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Kanon - Vol. 1
Based on the good reception that Air received, the powers that be at Kyoto Animation decided to obtain the rights to another "visual novel" from the computer game company Key and transform it into a TV series. The franchise they selected was Kanon, an incredibly popular game in Japan. Unfortunately the anime is rather pointless, at least in the first volume and viewers who aren't enamored with the game will likely find it slow going.
Yuichi Aizawa, for reasons that are not discussed, goes to live with his aunt Akiko and (female) cousin Nayuki for his final year of high school. Though he used to visit Nayuki all the time when he was a child, he hasn't seen her in seven years and oddly can't remember anything about his earlier visits. He hardly remembers the town though people in the town certainly remember him,
While waiting for Nayuki outside a store, Yuichi bumps into Ayu, a small girl with a winged backpack who is running from a merchant that she stole some food from. Yuichi pays off the shop keeper and Ayu departs, though they frequently bump into each other from there on out. Eventually it's revealed that Ayu and Yuichi were friends in the past, though he doesn't remember her at all.
Yuichi continues to meet people who knew him in the past, most of whom have some sort of amnesia. There's also Makoto who hates Yuichi though she has no idea why having lost all of her memory, and Shiori, who is very sick and can't go to school but seems to have a thing for Yuichi.
I don't have anything against slow moving shows, but after four episodes I expect to have an idea what the show is about. That doesn't happen with this anime. Over this first volume we're introduced to the main characters, but that's about it. No conflict is established and there's nothing really driving the story. At first I thought the frequent cases of amnesia would be the focal point of the show, but that's not the case. No one seems concerned that so many people have forgotten significant portions of their life, which is odd in itself.
I can enjoy slice-of-life stories if I'm interested in the characters, but this show is populated by stereotypes and jerks. Ayu is the typical 'cute kid' who even has a silly word she says whenever she's angry or upset ("Ugu"), Makoto is the outgoing brash broad, and Shiori is the shy quiet girl who secretly has a crush on Yuichi. Then there's Yuichi himself. Unlike most anime leads, this guy's a jerk. He spends most of his time insulting people or teasing them in a mean-spirited way. When he and Ayu meet Shiori for the first time, Yuichi introduces his friend as a criminal. He's constantly rude to Makoto, calling her a pig when his aunt has her over for dinner, and he even treats his cousin like crap, leaving her class notes at school and then refusing to get them when she needs them. (Though he eventually goes, he's really an ass about it.)
Is this a harem show? There're a lot of women and one guy, but there's no humor. Is it a mystery? For some reason several people have lost their memories by no one is investigating. Is it a drama? If so, there's no conflict. Not much happens in these four episodes, and I can't see that changing much in future volumes.
The disc offers the choice of the original Japanese track or an English dub, both in stereo. I alternated audio tracks, as I normally do, and both were very good. I preferred the Japanese track slightly, but people who prefer to watch their anime dubbed won't find fault with that track. Both audio options made limited use of the soundstage, but since this was a dialog based show, that's not a huge deal.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image was okay but not outstanding. While the show generally looked very good, there were several spots where digital defects marred the image. Posterization and blocking were a problem in a few scenes and there was also a bit of noise in a couple of spots. There were never distracting, but it did cause the video grade to suffer.
This disc also includes a clean opening and closing, and a featurette; Kanon: A Close Look at an Anime. This is a seven minute look at how an anime show is produced. If you haven't seen something similar on an anime disc already, this will be very enlightening. If, like most otaku, you've seen something similar about a dozen times already you won't find out anything new.
Lacking focus and a distinct plot, I found the first volume of Kanon wanting. These four episodes introduce the main characters, but they don't advance the plot at all. As a matter of fact, I'm not really sure what type of story the show is trying to tell. Only time will tell I guess. The show may pick up with the next volume, but I'm not holding my breath. This would make a good rental.