Mashiro-iro Symphony – 10 Review
First the characters decide to eat at a café, then they realize that they have Pannya, the weird cat, with them which they can’t bring into the café but then they realize they’re standing in front of a café having the sign you see above. Not only the characters try to be charming in this series, the universe tries as well…
This is the review of the tenth episode but since I have only reviewed the first episode of it I wanted to talk about the series as a whole until this point instead of just episode 10. It is surprising how good the series is if you think about how it could’ve been another one of those VN-adaptations that’s stereotypical and full of pointless fanservice. In fact Mashiro-iro doesn’t really like ‘pointless’. It’s drama 24/7 for the characters in this series but not in any action-kinda way and it isn’t a failed comedy-series making fanservice-jokes for drooling Otakus. This is a very idealistic romance-series taking emotions as serious as I’d take an angry ice bear serious. Like ice bears this kind of romance-anime is very rare or at least I haven’t come across many that even bother to use that approach in their romance-subplot. But also like the attacking ice-bear I think the series isn’t something I would call ‘realistic’.
He adored Kagamidai. He idolized it all out of proportion – uh, no, make that: he romanticized it all out of proportion. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in bright light and uh… less bright light and pulsated to the sweet tunes of a cheesy romantic soundtrack.
Uryuu was the kind of guy who liked the world and the world liked him for liking it. But then again the world Uryuu lived in was loving on principle. And so were the people living in it. It was like everyone heard the same tune and danced to it. What made people different wasn’t a matter of personality but a matter of dancing-habits. In the end the only thing everybody wanted was for everyone to have a really good time. That’s how he saw Kagamidai and that’s why he loved it.
He had no problem with life but it had a way of continuously nagging him about that. For example one day his old school arranged for him to go to an all-girls-school. Reason: He made the other guys look bad. In the new school he’s made the representative of the people from his old school but initially Airi is furious. Reason: He made the other guys and him look bad. But the principal gives him and the other guys a chance to prove themselves good men – by cooking. And it works: Now he only made the other guys look bad again.
But it works out for everyone and they’re accepted. Uryuu makes friends with a bunch of girls who each have problems. The first one is Airi who’s a vegetarian for financial reasons. I guess chickens bribe her with eggs not to eat them and cows bribe her with milk. Well, that’s how vegetarians are created basically: By letting themselves be bribed by cows and chickens. But she’s also really poor and that isn’t quite in accordance with her public image. It works out, though, by accident since her true life is revealed to her friends who are sworn to protect the secret of her being a vegetarian for financial reasons. She also considers Uryuu now to be a different kind of guy but Uryuu doesn’t really show interest in her. Although he’s too considerate to tell her that. The next girl on the list is Angie, the school-maid, who considers Uryuu, the creepy dude who’s too nice to be considered human, a rival. But then they bump into each other and she loses her headband. That causes her to behave like a normal girl – only it’s one being five years old. Uryuu talks to her and tells her it’s okay for her to behave like a five-year-old. It’s even in the job-description for a maid-café in Akihabara. In the end her solution is accepting Uryuu’s superiority in being nice and helpful and ends up calling him ‘master’. After that Sana follows whose story begins with Miu who brings a rumour into circulation that the two are dating. But that’s not true so he and Sana talk about it and the misunderstanding gets resolved. She hates him but like many other animes this is considered to be one of the top 3 reasons for falling in love. It’s called being a tsundere.
So he has three girls ready to start a relationship with him but the thing is: He loves Miu. And Miu is very mature about it – she ignores him. Instead she shows her obsession for animals and this together with doing part-time-jobs leads to her having a cold. The kind of cold that suddenly knocks out people. Some boxers probably claim that they go k.o. because of such a cold. But luckily Uryuu, creepily considerate as ever, is already in the right place at the right time and ‘saves’ her. After that Miu starts to trust him since he can take care of animals and also falls in love with him – as long as he continues to care for animals, that is. And things develop nicely with the sledgehammer-like prophecy of the two kittens Miu and Shingo who make it clear what eventually happens: Miu and Shingo come together also in their human personae. Sena, though, doesn’t take it that well and from suicide to killing-spree everything’s still possible. She also might die from her allergy to cats which is a mysterious illness. Well, one more episode still to go and someone can die! Exciting times for Mashiro-iro Symphony even in the episode before the final one.
