Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka is an anime that hurts itself by raising expectations and failing to meet them like clockwork. It goes out of its way to repeatedly build from mediocrity only to plunge itself back down to the point where you wonder why you even gave it much of a chance. It's someone jumping out of a 3 story building and landing on concrete, only to climb back up and jump over and over again. Until the person's bones are mush and the series limps to its god-awful ending.
As a series in general, Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (from here on, Akasaka) is passable, I would go as far to say it's decent and occasionally enjoyable. Its gaping flaws are grossly magnified, rightly, by its constant, flagrant disappointment of its viewers. Basically Akasaka is not pure bad (far from it) but the parts that are actually good makes the parts that are bad look really bad.
Akasaka is based off Feng's visual novel released back in 2007. The plot revolves around a boy by the name of Jun'ichi Nagase, who attends a prestigious high school and seems to bear some kind of tough reputation from middle school. Think typical harem school comedy male protagonist. There, I just developed the character to the same degree 12 episodes of Akasaka did. Anyhow, a naive aloof rich girl, Katagiri Yuuhi (CV: Kugimiya Rie), transfers to Jun'ichi's school and Jun'ichi, out of some act of divine inspiration kisses her, causing unspeakable chaos. Then, to close out a rather promising first episode and establish a quite original premise, it turns out that Yuuhi is Junichi's fiancee due to an arranged marriage.
Akasaka's female cast is chock full eye-catching and potentially interesting characters. Expectations: high. The series proceeds to do nothing with all but two of the girls. Expectations: failed.
Like many similar anime, Akasaka's plot (the plot is essentially just the premise) takes a back seat episodes 3-10 for some good unrelated episodes of fun. That's fine! It's a structure that has worked countless times. And by all means it can work here. But instead, Akasaka is filled extremely cliche situations solved in extremely cliche ways. For example, Jun'ichi's sister Minato (CV: Hirano Aya) takes Yuuhi shopping in a supermarket to make dinner. Six minutes of pointless dialogue about how amazed Yuuhi is of instant curry follows. We get it after the first few lines! Yuuhi talks about how she eats at home as Kugimiya Rie butchers French Japanese transliteration. She's rich, naive, aloof, we get that. Is it supposed to be funny that Yuuhi doesn't know about instant curry and thinks that her cooks and servants don't either? How overblown does the reaction and enlightenment need to be? There are lots of girls in this anime, some who look pretty interesting. Are we going to get episodes about them? With curry? That actually would be pretty awesome...
Watching anime should never be physically painful, but that's what I felt as this series slowly killed itself. It's the pain you feel a promising show wastes all the good things it had going for it and falls into mediocrity. Akasaka occasionally strikes silver (no gold in this show, sorry) with a few lines of interesting dialogue and good animation, but after every good or decent episode or plot development the series feels as if it has some obligation to make up for it by spewing crap at our face. It's like you're at an amusement park and every time you have some fun, a burly security guard has to give you a swift punch in the gut. The ending begins suddenly in the last 3 episodes and was likewise promising. Too bad the conclusion of the series was so predictable that I might as well have drawn the storyboards myself and the things that you didn't predict either have no relevance to the plot or are so cheesy and/or wrong you're better off not predicting it.
I'm a little harsh on this series because it really is a shame. Akasaka goes to show you how bad writing can absolutely destroy a series with everything else going for it. The art is good, the characters and landscapes are well drawn and fun to look at. Akasaka has a voice acting cast that would remind you of the New York Yankees, with the resulting mediocrity to match. When we have Kugimiya Rie (Shana, Louise, Taiga), Inoue Marina (Chiri from Zetsubou Sensei, Yoko from TTGL), Aya Hirano (Haruhi, Konata, Misa from Death Note) and Tanaka Rie (Chi from Chobits, Sugintou) in the same anime, we're going to be excited. I had my eye on this series ever since voice actors were announced and some art was available.
In the end, the voice acting was pretty good but by itself it cannot save a series. The music (besides the terrible OP) is good. It better be good when you have five voice actors with best selling seiyuu albums on your staff. Should there be an OVA about the supporting characters I would most likely flock to it with expectations held high. I've heard that the game this is based off was really cool. Too bad I can't say the same for the anime adaptation.