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[Sasameki Koto]
AKA: Whispered Words, ささめきこと (Japanese)
Genre: Yuri romantic comedy / drama
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available for watch on crunchyroll.com's website.
Content Rating: 16+ (lesbian couples, fan service, suggestive themes)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Aoi Hana, Candy Boy, Kashimashi ~Girl meets girl~
Notes: Based on the manga by Takashi Ikeda, currently running in the seinen magazine Monthly Comic Alive.
Rating:
 

Sasameki Koto

Synopsis

Sumika Murasame really, really likes her best friend Ushio Kazama. Unfortunately for her, Ushio only likes small, cute girls, which Sumika is not. Tall, athletic, intelligent and good at karate (though she left it for a while in an attempt to be cuter in the eyes of Ushio), she couldn't be any further from Ushio's type of girls. (Not to mention that she constantly reminds Sumika that she is not her type.) Still, Sumika wishes nothing but the best for her friend, even though it frustrates her to see her go after other girls, only to be shot down time and time again.. Despite this, Sumika hopes that one day her friendship with Ushio will blossom into something more. Along the way, both of them will meet other girls in their school and interact with them. Perhaps Sumika's wish will come true after all?

Review

For my 81st review, as well as my first review in 2010, I settled on my second ever review of a yuri series.

At first glance, I feared Sasameki Koto would turn into another Maria Holic, and that the majority of the jokes would involve Ushio gushing over cute girls. Fortunately, this isn't entirely the case. In fact, there are a couple of episodes that barely have anything to do with romance, actually. Unfortunately, this is still true to a certain degree.

The first few episodes of Sasameki Koto were, for lack of a better word, frustrating to me. I wondered how long I would have to watch Ushio one-side crushing on girls in her school and making Sumika feel bad by telling her how she doesn't like her type and has no romantic feelings for her. Still, the frustration in this results in Sumika eventually, believe it or not, getting some character development. In the beginning of the series she's fairly shy and doesn't have many friends, but opens up as the series goes on. And as the series goes on, her fantasies involving her and Ushio together get more and more vivid. While a few of these are repetitive jokes you've seen before (such as Sumika hoping for her friend to have an "accident" at the beach, revealing her breasts), a few of them are quite funny, I had to admit. Fortunately, unlike a lot of other comedies that handle yuri, the more dirty/perverted thoughts of Sumika's are kept in her head, not expressed out loud. (Although she does get stares from people when she gushes in public, which are fairly funny.)

I felt bad for Sumika from the start. It's hard enough that her friend only sees her as that and nothing more, but she also has to endure her gushing over other girls, as well as watch her get rejected over and over by them. The expression "love hurts" definitely rings true for both friends in their own way. As the series goes on, though, the two slowly start like each other's company more and more. Oddly enough, the series doesn't end quite the way you would expect it to. Despite this, I think the final episode emphasizes their relationship more than a dramatic three/four episode arc could. (It also ties in to the name of the ending theme of the series, which is a nice touch.)

I'll admit at first I didn't like Ushio much. Her constant talking about cute girls and wanting to hug/protect/kiss them almost turned me off from the series. And, like I said before, I worried that she would spent most of the series crushing on girls, getting rejected, and just go to Sumika when she finds out she's the only one who hangs around her. I was, again, wrong, and over time we see that the two really are good friends. And while they never officially become an item, the series gives us hints over the course of the series that Ushio really likes Sumika.

Yes, a yuri relationship in a romantic comedy that's somewhat subtle. I'm as surprised as you are.

There are a bunch of other characters that intervene with the main heroines as well, of course. Door #1 reveals Tomoe and Miyako, the openly lesbian couple. Tomoe is the tallest and oldest of the girls, believing that clubs are what high schools are all about, and tries (and fails) to start a "Girls Club" for the co-ed school, where girls could be by themselves without boys interfering. Miyako is short and bossy to the boys, who call her "Princess" and wait on her hand and foot. Fortunately this tired, stale joke is not used often, and instead she spends more of her time happily with Miyako, her girlfriend. I found these two characters annoying at first, but as the series went on I grew to like them a lot more. And despite being openly in love, they barely touch each other for the most part, much less hug or kiss each other. It's nice for once in an anime to see a yuri couple in a romantic comedy with some bit of humility.

Through Door #2 we have Aoi, a shy girl who loves yuri. She believes the love of girls is a wonderful thing that should be kept tightly up, and she has a giant crush on Sumika that is eventually touched upon in the series instead of just leaving it to sit there until drama fuel is needed (gasp!).

