One-shot OVAs don’t get much attention these days, even when they’re from a (suddenly quite busy) legendary studio like Sunrise. Koi Sento doesn’t try and do anything fancy with the story in its 25 minutes, but it’s built around a clever conceit and has some terrific visuals to back it up.
I was in Nara in 2010, which happened to be the 1300th anniversary of its establishment of the capitol, as well as the impetus for this OAV. The setting is an anniversary here, too – only this time it’s the 2000th in 2710. Some things haven’t changed since I was there, apparently – the city is still full of souvenir shops, Buddha statues, and overrun with schoolkids and deer. The premise is pretty straightforward – some sort of genetic engineering has taken place, creating (among others, I assume) a girl named Toto for the express purpose of some sort of entertainment (she appears to be a kind of city spokeswoman-mascot). Behind this are a crone straight out of “Spirited Away” and her two idiot sons. Things go amiss when Toto becomes rebellious and escapes.
Into this mess steps schoolboy Shinichi, on a class trip and desperately hoping to connect with a girl. You always have run-ins with deer in Nara, but his is special – it happens to be a magical white deer voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi (Inuyasha, Enma-Kun). He carries Shinichi into Toto’s life and there’s lots of fleeing, blushing and some cool combat between Buddha statues, and a happy ending.
Director Shuhei Morita can’t do much with all that in 25 minutes, and doesn’t really try – he plays it very straight and simple with the story and lets the visuals stand out. The animation is superb, and the vision of a 28th Century Nara is quite imaginative. I very much enjoyed seeing the Great Buddha stand up and start kicking ass – having seen it in person, you get a sense of how terrifying that would be – though I hated to see the Buddha Hall (I wonder if it’s still the world’s largest wooden building in 2710?) trashed. I especially enjoyed the ED production number, which packed the sort of unassuming cuteness that carried through the entire plot.
Also of note is the casting, not just the aforementioned Kappei-san but also Kensho Ono as Shinichi. He was wonderful in 2007’s Ghost Hound as Tarou, but has been sadly absent from major roles since. Toto is played by Minako Kotobuki, a busy seiyuu of recent years making an impression as Blue Rose in Tiger & Bunny.