+++++ Kanon (2006; 1-24) – Started 07/10. Finished 07/15. DOUBLE-WOW! Childhood romance, melancholy and mystery! Heartbreaking and breathtaking!
Simply breathtaking. Before starting, I expected another cute heart-warming comedy. But when I sat down before the living room TV, the opening snowfall scene between Yuuichi and Nayuki, followed by the stunning opening song and credits, unexpectedly blew me away. At once, I sensed this wouldn’t be another ordinary teenaged comedy-drama. And it wasn’t. As the series unfolds, the 24-episode Kanon (2006) introduces one leading male character — Yuuichi — and his five co-leading females — Nayuki, Matoko, Mai, Shiori, and Ayu — each with her own mysterious romantic ties to his forgotten childhood past.
Animated in the familiar style of his previous project — Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (4 of 5 stars; my max for a half-season) — Director Tatsuya Ishihara employs the same brilliant techniques to tell this moving collection of stories. From Yuuichi’s narration — reminiscent of Kyon’s narration in Melancholy and voiced by the same actor — to the stylish “camera” work — including hand-held camera blurs, split-second off-center close-ups, wide off-center perspectives — to the striking natural settings — moonlit snowfalls, sunset-lit pollen clouds, water fountain showers — Ishihara paints a natural yet supernatural world so nostalgic and personal that it rivals the quality and intensity of animated feature films, like Makoto Shinkai’s unforgettable Voices of a Distant Star. And it is here, against Kanon‘s magical backdrop, where the various high-school friends and family members experience everything from laughing adolescent antics to time-freezing tragedies. Complementing this vision is the equally haunting piano-laced bell-sprinkled soundtrack and use of Pachelbel’s Canon as a fitting play on the series title. Typically, if a series is powerful enough to move me to the edge of tears — such as To Heart (1999, 2004), Fruits Basket (2001), Saikano (2002), Mai-HiME (2004), Negima! (2005), and Shuffle! (2005) — then it earns 5 of 5 stars (or 4 of 5 for a half season). But with Kanon, I was on that edge three separate times — with Matoko’s, Mai’s, and Ayu’s heart-breaking stories. So my decision is easy… an overwhelming 5 of 5 stars!
++++ Pumpkin Scissors (1-24) – Restarted 06/21. Finished 07/09. WOW, epic action, glorious inspiration, and demonic intrigue!
What is a noble? What is a soldier? Struggling to answer these questions in an alternate-past timeline, the 24-episode series Pumpkin Scissors (2006) depicts both the mundane and dangerous missions undertaken by the Imperial Army State Section III, a small motley crew of atypical soldiers nicknamed “Pumpkin Scissors”. Led by the fiery blonde Second Lieutenant Alice L. Malvin and the towering but soft-spoken Corporal Randel Oland, this small band resembles a retro-steampunk version of the cyberpunk “Section 9” from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002-2005). In fact, Alice is easily reminiscent of another noble blonde — the Arthurian sword-wielding Saber from Fate/Stay Night (2006). However, while Alice is unquestionably an outstanding fighter, she differs from the cyborg Motoko or the stoic Saber in her uniquely outspoken, often reckless, and occasionally, even childish behavior. And it is this distinction which probably makes her, not only the most inspiring, but also the most endearing of the three. Beyond that, the epic orchestral soundtrack and consistently crisp animation push this series to 4 stars. Yet, despite the heart-stopping chills and goosebumps during the climactic battle, the lack of a deeper emotional connection or satisfactory resolution to the hidden conspiracy prevents it from rising to 5 stars. That is, until a second season is developed, haha. Nevertheless, a strong 4 of 5 stars!