As a college freshman last year, I realized that I had an incredible amount of free time. The lack of a tight schedule meant that I had an almost infinite time to do the most counterproductive and useless things like surfing the web and staring at the ceiling. I decided that I should devote some of this free time on an old hobby of mine: watching anime. Having been burnt on anime for a number of years, I wanted to watch something that would make me realize once again why I fell in love with this medium. So I checked on the internet to see what’s being talked about, and I discovered…Kanon.
I remember watching the first episode and felt like I wanted to puke. This is what good anime is now?! The show starts off with the introduction of the main character, Yuichi Aizawa. He is a blank slate: a boring, average, high school student that carries no character whatsoever other than on a superficial level. The main character meets his cousin Nayuki, and it is discovered that for some unknown reason Yuichi will stay at her home to go to school. Nothing is revealed as to why he came. Later on they introduce the other four girls that make up his life.
The girls must be the most non-threatening, stereotypical, moe girls I’ve ever seen in my life. All of the girls’ hairs are cleverly color-coded to help the viewer remember which one was which, but in the end it didn’t matter. They were all the same. Each had their own catchphrase that are meant to be cute but instead becomes downright annoying. Many of the girls are shouting stupid catchphrases in squeaky voices. The words “Awooo” and “Fighto!” are forever locked into my head, and I cannot help but say them out loud at times. Damn you moe! I would also like to mention that Nayuki's mom looks like she could be her daughter's sister.
The most notoriously annoying girl of the five is Ayu Tsukimiya, a girl that looks like she’s 11 and lacks the intelligence to utter any words other than “Uguuuu” and something about taiyaki. One of the stupidest moments of the show was in the first episode when the main protagonist asked Ayu why she had wings on her backpack. In an instant Ayu swirls around continuously in a circle trying to see her pair of wings instead of just moving her fucking head back. After that moment I stopped watching the show for a series of months, thinking that this might be the worst anime I have ever seen.
Though all of the other girls (Nayuki, Makoto, Shiori, and Mai) act somewhat different from one another, each can be derived as to some moe stereotype. There are the shy types, the quiet types, the sick girl, the loud obnoxious types, and even the supernatural and furry types. None of the characters though, never seem threatening at all. They are always sugary sweet and cute, so much that I wanted to kill myself. I rather not see girls always complementing one another and weeping and asking for Yuichi’s stupid ass for help. There’s a sheer lack of originality in the girls. They just don’t seem appealing at all to me. None of them seem strong at all and cannot function without the help of the protagonist. Some of them are so unintelligent that there were times when I thought that they were retarded.
Speaking of the characters, I suppose I should start talking about the actual storyline and why the girls matter more than the actual main character. The show seemed like it was going to lean towards a harem show since many of the girls eventually lives with him. After a series of unimportant and incredibly boring episodes, the show actually starts telling a story. Yuichi is so much of a blank slate that he cannot remember anything that happened in his childhood when he visited this town. The amnesia effect helps create the entire show, and it works so well that many of the other characters also have amnesia. Ayu is searching for something she cannot remember. Makoto is searching she can’t remember. Even Yuichi is searching for something he can’t remember. The only girl that seems to be even remotely interesting is the sword-wielding Mai, and she’s the one that barely even talks.
Eventually, it’s revealed that most of the girls are somehow connected to Yuichi’s past. The whole “childhood friend” thing is overdone, and though I’m sure the generic storyline could be well executed, this was not the case. Yuichi also just cannot remember a single thing that happen in his past except when it’s conveniently necessary in order to advance the plot. The pacing just seems off at times, and at other times it just seems so force in order to make the show somewhat understandable. Yuichi was also just not interesting enough for me to even care about. It seems like he was just there so that they could somehow connect all of these characters together. By the way, I don’t know how he could forget about girls with powers, a fox girl, and girls that could be considered mentally disable, but I guess if all of that happened to me I’d probably forget and pretend I wasn’t crazy.
The overall storyline just seemed like a clusterfuck of sad occurrences happening without much satisfaction for me as a viewer. I never laughed at the jokes. People were just complementing each other and making silly jokes. Yuichi’s sarcasm wasn't well executed. Whenever there were light moments I never felt like I was enjoying it, and whenever there were sad moments it was turned to 11. I never felt a sense of relief when the sad moments stopped. What was also disappointing was the last arc, Ayu's story. She was the main love interest, but her story felt like it was just plain dumb. Even after 24 episodes it seemed like romantic relationship was rushed and forced. I thought that my dedication to finishing the series would give me relief at the end, but I felt a sense of betrayal after episode 20. What I witnessed in episode 20 was the worst kind of moe I had ever seen: when a girl seemed so retarded that you believe that she actually is. I wanted to understand why the show was so popular, but I while watching the series I realize that this show was way over-hyped.
With all of that it seems like this review is more of a rant, so I think I should point out the good parts of the show. The storyline wasn't as excruciating as I thought it was going to be. My first impression was that this show was going to be really bad, and the first couple of episodes did not help. But as I kept watching it I started to stop hating it as much and just accepted it. Maybe it was because my level of expectations were severely lowered.
On a technical level, Kanon is visually appealing. There are times where the animation seems bad, but during key moments the animation seems great. Kyoto Animations seems to always amaze me, and even for a show that is minimally intelligent they seem to always execute key moments well. The cool colors and warm colors blend well and gives it a sense of coldness. Especially towards the end, it seems like a lot of the budget was used specifically for the last 2-3 episodes. I actually like the music (besides the boring opening), and I think it was used very effectively.
Overall, the series is not as bad as I was expecting. It doesn't mean that I don't think the show was a waste of my time though. I believe the lack of an interesting main character is a huge problem for this show. My attention wouldn't go away from the fact that the main character is not only flawless (besides his incredibly bad amnesia), but he could somehow get all these girls to like him without ever being remotely interesting. The sugary, sweet characters seem too fluffy for my taste. I like my anime girls to be more complex. It just seems like there wasn't enough thought put into their characters. Catchphrases, obsessions, and childhood memories are fine, but please make them have more than one motive (make the main character save them). I wouldn't really recommend watching this show if moe is not your type. I'm sure the average moe fan would enjoy it just as much as everyone else on the internet. Then again if they like moe, chances are that they already saw this show.