H2O – Footprints in the sand

Genre: Harem, Drama
Length: 12 episodes
Rating: PG for mature themes
Score: Good

Takuma is blind. He creates a stir when he transfers into a small village school, by ignoring social divisions and attempting to befriend a girl shunned by the village and his classmates.

This series irritated me, and I’m not entirely sure why. It has all the makings of the sort of story I love.

This is another harem with plot, where the medium of a guy plus a bunch of girls is used to carry a deeper story. In this case, there are two themes: how somebody can be hated and punished by a community of otherwise rational people, how that culture is maintained by a few key figures, and how they exercise control over others; and how a person with no physical power can change that culture by affecting the people around them.

I thought it irritated me because it has ADD. Not only does it jump from savage beating to beach episode, but bad guys and gals are instantly forgiven for the sake of fun and fanservice. Yet the right mixture of fun with plot is one of the things I love about other series – it can help to develop all sides of a character, not just the plotful ones. And that bad guys also have complexity is one of the hallmarks of anime.

It can’t irritate me just because the plot is told using cute girls, because that’s true of so many series. Most anime choose special characters – children, pretty people, magicians, fighters, mechs, elves, aliens, chibis – as avatars for the story, not because the point they wish to make is about them but becauseĀ  those characters are photogenic. They’re part of the medium.

I don’t think the supernatural elements can be what annoys me. While initially confusing they do come together, and are tied into the story. The supernatural is part of Japanese culture, and is integral to so many great anime.

Even the way that nobody is entirely clean, that instead of perfect saints you have weak people struggling with the situation they find themselves in, and sometimes making some really horrible mistakes, is in the right hands a good thing.

Ultimately, I think what irritated me was that I felt its courage waver. It aims high, trying to tell a dark and difficult tale, but it doesn’t have the consistency to keep telling that dark story without taking a break. It felt like a flawed telling of an interesting story, and that frustration – the promise of something that doesn’t quite materialise – is what irritated me.

Maybe they’ll do a remake, they seem to be all the rage these days.