There seems to be an appeal to translating a visual novel into an anime, after all a plot already exists, art style is already established, and the characters have already been created. Well, that last one may not be true all the time, as visual novels will sometimes utilize a bland or flat main character for its audience to displace their own personalities into. Which isn’t really how that sort of thing is done with an anime. Hiiro no Hakera is based on the visual novel series of the same(ish) name on the PS2, PSP, and DS, with this background does it succeed as an anime?
The story of Hiiro no Kakera is that of a teenage girl sent to live with her grandmother under particular circumstances by her parents. The girl, Tamaki, has been long absent from her grandmother’s village since childhood and upon her return finds out that the quiet village isn’t quite as quiet as she might have thought. Surrounded by ghosts and gods, the village is the location for a powerful artifact, the Onikirimaru, that has been sealed away to keep the world safe, but that’s not all as Tamaki is also the Tamayori Princess! For those that may not have picked up on it yet, the original visual novel was for teenage girls and as such the anime is geared for that audience as well, which if anyone has any doubt the final scene of every episode being one of the male characters breaking the fourth wall to thank the viewer for coming should clinch it.
Alright, so along with being the guardian of the Onikirimaru to ensure that it remains sealed away the princess has protectors in the form of the Five Guardians, 5 attractive male descendants of ancient supernatural beings. One of the interesting things about this anime is that the focus is less on the plot itself and more on the characters and their relationships. Not that there aren’t things going on, as there are, but in a story where the Logos are trying to break the seals and free the Onikirimaru, far far more time is spent with the characters in school and talking than doing anything about that.
The reason for the focus on characters as opposed to plot or action becomes more apparent as the story continues, namely that the balance of power is literally one sided, like Darth Star versus Alderaan one sided, and the only reason the one side doesn’t just pull the trigger is because of how one sided it is. Think about that. That being said, there are a number of interesting elements at play throughout the series, such as inner conflict and refusal to act until it is settled. There are also some additional characters, outside Tamaki and her guardians, that are interesting and mysterious enough to actually want to know more about. However, those more astute will notice that this is simply the Tamayori Princess Saga, or Season 1, so there seems to be a lot left for later.
Visually, Hiiro no Kakera maintains the general quality of modern anime. Backgrounds are detailed and beautiful, with the characters well animated to ensure the flow of action and dialogue. Being a Blu-Ray release, the images are certainly also more crisp, but the best visuals in the show tend to be in the infrequent fight scenes. The guardians’ and the Logos’ powers look fantastic, though it may be more that through the series they are simply under utilized.
Characters look good for the most part, but unfortunately those in the Logos are the only ones that have interesting character design. The guardians for the most part simply wear their school uniforms, which the major distinctions between them being their hair color and height, while the Logos feature a variety of attire person to person that distinguishes them less as a group and more of a set of individuals working together.
In a show with so many male characters and characters in general, it is nice to see that their voices are in fact different enough to easily distinguish. The voice actors do a good job to fit their characters in terms of personality, though Tamaki herself does tend to be a little stale at some points, but this may simply be part of the visual novel source leaking through. Andrew Love as Takuma is probably the strongest performance, which fits well with his character being the most important and versatile overall.
The music of the series continues with the general gear of leaning towards a female audience often being more light and airy, but of course being a bit darker during the battles. The gearing is most apparent of course with the opening and closing however. The opening song is “Nee” by Maiko Fujita, which does a very great job of capturing the feelings surrounding Tamaki as she is more powerless and needing to be protected by her guardians. The closing, “Kono Te de Idaki Tomeru kara” by Shuhei Kita, fits instead on the guardians perspective of being there for Tamaki. So, the music does a wonderful job of bottling the two main perspectives of the show ideally for the female audience.
Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray release of Hiiro no Kakera is very limited in the form of special features. It does provide the clean opening and closing for those wishing to enjoy all the eye candy of those without the credits over top. The only other special features on the disc though are the trailers for the other upcoming Sentai releases. While a paltry sum of extras, being the first season of an anime based off a visual novel the demand for additional content may not be too high.
Hiiro no Kakera – The Tamayori Princess Saga is unabashedly an anime with the girls in mind, and some man service to boot. The main character finds out she’s a princess, she gets to have five good looking men protect her, and for the most part the series focuses more on their relationships than the actual plot. Girls looking for a nice series with plenty of guys to swoon over will certainly be able to find quantity here, but mileage will vary in want of a plot. It does in fact have a plot with a least some interesting concepts, if only they would have focused more on those, but perhaps with all the introductory material out of the way the second season can provide more.
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