About Me

Newfoundland, Canada
I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.

Friday, June 25, 2010

True Tears Reveiw: Part 1

I recently started watching True Tears. The reason why I started watching it is because the character designs and promotional artwork looked catchy, as well as mildly magical to me, after I looked into the anime a bit further. That, and a couple people over at Anime Suki brought it up to me in a positive light, and then there's the fact that I was invited to Anime Suki's True Tears fan group ages ago. ^_^;;

Anyway, let me begin by saying that I am very happy that I chose to watch this anime. While keeping in mind the often argued for distinction between slice of life anime and school life anime, this anime nonetheless feels like what good slice of life anime should be to me. In other words, it feels eminently realistic, and it has a very good pace thus far, but it has a sparkling swirling stream of indelible inspirational ingenuity to it. While the anime feels plausibly real, in the sense that you could imagine all of these characters (and the way that they interact with each other) existing in the real world, it still manages to add some tasty sugar and spice to the overall presentation in order to make the anime seem a bit more interesting than just any old real world story.

Perhaps the key reason for this is the following character:

Noe Isurugi is every bit as charming, disarming, and whimsical as the above picture would rightly lead you to believe. Her artistically bubbly, brightly cascading, personality, provides True Tears with copious amounts of playful cheerfulness which in turn adds a great deal to how relaxing and pleasing this anime is to watch.

Noe is the sort of character type that the western world used to do exceptionally well.

For the picture of her above raises images of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and even Robin Hood into my mind. The charismatic
nature-dweller, with a spirit of adventure, caught up in wondrous exploits. A tale full of eccentricity and lots of sweet sincere laughs, and simple straightforward swashbuckling style.

True Tears is yet another excellent exhibit in my case against political correctness in modern entertainment. Noe Isurugi is yet another pleasantly entertaining anime character that very likely would not pass muster with the modern PC police of western industrialized nations. After all, it's difficult to imagine a character like Noe being on the cast of a modern North American made and produced TV show, isn't it? She's too quirky and, as Shinichiro says, weird for that. But Noe is very much weird in a good way, as much as Shinichiro would like to deny it.

And just how adorable is the following?

I loved this particular scene, of Noe waving enthusiastically, with all the glee of a child on Christmas Day morning, at her dear new friend Shinichiro, located two or three stories above in his classroom. I particularly like how Noe is an absent-minded individualist. She's not actively trying to be inappropriate, and yet often she is. She just goes where her 'true heart' tells her to, and is utterly unconcerned with what could be called appropriate social behavior for where she lives. By 'utterly unconcerned', I'm not saying that she's actively bucking the norms of her society, but rather that she pays them no heed in any sense. She doesn't go out of her way to be a noticeable rebel, but nor does she avoid making a scene. I very much like characters like that. They are true and honest individuals, as they conform neither in a traditional sense, but nor do they conform to trying to be a "cool rebel". There is no pretentiousness to Noe at all.

And in a work where pretension abounds, that stands out a great deal.

One thing that I'm gaining a greater appreciation for as I watch more and more slice of life, and/or school life, anime, is the existence of a myriad of social taboos within modern Japan. Noe plays with these taboos nicely. Her giving chicken feed to Shinichiro, first in carefully placed pink paper wrapping and then later as a dotted line of droppings, results in a hilariously flustered Shinichiro, and the absurdity of Noe's activity here is played up well to give it a great punchline delivery. Noe's eccentric nature contrasts nicely with Shinichiro's strict adherence to social norms and values to result in a lot of quick laughs and quirky comedy.

Shinichiro's whole approach to life appears to reflect a prevailing sense of appropriate protocol for virtually every facet of life. Politeness, and minding one's manners, is valued a great deal. There are some things that you just don't say, or that you just don't do. These multifaceted social taboos appear to be alive and well in Japan.

This has its positives, in that coarseness and rudeness is lessened as a result, but it also erects many walls to building strong relationships. One gets the sense, at least from many animes, that the ways of romance is an intricate and intuitive game in Japan. It is almost like playing chess.

Given what I have read about Japan, these animes are accurately reflecting Japan in this regard at least.

This intricate and intuitive, heavily rule-based, game of romance, can result in extremely extraordinary exasperation on the part of shippers perpetually facepalming at their desired couple so often coming so close to hitting it off, only to have it dashed by some nuance of the social norms and mores of Japan. I certainly understand this frustration. However, this anime makes this game of romance a bit more enjoyable than usual, in my opinion.

In a very real sense, much of the first six episodes of True Tears is about watching Shinichiro try to realize his romantic desires while acting in strict accordance with the social norms and values of his Japanese heritage. It can be intriguing to watch how Shinichiro tries to achieve his goals within the confines of those social norms and values. Its akin to watching a pro sport where certain intricate rules require players to play a certain way in order to win. Ironically, limitations often results in increased creativity, as I often see much creativity in how some hockey players try to enter the offensive zone while abiding by the offsides rules, and I also see much creativity in how Shinichiro tries to move the plot to set himself up with Hiromi.

