Impression: Kotoura-san – Episode 01

Kotoura-san  (AIC) – Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School

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Episode 01 – “Kotoura-san and Manabe-kun”

Well, I’m not sure if I can ever trust an anime that’s classified as a comedy romance anymore because the first episode of Kotoura-san is the talk of the town with its heartrending opening half. I was very intrigued with AIC’s decision to construct the first episode in the manner that they did, but it worked pretty well (of course, I have no idea what it was like in the manga). The product that you see is a compelling juxtaposition of drama and comedy that will certainly grab your attention.

Our leading lady is a girl by the name of Haruka Kotoura who was blessed (or should I say cursed) by the ability of ESP, allowing her to involuntarily read the minds of those around her. I remember that for the longest time I thought it would be so cool to be able to read people’s minds. Of course, I grew to realize that the very threads of society are held together by lies and that some things are better off left unknown. Kotoura-san portrays this ideal in a surprisingly powerful way.

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The episode opens with flashbacks of Haruka’s past, in which we get to observe her powers at work. It starts off innocently enough with her “predicting” what’s for breakfast and the outcomes of rock-paper-scissor games, but gradually things become more problematic as she reveals the romantic feelings of her friends. She doesn’t know she’s doing anything wrong because thoughts and speech sound identical to her. After unsuccessful trips to the doctor and much ridicule, strain inevitably envelopes Haruka’s family, and her parents, unable to cope with the situation, abandon her.

Haruka accepts her fate and transfers to a new school, where she won’t have to interact with anyone. What follows is one the coolest scenes I’ve seen in an anime. She encounters a boy who for some reason isn’t afraid of her, causing the dreary screen filter to shatter, which literally opening up a world of possibilities for Haruka. It’s really powerful the way they did a complete 540 degree turn in the span of about ten seconds. From here on out, we know that there is hope for Haruka, thanks to this guy, Yoshihisa Manabe, who is apparently too dumb to be afraid of Haruka’s ESP.

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The rest of the episode progresses as advertised, with Manabe declaring that he’ll stay by Haruka, in spite of her powers. With perverted guys and telepathy, hilarity is sure to ensue as Haruka is subjected to the strange imagination our dim-witted friend possesses. Maybe she would be better off not talking to this guy… In the next episode we can expect to meet the rest of the characters, and it will be interesting to see how they cope with Haruka’s ESP.

Aside from the male characters’ faces, I’m a fan of the art style in Kotoura-san. The stark contrast with color pallets do a nice job of representing the emotions held by Haruka. The best aspect of animation for me are the eyes. From bright and happy Haruka to a Haruka who has given up, the eyes pierce right into your heart so that you can share in the emotions that she’s feeling as well.

I’m also a fan of Hisako Kanemoto (Squid Girl from Shinryaku! Ika Musume) as Haruka, and she really did well at capturing my heart this first episode. Our hero Manabe is voiced by the up-and-coming Jun Fukushima, and we can expect some famous seiyuu to appear in the future. These include Hiro Shimono (Keima from The World God Only Knows) as the strange-looking Daichi Muroto and Kana Hanazawa (Kanade from Angel Beats!) as Yuriko Mifune.

The BGM is very nice, particularly in the first half where music plays throughout. It goes to show how pivotal music is in anime. The music dictates the emotions throughout the scenes, ranging from playful and innocent to desperate and hopeless. The score continuously builds for ten minutes up until a breaking point for Haruka, when a reservoir of emotions, accompanied by mourning strings and brass, are released. Powerful stuff (have I used the word “powerful” enough yet?).

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While I like how impact-driven this first episode was, I might have done things differently if I were a producer or even the mangaka. I would have kept Haruka’s past a mystery for a while and slowly revealed truths as the series went on. Maybe that’s just my taste in narrative style, though. Either way, I am greatly looking forward to the rest of Kotoura-san, though I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of the drama…

Expect weekly impressions for this one!

B.W.

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