Friday, August 3, 2007

Review: Hitohira

I've got a confession to make. As anyone who has read through these blogs may have guessed, I love sci-fi be it books, or movies. Additionally, I love comics books and cartoons. I am the quintessential geek.

So, of course that means I love anime.

Now, with my express love of scifi and big explosions, one would think that giant robot or fighting anime is my thing. That I would be ecstatically watching the Gundam series or Dragon Ball at every possible chance.

Well, that's where the confession comes in. I'm not that ecstatic over them. Sure, if they're on, I'll make the effort to watch them, but my favorite anime tends to be slice-of-life, drama or even romantic comedy anime, things that are more character driven, than muscle-driven. I love things like: Noein, Coil: A Circle of Children, AirTV, Kanon and Manabi Straight.

Which may explain why I enjoyed Hitohira so much. Frankly, I wasn't in the drama club, I had no interest in stage acting (yearbook all the way here), so when I first grabbed this anime and watched it, I was not expecting that much. Actually, back when it started, I was still in denial about my love of slice-of-life/drama animes.

Hitohira is the story of Mugi Asai. The Hitohira page on Wikipedia has this as a plot synopsis:

Drama Research SocietyHitohira revolves around a group of young high school students, the primary characters of which are either in the Drama Club or in the much smaller Drama Research Society. At the center is the main heroine Mugi Asai, a shy girl entering her first year of high school. Early in the year, Mugi is unsure on what clubs she should join, but is soon spotted by the Drama Research Society's president Nono Ichinose after she hears Mugi's astonishingly loud voice. Nono pressures Mugi into joining the club and eventually Mugi cripples under the pressure and joins. At first Mugi did not think it was going to be so bad, but she eventually learns that the Drama Research Society is going to put on two plays this year, and Mugi must act in both plays in several roles due to the low number of club members. Over time, Mugi's personality changes due to the club members' influence on her.
Yes, I'm to lazy to write that up on my own, so I happily steal if from Wikipedia. That's what it's for. It started life as a manga (of which there are currently 4 volumes in Japan) and was translated into a twelve-episode anime by the animation studio XEBEC M2.

Cast of HitohiraThere are eight major characters in this anime, Mugi, being the lead. In addition to her, are the four other members of the Drama Research Society, the president of the Drama club, an exuberant freshman named Kanna Chitose who is a member of the official Drama club and then Tōyama Kayo , who is a member of the photography club, and was Mugi's best friend during middle school. Rounding out the first year students of this anime, is Nishida Kai -- Mugi's classmate and another member of the Drama Research Society.

Twelve episodes is not a lot of time to flesh out the cast, but they did a decent job here, with all the first-years, plus Nono (the president of the Drama Research Society) getting a majority of the characterizations. I realize why the other characters suffered in this regard, as having to spend the time to flesh out the entire cast would have extended this series beyond what the story could truly support, so I'm happy with what we were given in that regards.

Mugi and NonoThe animation itself is beautiful, and features what I believe is the best fireworks scene that I have ever seen in an anime. The characters are well-drawn, and are done so rather consistently. Likewise, I actually like the character designs. Sure the school uniforms are a bit drab, what with all the brown, but in the end, that merely draws attention back to where it truly belongs, the characters and the story arc.

Ultimately, I would not mind a second season of this series, showing Mugi's continuing adventures as she tries to overcome her shyness. Of course, while that is fine for a seinen manga, I'm not certain it would work well for the anime adaptation of that manga. Of course, I have been wrong in the past. After all, I thought the Highlander anime movie couldn't suck as bad as Highlander II: The Quickening.

Like I said, I liked this anime. There was no big explosions or giant robots. There wasn't even a big super-powered fight. It was just a group of students, trying to overcome themselves.

I give it a 3.9 out of 4.

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