First Love the Five Hundreth Time: Code-E / NanaDrops

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The summer season has been somewhat of a trip into the way-back machine for me, with these two quite under-the-radar romance shows. I've always watched a lot of shows with romantic aspects in them but to have a straight up story between one boy and one girl (with a possible Runner-Up Girl) is almost a fresh premise at this point.

The last title I remember that works like that was the legendary (and quite old) Cardcaptor Sakura, and as such how fitting that one of the shows that has captured my attention is almost a spiritual successor to it, Nanatsuiro Drops.

Although, to tell the truth, they're similar more on the exterior than on the interior; but magical girl shows in general all feel and act the same in the magical regard; the relationship aspects of Nanatsuiro Drops are what are boding to be quite interesting.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a show that about three people have heard of, or at least blogged about - Code-E. Code-E is billed as a comedy/romance show which is a promising if not well-traveled road but with an original story and without any big names behind it Code-E is a really difficult show to come across.

Both of these shows, from at least a romance fan's perspective, are quite enjoyable in their own regards and have their own merits; despite being from the same genre they aren't exactly fighting over the same audience and they both have widely different approaches to the main topic of today: first loves.

(Spoilers through episode 7 of both series)

First love is pretty much the theme of a lot of shows with romance and romance aspects. While it may be an interesting concept to follow the path of, say, a hazed and disillusioned character who has vowed never to love again, or a sleep-around player who finally learns the meaning of true love, it's easier and simpler to write the story around a naive, innocent high schooler who is just learning for the first time how to properly flood-fill her face red.

The problem is predictably that easy != entertaining and we come to the predicament of Code-E.

Code-E really is a charming show, with what many call it an old-school flavor to it. The characters are adorable without being overly moe, and the slice-of-life feel to it is relaxing while still entertaining. It's largely a show that can be enjoyed without not much per se actually happening plot-wise; maybe because it's a show that revolves more around the characters than any doomsday plot or anything. Sure, there are hints of a Greater Evil (whether it be the inept German spies or the mafia guy with a pocketwatch), and sure, many of the characters do have supernatural abilities, but these don't steal the show at all, rather just being touched upon at times, with the main focus being Chinami's attempts to fit in and make friends in her new school.

Unfortunately since this is a romance show "make friends" essentially is code for "get to know all the female characters and spend a long long time falling for the one guy," and as such the show is taking a distinct direction towards playing out Chinami's development of feelings for the main character, Kotaro.

Which is great. Fine. Except, they do it the way every girl in anime has fallen in love since the history of mankind.

Denial is boring. Denial for two episodes is boring. Denial while shorting out the electrical system to a somewhat James-Bondy soundtrack is cute and innovative, but still boring. What is that feeling when you think of Kotaro, Chinami? I wonder. I really do. It couldn't be that you like him, because that would be too easy to admit.

Perhaps it's a result of what I watch but having characters deny their feelings at every opportunity gets repetitive fast.

This is precisely the reason why Nanatsuiro Drops is hitting its stride, because right before the three-quarters mark we've already got The Confession over with between the obvious love interests of Sumomo and Haru, and now we can get on to more interesting things.

Nanatsuiro Drops may have lost a bit of charm as it's magical girl story admittedly grows more cliched by the week (I'm missing the fun that they're supposed poking at the cliches) but the important part of the story is in full gear, and that is the developing relationship between the two main characters.

Now I'm only up to episode 7 and so I'm in the post-confession stage by about five seconds, but the promise of Getting On With It (admittedly, in more ways than one) and not lollygagging on the What Is This Love? factor is really engaging, almost too much for a show that seems to renounce it's eroge roots so soundly.

Although, the second interesting thing about NanaDrops is that, being based on an eroge, has it's focus primarly on the male lead, unlike most romance shows which follow the female lead around. It's nice to see things from the other side of the spectrum. Despite that being my side of the spectrum.

Of course at the three-fourths mark there are plenty of things that can change at this point; Code-E's clearing or stumbling into the confession bar, and NanaDrops's handling of the What To Do Now That We're Together sticky point will be pivotal. We will see at the end of these shows whether the romance show can still work in a day and age of moes and lolis.