Assisted and cheered on by her friend Mitsuki, timid Haruka finally gains the courage to confess her feelings to her classmate Takayuki. Despite some initial problems true love does seem to be blossoming between the two. A tragic event will shatter the happiness of the new couple and force the trio to confront the limits of friendship, loyalty, and love.
When I first heard about this title, I must admit I was a bit leery. Though I have seen some dating sim-derived shows that are fairly good, on average the genre seems to produce shows that inspire more boredom than interest. The first few episodes of this title were sweet enough and did a lot to convince me this wasn't going to be some annoying harem or boring "date of the week" show.
While I want to avoid spoiling particular details of the plot, after the opening episodes, the events and direction of the show change substantially. What started out as simple romance instead gets parlayed into an interesting exploration of the various facets of love and friendship. While Kiminozo doesn't address grand existential themes or anything of the nature, the questions it does explore about the nature and limits of relationships were interesting. The very intimate nature of these questions provides the show with a bit more immediate and personal emotional impact, perhaps, than themes of a more ambitious scope.
I should note that though this is "romance" show it mainly focuses on some of the more stressful and sad aspects of love. Though I did find the show engaging and interesting, it is extremely sad for the most part and even the ending, though in some ways positive is still more bittersweet than anything. If you like your romance to be a bit more sweet and uplifting overall, this really isn't the show for you.
Interestingly enough, the bulk of the events of this show, despite its starting time period being high school, take place when the main characters have left high school and are just starting to enter their adult lives. The show utilizes several flashbacks to help fill in the gaps in the viewer's knowledge about what has occurred. Though sometimes I find such a device annoying, I thought it was used to good effect here to enhance the emotional atmosphere of the show. Given the large number of anime shows that focus on high school romances, this show had an interesting mix of young adult and high school romance elements.
What really kept this show interesting were its characters. The main characters are all extremely well developed and come across as real people with real suffering rather than just various flat archetypes. Despite the various sad and in some cases callous actions committed by some of the characters toward the others, there is no real "evil" character or true "antagonist". The main characters are all just normal people trying their best to find their own happiness in an unusual situation somewhat beyond their control. As I watched the show I found myself going through a wide range of emotions involving the various characters of this show. They were developed enough that I actually felt for (or in some cases against) them.
There are a large number of secondary characters, many of which are somewhat unusually (though not necessarily unnaturally) busty young females. This is perhaps one of the few times the show clearly betrays its dating sim origins. Many of these characters aren't particularly developed or important and likely were just put in because they were in the game. For the most part they don't particularly damage the overall feeling of the show, though there are a number of comic relief moments involving two waitresses that people might find a bit out of place with the rest of the show, though later on they are used to good effect to help actually communicate, via contrast, the extreme distress of the situation of one of the main characters.
The character design and artwork for this title is good overall, though as I alluded to earlier many of the female characters seem just a tad bit bustier on average. I shall note that it is noticeable but the female characters aren't particularly overly endowed, just a bit bustier than average. All the general background and scene design work was done well and helped to bring the setting to life.
While not particularly high in action or deep philosophical depth, Rumbling Hearts is a solid drama/romance title with a moving emotional storyline. If you are a fan of romantic dramas and would like to see a title with well developed characters that you come to care about, this is definitely a title to check out.
A well done, albeit sad, engaging romantic drama with well developed leads. If you are expecting something with a deep philosophical statement or are an action fan, you'll probably want to subtract a star as this is a human interest story first and foremost. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: There are a few scenes of fighting that get a bit violent. There are also a few scenes of nudity. In terms of rating though perhaps of greatest consideration are a few scenes of a sexual nature. They are brief and not particularly explicit so I don't really think it is necessarily to restrict this to the adult crowd, but still should keep this to older teens.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Rumbling Hearts © 2003 Studio Fantasia / Media Factory / Kiminozo Production Committee
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