For those familiar with my tastes, it should come as little surprise that I absolutely detest just about any harem series - most especially, though, those adapted from random dating sims. Most try to shape romance as their central, core thematic, but end up failing miserably when they try to perpetrate a deep, viable relationship between the male lead and all his multiple female companions. Even so, as recent examples such as Kanon 2006 and Clannad have shown, the harem archetype can, with substantial tampering, be modified into an anime possessing both romantic depth as well as original substance. Both titles, however, I watched only after extensive positive feedback from friends ordinarily not impressed with the genre, and were not chosen based upon some spur-of-the-moment harem craving. Thus, what events inspired me to pick up Lamune completely at random I really can't say, as by all accounts it seemed nothing more than standard harem trash and not worthy of being touched by a ten foot pole.
The premise behind Lamune, for instance, has been done countless times before - a completely average guy, Kenji, lives next door to a completely average girl, Nanami, whom he happens to be childhood friends with. Kenji, of course, has a younger sister whom affectionately flatters him with the obligatory "Onii-chan! Onii-chan!" treatment, as well as an abnormally large assortment of girls who just happen to befriend him over the course of the series. There's the slew of typical harem events as well, ranging from the summer beach trip to the arrival of the nosy female relative, which further adds to the series' apparent void of any original material. By all accounts I should have been put off by these flaws; however, while Lamune's content might not have been all that enthralling, its approach to its content was unique, and that did well in attracting my interest enough to give it a chance.
Strangely enough, Lamune is decidedly absent of excessive panty shots, groping, and pitifully shallow attempts at romance. In fact, from the first episode the main romance between Kenji and Nanami is pretty much set in stone, as both their friends and families call them a couple even if they themselves do not. As such, there exists very little material for the story to use aside from fairly standard slice-of-life occurrences, especially since Kenji is not an excessively perverted teenager who has an aversion for getting his face between the legs of every girl he comes across. This ultimately creates some awkward moments in the series' pacing, especially toward the beginning when each of the six or girls is given a characterization episode. By no means is this necessarily bad per se, but it does make acquiring an interest in Lamune's world and characters somewhat difficult. That said, Lamune does have its quirks here and there that keep it entertaining enough for those who enjoy slice-of-life or romance to keep watching. There are a number of romantic moments between Kenji and Nanami scattered throughout the episodes, and instead of having them interrupted by one of the other girls, Kenji's cousin usually ends up dragging the crowd away in order to leave the two to themselves. After stomaching so many touching scenes ruined by things like giant robotic turtles, this most certainly goes to Lamune's credit, as it shifts the series' demographic toward a more mature audience.
If there's one thing that stands out about Lamune, it's that the anime was created largely around the idea of being a promo for the dating sim that inspired its creation. The animation carries a very colorful, cheery, and vibrant feel that certainly fits the atmosphere the series' aimed to create, and given its standard fare, it's no secret that the production costs were meant to be kept as minimal as possible. The girls are all relatively cute and the guy isn't half bad either, so I guess it succeeds in trying to showcase its girls for a potential buyer to see. Overall, though, the animation isn't half bad, and the general minimal quality of detail doesn't really do anything to detract from the mood even for those with no interest in the dating sim itself.
Just as with the animation, the musical score and voice acting were both very standard. Both the opening and ending themes, along with the OST, did their jobs but not much more. I can't think of a single outstanding track, but neither can I think of an instance where the music felt out of place either. The music contributed to the very relaxed pacing of the series, and for that I really have no complaints. The same goes with the voice actors, too; they animated their characters well, but given the lack of dramatic scenes, they really didn't need to do much more than speak casually so there's not much particularly worthy of note.
As I've already touched on briefly, the characters are certainly the highlight of the series. Kenji, by just about any standard, is a solid lead, and certainly holds his own against other shallow harem leads. Though slightly shy, he's not a typical loser-picks-up-hot-girl guy, as much of Lamune is spent fleshing him and Nanami out as realistic people in a realistic romance. He's a generally nice guy with an interest in helping others and fixing things, and can probably relate, at least on some level, to someone everyone knows. Likewise, Nanami proved a surprisingly charming female lead as well. While obviously quite feminine, she's not emotionally clingy or dependant on Kenji, which removes a lot of the potentially forced drama most harems use girls like her to create. Overall she's reliable and self-sufficient, which really makes the chemistry between her and Kenji endearing - the two are, quite obviously, meant for each other and just about everyone can tell.
The rest of the characters are just fluff and play little role beyond their individual girl-of-the-day episodes, though, so they're really not all that worthy of mention. The Kenji-Nanami romance is what drives Lamune, and it's certainly quite strong; whenever the other girls do come into play, it's generally to strengthen their relationship, so I really can't complain about them as being obtrusive in any way.
Due to Lamune's very unique pacing, I can say with certainty that this series should only be touched those who have an affinity toward slice-or-life or romance series. While certainly nothing spectacular, if there were any harem to successfully bridge the gap between Kyoto Animation's works and generic trash series, Lamune would definitely be it. Given how enormously difficult it is for a harem to impress me, I think the fact that the series went as far as to be average speaks volumes about quality. Though by far not the best of its genre and by far not the worst, it certainly merits consideration, and on that fact alone I'd give it my recommendation.
Kenji Tomosaka is a young boy who moved from the city to a coastal town at a young age. The ocean fascinated him, and that is where he met a girl named Nanami Konoe. Together, they played together on the beach; but unknowingly, they lived next to each other, their balconies just feet apart. As time moves on, their relationship deepens, and many of their friends call them a couple; but neither Kenji nor Nanami is willing to make a move. Time passes, and summer comes again; but this time, something will happen that will change them both forever...
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!