Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
His and Her Circumstances
DVD 2: Love and War Under the Cherry Blossoms
Overachieving sweethearts Arima and Yukino continue to struggle with daily life at school, finding solace only in each other's smiles. As the barriers they've set up around themselves to project their desired images start to crumble, their grades begin to drop as well. A disappointed faculty begins to examine their relationship and determines that love is the central problem, saying these two should be chasing their dreams of academic success--not each other.
Love it or hate it, it cannot be denied that His and Hers Circumstances is one of the most noteworthy shoujo anime series of the past five years. Directed (at least for the first sixteen episodes) by Evangelion director Anno Hideaki, the series made its mark in the anime world and is now being released on DVD by The Right Stuf International. Despite a sharp turn downwards later in the series, the episodes contained on this disc are touching, thoughtful, beautiful, and best of all, shamelessly entertaining.
Animated by Gainax (as evidenced by the “jitter” during scene cuts that also plagued Evangelion), His and Her Circumstances isn't exactly cutting-edge in terms of visualization. The animation is incredibly sparse and consists mostly of floating text, quick pans across background stills, and static shots of the characters. The closing theme plays over live-action footage, and the preview is just a shot of the voice actresses recording the dialogue for the preview in the studio. It really doesn't get much cheaper than this, folks, aside from, say, Violinist of Hamelin. In short, do not watch this show if you're expecting groundbreaking, Akira-style animation. If you're a sucker for a good romance and intelligently written introspection, then there will be a lot to please you on this disc.
Introspection does indeed seem to be the focus of this show. Most of the episodes consist of either Yukino or Arima's inner monologues about who they are and how they became that way. Reactions are deeply internalized and analyzed, and the characters are given a huge amount of depth in this fashion. Motivations are never a mystery; while the other characters might be clueless, the audience never is. This is responsible and intelligent writing, and thus it makes the show a million times more satisfying to watch than most other shoujo anime series--in which the characters do stupid things without motivation, never explain themselves, and nine-tenths of the problems could be solved simply if someone speaks up. His and Her Circumstances never quite reaches this level of maddening frustration, and it's refreshing.
Up until now, the show had also avoided extreme melodrama, which is an unfortunate staple of most shoujo anime series. With the introduction of the childlike (and highly annoying) Tsubasa character, the show takes a turn towards the highly dramatic and things get a little ridiculous. Thankfully, the show avoids the pitfalls that melodrama usually brings. Characters do not randomly do out-of-character things, and the plotline manages to stay on the rails and not go too far off into flights of painfully angst-ridden fancy. If you can take a little melodrama, then the direction the series starts to go in on this disc will not disappoint.
The show also manages to retain the sense of poignancy it's had since the first episode. The music beautifully complements the simplified and elegant visuals, and there are many themes about the quiet beauty of high school life to be unearthed. There are still moments of wild comedy, but for most of the episodes on this disc, they seem to be muted. Hideaki's thumbprint is on these episodes in full force. His highly artistic and meaningful directorial style brings new depth and emotion to an otherwise stagnant genre. Simple title cards, words expressed over images, and other unique touches fill the series to the brim with believable emotion. It's unlike anything else, really.
Hardcore shoujo fans will love His and Her Circumstances, and people new to the genre would do well to sample this one first. The pacing is just right: not too slow, not too fast. The rapid-fire editing and quick story pace make it much easier to sit through and vastly more entertaining than 90 percent of the other shoujo series available on the market. The only real complaint to be had is that the dub cast is a little below average. The voices all sound a little too old, and some of them seem to have difficulty pulling off their lines with conviction. Other than that, the series cannot be recommended enough to fans of the genre.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A+
Animation : B-
Art : A
Music : A
+ Excellent storyline, believable characters, entertaining series
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