Having a truly bad timing Miu explains a few days after Sana started having the cat why she was against letting her have the cat. The funny thing, though, is that her description of the allergy is so dramatic that she might as well say “She might be already dead for all we know…” which makes you think why she didn’t explain that when the characters first talked about it.
There aren’t many anime-series out there that take romance as serious as Mashiro-iro Symphony and it’s definitely one of the best series you can watch in that genre – provided you’re a real fan. Until episode 10 I would’ve called it a great series but at that point I’ve felt like it stepped over the line for me.
Mashiro-iro started rather generic but with a nice vibe that not many series have. It was still a series with a main-lead surrounded by girls and using an arc-like storytelling he would come closer to each girl. And since the lead-character Uryuu was so considerate it was a rather speedy affair but with not much romance.
Mashiro-iro made it clear very early in the series (episode five or so) that he loves Miu. It’s nothing obvious or anything but the series shows that the character knows what he feels. You’d think that stuff like that is something to be expected but most of these generic harem-romance-shows rather want to have an indecisive main-character whose final choice is something of a question-mark until the end. Mashiro-iro knows its story and wants to tell it.
That said it tells it in a way that probably won’t win a prize for subtle storytelling. Of course everyone who starts to watch the series will realize that the characterizations are solid and that the storytelling is done properly using the time each episode has. At some point, though, I noticed that what I assumed to be ‘subtle storytelling’ of foreshadowing and meaningful hints had no off-switch. Practically everything happening in this series is made out to feel important.
You have the meaningful looks, the meaningful conversations and the meaningful allegories. This series takes its story so serious that it becomes a soap-opera in the end. But it’s romance and I can deal with that. But what really pushed me over the edge were the kittens Shingo and Miu. I would’ve understood what the whole thing was supposed to meant by simply having two kittens who have to be together and who are strangely attracted to each other. Heck, I even would’ve made the connection if someone simply used them as a comparison for Shingo and Miu in real life. But this series smacked the back of my head telling me that these two kittens are like those two. At the point where they named the kittens Shingo and Miu I already knew that at least Shingo loves Miu. So when they introduced Shingo and Miu I hoped for the sake of the series that this wouldn’t become an allegory for the two (although at this point they are just a symbol, it’s nothing that complex to be even called allegory). First of all, naming them after the two because they both reacted to the name? That was like saying ‘Yes, they stand for these two characters.’ and then the whole debacle with ‘They can’t live without each other – and the doctors have no idea why!’, that was just cheesy at this point. It was weird that Airi was the only one who made the connection between the kittens and real life but nobody was like ‘Gee, that’s weird, it’s like an episode from the X-Files only with lots of cheese.’ and that finally showed me what a soap-opera this series is.
When Sana took Shingo (the kitten, yeah, yeah, I know what this really means…) and Miu objected for no reason whatsoever, I had the feeling that there was a reason but the writer decided to make it a surprise. It crossed my mind at that time that she has an allergy but I couldn’t have known because they all just listened to dumbfounded to Miu’s refusal. And nobody bothered to ask why, even after the event. And the allergy itself is another soapy business of being very strange (is there really an allergy that only kicks in after long exposure but then so hard that it becomes bothersome?) but the thing that really bugged me was how ‘written’ it felt. This was deliberately left out for this episode’s surprise of having her have a very special allergy to cats. This series is well-written within its confined cast and setting but if you try to apply hard logic to it then you realize that this story is a sentimental dream.
Another funny thing is that Airi is the only one noticing the very obvious symbolism of the two kittens being named after Shingo and Miu. I mean, come on, when have ever kittens given that obviously love-advice to humans?
