Series Review: Da Capo

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"Once upon a time, on this island, there was a girl that fell in love with a boy."

It's certainly not just one girl to be worried about in Da Capo...

Da Capo is a pretty in-your-face harem series, unlike perhaps more subtle, more character-driven shows like sola and the Key works. The latter are technically harem shows, but they occasionally have other focuses other than how much everybody loves the male protagonist.

There is no such playing around in that sense in Da Capo. Pretty much everyone falls for - if they're not already in love with - Jyunichi Asakura, a normal schoolguy with a couple magical abilities, such as the power to see dreams and to produce funny food out of his hand.

His harem is equally slightly unorthodox, including:
- Nemu, his little sister (but not really)
- Sakura, his other little sister (but really, not really)
- Miharu, who comes in two flavors: robot and not robot
- Moe and Mako, twins of two different styles (one might say moe and not-moe)
- Yoriko, the cat-eared maid
- Kotori, the school idol

I say slightly unorthodox because while the cast does seem built mainly to reach as many different appeal types as possible - lolicon, siscon, meido...con, big breast girl...con... nearly every character does have a bit of depth to them with hidden secrets and stories.

By no means is Da Capo another Kanon, in that one's going to be in tears after every plot revelation. But one will find that there is a Almost Logical reason for there to be Cat Maids and lolis.

In fact, one of Da Capo's strengths is it's overarching theme. Most anime take at least a swing as creating some sort of thing that ties everything together; in some it's worked well, in others, it's just implausible; but the theme in Da Capo, the ever-blossoming cherry blossom trees, plays a big role in just about everything supernatural in the story without becoming silly.

But on becoming silly terms, look no further than the first, well, sixteen episodes of Da Capo. It's certainly a series that could've been condensed into a series half it's length, as the first half and change of the series was essentially filler. There was some useful character development and exposition in some of the episodes but largely these episodes had very little development outside of Moe's cup size.

As well, even when the series actually gets going, an 8-minute chunk of the episode (with the exclusion of the final 4 episodes) is reserved for a "Side Episode", more light-hearted stuff that I'm sure would be great if I weren't dying to get to the content.

In short Da Capo is not exactly a series that moves fast and I think it would lose in a footrace to Moe's speech rate (she clocks in at about the lighting slow speed of Sae of sola). If one has more tolerance than I for random fanservice and wacky hijinks then Da Capo will certainly be a much better series, but for me...it's just silly.

I've whined about it time and time again if you've been following the blogging on D.C. but in the end the series did manage to redeem itself with some useful high-pace episodes in the end. It's a strange approach to the show, considering that even within the show itself divisions were labeled and apparent between the non-plot first sixteen and the action-packed (sort of) final ten.

Da Capo doesn't pace itself very well and certainly seemed on the verge on stumbling over itself during the last few episodes as it tried to pack in all the plot that was missing, but in the end the conclusion was much more satisfying than originally expected.

This might be in the least because the main relationship between Jyunichi and the winner was one of the least touched on aspects of the show. It was pretty much said and done in one episode, and then the rest of the series dealt with the rest of the cast; so there's very little shafting done (note very little, not none).

That's pretty much all I can say at the pre-jump; post-jump we'll take a look back at my predictions from episode one and analyze some more of the characters in depth. If you want a tl;dr summary of Da Capo, it'd pretty much be this: if harem shows aren't your thing, this isn't going to come close to changing your mind. If you do like them though, Da Capo is a worthwhile if not great watch; and hang in there, the good stuff comes late, but it's there in the end.

In the end I managed to predict correctly that Nemu pulled through in the end; it certainly was cutting in close, given all the attention on Sakura at the end - but maybe it's my fault to not just see that the post-18 episodes were just the Post-Relationship Crisis that is common in shows like these (see: Kanon, Shuffle)

Although to be honest Sakura ended up stealing the show, which wasn't too bad. She had strong ties to the Overarching Theme, the big huge master magical sakura tree, and the fact that it grants all her wishes, even the ones she doesn't really mean (i.e. bad stuff happening to Nemu), was definitely an interesting plot element. As such the last few episodes strongly revolved around her coming to grasps with the fact that Jyunichi likes his other non-blood-related sister. It was pretty well executed, although I thought it was a bit rushed in the final episode.

That might just be because Nemu took up like 5 minutes plodding everywhere at her zombie pace.

Sakura's killing of the sakura tree (although I was expecting a more literal version, like, with an axe or something. That would be epic.) had some very interesting aftershocks as well in the final episodes. Kotori, Yoriko, and Miharu, three who owe a lot to the tree, got great - if not really saddening - resolutions to their stories.

Yoriko, the nekomimi maid who, somewhat predictably, actually was a cat was the first to go, in both senses of the term. With the sakura tree's powers gone, her time was running out, and so we got a very emotional goodbye. She had to carry the feelings of two people (Nerine who?) - the Sick Girl who actually never showed up, and her own feelings that developed for Jyunichi. Certainly the last few minutes of her goodbye were very strong, compounded only by her own breakdown in trying to hold up her role as the family maid, ending in...yeah, a goodbye kiss that I didn't quite see coming. One of the strongest part of the series.

