Excuse me while I get sentimental for a moment. The first Eroge I ever played was called Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka which was created by a game studio called Feng. I decided to play it after watching the anime adaptation of it that had just been released. Like many eroge, it didn’t make for the most accurate/exciting anime equivalent, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and it has since been one of my personal “Pet favorites”. Here we have Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, a series that was a game made by the same company, and was also made into an anime.
I’m going to do two things here that I don’t usually do with my reviews.
1. I’m going to add some side-notes detailing the faults, cliches and highlights of the harem genre, and give notes on what a good harem does, and what a bad harem does.
2. Accompanying the Anime screenshots will be Event CG from the original Dating sim. These are to show you the transition in visual style from stills into animation, and also because they are the visual equivalent of rainbow coloured orgasms. (And by that I mean they’re pretty).
Kazuma and his younger brother Ayumu move to their childhood town, a quiet, scenic village nestled in the gorgeous Japanese countryside. While taking a stroll through the woods Kazuma bumps into Ui, and accidentally steals a kiss from her. Off on the wrong foot Kazuma begins his new life as a transfer student only to find he shares a class with Ui, as well as some of her inquisitive countryside friends. Soon the young lad is fitting right in at school, and becomes the center of a largely female group for friends. Affections rise and relationships build before Kazuma decides on the girl that he wants to be with, out of a devilishly cute option of no less than 6 blushing beauties.
Setup is important to Eroge story’s, and Anime adaptations are no different. You don’t need the most unique/interesting set up to make a good harem, you just have to structure it well, make sure everything flows, and let the events take their course.
It’s a fairly predictable story with the girls all showing some affection for Kazuma in some way or another. Friendships are made between the girls, pacing is smooth and after all the females are introduced, the show falls into a nice little niche with the various outings you’d expect. It’s fun to watch other people have fun, and Hoshizora capitalizes on this well, showing the cheery bunch enjoying events like karaoke and a trip to the beach. The themes of romance and friendship are well presented, and while they don’t hold much weight behind them, there’s a nice ending that ties most of the strings together.
A harem-style eroge is always structured so that once the player has chosen his girl, the story then focuses on them, and the other girls become irrelevant. Typically anime adaptations can’t follow this same approach though, so they instead take for a more mixed event ideal, with each of the leading female roles getting their moments of interest. The most important thing an anime based on an eroge needs to do though is GIVE EACH GIRL AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF FOCUS/SCREEN TIME. However, lots of times anime adaptations get lazy, and right from the beginning only one or two girls from the harem are given significant focus, leaving the rest out of the limelight for good. Unfortunately, Hoshizora does this, and it’s a disappointing cliche that only serves to anger fans of the original games, and waste possible potential of other characters. Every girl deserves their place in harem anime. (series that pulled this off well include Shuffle!, Green Green and Yosuga no Sora.)
Characters are cute and likeable with some neat personalities thrown into the mix. There’s some obvious use of character archetypes throughout, from the gluttonous Ui to the motherly Tsumugi, but the contrast between the girls is easy to understand and enjoy. The male lead is about as expressive as and original as a brick though, and while the interactions between the girls can be quite charming, the general romantic mood suffers from the male leads stiff, awkward transitions. There’s also something undeniably campy with the whole cast, and while it can be nice to watch them all have fun, it occasionally feels like a forced-smile “HAHA WE’RE LAUGHING AND HAVING FUN” sort of situation, like a 70′s sit-com. There’s definitely at least one character for everyone to like, but they aren’t exactly the most human, or original bunch of personalities.
The male protagonist in an eroge is usually taken on by the player themselves, and thus as to avoid confliction the male lead’s character is generally extremely slate/uninteresting. This faceless, boring stencil for the male lead is often carried over onto anime adaptations but, that’s OK. People typically don’t watch Harem series for the male characters. As long as the girls are varied, attractive and interesting, all is well, and this is why the aforementioned equal amount of focus is so important. The likes of character cliches is a subjective part of the matter, and whether a person wants the same old character set-ups a million times over is for the individual to decide. Archetypes like “Childhood friend”, “Younger sister”, “Older school mate” or “Shy quiet girl” are all broadly used cliches in both eroge and Anime, and whether the story uses them or not is irrelevant as long as the characters themselves are interesting/enjoyable. (Fun fact, 4/5 harem-based eroge will have a Loli character to cater to the various audiences of eroge fans. The Loli character’s flag is typically the most difficult to achieve, and this is in fact an intentional device used by game studios, in a government pressured effort to deter players from pedophile tendencies.)
Hoshizora’s stance on the interaction between the various female roles is somewhat isolated. While each girl shines the most when she’s alone with Kazuma, there are a few cute, is shallow relationships between the lot. Ibuki’s friendship with Ui makes for a decisive and occasionally surprising twist in events, and the bumbling Androphobic Madoka quickly works her way into the friends circle, showing some strangely deep senses of purpose on occasion.
Again, if the girls are interesting and varied, all should be well, but some eroge like to take it a step further and develop friendships between the girls themselves. This can result in some rewarding situations. In the end though, the Guy really should end up with only one of the girls, and while the mutual lovers set up is both powerful and fascinating, anime adaptations occasionally forfeit this ending for a more simplistic, less satisfying ending, where the Male lead doesn’t make a definitive choice, and the group just end up all as “Friends”. I dub this the “Here we go again scooby-doo” ending because it feels childish and predictable in its form. Thankfully Hoshizora doesn’t make this mistake, but the inequality of focus on the female cast strips the conclusion of much of its potential tension/drama.
If you ever have trouble deciding which one of the girls you want to choose as your one and only, then the Harem has succeeded in making the characters likeable to you, and the resulting affiliation has left you in an intriguing and highly personal experience.
As you can see the art style is gorgeous, with vibrant colour and stunning character designs. Everything is pretty as a picture, and the shows charming countryside setting feels very pleasant and relaxing in its green, rural tones. Animation is of a high quality, and some of the set moments make great use of interesting lighting and camera angles. This is the sort of series were everything looks like a rainbow, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Audio is not quite as impressive, with some generic tunes and forgettable theme songs for the shows opening/ending. Voice acting is well done though with sweetly-sung dialogue highlighting the cute and varied performances. Ui sounds exceptionally chipmunkish however, so be warned if you’re not a fan of the typical squeaky sounding anime girl.
So now I hope you might understand a bit more about how Eroge works in its process of Anime adaptation. Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi is a good demonstration of some of the best, and worst aspects of the genre. Its cute and fun but lacks the depth and intensity that would have been offered by its more personal, inventive visual novel counterpart. As an anime it comes off about average with its generally weak themes and predictable plot line. But with some nice characters, gorgeous visuals and charming little scenarios it’s not really a bad watch. If you enjoy the harem genre then there’s a lot to like about it, but it’s far from the perfect adaptation from an eroge that people would expect. Eroge often lose a lot of oomph when they make their transitions into anime, and while it can be a bit disappointing, its really the journey rather than the destination that makes the harem experience what it is.
There’s not a sparkling star at the end of this bridge, but its definitely a pretty sight none the less.
Alright I’ve geeked out for long enough. If you read all that give yourself an award.
Written by ChatterboxZombie.