The spring season might be over and done with for most, but feeling overwhelming with how much I have left to sift through for this current summer, it does help place things in perspective. For one, I didn’t realize how little from spring season I watched and further more, how much of it I actually enjoyed. There were a few, no matter how grating they were that help passed time, but never satisfied me completely. Isshuukan Friends comes closer than any other title of the season and something that comes as a surprise, being close to the last thing I ended the season with and didn’t initially feel to strong about.
Title: Isshuukan Friends (Lit: One Week Friends)
Studio: Brain’s Base
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Slice-Of-life
High school sophomore Yūki Hase noticed that Kaori Fujimiya, his classmate, was always alone. He tried to start a conversation with her but was turned down: “My memories of friendship can last only a week,” she said. Despite of knowing this shocking truth, Yūki keeps trying to be Kaori’s “new” friend every week.
The classic case of amnesia is a commonly hackneyed trope that is no stranger to anime and any variations are few and far in-between. In and of itself, the idea isn’t an unbelievable or alluring one, but instead of focusing on the journey of a high-fantasy hero/villain – why not render it into a more modern, if not everyday representation? Thankfully, Isshuukan Friends does just that as it follows High schooler Yūki Hase’s endeavors to make friends with his classmate Kaori Fujimiya whom unknown to others, memories reset themselves (a la 50 first dates style) each and every Monday. Unsurprisingly, it culminates to a heart-warming and satisfying story centering around true friendship and the subjectivity of memories that miraculously doesn’t get too stifling in the process.
While Isshuukan Friends does exceptionally well keeping the drama to minimum, most of my complaints center around various conventions of conflict used to move the story forward – other than Fujimiya’s apparent memory loss. Early on, the series does demonstrate the device used well such as the episode where Hase and Fujimiya have a disagreement leading to her diary being lost and again in another where Saki Yamagishi is introduced to Fujimiya’s circle of friends. However, as the story moves forward introducing another character that is a key factor behind Fujimiya’s memory loss, the conflict factor begins to run into complications that both seem poorly thought out as they are ridiculous. Arguably, it does speak to the message of the series overall, but by the time this point is reached, much of the later half is just fumbling to conclude. That being said, for the most part, the writing for the series is eloquently and skillfully done – a far cry from the melodramatic theatrics I was expecting.
In any event, the characters and character dynamics do play a large role in how well things coalesce for the story progression. Despite not having the skills to solve an algebraic equation without fail, he does voluntarily try to assuage Fujimiya’s, who is not too thrilled at first, but allows it and happens to blossom through many exchanges. Ironically enough, with friendship being an overwrought theme, the main cast does have a very strong support casting. Shogo Kiryu, often acts as the chary go-between that behind his cold personality belies a comforting adviser to Hase. And Saki, as scatterbrained as she is, an emotional bond to Fujimiya that opens so much more later on. The slice-of-life moments that the series brings in later episodes become a nice tie-in not only because they break up some of the more lofty parts of the story or pacing (which the latter is fine), but also because it reinforces the friendship theme and its positive effects on Fujimiya. Without a doubt, the series isn’t shy about paying its characters their due credit and pays off in the long run. Romance is an element that unfortunately the series flops struggles with (and personally like to see), but in that respect…nothing that should compromise the viewing experience.
Character designs aren’t anything particularly remarkable nor is anything design orientated, foreground or back. The animation is very crisp and lively in contrast to the artwork, but there isn’t much to grasp at in terms of standing out. On the other hand, the musical score is great as subdued as it is with the composer prioritizing a lot of string and piano pieces. One of my favorites examples would have to be the main motif, Tomodachi no Kioku – where the strings like guitar and violin start off strong, but then piano leads from a dream-like to moderate tempo. Very beautiful and uplifting.
I can’t say that I took pleasure in much of what Spring had to offer (not that their was much to begin with), but without any reservations or purple prose, Isshuukan Friends does rank among the handful that were pleasurable as they are easy to digest. Without question it isn’t the most creative or close to reality tale – although, it really doesn’t have to be or need to be when done so well and avoiding habitual tropes. Even though the ending itself doesn’t provide the most conclusive answer – it is just like the math problems that Hase is so terrible at, but doesn’t realizes he solves in Fujimiya. Sometimes when you reach an incorrect response, you just need to try again and from a different angle to see what you can learn about it. And if that isn’t an endearing message the show possible lends itself too that everyone can benefit from, I don’t know what is.
Pros: Nice soundtrack, well-written scenario, likeable cast of characters,
Cons: weak second half, dull animation choices