Posted on February 25, 2013 AT 03:33pm
The concept of a person hearing what everyone thinks has seen some success in the romantic comedy realm (What Women Want, anyone?), so it should be no surprise that someone in Japan would take this idea and run with it in so many directions. What I didn’t count on is an anime series that reaches a sort of greatness that rivals even most American dramatic comedies. Such is the case of Kotoura-san, a show that may already be the clear winner of best comedy of 2013.
**WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
Based on a four-panel manga series by Enokizu the anime follows young Kotoura (Hisako Kanemoto), a girl who has the ability to read everyone’s minds. At first she believes it’s something that anyone can do, only to find herself being pushed away by her friends, teachers, and even disowned by her parents. As she starts a new school life years later, she strikes a friendship with Manabe (Jun Fukushima), who thinks her abilities are both cool and cruel; the latter, of course, because he can no longer think dirty thoughts around her. Soon she finds herself being drafted into the ESP club by schoolmates Mifune (Kana Hanazawa) and her dwarfed friend Muroto (Hiro Shimono).
Early on into the series many classmates do not have any idea what to think of Kotoura. One of them, Moritani (Yurika Kubo), sees the new student as a threat to her unrequited love for Manabe. At first she tries to bully Kotoura into pushing her away, but soon finds herself going so far as to have her dojo mates using physical force. However, once she sees the kindness that Kotoura has she quickly learns the error of her ways, and soon joins the ESP club herself.
Kotoura-san starts off in a dark path, as you see remnants of Kotoura tortured as a child by everyone pushing her away. Your heart will wrench when you hear her mother wish she was never born, along with the ways the other students bully her for being different. Fortunately these dark moments are quickly balanced with a sharp sense of humor, thanks in part to the introduction of Manabe. Yes, he is your typical perverted love interest, but at least Kotoura has all the mind-reading stuff to her advantage. (That and he and his expressions will leave your sides aching.) One moment you’ll be laughing out loud by what Kotoura is hearing in Manabe’s head, and in the next you could find yourself teary-eyed by the way Kotoura shuts herself away to protect those around her. The way its scriptwriter Takashi Aoshima has done it puts many other shows — both anime and live-action — to shame.
It’s very easy to feel something about all the characters in Kotoura-san, whether they are happy, sad, or on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and it helps when you’ve got a great cast to voice everyone. Kanemoto’s take on the title character is as real as it gets, as she starts off as a distant person whose locked herself away from all of society. Fukushima’s Manabe brings the most energy into the show, and as he makes his entrance Kotoura transforms gradually into a more open person. Hanazawa’s Mifune and Shimono’s bring some of the more light-hearted banter to the show, but when a serious occurrence arises they wind up becoming the backbone to the series. Kubo’s Moritani also brings some good laughs, but as of now I really don’t see what sort of impact she’ll bring to the anime as a whole.
Once again AIC peers its talented head into the anime realm, and what it has done for Kotoura-san is nothing short of another solid mark on its legacy. The characters and worlds shine brightly as the humor does in the show, and when it treads down a dark path the usage of gray shades is put into wonderful detail. Yasuhiro Misawa’s score also helps to set the proper moods, whether it’s something as joyful as a romp on the beach or depressing as the sight of a child being bullied.
Kotoura-san is an anime comedy that can be enjoyed by just about anyone in the world. Nothing will go over a non-Japanese viewer’s head, as the jokes and gags are universal. Some may find it weird when Kotoura’s grandpa talks perverted about her, but those who enjoy the Family Guy character Herbert will see this as a lighter fare. Others may be disturbed by Kotoura’s treatment as a kid, although if anything Kotoura-san is a series that emphasizes the anti-bullying concept in a strong light without having to feel like a crappy after-school special.
I cannot stress this enough: watch Kotoura-san. After dealing with the garbage seen in past four-paneled comic adaptations (Nichijou, Ai-Mai-Mi, Mangirl!) it’s refreshing to see someone out there taking a Japanese comedy and making it accessible to the masses. If this doesn’t get licensed before year’s end, I will be greatly surprised.
Voice actors/actresses: 9/10
Final Grade: 9.25/10
Kotoura-san can be viewed on Crunchyroll.
Today's Top 10 Stories
Website Interface © 2012 EGM Digital Media, LLC.