Da Capo (DC) belongs to the better side of harems, since is tries to be more than just fan service or simplistic characters in weird relationships. It is otherwise not really fully exploiting its own merits and ends up feeling bad half the time. And with Key works looming frightfully over its head, it is not even alone in the higher ranks of the genre; so I’m not going to go easy on it. DC is also based on a long series of hentai games but the adaptation is of course taking out the naughty parts and makes the whole thing feel like a joke. It is a usual treatment to the genre; those who want more must play the games and thus fill the industry’s pockets.
Let’s start with the story, which is the thing most of its kind hardly bothers with. The premise is indeed very catchy as it involves an island of evergreen sakura trees, where wishes are granted. Most characters in the story also have a supernatural element to themselves, like the protagonist being able to see other peoples’ dreams, a girl reading thoughts of others, a loli-looking high-schooler, an android, a cat maid, and so on. The story makes sure it use all that as part of an overall plot and doesn’t simply have them there as a useless dressing and sexual fetishes, thus it is nice to see such touches in an otherwise predictable genre. The worldview of the setting is like that of dreams, where people have desires and problems that need to be resolved in order to move ahead in life and the magic of the island helps them in their struggle. Most of such problems have to do with unusual traits that others must accept or with you having to find a way to use them properly. All these elements are what effectively make the show to stand out from all others of its kind.
Unfortunately, they are as I said not fully exploited and a show that could be heavy on character drama is rather left to be just a typical light love comedy with some weird stuff going on in it. Almost half of the episodes are practically fillers, with many more being recaps or simply introduction to a secondary character. Heck, one third of all episodes are spin-off scenes about singing and other similar nonsense. Even the characters themselves are not all looked into their issues as much as some others, effectively having a cast of numerous side characters and a few major ones, who also take part in the main romantic conflict. For a harem, only two girls and a guy feels a bit poor, considering there is a dozen of them present. And from all possible pairings, why are all the major ones only incest-related? Shouldn’t they be the hardest? And as usual, we are just left to assume all girls fall for the same blunt archetype, when he is nothing special as usual. Well thanks for ruining the otherwise catchy idea.
As much as I liked the setting and the character supernatural traits, I just can’t overlook how most were hardly given the attention they needed to become great in my mind. The ending is another issue to consider, as it feels way too weird for its own good, as if it tried to be special by having a NGE/Clannad ending, when in reality it wasted more than half its duration in aimless comedy and then threw in something weird just to win the last impressions. That is why I consider both story and characters to be half-good.
Art and Sound are very good for this type of show. Many praise its details and soundtrack but I personally wasn’t amazed with all that. There are way too many scenes where the characters are poorly drawn and the animation is just a few frames of blobs going back and forth. And the music, as dreamy as it was, is not something memorable for me. Voice acting is quite good in terms of passion but squeaky voices were never my thing. You can say I even disliked all those silly accessories many girls wear that move as if they have a will of their own. Seriously, if one watches Clannad this will feel bad in overall. But I will be lenient on them and still give a thumbs up for the dreamy setting of the sakura trees and the dialogues around several issues which are not always about breast sizes and incest romances.
Is it a great anime? Not for me. It could have been if it focused a lot more on those funky elements with the magic and the character dramas and had more girls going bold with the main male.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 2/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 1/4
And now some few extra info about the later seasons, as I won’t bother making more reviews about DC. They just rehash the same idea and are worse all the way.
In Da Capo 1 season 2, some well established characters from this season are removed and replaced with far less interesting ones and acting as if all the resolution of the first finale never happened. And the setting is no longer so dreamy or magical, while the plot is mostly fillers and the conclusion just typical and uneventful.
In Da Capo 2 seasons 1 and 2, the series returns to the same concept of the magical sakura trees, as the scriptwriters probably realized that this was what made the original good. The cast is entirely different, as the story happens many decades in the future and again involves the granting of wishes. Unfortunately, by now the formula felt too tired and the new cast was far less interesting and far more sexualized. Although the ending tried to be powerful and WTF once more, it turns out the same trick doesn’t work equally as well as the first time. This anime is basically a more sexual and dark rehash of the first series, with the first season being considered the worst of all installments and the second being the best.
In Da Capo If, it is just a small OVA show, in an alternative setting where the lead male of Da Capo 1 chooses a different girl. Well, it’s part of the new trend of resetting the story and having the lead choosing someone else, just to please the fans of a different girl. It is not much of a story other than fan pleasing.