The dreamish atmosphere certainly makes it a good romance-anime for fans of that genre because it really embraces its soapy world of taking feelings serious and characters making a big deal out of it. Characters are usually so nice in this series that it’s creepy. Especially the main-character Uryuu who has being considerate as a trademark is practically a hero for the female characters. That part is really interesting because usually the main-character’s role in a harem-anime is to have the audience project themselves upon the bland main-character. But in this case Uryuu is supposed to be so considerate that he answers every girl’s feelings (with a few exceptions where it would go further than being a nice buddy). This series certainly isn’t your typical romance-anime. Problems are handled in such a weird way that I don’t really know
With Sana’s allergy I also noticed another pattern in the ‘harem’ of Uryuu. These girls are hellbent on surpassing each other in terms of self-sacrifice apparently. Uryuu himself is also a great defender of self-sacrifice and it seems to me that he ends up with Miu because she’s the master of self-sacrifice to the point of obsession. Miu is obsessed with taking care of the animals in a very unhealthy way and Uryuu… he respects her for it because he isn’t much better. With the rest of the girls it’s just a matter of how much they are prepared to sacrifice for their feelings towards something. Airi had her poverty, Ange her devotion to life as a maid and Sana had her allergy. And the greatest mistake a character has ever made in this series is falling in love with the wrong person.
Like the characters are ready to seemingly sacrifice everything for their sentimentality the series as the whole is doing the same. The story is stubborn in portraying a charming romance-story but goes too far with it. Just take the ‘kitty club’: It’s supposed to be a club that nurtures ill and hurt animals back to health so that they can be released again into the forest. Alone the fact that a bunch of kids do this unsupervised in their freetime should call for some headscratching if you’re one of the more cynical ones. But then their club is in danger – because someone from the school complains about too much animals on the school-grounds! First of all, how effective is this club to make such a remarkable difference in the population of animal-kind? And also: How the hell did this nameless guy knew – that it’s all the kitty-club’s fault? Of course Miu as the master-martyr of the series just resigns to her fate and plans to go on without having a club. But Uryuu being creepily nice as ever joins the club and rallies the rest of his harem behind him to make the club official. And the principal who before that wants to close down the club – is now totally fine with it because now it’s an official club and that makes all the necessary difference apparently. But you can see with that how this series makes a fuss about many things and while they matter emotionally for the interactions between the characters there’s no real sense of connection with a bigger world. And that made the sentimentality even more idealistic because that way it was really only the feelings of the known characters that mattered. Sana bringing a little cat home surely should’ve alarmed her parents and some other people who also knew of her allergy.
But now in episode 10 the story’s pretty much finished since they have both confessed to each other. The only thing that seems to be a problem at this point is Sana being heartbroken. Again shows a pretty good move by seemingly wanting to talk about how the couple spends their days having a relationship. Usually it ends with the realization but then again these are the kind of series where the main-character sole purpose to take an entire series to decide which girl he loves. In Uryuu’s case though, it was just a matter of time until his feelings for Miu ‘overflowed’. We knew he loved her since the animation made it pretty clear that only when talking to her he got these little red markings. But I have to admit that until episode 7 I expected Miu to be very mature about the topic of love meaning that she starts with asking him how much money his family has. She handled it pretty well after all when she simply stood aside for Sana and Uryuu to be together. But after Miu started to trust Uryuu she kinda changed and became more like the other girls (except the little sister who always shines with Buddha-like tranquility). It will be interesting to see how the series ends but I don’t think this isn’t really a series for a cynic like me.
Mashiro-iro Symphony is one of the better romance-animes I have seen but it goes too far with its sentimentality to a point where it becomes a soap-opera. If you aren’t a fan of romance as a genre then this probably isn’t your cup of tea. But as far as romance is concerned this series breaks with a lot of traditional stupid stereotypes in the genre which makes it one of the more imaginative animes out there in that particular genre. The only thing missing from it is the restraint to use sentimental drama to highlight the important stuff – instead of using it all the time.