The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

H2O: Footprints in the Sand

Title: H2O: Footprints in the Sand
Genre: Drama
Company: ZEXCS
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 3 Jan 2008 – 20 Mar 2008

Synopsis: Hirose Takuma is a blind high school student that moves to the countryside to live with his uncle. There he meets a girl named Kohinata Hayami, a social outcast that regularly gets beaten up and bullied in school. As he meets the other girls, he seeks to find out the reason behind the village’s animosity towards Hayami and ends up finding out much more…

The Highlights
Name: Nothing to do with water or beaches — derived from the names of the three main heroines: Hayami, Hinata, and Otoha.
Pacing: Complete lack of urgency, wasting time on pointless comedy outtakes.
Characters: Barely functional, but developed.
Effort: “A” for effort — if only the world worked like that.

H2O: Footprints in the Sand is adapted from the visual novel of the same name, and like many anime of this lineage features an ensemble cast of females with a strong focus on three of them: Hayami, Hinata, and Otoha.  The distinguishing gimmick here is that the main character is blind, which presents a different dimension in the way the characters interact with the protagonist. The series starts off with a scene of Hayami getting brutalized by two guys in the rain. For some reason, she is hated in the village and the anime goes to great lengths to tug at the audience’s emotions by repeatedly depicting her being bullied in some way. Hinata is the typical nice girl, and there really isn’t much more to say about her. Finally, Otoha is some kind of ghost that magically restores the main character’s vision and plays a role in recalling his memories.

Despite a decently ambitious plot, H2O: Footprints in the Sand comes off very bland, like a cheap imitation of more heavy-hitting visual novel adaptations like Kanon 2006 or ef. Frankly, this is because of poor storytelling. The anime is 12 episodes long and has quite a bit to cover, but two are wasted on filler episodes. There’s a profound lack of focus that undermines much of the plot’s structure — important things like flashbacks and plot developments sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere. There is also a poor mix of humor and serious drama with the former often detracting from the latter. Although the anime goes through an honest effort to develop its characters, the results are mixed. Some characters, like Hinata, are rather thin and don’t really hold water.  Many of the show’s attempts to tap into genuine, heartfelt emotions outright failed. Outside of the scenes where guys beat Hayami up (which legitimately riled me up), not much else in the anime made me care about any of the characters.

H2O: Footprints in the Sand is effective in deploying unexpected plot twists to keep viewers interested. The story is legitimately creative as it gradually unfolds. However, much of the proper plot and development early in the series is conveyed via Otoha (think of the Imaginary World Girl in Clannad), which is a method I find to be just plain lazy. The show would have been far more effective if even a fraction of the time dedicated to pointless situations was used to flesh out the plot.

Viewers often point to episode 8 as the quintessential example of what the show does wrong. It’s an episode where all the female characters live with Takuma and call him “onii-chan,” effectively degrading the show into nothing more than nonsensical comedy. It’s jarring because it seems to come out of nowhere.  Even worse, this is right after an episode containing a major plot revelation. I personally enjoyed this episode greatly because by this stage I had given up any delusions of H2O: Footprints in the Sand being a coherent narrative and I thought the show might as well have some fun.  The creators must have thought the same thing as they found the time to include a magical girl sequence involving Otoha in this episode. They even wrote a song!

H2O: Footprints in the Sand has potential, but simply lacks execution. The music is nice; Fujita Junpei composes a beautiful score and the opening theme has a really nice blend of folk elements. The water motif is also subtle and tasteful. The ending is dramatic, but the show ends with shameless example of deus ex machina. Overall, H2O: Footprints in the Sand is a generic visual novel adaptation that shows considerable effort, which is more than I can say for many similar adaptations out there.

The Rating: 5
5/10

Reviewed by: kevo

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