SECRET SANTA REVIEW
Takayuki Narumi, our male protagonist, falls in love with a girl without even expecting to, having gone out with her simply because she asked. Of course the friend who set up the meeting had never really thought they would make it together - having been harbouring feelings for Takayuki of her own. When their fledgling relationship is shattered by cruel circumstance, leaving Takayuki a guilt-ridden dysfunctional wreck, how will the two respond? Between this first incident and a few further exceptional twists further along the way, the stage is set to twist the screws of drama. These human beings are forced to reconcile their conflicting emotions with reality, and with each other.
Kimi ga Nozomu Eien tells a story that explores the human condition through the power of love, and shows us that not all pain comes from a negative source. It's occasionally trite and over-convenient, often overly dramatic, sometimes flat-out unbelievable in the twists it takes; however, many of these cliches and missteps can be excused without much difficulty simply because the relationships explored and the messages we take away are worthwhile and profound.
I was pleasantly surprised at the animation quality in this work when I learned it had been based on a visual novel. Adaptations from this medium tend to be extremely hit-or-miss in terms of quality, and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien falls squarely in the 'hit' camp. Movement is visibly fluid, with few moments lost or complicated to poor frame work - something you can definitely appreciate in several athletic moments on screen. The character designs are quite decent; while most of the cast is female and the expectations the creators seem to have of female anatomy are likely a tad unreasonable, it mostly doesn't show on-screen very much because a large number of the outfits the girls are shown in are appreciably modest.
I will make a note that there is on-screen nudity, where the overample bosoms are presented for viewing, but despite the subject matter it never quite approaches the point of fanservice. I'm led to believe that, being conscious of the property's eroge origins, the artists thought it best to not dwell too heavily on them and thus be able to approach a modicum of decency. They very much succeeded, and so nudity is used to characterize sweetness, weakness, dependence, or a number of other qualities; but never to arouse the viewer.
The musical score can only really be described as 'bare'. The composer chose a very minimalistic style, with only a single piano and some very occasional synthesizers, to accompany the on-screen action. Most of the screentime is devoid of any music at all, and in a marathon of viewing the fact that there's actually only a very small number of musical tracks in use at all shows through. The result is minimalistic, but manages very slightly to avoid being repetitive to the point of drawing ire.
What music there is does work quite well as an emotional accompaniment but with so few tracks to draw on the 'best choice out of what's available' doesn't always make a very good fit with the onscreen action.
It's obvious how little of the budget went into the sound production overall, in fact. While I can't quite describe the voice work as stilted or truly lacking - in fact, they tend to succeed very well at delivering on heightened states of emotion believably, more so than actors in many aniime do - it does sometimes feel like something is lost in the more complex, subtler moments of human emotion. This is something that could likely have been solved with more time devoted to direction, lending the piece an overall feeling that it may have been somewhat rushed out the door.
The standout in the cast is definitely the actor for Mitsuki Hayase, delivering a layered performance that shows quite a bit of what goes on in the character's heart.
This is where Kimi ga Nozomu Eien really shines. All of the main ensemble is composed of complex, deeply flawed, believable characters that would almost seem to be more at home in a tragedy than the comedy that's delivered on. Haruka is at first glance little more than a wallflower, but by the end of the series shows almost more depth and self-awareness than anyone else in the cast. Mitsuki initially presents herself as a good girl, and is at first willing to sacrifice too much for the sake of her friends; in the end, however, she gives up what's most important in her life because she simply can't maintain her facade any longer. Takayuki initially acts as an aimless anime protagonist but we gradually get to uncover deeper-seated problems in his psyche as well. Even a couple of members of the supporting cast succceed at delivering their own interesting perspectives to the story.
What does it actually mean to 'love' someone? Are the bonds of sentiment you gradually develop over years of intimacy enough, or is there something more to it? Is it something you have to work towards, or does it happen on its own? Is it even enough on its own to sustain a relationship? For a tale adapted from a harem-style eroge, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is surprisingly adept at asking these questions, and more. We maybe even get an answer or two to ponder for our trouble. The characters are manipulated into showcasing both the best and the worst of human emotion, and while the circumstances do stretch the limits of believability at times the result is definitely worth putting the effort into.