Mashiro-Iro Symphony: Love is Pure White – Review – The home of cute girls and strange disembodied catheads that go ‘uryuuu’
December 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Mashiro-Iro Symphony: Love is Pure White has finished and I enjoyed the season thoroughly, in fact I would even say that it has been my favorite anime this season. Mashiro-Iro Symphony was for me the dark horse of this season, with the potential to either be a great show or something entirely generic and forgettable. In my initial thoughts post I did suggest that the show wasn’t really anything special, something that I now don’t agree with and feel that the show really did deliver.
Mashiro-Iro Symphony is an anime based on an eroge like Maji de Watashi ni koi Shinasai, and of course many other shows over the years. This means that we can expect certain things from this show; there is a harem of cute girls, immensely detailed uniforms that could only ever exist in a game or anime, and a high school setting.
A small list of anime that were originally eroge.
• Canvas 2: Niji Iro no Sketch
• Da Capo
• Fate/stay night
• Rumbling Hearts(Kimi ga Nozomu Eien)
• Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai
• Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru
• Prism Ark
• School Days
• Tears to Tiara
• To Heart
Now, Mashiro-Iro Symphony has a relatively simplistic plot, essentially being about the merger of two schools, one is co-ed while the other is an exclusive all-girls school that appears to have Christian origins. The assumption at the beginning of the anime, and in fact from my part is that this school ‘Yuihime Girls Private Academy’ is an exclusive all-girls school full of upper-class girls. It’s simply the feeling you get from it, although nothing much is made of that part, we don’t get any characters who are clearly from rich backgrounds turning up in limousines. A small point, but it was something that I noticed.
The story follows Shingo Uryu and his younger sister Sakuno Uryu as they interact with the girls of this new school, building friendships and in the case of Shingo, falling in love. They, along with many other students from their school are part of this program to merge the two schools, but we have no idea why this is happening, indeed, it seems to merely be a plot device to explain why boys and suddenly attending an all-girls school.
Shingo and Sakuno both join the Nuko club (nukobu), a school club dedicated to caring for lost or injured animals, he also quickly makes friends with several girls at Yuihime academy. This is the story in a nut-shell, it has slice-of-life elements and focuses on the relationships centering around Shingo.
At first I was a little dubious about this series; while I have enjoyed many similar shows such as Kanon, Da Capo, To Heart, Shuffle, etc, there have been many others that haven’t really interested me and often lack any proper story. Mashiro-Iro Symphony however was an incredibly enjoyable series to watch, while the story may seem incredibly simplistic in nature, the way it is told works. We have an anime about love and friendship, centering on Shingo and his daily interactions with girls, some of whom initially reject his advances, but all gradually warm to him and become firm friends.
The characters are of course classic stereotypes of this genre, with the Tsundere Airi, the gentle stepsister Sakuno, the caring Miu, the ditsy Ange and the other Tsundere in the series Sana. All these characters should be immediately recognizable to anyone who has either played Visual Novels or watched almost any harem/romance anime. But, this does not mean that they are bad characters, in fact they are really quite interesting, even if a little under-developed in places due to the time constraints of 12 episodes.
Shingo is also an interesting main character, and unlike many other male protagonists in harem anime is strong willed and makes his own decisions. At the beginning of the series the majority of Yuihime Academy, lead by Airi are opposed to the merger, but because of Shingo’s efforts they start to warm to the idea and he eventually breaks the hard shell surrounding Airi. It’s really nice and almost unique to have a main male character that can make decisions and seems willing to get emotionally involved with people if it helps them. We also don’t see any romantic attachment between Shingo and his stepsister Sakuno, although there is meant to be a route for Sakuno in the original game. There probably wouldn’t have been enough time to flesh out her character anyway; it is already a packed series. And amazingly, for a harem anime there is very little fanservice; with a few bath/shower scenes, a couple of undressing scenes and one ‘hot milf’ scene (Miu’s mother) with plenty of cleavage this series is quite striking in its apparent lack of fanservice.
I do have a few issues with the story and characters however. The plot is a little jumpy and there is indecision, this is quite clear when the character development of Airi, which takes place over the first few episodes, suddenly stops and the anime focuses on another girl instead. There is no indication as to why the character development of Airi, and later Sana are dropped, it just happens. I also feel that some of the characters, which appear to be introduced as central to the plot itself are often missed out or entirely forgotten for large parts of an episode or even several episodes. This isn’t a fatal flaw, but it did feel a little weird to be focusing on a character one episode only to entirely ignore that character the next episode for no apparent reason. I feel that this is in part because of the time constraints impose by a 12 episode series. I got the feeling that the writers wanted to add more from the game itself and have proper story arcs and more character development, this however would have required a longer series, probably 24-26 episodes instead of the 12 we have.
I also have some issues with the way women are portrayed in this series, something that happens in quite a few anime and games actually. Women are portrayed in a way that suggests their place is simply in the house. Sana, Airi and to a lesser extent Sakuno are a little different, being quite individualistic and willing to do things for themselves. Miu and Ange on the other hand only ever seem to be relying on Shingo, with one particular scene getting on my nerves when Shingo is clearing snow and apparently Miu is incapable of helping him, possibly because she is a girl. I have been studying womens rights in Japan, which has clearly influenced how I look at this, but I think its something that is often overlooked in anime and manga. Perhaps not essential or important for everyone, but food for thought.
I feel that I say this a lot, but the art for Mashiro-Iro Symphony was great, although not entirely for the same reasons as other shows. Last Exile for example has brilliant artwork because it clearly has a big budget and a studio that has produced some amazing series. Mashro-Iro Symphony, while still produced by a good studio (Manglobe, the studio who produced Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy), I wasn’t exactly expecting wonderful backgrounds and good animation from a harem anime. In fact I feel that Mashiro-Iro is one of the slicker series this season, with wonderful backgrounds, interesting color schemes and overall a nicely rounded aesthetic. The music is nice, but nothing special, it does help with setting the tone of scenes and episodes, and of course fits the romantic elements of this show.
Overall this was a great series, and while there are issues with it, some of which may not be all that important to many viewers, but ones that were important to me it has been enjoyable. The characters, while stereotypes are well portrayed and work well, the romance is rather nice and interestingly, apart from a few dramatic moments it does not fall into the classic trap of high school romance, that of melodrama.
Shingo is a really good male lead, who has a spine and the ability to make decisions for himself. And amazingly Shingo makes a choice, he is able to choose which girl he loves, and more importantly does it before the final episode. His, choice, while adding drama is also one that is accepted quite well, and rather than split up friendships makes them even stronger, something that I feel is often missing from other harem romances. I am quite happy to say that this series has been my favorite this season, being far more enjoyable to watch than any of the others, and for me better made. And most importantly of all, this series has Pannya-chan, what appears to be a cathead with little stubby legs, a really long tail and probably the cutest mascot ive ever seen in an anime, he also goes ‘uryuu’ a lot. I wasn’t expecting much from Mashiro-Iro Symphony and it did actually surprise me, delivering one of the better series for the season, it is well told, albeit quite simplistic, and well made. It wont be for everyone, but if you like these kinds of anime, and want something that is nice to look at, simple and enjoyable to watch then Mashiro-Iro Symphony is perfect.