Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
In Search of the Lost Future
BD+DVD - The Complete Series
At Uchihama Academy, the Astronomy Club is composed of a tight-knit group of friends including Sou and Kaori. They've known each other since childhood, and Kaori is in love with Sou, but before they can do anything about it, Kaori is in a terrible accident that leaves her comatose. Devastated, Sou grows up trying to find a way to undo the past. Can he succeed? And what does the mysterious new student named Yui have to do with it?
Light novels may have overtaken visual novels as anime source material lately, but their adaptations are still around, as In Search of the Lost Future reminds us. Based on the 2010 visual novel of the same name, the story follows the six members of the Uchihama Academy Astronomy Club as they relive the same fourteen days in October trying to save their fellow member, Kaori. In the first episode, which covers the entirety of those two weeks, we see that on October 14th at 4:20 pm, Kaori will be in an accident that renders her comatose. This happens just after she has managed to confess her love for her childhood friend Sou, rendering Sou unable to do anything about it and wracked with guilt over the pain of losing his friend. Episode two immediately starts us back at October 1st, but this time Sou discovers a naked girl suffering from amnesia in the school attic. Her name is Yui, and it quickly becomes clear that she knows Sou, Kaori, and clubmate Airi somehow, as well as what's going to happen to Kaori on the 14th. We soon learn that she's actually been sent back to the past by adult Sou and Airi to change things so that Kaori either doesn't have the accident or comes out of her coma, and that Yui will return to the past as many times as it takes.
As a story, this has real potential. Its title is a reference to Marcel Proust's seminal work In Search of Lost Time, which immediately opens the door for it to play with some themes of that novel, such as ideas of memory and separation anxiety. To a degree, the show does manage that, with the tangled relationship of Kaori, Sou, and Yui twisting more with each of Yui's forays into the past and the way that Yui vanishes from memory once the fourteen-day cycle of her visits are complete. There's also the question of Airi's devotion to Sou, even as she knows she will always step aside for Kaori or Yui, which receives sadly little development.
That's really the main issue with this series – most of it is sorely underdeveloped. This is partly the result of trying to fit four branching storylines into a single twelve-episode series (plus an OVA), but the pacing of the show is a bigger issue. We know that the entire storyline can be accomplished in one episode, so dragging out the second iteration of those two weeks for eight episodes only to have to go through it once again seems like a poor plan. This gives the show an oddly complacent feel; while we really do need to know more about Kaori, Sou, and the rest of the club in order to understand why Kaori's accident has such severe consequences (as well as to understand Sou's relationship to Yui), the amount of time devoted to this is almost too much. I suspect this is because the story wants to give us enough of Airi and Nagisa (second male character Kenny is largely ignored), so that they become fuller characters without having to truly go through their game routes, but ultimately they are less important to the main plot of saving Kaori than Sou and Yui.
This makes things feel unnecessarily padded out, robbing the Kaori storyline of some of its urgency. It also rushes the very end, with episode nine picking up in the aftermath of Kaori's accident and carrying us into the future, leaving only three episodes to fully resolve things. In addition, all of this happens without giving us much (if any) background story on any of the characters. While we can infer that Kenny is a transfer or exchange student from an English-speaking country, we're not sure why Sou is living in a detached garage at Kaori's house or how the Astronomy Club ended up being the Student Council's enforcers.
Despite this, In Search of the Lost Future does manage to succeed on a few levels. Nagisa, the third-year member of the club, is an interesting character with a keen observational sense and understanding of Yui that's explained in the extra episode decently well. She's also stronger than you might expect, vocally resenting her father's expectations for her to marry and be an ornamental asset to the family, a sentiment we don't often see from her character type. The fanservice is done fairly naturally, and everyone has uncensored nipples (perhaps a tribute to its eroge roots). And even if the animation isn't great, at least the backgrounds are beautiful, particularly the outdoor scenes.
In some ways, this show is like a version of Ichigo Takano's orange. It espouses the idea of multiverses, so that even if Yui manages to save Kaori in one world, the one where she has the accident still exists. The worlds can affect each other to a point, but they can't be completely erased. Yui herself functions as the letters in Takano's work, which is more believable to a degree. But unlike orange (at least the manga version), In Search of the Lost Future never quite realizes its potential, which may be part of the reason why this is a sub-only release with no extras beyond trailers and clean themes. Rushed pacing and crowded storytelling are largely to blame, but whatever the reason, this is a show searching for the way to tell its story and never quite finding it.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Some lovely backgrounds, Nagisa is an interesting character, ending theme is visually neat and the songs are catchy, strong concept…
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