Hiiro no Kakera First Impressions – Not quite the reverse harem that you might expect
April 8, 2012 1 Comment
I went into Hiiro no Kakera (roughly translated as Scarlet Fragment) with a few ideas as to what the series would be about. Firstly it is an adaptation of a Otome Game, with the protagonist Tamaki Kasuga surrounded by her own harem of bishounen. Now, in some ways this is the case and all the male protagonists are of the very handsome type, and yet it appears to have taken a slightly different route. Instead of our heroine fawning over all the bishounen surrounding her, there is a definite sense that, while she may develop romantic feelings, that is not necessarily a substantial part of the series itself.
At first glance there are similarities between Hiiro no Kakera and Natsume Yuujinchou, with our heroine learning about having special powers, along with various supernatural goings on surrounding her. But, there are numerous series that share similarities, and this should not necessarily put anyone off. And as the episode progressed we began to learn why Tamaki had been called to such a remote village, while at the same time being as confused as she clearly was. According to her Grandmother, Tamaki is the next Tamayorihime, someone charged with the duty of maintaining the seal on, and guarding the Onikimaru. According to Tamaki’s grandmother the Onikimaru (a sacred sword) holds within it the first wish of a god – the power to destroy the world, and for generations the Tamayorihime have guarded this relic.
Now understandably, Tamaki is a little taken aback by this sudden news, along with the knowledge that everyone in the village appears to know who she is. Add to this her being attacked by ‘drowned gods’ on her way to the village and we have one very confused girl, who is not entirely sure why she is even there. But fear not, because her guardians enter the picture soon afterwards, and although they call themselves the ‘five’, they are in fact only four. Naturally for an otome game adaptation they are all incredibly handsome, strong and with their own quite unique character traits. But interestingly enough as mentioned earlier, where this differs from previous reverse harem anime is the lack of romantic and sexual tension. Far from falling head over heels for these bishounen, Tamaki is completely nonplussed; she has no idea why they are protecting her. Furthermore, no one, not even her grandmother has tried to elaborate as to what on earth her role is, and what the Tamayorihime is either.
This brings to me one slight problem with the series, the complete lack of any explanation, and while this is not disastrous, it does leave more questions than are perhaps needed by the end of this first episode. Obviously this series is quite long, 26 episodes to be exact, and that leaves it plenty of time to further explore and expand the story, however, a little roe explanation may have been nice. That being said, the whole aesthetic of the series, along with the setting is rather nice, with an interesting supernatural feel to it, while still maintaining a certain sense of normality with Tamaki attending school like any high school girl should.
Obviously the idea of a single girl/boy with immense supernatural power and a duty to guard a sacred object with untold destructive power is hardly new or exciting, and yet this episode was enjoyable. The characters interactions, while quite basic in places, along with keeping to otome game traditions were nice to watch, and the cute little fox spirit pet was, well cute (although it unfortunately lacks the foul mouth of Nyanko-sensei). And we have the potential for a thoroughly interesting and engaging story as this series gets going. Furthermore, the animation was beautiful to watch, with brilliant colour – there are loads of series either set during the summer or winter, too few are set during the autumn, and not just any autumn, a rural autumn. The reds, gold’s, yellows and oranges of the scenery were beautiful to look at and really helped to create this dark and foreboding atmosphere, while also still presenting us with beautiful scenery.
This time of year is an interesting one within animism traditions, one that can mark the boundaries between the fruitful winter and autumn, and the dangerous winter. So the setting itself is a nice little touch that fits well with the supernatural theme, and ideas about maintaining a balance of power in the world. And the Youkai are also quite curious, sticking with the Miyazaki tradition of representing forest and other spirits as quite curious, dangerous, but also hard to represent. They are shapeless, yet also have a definite shape, and there is also an ambiguity about them, there are bad spirits, good spirits, but also spirits that are neither. Again, this is in keeping with similar traditions and beliefs within the Shinto and Buddhism religions of Japan, and further shows the ambiguity of the nature that surrounds them. Now a major complaint that I do have with the spirits is the use of CGI to animate them, the ‘drowned gods’ look clunky and out of place within the hand-drawn beautiful scenery, as if they are an afterthought. I hope that such CGI is not overused as I feel that it simply spoiled the entire effect of running into spirits in the first place.
Overall the first episode showed possibility, with the makings of a pretty good supernatural series largely about the power of nature. Obviously it is an otome game adaptation, so there will be a lot of bishounen fighting alongside our female protagonist, and I would assume that at some point romance might be involved. But thankfully that does not appear to be the central element to the series at the moment, with the Tamayorihime and Onikimaru taking centre stage. The series pacing is rather slow, and I hope that the major questions surrounding who Tamaki is, what the Tamaryorihime is and so on will be answered within the first few episodes, any longer and I feel people will be lost. It is clearly not a show for everyone, but so far it has been quite enjoyable to watch and at least this time the female protagonist is not totally useless and appears to be quite sensible actually. Not entirely sure if I will continue it, but it has given me hope that the show will be pretty good once all the introductions are out of the way.