Considering that this series obviously had a rather crap budget, I'd say it was done rather well. Not that it doesn't have it's problems, but it's story still manages to be enjoyable, if you can get past it's faults.
A sort-of non-traditional take on vampires. Kazuna and Chizuna are vampires, but vampirism is more of an illness and a hindrance than it is anything else. It's quite a sad story, following how the illness ultimately destroys their lives. The anime's ending differs from the manga, however, as well as leaving out a couple side characters entirely, but as the story (in the anime) is focused
mainly on Kazuna and Chizuna's interaction, it's not a major issue.
- The backgrounds/settings are rather gorgeous. The muted palette overall reflects the melancholy tone of the show, and the style the characters are drawn in make them all the more striking, in my opinion. The eyes, especially, were haunting, and I particularly liked the dark outline for the noses (rather a change from the disappearing noses that are standard anime fare).
- Doing more than an OVA with such a character driven story would have been a mistake, but it wouldn't have hurt to give it a bit more cash for the four episodes. Man did I get sick of Kazuna's "attacks" (they looked like someone splatted some blood patterned brushes on a multiply layer in Photoshop), the wind chime, the moon, and (omg) the RED moon, not to mention the picture of Chizuna as a little girl, and a bunch of other reused shots/frames/misc. The obvious lack of budget inspired a drinking game in which the viewer would pass out from alcohol poisoning within the first episode if they were to actually put it to practice.
I give it a 7 for animation because, despite all the reused visuals, the visuals that were presented were rather pretty. Woulda been nice if things you know... moved more, though.
- The ED is really hauntingly beautiful, and sad. It's actually one of my most played on iTunes. I'm a sucker for sad songs, what can I say? ^.^;;
- Woulda been nice if they had coughed up the cash for an OP, or even just better background music. The only real saving grace is the ED, music wise.
7, if only because I fricking love the ED so much.
Like I said, what this series is entirely about. Very well done, I thought. Chizuna was probably my favorite, but all the characters resonated emotionally, I think.
This series isn't so much about a "story" or "plot-line" as it is about Chizuna and Kazuna, specifically. More of a slice out of their lives, than anything else.
7. It's all coherent, and there are a few decent "twists".
Well, if you can't get over the lack of budget, not much. But if you like a good story, with good characters, and some... a lot... a whole bunch... of angst, then this show is totally for you. If those things aren't your piece of cake well... *shrug* For me, an 8, leaning towards a 9. 10 if I count how fun it is to rewatch and make fun of for it's lack of budget. Or how Kazuna totally wants to do Chizuna.
Hitsuji no Uta is a retelling of the story told in its manga counterpart stuffing 7 volumes of well developed plot and characters into 4 episodes of rushed anime with poor animation. I wont be getting into the plot or characters because if you haven't read the manga or don't intend to; you have no reason to know of the existence of this OVA series. Even as a fan of the manga (which has its flaws) this OVA is completely pointless. The story skips so much that you cant really understand all of whats going on, i mean the
deeper elements that actually require thought process while reading the manga. the animation is also poor; i expect more from madhouse and looking at still images of this anime youd think its got proper animation but it doesent. the framerate is choppy, characters can become disproportionate with large heads at times, they take plenty of shortcuts with animation such as dialogue over still images of characters who are supposedly talking or stock animations of trains. all in all this ova series should have never been made. fans of the manga series will find this painful to watch, anyone else wont enjoy it. the manga is only 7 volumes long so just go read it or look it up to see if youd like it. dont base any of your opinions on the story by what you see with this ova.
In the space of four episodes, this story manages to deliver one major epiphany, but every episode manages to crank the tension up a notch. The story-telling style relies heavily on flashbacks to memories, slowly mounting tension, and uncomfortable stretches of emotion-laden silence in the middle of conversations.
By the end of the story, I was left wondering whether the creators hoped to do further episodes, because they certainly left a lot of potential story arcs untouched. The themes of sickness and desire received a very interesting treatment. But this treatment might fail to satisfy hard-core fiction critics who have a
broad basis for comparison.
Except for the ever-present tears trembling in eyes, this anime is almost a slideshow. Very often mouths are not animated when characters speak. It's impressive that they managed to produce this story in the first place, since apparently they had no animation budget at all.
The voice actors certainly worked hard. The ending song is moody.
The characters were quite well-written. The introverted, forboding personalities were like something out of Faulkner or Walker Percy.
