If a couple sees the diamond dust together, then they will certainly find eternal happiness. Or so it is said. This is a drama about the romances, friendships and conflicts of six girls from Hokkaido and how the diamond dust affects them and eventually links them together in the search for happiness.
Diamond Dust, when the moisture in the air freezes in the cold mornings, it sparkles like diamonds. The legend of Diamond Dust says that if you're lucky enough to see it with the one you love, you'll be happy together, or you can wish upon it and find happiness.
This is the central theme to the stories of love, friendship, and self-discovery about six girls in Hokkaido of northern Japan. Each has two episodes dedicated to them (except for Suomi).
Episode 1 & 2 focus on Atsuko Akanegi, a 20-year-old girl who runs a fish-market with her mother that her late father left. They don't have a
lot of money, and Atsuko has to work while her friends go out to have fun. There is a guy who wants to marry her, and he would help with her finances, but Atsuko has a crush on a jazz musician, who tells her the story of Diamond Dust. She doesn't want to marry for money, and wishes her mother would see that. But she doesn't realise that her mother understands her feelings more than she knows. Her story is about mother-daughter relationships, as well as searching for your happiness: what makes us happy? Money? Love?
Episode 3 & 4 are about Karin Shiraishi, a 15-year-old girl who is hospitalized with a serious illness, but refuses to go through with surgery because she is scared. This story is about self-discovery, and being able to find the courage within you to go forward. I like this story the most, because I'm able to connect with it and relate to it the most, because sometimes I think I really am spoiled, and I don't even realise it. And we all have moments when we're scared and find it hard to discover the couragous side of ourselves. Karin is a pretty human character, because she is selfish and spoiled, but also kind and wants to get better even though she's scared.
Episode 5 & 6 are about Kyouko Asahina, who is rather uptight and bossy. She's just too driven on her own goals to see what everyone else must be feeling. A talented film-maker, she wants to create the perfect film to win the festival, but is frustrated that nobody can understand the pressure she's going through, not even her boyfriend. In the process, she forgot why she started filming in the first place, and how fun filming was. It takes some trials for her to finally realise what it is that she wants to create. Her story is about learning to appreciate something while you have it, because sometimes, you don't realise how much it means to you until it's gone. I didn't like Kyouko's character too much at first, because a lot of times she really is unreasonable and selfish. But she's also very passionate about what she loves to do, and that passion blinds her judgement sometimes. Really, Kyouko is a very human character, representing the selfishness and passion in all of us.
Episode 7 is about Suomi Kitano, a figure skater who had an accident and stopped competing because of it. The accident involves her best friend and skating rival, whom she wished back then on the Diamond Dust to share the gold medal with. Then she meets Haruto, a skater who fought with his friend because of skating, and he asks her to skate with him. Going onto the ice, Suomi remembers how fun skating was, and how it shouldn't come between friends. Her story is about friendship and loving what you do. Even though her friend was skating rival, neither of them let that come between their friendship. Her story is the only one with one episode, and I wished it would be longer. Suomi is a bit strange, but she is cheerful and gives good advice.
Episode 8 & 9 involves a radio-broadcaster named Shouko Saibara, who is having an affair with a married man, but he doesn't answer her and doesn't see her much. It got to a point where she wonders if she's always talking to an answering machine, just like how she's only talking to a microphone at work. Her show involves people sending in stories and questions about romance, and she gives them advice. But one day, she wonders if she should really be giving other people advice on love when she can't even take care of herself. Then she starts to wonder if she can be heard at all, or is she merely talking to the microphone. This story is about knowing that you are heard, and that you are important to someone, even though you may not realise it. Shouko is also very human, in that she has doubts about herself, like we all do sometimes.
Episode 10 & 11 focus on Akari Harada, whose father drinks a lot, and goes to find gold dust instead of working. He is the one who tells Akari about the Diamond Dust, and how he went to see it with her mother. At first I thought her father was horrible, but later on, I realised that her father is just a man who wants to chase his dreams and live the way he would be happiest. He passes this message on to Kurokawa, a friend of Akari's at work, who gave up making sweets because he didn't think he was good enough. This story is about chasing your dreams and not giving up. This one is perhaps the saddest out of the six.
The last episode ties up everything, and brings everyone together, and answers some of those questions left in the previous episodes.
The stories themselves are really touching and sweet, despite their rather ordinary settings and plots. And this is what makes this series special: the ability to move the audience.
The style of the characters is not all that special or different. But perhaps that is meant to be, because the girls are meant to represent typical girls.
However, the backgrounds are very beautiful. Many of the settings are based on real places in Hokkaido. The night city in episodes 1 and 2, and the sunset scene in episodes 5 and 6 are especially memorable. Also, I love how they represented the beauty of the Diamond Dust itself.
The voices are mostly well-done, suiting the characters. I did find that Atsuko's voice is a bit too high-pitched for someone her age. But otherwise, the girls are well-portrayed, even though nothing really stands out all that much.
Music is one of the strength of this series. The background music is rather unique. It sounds like a mixture of Chinese bamboo flute and Erhu (Chinese 2-stringed fiddle), and it's quite soothing to listen to, and a bit sad. It helps bring out the emotions of those important moments. However, the same (or similar) song is played throughout the series, and I wish that there were a bit more variation, or a theme song of some sort for each girl. The most memorable is the ending theme "Aitai ~Love Theme from Kita e.~" by ALLEY:A. It's beautiful and moving, and very suitable for the series. I'm not too fond of the opening theme "Hop Step Jump" by Five Spirits. It's a high-energy and happy song, which, while energizes the audience, doesn't quite fit with the theme of the stories.
