Friday, 6 April 2012

Natsuiro Kiseki - Episode 1

Four young girls with a shared dream believe they've found a rock at their local shrine that will allow them to achieve that shared ambition - if only life was that simple, eh?

Of course, in reality times change, people grow up and following your dreams can become tougher.  It's this kind of harsh reality that strikes two of the main characters as Natsuiro Kiseki (or "A Summer Coloured Miracle", if you prefer) begins.  While Natsumi Aizawa seems to have found her passion as a dedicated member of her middle school's tennis club, her partner in this sport and best friend Saki Mizukoshi seems to have lost her desire for the game and the drive to reach the national finals, seeking to avoid her friend and skip practice whenever possible.  Needless to say, the friction this generates soon reaches a head, with the two girls having a major falling out over the issue.

While their mutual friends Yuka and Rinko seem relatively unperturbed by this development - after all, friends fall out all the time when they're just kids - it soon becomes clear that there's more to Saki's behaviour than meets the eye, as the last day of school before the summer holidays brings with it the announcement that she's leaving the school as her family moves to Tokyo.  Although this might seem like a good time to put their current differences between them, the news serves only to further erect a barrier between them.  Ultimately, it's left to Yuka to do the best she can to reinvigorate the two girl's friendship, bringing the whole group back to the rock around which their previous promises were based.  Just as it seems as if the entire group's relationship are about to disintegrate entirely, a most unlikely wish is answered for the four girls...

Trying to ignore its utterly stupid "miracle" to finish this first episode (which takes our regular slice of life drama, glues it to our suspension of disbelief and then shatters it with a big hammer), this first episode of Natsuiro Kiseki was pretty much the epitome of "okay".  With four stereotypical characters, an equally predictable promise between them and an uninspired setting, this opener gives the impression of a by the numbers series designed to sell its voice actresses rather than do anything particularly interesting in terms of story or character development.  Perhaps the biggest issue with this first instalment is that it throws us straight into the show's drama without first building up the relationship between its four girls (and with the viewer for that matter) - say what you like about K-ON and its ilk, but at least it understands that we have to see the friendships between characters exhibited and developed before setting any cats amongst the proverbial pigeons.  Instead, Natsuiro Kiseki throws us straight into the drama, and as a result it doesn't really work because we haven't had any time to care about the characters or their relationships to one another, or indeed for their dreams and ambitions.  I get the feeling that the series doesn't care about such things however, provided we all pick our favourite character archetype and buy all the CDs and merchandise.

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