For as long as Akari can remember, she and Hiroyuki have always been friends. But with time, everything changes, and her feelings have turned into something more. As a new semester of high school begins, will the two childhood friends come closer together or drift further apart? Join Hiroyuki, Akari and all their friends—the bubbly Shiho, the quiet Serika, the lovely Kotone, and more—in this heartwarming tale of love, relationships and friendship!
Nice. That's what this show is. Not thrilling or dramatic or bad, just.... nice.
I first found out about To Heart when I watched Comic Party, and I thought I'd give it a whirl. Unfortunately I watched To Heart 2 first so I wasn't expecting much when I eventually got around to watching this.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised at how different the atmosphere between the two shows actually is. Where the sequel feels quite forced, To Heart is far more natural in the way it progresses. The stories aren't that different between the two, and indeed the theme (harem highschool romance), is generally quite common
amongst many shows (Clannad, Kanon, Lamune, etc). However when you look a little closer you find that To Heart is actually quite unique in it's approach to the romance side of things.
The story doesn't follow any straighforward plot, but adopts a more episodic approach. This detracts from the various possible romantic developments (of which there are few), but it gives the show a very different feel from the norm. To Heart isn't a harem highschool romance by a long way. It get's misnomered as such because people assume that, because it's based on a dating sim, and has a male lead who meets multiple females, it has to be a harem highschool romance.
To Heart (unlike it's sequel), is slice of life. Nothing more, nothing less.
The episodic nature of the show actually works when you look at it from a slice of life perspective, and the fact that there is no "real" romantic development becomes irrelevant at that point. The true qualities of the show can only be admired when you watch it as a slice of life show, and in this way it reminded me of Aria far more than Clannad et al.
At times the artwork in the show is exceedingly good. The show makes use of watercolour stillframes to good effect, and although the animation is a little dated compared to most you see these days, it still retains a certain "realistic" quality about it.
The music in the show is generally quite mellow, again, reflective of the show's slice of life perspective. The OP and ED aren't really anything special though, and the sound effects, although quite well used, are sparse at best.
To Heart doesn't really have any truly memorable characters (except maybe Multi). Fujita Hiroyuki is generally a nice, caring guy, and Kamigishi Akari is a well rounded, kind-hearted girl. The two have been best friends and neighbours since kindergarten, and the show highlights the strong ties between the two of them. The many female "love interests" in the show are mainly just friends. One or two may have a crush on him at one time or another, but for the most part the "romance" is mainly between Hiroyuki and Akari.
The supporting characters are generally okay, but nothing special really. I found some of them amusing in some ways, but I didn't find any of them annoying (I'll explain why in a bit).
I think if you approach this show with the assumption that it is a stereotypical harem romance then you probably won't enjoy it as much as something like Clannad or Kanon. However, if you approach the show from a Slice of Life perspective then it becomes a nice, relaxing way to spend half an hour.
The main appeal of the show is the "nice", relaxed feel it has. It won't appeal to anyone who wants a good romantic story with continuous plot development (watch Love-Com or Bokura Ga Ita for that). It may appeal to fans of Aria though, as To Heart has a similar feel (and both female leads are called Akari). The reason why I didn't find any of the characters annoying was because of the relaxed feel of the show - the characters didn't bother me in the slightest - which is very much the same feeling I had when I watched Aria.
To Heart is a show that is worth watching if you're in the mood for something nice. It doesn't bludgeon you over the head with drama or romance or thrills of any sort.
It’s funny, when I first started "To Heart" I thought I was going to be in for another harem title, but to my surprise it was nothing like that. This school life anime is probably one of the more layed back and relaxing ones out there!
The main chunk of the story will be Hiro (main male lead) interacting with the female students. Now I know this may sound like a "harem" plot, it isn’t at all though. Whenever he meets one of them that needs help, instead of having a romantic view of them (you know, the whole damsel in distress thing?) he simply helps
them out with their problems like a good friend would. Which in turn really does describe "To Heart" the best...friendship! Many people (like me) would probably go into this anime thinking about romance, after all the title does have the word heart in it, which would be a logical assumption. Not at all though, this titles name is based on simply helping out a friend in need. Which I have to say was a nice change of pace from all the romance and love triangles you would otherwise see in an anime like this. Now that’s not to say there is no love interest at all here. Because in episode 1, Akari (main female) does imply that she likes Hiro to the audience, but it never goes past that. Even many of the situation that would implement jealousy is handled in a peaceful manner. In fact some may be surprised to see that not one character ever really raises their voice against another. This probably could be seen as a negative as well though, because most school life isn’t that way at all. Since there is no real romance that takes place (though there will be a small amount in the last two episodes), the story may tend to be a bit bland depending on your tastes. I also didn’t really like the ending, but I won’t spoil it for you.