I was initially intrigued by the first episode, but after I watched the others, I felt that the series opened up too many questions and only answered one of them. Also, the slow pace was essential for the story -- if one tried to do the same story with normal pacing it wouldn't work -- but I was bored. This show will appeal to viewers who like slow-paced stories.
Overall: I don't recommend this as a first choice, but if you're a compulsive anime viewer, you should spend the two hours necessary to complete this OVA. If you hate it, you can skip past the ending song to make it move faster.
I'm going to compare three separate narratives I've recently watched that I enjoyed almost equally, but for different reasons. A couple are from Madhouse, which I think is interesting because they're quite a contrast, separated by five years. Even animation-wise, they are distinct and yet, still, use this technique involving colour - for different reasons, though, it seems. Shiki is by Daume, but since I haven't yet seen anything else by them I can't compare anything more, except for these three as distinct narratives from the same genre and topic.
But, this is mainly about Hitsuji no uta, although I think comparisons would be worth it
since the symbolisms and ramifications of all three have different consequences.
The 'lamb' in the title, I assume, refers to the docile nature of the protagonists, this time. Whereas in both Kurozuka and Shiki (and most other media I presume, stereotypically), vampires are usually striving to survive, not unlike any other living creature, and although they are 'undead', as opposed to 'zombies' with which I assume they share this fictional 'status', vampires are usually conscious and thoughtful, as they are in all of these three titles.
What separates Hitsuji no uta from the others, though, is that it is almost an 'experiment' about going against nature. Unlike the other titles and most others, the couple of protagonists, or one could say, their entire family, struggle to not give in to their urges. Whereas in Kurozuka history is combined with fiction to create a hyper-aggressive narrative against all odds and times, where they strive to survive no matter what, in Shiki there are a few timid vampires, but the majority do not fight their nature. In the former, a sci-fi sort of atmosphere dominates, where Madhouse skilfully uses grays and black-and-whites to convey an alternate reality where the source of vampirism seems to take over, in Hitsuji no uta the changing of colours indicate something slightly different and subtler. On one hand, they do use it to portray the past as much media already does, but it differs in that it uses a similar, but slightly differing scheme to paint a picture of an internal struggle, or even to simply convey hopelessness (with buildings, like with Brutalist architecture, I think it's meant to convey a sense of permanence perhaps, as opposed to the temporal counterparts that creatures alive represent).
All three use colours for their own reasons, though, as I suppose most animation does, except that in this case, as all three can be categorized as 'horror', the colour is used specifically to either intensify such 'pictures' that the animators presumably wanted to convey, or lower the tone, that carry with them feelings of one sort or another. In Kurozuka e.g. red must be the predominant colour, although that might seem obvious in a vampire's narrative, since it's the colour of blood, but that series wants its watchers to know that it's designed to be aggressive, which doesn't necessarily preclude a certain artistic possibility, with its inclusion of traditional Japanese motifs and Kabuki, which further references prior media about the same sort of history, and yet from an entirely different perspective (Kurosawa).
In Hitsuji no uta, though, colours are subdued, very much like the characters themselves and the themes contained within the narrative, not unlike Boogiepop Phantom, which isn't about vampires and yet contains almost identical themes (with the exception of a narrative derived from the 'dementia' genre). This sort of technique in anime in general has a pattern, wherein the more fantastical a narrative, the more colourful. It is, as such, similar with Shiki in the opposite direction of Hitsuji no uta. Whereas with the latter it is mostly two siblings that feature prominently and the narrative revolves about (and due to dark themes, the animation is also dark), in Shiki there aren't really any central characters that feature in every single episode. It is, essentially, about an entire village of both humans and vampires, and as such an ensemble drama that involves a variety of personalities that not only reflect in their wildly differing hair colour, but hair styles, and, ultimately, their intrinsic motives. Both series are about the same topic, and both could be said to be sociological and the implications thereof, but they are approached from distinct angles. Hitsuji no uta is more inter-personal, more confined to a few individuals. Society has an effect on the narrative, similar to the complications that arise in Shiki, but whereas the latter is more about society's moral ambiguities, in Hitsuji no uta society is in the background, and yet still affects the protagonists.
It could be said that, generally, with this genre and topic, it serves to reflect an already existent undercurrent in human societies. Whereas vampires are fictional, and yet historically, as with witches and werewolves, moral panics existed in which people somehow convinced themselves and others that they truly are real, whether intentionally used as an excuse to justify the crushing of opponents, or simply a genuine delusion borne out of times when even biology was little known, ended up destroying non-supernatural lives. Ultimately, it is a psychological manifestation that combines imagination with possibility, and despite these kind of series being entirely fictitious themselves, they could almost be a documentary on the many facets of a psyche.
