The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Bokura ga Ita

Title: Bokura ga Ita aka We Were There
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Artland
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 4 Jul 2006 – 26 Dec 2006

Synopsis: Upon starting her first year of high school, Takahashi Nanami, a somewhat clumsy girl, has trouble adjusting to her new life. There she meets fellow student Yano Motoharu, a well-liked, yet boorish boy and even though she finds him ambiguous and impolite at first, she quickly begins to develop feelings for him. While he is one of the most popular students in school, he is intensely hated by the girl that sits next to Takahashi in class, Yamamoto Yuri. Yano’s best friend, Takeuchi Masafumi later reveals to Takahashi that Yamamoto’s deceased sister was actually Yano’s ex-girlfriend.

The Highlights
Characters: Incredibly well developed and deeply explored.
Story: First half maintains an almost perfect balance between comedy, drama and romance.
Comedy: Not really needed in the second half.
Animation: Muted; often lacks detail and motion, yet still works for this series’ tone.
Ending: Ambiguous, yet fitting in an ironic way.

Bokura ga Ita is as an anime of two halves. While both halves are outstanding, the first contains a balance of comedy, drama and romance that is as close to perfect as I have ever seen in an anime. The overall series, a title in the populous, yet slowly dying genre of shoujo drama/romance in a high school setting, is one of, if not the best I have seen of this sort, well and truly eclipsing similar anime like Kare Kano and Fruits Basket.

Fruits Basket and Now and Then, Here and There director, Daichi Akitaro displays the care that made those two titles instant classics again, with Bokura ga Ita. Whether the scene be dramatic, romantic, or comedic, the timing, atmosphere and camera-work is always near perfect. Why Bokura ga Ita excels is not just the fact that it handles each of these individual aspects as well as, if not better than the vast majority of other anime, but the fact that they mix so extraordinarily well, blending into an incredibly well told character-focused story. Would it be so easy to feel for these characters in grief if we weren’t allowed to laugh with them earlier on in the series? Would we yearn for them to find happiness in their own way if it wasn’t revealed, in such depth, how they feel for themselves and for each other? The answer isn’t just an obvious “no”, but also a profound statement on how well analyzed and sympathetic these characters are.

A special note needs to be made for the drama, and how incredibly well weighted it is. Rather than forcing dramatic plot points down the audience’s throat, as some other titles do, Bokura ga Ita lets its characters interact in such a way that allows the drama to play out naturally, with the conflicts resolving over time. It also helps that this series only really has four characters, with the rest of the cast acting more as extras and waypoints of support, rarely taking the spotlight. This means Bokura ga Ita can allocate a massive amount of time to fleshing out its true characters; the benefits to the story of doing so, noticeable.

Bokura ga Ita’s tone and style are both of a type that has very limited appeal, and the slow pace, minimalist plot and muted animation (there is very little actual motion in many scenes) will not likely hold fans of more faced-paced, action-orientated shows. My own criticisms of the show are far less superficial, but I felt that Yamamoto needed more time in the spotlight. She wasn’t underdeveloped, per se, but she wasn’t as deeply explored as the other major characters. The comedy didn’t work as well in the second half as the first half, but it took the sideline in this part of the anime, so that’s a minor complaint. It did its job in the first half of the series (i.e., adding another dimension to the characters) and I wouldn’t have missed it if it played even less of a role in the second half.

In spite of, or perhaps due to its qualities, Bokura ga Ita flew far under the radar, even for a title in a genre that doesn’t garner a great deal of attention. Its story did end ambiguously, but the majority of it is beautifully crafted, following a similar style to legendary josei anime Honey and Clover, and even executing some of its aspects better than that series. This is an almost shockingly underrated series, one that simply doesn’t deserve to be as underappreciated as it is.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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