On an island where cherry blossoms bloom all year-round, love seems to always be in the air. It is in this magical atmosphere that Asakura Junnichi lives, and when he dreams he travels to the dreams of others, rather than have any of his own. In everyday high-school life, he is accompanied by his adopted sister, Nemu, and an eclectic group of friends including a j-pop idol-in-the-making and a girl they knew from their childhood. Promises, and magic, and love -- Junnichi seems to dream about every girl he knows, but which girl dreams of him...?
StoryImagine, if you will, an end to conflict, a world of peace, a universe where seldom a cross word is exchanged, much less an utterance of aggression. Truly, this would be a wonderful place to live - but watching it for 26 episodes? My, does it ever drag. Da Capo crawls unapologetically from the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of harem anime. In this school, a generic male lead is pursued by a series of improbably acquiescent girls, who differ from one anime to the next solely by virtue of having their hairstyles and personality hooks randomly reassigned. As a rule, the next step is to introduce a novel setting, to plot an interesting story or perhaps to thread the characters into a comedic tapestry. Unhappily, Da Capo doesn't seem to have read that far into the instructions booklet and dismisses every one of these suggestions, instead including... nothing. Going back to my first paragraph, this series fails principally because it is entirely free of any kind of friction. There is no adverse force to challenge the characters; there is no conflict between the characters themselves; there's not even a personality clash worthy of note. It just feels like one ceaseless bombardment of fake smiles, like an eternity spent in Starbucks. Supposedly, more than one of the girls is attracted to the unpardonably prosaic character of Junnichi Asakura, yet - aside from a handful of trivial scuffles between the two primary love interests - none of them seem to care enough to do something about it. In fact, Junnichi could have saved everyone a lot of time by just drawing up a rota and leaving it at that. At only two points in the series does Da Capo threaten to excite in any way, shape or form, and these embers of drama are abruptly extinguished. What seem to be a dark ploy and compelling character shift turn out to be an accident and a misunderstanding, and the series returns to its irenic, monotony. Perhaps conscious of the mass-boredom being left in their wake, the later episodes finish early to be augmented by a five-minute "side episode". It is a small mercy, however, as these comprise a few sequences of unfunny nothingness and dull arthouse surrealism, two moments of mild and stylish intrigue and then one final burst of soul-destroying pointlessness. As was the case with the body of the show, a single good idea is diluted with blandness, and then struck down before it dares to captivate the viewer. AnimationThe animation is passable, but far from spectacular. The lighting is done well, and nothing is truly awry. However, while some of the up-close animation is pleasing, there is no outstanding attention to detail. Indeed, there is nothing at all that is striking or memorable, aside from some face-distorting conceits which are as unfunny as they are overused. Certainly there is nothing in the animation which compensated me adequately for the way in which the story numbed my mind.Sound The soundtrack is actively annoying. Each "funny" scene flaunts one of a selection of irritating, whimsical ditties as though they are some kind of license to amuse. Instead, they make the scene's failure to gratify all the more obvious and maddening. As for the main themes, whoever wrote the opening and ending tunes somehow managed to marry generic with irritating, giving rise to the pair of cacophonous lovechildren which bookend each sorry episode. Most of the voices are tolerable but, predictably, those that remain in the consciousness are the truly annoying ones. It's not enough that Moe Mizukoshi falls asleep every few seconds; apparently her spaced-out nature must also be emphasised vocally, by stretching out every blasted sentence to the point where fingernails on a blackboard would be blessed relief. Although she is the worst offender, other characters also manage to do this. They repeatedly use their voices to reflect their superficial personalities and drive them home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.CharactersUninspiring. Unoriginal. Uncommonly nauseating. These are just some of the "un-" adjectives which describe the majority of the show's cast. In a romance anime - or a romance anything, for that matter - it's pivotal that the characters be interesting and worthy of sympathy. In Da Capo's case, half of them invoke feelings of idle hatred, whilst the other half incite nothing but indifference. What little plot is offered depends quite heavily on the viewer's emotional involvement with the protagonists. You need to care about each individual in order to care about their insignificant backstories and minor plights. It's hardly a surprise that this involvement scuppered by the fact that there is no reason to care. Those last few words may sound somewhat nihilistic but those are the depths that watching this meritless dross has brought me to. OverallIn truth, there are no real redeeming features to this anime. It is simple, it is unadventurous, it is dull, and it is a black hole of humour so dense that not even light jokes can escape its pitiless pull. More than anything, though, it is entirely devoid of any element which might rouse emotions or engender the slightest hint of a confrontation. To put it simply, Da Capo digs its own grave, without anything so controversial as a whispered complaint. It then lies there, staring up with a grotesque plastic smile upon which I am only too happy to shovel dirt until the sun bakes my flesh dry.
