Rarely are hopes raised so high, then dashed so low. Rarely is something of such whimsy and flair dragged down so far into banality, boredom, and just plain bad presentation. In anime, it’s rare for the presentation to kill a story. It’s usually the other way around – a mediocre story wrapped in great packaging, candy filled with air. His And Her Circumstances starts as one of the most real and human animes, but it slowly whittles away at patience and interest, until I was relieved the damn thing was over.
It starts well. Yukino Miyazawa is a perfect student: straight ‘A’s; class president; perfect manners, poise and grace. She’s a fraud. Her personality is contrived, developed for the purpose of garnering praise. It works, too, until she gets into high school and has to compete with Arima Souichirou, a freshman. The male equivalent of Yukino, he’s smart, handsome, and kind. He’s also the best in kendo, and he beats Yukino for class president.
Yukino HATES Arima.
Then, after a simple mistake, Arima discovers Yukino’s secret. Naturally, being the upstanding gentleman that he is, he uses the information to blackmail her into doing his homework. Eventually they fall in love.
Due to miracles, divine intervention, or good writing, they avoid the pitfalls of a classic romance. They fight, but they don’t break up from misunderstandings or play tricks on each other. They’re smart, and they approach things with a healthy self-consciousness. It makes their moments of (positive and negative) emotional release all the sweeter or more painful.
The show has a big supporting cast, and we spend more time with them as Yukino learns to drop her mask and be genuine. They’re developed so well that the bizarre behavior is believable – or they’re so funny that you don’t care.
With such a conventional type of story, it’s surprisingly fast and inventive. These stories aren’t linear. They give us internal monologues, visually diagrammed relationships, and action interspersed with text, manga pages, and many shots of water flowing. Directed (for the first half) by Evangelion‘s Hideaki Anno, His And Her Circumstances takes anime to its limits.
And then, creeping along the edges, crapitude takes hold.
For the most part, the story is transferred ably from the original manga. But at every step, the show becomes more frustrating. First, the “clip” shows, of which there are 2.5. And, while the show moves on, the intros start to recap endlessly, with a monologue about youth in late 20th century Japan – jaw jaw jaw. For six episodes, the monologue unreels, and it does nothing but kill time.
This may be a small complaint, because the actual content is so good. But the distractions slow it. They suck the precious time out. So the final two episodes are sloppy. One is about Yukino’s sisters (a side-story that’s irrelevant to the larger drive of the series), and the last one is kind of insulting – it pulls backs the narrative focus to pretend that the show is about relationships in general, not these specific kids at this specific school. By universalizing them, the very specialness and relatability of the characters is sapped. When it should be hitting an emotional peak, His And Her Circumstances is a hack novel – ‘literary’ when the plot matters most.
If it were longer, my complaints would be obviated, because the story would have an end. But it didn’t, so it doesn’t, and all we have is a great beginning to an unfocused mess.