Sunday, November 8, 2015
If Her Flag Breaks (ANIME)
GENRE: Harem, Comedy, Sci-fi
DIRECTOR: Ayumu Watanbe / Shigeru Ueda
ARTIST/S: CUTEG (Original Illustrations) / Hoods Entertainment (Animation Production)
MSRP: $51.99 (Premium Edition w/Art Box, Guide Book & Bonus Item) (http://store.nisamerica.com/if-her-flag-breaks-complete-premium-bonus-set)
DATE OF PRODUCTION: 2015
LENGTH: 2 Blu-rays, 13 Episodes / 306 mins. + Bonus Openings & Endings
AUDIO/VIDEO: Original Japanese Voice Acting w/English Subtitles. Includes clean openings and endings, character trailers, commercial bumps, and Japanese commercials as stated in the website listing. From a more personal point of view I found the visuals to be exceptionally vibrant, crisp, and clean. It definitely benefits from the HD Blu-ray treatment. Even the sound, or rather voice acting comes out loudly, and clearly through an HDTV's speakers. The soundtrack that is included is as lighthearted, and fun loving as the majority of the anime series is. It's truly complimentary to the equally fun loving intros, and closing animations that come before, and after each episode.
CHARACTERS/VOICE ACTORS: Sota Hatate (Ryota Osaka), Nanami Knight Bladefield (Ibuki Kido), Akane Mahogasawa (Ai Kayano), Kikuno Shokanji (Kana Asumi), Megumu Tozokuyama (Kana Hanazawa), Rin Eiyuzaki (Yoko Hikasa), Ruri Ninjabayashi (Ayaka Suwa), Mimori Seiteikoji (Yukari Tamura), Tsumugi Ryukishibara (Aki Toyosaki), Mei Daimyozamurai (Sakura Tange), Kurumiko Daishikyogawa (Misaki Kuno), Hakua Berserker Bladefield (Ai Kakuma), Serika Ginyuin (Aoi Yuuki), Miyuki McKensie (Yuuka Nanri), Sakura/Sacrament (Rina Hidaka), No. 0 (Risa Taneda) ... Council of the Seven Virtues
Touka Takei's original story turned screenplay comes to life in a vibrant display of animation, colors, characters, and personalities. It takes all this, and about every relationship related anime stereotype that you can possibly think of then mixes it all up amid various anime genres, and twists it until there's no twists left to be had. You'll go into the first few episodes thinking "If Her Flag Breaks" is going in one direction only to find it going ever more deeply into that metaphoric storytelling rabbit hole in an entirely different direction. The story, as odd as it is going to sound revolves around a young man named "Sota". A young man with an unusual ability that involves flag breaking. Fate flag breaking to be precise. Though his tale begins halfway in without a solid explanation you will slowly get to know the secrets of Sota's predicament in the thirteen included episodes as they unfold. Each of which surround the event of a chance encounter on a cruise ship known as the Premium Ambriel. Along with Sota, the series' protagonist comes a diverse collection of young ladies who each find themselves drawn to him like a fated soul mate. Whether it be through romantic love, sibling love, friendship, or dedication of some sort this harem of girls (and one transgender guy) who stick by Sota's side throughout his unusual ordeal come together inadvertently to help him rid himself of a death sentence that is somehow tied to his gifted ability.
When it comes to Sota not everything is as it seems, and that's pretty much a given from the start. Outwardly he seems like a shy withdrawn boy who has a sort of obvious mystery vibe about him, and as he enters the Hatagaya Academy as a fellow student his classmates begin to pick up on it. One girl (Nanami) in particular who caught him using his ability confronts him expecting the worst regarding the seemingly forced vehicle accident at a busy intersection, but finds herself helping the lost young lad to realize that he's not alone. After the chance meeting with Nanami, Sota becomes the center of attention as more girls (and a guy) come flocking to him for his kindness, and affection. The girls he encounters each bring with them their own set of virtues, and personalities in a blend that could be best described as a perfect storm. There's everything from the clingy girlfriend type (Ayane) to the childhood friend (Mei), and even an android (Ruri) who finds herself needed by Sota, among others. Though they should be at odds with one another over Sota's love they each agree that making Sota happy is the ultimate goal.
Deeper into the thirteen episodes, past the academy antics, and beyond the bachelor-like dating shenanigans Sota tries to fulfill his promise to the mystery character who spared his life while he was aboard the Premium Ambriel cruise ship. It's this character, "Sakura" that bestowed upon him a power that enables him to see literal flags on top of peoples' heads which in turn indicates their current fate. After gaining the power, and being bound to finding the truth of life Sota learns that he can not only influence peoples' feelings towards him by breaking their emotion based flags, but that he can also cancel out death flags if he comes to understand what is causing them in the first place. Along with the gifted power, or ability comes a hidden factor that Sota doesn't see coming until later on, and this ties in with a secret society known as the, "Council of the Seven Virtues". Ultimately he is stalked by this secretive organization, his harem, and Sakura as he goes about his mission of discovering the truth of life.
One thing I really liked about "If Her Flag Breaks", aside from the inclusion of the 'Guidebook/Art Book', and overall presentation is that the storyteller incorporates the various virtues, and relationships between the harem, and Sota in a fashion that coincides perfectly with Sota's quest for that ultimate answer regarding the truth of life. In a way the anime itself is like a metaphore about the journey of life, and death through the relationships that are made, and broken. Though "If Her Flag Breaks" includes a ton of humor (humor that's often time filled with slightly sexual perversion) it's heart, or the core story stays humble in delivery, and does a good job of opening the audiences eyes to it's underlying message. On the downside I found myself wanting more. This is one of those anime series that you'll wish was drawn out a bit longer. It's definitely fun while it lasts, but once it ends it leaves a longing in your heart. It oozes with charm, heartbreak, and every emotion under the sun. If you find yourself laughing, or crying to yourself don't be surprised as it is warranted. In closing I'll say that I was pleasantly surprised with this particular NISA anime. It was genuinely heartfelt, and well presented. All that I ask as a providing critic is that you try to look beyond the "Moe" character design, and past the often times perverted innuendos. If you can you might just fall in love with this anime as I have.
Just know that the pricing is right at the $51.99 mark, and that it is definitely a quality set worth adding to any anime lovers' collection. It contains two Blu-rays complete with cases and cover as well as a hardcover guidebook with plenty of artwork, and juicy insider info on the anime itself. If you order through NISA's store I also think there's a bonus item included. Don't quote me on that though, as the set is still listed as a "Pre-Order" even though the pre-order date has passed.