After six episodes, at least, it's plain to see that Hiromi is the girl that Shinichiro is most interested in. And watching him metaphorically bob and weave in order to move himself away from Noe, and towards Hiromi, is intriguing.

Adding an extra twist of complexity to this romantic conflict are the characters of Miyokichi Nobuse and Aiko Ando. As far as Miyokichi is concerned, they are boyfriend and girlfriend. And, in fairness to him, Miyokichi did ask her out in a very gentlemanly fashion, and Aiko did clearly accept, so one certainly can't fault Miyokichi for feeling that the two of them are basically "an item". However, Aiko drops many obvious hints of her preferring Shinichiro to Miyokichi. I am interested in seeing how this added wrinkle to the romantic conflict of True Tears will resolve itself in the last seven episodes of the anime.

However, I don't want to delve too deeply into the romantic conflict of True Tears in this Part 1 Review. Here I want to focus on initial impressions of the anime, based on my viewing of the first six episodes. In Part 2 of my review, I will deal more thoroughly with the plot of the anime, and with my thoughts on the romantic conflicts in it, and whether or not I liked how it was ultimately played out. I would ask any responders to this blog to please not spoil me there. ;)

My initial impressions of this anime are powerfully profoundly positive. I've already dealt with how I very much like Noe, but I also like all of the three main female characters

In an era when animes of even a slightly harem-esque nature tend to have female casts loaded with characters in the archetypes of tsundere, yamato nadeshiko, and shy bookwormish glasses-wearing girl, it is refreshing to see such a slightly harem-esque anime have no girls that fit neatly into either archetype. I'll grant you that Hiromi has some Yamato Nadeshiko qualities, but that is balanced somewhat by her being a great basketball player. Aiko can be a bit short-tempered, but she's nowhere near temperamental enough to be a tsundere, in my view. And Noe is in no way shy.

All three female characters are drawn to be visually appealing, albeit in slightly different ways. And while all three have personalities that fall within a believable range for a teenage girl, their personalities compliment and contrast one another nicely. On a character design basis, I like the added attention to detail that the anime shows with different clothes for each character, including well-drawn scarfs and detailed designs on boots and tops. The overall animation and artistic style of the anime is superb, in my opinion, and this really comes out with Noe, Hiromi, and Aiko.

However, what of the male cast?

I really like the easygoing friendship dynamic between Miyokichi and Shinichiro. It feels like Taniguchi and Kyon, but with 50% less snark and 50% more sincerity. You get a sense that these two guys genuinely like hanging out together, and they have a little bit of that comedian/straight man chemistry going on when they're together onscreen. That chemistry is not overplayed, though, and hence its kept amusing but realistic.

Watching two buddies go to a quaint little restaurant to relax into their seats and drink down colas with a straw is the very picture of relaxation too. When you factor in how the restaurant appears to be ran by one of the two guys' girlfriend, the whole scene starts to feel like something out of Cheers, but only refined to be appropriate for Japanese teenagers. It feels cool and warm, at the same time. That would be paradoxical if I was using those two terms in a literal sense, but I'm using them figuratively, of course.

And as far as figurative coolness is concerned, this guy has it in flying colors...

The Isurugis are certainly the showstealers of this anime. Jun Isurugi seems to have it all going on. He rides a slick motorcycle, he's an excellent basketball player, and he always comes across as cool, calm, and confident. His fashion sense is great without being flamboyant to a tacky degree. There never seems to be so much as a hair out of place on the guy. He's short and direct, but doesn't come across as shallow or superficial.

While Noe brings the charm factor to this anime, her loving older brother definitely brings the cool factor to this anime. I very much like the relationship between Noe and Jun as well. It's obvious that the two have a close sibling bond, with Noe looking up to her big bro and wanting the best for him, while Jun cares deeply for his little sister and gladly tolerates her eccentricities, albeit sometimes with some mild ribbing.

All in all, True Tears has been a joy to watch so far. I'm truly loving it. In Part 2 of this review, I'll have more to say about the plot and romantic conflict of the show. I'll write that part after I finish watching all of True Tears. I will say now that I think that the OP and the ED are both great. Really nice catchy beats in both cases, with alluring and/or amusing visuals.

So far, I'd give True Tears a rock solid 9/10. And I almost never give out 10/10s.

This concludes Part 1 of my review on True Tears. I'd love to know what my fellow fans of this anime think of that review. :)


  1. Yay True Tears review. Being a big romance/drama/slice, it wasn't much of a brainer that I loved this series. In fact it is actually in my top 5 favourites. I'll leave the majority of the comments in Pt II of your review, but I will make a few points.

    Firstly, I would like to mention that True Tears was overshadowed the more popular Clannad and the more highly praised ef ~ tale of memories. Not saying that these two were bad in any way I found Clannad S1 to be pretty decent, whilst ef ~ tale of memories is actually a favourite of mine (personal top 10), it does make True Tears rather underrated in my opinion.