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 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.
If you are looking for a charming, beautifully emotional harem slice of life romance anime that contains that old-school anime charm and cartoonish, expressively-animated humor that is missing in a lot of modern anime, then I highly recommend Da Capo. This anime will make you smile, but later on, will also make you cry. This anime is not without its flaws, hence my score of 7.5. Even as far as slice of life shows go, the story of Da Capo is quite uneventful. You have your dedicated fanservice and tense, "titillating" moments, but this is not an anime where "eww, you pervert!" moments happen every couple minutes. Those who prefer a more gentle, organic pacing of naughty moments will appreciate this, but those who are bored easily will find it excruciating. Despite this, the premise of Da Capo is rather interesting. A group of students live on a fictional island of Japan, where the cherry blossoms never wither. In this world, magic actually exists, and is the reason that the cherry blossoms are always in bloom, which are actually the blossoms of a giant magical sakura tree, planted there by a great magician. A handful of students find themselves in possession of their own magical ability. One can view other people's dreams. Another can read people's minds. One remains eternally young. However, while these abilities seem miraculous, the characters eventually come to suffer as their gifts eventually become their curse. The focus and strength of this anime is not "what happens in the story", per se, but rather, the meaty, nuanced and deep emotional expression of the characters, and how they express that emotion as the primary romantic direction is established and each character's relationship with each other is affected. Mix this with masterful framing and a heart-softening OST, and you have a show that leaves a deep emotional imprint on its audience. The beginning of the anime is where the majority of the fanservicey, comedic stuff happens, but once the romance plot really starts going, it's one continuous, subsuming experience that hones in on the single most important thing in a romance - the feelings of the characters. If pure, heartwrenching romance is what you're after, then this is where the simplicity of Da Capo's plot and setting becomes its strength. There is not much that distracts from the raw exhibition of love, jealousy and shame felt by the characters. Even the female characters that aren't the protag's choice get endings that leave you with either tears streaming down your face or with a tender feeling in your heart. That's what this show is about - emotion, and the emotion rarely feels forced or abrupt. Just vulnerable, tender and thoroughly satisfying. As for everything else... In addition to the actual episodes, the lovely folks at Zexcs throw in a bunch of bonus content in the form of character insert songs that feature live action music videos by the female voice actors themselves, shot in a bunch of fancy, scenic locations. That, and 5-minute long "side episodes". These range from beautiful to...pretty bad. There are also 2 entire filler episodes that are recaps and are literal time wasters. Not to mention, the ending is not exactly stellar, with the last 2 episodes feeling incredibly rushed and not quite giving a sufficient feeling of closure. This and the overall unremarkableness of the plot all contributes to my story score. The animation, though dated and therefore inconsistent in places, is still pretty dang good for a 2003 anime. There are definitely anime from this era that have much worse animation. What the animation lacks in polish and high fidelity, it makes up for in the sheer emotiveness of the characters, both in comedy and in drama, as well as some nature scenes that are just eye-meltingly beautiful. The music is arguably the best part of Da Capo. Yugo Kanno's score captures almost every aspect of romance perfectly, from having butterflies in one's stomach to elation and finally, to heartbreak, while Hikaru Nanase's lighthearted jingles do more than enough to capture the essence of the cheeky, comedic parts. This isn't even mentioning the plethora of vocal tracks, including the opening, which was parodied in legendary Kyoani slice of life anime Lucky Star. The characters, while certainly not the most sophisticated or unique, are for the most part incredibly charming. Junichi, the main protagonist, though very much your typical male protag in many ways, has enough self-awareness and wit to not be entirely clueless or uninteresting. There is a good blend of female archetypes, and a good mix of rapport and mischief. Having said that, everyone that isn't the male protag or one of the main females is generally much weaker. Junichi, unfortunately, gets much worse as early as Da Capo Second Season (but that's beyond the scope of this review). Overall, Da Capo is definitely not for everyone, even general harem anime enthusiasts. It's slow, uneventful, and a little dated. However, if you like animes that focus exclusively on emotions, then this anime is more than worth the watch, even with its obvious flaws.
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