Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Anime REVIEW: Fuuka

Fuuka is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

We live in a time where each anime season can debut anywhere between 20 and 30 new shows, and in the advent of simulcasting it can be even harder to choose which ones to take note of and which ones to ignore. This was my situation back in January, when I was looking for a potential new show to pick up alongside the continuations of Time Bokan 24, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Dragon Ball Super. Enter Fuuka – brought to my attention via Twitter through a quick trailer on Crunchyroll. This 12-episode series from Diomedéa promised highschoolers starting a band, music, romance and an end theme by Megumi Nakajima (aka Macross Frontier’s Ranka Lee), so seemed like a pretty solid choice at the time. Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Yuu meets FuukaFuuka Akitsuki

A pseudo-sequel to writer Koji Seo’s earlier work Suzuka (not that this show requires any knowledge of it), Fuuka centers around introverted highschooler Yuu Haruna – a boy who lives his life through his Twitter feed. His life changes when one day he quite literally bumps into Fuuka Akitsuki, who immediately accuses him of trying to take a rather precarious photo of her. Despite this rocky start, the two quickly become friends and bond over their love of music – with Fuuka eventually roping Yuu into forming a band with her alongside schoolmates Makoto Mikasa, Kazuya Nachi and Sara Iwami.

However Yuu’s life becomes all the more complicated as his childhood friend Koyuki Hinashi makes contact with him after years of silence, having now become a famous singer. Now Yuu is caught between his growing feelings for Fuuka, the feelings Koyuki has harboured for him since childhood and the paparazzi/fans that stalk her every move.

Yū HarunaKoyuki Hinashi

Truth be told, the real reason I stuck with Fuuka was because I happened to stumble upon some pretty significant manga spoilers while reading the series’ Wikipedia page. For spoilers’ sake the review won’t go in detail about what happens in the source material, but let’s just say the story takes a pretty drastic turn – so much so that it’s become something of a joke among its readers. Curious to see how the show would go about pulling off such a ridiculous turn of events, I made the decision to stick with the show despite it getting off to a rather rocky start.

But then the unexpected happened and the anime distanced itself from the manga entirely, going off in its own separate direction.

Given the nature of the manga’s storyline some might consider this a wise move, but the truth is without it there is absolutely nothing noteworthy about this series. Fuuka simply goes through the motions for its entire 12-episode run, ticking every box that it can but constantly failing to resonate on any emotional level. It’s the story of an introvert being stuck in a love triangle with a manic pixie dream girl and his childhood friend turned best-selling pop idol. It’s unrelatable, unbelieveable and most importantly uninteresting.

Makoto MikasaSara Iwami

Yuu’s introverted nature and tendency to live life through his Twitter feed could have made for some interesting development if handled gradually, but instead this element of his character doesn’t carry past the first few episodes. After that he’s just another pathetic, meek protagonist that’s been done a million times before and a billion times better. Meanwhile Fuuka is brash, obnoxious and seemingly perfect in every way. The blue hair should be more than enough to convince you how much of an anime cliché she is, lacking in any sort of real substance or character depth. Finally Koyoki is the only character deserving of any sympathy in this entire ordeal, as the show seems to go out of its way to toy with her on an emotional level. Parents divorcing, moving away, unrequited love – Koyuki is just a well of issues even before she gets her heart inevitably stomped on. When the show is named after one of the characters, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the resolution to this triangle.

There are other characters in the series, primarily Fallen Moon’s other three bandmates and their inspiration-turned-mentors HEDGEhogs, but don’t be fooled into thinking any of these characters really matter in the grand scheme of things. They’re there, have a few moments to establish who they are and then it’s all just background noise to further highlight just how great Fuuka supposedly is.

With only 12 episodes the story moves a breakneck pace, conveniently skipping over any sort of character-building exercises or elements that might actually make for good viewing. For example, Sara is introduced as incredibly standoffish, but as soon as she discovers she’s Twitter friends with Yuu that façade is immediately dropped. Meanwhile Yuu, who has zero musical experience prior to joining Fallen Moon, does all his practicing off-screen and doesn’t seem to have any problems performing live without a hitch. Even K-On! had more musical input than Fuuka, and that show made frequently had them procrastinating from their musical duties. Ultimately the musical element of Fuuka is little more than a backdrop despite being the crux that is carrying the story forwards. Even the music itself is forgettable at best.

Fallen MoonYuu & Fuuka

Amongst all these complaints Fuuka at the very least works on a visual level – the animation is vibrant and the character designs distinct enough to give the show its own identity. What lets it all down though is the show’s almost toxic use of fan service, which leaves a sour taste right from the very beginning with Yuu and Fuuka’s first meeting. It’s one thing to have Yuu live with three sisters who all constantly walk around in their underwear, it’s another to have one of the show’s more “serious” conversations take place in a bathhouse while the two female leads are completely naked.

In the end Fuuka was more than just an anime to me, it was two important lessons. These lessons were to be far more scrutinous in my choices of seasonal anime, and to get over my need to see shows through to the end. Tiresome, bland and devoid of any memorable content or characters, Fuuka is a paint-by-numbers highschooler romance anime that still somehow manages miss every note of what makes this genre so popular. At least if the show had followed the manga’s original story, the following trainwreck would have been spectacular. As it is, this show is barely worth the above 1000 words I’ve dedicated to talking about it. Basically, do yourselves a huge favour and watch pretty much anything over this because chances are it’ll be better.


      

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