To Heart

Title: To Heart
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: AQUAPLUS/KSS
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 2 Apr 1999 – 25 Jun 1999

Synopsis: Kamigishi Akari and Fujita Hiroyuki have been friends since they were both children, and are currently attending the same high school. Over the years, Akari has come to love Hiroyuki and, even though she hasn’t explicitly stated it to him, it’s obvious to most of their immediate friends. As the two make their way through high school, they befriend and help various people.

The Highlights
Animation: Simple style; fluent and easy on the eyes.
Music: Top quality; used sparingly, and thus, never forces the mood.
Characters: Large cast of side characters, most of whom deserved more time in the spotlight than could have been allocated.
Plot: Follows a strict dating sim formula.

Based on a popular renai game of the same name, To Heart is a warm, quiet slice of life that nestles itself somewhere between shoujo and dating sim, drawing influence from parts of both genres. On one hand, it develops a series of side characters by allowing interactions with the main group of characters. But this is done in a clockwork fashion dictated by the dating sim formula: each character gets one episode to establish a personal conflict, deal with it, and disappear into obscurity. Perhaps it shouldn’t be as surprising as I found it, but the marriage works.

If there was a word that could sum up To Heart, it would be “pleasant.” Everything, from the general mood of the series, to the music and animation can be described with the aforementioned word. On the topic of aesthetics, the animation, though simple, is fluid and works well. Backgrounds are created using a water colour style that was popular during the mid-nineties. Character designs are pleasing on the eyes, and character movements are smooth, and never jarring or distracting. The music is superb, with numerous warm tunes that enhance every scene they appear in. But the best background track is the one that appears most frequently: silence. Following the philosophy that often the most moving music is its absence, To Heart only uses music in scenes that demand it. It’s a technique that works well, particularly for a slice-of-life piece such as this one.

Though numerous, the side characters, which tend to be your typical high school student facing some sort of conflict, are likable. True to the dating sim formula, each character and their particular issue is given an episode in the spotlight. Though each character’s problems are hardly earth-shattering (though, in a few cases, generally aren’t the types of problems faced by typical high-school student), To Heart goes about making you want the happy ending for each side character, and then delivers it. It may not be tense or unpredictable, but tense and unpredictable aren’t really the sorts of things one should expect from this type of series. On the down side, in keeping with the dating sim style, once each character has had their time in the spotlight, they virtually disappear off the face of the planet. I found this disappointing, as I grew quite fond of numerous of the characters, and would have really appreciated seeing them again. I did find it refreshing that, unlike most dating sims, rather than having the side characters interact with a single male lead, and then falling head over heals for him after his particular gesture of kindness, on many occasions, the characters instead are helped by various combinations of the main group of four.

For those that are after a non-stop action roller coaster or an end of the world melodrama, you won’t find it here. To Heart, instead, is a pleasant change of pace from these types of anime. The dramas our protagonists face are hardly momentous, but seeing them deal with them is still an absorbing experience. For those looking for a change in pace from giant mecha and harem fanservice fest, or just a well done shoujo-inspired dating sim To Heart is a pleasant alternative.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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