I have watched a good deal of anime. Not a colossal amount, mind you, but I've seen a series or two. There are shows I dislike, and there are shows that irritate me. Very rarely will a show make me outright angry. But by the time I had reached the end, True Love Story: Summer Days had infuriated me more than almost any anime has in a long time.
To call what this show possesses a "story" is, in my opinion, incredibly generous. At best, it is a sequence of events that has a beginning and an end.
Our protagonist is named Yuuta Morisaki- your typical teenager and high school student. Through various plot contrivances, he meets various members of the female gender, who all fall in love with him instantly. The story focuses on one of these girls, named Hina Kuronose. Although Yuuta doesn't remember her, the two were actually childhood friends. Hina has been pining for him ever since they were little, but can never get up the courage to confess her feelings. Will anybody in the cast capture Yuuta's heart? With the Ocean Festival quickly approaching, will Hina be able to gather up the strength in time to bring the two of them together? And will Yuuta remember the promise that Hina had made to him so very long ago?
Now, the last couple paragraphs may sound like a functional plot. However, the show itself doesn't attempt to give the proceedings any sort of structure or narrative flow. One event just leads to another, with no attempt to inject any sort of drama or intrigue. We know that Hina will end up with Yuuta at the end, because Hina is the only girl who the story focuses on at all.
Almost none of the other girls (with the exception of Love Interest With Glasses) actually try to capture his affections, let alone confess their own feelings. There are one or two instances where it seems like they are trying to create romantic tension with Tomboy Childhood Friend, but it never really leads to anything and sort of fizzles out.
Characters are introduced randomly throughout the series, and then just suddenly disappear from the story in an equally random fashion. To make matters worse, Yuuta manages to remain completely oblivious throughout the story that most of these girls are interested in him. It could actually have been interesting if he had realized that these people he considers friends view him as something more. What will he do? Will this damage their relationship? Because the story doesn't even bother going in that direction, we will never know.
Why does Yuuta not remember Hina? The anime never bothers to try to give us any sort of explanation. It's not the result of amnesia; he is able to remember another childhood friend almost instantly. Yet, somehow his memories of Hina have been completely erased, and only cone back to him bit by bit in an utterly trite fashion. This is made even more contrived when we learn the nature of Hina's promise. I won't bother spoiling it, but anybody who has watched a harem/romance-centric anime will be able to figure it out almost instantly.
And that's the problem: literally the show's entire plot is just all the tropes and clichés used in romance and harem anime awkwardly spliced together. That's it. The writers have taken great pains to both shamelessly steal plot points from other shows, but make sure to remove the elements that made those shows fun in the first place.
The conclusion is as banal and predictable as you can get. When Yuuta and Hina get together, every single girl that we have met that seems to have an interest in Yuuta is perfectly fine with it. The completely wasted potential for drama or conflict in those last few scenes sums up the anime as a whole.
The character designs are just bad. Yuuta looks as generic as humanly possible I've seen dozens of anime protagonists with the same body structure and appearance. The designs of the female characters all have this homogenous feel to them. They aren't identical, but they do look like they were all taken from the same basic template.
All the characters have extremely blocky heads, and the female characters have the unnaturally large and wide eyes and extremely small mouths that I've come to hate. Given how childlike the facial designs make the characters appear, the emphasis on certain aspects of the female anatomy just feels disturbing.
For the first two episodes, the animation is relatively choppy. The scenery is nice and colorful, but none of it feels real. All the backgrounds and objects that the characters interact with just appear incredibly two-dimensional and artificial to my eye; it just feels like the town simply couldn't exist in real life.
In the third episode the backgrounds do become much more vivid, the animation is much more fluid, and the competence of the show's direction spikes upward. However, this just causes the first two episodes to feel even more lazy: if they could afford to put this much effort into the climax of their little tale, why did the animation of the first two episodes feel so weak and artificial?
Aside from the opening theme, I can't remember a single track from the show. The music is utterly generic and lifeless, adding absolutely nothing to the proceedings. The ending theme, while a mild step up, just reminds me of better songs from a dozen other anime of the same genre. The song that opens the show truly is the anime's saving grace. It's catchy, lively, and unique.
The voice acting is just dry. Most of the voice actors don't even feel like they're trying particularly hard-particularly Yuuta's-, and even when the VAs do sound energetic, it still feels like they don't really want to be there.
You may have noticed that when I was discussing the plot earlier, I used titles like "Love Interest With Glasses" and "Tomboy Childhood Friend" instead of names. That's because every single person in True Love Story isn't a person. They're an archetype. They're characters that you have seen dozens of times before, only done better every single time. I would list the entire cast and note which stereotype they fill, but I have seriously forgotten almost every single one of them.
The characters simply don't leave any sort of impression on you, because they are thoroughly one-dimensional. There is nothing to Tomboy Childhood Friend, for example, except her interest in athletics. There is nothing to Love Interest With Glasses, except her interest in books and tendency to be overdramatic. You don't get why they are interested in Yuuta, because none of them have any chemistry with him. You never get a feel as to where this love comes from, because the story decides to not bother giving them any sort of depth. You have to assume that it is the generic “love at first sight” lust that love interests typically have in bad harem anime.
Yuuta himself is your typical harem anime protagonist- average, flat, and boring. There is not a single drop of personality in his veins, and he is clearly merely a proxy for the viewer. The reasons to care about whether or not he finds love are nonexistent.
Hina is just as bland. she has no character traits aside from being clumsy, naïve, and her love for Yuuta. There are some bizarre scenes where she plays with one of her dolls and interacts with them as if they were a person, but nothing ever becomes of it. Is it just childlike innocence, or is there some sort of psychological problem at work? Well, of course it's the former; the latter would be too interesting. You don't understand why she was interested in Yuuta as a child, and you don't understand why she is interested in him now.
True Love Story is worse than merely generic: it's boring. It's cynical. It's everything that an anime should not be, and the fact is that no matter what kind of show you're looking for, you need to look elsewhere. There are better options.
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