The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Asatte no Houkou

Title: Asatte no Houkou aka A Direction of the Day After Tomorrow
Genre: Drama
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 6 Oct 2006 – 22 Dec 2006

Synopsis: Iokawa Karada lives with her older brother Hiro in a small town. One day Karada bumps into a stranger, a woman named Nogami Shouko that turns out to be Hiro’s ex-girlfriend. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, while standing by the town’s fabled wishing stone, Karada and Shouko swap ages: Karada becomes a young adult while Shouko becomes a small child.

The Highlights
Premise: Takes a facetious concept done a million times before in comedy and treats it seriously.
Character development: Numerous instances of subtle character development.
Pacing: Typical for slice-of-life; in other words slow, but helps generate atmosphere.
Finale: Rushed; the low point of the series.

I make no secret of the fact that it pleases me greatly that the character-focused drama genre is again becoming a significant force in anime. Asatte no Houkou is another entrant into the slice-of-life genre (although it’s not as episodic as many other such titles) with a twist in its premise. This anime takes a variation of the body-switching concept, something which is traditionally used in trite, low-brow comedies, and actually attempts to treat it as a serious issue and take it down a plot-path rife with drama and deep character development. This is one of those cases where the execution is beside the point; the very fact that this show has given a massive new spin to an old-hat idea means that its success was, barring a major stuff up, inevitable as soon as its intention was decided.

Asatte no Houkou displays some outstanding instances of subtle, yet profound character development. There are no trite, cookie-cutter characters in this series, and all the characters, particularly the main ones, are dynamic, constantly growing with each passing episode. Asatte no Houkou chooses to be rather subtle at times in the methods it uses to display this, and it sometimes demands its audience to spot small things like inadvertent slips-of-the-tongue and impromptu gestures signifying attitude changes to understand the complete state-of-mind of the characters, right down to the subconscious. Such things are incredibly easy to miss, since the series doesn’t draw attention to them, but its refusal to be heavy handed and obvious is very respectful to the audience.

The plot progresses slowly in the first half. Most of the focus is on bit-by-bit development as characters gain a new appreciation of each other and the relationships between them through their new point-of-view. As well as this, the story contains frequent, regular background revelations which constantly show that each of the characters comprise more than meets the eye. Sometimes things get slow to the point where literally nothing will happen in a scene for seconds at a time, which will inevitably frustrate some viewers, but such scenes do a great job of building an atmosphere that mirrors the small town setting. Both the animation and music are solid without being spectacular and do their job of enhancing this atmosphere without great ado.

Asatte no Houkou gets somewhat mis-focused in the second half, concentrating on a relationship between Karada and another side character, which simply isn’t as interesting as the dynamic between the three leads. It further hurts that this particular side character never got a great amount of background, making him difficult to sympathize with. The final episode is a mess. While pretty much all loose ends were resolved, the lack of time demanded almost everything in this episode be rushed. Some of these resolutions were rather trite to boot, leaving an ending that, while I wouldn’t call unsatisfactory, is underwhelming.

The flaws in Asatte no Houkou are minor, but they plague the second half of the series, which failed to absorb me in the same way the first half did. Overall, this anime is a solid work, featuring an admirable premise and plenty of character development, but I wouldn’t say this is among the best that this genre can offer.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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