The Right Stuf International isn't only an e-tailer famous for their weekly anime sales (for more info check out Wen-Tsai's Anime Bargains section in the latest edition of Anime Talk, DVDTalk's own column devoted to all things anime. [End of shamless plug]) they also release anime on DVDs. Their latest project is a series that falls into the "cute" genre of anime, To Heart. This is one of those shows were everything is relaxed and the biggest problem facing the protagonists is if they'll get to school on time. I wouldn't want to be limited to watching only this type of program, but To Heart makes a nice change of pace after watching a lot of mecha shows.
Akari Kamigishi is a young quiet girl who generally wears her heart on her sleeve but is very kind and thoughtful. She's been friends with Hiroyuki Fujita ever since they were in kindergarten. One day early in the year she dropped all of her books in a puddle and he, chastising her for being so clumsy, gave her all of his books so she wouldn't get into trouble. Ever since that day, she's had a crush on him, but she's been too shy to say anything. Now that they are in high school however, she's trying to work up the courage to tell him how she feels.
Hiroyuki on the other hand is pretty oblivious to how Akari feels. He's a bit sarcastic to everyone in school, but he's a good friend who will really come through in a pinch. Hiroyuki and Akari also hang around with Shiho, a rather loud and boisterous girl who grew up overseas and is always saying clichés incorrectly and Masashi, a nice boy who is one of Hiroyuki's best friends. Together the four students try to help each other survive high school.
In this volume, Hiroyuki meets Serika Kurusugawa, the daughter of a rich industrialist and the school's only practicing witch. She's incredibly shy, and speaks only in the lowest of voices. When Hiroyuki helps her find a lizard's tail that she needs for a spell, he becomes her first friend in school. He doesn't realize how much his small gesture means to the girl. When she invites him to attend the Magic Society's meeting, of which she's the only member, he says he may show up, but then quickly forgets. Serika takes his careless acceptance as a promise however, and the young girl will be crushed if he doesn't show up.
In another episode, Hiroyuki meets Aoi Matsubara, the only member of the school's extreme fighting team. This is a sport where any style of fighting is allowed, and competitors can even change style and techniques in the middle of the match. Aoi's biggest dream is to compete in the Extreme Tournament, but she still has a long way to go. She hasn't had much luck getting students at school interested in the sport either, since the Karate Club considers extreme fighting just alley brawling and not an art. To settle their differences once and for all, the president of the Karate Club challenges Aoi to a sparing match to see whose style is superior. When Hiroyuki and his friends hear this, they decide to help the diminutive Aoi train.
This is a nice gentle series with few conflicts. The worst thing that can happen is that someone's feelings will get hurt. There is a bit of humor, but this too is soft. The characters are all likeable and there isn't an evil or mean person in sight. Still, it is enjoyable and a nice change of pace from the earth-shattering battles that fill many anime shows.
One of the neat things about this show is that it (apparently) shares the same world as Comic Party. In one episode everyone tries to get tickets to see Childish an Hour, a band that is popular in Comic Party too, and everyone eats at Marvel Burger, the same fast food chain that appears in CP. It's nice to see this connection between the two shows.
The first four episodes of this series are presented on a single sided DVD which comes in a clear case with a reversible cover. Right Stuf added a nice touch when it comes to the closing credits. They left the original closing titles alone and then translated them (and added the English voice credits) afterwards. I really liked that.
This disc presents the show with the original Japanese soundtrack and an English dub, both in stereo. I alternated audio tracks while viewing the DVD, and found both to be acceptable. I enjoyed the Japanese track a lot more however. The female voices in the English dub were a bit too high pitched and squeaky for my tastes, something that is common in anime but irritating none the less. The Japanese voices were the same, but it wasn't as annoying since I couldn't understand what they were saying. Both audio tracks were clean and clear with no distortion. There are optional subtitles in English.
The 4:3 image was fine. Made in 1999, the program has good colors but the image is on the soft side, making it look a little older than it really is. The lines aren't as tight and crisp as they usually are in recent anime. On the digital side, there is only the most minor amount of aliasing in the background, with fine lines having a stairstep effect. This isn't a problem however and it doesn't greatly affect the picture.
This disc also contains some texts character biographies of the main characters, a line art gallery, and trailers for Ninja Nonsense and Boys Be. There are also some translation notes which were very informative. These explain the duties of a class rep, what the martial art of kyudo involves, and just why you always see Japanese students cleaning their classrooms in anime. They also clarify the meaning of some of the jokes that might seem a little strange to western ears.
This quite, gentle show, a genre I like to think of as "cute anime",
is just that: cute. It is light fare for those times when you don't
feel like convoluted plots or window shaking battles. Filled with
nice characters and pleasant situations, this is a good show when you want
something that's toned down a bit. Recommended.