You never know with these things: here we have a fairly popular idol unit, Sphere, made up of four young and popular voice actresses, and now there's an anime made based on this unit. On one hand it can be a phoned-in effort, resulting in a horrible anime. On the other hand, well, there's what Natsuiro Kiseki promises to be.
I can't quite make heads or tails of the show yet, but the impression is, for the most part, positive. Unfortunately that positive impression comes with a catch, or maybe a dozen catches. Click on and read about the one show this season for all the seiyuu fans.
For people who are die-hard Sphere fans, or people who enjoy seiyuu scenes, chatter, radio shows, or that god-forsaken Sphere Club TV show, well, Natsuiro Kiseki is going to be a fresh change of pace. It's always the case when you have a seiyuu idol group and never an anime where all the members participate in, you kind of want to at least see it happen once. NatsuKise is just that.
The first episode opens up with Saki and Natsumi, played by Ayahi Takagaki (Noe from True Tears, Feldt from Gundam 00) and Minako Kotobuki (Mugi from K-ON, Blue Rose from Tiger & Bunny), respectively, getting into a spat. At times the two argued fiercely, at times it feels like they are actually just very good friends who happen to argue a lot. On the sidelines are Rinko, by Aki Toyosaki (Hey Jude cover, Yui from K-ON, Medaka from Medaka Box), and Yuka, by Haruka Tomatsu (Anaru from Ano Hana, Ichika from Ano Natsu de Matteru). It's pretty clear the set up is that you have the two stubborn personalities and the two more accommodating personalities, the four being friends since a young age, dealing with growing up and fate tearing them apart.
The first episode of Natsuiro Kiseki, surprisingly, features all of that already. The pilot episode makes a neat microcosmic slice of what to expect--the girls fight, the girls interact in their own quirky ways, but as they try to come back together and bid Saki farewell as her family relocates, a magical miracle happens. But will this summer-colored miracle save their friendship? Does Saki still have to move, and will she be able to say goodbye? I don't know, and after the girls' flight up a few hundred meters in the air, I was more curious as to how they would land.
I mean, I suppose the biggest impression I have from Natsuiro Kiseki, besides being an obvious marketing ploy, was how they showcase Minako Kotobuki and Ayahi Takagaki in the two more emotive, talkative and argumentative roles. During any given season, it's typically Haruka or Aki that get these leading or major roles in other anime. It was kind of nice to see how the two less prolific seiyuu in Sphere do big roles like Saki and Natsumi, simply because it just hasn't really happened before. I knew at least Ayahi is capable of it, given the couple times she's done it in years past, but it's always good to see it again.
Unfortunately, in the end, the drama and character acting are not exactly top notch. The whole set up felt a tad forced. The story was simple and innocent enough, but it just doesn't come together organically. If I wasn't actively trying to judge or discern which voice actor was behind which face (Miyuki Sawashiro makes a pretty cool mom) I might be bored by the experience. The luscious background helps somewhat.
But then again, Natsuiro Kiseki doesn't pretend to be some great thing. This is an anime made for seiyuu fans, and features exactly that as its main attraction. It made a few in-jokes about a 4-girl idol unit, ie., Sphere themselves. I have a lot of reservation for the drama it might force me through in its single-cour run, but at least in one episode there is nothing that is too suspect. At best we'll get a mediocre high school drama about friends during a fateful summer, and maybe that's quite all right in the grand scheme of things.
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