"To Heart Vol. 1": There May Be "New Feelings," But Not in This Corpse
Akari and Hiroyuki have been the best of friends throughout their school years, but now they’re in high school. Akari seems to want more out of their relationship, but Hiroyuki tends to forget the romantic moments they’ve had in the past, and only sees Akari as a good friend. These two and their friends Shiho and Masashi will have to deal with the biggest challenge teenagers face: daily high school life.
Rumbling Hearts was about a coma patient, but To Heart is just coma-inducing. Stories need conflict. Superman versus Lex Luthor, the Anti-Registration Marvel Heroes versus the law, Anakin Skywalker against his own darker compulsions.
Want to know the conflicts in To Heart? Assigned seating, who’s going to the concert, NOTHING, and the creation of a new club. I don’t exaggerate: the third episode has no conflict.
In its original form, To Heart was probably tolerable. Ten years ago it was a computer hentai game, and then went to the PSone as an all-ages dating sim, and then went back to the computer as an all-ages dating sim. It was relatively popular (as much as a dating sim can be). There are easily shades of its dating sim history in the series’ story structure: each episodes plays more like a certain path toward dating a certain character. Instead of dating the Occult Club member or the Extreme Fighter, we get episodes highlighting these characters.
The problem is that, when the franchise went all-ages, all signs of action or even of a good love story disappeared. As it stands, the characters (and voice actors) are just going through the motions. While I understand that the directors most likely wanted to convey a sense of reality in the action, the episodes move way too slowly. For example, in the time it takes a secondary character to rip enough paper to have thirty students pull a number (in an extremely blatant reuse of animation cycles), I could easily call a buddy of mine and get instructions on how to install a new hard drive—and I’m technologically deficient.
“A Brand New Morning” introduces us to the mundane world of the characters with the big issue of the day: Where will they be assigned to sit for the new semester? Yes, that’s the conflict, and where the aforementioned “paper ripping” scene occurs.
“After School Incident” is our first real chance at conflict. Shiho and Masashi each get two tickets to the hottest band in Japan, Childish An Hour, but neither knows about the other one having tickets. So, they both don’t know who to take, despite the fact if they just talked to each other about it, they’d know they have enough tickets for the four-friend group. Notice how I said it was a “chance” at conflict, because by the end of the episode, they have the sweet ending of them all running into each other at the concert. Disaster averted.
“In A Sunny Spot” Hiroyuki runs into Serika Kurusugawa, the almost mute, goth, rich daughter of a major business CEO. He helps her find a lizard’s tail, and then checks out the Occult Club. That’s it. That’s the plot.
“Shining Moment” gets close to having an awesome moment. Aoi, the “spunky” (yes, that’s how the box describes her) Extreme Martial Arts Tournament Champion Wannabe is having trouble setting up an EMA Club, which is effectively a high school version of Ultimate Fighting Championship; Hiroyuki helps her out in training. There’s a big battle for the future of the EMA Club when it comes up against the Karate Club, and we actually get great animation for the fight. Problem is, it’s ridiculously short. I’ve had rounds of Street Fighter last longer, and I’m ridiculously quick at destroying opponents in that game. This could have been awesome: high school girls fighting in UFC-style fights. It just turns out way too short.
Right Stuf does do good with the digital extras, with translation notes, a line art gallery, and character bios. While not the most, they’re entertaining and are at least a shot at injecting something good into the DVD. The back advertises a reversible cover, which is true, but the only difference between the sides is in the logo.
This show could have been more teen-oriented while not going back to its hentai routes. As it stands, it’s “7 and Up” rating is all too true: You could’ve aired this on Miguzi with no edits. Sure, the kids would fall asleep and ratings would tank …