Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Complete Series BD/DVD
Love is hard, especially when you're a teenager with only the vaguest idea of how it's all supposed to work. This anthology series of shorts tracks that thorny issue as different couples try to get together, stay together, or just figure out that they're actually dating in the first place. Young love may not be easy, but it sure can be funny when seen from the outside!
Teenage romantic comedy is a genre that has essentially been done to death. It's got a long history in both literature and film, so at this point to be able to do something even a little different with the genre is a major accomplishment. Tsuredure Children manages to pull that off by simply approaching its tangled webs from a different angle: the series is an anthology following various pairs at the same high school who are stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what's going on in their romantic and emotional lives. It's a comedy, so there are plenty of mishaps, but there's also a surprising emotional core to several of the tales that makes this more than just a collection of awkward moments.
Of course, those awkward moments are omnipresent and utterly delightful. The show has a knack for finding the absurd in each pair that it follows, with the introductory segments about each couple being especially good at it. Chiaki and Kana's story is particularly full of awkwardness – not only do they start out with totally different ideas about themselves as a couple (as in, are they one?), but each step they take towards romance is offset with things like Chiaki worrying about farting during sex or Kana trying desperately to figure out how to get him to stop being goofy for a second. Meanwhile Takase and Kanda can't even get their feet in the proverbial door – each time the mutually crushing pair tries to confess, something happens to make it spiral out of control. That most of the misunderstandings between these two couples specifically are fueled by their own immaturity is part of what makes them straddle the line between “funny” and “relatable,” because even if you never had a romantic crush on someone, the lack of skill in interpersonal relationships is familiar.
If this was all there was to the story, however, it would run the risk of being a one-note comedy. What helps to keep the awkwardness balanced out is the heart that lurks beneath the antics. The most painfully romantic pair is Sugawara and Takano, in part because both of them are so earnest. They share a lot of similarities with the two couples mentioned above in that they can't quite get things off the ground, but the difference is that they really could connect if things were different. The fact that Takano isn't fully aware of her own feelings, or more likely can't bring herself to admit them, is a large factor in their story, and Sugawara's commitment to respecting Takano's wishes is charming, even as it hinders their relationship. Both of them really seem to care about what happens, whether that means getting together or not, and that makes their story the most emotionally involved of the series. It also reads as the most conventional of the romances, but when you put it beside some of the others in the anthology, that feels more refreshing than stale. (Also, good job to Takano for calling out romance tropes as creepy.)
Among the less appealing of the stories is that of Akagi and Ryoko, two third-year students. Their relationship starts when Akagi bribes Ryoko and kisses her without her consent, and while the last episode does imply that he truly does like her (as opposed to just wanting sex, which he says at one point), the nonconsensual nature of their relationship is uncomfortable, especially when compared with the other couples trying to make things work for both of them. Likewise the pair of Furuya and Minagawa is less charming, largely because Minagawa can't give Furuya a straight answer to save her life, causing more angst than is strictly necessary in their relationship, or even for comedy. There are some wonderful scenes involving Furuya's jealous little sister (who Minagawa sees right through), but on the whole, their scenes drag more than they need to.
Because of the emotional core at the heart of each couple's story, both the sub and dub tracks work equally well. Some of the humor is funnier for native English speakers in the English dub, but unless one of the voices grates on you, this is easily enjoyed in the language of your preference. The dub is very strong, with Jad Saxton's little sister Hotaru being particularly good. The art and animation are fairly basic, although strong when they need to be, and characters are consistently on-model. Given that everyone is basically only distinguishable by hair style and color, that's a major plus.
Tsuredure Children is short, comprised of twelve eight-minute episodes. Given that its source material is a four-panel manga (also very funny), that really works, allowing us to switch between characters and stories before they can begin to annoy us. It's a nice little bite-sized bit of romantic comedy fun, reminding us that the course of true love never did run smooth – and that when you're just starting to figure it out, there's sometimes more rocks than river in your way.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Good combination of humor and emotion, twists are well-executed
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