Given that my only exposure to this mythology – which includes the earlier manga/anime Suzuka, set in the same universe – is the two-episode OVA from Tatsunoko, the way the first two episodes of Gonzo’s anime were presented is quite off. Now, when I say “only” that doesn’t include the mountain of complaints from angry fans of the series, which have proved more entertaining on their own than many an anime itself. But that’s a different thing, and it seems an odd choice not just to distill many volumes of manga into one flashback episode, but to run it after one set in the present.
My big concern – based strictly on my own intuition – is that by depriving the events in Tokyo from all the angst that led up to them, Gonzo will make it hard for new viewers to have emotional buy-in to what’s happening now. I didn’t have a powerful reaction to the OVA but I do remember liking Kanzaki Nanami (Takao Yuki) better than the female lead, Eba Yuzuki (Nakajima Megumi). I fully realize that with Kimi no Iru Machi – especially where the TV series begins – that’s like being asked your favorite flavor of ice cream and saying “The Empire Strikes Back”. Not only is she seemingly irrelevant to the current drama but frankly, it was obvious even to me that she was never in the game even in Hiroshima. But for whatever reason Eba never did much for me – which makes her presence in Tokyo a bit of a problem, as at this point the story seems to boil down to a triangle featuring she and Asuka (with Haruto of course the third corner).
Fundamentally the question for me as a viewer is whether I’ll care enough to make this adaptation really engaging emotionally. In its own terms it’s certainly not bad so far, though Yamauchi Shigeyasu’s in-your-face directing style takes a bit of getting used to. In reality I think he’s a good choice because while the character designs and some of the art are lovely, it’s pretty obvious that this series is being done on the cheap (hardly a surprise, with Gonzo in their current limbo – though Lawson clearly pitched in with a contribution). At the very least Yamauchi is going to bring a distinct sense of style to A Town Where You Live, which can be a Godsend for a low-budget series.
I think it’s a long shot I’ll blog this show (airing on the weekend doesn’t help this season), but I am going to watch for at least a few more eps to see if I can get a handle on the legendary rage – and if it really grabs me I might even keep blogging it. Fact is, true, unabashed romantic dramas are relatively rare in anime these days, for all the noise they make – we certainly get interesting romance in series’ like Chihayafuru, but not that many shows where the romance is the whole point. And overtly shounen romances (not silly romantic comedies) are even more rare. There are big unanswered questions here, many stemming from the as-yet unannounced length of this adaptation – no one really seems to know what Gonzo’s ultimate plans for Kimi no Iru Machi. But while I haven’t exactly been entranced by the first two episodes, they’re good enough to keep me trying to get a feel for what all the fuss is about.