Kotori, the school idol with the very intriguing ability to read people's minds, was next. This episode was good as well, although the most important part - the confession - felt almost like an afterthought. Maybe it's Kotori's fault that she didn't know she liked Jyunichi in that way until it was too late. In the end Kotori became a very dynamic and real character despite the bland starting point of School Idol, and I can understand why she has quite the fanbase in the D.C. community (which is small, to be honest). If there's one thing that annoys me about Kotori, it's that we never did get to actually find out how many guys confessed to her.

Miharu, the robot (and very much a real character unlike my first impression), since the real one went all coma on us (must, resist, spoilers) had some interesting existential crises; whether she should be more like the real Miharu, whether she should replace the real Miharu, whether she IS Miharu, which were touching as well; but somehow, her goodbye just didn't have the same strength to it for me; maybe it's because I've always thought of Miharu as somewhat of an annoying character since the start - although I can't say that now.

Oddly enough apparently real Miharu was a third (one might say fourth) wheel in Jyunichi's harem when he was little - considering she also considered him an onii-chan and that she wished to be with him forever it's surprising that, well, Robot Miharu's feelings didn't quite pan out as much as expected.

The one glaring issue in all of these conflicts though is that Jyunichi almost seems cold after all of it. Kanon 2006 did a good job of showing just how much stress five girls gone wrong (but not in the right 'wrong' way, if you think like that) can be on one man, but the tears shed by Jyunichi over Yoriko and over Miharu just didn't seem to carry over between episodes. Continuity has always been one of Da Capo's flaws, whether it be from the filler episodes (of which none is necessary) or here. It just doesn't feel like Jyunichi is feeling the emotion over the side characters as much as we do; in the end, Nemu really is the one that really matters to him.

Now you'll note that there's two characters missing from the list and that's the Mizukoshi sisters of Moe and Mako. If anyone can be classified as Nayuki Status in the end of this series it'd be these two, who really never had a plot at all. Mako was one of the first to have a "oh no, I'm falling in love with Jyunichi" sequence in the excellently executed episode twelve, but that was about as far as she got. Unfortunately, Moe never got beyond the "look, I talk slow and have big breasts" element of her character. Depressing, considering she was shaping up to be an interesting Halo Character from the start, but there really was nothing to her, at least in the anime.

In the end I think Yoriko was one of the characters that carried the series for me - although the amount of cliches she stacks up (maid -> catgirl maid -> shy catgirl maid -> shy clumsy catgirl maid -> shy clumsy catgirl maid with poor sense of taste) is scale-breaking, she has some good character development among her episodes, plays a minor role in the plot, and...well...maybe I'm a fetishist after all. While she doesn't quite reach the depth level of other likable maid-types (Hisui and Kohaku!), she's not a flat character in any regard. It's just a shame we never really got to know who that Quiet Girl in the Window was.

True to impression Da Capo did not shy away from using the confession - especially with the later episodes my bar set at 4.5 was cleared with relative ease. I really like it when the side characters in a show get representation, and when Yoriko and Kotori, even Miharu and Mako showed that romantic side of them, it was really touching.

The constant "But I love nii-san" of both Nemu and Sakura wasn't a detractor as well - the dynamics between Nemu and Sakura, in the last few episodes, was excellent; it was a conflict without actual conflict, almost. Sakura doesn't need a boxcutter, or even any evil intentions, apparently, to wreak havoc.

In the end Da Capo was a watch that I don't regret, in that the end did make up, in a sense, for the slow, slow, slooooooooooooooow beginning. But, it's missed potential in a sense; Da Capo could've been better, it could've been more, if it were better spaced, more consistent, if it didn't cram 20 minutes of flashbacks into one episode, if it didn't waste time with two recaps...this keeps it back from being a top-tier anime, or even one I can reccomend to casual fans; but for veteran viewers of anime who enjoy harem shows, this show is worth your time. Give it a shot; the first few episodes are stronger than the middle, and will probably be a barometer on how the series is. Da Capo doesn't bring a whole lot new to the table but it does know how to make it's presence known and definitely, without doubt, has it's moments.



"... produce funny food out of his hand"

He is able to conjure daifuku, a traditional Japanese confection. It is a rice cake (made of mochi) filled with anko (sweet red bean paste).

I believe that Nemu had mentioned on a couple of different occasions that she didn't want Japanese sweets when he conjured them for her.

Looking back, there were a few important plot points I missed the first time I watched the how. It seems that this wasn't the first time Nemu and Sakura fought over Jyunichi... and the show strongly implies that Jyunichi chose Sakura over Nemu when they were little. This probably explains Nemu's possesiveness and insecurity, as well as Sakura's jealousy and persistence.

As for the other girls, they at least have a reason to chase after Jyunichi - yeah, it may seem obvious that Jyunichi is closest to Nemu and Sakura, but they are his sister and cousin, so surely there is still room for a girlfriend (as it turns out, not true... siscon lives!).

In retrospect, I'm somewhat surprised that Sakura was not chosen to be the title character, given her deeper connection to the Sakura tree.