Kanon Volume 1 review
By The Power of Uguu
If you've no idea what "uguu" is supposed to mean then you're probably unfamiliar with Kanon, and what a great shame that is. Let me guide you through the world where local residents don't need to wrap up warm for the cold weather and where there are more moe girls than you'd ever need.
The story revolves around Yuichi Aizawa, a school student that moves back to a town he used to visit as a child after a seven year long gap but has a slight problem of not remembering a thing that happened back then. During these early episodes there is no real storyline goal to speak of though as his childhood is only loosely alluded to a few times through a few flashbacks centered around Nayuki and Ayu. We get to see some building blocks for their relationships here but nothing too significant just yet. The present day events here focus more on getting our male lead to meet and interact with almost every single important girl we will get to know across the whole series (with Amano being the only significant character missing). So yes, this is mostly introduction material here, but this is not a bad thing.
To begin with, all the slice of life stuff is handled extremely well, which is helped along by Yuichi being the master of snark. He helps to spark interest by quick jabs and straight faced sarcasm, often putting in wry observations about what's happening around him. The script writing here is on top form and while it doesn't run as a pure comedy the humour level is definitely something the viewer can appreciate. Thankfully he does pull out other moods too, holding casual conversation with the various people he meets.
Of course, one man does not make the show. Here we find that Nayuki, Ayu and Makoto being the starring girls of this disc. Nayuki is the first one we meet, and the first couple of episodes seem set around showing the level of relationship she has with both Yuichi and her mother, as the three get accustomed to the new family life. She's basically one of the more normal girls in the series, with the only peculiar quirk being her amazing ability to sleep through 30 alarm clocks (leading to a rather amusing scene during Yuichi's first morning at the house). She's definitely a very likeable girl and scenes involving her are very pleasant.
Makoto shows up later on and the second half of the disc puts greater focus on her. She is a strange girl that shows up suddenly in front of Yuichi declaring revenge, only to pass out after a failed attempt to attack. Eventually it's discovered that she has lost her memory, with the only thing remaining is her unknown grudge. Akiko's decision to let her stay at the Minase household leads to some very amusing sequences as she and Yuichi fight like rival siblings and the sheer amount of energy she has gives any of her scenes a lot of buzz.
Then there is Ayu. It's immediately obvious that Ayu is "the" girl of the series, especially as each episode sans the first one has a sort of lead-in with Ayu narrating some mysterious dialogue that's just vague enough to hint about a more complex backstory without giving anything away. There's another plot point later on that builds on this, but this early on the series naturally doesn't go too far with it yet but it works well to lay the groundwork. As a character, Ayu is an excitable young girl who is playful but clumsy. This mixed with her trademark "uguu" catchphrase is sure to endear her to the viewer. Moreso when Yuichi decides to make her the victim of many of his jokes, though many of her decisions (like her infamous "dine and dash") are basically asking for it.
So far everyone else hasn't really had the screen time to have a significant impact. Kaori is the level headed classmate whose only notable background detail is a troubled home life. Shiori is a quiet withdrawn girl who is ill and yet waits at the school for an unknown somebody. Mai is a reclusive who only really talks to Sayuri unless forced to speak.
While slice of life and humour are certainly the most obvious components of this disc, the mystery aspect needs pointing out as a big player too. These episodes make numerous references to various as-of-yet unexplained elements and they serve as suitable hooks to ensure that viewers will stay with the story to see just where they lead. The flow of events is more sedate than that of other anime series, which makes it far easier to keep up with things as they happen and allows the director to develop individual sequences a lot more fully.
The only notable problem viewers may have is that the theme of amnesia is a little overused, with three characters suffering forms of memory loss in this set of episodes alone. The series does move on to better explain each scenario though.
From the visual side of things you can certainly expect KyoAni's expert artists and animators to have put forward some impressive work as always. Characters possess amazing designs both in the form of natural traits and costume design. Indeed the school uniform of the girls is probably one of my most favourite I've seen in anime and one to stick in the mind. Everyone is capable of expressing emotion to a high degree, so you can really see confusion on Nayuki's face and understand Ayu's sheer joy when finding out who Yuichi is.
Be prepared though, because the series has a serious dedication towards the cute. For those viewers in love with the moe style they will adore practically every scene throughout, but anyone not keen on the style may find this akin to drowning in gooey cuteness. Certainly it's hard to find a series more representative of moe than Kanon.
Scene design and direction deserves a mention, because it's not just the characters that impress. The locations work wonderfully as backdrops to the events that play out, but the attention to detail is amazing. For example, keep an eye out early on to catch a glimpse of Shiori walking past Yuichi before they've officially met, or the scene transition at the school where Yuichi and Nayuki walk away while the camera lingers at the gate to show Sayuri jogging over to find Mai.
Music is quite nice in this series. The two songs used have distinct contrasting styles. The opener is a calm soulful melody called "Last Regrets" that serves to give an indication of some of the darker undertones hidden within character backstories, while the ending "Kaze no Tadori Tsuku Basho" is an energetic upbeat number expressing the happiness that can be found, sang to the scene of Ayu dashing through the snow.
The rest of the music track is pleasant, hitting the calm notes to accentuate the story as things progress. Most tunes are pretty much background music, although the odd tune bursts out at times to be memorable. "Shou no ori" playing out as Yuichi meets Mai during a night scene certainly gives the event a lot more impact and the music by itself is great.
Voice acting is top quality mostly. Chris Patton's Yuichi is spot on for allowing the snarky humour to flow and he puts forth real effort to convey everything. Jessica Boone brings a soft voice to Nayuki and her rendition makes her character all the more sweeter. Tiffany Terrell makes Makoto sound as mad as she acts and her scenes would likely not be as awesome with her. Then Brittney Karbowski, while not quite as amazing as the others mentioned, does her part to convey Ayu's slightly childish nature well. Really, the VA cast in general scores top marks from me.
For the on disc extras you can expect the now usual textless opening and closing animations and trailers. In addition we also get a nice inside look at the production process involved in the making of Kanon, which is a nice treat for the fans.
So that covers it all. The series has yet to hit its full stride but the beginnings laid out by this first disc have already proved to be very interesting. We've had introductions for most of the cast and several characters have received some worthwhile development, all contained within an entertaining slice of life package with extra servings of moe. Kanon comes recommended for people seeking cutesy high school romance with a dash of mystery.
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