(Recommended by the 101st blog about gaming.)
Watching Isshuukan Friends for the first time, I thought it was a charming display of developing a bond between two people, with some dramatic miscues along the way. I was able to ignore the logical flaws and the ending emphasis on drama for the sake of adhering to the aloofness of the magical aroma of friendship and underlying romantic intentions between two naive fools. Just the kind of thing that makes me short-circuit.
Watching Isshuukan Friends for the second time, I realize that the person I was roughly three years ago may have been suffering from an air of lonely bias. Watching this again, there wasn’t nearly the amount of charm through one-on-one relationship as I originally remembered, and though the naivety of the leads are somewhat alluring, the effort isn’t supported by anything more. Even the side characters, Kiryu and Saki, who I remembered as a cute side couple, have so little chemistry that I scratch my head wondering why I bothered at all. The atmosphere of nothing stressful eventually turned into just nothing.
Unfortunately, there was some excitement with going back into this series with a fresh perspective. Fond memories rushed back, only to plummet into a realm of insipidity. In the back of my mind, I recall seeing various reviews of it at the time complaining how ordinary and average most aspects of this show were, and how I found myself disagreeing with how harmless the series seemed. If third time’s the charm, the second time’s the harm, as Isshuukan Friends has become “that one average show” that many others dubbed it to be years ago.
Something of a major problem that I didn’t notice the first time is that Isshuukan Friends has no idea what it wants to be. Some part drama, some part romance, some part slice-of-life; it manages to build upon each genre but can’t seem to drive home any of them effectively. Romance is an underlying motivation all throughout, while slice-of-life employs itself in the middle section of the series, with drama populating the first and last quarters. More than anything, however, is the focus on one other genre that employs too many anime… nothing. The “Nothing” genre. There is a disturbing amount of nothing that presents itself in the form of little flags that the male lead “triggers” through little events. Seeing the female lead smile. Having her compliment him. Worrying about her avoiding him for seven seconds. Surprisingly enough, the concept of the female lead’s condition is not really noted outside of the more dramatic episodes, leaving one to forget she even has it.
Characters are somewhat shy, somewhat coy. Action is something that seems second nature to many of them. Aside from Saki, most are too sensitive to even touch one another. Isshuukan Friends would make for a nice example of the “Actions speak louder than words” argument, an example that would show how necessary the argument is. There is quite a bit of talking, introspection, regret, and wondering. Not a lot of time is spent on characters making heroic proclamations, being honest, or charging into battle without a strategy. With the aspect of teenagers, one would expect more of this, as the characters here seem to have a hesitance to them that undermines their age, which kills even more realism. Even after twelve episodes, not a lot really happens, as a lot more is only implied through the passing of time.
Thus begins the point about the female lead’s condition, which makes the show stand out. Every week, she loses all memory of her friends. It always triggers upon Monday’s arrival. She will not remember anyone she deems close enough to be her friend, as one scene shows a whited-out vision of the male lead the previous week. She seems to remember everything else just fine, it’s just the aspect of friends and the spell lasts a week on the nose without change. Easily, this is all very stupid. The absurd uniformity of this condition is so blatantly fiction that it feels like easy plot convenience. And the fact that it’s shrouded in mystery only allows the author to write whatever conveniences possible to make it more absurd. The final few episodes shed some light as to what caused her condition, but even with that, she still seems to be stricken with the same condition. More than anything though, how is the brain capable of identifying specific people and using white out on them as the planets align every week? Her brain is not a computer.
Yet, one thing that stuck out was the art direction, as while the animation is fairly standard, the artistic style is somewhat unique. The appearances of characters are somewhat blocky, with lots of long, straight faces and clean, polished eyes. It creates a dream-like state that helps with the carefree atmosphere of the middle sections. Even the sides of the frames feel a little loose with the lighting, making every action seem like a fantasy. And most of all! Hair! There are little strands of hair that stick out from the characters’ heads! Don’t think I don’t notice all of your bed-heads! Comb your hair properly, you sleepy kids! Nice attention to detail, nonetheless.
Average, while somewhat lethargic. Coaxing it with a dash of overdramatic tension creates a series that tries to do something a little different in the guise of overimportance. The moral foundation is rather straightforward, with friends being friends and relationships taking work and the value of caring. Concepts of people resetting every week gives it an almost sci-fi charm, but it ends up hampering what could’ve been a pleasant slice-of-life, or an okay drama. While I personally don’t think the series is forgettable, many could take the female lead’s disability for themselves and forget this whole scenario.
Personal Score: C
Critical Score: C
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.