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Bateszi Anime Blog

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Love will tear us apart

Earlier this year, I made an agreement with Owen of Cruel Angel Theses. I promised I’d try to watch True Tears if he would step-up to one of my recent favorites too; none other than Shigurui. True to form, Owen came through on his side of the agreement almost instantly, and here I am, many months later, still lagging behind. So, it’s now or never, and about time I made good on my promise.

True Tears.

I liked it. A lot.

It’s regrettable that, ostensibly, True Tears doesn’t look particularly special; rather, it has all the hallmarks of just another generic harem anime. In other words, it looks like a formulaic, romantic fantasy where one boy is at the centre of this romantic tug-of-war between a group of doting girls. Of course, I know it picked up a lot of praise from the fan community, but I’m quite sensitive to the ways that many fans seem to confuse quality story-telling with quality fan-service. Was True Tears merely good harem, or good anime full-stop?

True Tears is good anime, and like all good anime, transcends its genre. Not by being flashy, or trying to do anything obviously different, but simply by exploring its cast, each episode digging a little deeper, beneath its familiar surface and into these warm, desperate people.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot, but I do want to write something about love-sick Aiko, one of the three girls secretly chasing the affection of tortured artist Shinichirō. According to the status quo, Aiko has been a friend of Shinichirō for a long time, but she has quietly fallen in-love with him. So much so, she will even hook-up with his best friend; anything to be closer to him, even if that closeness is a lie. Alas, she was always destined to fail.

Because of all that, Aiko was my favorite character. I suppose she always knew her crush would be unrequited, but that she kept on clinging to that tiny shred of hope for so long is such a hopelessly human thing to do. In lesser anime, that rejection would be the last we see of her, as a broken, weeping heart, but as the series moves on, we see her recover some self-confidence.

Her life goes on, and her love that once seemed so vital just fades away. It’s a love story and a study of love itself, the ways that such a feeling can destroy people, suffocate them, and hurt them. These characters are literally battered and bruised by their feelings. You can almost hear the echoes of Joy Division.

“When love, love will tear us apart again.”

Thinking back to a dramatic crescendo or two, True Tears does often twist like a slightly cliche, soapy love story, but this existential willingness to look beyond superficial emotion, to find a sad, warm reason behind all the pain, lies and deceit of normal people, rapidly elevates its sense of poignancy and importance. This is a thoughtful, serious and compelling drama, and much better than expected.

Comments

IcyStorm says:

I hoped to say something intelligent in response to this, but all I have to say is

NOE MOE NOE MOE NOE MOE

Ivy says:

Wow so…is this like your first foray into a harem/game-anime adaptation? Since you seem to avoid them like the plague. Its such a great story with great rich characters. Its true I was attracted to Aiko too, she seemed to be so helplessly attracted to Shinchiro it was heartbreaking, I could see it from a mile away that he’d turn her down. Its not necessarily a way of saying it is predictable, far from, just that its whats meant to happen its what the writer wants us to think. I thought the art and animation helped this show a lot. It would’ve looked tepid and just down right horrendous with the usual big eyes moe designs I’ve come to hate. Its animated beautifully too, with subtle movements of the hair, the hands, the legs its all their. It feels natural and organic in the right ways, most of all its humane hits home a little too many times. Shows how talented and experienced the director and writers are. The music was fantastic too, accompanying each scene memorably never feeling obtrusive. The characters are the real stars of course, their feeling of desperation and love was just spot-on never going overboard. A step up from the cliches we see in harem shows. More of this please! Hey now that you’ve watched True tears maybe you can experiment more? Heres hoping.

Owen S says:

“He gazed down at the title screen. For years, it had taken him to learn what sort of smile was hidden beneath the oversized eyes. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two moe-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved harem anime.”

Backhanded quote aside, I’m glad we came to this from the earlier impasse. (: Here’s to more glorious anime misunderstandings of the sort! Although I doubt that there’s going to be much in this vein for some time to come, ef‘s probably the next natural choice for you–it’s as harem as true tears is, after all.

Anonymous says:

I haven seen the show, but I look forward to the DVDÅ›.

Martin says:

@Icystorm: you couldn’t resist after all, could you? :P

@Ivy: yes. It’s late and I need sleep badly so I’ll just agree with you and leave it there for now.

@Owen: I see what you did there (Orwell FTW). I will however continue to protest that this isn’t a harem show at all. At least, I never thought of it as one. And I’ll continue to bang my head against the wall about it until someone agrees with me (or I succumb to concussion, whichever happens first).

@Bateszi: it’s too late at night for me to put anything in-depth together but suffice to say I’m glad you venture out of your comfort zone paid off. If you hated it there would still be the undeniable “well, at least I tried…” but if you got more out of it than that, excellent. Clannad After-story perhaps? Just kidding!

Owen S says:

Originally Posted By Martin
I will however continue to protest that this isn’t a harem show at all. At least, I never thought of it as one. And I’ll continue to bang my head against the wall about it until someone agrees with me (or I succumb to concussion, whichever happens first).

