Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~
DVD 1: Atsuko/Karin
Atsuko is stuck in a serious rut. Arranged to be married to a pompous windbag for financial gain, she spends her days delivering fish in Hokkaido. It isn't until an enigmatic and somewhat haunted stranger shows up and shares his love of Jazz music with her until she starts seeing a path out of the rut she's in. But is this stranger really the man she's looking for?
Elsewhere in Hokkaido, a very sick girl named Karin waits for dangerous surgery in a hospital bed, escaping into worlds of fantasy through her laptop computer. The new resident doctor is, on the surface, sneering and unsympathetic to Karin's woes. When emails from a mysterious fan of her writing show up, Karin starts dreaming of a prince that will take her away from the sterile world of the hospital… and that prince is the last person she'd suspect.
Let's face it; games based on dating sims aren't widely known for their incredibly deep storylines, well-developed characters or unique, original situations. In fact, most of them barely rise above their source material; by and large, they're just simple harem dramas, populated by cardboard characters. Diamond Daydreams (formerly known as Kita-he ~Diamond Dust Drops~, not that “Diamond Daydreams” is any less a nonsense phrase than the original title but at least it ditches those vomitous tildes) fortunately eschews the majority of the clichés associated with the genre and is, instead, a series of entertaining and sometimes surprisingly involving little vignettes.
This first disc involves the stories of two different girls, Akutso and Karin. Akutso is a coming-of-age, independently-minded teenager who's trapped in an arranged marriage with a man she never loved; naturally, she starts falling for the 40-year old hipster doofus who keeps coming to the fish shop she works at, much to her disapproving mother's dismay. Karin's a sick girl, stuck in a hospital with a serious condition; her new physician is brash and cold to her. Her only outlet? An online blog that connects her with someone who could be the man she's been waiting her whole life to meet. The running theme is pretty easy to pick out; these girls are stuck in crappy situations and thanks to their own tenacity or tough choices they manage to liberate themselves. It might sound a bit like an afterschool special or a particularly dry soap opera, but thanks to thoughtful and well-paced execution, the show is pretty entertaining.
It's really refreshing to watch a show based on a dating sim that doesn't make you wish you could reach through the screen and slap the characters around a little bit. The interactions and the flow of the melodrama in Diamond Daydreams is just natural enough to be believable. The females aren't one-dimensional violent bitches or cooing lolicom bait. They're mostly introspective and a little quiet and, most importantly, relatable, to a certain degree. The fanservice level is practically nonexistent and there isn't a lot of pandering to be found. If there's a complaint to be made about this show, it's that the stories are fairly banal. Anyone uninterested in basic human drama might find themselves bored.
The production values aren't bad, either; the animation tends to be a little static, but the backgrounds – particularly in the Akutso episodes – are well-rendered. The character designs are a little odd; everyone has large eyes and a bulbous forehead, with stick-like limbs. Otherwise, it's all pretty typical of the genre. The only thing that really stands out like a sore thumb is the opening theme, which is a really cheerful pop tune that doesn't match the serious tone of the show whatsoever. It's somewhat odd to see these girls jumping around and laughing in the intro and then once the show starts they're all wide-eyed and tearful, spinning long monologues about how their lives could be so much better.
The English dub is a highlight on this disc, and it's worth checking out. The acting is all very earthy and natural, especially when the actors aren't forced to match lip flaps (which happens with surprising frequency). The dub isn't very faithful to the original Japanese track; the subtitles rarely match what the characters are saying in English. Unless you're a purist, though, this shouldn't really matter much. The basic meaning is the same, and the new English dialogue flows much better. I suppose the Japanese track is a more ‘authentic’ experience, since the show takes place in Hokkaido, but it's hard to deny that the dub track adds a lot to an already enjoyable little show.
There isn't really anything remarkable or spectacular about Diamond Daydreams and it's hard to imagine a show like this becoming a fan favorite or a blockbuster title, but the fact that this show manages to be completely inoffensive and mostly entertaining and also be based on a dating sim is encouraging. Heck, I can imagine female fans getting as much entertainment out of the soapy proceedings here as any male fan, which again is a feat considering the source material. In short, it might be a bit of an acquired taste, but anyone who's sick of milquetoast losers surrounded by buxom sex kittens aching to marry them might find relief in the quiet, dignified drama of Diamond Daydreams.
Overall (dub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Not your typical dating sim show; quiet, dignified melodrama with gorgeous backgrounds.
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