What They Say:
Sometimes life leads us in circles. Sometimes it takes us on strange detours. Takaaki and Konomi have been friends since they were kids, but now that they’re in high school, Takaaki’s finding out the fact that he’s a boy and she’s a girl can change everything, especially since there are a lot of other attractive girls who are also suddenly demanding his attention. Between the Himeyuri twins: electronics geek Sango and brash Ruri; the awkward class representative Manaka; mystery loving Karin; mountain biker Yuma; the mysterious Yuki; and even Lucy, who’s convinced that she’s an alien, Takaaki’s not sure which way to turn. And when his OTHER female childhood friend, Tamaki, arrives having changed so much from attending an exclusive boarding school that the others barely recognize her, things are really going to get romantically complicated!
One audio track is available: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Channel 48 kHz, which is just fine for your run-of-the-mill sighs, squees, giggles, gasps, and so on. It also adequately carries the background music, which is nothing exceptional.
Video is presented in 1080i High Definition in 16:9 via a BD-ROM AVC, although that may be a tad overboard for this series (see content portion of this review).
Pretty standard fare here; ToHeart2 comes in an eco-LITE VORTEX™ BD case with side clasp. Each disc features one of the two main girls, although lamentably not BEST girl (see my summary). The cover art insert is single-sided and features a heart-framed shot of most of the girls from the series on the front cover. The back cover features a heart-framed series synopsis and upside-down, lounging Tamaki as well as several screenshots and the usual info about the series and discs.
The menus for Discs 1 and 2 are pretty similar with, respectively, still pictures of Konomi and Tamaki backed by sakura petals and a full, TV-length version of the OP and ED songs: “Hello” by Haruna Ikeda and “Tomoshibi” by Suara.
Maximum effort has been spared here with no extras on Disc 1 and only Maiden Japan promo videos on Disc 2. And for all those familiar with the series, none of the OVAs are included with this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Full disclosure: I’m pretty sure I mistakenly signed up to watch this, and I’m not entirely filled with regret for having done so.
This stand-alone spinoff to the 1999 anime adaptation of the ToHeart visual novel is based on content from the ToHeart2 visual novel, but there’s no need to know any of that to watch this series. In ToHeart2, Kouno “Dictator of the Empire of Love” Takaaki (the self-inset character for the viewer), is a little scared of girls and, of course, super dense to being the subject of all their affections – inferred, imagined, or otherwise. It’s rather amazing how bland his character is actually; he has almost no outstanding traits, and there is nothing known about him, other than where he goes to school and what club he’s reluctantly in, by the end of the 13-episode run. All the better to paint yourself onto as a viewer I suppose.
The girls are a little better (and get increasingly weird … rewardingly so), but I first want to speak about the best supporting character in this harem anime: Genjimaru – one of the best dogs in anime, a big, lovable, grey and white sheepdog with one (I think?) on-screen appearance and perfect slothfulness. Ok, back to the girls – basically what anyone who intentionally starts watching this show is interested in. The initial conflict of romantic interest is between a peppy little sister type (Konomi) and a strong, mature big sister type (Tamaki). Both are childhood friends of Mr. Milquetoast, but the latter young lady has been away for some time at a prestigious boarding school. To the writing’s credit, the backgrounds really do shine through in the depiction of those characters and coloring the scenes they’re in, while certain situations, like the unspoken jest with the alarm clock and the tea ceremony, are delightfully understated. Also to the series’ credit, neither of those girls throw themselves at Kouno.
