What do you do when the girl you like moves in with your family but becomes even more cold and distant than ever? Or when you meet a strange girl at school who seems to take a perverse interest in treating you like one of her chickens? How about when your best friend’s girlfriend seems less interested in him than she does in you? As it turns out, for Nakagami Shinichiro, all of the above apply, and when that’s only the beginning of the tangle of feelings that surrounds you, it’s all going to take a bit of working out. Can Shinichiro and those around him find true happiness, or will it all end in tears?
Although I didn’t follow True Tears as it was airing, the myriad words of praise heaped on it by various bloggers during the course of its run was enough to ensure that once it had finished airing, I was ready and willing to sample the series in its entirety. And indeed, despite fears that I somehow wouldn’t get all the hype, it turned out to be an eminently satisfying experience.
On the face of it, True Tears sounds more akin to a soap opera, packed in with more slightly unrealistic drama than any thirteen episode series should be able to take, but the brilliance of the series lies in the way it handles and presents that content. The interweaving of emotions, the subtle cues that infer rather than tell outright, the dialogue and interaction between characters- all of these are so absorbing that we come to care about the situation instead of merely dismissing it. It’s almost impossible to go into further detail without discussing specific scenes and the massive spoilers they bring, but suffice to say that this is no mere superficial anime experience- each and every episode brings with it the desire to watch the characters and their relationships grow and evolve, no matter what the end result might be.
Of course, the key to making all this work is the characters, and whilst they may seem like a bunch of standard types- “male lead”, “childhood friend”, “strange girl”, “evil mother” and so forth- as the series progresses, they become more developed and multi-layered. Again, presentation is everything- True Tears isn’t all about pouring extremes and strange anime situations into every moment, instead we have a range of feelings from the subtly and understated to the more emotionally charged. The end result is that we care about the characters and their decisions instead of just mindlessly watching them follow predictable patterns.
Content aside, the visuals have an equally important role in True Tears, with the crisp and attractive animation helping to establish the perfect atmosphere- everything from the snow and the setting sun to a half-knitted jumper or Jibeta the chicken pecking at seeds is immediately striking and memorable, carrying with it the meaning and emotion of a scene. The character designs are equally worthy despite their relative simplicity; and indeed, the same can be said of the series’ music.
Immaculately presented and perfectly executed, True Tears is an absorbing tale that draws you from the start and takes you on a journey that will remain memorable even as your recollection of other series fades away. Forget all the chaff, the mediocre romance and lacklustre eroge adaptations- this is the real deal.