    Despite my personal praise, True Tears is not perfect. The second half is slightly weaker than the first half, and this shows in its slight pacing issues, unresolved conflicts and animation shortcuts which was probably due to budget constraints.

    However, it was P.A. Works' debut production (other than doing outsource material for other companies) and it was aimed at a slightly different audience or compared to your average anime watcher who is into the genre. I will explain this more in Pt II of your review. This is contrast to the studio's latest work Angel Beats which appears to be aimed at trying to appease as many fans as possible or at the very last to the "Key/Kyoto Animation" group. Keep this in mind while you're watching the second half :).

  2. I have to say I've been really impressed with your recent reviews... in this case, you not only hit on all of what I'd consider this anime's strong points, you hit on some that I agree with but hadn't really noticed myself. It really is the atmosphere of this show and the way the characters are able to feel so real that made it stand out even among a really good crowd of romance anime that aired in late 2007 and early 2008.

    I do have to note about Noe here: she's one of the few anime girls who I think manages to be "completely nuts" (what with the chicken feed and all) without being creepy. Not that I have anything against the "completely nuts and creepy" type - Ame Ochibana is my favourite thing about Denpa Teki na Kanojo, one of my favourite shows from last year - but it is interesting to note just how different Noe is from the norm here, and she's a nice change of pace too.

    Also, as Acejam says, this was PA Works' debut work, which perhaps makes the high quality of most of the show all the more amazing.

    I have to say I rather like the "every six-seven episodes" format you're using in your reviews here... I think it captures things about the early parts of shows that tend to be overshadowed by what happens towards the end.

  3. acejem - Ef's a bit more compelling plot-wise due to the perpetual memory reset aspect to Chihiro. As plot devices go, that one was really clever and intriguing. Ef also had the classic SHAFT avant garde art style that probably still seemed fairly new when it first came out.

    Ef impacted me more emotionally than True Tears does (at least so far), but True Tears is a more relaxing watch.

    Clannad: After Story would probably be my favorite of the three animes, though. But they're all good, just in slightly different ways and for slightly different reasons.

    0utf0xZer0 - I really want to thank you for helping me get into softer and more sincerely romantic slice-of-life/school-life anime. It's been a treat.

    And thanks for the compliment on my recent reviews! :)

    I find that with 13 episode animes, that the first half usually serves to introduce and flesh out the characters and setting, and the second half is usually where the conflicts and plot pick up and are resolved. So, I think that this two-part review style for 13 episode animes works pretty well. If a reviewer just does one review for an entire series, there's probably a natural tendency for the reviewer to focus on the major plot events, and lose sight of some of the early charm of the show, agreed.

    I'm glad you like that review style as well.

    And yeah, Noe does cross over the line to being downright screwy in the head, but she's not creepy. So her eccentricity comes across as less threatening, and more like good comedy.

  4. Triple R - I agree that ef's plot was more compelling than True Tears'. The Chihiro arc in particular was probably the highlight arc of the anime. It was like a drama version of the American romantic comedy movie 50 First Dates.

    As for Clannad, I consider After Story a league of its own, and is also the favourite of the three. Only wished that the ending wasn't so anti-climatic, but that's another story :).

    Look forward to reading Pt II of your review soon. :)

  5. Hm... seems even only two posts after a months-long hiatus, you don't lose your touch when it comes to wording things. Really nice to see that. =P

    Also, it seems like we have a bit in common when it comes to this series. I also happened to get interested in this series based on the character designs and someone speaking highly of it. Reading this certainly would've done the same, so I may just link to this post if I ever want to introduce the series to someone.

    Anyway, while I'm sure you'd like continued praise, I think it'd be best if I got on with things. ^^;;

    I gotta say that Noe is easily my favorite character in this, so its a really nice treat to see her displayed so prominently in the first half of this. =P

    That's not to say that I don't like anyone else, or that you didn't do a good job with the rest. Quite the contrary on both fronts, actually. Aiko is one of those characters who I instantly took a liking to, and Jun certainly proved to be everything you said he is, if not more. Meanwhile, Shin and Miyokichi are an amusing duo, and are also great outside of that aspect from what I've seen. Even Hiromi, who I'm not going to deny I've had some minor issues with, comes off as a good, well-rounded character who's a solid member of this rather colorful cast.

    There's something I think you may have touched on here that I'd like to say something about... I've often thought that one of the best ways to learn about a country is through its sources of entertainment, particularly when said entertainment is something based around an aspect of everyday life. As such, something like this would be a good way of looking into the social aspects of Japan's population(or at least the high school crowd's), which I believe is what you were trying to get at. I'm aware that's not really related to this review, but I felt I had to bring it up... sorry about randomly changing subjects. ^^;;

    Anyway, I -was- going to get into how I've taken the overall plot and romance aspect of the series up until the point I've actually seen, but I think I'll wait until actually seeing how it all comes together and post that in the second part. (Besides, me spoiling things here would be rude =P)

    @acejem and 0utf0x: Really? This was their first solo work? It's certainly hard to tell from what I've seen so far. ^^;;