After recently experiencing the splendor that is Spice and Wolf and the pestilence that is H2O, it shouldn't come as much surprise that my next series would land almost smack dab in between the two in terms of quality. Indeed, True Tears ended up just barely breaking the threshold of mediocrity, but it unfortunately did not start out that way. In fact, it initially flaunted a decent amount of potential in lieu of its oddities, and I began to develop moderate hopes that it would keep this trend through its end.
Alas, this was not the case. True Tears had three romantic subplots going with the main guy, and while two of them actually contained substance, the third was packed delightfully full of human excrement. To put things into perspective, Noe meets Shinichiro when she jumps out of a ten-foot tree right into his face. Her rationale? She wanted to see if she could fly. Dumbass that he is, Shinichiro then proceeds to become absolutely fascinated with her, especially when she opens her mouth. Never mind that she is mentally incapable of formulating a coherent sentence not involving some metaphorical bile involving chickens, cockroaches, or tears - her personality is impeccable! Over the course of the series not once, not once, does she say one remotely intelligible thing, which leaves me completely dumbfounded as to how Shinichiro maintains some form of relationship with her. He'll ask her what she's doing for lunch, for instance, and she'll say, "Raigoumaru (her pet chicken) can't fly because there's a cockroach under your hat which stole my tears!" Somehow he interprets this as some form of guttural human communication, upon which he goes home, writes, and then narrates some random chicken picture in a picture book he's working on.
Yet, as boastfully stupid as she is, Noe is tolerable for the first portion of True Tears, as her main purpose seems to be to develop the somewhat strained relationship between Shinichiro and Hiromi. Hiromi's story kept me interested all the way through, as her character was actually fairly well developed. She moves into Shinichiro's house following the death of her parents in a car accident due to their fathers being good friends, but her welcome is not warm. In fact, the household is largely cool and harsh toward her, pretty much inhibiting any personal interaction between the two of them despite their mutual romantic interest in one another. Sadly, while this is a much more dramatic premise to work from in place of the stereotypical girl-living-with-guy scenario, the writers didn't seem to know how to handle it properly. The crucial events with their relationship occur a few episodes before the series actually ends, and some very tacky, unfounded melodrama is thrown into the works to try to make this work. Ultimately it doesn't, which, given how well the premise is laid out, ended up leaving me with a lot more disappointment than I had first anticipated.
Lastly, the third romance just seemed to lurk in the shadows and never really do anything. It also involved Shinichiro's best friend to create a triangle, but never really went anywhere. The key events in this romance peak very early (around episode five or six if I recall correctly, so not even half way), and then are just left out in the sun to bake. Upon its conclusion both Ai and Shinichiro's friend almost entirely vanish, appearing a couple times later only to be treated as mere scenery props. Sadly, most of their previous portion of screen time is given to Noe and her garbled chicken whining, which gets progressively worse in the latter half of the series. The subsequent drama is very forced, as character personalities undergo drastic changes very rapidly for completely unexplained reasons (Shinichiro's mother the most.) The virtual obsession with Noe that True Tears flaunts in its latter half really dragged the series down to an absolute low, and I can't help but think that had it kept the original premise of the Shinichiro-Hiromi romance as its focus it might have ended up much better.
The animation for True Tears follows a relatively recent trend of subtle artistic variation from the typical, generic anime style. While I had my qualms with it in places, especially during important dialogue, overall I would say it worked. The thick strokes of color really brought out the detail in the backgrounds, providing for a very solid atmospheric feel in certain environments (twilight especially.) Oddly enough, in terms of quality, the character designs seem to take a backseat to the scenery, which provides for a somewhat unique and unusual visual score, as in most series the characters are given much more attention. Perhaps one of its more interesting approaches would be its use of "dirty" snow, which displaces a more traditional, romanticized environment in favor of a more realistic, pragmatic one. That's not that the romance really follows any sort of realistic trend, it doesn't, but it at least gives the series' botched attempt some sort of reparation for its flaws.
