H2O ~Footprints in the Sand~
Takuma Hirose is sent to attend a countryside highschool due to a blindness apparently caused by a trauma from his childhood. There, he meets Otoha, a spiritual being of sorts who grants him his eyesight so that he can help some of his schoolmates with the problems they have.
But there is darker issues at hand in the quiet village, and his tasks will not be met without resistance.
While we were synchroing this show, I was told that H2O is considered by many as superior to AIR, one of the few good anime that are based on visual novel games. This might possibly have something to do with the fact that the two shows share a few common elements, but in all honestly, I think it's got more in common with another anime I've reviewed; Myself; Yourself, mostly because both shows could've been decent if they had not jumped the shark, and jumped it spectacularly at that. The change in mood found in H2O is crass, abrupt and really jarring, even with the utterly off-topic episode inbetween. Oh yes, this show worked hard to completely ruin any goodwill I had for it by the time I passed the halfway mark. Well, a little past that point, actually.
Artwise, the show reminds me a bit of Sola, or maybe Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru. The cast, largely female, are all thin and gaunt, somewhat disproportionally so against their large eyes and big hair, sometimes with huge ribbons to go with it. It's not that the characters are hard to look at, but the designs are a little bit dull. The background art is lovely, though, solely taking place in a wind-swept countryside village with lush forests and rolling hills where the wind makes waves on the grass. It's an atmospheric show, which most likely played a large part in why I enjoyed parts of it when I started on it.
H2O also has a decent male lead. He's an outspoken and take-chargeish kind of type, which quickly gets him involved with the issues that can be found in the small village. Even though he spends most of the first episode blind, he doesn't really back down when challenged, though his attitude gains a boost at the end once Otoha grants him his vision back.
I never really questioned AIR when it started delving into its slight supernatural elements, because those were the parts that gave the show some of the magic it had. As such, I didn't really question how a girl that was basically just a spirit could give Hirose his eyesight back. However, I did expect his fellow students to react more with surprise when their newest student returned the very next day with his eyesight intact instead of just blind acceptance. (No pun intended.) But what made me REALLY question the show was the treatment of one of the female leads; Hayami Kohinata. She is quickly introduced as a bit of a pariah in the village, with some of the students basically beating her up and doing things like throwing toilet water on her and calling her a cockroach while the teachers just turn a blind eye (again, no pun intended) to this. As for Kohinata herself, she obviously doesn't like this, but seems to accept this to some degree all the same.
Being an outsider, naturally Hirose wasn't going to stand for this. In what I still consider the best parts of the anime -- or rather, the salvageable ones -- he quickly confronts the issue, and, in lack of a clear answer, he places himself between Kohinata and her attackers. It doesn't take him long to find out that Kohinata herself was once a friend of Hinata Kagura, the daughter of the village elder and the top students in the school, and starts working at mending that particular chain of friendship as well. Naturally, his actions do shake up the village, mostly through Yui Tabata, the girl who is Kohinata's biggest nemesis and tormentor, and seems to be the one who hates her the most.
I have to give the show credit for the moral involvement in it, because the reason why the town hates Kohinata is eventually revealed, and up to episode 7, our main lead has his hands full resolving situations left and right, which is also where we learn that there are more skeletons in the family closets of some of the others around. And when most of it seems to get resolved by the time episode 8 rolls around, the show chooses to just go completely crazy, which is one of the dealbreakers in it. During this episode, Otoha goes from being a spiritual being to a magical girl waving a wand around, and the drama is put on hold for a while purely for the sake of comedy that isn't the least bit funny. It's basically just 23 minutes of "what the hell is going on?"
And then, the show proceeds to spend the rest of its time making me wish I was watching episode 8 again. Yes, it's the second dealbreaker, and it HURTS!
I'm sorely tempted to just spoil the entire thing right now. I've done it before in shows that aren't really all that worse compared to this. The basic rundown is that Hirose gets introduced to the reason he apparently went blind in the first place, which is solely centered around his mother. I'm not going to go into details, but mostly, our main lead basically turns into the polar opposite of the kind of person he was for the ENTIRE runtime up to this point. Not only that, but things just completely go to pieces, because of the idea that quality drama means turning the misery ratio to eleven. It's the same kind of crap that completely ruined Myself; Yourself for me, not to mention the same kind of needless melodrama that made Rumbling Hearts such a chore to watch. How they managed to hawk a happy ending out of this still gives me the willies, and unless you're exceptionally forgiving, the deus ex machinae at the end will make you convulse in pain. Badly.
The really astounding part is that if H2O had ended at episode 7 somehow, I would probably have liked it well enough to give it three stars. But, like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the remaining episodes just violates anything green and good about this show in ways I have NEVER witnessed before. I just don't know what else to say. AIR never failed this badly. Even Myself; Yourself didn't bomb as spectacularly as this. Normally, I'd rate anything by selecting the average of the sum of its parts, but H2O quite frankly doesn't deserve that.
You may rate it two or three ONLY if you make episode seven the last episode you watch and pretend the rest of the show doesn't exist. This isn't about averages. This show is about the ending completely ruining what it built up in the beginning. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The violence of this show mostly consists of what Kohinata receives of abuse from her fellow classmates. It's fairly standard violence and abuse, and only made reprehensible through the fact that the anime points out that this kind of behavior has been going on for many, many years. Thematically, it's nothing that can't be shown to teenagers, which is probably the show's target audience.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Partial (12/13)
H2O ~Footprints in the Sand~ © 2008 ZEXCS / Kadokawa
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