Definitely agree with you on that one (but I had to make the quote fit and sound catchy!). This was harem like School Days was slice-of-life. Amusingly enough, I’ve made the same short-sighted mistake with ef, calling it “harem” prematurely only to have a whole lot of brickbats thrown at me by those who had played the game.

okiu14 says:

Well, I’ll give it a try… at least a couple of episodes. I’ve been surprised in the past and even watched things that I have a hard time admitting that I’ve watched (thought I don’t think True Tears will be something I’m embarrassed to say I’ve seen, not like Sumomomo). Thanks for the recommendation.

blissmo says:

I’m with IcyStorm. Must you always sound so incredulously smart?

Noe was my favourite even though she seemed a little selfish at times. Actually, I really wanted her to hook up with her brother whats-his-face. But, no, the siblings couldn”t be together ;____;

Kabitzin says:

Who the heck is that bunny in the first picture? Snow-road-crash bunny? Aiko got totally screwed in terms of screentime and character development, but it was great entertainment watching her twist in the wind. It was also good to see how winning isn’t always about getting what you think you want. Glad you enjoyed the series, even without getting swept up in rampant peer-speculation and shipper-wars.

maya says:

“I suppose she always knew her crush would be unrequited, but that she kept on clinging to that tiny shred of hope for so long is such a hopelessly human thing to do.”

Oh Bateszi, how true that statement is…and it’s heartbreaking just reading it. I just love how eloquently you can express your thoughts. When I read the synopsis, I assumed it would be something I really wouldn’t enjoy watching, but you’ve convinced me otherwise. I will definitely add this to my watching queue. Thank you. :)

TheBigN says:

“It was also good to see how winning isn’t always about getting what you think you want.”

I think that was the heart of the matter. There are different ways to win, and it’s all in how you look at it.

bateszi says:

@IcyStorm: Someone had to say it.

@Ivy: I was burnt pretty badly by ‘sola’ last year, and that pretty much sapped all my energy for the harem genre…. until now.

I might try ‘ef – a tale of memories’ next, but, as ever, I’m just a bit tentative and trying to pick my next move carefully. Besides, there is nearly a dozen new autumn anime for me to check out first.

@Owen: Don’t get carried away :) I enjoyed one harem anime, but that doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly love all harem anime. I’m more interested in quality than anything else and, to that end, the next on my list of ‘intentionally ignored fan favourites’ is probably ‘ef’.
Admittedly, I’m still a long way from something like Clannad or Kanon, where I’m (still) really struggling with the Kyoto-style character design. Bizarrely, the designs in True Tears reminded me a lot of Mohiro Kitoh’s style; if only Bokurano was animated with as much love and care.

And finally, thanks for pestering me into watching this. I wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. I might take a look at Simoun too, since it’s from the same director and shares a similarly good reputation amongst fans.

@Anonymous: Good for you, especially as Bandai have announced it’ll be released as a boxed set.

@Martin: Heh. I’m still not up the enthusiasm levels required for me to try to watch Clannad or Kanon, but I might try Lucky Star, since I’ve got a thing for otaku comedy and it doesn’t look quite as archetypal moe as the aforementioned tear-jerkers.

@okiu14: I hope you’ll see something in it. If nothing else, its cliffhanging, revelatory nature will see your curiosity piqued by the drama.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve got a few more live action j-movies lined up for watching over the coming weeks and I’m hopeful of finding something worth posting about on this blog. ‘All about Lily Chou-Chou’ is still in my thoughts, and just yesterday, whilst listening to the Macross Frontier OST2, I was thinking about how Yoko Kanno seems connected to “the ether” in the same way that Lily Chou-Chou was in the film. Her music has such an ambient, ethereal quality.

@blissmo: This review did take me 4 days to write, so I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading it :) By the way, welcome back to the blogosphere, and do tell us next time you’re thinking about dropping off the face of the Earth! You would save me trawling your blog every few days for any sign of life :)

@Kabitzin: I must admit I had a lot of fun just observing the blogosphere during its ‘true tears’ phase, even if the sheer wave of opinion did scare me away for a while!

As for the rabbit… No idea, but judging from its angle of sight, may be it’s her brother in an alternate life? Her sick, sick brother.

@maya: Thanks for saying that. When your comment rolled in this morning, I was getting ready for another hard day at work and you really brightened my spirits.

@TheBigN: I think there are a few ways of looking at True Tears; there’s an optimistic way, and a not-so-optimistic, slightly melancholy way. I mean, just as I was finishing up this review yesterday, I realized that only Aiko finished the series feeling genuinely happy. All of them were deeply wounded by their misdirected feelings of love and seemed to lose a sense of innocent naivety. Anyway, I suppose that’s kind of what I was getting at with this post title.

blissmo says:

@bateszi: Haha, I promise it won’t happen again *plans out another ruse*

kauldron26 says:

hey man! interesting post about ur foray into the genre… still not a big fan of the whole harem thing tho… then again i have been out of anime for like9 months until i just saw code geass R2 yesterday! holy. shit. incredible. code geass is a show that has to be marathoned for utter enjoyment. damn that was just great hands down one of the best endings ever. it reminded me of why i loved anime in the first place… originality, storytelling and profound. im still awed by that insane/beautiful ending. 9.5/10

hope all’s well!

