Title: Tokyo Marble Chocolate
Company: Production I.G.
Format: 2 OVA
Dates: 5 Dec 2007 – 19 Dec 2007
Synopsis: Yuudai and Chizuru are in a strained relationship. The boy, Yuudai, struggles to directly confess his feelings, while the girl, Chizuru, has trouble maintaining relationships. Though they have feelings for one another, the pair drifts further apart through their dishonesty and hesitance. However, a series of coincidences conspires to bring them back together.
Art: Unique and gorgeous. Backgrounds are especially pleasant.
Story: Straightforward, but dual points of view are a plus.
Tokyo Marble Chocolate is an easy gem to overlook if you weren’t around when it aired. Though it received praise at the time, the creative two-episode romance easily blends into the rest of its genre at first glance. Fortunately, the show is anything but generic. Its setup and character interaction stand out: the characters are older, presumably in their twenties, and this leads to types of interaction rarely seen in high school anime. The dialogue is sparse and the characters use internal monologues to narrate their worries while their spoken words are shackled by the niceties of the adult dating world. The story aims for realism over fantasy here, presenting romantic interaction without the dramatic exchanges often associated with anime and manga.
Yet the show isn’t held back by its realism. One of the major plot devices is a comically-drawn mini-donkey which, if anything, is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli and Disney in its cartoonish hijinks. Certainly not a paragon of realism. Tokyo Marble Chocolate is more quirky than maudlin as a result — the drama is given lightness via childish fantasy and wonder, along the same lines as films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. This helps with the viewer’s suspension of disbelief (which, by the end of the story, will be necessary). It’s easy to accept the coincidences that bring the couple together as metaphor, or nature’s way of rewarding the pair for coming to terms with their own feelings, but such reliance on external forces would feel unfair were it not for the silliness of the pseudo-fantasy elements presented early on.
As a fairy tale-ish love story — something unique in the world of anime — it’s not surprising that the art stands out. It deserves special mention because it affects the show’s tone and atmosphere without relying on budget. While the animation itself isn’t bad, the art direction is exceptional. The backgrounds have a soft, hand-drawn look to them, and the strokes used for shading and colouring stand out more than they do with standard CG colouring. This conveys a more subjective and less realistic look than ordinary anime backgrounds. A visual arts student could probably go on and on, but the point is that the art is as much a breath of fresh air as the story itself.
It’s hard to find specific faults with the show. Its problems are more general: short duration and lack of dialogue doesn’t give us much time to understand the characters beyond their basic personalities and fears, the heart of the plot is the same old love story with a slightly different setting, and the pacing can feel a bit odd, depending on how much you enjoy the comedy. But given its limited resources, Tokyo Marble Chocolate is a pleasure to watch, and it proves that there’s a middle ground between melodramatic and down-to-earth romance. If all else fails, it’s worth a shot because it looks stunning.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Eternal