Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bokura ga Ita 01

A sweet shoujo love story with darker events lurking in the background. The first episode captivated me, although it has left some other people cold. For me, it really gets inside the feelings of the heroine, a first-year high school girl entering a new school and falling in love. The highly artistic animation nicely adapts the unique visual style of Obata Yuuki's popular manga, which has now reached ten volumes.

staff and cast
The star is a newcomer, Sasaki Nozomi, whom the director discovered during a workshop in Kobe. Her weepy voice I found enchanting. And she can act, at least in this role. The male lead is Yazaki Hiroshi, a 19-year-old stage actor. His voice does seem to work as the cool grade 10 star.

The director is Daichi Akitaro, who directed Fruits Basket and Kodocha, among other well-known shows. The script, based on the manga, is by Ikeda Mamiko, who did script work on Fruits Basket, Emma, Himawari, Da Capo, and Princess Tutu, among other shows. Character design and animation direction are by Shirai Nobuaki, who did key animation on Mushishi, Trinity Blood, and Eureka 7.

Some people have criticised the animation, with its large blank areas, faceless side-characters and washy colors. There's no doubt the style is a money-saver, but it works as art for me. It reminds me of Noein in its sacrificing of detail to motion and art. Animation is by Artland, which did Mushishi.

OP Kimi Dake wo... ("Only You...") Music by Nishikawa Susumu, words by Maika, sung by Mi.
ED Aishiteru ("I love you.") Music by Mi + T, words by Maika, sung by Mi.
Both OP and ED are pleasant, upbeat and appropriate. The sparse background music, by Abe Jun and Muto Seiji, is nothing to write home about, but supports the story.

official site
Anime News Network site

episode summary
It's Takahashi Nanami's first day in high school. "If I can make lots of friends, things will be great," she thinks to herself. She says hi to the girl beside her, Yamamoto Yuri, who replies in monosyllables. But other girls seem friendlier. Everyone comes from different middle schools and they are starting high school together.

They talk about a boy, Yano Motoharu, whom they say two-thirds of the girls in his middle school were in love with. One girl wants to be on the class committee with Yano. Nana volunteers to nominate her. But Nana forgets the girl's name and asks a boy what it is. He tells her, but when she stands up to nominate the girl in class, it turns out that he has tricked her and given her a wrong name. She discovers that he is the boy everyone was in love with, and gets a bad opinion of him.

In the end, Yano becomes class vice-president and she herself is made class president. She's a very friendly girl. She has various little run-ins with Yano, such as when he asks her to go and buy his lunch for him. She refuses, but agrees after he threatens to reveal her zero score on a math test. His sunny smile almost reconciles her to the trick. Later he makes a point of being friendly with her and his masculine charm begins to break through her defenses. One time, she was shocked that her heart beat fast when he called her, but comforts herself that it was just surprise.

By chance, they meet on the school roof and have a pleasant and somewhat intimate conversation. At the end, she blushingly says he can come to her with any troubles he has. At first he says he has none, then says that worries are a privilege of everyone who is alive. Her voice-over says that she didn't realize then the deeper meaning of what he said.

The class goes out in buses to the countryside, for a day-long hike. The teachers search Yano and the other boys to make sure they aren't taking cell phones. On the trail, Nana and her friends start out happy but get hot and tired before lunch. One girl, Nana's monosyllabic neighbor, feels ill. Nana and some girls try to look after her, but the base is miles away.

A boy happens by and volunteers to communicate with people further ahead on the trail. In a few minutes, Yano comes back down the trail. He feels Yamamoto's forehead and says she has a fever. The girls wonder what they can do, but Yano whips out the cell phone he had with him all the time and talks to some friends, who say the teachers are back at a restaurant. He says he will walk there and tell them, and Nana tags along, saying she feels responsible.

On the way, Yano tells her that Yamamoto's sister died the year before, and that is one reason she is so morose. At the restaurant, they inform the teachers, who take off in their van to attend to her. Nana expects to go back with them, but Yano says the teachers can look after it, and he orders food for the two of them to eat. Great image of her snapping open her chopsticks and saying in some bewilderment: "Oh, well. Okay, then."

Later, she happens to be on a bus with a friend of Yano's and finds out that Yamamoto's sister, who died in a traffic accident the year before, was Yano's girl friend. In the preview for next week, we see Nana telling Yano she loves him. He replies that they should go out together, then. She asks him if he really likes her, and he says he does. Does he love her? He apologizes and says he doesn't know: that when his girl-friend died in the accident, she was with her former boyfriend....