The character design is what stuck out for me in the art department, they have a certain noticeably to them...this is especially true when you take a close look at their facial features. The clothing and detail that went into each is really great, and all characters are drawn well balanced as people and not exaggerated. The backgrounds can best be described as "stiff" though, most of them are displayed rather nicely, while others tend to look more like still water color paintings. Because of this you will most likely keep your attention to the actual characters than the backgrounds.
Well since over 70% of the time there is no real music playing in the foregrounds, means that To Heart gives off a much more calmer feel to it like I mentioned earlier. Most of the time I felt that this series could be a nice stress re-leaser when you’re not having the best of days. Now it’s nice to have that kind of feel when watching it, but it still would have been nice to have some kind of memorable background track, since the main one that does play is simply a non-vocal version of the opening theme. Now with that in mind the opening and closing theme’s are nice, they fit the mood of the title pretty good. Even if the ending feels more along the lines of a re-mixed version of the opening.
The characters I felt were the weakest link in the anime, now don’t get me wrong they are indeed a friendly bunch. Its just that they are not well varied in their approaches. It seems like you can pretty much describe them all in these three simple words: "quiet, outgoing, middle ground." The only real noticeable one for me was a girl named "Shiho, " as she tended to have the most spunk of the group, and was probably the only real comical character in the bunch. At the beginning song you see quite a large cast of females, however most only appear for one episode and are never really seen again. Still, they all compliment one another great in the friendship department, and are truly there for one another to pick each other up when they are down.
To Heart is not funny, deep, or very romantic in any of its aspects. And I have to admit that not having an actual romance plot going on in the overall scheme of things was a bit of a bummer, and romance fans may want to steer clear of this because of that. However, what this title lacks in those aspects, it makes up for quite nicely with its "friendship" approach! If you’re a fan of nice and peaceful school life titles that really emphasis on helping others, then To Heart’s heart...is truly big!
....no amount of numbers in the world could amount to how much Inloved this show. "To Heart" was amazing in both its story and its atmposphere. The story revolves around 2 high seniors, Akari and Hiroyuki, as they get ready for their final year of high school. Akari and Hiroyuki have been friends for years; ever since kindergarten, and Akari may have grown some certain feelings about her best friend after all these years.
...both the sound quality and the art are above par; the animation may look very old, but the anime's from the 1990's (...just the way I like 'em). The show has this
very polished look that shows that it has aged very well. The sound quality, I thought, was rather well done, too. The number of charact
One lovable loser who through some bizarre circumstances ends up surrounded by a group of gorgeous women who all proceed to fall in love with him somehow; and then our protagonist must make the difficult choice of picking the one female cast member to call his own.
While it was always a stupid and sexist premise, it proved to be a very popular format (for an almost entirely male audience). And so, many titles made use of the formula with little to no variation. While these titles lacked creativity, they were still profitable and that allowed the same basic story to be
reproduced many, many times. A ‘tried and tested’ formula simply became a tired one. Eventually, it got to the point that even making a few minor changes would create a stir.
Like all other harems, ‘To Heart’ is the story of one man and the many women that surround him. Hiroyuki Fujita is like every other male harem protagonist in this respect. BUT...
(You may want to sit yourselves for this one, guys)
He’s not a total loser!
In fact, Hiroyuki is actually quite a nice guy. He helps people out, gives them advice when they need it, is pretty popular and athletic; even if he is a little lazy and forgetful at times. Really, it’s not a big surprise he is so popular with women!
And with that one swipe, Hiroyuki manages to slay the ancient dragon of the harem genre -the completely unbelievable wish fulfilment fantasy of loser male anime fans everywhere- and rescue one of several girls desperate to be carried off into the sunset by their handsome knight (who won’t be too wimpy to actually carry them for once).
However, while Hiroyuki being a hit with the ladies may not be completely unbelievable, Whether or not Hiroyuki is a believable character or not, is another story altogether.
Is he a Gary Stu? No, of course he’s not: He sleeps in classes and he’s forgetful, too. He’s far less a writer’s (or audiences) pet than most other harem protagonists, even if he is a ‘better’ person than they are. The problem with Hiroyuki is not that he is too idealistic; the problem is that his actions do not entirely click with his personality, and sometimes come across as erratic or illogical.
