ADV Films // 2006 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mina Rhodes (Retired) // February 8th, 2008
"A poignant concerto of tears, laughter and pinky promises make up a
mystical world in Kanon!"
-- from the back of the DVD cover.
Kanon is a 24-episode anime series based on a popular Japanese dating video game; one of those interactive "graphic novels" for men who are apparently incapable of talking to women in real life, and where the object is to click your way through a billion text screens before bedding each underage female anime character. Sexy. Basically, this is an anime based on a game made for guys who like those creepy bedspreads featuring life size, bug-eyed anime schoolgirls whose skirts are lifted to expose their tenderly drawn lady parts.
Now, before you are either repulsed or enticed, you should know that this anime adaptation of the game has been toned down (in this volume, at least). So, no, what you get is not boring hentai-lite. Instead, Kanon is a slow paced, slice-of-life harem anime that floats on an undercurrent of creepy misogyny left over from its roots.
Yuichi Aizawa is a passive aggressive jerk cute 17-year-old high school guy who has recently returned to the city of Kanon to stay with his oh-so adorable cousin, Nayuki, who is a very heavy sleeper, and his aunt, Akiko, whose Endearingly Quirky Personality Trait is that she likes to make nasty jam. Throughout the four episodes presented on this first volume of the series, Yuichi meets a handful of other girls, all with their own Endearingly Quirky Personality Traits -- and some of them even come complete with their own specific Cute Anime Girl Catchphrases! Yuichi then proceeds to "befriend" them by verbally pelting them with little insults every now and then. Lucky for him, chicks totally dig that kinda stuff. 'Cause women are like dogs, ya know? Kick em and they still come bounding up to you, all big-eyed and panting with excitement. Or rather, in the case of Ayu, they collide with you head-on. Twice. After stealing from a taiyaki stand. Twice. In the space of two episodes. Ayu is distinguished from the other adorable girls that fawn over Yuichi because she is a) small, b) wears a backpack that has little wings on it, and c) has her own catchphrase -- "Uguu!" -- which she emits whenever she is displeased. Other girls that come into Yuichi's life are Makoto, an amnesiac who "hates" him (though something tells me she'll eventually come around and, like, totally let him bang her), and Shiori, who is apparently physically sick, but also lovesick for Yuichi, after randomly bumping into him and Ayu.
Mysteriously, lots of people have lapses in their memory, pointing to some kind of big, supernatural revelation in the later episodes (buy the subsequent volumes to find out!). Or maybe it turns out that one of the girls is really some kind of forest animal in human form; a sort of anime Animala from The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, only probably not anywhere near as funny. Hell, maybe it'll even turn out to be both!
Volume 1 of Kanon contains the series' first four episodes:
* "Silver Overture"
Yuichi arrives back in town after being away for seven years. Cue introductions of principle characters, most of whom Yuichi runs into on the street (in Ayu's case, literally), which is where most of them spend much of their time, apparently wandering aimlessly.
* "Introit in the Snow"
It's Yuichi's first day at the local high school. He is in the same class as Nayuki, and is annoyed when she expresses how happy she is to share it with him. Later, his annoyance grows when he is yet again involved in a run-in with Ayu. While lost with the aforementioned angel backpacked Uguu-er, he meets Shiori, who politely gives them directions back into town. Stopping off to buy groceries, Yuichi is attacked by a mysterious girl named...
* "A Forgotten Partita"
...Makoto. She can't remember anything about her past, except that she doesn't like Yuichi. Her sentiments would be shared by any sensible person, but sadly, few of the characters that populate the show's eponymous city fit such a description. Case in point: instead of contacting the police when an amnesiac young girl turns up and attacks Yuichi, Akiko allows Makoto to stay at her house until her memory returns. At school, Yuichi spies Shiori outside in the snow, and he goes out to check on her. Turns out she came to the school, despite being ill, because she wanted to see someone; someone simply irresistible to girls, despite being a complete prick.
* "Holiday Caprice"
Yuichi has flashbacks to when he and Ayu were children. Makoto tries to play a prank on Yuichi, but he foils her plans with his superior intelligence; silly girl! Nayuki lends him some notes for school, which they both need to study for a test the next day, but in a shocking break from his usually idealized self, Yuichi leaves the notes at school. When Nayuki expresses concern about this, afraid that she'll fail, he essentially tells her "too bad, so sad." But wait, he was only joking! He's such a nice guy that he'll go and break into the school at night to get those notes back for her; never mind the fact that, of course, he'd fail too if he didn't get those notes back. While at the school, he comes across a girl holding a sword in the hall. Mystery!
Harem anime are usually comedies in which one male protagonist is surrounded by several beautiful women who are all hopelessly in love with him, despite the fact he is usually a completely average loser who is unexceptional in both appearance and personality -- all the better to appeal to a male demographic of completely average losers who are unexceptional in both appearance and personality, yet seek to see their dreams of being drooled over by numerous hot babes legitimized in some kind of entertainment media. Some harem animes do work, by being genuinely funny and entertaining, as in the case of Tenchi Muyo. Most don't. Kanon is a harem anime that is only partly a comedy, grafted onto a slice-of-life style high school story, with bits of melodrama scattered throughout to provide the pretense that this wish fulfillment story of several pretty girls falling for one unremarkable guy is somehow dramatically potent.
Kanon's misogyny is inescapable. The entire foundation of the story is steeped in it, but the way it manifests itself in the character designs is most obvious. Yuichi, as well as all the other male characters, are drawn in a straightforward, realistic way (well, as realistic as anime usually looks). Every female character, however, is drawn in that hyper-stylized way typical of much of the anime genre; enormous, wobbly eyes that often glisten with little bobbules of tears, for in these kinds of series', women are childlike, emotionally fragile creatures, etc, etc. The end result being that every teenage girl that is the same age as Yuichi looks to be about 10 compared to his 17 (even younger in the case of Ayu). This creepy, pseudo-pedophilic idealization even extends to Akiko, Yuichi's own aunt, rendering her a sex object, too, in the grand scheme of the show -- she is Nayuki's mother, but is depicted with the same childlike, fragile form as all the teenage girls, making her almost indistinguishable from them.
All of this would be perhaps somewhat forgivable if the show had anything to really recommend. On the basis of these four episodes, it doesn't. Repetitive, silly, and dull are three adjectives that nicely sum up the proceedings contained in this first volume. The animation is pleasant, but unremarkable; ditto for the mediocre musical score.
ADV's DVD presentation is typical of the studio; a first volume of an anime, containing four episodes, with perfectly decent picture quality (Kanon is presented in anamorphic widescreen, preserving its original broadcast ratio), the original Japanese language track and an excellent English dub, both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Extras include clean opening and closing animations, as well as "Kanon: A Close Look at an Anime Production House: Part 1," a brief featurette that superficially examines some aspects of the making of Kanon. This is merely the first part of a series of featurettes that will most likely be included on later volumes.
Kanon is so dull that five minutes after viewing the four episodes on this disc, I completely forgot everything I had just watched. Much like the characters in the show itself, my memory became completely hazy as to what happened in the series; let that be a warning to you.
Review content copyright © 2008 Mina Rhodes; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* Kanon: A Close Look at an Anime Production House: Part 1
* Wikipedia: Kanon