Winter 2017 First Impressions: Seiren – Episode 01 Review

Shoichi Kanata has some decisions to make.  What is he going to do for a living?  Should he go to college?  Shoichi isn’t sure, and his decisions aren’t made any easier by the teasing he’s subjected to by the popular girls.  It doesn’t help that he can’t stop thinking about Hikari, one of the girls who’s teasing him and might even have an older boyfriend.  Maybe a study camp in the mountains will help him make up his mind?

Seiren is kind of a weird show.  The structure is that of a visual novel: there are going to be different “routes”, each focusing on a different girl, that will take up a few episodes at a time before resetting back to the beginning.  The first set of episodes are dedicated to Hikari Tsumiki, a popular girl who likes to tease Shoichi.  This setup isn’t a bad idea per se; it’s a novel alternative to the all too common harem set up that you find in a lot of romance anime, but not one you would expect from an original project.

The sheer amount of dialogue is also reminiscent of a visual novel.  This first episode is almost entirely conversations – in fact, the actual events that the characters would be taking part in in a regular show are glossed over and we only see the conversations around them.  We don’t see most of Shoichi’s first day at the mountain study retreat.  We see the arrival scene, a pan over a corridor with various characters talking about how they found it, and then we’re back in Shoichi’s room.  It’s an interesting idea that makes the characters’ perceptions of what happened more important than what actually took place.  It helps that the dialogue is also pretty entertaining; there are some really wild lines in this episode alone.  As long as you have the patience for 20+ minutes of people chatting, you’re probably going to enjoy yourself.

Despite not really having an excuse for any wild animation, Seiren still uses its visual style to great effect.  The light, muted colour scheme sets the scene for mundane, everyday life.  What really shines for me, however, is the great variety of facial expressions that aren’t the standard shorthand you see in anime.  Shoichi is the best for observing this because he seems almost incapable of hiding what he’s really feeling because his expressions always betray him.  The unique ways in which each character emotes really help to sell you on their personalities and I really wish that more shows had this kind of range.

My only significant issue is that I do wish that this first episode of Seiren had a little more of a plot.  I love character dramas, but I do appreciate them more when there are actual events going on that the characters’ personalities can play off of.  I’m not sure how much I would enjoy watching this show week on week, especially once the focus moves to a different girl, because there aren’t a lot of hooks to keep me thinking about this show.  Even this episode felt kind of long to me.

If you’ve got the patience, I would definitely recommend checking out Seiren.  I think I’m going to wait until it ends so that I can get a better idea of where it goes from this jumping off point, but it was definitely an enjoyable surprise considering the relative drought of interesting titles this season.

7/10

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