One moment he’s dozing off while his classmates argue with each other; the next he gets up out of his chair and helps the class representative draw lots for the seating plan. He shrugs it off, claiming that he simply ‘wants to go home’; but when was the last time you saw someone who has half asleep be the first to jump up and help someone out?
Another issue is his prioritising of relationships; Hiroyuki usually hangs around with his close friends, but will readily abandon them to jump to the needs of complete strangers. While it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that someone would help out a stranger and perhaps neglect a friend, it is hard to believe someone who goes to great lengths to help others could ignore their friends with such consistency.
But perhaps I’m being too hard on old Hiroyuki-chan. While his behaviour feels contradictory at times, he isn’t an easy character to dislike. He’s someone that we can identify with, not as some sort of self-insertion fantasy, but as a nice, friendly guy who we want to be happy.
If nothing else, he manages not to be the typical harem fare which unfortunately, cannot be said for the rest of the cast, which consists of every Ken Akamatsu harem cliché there is: the childhood best friend, the arrogant tsundere, the underdog athlete, the weird rich girl, the psychic rich girl and even the robot girl; they’re all here. All archetypical, all uninteresting!
That being said, even if they are unoriginal, they do manage to make for plenty of enjoyable episodes, albeit quite silly at times. Some episodes, such as those featuring robotic girl Multi, and the occult obsessed ojou-samas will no doubt prove to be too ridiculous for some to enjoy.
The storyline is fairly episodic, with the rule of thumb for the series being ‘one girl; one episode’. While the characters do make some brief cameos in other episodes, these are always only a few lines of dialogue and are spread very thinly across the series, and they are never developed further with only one or two exceptions other than the main cast.
But even the main cast feel underdeveloped at times. Most of childhood friend Akira’s appearances in the first two thirds of the series seem to be for the sole purpose of reminding us that she still exists; tsundere Shiho seems to change very little through most of the series only to have a sudden growth spurt as things are winding down, one of the hallmarks of a bad tsundere. Best friend Masahi doesn’t change even slightly and the only thing Hiroyuki seems to develop over the course of the show is a better memory.
Despite the problems with character development, To Heart does manage to be an entertaining show. The pacing is somewhat slow, largely due to its episodic format, but this suits it well. It gives the show a calm, laid back feel which reflects the personality of the protagonist quite well, and leaves To Heart feeling more like a Slice of Life than a harem; whether or not that is a good thing, depends on personal preference.
On the artistic front, To Heart is somewhat mixed. Released in ’99, like most anime released at that time it uses cell animation. Thankfully, while clearly not a new release, the art style is pretty good and it doesn’t feel outdated. On the other hand, there seems to have been a fair number of sacrifices on the animation front, and it feels cheaply made at times. In some scenes we have background characters drawn with the same level of detail and quality as the main characters, but left unanimated. These scenes can be reasonably lengthy and the background characters often have expressions that suggest they are talking, laughing or smiling, which aside from looking very low budget, is quite distracting.
A cynical person might think that such practices would make static shots of the artwork, such as those featured in magazine advertisements look better. Perhaps with the intention of falsely portraying the art to be of a higher standard than it really is.
Additionally, lots of scrolling shots of still images are used, and placement shots are used a bit more than necessary. While these aren’t quite as big an issue as the aforementioned background characters, they can feel overused at times.
The soundtrack can be summarised in a single word: ‘barren’.
There wasn’t very much background music used in To Heart at all; aside from occasional touches of violins and pianos; usually limited to the emotional scenes. Unfortunately when the lack of background music is combined with the blatant attempts to cut corners in the animation, it casts serious doubt on the possibility that it was intentionally minimalistic. This leaves ’To Heart’ feeling altogether very cheap indeed.
At least the voice acting work is competent. While there are no particularly shiny stars among the cast, each one suits their respective role. It has to be said though that there are not any particularly taxing scenes to test the seiyuu’s skills either; ultimately, it shouldn’t get on anyone’s nerves, which in a show like To Heart, is all you really need.
Because in the end, ‘To Heart’ is an anime that is only slightly above average. The protagonist aside, it’s a cast full of under developed, stereotypical characters put together in an anime that looks alright but feels cheaply produced. It was enjoyable, but it did nothing really special. Hiroyuki may have been interesting as a harem protagonist, but as an anime character, he’s average at best.
And it’s the same with To Heart. When you compare it with other harem, it’s a good, perhaps even great title. But when you start looking at it beyond the boundaries of the harem genre line, it just can’t cut it. Not because of any flaws inherit in the harem genre; but because overall, it is a mediocre anime.
It’s not so much that ‘To Heart’ is in a school of its own; it’s just a top student in a class full of under-achievers.