Oct 12, 2021
Tomoe ga Yuku!, or There goes Tomoe as it is known in English, is a 1991 OVA created by Tamura Yumi of 7 Seeds fame and directed by Takaaki Ishiyama. Released at the height of the OVA boom in the late 80s/early 90s, this film sought to ride off the works of similar previous successes in the industry. As a relative beginner to the world of anime OVAs, Tomoe ga Yuku! was an interesting film for me to watch following the far more violent and adult oriented by which I had previously associated with the era. In contrast, and as the Shoujo tag would suggest,
this OVA mixes the gritty art and action-focused style of the time with a more youthful and optimistic overview of life. While this blend does not offer anything entirely special or unique and certainly has its shortcomings, the overall package does still come together to be a fun, yet short ride; one which I feel is slightly underappreciated when compared to the 5.35 average score seen on this site.
STORY – (7)
The story of Tomoe is a particular highlight of the OVA, telling a fun and compelling tale of a girl fighting against an evil organisation to protect a man in need, coming to form a deeper bond with him over the course of the story. Though this tale is as old as time itself, it is presented in a unique and enjoyable way, albeit one which leaves much to be desired. As stated by the synopsis, the story begins with Tomoe coming to discover that the stunt organisation which she is a part of is secretly a front for a group of assassins of which her lover is the leader. She therefore sets out to protect their next target, a man named Iori, whose stepmother has hired the group to kill him before his father dies, allowing her to take over their rich family business. What then ensues is a series of action sequences in which Tomoe attempts to rescue Iori, help him take control of his business and take down Green Ship in the process. The episodes are divided nicely, with one of her goals being completed by the end of each episode, leaving viewers feeling happy and hopeful upon the end of each viewing experience (although they are still easily watchable one after the other). The main area in which the story does falter is in its lack of greater explanations as to purpose behind the events going on. While everything that is presented does make complete sense, it would have been nice to see how the Green Ship was created and to learn more about the Tojo establishment. I understand that the makers needed to make cuts to fit within the runtime of an OVA and I am confident that these elements were more greatly explored in the manga, but it would have still been nice to see something more here.
ART – (5)
While not bad by any means, the art and animation of this OVA unfortunately do still fall short in many ways. This is in part due to it following the typical style of the era, one which has not necessarily aged well in the modern day. The characters all come off as stiff and a strange blend of realism and cartoon. Kazusa has sharp, drawn in cheek lines, whereas Tomoe has massive round anime eyes and, in combination with both characters’ huge, disproportionate amount of hair, result in this strange, traditional character design which comes across as a little too uncanny and off from a modern perspective. On the other hand, one positive aspect of this older art style is the grimy, dark colour pallet used to add an atmospheric and mysterious tone to an otherwise fairly upbeat work. This works particularly well when combined with the music and sound, creating a really distinctive style. In terms of the animation itself, Tomoe ga Yuku! is even more of a mixed bag. Moments such as the skating sequence early on in the first episode as Tomoe escapes from the Green Ship come to life beautifully, with tons of work clearly being put in to create a seamless flow of movement through the city. Another highlight is the panoramic shot circling around Tomoe at the end of the OVA, which despite being brief still appears impressive in its ability to totally and fluidly encircle around her in a time before 3D animation was even a thing. However, to counterbalance these moments of glorious animation, trade-offs were clearly made at other points. There are numerous times throughout the video where the animation amounts to little more than still images playing like a slideshow and overall the majority of the story sticks to basic, easy to animate dialogue scenes.
SOUND – (6)
Like the animation, the sound of Tomoe ga Yuku! has a mixture of pros and cons which result in a relatively mediocre experience. Throughout the course of the two episodes, approximately six insert songs are used by the artists Mink and Shinichi Ishihara. These songs are mostly pleasant enough to listen to, though don’t particularly stand out in any special way. In keeping with the melancholic tone of the work, each song incorporates a mix of synthesized keyboard, electric guitar and drums along with the vocals to create a slow-paced, slightly sad yet sweet song, mainly regarding the theme of romance. On the other hand, the background music of the OVA sticks to a much more intense, rhythmic style, only coming in during moments of action and fighting. While this is fine on its own, there were a few pieces which got a little annoying to listen to – in particular, one piece of incredibly repetitive music came to get on my nerves during Tomoe’s attempt to rescue Kuro in the second episode. The voice acting throughout the OVA was fine enough too, with nothing too much to complain about audio or acting wise.
CHARACTER – (4)
The characters of Tomoe ga Yuku! are by and large a major disappointment. Similar to my complaints regarding the story, the biggest issue with the characters is that almost none of them are fleshed out to any real degree. Instead, we only come to a rudimentary understanding of who each character is within the runtime of the film. For example, while we do see a very brief flashback of Tomoe’s life at the beginning of the story, we do not learn much about her other than that her friend died in the past and that was supposedly her reason for wanting to join Green Ship. Kazusa is also given very little motivation behind his actions, with the only details regarding his personal life that we learn are of his like towards Tomoe. While we do learn a little more about Iori, as his family life is the core of the story, he too receives little more than a few brief flashbacks to his childhood. The side characters are unsurprisingly also completely neglected from being given any real purpose, with Yoshinaka (Tomoe’s friend), Shizuka (Tomoe’s sister) and Kurou (Kyoko’s friend) only appearing a handful of times each and having almost no relevance to the plot at all. Shizuka’s inclusion feels especially confusing, with her only appearing briefly at the start of episode two and only having a very short conversation with Tomoe. The only reason that I can think of as to her appearance in the OVA was that she, and presumably all the other aforementioned characters, potentially played some greater role within the manga which was cut from the anime. Otherwise their inclusions completely baffle me, as this additional time would have been much better spent devoted to developing the main characters more.
ENJOYMENT – (7)
Despite its many glaring shortcomings, I still found myself having a good time with Tomoe ga Yuku!. The fast pace and interesting story kept me actively engaged throughout and the lacking visuals didn’t do too much to hinder my enjoyment of it, especially when considering the context in which this was made. Though the frustration of not being able to fully come to understand the characters and their actions did leave me slightly bitter by the end, the positive and optimistic conclusion kept me from staying annoyed from too long. Maybe my enjoyment of the OVA would have been lesser if my experience in this part of anime history was a little larger, however as a first peak into 90s Shoujo anime I cannot deny that I had a good time.
OVERALL – (6)
As a whole, Tomoe ga Yuku! Is a decent anime well worth a watch given its short runtime and fun story. While not a masterpiece in any regard, it offers an easy and accessible glance into a bygone era of anime suitable for anyone to jump into and try. The weak characters may annoy some who are looking for a more complete package and the outdated visuals can take some getting used to for those who are already well acquainted with modern anime, but the strong plotline, decent music and fast pace make it an enjoyable experience for anyone willing to give it a go.
Reviewer’s Rating: 6
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