|Superb, heartfelt portrayal of real people struggling with real issues and trying to communicate about them in a real, normal way. Watercolor style is perfect.||Very few that I can think of. Maybe that it had to end? Well, the manga is ongoing, so they had to end somewhere I guess.|
With this year of anime coming to a close (I organize it from Winter to Fall) I have been mulling and looking through my lists of the various series that have aired from season to season and looking at the ones I gave the “A rank” to, and one of the standout series from the Spring season is undoubtedly One Week Friends (Isshukaan Friends is the Japanese title).
Perhaps it would be fair to say that I read up through as much of the manga was available before it started to air, and had been totally and completely won over by the storyline. In other words, I did not go into the series “blind”, or as an “anime only” viewer, and had a clear standard and “image” of what I was hoping for based on the source material – this can sometimes be both a blessing or a curse depending on how a studio adapts a series, but in this case it turned out to be a blessing, because it was one of those rare occasions where the adaptation was incredibly faithful to the source material.
The premise of the series is the sort one might initially find in a high school shoujo romance, but there are a few differences – the focus here is on the male lead (named Hase Yuuki) and his interest (named Fujimiya Kaori), yes, but the story is more serious and perhaps more complicated than originally anticipated going in. It turns out that Kaori actually has a bizarre psychological condition that causes her memories to reset every week that concern her close friends, though not those bound to her by bonds of family or even “passing friends”. Despite this Yuuki decides to persevere is his attempts to get closer to Kaori, but his desire to help her recover at the same time become intermixed and at times gain precedence. The series is about the time they spend together, the trials and difficulties both face, and their struggles.
In terms of technical aspects of the anime, the studio that took it on decided to use the manga color covers as a reference for how the entire series would be presented, which is a soft, warm, even pensive watercolory and faintly dreamlike pallette, similar to what was used in Kimi ni Todoke, Ao Haru Ride, Usagi Drop and Hourou Musouko. To be perfectly honest I happen to love this anime style and needless to say I felt the visuals were magnificently done.
The background music also was also a page pulled from these series; quiet, unobtrusive, yet quietly supporting both the dialogue and visuals in a very competent manner. The perky and “simple” music styles of the OP and ED reminded me of my initial reactions to the OP and ED of Usagi Drop, but after an initial surprise I found them to be incredibly appropriate and even more providing a sort of “commentary” on the overall “ambiance” of the series and the characters themselves and even helped make them stand out more clearly, similar to how a simple harmony accentuates the melody of a song, perhaps.
The VA work is simply superb. Essentially there are four main characters: Hase Yuuki and Fukimiya Kaori have already been mentioned. Also important are Yuuki’s best friend (named Kiryuu Shougo) and another classmate who befriends Kaori about 1/3 of the way through the series (named Yamagishi Saki). If there were Academy Awards given for anime characters Shougo would definitely be in the running for best supporting male character of the year, and if I were voting he would be the winner. His honesty, forthrightness and “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” character is exactly what Yuuki needs, and even Kaori later finds valuable. Saki is a different case, but similar. Her childlike openness and kindness towards Kaori really is a unexpected blessing, and serves to bring Kaori a little further out of her first level safety zone and interact with other people a little more. The VAs do excellent work all around and once again remain extremely faithful to how they are portrayed in the source material.
This is a series that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, yes, but it was never either too “saccharine” nor too “unrealistic”. The characters’ motivations were easy to understand and even Kaori’s psychological condition was within the realm of possibility from a clinical standpoint (no spoilers here!); this is a series overflowing with kindness, yes, but also genuineness that shines through both in day to day life and in their difficulties. These are real people with real problems and worries that actually attempt to communicate and grow and work out their difficulties in the midst of their weakness, faintheartedness and shortcomings.
More than that – I would even go so far to say that the qualities that shine through the episodes of the series (and the pages of the manga, by the by) are something the world could use a little more of in their day to day default settings in their interactions with one another, an innocence that is not “stupid” or “shallow”, a genuine trust and belief in the good side of humanity that is all too easy to cast aside or sneer at and dismiss simply because others around one are doing so and because it seems “wise”, something which in this writer’s opinion is sheer nonsense.
I am eagerly looking forward to another season of this series should it ever come out. The manga is still ongoing, though slow, and the mangaka herself (who is young for a mangaka in general and quite an able and skilled writer) is still in top form. One can only hope for more! In the meantime, though, we can continue to value this excellent series and even “spread the love around”, as hopefully this post has done to some small degree. If you love this kind of material please do give it a try! If you already watched it I encourage you to give it a re-watch. You may be surprised at it’s “staying power” and re-watchability!
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