foxy12 says:

aiko was my favourite charcter too ..she rlly is a tragic character u know .ppl say she’s the one with the least problems but i think she’s the most damaged one among the girls ..she loved shin with passion and was willing to do anything for him (even if it means given herself)she suffered as much as heromie rlly because she loved him the most .no one knew how she felt..she kept all this to herself for so long without telling anybody (how did she manage to do it )heromie had tomoyo ,noe had her brother and shen had nabuse but who did she have?no parents and not much friends(girls)she seem so lonely ..nabuse and shen don’t visit her everyday do they ?she was living in constant fear and regret never telling shen the truth a bout her feelings and going with nabuse and was fighting many conflicts with her feelings.(shouid i stay with nabuse or go for shin) but she doesn’t wanna hurt nabuse and doesn’t wanna lose her friendship with shin..it’s her fate and destiny to lost it all(such a sad character)she knew it was coming all along but she was running a way from her fate (i pity her so much )she scrifised so much for shin and wasted haif her life going after him(when she kissed him she seem’s very passionate it’s like she wanted him so desperatly)but she cried because she was losing him (her best friend) and beacuse she was still nabuse girlfriend.she did the worst for him (she loves him this much?)she hurted,harmed and ruined herself so much (she offered herself to him)where’s her diginity ?
even if aiko got together with shin she’d still not be happy(she’s not happy,never was and never will be happy becausce it’s a gainst her fate) and even if she got together with nabuse she’d still feel guilty aiko’s love for shin is almost forbidden because of the many obstacles they have:
1-he loves heromie
2-the brother/sister relationship they have and that he see’s her as a childhood friend.
3-he’s datin noe and she’s datin nabuse
4-the friendship between him and nabuse(which is very strong)
aiko built those obstacles herself (she built so many walls between her and shin)and they kept on growin(tellin him he’s like a brother to her,helpin him undestand heromie,datin nabuse)she was tryin desperatly to forget all a bout shin only to realize that she’s even fallin for him more than before(i don’t think she kept nabuse all this time only to use him)she wanted to give him a chance .maybe because she never expect to get anywhere near shin(she wanted to give up on shin)she doesnt wanna hurt nabuse but she’s hurtin him and herself and seem to hate herself for it that why she asked him to let go of her (she wanted him to hurt her and break up with her first).how can she remove all these obstacles by herself?why shouid she struggle through with it?why go for someone who won’t/will never like her?if she continued to do this she couid end up losin her mind rlly and go school days on him.someting hurts so bad that it doesn’t matter anymore ..her situation was much more harder than heromie and noe ..ppl who say she’s unimportant don’t seem to focus on her story rlly ..aiko story was a very touching and emotional one(despite the lack of screen time)i was never a fan of her and shen anyway i like her and nabuse (i want her to find happiness with nabuse)..she doesn’t have to effct the main plot (what else can she do) but everything that happend to aiko was pretty real ..the girl who lost everything..aiko left a huge impact on me (she made cry)she’s not a bad person ..just a girl who’s love sick ,damaged and is full of sadness

Johny says:

I finished watching True Tears some time ago and while it wasn’t bad, it didn’t really change my approach towards romance anime. I still find the overwhelming drama to be tiresome after a while instead of touching.
Back to the anime. I liked how True Tears focused on character development instead of cheap fanservice. I could see the cast learn more and more about themselves. It was great seeing how Shinichiro was practically writing about himself in his picture book. Aiko’s story was also great, how she finally discovered true love standing right in front after she was pursuing something unattainable for years.
Now for the worse part. As far as I am concerned, Shinichiro, the “tormented artist” type, is a blithering idiot. Somehow that seems to be the case in almost every harem anime – the main character’s either a complete fool or a guy who – by mastering the “incredibly difficult art” of being kind – unintentionally makes every girl fall in love with him. Other than that some plot twists were just as shocking as hearing a dog bark.
Interestingly though, the thing I found most fascinating about True Tears was the culture. The festival with the incredible dance is one thing, but two situations caught my attention as being weird in the eyes of someone from the west. Both relate to Hiromi and Yun’s bike accident:
1)Shinichiro, along with Noe, find the place of the crash. Shin then proceeds to give Hiromi a hug, which causes Noe to break up with him later. Why? I mean Hiromi is like family to Shin, so wasn’t it a natural thing for Shin to do after he found out she’s ok?
2)Hiromi got suspended in school after the accident and the whole thing was a scandal. I’m not sure what would happen in Europe/US, but in Poland the school wouldn’t interfere in the slightest and noone would make such a fuss about it. This would be a case for the parents (and the police) to resolve…
Anyway, things like these make me enjoy watching anime more – I’m always keen on discovering the differences in culture and upbringing here and Japan.

Rincewind says:

Ah, true tears, I liked so much this anime. And hated pretty much the ending. Not only he doesnt choose Noe, but the ending feels rushed and unpolished.
This needs an OVA, like the new Kiminozo OVAS. Or a game, so one can choose. I remember that after watching Kimizono I get the game only to get my happy Haruka ending. :D

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