Hitsuji no Uta is the story of two siblings who meet after being separated for a long time. The twist is that they have a genetic disease that gives them cravings for human blood. The story really focuses on Kazuna learning to live with his disease and about his family's past with some help from his sister. The story is pretty interesting and full of suspense, but it does have one major annoyance. There are a lot of Flashbacks, A lot of which show an event that happened in the same episode, less than five minutes ago. What's the point? Did Gisaburo Sugii really think
that the audience would have such a terrible attention span that we won't remember the important events that happened three and a half minutes ago? The over-reliance on flashbacks also destroys the pacing pretty thoroughly.
The characters are pretty well developed. There's a lot of subtle torment that motivates both Kazuna and Chizuna. The impact they have on the people who care about them is pretty pronounced as well. The only real problems are that the characterisation borders on overly-melodramatic at times and the relationship between Chizuna and Kazuna seems almost incestuous at moments.
The art is terrible. This came out in 2003, 2004 and the art is only a little better than the Ninja Gaiden OVA. Maybe they had no budget whatsoever, but when your art is only a little better than an anime with terrible art that came out more than ten years ago there's a problem.
The voice acting and music are the only truly spectacular elements to this OVA. The music is nice and atmospheric. Although the art destroys any sense of atmosphere that the music might have established. The voice acting is spectacular. It's just what I'd expect from something with such great talents as Hayashibara Megumi and Seki Tomokazu in the main roles.
There is no yuri in this. The female characters hardly even interact. It gets a yuri factor of 1/10.
My final rating is a 6/10. The story and characters have some faults, but it's still pretty interesting and worth watching, if you can excuse the artwork.
Hitsuji no Uta is an interesting anime, and if it had more time to develop it would have been really good. The anime as it stands at 4 episodes manages to tell a good story, even though it is short. What I found cool about it was that, instead of the low budget taking away from the enjoyment, it actually added to it. The repeated images and switching between black and white and color make the anime a little more stylized, rather than hindering the interest of the story. The way they show Kazuna's attacks also adds quite a bit of tension to the experience.
art style looks good most of the time, but sometimes ends up looking a bit off from the way you see it normally. This only happens in a few scenes, and it doesn't really disturb the presence of the theme. And like I said before, the low-budgetness of the anime actually stylizes it and makes it unique.
Really, there's not much here. There's about one song plus the ending theme. The one song in the anime actually fits in most of the situations, so even though there's not a large variety, it adds a familiar atmosphere when certain events are happening.
The characters weren't that developed, mostly because there wasn't enough time to get to know them all. But by the end, you have a feel for the personality and ideals of most of the important characters.
Enjoyment & Overall
I enjoyed Hitsuji no Uta quite a bit, and because it's so short, the story doesn't get distorted and twisted around until it's unrecognizable. I would recommend it to anyone; I'm sure anyone could find something to like about it. Even if you don't like it a ton, you're only with it for 2 hours of your life, so you can watch it and add it to your repertoire of anime knowledge without too much effort.
PLOT: A very interesting premise, quite similar to Tsukihime in a number of ways but with the action element stripped away. Hitsuji no Uta is at its core a character study of the two central siblings and the way they cope with the vampiric illness the Takashiro family is cursed with. The pace is extremely slow but tense, with long pauses and meandering dialogue as it tracks Kazuna and Chizuna’s slow degeneration and their attempt to alienate their loved ones to spare them pain. Its quite touching, but the slow pace may be off putting to some – also
the end felt rushed. Another episode would have been required to gain closure and I also would have liked more character development in order to give the end some more emotional impact. However these are minor faults and in 4 episodes this OVA managed to deliver angst and drama in buckets.
ANIMATION: I don’t think there was much of a budget for this OVA, but they’ve really done well with what they had. The colours used are dull, almost monochrome – like all the colour has been leeched out from Kazuna’s world except for blood red – the brightest colour on display and it makes for a striking contract to the other pale colours. There are a lot of long static shots with wordy monologues too. The character designs aren’t the best in the world either as they’re rather plain.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The music is very atmospheric enhancing the melancholic feeling, which permeates the entire anime. I also loved the song at the end of each episode and felt it fit perfectly with the feeling this anime leaves you with. The voice acting is great, the seiyuu do a great job of bringing their character’s emotions across. Kazuna’s confusion and despair, Chizuna’s quiet acceptance and tiredness are all clearly felt.
Overall a good vampire OVA – it does have faults but an interesting watch nonetheless.