There’s a principle in writing drama coined by Anton Chekhov called simply “Chekhov’s Gun”. It’s a straightforward idea with the spirit of it being “don’t include anything unnecessary”; a lot of anime do it anyway as either a hangover from their manga or light novel source material, as a way to entice viewers further than the first episode, or as a misguided attempt to construct a foundation for additional instalments. If that’s Chekhov’s gun, then Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy) is Chekhov’s arsenal. It’s frankly staggering how such a multitude of bits of back story and character development are shown but then never utilised again.
evil schemes so laughably ineffective that all they achieved were minor property damage
Daughter of Avalon? Nope. Silvia and Ash’s history together? Nope. Arranged marriage? Nope. Morally ambiguous teacher? Nope. The list goes on and on until by the end you could make a doily out of all of the plot threads that are left hanging. What you do get in Dragonar then is a whole lot of things you’ve seen before but forced together like ill fitting jigsaw pieces. You’ve got the precocious and pink-haired loli from Zero no Tsukaima, the improbable harem of Infinite Stratos and the throw-away fantasy leanings of too many series to name.
There’s a point about two thirds of the way through Hal (Haru) where, during a festival, two fan-bearers are just out of sync with one another during their routine. It’s obviously intentional and though a small touch, it’s indicative of this short, one hour, film as a whole: detail orientated.
Set in the near future, Hal’s plot concerns a care robot taking on the guise of a deceased person in order to help their partner overcome their all-encompassing grief at their passing. The detail then is not only in the sumptuous backgrounds and animation work by Production I.G. but also in the very subtle portrayals of the characters. So every furtive look, every motion is crafted to be as effortless and as natural as possible and to ensure that you’re never drawn out of the delicate story being told.
Please note: the remainder of this post contains very small spoilers for the film.
Just try all the keys in the bloody pendant. I don’t care whether it’s a metaphor for sex anymore or who out of the numerous girls you made the promise to when you were a toddler, this kind of tomfoolery has gone on long enough. Based on a lot of anime, Nisekoi (False Love) especially, if I ever have children I will impress upon them the perils of making promises to childhood friends because from the evidence, all it causes is trauma further down the line.
Nisekoi’s initial hook is standard “only in anime” fare: the son of a Yakuza boss, Raku, is forced to pretend he’s romantically involved with the daughter, Chitoge, of another gang boss. The two obviously fight like cats and dogs yet must maintain the facade of a couple in love lest hostilities between the two criminal enterprises escalate into a full on street war. I say “initial” hook because although that’s all covered in the first episode, the storyline the series is more interested in telling is about the promise Raku made with an unknown girl when he was younger, a girl who holds the literal key to his figurative heart / literal pendant.
I went through a very specific cycle with episodes of Golden Time: “1. What happened last episode? 2. Why am I watching this again? 3. Banri/Koukou/Mitsuo you clods, get it together. 4. Okay that wasn’t bad.” Rinse, repeat. The series has the same kind of moreish, ludicrous mentality that soap operas do, even going as far as leaving each episode on a cliffhanger regardless of how incongruous doing so is. It came as some surprise to me then that Golden Time is penned by the same author as Toradora, arguably one of the finest straight-faced campus romance series. Both have the same kind of unyielding outlook on relationships - romantic or otherwise - and a core pairing that drives the plot, yet Toradora never raised the question of its chosen medium like Golden Time does.
it’s a good idea to try and raze their relationships to the ground with some ill timed emotional savagery
Both started as light novels by Yuyuko Takemiya and both have commendable anime adaptations yet Toradora’s cast of characters - the “palmtop tiger” Taiga and the faux delinquent Ryuuji et. al. - slotted right in with standard anime archetypes. After all, we’ve had boatloads of contemporary school romance stories both before and after. Golden Time though, with it’s inner-city University setting and the amnesiac Banri Tada and lion like Koukou Kaga, is something we’ve seen very little of before and it raises the question of: why an anime?
There are innumerable possible classifications for anime series. There are ones that are unique and one-of-a-kind, ones that could never be bettered or impersonated. There are ones that are distinctive, flourishing because of their individuality. There are genre pieces that may not stand out on topic but do by embodying the best of their genre. There are derivative series that cherry pick the tropes du-jour and throw them together in the often futile hope of producing a hit. Then there’s D-Frag. A series so staunchly bereft of personality, so picked over by committee and with all its rough edges sanded down that it’s difficult to lump any kind of praise upon it beyond “it’s not terrible”.
at its best when it goes completely off the reservation
Not great, but not terrible. A pleasant mediocre. It goes laser like for the apathetic part of the brain that isn’t particularly engaged with any of the characters or events, but isn’t offended enough to discontinue watching. Its a school club love story with a light comedy scaffold with an all-too familiar one guy - multiple girls setup. The protagonist, spikey haired delinquent and chronic screamer Kenji, has been coerced into joining the “Game Development Club” in order to save it from forced disbandment; cue hijinks.