The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

True Tears

Title: True Tears
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: P.A. Works
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 6 January 2008 – 30 March 2008

Synopsis: Ever since Nakagami Shinichiro’s childhood friend, Yuasa Hiromi, moved into his home after the loss of her parents in an accident, she had been acting distant contrary to how she was before. Unable to bring up the nerve to talk to her, he could only muse over his watercolour artbook, and think about wiping her tears away. One day, he finds a strange girl perched up on a tree, who wishes him misfortune after he teases her.

The Highlights
Visuals: Very beautiful and detailed for a debut solo; P.A. Works may very well be the next Kyoto Animation.
Music: Kikuchi Hajime of the group eufonius serves up a smorgasbord of great mood pieces.
Pacing: Nice and slow for much of the way, but watch out for the plotquake at episode 9.
Story: Started off well and keeps gaining momentum for the most part, but the plotquake at episode 9 ruins much of the good work.

Despite sharing its name with a visual novel, that is pretty much all that True Tears the anime series shares with its “source”. With its own world, characters, and plotline, the series is very much an original story in its own right. So the question here is, how did this debut solo by P.A. Works, which didn’t even generate that much positive hype when it was first announced, catch the attention of so many when the broadcast first started?

The first aspect of the answer to that question lies right before one’s eyes; one of the first things one notices is how beautifully the environment is rendered. The amount of detail put into each scene is astounding, and the animation is fluid with no hint of a mistake anywhere. Moreover, there is no static background to be seen; the cast move around a living world where background characters move and talk like everybody else, as it would happen in a real world. This insane level of attention to detail brings to mind the ascendant period of Kyoto Animation, and coupled with the fact that this is P.A. Works‘ first solo effort, one cannot help but wonder if we’re witnessing the rise of another dark horse/upstart in the vein of the animators of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi(1,2).

The next aspect of the answer is heard rather than seen; the distinctive background music used in this series is a compilation composed by Kikuchi Hajime, who is otherwise known as the composer and one half of the group eufonius and has been responsible for some great main OP themes like CLANNAD‘s “Mag Mell” and Noein‘s “Idea”, as well as True Tears‘ “Reflectia”. The distinctive style of Kikuchi gives the world much of its unique identity, and is always good to listen to.

But great visuals and music don’t count for much if the story doesn’t come up to snuff, for after all, that’s what one watches an anime of this genre for, isn’t it? And for the most part, the storyline of the series shines as well, as it is based on themes that challenge the stereotypical tropes of “harem” anime. It is an exercise in seeing how people can be hurt by circumstances which they cannot get out of, and how the mistakes of the previous generation can affect those of the next generation. In short, the story had potential to become something great, and it continually came up with ways to keep the viewers hooked at the end of every episode.

However, episode 9 changed all that with a plot twist that totally changed the dynamics of the story; for lack of a better term, I could only describe it as a ‘plotquake’. This was where the momentum which the story has been building up from the start just went ‘poof’, it was supposed to be a transition to the second part of the story, but it was handled so poorly that the story never fully recovered from that. Due to this plotquake, the last quarter of the story felt out of tune with the excellent material prior, and although it did its best to get good again in the end, it never returned to its peak. Also the characters, while relatively sympathetic prior to the plotquake, also changed and became somewhat different to what they were before, and not always for the better; the fact that the motivations behind their actions didn’t become clear until the very end didn’t help, and that is in no way good character development.

The end result of this is that, while True Tears remained good to the end, good doesn’t do justice to what could have been great. While it is still worth recommending, one can only bemoan how much better it could have been, had episode 9 not happened. Because, if the plotquake in episode 9 had been done better with proper transitioning, True Tears might have been as close to perfect as possible.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

P.S. This is the NHRV chapter of the Triple Critique for True Tears. For a rated review, the Animesuki Forums chapter offers the standard category-rated critique. For a full-picture, unrated review, the RIUVA chapter offers a blog-based discourse.

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