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[Diamond Daydreams box art]
AKA: 北へ。~Diamond Dust Drops~(Kita e: Diamond Dust Drops), Northward: Diamond Dust Drops
Genre: Drama / romance
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from ADV Films
Content Rating: 10+ (adult themes, emotional intensity, excessive references to diamond dust)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Human Scramble, Sentimental Journey, Seraphim Call
Notes: Based on a video game of the same name by Hiroi Ouji.
Rating:
 

Diamond Daydreams

Synopsis

There is a legend in Northern Japan about the so-called "diamond dust drops" that can be seen during winter. It is said that a person who sees the diamond dust will have their wishes granted and that couples that see them together will find happiness.

These are the stories of six different young women living in various parts of Hokkaido as they deal with life's challenges and the difficulties of romance all the while hoping to see the diamond dust.

Review

While many bishoujo game derived anime strive to shoehorn various game characters into a single overly crowded narrative focused around a single passably interesting lead, every once in a while one of these shows tries a different strategy by focusing instead entirely on the individual dramatic stories of the girls without a connective male lead. Diamond Daydreams, much like the fairly good Sentimental Journey, takes this path. The show focuses around the unrelated stories (though there is some very minor overlap toward the end along with a few reoccurring visual gags) of six different young women. Every story take place in a different part of Hokkaido and even the general ages of the characters differ. We have stories covering everything from young teens to professional women in their mid-twenties.

Many of the stories, while having romance as a component, actually seemed to be more focused on dramatic themes unrelated directly to romance. I think, honestly, that some of this lack of story focus along with slightly weak pacing seemed to dampen some of the effect and impact of the various individual tales. While most of the stories were two episodes, I found that it felt like they were dragging slightly and that the writers seemed a bit unfocused about what they were truly trying to communicate. A lot of this stemmed from the introduction of too many different subplots and characters than could be effectively dealt with in the time allotted. This isn't to say that the stories, individually, weren't at least somewhat engaging just that the lack of focus weakened my interest in what was actually occurring. Each of the two part stories seem to feature a certain amount of content that just felt a bit like filler.

Interestingly enough, while many of the stories do seem to be treading familiar ground at first, many of the actual endings do not end up quite what one might expect. Even with the inclusion, in a few arcs, of what basically amounts to deus ex machina, I found the endings generally satisfying. They alternate between somewhat tragic and more conventionally happy. Those seeking extreme pathos will be disappointed.

Characterization, unfortunately, is a bit of a mixed bag, something that hampers the overall quality of this character focused title. Some of this stems from the show's occasionally overly crowded narratives. A lot of characters seem simply introduced to reflect some basic melodramatic archetype but otherwise get little development. The strength of the character development work of the girls and women themselves varies though generally stays fair to good. Unfortunately, though, the starting point of these stories don't give enough scenes and reasons to truly develop empathy for the girls. There is a certain disconnection with their plight that limits the emotional impact of their stories.

A couple of the girls, in fact, are also rather unlikable. Though they do provide some character development framework toward the end of their stories to explain their personalities, they did not start out letting us see why they are that way. Sitting watch an unpleasant person bumble their way through forty-five minutes of character interaction with the expected results, doesn't prove all that satisfying. While I do not feel that characters necessarily have to be pleasant to be engaging, the overall characterization in Diamond Daydreams wasn't significantly textured enough to make me find some of these more unpleasant characters interesting from a psychological or emotional standpoint.

I should take special note of the show's Hokkaido setting, an integral part in helping creating its atmosphere. Rather than just using Hokkaido as a snowy prop to present six sad girls in snow, they actually do help bring to life the various locales of the northern island. The background and setting work demonstrate careful attention to detail helping to communicate the character of the various individual cities and locations that the stories take place. This excellent setting work actually helps offset some of the weaknesses I perceived in the characterization. By bringing the setting to life so well, it placed the various characters in the context of seemingly real locations and places, this helped make the characters seem a bit more substantial.

There were a few amusing fine touches that could seem somewhat excessive. Even the beer consumed by several of the characters seems clearly marked as coming from Hokkaido or from the North. Just in case you forget I suppose. Every eye-catch features a different distinctive Hokkaido landmark or location. If there is some sort of Hokkaido Tourist Board or something of that nature, they should give the producers of this show money. Diamond Daydreams almost functions as a travelogue of the island at times.

The design work is actually rather attractive with both the character and the background work done well. The color work is crisp and the designs distinctive and true to the varying ages of the characters. Unlike in say, Kanon, everybody doesn't look like they are ten years old. The animation while nothing spectacular is adequate for this type of show.

In general, the music was decent enough at enhancing mood (though I felt the opening theme was wildly out of place with the general tone of the show), but they simply needed more music. Since they make a lot of use of the same pieces of background music to help set mood, it became rather quickly tired. In some cases, they so heavily associated certain pieces with particular types of scene in a given story, that it could prove distracting later on in a different girl's story.

Though the title did drag in a few places, overall I did feel relatively satisfied by the various stories and their slightly sweet (if predictable) final episode. It is unfortunate that they didn't tighten their plotting and characterization a bit more to produce an overall stronger title.

Kita e's various individual stories, though somewhat engaging, tend to drag a bit and suffer from uneven characterization. There is little to no action in this title or significant thematic depth, so if you are seeking that sort of element, I suggest looking elsewhere. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: In terms of actual displayed content, there is very little objectionable. There is one brief incident of violence, and a brief shower sequence that only shows a girl's upper back. There are several more adult themes dealt with in some stories such as stalking and adultery. In general, I would actually say it is alright for older children, though I seriously doubt they would be interested in watching this type of show.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Diamond Daydreams © 2003 Studio DEEN / AT-X / Hudson / Red Entertainment