I'll have to admit I was a little dismayed when I ran my first impressions of Hiiro no Kakera, just because the track record on these game-derived adaptations has been generally bad. Besides the terrible CGI monsters though, I think this show had some potential. Unfortunately, this too will be filed away along with my disappointment for now.
In case you needed a refresher: Hiiro no Kakera is about Tamaki, age 17 who went out to the rural lands to live with her grandmother. There she finds out she is the next incarnation of the Tamayori Princess who is tasked with protecting the sealed demon sword Onikirimaru with the help of her five guardians. Of course, around the time she starts learning about her new role, a group called Logos invades and rips the seal apart piece by piece. What happens if the sword falls into the wrong hands? World destruction, of course.
Read my full thoughts after the jump.
I would normally just pick up my recaps where I'd left off from Annotated Anime and then give you my final word on the show I'm reviewing here, but Hiiro no Kakera is a special case. You see, it's so incredibly repetitive that I think I could summarize the entire show with one sentence per episode. Are you ready? Let's go:
Tamaki shows up at her new town, meets a few hot guys, including Takuma who probably is the key love interest since he treats her like an idiot. Tamaki is so worried about how things will go from there that she can't seem to figure out how to hone her own skills. Then she starts being able to sense when seals are being breached, meets her fifth guardian and is reassured for the n'th time that everything will be alright even though she constantly does stupid things. Since Tamaki sucks, the guardians get their asses whooped and they lose an artifact.
Since they lost an artifact, grandma saw it fit to let the kiddos know that if the sword is released the world will end, and just to add to the confusion Tamaki gets sniffed up by some mystery character and is then, once again, reassured that everything will be A-OK. Just when you think the weird sniffer pervert might join in the fun, nothing happens except everyone gets their asses whooped again. Tamaki decides to take things into her own hands and break into a shed full of books to research what all this craziness is about while her grandma just lets things happen.
Tamaki has a weird vision, and gets walked out on by two of her guardians. Except they come right back, now with more feelings. Tamaki discovers something crucial: she needs to awaken as the Tamayori princess or else the boys will always get their asses kicked. The weird sniffing dude comes back to tell Tamaki she'll be betrayed, which leads you to think that one of her guardians will bring her down or something, but then everyone just gets whooped. And for the season finale, not only does Tamaki not make out with Takuma, she actually does awaken as the Tamayori Princess in a precise moment of crisis and manages to maintain control over the demon sword.
Those three paragraphs really are all there is to the show in terms of plot. I mean, there are some things that a great about it, and some bad. Let's get the bad things out of the way first.
The way that Hiiro no Kakera is structured (read: slow), it's obvious that they planned it for two seasons. It's incomplete and there were too many plot holes. For one thing, Logos was simply "foiled" when Tamaki and Takuma took the demon sword, but it can't possibly be the end. The sniffing pervert guy was also nearby when this happened (as an observer) and stated he wants to see the sword removed from their fair town altogether. And the most irking of all: grandma didn't step in at all during any of this. It makes me wonder whether perhaps she is the one that dog guy insisted would betray Tamaki.
I'm not even going to complain about the lack of romance, because I've gone down that road before. The guardians, who previously regarded themselves as sub-human and of no worth besides their roles as her protectors have all come to like her in some way. They all show some affection towards her, which came very suddenly at the turn of the series, somewhere around episode nine. There was no real precedence for it, just all of a sudden they all started liking her and quit telling her she's a clumsy baka.
On to the positive things, I'll start out with the animation quality. I mentioned in my first impressions that I thought it was decent for being a game adaptation, and I stand by that. No freaky eyes or weird choppy action to be seen, just a few too many face close-ups for comfort and the occasional bad CGI effects. The quality overall didn't jump much from episode to episode, and you can tell that the team who worked on the show was at least dedicated enough to keep things consistent.
The music was rather cheesy, but I didn't expect much. I do quite like the single that debut as the OP of the series, but I just hate that I now have to associate it with this show that left me feeling a little empty inside. I was expecting so much more, you know!
During the last two episodes, when the demon sword was released, all the characters experienced a kind of vision. Most of them saw some form of despair, but Tamaki saw what ended up being the "after the credits" scene at the very end - her walking along a dusty road with all her guardians, together on a sunny day. I thought this was interesting, but it kind of sucks that there never was an explanation as to why she experienced a completely different kind of vision than they did. Actually, it kind of bothers me that they waited until the end to give some background to some of the characters at all. Why did I need to know that Ohmi lost his mother? Why did I need to know that Mitsuru was raped as a kid? You get the idea.
Finally, there's something to be said about Tamaki actually "waking up" as the Tamayori Princess. I don't like that it was this sudden change at the very last moment, but I do like that they did her justice. The scenes when she's using her powers are rather pretty and she doesn't do anything too extravagant or flashy - she just takes it all in stride. I felt bad for Tamaki throughout most of the show, mostly because she wasn't prepared to have all these problems dumped on her and on top of that, have to fulfill the expectations of a bunch of strangers. Through all of this, Tamaki stayed straight as an arrow and I have to commend her for it.
I couldn't say whether the anime succeeds or fails as an adaptation as I am not familiar with the game itself, but looking at it from the viewer standpoint, I'm still of the mind that Hiiro no Kakera is an easy pass. While it does maintain some redeeming qualities, it's pretty forgettable and I was honestly putting this article off for days before I finally sat my butt down to write it. I don't like giving a show negative ratings and I almost always weigh things based on their more positive qualities, but I don't have it in me this time around.
Once again, I can't say how this show matches up with the game (for fans of that), but unless you're really into watching anime with all the pretty boy stereotypes and a reverse harem situation with no actual romance at the end, I can't say there's enough action for it to appeal to that crowd, either. The fights don't last very long and it isn't until the end that the home team leaves victorious, and even then, just about every fight ended up in the guardians getting their asses handed to them. A few episodes could have been mushed together to progress the story a bit more instead, because I found the relationships between the different characters a lot more interesting than everything else that was going on.
This show has a lot of potential and I get the feeling that when we see the next season, I'll get all the answers I need. Maybe I'll even come to like it (because really, it's a mildly compelling story mixing in occult with shoujo/drama). If you do want to sample it now however, Crunchyroll has been streaming it and you could give it a try sometime if you find this even remotely appealing.