The musical score does its job, but doesn't exactly try to stand out as anything spectacular. Most tracks scattered throughout the series are readily forgettable, and while they might have decently fit their respective scenes, they didn't really stand out. The voice acting followed much the same trend, although Hiromi's seiyuu did a good job capturing her character's persona. All in all I'd say a bit above average, but nothing particularly worthy of much merit.
Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with people with mental handicaps (it hits close to home), but for the love of God they shouldn't be feigned as normal people in normal romantic settings. Noe is so inanely retarded and annoying that I was hoping she'd just go jump off a bridge or something with all her talk of flying and chickens and cockroaches and bullshit. Alas, she just wallowed on incessantly for thirteen episodes, ultimately resulting in turning Shinichiro into some sort of pseudo-romantic, artistic visionary with a love for all things chicken. When she went from drama-bot to drama-queen it totally ruined the initial romantic undertones the series originally possessed, and for that I harbor nothing but resentment and malice toward her; an anime can screw with drama all it wants, but when it screws with the practicality of its romance it goes way too far.
In fact, had Noe been hit by a truck and killed in the first episode, True Tears might just have been able to redeem itself. The love triangle between Shinichiro, Ai, and Miyokuchi is well told and actually possesses some semblance of realism in its workings. The basic idea behind it is that Shinichiro introduces Miyokuchi to Ai, and Miyokuchi immediately falls for her and asks Shinichiro to help hook the two of them up. He agrees and Ai ultimately accepts, but only for the reason that Shinichiro presses her and she actually has a crush on him. It plays out nicely since, unlike most love triangles, Shinichiro has no interest in Ai beyond that of a friend, which results in a (relatively speaking) lot of heartbreak between the three. Sadly, as I mentioned before, the events in this particular romance arc climax very early in the series, which makes it seem to drift into the background by the end; it had way too much underused potential.
Worst of all, the supposed key romance between Shinichiro and Hiromi, which is heavily focused upon in the first episodes, virtually dies toward the end. The drama ends up being so abhorrently fragmented later on that it's hard to keep track of exactly what's occurring between the two, especially since Noe becomes the a key component in the functionality of their romance. What really boggles me, though, is that their relationship seems to meet its peak a handful of episodes before the end, and then is suddenly thrown into complete disarray by a deus ex machina drama subplot that tries to poorly show that Noe is still somehow a romantic rival. While it helped develop Hiromi's character by displaying the fact that she was not a spineless romantic and was willing to stand up for her relationship, it made no sense in the context of the series. It seriously reminded me of the Monty Python "He's not dead yet, he's getting better!" saying, as by all means the main romantic dilemma between the two had been solved. This utterly tacky attempt to fill space completely derailed Hiromi as an important character, and, as a result, caused the series to conclude with a thud.
If someone can tell me why exactly the name of the series is True Tears, I'd love to know. Retard Whining might have been a more appropriate title, but for some reason I don't think it would have garnered the same viewership. On a serious note, though, True Tears does have its mildly redeeming points, especially toward the beginning of the series, and they managed to motivate me enough to actually finish. Watching the romances involving Hiromi and Ai unfold is enjoyable if nothing else, so if you're out of good romances to watch and are in search of something mediocre, True Tears won't disappoint too much - yet another potentially solid romance ruined by poor scriptwriting, but ultimately worthwhile enough to merit some consideration.
Shinichiro Nakagami is an everyday high school student, with the exception of having his beautiful and athletic childhood friend Hiromi Yuasa living in his household after the death of her parents. Unfortunately, their relationship is cold at best - Shinichiro can tell that she is suffering, but she acts coldly and distant from her foster family and so he is unable to help ease her sadness. His family is also forcing him to practice a traditional Japanese dance that does not interest him, adding to his frustration. On top of that, he is cursed to misfortune by another girl in school, the eccentric Noe Isurugi. Shinichiro juggles all of these problems on a day-to-day basis as he learns about love and the sadness of those around him.
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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!