Other girls are peppered in at a rate of one per episode for a few episodes (until one becomes two with the introductions of twins). There’s Manaka Komaki, the class president, who’s a little scared of boys and likes helping out the library committee even though she’s not a member. She’s a submissive type who has a problem saying no, wants to have more fun, and is good with tea and food/drink pairings. Yuma, Manaka’s friend, is a conspiracy-minded Sporty Spice who is unreasonably infuriated by (her mountain bike’s magnetic attraction to) Kouno. She’s also the reluctant heir to her successful grandfather’s fiscal empire. Sasamori, president of the Mystery Research Society, is manipulative and conniving and obsessed with both the occult and egg sandwiches. Ruuko, aka BEST GIRL, is the pink-haired girl who’s new to … Japan and easily the best thing about this show. (More on her and her influence later.) The aforementioned twins, the brash Rui and emotionally flighty but insanely technologically adept Sango, love each other above all … until Kouno shows up and grows Sango’s world (much to Rui’s discontent). Note: the twins setup thankfully only flirts with and ultimately skirts the expected twincest. As with the main love interests, it’s to the series’ credit that all but one of these girls don’t outright throw themselves at Kouno; the one that does, does so more with an unhindered, general affection/friendship mindset. Additionally, ancillary potential love interests, some of whom refreshingly don’t pay Kouno any mind at all, with even less personality come and go with a presence somewhere in-between supporting character and background art.
(At some point, you have to ask why viewers are guided to think that any girl introduced within the series is a potential love interest, and the answer would be “harem,” which is awful but also the truth of the monster. That is to say there is a lot of objectification (… literally with Ilfa, aka Research Project HMX-17a) despite such counterpoints such as Tamaki’s overall trait build and certain competencies – Sango’s electronics prowess, Manaka’s mental capability to handle her grandfather’s legacy, etc. – assigned to other characters. I have to give the writers credit, however, for at least keeping Ilfa’s mechanical nature relevant to her creator: Sango. Also, the show manages to maintain a refreshing air of innocence despite all the tired instances of characters falling onto Kouno; the camera’s not thirsty, and high school level teasing is about as hot and heavy as things get.)
Most of the anime seems like character vignettes that grow to include one another to varying degrees; no real through-plot is present until the final couple of episodes, which deal with (spoiler!) Konomi’s awakened feelings for Kouno. Every episode moves surprisingly quick; the series certainly knows how to keep things sporadically interesting with oddities and odd situations dropped in here and there. Also, it helps that most of the girls seem to have lives of their own that don’t depend on Kouno, which makes learning about their worlds relatively engaging. This can most readily be seen in how the trivialities of high school life are made to feel rather weighty via the library club, but little details throughout the series help flesh out not only the characters but the world(s) they occupy.
Speaking of the world they occupy, the animation in ToHeart2 is not anything to write home about, although there are some praiseworthy notables. Backgrounds and character designs are all pretty standard and entirely unamazing. Whether it was an intentional homage or just a creative inconsistency, the art seems, at times, to flash back to mid-/early-’90s from a pretty steady early aughts perspective. The most laughable thing is that movement is strictly allocated to the main characters; as if law, anyone in the background never moves. In fact, the series is so lazy with characters in the background that even the girls’ physical boob grab joke cliché is a panned still. Aspects which help keep things fresh visually include the surprising use of alternate viewpoint for one episode. It’s not used for any specific purpose, but it’s at least something a little above and beyond the usual. There’s also the first-person perspective through eyes brimming with tears, which lends a nice touch of animation and tenderness. There’s also enhanced effort in the depiction of the meteor shower, and a dent put in a trashcan by a water gun to show force was a nice touch. There’s also a decent bit of animation, unaided by dialog, showing Konomi’s disappointment with her chest size, and her own humored response; the joke’s a tired one to include, but that the storyboarding fits the character perfectly is a laudable thing.
ToHeart2 is easy to dismiss but a surprising bit of fun as well. I’m not it’s intended audience, even though I used to love harem back in the day, and I still found things that made me chuckle … mainly Ruuko. The ambiguity of her origin, which lets me think of her as an insane asylum escapee or extraterrestrial, is phenomenal, and the running gag that comes of it, her official greeting of “Ruuuuuu,” made me chuckle every time it was spontaneously implemented by her or others regardless if she was or was not present. This series would be entirely forgettable if it weren’t for Ruuko, so I’m grateful she was written into it the way she was. I’ll carry that gag with me always and ultimately forget which anime it came from.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: C
Video Grade: C+/-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: D-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: November 7th, 2017
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080i HD, BD-ROM AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Sony BDP-S5100 BD player hooked up via HDMI to Toshiba 40” LED 1080P HDTV. Sony 5.1 home theater system.