Door #3 holds Masaki, the only recurring male in the series. As a prank by his sister, he disguises himself as a girl and models under the name of Akemi Yamasaki, who Ushio has a crush on. He likes Sumika, who uses him as a puppet quite often in the series. These scenes bothered me a lot more than they should, with the nadir being episode 7. In that particular episode, Masaki's bratty little sister forces him and Sumika on a "date". And in an attempt to prove his "manliness" to Sumika (despite looking and sounding like a 12 year old girl), how does he dress? Why in drag of course, because Masaki thought she would be more "comfortable" around him if he did. Annnnd it only goes downhill from there. It is one of the single most creepy, unfunny episodes in an anime I've seen in a long time, and I won't go into further detail why than that.

Door #4 holds our final character, Kiyori, the only major female character in this series who is not a lesbian. Her gimmick is that she's very cheerful and eats a lot, nearly eating in every scene she's in. (Even the promo art for the series has her eating food.) Despite not being ####, Kiyori often hangs out with the other girls for entertainment value, sounding an awful lot like Minori from Toradora! the entire time. Oddly enough, they're NOT voiced by the same actress.

Speaking of actresses, let's talk about the voice cast. I especially liked Ayahi Takagaki (Feldt Grace, Gundam 00) as Sumika, who kind of sounds like a young Yuu Asakawa. In fact, when I first watched this series, I immediately thought of Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh when i first heard Sumika's voice. Takagaki has a lot of different emotions to juggle for Sumika, but she does a great job overall of conveying.

Ushio's actress, Megumi Takamoto (Misaki, White Album), isn't quite as good, and her voice is a little higher-ptiched than I would have liked, but she's not bad as the lover of cute. Hitomi Harada (Nori, Hidamari Sketch x Hoshi Mittsu) does a fine job as Tomoe, while her friend Miyako, voiced by Chiwa Saito, performs, well, another Chiwa Saito role. (The short, bratty girl type.) Ayaka Shimizu, who voices Masaki, and Mayuki Makiguchi, who voices Aoi, are relative newcomers, so I can't comment yet on their voices, which fit fine in the character roles they were assigned. Emiri Kato (Kagami, Lucky Star) does her best Yui Horie impersonation as the energetic Kiyori.

Musically, this show is nothing to write home about. There aren't a lot of music tracks in the series, and they're often repeated ad nauseam for each specific mood. (A piece of music for comedic bits, a piece of music for dramatic bits, etc.) One track sounds like an instrumental version of the Winnie the Pooh theme from those 60s/70s Disney shorts - I'm dead serious. The opening theme song has nice music, but the vocals kind of hamper it, and the ending song is a mediocre J-Pop song.

Sasameki Koto, in terms of visuals, is not a very arresting show. While the series looks fine, it never really rises above just that. Fortunately, the quality never fluctuates like some other anime series of late do, so it consistently looks good at least. The character designs fare a bit better, with the girls being for the most part fairly cute. (Though you can tell this is a seinen series because three of the girls have very developed figures.) And I have to give the series bonus points for not giving a single one of the characters frivolous hair accessories like ribbons, nor giving them stupid-looking hair styles.

In the beginning of my review I said that Sasameki Koto isn't entirely around romance. And this is true. Honestly, I enjoyed Sumika hanging out with her friends a deal good more than I thought I would. For example, the penultimate episode has a very Aria-like feel to it. The episode's plot revolves around the six main heroines going around the school on a treasure hunt of sorts on a rainy day, with clues that are actually quite clever. It's probably my favorite episode of the series, mainly in that it shows what a friendly bond these six girls have with each other. Another episode has Sumika working hard with Aoi to finish her manuscripts for a novel she's been writing, where the two race across town to finish it when her printer breaks down. And then the next episode Sumika gets dragged to the comic convention Aoi was going to, where she finds a big surprise waiting for her when she does.

And, of course, throughout there are some pretty amusing scenes, such as Sumika and Ushio performing a message to each other in "sign language", Sumika and Aoi's summer diary thoughts, and Ushio wearing a mask over her face when she practices "kissing" with Sumika.

Despite how much I liked the majority of the series, though, I never considered Sasameki Koto anything better than "good" throughout. While I like Sumika, as well as how surprisingly tasteful the way the series handled its couples, the series has enough annoying, dull, and unfunny bits to counter the good. (Especially episode 7.) When the series is devoid of these kind of scenes, though Sasameki Koto is a good show. It's just too bad they couldn't tone down the clich├ęd, unfunny bits used in other romantic comedies. If they did, I'd say say that this was one of the most underrated series of 2009. It frustrates me that I can't say that.

Sasameki Koto is an example of a good show wanting to be great, but dragged down with too much weight (episode 7, annoying, overused jokes) to do so. Add a star if you like girls doting over other girls in your anime.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Virtually the entire female cast in this series are lesbians, which will probably go over the heads of most younger kids, as well as bother their parents. There's also some fan service and suggestive content as well. Older teenagers and up only.



Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Sasameki Koto © 2009 Takashi Ikeda