After three episodes it’s safe to conclude that Kotoura-san is a series that isn’t going to pull many punches.
This is going to be another mostly glowing review, so let me get my one quibble out of the way first to clear the decks for happier things. I have a pet peeve about how cute girls can do the most vile and reprehensible things in anime, and at the slightest sign of remorse, all is forgiven. The most egregious example in recent memory happened in Binbougami-ga (if you saw it you’ll remember it), it happened in the last episode here when Mifune put Kotoura in a terrible situation here for selfish reasons, and it repeated itself this week when Moritani put a hit out on Manabe. No, it doesn’t work that way – cuteness shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail free card. Karma is a bitch, and so is Moritani for what she did to Manabe, and a few crocodile tears don’t change that fact. When Kotoura actually apologized (in her mind) to Moritani, I just about threw up – though in truth, it’s an indication of just what a gloriously kind person she truly is.
Mifune and Muroto have potential it’s Kotoura and Manabe who make this series special. Kanemoto Hisako and Fukushima Jun are superb here, and the characters are expressively drawn and written with intelligence and subtlety. I love the small moments such as when Kotoura unwittingly grabs the hem of Manabe’s jacket so he can’t leave – they tell us so much about her and the bond that already exists between them. If ever a boy was made for a girl, it’s Manabe for Kotoura. She’s a girl for whom everyone else is a pane of glass, but Manabe is transparent by nature – he hides nothing of himself and everyone can see exactly who he is. The way this series deals with eroticism is as refreshing and open as any anime in ages – as is the case with Manabe himself. It’s expressed, it’s acknowledged, it’s a part of the fabric of life – but it’s not all there is to it. The reality of course is that having erotic thoughts doesn’t make you a pervert or shallow – it makes you human. And being transparent doesn’t mean a person is shallow either. Still waters run deep, they say – and if Manabe were a body of water, he’d be Crater Lake, Oregon.
karaoke sequence, for example, is hilarious – especially given that Kanemoto Hisako is a wonderful singer and has performed many OP and EDs herself, including her contributions to the OP here (which just happened to be the song Kotoura-chan chose to perform, the perfect touch). That scene probably represents the apex for the series to date as far as being light-hearted and hopeful, but this show is able to dance back and forth between light comedy and tense, gut-wrenching pain as well as any in recent memory. To be honest, my expectations was that Moritani has told her goons to do something to Kotoura (I didn’t care to speculate on what) and I was on pins and needles as she was walking home. That she would direct her hate into revenge against the guy she’s in love with was a surprise, but certainly a safer move as far as the narrative is concerned.
eternally unwilling to forgive herself, despite having done nothing wrong. It’s only natural for a girl who knows everyone she meets intimately – and knows that they resent it – to want to keep the world at a safe distance. But Manabe isn’t going to let that happen, and that seems to me to be the central pillar around which the series is going to be built. It’s a very novel and different take on a love story, and features two characters who’ve established themselves as few anime characters do. The possibilities for Kotoura-san as a series seem almost boundless – both in the short and long-term – and that’s something to be excited about.