What They Say:
Every lifetime is composed of millions of memories… but what happens if those memories don’t all connect? When Yuki Hase notices that Kaori Fujimiya seems to be alone and friendless at his school, he immediately wants to reach out to her. Much to his surprise, though, his overtures are turned down, and he’s completely stunned when he finds out why: it seems that ever since she was in a tragic accident, Kaori has been losing part of her memory every Monday, including all her recollection of everyone who’s become her friend. It’s not that she doesn’t want friends, but that she can’t remember having any. That’s not enough of an obstacle for Yuki, however, and he becomes determined to make friends with Kaori every week. Because while most memories fade, there are some that, if you believe strongly enough and never give up, might just be able to last forever. Prepare to fall in love, over and over again, as the age old story of boy meets girl repeats itself every week in ONE WEEK FRIENDS.
Since the audio presentation for this release is a Japanese only track in Dolby Stereo 2.0 and encoded at 224 kbps, this is satisfactory for this series since the majority of the sound track is composed of dialogue and some background sounds to accent the atmosphere. However, this does not mean that the acoustics are sacrificed in order for the visuals to tell the story – on the contrary, the voice actors carry the weight of the show through their emotional gravitas to allow the viewer to hear rather than see the strength of the characters’ convictions.
Although the musical accompaniments of stirring classical solos and simple compositions are used very sparingly to introduce pivotal moments in the relationship, the opening and closing themes bring forth the most impact. Natsumi Kon’s opening ballad Niji no Kakera is sung from Yuki’s point of view, stating that he wants to stay by his friend’s side to help her make more memories and pledging that he will help find what she has lost so he can see her smile again. The closing song Kanade sung by Kaori’s seiyū Sora Amamiya is another fitting positive anthem, using her character to reflect how hard it is to say goodbye, so she’ll find another word to close the day. These framing pieces so fittingly surround the series with emotions, that the viewer is introduced to the premise of the show before and after they finish watching their fill.
This series itself is broken down into two disks of six episodes each, encoded in standard DVD media MPEG-1/2 video format with a 720×480 resolution for anamorphic playback. And while the majority of the series takes place at the high school and we are given a barren background to isolate the main characters, the primary images are very bright, considering the subject of the anime – loneliness. Normally when this negative theme is involved, the studio attempts to concentrate the emotions by surrounding us with sad undertones; however, the opposite is used and instead we are subjected to a rather unusual method to portray isolation – flat and undefined faces. Though you can still connote the mood by a slight grin or tears, the absence of any facial delineation to allow raising or lowering of the mouth and eyes deflates any real emotion which would be portrayed. Therefore, the seiyū must project any fervor through their voice, and in short, by an impassioned plea or speech.
Sentai Filmworks has done a beautiful job in projecting the emotional shyness and simplicity of the series by using a delicate watercolor portrait of Yuki and Kaori within a winter wonderland. The serene scene of the two standing back to back defines their relationship: Yuki is looking forward towards a brighter future for the pair and Kaori gives him a backwards glance, hoping that he will continue to help in her journey. It is this kind of purity of image that gives this series the necessary innocence which makes it such a heartfelt adventure into the friendship. The theme is continued on the disks by using the same watercolor media to set the tone for the viewer before they even slip the DVD into the player. This is a well thought out merchandising campaign to promote the show as a tender look at life secluded within a marvelous show.
The same decorating motif used on the packing is also used in the menu selection screens: watercolor portraits of the characters are isolated on the left side with the episodes listed on the right, while a generic selection icon has been replaced with a cute flower, almost as if the screen was changed into a scrapbook page. However, the discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute of Niji no Kakera echoing in the background; while this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to switch off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in this area.
While Sentai Filmworks did give us the usual set of bonuses such as the regular collection of property trailers, clean and closing animations plus Japanese promos, what sets it apart is the seeming bland selection of Kaori and Hase’s journal entries. Although on the surface they may appear to be random thoughts from the protagonists, if they are viewed after their prospective episode, they provide useful insight into the characters’ emotional state and how that even shaped their outlook afterwards. These wonderful perceptions into their personalities help to reflect the stability of the relationship and hopefully, what will await them in the near future.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yuki Hase has noticed a strange girl at school, Kaori Fujimiya, she has always been isolated from the rest of the class. The cold attitude has made everyone avoid her and no one has even attempted to approach, and those who have are pushed aside by her curt tone and outright rudeness. But he still thinks that something is wrong, that this whole lonely girl persona is all an act. However, when he asks his best friend Shogo for advice on how to get close to her, all he says is that it would be too much trouble – his normal answer for anything. But Yuki will not give up on this classmate, he knows that there must be a way to broach the subject, even if she doesn’t any contact.
