Basically, this season, in addition to the awesome Chihayafuru and the not-so-awesome-but-pretty-intriguing-so-I’ll-carry-on-watching-it-anyway Un-Go, I’m watching this. ‘This’ being a laid-back, slice-of-life comedy series centering on a group of four male friends (plus a couple of strays they pick up along the way) who have known each other since preschool and the experiences they go through during the middle to final years of their high school lives. And no, they’re not gay. (Yaoi-obsessed fangirls, look elsewhere.) Seriously, there is a lot to love about this show, providing it’s ‘your thing’. In other words, if you prefer fast-paced action sequences, negligible character development, giant robots, time-travelling aliens, flesh-eating zombies, magical girls, flying pantsu and/ or anything else that doesn’t usually occur in a Japanese high school, then it’s probably not your thing and never will be. However, if you like stories that focus on friendship, develop their characters in a warm (and often hilarious) fashion, and have a distinctly nostalgic and thoughtful mood, then I think you’ll enjoy it. Plus, it has cats. :3
Firstly, I mentioned the central male quartet, which leads me to highlight one of the strengths of the show: the fact that it’s a refreshing slice-of-life focussing on the interactions of a group of friends, as opposed to a thinly disguised BL-fangirl-fest. And one of the few non-GAR shows I’ve come across of late with so many male vs. female main characters that doesn’t fall into the latter category.
Well, if you ignore girly-boy Shun.
Secondly, in addition to the friendship theme and the variously endearing and entertaining ways in which the quirky characters are gradually introduced and explored, the show has been very successful at creating and sustaining a strong sense of mood. ‘Laid-back’, ‘low-key’, and ‘chilled’ come to mind, which probably sounds like nothing much actually happens – a frequent accusation regarding slice-of-life shows. However, I’d say that the gentle pacing and low-key humour are collectively both a strength and weakness. Thankfully, though, I think the strengths far outnumber the weaknesses.
So, let’s get the weaknesses out of the way first, shall we?
- The characters as distinct, not very original ‘types’: delicate, girly-boy Shun; trolling twins Yuki and Yuta; high-strung megane Kaname; naïve, energetic blonde foreigner Chizuru; and the bratty little tsundere girl (to name the aforementioned quartet and two strays, respectively). Out of these, I find the last two frequently annoying in large doses, due to the one-dimensional manner in which they’ve been presented so far…
- …In addition, and for the above reason, epi 5 was one big irritation for me. Though, thankfully, they pulled it together in the end by turning the focus back on the other characters (e.g. Kaname and his crush), rather than just zooming in on blondie and the brat. Similarly, epi 6 was in danger of being dismissively labelled as ‘Shun gets a haircut’, but, thankfully (again), the thumb-wrestling and the ‘Kanamegane’ (pfft) back-story reigned things back on track and, via that additional character development, to one of the strengths of the show.
And speaking of strengths, these include:
- Development of characters: the central four seem like genuine friends, as those character back-stories and chibi-filled analepses convey. These analepses, or flashbacks, of the main characters as preschoolers and, later, middle-schoolers, not only provide a high ‘daww-factor’, but are used in a very effective way to establish the character dynamics in the first episodes, (e.g.: the ‘sleeping-in-the-middle=you-will-die’ scenes in epi 1) and to develop or ‘explain’ the less extrovert characters, such as ‘Kanamegane’ in epi 6.
- Catservice: these kitties are not only adawwable (er, minus Dat Cat in epi 2), but are also collectively a charming way to symbolise the respective characters and group dynamics that they seem to represent through the use of those cut-away-and-back scenes, and also great at conveying overall mood, as is heightened through the cats’ relatively more overt behaviour and mood(-swing)s.
- Dat B.G.M.: the cheapo-looking OP sequence aside, Dat insert song [‘Sora’, by Shouta Aoi, according to A.N.N., it’s not out yet, but you can find it at approx. 16:32-17:30 and 20:34-22:39 in epi 1 and 18:42-21:30 in epi 3] and the rest of the guitar-heavy BGM is just a pleasure to listen to. A gentle, feel-good, lingering sound…
Finally, having mentioned ‘mood’ several times now, this is what I now wish to focus on. Namely, the revelling in and celebration of the everyday ‘moment’. This is most apparent though the characterisation of Shun, the sweet thoughtful one who, well, basically, just wants everyone to be one big happy family. Often, he is presented as just an observer of the action around him, and the camera stays on his face while others, such as Kaname and Yuki, squabble around him:
Such shots not only heighten the (off-screen) comedy, but, by positioning us with the quietly perceptive Shun, these moments gain greater significance later when he says things like this:
To give a fuller quote, here (at the end of epi 5), Shun says, ‘These obvious everydays are my treasure. If I keep them tighly held in my fist forever… I know from time to time I’ll softly open my hand and peer inside.’ Well, he’s no Natsume, but it’s a lovely idea, that one can and should celebrate – or ‘treasure’ – obvious everyday moments such as hanging out/ squabbling/ making up/ etc. precisely because these are both fun and fleeting.
And thus very, very precious.
…Tl;dr? Cute guys doing cute things + Cats = Hana has no problem with this.