There are few trends in anime that are as fallible as the visual novel adaptation, yet they continue to be made in the hope of finding the next Air, Kanon or Clannad. Unfortunately this means that the industry is littered with forgettable titles that have no other purpose than to serve as no brain entertainment for an audience that simply doesn't care anymore.
There is hope though, as every so often a series will appear that defies all expectations. Sadly, Fortune Arterial: Akai Yakusoku (Red Promise) isn't one of them.
Based on the adult visual novel of almost the same name that was released in 2008 by developer August, the series lays out a fairly stereotypical harem plot of boy transferring into prestigious school and girls immediately falling head over heels for his kind personality and slightly bumbling mannerisms. Oh, and the main heroine just happens to be a vampire.
Now where have I heard that before?
Fortune Arterial does have a plot, but unsurprisingly it's about as predictable as the sunrise for anyone who's ever watched a harem based show. The storyline is laid out in the typrical fashion of boy meets girl (or in this case, vampire), upon entering the school, then meets his long lost childhood friend(s) (also girls), then some other girl(s), etc. All the while some mysterious force keeps pushing the boy and the first female (let's call her Girl A since I can't be bothered remembering her name), together.
The problem with Fortune Arterial is actually twofold where the story is concerned, the primary one being that the show follows the harem format almost to the letter, with little in the way of innovation or deviation. There is never any assumption that the viewer is intelligent enough for deductive reasoning, and the only thing expected of them is to sit there, look at the pretty anime girls, and buy the merchandise afterwards.
The second problem is the fact the series is based on an adult visual novel, and they're not really the best choice when it comes to deep, well written storylines or nicely developed characters. In fact, they're so far down on the list of possibilities that one has to wonder how the hell they get chosen in the first place.
They're also as generic as they come where design is concerned.
Fortune Arterial is, if nothing else, a faithful representation of the visual novel, (at least in terms of how it looks), but that's not really saying much as the series would only be laudable if the show was at least decent in other areas (storyline, for example). The other downside to staying true to the original (at least in this case), is that there is an inherent lack of creativity, and it shows itself here in several visual ways.
Like so many other eroge, Fortune Arterial has some pretty decent animation, and while there are some issues with body position and timing, it's probably on a par with many other shows of this type. The downside though, is that the anime is awash with big eyed characters of just about every "moe" stereotype you'd care to name, and that includes the hapless lead male. The scenery is nice enough, but lacks any real flair that would set it apart from just about every other posh, western styled school in anime (there are a few after all).
Which, strangely enough, leads me on to the acting.
The seiyuu generally work well throughout the series, but the main issue with their performances is that they lack passion. The delivery of their lines can be wooden, and there are several occasions where it sounds like the actors and actresses would much rather be doing something else.
The rest of the aural department isn't really any better. The OP is a cheesy, boppy J-Pop track that is typical for this type of show. The ED is, as you've probably already guessed, a ballad that is meant to sound somewhat bittersweet, but instead comes off as cloying and unoriginal. The incidental music has some issues with timing and choreography, and there are some odd pieces that doesn't seem to match the mood of the scene.
As for the characters, if you've seen one harem show of this type then you pretty much know what to expect. The lead male isn't as bad as some I could name, but the girls are as stereotypical as they come, and to make matters worse their character types include a vampire and an amnesiac childhood friend (let's call her Girl B).
Hooray for genericism!
The story is driven by events rather than characters, mainly because the nature of the visual novel defines the plot format. Unfortunately this means that there is little in the way of actual character development as while events do occur over the course of the show, the characters basically remain the same from beginning to end.
That said, there were some mildly diverting moments dotted here and there, but not enough to warrant watching the show a second time.
Fortune Arterial is a strange anime that doesn't really feel comfortable with itself, never mind the viewing public. A major problem with the series, aside from all that inherent genericism, is that several aspects of the storyline have already been realised far better in other shows. Because of this, much of the plot seems derived rather than original, and there is little in the way of content to persuade the viewer that they wouldn't be better off watching something like Karin or Rosario + Vampire.
To its credit, the series does present some interesting situations, but like so many other titles it never fully realises or utilises them to their full potential.
The biggest problem with Fortune Arterial though, is that it represents just about everything that is wrong with the anime industry today. Studios like Zexcs seem more focused on catering to an almost non-existent market than they are on giving the majority of fans what they want, and the main reason for this is habit - historically their money has mainly come from selling merchandise to hardcore Japanese fans.
The sad part is that the repercussions of making a series like this are far more widespread than people may initially believe, and the shortfall in finances resolves itself through increased license fees and mark ups on the price of merchandise and DVDs.
Fortune Arterial isn't the worst show of its type, but it's a long, long way from being the best. Then again, in a genre that's littered with the failed attempts at cracking the harem format, what else would you expect?