Sunday 8 January 2017

First Impressions: Fuuka


A brand new year means the start of a brand new anime season, and with few definite shows to pick up this time around I decided to play chance for once. One show I noticed was getting a lot of interest beforehand was Fuuka, a music-themed romance series animated by Diomedéa (Squid Girl, KanColle) based on a manga by Kouji Seo. Not only has the show also been picked up for simulcast on Crunchyroll, but it's also receiving a simuldub courtesy of Funimation. It even sees singer and Macross Frontier voice artist Megumi Nakajima return to perform the end theme! As a sucker for music anime and highschool romances, it seemed like a pretty safe bet to catch my interest.

Yuu Haruna is a new transfer student who spends more time looking at his phone than he does the world around him. Things change when he one day accidentally bumps in Fuuka Akisuki, a loud and energetic girl with a passion for music. As Yuu spends more time with Fuuka, he provides her with the direction to take her life in and is drafted into her plan to form both a band and a school light music club. However also taking an interest in Yuu is Koyuki Hinashi - a popular singer and Yuu's childhood friend.

Now if you aren't a fan of ecchi anime or anything with a noticeable level of fan service, then Fuuka is probably going to have a hard time winning you over to begin with. The first episode gets off on the wrong foot with one of the worst and most tired setups in anime, and then eventually gives way a rather large selection of panty shots (many courtesy of Yuu's three sisters). Other than being largely unnecessary, these bits are problematic because the narrative itself has to constantly draw attention to them rather than just let them slip by. There can be a time and a place for ecchi content, but it all just makes Fuuka feel more juvenile than it actually is.

Thankfully two episodes of the series premiered on the same day and the second might do a better job of convincing viewers to stick around. What we have here is a fairly basic love triangle set up, but the characters of Yuu and Fuuka do a good job of holding the thing together. There's no denying that Fuuka is pretty much the epitome of a "manic pixie dream girl", but her boisterous attitude is the perfect opposite to Yuu's initial reservedness and even after only two episodes it feels like the character is coming out of his shell. Both episodes are riddled with genre tropes and Fuuka does nothing new to entertain them, but still somehow manages to have a sense of fun that isn't completely weighed down by the fact they've been done hundreds of times before.

It's also worth mentioning that Fuuka is also a sequel of sorts to one of the author's earlier works Suzuka, with Fuuka being the daughter of the two main characters. This wasn't something I was aware of going into the series, nor is it a fact that will particularly affect the enjoyment or understanding of anyone who hasn't read/seen Suzuka. On the visual side of things Diomedéa has done a pretty good job with the series - nothing groundbreaking but demonstrating a competent level of quality. Fuuka's design looks particularly good thanks to the all colour clashing of her blue hair, trademark red headphones and black and white uniform.

Ultimately Fuuka hasn't done a whole lot to make itself stand around from the crowd yet - as high school romances go it seems fairly safe and the musical element hasn't become ingrained enough yet to prove its worth. However if you're able to get past some egregious fan service every now and again it does boast some great looking art work and characters that you do begin to feel genuinely interested in. Anyone who's read the manga (or alternatively, been heavily spoiled just by gleaming over the Wikipedia entry like myself) will also know that things are going to be taking a very different turn eventually, and that knowledge in itself is also enough to keep me going with it.  

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