I think this is the greatest strength of the series. I love how it's set up like a series of short stories, connected with a common theme, and tied up at the end. It is ordinary at first glance in terms of plot and characters, but I found it special because of the emotional impact it has, and how I am able to relate to the stories (yes I cried a lot, get some tissues ready). It's not for those who like action/adventure or fast-paced stories, but if you're into drama and slice-of-life romance, and want something sweet and touching, then I definately recommend it.
I have been eyeing this series for a while but always put it towards the bottom of my to-watch list due to its obscurity. Now that I finally managed to watch it, I have to say I'm very surprised this series hasn't had more recognition.
The series is a collection of several virtually unrelated short stories each spanning 1-2 episodes and a final episode tying them all together (sort of). It may seem a bit off-putting to some, but I found that this partitioning was a great decision on the part of the team and managed to keep the whole series lively. I can confidently say
that there isn't even one scene that feels dragged on, which is a fact that many longer series could learn a lot from.
If you're looking for original plot, prepare to be disappointed. All of the stories in this series follow classic romance/drama plots - there's a young girl fleeing from arranged marriage, a hard-working girl taking care of her drunkard father, a stalker story - in short, it's the same plots used in tens if not hundreds of romance stories for centuries. However, you shouldn't judge the book by its cover, as each of these stories is not only very well polished, but also has a little unique twist somewhere that sets it apart from the sea of mediocre romantic fiction. Of particular interest are the endings; I'm yet to see a series with ending as well-fitting as Kita e's. They're neither universally sad nor universally happy, but every one of them felt just right - as if it was meant to be and the story couldn't have possibly ended any other way. The only reason this is not a 10 is that some of the stories have a little bit more drama than romance, which is not necessarily bad, but not what I personally prefer.
The animation is certainly good, and the colours in particular strongly enhance the serene atmosphere. However, there're two problems: first is the character proportions being a bit unnatural for adults which the characters are supposed to be. The second is that the details quality seems to jump wildly every once in a while. Some scenes feel very awkward - as if the artist had a great vision and selected the best colours for the job but ended up not being able to put them into shape so the whole scene is flooded with distorted lines, strange camera angles, blurry borders and clashing surfaces that no longer feel three-dimensional. Thankfully, that happens only a few times and the rest of the show is drawn very beautifully.
The voices are cute and background audio is good on the whole, but there're a few points where the silence lasts longer than it probably should, and in the last episode the tinkling of diamond dust that's supposed to be so very special didn't sound much better than nails on a chalkboard to me, but it's probably just my own prejudices. The opening song is simple and lively but feels a bit out of place, since the rest of the show is somewhat mellow and nostalgic. The ending, with its slow, flowing vocals and gentle music, on the other hand, complements the atmosphere perfectly.
Most of the main characters are very likeable and the few that aren't at least have very distinct and memorable personalities - there're almost none of the usual cardboard filler extras anywhere in this anime. Despite the brevity of each story, the writers managed to fit quite a bit of character growth into them, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that they were using tried and true plots rather than inventing their own problems and solutions to fit the characters.
The show is as enjoyable as they come. Its gentle, nostalgic atmosphere puts the viewer at ease, while the excellent pacing keeps it from getting boring. Being divided into short stories also makes casual watching much easier since you don't have to keep track of a hundred intertwining plots.
On the whole, Kita e is a very solid show that puts together the best parts of romance anime and polishes them to perfection. Highly recommended.
Kita e.: Diamond Dust Drops is broken up into various 2-3 episode vignettes that follow various female characters and their lives in Hokkaido. They all center around romance.
First things first, because this anime is broken up into these vignettes it is EXTREMELY hit or miss. At times I wanted to give certain story arcs an 8/10 overall but others a 3/10. The setting of the show is probably the best part. Not enough anime are set in winter/Hokkaido. To be honest, I would skip the story arcs that you don't enjoy and watch the ones you care about
as a mini-series.
Ultimately, I'd recommend it as a light, romance show with great art and music. It's mediocre at best as a whole but some story Arcs (Akari, Suomi and Shoko) are worth it.
Story: The anime is broken into separate story lines following several different characters. All of the stories are obnoxiously cliché and simplistic. If you are looking for food for thought your brain will starve to death with this anime.
Art: Basic and not terrible but nothing that would count as high quality. The female characters all look very similar with kind of masculine odd-shaped jaws.
Sound: Bad synthesized background with a few acoustic overdubs. A kid could come up with this on his $80 Casio keyboard form Wal-Mart. Wasn't even good when
this anime was new.
Character: This is really the killer for this anime. If you are going to do 2-3 episode story arcs you have to have noteworthy character development in that short period to grab interest. Every character is as vanilla and mundanely boring as it gets. Watching this is like driving in neutral.
The overall experience of this anime is just mind numbing boredom. Soon you will just want episodes to be over so you don't have to listen to more mundane dialogue with crappy midi music in the background. I wouldn't wish this crap on my worst enemy.