go into someplace you don't know, her nerves will be relatable, and the sheer desperation in her attitude toward the other two speaks volumes about how lonely she is. Likewise, we don't get a lot of information about Hayama and Futaba, although we can piece things together – clearly Hayama is not quite as sweet as she appears while Futaba, for all that she puts on a show of being flaky and existing solely on bread, definitely has a head on her shoulders, such as when she takes Yoko to task for not eating well. Hayama is the more interesting of the two simply because she appears to be hiding more, but all three of the girls are more than they seem to be in terms of the usual character types in this kind of show. That definitely gives me hope that this might be more than it appears to be, and I'm hoping that it can keep up this concept of allowing us to figure things out without resorting to excessive backstory and explanations.
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