The next morning he tries to talk to the estranged pupil directly and ask if she will be his friend; in her usual timbre, she states in a monotone voice to leave her alone. This of course causes him distress, but uncharacteristically, Shogo sighs and tells Yuki to try again, after all, why give up on the first try. During lunch, he watches as Kaori leaves the classroom and attempts to follow her to the roof. Once she closes the door behind, he summons his courage and breaches the portal, out into the bright sunshine. There he finds the girl sitting alone and quietly eating her meal, the only noise are the chirps of the birds as they fly overhead. She does nothing as Yuki once again asks if she will be his friend, waiting in silence as he waits for her answer. With noiseless scowl, she once again tells him to leave her alone, and storms off.
This routine continues for the next few days, Yuki confronting Kaori with the same question, and her response always being the same. As Friday approaches, with some prodding from Shogo, he finally decides this will be the day he gets an answer from the girl. Once again when the noontime bell chimes, he follows his quarry up to the roof and repeats his query, but this time asks why she won’t say yes. Tired of the pursuit, she responds that she can’t have friends; the answer confuses Yuki even more and he maintains the bombardment of questions. Out of frustration, Kaori breaks down and tells him that every Friday she forgets all of the memories of any friends she might have made that week. Stunned at the confession, she storms off and thinks that this will be the end of this pointless game. However, the following Monday, she finds Yuki waiting with the same question. He will not give up on Kaori, even if he must pester her every day until she accepts his act of kindness.
Once she does acquiesce to his demand, the two meet on the rooftop for lunch. The discussion quickly turns to why Kaori cannot recall anything pertaining to her new acquaintances. In quick response, she admits she cannot remember how or why her memories reset and so Yuki pledges that he will do everything he can to find the cause, as long as they can remain friends, even if he must re-introduce himself every Monday. As their relationship progresses, he comes up with the idea to have Kaori start a journal, so that she can write down everything that has happened that week and so once Monday comes, she can read the entries in an attempt to jog any recollections. After all, nothing before has helped in restoring her memories, so can how this not work?
One Week Friends is a delightful slice of life anime with the unusual premise of using amnesia as the catalyst to trigger further participation with an unlikely friend. Although there have been many attempts of this plot device, all of them use the forgetfulness theme as a building block to construct a romantic relation or even further their own goals while the keeping the hero in the dark for their own nefarious purposes. This would have turned the show into another cliché, but it is a wonderful success due to the fact that the protagonists show genuine tenderness and care for each other, with no intensions or need to deepen that relationship with the confusion of young love. In so many other examples, that emotion pollutes the story and makes it impossible for them to pursue anything else, and in this case, the need to discover the true cause of Kaori’s memory loss takes precedence.
An underlying nuance for this show is the choice of names for the main characters: Yuki, Kaori, Shogo and Saki. Yuki’s appropriately means courage or happiness, which he brings to Kaori whose moniker strangely means fragrance. Each person’s name works off the other, Yuki gives Kaori courage to fight on trying to remember her new friends and memories, all the while bringing her happiness in allowing their relationship to continue when so many others would have abandoned someone so fragile. Kaori is the fleeting scent which no one can remember but in this case, it is the owner herself who’s own definition brings sadness since her namesake penalizes her existence. Shogo means one’s ministry – which is fitting since his calm demeanor and patience helps to keep everyone else focused in their singular objective. Finally Saki is hope; although she may seem forgetful and distracted at times, it is her optimism which keeps the gang cheerful and moving forward. They all help each other and in turn make up for what the others lack, in turn, strengthening each other, the truest essence of friendship.
One Week Friends is the sleeper hit of friendship anime: the tenderness and camaraderie shown is friendship in the truest sense of the word. The method by which drama built throughout the series allows the viewer to build a relationship with the characters, allowing us to care for their development and have a vested interest in what happens, all the way to the very end. No one would blame you if needed more than a few boxes of tissue while watching the show, or even one container just for a single episode. Although emotion genuinely drives the plot forward through amusing events, it is a shame that the climax does not occur until the last third of series; it would have been more effective to scatter more than a few hints about Kaori’s trauma instead of dropping it on us all at once.
Even with this small mistake, the show is an amazing accomplishment for the genre and I would not hesitate to recommend it or add it to my Top Ten Favorite Anime. I sincerely hope that there might be a sequel of One Week Friends, I cannot get enough of this show.
Japanese Language, English Subtitles, Kaori’s and Hase’s Journals, Japanese Promo Spots, Sentai Filmworks trailers, Clean Opening and Closing Animation
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player