Kanon (2006)

Genre: Romance, Dating Sim
Score: Excellent
Rating: PG for tragic romance, fighting and short skirts
Length: 24 episodes

After an absense of several years, Yuuichi moves in with his aunt and cousin in the snowy city of Moriuchi. His memory of the time he used to spend visiting is fuzzy, but he meets several girls who remember him: his cousin Nayuki with her many alarm clocks, Ayu with the taiyaki * addiction, Makoto with amnesia, Shiori with the severe illness, and Mai with the hobby of killing demons. But he’s clearly forgotten something very important.

Originally an H game (non-H versions were also released), Kanon was first animated in 2002. This is a new version made in 2006. Given this story’s origin and premise, I was rather surprised to find just how fun this series is. Instead of the weak-willed blank slate at the middle of most harems Yuuichi is likeably sarcastic, putting a lot of humour into the story, and the character of each girl is well developed. That you get to know each of them as a normal person first makes the emotion work much better when their own strange stories kick in later (without wishing to give too much away, not everyone is human, and not everyone survives).

The story has come a long way: the goal of the original game may have been to unlock the sex scenes, but this version goes out of its way to avoid even panty-shots – and I think it works better because of it. The animation is beautiful, and bears a strong resemblance to Suzumiya Haruhi, as do several of the characters, and their voices – they’re by the same animation company, after all.

* Taiyaki is a Japanese pastry filled with bean paste, and shaped like a fish (literally tai=sea bream). I’ve only had it once, but I can confirm that it was rather nice. Also, it was nice to find out where Piro‘s name comes from, since Kanon is the origin of his fixation on sad girls in snow. Mmm, dumplings…

(ps – the drawing style looks very weird at first, but you quicly get used to it)